The Optimist, The Pessimist,
and the Honey Badger
"The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, and the realist adjusts the sails."
That was one of my favorite quotes about life AND sailing by William A. Ward.
I thought this was a perfect analogy that could be applied to just about every situation in life including sailing.
…Until last week.
Last Friday the weather was HOT. For reference, I grew up in Arizona, so I know HOT. But last week was HUMID-HOT. Sticky, decalescent, yucky, gross-hot. And the thing was, there was no wind at all to cool off.
The following day (Saturday) we planned to go out with a group of friends for a sail on our boat Gitana.
Up to this point, the spring and summer has been great for sailing. We’ve been experiencing great wind (around 12-20 knots) - enough to get out boat up to over 7/8 knots of speed with a nice heel. Fun stuff -- the stuff that sailors go crazy over. And the wind in-your-face rushing over the water really helps to stay cool too.
But on Friday, as I looked at the forecast for the following day, I saw that conditions were just going to suck. We were looking at another day of hot-sticky-humid with no wind.
Therein lies the problem with William Ward’s quote. His assumption is that the wind is a given, thus all one need to do is trim the sails properly. But when there's no wind at all, sitting on a sailboat just bobbing up and down not moving, to a sailor, seems blasé.
So that Friday, I emailed my crew.
At first, I was Ward’s pessimist -- I admit it.
I told my crew that it was going to be "hot as balls with no wind" and that maybe we should "just go to brunch instead".
In part, I was trying to manage the expectations of my crew. My guests are all sailors as well, so being like-minded; I figured sitting on a boat "not sailing" would bore them (especially after a long trek out to City Island).
I stewed in my own negativity, until it hit me….
First, I realized that I do enjoy the company of the folks that we invited out.
I also thought to myself… ‘our boat has a motor, and there’s no reason we couldn’t motor out to a nice anchorage and hop in the water for a swim to cool off.’ And finally: rum.
So - we decided to turn the boat into a floating bar / swim vessel instead of worrying about getting that “perfect sail”.
(NOTE: I don’t condone the skipper being intoxicated by any means, but I’m okay if the crew wants to partake responsibly in an adult beverage or two to cool off.)
So out we went.
The funny thing is that we did pick up a little wind, albeit light, we barely turned the motor on at all. We sailed to our anchorage (yes by sail only). And there, we hopped in the water for a swim and a few cold ones.
What I assumed would be a ho-hum, sticky, sweltering day – turned in to a marvelous afternoon.
So I’m sorry Mr. Ward, but I’ve adopted a new motto:
Honey Badger says: "The pessimist complains about the wind, the optimist expects it to change, but the Honey Badger... Honey Badger grabs the rum and goes for a swim!”
OTHER TALES HERE:
- Luck Be A Lady
- How NOT to Name Your
- Common, Everyday
Luck Be A Lady
by Jan Adkins
There is a petty slander which insists that sailors are superstitious. Ridiculous. They're simply cautious. Like dynamiters and dogcatchers, they avoid mishap with exaggerated care.
What landsmen call superstitions are traditional cautions, distilled over millennia of sea-fearing, proven time and again with mortal clarity. Statistically, these beliefs might be dismissed as "anecdotal." But what does a mathematician know about the restless, rushing sea?
Sailors know trouble can strike even before you reach the dock. Any child knows that red-headed people are volatile and obstreperous. Meet a red-haired malcontent as you rush to the dock and, before you know it, you're in an argument. A crowd assembles. The crowd takes sides and begins to turn nasty. The police arrive. A rock is thrown. Riot, civil disorder, martial law is declared and in the confusion, we invade a sovereign country in the Mideast.
Fear not. Old salts usually have remedies. To detoxify the incident you must speak to the red-haired villain before he or she speaks to you.
Sailors also warn against meeting barefooted women on their way to the dock. More plain sense. She came out of her house, without her shoes for some deeply disturbing reason. In this muddled state she might stab you with an icepick. Once again, speak first: "Madam, I'm not your husband and I don't even know the man."
Sailors Cautions 101: is it a propitious day to sail? Friday is out of the question. This was the day of the dread Crucifixion. Even Buddhist and Hindu tars avoid Friday sailing. December 31 was the Day Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Why risk it? Only a ninny hammer would set sail on the first Monday in April, the very day that Cain slew brother Abel. Or the second Monday of August; the day Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by God's wrath (and many of the citizens were a lot nicer than you are). With all the changes in calendar reckoning over six millennia, how do sailors know these thing? Mysterious, isn't it?
To avoid dreadful luck, pay your bar bill before shipping out. Neptune and tapsters are curiously close. Be a mensch; pay up. Once again, this makes practical sense: many a sailor who has run up bills on port never return. Did he choose a new debt free port, or was he sucked up by the maelstrom? Who's to say?
Once aboard, unjinxed, don't toss stones into the water. Stones' waves will become giant ship-eating waves at sea. Don't swarm aboard willy-nilly like cockroaches. The captains live is intertwined with the character of the boat; the skipper's first in, last out.
