Monday, November 29, 2010

The Sailor's Hierarchy of Needs - Maslow and Freud get Stuffed

Somewhere in November

Dear reader (if any of you remain).  Please accept that this is written for entertainment and is not necessarily factually sound  and is definitely not a complaint.

From the last post many of you realize that sex while underway is difficult if not downright unwelcome -  by everyone.  But many of you, the men at least, will wonder about what happens on arrival in paradise.  I mean surely the first thing that happens on arrival in that gentle anchorage, with the palm trees and the strong drink and the gentle breezes is restoration of the libido.  Right?

Here based on years of careful observation is the sailor's hierarchy of needs:.


Sailing is a dirty business.  Boats in motion do not lend themselves to the gentle amenity of a personal shower.  Somedays even standing up for 5 minutes is a challenge.  Lost to sailors is that fine hygienic state which infects the standard suburban pillbox where every knob is hit with sani-wipes each time a child passes within 3 feet.  We have been in friends' homes which could be used for operating theatres (with kitchen islands as large as operating tables to boot).   It is not that we are unsanitary but our scale of hygiene is based on the practical or even the achievable.  A sponge bath after 3 days seems more than adequate when the boat continues to surge and ebb with every wave and lateral stability is measured in the closest 10 degrees of roll. 

When achievable showers are not what the landlubbing public might visualize. Wet your body.  Lather.  Rinse.  Do not repeat.  You do not waste water. Water is for drinking and cooling engines.  Everything else is far far down the hierarchy of needs.

When the Budget Committee hits a marina the first hour is spent in the shower.  Hereafter attendance at the shower is mandated daily.

It is clear to me from what I hear while waiting outside the showerroom that showers and great sex have a lot in common.  "Oh, God, that is fantastic" and "Oooooh my God that is so goooood" and such ermerge continuously from the womens shower.


No matter how we structure watches or spell each other off by the end of a passage we are ready for long sleep.  After the couple of days the night shifts are no longer a burden but it seems the sleep deficit continues to grow.  Even in deep sleep part of your mind is engaged, feeling the boat move under sail, alert to any shimmy, shake or sound that signifies trouble afoot..   On arrival the first day or even two are lost in the friendship of hypnos: solid, steady sleep interrupted only for food and washroom. 


Diet aboard a sailboat underway is limited.  Rationing is a fact of life.  You quickly run out of fresh stuff.  Everything down to the daily bread must be made from scratch and somedays there is not enough energy left to do the scratching.  Definitely cruising puts the galley crew through its paces, not only in the extra work of preparation but also the need for originality to make up for the ever increasing holes in the stores - no cinnamon, no basil, no eggs, no chicken...the list is endless and grows endlesser as the passage extends.

Fresh fish is fine but after 3 days of it you really want a bag of chips and some saturated fat to dip them in.

Shortages in galley stores do not result in desperation however.  The ceaseless roll and pitch of the hull sort of takes the edge off everyone's appetite and by the third or fourth day you have enough torn muscles and bruises that your mind is usually not on "what's for dinner".

In the first two weeks out of Halifax Meredith found herself travelling in a lot of cold wet weather.   The Budget Committee was ready for this and there was always pottage on the stove often warm.  Pottage is a cool if ancient term for what is really a "forever stew" - you start with the basics when weather is good: beef, potatoes, onions, carrots, zucchini, whatever.  Make a big batch in the pressure cooker (you know the old fashioned devices your mother used) with a good sealable lid.  The lid is necessary when the pot goes flying across the galley in an errant wave.  You might be bruised but you will not be boiled if the pot has a lid with a stout closure.  Each day, as the contents decline in volume, you add to the pot whatever you have at hand. 

Forever Stew is absolute ambrosia while underway in a seaway and the cook feted as a bloody genius.   After landfall less so.

But then, after showers and sleep and mundane diet are tended to; after visiting the temple of Hypnos and sitting drink in hand, the caress of Zephyrus gently touching your skin, then surely is the time to resurrect the libido?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sex At Sea

Vero Beach FL
2010 11 21

Remember Freud and his lovely theory that the Sex Drive is the most important motivating force in the human psyche.  And then there is Maslow and his tantalizing hierarchy of needs describing that people first seek food and sex and then an escalating scale of psychological needs such as safety, love and finally self actualization.

