Fridays with Albert

June 2007

By Dodge Morgan

My long personal familiarity with Einstein affords me the privilege of calling him Albert. I bonded with Albert because I had the natural gift of knowing how to expand the scope of his thinking to levels of pragmatic understanding – and also because we agreed to cheat the puzzle of “forever and infinity” (more on this later). Albert, actually without my help, created a short and inscrutable formula that wrapped time and space into one neat package for us.

I have my “Fridays with Albert.” Each Friday, I have a conceptual conversation with Albert during which he learns more from me than I do from him – this, of course, because I am stupid, and he is, or was, unable to figure out the income-tax code. We did decide that “forever” is a word that never should have been invented because it describes nothing; you go straight out or straight up, and where do you end up? Albert says you end up right back where you started, and this makes absolutely no sense to me or, I am guessing, to him either.

But I can deal some sense and meaning with that time and space conundrum because it can be applied directly and cleanly to the act of sailing. The more space you put around yourself, the more time you have to cope. The longer (reference time here) you have been alive, the more sea room you should seek. At my age, I should never sail within sight of land. Or, God forbid (sorry Albert), within sight of another vessel, although it is the other guy and not me who is at risk.

My GPS chart recorder on the sloop Wings of Time has a 10-minute bar extending out on my course, and this should never be more than a hair-width long. The old schooner Eagle is devoid of anything that measures distance or even time, so sailing is joyfully by an old man’s senses of sight and feel – fuzzy and numb.

This putting distance, therefore time, a safe distance away applies to sea bottoms and anchoring locations. The former is obvious. The latter involves the amount of anchoring scope one sets out which then dictates swinging room and the presence of other anchored vessels anywhere. I always set every inch of scope I have on board so to swing in a circle that would require clearing the whole of Casco Bay. Cleverly adhering to Albert’s code of distance to time, I measure the scope by how long it takes me to feed it out, since I have not found anchor-line fathom markers that will stay in place, no matter their design.

I am getting much better at these distance and time extending ploys as I age. Even though I am shrinking in height, my feet appear to be getting much further away from me and I find that what used to be instant chores are becoming small careers. I will discuss this phenomenon next Friday with Albert.

Dodge Morgan sails out of Snow Island, Maine.