The other day some of my crew took apart our Furuno radar for repairs. I’d never seen the inside of a radar before, and couldn’t even imagine what might be screwed and soldered together inside beyond some kind of arm rotating about an axle. My blurry guess was mostly correct: there is a surface that rotates. The rest, the part that does the “talking”, is strangely silent and still, all gears and computer chips. I don’t know what I was imagining, besides the “how radar works” explanation I usually give kids, which involves a man forever spinning in a circle, emitting a continuous, loud “Ahhhh!” with one hand cupped to his ear, listening for his own echo. It wasn’t like that. There was no man. But there was some good light…
The other day I stepped into the deck house and found a plastic jar full of pieces from a broken block. For those not familiar with the term, a block is what we sailors call the pulleys that we use to haul up sails. Blocks can be made of wood, metal and different types of plastics.
Since I normally work on traditional boats, I am used to seeing wooden blocks, and normally they have either bronze or cast iron sheaves (the pulleys inside of the wooden shell). But the block I found the other day had sheaves made out of a different kind of material: wood! Since I’ve never encountered a wooden sheave, this was a little bit of excitement for me.
It was especially exciting because it was made of a type of wood that is special to me because it was the first type that my California woodworking mentor and friend, Bob Petersen, taught me to identify. It’s called Lignum Vitae, and it’s known for being extremely hard, and naturally oily (which means it tends not to dry out and crack). Bob taught me to identify it by its very distinct deep, spicy smell, which I love. If you ever encounter it, scratch away to some fresh wood and take a whiff…it’s a wonderful experience.
Just three full days before I fly to Tasmania. How did this happen? Got most of my final shopping done today, and Christmas brought me some nice surprises too. The best unexpected gift was from my step-dad Greg, who is a HAM radio operator. He gave me a battery-crank-solar powered radio that in addition to AM/FM, tunes in Short Wave radio and local weather stations. Awesome!
And as I sat on the floor amidst the wrapping paper with my new toy pressed against my ear, listening for something either with meaning or mystery, I suddenly understood the obsession with radio. Modern communications technology is a wonderful thing, but there’s something tragic about being so saturated by it that you cease to feel thrilled by it. There is magic in the simple fact that some stranger somewhere on the globe is broadcasting his message to the world, or perhaps to someone specific, very far away. Message in a bottle. It’s when you turn on the radio, and turn the dial to just the right spot that you become that someone.
Here is a little experimental piece made up of snippets from the Short Wave this evening. Weirdest mix-tape I’ve ever made.
For those prone to worry, please remember that I’m a slight obsessive-compulsive, and this is all definitely way beyond what most would do to prepare for this trip. However, out on the open sea, it’s tough to be over-prepared, and this won’t be my last time out there. So, taking cues from my Basic Safety Training course, this is the set of gear I intend to have with me (or very close at hand) at all times:
- Inhaler on a carabiner
- Small, waterproof flashlight, strobing & high-powered (maybe a bike light?)
- Reflective velcro wristbands (that can be attached to anything…)
- A wool stocking hat
- A folding blade in a sheath
- A small mirror glued to the inside of my seashell necklace (I’m serious)
Here’s the whistle I bought today, also with a compass, magnifying glass and thermometer!
Anything to add?