What a pair of frauds.  For sure neither of these dudes ever cruised.

Any cruise begins as a journey of self actualization - I mean who exactly put your butt in the helm of that tiny sailboat in those 20 foot seas with the 35 knot winds?

Safety is a pipedream - after our last cruise none of my muscles were available to be torn - they were all in emerg getting stitched up.  My bruises had bruises.  And I knew it would end this way before I started.  Maslow should try making tea while a 22 footer poops his cockpit and tosses a few hundred gallons of mucky green fish mucous all over you and your cuppa.  And you are there by choice.

Love takes a distant second place to need - I need someone to take the helm right damn now cause if I don't get another reef in the bloody main we're gonna turtle. 

Then there is sex.  At least it is somewhere.  There is no sex on a cruise and if you wonder why well just climb on a waterbed and have someone strike the side of your house repeatedly with wrecking ball.  If the boat motion  doesn't put you off then worry about the fact no one is on watch does.  Or that odd creaking sound that wasn't there two minutes ago.

And food.  Right.  We eat a lot of fish and a lot of soda crackers.  Mostly soda crackers, especially when the seas and the wind picks up and boat starts tossing.  Four days of fresh fish and I would kill for a decent soda cracker.

So Freud and Maslow - you were bright guys.  You've just never sailed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Proper Etiquette at a Dock Party

This comes direct from the keyboard of the near mythic Capt. Dave.  You might be inclined think the Capt. is a fiction, a mere nom de plume, adopted by your humble scribe to deflect the criticism that might attend the very worldly and uncut reports that are attributed to the email device of Capt Dave. Go ahead.  I don't mind.  This email dealt in part with Sailor's Socials and proper procedures.

Since I am too paranoid to write a blog for fear the Marxists will single me out after the takeover then I enjoy everyone elses blog and like to add meat to their writing just like my stews and chili's. You may want to do an article on such things as the "Pecking Order" at sailor socials, and advice as what to eat and what not to eat at these bring-a-plate gatherings.

A few examples:  Before you dive into a bowl of yellow goo that looks like vomit or an uncooked omelete, you might want to visit the boat it came from beforehand.Just because the contributer has a nice looking rig out there on the mooring and the 2nd in command is wearing the latest sailor girl marine fashions does not mean that shit isn't overflowing from their toilet into the bilge where they keep the butter and cheese...or the cat wasn't eating the top layer of goo. You are supposed to dunk your cracker into this stuff but how do you know what it is ?....look for cat hairs. You must remember that most people are immune to what they eat on their boat... but you are only immune to what comes off your own boat.

At these events there is usually to be found a Butterfly Betty...she flits and flirts. Her husband Boring Bob keeps a watchful eye on guys like me who keep a watchful eye on Betty's butt. Betty will consume one whole bottle of red Walmart plunk at each social and then the party is over. Until then Bob asks every single solo sailor what he brought to the bring-a plate.

Bob asked me last year. "What did you bring Dave ??" .....I told him that I brought the same thing he did.e.g.. NOTHING!. .... Husbands don't bring anything to socials because their wives do. This legally exempts single solo sailors because sadly we don't suffer the trauma of having bizarre hormones all over our boat.

Bringing a plate to a social is really a woman's competition between women and men should stay clear of woman things.  

I think with your amazing wit that you could write a very good article on this. My opinions are not copyrighted.

Dave, flattery always works on Capt Curmudgeon.  He is so deprived of it on his own boat.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Just the Hundredth and One Monkey Puttin' In Time on Planet Earth

Vero Beach FL
2010 11 10

Maybe you remember the Hundredth Monkey Hypothesis:  A group of scientists purportedly observed that some monkeys on an isolated island learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. The researchers made an astounding observation: once a critical number of monkeys was reached—the so-called hundredth monkey—this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands.  Instantly all the monkeys everywhere knew to wash their sweet potatoes.  The observation was  bunkum.  Sadly the facts did not support the concept.  Much as the mind controlling skinnerian bureaucrats might drool at the prospect there is no way to instantly place an idea in the minds of an entire population.

