FROM THE STOOL

SAILORS AND SAILING

Universally sailors are miserable. They spend most of their time with other sailors trying to develop a rationale for denying their misery. They relive "great sails" the ultimate oxymoron.

There is no more agonizing, frustrating and uncomfortable way to get from point A to point B then to sail there. Burned to a crisp, covered with bugs, wet, cold, and hungry. The development of engines made sails obsolete, save racing and day sailing - something to do, not a means of getting there.

The Bloom's have been power boaters cruisers for nearly 20 years. Sailors loath "stink potters" as power boaters clearly understand their misery. No heat, air conditioning, refrigeration, washer, dryer, entertainment center, flush toilets, head room, leg room only mildew and funny smells.

Just after "great sails" sailors spend the balance of their time telling each other that stink potters are both crude and boorish.

In truth, power boaters are generally warm, gracious, generous and good humored, as their boating experiences are pleasurable. Sailors, with few exceptions, are nasty and mean spirited (almost exclusively conservative Republicans) and undeniably cheap.

A sailor thinks nothing of tying up a fuel dock for an hour, for three gallons of diesel fuel, two bags of ice and the opportunity to take on water while at the same time, large cruisers requiring hundreds of gallons of fuel, stand off waiting for the sailor to pay his ten dollar bill.

Most marina operators, at best, tolerate rag baggers, and in more and more cases are open to powerboats only. Because it takes a full day or better in most areas to sail from one marina to another, sailors often arrive after all transit slips have been rented. Sailors never reserve a slip in advance for to do so would mean paying. They try to slip in raft off another sailor hang on the fuel dock or drop the anchor and then leave early enough to make their stay a charitable contribution.

Most sailboats large enough to cruise also have engines, usually very low horsepowered diesels, sufficient to get in or out of a harbor or slip, and to move the boat along somewhere near hull speed with luck about six knots.

It is impossible to sail directly into the wind. If your destination is north into a north wind, progress requires constant tacking. I remember once spending six hours in very strong winds tacking endlessly to reach a pier head clearly visible about six miles away. When I suggested to my host that he drop the sails and power up, as we had made little or no headway in over two hours, he was horrified.

Sailors hate to start the engine, no matter how unfavorable the wind conditions. To power up and move the boat effortlessly in the right direction ends the misery and for a brief moment, puts the joys of power boating in their proper perspective, a condition no sailor can tolerate. To accept that sailing is misery and power boating fun destroys the sailor's reason for being. Sitting becalmed, covered with black flies raising painful welts all over one's body, is preferable to starting the engine and getting quickly ashore.

Living accommodations on most sailboats are spartan to inadequate. Airless caves which don't provide much relief from twelve hours spent in cramped and uncomfortable top side seating exposed to the element going slowly nowhere.

How then to explain the mystique the majesty the high esteem that most people who know nothing about boats attach to sailing? Unlike mountain climbing or bungie jumping which appear a bit daunting to all but the most courageous novice, most who have never sailed believe they should. Another of life's enduring mysteries.