February 26, 2015

Why sailing's better than sex

I HAVE ONLY a couple of weeks to clean up my act. The Blogger people, who allow me to post these columns on the Internet for free, have sent me a warning: “On March 23rd, Blogger will no longer allow certain sexually explicit content.”

Well, okay, thanks for the heads-up. While I still have the chance, I’m going to repeat the second of two sexually explicit columns I’ve posted in the past seven years. You saw the first one in my previous post. This is how the second one goes:

THOSE WHO participate in it regularly know that sailing is wonderful, even better than sex. If you’re not a sailor, you might find that hard to believe, but it’s true. Here’s the proof:

• You don’t have to take your clothes off to sail.

• You never have to hide your sailing magazines.

• It’s perfectly acceptable to sail with a professional.

• There’s nothing in the Ten Commandments that discourages sailing.

• When your partner videotapes you sailing, you don’t have to worry that it will show up on the Internet.

• Your sailing partner won’t quiz you about people you sailed with before you were married. Or after.

• It’s quite OK to sail with a perfect stranger.

• When you meet a good-looking sailor in a bar, you needn’t feel guilty about imagining the two of you sailing together.

• There’s no danger that if you sail by yourself you’ll grow hair on your palms and/or go blind.

• You can have a sailing calendar at work without precipitating a sexual harassment suit.

• There are no known sailing-transmitted diseases.

• Sailing never made anyone pregnant.

• When your sailing partner insists upon your bringing protection, any old anorak will do.

• Nobody expects you to sail with one partner for the rest of your life.

• Extra-marital sailing is not grounds for divorce.

• You never have to wonder next morning if your sailing partner still loves you after a one-night sail.

• It isn’t considered kinky to sail with three or four people at a time.

• Nobody slaps your face if you ask: “Do you sail?”

• Your sailing partner will never say, “Not again! We just sailed this morning, for goodness’ sake! Is that all you ever think about?”

Today’s Thought
No office anywhere on earth is so puritanical, impeccable, elegant, sterile or incorruptible as to not contain the yeast for at least one affair, probably more. You can say it couldn’t happen here, but just let a yeast raiser into the place and the first thing you know—bread!
— Helen Gurley-Brown, Sex and the Office

A small-town vicar was asked to lecture the local young girls’ club on Christianity and Sex. But because his wife was very strait-laced, he told her he was going to lecture on sailing.
A few days later, the vicar’s wife met one of the girls in the street. The girl said the vicar’s lecture had been very interesting and informative.
“Huh,” the vicar’s wife snorted, “I can’t imagine what he knows about it. He’s only done it twice. The first time he got sick. The second time his hat blew off.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


February 24, 2015

Boat porn -- a quick reprise


OH, WOE IS ME! The Blogger people who host my blog have announced that they are about to clamp down on adult material. No more porn, they say. If you want to talk dirty, go elsewhere. Well, as a proponent of free speech and the First Amendment and all that, I find it incumbent upon me to give you the chance to appreciate high-class boat porn before it's too late, before they censor all talk of grease nipples and sweet buttock lines and dirty bottoms and stuff. 

Therefore, before Blogger pulls the plug, I'm going to repeat some adult content from past columns of mine so you can copy it and hug it to your chest (or something) in times of need. Here's the first one: 

THIS BEING A FAMILY COLUMN, we do not often talk openly about sex on small boats. Regrettably, this subject is also much neglected by the yachting media in general. It was obviously also neglected by yacht designers in the past. Aboard those narrow-gutted, full-keeled little cruisers there was never room to swing even half a cat, never mind roger a woman. The priority in those days was to make boats efficient at sailing, rather then reproducing the human race. Imagine that.

Nevertheless, to get back to the original point, if we intend to live in a democracy that defends our constitutional right to free speech and plentiful sex, then sex on small boats needs to be discussed with openness, frankness, and dignity. If the kids are offended, just send them off in the dinghy to play on the beach somewhere until we’re through.

