April 10, 2011

Mr. Neptune Visits O Dock

I'm down at the boat for the first time in a few weeks, doing the usual maintenance and wine drinking.

We came down late Friday night after work and, arriving in the dark, noticed that something was amiss with one of our dock lines. Not thinking much of it, as there are four other lines securing the boat to good old O Dock, we turned in for the night.

In the light of day, I took a closer look at the 5/8 inch line and discovered this:

Hokey smokes! No noticeable chafe two months ago and now the line was almost shattered.

Then, I looked across the fairway and saw this:

Yikes! Where a finger pier and two boats had been, there was now a big open space and some orange caution cones placed on the dock.

And then that storied little light bulb we read so much about in unimaginative writing went on in my foggy brain.

The Tsunami!

I wrote in a post just last week about how easy it is for those of us who live thousands of miles from Japan to turn away from news reports and return to our comfortable lives. And here was Mr. Neptune reminding me in that playful, ironic way he has that it's really just one big ocean. What happens in one little corner of it, eventually, in one way or another, affects all of us. This may have been just a tiny ripple compared to what happened in Japan, but the message was there.

The wave had crossed 5000 miles of Pacific Ocean, and then another 10 miles of San Francisco Bay. It curled around a rock breakwater, through the marina entrance, and another few hundred yards right up to O Dock, and practically snapped a dock line that had a breaking strength of 10,000 pounds.

But Mr. Neptune wasn't quite through with me. He had another lesson up his watery sleeve.

It seems Mr. Neptune has been reading this blog and all of those wise-butted comments I've been sprinkling across the blogosphere. And, apparently, he has not been pleased. I mentioned that there were four other lines tying my boat to O Dock. Mr. Neptune left all of those untouched.

There was, however, something unusual about the line that he destroyed.

If you're reading this, you probably know that signature photo I use of a Flemish coil. It's not a photo I just swiped from the internet. I actually wound that coil on one of my docklines just so I could make the photo for my Blogger profile.

After I took the photo, I was so pleased with my handiwork that I left the coil in place on O Dock and it has been there for the past two years.

So, which line do you think it was that Mr. Neptune travelled 5000 miles to single out and destroy?

Should I take this as a sign?



  1. I warned you that you shouldn't have wound your Flemish coil counterclockwise. Neptune will not be mocked.

  2. It's like the shroud of Turin.

  3. Holy Jesus. It's a miracle. I can see O Docker's face in the dirt on the dock. Tell the pope.

  4. Oh no.

    It's hard enough finding a parking spot here on weekends.

    When the busloads of pilgrims start showing up, it's going to get ugly.

  5. I can see it now. The Shrine of Saint Odo. That will give a whole new meaning to "iconic waterfront".

  6. What WERE you DOING while the rest of us freaked out about weird tidal surges and random destruction? I tried to tell you the tide in my harbor was changing direction every ten minutes. (and no, it wasn't me).

  7. Good question, Doryman.

    Like everyone else, I watched the videos of the destruction in Santa Cruz and Crescent City, but heard nothing about any damage in the Bay.

    I figured those harbors opened directly onto the sea and must have had shapes that concentrated the force of incoming waves.

    But after a wave comes through the narrows of the Golden Gate, the bay widens out dramatically with lots of space for the force to dissipate. Berkeley is 10 miles from the gate, and behind a substantial breakwater that blocks any normal wave action. We never get swells of any kind in the harbor.

    But, I'm starting to think the only safe place for a boat in a tsunami is Nebraska.

  8. My boat was fine in my garage in Rhode Island.

  9. Boats are safe in the garage, but that's not what boats are for.

  10. In the harbor at Newport, OR which opens nearly directly onto the ocean, one boat ended up on it's finger dock. That's all. How did one boat get lifted that high and nothing else tangible happened?
    I bow before the all wise Tillerman. Neptune will not be mocked.

