Thursday, May 26, 2016

South Coast Community Receives Grant for First Underwater Maritime Welcome Center

South Coast Community Receives Grant for First Underwater Maritime Welcome Center

A South Coast Community is celebrating receipt of a government grant to proceed with plans to develop the first ever underwater maritime welcome center. The property chosen is widely known for providing equal access by land or by sea, including all areas of the building's first floor. This fine estate includes a deep water dock, featuring at least 2' of draft access at high tide, and a stunning view into the second story windows of the other property structures. The swift currents running past the property make it ideal for the sort of "tough love" Darwinian kayak and sailing program for area youth that the town wishes to develop. Potential mold and mildew problems inherent in such structures are no worry to a town that has been had its entire police force huddled in a refugee camp for years as a result of such issues.

When asked about the project, Town Administrator Dante Crustacean touted the initiative's foresight in offering the world's first unisex underwater bathrooms. "Sure, everyone is buzzing about unisex bathrooms, but no one else if looking toward the future and offering them under water." said Crustacean.

Some parents have expressed concern about the choice of a site so near to the main marine traffic channel, the bridge, and barnacle covered boulders, but project proponents were quick to point out that these risks were offset by the potential to offer indoor swimming lessons on the first floor. Upper levels will be used for administrative offices. According to Mr. Babbling Brook, a town official of some sort or other, " I can just see myself with my feet up on that railing, looking out over this unique facility." Public access will be offered by the world's first below to above sea surface elevator system, not yet developed, but certain to be available within the budget before project completion. Indeed, opposition to the project from neighbors, boaters, engineers, and others has been largely dismissed as coming from "NUMBY's", or those who do not want to see such a facility under their back yard.

And speaking of the budget, Mr. Crustacean pointed out that it would be foolish not to take advantage of this free money and spend it, apparently several times over. When challenged by a town father that grants were not "free" but tax based, Crustacean replied "Yes, but it's not our money until we spend it."  Indeed it is a magical grant in that it grew some 70% just in discussion, with several of the needed property improvements to be paid for with the same money. The true cost of the project remains somewhat murky, but then all of the best government works suffer from this challenge. One town member suggested that perhaps enough of the dirt excavated from the "big dig" could be acquired at discount to create some above water parking on the site.  Crustacean countered that since this was an underwater welcome center, car parking would be irrelevant. "Every summer we have countless guests visit our town underwater. They are underserved to the point we don't even know they are here. This will fix all of that."

As to the potential revenue generating use of the development, the town is currently reaching out to the Cousteau society and retired Navy SEAL organizations. They point out that this facility will offer a unique venue for meetings and fundraising events for such groups. It is presently under research as to whether the town can issue an underwater liquor license to make such use more attractive. A public safety officer for the town, Mr. Dorsal Gills suggested that such a license might be possible as soon as town officials were convinced that underwater imbibers were not going to be drinking like fish and getting tanked. "Swimming home through those bridge pilings is no mean feat sober," he said. "We can't have them doing so drunk." Additional revenue is anticipated from expanding the already thriving aquaculture project in the primary structure's crawl space.

The prescience of this project is inspiring. While the world bickers about climate change and rising seawater levels, here is a community ahead of itself in every way, particularly fiscally. The future is underwater, no matter what we do at this point, so why not begin developing municipal access accordingly? 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Can You Hear Me Now?

Yup.  Probably loud and clear if you’re in a dinghy with an outboard.

There’s a phenomenon virtually unknown amongst the 2 day a week summer boating crowd. It is simply that every word spoken in a motorized dinghy that is audible to the person sitting 3 feet away in the same dinghy, is also quite audible to someone outside of the dinghy much further away. Now I know that sound diminishes in relation to the cube of the distance traveled, but this clearly relates to a different effect.

And speaking of principle how is it that things one would never think of saying directly to a stranger have become such fair game for dinghy conversation? Perhaps it’s the feeling of immunity that comes from thinking the dinghy motor creates a magic orb of inaudibility. Or maybe it’s just some primitive need to show the other person in the dinghy the extent of one’s non-existent nautical knowledge. Either way, you hear some mighty strange babble on Saturdays and Sundays in June and July around here.