It is perhaps not irrelevant to this discussion that the latest revision of Lin and Larry Pardey’s long-running book, The Capable Cruiser, shows Lin topless on the dust-jacket cover. She is perched on the main boom at the mast, pointing to something on the horizon, dressed only in a long wrap-around skirt, the kind known as a Polynesian pareu. I have noticed that Lin is not averse to telling people how much she enjoys sex aboard their small motorless cruiser, Taleisen. (Incidentally, the picture above is not of Lin Pardey but of a young woman in Rimatara, French Polynesia, in 1887. She is wearing a pareu.)

It’s all very well for the Pardeys, of course. They don’t have any kids. How do couples with kids manage on a small boat, I wonder, the kind that doesn’t have a double stateroom aft. You can’t send them off in the dinghy every time you feel the urge.

Traditionally, and in the absence of passion-killing ankle-biters, the V-berth was the passion pit. But most V-berths on small yachts are difficult to get into. You have to back in and fold yourself in half like a pocket knife. By the time you’ve got your limbs sorted out you’ve sprained two sacroiliac tendons, you’re exhausted, and the last thing on your mind is a bit of nookies. When people who live on small boats talk about safe sex, it’s not disease they’re thinking of, it’s broken bones, pulled muscles, and strained backs.

I suppose that if you’ve ever made love in the back of a car, you’ll probably find a V-berth roomy enough. Maybe. I’m not sure. To tell you the truth, I grew up in a country where cars were small. Back seats of cars had room only for a large grocery bag; so I have never had the pleasure, if it is a pleasure. I now do have a car with a large back seat, but I’m not as flexible as I used to be and my bones are more brittle. I can’t do the athletic contortions that I’m told are necessary. So I guess I’ll never know.

When I was much younger and more flexible I fantasized about sex with those lascivious blonde Swedish girls who (rumor had it) were always cunningly letting themselves be chased through the woods by randy young men waving birch branches. Coincidentally, a male friend with similar dreams bought a 17-foot dinghy in England. It had a small cabin on it. So I met him over there, and we set sail for the woods of Sweden via the English Channel and the continental canals.

But, alas, because of too much non-sexual dallying on the way, it took us three months to get from France to Holland, and the onset of winter drove us back to England, broke and very frustrated. We never did pause to wonder where we would make love if we actually caught one of those lovely Swedish nymphs. There wasn’t room on our boat for the birch branches, never mind the nymphs.

On really small boats you have to do it standing up with your head out of the hatch. In a crowded anchorage, that means you have to assume a look of calm nonchalance while you ostensibly scan the horizon for signs of storm clouds or something. In the interests of maintaining this little deception, you should not scream or roll your eyeballs too far back in your head. Other nearby sailors, the crafty devils, are very quick to notice things like that and make their own deductions.

In these modern times, while the hoi polloi are concentrating on safer sex, small-boat sailors are still searching for better sex. It’s a sad reflection on the state of yacht design. The naval architects have failed us. Maybe WE should go ashore in the dinghy, find some friendly bushes, and strand the kids on the boat while we fumble for the solution.

Today’s Thought

Sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life, has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.
— William J. Brennan, Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, 24 Jun 57

“Sorry lady, bad news. I just ran over one of your roosters in the road out there. I feel real bad about it and I’d like to replace him.”
“Well sure, just as you wish, mister. You’ll find the henhouse next to the barn.”

February 22, 2015

Take time to soak the anchor

HAVE YOU LET your anchor “soak” lately? I ask because it’s a very frustrating experience when you drop anchor in a spot that the chart shows to be good holding ground, and then, when you apply astern power from the engine, the anchor simply drags and skips over the surface and you have to start all over again.

It took me a while to learn that too much astern power, applied  too soon, is the problem. It’s a mistake to try to dig the anchor in immediately by pulling hell-for-leather in reverse. The anchor needs to “soak.” It’s not a word you hear mentioned a lot, but once you know it and use it, soaking will improve your anchoring success.

