October 4, 2009

The Sheep talks back

IF YOU’VE READ Capt. Joshua Slocum’s account of his voyage around the world, you’ll surely remember how the “Pilot of the Pinta” came to Slocum’s rescue when he was incapacitated from food poisoning.

People who sail small boats across oceans say you hear voices like that when you’ve become totally exhausted. But you don’t have to be totally exhausted. Just partially will do. Ask Felix Knauth, of Houston, Texas.

Felix wrote to me the other day with an anecdote that reminded me immediately of Capt. Slocum. Here are his words:

“From 1987 to 1997 I owned The Black Sheep, a Tom Gillmer Aries 32 that I rescued from a slow death in Sausalito. She was a beautiful design but poorly constructed in Taiwan, so she usually sailed below her capability (to my dismay).

“Anyhow, in 1992 I was singlehanding off Nova Scotia; dark was coming on; the weather was getting nasty; I was more than a bit fearful—and frustrated because I could not find a slant that she liked.

“Wind—I guess maybe 20 plus; waves, short and quick and choppy. She would try to go straight but the waves kept slamming into either quarter, pushing her stern off course. I sat there in the cockpit trying this and that but the stiff chop seemed to be in charge.

“ ‘Aha,’ I thought, ‘let’s try trailing a long loop of warp.’ I went below and pulled 300 feet of spare anchor rode into the cockpit, hard-laid 3/4-inch nylon; tied two ends together; shortened up my tether; took a deep breath, stood up facing aft, and threw the tied ends over the Monitor vane. I let it out and tied if off port and starboard.

“Her response was immediate—it was like I had put her on rails, straight and easy at last.

“Now here’s the part that in the clear light of days later may not actually have happened, but at the time I could have sworn to it. A calm, pleasant voice said: ‘Well, good work, Felix, but it did take you a while. Now go below, make cocoa, and get some rest.’

“I did just that, feeling terrific. I guess The Sheep and I had reached a rapprochement—neither one of us was going to get the other into trouble.”

Today’s Thought
How nice the human voice is when it isn’t singing.
— Rudolf Bing

Then there was the kangaroo that went to see the psychiatrist.
“You’ve gotta help me, doc,” he said, “I don’t feel jumpy any more.”


Odd A Ertvaag said...

"The Sheep" is still talking back - "The Black Sheep" - build in 1974 - is still sailing, and still "she" is calm and sturdy - taking good care of its owners. Hello to Felix Knauth who saved this fine boat, and sailed her to Europe, "slik at vi kan seile henne mot nye horisonter".

O.A.Ertvaag, Norway

Vega169 said...


I, too, would be interested in hearing your response to the prior poster's post. In college we non-frat boys had an intramural football team called the GDIs GOD D*mn Independants.....maybe that would fly?


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