With my hand on the wheel and my brain in neutral . . .

Posts tagged ‘sailboat’

The Straits of Liquidity

The other night, summertime, just after dark, in a light rain, I lazily rowed my dinghy out of the marina and toward my sailboat moored out about 50 yards.   The water dripping from my oar blades blended with the sleepy raindrops on the water, and as I stealthily passed the marina owner’s 102-foot motor yacht, from inside I could hear the old man’s voice and the chit-chat of his guests, including the recognizable hearty laughter of the barrel-chested bartender, a friend of mine. Gliding past the tall, steep, white hull of the yacht, I was reminded of the opening scene of the famous classic The Oddyoullsee, the epic voyage of Miklysses.

In case you don’t immediately recall the opening scene from reading the book in its entirety in high school, I’ll summarize it here for you. I’m sure my rendition will not be nearly as poetic as the original, but here goes:

The great voyage began with Miklysses rowing a tiny boat away from a small seafaring village and in to the sun setting on the sea. On shore, all the women waved farewell, wept, and wailed; all the men – the husbands, the boyfriends, the lonely but hopeful single men – gestured disgustingly, threw curses and rocks and insults, and then shouted with joy, clapped each other soundly around the shoulders, drank heroically, and celebrated better days to come. None of this fazed Miklysses: over the years, he had become quite accustomed to this sort of farewell. At each of his departures, the satisfied women and moon-eyed girls and the frustrated men, all behaved this same way, here, there, this year, last year . . . ad nauseum – ya, I think that’s the phrase.

Anyways, Miklysses rowed away into the falling night, less concerned with the inconsolable women and the relieved men on shore than the immediate dangers of the darkening water. Near the village, still relatively close to shore, there were the Water Snakes of Death, monstrous things that could tip a boat and swallow a man whole. Only their very young, still the size of finger-thick ropes just a foot or two long, would be seen during the day; the big ones hunted exclusively at night. Some brave but foolish men would use wine to lure them in to their vision, but that usually did not end well: it was best to keep your distance (from the Water Snakes of Death, not the wine.) A little farther out, there were the dreaded, massive, menacing Ducks of Death (in other surviving texts from ancient times, these are commonly referred to as Duhhhhhcks ovvvvvvv Deaeaeath.) He couldn’t see them, but he could hear, he could feel in his vibrating bones, the low grumbling roar of their of thunderous QUAAAACK.   By sound alone he judged their changing positions, adjusting his course this way and that, undetected and undeterred, snaking and sneaking his way through the frightful flock. Then, a bit further, were the Straits of Liquidity.

The Straits of Liquidity were not dangerous waters per se, but on the south side, cutting cleanly into the water, there was a sheer white cliff that towered high overhead, and there, high above the water, was the haunt of a giant.   The problem was that if he saw you passing the cliffs, he would invite you to visit. He would reach down from above to lift you up, and then he would give you copious amounts of exquisite honeymeade to slake your thirst. All of this was not particularly perilous in itself.   The giant – tall, strong, white-haired, and clear-eyed – was not very dangerous, that is, unless someone attempted to trick him or take advantage of him. Otherwise he was considered by all to be rather jovial and generous. The real problem was that he tended to take in a variety of orphaned goblins that hung about underfoot, eating his food and drinking his prime wine, mead, and ale. Some of those smiling goblins would refill your bull’s horn or mug until you were unaware that they were magically sucking the life force from your soul, literally taking time from the span of your life, one heartbeat at a time, to add to theirs. Horrid, horrid little beasts!

In the preceding years many times Miklysses had visited the dear old giant, and he considered him a friend. In what little ways he could, he repaid, or at least attempted to repay, the old giant’s benevolence. This night, though, he did not stop, could not stop to visit. He worked his rowboat through the Straits of Liquidity and out onto Decker Flats. Not stopping, though, on this particular night, might have been a mistake.

The Straits had been calm, nary even a wavelet, only ripples echoing from the now far-away mighty Ducks of Death. The Flats, though, out in the open, with tremendous fetch to form waves, waves made steep and tall by the shallow bottom, were, this night, much more than just a bit treacherous. Miklysses’s ocean-going boat Kala Nag was heavily anchored safe on the edge of the flats. The problem? It was far, far away on the other side of the flats!