It works this way:  Take all way off your boat and lower the anchor overboard as she begins to gather sternway slowly. Pay out the rode and let the boat take up the slack.  When her head comes around to point into the wind, put the engine into astern gear and give her a quarter throttle, no more, for 10 or 15 seconds.

Do not give her an extended full-throttle blast of reverse immediately.  You must let the anchor soak first, that is,  let it nudge and wiggle and ease its way slowly into the bottom mud or sand with the aid of little jerks from the boat as she tugs at the rode.

After half an hour or so you can give her full throttle in reverse and really dig the anchor in if the wind hasn’t done so for you already.  The heavier the anchor, the quicker it soaks. There’s nothing like sheer weight to help it settle into the bottom and get down to where the resistance is greater. In fact, I can’t see how some of the lightweight anchors on the market manage to dig in at all. Once their flukes have penetrated the surface they’re fine, of course, but getting to that stage is a very iffy business.

Weight also helps when an anchor has to reset and soak itself in the middle of the night after the wind direction has changed 180 degrees.  Some anchors are better than others at this, of course, but if you want to sleep peacefully you’ll set out two anchors, so that neither will be dug out of the ground by a change of wind direction.

Today’s Thought
Have more strings to thy bow than one; it is safe riding at two anchors.
— John Lyly, Euphues

“I’ve taken up freelance journalism as a career.”
“Great. Sold anything yet?”
“Yes — my watch, my camera, my iPod, my car ...”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.

February 19, 2015

Shoes for walking on water

I HAVE NOTICED in my wanderings that some of the most macho sailors don’t wear shoes on board. They go barefoot. I have never been a macho sailor, but I do know that hardly anything feels as good as warm teak deck planks underfoot, especially if the owner of the planks knows his stuff and has not oiled them or (heaven help us) varnished them.

Nevertheless, I have rarely gone barefoot on long passages away from land for fear of injuring my feet. It’s very easy to stub a toe, or even break a bone, on a cleat or some other hardware you find on sailboat decks.

The question is: if you’re non-macho wimp like me, what kind of foot gear should you wear?

Sandals are tempting, but still leave toes vulnerable to stubbing,  and the tops of your feet  can still get sunburned, if you’re lucky enough to find some sun. Sandals are good for going ashore,   however, when you have to step out of a dinghy into water at the beach.

What about boots, then? Well, they’re very practical in cold climates, but not so good in tropical waters, where they tend to be sweaty and clunky. They also have to be several sizes too big so you can kick them off if you go overboard. It’s not easy to swim in boots.

In the dim and distant past when I used to race dinghies I wore Dunlop Magisters. They had navy-blue, lace-up canvas tops — and they probably had rejected car tires on the bottom. Although I looked like a Blue-Footed Booby, they were absolutely de rigueur at the time. In fact, when they were new they were very much admired by the ladies on the yacht club veranda as I sauntered past. But, alas, after a couple of weeks in my locker (having been put away wet) they smelled like a pigsty right before mucking-out time,  and they no longer attracted feminine interest.

Right now, I own some half-price-bargain West-Marine-brand boat mocs, sort of lace-up moccasins with lots of grooves in the sole to whisk away water from underfoot. I also have two standby pairs, very similar, that my wife bought for me in a thrift store for about one-fifth of the price I paid for my new half-price ones.  One of the standby pairs is Polo, by Ralph Lauren, and is almost unwearable. I suppose they would be totally unwearable by anyone but me, because the leather has dried out and cracked open wherever there was a crease, so they now let water in and won’t let it out. The other pair claims to have been “Engineered by Rockport.” It is in better shape, but looks worse, because the suede leather uppers have been discolored by years of dousings in sea water; so in deference to the feelings of the ladies on the verandah, I don’t wear them in public any more. Incidentally, despite their noble brand names, both were made in China. I imagine they’d look very nifty on a sampan.

