November 8, 2009

I Want Details


The last post here on O Dock got quite a few comments, most of them from Mr. Tillerman, who, for some reason, decided to delete all of his comments after I replied to them. I'm not quite sure what he was up to, but I think it was one of the following:
  • Expanding the envelope of avant-garde commenting

  • Paying further homage to his minimalist guru, Mies van der Rohe

  • Just giving me a hard time, something he seems to take a certain delight in

  • Getting even with me for all of those times I've left nonsensical, off-topic stuff over on his blog

  • Practicing his sailing knots - in this case a knot popular with many sailors - the elbow bend

There were some complimentary comments about the post, to be sure, and I certainly appreciate those. Thank you, very much.

But, oddly, there were no replies about the topic of the post. No one volunteered any of their own tales about building trust with a spouse or significant other.

I realize I've been extremely lucky to be getting the kind of response I have been in the comments pages here since I started this blog. Many bloggers who are far better at this than I am have taken a long time to attract a readership that's interested enough to leave comments.

But, to be honest, I was expecting to hear from at least a few folks who had faced similar challenges with their spouse/GF/BF/SO while sailing.

I know many have been through nautical sturm und drang with their mates - I've been a sometimes embarassed, sometimes amused witness to much of this on-the-water drama.

In particular, I remember sitting with my wife in the cockpit one day, comfortably moored in the BVI, when an older couple came up to the open mooring next to ours on a small charter boat, she obviously nervous on the bow with an unwieldy boat hook, he firmly in command at the easier job, behind the wheel. What followed was one of the greatest performances of nautical theater that I've ever seen.

It's easy to muff this simple mooring maneuver if you haven't had a little instruction in the basics, and this couple obviously hadn't. So, on their first attempt, they missed the mooring completely. But, what turned this into theater was that they missed on the second attempt, too. And on the third. And on the fourth. And on the fifth. And on the sixth. And on the...we all lost count, eventually, but it went on for an hour, and for the poor couple it must have seemed like it lasted for their whole two-week vacation.

At first there was some squabbling, which escalated with each missed attempt. Frequent hand gestures were employed, but not the ones I see discussed in sailing books. As act followed act, the audience grew throughout the mooring field. Heads started popping out of companionways like so many meerkats. The couple finally gave up, motoring off to another anchorage, I guess, on what had become a very quiet boat. I'm sure that day has been a frequent topic of conversation at their family gatherings ever since. I think I can guess which one of them brings it up.

But, my point (I did have a point, didn't I?) was that I know couples have been known, from time to time, to have shall we say 'differences of opinion' while sailing together. I think this watery battle of the sexes is probably a reason why many of those abandoned boats at most marinas lie idle. What once seemed like something a couple could share happily together, eventually drove them apart.

So, I wonder why there have been no volunteers here at the O Dock confessional or counselors offering sage advice. Is this subject too touchy-feely for a sailing blog? Or just way too sensitive to even discuss? Did my post put everyone to sleep, or are you all smarter than me (my leading theory for now), and wisely choosing to hold your tongues? Or choosing at least to put your tongues to better use than writing comments here? And yes, you can take that however you like.

As George Costanza once said, I want details, and I want them right now.



  1. Can I have a pickle? Really, I'd like a pickle. Alright, I'll settle for a shot of Michter’s ten-year instead. What was the topic?

  2. By the time I arrived at the previous post, the comments had been so thoroughly side-tracked that I felt anything I said wouldn't get noticed or taken seriously. Thanks for allowing me another opportunity.

    Pat has gradually become more trustworthy, but not completely. If conditions are too stiff, I really don't feel safe on the boat if he's the only other person on it.

    And if I'm on the helm, he can be a very frustrating crew. He will often assign himself unimportant tasks when more important things need doing, such as tidying up the dock lines on the bow of the boat when I need him on jib sheets because I need to tack NOW in order to avoid going aground. That happens often.

    And then there was the time he was putting the spinnaker into the spinnaker bag from which it is launched. He spent 20 minutes, carefully folding and arranging it, all while I was saying every 30 seconds, "Just stuff the belly of the sail into the bag first, and then the rest, leaving the corners hanging out." Next time we tried to launch that spinnaker, we found out that all of his careful folding had left one of the sheets wrapped around the sail so that it wouldn't deploy.

    Part of the problem is that he needs a hearing aid, but we have no money to get one. Said hearing aid is actually on our shopping list of important boat parts and accessories to get.

