Crossing The Line

I mentioned the shortness of twilight in the tropics. In the northern and southern latitudes, we are used to extended twilights at sunrise and sunset while in the tropics, it is a rush job – suns up and suns down. The Cap’n mentioned that twilight was when a navigator would be shooting sights of the stars ( taking astronomical observations) in order to plot the ship’s position. From there, we discussed the Green Flash at sunset, phosphorescent seas at night, flying fish, and liberty ports. We were playing nice for the family gathering. We both knew it couldn’t last.

Then we came to what should have been a genuinely neutral topic: crossing the line ceremonies. When a ship crosses the equator, those who’ve never crossed are introduced to the Court of Neptunas Rex. This small point was the first disagreement. It was the Court of King Neptune plain and simple on his vessel. On my ship, us newbies were called “slimy Pollywogs” on his just pollywogs. We both agreed, however, that Davy Jones was there to greet us and guide us into initiation into the Royal Order of Shellbacks. On my ship, the belly of the royal baby was slimed with a disagreeable mass of grease and molasses. We had to joyously lick it ( I have to say though the bosun looked better than usual with his mop wig). On the Cap’ns ship, you merely kissed the royal baby’s belly. The final insult was that on my ship, we slid down the plank into an improvised tub for baptism in saltwater. Of course, the Cap’n did that one better too.
“Well,” says I, “we’re both shellbacks, and different ships different long splices.” The Cap’n paused reached for his pipe and then killed off the discussion with the show stopper ” Yes, but I crossed the line, and cut the International Date Line – I am a Golden Shellback.”

The Cap’n lit his pipe and walked away. I should have known.

National Maritime Day – May 22, 2020

In honor of National Maritime Day, May 22, I suggest that you can honor the nautical types in a variety of ways:
• Thank a mariner – Naval or Merchant Marine for their service
• Remember that all those beautiful goodies you buy online are transported on ships crewed by merchant mariners.
• Remember that while the cruise industry is closed, thousands of crew are still stuck on board their vessels.
• If you enjoy seafood, remember it was caught by folks who daily participate in one of the most dangerous occupations.

