July 29, 2016
Fonda, New York (We decided it was named for Henry, not Jane)
The phrase “in irons” is used in sailing. I had a sailboat once. Actually, I had two. The first was an 18 foot boat on a trailer that would not fit in the garage. I spent a lot of time, effort and money on this boat and got a few hours of pleasure out of it. It would have been far cheaper and far less trouble to rent a boat every few months for a few hours of sailing. Unless you live on a lake where you could leave the boat in the water and unless you are comfortably retired and can spend some time actually sailing, I would advise you to do the same.
The far better solution for wannabe sailors is to have a friend with a boat. That way you can make day trips on a sailboat or maybe even spend a weekend, sleeping in the tiny little guest bunk, while the owner enjoys the Captain’s cabin. He’s entitled to the luxury, of course since he has to pay for and maintain this white elephant. I had a friend with a boat and it was a bit of fun. He was dating my wife’s friend and the four of us spent a few days hanging around the boat in dock and we made a day trip on Galveston Bay… before Hurricane Ike. With the insurance money, he bought an apartment on the Seawall in Galveston. Notice he did not buy another sailboat. He learned his lesson and went looking for a friend with a boat, as well.
Where was I? Oh yes – “in irons”. As you may know, sailboats can “sail close to the wind” by tacking – actually moving opposite to the wind direction at about a 45 degree angle. By reversing in a zig-zag fashion, the boat can move upwind. After the “zig” the sailor will turn by 90 degrees and the boat will turn to swing around and, having passed directly into the wind and then, carried by momentum , it will “come about” and the wind will fill the sail on the opposite side (the zag).
If, however, the helmsman is slow off the mark and does not pull off this maneuver sharply, the boat can wind up pointed directly into the wind, having lost all momentum. Steering is now useless, because there is no moving water for the rudder to bear against and turn the boat further. The boat is now “in irons” and will slowly begin to be pushed backward, losing the progress made by tacking. It is something that is difficult to remedy. Much progress can be lost. At the end of this post, I will tell you the secret to getting “out” of “in irons”.
Now, I went through all that to describe why I am where I am now. I am learning that shipping industry has participants that demonstrate the worst qualities of humanity. They are hostile and vindictive. They are petty and arbitrary. They can be that way because they represent a lot of business to the freight companies. The freight companies will put up with this abuse for the business. Or, rather I should say, they will allow their drivers to be abused for that reason.
This cannot be assigned to companies in general, it has more to do with particular installations. I arrived early at this particular receiver and was turned away because that is what they do. Now, I have to go park at a truck stop and wait. Unfortunately, the Federal Regulations say I have to stop driving before I will be welcome at the receiver. So I try to arrange a new time. The management at this installation prefers not to do that, but to sarcastically call me a “no-show”.
So, I terminated that conversation and reported as “late” (while I was still early) and requested a “repower” on the satellite communication unit. A repower is where someone could come and get my load and take it to the installation on time. That did not work and that is understandable, because there are only so many trucks in the company and besides, they operate with a skeleton crew at night and things seldom happen then. So, finally, “dispatch” tells me to go in the morning to the same gate. When I arrive, the gate guard makes a call and sure enough they can use this shipment to put meat on the shelves on the weekend. So they assign a door for unloading. But…one last check shows that the order has been cancelled. I guess it is more important for the management to punish a driver for being early than to put product on the shelves for the weekend.
So, I am “in irons” making no progress and no money for at least 19 hours more. I took this opportunity to scan in my trip sheet with the previous load (with 8 days of hotel expenses – you can’t sleep in the truck while it is in the shop) so that some money will actually come in next week. Breakdown pay is only $25 per day, so that is welcome.
I also taped up the frayed and bared cable on the satellite radio/computer that sends assignments, swept out the truck, made some instant chicken soup and cleaned all the glass and mirrors very well (yes, I remembered Dad).
And then, of course, I wrote this for y’all.
Oh, wait! How to get “out” of “in irons”
To review, you are in your sailboat which is pointed directly into the wind. You are making no progress and in fact are beginning to drift backward. What you need to do is go and push the boom. That is the horizontal pole at the bottom of the sail.
Someone asked me once why they call it the boom. Well, what you were trying to do when you got ”in irons” was called “coming about” you were going from zig to zag by passing through an attitude directly into the wind by momentum, carrying over to tack on the other side. The other way to turn is downwind. Your sail will be on one side of the boat, going downwind and when you turn through the direct-downwind direction, the sail will suddenly go from one side to the other. Now, that pole at the bottom of the sail will whip from one side to the other very suddenly. This is called making a “jibe”. The pole, generally speaking is right about at head level for people riding in the boat. So the “boom” is named for the sound it makes when it collides with your skull. This is called “onomatopoeia” where words are made directly from sounds. Other examples of this are “wham” and “hiss”.
By the way, there is usually a rope-and-pulley system between the boom and the base of the mast to cinch the boom down tightly and make better speed. It is called the “boomvang”. Once, back in my Geophysicist Days, there was a seismic project called “Boomvang” and nobody else in the company knew what the heck that meant.
Where was I?
The boom…to get out of “in irons” you go and push the boom to one side to “back wind”. That pushes your boat backward. At the same time, you put the rudder over to the other side, which turns the boat until wind can again fill the sail and you can tack once more on the “zag”. This is easy on a small boat or on a big one when you have a crewman. Otherwise, it requires agility and creativity.