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Chastised By Soapy Mate:

Howell Hurst Uncategorized

My first “First-Mate” emailed me that my last report to you about his soap washing was tantamount to “bashing” him. It appears I violated his code of ethics . But, if I had wanted to “bash” him, wouldn’t I have at least given his name and occupation? “Bashing” obviously wasn’t my intent.

So, I explained to him that I used his “soapiness” only as a journalistic tool to explore the difficulty of establishing a working match between a mate and his captain. Consider it a device to create a writing strategy with,” I explained.

I could have used another journalistic tack, say citing Trump and his followers as Captain and Mate metaphorical example, but I chose to use the real soapy situation between him and me on the first leg of my trip to Mexico for simplicity’s sake. Instant verisimilitude, you might say.

However, he also chastised me because I apparently licked a spoon when I washed it. I’ll give him that that was disgusting of me. But, I again plead innocence of intent. I had been living alone on the boat for ten years, and accept that I’d gotten in the bad habit, unaware I had done so. I promised to change.

Nonetheless, I think even normal unacceptable utensil licking is an appropriate occurence to help a Captain to determine if we could be mates or not. I mean, If my two relatively minor irritations disturbed him to the point of his abandoning ship after 24 hours together, what might have occurred if we’d confronted a gale, a storm, a blow, a squall? Might he not in the throes of anxiety even have tossed me overboard? Far fetched, but possible?

He also accused me of yelling at him. Now, I don’t think that happened. I remember our 24 hours together as being relatively uneventful. The night was pitch black: no visible stars, no moon – apparently overcast. And we were required to steer by radar and compass, trusting our instruments. We both got to sleep every four hours or so and made it safely to Monterey. No yelling disruption comes to my mind. But, let’s abandon this subject. It serves no purpose other than to reconfirm my conviction that matching a mate with a captain is a tricky proposition.

My next mates were two married guys in Monterey who had to spend a whole week persuading their wives to allow them to sail with me. As a lifelong bachelor (with one youthful exception), I was amazed when, after one day, these two also abandoned ship because one of their wives emailed that her mother had fallen and hurt herself and was in the hospital, and they should return home to help. I felt very let down. I figured if grown men cannot undertake a short get-away-from-home sailing adventure without interruption from wives, well, that steals a guy’s sense of masculinity. The ladies would dub that chauvinism, I’m sure. Maybe, but that’s beyond the scope of this analysis.

Anyhow, these two guys returned to their wives and safeguarded the institution of marriage, while I sought another mate. Oh. I forgot to report on the lady-loving lady who joined in Monterey while my soapy mate was still on board, but abandoned ship before we ever got on the high seas. While I worked on a computer navigation issue in my PC, I had asked her to join our soap mate and help attach a safety net to our deck rigging.

She told me I was being dictatorial assigning them this task, because I only worked on a PC as they worked on a net. Why did she see this as a problem I wonder? The roles could just as easily have been reversed. Although she did find it difficult threading a thin line throughout the netting, and I halted my PC work to help her a couple of times when the netting job assumed dubious success potential. Maybe I should have asked her what her level of expertise was with PC’s and given her the option to do that job while I netted the boat. Whatever. She and the other mate finally returned to their land-based existence, leaving me to sail on eventually with the Monterey guys – at as far as they would go.

The next mate was a verifiable winner! A retired chief warrant officer/engineer of a Coast Guard Cutter, he was made of stern stuff. And he understood boats and the ocean. We shared quite a night for 18 hours in 40 to 50 knot winds with 20 foot following swells going around Point Conception. No gripes from this fellow. Just a tenacious toughness keeping the boat steady as nature played havoc with us. We eventually ended up 90 miles out in the Pacific and had to bypass Santa Barbara entirely. When the wind finally died, we made it back to land in Los Angeles.

I’ve always wondered how the soapy mate and the lady-loving lady would have handled that night?

You may agree with them that I’m an unforgiving captain, demanding too much of my crew. But, that’s what keeps boaters alive on an unforgiving ocean. Besides, it’s a centuries old custom that the captain sets the tone of a boat and that the mates are always in the first day or two being tested by him to determine if they can intuit functional attitude. And do it by watching him and following his example rather require him to agree to their land-based habits.

Yes, I guess I am a stern captain. But after 35 years of sailing, I’m still afloat, having avoided Davy Jones locker several times. Casual day bay-sailors who ship with me, and stick around a while, learn after a bit some of the tricks of the sailing craft to inject salt in their veins and become salty assets.

My next two mates were a PhD and an MD. I think you’ll get a kick out of how that worked out next report.

Reporting from Wild Goose, I remain your sailing buddy,

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