Definition of a Renaissance Man:
“A person with many talents and areas of knowledge”
Definition of a new barge owner:
“A person who wishes they had many talents and areas of knowledge”
Definition of an experienced barge owner:
“A person who knows a person with many talents and areas of knowledge”
As one reaches toward that mystical experienced barge owner status, an understanding of the three definitions shown above is essential.
When you first close your eyes and take the plunge into this amazing world of:
- large, heavy, slow moving things
- most over a hundred years old
- with a long history of multiple owners
- each with his or her unique ideas of how things should be done
You definitely don’t know what you don’t know.
As I am fond of saying, every classic barge is a snowflake, unique and beautiful in its own way. However, some days that beauty can be a bit hard to tease out.
Since taking responsibility for the care and feeding of Vivante, Carol and I have had to really stretch ourselves. There are days when I wish mightily for one of the download chairs from the “Matrix” movies. I don’t need the program to become a kung fu master or to pilot a Huey helicopter but a bit more understanding of bow thruster motors would be helpful.
Given that I have not located one of those chairs at the local vide grenier (bonus French lesson here for you folks) I had to come up with another option. Luckily, there are a few folks that roam around in this part of the world that are uniquely qualified to assist.
If you got a group of barge owners together over an adult beverage or two, they likely could put together the perfect background for an artisan seeking to support a barging community. My guess is that it would look something like this:
- A deep knowledge of electrical theory, and more importantly, practice
- The ability to work with metal in all its forms and applications
- Plumbing savvy with all types of pipes, fittings and hoses
- Experience repairing, maintaining and operating equipment and machinery in remote locations under extreme conditions with limited resources
- The capability to work in a marine environment on vessels of all shapes, sizes and materials
- A serious wit and a sense of humor.
Nowadays, the likelihood of purposely developing this set of, somewhat archaic skills, are slim to none. However, in the recent past, in certain parts of the world, this combination of skills was still taught and even today remain essential for the communities in those areas.
These skills and experience might come through a career in the marine industry or perhaps more serendipitously cobbled together through an apprenticeship in industries such railroads or perhaps mining with a bit of military experience thrown in to add the spice of “got to get it done no matter what” attitude.
Now before you begin to think that knowing a rare person such as this would be a streak of amazing luck and all cookies and cream, let me share with you another characteristic of the quintessential renaissance personality. From Leonardo Da Vinci, to the present day example described here-within, they are a demanding lot who do not suffer fools gladly.
However, while they have high standards both for themselves and the people they work with, they will patiently teach the nuances of a repair to anyone with a bit of humility, a desire to learn and a willingness to get their hands dirty.
This summer I got to experience this trait up close and personal as I worked with a particular renaissance man on a project for Vivante. While extremely humbling, the opportunity to see what can be done at that level of mastery is both eye opening and confidence building for even a certified knuckle buster like me. I emerged none the worse for wear and perhaps a bit smarter to boot.
In a world that is increasingly enamored with computers, finance and now “artificial intelligence” I remain in awe of those few remaining renaissance men and women who possess real intelligence and abilities gained the hard way. They are no doubt more rare than the masters of technology we worship today.
If you are lucky enough to run across one of these renaissance men, make sure you get their number!