Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Environmental and sensory monitoring

I have a fully implemented environmental monitoring system aboard Rosie. Not only do we have the usual smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. We also have a finely tuned instrument that can detect the faintest trace of any form of suspicious discharge. Forget about your old fashioned Dräger test set, we are talking about a specialist piece of equipment that would out gun even the best drug sniffer dog. Its the Memsahib test set Mk III, also known as her nose.

The sense of smell is a good thing to have. The Memsahib could put a truffle pig to shame when it comes to seeking out the origin of even the most minute of smells. Now this is a good thing and at the same time a bad thing. Good in that even the tiniest amount of leakage is picked up on before any damage or harm can be done. Bad, when you want to have a slob about day doing your own thing and are confronted by truffle pig and a battery of anti-stink fluids in a variety of pressurised cans. Left arm and then the right arm is held in a fleeting German salute before we are left alone to get on with doing our own thing.

The Memsahib is a keen recycler and a sort of soft centred eco-warrior. Not a real fully qualified tree hugging, lentil picking tofu welder. Or eco-wearing the uniform of a dirndl skirt and a pair of sling backed safety sandals.

No, the Memsahib is a bit more from the the fluffy gingham, Hotter booted, eco-terrorist branch. However, uniform issues aside, the Memsahib is still prepared to do her bit for the environment. Eco whatever fills the cupboard under the bathroom sink and only fully compliant maceration tissue is allowed on board. She has even developed a system where lightweight carrier bags can be folded into tiny triangles for later re-use. She needs to get out more!

I know that anyone’s home has an odour of its own that reflects a multitude of bits of information to the trained proboscis. What kind of food you eat, fluids you drink, whether you smoke and the type of washing powder you use or maybe don't use. Each environment will reflect your choices.

This started me thinking about sensory monitoring.

But to a point don't we all have a subconscious monitoring system of our boat. Through the passive senses of sound, movement and smell. We become tuned in over time to the little quirks of our own boat. When taken together all of the senses provide that "feel" for when something is just not quite right. We sense when a new sound starts and we can also sense when a regular sound suddenly stops. As we get better we can sense when the sound or vibration changes in some small way.

I can tell from the jizz of the boat when the water tank needs filling or when we are fast approaching the need for a pump out. I never noticed that I was doing a sort of subconscious monitoring of the boat for some time. I now find I am attuned to the jizz of the engine and even the slightest change is like an alarm bell ringing. The tiller has a number of little quirks of its own that I can feel that say something has changed. I can feel even the slightest of change in the movement of the boat or the approach of another boat long before it actually arrives.

My sense of balance is my most sensitive sense, I sometimes think I must have an inbuilt gyro positioning sensor. The sense of touch and sensing a small change in vibration also seems to work with me. When it comes to the dogs it is their acute sensitivity to sound. When a sound alerts them, they then change to the sense of smell and start to sniff the air. They don't seem to notice a gentle change in movement on the boat. My sense of smell is very poor, but my distance vision is very good. Hearing is somewhat problematical as I have a different hearing range in each ear. My left ear is less sensitive to higher pitched sound than my right ear. My right ear is more attuned to the lower end of the frequency range than my left ear. This difference means I sometimes have difficulty in deciding from which direction a sound is coming.

It takes time to develop your instincts and feel for your boat. Between the four of us, our instincts and feel are a good alarm system and I trust them every time.


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