Windshifts: It’s Not Easy Being Green

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
cormorant-1008476_1920

“Why are there two bottles of rum in the cockpit?” I ask, pausing in the midst of vigorously scrubbing the boat.

Rubin is strolling leisurely down our pier, hands in his coat pockets, blue eyes sparkling, a good-natured smile stretched across his face. I can tell, even without asking, he’s been wandering about the marina kibitzing with everyone he knows. Which is everyone.

“I’m not sure.”

“Hmmm.”

“I didn’t think you’d be back from running this soon,” he says, stepping from the dock to the boat. “I would have cleaned it.”

“Hmmm.” I swallow my skepticism. The white fiberglass is splattered with tiny specks of blue spider droppings and splats of brown-crusted white bird poop. It is not the kind of filth easily erased by the expensive, environmentally friendly cleaners I insist we use. Rubin’s solution is to use tire spray, bleach mixed with a commercial boat wash, Soft Scrub, and toilet bowl cleaner.

“You can’t use those! All that toxic stuff goes straight into the lake!”

“Find me something else that works, and I’ll use it.”

“Hmmm.”

When it comes to the environment, we are often on a collision course.

“I love nature provided it doesn’t invade my castle,” he says frequently. And whether his castle is on land or water, he is equally as passionate when it involves insects. On the boat, it starts with spiders. At the first hint of dusk they emerge, weaving misty webs dangling from all corners of the boat. Rubin’s solution is to go on “spider patrol,” a nightly ritual in which he grabs a flashlight and a giant can of insecticide and sprays anything that moves on the stanchions, lifelines, boom, side stays, dock lines, pier or electrical box. If he has enough poison, he sprays the neighbors’ docks and electrical boxes as well, creating a long death march to our boat.

A 2in perimeter around our house is treated in a similar fashion. I’m lucky it’s only 2in.

“You must have been buried alive in a prior life,” I joke, trying to be empathetic, to add humor. But the more I learn about ecosystems, about nature’s way of providing balance, the more I realize insects are a vital part of life. And while I would prefer they live elsewhere, spiders, in particular, seem to have a strong affinity toward docks, lines and boats.

It is the poison I most abhor. And so on mornings like this one, I search for the live, balled-up spiders and bugs above the droppings, squishing them before rinsing their bodies into the lake. Fish food, I tell myself. Not the perfect compromise, but a beginning.

Often bugs escape Rubin, me, and the spiders, but drown in the heavy dew of morning. Barn swallows flit about the boat scooping up the leftover bugs for breakfast, reminding those paying attention, like me, that nature does provide its own clean up. Unfortunately, the swallows tend to perch on the boat’s lifelines, digesting their meal and pooping leftover remnants all over the fiberglass. Rubin tries to deter the birds by tooling about in our dinghy when I’m not around, destroying the first hint of any nest under nearby docks.

“There are plenty of places they can build their nest,” he tells me. “Just not here.” The birds don’t seem to care. Like insects, they are relentless, partying on any boat with bugs. And occasionally, that includes ours.

This morning’s scrubbing is a ploy. If I want to spend hours hunched over a brush trying to clean the boat with environmentally friendly cleaners, I can do so. He has better ways to spend his time.

“So what’s with the rum?” I ask again.

“I think they might be gifts.”

“Why?”

“For using the slingshot to chase the cormorants off our neighbors’ boats.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Those birds consume copious amounts of fish during the day. If they perch on your mast during the night, the boom is covered with a thick, brownish poop-soup. You can’t get it off.”

Silence.

“Anyway, you’d be proud of me.”

“Why is that?”

“I used acorns to hit them. Environmentally friendly.”

“Thanks.”

Avid sailor Mary McKSchmidt describes herself as a passionate Lake Michigan advocate. She and her husband, Rubin, have sailed extensively around the U.S. coasts and in the Caribbean

August 2016

Related

101218BTSC-9887

Just Launched: Little Big Boat

Peter Nielsen looks at Beneteau’s latest entry-level boat and a new cruiser from Tartan Group Beneteau’s commitment to entry-level boats has been reaffirmed over the last year with the assimilation of the sporty Seascape line of pocket cruisers and the ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more