Bunkum save for sailors.

Faced with unpleasant and even dangerous weather in Nova Scotia by the end of September and grown weary of freezing on our boat as we travelled the 1,000 miles or so of American territory which must be covered before one gets to interesting sailing grounds we decided this year to amend the schedule.  This year we would proceed south two or three weeks earlier than usual hoping to be met with more favourable conditions.

The strategy worked.  In spades, for those of you who play bridge.  Those of you who do not, play bridge that is, and would denigrate those of us who do should know that Bill Gates and Warren Buffet both play bridge, often on the same team.

Once at Vero we were met and have continued to meet an unending stream of sailing friends whom we have met over the past two years.  Without communicating everyone has chosen an earlier trek south this year. 

So much time has been devoted to lunching, shopping and bar hopping - well we do not "hop" we just dinghy over to the Riverside - that there has been little time for other activity, like boatwork.  Cambia from Maine just left after a week here, Fortnight from Hamilton area has been here for a fortnight, About Time from Guelph came in the day after we did and are still here, Mystic from New York a few days later and Searcher from Texas arrived yesterday.  We look forward to Kinvara within the week. 

New boats must be properly met.  Sailors are a bit doglike in their approach to other boats.  Whenever they meet sailors sniff each other out, sort out what kind of boater the other guys are.  If the initial cockpit drinks are a success you hope to meet the boat again, if not you still had some good conversation and a couple of drinks. 

Here is how we categorize sailors once we have met a new boat:

Misfits, Just Like Us: This comprises the bulk of the cruising public.  This lot perceives themselves to be independent and self reliant.  As well as bright, well informed and very capable.  Although friendly and generous of time and expertise they are not joiners except in the vague constellation of cruisers.  Sailing provides a means for these iconoclasts to live outside a society that has lost meaning or purpose and in which they have no place.  Think cowboy and you are not far off.  Boats in this category prefer the empty anchorage to the crowded, a quiet drink to a party.  These sailors come and go at will: one evening you share drinks with a boat and the next morning one or both of you is gone without a word. 

Suburban sailors: boats  that travel together in small fleets for safety or because they enjoy a tightly regulated social hierarchy.  Although genial and sometimes witty this group has a high a price of entry: you must participate in its rigid suburban social hierarchy.  No exceptions.  This bunch never sails anywhere exciting or new.  They like to talk about their second home just outside Annapolis, their investments or the new stuff they put on their boat.  Sometimes at the end of the season one or more higher ranking members may sail somewhere on their own, just to establish their superior position in the group.    Avoided by most sailors.

Gemini sailors: two or three boats travelling together in lockstep.  Like they are joined at the hip.  No one goes their own way or sets their own course.  No boat in the pack will even lift anchor and set off for the agreed upon destination until the alpha boat has done so.   Here the alpha boat will  usually be well travelled and interesting, the subsidiary boats less so.  Often one or more crew of the pack boats will be so reclusive as to avoid all group contact.  An exception are newbies: two boats of first timers who have found each other and cling together briefly until they sort things out.  Usually newbies become Misfits.

Trailer Park Boys: Sailors who take their boats to the Abacos every year and stay at the same marina as every other year for another 3 months.  Herds of them can be found in Marsh Harbour and the cays surrounding the Sea of Abaco. 

Single Handers: With some brilliant exceptions, like Capt. Dave and Steve on Searcher, this is a group of odd and grumpy old men.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

First We All Yelled at the Dwarf (Who Deserved It) and Then the Shark Attacked. You Cannot Live This Life on Land.

 Vero Beach, FL
2010 11 07

Dinghying to the dinghy dock at St. Augustine Municipal Marina you are forced, no matter where you are moored, to pass by the fuel dock.  In St. Augustine the Fuel Dock serves two purposes.  Not only does it provide a long easy entry dock for boats to belly up to the fuel pumps but it is also used at to dock especially large powerboats - those large sterile white plastic mastodons whose sticker prices are set in multiples of $10 million.

Somehow it seems appropriate that these floating temples to the god of conspicuous consumption be tied up at a fuel dock.  Some of them must be plumbed in to the fuel tanks directly just like some boats plumb themselves into the municipal water supply.

