Baz's blog: hypothermic landmines

Baz discovered an awful lot in the last 12 months

I was a boating novice when I started with this august journal but in the past 12 months I’ve learned a lot from our contributors about things that float. You will be gratified to hear that I am now at the point where I know almost everything.

I’ve learned, for example, that a seat isn’t called a seat, it’s called a "thwart". You can actually be seated athwart the thwart you’re sitting on, which is suitably nautical if a little more complicated than it needs to be. I’ve also learned that if you leave your tinnie boat in the sun, your poor little thwart will become too hot to touch.

The matter of appropriate clothing caused me great angst when I first came aboard and I think you’ll remember me speaking of my consternations in this direction. In my sincere and concentrated effort to fit in, I tried almost every combination of clothing but only ended up looking like something provided for the purposes of target practice. I have come to realise that since all my contributors dress like dags anyway, there’s no reason for me to aim any higher than they do.

And despite all my angst and hand-wringing over what to wear on my feet, I know now that a boat shoe is simply whatever you happen to be wearing when you’re on a boat. TrailerBoat’s senior boat tester, John "The Bear" Willis, has been wearing the same daggy boat shoes for 35 years and that doesn’t seem to worry him. Indeed, since fishing boats are invariably encrusted with blood, intestines, fish vomit and other excreta too awful to mention, to fret over what sort of shoes you happen to be wearing in this floating swamp has the same effect as flicking rubber-bands at a charging water buffalo.


I used to worry over technical issues too, like how fast you’re supposed to drive in a rough seaway, but in the past 12 months I’ve learned that protocol demands that you travel at the fastest speed you can without losing anyone overboard. If you’re in a planing hull then you should be planing, no matter what, but if you’re in a displacement hull, the question of how fast you should be going doesn’t arise since no measurable speed is generated by these vessels. In fact, the only man-made object slower than a displacement hull is the mould it came from.

I used to ask a lot of questions about crossing bars too, until I learned that there’s only one way to do it: flat knacker at high tide. I found that out by reading Mark Robinson’s book ROUGH WATER POWER BOATING. In a detailed analysis, Mark went on to explain, in so many words, that no matter what you do, crossing a bar is always a matter of luck.

Even Captain Bligh had trouble with it and he was someone who rowed across the Pacific in a coconut.

I took succour from Mark’s book because it proved beyond doubt that there are people who know even less about boats than I did 12 months ago. Though not many.

And of course for anyone coming into boating there’s always the problem of remembering what things are called. Unfortunately, the nomenclature for all things nautical is derived from an obscure reference made at least 200 years ago
by someone who didn’t read well and
was probably drunk most of the time.

To be accepted among peers in this business you must, for example, know the difference between a bitt and a bollard; a rope and a rode; an engine and a motor (one is invariably electric and the other isn’t); a knot and a knot; why drunks get hypothermia in the water faster than people who aren’t drunks; and why low grabrails are more dangerous than a bailing bucket full of landmines.

to everyone, not only because it will teach them important stuff but because after reading it they will know exactly what they don’t know, and nothing could be more useful when they’re broaching in a five-metre storm swell on a bar that not even a submarine could negotiate.

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