July 2011 Issue
Dear Editor, Please Stop Encouraging My Husband
There is a madness to our methods. And, for better or worse, it is a madness that consumes unfortunate friends, neighbors, and relations who have better things to do on a Sunday afternoon than test various ways to clean ropes, or gnaw through chafing gear . . . or fix washing machines.
A few months back, I received an email from Laura Frye, the apparently very tolerant wife of Drew Frye. (Drew is pictured above repairing the family’s washing machine—again.) In the most polite way, she suggested that Drew’s ongoing study of holding-tank deodorizers for Practical Sailor might be better carried out in a remote location, rather than at the Frye household. (Without giving too much away, the project involves large amounts of iguana poop.)
Drew is the chemist responsible for some of the more exhaustive PS tests in the past few years, including tests on wire corrosion and fuel additives. This month, he reports on his adventures in rope washing—a project that soon became adventures in washing machine repair.
Drew’s interest in the effects of various cleaning methods on rope was more than just a mild curiosity. Apart from doing a fair bit of cruising aboard his PDQ 32 catamaran each summer, he also is an avid ice climber in winter. In either world, the consequences of carrying a rope-cleaning routine too far can be disastrous.
I have no idea how Frye squeezes PS testing into his schedule. When he’s not working, sailing, or climbing, he’s busy revising his self-published cruising guide, “Circumnavigating the Delmarva Peninsula: A Guide for the Shoal Draft Cruiser.” It’s for sale on his blog, www.sail-delmarva.blogspot.com.
This was not the first time I’d received a letter from a loved one suggesting that perhaps Practical Sailor was losing touch with reality. My own wife has raised this issue many times when the elements of my latest PS project were strewn across the kitchen or garage. Usually, the message goes something like this: “Enough already! I want my (fill in the blank: kitchen, garage, office, spare bedroom, basement, backyard, husband, wife, son, daughter, boat) back!”
However, I must point out that in most of these cases, the obsessed soul ripping apart sailing gear for the sake of our loyal readers rarely required more than a gentle nudge to initiate the downward spiral into Dante’s Fourth Circle of Product Testing. In many cases, it was the tester’s idea in the first place. (Drew is the one with pet iguanas—not me.)
You don’t need to climb ice walls, like lizards, or write a cruising guide to be a PS tester. It helps to be an avid sailor with a technical background, but more importantly, you need to have friends and family who tolerate your incurable curiosity. If you are cursed with a desire to discover what makes sailing products fall apart, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a feeling Drew’s holding tank-odor project might be his last one for a while.