July 30, 2009

Swimsuits for boats

(See this space every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for a new Mainly About Boats column.)

OLD WOTSISNAME who moors down the row from me is in a dilemma. It started when he read in the Daily Bungle that world-champion swimmer Michael Phelps had been beaten by a competitor wearing a polyurethane swimsuit. Phelps had a special Speedo swimsuit of his own, of course, but it wasn’t as fast as the newest polyurethane one apparently.

A light went on in OW’s devious head. He feigns indifference to the wholesale criticism of how slowly his old concrete boat sails, but deep down inside it hurts. He would do almost anything to beat somebody some day. And when he heard that a polyurethane swimsuit adds speed to a swimmer, it occurred to him that a polyurethane bottom might also add speed to his boat.

His first idea was to buy a few dozen poly swimsuits, cut them up, sew them together in flat sheets, and glue them to his boat’s bottom. Then he found out that two dozen poly suits would cost about 10 times what his boat is worth. Maybe 100 times.

The next step was to find out what polyurethane sealant such as 3M 5200 would cost if he ordered it by the barrel and painted it on the bottom. But that idea was squashed when I explained to him that the swimsuit wasn’t just polyurethane but a special fabric such as Spandex that repels water and traps air.

Then Phelps poked a stick in the wheel. He won the world 200-meter butterfly in Rome wearing a swimsuit that stretched only from his waist to his ankles. Broke his own world record while he was at it.

So now OW is wondering whether he should cover only the aft section of his hull, rather than the whole underwater body; and if so, with what? The answer might prove interesting. I saw him yesterday walking along with a smug grin on his face. He was carrying a large roll of bubble-wrap. Well — it does repel water and it does trap air. Maybe he’s on to something.

Today’s Thought
The greatest inventions were produced in time of ignorance; as the use of the compass, gunpowder, and printing; and by the dullest nation, as the Germans.
—Swift, Gulliver’s Travels: Voyage to Laputa

“How’s your son getting on these days?”
“He just turned 18. He kissed his first girl and started smoking.”
“Wow! Must have been some kiss.”

1 comment:

John Vigor said...

Pete, check your hotmail.

John V.