Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Sailboat


I’ve been staying in my frind Corrado’s sailboat.  The boat is connected to the quay with a pulley system.  There is one set of pulleys attached to the boat and two sets of pulleys attached to the quay with a strong rope weaving through all of them.

By pulling the rope through the pulley I can bring the boat close enough to the pier to hop ashore.  Releasing the catch lets the anchor at the other end pull the boat back out to its regular position.  The boat can’t be kept next to the quay because the stress on the rope over time could cause it to snap.

I’m waiting for my supplies in a dirty city with lots of broken glass on the streets.  I’m spending a lot of time sitting in front of my computer screen.  I’m teaching it to play chess.  I had a working AI with a functional graphic user interface before I figured out how to increase the AI’s speed by 10% and plunged the whole thing into a cauldron of bugs, mischievous cheating algorithms, and infinite attempts to keep playing after the game is over.  The project is fun and hopefully keeping my mind sharp while I’m away from school.

I need electricity in the boat.  There’s an electrical cord that I take in whenever I leave the boat to protect against theft.  The local port people don’t seem to like it and occasionally turn my power off at the source.

The sea has been rough.  Extraordinarily rough. Great big waves come in at the mouth of the port.  They jostle and shove the sailboat I’m staying in.

As my world rocks back and forth at night I wonder about all  the force around me.  I wonder if I’ll wake up in the morning, climb onto a sunny deck to brush my teeth, and see nothing but sky and water stretching to meet at the horizon.

I pulled the boat up to the wharf to board.  I cautiously climbed on as it violently heaved up and down on its short tether.  I picked up the power cord and looked back at the wharf.  The idea of climbing back down with all the movement was a little scary.  I gripped the railing so as not to get hurled overboard.  I hesitated some more, and a rope snapped.


Throwing caution to the wind I hit the deck and grabbed the pulley, the rope and everything I could that might potentially fall into the sea.

One of the pulleys was still attached to the other side, the other, more substantial one, had come free.  In my mad scramble to keep from losing anything to the bottom of the port I had scooped it up with the rest of the rope.

I tied off all the rope I had.  The rope connected me to the quay, but much more precariously than it ought to be.  Without all the extra pulleys the rope would endure much more tension.  A physics student could tell you exactly how much more tension, but I dropped out of physics.  I only knew that it was a lot.

I climbed to the back of the boat always holding on to something to secure myself.  I found another rope and secured one end near the bow.  I threw the other end to a fisherman and he tied it off on the quay.

My first mission was accomplished.

I called Corrado and told him everything was fine, but if he had time it would probably be best if he came by because of an, ... incident.

For my next trick I would have to get everything fixed before he showed up.  I examined my pile of ropes and pulleys and began to straighten things out.  I found the torn culprit.  The rope that had snapped was the one that connected the large pulley set to the ring on the quay.  To fix it, all I had to do was tie it off again.

For that I would need to pull myself in without the pulley system.

I found a rod that I could use to pass the system to Corrado when he showed up, and set everything up to be ready to hand off as soon as he came.

I then set about pulling the boat in by wrapping the auxiliary rope around a bollard on the deck every time a wave shove gave the rope some slack.

Corrado showed up, as always, dressed tastefully for an evening out or a dockside rescue.  Without looking too closely at what was going on he tried to hand me a bag of food, bread and fruit and cheese and who knew.

Working on the bow felt a little bit like riding an angry bull.

“It’s not a good time for that.” I yelled over the crashing sea around me, bobbing up and down with the surf.

He looked at what was going on.  We set to work adding three more ropes to secure the boat to the quay.  I then used the rod to pass him the pulley system.

An enormous wave crashed over the sea wall drenching him. I ran down below and got a rain jacket which I also passed with the rod.

It took a few hours, but we got everything back in working order.  Only one more rope snapped.  Hopefully, the system is even stronger than it was before, and I enjoyed working at something that didn’t involve a computer.  I’ll probably head back to my kayak with or without my supplies on Sunday.  But I’ve said that before.  Naples is a trap.

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