Thursday, September 9, 2010

We May Be Slow . . . But We're Low

This lift bridge is in the "UP" position.
Pretty much everyone who sees our boat wants to know, "How fast can she go on solar power?" Well, if you want to cruise all day and not deplete the batteries, you have to keep her under 3.5 miles per hour. Walking pace.

That rate of travel is not to everyone's taste. But recently, Dragonfly showed "slow"  someimes trumps "fast."

We'd passed through a lock, 'bout half an hour back, and on the radio we could hear another recreational boat, behind us, hailing the lockmaster.  It takes time to lock through . . .  but not very much later, the same boat drew up behind us.  It was one of those three-story trawlers, the kind with a flying bridge so high the captain might get a nosebleed.  We waved, they waved, they went on ahead, we continued our comfortable walking pace.

About half an hour later, we rounded a bend, and . . .  there was the boat, circling below a lift bridge, which was in the "down" position.   We checked our "official list of bridge heights." (Yes, one of the many essential tools you need on this trip.)  The waiting boat was too tall to pass under.

We waved and cruised on beneath the bridge.  (From mean water level to the extreme top of her canopy, Dragonfly is a statuesque nine feet tall.  Not many bridges are lower than that.)

Later in the afternoon the same scenario played out AGAIN.  A trawler passed us, jackrabbitting ahead--and got held up by a lift bridge in the "down" position.  We sailed under.  While the boat was waiting for the bridge we made it into--and then out of--the next lock.

Fast forward.  End of day.  We'd been tied up in port, feet on the railing, enjoying a refreshing beverage, for rather a long time, when the trawler finally pulled in behind us.  They'd had a LONG wait at the lock, because on the Illinois, commercial traffic (those big tows) takes precedence over recreational boats.

Now, what was the moral of that fable?  The one with the tortoise and the hare?  Oh yes.  "Slow and steady wins the race."

Spotted at Starved Rock Marina:
The first boat in DD's fleet
When Darling Daughter-the-Future-Lawyer visited us, she spend a lot of time dreaming up the plot for a novel, where the heroine is a recovering lawyer who sets herself up with a fleet of salmon fishing boats.  All the boats in the fleets have names that are legal puns.

So that got me fantasizing about my next novel, which will be sold for the film rights, because of its killer chase scene.

The hero and heroine, disguised as tourists, rescue the microchip that will spare humanity from annihilation.  In their grubby khaki shorts they blend into a crowd of visitors at a dock and stroll to their stealth getaway vehicle . . .  a canal boat.

Of course the bad guys soon figure out what has happened and follow, in hot pursuit . . . in one of those enormous cruisers that do 40 miles an hour by burning a gallon of fuel a minute.   Incredible suspense.  They're gaining on the canal boat, gaining, it looks hopeless, they are almost within semiautomatic weapon range and . . . they run out of fuel.

So they get out the handy gas cans and soon the boat is once again up on a plane, throwing up a huge wake, and they have the canal boat in their sights and . . .

Spotted in Manitowoc: James Bondian sailboat.
(That little Zodiac backs right out of the empty hull and away you go!
 . . .having seen a million James Bond movies, you are expecting the hero to throw a switch and a little hatch swings down on the stern of the canal boat and  out drops an even faster Zodiac and our hero and heroine blaze away from the bad guys.

(NOT a fantasy--We saw a sailboat that was equipped this way earlier in our trip!)

But that's not what happens in my movie chase scene.  Nope.  The canal boat just sails calmly under a lift bridge--a bridge that is permanently stuck in the DOWN position.

P.S. For an amusing essay on the zen of slowboating, recently published in Canadian Yachting magazine, click here:

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