Friday, September 17, 2010

A Fool's Errand

South Burlington, VT

Regular readers of this blog already know about our friends John and Mary Ann. They are from New Zealand and we've kn0wn them ever since they arrived in Schenectady, NY in 1966; same year as we moved there.

John's brother Nick is here on a visit from Wellington, New Zealand. John has been trying for 40 years to arrange for Nick and I to meet, and this was the chance. We all met up at a mutual friend's camp on the lake.

The next day, the men went out for a sail on Tarwathie, while the women took the ferry to Burlington for a shopping trip (no that's not sexist.) It made for a great day.

First and foremost, John, Nick and I are all engineers. Therefore, we enjoy doing what engineers do -- we have great fun talking about things technical. Yesterday was no exception.
Second, my fools mission. I wanted to show John and Nick how beautiful Lake Champlain is and especially, how pretty the mountains are as seen from the lake. You should know that New Zealand has really spectacular and really big mountains, whereas the Adirondacks and Green Mountains are merely stubs of their former selves. In the end though, I didn't need to say anything. The day was clear and the views spoke for themselves. It really is beautiful.

Third, Nick is a long time sailor. In fact, he designed and built on his own a racing yacht using the latest high tech materials and methods. Nick's boat is about 42 feet long, built of glass, and foam cores, carbon fiber. The mast is 60 feet tall but one man can lift and carry it. Tarwathie's mast is 42 feet tall and we can't lift one end with three people. Nick's boat weighs only 9600 pounds dry, a W32 weighs 20,000. He sails as close as 35 degrees to the wind, we can only come within 60 degrees. Nick says that with a twitch of the finger on his tiller he can knock down a man standing in the bow -- his boat turns on a dime. Tarwathie's not like that.

Then we started discussing the other aspects. Tarwathie is much more comfortable, and the living space is better than any racing boat. She's designed to be safe and strong at sea; to sail in a straight line; and to rapidly shed water if pooped. A W32 can take all sorts of abuse without serious damage. Racing boats are fragile. Indeed, even Nick managed to dismast himself once already.

With all that fun stuff to talk about and to see, it was a great day. To cap it off, I demonstrated a triumph of technology. We had been thinking that we would sail a few more legs up the lake. I checked my Droid. When I saw the Doppler radar, I said, "uh oh, heavy rain is almost upon us." We cut short the sailing, returned to the anchorage, anchored, rowed ashore, and walked back to the camp just in time to miss the rain which started 5 minutes later.

All in all, it was a great day, and not at all a fool's errand.

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