Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Listen well

Annapolis is a day of sailing behind us. We are currently anchored in La Trappe creek, behind Martin’s Point. Someday I may tell you the delightful story of how I nearly lost the anchor, but then again, maybe not.

Back in the halcyon days of our early courtship, Erik taught me how to drive standard. This was ostensibly for the purposes of a cross-Canada tour, but there were, in fact, more sinister forces at play.

The vehicle in question was a yellow ’81 Volvo station wagon (a car that many of you are familiar with, and will note will interest is still a going concern out on the farm, or, as I call it, the Superannuated Car Retirement Village). Said Volvo had all of its working parts, save a working speedometer and rpm gauge. This is relevant, because, when driving standard, one must learn the optimal point at which to change gears.

“Just listen,” said Instructor Erik. “Do you hear that... there. Right there. Now you shift. Okay, listen again. Wait. The motor sounds like... that. Shift again.”

In this manner, I learned to keep half an ear on the engine and so, even years later, I never needed to look at my gauges to change gears.

Oh, what an innocent young Amy I was.

“Listen,” says Erik as he demonstrates the use of the Shower Sump Pump. “Okay, listen, listen, here it comes, hear it starting.... wait... okay... now! Turn the breaker off!” He turns to me expectantly. “Did you hear that? Exactly that sound, when the pitch starts to rise but before you get a real whine? That’s when you stop it.”

I look at him in despair. Unlike the ruddy Volvo, which I only rarely had to drive, this boat is full of Systems That Need To Be Listened To ALL THE TIME. One cannot even flush the toilet without carefully marking the rise and fall of the water, the whine of the pump. And the sea gods help you if you stop listening for a moment, because Crazy Ears will be on you in a moment.

I was helping Indy wash her hands when Erik appeared at my shoulder, eyes wild. “Did that sputter? Did the water sputter? [deleted expletive]!” He was gone, under the kitchen sink. “As soon as that happens, you have got to switch tanks!” came the muffled shout. “If the pump dries out, I’m going to have to pull the whole thing!”

Indy looked up at me, eyes wide, no doubt wondering if she really needed to wash her hands after all.

Even sleep does not stop The Listener from his solemn duty. In the middle of last night, Erik sat bolt upright and half-shouted, “The macerator pump! It’s siphoning sea water! I need to poke a hole in the hose!”

By the time I’d cracked an eye open, trying to make sense of this string of words, he was gone. Squinting aft, I could make out the blurry form of my dear husband, headlamp affixed, removing floor panels. (He seemed to have it under control, so I went back to sleep.)

Even now as I write, Erik has appeared in the companionway, a suspicious look on his face. His eyes shift from side to side as he listens to the Coleman lantern burning above the table, the generator humming away in the engine room, a spider spinning her web in the corner. Satisfied for the moment, he moves on.

The moral of this story is: if I were in charge of this boat, it would have sunk by now.


Grannie said...

Good luck with the sounds! With your one ear on the fritz Erik will be in his element.

eleanor said...

Well written!...AND there are more sounds to learn like the sound of the anchor pulling free in the night!

Natasha, Derek and Oliver said...

Great reading!!! We are looking forward to following your adventure! Lots of love and good luck.