A Libertarian, a Socialist, and a Rich, Privileged White Dude Walk into a Bar

David Ryan is a boat builder, USCG licensed master captain, and a sometimes writer and filmmaker. He is the owner and skipper of Sailing Montauk and chief builder at The Montauk Catamaran Company. You can follow him on Twitter @CaptDavidRyan


I closed my introductory post with a rough outline of what I hope to cover during my stay here. Quoting:

I'll be writing about why I chose sailing as my next career; why I chose building my own boat over purchasing an already existing boat or commissioning a boatyard to build one for me; why I chose a never-certificated-before design built from never-certificated-before materials and techniques and what it took from an engineering and bureaucratic standpoint to bring a new design and innovative materials into the regulatory fold; and of course the day-to-day of turning a pile of lumber, several hundred yards of fiberglass cloth, and two 55 gallon barrels of epoxy resin into a boat that can be a platform for a business that will feed, clothe and shelter my family, or cross an ocean, as the need arises.

This, of course, will be a very personal recounting and exposition. If you choose to read along, you will read the words "I", "me" and "mine" over and over again. This sort of telling easily grows tedious, especially if the reader has not been given good reason to give the author the benefit of the doubt.

So mindful of the sage advice of the late great publisher Pat Lenihan ("Nobody gives a shit but your mother") let me try and better connect what I'm going to write about with the concerns of this blog.

Filmmaking allowed me to combine a modest talent for project management with modest talent for storytelling in a way that allowed me to make a living doing something I found pleasant, remunerative, and prestigious. But times change and that pleasant union no longer seems tenable, at least not for someone of my modest abilities (as outlined with no small pique on my part in the precipitously (re)published "Why I don't make movies anymore...")

These two aptitudes are now split, the project management put in service of creating something physical (building a boat), which I hope will take care of my need to make money, and the story-telling turned to a medium with very low overhead (writing for publication on the internet), which I hope will soothe to my need to express myself and have that expression recognized as worthy of notice.

Whatever images of high-craft "boat-building" conjures up, the truth is that it mostly involves a lot of mindless, repetitive tasks, which in turn allow for a lot of thinking; and what I've found myself thinking about are some of the things that our host touches on in her writing. To wit:

There is, of course, the joy of acquisition. And why give that short shrift? The high may be temporary, but the same is true of climbing a mountain. Why valorize one over the other?


[M]aybe in 1948 I'd have been saying that wall-mounted cabinets were a passing fad. So I throw it open to the moderate slice of my readership that is interested in these questions: is stainless steel the new Harvest Gold? And if so, what will replace it?


Here are some of the things that upset [James A. Roberts] and that "document our preoccupation with status consumption": Lucky Jeans, bling, Hummers, iPhones, 52-inch plasma televisions, purebred lapdogs, McMansions, expensive rims for your tires, couture, Gulfstream jets and Abercrombie & Fitch. This is a fairly accurate list of the aspirational consumption patterns of a class of folks that my Upper West Side neighbors used to refer to as "these people," usually while discussing their voting habits or taste in talk radio. As with most such books, considerably less space is devoted to the extravagant excesses of European travel, arts-enrichment programs or collecting first editions.

The connection of my career change and boat project to the above probably doesn't seem obvious. In fact, I have my doubts as to whether or not I'll be able to clearly articulate the connection that (to me) seems very like a watery mirage in the dessert, hovering forever on the horizon. And now I'm here, inviting you to march hopelessly through the desert with me, or at least seem to be making the claim that you'll find my account of that march interesting to read. We'll see...

A brief note on my politics:

The writers on The Atlantic with whom I find I disagree least often are James Fallows and Derek Thompson, and conversely I often disagree with Ms. McArdle, sometimes (embarrassingly) violently. This, I expect, marks me as a liberal. A liberal who clings to his guns and loathes NPR's business model, but a liberal none-the-less.

Despite my liberal leanings, I have, variously and depending on the venue, been accused of being a conservative, a libertarian, a glibertarian, a crony-capitalist, a socialist, and of course, a rich, privileged white dude.

The conclusion that I draw from these various epithets is that I am a contrarian, attention-seeking asshole, adept in the art of trolling.


There, now that that's out of the way, let me tell you about my next post. It's about the tragic and entirely avoidable loss of 45 lives, and how that tragedy gave rise to the regime under which we are building and will operate our catamaran S/V MON TIKI. There's free-marketeering, government regulation, caveat emptor, economies of scale, and an uncanny valley sorts.

Between now and then I'd like to invite you to watch the below slideshow; a couple weeks in the boat shop last January, boiled down to a couple of minutes. True Atlantic.com fans will recognize that the music is the same music Mark Bowden used in his slide show about guinea fowl and ticks.