A Man and His Boat

I Knew I Would Use Metaphors One Day

By Mickey Dunaway | Reprinted with Permission by Currents Magazine | March 2023 | Cornelius, NC 

Is there a metaphor appropriate to the aches and ills that attack us when we reach 60 or thereabouts? 

I was already thinking in that direction when a recent outpatient appointment turned into a four-day hospital visit.  That visit convinced me that I was, for sure, on to something.

Clearly, at a certain age, we humans begin to fall apart, and the process is so like what boat owners experience as their crafts deteriorate from trophy to “what the hell happened” that it cannot be ignored.  So, I won’t.


So, let me see if I can energize this column with a little comparison of boats and two about our human condition once we reach the golden years of 60 and above.

  1. How does one define a boat?  A boat is a hole in the water, surrounded by fiberglass, into which one pours money.  
  2. Do you know what one calls a gathering of three folks over 60?  An organ recital.
  3. What are the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life?  The day he buys the boat and the day he sells it.  
  4.  What does a patient call payment for a physician’s services?  A boat payment.


I grew up fishing with my family on the Escatawpa River, which defines the southern portion of the Alabama-Mississippi border.  We fished—four of us in our small boat—with cane poles baited with wigglers, crickets, or Catalpa worms, and we fished for the beautiful sunfish species from bull bream to redbelly to stumpknocker to goggleye to warmouth to green-trout. 

My daddy owned an old 14-foot wooden skiff with a 7.5 HP cantankerous outboard on its transom, but he would beam with pride every time it cranked.  Such has been my joy each time I brought home a new boat—five in my boating and fishing lifetime.  

Every new boat owner radiates indescribable joy when that new boat sits proudly in his driveway for the first time. 

Edna Vincent Millay’s poem First Fig, though strangely titledis, I think, a perfect metaphor for the careless joy of a first-time boat owner when he parks his boat in his driveway for the first time.

Does Millay warn that fewer joyous days await new boaters and us humans? Hmmm.


All details needed to be minded are yet to be made clear to the new boat owner at purchase.  A boat is not just the hull and perhaps some oars and lifejackets.   There is a motor to be tuned.  There are seats split by the sun to be replaced.  The steering wheel is long-lasting—not so are the cables that connect it to the motor.  If there is a motor, there is usually a battery for all except the smallest boats—multiple batteries if this motor is equipped with a trolling motor for slowly fishing the banks in the mist of an early morning.

And, of course, there is the trailer, the first part of the entire package, to experience rust and corrosion because it is submerged into the lake each time the boat is launched, as are the trailer lights and wiring.  The trailer axle, wheels, and wheel bearings, and at least two tires with a spare should there be a flat on the way to the lake.

Before heading to the lake to fish, at the very least, the boat must be given a pre-launch check.  Having once failed to satisfactorily complete this pre-launch check, I hauled my boat and put it in the water only to realize when I stopped at my favorite fishing spot that I left all my fishing gear remained neatly arranged in my garage!


I have owned and loved five new boats, trailers, and motors, and while they performed admirably early in their lives, every boat grew old and required fixing with most costs from out-of-warranty work.

Remember the hole in the water into which you pour money?  It was no joke.

As sure as the fisherman will go fishing countless more times than he will come home with fish, there will come a time when every boat owner finally realizes there is more joy in selling his boat than keeping it any longer.  However, someday in the future—for me, it was four days—he will forget all the problems.  A slight twitching itch will begin somewhere deep in his temporal lobes, shortly developing into a full-on desire for another boat.  Since he cannot remember pain, he will buy another new boat and repeat the process again, and only the Almighty knows why.



A metaphor compares two unrelated things without using the words like or as (which would make it a simile!)

Once I reached my mid-60s, it finally dawned on me that I would see a specialty physician for my eyes, ears, knees, teeth, skin, blood pressure, and blood sugar, among other common ailments, every week.

Metaphor #1: The miraculous human body is a new boat.

Metaphor #2: The number of things that go wrong with a boat is equaled by our body.  

Metaphor #3: Current ailments do not affect our ability to long for the good old days when our body and boats worked perfectly … until they didn’t.

Metaphor #4: The repair costs of body and boats are roughly the same.


On the positive side, medicine continues to get better and better.  Otherwise, my boat and motor would have quit on me in the middle of the lake long ago!


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