    Still, we're working on things, and mostly, I just figure that Pat's learning curve is slower than most, and eventually he'll catch on -- he has recently at least figured out that when docking, what one pulls on to stop the boat is the shroud, not the forward dock line.

    As for who I really trust, it probably comes as no surprise to those who know me that it's Zorro, my sailing coach for the past few years. I know that when conditions get hairy, he knows what he's doing, and because he's been sailing for ages, he knows how to keep the boat under control. I've been through a dismasting with him, and many other experiences. Barring a collision with a fast-moving powerboat, I am completely confident that he will bring boat and crew safely home to port, no matter what happens. I would trust him with my life.

    (BTW, grammatical purists might argue that the title of the previous post should have been "Whom do you trust?" But nowadays, that particularly niggling issue doesn't matter in any but the most formal of writing. The use of the subject case Who is totally appropriate in this context.)

  3. This comment might be deleted in the morning.

  4. Ah there’s your explanation!

    It’s your grammar.

    Or was it the pickles repeating?

  5. Carol Anne has answered the mystery of Tillerman's deleted comments. Obviously he did not want to discuss the topic so muddied up the comment section to the point that no one else could figure out what to do.

    As for details - we don't stage dramas on Bluesette. Sorry. (We save it for later).

  6. I have no doubt that Kris and I will enjoy many similar adventures in our sailing future.

    I look forward to these adventures, as well as the repairs that follow all of our misadventures. And of course, the cocktails that smooth things over and turn them into comedic memories

  7. I've taken two girlfriends sailing.

    The first was in a dinghy (a 420) in the Penobscot Bay (read: cold water) in about 10 knots of breeze. The girl had never been sailing before; she was terrified and did not trust me.

    The second girl I took out the first time in an O'Day 20. It was taking on water, but was manageable with a hand pump. Also the centerboard was faulty so it was sideslipping all over the place. Between the rising water and almost hitting a bell-marker because of the leeway, she was terrified, and did not trust me.

    I took her out again on a Precision 23, in warm waters with no wind. We motor-sailed around and went swimming. She loved it, and complimented my sailing skills.

  8. Trust is priceless-

    One boat hook overboard -- $57.99

    Two pairs of soggy socks -- $16.45

    One souvenir "No Ploblem, Mon" ball cap blown to Alcatraz -- $15.48

    Being rescued by the Coast Guard -- PRICELESS

  9. 6p00d83451cb8069e2, thanks for telling us about your tales of marital woe. I'm not sure what use you had for a pickle around midnight, but who am I to judge? And thanks for stopping back again at 2:25am. I've had nights like that, too, and no longer have the courage to write anything at that hour. You are a stronger, perhaps better fortified, man than I.

    Carol Anne, you overwhelm me with the frankness and details of your revelations. I just hope Pat isn't as overwhelmed by them as I was. You've discovered a truism about husbands who are insecure in their sailing abilities, though. When we have no clue what we actually should be doing at any given time, or if we're just generally confused about something, many of us just instinctively start making up lines into neat little coils. It makes us feel like we're doing something to keep the ship from going down and is one of the few skills we can do without thinking.

    And, I'm really more concerned about hanging onto the few readers I have than about being grammatically correct. I'd guess a sure way to lose about 50 per cent of sailors would be to start a post with the word 'whom'.

    Jack, I thought at first that you were truly a master of at least one trade by managing to take two girlfriends sailing at once. Still, getting anyone to go out again after the first boat was sinking under you is an accomplishment to be proud of.

    Greg, you have no idea the moments of peaceful, silent, solitude that await you when you don't know what you're doing and you ask your spouse to sail with you.

    Klove Hitch, you list a number of soggy or overboard items as if they should mean something to me. If I admit that they do, you will need to explain that you made up the part about the Coast Guard.

    Panda, the title of Master Commenter must still go to Tillerman, I'm afraid. He is able to disrupt a comments page in ways that I can only dream of. Never have so few accomplished so much so minimally.

  10. When I first read your Trust post I wanted to respond but was beholden to my small children, who were trusting me to feed and bathe them. Thanks for giving us another shot.

    Like your wife, I'm more into the byproducts of sailing--scenery, merlot, quality time together, moving by wind (always a point of astonishment), peace/adventure depending on conditions. The actual sailing itself--steering, hoisting, cranking, tweaking--doesn't really float my boat. I'm not proud of this. I'm embarrassed by it. Makes me feel like an impostor. But there it is. What Graeme gets out of sailing is very different from what I get.

