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.

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