Quote of the Month

"Not all those who wander are lost." J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 1954.

“We must change our attitudes toward the ocean. We must regard it as no longer a mystery, a menace, something so vast and invulnerable that we need not concern ourselves with it … Instead we want to explore the themes of the ocean’s existence—how it moves and breathes, how it experiences dramas and seasons, how it nourishes its hosts of living things, how it harmonizes the physical and biological rhythms of the whole earth, what hurts it and what feeds it—not least of all, what are its stories.” Jacques Yves Cousteau, 1910-1997.

"It's the glory of the sea that has turned my head." Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island, 1894.

"It is with you as with the sea: the most varied names are given to what is in the end only salt water." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Maxims and Reflections, 1833.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dockmanship

LOG: Sat 12 Sep 09. 1000-1400. Onboard Lolita (30’ Beneteau, 1984). Crew: Silvia, Inés, Hernán and myself. Weather—Wind: E 10-14 knots (We experienced the 10 knots mostly.). Seas: 2-4 feet. Sky: Cumulus white clouds on the horizon to the east and southeast. Barometer: 29.92 in. Hg. (steady). Position: Between Sunbay Marina, Fajardo and the islands of Icacos and Palomino.

Dockmanship (Cornell Boaters Library)     There is an excellent little book, Dockmanship by David Owen Bell, printed by Cornell Maritime Press (1992), which is all about docking and undocking a sailboat—berthing, unberthing; arrival, departure; alpha, omega; the beginning and the end of a sailing adventure. Bell states that, “Many people consider good dockmanship to be the mark of a competent skipper.” For many a sail lately, while I have been the designated captain, I have managed to do this task with greater and lesser degrees of apprehension (I’ve a good record so far of not damaging body or property.). The more I do it, the more I realize, it is not about an individual’s competence to manage the task, but rather an individual’s ability to conduct the task, much as an orchestra conductor leads musicians, instruments, environmental acoustics and surrounding audience. Bell says there are three components to any docking situation: (1) elements under your control: the engine, rudder and dock lines; (2) external forces beyond your control: wind and current; and (3) the human factor, partially under your control: attitude, reflexes and perception—yours and those of the crew. Docking to me is orchestrating all these factors at once in a very quick, brief, flashing sacred moment in the craft of sailing. It is sacred, if seen as entering and leaving the cathedral of the sea. Conversations cease, silence rules over occasional warnings, and everyone is focused on the musical overture.
     Such were my feelings and spirits as we left Sunbay Marina for yet another sail onboard my good old friend, Lolita. There wasn’t much wind, but the sun was shining, and after so many rainy days, threats of storms (Erika) and tropical depressions, it was a well-received welcome sail. We sailed towards Icacos and Palomino, never reaching either. As the sailors’ adage goes, once sails are up and you’re sailing, you’ve reached your destination.
     We had the company of a new Caribbean Sailing School student, Hernán (see picture), who took to sailing as a natural. After only five lessons, he joined our team where he practiced checking oil, starting/stopping the engine, raising sails, helming with a tiller, doing a heave-to, working knots and ropework, and of course joining in the dockmanship, where he was in charge of the aft starboard line and on arrival the forward starboard line, as well as assisting crew as required in our musical overture’s grand finale.