Patience

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">I met Cap'n Brown while chasing my big grey tom Clancy over to the other side of the island. Cap'n Brown was more than a Cap'n by courtesy, but less than a retired master mariner. He was a handy boat builder. And, respected in the community. He was known to be tolerant of grandchildren in his shop, and he put up with an elderly cat who was as cantankerous as my Clancy. Tiger had been there and done all that in his youth. Clancy, naturally eager to learn from the very best, became a fast companion for Tiger.<br>On the day I found out where Clancy had been lighting out to every morning, Cap'n Brown had just finished laying out a bowl of ice cream for the two buddies to share. The shop was a cavernous barn with molds, patterns, and lumber everywhere. Half hull models lined whatever space was available on the walls not already taken up by photos of a much younger Cap'n Brown standing by the many boats he'd built. Cap'n Brown was not too friendly but offered a cup of strong black boiled coffee to take the chill off the early May morning.<br>Being that Clancy and Tiger were regular buddies, I found myself walking over frequently to make sure that my cat was not overstaying his welcome. My father in law warned me that Cap'n Brown had some strange habits, like being seen shambling about the woods near his house, mumbling to himself. I took this with a big dose of salt; my father in law thought everyone not in his family was strange.<br>Still, the first time I found him walking by the side of his driveway bent over looking intently at something I could not see, I wondered. Seeing me, he called over and excitedly showed me the early Trout lily coming into bloom—the leaves were green mottled with bronze, and the small flowers a pale yellow. Over the next few weeks, I became familiar with the early blooms of Trillium, woods anemone, and other springtime ephemeral flowers. These flowers were the initial sign of spring. But, the calendar could not tell the date on which they appeared. Every day in early coastal spring could be a surprise, and this was why neighbors saw him wandering the woods hunched over mumbling. Appear a couple of days too late, and you missed the flowers of bloodroot until next year.<br>My father in law was more concerned with when he could get a date for hauling out Psyfhe than little weeds in the woods. I got the impression that he thought Cap'n Brown a bit odd, but as with most things with my father in law, all was made right by the correct maritime credentials. Brown was a boatwright of local renown. He could mumble all he wants in the woods if his curves are fair, and the sheer lines of his boats sweet. End of issue.<br>Many years later, my second wife and I wound up buying a house bordered in the back by a local Audubon sanctuary. The dense cover of cherry and maple in the rear of the lot precluded growing much. The kids had already decided on digging out a pond, so I put my mind to what sort of landscaping I could do with that much shade. I decided on re-wilding the area with native plants. Some volunteered from the neighboring woods: false Solomon's seal and Sasparilla. Some I bought through plant sales, and from nurseries.<br>Eventually, one year I noted that my next-door neighbor was peering at me from her window. Was she looking at me?<br>I realized that there I was fussing over the little patch of trout lily that had green and bronze leaves, but not yellow flowers yet.<br>I had bluets, May apples, black Cohosh, dolls eyes, spikenard, spirea and lots more. There was a lot of mumbling and shuffling going on in my yard. My current cat Xenia ( empress of all she surveys), was being watched by Sam, the great hunter of pond frogs. I smiled. All was well; it was spring in New England. Patience, abetted by some mumbling and stumbling, helped you get through.I met Cap’n Brown while chasing my big grey tom Clancy over to the other side of the island. Cap’n Brown was more than a Cap’n by courtesy, but less than a retired master mariner. He was a handy boat builder. And, respected in the community. He was known to be tolerant of grandchildren in his shop, and he put up with an elderly cat who was as cantankerous as my Clancy. Tiger had been there and done all that in his youth. Clancy, naturally eager to learn from the very best, became a fast companion for Tiger.
On the day I found out where Clancy had been lighting out to every morning, Cap’n Brown had just finished laying out a bowl of ice cream for the two buddies to share. The shop was a cavernous barn with molds, patterns, and lumber everywhere. Half hull models lined whatever space was available on the walls not already taken up by photos of a much younger Cap’n Brown standing by the many boats he’d built. Cap’n Brown was not too friendly but offered a cup of strong black boiled coffee to take the chill off the early May morning.
Being that Clancy and Tiger were regular buddies, I found myself walking over frequently to make sure that my cat was not overstaying his welcome. My father in law warned me that Cap’n Brown had some strange habits, like being seen shambling about the woods near his house, mumbling to himself. I took this with a big dose of salt; my father in law thought everyone not in his family was strange.
Still, the first time I found him walking by the side of his driveway bent over looking intently at something I could not see, I wondered. Seeing me, he called over and excitedly showed me the early Trout lily coming into bloom—the leaves were green mottled with bronze, and the small flowers a pale yellow. Over the next few weeks, I became familiar with the early blooms of Trillium, woods anemone, and other springtime ephemeral flowers. These flowers were the initial sign of spring. But, the calendar could not tell the date on which they appeared. Every day in early coastal spring could be a surprise, and this was why neighbors saw him wandering the woods hunched over mumbling. Appear a couple of days too late, and you missed the flowers of bloodroot until next year.
My father in law was more concerned with when he could get a date for hauling out Psyfhe than little weeds in the woods. I got the impression that he thought Cap’n Brown a bit odd, but as with most things with my father in law, all was made right by the correct maritime credentials. Brown was a boatwright of local renown. He could mumble all he wants in the woods if his curves are fair, and the sheer lines of his boats sweet. End of issue.
Many years later, my second wife and I wound up buying a house bordered in the back by a local Audubon sanctuary. The dense cover of cherry and maple in the rear of the lot precluded growing much. The kids had already decided on digging out a pond, so I put my mind to what sort of landscaping I could do with that much shade. I decided on re-wilding the area with native plants. Some volunteered from the neighboring woods: false Solomon’s seal and Sasparilla. Some I bought through plant sales, and from nurseries.
Eventually, one year I noted that my next-door neighbor was peering at me from her window. Was she looking at me?
I realized that there I was fussing over the little patch of trout lily that had green and bronze leaves, but not yellow flowers yet.
I had bluets, May apples, black Cohosh, dolls eyes, spikenard, spirea and lots more. There was a lot of mumbling and shuffling going on in my yard. My current cat Xenia ( empress of all she surveys), was being watched by Sam, the great hunter of pond frogs. I smiled. All was well; it was spring in New England. Patience, abetted by some mumbling and stumbling, helped you get through.

Sloop

Spinney’s yard was no different than lots of yards on the mid-coast, and in most ways, Spinney was not too different than the run of yard owners. He worried about the big Tahiti Ketch that had sat in the yard for years while the estate tried to sell it. It took up the space of three other boats. Spinney worried about the old 1929 tractor he used for hauling boats out of the water. But most of all, Spinney worried about boat owners stealing supplies and electricity from him. He used a phrase picked up from a client: “Son, in this business, you live or die on the margins, on the margins!” As a result, Spinney often wandered the yard grumbling that so and so had paid for space, but used up as much electricity as he could connive…”. “Not to mention all that crud he’s not picking up, if the dammed EPA comes down here I’m gonna be closed down because of his crud. Bob! Don’t lend that jerk any extension cords. Let him bring his own.” Because of all these distractions, Spinney sometimes had focus issues.

