The forecast is for light but steady wind, and we'll take it. The wave sounds in such gentle conditions are lovely. You know, for only $10 or $15 you can buy a CD with relaxing water sounds, or for a LOT more you can buy a sailboat... hmmm, let's take a different tack.
A soundscape of wave noises is our constant companion at sea, a combination of mesmerizer, relaxant, and early warning of a shift in weather. Sometimes it can be an irritant, like when our cockpit becomes a splash zone. It's a background easily brought to the foreground when something changes. Sound acts in powerful ways on the mind. Look at music's ability to evoke tears. Can a painting or photo do that? Rarely. Sound seems to be hard-wired into the brain. What effect might a prolonged spell of water sounds have? For one thing, dreams are more vivid, memorable, and often pleasant. In good weather the sound relaxes; in bad weather it makes us tense, especially if we're waiting for the next wave to clobber us. On a sailboat you get one channel: waves. No forest noises, no desert critters, just waves. Nor can you adjust the volume or tone, except by changing the boat's speed sometimes. What you hear is what you get, and the ear becomes finely attuned to change.
For example, as I write this in the cockpit, it's apparent that the wind vane self-steerer has allowed the boat to veer slightly off course. Without looking up I can tell which direction, either upwind or downwind. In this case it's downwind, because the light splashing to port grew fainter and more distant, almost muffled; The boat sails a bit slower and more upright (you can feel that blindfolded after awhile) which is what muted the noise a bit. If it had veered upwind the splashing to port would have grown louder and more insistent, and the boat would've heeled a bit.
Not every sound has a word to describe it, but let's see if I can paint a word soundscape for you, of this world we live in. Actually, I just want to play with Seuss-ian words like Blubbedy-sploosh. Let's say the wind is 5 knots. The basic sounds we might hear are soft; a blubbedy-sploosh on the weather bow, light chink-chinkle-choosh at the quarter near the stern; and a soft hoowassshhh of a wave sliding under us to leeward. There's also the occasional flutter of sail edges or canvas awning.
If the wind is 15, sounds will be harder; the boat might be doing 4.5 to 5.5 knots and there'd be a Pah-POOSSHHH at the bow wave, Chooloosha-loosha-BOISH! as a small wave to windward crests and collapses under the quarter, plus the odd BOP! as a wave crests into the hull amidships. Occasionally there'll be a CHOOP! Shwishhh as a wavelet dumps a splash into the cockpit. You learn quickly which ones to duck for and which ones to not bother about. There is one point of sail, a broad reach at this wind speed, where the wind turns the boom into a low flute. It sounds exactly like the fog horn buoy outside Brenton Cove in Newport, Rhode Island, and evokes so much pleasant memory of fogbound days at anchor there that I don't ever want to fix this noise.
If the wind is 25, sounds grow harsh sometimes; The boat is usually moving fast, sometimes surfing. We hear a loud HOOOWOOSHHH! at the bow between louder Pah-POOSHes, and a Shhhhhwahhsh of foam as a big wave crests nearby and slides past. Cresting or breaking waves go CHOOP! followed by a pause, then ZZZZZZHOOOOWAAAHHHSSSHHH as they soak you. Waves that crest or break directly on the hull's windward side go Ka-BAM followed by a hiss of foam. At this wind speed the rigging is also humming or whistling.
I could go on to describe sounds at higher wind speeds, but I'll close with the most unusual wind-water sounds I ever heard, ones that few hear (luckily.) For me, once was enough. The sound of a waterspout is not a hiss but an AAAAOOOOHHH rumble-and-boom that sounds like an oncoming train. In the 1980s I was sailing off Florida's Dry Tortugas, captaining a Morgan 38 for a charter group. We had the misfortune to be knocked completely down, under bare poles, but the good fortune to pop right back up again. Best guess is that in sustained thunderstorm winds the Coast Guard reported as 90-110, this was the edge of a waterspout or microburst with significantly more than that. All I could think of to say to the astounded passengers was "Well, won't this be a story to tell your grandchildren!" While anchored during Hurricane Hugo in Trellis Bay BVI a few years later, I kept hearing big jet engines flare out as they landed on the runway several hundred yards away, and wondered what on earth a jet was doing trying to land in 150 knots of wind... oh wait, that IS the wind! It was the only time I could ever say that as the wind dropped to more manageable levels, 50 knots felt like a nice breeze. (It doesn't anymore, btw.) The interesting thing about wind like that is I can't remember exactly how it sounded because there may be some sort of trauma protection process happening in the mind to prevent accurate recall, so I have to associate the sounds with known sounds, like jets and trains.
Anyway, 5 to 8 knots of wind tickles us pink right now!
Sent via Ham radio