An example from just last weekend: “There’s that guy on the black boat. They say he actually LIKES living aboard!” Yes- usually I do, except when the rude folk dinghy past. Then I wonder if I couldn’t have picked a more congenial neighborhood. Say perhaps the desert.

I used to get a fairly steady stream of commentary wondering what “all that stuff” was for. I remember one guy making some comment about it looking like the West Marine catalog on the aft deck. He clearly was unacquainted with my feelings on the marine box store Goliath and the extents to which I would reach to acquire said “stuff” from any other source. But these days even kids know what a solar panel or wind turbine is for. Mostly the parents have fallen silent on this end of the boat for fear of being upstaged by a child in the dinghy.

Children are seldom the problem. They, at least, are taught that one should not say rude things to strangers. I remember meeting a boat owner whose kids would just stare without saying a word as they passed. “You’re the guy with the black boat,” he said when we met. “My kids have a whole series of stories they’ve made up about the pirate on the black boat.”  My response was, “let’s not let the truth spoil a good story.”

But to date, the best dinghy gaff of all came from 2 bozos (I believe one of them was actually wearing one of those Gilligan’s Island skipper caps,) shouting to each other as they passed, “Look at all that stuff! Bet he didn’t leave anything home!” My reply was loud and clear. “I am home you idiot!” The look that passed between them was priceless. It was, I believe their awakening to the dinghy voice travel phenomenon. I wonder how long they spent wondering how many other rude boat comments they’d made in full hearing of their occupants.

In the interest of making the coastline a more congenial place for 8 weekends a year, I have some ideas. 1. You could get in touch and have me build you a solar skiff so you can whisper to your passengers and be heard. If you haven’t previously hurled insults at me from your gas dinghy, I might oblige you without a third mortgage. 2. You could go buy one of those electric outboards from the big box store. But then you know how I feel about that place. 3. You could just pretend that the same rules of etiquette apply on the water as say, perhaps, in Chicago, where saying the wrong thing to a stranger could have negative consequences. No, I won’t mug you, but don’t be surprised if I don’t exactly warm up to you at the bar either.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Count Vac-uular

I think everyone has at one point or another encountered their own personal “perfect storm” of human negativity. You know- the sort of person whose arrival at a party causes at least two positive personality humans to vanish before your eyes? Well, cruising being a sort of running party in some ways, has these personalities too. This is the story of one boatload of human negativity so intense; it actually resulted in dense isobars of positive energy surrounding its cloud radius.  
I’ll use Joe and Edna for pseudonyms. Joe being the Lil’Abner cartoon jinx with the cloud over his head. The notable exception here is that where the cartoon Joe was a jinx, the sailing Joe seemed to vacuum up all of the negativity around him and carry it off, leaving some pretty good luck in his wake. Think of a street sweeper. It comes in on a somewhat dirty road. It makes a racket and a huge cloud of dust. And when it’s gone, the road is actually cleaner than it was before.

I think it was in Philipsburg that we first met. I had Charis alongside at Bobby’s marina and had to pull the engine, change the mounts, and get it re-aligned in less than a week before Christmas since my brother and his wife were flying in. “Never happen” said Joe. He rattled off at least 15 supporting arguments (turns out he was a lawyer in a past life.) Having no choice I pushed ahead. At times it did seem like it wouldn’t get done. But in the end, with some do-it- yourself, some scrounging and re-purposing of materials, and some genuine talent from unexpected quarters, the job was done and done well.

At the very end I saw Joe again. He was amazed that we got the work done, but “Boy were we in for it” on the bill he assured us. So just before Christmas, fully expecting to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the winter, I headed off to the office to settle. $160 was the total. For the first and only time in my life I argued that a boatyard bill was too low. No- the mechanic (whose alignment was perfect) was an apprentice charged out at a ridiculously reasonable hourly rate. The steel plates were scrap. No charge. No charge for using the machine shop to cut, drill and tap since I did the work myself. No charge for dockage since they were working on the boat…

The cruise budget being saved, and with a bit of mad money left over to boot, I decided some new Bose cockpit speakers were in order. I Ran into Joe on the way to the cruise ship electronics district. “No deals to be had here. All tourist trap scams – fake products… high prices. Forget it.” Having begun to see a pattern, I wanted to thank Joe, but headed off quietly assured good things were about to happen. And so it was that wonderful sound came to Charis’s cockpit for far less than I would have spent at home. I still think of Joe whenever I enjoy those speakers.