  11. What exactly is growing on O dock anyway? I lichen it to moss.

  12. I'm not sure, Baydog, but I'm reluctant to clean it.

    With the diligent maintenance for which the Berkely marina is famous, it could be the only thing holding the dock together.

  13. Sure the Berkeley maintenance is better than that, given that some of the slips on the opposite, inland side can exceed $10 foot/month.

    And yes, it's a sign--that you'd neglected the boat for far too long.

    But further analysis would depend upon us being able to make an investigative research study at O Dock.

    Did you make comparisons with nearby places such as Richmond? Maybe the tsunami spread out but then decided it really wanted to reverberate and bounce Berkeley-ward.

  14. Pat, one of the things that has people irked at the Berkely marina (and which has caused them to leave in droves over the past few years) is the relative lack of facilities and maintenance compared to other comparably-priced Bay-area marinas.

    A while back, the slip fees were less than many other marinas, so people accepted the somewhat spartan conditions (especially on the older docks). Then, the Berkely City Council brilliantly decided they would raise slip fees to match those other marinas without doing much to upgrade facilities. My fees, for example, have nearly doubled in the past six years, while maintenance seems to be only marginally better.

    Some finger piers have become so wobbly that many people have left for that reason alone. And it is probably because the pier across from me was hanging by a thread to begin with that a nice-sized wave coming through was enough to break it free.

    I did check all of my other lines this weekend and, while they did show some slight wear, they are all in pretty good shape. The line that snapped would have been whipped a lot more than the other lines by a rogue wave.

    There was no obvious fraying before this happened - it looks like the line just exploded.

  15. Sign or not, what a cool diptych! I think you said one time you had a framed print of your coil hanging somewhere in your home - this and that in matching frames? Nifty.

  16. I usually look at my diptych only when the engine oil needs checking.

  17. Hee hee. That would be a good derisive comment, too -

    "Aw, don't be such a diptych".

  18. I'm trying to dig out the original high-res version of the coil photo. You've given me an evil idea.

    And you may want to check out the new 'NY Weather' button at the top of the page. I am determined to make this a full-service blog.

  19. O Dock - I don't mean to be a spell checker nag, but I couldn't help but notice that you misspelled your home port in two differnt comments above.

    I'm guessing that is part and parcl of your commentary?

    WV: flumbo... a rather unflattering nickname?

  20. Good catch, Mojo.

    I have long believed there are way too many 'e's' in 'Berkeley' and this was probably my tortured subconcious making a desperate plea to be heard.

  21. I am something of a stickler for the correct spelling of Berkeley having spent about 6 months living and working in the real Berkeley in Gloucestershire, England before going to university.

    Berkeley is famous among other things for Berkeley Castle, where King Edward II was reputedly murdered by having a red hot poker thrust into one of his bodily orifices which I cannot name politely on a family-oriented blog.

    Not many people know that.

  22. let me guess...

    his nostril?

    no, not big enough.

    ... his mouth?

    no, too obvious.

    ...well, since he was male, I guess that leaves...

    oh... ouch!

    I am a stickler for Berkeley as well.

    The eponymous undergraduate residential college (dorm) that I lived in was named for Bishop Berkeley, as was the fair city that is O Docker's home port on the East Bay.

  23. Yeah, poor King Ed.

    I'll never complain again about sitting on the throne the morning after eating a bowl of jalapeno texas chili.

    WV: rimburno

  24. I guess I should have suspected that a word with too many vowels would be of English origin.

  25. Yeah, and we English pronounce Berkeley the proper way too.

    Poor King Edward. Although he fathered five children by at least two women, he was also somewhat fond of good-looking male courtiers too. His showering of favors on a couple of "very good friends" in particular was very unpopular and led to his deposition. Perhaps his murderers thought that the old red hot poker method was in some way appropriate for a man of these proclivities? It's hard from this distance to fully understand what passed for a sense of humor in the early 14th century.

