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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Part 16; Where Did That Blood Come From!

Boat Bites, Lizards on da Boat Getting Boat Bites, Slippin' and Slidin' on da Ice, No Way to Call 911

OK so that's not exactly what Jimmy wrote but I thought we would continue our discussion from last time (Part 15) regarding breakdowns.  No not the mechanical ones but the physical ones.  So the title for Part 16 is: "Where did that blood come from?"  I am reminded that things are not as they might appear to those on the outside or in authority.  I recall a visit to the ER with my youngest daughter after her mother and I discovered she had removed the "childproof" lid to a bottle of Robitussin with Codeine in her room and ingested how much of it we weren’t sure so off dad goes to the ER with an exceptionally high toddler.  This is the cue for another Joni Mitchell lyric: "I heard little children were supposed to sleep tight, so that why I got into the Vodka one night.  My parents were frantic didn't know what to do, but I saw some crazy scenes before I came to. I may have been only three but I was swinging"  As I say, we didn't know how much she drank but it was a full moon Friday night so the ER was hopping when we arrived complete with a local gangbanger who was being escorted in with arm and leg irons which prompted our high-child started singing  Jingle Bells; much to amusement of the local police.  All was well and good, stomach was getting pumped, daughter number two was numb to it all, until I was deemed an unfit parent and Child Protective Services came to visit me in the ER to see if I was fit to take this precocious toddler home.  After talking to the doctors, nurses, and my daughter either I was deemed fit or they thought 'better him than us'.    I tell this story for two reasons; one because its entertaining and that is always good to be, and second, because I live in fear of someone seeing all the bruises on my wife and calling the police on me for hitting her.

Living on a boat things break, bruise, and bleed, and I'm talking about people parts here.  What inspired me to delve into this subject was the other morning (ok it was weeks ago I might procrastinate a bit) when I looked down and wondered just where that blood came from and whose was it?  Living on a boat on the ocean everything is in constant motion.  Even at anchor you are rocking gently side to side and fore/aft from water moving underneath you.  Sometimes things are moving in more than one direction at a time.  Living on a catamaran the motion, especially underway, can be even more sudden and best described as "herky-jerky" often very rapid, if predictable, lunging.  On a monohull I assume there are similar challenges with more of a "plunging" motion while heeled over at 20-30 degrees.  At least in a cat you are being thrown around on a relatively level (5 degree heel at most) plane.  Sometimes where you go to put your foot down isn't there anymore or better said your relationship to that is not the same at the end of the action as it was at the beginning.  Ones center-of-gravity also has a lot to do with your ability to move around.  The closer to the ground perhaps the better; you'd have to ask Jo about that.  Then there are those of us who are vertically challenged: too damn tall.  Paraphrasing (badly) Frank Lloyd Wright was reported to say of tall people that they were weeds and should be cut off at the knees, or something like that.  He was a short but talented little cuss.  Being on the tall side, sailboats pose additional challenges in addition to the motion and only on the bigger (i.e. more expensive) of vessels is there adequate headroom throughout.  At the very least, the doorways built into bulkheads are low clearance and not to much more than 24" wide so you learn to duck.  If you don’t then the top of your head looks like a battle ground.  Good news though, you are so tall that few people see it.  Bad news though, you feel it.  On Caribbean Dream there is good headroom, not great but good.  For example I can only stand erect in 75% of the galley/salon, when near the sink I need to slouch, something us tall people are very good at.  The heads (bathrooms) that double as the shower only allow full headroom when my head is directly under the overhead hatch and it is open.  So when taking a shower I lean against the wall, something else tall people are good at.  This is the way it is and when I forget the rules the boat takes a bite.  There are a lot of different levels on a boat as well.  The big trend in new catamaran design is to make the transitions from one area to another flat with few or no steps.  For Leopard's, that trend came about with the model that followed this one; no really, so on CD there are lots of levels, some of which are quite steep, not paying attention, boat takes a bite.  Sometimes that bite is out of your chin, sometimes your face if you fall flat on it, and sometimes your bum if you fall on it.  One of the nice things about living on a boat is that shoes are seldom worn aboard.  If you come to visit we will request that you take your flip-flops off before you board.  This is more practical than just the idea of the romantic barefooted sailor.  Stuff, oil, sand, dirt, grime, etc., tracked onboard gets ground into the fiberglass coating of the decks and can lead to costly repairs.  Now Jo and I do wear shoes onboard often during passages or in rough weather but those shoes have never seen the dirt of a city street or the sand of a distant beach.  I must admit, from time to time I miss shoes.  I miss my cowboy boots and my comfy sneakers, but for the most part bare feet are fine.  However, there are lots of things on deck designed to allow you to dock and secure the boat and to sail the boat.  These things are called  jammer cleats, horn cleats,  blocks, toe rails, etc.; oh yes, then there are all the lines and sheets (ropes) that run everywhere, each with one real function and one subversive function.  The real function is to control the boat, the subversive is to work with the boat to trip you, catch you, or stub your exposed toes, exposed because you are not wearing shoes.  In other words, take a bite out of you.  Some of these bites are merely painful but some are downright dangerous.  Take for example a 1/2-5/8" line whipping around in a 20kt wind getting caught under your chin or around your neck, that might be one boat bite too many.  Now that is rare, but you learn quickly to always respect the power of the wind.   Yes, I know this from first-hand, or should I say head experience.  Jo had a nasty boat bite the other day when bringing in (furling) a whipping line and her hand and arm got caught between the winch and the line.  Then there is chain.  Thankfully the only chain you have to deal with which is the one hooked to the anchor, but it is as dangerous or more, than anything else onboard; they call em' Chainsaws.   There is 300 feet of 3/8" HT G4 chain hooked to the anchor on CD.  It usually is controlled by a powerful electric winch called a windlass, and runs beneath the front deck so is fairly contained and untouchable.  The chain however can jam, slip, freewheel, twist, etc. and often your first inclination is to try to grab it; DON'T!  Are you fond of your fingers and hand?  Then don’t touch the chain!  We have had all the chain freewheel off the windlass on a charter boat before.  On CD the chain occasionally jumps off the windlass and jams.  At those times you just let it go until you can secure it and then go back and fix the problem.  Now it is common to place your open, flat hand on top of the chain when setting the anchor so that you can feel whether the anchor is bouncing on the bottom or biting into the seabed, but we never grab it or get our hands in a place where they can be caught.   See, chain is heavy.  Our chain weighs 153lbs per-100 feet and we have 300' of it.  Add to that the anchor.  We currently have a 55lb anchor but are in the process of replacing it with an 85lb anchor.  This is a boat bite you would carry the scar of for a long time so if ever on CD or another boat be darned careful!

