Stoking the Fire

This week I was talking to one of my friends where I work about our plans for sailing and how we still have a couple of years before we can really see the light at the end of the time tunnel. I was saying that it sometimes feels like I am adrift on a raft with no docklines, waiting for a current to catch me; like Kon Tiki without sharks. Probably I was complaining a little. Very likely. Like me, my friend thinks symbolically and she said that she felt like what I was feeling was a lack of “fire”, and that I needed to do more things to keep the fire under the plan stoked and burning. She asked if it were possible for me to do any new learning associated with this plan. Learning new things would keep the fire burning. I was happy to report that this was not only possible, it was in the works!

Mike and a classmate discuss a thorny navigation problem. To add or to subtract? That is the question…

For my recent birthday, Mike registered us both for a class in Dead Reckoning at the Wooden Boat Center in Seattle. I’ve wanted to learn how to chart a course and determine a compass heading by hand so that we wouldn’t have to rely on electronic navigation. We all know things break on a boat, especially electronics.  I wanted to learn how to use those cool parallel rulers and dividers so I could feel like a ‘real’ sailor.

This weekend was the class and it was great!  Not only did I remember why I never, ever took math in college, but I learned that there is a word called ‘uncorrecting’. I am not making this up. This word is used when you want to determine your location on the chart because you are lost. Maybe it’s because you are lost that you have to use the word ‘uncorrecting’, which implies somehow that you’ve already corrected something and are now undoing it. I don’t know. I also learned that sometimes you correct by adding, and sometimes you correct by subtracting, and this varies with the positions of the planets and how far the fog goes and what kind of mood the gods are in on that day. Sometimes you will add the variations to the east and sometimes you will add the variations to the west.  Good luck determining that little thing.

Wooden dinghies at the Center for Wooden Boats.

Thank goodness I got through 8th grade, because learning how to determine which compass heading you want from a chart in front of you will include challenges such as adding, possibly subtracting (again, this varies at the god’s whim), multiplying, and, if you want to know how long it will take you to get somewhere, also dividing. And you thought you were wasting your time struggling with all those word problems back in the day! It also requires drawing straight lines and reading very tiny numbers. These things will be easier to organize in your mind if you remember that Dead Men Vote Twice, and that True Virgins Make Dull Company. It was a challenging class on so many levels.

In spite of everything, because the teacher was full of knowledge, patience and good humor, I finally got the hang of it and worked out my own way of remembering the completely counter- intuitive use of words like ‘correcting’ and the new ‘uncorrecting’ as they relate to magnetic variations over time, even though anything you do, whether adding or subtracting, is actually correcting the heading. Bah. Of course, all of this is kind of chopped liver if you don’t know how deviant your boat is, because if it’s really deviant you could end up in China. And we all know that would not bode well.

Who says you have to sail to exotic locations to buy produce from a boat?

In the end, I found my way and look forward to practicing in the real world. Seriously, if you are in the Seattle area and want to take an introduction to navigation, this is a good class that is reasonably priced. Teacher Katey Noonan was easy-going and knowledgeable and I felt at ease with her right away. Plus, she provides Starbucks coffee and cinnamon rolls. I made it all the way through the class without eating one, but they sure looked good. Damn that vacation eating all to heck and back.

After all of that intense learning, our brains were tired so we had a little lunch out in the sunshine by Lake Union and then walked the docks down by all the yacht brokers, looking at boats. This is not such a great time to look because the pickings are slim. We did see a Wauquiez 42 that looked pretty good and gave me a serious case of winch envy. We got to go aboard a Taswell, a big Beneteau center cockpit, and a Moody 42, all out of our price range. I could not get too interested in the boats that looked like floating condos. They just don’t feel right to me, somehow. I know they are probably comfortable, but I found myself wondering how anyone would ever access anything behind their plastic panels. Overall, it was hard to get too excited over them and they all pretty much looked the same.

