Not Knots and Miles Anymore

I recently returned to Oriental after a five-day shake down cruise in my new vessel.

Bill wonders… (Susan Edwards photo)

Now in the old days when I returned from a sailing trip I liked to brag a bit about how many miles I’d gone. “Oh yeah.” I liked to let slip once Sea Bird was snuggly moored and I invariably stretched the number of sea miles it was to Bath or Beaufort.

“30 nautical miles” I’d hear in my head but it came out “33…”

It’s true distance plus 10 percent for tacking and yaw right?

But you know, it just never sounded so impressive. Especially when I returned to the town dock in Oriental and some guy had just sailed up from St. Thomas and was recounting his thousand-plus mile journey.

So I switched vessels and measurements. Now I drive a mule team and measure my daily runs in mule steps.

Mule steps?

Yeah, and why not? After all, we measure distances in feet (men steps, literally) and, until recently, spans (breadth of a Dark Age arm I believe…)

Then those pesky miles showed up and they were so long. One mile. 5280 feet. Worse yet were nautical miles. 6076 feet. Suddenly, we had to start going really fast to rack up impressive runs. And even then it was a so-so accomplishment.

A car can do 60 miles and hour.

So what. 60. That’s not much of a number for an hour’s work is it?

Ok, so back to mule steps.

Like I said, I recently drove Jack and Bill from Oriental to Aurora to look for fossilized sharks’ teeth. “Big deal” I can year you sniff, “Aurora’s only 51 minutes and 23 miles away according to Map Quest.”

51 minutes. 23 miles. So what? The round trip’s not much better; 102, 46.

Remember, I wanted to come back to the town dock with a big number. One that would make the South African just up from Cape Town lower his eyes in deference and mutter “Ah, now THAT’S a long way to come…”

So I tucked a pedometer onto mule Bill’s collar – just to measure how many steps it was from Oriental to Aurora.

Now THAT’S a measure of distance!

I’m back from my shake down mule cruise and here are my findings:

Day 1: Oriental Town Dock to Bay River Pottery, Bayboro: 22,696 steps
Day 2: Bayboro to Aurora Fossil Musuem: 27,092 steps
Day 3: Aurora Fossil Musuem to Bayboro (see photo above): 32,413 steps (Bill was jiggy, hence the shorter steps)
Day 4: Bayboro to Oriental Town Dock: 24,069 (See above…)
5 DAY TOTAL: 106,270 steps by a mule called Bill.


106,269 of anything sure sounds better than 46 miles doesn’t it?

Too bad I couldn’t brag about it when I got back to the Oriental town dock.

It was bloody empty.

Bernie Harberts


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[…] my wagon voyage across America, I did a similar experiment. Read about it in the article “Not Knots and Miles Anymore”. You can stream the “Lost Sea Expedition” series right […]

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