Today’s Thought
My shoes are special . . . shoes for discerning feet.
— Manolo Blahnik

“You’re an hour late for work.”
“Yes, sorry boss, but I fell down the stairs and hurt myself.”
“A likely story!  Since when does it take an hour to fall down some stairs?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 17, 2015

How Frigga got a bad rap

FRIDAY IS coming right up. Frigga’s day. Frigga, the Norse goddess of love and fertility, the wife of Odin, the most powerful of all the Northern gods. Also, some people say, the same person as Freyja, or Freya.
In olden times, Frigga’s day was regarded as a lucky day. Northerners held their nuptials on that day. And all was smiles and happiness — until the Christians came along.
As they spread their gospel, they also spread the calumny that Frigga was a witch. Because of this false testimony, Friday became regarded as an unlucky day, a day on which no right-minded sailor would set sail, for fear of bad luck at sea.
That old superstition still holds sway among those intending to set out on long voyages in small boats, and even among those who man the warships of countries with large navies. No-one who depends on the sea for his or her livelihood scoffs at this superstition.
So what to do, if you simply must sail on a Friday? Well, there is a way to set sail on Frigga’s day without attracting bad luck, if you know how. And here’s how:
Start your voyage on a Wednesday or Thursday. Go a mile or two purposefully, and then return to your mooring or slip to attend to some problem that seems to have arisen. Perhaps the cook forgot to buy matches. Perhaps the bosun has discovered a stay starting to strand. Perhaps the skipper left his chronometer on his bedside table at home. There are many convincing causes that would require a prudent crew to return to port.
Now you can set sail on Friday without the burden of bad luck hanging over you, because you are not actually setting sail on Friday, but merely continuing a voyage that started on Wednesday or Thursday.
And if a Christian should challenge you and accuse you of deception, you can say: “You’re a fine one to speak of deception, my man, after what your people did to dear old Frigga.”
Today’s Thought

And on Friday fell all this mischance.
— Chaucer, The Nonne Preeste’s Tale

Men don’t make passes
At girls who wear glasses;


Girls who don’t, but should,

Wear glasses,

Will never know

If men make passes.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 16, 2015

Two for the grab-bag

SOMEONE ONCE ASKED ME which two books I would grab in an emergency to read on a desert island.  I said I would take Swallows and Amazons and Four Winds of Adventure.
That was straight off the top of my head, of course, my very first instinct, because there are literally hundreds of boating books out there, and scores of them are excellent enough to be grabbed in an emergency.
Swallows and Amazons was the first of a phenomenally successful series of children’s sailing books by Arthur Ransome, written in the 1930s. It has never been out of print since. Like all the really good classical kids’ books, it appeals to adults, too. I love it dearly and it brings me great joy every time I re-read it.
Four Winds of Adventure, by Marcel Bardiaux, is a wonderful book about one of the greatest voyages in the history of small-boat sailing. Bardiaux built his wooden 30-foot cutter, Les 4 Vents, (The Four Winds)  in France, in a workshop some 20 yards from a railway bridge being blown up by the retreating Germans in 1945.
He spent eight years sailing singlehanded across five oceans and rounded Cape Horn the wrong way in mid-winter. His book is an extraordinary chronicle of hardships overcome by a man who should really be known as the Superman of the Sea.
I remember seeing Bardiaux and his boat when I was a teenager, but I never spoke to him. He was a very modest man, and to this day he’s almost unheard of in English-speaking countries. He wrote in French, of course, but luckily the book has been well translated.

Today’s Thought Literature is the art of writing something that will be read twice. — Cyril Connolly
Tailpiece “Dad, a boy at school said I look just like you.” “Great, what did you say?” “Nothing — he was bigger than me.”  

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 12, 2015

Engines on the way out

WILL NICE QUIET electric motors take over from diesel and gas engines on small boats? Given the current state of evolution of the electric motor and its batteries, it seems unlikely to happen soon. Fossil-fuel engines have, after all, become very reliable and economical. But I believe electricity will eventually take over.

We’ll need better, lighter batteries or other methods of storing electricity, and more efficient ways of generating it from sunlight or chemicals, but I believe we’ll eventually get there.

