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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Feeling Buoyant


Don't let that sinking feeling get you down!
From Disney's Pirates of the Carribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
via BroBible

You don't drown by falling into the water; you drown by staying there.

-- Edwin Louis Cole


Feeling Buoyant?

Here’ a tale of specific gravity I heard via Kevin Allred…

Seems a friend of his, living along one of the great sea-lanes of SE Alaska built him a small, open sailboat of cedar. 

For his first sail, he guesstimated what he’d need in ballast and accordingly threw a ten-count of sandbags onto the floorboards. Figgured he’d adjust as needed, then bolt in their equal in fixed, lead pigs sometime down the road.

Off he went, sailing along sweet as ya please, proud as punch of his new vessel.

Well, it was blowing pretty good and gustin’ up a little, but nothin’ to worry about. All the same, he made his sheet fast with a slipped hitch for easy let-go, just in case, which come along in due course. 

Up come a big gust. He gives the sheet a yank and whoops. The bight jammed. His new boat is knocked to her beam ends, throwing him overboard and cutting under sideways. He pops to the surface, sputtering and snatchin’ for breath (that cold water’s a shock, lemme tell ya!). He looks around and… no boat, with the shore a mile off! 

But waidaminit… there’s a few inches of vertical stick up and down a few yards away, which he recognizes as his masthead. Over he swims and is clinging to the very top of his rig, with - not much, but a little - time to think it over. But, y’see, he’s motivated. After due consideration…

Down his mast he shinnies, holding his breath and poppin’ his ears. He gets hold of a sandbag and heaves it over. Then another before he has to go back up for air. Gained him a few feet of mast!

Four trips and eight bags later, he’s bailing for his life and raises her up and high on her lines. Almost like nothin’s happened.

Straightaway he beelines it for shore and his last neighbor before a long, long downwind sail.

Neighbor hears a faint knock and goes to the door to find a jittery, blue apparition, soppin’ wet:

“Holy SMOKES! You okay???”



We get to see some principles in this story.

One, in small open boats - especially when gusty - hold the sheets in hand or wrap just enough turns to friction hold the load between gusts. 

A slipped hitch is better than a hitch, but no hitch (with ju-u-u-u-st right turns) is better than any hitch.

Two, positive buoyancy is a fine thing!

In boats, we think of buoyancy as one of negative, neutral or positive. Negative sinks. Neutral just hangs out (it may move up or down with momentum from wave action). Positive floats.

Those few inches of mast floating proud of the water mean there were just enough more floaty than sinky bits in the immersed portion ofboat to support the weight of protruding mast. A matter of a few pounds transformed this potential tragedy into comedy.

The moral? The more positive buoyancy, the merrier.

  • Keep sinky bits to the practical minumum (i.e., functional plus safety margin).

  • Add as much floaty stuff as is practical, preferably stowed so it can’t float away if immersed.

  • The goal is to float crew and maybe decks clear of the water when awash.

Think positive!

PS… Anke hears the yarn part of this post and says to me, “You don’t talk like this!” She’s referring to the many colloquialisms, such as, “Up come a big gust.”

On examination, it turns out, I DO talk this way, when relaxed, just not so ‘cogently’.

Mine is the local vernacular style on our waterfront, and I’ve spoken it all my life. Mixed with some East Coasterisms I’ve absorbed from nautical readings and songs along with other flip and foolery from over the course of 40-some years. Along with turns of phrase that resonate with me. Gordon Boklets, among others.

If I’m writing for technical clarity, however, as now, my training kicks in. Highly edited, fairly grammatical sentences are more common, though I hardly stick to Turabian. Not always successful, I know, but it’s my best shot.

What I’m not so good at is telling a story both verbally and well. What I hear in my head is soooo much better than what comes out of my mouth. But tongue pulls ahead of brain. Detours. Red herrings. Lost threads. Dead ends.

However, I’m a slow typist, and my brain can spill at that rate. Stories come out as I think them, for better or for worse. I only ever lightly edit this stuff. This is why what I write doesn’t always sound like me to Anke.

You’re getting my Voice, such as it is.

Umm… you’re welcome?


  1. Great story. About the way we talk... My mother moved to Canada in her teens and decided she would not sound like she was from "the old country". She lived in Toronto for maybe 5 years then they moved west. 50 years later she still has a Toronto accent...

    1. Hi Len,

      She must have a good ear! Anke's fluent in English, but the first round of flirtation she gets from all the guys is, "Cute accent!"

      Gotta agree! 8)

      Dave Z

  2. "You’re getting my Voice, such as it is."

    I'm just glad we're getting so much of it as of late! Thanks for the recent flurry of posts - I've missed reading your insights.

    1. Hi BD,

      Glad to hear you're enjoying the posts! Pulled into Tenakee for the winter, so have fairly regular access to the internet.

      Have a few bits piled up to hold us for a while. 8)

      Dave Z