April 29, 2010

The thrift store oar war

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new column.)
I HAVE JUST said goodbye to my oars. They went with my dinghy, which went with my boat. I was very fond of my oars, even though they weren’t the oars I was supposed to have.

I found them 12 years ago in a thrift store in Oak Harbor, on Whidbey Island, a matched pair of 6-foot 6-inch wooden oars sticking up out of a barrel of assorted paddles and odd pieces of wood. They wanted $30 for the pair, or $15 apiece.

I, too, shifted into thrift mode and offered the lady $20 for the pair. She was greatly offended. “We don’t haggle over prices,” she said. “We are a non-profit. We work for charity.” Suitably chastened, I slunk away.

But that night the devil visited me in my sleep. “Why not buy just one oar?” he said. “That will destroy the value of the matched pair. Then the remaining one will be worth practically nothing. Nobody ever buys just one oar. They will have to drop its price to $5 to get rid of it.”

That cunning devil. What a splendid idea.

So I went back, paid $15 for one oar with a convincing show of doing my bit for the homeless, and settled back to wait.

It was winter and I could afford to wait. Every week I went back to check the lone thrift store oar. And every week the lady watched me check the price tag. It stayed at $15. She looked very smug. But time was on my side. I could wait.

Christmas would have been a charitable time for the lady to reduce the price but she didn’t take the opportunity, and we were still at stalemate halfway into spring when the unbelievable happened. Some idiot bought the oar. Some ignorant moronic fool paid the full $15 for MY oar, the remaining half of MY matched pair.

“The oar’s gone,” I said to the lady in shocked disbelief.

Her lips turned up at the corners. “Man bought it,” she said with just a hint of triumph. “Full price.”

I bit my tongue.

I was forced to buy another oar, an oar that didn’t match the one I had already bought, and I was forced to pay $15. So, after everything, I ended up paying the full $30 for a mismatched pair.

Oh, we got on well enough over the years, those oars and I. They rowed well enough for who it was for. But I never once set foot in my dinghy without seeing the smug face of the lady who made such a fool of me, the lady who won the thrift store oar war.

Today’s Thought
The true test of a brilliant theory is what first is thought to be wrong is later shown to be obvious.
— Assar Lindbeck

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #45
Wind-driven currents. A wind blowing steadily from one direction for 12 hours or more creates a surface current with a drift of about 2 percent of the wind’s average speed.

The greatest area of unemployment in the world today is the region just north of the ear.

April 27, 2010

Tense moments in the shrouds

CAUTIOUS BOAT BUYERS are usually suspicious about deck-stepped masts. They check to see if the deck directly beneath the mast has sagged. And the way the canny buyer does this is by feeling the tension in the mast shrouds. A soft deck simply won’t support much tension. It will just sag further.

You can just about play a tune on a properly tensioned shroud. In fact, I’m always amazed at how much tension the experts advise you to wind in via the turnbuckles.

I have in front of me the carefully preserved pamphlet that came with a pair of Loos tension gauges I bought many years ago and it says:

“Contrary to popular thought, a slack rig is more punishing on a hull than a properly adjusted tight rig. Insufficient tension will not reduce the loads transmitted to the hull. Slack rigging will punish the spar and rigging needlessly by allowing excessive movement, chafe, and shock loading.”

Now for a boat with 7/32-inch 1 x 19 stainless-steel shrouds, such as a 27-foot Cape Dory, the Loos people advise you to pre-load the tension to 700 pounds. The forestay should be tightened to 1,000 pounds.

I’ve always been scared to do this. The numbers sound too big. When I first bought my gauges I screwed up my nerve and set the shrouds at 450 pounds apiece. Years later, encouraged by the fact that the sides of the boat had not yet risen to meet each other, and the mast had not yet been driven through the deck, I raised the tension to 600 pounds. But I never got as far as 700 pounds.

The Loos pamphlet goes on to warn that “the lateral stiffness of the mast and the fore-and-aft stiffness of the spreaders is reduced by a factor of 2 when the leeward shrouds go slack. This important structural characteristic is not generally recognized.”

I presume that when they say “reduced by a factor of 2” they mean the mast stiffness is halved. That sounds quite serious. But then, one must also recall that they are in the business of selling rigging tension gauges. Not that I would suspect them for one moment of deliberately scaring people into buying their gauges. It’s just that I’m a born skeptic. And 600 pounds is just fine for me, thanks.

Today’s Thought
We're probably the opposite of the Osbournes. We run a very tight ship.
— Hulk Hogan

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #44
The cost of cruising. How much does long-term ocean cruising cost? The rule, according to the legendary French singlehander Bernard Moitessier, is that it costs you “just as much as you have.” But here’s another rule of thumb from two very experienced cruisers: Take your everyday onshore living expenses. Subtract all of your automobile costs, two-thirds of your clothing expenses, your home rent or mortgage payments, and your mooring costs. Add one-third to your food costs. The result is a close approximation of what it would cost you to cruise over an extended period.

Last week a local Small Claims Court judge told a nervous woman witness to make herself at ease, and talk to him as if she were talking to her husband or friends.
The case is still proceeding.

April 25, 2010

A simple solar still

OLD WOTISNAME with the concrete boat labors under the delusion that he’s going world cruising one of these days. I have grave doubts about it but I’m not one to spoil a man’s dreams, so when he asked if I knew where he could buy an emergency solar still, I told him how to make one for himself.

He’s never going to need a solar still. That old barge of his can easily carry enough drinking water for four people for two months, and it’s a rare passage that lasts that long.

However, OW always seems to need something to be fussing with and worrying about, so I told him to get a wide-mouthed saucepan or bucket, some old T-shirts or rags, a broad-based glass or cup, and a sheet of thin plastic — black is best, but transparent will work.

You put the glass in the middle of the bucket and snug the rags around it. Pour seawater into the bucket until it’s about a quarter full, but don’t let any spill into the glass. Tie the plastic sheet over the top of the bucket and make it into an inverted cone by placing a weight such as a heavy shackle in the middle. Then leave the bucket in the sunshine.

Fresh water condenses underneath the plastic, drips off the point of the cone and falls into the glass. If your boat is rolling badly, some of the drips might miss the glass, so the wider it is, the better.

The deluxe version of this still incorporates a plastic tube led from inside the glass, under the plastic sheet, and over the edge of the bucket, so you can sip the water from outside without dismantling the still.

There’s not going to be enough fresh water for a shower every day, but this simple still might just keep you alive in an emergency.

Today’s Thought
Pure water is the best of gifts that man to man can bring,
But who am I that I should have best of everything?
Let princes revel at the pump, let peers with pounds make free,
Whiskey or wine or even beer is good enough for me.

— Unknown, Spectator, 31 Jul 20

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #43
Cruisers’ success rate. Well-known cruising authors Lin and Larry Pardey say the rule is that only 35 to 40 percent of people who set sail for a cruise of 6 to 18 months actually complete their goal. Among those who declare that they’re “going off forever,” or say they intend to sail around the world, the success rate drops to between 10 and 20 percent. The Pardeys define “success” as “finding satisfaction or enjoyment from what you are doing; having a sense of harmony on board; feeling glad you had the experience; eager to continue or go off again.”

“Do you always drink your whiskey neat?”
“No, sometimes my shirt tail hangs out.”

April 22, 2010

When down is not down

YACHTIES AREN’T ALL purposeful liars. They don’t deliberately exaggerate the size of the waves they survived at sea. It’s just that it’s very difficult to judge wave height from the cockpit of a small boat.

And the main cause of this difficulty is the strange fact that down isn’t always down at sea. The scientist William Froude started investigating this phenomenon in 1861 and he found that waves produce accelerations that combine with gravity to produce a local down that is always square to the face of the water.

Now, in a large swell the face of the water is horizontal only in the trough. That’s the only time that the down you’re experiencing is truly down. On each side, the face of the water bends up — but if you are on one of those sides, down, to you, will still be square to the face of the water. In other words, no matter where you are on the slope of a wave, down always appears to be at right angles to the surface.

No amount of mental compensation can get things into perspective because the illusion of down arises from physical forces to which humans have been conditioned to respond over millions of years.

This explains why an apparently near-vertical avalanche of water rearing up astern seems somehow to flatten out and pass harmlessly under the hull. It’s steepness is an illusion.

It has therefore proven reasonable to assume that the real sea is probably not much more than half as high or as steep as it looks at its worst moment from the vantage point of a small yacht. But it’s not the yachties’ fault.

Today’s Thought
Laws of Nature are God’s thoughts thinking themselves out in the orbits and the tides.
— C. H. Parkhurst, Sermons: Pattern in Mount

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #42
Coral reefs. Those of you who dream of sailing where there are coral reefs will want to know that the rule of thumb when navigating in these areas is to wait until the sun is high and behind you, from about 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Height above deck is an advantage to the reef spotter, who must tell the helm which way to steer. Dark-blue water is deep, 20 fathoms or more, and the lighter the shallower. Turquoise, a vivid green-blue, usually means coral sand covering a flat expense of reef with 4 to 6 feet of water over it. Dark-brown indicates coral heads. Yellowish-brown means a reef covered by 3 0r 4 feet of water. Greenish-brown indicates a grassy bottom, and white means water too shallow to sail in.

“Can I hire this horse, my good man?”
“Sure thing, ma’am. You’ll find a jack under his saddle.”

April 20, 2010

The hangover cure

THANK YOU for your get-well wishes. I’m happy to report that my tummy has ceased rumbling and I am well hydrated in accordance with your advice. I thought beer might help with the hydration, considering it’s mostly water, but then I remembered that the small amount of alcohol it contains is a diuretic, a fancy medical term for “makes you pee in the middle of the night.” And I figured you could only lose vital fluids that way. So I was very good and drank nothing but gallons of water.

I once had a journalist friend who used to fend off hangovers that way. No matter how inebriated he was when he arrived home at night, he forced himself to drink two glasses of plain water before he went to bed.

His theory was this: The human brain is surrounded by a liquid that protects it from shocks, but when too much alcohol enters the body it absorbs water from the tissues. One of the first places it attacks is the moat surrounding the brain.

Thus, on the morning after, you wake up with your brain stranded on the rocks. Every time you move your head, your poor grey matter is scraping against hard bone. It’s sheer agony. But if you drink enough water before retiring, the alcohol never gets around to attacking the brain fluid.

My friend said he got his facts from a pilot in the air force. I don’t know how correct any of this is, but it certainly does seem to work and it can’t do you much harm if it doesn’t. You’ll have to get up for a pee in the wee hours of the morning (presumably that’s why they’re called the wee hours) but it’s a small price to pay for avoiding a humdinger of a hangover.

Today’s Thought
A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night and then as its mausoleum.
— Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #41
Shielding the compass. Wires supplying electricity to the compass light should be twisted around each other in a loose spiral. If you don’t do this, the direct current running through the wires creates magnetic fields that might affect the accuracy of the compass.

“How did you get that flat tire?”
“Ran over a wine bottle.”
“Didn’t you see it?”
“Nah, the idiot had it hidden in his pocket.”

April 19, 2010

Laid low

Sorry to say I've been laid low with gastro-enteritis. Normal service will be resumed in a couple of days when the bugs stop biting.

John Vigor

April 15, 2010

A time of high emotion

WHEN THE TIME COMES to sell your boat, should you use a broker? In most cases, I believe the answer is yes — though I’ve never done it myself. Brokers bring to the transaction a sensible impartial balance that most owners find impossible to achieve because of their emotional attachment to the boat. I mean, it’s like selling your spouse.

Brokers can estimate, far better than you can, how much your boat is really worth. They also have access to long lists of prospective buyers. They know the laws, they understand the procedures, and they can smooth the way to financing the deal.

Judging by the advertisements, most brokers don’t like to bother much with selling boats for less than about $5,000. The reason is pretty obvious. But that’s not to say they won’t try — if you make it easy for them. That means moving the boat nearer to them, for a start. It means getting the boat squeaky clean and ready for sale in every way. It means being prepared to drop everything and take a client for a sail at short notice.

Selling a boat is usually a time of high passion. You’re either distressed at parting with it or overjoyed at the prospect of getting rid of the damn thing. Either way, your judgment is too clouded to secure the best deal. Better leave it to a broker.

Today’s Thought
There is no such thing as “soft sell” and “hard sell.” There is only “smart sell” and “stupid sell.”
— Charles Brower, President, Batten, Barton, Dursline & Osborn.

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #40
It takes as long as 20 minutes to develop full night vision — and it’s destroyed in a flash. Luckily, red light has no effect on night vision, so if you have to go below to a brightly lit cabin, you can don red ski goggles and maintain your night vision. In a pinch you can close just one eye if you have to go below to check on something quickly. The closed eye will retain its night vision so you can see well when you get back on deck.

“Gimme a return ticket.”
“Yes, sir. Where to?”
“Back here, you idiot.”

April 13, 2010

Advisory advice

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

WEATHER FORECASTS were very much on my mind when last I singlehanded down the wilderness coast of British Columbia. Every evening I listened to the pessimistic prognostications and soon came to the conclusion that if I waited for good weather I’d never get anywhere. The main concern, for me, was wind direction. With sheltered anchorages 30 to 40 miles apart, a fair gale was okay. Light headwinds were not.

In my part of the world we get what are called “small-craft advisories” via VHF radio when the weather doesn’t look too good. But there seems to be no agreement on what constitutes a “small boat” or at what wind speed to issue an advisory. Mostly the range is from 22 to 33 knots of wind sustained for at least two hours, though some advisories are issued when the forecast is for 18 knots. It depends on local conditions.

Gale-force winds start at 34 knots (Force 8 on the Beaufort Scale), so if you ignore a “small-craft advisory” you could find yourself on the edge of a fully fledged gale. Nevertheless, if you want to get anywhere when you’re cruising, you have to learn when to ignore these advisories with the benefit of your own experience. There is little more frustrating than being bottled up in port because of a series of adverse weather forecasts, especially when the threatened bad weather never materializes.

The fact that even professional weather forecasts are often wrong is not surprising because forecasting is a very inexact science. There are a couple of useful rules I use when I’m doing my own weather forecasting, and one is never to trust a forecast more than three days ahead. Another is that the weather tomorrow will be more like today’s than yesterday’s. And a third is that the barometer is your best friend.

I know one sailor who learned early on to be her own forecaster. Jennifer Moran, who now cruises extensively in Australia, was a cadet reporter on a Durban metro daily newspaper when I first knew her. Every morning she would telephone the weather bureau to get a one-sentence forecast for the front page, and every morning the weather man would mutter and complain. After about a month of that, Jennifer decided she’d had enough of the grumbling. She figured it was pretty easy most mornings at 7 a.m. to tell what kind of day it was going to be, so she made up her own forecast after looking out of the newsroom windows.

This worked well for about six months, and she was wrong only a couple of times. Then she was wrong two days in a row, and someone complained. Her news editor asked where she was getting the reports from, and she confessed. An investigation revealed that the news editor’s secretary was also phoning the same man at the weather bureau every morning for the extended weather report — just 15 minutes before Jennifer called. Little wonder the weather man was disgruntled.

Anyway, they got it sorted out, and the accuracy of the official front-page forecast naturally declined somewhat thereafter. But Jennifer learned a valuable lesson about reporters’ sources — if they get it wrong, you can blame it on them. And there’s plenty of blame to go around, it seems.

Today’s Thought
Looking out of the window is the most important thing if you want to know what’s going on.
— Harold M. Gibson, Chief Meteorologist, NYC Weather Bureau, 30 Mar 84

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #39
Steering error. If your steering, or your compass, is out by 5 degrees, you will be one full mile off course for every 11.5 miles run.

“Bad news, darling — the dog ate your supper.”
“There now, don’t worry, my sweet. We’ll get a new dog tomorrow.”

April 11, 2010

The Righteous Freewheelers

IF YOU WANT TO START an argument among sailors, all you have to do is ask whether a sailboat will go faster with its propeller locked or freewheeling.

A few Christmases ago I started one of the longest and most controversial threads on the Cape Dory bulletin board. I explained that Santa had just brought me a toy helicopter, and while I watched it fly around the room and crash into things it occurred to me that if the engine stopped, it fell to earth in two different ways – very quickly if the rotors stopped turning, and much slower if the rotors continued to spin of their own accord. I therefore concluded that a spinning, freewheeling propeller on a sailboat would cause more drag than one with its shaft locked.

I naturally cited several marine authorities who agreed with my theory but it didn’t silence the many Cape Dory critics who were surprisingly adamant that they, and they alone, were right. The Righteous Freewheelers, I call them.

Now, however, I have stumbled across more support for proplockers. I found it on a website at http://www.pelaginox.com/, which I believe is a British-based data base for a whole host of useful facts and figures for amateur sailors. I quote:
“Incidentally, some feel that drag with a spinning prop is less than that from a locked one; but consider the case of the helicopter. If the engine fails, the pilot performs an ‘autorotation’: the gearbox is taken out of gear and as the helicopter falls, air resistance causes the rotor to spin, and the machine achieves a stable descent attitude and a much-reduced rate of fall — the high drag from the spinning rotor allows it to land with a parachutic descent, albeit heavily, whereas with the rotor locked it would simply fall out of the sky. You can check this if you have a mechanical-shift gearbox (or a shaft brake) — test your speed with or without your prop locked; you’ll sail faster with it locked.”

I don’t know who to thank for those extremely wise words, but thank you anyway. I knew I was right all along. Proplockers rule!