In any case, history tells us that we should believe the unlikely, if not the impossible. For example, according to the eminent engineer Benjamin H. Latrobe, there was no way that a steam engine could be used to propel boats. No way.

Now, this man was no lightweight. For a start, he designed the United States Capitol. In a paper delivered to the American Philosophical Society in 1803, he listed the reasons why:

1. The weight of the engine and the fuel.

2. The large space it occupies.

3. The tendency of its action to rack the vessel and render it leaky.

4. The expense of maintenance.

5. The irregularity of its motion, and the motion of the water in the boiler and the cistern, and of the fuel-vessel in rough water.

6. The difficulty arising from the liability of the paddles to break, if light, and from the weight if made strong.

Well, Latrobe might have been eminent, but he was also wrong. He lacked foresight and he lacked faith.

I don’t have much in the way of foresight, but I have lots of faith, which is why I say diesel and gasoline are on the way out. It will take a while, certainly, but the writing is on the wall and the electric motor is coming to the bilge. In its turn, it might be overtaken by some other form of propulsion. But meanwhile, I can’t wait.

Today’s Thought
The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance — the idea that anything is possible.
— Ray Bradbury

“You look lonely.”
“Yeah, my wife’s gone to the West Indies.”
“No, it was her own idea.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 10, 2015

Brian Williams vs. Tristan Jones

THOSE OF YOU who regularly watch Brian Williams read the television news in the evening will know the meaning of self-aggrandizement. For those of you who don’t, let me just explain that Mr. Williams is temporarily off the air because he told a lie about being shot down in a helicopter while reporting from Iraq. His credibility has now been shot down with him.

But Mr. Williams is a total amateur compared with an author known to almost every yachtsman. A fellow called Tristan Jones had 18 books published about his alleged exploits on small boats, each new book sought after as eagerly as the previous one by his gullible band of admiring readers. Eighteen books, all packed with lies, deceptions, and self-glory. And he was never held to account for it before his death in 1995.

How did he get away with it? Shouldn’t his publishers have created a warning label: “Contains highly toxic material.” Shouldn’t the booksellers and distributors who connived in this giant deceit have borne some responsibility? Shouldn’t they apologize, as Mr. Williams did, and humiliate themselves for the short period it will take the fickle public to forget and forgive?

Oh, silly me. Tristan Jones was making money for them. Still is. Why should a few untruths deter them from their earnest worship at the altar of Mammon?

Anthony Dalton has written a biography of Tristan Jones called Wayward Sailor (International Marine).  He explains quite a lot about Jones’s aversion to telling the truth, and perhaps Mr. Williams should read it. He could learn a lot about how to get away with it.

Meanwhile, I can’t do better by way of explanation than to quote Barbara Bogaev of HiLoBrow, an intellectual/cultural blog named by Time magazine as one of the best blogs of the year:

“THE TALES OF ADVENTURER, peg-legged seafarer, and advocate for the disabled TRISTAN JONES (1929-95) fill 18 books, most of which should be categorized as autobiographical fantasy. The astonishing part of his story is not that he lied so often and so brazenly, but that as much of what he claimed to have dared and accomplished in his life is actually true.

“He was the first to sail a foreign boat on Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world. He was the first to take a vessel across the width of South America, to sail in the Mato Grosso, and (after he had lost a leg to gangrene) to cross Europe in an oceangoing trimaran, from the North to the Black Sea.

“While these maritime records alone would qualify him as one of the great seadogs of modern times, when you figure in the raucous, epic quality of his prose, its magical Welsh lilt combined with an irascible lyricism reminiscent of wayfarers of a bygone era, Jones nearly lives up to his own promise: that he “would set a record that will not be broken until man finds water amongst the stars.”

“A longtime fan, I gave my daughter the middle name of Tristan, never suspecting that his lies permeated every aspect of his personal history — including his first name, which appears to have been Arthur. Or that rather than merely embellishing his tales of incredible voyages he plagiarized more than his share from sailors who came before him, or simply made them up out of a slurry of ocean spray and the fumes of dark rum.