I asked Mike if he saw anything that rung his bell. He said no. He replied that he might flirt or hold hands with a boat just now, but he wasn’t interested in getting serious. I think we’ve both learned our lesson on that one. Until Moonrise goes to a new owner, we are the quintessential ‘lookers’ and unwilling to risk getting attached again. The Beneteau center cockpit had some leopard skin print seats he thought were snazzy. I took a pass on those. However, the tiny bathtub was an easy sell unless I considered how I would get behind all that plastic if the need arose. Mike reminded me coolly that to own a boat such as that one implied the paying of others to worry about such things. Ah. That must be the answer. First… get a million dollars….

I do have a special weakness for a bathtub on a boat, even a small one. It’s one of the things I know I will miss about land life. I love my bath. Hey, if Lynn Pardey can have one, why can’t I?

But a day around boats is better than almost any other kind of day, and this was a day that definitely stoked the fire! And a ‘shout out’ for the Signature Yachts brokerage on Lake Union. Their docks and boats are open allowing potential buyers to look at them at their leisure. I absolutely love this! If we didn’t already have a broker, they would win our hearts just for this fact alone. Broker Tori Parrott is friendly, not at all pushy, and it’s obvious she has a lot of experience with sailboats and sailing. She left us to our own devices with the offer to open any boat we were interested in looking at, no questions asked about our position in terms of buying. Many thanks, Tori!

9 thoughts on “Stoking the Fire

  1. You are awesome. I have started trying to figure out navigation and it is slow going. Frustrating because I know that I am a reasonably intelligent person and yet, its a struggle. I know I will get there eventually and if I don’t, my plan is to keep heading West. Eventually I will get somewhere!

    • That’s a good plan! 🙂 I, too, am reasonably intelligent, so it’s pretty frustrating to me when I don’t catch on right away. I’m accustomed to being at the head of the class, so to speak. Once I realized the difference between ‘deviation’ and ‘variation’, that helped. I just think of my boat as ‘deviant’, a naughty child who sneaks out at night and I don’t know how often or where it goes. I need a behavior chart to understand it and keep track. You see? I must tell some kind of story in order to ‘get it’. Probably your idea of just heading west is much, much easier.

      Also, we learned how to ‘swing’ a compass. I tell you I was sorely disappointed that this did not include any actual ‘swinging’, but only learning all the points on the compass. Dang.

    • Cidnie,

      I have been meaning to place a link to what I consider a good resource for Navigation.

      The section on dead reckoning is exactly what was taught in our class and so makes a handy reference on the boat. I haven’t tackled the celestial navigation yet. I would definitely want an instructor for that kind of magic.

    • Our instructor said the Power Squadron also offers some classes. I was glad to have a classroom environment for myself, though, since I really needed a teacher to explain things to me. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not hard. But the concepts are a little like when I first learned long division: don’t try to understand the theory so much, just do the formula and the rest will follow.

  2. Thank you so much for the kind words!! 🙂 It was lots of fun and I’m so glad you guys joined us. The math part kinda stinks but you guys did great, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

    • Hi there Katey! Glad you joined us on the blog. It was a great class and now I only want to get out on the water and practice in the real world:)

  3. I relate to your statement “that it sometimes feels like I am adrift on a raft with no docklines, waiting for a current to catch me” since my wife Kathy and I are also planning our first great sail to New Zealand. We’re about 10 years into it and have about 4 years to go. Since we have pets, leaving is more complicated. Planning is half the fun…
    Ron & Kathy

    • Hi there and thanks for the comment! We both absolutely love that photo of your dogs. We, too, have a dog and are thinking on what we need to do to plan for him if we want to leave in 2-3 years. He is not much of a boat dog and by the time we leave, he will be an ‘old’ dog, but not old enough to be on his last legs. Perhaps he will like our next boat better than he likes Moonrise. Our next boat is likely to be heavier, thus more sedate in her traveling. Do you have a blog? We’d love to read about your planning.

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