I had a bizarre little episode in Toronto, yesterday. I decided that, as I like boats, I would go to the Toronto International Boat Show. I wanted a nice little wander among the pretty boats, poking things and generally being all technical and looking at fancy bits of kit.
Most geeksome. Great.
I wandered around looking at sailing boats and sailing dinghys, pausing at this interesting little toy and talking about the cool, penguin flipper style paddles it uses for extra motive power. Very interesting, actually, Clever stuff. I moved along to talking to a nice old bloke (there were, er, more than a couple of 'nice old blokes' there, to be honest. Not too many skimpy hotties) and we were talking about changing boat design (most of my sailing and boat knowledge is 20 or more years out of date in technology), moving on to changing areas of boating expertise.
We were talking about how Germany was one of the stronger boat manufacturers, but (as the boat we were discussing was Polish) the guy was telling me how big boat building has become in the last few years in Poland, and the depth of expertise has made Germany really "sit up and take notice of what's over the border" (Which amused me) and also try and poach some technology and expertise, as "Poland is in danger of taking over Germany's boat industry".
This made me smile. "Well, that shows a somewhat pleasing sense of irony, doesn't it?"
The guy took a second and then chuckled away. "Yes. Why yes it does, doesn't it?" And he toddled off to a real customer who may actually buy something from him. Which seemed fair enough to me.
So I carry on bimbling about, not feeling moved (I realised later) to take any pictures as they would all be too full of people rather than boats, pausing to have a long, in depth discussion with a jetboat guy. The topic ranged from the amazingly shallow two inches of water these 20 foot boats could travel across while under power to various applications for decent automotive turbo diesels in marine applications. I am toying with the idea of trying to see if there is any mileage (Urf!) in moving into installations for boats when I get tired of racing so tried to work our how far behind automotive it is (10-15 years was our assessment). May be worth investigating for later, I reckon. Good excuse to live on a lake and play with boats, I think...
I moved on to an interesting device for automatically steering a sailing boat without any electrical requirement. It uses wind power alone and is really rather clever, and was being demonstrated by a nice old (see?) German guy. he explained to me how it worked, and we chatted about some of the materials and mechanisms involved and I expressed my admiration at the simplicity of it all:
Old Guy: "Well, it is also a rather old design, I guess you can't improve on elegant simplicity... it is made in England and was actually designed by an English man forty years ago, you know."
Me: "Really? That's great. I like to hear that we're still turning out such clever things every now and then."
Old Guy: "Well, the English produce many very good things. very clever engineers, the English"
Me: "Well, I suppose so, yes.." (not really sure where this was going as he'd already established I wasn't going to buy one) "but it's nice to hear a product doing so well after such a time"
Old Guy: "Its true though. After all, you won the war. You beat us, you know"
Me: (thrown a bit) "Well, er, well yes. I mean, we had help and all that..."
Old Guy "Even so..... anyway, this bearing here is made with......"
Bizarre. Came out of nowhere, and I really wasn't sure if he was taking the piss, or if he thought I was. He seemed to think it was a perfectly sensible conversational derailment, and carried on happily like before, pointing out things and explaining.
I blame the long show. It had been on for over a week, and was closing inside the hour, so I suspect that they were all going slightly mad. I've done a few shows, in my time, and they've nearly tipped me over the edge and I was only there for three days. I think ten would have left my gibbering like a fool and bringing up 60 year old history...
Still, the boats were nice and all that.