I think if I ever get another boat I think I am going to name her Entropy. (Is it still politically correct to call a boat “her or “she”?)
From Wikipiedia “Entropy is a macroscopic property of a system that is a measure of the microscopic disorder within the system” “Entropy is as such a function of a system’s tendency towards spontaneous change”.………………Say What? What the bleep does this have to do with my boat?
The keys here are “disorder within the system” and “a system’s tendency towards spontaneous change” Hmm “disorder” and “spontaneous change.” Sounds like something falling apart to me! That sounds a lot like every boat I have ever come across. And despite the owners best efforts they were all spontaneously changing!
It’s not always easy to see. Sitting there tied to the dock or gracefully sailing along looking for all the world, shipshape and orderly. Lines coiled neatly on deck, fresh varnish on the rails, equipment neatly stowed. Who would think of this as “disorder.” On the surface there is no disorder. But anyone who has ever owned a boat knows lurking under all that neatness and fresh varnish there is indeed disorder and spontaneous change!
The real kicker is you don’t even have to be using your boat for it to be spontaneously changing (falling apart.) That is the spontaneous part. It can just sit there in the slip and ever so slowly bits and pieces will just fall off. The rust will form and the paint will peel. The sun is changing your canvas from a sturdy weather cover to something not even fit for rags. I suppose I can understand how the elements can degrade some things, but why is it the bit of electronics that was working just fine 2 weeks ago and has been turned off with no power to it at all, will now no longer work? I used to blame this on Murphy or little unseen gremlins but I now understand it is just nature taking its course in the guise of Entropy.
Basically as I sit here in my boat, typing away, I know she is slowly falling apart around me. Doing her best to return to the very elements from which she was built. I say “slowly,” but sometimes it seems all I can do to keep up with her! I feel like a giant white blood cell trying my damnedest to keep her afloat and from simply falling apart in the slip. I often wonder if I am truly winning this battle. In my heart I know I am not. One day, without me, she will return to the elements from which she came. The trick is to find that delicate balance of keeping her together long enough to actually take her out sailing and maybe even go someplace far away before I have to once again get out the tool box and duct tape.
Balance really is the key here isn’t it? From the very moment we set her in the water, she is in a state of delicate balance with nature. Basic physics tell us the water is always pushing to get in. The sun beating down on the deck is relentlessly trying to remove that carefully applied varnish. We on the other hand, are just as relentlessly are trying to prevent her from sinking, and maybe even keep her looking somewhat new.
We really do need to understand this balance we strive to maintain. We keep patching the leaks, tightening the lose bolts, and replacing the rotting wood. If let go too long the water will find its way in, and the varnish peel, it has no other choice it is simply finding balance and obeying the unwritten laws of nature and Entropy, returning to the elements. Just as we try to find the balance in keeping her operational long enough to go out sailing.
Now this is not as depressing as it might sound. It does prevent us from spending all our money on rum after all. And there are those victories we have when we do get the engine running before we drift too close to the shore on a wind less night. And the pride in stepping back and admiring that new coat of varnish. Why else do we love to show off our boats and all we have done to them. You don’t see the mega yacht owners get that kind of joy from their yachts now do you? You have to sweat, bleed and curse to really appreciate the little victories in a new coat of paint or the rumbling of a cantankerous engine as it belches to life in a cloud of diesel smoke. Even our toilets can become a thing of joy when we finally get them to remove our waste without throwing it back in our faces like an angry monkey. How many times have you just stepped back and felt the pride in knowing that your boat is the way it is because you have labored with effort and care, and yes maybe even a bit of love.
We do have to face the fact that if we are going to set sail, Entropy will surely be sailing along with us. Go into any bar in any port in the world and what will the cruisers be talking about? They will be talking about the repairs they need to make or where to get the parts to fix that bad fuel injector. Yeah yeah they will also be talking about what routes are the best or where to get the best cheap rum but inevitably the conversation will come around to repairs and broken things. I rate the towns I visit solely on the quality of the hardware stores within walking distance of the dock.
I for one do not necessarily see this as a bad thing. After all it is these challenges that make us better sailors. It forces us to do things we may not normally do, to push us to new limits. It teaches us new skills whether we want to learn them or not. But with each new skill and each new repair we become just a bit more confident in our ability to survive. Like the ancient explorers we are forced to find ways to make things work and tame the relentless Entropy. I can think of few other things in life the can teach us the skills sailing and maintaining a boat can.
So next time you go to start your engine and hear nothing but a feeble click, or you notice the peeling paint on your cabin, take heart it is only nature teaching you about Entropy and humility. In the process you will become a better sailor and learn that you really do have skills you did not know about. And of course Entropy stops you from spending all your spare money on rum.