Christmas day arrived. As this was pre-refrigeration (a.k.a. ice-capade) days on Charis, my brother and I headed out in search of a bag or two of cubes to keep the chilly bin cold and for Holiday mixed drinks later. We found Joe ashore under his cloud. “You’ll never find ice today. Holiday….Stores closed….restaurants will charge you a fortune…” After a somewhat in vain happy holiday wish to Joe, we headed off, now assured of success beyond our wildest dreams. And so it was, that shortly after, two fools were seen staggering down front street each under the load of a Hefty 40 gallon trash bag full of ice cubes. We had inquired at Mickey-D’s and when the counter girl said that they didn’t usually sell bagged ice, but she guessed for a dollar a bag it would be OK. Better get 2 we figured. That was before we found out that the only plastic bags they had were trash bags, and they meant $1 for a full bag. We hit every cruising boat we knew (including Joe and Edna’s on the way back to Charis, dispensing ice like some sort of tropical Santas, minus the red suits, sleigh and reindeer. Most were pleased to take some free ice, but Joe seemed a little hostile.

We headed off to St.Barts for the New Year celebration. Joe and Edna were there too. This was my first “smart “ year of cruising and I had warned all visitors that they needed to plan the cost of a hopper flight into their trip budget as I was not going to beat up boat and crew to meet an airline reservation. And so it was that our guests finished their trip on a Liat hopper to Guadeloupe for their flight home. Just before they left, we saw Joe ashore. I explained that we were going to sit tight until we got a north east shift in the trades and then sail down to Deshaise. “Never goes north of east here in January” Joe assured us. Shortly after he and Edna bashed out into a strong southeast tradewind for their trip to Guadeloupe. I waited. By the following morning the wind had dropped to 10 -15 out of the north east. With the wine bilge packed to the hatches, we set off and enjoyed probably the nicest overnight sail I’ve ever had in the Caribbean. Steady gentle winds and a perfect starlit sky made the 23 hour run seem too short. But then we had sort of expected this after our own little “ill fortune vacuum” had cleared the way for us.

We arrived in Deshaise to the smell of the wood fired oven bakery ashore and anchored just astern of Joe and Edna. Joe came on deck and fired over an “I told you so” about the weather. They had arrived about 4 hours previous. “Horrible trip. Beating into gale winds for 2 days…” “By the way, when did we leave Gustavia?” “23 hours ago,” I responded. Little did I know that this response would kill the goose that laid the golden eggs.

To explain, it didn’t exactly “kill” the goose. Joe remained very much alive. But for the rest of that cruise – all the way down the island chain to Grenada – we were to see Joe and Edna in many more harbors. Trouble was they refused to talk to or even acknowledge our existence after that. Without Joe to suck up all the negativity around us, from then on we had to settle for the usual mixed run of fortune – some good, some bad, but none spectacular. Oh well. It was nice having our own little jinx vacuum while it lasted!

Still wish I’d tailed that guy through a casino or three….But then I’m not a betting man.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

God Looks After Drunks and Fools….

Is something we’ve all heard. Well,  sometime prior to the events of this story he expanded this coverage to include bi-polar seasick chemical dependant sailors, apparently.

This is an absolutely true story. The type of story that no one will believe who hasn’t been “out there.” And the type that most who have been “out there” could up the ante on.

But this isn’t a story about God. It’s a story about Calamity Jack. (Names may have been changed to protect against the litigious.)It’s a story about full circles and the crazy way some people have of weaving through our seemingly straight ahead paths in life. 

