Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

Windshifts: It’s Not Easy Being Green

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

01-LEAD-BahiaCobre

Charter the Sea of Cortez

Chartering and the notion of going “off the beaten path” may sound self-contradictory. Charter companies tend to put bases where demand is high and they can turn a profit, so if you’re lucky enough to find an outfit and a destination that gets away from the typical—say yes. To ...read more

22D6FB6F-AA49-4784-A3A8-960F5A7CE330

Cruising: Anchoring Skills

Watching charterers make a run for the last mooring in a cove is fun—and weird. I always wonder why so many would rather try to catch a mooring than drop the hook. Maybe charterers don’t trust their anchoring skills, but it’s harder to drive up and grab a buoy than most people ...read more

BD-TJV21_Malama_063

11th Hour Breakdown in the TJV

11th Hour Racing’s Mālama kicked off the second week of the Transat Jaques Vabre with keel problems, forcing co-skippers Charlie Enright and Pascal Bidégorry to adjust for a more conservative approach to the race’s remaining 2000 miles. “We’ve been dealing with a lot of ...read more

2021-rolex-y-of-y-email-graphic

Rolex Nominations Open

Award season is upon us, and US Sailing is looking for the next Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year. Established in 1961 by US Sailing and sponsored by Rolex since 1980, the annual Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year awards recognize individual male and female sailors ...read more

04-IMG_3448

Buying a New Main Sail

I’ve always known the importance of having good sails. As a low-budget boat punk, I prioritize making sure I can get where I’m going with the help of the wind, as opposed to under power. It isn’t necessarily my goal to be engineless, or basically engineless. It just happens that ...read more

WAC

VIDEO: Protocol and Class Rules of the Next America’s Cup

The Defender, Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron, and Challenger of the Record, INEOS Britannia, have announced the protocol and class rules for the 37th America’s Cup. According to team CEO Grant Dalton, “As the oldest trophy in international sport, the America’s Cup maintains ...read more

Chartwork

Are You Ready to Bareboat Charter?

Judging your own readiness is never easy. That goes double for chartering and running a yacht on vacation. What I hear most often from first-time charter guests is that they’ve been sailing for decades, so how different can it be to charter? The truth is it’s very different ...read more

Ventana

Looking Ahead at the USVI Charter Show

St. Thomas, US V.I. – While the crewed charter and bareboat industry are clearly slated for a very busy sailing season, the recent Virgin Islands Professional Charter Association (VIPCA) show https://vipca.org/usvi-charter-yacht-show/ held in Charlotte Amalie Nov. 7-10 ...read more