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Graphics by Hannah Welch
Graphics by Hannah Welch

Sailboats Make Noise

Sailboats, in fact boats in general, make noises when at anchor – and the more the boat rolls the more the noises increase. Some sailors are so attuned to their boat’s noises that they can instantly tell when something is amiss. When a boat rolls and some item in a locker, on a shelf or in the fridge bangs consistently from side to side, it can become the most irksome annoyance on the planet.

Last week Charlie was on a charter with two couples and was woken at two in the morning by an annoying, consistent banging. He got up to address the problem only to find out that the rhythmic banging was coming from inside the cabin of the frolicsome duo in the forepeak.

Banging, thought Charlie, how appropriate.

Noises on boats are almost infinite in nature. They may consist of squeaky hinges, bilge or water pumps sucking at any hour of the day or night, halyards slapping the mast, gooseneck squeaking on a less than taut main sheet, dinghy slapping from lapping waves, anchor rollers creaking, blocks squawking – and on and on. Then there is the guest who suffers from incontinence; he troops to the head three times a night and flushes noisily every time – and usually bangs the door to boot.

During the day charter guests often barrage Charlie with incessant questions: What were the roughest seas you’ve ever sailed in? Have you ever been in a hurricane? Have you ever run aground? been really scared? had to abandon ship? … on and on ad infinitum. Charlie now carries ear phones and puts them on at the earliest opportunity, “’scuse me, just listening to the weather forecast.”

Sleep deprivation can be tiresome. In the morning the coffee pot has barely boiled when the guests stumble into the cockpit. There’s no ‘Good Morning’ just more noise: ‘The fan didn’t work, the shower wasn’t hot enough, the toilet smells’. Charlie nods and smiles, he’ll take care of it later.

When it’s time to get underway it’s also time for more noise. It’s a funny thing but people seem to get embarrassed by silence. For Charlie there’s nothing more pleasant than sailing along with the sounds of wind in the sails and the swish of the wake. But tourists become uneasy at the sound of silence; to them it means you’re not having a good time. Better to turn on the music … LOUD … then we’ll be having fun!

Evening comes and shoreside bars want customers. After dinner local bands vie for dollar-spending tourists, so music gets pumped up to high volume. Then a neighboring bar competes for business – more volume. Before long you’re almost blasted out of the anchorage. The guests, of course, want to go ashore to find out where the best fun is: “That one’s loudest, it must be the best!” It’s rather like someone who doesn’t understand your language; a foreigner! How do you make him understand? Amazingly some will just shout louder.

Charlie likes good music but he also admires the phrase: Silence is Golden.

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