Nautical Resolutions

December 2010 Feature Ted A. Thompson

For many, it is difficult to watch a New Year approaching without taking a stab at a few resolutions. Sometimes there are bad habits we intend to break. Behaviors we are determined to improve. Goals we are committed to achieve. In any case, every approaching New Year brings with it an awareness of our human shortcomings and it makes us feel better to think that this will be the year we actually make the changes.

Sadly, our resolutions as a New Year dawns are often the same ones we lost sight of the year before. Often, our most determined New Year's resolve weakens, usually by St. Patrick's Day, into nothing more promising than high hopes and good intentions. Meanwhile, the years keep ticking by. Shouldn't feel too badly about that, no one is alone. For the long run, keeping resolutions takes more effort than many of us can manage.

I once made a New Year's Resolution to keep all my New Year's Resolutions. That seemed like the epitome of commitment. Then. whoa.I pondered the concept more deeply, and discovered an unclosed circle within a concentric one, each circle eating the other. It warped my psyche, tied my Chi into knots, and sent my inner child reeling. I quickly abandoned this ridiculous resolution for the sake of my own peace of mind. After all (and first of all), we must be good to ourselves, right?

Worthwhile resolutions require strength, willingness and commitment. After so many years of making resolutions and failing, I think I've finally learned how to make this work. I have grown strong. I have learned to be willing. And many people suggest I should certainly be committed.

This year, all my resolutions have a boating context. (That may or may not have something to do with the fact that I write for a boating magazine, and occasionally should submit a column with a purely nautical theme.) So here they are, in no particular order of priority or relevance-Thompson's Nautical Resolutions for the New Year.

Resolved: To learn to tie a sheepshank knot. The truth is, I don't know why a sheepshank knot would ever be needed, nor the slightest idea how to tie one, but I've heard a good boater should know. I figured I could learn to do it sitting down, perhaps on the bow of the boat, maybe over coffee and cigarettes. Always start out easy with this resolution stuff. Baby steps.

Resolved: As Captain of this boat, I resolve to be the best skipper I can be. This is actually just a matter of picking the right flat, smooth stones. Then it's all in the wrist.

Resolved: To swim more, perhaps every time we take the boat out. The exercise will be good for me. While considering this resolution, I asked myself, "What if sometimes I just don't feel like swimming?" If that happens, I figure I can let Sugar swim. She's a Jack Russell with boundless energy. Just watching her circling the boat in the cove for hours makes me tired, so there must be some aerobic benefit. "Swim, Sugar, swim! No pain, no gain. You go, girl!"

I feel better already.

Resolved: To eat smarter. Something about the fresh lake air and summer sunshine amplifies the appetite, and as I get older, all those fine gas-grilled delectables are taking their toll. So I resolve to eat smarter, at least during our boat outings. At least during some of them. At least when I'm not real hungry. That's the least I can do.

While lounging around with a plateful of barbecue ribs, baked beans, coleslaw and butter-slathered corn-on-the-cob, too often I am engaged with some mystery novel or adventure story. Changing my casual lunchtime reading to something more educational will be a fundamental step toward self-improvement.  The Myth About Carbs, perhaps. Or Cholesterol: Is It Really So Bad?  (I can't find anything at about the benefits of grilled red meat, but I resolve to keep looking.)

Resolved: To get my "Notes from the Stern" columns in sooner, and quit pushing deadlines so closely. Yes, dear editors, you should dare to dream, for that's what the New Year is all about-renewing our hopes. Rediscovering our dreams. Making wishes in one hand.

I may keep all these resolutions. I may keep some of them. But I hereby resolve to not make resolutions about keeping any of them. I've already been that route, and it didn't work for me.

As for you, my hope is that the New Year brings all the peace you need, all the joy you deserve, and all the laughter you can handle.  First of all (and after all), be good to yourselves. 

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