Trip Reports

The Bung (03-Dec-2002-22-00):
10:00 PM local time, Tuesday, December 3 (2200 Dec. 3 UTC) 19 38 N 029 52 W. Temp. 79, Humidity 69%, Cloud Cover 60%. Seventh day at sea.

Warm greetings from the crew of Maverick.

"Bung." It is a fine word, my friends, exceptionally fine. Verb or noun, as you will. Has an onomatopoeic feeling, does it not, although I'm not clear on the correlative. The Captain will brook no disparagement of this word. The crafty wordsmith who first uttered it was a man who was top drawer, and at the peak of his powers. Rhymes with rung, sung, tongue, lung, and dung, a devil-may-care group as you please. The onboard American Heritage Dictionary traces it from Latin to the Middle English "bunge," and when we think Middle English we think Chaucer, the most scatological of bards. The first word we think of when we think of The Canterbury Tales, unless we're a weirdo, is "arse." Now, "bunge" and "arse" go together like a horse and carriage, but may be considered coarse by some of our readers in whose hearts there dwells no poetry. The delicately sensitive people of the yachting community use the phrase "wooden plug," but "Bung" is the word, and those who aspire to succeed in Maverick's Navy will follow the Captain in this usage. Those readers whose probity prevents them from continuing should feel perfectly free to substitute a cork in lieu of a Bung, stick that in it, and run along now.

But if the word is an excellent one, how much more excellent the actual object to which it refers, The Bung "in-itself and for-itself." Each well-found vessel will carry many aboard, for the reason that a Bung is used to Bung things that we don't favor on boats, although elsewhere they are fine, and that is holes. Boats do have holes in them, for the influx of things we want in and discharge of things we want out. Holes below the waterline are guarded by sea cocks, valves that can be opened or closed at the Captain's discretion, or at that of Mr. Shrode, acting as Executive Officer, letting in or out the substances subtly alluded to above. When the valves are in the closed position, we may say, if we wish, that the areas which were formerly holes are now "non-holes," as we have changed them into their opposites, a la Hegel or the Tao Te Ching. When a valve fails, we must resort to another solution to accomplish our yin-yang magic. We use the Bung.

It so happens that a recent problem on Maverick was solved, at least for the nonce, by use of the mellifluously named, yet humble item under discussion. The reader may remember that saltwater was flowing in an inappropriate manner into the combustion chamber of our diesel engine. At our present stage of technology, engines will not run on seawater, although there are those who will dispute this. The water was coming from the exhaust pipe through the muffler into the engine, and damned if this isn't exactly backwards. Since nothing has visibly changed in the exhaust system and the influx is occurring even though the seas are down, our theory is that a baffle inside the muffler has failed. It's an unsubstantiated theory for which we have no evidence in a field in which we have no knowledge, and our lives depend on it, haha! We dare not try to take it apart, for the simple reason that we might not be able to put it back together. So it's a little black box of mystery. But the solution is as follows: When the engine is not in use, we disconnect the exhaust from the muffler and Bung a Bung into it. Carefully Bunged thusly, Maverick wends her way homeward. The Mighty Bung has saved the day! May It reign forever in its enchanted kingdom across the sea

At dawn this morning the crew of Maverick poked their heads out of the companionway like groundhogs, and, with little more in the way of intelligent awareness, blinked in the sun. The seas had subsided a little, the wind was down, and puffy tradewinds clouds had appeared. For six days we had barely left the cabin except to trim sails, adjust the vane, and check the horizon for traffic. Any time spent in the cockpit would sooner rather than later be repaid by a cold bath from a wave that tripped into the boat, so it was just not worth the hassle to be outdoors.

We were at about 21 degrees north, just on the border of the trades, and as the day progressed the wind got fluky and veered to the southeast. The rule of thumb crossing the Atlantic is not to get greedy but to head southwest from the Canaries, perhaps more south than west, until you reach the 20th parallel, and then turn right. A month of studying wind patterns on the Internet had done nothing to make the Captain doubt the wisdom of this rule. The most direct route across the globe is of course a great circle route, which can be defined as the line where a plane intersecting the beginning and end of your route and the center of the earth meets its circumference. But this route would take you too far north, into the no-wind zone of the Azores High. Some optimistic sailors sail the rhumb line, which is a line that looks strait on a Mercator projection but is actually longer than and to the south of the great circle route. But the safest route, in terms of having the most reliable wind, essential as Maverick will not be motoring, is to head even further to the south, for the 20th parallel.

Hunkered down in the cabin, we had been moving fast with the strong winds of the high to our north and with one more day, we would have been there, but the change in winds was harbinger of the weakening of the high, and so we determined to steer a course more directly south to get to about latitude 19, and hoped thereby to be in the tradewinds drawn by the low of the ITCZ rather than the winds pushed by the high pressure. At that point we would make our course change towards the Caribbean. Our heading is currently about 200 degrees true, but by tomorrow, unless our wind completely disappears, we should fall off and at that point we can set a great circle course of about 260. We have gnomonic paper charts to figure it, but the GPS will give it to us automatically.

Tonite Ship's Chef Terry Shrode prepared an excellent curry complete with papadums, and as the sun set we put on our favorite sailing tape, Van Morrison's album with the Chieftains. The first stars appeared in the dying twilight, and to the tune of the fiddle and the bones and the pennywhistle, Maverick leapt through the waves of the great Atlantic Ocean.

PS to Chris: We can use the engine to get in and out of harbors but can't depend on the prop shaft for long hours underway. Not to worry.

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