Friday, January 14, 2005

Report from the forepeak: Ari at the wheel. (or Art Therapy)

Ari at the Wheel (or "Art Therapy")

We've been pushed increasingly southward, which meant our ability to avoid
the more tropical becalmed zones is being compromised. So we shifted sail
today to steer a more westerly course.

This we did in the afternoon after a very quiet morning watch in very light
wind and full cloud cover. I spent the morning on deck reading. Erika needed
to get onto one of the radio nets, so she dumped Ari and Toni into the
cockpit with me. "Well, there goes the neighborhood", I probably muttered
internally. But the kids (For anyone who doesn't know, Toni's 5 and Ari's her
3 year old little brother) were in a somewhat calm mood, and didn't mind it
when I went on reading. I think I only got called "poo-poo bottom" once or
twice before they busied themselves with the steering wheel.

The boat has a steering system that operates the tiller by a regular wheel
via a hydraulic pump and ram. When the wind vane self-steering is active, as
it is in our story, the hydraulic system is disengaged, allowing the nice,
big, shiny, stainless steel wheel to spin free - a dream toy for bilge
bunnies! So - all well for fifteen minutes or so - Ari steering on one side,
Toni on the other, Ari trying to tie the whistle on his flotation vest to
the spokes, Toni moving the wheel so he can't - but he hasn't figured out
why yet and Toni giggling at his silliness, and me reading my book, not
really paying any attention.

Suddenly Ari HOWLS. I look up, and there he's hanging by his left leg with
his foot stuck through the wheel jammed up against the wheel post. Toni,
looking a bit panicked, is trying to turn the wheel, perhaps trying to free
her little brother, but going in the wrong direction.

I go into parental time-warp (having raised a daughter of my own, I am
always to be a parent, apparently), that special place available to people
who are often called upon without notice to extricate small humans from
precarious places their fearlessness, curiosity and relative incompetence
have gotten them into. That place, whereby the granting of some temporary
cosmic special permit we are allowed to view an event spanning seconds, or
fractions thereof, as much longer moments, and at the same time to act with
a speed and efficiency that only seems possible with the normal rules of
physics at least bent severely, if not entirely suspended. Whatever. I had
Ari out of his latest fix before I could really register what had occurred.

He wasn't making a sound - yet. I held him, waiting for the siren to go off.
When he finally let loose, it was with a sobbing, yet clear and imperative
voice, saying "I gotta go DRAW!" Toni and I looked "huh?!" at each other. I
said "Ari, you gotta go draw?" He said "Yeah, I gotta go inside and DRAW!" I
said "OK, let's get you unhooked, then" (the kids are always clipped into
lifelines on deck, of course). I figured, wow - he really doesn't want to
deal with what just happened, I guess. So he and Toni went below and I went
back to my book. Ten minutes later little heads appeared in the hatch next
to me, and there was Ari, with a big grin, holding out the picture he had
just drawn. Very clear, in green marker was a big steering wheel, and Ari
stuck in it, with Toni and Coby watching. "Now I happy again!" said he.

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