Hurricane Irene was churning up the coast, putting the start date of our annual cruise in limbo. The sails had been stripped and put below, the anchor stowed and the second mooring pendant attached. Then I sit and wonder — why do we do this?

Boat ownership is not something any sensible person would take on, for a number of reasons.

Consider the effort required to protect the investment. While all the sensible people enjoyed a nice day at the beach or a late-summer cookout, boaters were removing sails, canvas and other items that create windage; adding fenders, lines and mooring pendants; and otherwise preparing for what threatened to be “the storm of the century.”

Then there is the worry. During the storm, some of the sensible people were enjoying hurricane parties with their friends and neighbors, or having a rare evening of quiet time playing board games with the kids.

Boaters, on the other hand, were wringing their hands, worried about how Irene was treating not only their boat, but other boats nearby.

Did all the other people with boats in the mooring field do the proper preparations?

Probably not; there are always a few who display utter neglect and carelessness. So boaters inevitably find themselves at the mercy of other boaters, and of course, Irene.

When it was over, most of us emerged no worse for the wear.

But even in the absence of threatening weather, the whole concept of boat ownership is not for the faint of heart. Most of all, boat ownership is not for the fiscally prudent.

Year after year — the questions come up. How much money do you spend on your boat annually? Have you ever divided the expense by the number of days spent enjoying the boat to get a dollars-per-day-of-enjoyment figure?

People who really want to torture themselves come up with a third question: How many hours do you spend working on the boat compared to playing on it?

The answer to all of these questions should be: Don’t do the math, unless you really enjoy torturing yourself.

The expenses can be considerable, as demonstrated by the commonly held belief that the word “boat” stands for “break out another thousand.”

It starts with the price of the boat itself, keeping in mind that in nearly every case, a boat is not an appreciating asset.

Then you have to protect the “investment” with insurance and make it legal with life jackets, flares and other safety equipment.

The real fun begins when you combine the monetary expense with the time commitment.

It starts with the annual upkeep, including oil changes and other engine maintenance, bottom paint, wax or polish for the hull and decks, and varnish for the teak.

Then there are the upgrades. Most new boat owners like to add their own touches, like new canvas; a bigger, faster motor; or some creature comfort that will get the girlfriend or wife to come along.

Some boaters apply a monetary value to their own labor; others don’t.

Then there are all the gadgets designed to enhance the boating experience. The list is endless, but can start with items like the floating key chain or nautically themed beer cozies, then ramp up to the latest and greatest fishing gear, electronics, and racing or navigation technology.

For any boat that does not come with a trailer, add the twice-yearly cost to move it between its winter storage and its summer berth or mooring.

Then there is the berth or mooring itself — dock space tends to be more expensive than a mooring, but neither is particularly cheap.

Are we having fun yet?

Don’t forget the stuff needed to make the boat go — sails, gasoline or diesel — all of which amount to big bucks.

Now that your boat is equipped, insured, fueled and on the water, figure out how many days you actually get to use it.

A typical boating season in Maine runs from Memorial Day to Labor Day. That gives you 15 weekends, and if you’re lucky, you get to add a week or two of vacation.

But rarely do today’s busy families get to spend that much time on the boat, so subtract days lost to kids’ sports schedules, weddings, family reunions, work commitments and bad weather.

Gluttons for punishment will divide the money expended by days spent on the boat.

But true enthusiasts understand that you really can’t put a price on the kind of enjoyment you get from boating, even with the work that is involved.

As Kenneth Grahame wrote in “Wind in the Willows”: “There is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, race and cruise their Pearson 30 sloop on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]