Before my first trip south with Charis I invested in the services of a weather router. He earned his keep that year and we had a good passage.  Many who arrived in Bermuda just before us were still licking their wounds when we arrived.  We settled into the pack in St. George’s pretty quickly and it was a great start to the cruise. Among the cast of characters we met there was a single hander I call calamity Jack, for reasons that will present themselves as we go along. He was on a Halberg Rassy 35. This is a boat I always respected, but ended up in pure awe of, again, for reasons that will unravel with this yarn.

Through the rounds of dinghy club sundowners, cricket matches, and other various cruiser events, I socialized a bit with Jack. He had an interesting trip to Bermuda, including being boarded for a time by an owl, of all things. As if to prove the sagacity of these creatures, the owl left and Jack stayed on. Sort of. He admitted he was sick for the entire 2 weeks it took him to get from Massachusetts to Bermuda. Couldn’t take seasick meds because they might interfere with his bipolar prescription.  And he didn’t know how to reef. And his autopilot failed. And several other calamities I have since forgotten. In the end, he was found drifting about in the vicinity of Bermuda with inoperative engine, sails in a shambles, and little or no food or water left. He was towed in by a good Samaritan.

Some time along into our stay, a strong front was forecast to hit Bermuda, so being also at the time, a single hander (between crew let’s say) I felt it appropriate to offer to help Jack move his boat off the concrete wall in his lee and set an anchor. No-can –do he replied. I don’t have a dinghy. My reaction, not truly knowing Jack yet, was “wow, I heard you had a rough ride, but your dinghy got washed off the deck?” “Not really,” he admitted. “I was towing it.”  From New England. Yup, you got it right. He was going to tow his dinghy to Bermuda. The image in my mind was old Dan Stromeyer, the dean or our yacht club for ages and ages. In showing me over his beloved Concordia Yawl one day he was very detailed in his deck dinghy arrangement description, because, as he said, towing a dinghy was a “lubberly thing to do.” Amen. You taught me well my old friend. But I digress.

This conversation took place in Jack’s cabin. Strewn about were dozens of bags from “Andy Cap Pub Fries” and a few empty water bottles. The place was trashed. There was nothing to indicate that someone lived there and a lot to indicate that a frat party had just ended. Jack got beat against that wall pretty good when the weather did arrive, but his boat, being a good one, pulled him through. Again.

I lost track of our protagonist for some time after that. All I knew was that he was headed next for Puerto Rico to meet a lady friend.  In fact, it was well into the winter cruise when I next saw Jack settled into what was known as “boat trash” corner in Road Town, Tortolla. The story from others was lucid, in stark contrast to his own. Jack was 23 days from Bermuda to Tortolla. Except had not been headed for Tortolla. Seems that a week or so out of Bermuda, another voyager had stumbled upon Jack’s boat wallowing with the sails on deck and the engine inoperative. He  was half dead and completely out of food and water. After he topped up in Bermuda he eventually figured out that his engine wouldn’t drink the water he’s put in his fuel tank, and he couldn’t drink the fuel he’s put in his water tank. Add to that, somewhere along the way he flooded his bilge and mixed his gear oil with seawater. Point of fact, I was going to name him emulsification Jack, but Calamity had a nicer ring to it. So, as true sailors will, this kind stranger sorted Jack out. He drained and oiled his transmission, gave him jugs of fuel and water as well as food for several days, and went on his way. .

Another week went by and Jack was reported overdue by his friend in Puerto Rico. Notices were broadcast and a search was conducted. It was a search that never stood a chance because he was actually drifting around north of Tortolla at the time. Someone else found him and dragged him in half dead.

When I saw Jack next, his lady friend had joined him. Together they were bolstering the illegal drug trade in Tortolla in a magnificent fashion. Jack asked me to help him figure out why his rudder was jammed. He blamed the hydraulic steering. He claimed he’s just returned from, get this – the  Gallapagos. I know it was the crack talking, but this served to highlight just how far gone Jack was. The rudder problem, I learned later, was nothing but a barnacle colony between the rudder and the keel since his boat hadn’t moved in months. I was only too glad to put Jack out of my mind as I sailed down island and, I though, out of his sphere forever.

