Dazed and Confused

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 1998

By Lee Dresselhaus / L’Observateur / November 25, 1998

So…..Once again I have exercised excellent judgment, making the type ofdecision that generally falls into the realm of Guy Things That We Can’t Live Without. Based on a friend’s assurance that this particular deal wasToo Good To Be True, I have purchased the ultimate guy toy.

I bought a sailboat.

My wife, being a wife, reminded me of a tiny little point that, at the time, seemed very insignificant and not at all worthy of my consideration. “Youdon’t know how to sail,” she said. This is the type of logic that can reallyget in the way when a guy wants a toy. In fact, it can be downrightannoying when women spray these random points of logic in our direction with Rambo-like determination. I then parried her thrust of practicalitywith a time honored male reply that effectively counters all rational thought processes.

“So?” I assured her that I would learn quickly and in no time would master the art of sailing. After all, I said, it’s not rocket science. How tough canit be? So with a wife sigh and a pat on my head she agreed that I could buy the boat, then immediately call our insurance agent and raise my accidental death coverage. My wife is a practical woman.So, I bought the boat, a beautiful 23-foot Columbia, complete with sails, motor and all sorts of little gadgets and gizmos. And, much to mydismay, I realized that I didn’t even know what the various devices were called (properly called in sailor talk, that is), much less how they operate.

You don’t call something “that thingy” in the presence of anybody who considers themselves to be a sailor. Proper terminology is required, and Ilearned right away that, if you don’t know what something is, just point at it, try to look knowledgeable, and hope somebody calls it by it’s real name so you can nod your head and agree with whatever it is they just said. Notadmitting we don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to guy toys is another time-honored male tradition, like not asking directions when we’re hopelessly lost.

Another thing about a sailboat is that you don’t just “figure out” how something works. It’s not like building something in your garage. Each andevery darn thing on that boat has a very specific purpose and unless someone shows you what it’s for you can stand there slack jawed and scratching your head while holding the thing and examining it from every conceiveable angle until you hair falls out and wasps build a nest in your open mouth and you still won’t have a clue to what it does.

A huge part of the art of sailing is learning which ropes, er, excuse me lines, to pull at what time in order to make the boat go where you want it to go. Sounds simple enough, except there are lines everywhere you look onthat boat, and each and every one is hooked to something different, and if you pull the wrong one and adjust the wrong sail at the wrong time, your boat doesn’t move. It just sits there, bobbing about in little circles whileyou try to figure out how to make it go like you want it to, and hope nobody’s looking.

I am pleased to report that I am making progress. I have learned that thepointy end is the bow, and the flat end is the stern. The big pole in thecenter of the boat is the mast, and that device I couldn’t figure out was a part to a riding lawnmower that had been left on board by the previous owner and had absolutely nothing to do with the boat. I also learned wherethe phrase “cursing like a sailor” comes from and why.

I just took the boat out by myself for the first time and, after half a day turning in circles and introducing myself to various mud flats, I managed to get it home intact and without Coast Guard assistance. Barely. But Ifelt like Magellan when I pulled the thing into the dock.

When I got home my wife gave me the “Well?” look, (another wife thing), and I assured her it was just like I said.

Nothing to it.

Lee Dresselhaus is a locally-syndicated columnist

Copyright © 1998, Wick Communications, Inc.

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