    We used to fight a lot while sailing b/c, frankly, sailing is really hard. But then we got our systems down. Now sailing for us--at least on Dragonfly--is a total confirmation of our team-ness. No where else (except maybe someplace unfit to mention) do we have such a fluid, intuitive way of interacting. We leave the slip, move through our various boat tasks, sail, anchor, dock, like a well-oiled machine. Sailing is actually something that affirms our relationship. It took a long time to get to this space. And now that we're changing boats (we sold Dfly) I suspect the learning curve will begin again.

    I still get scared sometimes when the boat heels waaay over. I know that's stupid. But what can I say? I don't think it has to do with mistrusting Graeme. Sailing is just not an intuitive thing for me. I have to rationally remind myself that sailboats are made to heel, and that on the rare occasion that they do go over, they come back up. That always makes me feel better. But again it's not intuitive; I have to remind myself.

    Lots more to say but no time to say it. Thanks for a great topic, O Docker.

  11. well, what can a singlehanded, solo, armchair sailor say? I know! I'll tell one I heard from a tallships sailor, we swear it's 100% true!...

    a schooner were trying to dock alongside a seawall in Cherbourg, France. She went in too fast and at the wrong angle, the bowsprit impaled a Citroën 2CV. The schooner backed up, but took the 2CV with it, much to the amusement of the diners at the cafe that lined the waterfront. I could make it on-topic by making a couple fit in there somewhere, but will instead mention the cornichons onboard.

    This story is true, by the way...absolutely verifiable. But, by sailors.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. The odd or embarrassing thing is that I can sail with skill and some grace when single-handing. For example, sailing and finishing well in a race last May against other boats that were mostly fully crewed, or towing a powerboat and docking my boat and the powerboat by myself in a cross wind without and incidents. Go figure.

    Crewing can be strange because different crews and skippers have different expectations for what is and isn't verbalized. One one boat, I don't necessarily expect any verbal preparation; if the boat goes into a tack I just know I have to react. I know that even if I'm in the middle of some other action that go time calls for rapid response.

  14. Have you had shot of Michter’s ten-year, Pat? It will make putting the spinnaker into the spinnaker bag an easier task.

    I wonder, do you think Graeme would enjoy a bottle?

  15. I'm looking for a common thread here, but the best I can do is Janna's well-oiled sailing machine and Joe's suggestion that we all get well-oiled. Through extensive research, I have discovered that wine definitely tastes better on a sailboat, and it's been the lubricant that has eased many a tough day spent learning how to sail together.

    Sailing together well just takes time. I still have trouble delegating, but sometimes you just have to let your crew do stuff or they'll never learn how. The jib may not be trimmed the way I would do it, we may not be quite in the groove, but the boat's still moving and we're still on speaking terms. If you're barking orders all the time, you'll end up howling at the moon, all by yourself.

  16. Bowsprite, I don't care if it's true or not, that is a great story.

    But what I'd really like to see is one of your watercolors of that 2CV en brochette.

    What I can't figure out is what cornichons are doing onboard. My LaRousse says those are little pickles, which brings us all the way back to that drunken guy in the first comment who was looking for pickles at midnight.

    Some days, I can't figure out commenters at all.

  17. Hmmmm, When I got my first boat, my girlfriend at the time. Loved the boat and being on the water. Even though when on land it was a constant battle on who was in charge, on the water I was the captain. Even after a grounding that left us sitting at 45 degrees for 5 hours, waiting for the tide, or after sea got seasick from the two stroke motor fumes, and we thought we were going to capsize and die n High winds. Plus sailing back in a gale with me being a new sailor she still trusted me to go out.

    By time I got my second boat and my new wife, I was trained more and my wife has confidence in my ability even though she was new to sailing. Still a bit questioning my ocean sills, but that is growing as well since the last high wind sail we did and the more teaching I do around the Bay.

  18. The people who crave pickles at midnight aren't the drunks ... they're women with, uh, a different condition.

    One thing related to Pat's post ... when you're single-handing, you generally don't need to worry about communication problems between the helmsperson and the crew.

    I do wonder whether some of the disagreements between partners while sailing boats would be alleviated by having the woman at the helm. The most spectacular disagreements of this sort seem to happen when the man is driving.

