On being … all in this together

By Ingrid Sapona

Last weekend was haul out at my sail club. We’re a self-help club, which means members must contribute a certain number of volunteer hours every year. Many members get the bulk of their work hours by working launch and haul out. The only paid workers we use during haul out are professional crane operators. And, since renting cranes and hiring crane operators is expensive, the goal is to haul out all 280 boats in one weekend.

For years I’ve been on the crew that’s responsible for putting the boats in the crane slings. It’s not physically hard work, but like all the tasks involved in hauling out boats, there are special safety issues and things to pay attention to. Honestly, one of the hardest things for me about the weekend is just being on my feet for so long.

It can also be pretty boring because after we hand off the boat in the sling, it takes time to place it in the cradle, which means there’s a lot of waiting around. The down time provides a chance to socialize and catch up on club gossip. But, as the day goes by, there’s less to chat about and the boredom seems to lead to grouchiness and snarkiness.

Because there are so many variables that come into play, every haul out is different. The shear variety of sizes and weights of the boats make it tricky. This year, for example, we hauled out everything from a 22 foot sailboat that weighed 2200 lbs. to a 39 foot cement (yes, cement) sailboat that weighed 33,500 lbs,, not to mention a 34 foot trimaran (it weighed only 5000 lbs. but imagine trying to put slings on three separate hulls) and a 44 foot power boat that weighed 33,000 lbs.

One of the biggest variables every year is the weather. To maximize the amount of time the boats are in the water, we launch early (the last weekend of April) and we haul out late (the last weekend of October). Though there has been the odd snowflake at haul out, wind and rain are what most of us dread. Foul weather gear helps keep your body dry but I’ve yet to find gloves that keep my hands warm and dry and that afford the dexterity you need for most haul out tasks.

Wind is by far the most troubling because it adds to the danger and chaos. Wind makes it challenging for boat owners to bring their boat over to the dock where the crane is stationed. But that’s nothing compared to the danger of having thousands of pounds of boat sitting in cloth slings dangling from a crane in high winds – picture a 10,000 lb. pendulum swinging 20 feet above the ground.

The past few years we’ve been pretty lucky in terms of the weather at launch and haul out. The forecast for this past weekend, however, was worrisome. Saturday we were expecting rain and winds from 25-30 knots (which is 29-35 mph or 26-56 km/hour); Sunday looked to be a bit better, with some sun and less wind. Though it seems the weather forecasters are as wrong as they are right, to our dismay, their prediction was accurate.

Remarkably, despite the forecast, everyone who had committed to working showed up at 6:30 on Saturday morning. Because of the weather conditions, before we hoisted the first boat our crew chief reminded us of the safety precautions and stressed that safety trumped speed. It quickly became clear that more teamwork than usual was required, given the conditions.

The rain and wind made it seem colder than it actually was, but no one seemed to complain. Indeed, by mid-day I couldn’t help notice that the camaraderie seemed stronger than usual and there wasn’t any of the usual mumbling and grumbling under peoples’ breath that so often seems to be in the background. I pointed out the lack of the normal bitching to a few of my crew-mates, and they agreed that it was a pleasant change.

On Sunday afternoon, after the cranes were shut down and we were all enjoying a celebratory drink, we learned that we had hauled a record number of boats with no incidence of property or physical damage reported. In short, it was the smoothest haul out in some of the least pleasant conditions in memory.

There were probably a variety of things at play in peoples’ moods and behaviour during haul out, but I can’t help think that the crappy conditions and added risk helped everyone appreciate the need to work together and helped everyone appreciate each person’s contribution to the overall effort. I think that in today’s society, where many of us pride ourselves on our self-sufficiency, sometimes it takes sub-optimal conditions to remind us of a very basic truth: we’re all in this together.

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona


On being ... a guilty pleasure?

There’s a popular morning radio show here that I sometimes listen to. The show has three DJs. Over the weekend I tuned in mid-way through a taped replay of a discussion they had one morning last week about food. DJ #1 said that there are just some times when all she wants is a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. The other two DJs (I’ll call them DJ #2 and #3) murmured in agreement. DJ #1 went on to say that when she has that craving, she knows she could buy a small bag of the chips, but she knows that that just won’t satisfy her and if she’s going to give into the craving, she gets the big bag.

Then DJ #2 said, “Oh, I know. I do the same. I get the big bag. And then, when I’m about two-thirds of the way through,” he said, pausing. “I feel so sad …”

“Yes!” exclaimed DJ #1 in agreement.

Then DJ #2 continued, “I feel so sad because I know I’m near the end and there won’t be more!” DJ #3 then voiced his agreement about always wishing there were more. I was floored by the reason DJ #2 gave for feelings sad two-thirds of the way through a bag of chips. When I pause to note my feelings after downing more than a healthy serving of a fattening “treat”, I’m not feeling sad because I’m near the end. I’m feeling guilty about the calories I’ve consumed and I’m mad with myself for being out-of-control. Pretty different from the feelings DJs 2 and 3 were expressing, that’s for sure! (The segment ended without DJ #1 clarifying the nature of her feelings after downing most of the bag.)

A few different things about that conversation got me thinking. The most obvious was the very different reasons people might feel bad two-thirds of the way into a bad-for-you treat. Also, the mere fact that part way through indulging in something, people often pause to think – whether to feel sad or bad – is pretty striking. I can’t imagine that other animals do that. (Of course, for all we know, they do – maybe squirrels who come across a yard of acorns contemplate whether they’ll need all of them or whether they should leave some for other squirrels to find. Who knows?)

After the radio conversation I thought about a segment on a talk show that I had seen earlier in the week. Ann and Mitt Romney were on and the hostess was testing how well they knew each other (they’ve been married over 40 years). One of the questions to Mitt was: what is Ann’s guilty pleasure? Turns out it’s chocolate and, of course, Mitt got the answer right.

Though I can, without hesitation, identify two things that are guilty pleasures for me (cheese and nuts), when you get right down to it, the idea of a “guilty pleasure” is pretty complex. It entails a variety of emotions: likes, preferences, and the concept of guilt. Indeed, the idea of such different emotions even being associated with food strikes me as a uniquely human phenomenon. Also, how you define a guilty pleasure is pretty subjective. For me they’re things that I love and that I know I have trouble controlling myself over. Basically they’re things that I try not to bring home!

I’d like to think that there’s some evolutionary reason for our guilty pleasures, but since we’re not talking about food consumed strictly for its nutritional value, it’s hard to imagine such a justification. And besides, the vast variety of foods that different people consider guilty pleasures, not to mention the very different reactions folks have when they’ve over-indulged such pleasures, makes it seem even less likely that such indulgences serve a purpose other than to quell one’s craving.

What about you? Do you have a guilty pleasure? I’ll bet you do…

And, if you give into it (or should I say, when you give into it), do you go for the big bag (or serving) or just a little one? And how do you feel when you’ve indulged and there’s just a bit left? Do you feel bad because you feel guilty, or maybe you’re sad because you know there’s only a bit left?  Or maybe it’s a little of both?

© 2013 Ingrid Sapona