PhaseCategories Sailing Log
I feel like I’ve been out of phase.
I’ve been building a lot of guitar effect pedals. One of the classic guitar effects is a phaser. I’m not sure what you do with it other than fail to correctly play Van Halen songs, but I built one.
I mostly build these from kits, so you don’t really need to know how they work, but it annoys me when I don’t know how things work. I have a general sense that when you have a wave and add it to another wave that is perfectly 180° out of phase, where one wave’s “ups” are equal to the other wave’s “downs” and vice versa, they cancel out. This works for all waves, whether they’re ocean waves or sound waves, or a sound wave’s analogous electrical signal as created by an electric guitar. I was under the impression that a phaser pedal does this intentionally for a given frequency or two, essentially creating “notches” where there is cancelled signal. A missing frequency here or there would ordinarily be hardly noticeable, but a phaser effect then uses an LFO (a low frequency oscillator, not the Lyte Funkie Ones) to sweep those frequencies back and forth to make the telltale swooshing sound.
I attempted to confirm that, and there’s actually a lot of information out there. This description, for example, is very closely related to the circuit in my pedal, and it initially implies that my understanding is correct. Then it goes on to make casual reference to things like:
Did I catch a tangent in there? Are we seriously going to talk trigonometry, brah?
I think I’ll be fine with a medium understanding of how phasers work.
But phase is not just in effect pedals. It’s all over the place.
Much like in my previous log entry, I finished work on Friday and felt like I needed a long stretch of silence. Jenn suggested that I go to the boat again to unwind, and I took off like the narrator in a Bruce Springsteen song.
The marina was empty. The humidity had returned, and it wasn’t quite as comfortable as last time, but staying on the boat always brings a strong sense of being somewhere else and I appreciated having some time to reset. I took more photographs of Fortuitous with my telephone’s “Night Mode,” which accentuates colors that are barely visible or otherwise dismissed in real life.
I tried to take some from the cockpit, but even in the calm conditions, the boat always seems to be moving a little too much for Night Mode. I mildly keep track of the phase of the moon, and it was two days before full—the Harvest Moon. My telephone’s camera made it look like a glaring sun. It was more moonish at the time.
I missed Jenn’s text message in the morning, and was already out for coffee when she arrived. She prepped the boat and we left as soon as I got back.
We motored out the creek, following the channel that is marked by pairs of red and green buoys. At one of the sets of buoys, a small powerboat crept toward us to get inside the channel. This happens all the time, and isn’t a big deal. There are a few marinas and lagoons along the south edge of the creek and when a boat is going out, she will necessarily start outside the channel, then go toward a buoy to get within the markers. The diesel engine in my boat is supposedly happiest when it’s run at ~80% of its maximum RPMs and allowed to fully heat up, and I’m pretty meticulous about this when running the creek since it’s the bulk of my motoring, but I slowed down to let them in—they usually plane off and zip away (ignoring the No Wake buoys) as soon as they’re out of shallow water.
This powerboat, however, did not plane off. As soon as they got inside the green marker, they veered off to the right and left the channel. I thought maybe they’d just gotten fuel at one of the marinas and were returning to a lagoon, so I resumed my cruising speed. When we neared the next marker, they were back, cutting us off again to get inside the next marker. I slowed down to let them in. And then they veered off and left the channel. When this happens one time, it’s a gracious, “No, please, after you.” When it happens a second time, it’s, “What are you doing?” The third time, it’s, “I WILL BURN YOUR VESSEL TO THE WATERLINE.” There was no traffic, so at the third buoy I didn’t back off of the throttle and passed them under power, which is absurd. I have no idea what they were doing, but they were the only thing I was in phase with all day, and I didn’t really want to be.
We got into the bay and raised the sails. The wind was light, but we had enough to move. We started heading northeast from Berkeley Island, close hauled.
I had kind of lost track of the macro weather patterns after the last round of tropical storms, and had no idea how to interpret what I was seeing. I knew that the immediate forecast was for mild conditions, but Barnegat Bay has some of the most consistent wind on the east coast, and it’s often higher than advertised once the land heats up and the sea breeze kicks in. I looked to the sky, and there were clouds that looked like they should be telling me something.
I was not hearing them, though. The sky looked different every time I checked. Jenn took this photo that looks like it’s from a different day:
I don’t usually include images in portrait orientation on the boat log because I feel like they mess up the flow of the text. In this case, I thought it was necessary. Although I did briefly consider turning it on its side and trying to pass it off as a long-lost Kandinsky from a transitional phase.
The odd mass of flaky clouds eventually made its way over the boat.
We were already pointed at Governor’s Mansion, and with the wind still minimal, we decided to just sail there and anchor for a while. It had been a long time since I’d been to Governor’s. The eastern side of the bay is generally shallow, and there are only a few spots where a sailboat can really approach the long spit of land that makes up that side of the bay. One is Tices’ Shoal, which is not my scene. The other is Governor’s Mansion, which is smaller and a little tricky to get to, but usually less crowded.
There is a relatively narrow approach, which is unmarked, then it splits to the north and south along the land. There was no one in the southern side, so that’s where we went. There are a couple houses on the shore there, which is unusual since most of that area is within Island Beach State Park and is undeveloped. For a long time I thought that one of them was the actual governor’s mansion—not Drumthwacket, the Governor of New Jersey’s official residence in Princeton, but a state-maintained vacation home, also known as the Governor’s Ocean Residence. It turns out that it’s not. The Ocean Residence is on the opposite side of the island, nearby but not visible. I’m not sure what the houses that can be seen from the bay side are.
We anchored without difficulty and enjoyed some quiet time by ourselves, away from other boats or land activity. I appreciate that there are still some wild places to anchor, even in New Jersey. We watched the shore birds and I went for a swim. I was a little worried about timing because I was meeting a friend in the city for dinner, so we didn’t stay too long. We hoisted the main while still anchored and left under power.
I hadn’t really noticed while anchored, but the wind had dropped to almost nothing. We never bothered with the jib and just motored back.
I realize that most readers have only gotten this far because they’re waiting for the signature segment, Terrible Diner Update. When I drove down, I’d gone an unusual way and didn’t get a sample on how many cars were inexplicably at the worst diner, but on the way back, the parking lot was, once again, full. I still can’t begin to contemplate how this diner could have ever recovered from how it was when I used to frequent it. I’m pretty sure that one of the regular waitresses there once roofied herself while on shift in an attempt to make herself more attractive to a friend of mine. It didn’t work, nor did it conspicuously impact the quality of service since the baseline was so low, but it’s far from a normal dining experience when a waitress stumbles over to your booth, asks you to scrunch in so that she can take a seat, and pulls out a Ziploc bag of mystery pills and offers them up like Skittles. Of course, it’s also possible that it wasn’t the pills, and that her state of mind was just part of the vampire night manager’s long game of attracting a growing number of attendants in his quest for eternal domination of the living. My telephone failed to capture an image of the diner the last time I drove by, and I was hesitant to try again because there are some things that you don’t really want proven, but I did. It technically worked, but this is closer to my psychic impression of the place:
While the weekend did not include any world-class sailing, I was happy to use the boat as a retreat. That’s as good a use as any. When waves are out of phase and cancel each other out, it’s known as “destructive interference,” which is probably a name that I should bestow on something. The various waves of weather, weekends, and motivation, all on their own cadence, seem to be causing a lot of destructive interference lately, and I’ve felt a little out of phase. But both sailing and guitars will tell you that there is occasionally beauty in the chaos at the fringe, and it makes the moments when things align worth it.