January 19, 2014

On deserters and disease

THINGS ARE A LITTLE UNSETTLED around here lately. First, we have some deserters in our ranks. Well, not in our ranks, obviously, since they’ve deserted, but let me explain. For weeks I’ve been on tenterhooks, waiting for the number of my followers to reach 200.  Okay, there’s nothing magic about the number 200, but for some reason it got me excited. 

So there we were, a few days ago, with the figure at 197 when a new follower joined, and I rejoiced. Wow, that made it 198. Just two more to go. But no, somebody broke ranks and ran away. Instead of going up to 199, the number of followers went down to 197. We were going the wrong way. Deep gloom set in, accompanied by introspection and wondering what I had done wrong.

And then, next day, some nice person came along and became a follower. Back to 198.  And then another nice person joined our ranks, so now it’s 199, but still tantalizingly short of 200.  I am learning to control my expectations, however. I am fully prepared for the next move to be a desertion. It really won’t bother me. Much.

In the five years or more that I’ve been producing 803 posts for this blog I’ve attracted a total of 478,673 page views, for what that’s worth.  Lately, the tally is about 14,000 page views a month.  I guess that’s not a lot, but it seems quite enough for 199 followers to keep up with.  

Secondly, I recently came across a series of 20 short essays I wrote back in 1991.  They’re all about  boats and cruising. Rather than toss them into the wastepaper basket, I have decided to inflict them upon you, one blog at a time. They’re about 500 words each, a bit longer than my normal column, so I shall understand it if a few more of you slow readers decide to unfollow me. I’m prepared for it. And good riddance, I say. So there.

Well, ready or not, here we go:

The Disease Called Cruising

1. Random glimpses of the incurable

CRUISING UNDER SAIL is an infectious disease that can strike at any age, rendering otherwise normal human beings powerless in its clutches. Like many insidious ailments, it often starts in a small way but quickly gains an unassailable hold on its victim.  Anyone who sails, albeit in the most modest manner, should maintain a careful watch for it.

Like bubonic plague and other pestilences, cruising has no cure. There is no immunization against it. No prophylactic has proved successful. Once infected, the patient is doomed to suffer for life.

Methods of infection:

There are many ways to catch cruising. It may be contracted from sailing magazines and books. Small dinghies are a frequent source of infection. Mingling with cruisers already affected by the malady is extremely dangerous.

Watching color slide shows given by afflicted cruisers is tantamount to deliberate self-infection. Such patients merit scant sympathy.

Early symptoms:

Friends and relatives should be on the alert for symptoms among potential victims. prolonged looking at cruising sailboats is an early indication. As the disease progresses, victims may be heard to laugh derisively at any boat lacking a full keel and eight-inch-high gunwales. This may be accompanied by frequent snorts and snickers at matchstick masts and anchor rollers patently too small for the job.

Advanced symptoms:

 Severely afflicted patients suffer from almost uncontrollable urges to rush out and buy charts and pilot books of warm and sunny foreign lands. The process of looking at boats deteriorates rapidly into the business of buying (or, in extreme cases, building) a boat.

Patients often appear bright-eyed and of lively disposition at this stage, but frequently exhibit an extraordinary disinterest in most of the necessities of civilization (such as money, fridges, TV, and hot showers) with the exception of cold beer.

Other advanced symptoms:

An uncanny ability to stare at the sea for hours without developing boredom.

Frequent conversations with dolphins.

A surfeit of unexplained smiling.

Precautions to take:

The disease may be prevented by careful attention to the following:

Avoid all thoughts of hula-hula girls and grass skirts.

Avoid dreams of desert islands, warm clear seas, and moonlight on white beaches.

Plug your ears against the siren song of the sea and the wind sighing in the palm trees.

Never contemplate the wondrous curl of a wave or its gorgeous color.

Ignore all notions of trade-wind clouds drifting like puffs of cotton in azure.

Try not to imagine a swelling sail silhouetted against the setting sun.

Discount all loose talk about self-sufficiency and the sense of accomplishment achieved by guiding a small ship safely across an ocean.

Take no heed of obviously exaggerated tales of the friendliness of fellow cruisers or the bonds of comradeship of the sea.


In the early stages only, self-treatment may alleviate some symptoms. Rage against it. Resist, resist. Make excuses. Get married. Have children. Pay taxes. Consolidate your career. Play it safe. Get wealthy. Forget the sensuous sway of that grass-skirted hip. Grow old. Die of boredom. Serves you right.

Today’s Thought

The most advanced nations are always those who navigate the most.

— Emerson, Society and Solitude: Civilization


“Don’t you think he looks like me, nurse?”

“Yes, sir, but don’t let it worry you.  All new-born babies look strange for a while.”

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


biglilwave said...

John, please help me. I have been inflicted with this disease yet my wife seems to have a much less severe case of it. What am I to do? I am afraid she will survive without me as I sail off into the sunset.

John Vigor said...

Oh dear, biglilwave, I'm afraid it's quite a common problem, and its solution depends on too many variables in your private life for me to give you a specific answer.
As a precaution, I'd make sure I could single-hand my boat. And I'd save up a whole lot of money so that my wife could fly out and visit me regularly.
I would also be very nice to my wife, so she wouldn't run off with some dashing young guitarist from the local band or anything while I was away.
And I'd figure out a strict schedule for a circumnavigation, (or a lesser voyage) so that we both knew exactly when it would all begin and end.
There comes a tide in the lives of men which, taken at the flood, leads to all kinds of adventures and all kinds of problems, too. The way in which you solve those problems determines the contentment or unhappiness that follows. I wish you and your wife a lot of luck.
John V.