The rest of that winter was the usual mix that cruising, and life in general will tend to be….Great times, good times,  some bad stuff and lots of just pretty OK stuff. I don’t think I thought once of Calamity Jack.

I was on my way home to New England that June. The trip to Bermuda was a mixed bag, with a turbulent and fiery finish in the form of severe electrical storms that kept us hove to outside of St. Georges overnight. We arrived safely and congratulated ourselves at having brought the ship in safe when others arrived broken and battered. Such is Bermuda. My mate stuck around until she had to return to work. I was sad to see her off.

My first morning alone on board was grey and overcast, which matched my mood exactly. I was lounging in my bunk late, reminiscing and replaying the events of my first sojourn. I was getting back near the beginning and had for the first time in months, though of Calamity Jack. I wondered if he would ever get out of the Virgin Islands. Plenty of other chemically dependants never did. After all, they had found a place where everything was acceptable. Why leave? Anyway, as I was lying there wondering there came the sound of a diesel at close quarters. My only thought was how inconsiderate some people could be – interrupting a lazy rainy morning that way. I went back to my book. For all of 30 seconds. The Diesel sound was back, but even closer. I jumped up angry and looked out a porthole. I will never forget that image. It was the bow of a Halberg Rassey 35 Aimed square at me and coming on fast.

Now folks, I’m not one to freeze up in a panic. For that matter I’m not one to even slow down long enough to put his pants on in a panic. And so it was that I found myself seconds later in the dinghy, in my underwear, along side Calamity Jack’s boat, looking at a guy who was Not Calamity Jack, and clearly had not slept in days. There wasn’t time for questions. On the other quarter of Jack’s boat was another cruiser climbing aboard from his dinghy. Jack’s boat was racing along in circles full ahead, but with its anchor on the bottom. Other cruiser guy went forward to retrieve the anchor. I instructed Not Calamity Jack to steer anywhere away from our boats. I dove into the bilge to figure out why Jack’s engine would not respond to the throttle, gearshift, or fuel cutoff. It didn’t take long to figure out. None of those controls were connected to anything. Neither was the fuel filter. The engine had been jury rigged to run forward and full speed. Nothing else. These are the days that try mens’ marine engineering training. I went to the injection pump and told the others to aim for a clear anchor spot and be ready. I ripped the jury rigged fuel hose off the injection pump. A few seconds later all was quiet. The anchor was set. Three strangers sat down in the cockpit for the next sordid chapter of the Calamity Jack tales.

The mystery zombie crew was in fact two days plus without sleep. He was crew on a race boat outbound from Bermuda. A day or so out, they had come upon Jack’s boat in its native state, wallowing with sails on deck and engine off. Jack was starved nearly to death and dehydrated. As usual he was out of food and water. The race boat was skippered by a doctor who assessed Jack’s condition as sufficiently critical to require evacuation. He notified Bermuda Harbor Radio and they dispatched their only rescue resource – the St George’s Pilot Boat. Jack was taken off and to the hospital in Hamilton. The mystery man volunteered to take Jack’s boat back to St Georges’ for him. Little did he know what he was getting in to. The race boat crew got Jack’s diesel running and pointed their mate off in the right direction. Then he came along and popped out of my dream state like some sort of diabolical Jinni.

Well, Jack eventually got out of the hospital looking more skeleton than man. I still don’t know if it was withdrawal of starvation that did it. It was a while later before I got the prologue from another cruiser. Seems he eventually patched up that old boat of his and headed home for New England. Got rescued from that leg too, so I’m told. Then he got home and hired a lawyer to sue the pants off the manufacturer of his EPIRB, on the basis that it failed to notify the satellite constellation and bring him timely rescue on his last leg. The saddest part of all is that, having now been more than once on Jack’s boat, I knew that Jack didn’t have a satellite EPIRB. He carried an old, outdated 121 MHz VHF FM EPIRB. Didn’t slow the lawyers down much though I guess.

