August 5, 2012

A win-win wind solution

A FEW DAYS AGO I mentioned that the season of calms was coming.  I mentioned that the oldtimers used to whistle for the wind. “But what can you do if whistling doesn’t work?” asks a reader in Victoria, British Columbia.

Well, another way to conjure up a breeze is to stick a knife in the mast.  Bit of a problem, actually, if your mast is aluminum or carbon fiber; and I once met a round-the-worlder who said it had never worked for him anyway, even though he had a wooden mast.

Instead, he always ate baked beans when the wind died away. He swore it had the desired effect; that is, the wind would return within the hour. He had more than 50 cans of Mr. Heinz’s vegetarian beans stuffed into a locker under the V-berth. Needless to say, he was a singlehander, so there was no crew to experience the interesting side effects of this ritual.

One sure way to bring the wind back is to embark on some shipboard project that demands hours of calm seas and easy motion, such as varnishing the topmast. By the time you have made all the preparations, and even before you can apply the first lick of varnish, the wind will be howling.

A more subtle ritual would be to share a good bottle of wine with the god of the wind, Aeolus. One glass for you, one glass for him, ad infinitum, with some subtle hints for a decent wind thrown in now and then. The lovely thing about this ritual is that if it doesn’t work, you no longer care.

Today’s Thought
No stir of air was there,
Not so much life as on a summer’s day
Robs one light seed from the feather’d grass
But where the dead leaf fell, there did it rest.
— John Keats, Hyperion.

“Waiter, there’s a fly in my soup.”
(22) “Well, sir, they have to keep warm somehow, you know.”

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

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