Aug 31 2009

Getting knocked-up and knocked-down

Tag: failures,humorous,introspection,musings,preparationjonny5waldman @ 4:59 am

Over the last five hundred years or so, if a sailor did something stupid like neglect his duties or disobey orders or insult his captain, or strike an officer, or desert the ship, or display rank incompetence or drunkenness or insubordination, or steal a dram of rum, or spit on the deck, or fail to stow his things properly or to clean his clothes adequately, there were any number of punishments that could be meted out: the sailor could be flogged, or whipped, or pickled, or cobbed, or made to run the gauntlet or to clean the head or to carry a 30-pound cannonball around the deck all day or to station himself at the top of the mast for a few hours or just to stand still until told otherwise. He could be lashed on board every ship in the fleet, or he could be tied to the mast for a week, or keel-hauled, or he could have had his feet bound and covered in salt and presented to goats for licking, which quickly went from ticklish to agonizing, because the goats don’t stop licking before the sailor’s feet have become bloody stumps. Or, if the sailor had mutinied or murdered, he could be hanged, shot, or have his head cut off, boiled, and then shoved onto a spike above decks, and left there for a week or so, to serve as an example to the remaining and hopefully far more loyal crew. Magellan preferred this latter technique. If the sailor had buggered (aka sodomized) another sailor, that, too could earn him the severest punishments. The sea was not San Francisco, man. But, if the sailor, while meeting the locals on some tropical island far away from home, knocked up a local woman, or a bunch of local women: nothing. Getting a girl knocked up was what sailors did when they weren’t sailing, like Genghis Khan, or Mulai Ismail, the last Sharifian emperor of Morocco, who had something like 1400 sons and daughters before he died. Most sailors probably never knew how many women they knocked up on their voyages.

How far we’ve come since those days. I can neglect my duties all I want; I can make fun of Matt’s mom and call Jon a cabron and not get punched in the face; I can run off to Yosemite for a couple of weeks; I can trim the sails poorly and sail us home by some unimaginably indirect course; we can get so drunk that we decide to clean up our spilled wine with spilled beer; I can drink all of Matt’s beer and Jon’s expensive whiskey; I can spit on the deck or anywhere else on the boat I feel like it; and I’m not sure if I’ve ever stowed my things or washed my clothes properly. The boat is my oyster. If I were so inclined, I could invite over all the gay guys in the bay area with one simple Craiglist post; instead, I have tried my hand at luring girls here, all the while wondering what girl would really find this sailboat alluring. Remember: according to Google, Syzygy is a janky piece of shit, and based on the information in this paragraph (swearing, drinking, spitting, dirtying), I’m no example of fine manners, either. Finally, the biggest change of all: getting girls knocked up is decidedly not what sailors do. This is the 21st century, man, even if it is San Francisco.

So I’m 31, and dating, and it’s always a mystery when and how to tell girls about the boat. They always have a ton of questions. Is it small? It’s like a New York City apartment, you know, a 400-square-foot studio. Is there a fridge, and a stove? Yup. Is there any headroom? I can’t jump up and down, but I don’t have to squat. Is there a bathroom? Yup, but I prefer to piss in the bay. Is it noisy? Seagulls squawk in the morning, and sometimes the wind howls in the afternoons, and sometimes the docklines creak as they stretch taut. I try to make it sound romantic. Does it rock back and forth? The boat moves a little bit when tied up, but nothing crazy. And get this: the boat is so burly that if it gets knocked over 90-degrees it still pops right back up. In fact, if it gets knocked over 120-degrees, it still pops right back up.  Do you get seasick? Not in the marina, but at sea, sure. Most sailors do occasionally. Is it cold? Not really, and I have a diesel heater. Sometimes I feel like a caveman, proving that I exist in modern times: yes, I have electricity and laundry and cell-phone service and an internet connection. Yes, a sailboat. Really, it’s not a big deal. It’s got a certain allure, I know it, but somehow I end up on the defensive.

And here’s how I can tell my dating life isn’t going so well: I’m sleeping with Bob Seifert. Not “sleeping with” in the euphemistic sense, but literally, as in sleeping beside the book he wrote, called “Offshore  Sailing: 200 essential passagemaking tips.” I have a hardcover copy of it in my bed, and I cuddle up to it every night like it’s some titillating classic or a book of translated swooning poems. Page 27 describes one of my favorite projects: boom preventers. As if I need those. There’s no other way to put it: it’s my boat porn, full of seacocks and cockpits and blowers and interfacing electronics and deep-cycle batteries and coupling nuts and prop shafts and large tools and lubricants and docking equipment and proper bedding techniques. Talk about a change. I should be punished for my behavior.

Aug 05 2009

Mast Steps

Tag: boat work,victoriesmattholmes @ 7:55 pm

A while back I designed a mast step for us, we had a sailor/machinist friend advise us and then make them up for us, and Jonny installed them.  We love them, and it turns out that others do, too.  We had enough requests that we decided to start making and selling them on a small scale, and see if it goes anywhere.