The moral of the story of Calamity Jack, from where I stand, is never, ever, ever allow yourself to think of people like this once you have left them in your wake. Use hypnosis, booze, meditation, or beg your crew to bludgeon you if necessary. But DO NOT take the chance of conjuring them up from your past.

Now excuse me while I go set out some fenders…just in case.

I drive a really old truck....

So old, in fact, my nephews needed instruction on how to put the windows down. “whadayamean crank?”


There are a lot of reasons for this. Most assume it’s an extreme manifestation of parsimonious behavior. I’ve found that when people start assuming everything you do is financially driven, it’s best to let them and then simply downgrade the credit rating of their opinion into the negative range.

Actually, an old truck is an interesting thing. For one, it has no computer telling it what to do. So, for example, when I take my foot off the gas, there is no artificial intelligence to debate whether the stupid human behind the wheel actually wants to slow down. I like that. I get annoyed when Windows asks me 3 times if I’m sure I want to do something.

No computer means I can fix my truck the way I learned to fix things. Take them apart and look for the piece that does not look quite like the others. Replace said piece and reverse the process to put back together. This is just how my brain works. Now I know some prefer the modern method of plugging a computer into the car’s brain and asking it what’s wrong. But given my normal interaction with computers, I’d fully expect a snide answer or for the computer to lock up. Yes, I’m pretty sure I’d spend more time trying to make the software work than the hardware.

I’m old fashioned. I open doors for ladies and the elderly. I used to run and let people know if they forgot to turn off their lights. I’ve had to drop the last from my repertoire after several times when I thought I might be committed for not knowing that all new cars turn on and off their own lights after the computer has completed the internal debate over whether you are actually done with them or not. At least I no longer have to search my brain to remember my plate number when they announce a vehicle left its lights on at the store. They don’t do that anymore. It’s just assumed the computer knows best, or someone has hit the auto-start button from 6 positions back in the check out line.

I hate cars that cluck, beep, or flash as their owners walk away. I won’t have one. I’d rather own something no one in their right mind would ever steal. My truck, being a relic of the last fuel crisis is so marginally powered that it offers the additional advantage of being able to be overtaken in a chase scenario by a bike cop. And those little key fobs that make modern cars cluck and beep are tentative at best. When your commute starts with a dinghy ride, the chances of that little beeper thing taking a swim are actually pretty good over time. And clickers are pretty useless after a swim. Besides, I like my keyfobs to look like nautical ropework, not mini TV remotes.

A friend of similar driving philosophy had to put down his old truck last year. Terminal frame rot. It was sad. He got a newer used truck.. Last week he was helping me return to water depths exceeding my draft in his dinghy when he successfully proved the adage “no good deed goes unpunished.” In this case with an inverted dinghy dunking. Thankfully, I was in Thalia, and 3 feet of water, so he was able to stand up while laughing it off. Then I got pretty concerned about his car keys, what with a shiny newer truck waiting on the beach. No problem though – he had searched long and hard and found one of the last of the pre-click-storic trucks. No clicker. No problem driving home, except for the wet butt.

I know, we are all supposed to want auto start and electric locks and back-scratchers and A/C and monster V8 engines… Oh wait. That was in 1960. No matter. Easiest thing to do is just keep jamming the crap down our throats. Saves money since actual progress is expensive. In fact, if I were to replace my old truck with the nearest new model, I would loose 5 miles per gallon. Made it so I couldn’t even consider the “cash for clunkers” program with a straight face. But I’d get power everything and more horsepower to go with it.

 A friend bought a Prius when they first came out. Cool car. It's got a clicker, so I won't own one, but it is at least looking in the right direction. This friend was very excited when he showed me the Prius. "Gets 60 miles per gallon." he said. "Your 1976 VW Rabbit diesel got 60 miles per gallon." I responded, clearly less impressed than hoped. "But this one's got air conditioning!" came the hopeful reply. "Great. 30 years of automotive engineering to get air conditioning worked into the deal." This ended the conversation. Now I know that there's more to it than that. Safety, emissions, comfort, performance....All I'm saying is why can't someone work toward the same goals with simplicity as a feature? Probably because the profit margin would suffer.

