Tumble Home

A brief excitement this week and then my hopes were dashed: a “tumblehome” hull does not do what its name says it should. You know, like you’re paddling along in your canoe or kayak, minding your own business and watching for kingfishers and great blue herons when Bam! You lean too far to one side and start to go over but the hull’s shape “tumbles” you “home” to an upright position.

It would be *such* a cool name.

Sadly, according to my non-resident naval expert, although a tumblehome hull seems like it has its centre of gravity lower in the water, its narrower-on-top shape is actually less stable than a flared hull in many sea conditions. My highly technical take on it is that once it starts to go there’s nothing to stop it, whereas a flared hull’s less-rollover-prone shape gives you one last chance.

Red and yellow kayak; woman sitting therein, on bright, sunny day.

Built with flare; paddled with flair

But even though a tumblehome hull is an almost criminal waste of a nomenclature opportunity, a point which I’ll be taking up with naval authorities shortly, it did get me thinking about stability features in general. Once we “take on a list” on any given topic or in any area of our lives, what can keep us from capsizing with a giant sploosh?

If we enjoy a drink, what can keep us from getting drunk?

If we enjoy sweets, what can keep us from pigging out? If we diet, what can keep us from becoming anorexic?

If we get interested in something, what can keep us from becoming obsessed with it, even to the exclusion of all else?

If we see multiple possibilities in and for every situation, what can keep us from freezing with indecision?

If we think we know what’s true, what can keep us from setting up camp in Conspiracy Theory Land?

If we think we know what’s right, what can keep us from becoming dogmatic?

How do we get the human equivalent of a flared hull: Something that helps us right ourselves when we’re off-kilter instead of standing idly by as we go over?

Maybe many factors, but I think diversity plays a huge role. Not external diversity, or not directly, but internal diversity.  A diversity of thought that quietly, even subconsciously, points out the limits of all good things as well as the limits of our knowledge and experience.

And how do we get this diversity? By reading? By travelling? By living in different places? By trying new things, learning new things, seeking out new experiences? By exposing ourselves to views we’re pretty sure we disagree with? By listening to people we don’t much like? By living in families and communities with people we trust and/or simply can’t avoid? By making friends of different ages, genders, backgrounds?

Yes. Any and all of these.

Finally, we can hang out with people who are less tippy than we are, less prone to capsize their ship of self. Especially when it’s an acquired capability, there’s always a chance their stability will rub off on us.


With thanks to M. Saker, Rear-Admiral (Retired).

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6 Responses to Tumble Home

  1. Mike Saker says:

    Isabel,
    Thanks for the credit, which to be clear related only to the definition of tumblehome. I appreciate your thoughts on achieving a more balanced view concerning many of the troubling issues that the world faces today, in particular those of our “neighbor” to the south (I chose the American spelling as an olive branch). May I take this opportunity to recommend to your readers (as I recently did to you) the April 2020 book entitled CASTE: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson? I found it very informative and helpful in trying to better understand the seemingly all encompassing political and societal issues in the USA, and to a degree, elsewhere. Given the most recent events I feel that more of us are going to need to engage in trying to spread understanding, tolerance, decency and solutions(!) in the world. Sitting on our hands may no longer be acceptable. Interesting times indeed.

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Mike – You may so recommend. Indeed, consider it done. Whatever scope we take on for “trying to spread understanding, tolerance, decency and solutions(!) in the world” starts with our own selves. And no effort is too small where we act within the limits of our knowledge.

  2. barbara carlson says:

    America being my birth country, I have been grieving for it for four years — seems like twenty. How they (I’ve been in Canada for 55 years) are going to “come together” seems a bridge too far — only some outside “enemy” might to do — aliens?

    Tippy-canoe and Tyler, too. ?? [‘Tippecanoe and Tyler Too’ was a campaign slogan for William Henry Harrison and John Tyler in the presidential election of 1840. It helped to catapult the Whig Party to the presidency for the first time in American history.]

    I like Tippy-canoe better, don’t you?

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – I don’t know how they’ll come together either, but no one is going anywhere so they have some motivation to try. (And I’m pretty sure we don’t want to add aliens to this mess. )As for Tippecanoe, I had never heard of it – a battle, of course. I might have guessed but did not.

  3. Barry Jewell says:

    “A diversity of thought that quietly, even subconsciously, points out the limits of all good things as well as the limits of our knowledge and experience.”

    Perhaps this is all we can hope for – that “more of us are going . . . to engage in trying to spread understanding, tolerance, decency and solutions(!) in the world.”

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barry – The good news (such as it is) is that for our own actions we don’t need to rely on hope. We can act.

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