Adapting revisited. The limits of adaptation.
Droning on about how much humans “adapt” in my last blog reminded me that sometimes the adaptation suddenly, virtually without warning, ends.
Back on Bokonon in 1973, we had this very primitive diesel engine. I think it was 800 pounds and about 12 horsepower. On top of it was a “generator”, a little belt-driven machine that is supposed to charge your batteries. Most boats have an “alternator”, but ours was the most primitive of systems. We were even able to crank the engine by hand to start it. But if we wanted to have electric lights, including the “running lights” at night that tell other boats that we are there, we needed to generate some electrical energy for the batteries.
But this generator kept failing. My brother Howard would take it off, fuss with it. Take it apart, rewire the inside of it put it back together and it would work for a couple of weeks, and then just die. He’d take it apart, fuss with it again and again. and by doing this, he kept it trickling power into our batteries.
In 1974, we were crossing the Atlantic in a seasicky combination of swells that made everyone grumpy and semi-nauseous. Of course the generator died. Howard fixed it. Got really grumpy but didn’t throw up. 3 days later waves were even more choppy, it died again. By now we were so far from land and we hadn’t seen any boat for 2 weeks. Who wants to see our running lights anyway? Howard took the damn thing apart, fiddled with some wires, and put it back on the engine. It worked for about 10 seconds, and died.
I was on deck steering at the time. Finally I hear “Fuck this fucking thing!” and I see, as if in slow motion, the generator flying through the air and splashing into the water. We sailed Bokonon for more than a year after that, and never had (or really needed) electricity again.
When my dad was getting on in age, he had had a wide variety of ailments, but he, like all of us, was muddling through them, adapting. But each ailment was slowing him down a little more and a little more. More pain less life. While on the 2007 Transpac from Southern California to Hawaii, I heard from my daughter that his kidneys were failing. He was about to undergo dialysis. Ok, fine, says he, consenting to bend his life even more to continue it. But then they tell him when we do this dialysis, you can never drink alcohol again.
You know what he said? Fuck it, bring me a martini! He died a few days later, happy in his choices.

4 thoughts on “AdaptingRevisited

  1. Another great entry into your blog. I can see Howie giving it so many tries and then finally saying “fuck it”. Sometimes you just don’t settle and the adapting means moving on! We saw the Bokonon in Moss Landing in 2014 and the guy to whom Howie sold it. He said it took him years to get all the dog hair out! He single handed her back and forth to Hawaii twice in the 40 years he’s owned her. I wonder if he installed batteries for the running lights….

    When my dad was told he needed dialysis, he said no way. I told him without it he would die. He told me that’s what we come here for. Of course he lived his life fully before he died and decided to die on his terms, which included his own habits of destruction. Still, he did it his way.

    Safe home, C&H

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Henrietta Cosentino says:

    Hey, Bill–Happy sailing. Don forwarded the link and I’m onboard. Love your thoughts on adapting. And the story of your Aunt Louisa.


  3. Linda Gronewold says:

    Safe sailing! As you look up at those amazing night stars on your crossing send our greetings to two of the most amazing people, your Mom and Dad!
    Living in the “annex” next door to them for 15 years gave us wonderful experiences and many stories. So happy to hear your shared stories on this blog.


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