Ice, his account of being trapped in the frigid Arctic during his attempt to sail farther north than anyone else, is a pure fabrication, right down to Nelson, the one-eyed, three-legged dog who was Jones’ constant companion. Contrary to what he claimed, Jones most likely wasn’t born at sea, wasn’t in the Royal Navy during World War II, was never on a vessel blown up by guerrillas, was never tortured in Buenos Aires, wasn’t attacked by Arabs or rescued by Ethiopians. He probably wasn’t even Welsh.

“Instead, my daughter’s namesake appears to have been the wiry, tall-tale-spinning old salt with the wooden leg at the end of the bar, always the first to start a fight and the last to stagger out the door, who, somehow, shook off the hangover the next day to churn out enchanting, crystalline prose worthy of the Arctic ice he never saw in this lifetime, but imagined as vividly as he cursed his doubters, spurned defeat, and embraced his seagoing, flawed, unfailingly interesting life.”

Today’s Thought

There is no vice so mean, so pitiful, so contemptible; and he who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual.

— Thomas Jefferson, Writings


“Tell me, Vicar, do you condone sex before marriage?”

“Not if it delays the ceremony.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 9, 2015

Crossing oceans in dinghies

ONCE AGAIN someone has complained that my book, Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, is not helpful. “How can you advocate sailing across an ocean in a Cal 20, for example?” my critic wants to know.

Well, as a matter of fact, every one of the boats in that book has sailed across an ocean, and Cal 20s have done it more than once. Even dinghies, much smaller than anything in my book, have crossed oceans. I wrote about this once before, but it doesn’t seem to have stuck. It was a long time ago; maybe some new blood has come along that was too young to read back then. So, once again, let me spell it out for you.

It’s quite obvious that dinghies and their ilk can’t meet all the qualities necessary to claim seaworthiness for larger vessels, ones that can accommodate people in the shelter of a cabin. But sailing dinghies can indeed provide two of the most important qualities: to stay afloat and to keep their crews alive.

If my critic had done his homework, he’d know that tiny open boats have made remarkable ocean voyages that demonstrate their seaworthiness. I could mention Captain Bligh, for a start, and Webb Chiles, who singlehandedly sailed his open, 17-foot, Drascombe Lugger, Chidiock Tichborne, almost all of the way around the world. And then there was Frank Dye, who sailed his 16-foot Wayfarer dinghy hundreds of miles across the North Sea from Scotland to Iceland, and to Norway.

These sailors provided an element of seaworthiness that their small craft lacked, of course. They were all expert seamen. In fact, when faced with storms at sea, Dye, in his unballasted, centerboard dinghy, would take the mast down, set a sea anchor so that the boat faced into the oncoming seas, and then lie down on the floorboards and go to sleep. “There’s nothing much else to do,” he said. Except pray, perhaps.

In coastal cruising, much of the seaworthiness of a dinghy like the Wayfarer lies in its ability to run for shelter close inshore, to maneuver closely among rocks, and to land on a beach and be pulled up out of harm on inflatable rollers. Larger, less nimble yachts with deep keels would not dare close a shore like that in heavy weather; their only recourse then is to seek deep water offshore, where their seaworthiness will be well tested.

In at least one way, the smaller the sailing dinghy, the more seaworthy it is. That is when the worst happens and the boat capsizes. The smaller the boat, the easier it is for the crew to right her.

The well-found camp-cruising dinghy cannot sink — she has built-in buoyancy. With a sealed mast and boom for flotation, she cannot turn completely turtle, and so the crew can stand on the centerboard to right her. She will also have self-bailers that will draw all the water from the cockpit once she comes upright again and gains way.

So there’s no doubt in my mind that small boats can be seaworthy. They can’t provide all the shelter and comfort of a larger vessel, admittedly, but their closeness to the water provides delicate insights and thrills unknown to those lofty sailors who batter their way through the seas in their seaborne chariots, carefully insulated from both the sea’s danger and its intimate secrets.

Today’s Thought
There are many advantages in sea-voyaging, but security is not one of them.

Sadi (Emerson, English Traits: The Voyage)


“Young lady, wouldn’t your mother be angry if she saw you in that skimpy swimsuit?”

“Yeah, I guess so. It’s hers.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


February 5, 2015

Hemingway, ham, and apricots

COOKING ON A SMALL BOAT is rarely fun, and even more rarely when that boat is being tossed around offshore in heavy seas. I’ve often said there’s no more thankless task on a boat than that of the boat’s cook, the galley slave, but I recently ran across a description that makes my definition sound very tame.

It comes from an article called “Cooking for Fun Afloat” by Charles H. Baker, Jr. that appeared in The Rudder magazine in February 1938. Baker was truly an old salt, one who had racked up some quarter million miles in ships large and small, and this is what he had to say:

“We have seen our share of stove-side police. No one knows better than ourselves that thankless lot of any Galley Slave. He rates every aid and comfort. His life is just one round of damns, dishes, and duckings. He scarcely gets the evening meal cleared up and snugs himself down for a snooze when the midnight watch barges off to drip slickers in his slumbering face and command hot coffee — or else.

“Hardly is this cross borne, and once more parallel with the keel, when the four o’clock watch stamps below like a brace of fiends to drip more icy slickers down his pants and growl things about hot soup.

“Barely can the poor Slave doze again before it is a full day and the whole condemned ship’s company arises to a man and screams for ham, eggs, hot cakes, coffee — and the entire vicious parade marches on again. Combined with such minor addenda as scalds, burns, broken shins and toes, the whole business is a sort of marine mayhem without benefit of clergy or court.”

Well, despite his protests, Baker was obviously a skilled cook, and much in demand. He published a lot of recipes for sailors, and here is one that should satisfy my readers who felt that Commander E. G. Martin’s recipe for onion soup, which I published recently, was a little wimpy for a macho crew of working sailors. Those readers were wrong, incidentally, but no matter. They might like to try this Baker recipe instead:

Smoked or Sugar-Cured Ham Steak and Apricots

“This originated on a Bimini cruise to fish with Ernest Hemingway on his good ship Pilar in 1936.

“Slice ham at least 1 inch thick, stand for a while in water, or poach ten minutes to freshen. Brush with any good cooking fat.

“Make a paste of the following: one-eighth teaspoon each ground allspice and clove, one teaspoon hot dry mustard, two-thirds cup brown sugar, enough vinegar to moisten well.

“Put in greased pan, surround with two cups of soaked apricots and brown in medium oven around 350° for an hour. Baste frequently. Apricot likes ham very well.”

Well, that should quell those rumbling tummies for a bit; and if it was good enough for Hemingway it should be good enough for us.

Today’s Thought
My mother was a good recreational cook, but what she basically believed about cooking was that if you worked hard and prospered, someone else would do it for you.
— Nora Ephron

Then there was the Oriental wife who was most distressed because she produced white twins.
“There, there,” said her husband comfortingly. “Don’t worry about it. Occidents will happen.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 4, 2015

Is it love or is it lust?

DOWN AT THE DOCKS the other day I overheard an argument about whether or not you can love a boat. One man insisted that he was looking for a Folkboat to buy because he had “fallen in love with her lines.” His friend insisted that it wasn’t possible to fall in love with a boat. “It’s lust, not love,” he said. “It’s desperately wanting something you haven’t got.”

Listening to them made me wonder whether I’d actually been in love with any of my boats. I would probably have said yes; at least until I’d thought about it a bit more. I have had boats that almost took my breath away when I looked at them, boats that would make me stop after I left them, and turn back to stare at them. If that isn’t love, what is it?

Well, here is what Louis de Bernieres has to say about love. He’s the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin:

“Love is a temporary madness, it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion, it is not the desire to mate every second minute of the day, it is not lying awake at night imagining that he is kissing every cranny of your body. No, don't blush, I am telling you some truths. That is just being ‘in love,’ which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being ‘in love’ has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident.”

