Blanketing opinions that I'll probably regret soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

On Lakes vs. Seas, Freshwater vs. Saltwater

Spending time on the best lakes the world has to offer got me thinking about the differences between sailing on inland freshwater versus saltwater bays or oceans.

The distinction is the sailor's underlying consciousness of nature's visible boundary or its abyss past curved horizons.

Granted, one can as easily drown from capsizing on a lake as the Chesapeake, but when sailing on a body of saltwater there's always the knowledge that theoretically --- theoretically --- you could decide to keep on sailing and never return, forgetting your land-bound life for good.

Like Jim Gray, perhaps.

The Microsoft researcher told his wife he was sailing out of San Fran to scatter his mother's ashes onto a wildlife refuge but he never returned and extensive searches have turned up nothing. Maybe his boat hit a submerged object and sank? Maybe he fell overboard while taking a piss? Or maybe he was struck by an epiphany in a moment of whimsy that cut to his bones, changed course due west, and is now living under a different identity on a south Pacific island permanently high on kava and eating species of fish not yet classified by science.

Gray's final contact with the land lubber's world was an upbeat voicemail to his daughter which said, "I'm taking Granny out to her final resting place. I'm surrounded by dolphins out here. It's a little cloudy but very pleasant. No whales but lots of dolphins and very pretty. Love and kisses, take care, bye." That was on January 28, 2007.

When boating on a lake or river you are still squarely within the world of the land lubber --- the thought doesn't leave your mind. Safety is always within reach and there's no possibility of being overwhelmed by the beauty of it all and just leaving without a trace.

And freshwater just smells safe. There's very little stink with lakes and rivers --- that beautiful marine stench which reminds you that the sea has BALLS. The smell of the ocean's sweaty crotch lets you know that you're separate from working technological society --- the place where millions sit in cubicles, tapping at keyboards, staring at screens, day in, day out. Salt and sea are far removed from that manmade reality, and despite the serenity you may feel in light winds and flat seas, you know that nature's raw indifference could drop onto your head with all its gravity and pain.

Don't get me wrong, I'll sail on any body of water even in vessels that are less than 50% seaworthy with crews that should be in AA meetings rather than the cockpit of a boat, but something about the Chesapeake and its connection to endless ocean makes me glad I sail so close to the Atlantic.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stinkpots are OK When You Catch Big Fish from Them.

Just returned from a week in northern Michigan, or as Michiganians call it, "up north".

We started out of Ludington at 5:30 AM and I caught the first biggun, a 16 pound King Salmon (right).

Surprisingly, these fish are not native to the great lakes. The US Department of Natural Resources planted them in the early 1960s to control the alewife population.

Alewives were dying by the billions and washing up on beaches, piling a foot thick of rotting fish flesh 'til the DNR felt pressure to do something.

So they filled the lakes with some of the best tasting fish meat nature has to offer.

This fucker that I'm holding was in my belly a few hours after this picture was taken.

I marinated him in soy, garlic, lemon and olive oil and threw the whole mess on the grill. The amazing taste of King Salmon pulled straight from Lake Michigan follows that cardinal rule of quality cooking: fresh food = good food.

Here's me with a Steelhead:

I left fishermen out of the stinkpot list for good reason. Hopefully other sailors will agree with me.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I've got a wet seacock and rusty shackles: Adventures in Owning a 1973 Sailboat

The ideal number of holes in the bottom of your boat is zero. Mine, unfortunately, has FIVE: two for my head, one for the sink, and two for the former inboard motor which has been long ago removed.

And I discovered that the hose clamp on the old drive shaft seacock keeping the Chesapeake from creeping in was so rusted that I picked it off with my bare fingers. As I picked the last piece of rust from the crusty hose, I heard the horrid sound of Bay water rushing into my boat. I panicked, then rifled through a drawer full of miscellaneous boat gear and luckily found a new hose clamp before the boat and I descended to Davey Jones' Locker. Once the water had stopped coming in (about a gallon), the seacock was clearly still wet so I slopped some gunky black roof sealant all over the SOB for good measure.

Next, I found that the shackle holding the lines to my mooring was so rusted that I could've broken it with the heel of my sneaker. With 30 minutes remaining before West Marine closed, I broke the speed limit driving to buy a replacement.

And I fucking HATE having the boat moored. I have horrible experiences when my last boat was moored years ago. The Department of Natural Resources Police called me no fewer than three times to report that my boat had broken its mooring and ended up aground. I'd drive out to some far off corner of some back waterway to find the sailboat leaned up in that rock-solid aground tilt. I'm currently on a waiting list to have the boat at a proper slip, but until that day I'm stuck on the god damn mooring.

And tomorrw I'm heading to northern Michigan for a week, then I'm back for three days until I'm off to Vietnam, Laos and Philippines for 26 days. Hopefully all those problems won't assert their ugly heads while I'm gone ...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

My Floating Colony of Slugs

(a post by Matlow Toldmie)

Money is best used by people who focus on what they love.

