When your boat speaks to you and your dog doesn’t.

When a seasoned sailor and friend helped me sailed Micasa from Langkawi (in Malaysia, where I first bought her) to Puteri Harbour, a stone’s throw away from Singapore, he told me, my boat will speak to me.  I was a little puzzled.  Months later I understood what he meant.  Every boat has its own rhythm, in the sounds and vibrations (that can be felt) they make.  When you get to know your boat better, you will start to get a feel of what is normal and what is not.

Yours truly refuel Micasa on route from Langkawi to Puteri Habour.

The bilge pump, for example, at the lowest point of a boat’s body cavity (hull), in Micasa, is a reciprocating diaphragm pump which thumps when it runs, not unlike a Harley Davidson!  Condensation from the air conditioner drains into it.  When the float switch reaches a certain level the bilge pump will operated to pump the water out.  When the air conditioner is running you will expect the bilge pump to run every now and then to pump out the condensation.  That sound can be alarming to those not used to it.  That sound is normal, when the air conditioner is operating.  If the bilge pump runs and the air conditioner isn’t running, you have a problem. There’s likely to be a leak of some sort somewhere.  My first course of action will be to taste (just dip your finger) the water in the bilge.  If it’s salt water, you have a big problem.  Somewhere, sea water is getting into your boat.  If it is fresh water, you would most likely have a leak in your fresh water system, or if it is also raining, it could be leakage from above.

The fresh water pump which pumps water from the storage tanks has a different noise.  More whirring than thumping.  When water from one tank is depleted it will draw in air and run continuously until you switch it off and or switch to another water tank with water in it.  If that doesn’t stop it running, these are the possibilities:

1. You have a leak in the system and the threshold pressure could not be reached.
2. There’s dirt or foreign particles lodge in the valve(s) of this diaphragm pump.  Open and remove.
3. There is air trapped in system.  This can be purged by draining half a bucket or more of water from the lowest faucet – the one at the kitchen sink.

In the main stateroom (bedroom) of Micasa, which is the aft cabin running the full width of the stern, it is quite well insulated as far as sound is concerned.  When the boat is rocking, it’s either from the wake of passing boats or there’s a storm blowing outside.  It’s hard to hear even if the wind is blowing strongly, but there’ll be a hum coming from the boom, which can be felt, even in the well insulated stateroom. 

When you get to know your boat well, it speaks to you by the sounds and vibrations that it makes.  What is normal or out of the norm, you will know.

My sailor dog speaks too.  She hardly barks but usually whine, growl and yelp.  She is normally very expressive by the sounds that she make and by her movements and gestures.  There are times when she’ll sulk and chooses to ignore you.  Like when I’m going out and I’m not able to take her along.  I’ll need to tell her in advance that she’ll need to stay at home.  Else she’ll be following my every steps.  That’s when she sulks and head for the bedroom.  If she felt strongly about it she may throw a tantrum when I’m out of the boat. It does not happen often and there were a few occasions when I returned to the boat to find either the newspaper or a floor matt, had been stuffed into her water bowl, spilling water all around.  She’ll normally gets a good scolding in a stern voice, for making a mess.  She’ll then have that remorseful look about her, for as long as half a day.  Those are the times when sailor dog does not speak much at all.

When an alarm in the boat goes off sailor dog will be visibly distressed and there are numerous alarms on the boat.  Gas leak alarm, fire and smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarm, navigation alarms such as AIS proximity alarm, anchor drag alarms, engine critical function alarms and the recently added lithium iron phosphate battery bank has alarms for, overcharging, over discharge, low capacity (under voltage), etc.  I have probably missed out a few but these are the ones that comes to mind.  Sailor dog will have that frightened look in her eyes when an alarm goes off and usually head for the bedroom.  She is timid in her demeanor indeed.  And I would often wonder where that fury or courage came from, when she barked and growled threateningly at strangers coming too close to our boat or worse touching our boat.  Someone (unknown to sailor dog) once stepped onto our transom with the intention to walk up to our cockpit, while sailor dog and I were in the cockpit.  She charged forward and attempted to bite this person.  She may have indeed if I haven’t gotten a hold of her collar. 

Dogs are both intelligent and complex creatures and when you start to understand them better, they are every bit like a person with their own unique character.  Sailor dog has her own character and it’s a strong one as well.  Strong as in, set in her ways – her stubbornness or determination to do things her own way.  We often have to navigate around that just as you would do with a child.  We would some times want her to get off the bed.  She would defy commands and attempts to lead her by the collar, short of manhandling her.  What works better is that I’ll tell her, “come on down from the bed, yes that a good girl…!” all with a pleasant tone.

Sailor dog sleeping comfortably on the comforter and my pillow.

She’s expressive to the extent that you can tell there are thoughts going on in her head.  Yet when she chooses to she can be ignoring you completely when she doesn’t want to speak to you.  She come as a package and the above are some of her querkier part of her character. 

Mostly, however, she is a sweet little girl.  Her highly held tail would wave at the slightest provocation.  When we’ve been out and upon coming home, she’s sometimes in the cockpit to greet us.  She’ll be waving her tail so hard that the back end of her body is thrown from side to side and her tail would sometimes be hitting against the large stainless steel steering wheel at the helm.  Ringing like a welcome home bell!  She’ll melt your heart, and wash away all your worries, guaranteed!

That’s our sailor dog and our floating home Micasa, which also has a character of her own just as those she provides shelter and passage over water for.

Do keep stock of life!  Be aware and relish those priceless moments that fleet by.  Life is so much better and happier for those moments.  Cheers!

Published by Ben

Semi retired ex-corporate executive. Now a liveaboard on a sailboat with the Admiral and my sailor dog.

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