We are sitting on anchor and the trade winds are blowing a stiff. The port engine is running, charging the batteries. It’s 10:30 in the morning and Jack is watching, A Land Before Time while Bayla asks me a series of identical questions.
“What’s this Daddy? What this?”
“That’s a screw.”
“Screw. It’s a screw,” I say, exaggerating the pronunciation.
“Oooooooohhhhhhh,” she sings.
And then, “What’s this Daddy? What’s this?”
Occasionally, the humming sound above me grows intense as a strong gust is forced apart by the myriad wires, lines, stanchions and other protrusions that make up the rigging. A few moments after there is the creaking-crescendo of a rope and then a strong tug as the bow of the boat lowers perceptibly and we lurch forward, like a slow-motion-cartoon-dog being yanked down and backwards after charging on his lease.
Aside from the visceral thrill, it’s a good feeling reassuring us the anchor is fast, refusing budge under the moving strain. On particularly resistant pulls, I imagine a stubborn anchor gloating in its ability to hunker down in the sand, successful defending another attack.
Then I think about how rope on a boat, called line, is almost the exact same thing as the wireless revolution. While modern man gloats about his ability to grab his office work from the ethos and manipulate it with his computer, not-so-modern-man has been doing this for years.
Rope allows man to take the vast energy of the earth, be it gravity or wind, put it into a rope and direct it to whatever work he needs to get done: With a single length of low-tech rope, a sailor can transfer as much power as he can deal with to a single point, even rounding corners along they way, and apply it to whatever his imagination fancies.
Take forward propulsion on a sailboat, for example. While it appears as though the sails are driving the boat forward, it’s actually the rope. Sails merely capture great amounts of energy from the wind. It’s the ropes, called sheets when they control sails, which literally pull the boat forward. All of the power that is captured by the sail is directed down the sheet and secured to the boat, thus pulling the vessel forward. If the sheet were not attached to the boat, the boat would not get pulled, and the sail would flap uncontrolled in the breeze.
By winding it up and down, through a series of pulleys – called blocks on a boat – he can lift unimaginable heavy objects. Two up and downs with the rope make it twice as easy, four up and downs make it four times as easy.
Clearly I’ve been looking at this stuff for too long.
We arrived in Bequia (pronounced Beck-Way) last night after spontaneously decided to keep on sailing a couple of islands we were planning on stopping at. Some of the islands are so close to each other, it takes less than 30 minutes to reach them, including pulling up the anchor and setting it on the other side.
Jackie is virtually over her shingles, and the kids are still having fun.