    Greg, yes, the cocktails that turn things into comedic memories are an essential part of the recipe. We've taken everything from punctured hulls to broken bones and turned them into into comic incidents.

  19. Exactly, Carol Anne. What's the harder task in tacking a boat, helming or handling the sheets?

    One of my great discoveries was to let my wife drive through the tacks and to handle the sheets myself. This is one of those things that takes timing and teamwork. Each of you has to feel what the boat is doing, but also what the other crewmember is doing.

  20. Will you excuse me if I actually post on topic?

    In Janna Cawrse Esarey's book (which is called something like The Motion of the Ocean: 1 large boat, 1 incredibly talented bloke, 1 wife of the incredibly talented bloke, and a woman's search for time to stick all her wedding photos into albums) the happy couple actually seek some counseling at one point from one of those experts in "Woman's Sailing". I think Graeme was hoping that she will explain to Janna that "sail trim" is not about deciding what color to paint the boat. But the "Woman's Sailing" expert actually tells Graeme that he should let Janna steer when doing things like docking because his greater strength will be more useful doing whatever the non-steerer does when you are docking a leadmine (how should I know) and that Janna is quite smart enough too waggle the wheel.

  21. The previous post should have been deleted by the author because it has a spelling mistake. Anal-retentive people hate spelling mistakes.

  22. Carol Anne--Does Pat really need a hearing aid or is he just practicing selective hearing? With O Docker it is the latter. To compensate we have resorted to classic street cred hand signals----

  23. Wait. Are O Docker and Klove Hitch really Graeme and Janna? They use hand signals too. In Janna's book (which is called something like The Motion of the Ocean: 1 large boat, 1 incredibly talented bloke, 1 wife of the incredibly talented bloke, and a woman's search for time to stick all her wedding photos into albums) after the "Woman's Sailing" expert told Graeme to let Janna drive the boat into the dock they decided to start using silent hand signals instead of screaming at each other, "REVERSE. REVERSE, GODDAMMIT I SAID RE-VERSE," which is apparently what most married couples do when docking a leadmine (how would I know). Apparently the yelling system is known as "divorce docking".

    By the way, don't bother to buy Janna's book. Sooner or later I am going to tell all the good stories from it here in O Docker's comments.

    By the way, that was a joke.

    This line intentionally deleted by the author.

  24. After many years, I have learned not to answer for Klove Hitch, but only to answer to her.

    So, I can say only that I am not Graeme. And being somewhat anal myself, like some other bloggers, I actually bothered to read up a bit before venturing out onto the wine dark sea. I discovered that most learned authorities recommended hand signals over screaming, so we have been pretty good about avoiding screaming in most of our waterborne adventures (an upcoming post on O Dock will deal with one notable counter-example, however).

    We did explore quite a range of common hand signals before learning of the ones the sailing books recommend. On our trips to Italy, we were surprised to discover that many Italians must be sailors, too.

  25. (Dagnabbit, I posted and it didn't show up. Trying again. If I end up with 12 different posts, you'll know why.)

    6p00d83#$%@!, Yes, I'm sure Graeme would LOVE a bottle. The saint. He's got to put up with me.

    Excuse me, I have to get back to my wedding album...

  26. Of course, when I'm hopping back and forth between the cockpit, mast, shrouds, and bow trying to get the bin to pull out and get the special toggle knot to hold onto the other bin, free halyard and sheets, get the spinnaker out of the bin, pull the halyard without dumping the chute in the water, get the jib down, get the chute past the shrouds without tearing or snagging, try to see if the chute is wrapped or not up on top, keep the jib from snagging the guys and sheets, don't forget to bring the guy twing in so I can reach it with the pole end, get the pole clipped on, make sure the topping lift is really on, make sure the guy isn't hanging on the forestay, get the pole to go forward, pull on the guy, help with the boom if there's a gybe, re-set the spinnaker twings guy on sheet off, push the pole forward yet again when it slides back, lower halyard temporarily if spinnaker has a wrap up top, help with mast blocks and other downwind settings, adjust guy and pole for proper position and GET THAT CHUTE FLYING NOW!!!!, I might be just a wee tad bit busy for pay much attention even to hand signals.

    Maybe I should get the special bicylist's sunglasses with rear view mirrors so I can also watch the helm grimacing at me?

    Maybe I should get the special t-shirt that reads:

    "This is your foredeck crew speaking. I'm too busy to answer right now. If you want gybe set, hold up one finger. If you want a floating/windward set hold up two fingers.