  26. This comment has been removed by the author.

  27. We could wring three syllables out of Berkeley where you get only two.

    You need Berke where we could do with Bark.

    And if you do need to say Berk, you must resort to Bourke.

    How you managed to maintain an empire for so long with such inefficiency is beyond me.

    As for King Edward, thanks for explaining the connection between poker and the term royal flush.

  28. I'm more of a Yukon Gold than a King Edward man myself.

  29. Author of Comment Deleted - Your alter (blog) ego?

    Smashing photo!

  30. So Neptune has shuffled off this mortal coil? "Must give us pause".

    The San Andreas may yet return the favor.

  31. There may be a dance in the old coil yet.

    It's three-strand line, which is pretty easy to splice. If I cut away the gnarly bits, I may lose only about two feet.

    And I need the splicing practice, anyway.

  32. And then you can write half a dozen blog posts about splices.

  33. It's not the subject, it's how the subject is approached.

    Splicing could be very topical and edgy.

    Splicing is green.

    Splicing is about reusing resources.

    Every line spliced is one that doesn't end up in a landfill.

    Or in the ocean.

    It's one less dollar that doesn't go to Big Oil.

    Or to Big Marine.

    There should be more blogging about splicing.

    But it would probably be even more green if I didn't waste space by starting every sentence in a new paragraph like this.

  34. Splicing is serious marlinspikery, particularly if you're gonna bet your ass on the strength of the thing.

  35. We are all waiting with bated breath to read about your serious marlinspikery. Please hurry up and tell the world. I am getting very tired of keeping my breath bated. Or should that be baited?

    In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Ms JK Rowling wrote, "The whole common room listened with baited breath."

    On the other hand, in The Merchant of Venice, Mr W Shakespeare wrote,
    "What should I say to you? Should I not say
    'Hath a dog money? is it possible
    A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
    Shall I bend low and in a bondman's key,
    With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
    'Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
    You spurn'd me such a day; another time
    You call'd me dog; and for these courtesies
    I'll lend you thus much moneys'?"

    Hmmm. You would think Ms Rowling could afford a proof reader with an education in the English classics wouldn't you? On the other hand perhaps she was telling a funny. Maybe she was saying their breaths smelled of cheese?

    Where was I? Where am I?

    Oh yes, marlinspikery. Bring it on.

  36. That is one fine coil, Mojo, but I don't think it's Flemish.

    "...their breaths smelled of cheese..."

    Tillerman, whatever could you mean by that?

    It took me a while to google my way through this cryptic reply until I found the obscure 1933 poem about a cat by the even more obscure Irish poet, Geoffrey Taylor:

    Sally, having swallowed cheese
    Directs down holes the scented breeze
    Enticing thus with baited breath
    Nice mice to an untimely death.

    I think you may have invented a new blogging game here, which I will call Google Tag.

    Of course, this diversion means it will take me even longer to get to any post about marlinspikery.

  37. I expect it was just a lapsus calami.

  38. Is the image of the flemish coil still visible on O Dock? It's certainly another breezy day on San Francisco Bay today! But the ale is chilling in our apartment fridge on Alameda Island.

  39. I think it's more an 'aura' of a Flemish coil than an image.

    Glad you're enjoying our gentle breezes. Don't think I'll be getting down there Monday or Tuesday, but maybe Wednesday.

  40. Mitch, If you had just thrown the dock line down and walked away, life's pattern might have been different.


  41. Ancient mariner's song - "her lipstick on my diptych proved I'd been untrue to you".

  42. O Docker, this coming September, a mere six posts from now (unimaginable that you will only post six times between now and September 19th) you will post about iconic Flemish coils.
    In that post you will spell Funk correctly but Wagnall's incorrectly.
    Three times. Will this be a test of our awareness?

  43. Good catch, Baydog.

    I have long believed there are not enough 'e's' in 'Wagnalls' and this was probably my tortured subconcious making a desperate plea to be heard.