In my case, that means three things: 1) the most beautiful daughters God ever blessed the Earth with; 2) my lovely wife; and 3) my 1960s Sunfish.

In people's heads, sailing is a prohibitively expensive hobby, but that mindset taken to its final conclusion will land you in a nursing home, whining about your regrets to a bunch of wannabe golf pros.

I recently bought a Sunfish which moves with the wind only when I man-handle her like a dirty slut. The boat is older than me by countless decades and when I first saw her, she was crawling with a colony of slugs.

After coaxing a decent price out of a co-worker, I managed to get him down to $150 (sucker).

The old bitch is cracked and water logged --- I practically slip a disc each time I hump it on and off my car --- but whatever. I own a boat, BITCH. And I use it, too, which is more than some of those rich bastards who have fancy dinners onboard without leaving the slip can say.

I sail it like a three-armed retard, but I look forward to the day I ram my floating slug motel into the side of some guy's Bénéteau and steal his rum.

I call my Sunfish Pinkie. Got a problem with that name?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A Guide to Stinkpots

When sailors hear the annoying chug of a stinkpot on its way toward us, we need to know what, exactly, has invaded our territory and some simple advice on how to deal with the approaching douchebaggery.

Concise categories should help sailors deal with stinkpotters. Below is a guide to help navigate through the exhaust-filled waterways of American stinkpotism. And we must recognize that some stinkpotters are worse than others --- not all deserve the same treatment.

1 - The Rich, Revving Rednecker: This is the most egregious of all stinkpotters. Land Lubbers think Hummer drivers are bad? These boats are like a dozen floating SUVs, seriously. Many of them brag about having upwards of 2,000 horsepower and can reach over 110 MPH and there are no speed limits.

On the water, emissions laws are more lax so this type of stinkpot doesn't have to follow any environmental restrictions and never uses freaking mufflers!

Nothing spoils your day like having one of these fuckbags anchor within 200 yards. The Rich, Revving Rednecker and his loud fiberglass dick will deafen you and your crew and choke your guts out with black exhaust. It's so loud I can almost hear the noise coming out of the above image.

The Rich, Revving Rednecker must have a penis that's so small that it inverts back into itself.

How to Deal with Them: Never wave. Brace yourself because they think the fastest boat has right-of-way (one of them actually told me that once). A middle finger may be necessary during daytime; if at night, consider pooping on their deck.

2 - The WTF is a Compasser: There was once a story in SAIL magazine about a stinkpotter who bought a boat and asked if "that glass thing with the numbers" could be removed to make room for a bigger radio.

See, stinkpotters usually have zero concept of nautical skill; they're out on the water to show off their stinkpots to their floozey girlfriends or douchey friends and maybe ski or anchor.

But I will admit that people who buy boats for water skiing are less offensive than the Rich, Revving Rednecker. I've been skiing and it's definitely fun.

How to Deal with Them: Give a two-finger wave at most and be vigilant because they often don't know the Rules of the Road and think that towing a skiier gives them right-of-way even over freaking container ships.

3 - The Rodney Dangerfield Wannabe: These guys are basically golfers that think the water is a moving version of the fairway.

When most Land Lubbers hear the word "yacht" they think of some Hollywood producer wearing a goofy hat in his 150-foot monster loaded with a cargo of magnums of champagne, grams of coke and bimbos in bikinis covered with 80s tropical designs. The Rodney Dangerfield Wannabe is a miniature version of that.

He's not as concerned with overwhelming power and speed like the Rich, Revving Rednecker, but wants size, and more importantly, height. He's slightly obsessed with other people's perceptions of him and needs to prove -- especially to other stinkpotters --- that he's "made it" and can afford $350 for a day's gas on the water.

Rodney Dangerfield Wannabes are rarely seen on the water in winds over 15 knots because their extreme height makes them unseaworthy. One more reason to go out sailing in heavier weather, I suppose.

How to Deal with Them: Give them a lazy, full-handed wave. You usually don't need to fear them running you over because in addition to longing to be owners of 150-foot power yachts, they also want to seem like they know something about the ocean and its vagaries.

4 - The Dock Motorer: This boat would capsize if hit by a strong fart, but on windless days it can be fun as hell, I admit.

The Dock Motorer stinkpots are basically a dock-like platform set onto two pontoons with a mid-sized horsepower motor.

Dock Motorers don't offend me too much because at least they're quiet. They're usually owned by old men on midwestern lakes.

I have to admit that being a Dock Motorer --- despite requiring even less seamanship than a WTF is a Compasser --- is pretty fun; you just lie around on floating couches and smoke, drink beer or fish --- all fun activities in my book.

How to Deal with Them: They probably won't even wave at you because the Dock Motorer is a true Land Lubber's boat and they don't know on-the-water etiquette. Don't worry about them hitting you because they're usually at anchor or at a dock.

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