The Salt Factor

Spout comes to mind when talking about some “sailors” – as in spout nonsense. I am talking about those addressed at dockside as skippers or Cap’n without any significant experience on the water. These individuals always wear a foul weather jacket ( expensive brand) and fashionable deck shoes. They can talk smoothly about their newest navigational software, but their basic piloting skills land them on the shoals with some regularity. Watch their activities getting off for a morning sail. How does the crew handle lines and fenders; how well does the skipper trim and fill the sails. Would you get a blank stare if you pointed out that getting stuck in “irons” means not passing through the eye of the wind smartly?

It’s not obvious right away who is knowledgeable and who is putting on a good show. However, taking a glom at their chart table library Can tell you lots. Dogeared copies of essential texts, even old Yachtsman’s Companions, are good signs; frequently used charts neatly stowed- also good indications. If you can’t get on board, watch and listen to the dock staff or yard personnel. They know every bit of damage on the keel, every ding in the rub rails, and every sloppy habit you have stowing sails in the dark damp away from the daylight over the winter.
My favorite way of determining the “salt factor” of a captain is sound. The sound of yard employee or dockside worker calling out, ” What can I do for you Cap’n?” The one word, Cap’n, can host so many meanings. Listen carefully for the rise and fall of the voice, the cadence, and the amount of drawl added to the basic syllables. It can have such a nuanced nature – idiot, incompetent dolt, dangerous in any waters at any time, or it could just mean captain. So much meaning placed into one compressed word of two syllables. Language truly is wonderful!

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