I feel like I have only a vague sense of what the phrase “the human condition” means. I tried to look it up, but started getting answers like, “The human condition is everything,” or “Yeah, what is the human condition?” or “The act of asking this question is, in itself, the human condition.” I think I was less than two links away from an existential crisis, and nobody has time for that, so I gave up.
We actually got a relatively early start. This probably sounds like a positive thing, but it’s mostly because my recent sleep patterns have been somewhere between “erratic” and “none.” Jenn and I were also both coming off some sort of minor illness. I feel like I haven’t had a cold in two years, and it’s an odd prospect to feel sick these days, but it was definitely just a cold. I had to take a COVID test to go to an in-person work meeting, and nothing adds zest to an in-person work meeting like jamming a swab up your nose. But I’m fine.
Also, I’m not pregnant.
My car was also being weird (which I assume is part of “the automobile condition”), so Jenn drove. This freed me up to take a photo of the terrible diner for the fan-favorite “Diner Update” section of the boat log, but as you can see, there is no photo here. As I panned my telephone toward the sepulcher of Salisbury steak, the screen went mostly black except for a small amber blob and no image was captured. My telephone has never misbehaved in this fashion, and this is obviously the vampire magic of the undead night manager that must still haunt it. Bram Stoker had limited detail regarding the effect of Draculas on cellular telephones in his 1897 vampire hunting manual, but it tracks, and if the night manager has become powerful enough to manipulate electronic devices from the road, it may explain how he has so many diner patrons under his thrall. The parking lot was full again, and they certainly weren’t there for the lightly breaded cartilage with ketchup and whiz that they pass off as chicken parm. This is the inhuman condition.
But there was sailing.
The wind was about 10-15kts from the northeast, which is an unusual direction for here (except during storms). It had been excessively hot and humid for days prior, but it had calmed down some by Sunday—warm, but not oppressive.
I was really looking forward to relaxing. Significant swaths of my land-based activities seemed to be leaning toward aggressive entropy, and sailing seemed like an appropriate escape from all of it. Of course, within two minutes of getting the sails up, I was taking evasive action to avoid getting rammed by a powerboater who was clearly using a Ron Popeil Showtime Autopilot: set it, and forget it!
My usual technique for a random daysail is to sail upwind so that I have the option of coming back downwind if that’s all we end up doing, but I thought that the wind would clock around to the east when the thermals kicked in, so instead we set the whisker pole for a long run straight down the bay.
I wished I had the hardware to hoist a spinnaker. We were fine with the jib poled out though, and there was enough wind to spare that we still felt a breeze even when sailing along with it.
A large jet with four engines flew over us, headed out to sea, being escorted by two F-16s. It was almost directly over us and I couldn’t see any markings, but it was odd. I think the last time I saw a scene like that was the evening of September 11, 2001, when Air Force One flew over my home town at low altitude with fighter escort—perhaps the only jetliner in American airspace at the time. Jenn looked it up and it was just ol’ Topcat4, a KC-135 Stratotanker, probably practicing mid-air refueling with the New Jersey Air National Guard out of Atlantic City.
I wasn’t feeling great. Not seasick, but not good. As we approached Marker BI and the entrance to the Oyster Creek Channel, I started to also become a little concerned that the wind wasn’t shifting. We were already too far into the narrow southern end of the bay, where it would have been annoying to tack out, so we continued down to the very end, near Waretown, hoping that it would shift. There was a parasail boat running around down there, and they always freak me out. One got way too close to me once in the old days on the 22, and I was convinced that they were going to drive around me in such a way that their tow line would get tangled in my rigging. The skipper of this one stayed well away though.
We tacked around and attempted to sail out, but quickly ran out of room. The wind was still perfectly aligned with the length of the bay with no deviation toward a sea breeze, and we would have had to tack every five minutes to get out of there. This was supposed to be a relaxing sail, so we furled the jib and started the engine. I became more aware that I was feeling rather terrible, but hoped that I could power through. Moments later, I got the burble: the imminent and final distress call from my gastrointestinal system.
“I need to declare an emergency. Take the helm.”
I have spent a lot of time debating about whether I should include this episode. It is not my intention to be gross, but I sometimes write about the human condition, and the human condition is sometimes gross. I will keep it to a high level, highbrow analysis:
- The head is too small. I would compare it to a phone booth, but I’m not even sure if people know what phone booths are anymore. I have no idea how big it is in empirical measurements, but under those conditions, post-burble with a doomsday clock ticking ever louder, the head on my boat feels approximately two inches narrower than my shoulders in both length and width and four inches shorter than my height.
- The head is too hot. It didn’t seem that hot out, but in the head, with limited ventilation, under physical and mental duress, and with a frighteningly complete understanding of my vessel’s limited plumbing systems, I was sweating like I was running a marathon while eating handfuls of habaneros.
- Any boat motion is too much motion. I have a lot of miles under my keel. I’m not sure I’m even aware of the motion of the boat anymore except in extreme circumstances. I have fully internalized it, and it all seems completely normal to me…from the cockpit. What is nothing from one seat is suddenly a mechanical bull on a Tilt-a-Whirl once I’m in the head.
I eventually returned to the cockpit. I asked if we could motor back.
We could have sailed once we got back to the wide part of the bay, but it would have taken longer and I just wanted to get back. It’s been hard for me to really get into a groove with sailing this year. I’ve complained several times that what I really need is adventure, and when I think about what’s going on with that, I arrive at a vague sense that my dopamine hit from sailing is not in the actual sailing part, but in things like staying ahead of the usual learning curve and being “a good sailor.” Without pushing the boundaries of my sailing skills and racing (where performance is literally ranked), I feel like I’m just wasting time. On the other hand, it’s not like I’ve completely mastered the day sail to nowhere either, so if it’s not the striving, what is it? Just run-of-the-mill anhedonia? I guess I’ve got to just keep grinding. September is often my favorite month for sailing, and depending on what happens with my land craziness, maybe we’ll still get a chance to get away for a bit.