Editorial January 01, 2001 Issue

I Can’t Stand It

In the October 1, 1999 issue, I titled this page, “What I Like,” in which I tried to describe the aspects of sailing that attract and capture us. Such as lying on deck and staring up at the mast, which swings against the sky like a metronome, and the perfect curvature of the white sails. Simple stuff that, judging from your letters, y’all can relate to.

Maybe I’m running out of things to say (never!), or perhaps it was just inevitable, but…

I can’t stand seeing a boat motoring or sailing with its fenders hanging over the side. Okay, we all forget once in a while, and you can usually tell when that’s the case, just as surely as you can tell the skipper who could care less that his fenders are dragging in the water or that his jib is scalloped or that his anchor chain is rusting copiously on the foredeck.

I can’t stand anchoring in a quiet, secluded cove, settling in for a pleasant evening, only to be beset upon by a boat that anchors too close (as if there is no other room; must be the herding instinct, the notion of safety in numbers, or…what?).

Worse is the raft-up of five boats riding to one anchor; I might even move and re-anchor upwind of them, praying that the wind doesn’t switch over night, because you know just as surely as the tide changes that they’ll come down on you around 2 a.m. and it’ll be a Chinese fire drill trying to avoid damage and sort things out. Take a Power Squadron course, buddy, or at the least read a book!

Aging ought to be handled with at least a small sense of grace, and trivial annoyances with equanimity (who wants to be thought of as a bitter old codger who just can’t lighten up?), but it ain’t easy sharing an anchorage with a genset. Recently, we were chartering in the Virgin Islands and had the distinct misfortune to anchor between two 55-foot catamarans, each with a genset that ran all night long. Guess they couldn’t make it without air-conditioning. (Attention inventors: A device that would divert or muffle the splash of the exhaust water would help a great deal as this sound usually seems louder than that of the engine itself.)

Adding insult to injury, the crews of these two boats had terrorized us earlier in the evening by water skiing through the anchorage, even squeezing between us and the nearby reef. Snorkeling to or from the reef, we had to sprint across the gap, feeling like squirrels trying to cross an expressway at rush hour. And the danger wasn't just to us, but to the skiers…one errant move and he or she would have done a face plant on our topsides or been clotheslined by the rode.

Aside from the behavior of others, I can’t stand it when I drop a bolt in the bilge, am told that the toilet is plugged, cause a tear in a sail, drop a heavy tool on the cabin sole, discover an electrical problem in an inaccessible wire run, open cans I should have thrown out years ago (rancid soup, skunked beer), mess up a job because I rushed, wiggle under the cockpit to adjust the cable-quadrant steering, can’t sleep because the wires inside the mast sound like a drummer’s brush, make a special effort to dock at a pump-out station only to be told that the pump is out of order, but what I can’t stand more than anything is…a whiner.

Which is why I’m going to cut my losses and sign off.

—Dan Spurr

P.S. Did I ever tell you about the time I was sailing across the bay with a couple of friends when some yo-yo in another boat crossed in front of us, did a 180 and T-boned me amidships? His bow got under the lifelines, then slipped aft, stripping all the stanchions as it went. Turns out the owner of the other boat had handed the helm to a friend who was more used to a tiller than the wheel…man, I can’t stand it when that happens!

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