Wednesday, April 06, 2005


What is the connection between metabolism and sailboat cruising? In order to make a connection we must first define metabolism. My Franklin Language Master explains it as, ‘the sum of the processes of life support and especially the processes by which a substance is assimilated or eliminated by the body’.

From the foregoing we can deduce that foods taken in by the body are digested at various rates according to types of foods and demands made upon the body. It’s a bit like a car being driven at different speeds or having to climb or descend while progressing along an undulating road. Although it burns the same type of fuel, more of it is consumed when the car is driven at high speeds or when it has to climb hills or mountains.

Long distance runners pack carbohydrate bearing foods into themselves before running because such foods provide energy over long periods, whereas other foods may only provide short time energy. They drink copiously because they know full well they will loose a lot of water through the natural process of perspiration which is an automatic function for cooling the body. As the heart pumps faster to supply hard-worked muscles with oxygenated blood, the body temperature rises; hence the need for a cooling system.

When foods and drinks have done their work of providing energy for the body they become expendable and what remains from the metabolic process is expelled. During this daily process a routine is established, to the extent that it becomes an automatic rhythmical metabolic action because of everyday requirements. Occasionally, this rhythm is upset because some unusual demand is placed upon the body; perhaps a person has to do a week of night shifts after a fortnight of day shifts. Such a shock to the system can be very upsetting, whereby sleep patterns are disturbed and the routine bodily intake of food is broken.

Now we can begin to see a connection between metabolism and the operation of a cruising boat, because if a crew is required to sail day and night or perhaps most days during daylight hours, or take the helm for several nights, their natural metabolic rhythm is upset.

When I am coastal cruising I like to maintain a natural daily routine, but this is not always possible. My preferred method of operation is to sail early and arrive early, because this provides a measure of time before nightfall to make the intended port of arrival. Should unforeseen circumstances slow the boat’s progress, there may still be time to arrive at a safe haven before nightfall.

Several days before setting off on a cruise I like to rise early and turn in early, so that my body is fully prepared for the same pattern while cruising. There you have the full explanation of why metabolism, in my view, is linked to the activity of sailboat cruising.

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