Everyone’s big job that spring was a pretty small schooner undergoing restoration in the yard. It now looked fantastic and, it had kept the yard hands paid through the winter. The money made on the restoration had almost been enough to calm Spinney’s anxiety over stolen power, swiped boat stands, and missing ladders.
Spinney’s yard was home to a few other old project boats. A pretty sorry batch altogether. The only one with any promise was the Old Gem. With a 1910 build date, it had the look of a Morse built Friendship sloop. All the original detail and shape were there but buried under at least a dozen layers of paint. The last owner may have been a Navy bosun who believed that paint not only hid a multitude of sins but that if liberally applied kept one busy enough that there would be no time to sin. As a result, the sloop looked encrusted in the paint.
Despite the neglect, Old Gem retained her hull lines and was more worthy of restoration than the “most workboats turned yachts.” The owner, cap’n Preston, was doing all the work himself. To Spinney, a boat owner doing all the work himself was equivalent to theft of livelihood.
The way he said “cap’n” while referring to the Preston also let you know a lot about the situation. I may miss some of the emphasis that can be placed on this single term being from “Away.” But, not when it’s so broadly put about. Cap’n can be a term of great respect, humor, or ridicule. When you referred to my father in law as cap’n, it was with real respect: he was an authentic master mariner and a handy sailor.
So the way cap’n was said to Preston let me know that he was a cap’n by courtesy alone.
The next day I was down to measure a boat for a transom banner. I saw Preston and his wife stripping the tarps off Old Gem and unloading a springtime supply of sandpaper, paint, varnish, and all tools and goodies, which say – boating season. Spinney could be seen in his second-floor office, peering out on the doings. Old Gem’s new owner was well known at Spinney’s Yard. Leave a hose around, and it would wind up at Preston’s boat. Lose some sandpaper? Check Preston’s out first. With his kleptomaniac tendencies, it wouldn’t seem unusual that Spinney might keep an exceptionally sharp eye on Preston. It had been this way for all the years Preston stored and repaired his various boats at Spinneys. In all those years, Spinney had complained loudly. But, never told Preston he wouldn’t rent him space.

Now let me say this on behalf of Spinney. His reputation for fairness, generosity, and general Christian sensibilities are almost legendary. His character only knows one flaw: give Spinney the least suspicion that you’re cheating him, whether you are or not, and he’ll go to extreme ends seeking the proof of it. You would become the focus of all his attention. His confrontations with owners, who’ve borrowed yard ladders, or supplies without permission, are widely recollected. On occasion, the law has been called in to calm things down when large pieces of lumber, hammers, or planes have been wielded as weapons.
Given Spinney’s temperament, it was a matter of wonder that Preston was never, ever, confronted by Spinney. Spinney grumbled a lot louder about Preston than about some others. But even if Preston was an out and out petty thief, Spinney never did more than grumble. Preston did pretty much as he pleased.

