The Men Who Stare at Boats - A Photo Journal

Every now and again, when seeking a hideout from the complexities of our modern world, I'll grab a black coffee from anywhere serving and walk down to the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour.

And just as waves advance to shore and retreat back to the wash, so do boats leave and enter my field of vision.  There are the constants that I'll inevitably recognise, bound by their timetables and passenger feedback, but there are equally the unknown boats from afar, visiting for the first time perhaps.  All of these together allow for a cacophony of shapes, colours and stories that I could gaze at all day long.  There's just something meditative to it; watching them come and go, wondering of their provenance or of their onward destinations.

I must clarify, though, that it's not the specifications or the models of the boats that I'm drawn to.  Indeed, I've never learnt to sail and as for my port and starboard, well...  But, oh, do I cling to the romanticism of the humble boat.  An instrument that allowed civilisation to cross vast swathes of water to present day Australia and the Americas.  That allowed our forefathers to emigrate to new lands, to trade and to make a living from the sea in all her various guises.  From the explorers of the new world to the lone battle scarred fisherman, casting off before sunrise on a below freezing Hebridean morning to provide for his family and his community.  These are the stories that cross my mind when I survey a steady stream of assembled timber bobbling atop the Solent.

Some weeks ago, whilst mirroring the posture of another gentleman leaning against the seawall, I realised that it was not just me who derived such pleasure from this activity of simply observing boats.  There were hoards of others, it seemed, who could also spend prolonged periods of time with their gaze on the horizon.  And in them, too, I could sense a feeling of reflection and of wonder, just as I would experience in those moments.

And so this brief post is a hommage to them.  To the gazers, the thinkers, the dreamers and the self-observers.  To all those men who stare at boats.