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.