April 30, 2013

The price of standing headroom

IT’S GENERALLY ACCEPTED that full standing headroom in a boat is 6 feet 1 inch, but few sailboats under 27 feet in length can provide it without resorting to a tall and ugly cabin trunk.

There are several troubling aspects about a high deckhouse, besides the aesthetic shock. It creates wind resistance, for a start, which is particularly disadvantageous when you’re sailing against the wind. It’s also more prone to damage by large waves.

Furthermore, it’s dangerous to work at the base of the mast when handling the mainsail because you’re poised comparatively high over the water for the width of the boat. If she’s sharply heeled you could fall overboard without touching the lifelines.

Heavy-displacement boats can get away with lower, sleeker cabin trunks because their cabin soles extend farther below the waterline, but there is no alternative on a light-displacement hull (if full headroom is required) than to build upward.

But you really only need standing headroom when you’re not sailing. Under way, you spend your time mostly sitting down or lying down. And, as Uffa Fox famously pointed out, you can always go on deck. Plenty of headroom up there.    

Incidentally, good sitting headroom is 4 feet 9 inches. Anything between that and full standing headroom is truly a pain in the neck.

Today’s Thought
Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only  not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.
— H. D. Thoreau, Walden

A friend says he never realized how short of living space the world has become until he arrived home early one evening and found a strange man living in his wife’s wardrobe.

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

April 28, 2013

The cure for wanderlust

I SUSPECT MANY PEOPLE suffer from wanderlust without knowing it. My barber is one of them. Every time I go to get my locks shorn she gets that look in her eye and starts to talk about boats.

She actually lived on a sailboat for a while a few years ago, before she found her true love and had a couple of kids. Now she is shore-bound and fully occupied with looking after them, her man, their house, an old VW van, and a bunch of customers with unruly hair.

Wanderlust hits most of us sooner or later but it affects some worse than others. It can start off as a vague, nagging longing for new sights, and new people. It can grow into a search for new forms of beauty in our lives; different thrills and untasted pleasures that we suspect are waiting somewhere out there if we can only find the time and opportunity to seek them out.      

The business of bringing up a family can involve years of selfless commitment with no chance of scratching the bits of you that are itching to travel. Sometimes there are things that help ease the incipient wanderlust. Some people get piercings and tattoos. Some take to drink. But nothing works in the end except the experience of wandering.

And, as my barber knows, a seaworthy sailboat is the ideal vehicle in which to commit wanderlust. You can even take the kids with you if you’re young and very brave. A sailboat has all the essentials needed by somebody suffering from a bad case of wanderlust. It’s a home from home for a start, in which you find the comfort of knowing exactly where the teaspoons are kept and where you’re going to sleep tonight. But it’s also a box filled with adventure on all sides. There’s hardly anything you can do on a sailboat that doesn’t involve the all-important adventure that wanderlust calls for.  Even the simple act of anchoring in a pretty cove for the night can lead to a series of adventures before dawn. Not all of them are necessarily pleasant, but they’re all needed to keep wanderlust at bay.

I suspect my barber knows all this already. She and her man spotted a used yacht for sale the other day, and enquired about the price. It was too much for them to manage, but it demonstrates that they both share the urge to wander. And, sure as eggs, one of these days they’re going to end up on a boat, sailing off to goodness knows where with big smiles on their faces, until the wanderlust wears off. If it ever does.

Today’s Thought
Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.
— Charles Kuralt, On the Road

You need only two tools on a boat: WD-40 and duct tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

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

April 25, 2013

Are life rafts really necessary?

SOMEONE WHO READ my last column was moved to ask if there was a reason why any deep-sea sailor would prefer an inflatable dinghy to a dedicated life raft. Well, all I can say is this: Before you rush out and hand over thousands of dollars for a life raft, ask yourself a simple question: What are the chances of a tiny, fragile life raft surviving a storm that sank a much bigger and more seaworthy boat?

