‘Eagle Seven’

Yes, most people can do yoga. But, can you do yoga upside down in a boat locker in the middle of winter? Photo by Brian Willy

January/February 2022

By Christopher Birch

With all that’s going on in the world today, sometimes it’s nice to clear your head with a simple boat project. The boat yoga that accompanies most onboard tasks can soothe the actual core of your very being. Especially in the colder seasons, for boating, like January.

I recently discovered a new boat yoga pose that I call “Eagle Seven.” For maximum benefit, it’s best to dress in bulky, wet and frozen clothing.

To adopt this pose, descend headfirst into a cockpit locker, upside down and backward. Snake your way between the water heater and the generator until your elbows are past the centerline. Once you’ve outstretched your arms, you will have hitched your jacket up, exposing bare flesh at your left flank that will undoubtedly chafe from a sharp bit of fiberglass on the water heater mount. And, as always, mind that belt loop on your right side because it will get caught on a hose clamp on the Genset. Don’t even waste time worrying about it. Just know that it will happen.

Unlike studio yoga, where you bend, stretch and then get into savasana, also known as – “corpse pose,” which makes sense when it is the definition of doing nothing – in boat yoga, we always need an associated task. For “Eagle Seven,” I like to choose a serene mixture of fiberglass grinding, AC wiring, and at least one thing in need of 5200.

We start with the angle grinder. The extension cord is a little short, permitting only marginal positioning. The tool is held precariously close to the nose – without actually touching the nose. However, the best you can manage for a grip on the grinder in this pose is three-fingered, weak (and probably not OSHA-approved). It is likely that fiberglass dust will quickly fill your eyes and lungs. With a bit of luck, the tool stays in your hand, despite its considerable torque and jumpy tendencies.

Let’s say you’re wearing blue nitrile gloves because that’s how you roll. Three of the five glove fingers are torn on the right hand, and five of five are torn on the southpaw mitt, leaving you with something more closely resembling a bracelet. Good thing you’re right-handed. A Danforth anchor will be jabbing your knee, and you vow that next time, before striking this pose, you will remove all the contents of the cockpit locker instead of just most of it.

With a painful twist and some blind groping for a new toolset, you transition to the AC wiring project. At first, you’re pleased that you remembered to disconnect the shore power before descending into the “Eagle Seven” position. Soon after, you’re discouraged to find out that you forgot to turn off the inverter. That was a bit more electric heat than you wanted. Maybe you’ll sign up for heated yoga… never.

The generator is what makes this pose challenging. Life would be so boring without challenges. There wasn’t really room for a generator in there behind the engine and in front of the water heater, but the crafty boat builder put one there anyway. It’s too bad every boat doesn’t have one of these delightful contraptions. In summer, they add a rhythmic hum to an otherwise calm and quiet anchorage and their exhaust fumes scent the air like incense. In winter, they turn ordinary boat work into soul-cleansing boat yoga.

Suddenly you’re pretty sure there is a stream of diesel running down your back, vaguely reminiscent of aromatic oil applied by a Swedish masseuse. Yup, it just reached your neck, then chin, then lower lip. Definitely diesel. This means that when you complete “Eagle Seven,” you will get to repair the collateral damage to the fuel line on the generator. (I haven’t come up with a name for that pose yet.)

A wave of panic flows through your being when you worry that the helper holding your ankles won’t be able to pull you back out. Your apprehension deepens when your helper decides to abandon the ankle-holding business altogether and instead wanders off to warm up by the galley stove. You are jolted out of that funk when a clump of snow falls off the end of the boom, clips your heel, and fills your pant leg.

Right about now, it’s time for a breathing exercise and a moment of gratitude. If the naval architects who designed this boat had provided even the slightest access to her onboard systems, free boat-yoga would be unattainable, and you’d be relegated to pricy studio-yoga. Verbally giving thanks is called for. I prefer to exalt with a four-letter word. Sometimes repeatedly chanting that word loudly helps get me fully grounded in gratitude.

Back to work. It’s time to play with 5200. You can choose white, black or mahogany. It doesn’t really matter for this exercise. Also, since you’re down there, you might as well change out the holding tank vent filter. It needs doing.

If the “Eagle Seven” pose is easy for you, you can step it up a notch by trying it on a boat that’s off the dock and under sail in February. With the generator running.

Namaste, Captain.

Christopher Birch is the proprietor of Birch Marine Inc. on Long Wharf in Boston, Mass., where he’s been building, maintaining and restoring boats for the past 34 years.