Other, more fearful sailors would have waited for less threatening conditions, but Miklysses didn’t hesitate to point the bow of his tiny rowboat toward Kala Nag, his voyaging vessel, his home. Up one side of a random wave and down the other, the tiny boat heaving and yawing every which way the waves and wind could imagine, but with his oars cycling rhythmically despite the chaos, Miklysses held his course arrow straight. He had to aim upwind to allow for leeway, of course, but when he reached the stern of his stout voyaging vessel, he had to make only a single correcting stroke. And he accomplished this in the near blackness of the night!

Sensing the surge of a wave under his rowboat, he leaped into the near blackness, timing his jump as the rowboat rose while his already famous sailboat Kala Nug plummeted down into the wave’s trough nearby. In midair he flicked his wrist and snapped the tender’s painter into a solid cleat hitch on Kala Nag’s stern, securing the rowboat before he landed on deck. With a twist and a turn he vaulted himself – he did NOT trip and fall – through the split backstay, over the coaming, around the tiller, and into the cockpit. The boat was bouncing like a ball being batted around by anthropomorphic waves, but, I’m telling you, he did NOT trip and fall. He did not. He braced himself in a three-point ready stance, the position to be made famous many centuries later by Spiderman and other incredibly athletic superheroes. He did NOT trip and fall into the cockpit like a loose bag of broken sticks. He did NOT.

Once aboard the admirable sailing vessel Kala Nag, he looked about, checking her lines and state of readiness, surveying his realm. He did not weigh anchor and slip away, though: no, because he was a sailor’s sailor, because he was Miklysses, salty, seasoned, and prudent, he went below, took a nip of whiskey to ward off any evil spirits lurking nearby, then promptly fell asleep, wisely waiting until “first light” to begin his voyage and continue his adventure.

So, there you have it, a humble re-telling of the opening of The Oddyoullsee, a mere glimpse into the life of Miklysses. Not until two millennia had passed, not until the likes of Sir Walter Mitty and Commander McBragg, would the world see the likes of such a man.

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Two Old Men of Iron and One Not-So-Old Man of Polish Sausage

Ya, I did that teak!

Lately I’ve been working on the teak cap and hand rails on a 104-foot power yacht, and I’ve been having a hard time keeping up with my workmates, an 86-year-old man and a 74-year-old-man. I’m not kidding: every day, long after I’d be ready for a break, long after I’d ask them if they’d like me to fetch drinking water “for them”, they’d shoot me a quick glance and say, “Less talk, more work.” Sweat would be dripping off our faces, sweat would soak our shirts not damp but downright wet, and as we walked we would trail a cloud of teak dust. Eventually, finally, we’d break for lunch. These old doogans were working machines!

Once, going to lunch, I told them every night I went home and cried myself to sleep because they were Men of Iron and in comparison I was just a Boy Made of Polish Sausage and French Crepes. Telling them that opened the door, or should I say, opened their mouths.  After lunch, and for days, they ran with the joke:

“Hey, Sausage! You got the box of paper?”

“Hey, Scrapple! . . . ”

“Hey, Hamburger! . . . ”

“Hey, Ground Beef . . .”

“Hey, Chopped Liver. . .”

“Hey, Peanut Butter and Jelly . . .” followed quickly by “No, no Peanut Butter – just Jelly.”

“Hey, Soup . . .” and “No, not Soup – just Broth!” and “What’s that Mexican cold soup? Gar-bage-bo?”

“Hey, Puddin’ . . .”

“Hey, Jello . . . ”

(Note: I’m not using their names or photos ’cause they both hate the internet and love their privacy.)

What Should I Call My Brother Now?

Probably much more so amongst men than women, a telltale sign of friendship is plenty of good-natured teasing.  The tacit understanding is you don’t tease about something that really might bother the guy, unless you’re really, really good friends.  Even strangers can get in on the fun as long as there is something in their tone that lets the target guy know, “Hey, we’ve been there, too, and we’re going to help you get over it by making you laugh at yourself.”

There was a great example of this on one of the Facebook boating groups recently.  A man posted this:

Hey just a quick question… if your brother has run-aground 4 times in the past week… Would “Sandbar” be a good nickname!?!

and quickly got over 100 comments.  The brother chimed in, too, so obviously he knew it was just in good fun, and he seemed to be enjoying it.

