I was hanging on a line someone had thrown over the side of the boat, tugging at it to stay close to the side of the hull, even as a muscular current conspired to sweep me away. Armed with a large sponge and plenty of enthusiasm, I set to work gussying up that waterline, bobbing along in the cool water of the anchorage and humming a tune while making my way down the length of the 46-foot cruiser.
Some people might call that work. For me, it was nothing but play.
The boat was a Prestige 46 Flybridge. The anchorage was Vineyard Haven in Martha’s Vineyard. And the cleaning effort was easy and entertaining because I was doing it on a beautiful summer afternoon with the help of my colleague Pim Van Hemmen, who is always good company. We were prepping the boat for a photo shoot. And, technically, we had cruised the 46 to this beautiful island to collect research for the story “Vineyard Vibe”. So, yes, this was all related to the job, but it still felt like big fun.
That’s the great thing about boats. Even if you’re up to your elbows in barnacles and maintenance work, the experience can elevate your mood and reduce stress like no other.
I was thinking about that while floating on my back in the harbor and admiring our handiwork with those sponges. A lot of research out there supports the importance of playtime for adults. Physical benefits include everything from a stronger heart and lungs to elevated levels of endorphins, which help us relax. Play can also increase creativity and productivity at work, which is why you should never feel bad about leaving your desk a few minutes early to head for the dock. The truth is, adults need recess too. In my mind, the best playground is a fine boat at anchor in a saltwater harbor.
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue.