August 22, 2010

Experience vs. wallet size

(Come back every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

IN THESE FINANCIALLY PARLOUS TIMES, you have to wonder what standards the sailboat charter companies set for their customers. I mean, what sort of skill and experience do they expect from a would-be hirer? Some cynics might suggest that very few customers are turned away these days for lack of sailing ability. They believe that the thickness of your wallet more than compensates for your weakness in anchoring.

But I’m not so sure. Last time I chartered in Grenada the charter company was quite strict. They made me list my sailing accomplishments before they would hand over their nice yacht, and to tell the truth my list seemed quite meager until I remembered that at one time in my life (albeit for a very brief period) I was a professional seaman — that is, they actually paid me money.

It happened when I was young and adventurous. I was looking for a cheap way to get to Britain. I found a Union-Castle liner called the Warwick Castle that was heading that way and hopped aboard. I washed dishes and changed bedclothes all the way to London.

When I say I washed dishes that’s not quite correct. I learned from my fellow crewmembers that the correct thing to do, after fetching meals for the little messroom I served, was to throw the dirty dishes out of the galley porthole. I then picked up fresh clean dishes from the Tourist Class galley dishwashing machines.

I didn’t reveal to the charter company the exact nature of my professional seagoing experience in case it might confuse them. I didn’t actually mention that I was a member for just three weeks of the British National Union of Seamen (Catering Branch), because that’s like telling a prospective employer that you’ve got a BA, Calcutta (failed). It doesn’t disclose the full extent of your skill and experience.

No, I merely alluded to the fact that I had served time at sea as a professional. They were won over immediately. It seemed that not many of their prospective customers could produce such desirable credentials. So they cheerfully handed over their nice yacht, and June and I disappeared northward into the warm blue Caribbean Sea with happy grins on our faces.

Today’s Thought
Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterward.
—Vernon Law, Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #86
Sailing on Friday. If you are a superstitious sailor, as many of us are, you won’t want to set sail on a Friday. The rule is that you should start your voyage a day or two before, proceed a mile or so, and then be forced to return to make repairs to a turnbuckle that has come unscrewed — or for some other reason calculated not to insult the intelligence of the gods of the wind and sea. Then you can set sail for real on Friday because you’re not setting sail, you’re merely continuing a voyage started previously.

Then there was the Oriental wife who was most distressed because she produced white twins.
“There, there,” said her husband comfortingly. “Don’t worry about it. Occidents will happen.”

1 comment:

Ken said...

I was helping a young guy rebuild his anchor locker in Cruz Bay, St. John USVI many years ago. I saw this huge (maybe 40# for his 30ft boat) plow anchor in his lower locker. I asked, and he told me one night a charter boat anchored in front of him, all the guests dressed and went for dinner ashore in a dingy. When they returned two hours later, he watched a man throw the rode in the water and they left the harbor.
After what I experienced the next month in Cruz Bay, I most definitely believe what he told me.