The New Math

I’m so glad I took math in school back in the olden days. How fondly I remember using those simple flash cards to learn my math facts: 1+1=2, 2×2=4, 5X10=50. You remember. This was straight math. The kind that had rules that allowed you to understand how things worked. Like if you want to multiply a number by 10, just add a zero to the end! Like magic, it worked! All numbers divisible by 5 end in either a 5 or a 0. My god I loved it! I could get the right answer! Even quadratic equations were soothing; like a puzzle easily solved once you found the right combination of numbers. And geometry? Be still my heart! It was positively intuitive! Yes, I did pretty good at math back in the day.

So easy. So fun.

But then came the ‘new’ math. This modern and ‘improved’ version sucks big time. Nothing is straight forward, it’s all convoluted, and one begins to wonder if the rules of the universe are not, in fact, rules at all but just some crazy pronouncements thrown down by random gods just to see who can drive mere mortals crazy in the shortest amount of time.

You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? You, boat owner, know exactly what I’m referring to in this ‘new math’ paradigm. That’s right. It’s lists and boat jobs. I believe strongly that whoever came up with this new math crap owned a big old sailboat and was frustrated with getting boat jobs done, so they threw the new math out at students everywhere as punishment for their own suffering.

I’ve been thinking about the new math of boat jobs and trying to discern a rule that would make things more predictable and understandable. I mean, I’ve spent my life learning about the archetypes of human existence, which is basically a fancy education way of saying ‘recognizing the patterns of human experience’, which is another fancy way of saying ‘what people do and say all the time’. So why not turn that need for predictability to the simple boat job? I am, thus far, a failure in this area but I have a working formula in progress.

For the uninitiated, all boat jobs follow the Attention Deficit Disorder mindset, which is to say I should be used to it by now. You know the drill: one task inevitably leads to another which leads to a different room and by now you’ve forgotten what the first task was. The ADD mind is less a straight line and more like a cob type spider web. It makes random connections, but in the end it holds together. Somehow order is made from chaos, but the technique looks different each time. Truthfully, I like to be the one to allow my mind to meander hither and yon. I don’t like it imposed upon me by nameless boat gods.

This kind of web. Not the orb kind of web, which is orderly and predictable.

It’s like this. Say you are at home in HOUSE. Say you want to do a simple task, such as hang a curtain rod. You get your rod, you get your level. You get your tiny tools. You get one side attached to your wall, take your ladder to the other side, using your level you mark the spot to put the other end, secure it, and voila. Rod hung. It takes maybe 15 minutes after you gather all your tools. This is the old math, and if you think that boat jobs work like this, then you would fail the test.

In boat jobs there is always, 100% of the time, the concern that what appears to be a simple equation is, in fact, new math cleverly hidden. Your one job is not, actually, only one job. It’s actually two jobs, or even three or four jobs, depending on 1) how much you care about your boat 2) how willing you are to put things off until another day 3) your level of anxiety balanced with your rational thinking mind 4) how soon you want to cut the dock lines and get the hell out of this slip 5) how many other jobs are on your list, a number made more difficult by its variable nature. (We will rule out boat jobs that, should you fail to do them, would cause your boat to sink.)

Although this post is running a bit long, lets give an example here. God, I wish I had a chalkboard. I feel a teaching moment upon me.

Let’s take the simple task of trying out the emergency tiller, a long, heavy steel thing that weighs a ton and is meant to help steer the boat should our steering cable break. (Never mind that we will also have another way to steer the boat in that expensive Hydrovane that still hasn’t yet been installed due to the new math equations making installation unnecessarily complex.)  (Also never mind that the REASON we are trying the emergency tiller in place NOW is that Mike is already down in the lazarette running the wires to the new solar panels and so the cover plate to the hole for the tiller is there in front of him, giving him this additional job ‘while he’s at it’. )

The offending hole, tiller installed.

I go up to the storage unit and retrieve the unwieldy tiller. When I come back I go below and remove the cover plate down in the aft cabin. Mike has removed the cover plate up top. The tiller goes through this hole and sits on a post under the bed in the aft cabin. So far so good. But now is the tricky part. Watch out! We are about to enter ‘NEW MATH ZONE’. We have missed the cover plate as something that needs to be rebedded, which means water has intruded under the plate, which has led to some rotting of the wood core around the plate. Will we fix this now? Or will we fix this later? Let the rabbit hole of the new math begin.

Here is how our equation stands:

(A + B (C+1/2D) / E)+F = Whether you get to that rot now, or later.