All other arrivals ask permission to come aboard. It's a small courtesy but significant. As you cross the gunwale, salute the stern. A nod will suffice if you're not in uniform. Command of a vessel resides near the rudder-post with the master and the ensign flies there. You are saluting the authority of the captain and the nation behind the flag.
Make sure you always step to the deck with your right foot first. Please don't come aboard with a suitcase (too much like a coffin) of a bunch of flowers (To much like a funeral parlor) or a white-handled knife (don't ask).
A bunch of apples is ok but bringing bananas is bad luck. Good sailors sense: a big yellow bunch could hid scream-your-head-off spiders, or lethal snakes.
Onboard never speak the word "pig." Try "hog" or even "Mr. Fatso". The sea gods have a real problem with... these animals. Never leave a hatch cover turned upside down on deck and never carry you sea-bots over your shoulder.
A lack of wind? scratching the back-stays often works. Sticking a knife into the mast has advocates. Whistling calls up a wind, no doubt about it. But control yourself! Pucker too enthusiastically and you can whistle up a full gale.
Curiously this is why many sailors grog shops ashore are called "The Pig and Whistle." The name suggests a relaxation of shipboard discipline. Goa head: say "Pig" whistle your head-off... a brick and mortar pub won't sink.
Contrary winds? Try heaving a broom head or old shoes toward better winds. (Note: This stuff is as arcane as health insurance; a mop overboard is cataclysmic.) If this doesn't work, try beating the cabin boy with his back un t he direction of more profitable winds. Noisy but reportedly effective.
Cheer up. It's not all bad news. There are good luck omens, Swallows and dolphins bring good luck for everyone. Albatross are all good omens but leave your crossbow along (refer to "The Ancient Mariner") Aboardship a black cat actually brings good luck -- though a fluffed-out cat tail can carry a hurricane. Dogs seem luck-neutral, though any dog sniffing around fishing gear is hideously bad luck.
Sailors have always been pragmatic workers warily living with the vast and powerful sea. Their profession predates the scientific method. The fractious unpredictability and the colossal forces of the water seem opaque to the wisdom of collected experience, assembled haphazardly and even fearfully. Sailors leaving port today have solid science to inform their crucial decisions. Bit a bit of juju never hurt.
*The above article is borrowed from the 2015 Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book.
We lean against a piling and admire the spare, intelligent lines of an incoming vessel - her powerful hull, her graceful turns, the skill inherent in her dock approach. She backs down, her fenders just touch the dock.
Then we see the transom. In large gilt letters: Kanta-forder. The bubble bursts. The noble boat has become an expensive, misowned joke.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME WOULD NEED MORE PAINT
A Modest Plea
by Jan Adkins
Like the stomach flu, the naming of boats brings out the worst in us. Faced with a blank transom, plain village people become Borscht Belt comedians, strained linguists or anarchist bikers. The sea is a fickle, dangerous medium that breeds suspicious, superstitious sailors. They avoid provoking the irascible gods. Why go to sea in a ship named Neptune Is A Ninny or Drown Us If you Can?
In ancient times, launching and naming a boat was solemnized with captives' blood on the deck. When the cost of captives rose, the blood was replaced by blood-red wine. Champagne took red wine's place merely because a display of status impresses the deck hands. With Neptune and sailors involved there's always a libation due, but the liquor choice is yours.
Contrary to landsmen's conceptions, it is not unlikely to rename a vessel. Surely a new name is luckier than living with a name like Afishionado or Hot Ruddered Bum. Thousands of vessels have been renamed with no harmful effects to the crew or even the ship's cat. If your new name expresses respect for good providence, a new name should bring you good luck.To help you along, and to encourage you to show some restraint, for pity's sake, here are some suggestions.
Think ahead - Choose a name you can use in casual conversation without raised eyebrows. Is Wet Dream a boat you'd to wich you'd care to invite prospective in-laws?
In Extremis - Try for a name you won't be forced to spell on VHF, every damn time. Afrayed Knotdoesn't fit in the category. Think carefully about the grim possibility of sending a MAYDAY. Do you truly want to ask the Coast Guard to come to the rescue of Sugar Booger? Will they be enthusiastic about the prospect?
You Aren't That Funny - How many times can you guffaw at the name Dairy Aire? Twice. At best. Lives depend on being serious about skills and risks. If you really must be a comedian, name the damn dinghy funny. You won't be far from shore when Neptune revenges it.
No "Sea" Puns - This will soon be a federal law punishable by exile to Utah. Dismiss all puns on "sea": Whoopsea, Sea Esta, Ecstasea, Seaduced, Chicken of the Sea, and (I'm embarrassed to put these down) Do-Sea_Dough. Just get it out of your head.
Two Letters From Each Name Is Two Too Many - Naming your boat after all your children, using the first two letters of each name, is a desperation move: these names usually sound like Ojibway curses or Albanian sausages; Lojoroch. Respect your children's names. Name it after your grandmother.