The real trouble is I don’t like driving. So I’d rather keep on not wanting that stuff and go sailing instead of driving. I used to like driving. Then I came back to the US one trip and people were all twiddling their thumbs (texting as it turns out) or holding cell phones in one hand and gesticulating madly with the other behind the wheel of car brands I’d never heard of. Add to that the fact that after several thousand miles at 5 knots, 50 miles per hour is like being in Space Mountain. I hate roller coasters. I am that guy up ahead you assumed was 80 years old. I’m not that old. But I’ll be off the road and back on the water just as soon as I can. So please don’t beep. Or at least put down the cell phone if you do so you still have one hand for the ship (car.)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Happiness is a New Deck Brush….

As long as you didn’t get sucked into buying it at W#@$  Marine.

In fact, I did not buy a deck brush. I bought a roofing brush. What one normally uses a brush for, I cannot say. I live under a deck, so roofing is alien to me. But this I do know. A “deck brush” will set the cruising budget back some $30 or more. A “roofing brush” will fly off the shelf at your neighborhood mom & pop hardware store for $4.50. I guess the concept is that if you take shelter under a deck, you must be rich and therefore ripe for the plucking, but if you need to fix your own roof, you deserve financial mercy. Actually. I don’t know that anyone has thought it through that way. I only know how it looks from my vantage point.

And please don’t take this the wrong way , but I have to admit that I feel pretty intense pity when I see the modern “well dressed” weekend crowd with the ubiquitous oval “W” logo on everything from the dinghy to the purse dog life vest. After you’ve been out a while, it really does sort of become the calling card of the sheep led to slaughter, except the sheep would be smart enough not to brag after being fleeced. Now I’m not rallying to boycott the mega stores. I’m just astounded that it’s taking so long for them to fall of their pedestal and I don’t think it speaks well of the overall awareness of the boating demographic.

Am I the only one who's noticed that the retail kingpins in both the general merchandise and marine retail markets start with "W"? At least general shopping public has been sucked in by the relatively honest tactic of selling low grade stuff for low prices. Baffling that the marine "W" has been so successful at selling lower grade for higher price.

Anyway, It’s not that I derive pleasure from swabbing the decks. It’s just that I feel a little less put upon doing so with a $4 brush than I would with a $30 one. So if you see me pause  my swabbing to watch the catalog poster dinghy go by, I’m not shaking my head in disapproval so much as true sympathy.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

On Anchors….And Religion

For a long time I’ve had a theory about similarities between ground tackle choice and religious bent. When my trusted 45lb CQR dragged in a squall in Newport earlier this summer, the resulting shock waves revealed the cracks in the foundation of my ground tackle temple….

I was asked at a presentation I did aboard Charis once, why I had so many anchors and why they seemed so large for the boat. I answered that I liked to sleep soundly. I reasoned that the difficulty of retrieving heavy ground tackle occupies but a tiny percentage of the time one spends secured to the bottom with it. But I know there was more to it than that. Having different types and sizes of anchor is recognition that there is no universal truth in the matter. It’s an admission that perhaps each has its strengths and hence weaknesses. It is a sort of nautical Universalism.

Part of this theory has evolved along the way as a reaction to the frequent cruiser discussion topic known as the anchor. Time has taught me that the more dogmatic someone is in their gear choice, chances are, the less technically versed they are in it. My reaction, having always been sort of an obstinate human, is doubt in direct proportion to dogma. The best of these conversations are with other techno-types who leave behind the superiority complex and delve straight into the actual features and functions of each anchor type. There needs to be an element of admission of failure to validate the claims to success. This is sort of sermonizing that one can learn from. And really, learning is the key, because it really all boils down to this:

Worship not thy anchor. It is nearer human than deity in that each one has its strengths and weakness. Every one will prove fickle if you do not handle it sensibly. Some will serve well in one situation but abandon you in others. Some will inspire your faith and be your rock of Gibraltar. Some will inspire less confidence. Just remember, even rocks move sometimes.

So go forth….and stay put. Especially if you’re the boat upwind of me. Not that I mind you visiting. I just prefer you arrive in your dinghy.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012