Not all that good, apparently. In a famous storm during a Fastnet Race off England in 1979, seven sailors lost their lives because of what an official board of enquiry described as “failure of the life rafts.” The board noted further: “Life rafts clearly failed to provide the safe refuge which many crews expected.”

In the Queen’s Birthday Storm off New Zealand in 1994, the only three sailors who took to a life raft were lost and never seen again. Others who stayed with their crippled, sinking yachts were rescued.

Even if a raft survives the ordeal of launching in a storm, its occupants then have to sit and wait to be rescued, which is catastrophic for morale. Psychologists say many people will die within three days if they perceive they are in a hopeless situation. They are far more likely to survive if they can make organized progress toward land, as they might in a hard dinghy or an inflatable dinghy.

If your boat is big enough to carry one, an unsinkable fiberglass or wooden dinghy is preferable. If not, a partially inflated inflatable dinghy on the cabintop will suffice. Most boats have room for that.

Finally, whether you have a life raft or not, the overwhelming advice is to stay with your boat until it actually sinks under you. Easy to say, of course. Not so easy to do.

Today’s Thought
My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place.
— Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.

Here’s a question for all you history buffs:
What did Hannibal get when he crossed the Alps with elephants?
Mountains that never forget, of course.

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

April 23, 2013

Your boat reflects your character

THOUSANDS OF SMALL BOATS make ocean crossings every year — and we never hear of them. They come and go without fuss or bother. They are the safe passagemakers.They create no headlines, no drama, no collisions, no dismastings, no strandings, no snot and tears.

You can tell them apart as soon as they enter port. The gear they carry on their boats tells you what sort of persons they are. And, indeed, you in your turn will be summed up by your fellow cruisers. They will soon know whether you are cautious and sensible, or gung-ho and foolhardy; prudent and frugal, or well-heeled and reckless.

Here is a guide to the gear that gives the game away. There are endless clues that enable you to judge a sailor’s character by the stuff he puts on his boat,  but here are 10 alternatives to get you started.  (I’m presuming that almost all boats have VHF radio these days, and engines rather than sculling oars.)

1. Self-steering wind vane or electric autopilot?

2. Fridge/freezer or icebox?

3. Water maker or extra water tanks?

4. Life raft or inflatable dinghy?

5. Outboard motor for dinghy or oars?

6. SSB for maritime mobile or ham, or satellite phone?

7. GPS or sextant?

8. Roller reefing foresail or dedicated storm jib?

9. Parachute sea anchor or dedicated stern drogue?  

10. Radar or AIS?

You don’t need half of these items to cross an ocean, of course, but your choices will reflect the status of your seamanship and your knowledge and experience as well as your timidity or confidence in your ability to handle anything Nature throws at you.

Today’s Thought
Character is what you are in the dark.
— Dwight L. Moody, Sermons: Character

A Scottish soldier in full uniform fell asleep on a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
He awoke to find a little old lady staring at him.
“Tell me,” she said, “what’s that thing on your lap?”
“It’s my sporran,” he said.
“Oh, thank goodness,” she said. “I’ve been trying to feed it doggie treats for the last half-hour.”

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

April 21, 2013

Boats are full of hidden mysteries

YOUR newly acquired boat may look perfectly normal on the outside. But as soon as you start lifting hatches, opening lockers, pulling drawers, and peering into the engine compartment, an enigmatic new world will emerge.

It can take you months to discover how all the systems work, where all the seacocks are, and why the masthead light only comes on if you plug in the cabin fan as well.

Boat owners are a meddlesome lot. They can’t resist adding or altering things in their constant quest for perfection.

The engine compartment glows eerily with pale LEDs the previous owner failed to explain. They dimly outline a puzzling forest of pipes, wires, and levers. Under a companionway step, a lump of something grows a white fur coat with startling orange spots. Deep in the bilge a loose copper wire terminates in a halo of virulent green fuzz.