It happened that the night we stayed at St. Augustine there was tied to the fuel dock a multi storied embarrasment of a boat which prominently displayed on its ground floor (or its water level) the statue, a very large statue, of a dwarf.  

How appropriately nautical.  Does a statue of a dwarf on your boat not just scream competence at sea to any casual observer?

What the dwarf statue signified to the powerboat brain that paid the mortgage on this aquatic mammoth will never be known.  Perhaps he had made his fortune selling Disney memorabilia or maybe he ran an internet porn site featuring sex amongst little people with large protuberant probosces.  You get the idea: he must have been a very classy fellow.  I mean, look at his boat. 

The boat's name was "Grumpy".

Grumpy did not figure large in our daily thoughts until the morning we left St. Augustine.  To depart this lovely tourist mecca you must transit a bridge.  Bridge openings are tightly controlled, never more tightly than during "rush hour" for the local auto traffic.  The Bridge of Lions opens every half hour on the hour and half hour but does not open at 8:00 a.m.  This is problematic at this time of year as sunrise is not until 7:40 a.m. and most boats leaving want to use the 8:00 a.m. opening - first light sort of thing.

Meredith slowed her departure procedures to a nicely languid pace and eased into channel ready for the 8:30 a.m. opening.  Prior to casting off we contacted the bridge operator to verify that the Bridge would indeed open at 8:30.  This was confirmed.

8:30 came and the bridge began its opening right on schedule.   As the traffic gates came down the radio picked up.  "Bridge of Lions, this is Grumpy.  I am at the Municipal Docks.  Will you hold the bridge for me?"

"Aaahhm sorry saahhr" replied the bridge tender in a timbre of voice that confirmed large size and a life spent growing up in the deep south.  "If you can get your boat in the channel before I close you can make the opening" he finished, rather obviously I thought.  But he was talking to a powerboat.

"But, I am GRUMPY" demurred the owner of the dwarf ship.  "You must have seen me here at the dock.  Can't you hold the bridge for me.  I am Grumpy" he reasserted in closing.

The bridge operator did not lose a beat nor did he alter his slow steady monotone response.  "Well saahhr, I woke up a bit irritable myself this morning.  So you listen to me when I tell you that the next bridge opening is at 9:00 a.m. and if your boat is not in the channel and ready to proceed at that time you will just have to wait for 9:30.;  Y'all have a nice day now."

Cheered mightily by this gentle yet substantial putdown Meredith continued out the inlet and into the open waters of the Atlantic.  Three hours later the reel on the fishing line started to buzz and we landed a very nice tasting blackfin tuna.  That provided lunch and dinner and lunch the next day.

Mid afternoon the reel started to buzz again.  Picking up the rod I knew immediately that this was a different sort of fish.  I had a fight on my hands.  Whatever took my hook did not want to be eaten.

I had no idea how right I was.  It came to me over the next half hour that whatever was on the hook wanted to eat me for lunch.  It had eaten my hook as a means of getting on my boat - and at me.

The fish pulled and dove and ran in an arc.  After 25 minutes of fighting hard to reel in my "catch" I still had 50 feet of line to go and it was being reeled in an inch at a time.  When it dove the last time I knew it was a shark.  

Do you remember the scene in the movie Jaws when the ill fated fishermen managed to speer the shark and tied 3 large buoyancy drums to it?  Then the fish dives as if the buoyancy drums are not even there.  

This was my fish.  When it dove the last time all I could think was: Jaws.  

Exhausted I finally got the aquatic predator on deck.  Half an hour of fighting and this shark did not quit once.  As it hit the deck it's tail started to swing back and forth with tremendous energy.  The Budget Committee moved towards the thrashing beast intending to put a towel over its eyes to calm it.  Too loud I yelled at her to stay away.  Make no mistake, I was just a little bit afraid.

At that the shark gave one last thrust of tail and threw itself off the deck.  Suspended by the hook in its mouth it continued its machinations hanging in mid air until the hook in its mouth tortured from the combination of weight and  irresistable force bent itself straight.  The fish slid off the hook and into the water.

We were both glad.