July 10, 2012

The price of ice

A READER IN CALIFORNIA wants to know if he needs to install a freezer on his 35-foot sailboat, which he is planning to use for a circumnavigation next year.

I know why he’s asking.  For some reason, Americans, more than any other nation on earth, love ice. We use it in big chunks in iceboxes, and in small chunks under our oysters, and in medium sized chunks in our cocktails.

The phlegmatic British will drink their beer warm if necessary. Indeed, some actually prefer it that way. They say that chilling it inhibits the volatile vapors that give beer its best flavor. The French don’t need ice for their wine and the Canadians are quite happy to suffer in silence for the sheer joy of sailing. But Americans need ice.

That means two things:

1. You’d better be able to fix your reefer yourself if you plan to cruise to less-developed countries.

2. You’ll never have to wonder what to do with your spare time.

You can buy a 12-volt refrigeration system to fit an icebox that will draw nearly 6 amps at full load. That means you can run it flat out for about 7 hours on a 100-amp-hour battery before you need to start recharging, according to the 40-percent rule.

For a bit more, you can buy what is probably the most popular system among American long-distance cruisers, the holding-plate system.  This requires a compressor coupled to your engine or a separate generator that needs to be run for about two hours a day.

One way or another, you pay quite dearly for ice on a small boat.  If you can train yourself to do without it you will lead a happier life, with more time to enjoy the people and scenery around you.

It’s true that nothing brings more joy to the heart of a sweaty sailor than the tinkle of ice in a tall glass.  But if you can’t make ice yourself, there is an alternative. Look around the anchorage for a boat flying Old Glory. Most American boats have ice. And Americans have a well-earned reputation for generosity.  If there’s one thing more joyful than the sound of ice in your glass, it’s the sound of someone else’s ice in your glass.

Today’s Thought
The Americans are a funny lot; they drink whiskey to keep them warm; then they put some ice in it to make it cool; they put some sugar in it to make it sweet, and then they put a slice of lemon in it to make it sour. Then they say “Here’s to you” and drink it themselves.
— B. N. Chakravarty, India Speaks to America.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(12) “It’s OK, sir, I know that one. He can swim.”

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1 comment:

Jack said...

John, today's piece on the love affair of ice by America brought a smile to my face. Having spent the best part of a quarter of a century just above the 49th parallel, (I have now returned to Blighty), made me realize I too was infatuated with ice. I have come to terms that I can make do without. I did it cold turkey, i.e. went sailing with friends in the U.K. When I did on one occasion raise the issue of ice or even "ice Cold" beer I was viewed with maybe not out right hostility, but at least visible suspicion. Oh well, "When in Rome......" Cheers, Jack