15 seconds of Jeri and George’s 40th anniversary
New England fishermen are as effusive with conversation as Putin is with accolades for Ellen hosting the Oscars. The watermen have a word for things that are good and wonderful – “finest kind.” I fished around for some of the finestkind things learned from simply messing with boats.
#1. Water always wins. It doesn’t matter whether your vessel is a little plastic toy floating in the bathtub or the Titanic – water can sink it in a jiffy. The sea can mount a hostile takeover with a single wave that sweeps everything below without a trace.
Water is sneakier than the brightest of rats. It has the patience of Job to stow away in the lowest, dankest point of the boat until it is joined by billions tiny moist molecules whose sheer volume outweighs the boat and takes her down. Wakes, waves, splashes, rain, snow, ice all leave welcoming instructions for the next form of H2O to come aboard. The majority (57% – 70% – depending on how many tequila shots you downed last night or the number of hours recently spent skiing sand dunes in Dubai) of the human body is composed of water – but it’s not enough to trump the power of a body of water, whether it’s a puddle, pond, or ocean.
Babies are nearly three fourths water which in fact makes them – as far as hydropower rules – even stronger than adults. Everyone of us was gifted a finestkind moment of triumph over liquids when we broke our mom’s water and were born wet into the world. That is why deer, the climate, and fish on the Georges Bank fear mankind – as a species – we’ve got a lot of water power to flaunt and minimal impulse control.
#2. Beauty is a beastly thing to maintain. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got a 12’ plastic kayak or a 34’ fiberglass sailboat, taking care of her means providing protection from the sun (much like slathering sunscreen so you’re not bothered by paparazzi mistaking you for Dame Maggie Smith on holiday by the sea), keeping her hull, topsides and cockpit clean and buff (think a mani & pedi in Brazil), and her working parts functional (throw in a full body massage – plus tip). The finestkind moment of spring commissioning is when a skipper finishes fixing, scrubbing, and polishing only to gaze at the boat, grin, gasp and fall in love for another season.
#3. Trust thy boat as thyself. Wise sailors learn to appreciate the rule of water and the physics that separate floating from sinking. If you’re going to own a boat, no matter how many safety rules you follow, you’re gonna make mistakes. Survival also depends on a metaphysical sense of trust between you and the vessel. Respecting water doesn’t mean being terrified all of the time. Safety rules. You’ve got to know what you can (make a call on the Ship to Shore radio, reef the sails) and can’t (navigate in fog, sleep with rain streaming through the overhead hatch) do – and when the can’ts threaten the safety of the souls aboard – what to do next. If you are comfortable alone with your boat there’s a fair chance you’re also comfortable in your own skin. The finestkind of trust between people and boats floats comfy on competence and confidence – both are born of experience and mature into wisdom.
The finestkind sense of being boaters is buoyed by memories of past days afloat that warm our souls during these frosty months when water play is simply a soggy dream.
Last August our Middlebridge friends bid us farewell with a lobster feast. It was a balmy August evening and we savored each other’s company late into the night. One of our friends sighed, ‘It’s amazing Labor Day is just three weeks away. Every year we think summer will last – but every Labor Day Mother Nature flips her thermostat to cold – the temperatures plummet over night and the weather turns nasty. Then everyone waves good by and we all hibernate until Memorial Day. This place turns into a ghost town – everything looks dead.”
I’ve been hibernating all year. It’s more than just being a passive New England Patriots fan – I’ve been holed up like Sri Lankan sloth bear. I can’t blame the Polar Vortex or recent snowstorm – I’ve got a closet full of winter jackets so there’s no reason not to get out. I’m not suffering from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) – in fact I’m quite cheery, content, and comfortable. I simply have no motivation or energy to venture beyond my snug little nest.
I’m stuck in an entropic free fall. My energy vaporized right after the winter solstice when winter took the season by force.
Nature is enforcing the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. To hip Newtonians, this means people who live in the colder climate zones of the northern hemisphere are quite literally, chilled out. The reason for this, physics wise, is it’s impossible for heat to flow from a colder body to a warmer body without any work having been done to accomplish this flow. Nobody feels like working once they finally take time to chillax. Blame Mother Nature – she threw the sun in the pen with very limited time to shine in the yard. Or ask a physician and she’ll confirm that during winter a lot of people complain that they don’t feel so hot.