Today’s Thought
You will find that the truth is often unpopular and the contest between agreeable fancy and disagreeable fact is unequal.
— Adlai E. Stevenson, NY Times 9 Jun 58

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #38
Compass cards. Small boats don’t need compass cards with markings of less than 5 degrees. It’s very easy to estimate the positions of single degrees between two markers 5 degrees apart. It’s not often that you can steer accurately to within less than 5 degrees on a sailboat in any case.

“How’s your wife getting on with her cookery lessons?”
“Man, her fame is spreading. Last night a pygmy from the Congo called and asked if he could dip his poison arrows in her stew.”

April 8, 2010

Safe drinking water

A LETTER TO THE EDITOR of the Walnut Street Gazeout (should be Gazette) says:

When I get out of here I’m gonna get me a sailboat and go cruising in the world’s wild places. The warm wild places. But I hear it can be difficult to get safe fresh water in some places, such as Mexico. Do I need a watermaker? Anyone?

Slugger Jo #15238, due for release 8/15/2010.

Well, if I can chip in here Slugger, I’d say forget the watermaker. Expensive and finicky and needs lots of electricity. You can get good water practically everywhere. It’s a myth that Mexican water is unsafe. If it was, there wouldn’t be any Mexicans. It might not taste like the water you’re used to, but your stomach doesn’t have taste buds so you’ll be all right.

Sometimes, of course, there is no option but to take on water from less than desirable sources. In that case, here’s what to do:

To sterilize 15 gallons of fresh water, add one teaspoonful of 5.25 percent household bleach such as Clorox.

The active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is toxic to humans as well as to germs, but it does its job swiftly and then breaks down about 10 minutes after being exposed to light and air. Leave the filler cap off the tank for 30 minutes to an hour to be sure the toxic chlorine gas has dissipated into the surrounding air, and be cautious when you first taste your purified water. It won’t taste as nice as imported mountain spring water but it won’t poison you and it will keep you alive, which is always a good thing.

A good way to test for safety is to pour some water into a glass and place your palm over the top. Shake the glass and then smell your hand. It should smell no more of chlorine than your usual city water does straight from the faucet — but a little extra chlorine taste won’t hurt, as long as it doesn’t burn your mouth or throat.

PS: Never add bleach to a tank connected to a reverse-osmosis watermaker. The chlorine will damage it.

Today’s Thought
Water, water everywhere
Atlantic and Pacific
But New York City’s got them beat
Our aqua is terrific!

— Ed Koch, mayor of NYC, Times 11 Jun 84

Boater’s’ Rules of Thumb, #37
Compass care. Nothing destroys a steering compass more quickly than heat and strong direct sunlight. When you’re not using it, keep it shaded and cool any way you can.

Overhead at a Boy Scout meeting:
“Did you ever have one of those days when you felt just a little untrustworthy, disloyal, unhelpful, discourteous, cowardly, and antagonistic toward those wretched old women who always wait for suckers to help them across the goddam road?”

April 6, 2010

Introducing Culture Corner

CERTAIN CRITICAL ELEMENTS are whining and complaining that not only is John Vigor an idiot, but his pathetic scribblings also lack refinement and urbanity. This is fighting talk. I am as refined and urbane as the next idiot, thank you very much. And to prove it, I have some poetry for you today.

Fresh poetry about boats and the sea has been hard to come by ever since Masefield cornered the market, but I have long been hanging on to this piece sent to me by Mrs. C. Griffin, a reader in Umkomaas, South Africa. This is her (and my) contribution to Culture Corner around here:

An artist went to sea to see
What he could see at sea to draw.
He only saw what all may see —
The sea was all that artist saw.
And when he saw he’d seen the sea,
Proceeded he the scene to draw.
And since I’ve seen the artist’s scene
I’ve seen the sea the artist saw.

Today’s Thought
Anticipating that most poetry will be worse than carrying heavy luggage through O’Hare Airport, the public, to its loss, reads very little of it.
— Russell Baker

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #36
Color blindness. Can the person on watch at night safely judge the courses of other vessels? About 10 percent of men are color blind. If in doubt, call a woman. Although color blindness is passed on from generation to generation by women, few of them suffer from it themselves.

“So you want to be my personal assistant?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Do you understand the importance of punctuation?”
“Oh yes, sir. I’ve never been late in my life.”