A bikini top lies insolently at the foot of the quarterberth and a sticky drawer delivers a crumpled receipt for repairs to bottom blisters you weren’t told about.

Even if you make notes while you sit down with the previous owner and go through everything from stem to stern, there are certain to be things that both of you forget to mention in the excitement of the moment.

But gradually, one-by-one, you will solve the mysteries. You just need patience.

Today’s Thought
If you go directly at the heart of a mystery, it ceases to be a mystery, and becomes only a question of drainage.
— Christopher Morley, Where the Blue Begins

An acquaintance who lives in one of the tougher areas of Detroit tells me his kids are now going to a really old-fashioned school.  They have to put up their hands before they can assault the teacher.

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

April 18, 2013

Where the waves get started

WAVES ARE FASCINATING. If you’re out on the water, they’re all around you; waves everywhere. But how do they start?  What kick-starts a wave into motion?

Well, if you blow on a saucer of water, your breath will make a little dent. If you keep blowing, the pressure of your breath on the back of the dent will move it forward. It looks as if the molecules of water are trying to get away from you. But that’s deceptive.  In fact, the water in a wave just moves up and down, or in a slight circular motion. The wave you have created is in fact simply moving energy through the water, just as you can make loops snake through a length of rope. The rope itself doesn’t move forward.

Waves are visible energy, but they don’t move water forward either — at least not until they reach shallow water near shore and trip over their own feet. That having been said, a minimal amount of water moves forward when a whitecap breaks out at sea.

Out there, it’s the wind that dents the surface of the water, and the wind, as we know, is caused by unequal heating of the earth’s atmosphere by the sun’s rays; so we can safely say that waves are actually caused by radiation from the sun.

That still doesn’t explain how a little dent in the surface tension of a sheet of water can grow into a wave large enough to sink big ships. What’s going on here? How do little waves become big waves, and then swells?

Three phenomena make waves grow:  1. Wind speed. The harder the wind blows, the bigger the wave it forms. 2.  Wind duration. The longer the wind blows in the same direction, the larger the waves become. Roughly speaking, the biggest waves form after the wind has been blowing for the number of hours equalling the wind speed in knots. For example, a 20-knot wind needs to blow for 20 hours to form the biggest waves it’s capable of. And the maximum height of a wave in feet is roughly one half of the wind speed in knots. 3. Fetch. For waves to grow to their maximum size, a fetch of at least 600 miles is needed. (A fetch is a stretch of deep water with no intervening land masses.)

It seems to me that waves also grow bigger by eating other waves. Big ones bite and swallow little ones, but, as you’ll know if you’ve ridden out a gale at sea, the little ones don’t disappear. They ride along on the backs of the bigger ones.

It reminds me of what the Victorian-era mathematician Augustus De Morgan once wrote:
“Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em,
“And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
“And great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
“While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."

­ Eventually the wind will die down, but the energy in the waves will carry on. The waves flatten out, round off, and turn into what we call swells; and swells can travel for thousands of miles from the areas where storms created them. Thus, what started off as a tiny ripple in a calm sea can turn into a pack of energy capable of upsetting stomachs on ocean liners and cruise ships far, far away.

Incidentally, if you have any questions about waves, the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) has some answers for you:  

Today’s Thought
The waves came shining up the sands,
As here today they shine;
And in my pre-pelasgian hands
The sand was warm and fine.

— Frances Cornford, Preëxistence

There was a young lady of Natchez
Whose garments were always in patchez.
When comment arose
On the state of her clothes
She drawled: “Where Ah itchez Ah scratchez.”

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

April 16, 2013

How to secure the bitter end

I WAS RECENTLY WATCHING a dramatic video* of two men trying to board a 60-foot ketch left unattended at anchor on a lee shore on Pitcairn Island. There was a storm blowing and the ketch was throwing herself  around in a fine old fashion.

