July 14, 2011

Socking it to them

EXTRACT FROM the blog of Laura Dekker, the 16-year-old Dutch girl who is aiming to become the youngest person to sail around the world alone. Here she is, anchored in Tonga a few days ago:

“There was no wind at all last night and mosquitoes came en masse to visit. So at 3 a.m. I was awake and I just couldn't fall asleep again ... In the morning I could hear a lot of grumbling coming from the other boats nearby, so it seems that I was not the only one who didn't sleep too good.”

Well, Laura, we’ve all been there. The bad news is that mosquitoes are one of life’s lousy lessons. The big question, always, is how far can the damn things fly? How close to shore can you anchor without being bothered by blasted mozzies?

The good news is that Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, is getting involved. Bill is putting his money where his socks are. His smelly socks.

The Gates Foundation has announced that it will help a scientific project in Tanzania that hopes to show that mosquitoes are fatally attracted to smelly socks. The plan is to make traps of stinky toejam smell and, once trapped, to kill the mosquitoes with an insecticide.

At first glance, this looks like good news for male sailors and their smelly socks. I mean, all you have to do is put your socks out in the cockpit near the stern, and you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep while the mosquitoes congregate and sniff away to their little hearts’ delight. However (there’s always a however) if you’re a really macho sailor, you don’t wear socks. Socks are for sissy sailors.

So here’s a plea directed to Mr. Gates himself. Please, kind sir, could you organize a supersize shipment of specially smelly Tanzanian socks for us needy sailors, us what haven’t had a decent night’s sleep all rainy season? We’re willing, sir, to help with the scientific research. We might even be willing to pay a little something for the socks, if we can finagle it from the beer money.

Today’s Thought
The mighty are brought low by many a thing
Too small to name.
— Helen Hunt Jackson, Danger

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #222
Improvements in weatherliness. There are average tacking angles to the true (not apparent) wind in reasonably calm seas:
Viking longboat: 70 degrees.
Square rigger:    70 degrees.
Clipper ship:      65 degrees.
Cruising yacht:   50 to 55 degrees.
Racing yacht:     40 to 45 degrees.

“Did you hear about poor Jim? Got his nose broken in three places last night.”
“Serves him right. Maybe he’ll stay out of those places from now on.”

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

No comments: