Sunday, September 18, 2011

Take a Position

Gravity works. It even works when you live on a boat over water. The invisible hand of wind moving you over the otherwise non-solid water might delude you into thinking that cruisers are a bit immune to physics. However, I can assure you that there are physical laws which apply to boats which your high school Physics tried to drum into you. One of them is clearly that gravity still works even on boats. Which means that if you drop something over the side of a boat and it weighs more than water and it doesn't have a convenient cup shape and it doesn't land with that cup shape pointing down and the opening towards the top, it sinks.

We have dropped a lot of things overboard this year. Every cruiser drops things overboard. The sea bottoms are an absolute cornucopia of dropped cruiser crap. It is a good rule of thumb that if you drop it anyplace at but at anchor, you must say good bye. A little ceremony of farewell is appropriate if the item is: 1) irreplaceable until you get to NZ or Australia; and/or 2) critical to the functioning of the boat. If the dropped thing is merely really nice, your only clean thing, or totally worthless, then it is customary to just sigh. We do a lot of sighing.

It is, however, theoretically possible to retrieve items dropped at anchor. How, you might ask, do you drop something at anchor? It seems counterintuitive, doesn't it? As boat dwellers, you would think we would all become saavy to the ways of boats moving, wind blowing, and gravity causing things to drop. However, we are not. We drop stuff all the time. Sometimes the things we drop are self-retrieving -- the cat, for example. When the cat drops herself overboard (and I can assure you that we only dropped her deliberately overboard ourselves once ... after which we never attempted it again), she levitates back out again. In fact, it is possible that cats have the capacity to briefly defy physics in the presence of water. On the other hand, Dulci's method for getting the water out of her fur returns to basic physics when she uses centrifugal force to spin it off her body by running around the salon in insanely fast circles. And gravity is also present in the salty, fur laden sea water drips down the windows, off the table and on to the floor.

If something is really important, we send a sacrificial diver in after it. We have actually had rather astonishing lucky retrieving our dropped items. The trick for cruisers taking notes on Don Quixote methodology is to immediately Take A Position. Instantly. Take your GPS coordinates out to the finest level of detail you can. If you have more than one GPS device, take the position on both. I can not overstate the importance of this. You don't drop things during the sunniest part of the day when everyone is sober. You do it at night, generally while you are intoxicated. Crazy facts about boats at anchor -- they move. No way are you going to conveniently be positioned right over the drop zone the next morning.

So a quick inventory of the items Don Quixote has lost and found since leaving La Paz:

* Oar lock - Lost while the dinghy was on someone else's boat in 40 feet.

* Dinghy block - Lost while putting the dinghy system back together in 15 feet of the muckiest gunk ever at the marina in La Paz.

* Dinghy anchor - Lost during a dinghy race and retrieved in a 20 knot norther in the Magote from 25 feet of mud.

* 15 HP outboard motor - Lost in Tahiti when the good doctor forgot to bolt it down in 45 feet with the entire anchorage watching and snickering. In all fairness, this one was probably the easiest to find, albeit the most insanely stupid to drop.

* Keys - Lost at the dock when trying to lock the dinghy.

* Padlock - Lost at Venus Point while unlocking the dinghy in 35 feet.

* Stern anchor chain - Also lost at Venus Point while attempting to lock the dinghy, but retrieved through a bizarre bit of acrobatics from actually going all the way to the bottom.

* Coffee filter - Finally something that has nothing to do with the dinghy. Lost in Tonga when a cruising kid from another boat simply dumped it overboard with the coffee grounds in 65 feet. Found by Loose Pointer in 5 minutes of circling our GPS location.

It appears there is a second lesson to be gleaned from our experience: gravity is stronger for items relating to your dinghy. It is also amazingly potent on laundry, particularly laundry clips. While provisioning, make sure you purchase a large package of wooden laundry clips for each 4 week period you plan to be out here. Do not buy the plastic ones or you will spend the entire trip agonizing about how horrible a person you are for littering the ocean floor with yellow, green, blue, and pink plastic clips.

And don't forget, children float. You can retrieve them as well, but the GPS position you take when they disappear off the back of the boat is only moderately useful. As a rule, they are going to hide under the bridge deck until the dishes are done or hell freezes over. Whichever comes first.

1 comment:

judith said...

Cute post. Have you ever tried to hang clothes using the Girl Scout method of not using clothes clips?