September 16, 2004 - Ed Walks the Plank
This is story of a short walk on a long pier that took a long time. The pier, as you may know, is also a wharf. We will spare you details on how a short walk can take a long time, but distinguishing between a pier and a wharf is one big fish story we won’t let get away. A pier, we found out, is a structure. It is a platform supported by pilings out over water. A wharf, on the other hand, involves function. It is a place where boats can tie up and unload. So, a pier that is just for fishing is just a pier. And, a wharf that is situated alongside the shoreline is just a wharf. But, what we have in Santa Barbara is both. It is a structure over water and boats can tie-up to it to offload.
Now, in the good old days in 1872 when Mr. Stearns first built his wharf, they were unloading lumber and other big things.
In recent years, the only thing that has been unloaded is fish - mostly shellfish. A quick call to our Harbormaster confirmed our recollection that they’re not even doing that any more. But, we were told, they still can, and that is why it is still a wharf!
The dedicated staff of edhat.com was walking the length of Stearns Wharf yesterday counting the number of planks on the pier, (we meant wharf). The planks are the pieces of wood laid side by side from beginning to end that make up the surface. They are bolted in place with some space between them for drainage. As you drive down the wharf in your car, each plank makes a little “thump”. And, as you drive faster, your car makes a “thump, thump, thump …”
Counting the planks is a dizzying experience. We looked straight down as we walked two planks at a time, counting out-loud to keep track.
Then, every 50 steps/100 planks, we would stop, mark our progress with a very, very light etch in the wood and continue. This marking-procedure proved quite useful because a number of times we got lost and had to go back. As we stared down at the decking looking for our marks, tourists and delivery people (the main population of the wharf on a weekday morning) would stop to look, too. In fact, we heard “what are they looking at?” in a whole assortment of languages. Edhat had confused the tourists once again!
Counting and staring downward we continued on toward the end. The biggest fear at the beginning was being run over by a car. The biggest fear at the end was counting one plank too many. Fine points of counting the wharf included figuring out what to do with half-width planks (we counted them),
and what to do about bends in the wharf (we counted planks in the new direction from where they started – in effect taking the longest path).
In all we counted 2027 planks - a reasonable number, we might add. The wharf is 1,950 feet long, the planks are 10+ inches wide, there are gaps between each plank, and we counted the longest distance. Ed is always happy when the numbers work out.
Guesses in the contest were a little low – the average was 1707. AllHair was all right yesterday. In fact, he/she was only off by a hair, winning the contest with a guess of 2,025. Madame Rosinka predicts that there is a hat and book in AllHair’s future.
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