The plan, apparently, was to weigh anchor, motor around to the protected side of the island, and anchor again in calmer water. As I watched, I kept thinking: “Even if they do manage to get aboard, how are they going to get the anchor up?”

No anchor winch is designed to take the strain that ketch was subjected to.  Perhaps if they could motor forward, and their anchor chain ran through a stopper to prevent it running out when the bowsprit made a leap for the sky, they might have a chance to recover their gear before they were blown ashore.

But the obvious way out of this pickle was to dump the anchor rode as quickly as possible — to buoy it and come back to recover it when the weather had improved.  (Presuming that they had a second anchor and rode, as any cautious cruiser should have.)

And then I wondered how many cruising boats would be able to slip their cables for a quick getaway from a lee shore. How would they be able to find the bitter end of the rode in the chain locker, buried as it would be under fathoms of chain, and unshackle it while the bows were flinging themselves violently up and down?

Then I remembered a tip I learned while sailing on an old gaff rigger as a teenager.  The skipper told me always to make the bitter end of the anchor chain fast to a length of nylon line.  That line should be long enough to reach from the eyebolt in the bulkhead of the chain locker, up through the deck pipe and onto the foredeck.

In an emergency, therefore, when you needed to dump your anchor and line with utmost speed, you could simply let run all your rode and cut through the nylon line with a knife on deck.  If time and circumstances permit, you could also attach a fender or buoy outboard of everything to act as a recovery float.

Frustratingly, the video I was watching ended just after the first man finally managed to get aboard the ketch after a series of what could have been very serious incidents, so I don’t know how things turned out in the end.  I can only hope they got away safely.

Today’s Thought
By experience we find out a shorter way by a long wandering. Learning teacheth more in one year than experience in twenty.
— Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster

Noah Webster, my favorite dictionary man, naturally had a passion for words. He also had a passion for his secretary.
One day, while the two of them were locked in fond embrace, Mrs Webster burst into his office.
“Oh, Noah!” she burst out, “I AM surprised!”
“No, my dear, you are wrong again,” said Webster. “It is we who are surprised. You, surely, are astounded.”

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

April 14, 2013

Never trust your lifelines

LIFELINES COVERED IN WHITE PLASTIC look pretty shippy on a boat, but don’t let them fool you. Few have sufficient strength to prevent a heavy crewmember crashing through and falling overboard.

The trouble is that lifelines are strung from thin vertical poles, called stanchions, that don’t have much stability. Stanchions have small bases where they’re attached to the deck, and the leverage applied by a falling body is tremendous.

In some cases, lifelines are too low to be effective, and serve only to catch you behind the knee and flip you overboard. If you fall from a high cabintop while the boat’s heeled, you could miss the lifelines altogether.

Offshore racing authorities usually require two rows of lifelines each side with a maximum height of at least 24 inches. But 30 inches, which catches most people high on the thigh, is better if the stanchions are well anchored. They must be through-bolted, never screwed, and fitted with large and heavy backing plates underneath to spread the stress load.

Lifelines should be regarded purely as back-up protection. Primary protection comes from strong harnesses attached to substantial fittings, or jackstays, by tethers short enough to keep you on board.       

Finally, be aware that white plastic coating can hide corrosion, so bare 1 x 19 stainless-steel wire is actually safer.

Today’s Thought

Who can hope to be safe? who sufficiently cautious?

Guard himself as he may, every moment’s an ambush.

— Horace, Odes


Paddy O’Reilly and a friend were lying on the beach at Fort Lauderdale.

“Begorra, there goes a beautiful lass,” said his friend.

“Yes,” said Paddy appreciatively. “Nice legs, too.”

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

April 11, 2013

Some thoughts about capsize

MOST SAILORS KNOW that the resistance a sailboat offers to being capsized can be measured with the aid of U.S. Sailing’s capsize-screening formula. It is an indication of a boat’s initial stability, that is, her stiffness or resistance to being heeled over. But not all sailors realize that it is not an indication of a boat’s ultimate stability, which is her resistance to remaining completely upside down after having been capsized by a large wave.

