Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
Noises - 24 February, 2016
We had a noise yesterday. It was sort of a moaning grunt. It appeared about three in the afternoon and resolved itself about five. I chased that
damn noise all over the boat - literally. We could hear it in the main cabin, the forward cabin and the aft cabin. On deck, I heard it at the stern, at
the bow and amidships. Sometimes, we even felt it as a low vibration in the hull.
At one point, I identified it as a burgee hitting one of the shrouds. At another point, it was definitely coming from the mooring ball. Later, it might
have been a fish or some other biologic under the keel. It might have been us bouncing or dragging slowly on the bottom. It might have been the
dinghy, tapping on the stern. It was - or was not - any or all of these things. We never positively identified it, it went away and nothing I did seemed
to affect it.
We were watching an episode of the sit com Mike and Molly the other evening. In it, a smoke detector starts beeping randomly, indicating that its
battery is dying. Since there are multiple smoke detectors in the house, Molly has to go from room to room, trying to determine which one it is.
She finally beats one to death, trying to stop the noise, only to discover that she killed the wrong one. We laughed hysterically - mostly because
we have both been on that same "search-and-destroy" mission.
Random noises on a boat are not really funny. Because our home is surrounded by water and a very important part of my job is keeping the water
out of your home, I tend to be very attuned to things changing. Noises that have never occurred before require investigating. It might be nothing -
a bird landing on deck or a flag flapping in the breeze. But it might be very important. A soft gurgle in the night might be water coming in through a
broken hose. A pump that used to run every hour or so running every fifteen minutes means something has changed.
Even innocuous sounds like water lapping on the hull can indicate a problem, if it is coming from the "wrong direction." We were tied to a dock
once and the sound of the waves knocking up against the transom indicated that the wind had changed and we were going to get a storm that we
had not expected.
One of the most ubiquitous noises in sailing is the sound of lines slapping up against the mast in the wind. This phenomenon, called halyard slap,
has been known to drive sailors to blows, particularly if the offending halyard is on another boat. Some people consider it their duty to silence
slapping halyards, wherever they may be.
There is a boat on the next mooring ball over from us, here in Titusville, that has a serious case of halyard slap. However, no one is on the boat
and, from the barnacle growth along the waterline, it has been a long time since anyone was thee. It would take about five minutes for me to slip
over there in the dinghy, secure those lines and make it back to Rockhopper.
But just as there are those who feel they are doing the world - and the owner of the offending boat - a favor by silencing that noise, there are
others who just as passionately believe that their boat is their property and you come aboard at your own peril. I have to admit, I understand that
position myself. I can't think of any situation where I would have gone into someone else's yard to silence a noise and I don't think living on a boat
makes it all right either. I once lived in a neighborhood where some people three or four doors down went away for a long weekend and left their
dog tied up outside. The dog barked continuously, night and day, for three days, stopping only to nap. I called the police a couple of times, as
some of my other neighbors did. But neither we, nor the police, went into the yard to deal with the dog. It wouldn't have been right.
Eventually, all noises like that stop. Either the neighbors come home, the line frays through and falls apart or you leave and move to a quieter
spot. Fixing someone else's problem doesn't seem, to me, to be the answer.
Sometimes, not having a noise is a problem. Back in my Navy days, the worst condition the ship could be in was dead quiet, since it meant that we
had lost propulsion, electricity, steering and all of our sensors. A ship with no power at sea is a disaster waiting to happen. On our boat, there are
similar "no noise" issues. For example, when we run the generator, we have to also run a ventilator fan to push air into the generator's sound
shield box. The vent fan has a very distinctive whine, different from the muted roar of the generator. If I heard the generator, but not the fan, my
immediate action would be to shut down the generator and investigate. No sense in overheating and potentially damaging a five thousand dollar
generator over a twenty-five dollar fan.
Some noises are part and parcel of sailing. The wind whining through the rigging or the splash of water over the lee rail have long been
associated with the "lure of the sea." But we use these noises to tell us about how the boat is doing. Are we using too much sail? Is the boat
working too hard? The noises of sailing are part of the tool box we use to make the boat move efficiently.
Living in a house, I used to hear noises. I don't think I was ever as attuned to them, though, as I am now. Except for the really annoying ones - like
that damn "battery-dying beep" - they really didn't tell me much. I don't think I ever paid attention to how frequently the refrigerator compressor
cycled or whether the air conditioning was running efficiently. If it was too cold, I turned down the AC - too hot and I turned it up. If there was an
unexplained bump in the night, I wrote it off as the neighbor's cat, without really considering if the neighbor even had a cat. Someone somewhere
must have had a cat, so that was that.
Hey, wait a minute! Maybe that was it! Maybe the sound we heard yesterday was the neighbor's cat-fish! Now I have explained it completely and I
can sleep soundly.
Unless it comes back.....