The Ninja Sailor

9 Jun

Stylish descended the companionway, muttering to herself.  “Lanacote, small brush, Lanacote, small brush…”
“Everything okay?”
She glanced up at me as she started rooting through the drawers in the nav desk.  “I had to pass Dad to get up the ladder.”
There are many obvious skills one needs to cultivate to live aboard.  Good seamanship.  Knots.  Basic weather analysis.  But a successful crewmember must also learn secret talents you will never find mentioned in any manual on seafaring.  And primary among these are Ninja Skills.

It is impossible to pass Erik without being asked for something.  A tool, a glass of water, a hand.  More irritatingly, these are usually reasonable requests.  You are passing that way anyway, or the top two-thirds of him is stuck in the bilge.  So you do it.  But by the seventeenth request, you get a little grumpy.  No, let’s be clear.  I.  I get a little grumpy.  I get a lot grumpy.  I like to help as much as the next person, but there are times when I’d just like to get on with my own work uninterrupted, and getting up to find a rubber mallet or similar every ninety seconds can put me on edge.
But there is a good alternative to snapping, “Get it your own &$@# self!”  And it is this: be one with the wallpaper.
It isn’t easy.  This is high-level Jedi-style ninja stuff I am talking about here.  But it’s worth it.
Let’s break it down.
Situational Awareness
First, you have to cultivate a locational awareness of your Help-Me Spouse (HMS).  This doesn’t mean tracking their every move, but you do need to notice where they are, and, more importantly, when they are coming.  The HMS can descend on you like a hawk on a mouse.  Learn to look for that tell-tale shadow, hear that creaking floorboard, smell that engine oil, and make yourself scarce.
Be One With Nature
Ninjas, at least according to my kids’ Magic Treehouse books, are all about mimicking and fading into the environment in order to hide.  So try to blend in with the mast.  Melt against the engine room.  Merge with the shadows cast by the wheel.  (You can feel less dorky about trying this yourself by calling it “getting to know your boat” if you like.)  Not as foolproof as out-and-out hiding, this ninja trick has the advantage of speed.  HMS coming?  Bam!  Instant camouflage.
Exit strategies
Here on the hard, we have one exit from the boat: down the ladder.  It would be unkind of me to suggest that my HMS intentionally chooses to work at the bottom of said ladder, lurking there, Gollum-like, waiting to ask someone for a 9 mm wrench as they pass by.  I’m sure it is just a convenient place to mix paint.  Point being, for the ninja, this bottleneck is an issue.  An ambush waiting to happen.
So get creative.  Set up some scaffolding on the other side of the boat.  Learn to scale the anchor chain.  Climb the neighboring boat and take a flying leap to your own deck.  Buy a hang glider or a trampoline.  Grow gecko pads on your hands and feet.  And those solutions are just off the top of my head.
What Happens as a Ninja Stays as a Ninja
For the love of Mike, whatever you do, don’t let your HMS catch you in your evasive maneuvers.  You can’t have a bad Ninja day.  Not only do you look like a jerk, pressed up against the teak and pretending to be a floorboard, but it puts on you HMS’s radar.  They know you know.  The hawk will be extra vigilant, and that doesn’t mean anything good for you.
Returning to Papillon earlier today, I crunched across the gravel, lost in thought about what I wanted to write in this post.
Erik popped up like a jack-in-the-box from behind the stern.  “Ame, you going up?  Could you grab me my grinder?  I’m filthy.”
You see?  Constant vigilance!  Now where the heck is that grinder?


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