It is one of those strange things about naval architecture that a boat that is difficult for the wind to capsize might be vulnerable to remaining upside down if she is capsized by a big breaking wave. A narrow hull with a deep heavy keel will quickly roll upright from a 180-degree capsize, whereas a fat shallow boat will float upside down quite happily for a long time — if she’s not taking on water while she’s inverted.

However, to determine the capsize screening formula, which indicates the initial stiffness of a boat, divide your boat’s displacement in pounds by 64.

Find the cube root of that number.

Take the beam in feet and tenths of a foot, and divide it by the cube root you just worked out.

If the answer is less than 2, your boat is considered relatively safe from capsizing.

But don’t be misled. Even the largest yachts can be turned turtle by a breaking wave with a height equal to 55 percent of their length on deck according to the results of tests carried out by Southampton University in England.

Today’s Thought
As soon as there is life there is danger.
— Emerson, Uncollected Lectures: Public and Private Education

Tact is the ability to shut your mouth before somebody does it for you.

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


April 9, 2013

Dealing with exploding batteries

A SMALL GROUP OF US were sitting in the Bent Bollard Bar and Grill the other morning, savoring a quiet pint before breakfast, when Old Wotsisname with the concrete boat walked in. He had a few things tucked under his arm, including what looked like an old-fashioned cookie tin and a length of aluminum drain pipe.

“What’s all that?” I asked.

You can never get a quick, concise answer from OW, but the guts of it was that he had been reading about lithium-ion batteries, and how they’re susceptible to catching fire and exploding. His handheld VHF radio and cell phone and GPS and some other electronic gadgets are all powered by lithium-ion, so he planned to build a safe place to keep them on his boat.

“I’m using the Boeing approach,” he said. “They’re fixing the battery problem on the 787 Dreamliners by enclosing them in a steel box that is vented to the outside through a titanium pipe. That way, if the battery catches fire, there will be no smoke in the passenger compartment. The passengers won’t even know there’s been a fire.”

“What makes the batteries overheat?” I asked.

“Boeing doesn’t know yet,” said OW, who’d obviously been doing his homework, “but their priority is to get all those grounded Dreamliners back in the air again.”

“Even if the batteries catch fire again?” I said.

“Even then.”

“So, are you going to keep your explodable VHF radios and all that stuff in the cookie tin?”

“Yep, and I’m going to knock a hole in the side of the hull to vent the fumes through this aluminum tube,” said OW. “If it’s good enough for Boeing, it’s good enough for me.”

“Why don’t they just use the old-style, non-exploding batteries that everybody else uses?” I asked.

“Weight,” said OW. “It’s all about weight. The whole premise behind the 787 is that it’s lighter and 20 percent cheaper to fly because it uses less fuel. That was the promise that prompted so many orders. But they’re already running heavier than they thought because they had to put in a heftier, heavier frame where the wings join the fuselage.  The designed version didn’t stand up to the testing.  The wings could have fallen off.  Meanwhile, the lithium-ion batteries are lighter.”

“How dangerous is this for sailboats with radios and things with lithium-ion?” I asked.

“Judge for yourself,” said OW. “In March 2007, Lenovo recalled approximately 205,000 batteries at risk of explosion.  In August of that year, Nokia recalled more than 46 million batteries at risk of overheating and explosion. A year or so before that, Dell recalled about 22,000 laptop batteries from the U.S. market; and, also in 2006, 10 million batteries were recalled by Dell, Sony, Apple, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, and other manufacturers.”

“Sounds like lithium-ion batteries haven’t exactly been perfected yet.”

“The U.S. Postal Service has restrictions about mailing them,” said OW. “And the airlines themselves won’t let you take spare lithium batteries in your checked luggage in case they catch fire. Isn’t that the supreme irony? It’s okay if their batteries in the Dreamliner catch fire, but not if yours in the baggage hold catch fire.”

