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A Soapy Beginning

Howell Hurst Uncategorized

The human animal is a cantankerous beast. He pretends to try to get along with his fellow creatures, but really all he is doing much of the time is biding his time until he discovers a way to differ, then he attacks his companion of the moment in some obliquely unnerving manner to assert his aggressiveness. To gain some sort of psychological advantage. To nourish his ego.

I detected this trait with my first sailing mate, a seemingly mild and easy-to-get along with fellow. He was on the surface of things an ostensibly civilized man. However, under the surface lurked a contentious personality bent on taking charge of the boat. I first noticed this when he started using soap to wash the dishes. Now, here’s how it went. For sound reasons I will explain, on board my boat I wash eating utensils with only water. No soap. Just water.

The reason is simple. It saves water. H2O is a limited commodity on board and, hence, very valuable as a life-supporting substance. There’s just so much space on a sailboat. You have to use water cautiously. M boat only holds one hundred gallons of potable water. Figure it like this: if you wash cups, spoons, forks, knives, and dishes with soap, you use twice as much water as when you only wash things in water by itself.

Here’s the rough math my mate never considered in his assertive soapy dishwashing habit, apparently instilled in him by his wife. In his method, one quart of water with soap is used to loosen up the food and dirt on a utensil. Then another quart of the precious stuff is used to rinse off the grit and grime – and the soap.

Contrarily, (my method) if you only use pure water without soap, and add a good bit of elbow grease to the process, it actually – based on my personal experience – gets the utensil just as clean, but uses only half the water. Plus, I speculate that any slight film of leftover food stuff is good to sort of temper the utensil and organically make it more long lasting. This is only a theory, mind you; but it is a rule on my boat that I as the captain have created.

Two people eating roughly three meals a day, if they use soap, utilize some twelve quarts (three gallons, right?) of water. However, if they omit the soap they only use six quarts. Calculate that all up and you can see that the limited one hundred gallons of water will last twice as long as the soapy alternative.

This is important on a boat. It means you don’t have to go into some port to fill your water tanks as often. This frequently saves you docking fees and, since you may have to motor some inside the port when doing this, it saves you the cost of wasted diesel fuel. Not a biggy, but to be considered as part of the water conservation equation.

I don’t want to get too snitty here. (A too common trait of captains of small sailing boats brought on by overly developed pride of naval ownership.] But my first mate never intuited the water dynamic I am describing. And I heartily suspect he derived some sort of perverse pleasure in showing me how to wash things with soap. It was likely a hygienic imperative preceding his eventually planned mutiny.

He side-stepped the point that on a boat as a guest mate, you are supposed to first learn how the captain runs his vessel, not assume you are permitted to introduce, however subtly, your more domestic habits to his puny command. This disrupts a captain’s sense of confidence and, thereby, endangers both of you by weakening his masterful control of the nautical necessities of the sea.

The upshot of the whole soapy washing thing was that it just got us started off subconsciously on the wrong foot, and when we got to Monterey, we had already disturbed that fragile captain/mate social relationship upon which the safety and economy of a small sea voyage depends. The temporary mate soon announced he would be leaving the ship, heading back home to rejoin his wife. And I started figuring out how to fill his position with a non-soap-addicted new mate.

There were some other things that happened in that first leg of the journey I’d like to report. But I don’t want to burden you with excessive technical details and lose your interest in the long-range narrative. So I think I’ll just end this here, and carry on in the next commentary – the one that includes the next mate, a lady who favored lady lovers, a prerogative I freely accepted about her, as I too share the same tastes.

So, that’s part of the picture of the first twenty-four-hour-long leg of my sailing trip. It’s not as ponderously important as some other things that happened (which will eventually be fully reported on) but gives you a taste at least of one of the varied things that can make up the colorful content of a private sea adventure.

Signing off for a while, I remain your humble captain of the good ship, Wild Goose.

San Diego, California, USA . . .

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