Friday, February 20, 2009

The new spectator sport

Keeping a lookout

What's going on over there?

Stephanie has already commented on my favorite spot on the boat.  On the L-shaped seat next to the helm seat.  It's comfortable, I have a small table to hold my cup of tea and, due to its height,  I have great visibility in all directions.  This is a good thing because, I have come to realize, I'm nosey.  I'm the neighbour with the twitching net curtains, clocking everyone in or out.  I'm the one the police will question while investigating the unfortunate incident two doors down.  Bradley, captain of the Tigers Eye - our neighbour here in Key West - commented how he always saw me sat up there whenever he walked by.  As soon as I mentioned what a good perch it makes for watching he jumped up for a sample.  He agreed.  A most excellent crows nest.

While watching the comings and goings on the dock is entertaining, as is answering questions of the looky-loos that wander all marinas, the most fun is watching boats enter and leave their slips.  If you think watching your neighbour's 17 year old kid parallel park for the first time is entertainment, you're going to love watching someone dock their yacht.  Backing a boat into a slip is not dissimilar to reversing into a parking slot in a parking garage.  Only a lot harder.  Size is one aspect, of course.  Your typical boat is 40 - 50' long and 15' wide.  The slot it goes into is probably less than 18' wide - the one we're in at Key West only gives 1' of clearance on each side.  There's likely not much space in front of the slip either.  The fairway in front of my slip here is 50' wide.  As if the tight quarters aren't tough enough, moving around a marina - nautically speaking "close quarter maneuvering" - is hard.  Boats don't have brakes and water is only slightly more effective as a braking force than a sheet of ice.  They also can be moved by wind and current.  Oh yes, and let's not forget that anything you hit is frightfully expensive.

As soon as I hear boat engines - or even better a bow thruster (it has a much higher pitched whine and is used intermittently, so is easy to recognize) - I'm up like a gopher out of his hole.  It's not like I want to see someone get bent out of shape, though the theatre is much better when it happens.  As interesting is watching different captains solve the problem of putting the peg in the hole.  Watching a yacht dock smoothly is an education and you learn to recognize an old salt pretty quickly.  A guy opposite us takes his 50' sport fisher out three or more times a week.  He's so smooth and confident it's amazing.  Contrast that to the sail boat that came in and left earlier this week.  We all thought they'd bounce off every other boat in the harbour before leaving.  As it turned out, they only hit one.  Not mine, thankfully! ;-)

Knowing everyone is watching makes coming and going extra stressful. It's getting easier and the addition of my joystick makes control so much easier.  I'm also learning to slow down, take notice of the effect of winds and currents and plan out my moves before taking action.

Today there are high winds - 20 knots from the north - and no coming or going.  Tomorrow they die down a little and its a Saturday.  I'm sure they'll be plenty to see :-)

1 comment:

Sue said...

Hysterical, Martin... I rolled around on the floor for a few minutes after reading this post... :) Just made it back to the computer! :) Can't get the gopher image out of my head...