Guitars As Traveling Companions
This piece brings me to thinking about my life and its relationship with guitars. I am getting ready to sail a 53’ sailboat to Bermuda and am trying to decide which of my guitars to take with me. To go weeks without playing is unthinkable and makes me twitch. A guitar has got to be on board!
I have had a guitar next to me for as long as I can remember. I’ve carried these guitars and cases through many countries, down many highways, on boats, planes, trains, cars and busses. They have carried me through my happiest and saddest times. When my daughter was born, I played my guitar and when my mother passed, I played my guitar. They are the road map of my life. Each of my guitars speaks differently and awakens a different part of me. I love the wood body and how they all sound special in their own way.
I took an old Martin D35 with me when I sailed to Europe some years back. She got me through a lot of gigs and we wrote some good tunes together at sea. But, I almost destroyed her. She did not take the boat lifestyle well, too much salt, too much humidity. Definitely not a boat guitar. Much more at home in the woods guitar. I found a good repair person and she came to the rescue with a neck reset, fret work etc. The Martin has since settled into a life as a studio and writing instrument. I am sure it is happier.
Next I took an Ovation on board. She was tough as nails, good truss rod, and I did not have to worry about it. Somehow, though, she did not speak to the wind, water and wood on my boats the same as a wooden guitar. I gifted her to a good friend and engineer of mine. He cherishes her to this day. No regrets.
For a while, I carried a 1967 Gibson SG and Pignose, battery-powered amp, on board. During one ocean crossing, from Nova Scotia to Portugal, we were surrounded by a pod of whales. I brought that guitar out, strapped the Pignose to the mast and played and sang to (and with) those whales for hours. They loved it!! That guitar took me to a place and made a connection that nothing else could have ever done. The SG has since moved to my studio and comes out to record and to play on special live occasions.
I have telecasters for twang and a Danelectro baritone for that sound that only they can generate. My main electric now is a 1966 Gretsch Tennessean. There is nothing like the sound to my ears or the feel in my hands. But to take any of these on a saltwater sail? No, I do not think so.
So, which of my six-string friends wants to go to sea? My eyes land on my true and trusted Takamines. I have had a long relationship with Takamine Guitars and they have taken good care of me over the last 15 years. I hardly play dreadnoughts anymore. OMs fit me well and I love how they sound. I have two Takamine OMs that have a ton of miles and even more hours on them. I have written and recorded with both. Hmmm… they are very different. One is spruce over rosewood with an ebony fretboard, a true workhorse that plays and sounds fantastic. The other is cedar over koa, with a rosewood fretboard, a finger-picker’s dream, articulate, responsive and a bit softer. Hmmm…after an hour with each, the cedar over koa said, ‘Take me! My cedar top is oily and perfect for the humidity. My sides and back are koa from Hawaii, islands of the sea. My 12th fret inlay is a sunset with two palm trees. Take me!’
The decision is made and I can’t wait to play her offshore and feel her music swell with the ocean.