April 4, 2010

A killer lifejacket

A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO, when I was planning a solo trip down the Pacific coast, I saved all my pennies and splurged on a fancy inflatable Mustang lifejacket with a built-in harness. If the weather looked threatening, I rigged my jackstays along the sidedecks. I connected one end of my tether to a jackstay, and I connected the other end of my tether to my nice new harness on my lifejacket. I used the short part of the tether, so that theoretically I couldn’t fall overboard.

Okay, yes, I admit the illogicality here. If I can’t fall overboard, I don’t need a lifejacket, right? Right. I just need a harness, which is a lot cheaper than a lifejacket plus harness. Yes, yes, very well. Now, if you can stop being pedantic for a moment and ignore this glaring lack of logic I’d like to move forward and explain what I came here to explain.

I finally got around to reading the instructions on my fancy Mustang lifejacket yesterday and they say, in capital letters (shouting, in other words): DO NOT FASTEN DEVICE TO BOAT.

Well, you can imagine my surprise and dismay. What is the point of a lifejacket with a built-in harness if you can’t attach it to the boat at one end and yourself at the other? Is this some kind of magic harness that will stop you falling overboard even if it’s not attached to the boat? Or will it pluck you from the water and deposit you back on board? Should it be attached to anything at all? If not the boat, what?

The questions don’t end there. Right underneath that instruction comes this frightening statement:

“This is a Type V PFD. This is a Type V inflatable because the harness can cause injury (or death) if not properly used.”

Well now I’m really rattled. My lifejacket, which I’m not allowed to attach to the boat, is going to kill me if I do. Is that legal? I ask. Is that right? Is that fair? What did I do to deserve this?

Today’s Thought
To avoid all mistakes in the conduct of great enterprises is beyond man’s powers.
— Fabius Maximus

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #35
Size of cleats. An old formula stipulates that the length of a cleat should be at least 12 times (and preferably 16 times) the diameter of the rope it holds. Unfortunately, most of us have to make do with smaller and less convenient cleats in the cause of economy.

“How did you knock this man down, sir?”
“I didn’t knock him down, officer. I stopped to let him cross the road and he fainted.”

April 1, 2010

An idiotic hero

WHEN I WAS a newspaper columnist, the boss used to commission a reader survey every year. He wanted to know not only what kind of people read the paper but also what parts of the paper they read. Naturally, I was always petrified he’d find out that nobody was reading my column and I’d be fired.

That fear has left me now because I am my own boss and I have no intention of firing myself. Furthermore, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of people read this column. They’re nice gentle, intelligent, civilized people who like sailboats. Well, mostly.

I know this because I was taking a flitter through Twitter the other day, digesting old Tweets, when my eye was arrested by one that said “Ohmygosh, my hero, John Vigor, has a blog!!!” It was written by LaureenH, who, I believe, lives on a sailboat in California.

I went straight away into deep blush mode, of course. I have never regarded myself as a hero, and with good reason. Heroes are out of my league. A good hero is truly hard to find. Whether he’s a James Bond hero, an action hero, or a tragic hero (my favorite) he should be a person others can look up to. And besides, he must be strong, clever, and goodlooking. That kinda lets me out on several counts.

Luckily, LaureenH has not given me a swollen head. She might have, but another Californian stuck his oar in before the swelling could commence. I just happened to be taking a flitter through the Flicka Blog when I saw a thread entitled “John Vigor is an idiot.”

The Flicka is a 20-foot sailboat, of course, one I chose to review for my book Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere. Some Flicka owners, I have found since, are quite twitchy. On the Flicka Blog, Bill Hogan, who, I believe is an architect living in Southern California, wrote: “So ... I made the mistake of getting drunk last night and reading John Vigor’s review of my boat. Now I’m going to get drunk and write a rebuttal.”

So there you are. I don’t need a readership survey. I already have my snapshot. I'm one woman’s hero. I'm one drunk’s idiot. It all evens out in the end.

Today’s Thought
The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.
— Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyper Reality

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #34
True circumnavigation. The rule of thumb is that the route of a true circumnavigation of the Earth must touch each of two points opposite each other on the surface of the globe. These are points that could a joined by an imaginary straight line passing through the center of the earth. Because circumnavigation means a voyage “around” the Earth, it’s not permissible simply to go from one point to the other and back the same way. The Earth must be girdled.

The wife of the professor of English opened the door of his study to find a comely blond student seated on his knees.
“Robert!” she exclaimed reproachfully, “I AM surprised!”
“Not at all,” said the professor. “WE are surprised. You, my dear, are astonished.”