We’re calling it “Climb the Mast“.

They are sweet steps, as far as mast steps go.  They’re small, so lines don’t catch on them, they’re easy to install, and they’re cheap.  The only reason we made our own is because we weren’t happy with any of the other options available–the others are either to big (the fixed stirrup-style), too unwieldy (the folding ones), or too expensive (all of them).

They work so well that we’ve been running up the mast regularly while we are out in the bay under full sail.  It makes for good group pictures during our social sails, to do them from the top of the mast looking down with the sails flying and our wake spreading out behind us.

Anyway, we hope that maybe this little side project could help fund the trip, so if you know of anyone looking to put in mast steps, point them to the website Jonny set up:  Also, check out the original maintenance blog post I did when we first put them in, and also Jonny’s post about drilling the holes in the mast.


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Aug 04 2009

Bring on another thousand

Tag: introspection,musings,preparationjonny5waldman @ 1:01 am

[Reposted from my Outside blog]

There’s a cliche about boat-owning: they say that the best two days of a boat-owner’s life are the day you buy your boat and the day you sell it. Anecdotal evidence already suggests the opposite.

First, buying Syzygy was no fun. Buying the boat — literally paying for it — entailed electronically wiring the largest check I’d ever written to some obscure bank in Seattle, while at the same time second-guessing myself and wondering if I’d made a grave mistake. Was I buying the right sailboat? Had I taken a big hasty jump too soon? Did I just screw myself for the next three years? Five years? Life? My concerns ranged from tiny to huge, such that the actual boat-buying was fraught with anxiety and concern and distress. Which is to say that the day I bought the boat was not one of the best days of my life — 99% of the other days in my life, in fact, were better. A bad day at the dentist was better, because at least there was progress. With the boat, I wasn’t sure if I was going forward or backward. I can’t fathom how the first part of this myth was born.

Second, I saw Syzygy’s previous owners a year and a half ago, when we met them in Mexico to take the boat for a sea trial, and I would testify in court that they assuredly did not enjoy selling their boat. I think owning it made them feel young, spirited, engaged, and adventurous, and that selling it only reminded to them that life’s circumstances — increasing age and flagging ability and mobility — had finally caught up with them and forced their hand. It took them three years to sell their boat, and it’s difficult to imagine that, at the end of the ordeal, there remained, as far as Pavlov could be concerned, any joy still associated with their boat. Relief: sure. Annoyance: yup. Finality: fine. But exultation? No way. That’s not what I saw.

There is another cliche about boats and money that does hold true: they say a boat is a hole in the water that you pour money into. Some say BOAT stands for Bring On Another Thousand. Absolutely. Here’s how you quantify it: You think a project will cost $500? Triple it. Even if you’ve already beefed up your estimate, added some wiggle room — triple it. It’ll cost $1500, I guarantee it. It is absurd how much stainless steel, copper, and “marine-grade” parts cost. The only way to spin it positively: at least this isn’t aeronautics.

On top of projects and maintenance, there’s the cost of keeping a boat at a marina or, if you’re really feeling flush, at a yacht club. To most sailors, this is an extra cost, in addition to rent/mortgage for a dwelling on land. When the economy sours (as California’s has), boat owners promptly stop paying their slip fees. Marinas, in turn, chain up boats belonging to such delinquents, so that the owner can’t just sneak in one day and sail away. There are a few such boats here. Apparently, you can put freedom in shackles.

I suspect that John Tierney, in last month’s NYT science column, called “When Money Buys Happiness,” was right. He examined the relationship between money and happiness, and reported that houses, higher education, travel, electronics, and fancy cars, though expensive, tend to provide happiness. On the other hand, there’s children, marriage ceremonies, divorces, and boats. These things are also expensive, but don’t provide happiness. Tierney sums it up: “Boats: very costly, very disappointing. Never buy a boat.” I wish he’d told me that a year and a half ago.

There’s a corollary rule about time that’s related to money and happiness. If you think a project will take 5 minutes, that means 10 hours. If you predict 3 hours, that means 6 days. The rule: double the number, and step up the unit – from seconds to minutes, from minutes to hours, from hours to days, from days to weeks, and from weeks to months. Accordingly, as projects abide by this rule, and drag on and on, it’s easy to see where the happiness goes. It swims for shore, headed to Colorado. Boat owners chase after it, and before they know it, a few years have gone by and the bank account is near empty. So it goes.

Perhaps the best rules of all, though, I learned last summer from Tim, a friend who also owns a sailboat. We were at a bar, yabbering on about the ongoing nature of boat projects, when someone interrupted and asked if there were any general principles to sailing. He answered immediately. “Keep water out of the boat, keep people out of the water, keep the girls warm, and keep the beer cold.”

There’s only one last important rule, lest you are prepared to lose all of that happiness, time, and money: Keep the boat off land.