Marital Slurs - Your marital status, the success of your relationship or your financial condition doesn't interest the nautical world as much as you might think it does. Don't embarrass yourself with a name like My Wife's Mink or Yes Dear. MaDamnEx and She Got The House are stale artifacts of failed hope. Mate Bait simply isn't: you'll never persuade a prospective mate to board that tub. Work these things out in therapy and not on your transom.
Dog Nest - Never give a boat a name you wouldn't use for a bull terrier. True, Great Eastern or Sovereign of the Seas could be ponderous for a creature who is biting at its own hindquarters, but you see the point.
Express Respect - If not for yourself then for the rest of us who believe that being on the water is a privilege and not a pinball arcade.
There is a garden of great boat names in any dictionary; Midge, Midshipman, Migrant, Mikado, Mikron, and Milady are taken from a dictionary page opened at random. Uncounted boats have been named after relatives, especially mothers, so Dixie Lee would be a sweet name for me. The names of American clipper ships is a glorious list: Staghound, Celestial, Magic, Red Jacket and Telegraph, The Navy lists (before they began handing out names to politicians) are a stirring source of names: Badger, Vesuvius, Grappler. There are zillions of zeroes and ones devoted to collections of boat names on the web: I just plucked Xanadu, Sultan and Calico at random from a single site.If all these resources don't satisfy your nautical longings, you can always name it after a bull terrier, like Bogie.
*The above article is borrowed from the 2017 Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book.
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10 Phrases You Never Knew Came From Sailing
The following article comes from our friends at ASA (American Sailing Association)....
When you stop to think about it… sailing is pretty amazing. From a historical perspective, through its role in travel, trade and war, it was the absolute hinge of western civilization for hundreds of years. Through that time, sailors’ slang and terminology became rooted in the English lexicon and still exists profoundly to this day.
Here’s a list of 10 everyday phrases that you may not have realized were born in the days when sailing made the world go round… wait… is that a nautical phrase?
10. “A clean bill of health”
According to dictionary.com this phrase derives from the days when the crew of ocean going ships might be a little less than hygienic, so they needed to present a certificate, carried by a ship, attesting to the presence or absence of infectious diseases among the ship’s crew and at the port from which it has come.
9. “Feeling Blue”
How often do you hear people talking about feeling blue or have the blues? An entire genre of music comes from this phrase. Who knew that came from the world of sailing? See-the-sea.org explains the popular phrase comes from a custom that was practiced when a ship lost its captain during a voyage. The ship would fly blue flags and have a blue band painted along her hull when she returned to port.
8. “Pipe down”
Parents have been screaming “pipe down” to their kids forever, but where does that actually come from? Apparently, Pipe Down was the last signal from the Bosun’s pipe each day, which meant lights-out, quiet down, time to go to bed.
7. “Over a barrel”
We all know when someone has you “over a barrel” things aren’t going well. This saying is used all the time these days to indicate being severely compromised, but it began in the most literal way. Sailor crew would sometimes be punished for their misgivings and that involved being tied over a cannon barrel and whipped. It’s no wonder that one stuck around. Yikes.
6. “Toe the line”
Perhaps you’ve been at work and your boss has scowled at you and said, “toe the line, or you’re gone”. If this has happened to you, we are sorry, that sounds like a horrible work environment. But, if you were wondering about the origins of his demand, it’s an old naval expression that refers to a ship’s crew who would be called to gather and form a line with their toes all touching a given seam (or line) of the deck planking.
5. “By and Large”
Folks say this one all the time to refer to the big picture. “By and large, ASA is the most awesome organization in existence”… something like that. This term got started on a sailboat with the word “by” meaning into the wind and “large” meaning off the wind. So sailors would say: “By and large this ship handles quite nicely.”
4. “Loose cannon”
Everyone has known a few people who are loose cannons – unpredictable and dangerous on some level. Not surprisingly the term comes from when a ship’s cannon would come loose from it’s lashing. The big dangerous thing would be sliding all over the place making for some uncomfortable time on deck trying to get that bad boy back in its spot.
3. “A square meal”
People often talk about getting three “square meals” a day…what the hell is a square meal? It’s actually quite simple – the wooden plates back in the days of tall ships were square.
2. “Hand over fist”
These days this phrase usually refers to making a bunch of money, although it can refer to anything happening fast and in abundance. It comes from a more literal origin – sailors would be tugging at lines as fast as they could, hand over fist, to trim sheets and raise sails.
1. “Son of a gun”
It’s amazing that this phrase has lasted so long. Back in the day, as you might imagine, sailors were often less than virtuous and every once in a while a “lady friend” of a crewman might give birth to a child on the ship. A good spot for this sort of thing was between the guns on the gun deck. Now let’s say this little rascal isn’t claimed by any of the aforementioned sleazy sailors, this little grommet would sometimes be called a “son of a gun”.