Sailing by ear
Practical Boat Owner|September 2020
Sailing by ear
Alarm bells ringing afloat on a sea of sound
Sam Llewellyn

At sea, ears are more important than one might think. Each phase of navigation has its signature sound, and using them can pay dividends, or not.

There is much charm in the gentle crunch of a bow on a beach, wind offshore, sea like glass, followed by the merry cries of tinies piling out, waving buckets and spades. There are also the groans of the older generation as they backpack the picnic towards the dunes while shouting at Cynthia (aged four) that jellyfish share not, ever, worn as hats.

Slightly less fun but perhaps more useful is the clonk often heard in conjunction with the employment of a centerboard as a depth sounder. The sound signifies that the bottom is rocky. If there is no sound and you stop dead, the bottom is mud, or you have forgotten that you have borrowed a boat with a fin keel and should holler for the lifeboat, ambulance and clergy without delay (see ’Slight Miscalculations’, below).

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September 2020