A bout of bursitis in my knee this week got me thinking about the physical and mental effects of long term cruising.
Bursitis is caused by repetitive movement and pressure on the joint. As a result, carpet layers, footballers and housewives are more likely to suffer bursitis in their knees than is the general population. I’m convinced that trying to maintain balance on a constantly moving deck for six years of my life has left me susceptible to bursitis in my leg joints.
What about ampophobia? This is an obsession with hoarding battery capacity. The sufferer becomes frantic to measure accurately the amps flowing into and out of his battery banks. He becomes convinced that his alternator, solar panels and wind generator are faulty. He tests them exhaustively and joins boating forums to compare his results with other ampophobics who think that they, too, are being cheated by their amp gathering resources. As the condition takes hold the sufferer will accumulate different types of batteries and charging devices, more sophisticated monitoring systems, several types of hydrometer. A battery terminal cleaning brush.
Ampophobia is often caused initially by another condition – meltaphobia, the fear of the boat fridge failing to keep its contents cold. Obsessively monitoring the fridge temperature with a range of increasingly sophisticated thermocouples is a dead give away. Help should be sought immediately before the condition can develop into full blown ampophobia.
Another electricity related hang up is toastitis, the compulsion to design and build a 12v DC toaster. This condition afflicts many long term cruisers once the novelty of burning toast on a wire rack placed over a cooker burner has worn thin. I’ve never seen a successful 12volt toaster, but with all the cruisers out there franticly doing the R&D it’s only a matter of time.
I’m sure you get the picture. You may have your own particular physical or mental condition as a result of long term cruising but, rest assured, once ashore for a short period the symptoms disappear. To be replaced by an overwhelming desire to sell up, quit your job and run away to sea in a small boat.
Accurate communications between skipper and crew are vital but, at times, difficult – no more so than when the skipper and crew are operating at opposite ends of the boat. Like when docking or anchoring.
The really slick teams have sorted out a series of hand signals that allow them to carry out these functions noiselessly, as if communicating by ESP. The helmsman and foredeck crew work in silent harmony to arrive precisely at the mooring buoy, the crew triumphantly grasping the ring with the boathook and getting a line attached effortlessly.
Perhaps, if they’re really smart, they’re using a Salty John Mooringmate to ensure that the securing of the buoy is slickly and simply achieved. But I digress….
I have seen teams using headset walkie-talkies – a great idea as long as you stay calm and enunciate properly. If the crew switches off the headset and can still hear the captain screaming at her, little has been achieved.
Strangely, in 90% of man and wife crews the foredeck work is undertaken by the wife whilst hubby stands behind the wheel spitting out commands. We do it ourselves. It seems illogical but it appears to work for most people. One of life’s little mysteries.
Shouting is one form of communication that simply doesn’t work – it leads to a terrible atmosphere when the anchor is finally secured and drink is being taken in the cockpit.
The other method I would strongly recommend you avoid is one we witnessed in the Allan’s Cay anchorage in the Bahamas one dark and windy night. A large modern boat with him-and-her crew crept into the anchorage and began an anchoring saga of epic proportions. They were communicating intra-boat by vhf radio – she with the handheld on the foredeck, he on the fixed set back at the helm. They chose to use channel 16. In an anchorage full of boats monitoring channel 16. I have to say it was very entertaining but if it were a movie it would have had an 18 plus rating!
‘Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm’
This quotation intrigued me, not because of its simple wisdom, but because it was written in the first century BC. That seemed an awfully long time ago to be using metaphors involving the helming of boats. How many people in those days would have been familiar with the way boats were steered? This was before leisure boating was widespread, I’m guessing, and before movies – even silent ones.
Anyway, a little research reveals that there was a vast trading network of liburnias, corbitas, gaulus and cladivatas plying the waters around Italy at that time, so the concept of helming was probably as familiar as it is today.
The words were penned by a clever bloke called Publilius Syrus who was popular in first century BC Italy as a writer of maxims – sort of early one-liners. Old Publilius was a Syrian who had been taken to Italy as a slave and had then been freed by his master who was impressed by his witty repartee. A valuable thing is a ready wit, I’ve always thought.
One of the great inventions of the 20th Century was the Personal Beverage Sleeve. They keep your beer cold and your hand warm. They’re variously known as a huggy, koozie, coozie, cozy, cosy, beer sleeve, hugger and can cooler. And, of course, Personal Beverage Sleeve, or PBS, which I’ve just made up.
Whatever you call them, these rubber sleeves that slide over a beverage can or bottle are essential to civilized outdoor consumption of canned or bottled beverages – beer, mainly. This brilliant concept spread like wildfire through the colonies but was largely ignored here at home. With global warming we may have to contend with a more tropical climate and we need to be ready for it – here’s some essential know-how on the PBS:
The basic model huggy, not to be confused with the disposable nappy of the same name, is a fat foam sleeve with a base which has a drain hole in it. (Knowledgeable huggy users remove the base entirely so that the condensate can drain more effectively avoiding that moment when the accumulated ice-cold water finds the drain hole and pours onto your chest. Very un-funny).
You can get collapsible models, I think they’re made from recycled wetsuits, and you can get container specific versions such as the slip-on bottle koozie and the zippered bottle holder.
Koozies, or whatever you choose to call them, are great advertising media. They come with logos of the big beverage brands as well as more individual advertisements for bars, hotels, sports teams and so on. Some just bear cute one-liners, others have simple illustrations usually indicating a beach, boating or island lifestyle.
Selecting a Personal Beverage Sleeve is almost as difficult as deciding what to call them, so here are a couple of tips:
• If you seek efficiency above image, substance over style, go for the basic foam variety. I can’t believe there is any beverage holder more thermally endowed than the foam huggy.
• If you like to take your personal drink cooler with you, from pub to pub or boat to boat, it has to be the collapsible neoprene type that you can fold flat and stick in your back pocket.
• If you want to put your beer down in a cockpit can holder, available on all well equipped boats, you need to select the neoprene sleeve over the foam huggy or there is a danger it won’t fit in the can hole. I’ve always been careful to select can holding furniture with a large huggy-friendly hole (at least 10cm diameter) but not all boat owners are so considerate.
• You are what you drink from in the can cozy world so take care over what’s emblazoned on the side. Go for something distinctive so you can identify your beer when you put it down in a crowd, but you should probably avoid anything that could harm your reputation if it was photographed and put on the internet – ads for transvestite drinking establishments, for instance, unless you’re fully ‘out’.
This brings me to our own entry into the PBS scene: The cool, sophisticated Salty John collapsible Can Cozy, available at the incredible price of just £5 for a pack of three. A white seagull soars on a regal dark blue background above the web address – how cool is that?