January 19, 2015

Another Dear John letter

I’VE RECEIVED a lot of Dear John letters in my lifetime. Luckily, they mostly don’t say “Sorry, but I’ve run off with a sailor man.” Mostly they just ask for advice. The latest one comes from Lucy, of Seattle, who says she is a rower.

She was having an argument recently with her cox about how much horsepower human beings generate in a boat. She says she remembers a column I wrote years ago about this very subject, and could I dig it out for her?   

Well Lucy, you’re in luck. The Blogger people are so organized that I was able to find it in their archives. So here it is, from way back in 2009:

Dear John:
I have a question for you. There’s a bottle of Gosling’s Black Seal rum riding on the answer. It’s like this: I was having an argument with the yacht club know-all in the bar last weekend. We were talking about inflatable yacht tenders, and how hard they are to row when your outboard motor breaks down. He said he didn’t think a human being could produce much more than 2 horsepower with a pair of oars.
I laughed in his face and said: “Only Superman could produce 2 horsepower. A normal man can’t even produce half a horsepower for any length of time.”
He then gripped me warmly by the throat. The bar tender intervened and suggested we make a bet of it with a bottle of the basic ingredient for a Dark ’n Stormy. So can you help?
— Manny in Minnesota
Dear Manny:
Jeez, if only you people would buy my books instead of fighting in the bar you’d save yourselves a lot of trouble. Probably a lot of money, too. On page 158 of the Boatowner’s Handbook you’ll find these enlightening facts:
“Human Power
“The average man in good condition can produce about 1/4 horsepower for about 40 minutes. He can produce between 1/6 and 1/7 horsepower for several hours at a time. This is sufficient to row a hard dinghy at a reasonable clip—say 3 to 4 knots—in calm water and no wind.
“The maximum power from a highly trained male athlete for a burst of a few seconds is a little less than 2 horsepower.”
So, Manny, I guess you’re both right, but you’re a bit righter than the club know-all because a burst of a few seconds doesn’t really count. It’s not going to get you very far in your inflatable. So the best thing to do is to sit down, get his hands off your neck, split the bottle, and make friends again. Maybe if you bought my book, Manny, YOU could be the club know-all.

Today’s Thought
Sport begets tumultuous strife and wrath, and wrath begets fierce quarrels and war to the death.
— Horace, Epistles

"How's that book on gravity?"
"It's okay, but it’s not very uplifting"

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

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