    The set will take as long as it takes. Unless I'm rushed or have to figure out a bunch of commands. Then it'll take longer.

    If you want to offer advice, add two to three minutes to the set time.

    If you want to send someone brand new to sailing to help with the spinnaker, add five minutes to the set time including the free bonus death roll or broach."

  27. I think it's time to move this conversation away from this dead horse, and on to something more exciting. Let's say the next topic should cover....oh, I don't know....something like.....POTTERY!!!! You could also talk about glazes, I'm partial toward chocolate ones.

  28. And speaking of husband-wife trust issues, I suspect there was something of that sort behind a recent ad in the Albuquerque newspaper for a West Wight Potter. The ad mentioned that the boat was "only sailed once!"

    Verification word: exhorgic. Is that the quality of triggering a spewing forth words?

  29. Have I mentioned double kayaks here yet?

    I really would like to give this a better answer & hope to later this week, when it's not past my bedtime & I'm actually feeling tired after a bad round of insomnia.

    But double kayaks have a reputation among kayak instructors and guides. They say they are either marriage boats, or divorce boats. In general, it's interesting to have a couple in your class (whether it's interesting-challenging or interesting-delightful depends a lot on whether this was something they both really wanted to do, or whether one dragged the other). Doubles just exaggerate that. It is amazing how the underlying dynamics of a relationship come out when you turn a couple into a floating Siamese twin, hand them two paddles & give 'em a goal.

    It takes cooperation, give-and-take, and trust in each other to paddle a double well.

    If they get that, and pull it off, it's positively exhilerating. Between the extra waterline length & the power of two people working together, a double is a lot faster than the same 2 people in a pair of singles.

    If they don't? Oy gevalt. You just don't want to be around what happens then. Unfortunately, if you are their coach or guide or any combination thereof, you do not have the option of suddenly remembering that you need to be at the dentist in half an hour!

  30. Bonnie, funny you should mention.

    We got some kayaks (entry level, floating around in flat water, kayak-shaped pool toy type kayaks) a few years ago, but first we tried out a double for about five minutes (not Joe Rouse's kind of double, which would have been a much better idea).

    Actually, the try-out took only about 30 seconds and it took us four and a half minutes to get out of the thing. We could see that if we got a double, it wouldn't be long before there'd be video of us on the six o'clock news.

    Carol Anne, I'll bet they sold the Potter when they found out there wasn't enough room below for their cat.

  31. Tillerman, You guessed our secret but no, O Docker and Klove Hitch are not Graeme and Janna Cawrse Esarey (Janna Cawrse Esrey being the author of a book called something like The Motion of the Ocean: 1 large boat, 1 incredibly talented bloke, 1 wife of the incredibly talented bloke, and a woman's search for time to stick all her wedding photos into albums).

    Curb Your Enthusiasm -- We are more the Larry and Cheryl David of the sailing scene. You know, with O Docker being anal retentive and all.


  32. It's amazing how much the blogging world has changed since I used to blog.

    BTW, I sailed right by O Dock last weekend and still can't find his durned boat.

  33. Time ( blogging) waits for no one...The Rolling Stones"

    O-Dude's boat is I believe still on the hard.

  34. Anyway, be glad you went out of the top of your game, rather than just weathered away into the depths of nothingness.

    "Yeah, I remember the old days, when the superblogger was around...really grandpa?! "

  35. Edward, why not rejoin the fray and show us all how it's done?

    One post a week, that's all we ask.

    My boat's on an inside slip, so you'd only spot it if you were really lost.

    Will have it hauled on Monday if I don't suffer a relapse of this plague I've had.

  36. what is a sailor with a broken arm?

    someone with a speech impediment.

    (ok, i changed it. it isn't the same when it's cleaned up. Let's go back to your trip to Italy...)

  37. bowsprite, are you psychic, or have I at some point mentioned Pat's broken arm? (I note that on this thread I mentioned merely "broken bones.")

  38. We use hand signals at home quite regularly.

    Kris: Greg, please take care of those dishes.

    Greg: I'm busy.

    Kris: [hand signal]

    Or when Greg is backing the trailer into the driveway and Kris is guiding him.

    Greg: [yelling] "I can't see you when you're directly behind the trailer. You have to be able to see the mirrors.

    Kris: "Can you see me now?" [hand signal]