“Just as a matter of interest,” I said, “what are the Dreamliner’s batteries used for? I mean, it’s all very well if the fire is contained in a steel box, but what happens when the batteries stop working?  What are they powering?”

“Oh, just the rudder and ailerons and landing gear and stuff like that,” said OW.  “I guess everybody who flies in Dreamliners will just have to get used to some bumpy landings in future.”  He patted his cookie tin and smiled. “But I’ll be okay.”

Today’s Thought
Exit according to the rule, first leg and then head. Remove high heels and synthetic stockings before evacuation: Open the door, take out the recovery line and throw it away.
— Rumanian National Airlines emergency instructions, quoted in The Times, London, 27 Sep 84

Adolescence is a period of rapid change. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for instance, a parent can age as much as 20 years.

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

April 7, 2013

Drop anchor and lower the lake

 I HAVE A BRAIN TEASER for you today. It comes courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but it has nothing to do with broadcasting. It concerns boating:

Imagine a boat floating in a lake, and a heavy object such as an anchor (but without a chain) is dropped off the side. What happens to the water level of the lake?

Does it: a) Rise; b) Fall; c) Stay the same?

Answer b) is correct — the water level falls!

The explanation
When it's in the boat, the anchor displaces a volume of water with the same weight as the anchor itself.

When it's submerged in the water, the anchor displaces an amount of water equivalent to its own volume.

Because the anchor — made of steel, say — is heavier than the equivalent volume of water, it displaces more water when it's in the boat. Submerged, it only displaces its own volume, and all else being equal, the water level falls.

Test it at home
You can easily test this yourself in the kitchen sink, using a sandwich box as the boat, and something like a paperweight as the anchor.

Put an inch or two of water into the sink (enough to easily cover the paperweight later). Then put the paperweight into the sandwich box, and float the box on the water.

Once the water has settled, mark the water level in the sink with a felt-tip pen. Now take the weight out of the box, and submerge it in the water.

When it's settled again, you'll see that the water level has indeed fallen (the bigger the paperweight, or the less water there is, the more the water level will fall).

Today’s Thought
Science is wonderfully equipped to answer the question “How?” but it gets terribly confused when you ask the question “Why?”
— Erwin Chargaff, professor of Biological Chemistry, Columbia University

Contrary to popular belief, sex is not hereditary. If your parents never had it, you won’t have it either.

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

April 4, 2013

Keeping advertisers happy

PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ASKING why we don’t ever conduct a reader survey like everybody else. Well, what they don’t know is that we engage a reputable firm to do surveys for us every year. This way, we can find out who our readers are and collect their e-mail addresses so we can sell them to advertisers.

Here, as a matter of interest, are the salient results of our latest survey conducted on the first day of this month:

Where our readers live.  All over the world, actually. Google Analytics notes that we have readers in 79 countries from Russia through Europe, Africa, and Australia to North and South America — even one reader in Cyprus. (Hope you got your money out of the bank, sir.)

How many readers do we have?  At last count, approximately 25,189 1/2 readers. All of them what Google calls “unique,” especially the half reader, Mr. Hamba Kahle, of Timbuktu, who commented:

“Me no boat. Me learn speak English good your blog.” 

Yes, well, thank you Mr Kahle.  One day you make good English speak, maybe you get nice boat, too.

What gender are our readers? As it turns out, 85 percent are attractive blonde women aged between 19 and 29, and the rest are handsome moneyed men aged 25 to 50.  This audience is an advertiser’s dream.  Okay, we did get three of indeterminate gender but they all came from San Francisco so it doesn’t count.

We asked readers what they’d like to see more of in this blog. Here are a few replies:

Ø “I’d like  to see more poetry. There’s never enough poetry.” — Pansy Thwortleduff, La Jolla, Calif.

