Monday, October 8, 2012

Dress for Dinner

The first sentence in The Riddle of the Sands, Erskine Childers' 1905 tale of espionage and cruising adventure, says it all.

"I have read of men who, when forced by their calling to live for long periods in utter solitude . . . have made it a rule to dress regularly for dinner in order to maintain their self-respect and prevent a relapse into barbarism."

It is clear that for Carruthers, the young English gentleman who voiced that sentiment, dressing for dinner required substantially more than simply putting on a pair of clean boxers and perhaps a shirt with fewer stains. 

I fear that I am in danger of relapsing into barbarism on this cruise. No top hat, no tails, no evening toilet. Just whatever clothes are at hand, canned beans, warm beer and pretzels. Hearty but not terribly elegant.

When Anita is aboard we establish two common denominators: most cautious and least slovenly.

It's always barracuda
In the Bahamas when I want to continue trolling as we enter a narrow cut and she demurs, in comes the lure, no questions asked. Her position is based on having repeatedly endured my trying to deal with some truly annoyed barracuda when I should be paying attention to real hazards. She keeps us off the iron shore by being far more cautious than I, though we do catch fewer fish as a result.

She also raises the bar for tidiness, nutrition and ice cubes. In her presence we have fresh vegetables, meat, lots of cookies and cold drinks. The refrigerator hums away pulling calories out of ice trays and various libations. 

When I'm aboard alone the contrast is stark. The fridge sits open, its silent maw holding cans of evaporated milk, baked beans, an odd assortment of pickle and mustard jars and some beer bottles. In return, the refrigerator doesn't swig down all those amp hours. I can anchor for days without having to charge the batteries. 

Sans butter
Fortunately water, flour, salt and yeast don't mind being at ambient temperature. Going warm even seems acceptable -- I understand that Brits think cold beer an abomination -- though I do miss having a pat of butter to slather on my hot out of the oven loaf.

Between my occasional fits of pickup and cleanup, dust kittens play about the saloon floor and the cockpit accumulates a patina. If Anita were aboard, the social contract would remain intact and Sweet Pea would revel in being continuously clean and tidy.

Single handing makes me realize that, while I am perfectly capable of dressing for dinner, I need to be part of a team to find the motivation. The indolence of being alone might mean more fish, but the risk of barbarism becomes reality.

No comments:

Post a Comment