High and Dry

The nicknames offered are listed below, but first a few comments and suggestions:

  • (From the original posting brother): Very, very true my brother… I love you a lot and can’t wait to get down to St Pete and …run aground with you!!!! er..um… I mean run around
  • Arrrgh . . . Actually, charts be more like guidelines…
  • He’s obviously a “land ho”
  • Change your ring tone (from him) to Gilligan’s Island theme
  • A crusty old salt once told me that the only people that never run aground are those that never go anywhere. By that logic, I’m somewhere into my third circumnavigation.
  • He was just doing a little depth sounding with the keel…
  • If you haven’t run aground, you haven’t been around
  • If he has a dinghy, he can call it HopAlong

Whoops

“What should I call my brother?”

  • Adopted
  • Bar Hopper
  • Bump
  • Calamity John
  • Captain KneeDeep
  • Captain Runaground
  • Captain Sandbar
  • Chart Cheapie
  • Columbus
  • Crash
  • Dirt
  • Dumbass is a pretty good one
  • Flounder
  • Garmin
  • Grounder
  • GroundHog
  • Groundling
  • Honest “Sandy” Sandbar, your Local Guide-for-Hire
  • Lawn Dart
  • Lead line
  • Mayhem
  • Mr. Sandman
  • Pilot
  • Ping
  • Runaground Sue
  • Sandbar
  • Sandbar Slim
  • Sandhopper
  • Sandlubber
  • Sandy
  • Sandy Asshole
  • Sandy Bottoms
  • Simon Sonar
  • Sir Sandbar
  • Skid mark
  • Sonar
  • Speed-Bump
  • Stands With Fist in Sandbar and Head Up Butt
  • Stevie Wonder
  • Still Sanding After All These Years
  • The Clammer
  • The Dredger ? Sanding still?
  • The High Tide Kid
  • The Sandbot
  • Valdez

Sandbar 3

Eh, maybe it’s a man thing, but I’ll bet that 20, 30, 40, 50 years from now, something will spark the memory and one will say to the other, “Hey!  Remember that time we got all those Captain Sandbar nicknames on Facebook?”  And they’ll both be grinning.

Not MY fault!

One Way Sailors Understand Cold

While not the bitter, ass-biting cold of late winter, cold air has certainly arrived here in Annapolis. Supposedly it’s been down to 33 the last two nights. Winter . . . it’s he-e-e-re. As you fellow sailors know, cold air often creates disturbances in the space-time continuum. The young couple at the end of my pier told me how the walk to the corner store – which in the summer time, moving slow, takes about 1/2 hour but feels like 10 minutes – now, moving faster, but with the wind blowing through your jeans, takes 10 minutes but feels like 1/2 hour . . . Yep, with our sailor-ly knowledge of physics and the laws of the natural world, a disturbance in the space-time continuum is the only rational explanation.

Rainy Day after Halloween

The day after Halloween was rainy, chilly, and increasingly windy, so I hid from the world and stayed inside my boat, morning till night. I kept plenty busy, sitting at my dinette, working on my laptop, offline here and all over the world via the Internet. There’s a porthole right next to my head, so with just a glance I could check the progression of raindrops sliding down the plexiglass and scan half the marina.

marina in rain

I had an electric oil-filled radiant heater near my feet, turned on but dialed down low, just enough to take the chill out of the air and scare back the invading dampness. In the morning as I typed on the keyboard between my forearms I had hot mugs of coffee, and late in the afternoon I had a steaming mug of chicken broth. And, of course, I had cookies, morning and afternoon. I’ve heard that the Irish call this kind of day a “cozy day.”

In between, after lunch, I was irresistibly drawn to my bunk for a Barometric Nap (per the Napa Sutra on Napism.Info.) I fell asleep easily, with the rain pattering hypnotically on the deck just two feet above my head. The boat was rocking in the wind, tugging on the dock lines, occasionally bucking a little against the gusts. That’s a wonderful feeling, sensing the solidity of the boat floating on the water, my little piece of solid reality safe against the weather, safe among the unknowable and ever-changing watery realities of the world . . .

I woke up gradually, stalled for a few moments in that amazing, delicious phase of sleep half-way in dreamland. You haven’t yet regained your kinesthetic sense – you don’t feel the position of your limbs; you’re mostly disconnected from your body – and all you sense physically is luxurious warmth and complete comfort, and your thoughts are still just images connected in random and silly, amusing ways, dream-style, and – here’s the best part – you don’t want anything, not a damn single thing.

Yep, I loves my little boat, loves, loves, loves my little boat . . .

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