—Okay, Pansy, here’s our favorite piece, specially for you:

I wish I was a fairy prince,

And if it came to pass,

I’d climb up all the rocks and trees

And slide down on my . . .  hands and knees   

We can also do The Tale of Sonia Snell and I Had a Hippopotamus and The Little Sparrow Wot Flew Away to Spain and also Eskimo Nell  by request.

Ø “Why don’t you give us more destination pieces?” — Titus Aduxass, Methel Treadwheat, Bucks, UK.  

—Because we don’t like destination pieces and we’re the boss around here so you’re not going to get any destination pieces.

Ø “I don’t like the way you pick on magazine editors. You have a reputation for scurrilous attacks.  What makes you do this?” — Hurt Magazine Editor, Floundering, Texas. 

—Scurrilous magazine editors.

Ø “What about more good news and less bad news?  In fact, more news?” — Fred Fernackerpan, Woollamoolla, Australia. 

—Listen, buster, we can’t afford to pay reporters AND drink beer. Where are your priorities?

Ø “What about quality articles from professional writers, journalists, and authors, written in good English, rather than the illiterate ramblings of anonymous bloggers who just want to see their names in print?” — William Weatherby, Sidney, British Columbia.  

—Are you nuts?  How can an anonymous blogger see his name in print?  Thank about it, man, think about it.  But in any case it’s our policy not to have to pay for writing of any kind when we can steal it from the Internet or con bloggers into parting with it for nothing.

Ø”Hey, how about more eye candy, man? Why don’t you publish pictures of hot girls in bikinis and sailor caps?”  — Arthur Wurtemann, Las Vegas.

—Arthur, it’s just not worth the trouble we get from Emily Pankhurst’s girls. Nag, nag, nag, we never hear the end of it. Anyway, we don’t believe in looking and getting all excited if we can’t touch.

Ø “Do you accept bribes for product placement?” — Montagu Smith, Maine. 

—Don’t know what you’re talking about. If you mean that can of Coke and the Nike seaboots in the painting of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, we can truthfully say we have not received any payment yet.

Ø “I suggest more stories about what cruisers do in the bushes with other cruisers’ wives during evening beach potluck parties in Baja California.” — Interested, Cabo San Lucas, BC.   

—Okay, finally a good idea.  We’ll see what our man in Cabo can come up with.

Ø ”I’d like to see useful tips on where best to sell hot items like 2 hp Honda outboards or small Avon inflatables that fall off the back of a truck.”  — Jan Smithers, Seattle, Wash. 

—We have a friend in LA who takes care of stuff like that for us. He’d like to hear from you. We can’t publish his name but his initials are Spider Gomez.

Ø “How about a wine column for weekend sailors?” — Meredith Blotchett, Toronto, Canada.   

—Take port, Meredith, just port. It travels well. That’s all you need to know. 

Ø “What you need is a doggie column, you know, pets on boats sort of thing, where to poo at sea, etc.”  — Bert Bentwhistle, Miami, Fla.

—Bert, if you must have a pet, get a damn parrot.

Ø “ Please do some articles on How to Please She Who Must Be Obeyed.” — Mike  Falglitch, Little-Mudglop-by-the-Ditch, Kent, UK.      

—Forget it, Mike. It’s impossible. Sail singlehanded.

(And so it goes on. In summary, we’d have to say that this year’s survey was just as useless as ever and a complete waste of time. But it keeps advertisers happy. Apparently they like editors to keep in touch with readers. We’ll have to get an advertiser some time, and see if that is true.)

Today’s Thought
People do not deserve to have good writing, they are so pleased with bad.
— Emerson, Journals

In-depth research undertaken in Britain has revealed the following stages of progress of a new high-tech project:

1 — Wild enthusiasm

2 — Disillusionment

3 — Panic

4 — Search for the guilty

5 — Punishment of the innocent

6 — Reward of the uninvolved

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