09 October 2011

Boat Show(s)

We are back in Annapolis for the boat show.  Attending shortly after buying our boat was a decision we bandied about quite a bit, actually.  Would we feel we'd been too hasty in buying the one we did?  Would we come down with a case of  the dreaded "two-foot syndrome?"  Would we lose all restraint and spend untold sums on pretty things  for our baby?  On the other hand, if we weren't interested in any of the above, why go at all?  We did go, of course, because it's the largest boat show in the country and it's simply the thing to do.

On the upside, we did manage to escape without spending a cent...except for the ball cap that I bought because I pessimistically expected fouler weather and my bald pate was suffering for my presumption. I am now the somewhat sunburnt owner of an official Annapolis Boat Show ball cap with integrated cap clip.  Had it not been for that simple bit of brilliance, I would've regretted the twenty bucks I shelled out for it, but as a devotee of good design, seeing it (along with the opportunity to kick myself for not coming up with the idea), was well worth the money.

And speaking of good design, I went back to the boat show on Friday just to take notes on the interior design of cats our size and larger.  I'd originally thought to do the same with some of the larger monohulls, but I find that there's little crossover between the space planning considerations of mono and multihulls.  They're just different species of boat.  Having now toured quite a variety of cats, with regard to both make and year, Jane and I find their evolution fascinating.  Catamaran design has come very far in the eighteen years since our boat was produced, a fact I (and others) attribute to the increase of wives who are, generally speaking, living the dream--their spouses, that is.  Interiors are combinations of high white, polished fiberglass and light, often honey-colored wood.  There is an openness and lightness to them that is right at home in the Caribbean (where most of the boats for sale have spent part or all of their years of service).  There is also far more consideration given to storage of some kinds: food; clothing; linens, while other kinds (e.g., spare boat parts and tools), have all but disappeared.

Hygiene is another area where the influx of women has only benefited all.  While it is undoubtedly more efficient to shower at the same time as one...uh...uses the facilities, most home builders stubbornly cling to the notion of a separate showering area; some even dedicate an entire room to the the task.  Here again, the more women leave hearth (and shower) and home to go to sea, the more we're seeing boats emulating that configuration.  If my blatant sexism is unwarranted, I apologize to my seafaring brethren.  After all, in truth men also for the most part dedicate separate spaces to showering and relieving themselves, the latter function being accomplished over the sides of boats.

Before concluding my remarks on the various head and shower permutations, I must take a moment to commend the South African St. Francis company for installing a BATHTUB on their 50 ft. Phantom model.  (Sadly, they also lose points for sticking the engines under the aft berths.)

This brings me to another area which must speak either to the deeper slumber to which sailors are privy or else the increase in agility and thermal imaging abilities the sailing life engenders.  I refer to cabin design.  Here, it would seem, our sisters-at-sea have had less influence.  The berth configuration of our 1993 Fountaine Pajot is still the most common if the boats at the show are truly representative of the market as a whole.  As I write this, Jane is sleeping soundly in another cabin.  Soon, I will attempt, in the dark, to discern which folds of the blanket are, in fact, her extremities and deftly avoid them as I hoist myself onto the bed and crawl in behind her.  I will reverse and repeat this process at least once more during the night for reasons mentioned in a previous section.  This agility test is challenging enough in port; I can only imagine what it will be like in the presence of, well, waves for instance.  A few of the models take this a step further (down) by optimizing vertical space.  More than one boat company's design called for a good three feet or more of storage space under the side-loading beds accessible by either a ladder or a set of built-in steps.  So, in addition to having to maneuver around the more claustrophobic spouse's legs, one has either to grope for the intended method of egress or else fling one's body off the edge into space and hope for the best.  Rinse, repeat at least once nightly and more often with age if you get my drift.  The best models I saw did have bottom-loading bed designs and a couple even thought to cut away the bottom edges to leave room for small, wedge shaped steps on either side.  I can't speak for others, of course, but I know I would much prefer to reduce the risk of damage to my wife's legs by crawling forward to get out of bed.  One manufacturer got it half right--exactly.  Their cabin featured a full open side all the way to the head of the bed on one side and a wedge-step on the other.  It apparently takes the hull dimensions of a superyacht to produce a bed design that enables both sleepers to get out on their own side.

Other than these, I had only a few miscellaneous quibbles: helms that the vertically challenged such as my wife and I couldn't see the edges of the boat from, in some cases either seated or standing; galley cabinets set above and behind the stove (just because we have the incredible good fortune to be able to live this life, doesn't mean we have the good sense to not lean over an open flame to reach for something in a cabinet); cabinets that only people over six feet tall can see--much less reach up--into (who do they think does the cooking?); square corners on galley, salon, and nav station cabinetry (I have this nasty penchant for slamming into things during rough seas and I like them to do less rather than more damage to my organs when I do); cabinet, cupboard and drawer handles that stand proud of their respective faces for the aforementioned reason; and a personal pet peeve: aft-facing nav stations.  This, I will allow, may not be an actual hindrance to pleasurable sailing.  My dislike I attribute to the position I was put in (literally) when riding in our family car.  My parents owned a Volkswagen Microbus and my father, hedging his child's safety against the forces of inertia by reversing one of the benches.  I spent my childhood looking out of the rear window, ever clueless as to where we were headed, only cognizant of where we had just been.  I fault him completely for my permanently and hopelessly fouled sense of direction.

As a web designer and reformed home remodeler, I am well aware that there exists a give-and-take in any real world design situation.  And as a recent boat owner, I am often now (quite literally) painfully aware of the contortions plumbing and electrical runs must make to allow for all the bells and whistles that designers specify to keep up with demand.  On that topic, Jane and I decided that today was the day we would plunge into the murky waters or our navigational equipment.  When this proved as overwhelming as expected, we opted to further punish ourselves by attempting to trace all of the wiring involved (we thought, or rather feared) with said equipment.  This is primarily my department according to our agreed upon division of labor and I became acutely, depressingly aware that every wire which more frequently than not disappeared in a bundle of other unaccounted for wires and then into a bulkhead, represented some function of this boat for which I am responsible.  Fortunately, Jane finds this sort of conundrum fun in the puzzle-solving sense--up to a point.  At that point, specifically the point where we simultaneously came to the realization that the most reasonable thing to, do all things considered, will be to rip every single wire out of this boat and start over from scratch, we decided to call it a (frustrating) day, or night as it was by that time.

I did, however, manage to salvage the last part of my day.  (I am less confident that my dear wife was able to do so.)  For desert, I sat in the cockpit and smoked the cigar I bought yesterday at a tobacconist on Main St.  I asked the clerk to recommend a hidden gem, a smoke which hardly anyone knew about but which everyone should.  He suggested one of the most expensive cigars in the shop, of course, a Decade, that ironically became milder the further down I smoked it.  This, fortified by a few shots of Jack Daniels, "Panama" by Eric Zencey, the lights of various purpose shimmering on the water of the South River, and the just distant enough din rising from Coconut Joe's were enough to reestablish the resolve of my contentment with this life we have chosen.  It was just a day in that life after all.

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