A = amount of rot, a number between 1 and 10, where 10 is an area the size of Texas
B=number representing how much you care about your boat, 1-10, where 10 means your life could depend on her stoutness.
C=your willingness to be blind to the rot for awhile, 1-10 where 10 is complete denial.
D= your level of anxiety on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is jumping overboard with panic. We multiply this number by 1/2 because: rational thinking and to stay within the law of new math being ridiculously complex.
E=how many days you have left before you leave
F=how many other things are on the list, a variable and imaginary number because in the new math, 1+1 does not equal two, ever, and everyone knows that this is a list that is never completely checked off.

How it looks in the aft cabin.

Given the rules above:

(2+10(3+5/2)/52) + infinity = 1.26 + infinity = infinity

You can see that because the results will always equal ‘infinity’ you can just ignore that ‘infinity’ part as a given, and focus on the 1.26, a completely meaningless number which proves that this new math is a complete waste of time. And now we’ve procrastinated long enough, following this imaginary logic to its extreme. We’ve come to the end of our little game. Bottom line: will we fix this rot?

In our case it was sure serendipitous that I had just Saturday gone through, organized, and prepared for stowage all of our epoxy supplies. Mike took to removing the rot, but quickly gave it over to me as he realized he needed to complete his first task: wiring the solar.

In the end, that +infinity at the end of the equation means I’m dealing with the rot now because I actually have the time while we’re waiting for Mike to be finished working at Boeing. In spite of knowing that this problem has been there for a long time and it’s not going to sink our boat, I care too much about our boat to be able to let that sit. You see, there is nothing straight forward about the new math when it comes to boat jobs. I sure hope your school funding doesn’t count on your passing this kind of test.

Shhh. Please do not call attention to the screws holding that dorade cover in place. (That’s the white thing with a red hole in the middle) You might not see the screws in this photo, but I know you sailboaters know they are there. We already know, too. Oh yes. We do… and also the latches to the lazarette. We know ALLL the things that need checking. So. Many. Things.

I began digging out the rot, an oddly satisfying task. We put a heater under the hole, and today I’ll rig a tarp to keep the rain out. We’re going to dry it out as well as we can, and then I will get to work with all those epoxy supplies I so carefully packed away for the haul out. It’s not really a big job. It’s just added to all the other ‘not very big’ jobs that must be done at some point.

Our list of tasks is like a living organism, just like our list of things to purchase. Like a cranky and difficult to please god, we giveth to the list, and we taketh away from the list as time and funds require. It gives us some relief from concern that after the haulout, we will have a good few weeks to just sit around somewhere and casually do boat jobs however we want. There’s nothing more that I want to do in the whole wide world than sit at anchor somewhere and look for more small areas of water intrusion into our deck. Doesn’t that sound terrific? We actually think so.







13 thoughts on “The New Math

  1. There are at least 2 factors that you have left out of the equation.
    1. How important does the wife think the project is? Very much an influence on the priority level of said project.
    2. How hot you are, how long you have been working on the project, and how cold the beer is! As beer consumption increases, the project appears to be simpler but in actual fact, becomes more complicated.

    • Well, since I am the wife, I probably didn’t see that as part of the equation. But I see your point. On the other hand, Mike and I are generally in agreement in terms of the integrity of the hull and things like that. Now your number two we have yet to experience but are looking forward to that being a part of the equation. It sounds like the inverse correlation between the number of beers consumed and the difficulty of the project is going to throw the whole thing off. I might have to start over.

  2. I always wonder how those lists never got done. Hmmm, new math. I think you’ve figured it out! I’m glad I have an explanation.

    We took our shrink wrap off yesterday so the fiberglass repair guy could get to the spot that needs repair (2 weeks earlier than we would have liked). Then we found out that he can’t do it unless the temperature is consistently 60 degrees. (In Michigan!??@#$&%!!) What does that mean mathematically? It means we may not launch on May 11. (More numbers you notice)

    And let’s not even talk about the numbers involved in the bottom line. LOL

    We do most work on the boat ourselves; but there are a few things we bit the bullet for and leave to the pros. And that’s new math too…..

    • It always feels better when we can understand the mysteries of the universe! If Michigan is anything like Washington State this year, then I calculate your launch date to be further into May. Ouch. I know that we would be very glad to have weather consistently above 60, or even close to it. In terms of the bottom line, I prefer denial. It ain’t just a river in Egypt, you know!

      • We had an absolutely lovely 70 degree weekend. But, Michigan weather can be very fickle; so it could snow next weekend. We just take it as it comes and always hope for the best.

        Good luck with your lists!

  3. I laughed out loud all of the way through this post! Beside the series on Anxiety, this is my favorite one ever. All so true! We’re right there with you, scrambling to get things done before haul-out, and so we can get the heck off of the dock!

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