Cooking can present a challenge as when you are being tossed around it is not a time to perfect that special meal that requires hot liquids.  I hear tales of folks on monohulls that wear leather aprons and tie themselves into the galley to cook.  Luckily on a catamaran things aren't quite that bad but we avoid hot liquids when it gets really bad.  And we eat a LOT of sandwiches. 
Other sources of boat bites: well, falling things (not just you).  Your working conditions are rife with boat biting potential.  The two main areas where most of the plumbing connections are located on Caribbean Dream are little more than coffin-size closets behind the toilets stuffed full of pipes, pumps, fittings, and tanks all held together with zip-ties and metal hose clamps, all with the sharp ends exposed in such a manner as to poke you in the head or take a bite out of your finger while working on that fitting or another close by. They are also designed in such a manner as to require you to always take two systems apart to get to the third you need to work on, all of which you do, stretched out over the bowl, hanging down on your head, with one leg wedged beside the toilet for balance: an environment teeming with pit-vipers of boat biters.  Then there are the other senses often under attack.   On Caribbean Dream there are 4 of everything in terms of living accommodations, four berths (beds), four head/shower areas each with several pumps to bring in fresh or salt water and take it out again.  In one of the four showers, the pump designed to take the used water out had died; no problem, replace it (if you can find a replacement).   Access to said bad pump requires you to take the drain hose off the "poop tank" or holding tank.  This is a boat bite of a special variety and so if you come visit us we will have a long discussion about marine heads and how we must never do anything that might clog them.   There are more hoses on a boat than anything else and failure to secure those hoses can lead to some unpleasant results, namely the outside water coming in and you going swimming.  Each hose therefore has one, usually two, hose clamps at each end.  If you work on your car or the plumbing in your home you are familiar with these.  Hose clamps on a boat however must be made out of good quality stainless steel to retard rust.  Ordinary Stainless Steel is not stainless, it  will rust.  But the problem with the good clamps made out of high quality 316 SS is that they are 3-4 times more expensive than the ones you get at Auto Zone or Home Depot, but they do not rust away "as fast", and they can be in short supply as in the right size clamp totally unavailable just when you need it, so a cheap-o might be your only option.  CD has a collection of both types and I am working at changing the lesser quality ones for the better ones, but often 'if it ain't broke (yet) don't mess with it!'  Now you are asking, 'what does this have to do with boat bites?', well my dear reader, the end of the clamp strap (tag end) is sharp and usually rusty and always sticking out in such a way as to remove a little of your epidural layer and free the blood that is flowing through you.  I now judge plumbing and engine projects by how much blood or how many new cuts I have at the end of it.  Then there's the sneaky, rat-bastard of the boat biters, zip ties.  Oh come on you say, how can something so innocent and helpful as a zip tie hurt you, they even come in colors!  Well to make your work neat and tidy in a confined space you need to trim off the long end that you pull through, the tag end.  That leaves the locking stub and a now-sharpened tip of exposed nylon sticking out that is sure to bite your head as you lean down into the plumbing closet to add to the other nicks and scars you already have.