He’s talking about the love of one human for another, of course, but that surely doesn’t preclude the possibility that a human may love a boat, even if the boat doesn’t love the human back. Love doesn’t have to be reciprocal. A man can love a woman with passion unrequited. And love does not necessarily involve sex. Nor does lust for that matter, though either may. I’m thinking of the love of a father for his son, for example, or of a wife for her daughter.  And lots of people say they love their dogs; at least they think they do, but they probably haven’t thought about it much.

As for lust, here’s what author C. Joybell C. has to say:

 “I don't define lust as anything evil or nasty. Lust as defined by me, is the feeling of desire: a desire to eat cake, a desire to feel the touch of another's skin moving over your own skin, a desire to breathe, a desire to live, a desire to laugh intensely like it was the best thing God ever created . . . this is lust as defined by me. And I think that's what it really is.”

And a desire to own a pretty boat, of course.

But I think Louis de Bernieres brings more light to bear on the subject. I think he’s saying that love is what should remain after lust inevitably runs its course. So, in fact, what starts off as temporary lust eventually turns into permanent love (of a sort) if you’re lucky. In which case my boats have generated in me both lust and love — but always unrequited.

Today’s Thought
 On the whole, I haven’t found men unduly loath to say, “I love you.” The real trick is to get them to say, “Will you marry me?”
— Ilka Chase, This Week, 5 Feb 56

The nice thing about kleptomania is that if you suffer from it, you can always take something for it.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

February 1, 2015

Dacron Dolly breakthrough

THE OTHER DAY someone asked me if I ever make anything up for this column. Well, being rather afraid of not going to heaven if I tell lies, I was forced to answer yes. But my defense was that it should be perfectly obvious when I make something up. It’s not like telling a sly, deliberate lie for some nefarious purpose. What I do is open and obvious and just for laughs.

“Give me an example.” she said. So I referred her to a column I wrote several years ago. I’d like you to read it now, and decide for yourself whether it’s obviously a spoof or not. Did it fool anybody who got more than half-way through? I think not, but you might like to make up your own mind:

Dacron Dolly in poly breakthrough

Christchurch (AP) — Sailors and sailmakers the world over were last night celebrating the achievement of New Zealand scientists in breeding a sheep that grows polyester “wool.”

Using cloned material from the famous Scottish sheep Dolly, genetic specialists at the University of Christchurch last year altered the DNA of a lamb embryo.

“We now have a sheep in polyester clothing,” said Dr. Brian Winchester, head of the university’s Experimental Genetics Department. He said the sheep had been named Dacron Dolly. “It’s a breakthrough we thought was possible, but we never expected success so quickly,” he added.

Dacron Dolly will be cloned and future flocks will be sheared to provide polyester material for Dacron ropes and sails. “We expect it to be about half the present cost of Dacron, maybe less,” said Dr. Winchester, himself an avid sailor in a country of sailors.

Dorothy Brown, head of publicity at the University of Christchurch, said Dacron Dolly’s coat would provide a filament that was lighter, softer and easier to sew than present-day polyester. “It’s also more resistant to stretch, so it will be ideal for yacht sails,” she said. “Textile engineers from all over have already been contacting us for samples, but full-scale production won’t begin for about a year.”

Ms. Brown pointed that Dacron would no longer have to be made from imported crude oil. “This is an infinitely renewable resource,” she said, “It’s about as green as you can get.”

One snag is that Dacron Dolly and her cloned family will be more difficult to shear. “Polyester blunts the clippers much quicker than wool — but we hope to solve that problem with titanium cutting edges in a few weeks.”

A representative of North Sails, one of the largest sailmakers in North America, arrived in Christchurch yesterday to collect a sample of Dolly poly.

“We are very excited at this development,” said Fred Borthwick, based in Newport, Rhode Island. “Sails are expensive, and cutting the price of the sailcloth in half will mean an explosion of business for sailmakers and better, less expensive sails for boaters.”

Today’s Thought The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance — the idea that anything is possible. —Ray Bradbury.

Notices we noticed: On a plumber’s truck: “Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”