It’s a new year only because some old pope came up with a calendar that says so. It is foolish to decide on the first calendar day of the year to put your life in order by proclaiming New Year Resolution when most living things outside are abiding by the 2nd Law. They’ve already progressed from order to the state southeast of disorder. And that’s why setting resolutions this time of year is futile. Even the sun can’t shine for even half of the 24 hours of any given day from now until we drink green beer to celebrate an Irish saint who rid the emerald isles of snakes. Right now in the comfy confines of your winter burrow life is about as chaotic as it is going to be – and it’s not so bad is it?
It’s silly to think your brain can take command of your behavior and meet the challenges of resolutions that sounded good after the last champagne toast of last year. After a certain age people get excited during the season of longest nights because they can go to bed early rather than get out and about. Winter brains are in janitor mode. Brains use these long nights of deep sleeps to do some much needed house keeping. During winter naps your brain has plenty of time to do a thorough glial wash (scrubs out neural waste formally known as brain junk). While you’re sleeping the brain sucks energy from your body to rev up its neural circuits needed to clean out lots of things you really don’t need to think about and certainly can live without remembering. Nocturnal brain washing is essential for clear thinking after the morning wake up call.
During a natural period of disorder when brains are busy vacuuming and dusting it makes absolutely no sense to make unrealistic pledges to bring fresh order into your lives. We don’t have the vigor to go from chilled to warmed up with the notion of change. Accept that the bulk of your energy has been routed to the brain’s clean up detail. Use what little energy you’ve got to go with the flow. Accept that we’re all milling about in the Entropics – an imaginary island chain where we can wiggle our toes in the water and all of our energy disperses with the receding surf. Here’s where what goes around, comes around. Diddle about on the beach long enough and the sun will concentrate its energy in your toe and you’ll feel the heat and high tail it for the sunscreen. For now, abide by the 2nd Law – conserve your energy because ice cubes melt in a warm room whether or not you get involved.
The bard, Buffet lamented to Mother Ocean that the men who rode her switched from sails to steam. He was a pirate who arrived too late and pissed his fortune away. Today’s forecast is for bone cracking subzero temps and buckets of snow. Aside from heeding a friend’s warning of a French Toast Alert (plunder the grocery stores stocks of milk, eggs, bread and toilet paper), it’s imperative that we get a bubbler under Ex Libris’ hull before the ice damages her hull and Boat US cancels my policy for not keeping our winter berth ship shape.
It’s a new year and if we’re lucky, things are going to change and old habits will catch a second wind. There are a couple of changes that, personally, I find perplexing. TP is #4 on the French Toast alert. We dealt with an unexpected change when our California crew arrived for the holidays. When Barrett visits he has the habit of sending ahead an air humidifier and a load of disposable diapers. The new quirk is that he also provisioned the upstairs bath. Not a 12 pack of Charmin. He gifted us with thousands of sheets of 100% Tree Free, Septic Safe, Single Ply Bath Tissue made from Sugarcane Husk & Bamboo. The wrapper testifies, “We believe in living well and making positive choices.”
Nick says that he butts heads with Amberley when grocery shopping because as she promised at age 13, when she grew up she would never buy generic store brands – it’s only top shelf for her. Being a CPA and proficient with counting beans, Nick protests that much of the stuff on the shelves is the same except for more expensive branding. Yet he yields on one non-negotiable point taught by his father in law – “Never choose to buy cheap toilet paper.” Barrett lives the mantra with his choice of Bath Tissue – his choice of brands is not about the room or the paper – it’s the wellbeing gained from a clean swipe and a good choice. Still, I question his choice, bamboo husks? Does he know the going rate for feeding pandas at the Washington Zoo? I do. It costs around $500,000 a year to keep two pandas healthy and content on a bamboo and Purina Panda Food diet. Our son’s Tissue must be the Johnny Walker Blue of commodes.
Dealing with bamboo and pandas is a delicate process. The lovely panda Yan Yan on loan from China to the Berlin Zoo had a hardy appetite for bamboo but died tragically. The autopsy revealed she died of constipation that triggered a heart attack. It’s a tough tush life.
A couple of swipes of the flimsy 100% pure bamboo treeless Tissue will help you empathize with the tragic demise of Yan Yan. It’s hard to switch from trees to grass unless you’re in Colorado this week. I’m going back to Mr. Peeble’s Charmin and will save the rest of the sugarcane and bamboo for our boat. The bamboo seems to disintegrate on contact with liquids and solids so there will be little risk of a plugged head on Ex Libris – unless we arrive too late and the pipes freeze because we don’t get the bubbler installed before the big chill.
The greatest irony is, the Tissue was made in China. It’s your choice, trees and paper or bamboo and starving pandas.