Moving on to the family car, your dinghy.  Boat bite city!  OK, so you got this floating, bobbing vessel that you have to step off your boat into, or off the dinghy dock into, or from the bobbing and weaving  dinghy  off to a relatively stationary boat or dock, or try to land on the beach and keep from slipping and getting sucked under it.  Although dinghy falls are often funny to watch in the same way someone slipping on a banana peel is, there is that 'groan' moment at the end when the fall or slip results in a thud.  I sported a big bruise on my ass for a while when I slipped and fell on said ass whilst pulling my dinghy onto shore.  Jo got sucked under the dinghy when the dink turned sideways while we were landing it in rough conditions.  In both cases we were ok, and in both cases there was an audience to enjoy the show.  We have a friend on another boat who shall remain nameless who has made a career out of falling off our boat while trying to get into his dinghy.  (In all fairness, rum was involved those times.)  Jo has taken a header while getting into ours once, landing hip first on the big hard padlock on the floor that left quite a mark. And you always arrive at your destination wet.  There's even a term for it, it's called dinghy butt. 

Of course there are other hazards on a boat.  Falling from the rigging when ascending or descending the mast; bad.  Getting hit in the head with the boom; harder to do on a big boat.  The non-skid on boats usually offers pretty secure footing when the boat is dry and not moving -which is never- and the part that is not non-skid is slicker than snot when wet (always).  Yes if you work at it you can get chopped-up in a prop or caught in the engines' fan belt,  but that’s' usually Darwin Award material.  You can break bones or tear something, but thankfully those are the exception and are usually associated with a bigger event.  Of course if you are a klutz, like me, then Aleve is your best friend and ice packs are mandatory.  Yes we have three first aid kits on board and a surgical stapler and…oh crap, my crown just came off my tooth!  Well sometimes there's just bad luck; now where's that 3-M 5200 adhesive, I need to glue my tooth back in. And except for the tooth, you get used to it, your equilibrium adjusts, you anticipate the motion, and eventually, you feel weird on hard unmoving ground, not on the water.

A FEW examples of things that can bite:






OK So I did not show blood and gore but this boo-boo on my knee happened to resemble a map of the BVIs where we were sailing when it happened.  Not Jesus on toast but it's all I got. 


  1. It's a good thing the body was created to create its own blood supply as needed:) Have a great and injury free week. Guess we wont see a sign on the vessel reading xx number of days without an accident:) Brett

  2. Thank you for writing these accounts. I enjoy reading them.
    Jim Morris, your one time neighbor across the street on 10th.

    1. Glad you enjoy them Jim. Our best to you and Helen.

  3. Oh dear, you make living on land seem so easy now.

    1. I guess if you lived in CA where the ground was moving under you it might be similar. On the much positive side of living out here, it is Feb 2 and I'm still in shorts and t shirt and the ocean rocks me to sleep every night. Guess paradise doesn't come without a price.