Most yards have an assortment of riff-raff cats that keep rodents under control. Not so at Spinney’s; every cat was plump, healthy, and well-tended. All under the gaze of Spinney’s number one cat. Boo, as she was commonly called, was really Bubastis – cat goddess of all she surveyed, and that was everything in Spinney’s yard. Even the boatyard dog, a shepherd collie named Curly, checked in every morning: “Good morning, mam, you’d like what done today?”
Boo’s perch was the windowsill directly in front of Spinney’s desk. From this vantage, she could oversee the comings and goings all felines and humans in the yard, or sweep Spinney’s desk free of paperwork. Boo’s many litters had squatters’ rights in the yard. The cat seemed to pride herself on finding ever more inaccessible locations to have her kittens, and every time she disappeared, Spinney became a ball of anxieties promising to come unraveled.
Boo had been behaving oddly for a week and then gone missing a day or two ago. “Have you guys seen Boo?” “Naw Cap can’t say that I have. She’s been lookin’ a bit plump though…” This was enough to make Spinney recall the last time he had chased off that damn black tom from the lobster co-op. Smuts had gotten his Bubastis in the family way. Now the word was passed: “Figaro, Tom, Wes, Bubba keep your eyes open for Boo’s new hiding place.”
We didn’t find it. Marion Preston did.
Mrs. Preston is a woman who loves the world. But, such character may be a failing in a woman who puts up with cap’n Preston’s string of dry rotted boats, and poor pilotage. Marion Preston was part of the reason the yard cats were so plump. Despite her dedication to the family pug, Mrs. Preston was well regarded by every cat in Spinney’s yard. Maybe that’s what got all the trouble going because the next morning, the whole waterfront came awake with the shouts coming from around Old Gem.
Cap’n Preston and Spinney were circling each other on the restricted deck of the Old Gem. Preston, no coward, had grabbed a boat hook to counter the jack handle wielded by Spinney.
All work in the yard came to a dead stop. We all turned to look in the direction of Old Gem. There was a holler followed by a frantic Marion Preston leaping between the men. The box clutched to her bosom was full of kittens. A loud yowl rose as Boo declared herself an injured party in the dispute.
“You leave that cat and kittens alone you Bog Irish bastard !” yelled Spinney,
“You get your cat and her filthy litter off my boat, you mackerel snapper.”
No one present had ever heard Spinney use profanity, much less an ethnic slur. But Spinney was madder than anyone ever recalled. So red in the face, I was afraid he was going to keel over with a stroke then and there. Bubba said that Spinney hadn’t even been this mad when Figaro had sanded most of the gel coat finish off of Nickerson’s boat two years ago.
Weaving between the two were Marion Preston and Bubastis. The box clutched by Marion obviously held the kittens.
“Won’t both of you just quiet down.” “Mwoor!”
“You cat thief!”
“Watch who you call a thief.” At this point, Preston bent over and neatly dumped Bubastis, cat goddess of all she surveyed, over the side. Landing neatly on all fours, without having lost either dignity or anger, Bubastis leaped to the attack. Togo, Preston’s pug, was the object of this attack. Boo neatly cuffed Togo on the nose, causing the dog to spin away from the cat. As the dog’s rump hove into range, Boo gave that a swipe too. Togo commenced spinning. His spin was being helped out by occasional swats from Boo. All this accented by Togo’s ongoing yips.
Marion Preston had also reached the ground, but in a more dignified manner than Boo. She put the kittens aside safely and began trying to separate the angry cat from a perplexed dog.
Sensing unfolding drama, relief from boredom, and a break in work, a sizable portion of the manpower on the waterfront drifted in the direction of the noise. Realizing that she had won the fray, Boo retreated far under the hull of Old Gem, leaving Togo to seek comfort in Marion Preston’s arms. The arrival of the local police ended the excitement, but it was the favored topic over lunch and dinner across town.

Things stayed quiet in the yard for a while after that. I wasn’t at Spinney’s too much anyway, I had a full-time job at the Spouting Dolphin Art Gallery on Main street. The owner, Micah Payson, had plenty for me to do before the beginning of the summer season.
It was two weeks later that I went down to Spinney’s yard with a freshly varnished mahogany transom banner, all ready for installation on someone’s project boat. The restoration was about finished, the new carving I had made was installed, the varnishing all finished, rigging done, and final payment due. Old Gem seemed to be in precisely the same state of disrepair as two weeks before.
When I saw Spinney, I knew better than to mention the current yard eyesore, but he saw me looking in that direction anyway. Handing me my fee for the banner, he said: “I told Preston to move her or float her by July first, and not to come back.” Moved, perhaps more by the comfortable feeling of commission money in my pocket, than by common sense, I asked Spinney why he and old Preston got on so poorly. Rather than biting my head off Spinney, looked at me and said, “Wes, did you ever wish you could just sit down with an old friend you hadn’t been able to talk to with for ages, but couldn’t because of bad blood? Well, that’s how it is with Preston and I. He was my best friend in school.” With that, Spinney left the office hollering at Figaro to be careful where he piled the blocks they used with the jacks.
Now I was even more curious about what was going on between Spinney and Preston. Micah Payson gave me a Cheshire cat grin when I mentioned Spinney and Preston to him. “It’s so old a story around here that most people forgot it. After coming back from the war, Preston tried his hand as a broker. One of his first customers was Spinney. Right then, he was just starting up a shoestring operation. Spinney, based on friendship, bought an old boat from Preston without having a surveyor look it over first. He figured that Preston wouldn’t sell him something too awful. He intended to fix it up and resell it at a profit. But that boat had been in storage all during the war, and years before. It was dried out something fierce and sank at the dock when she was put back in because she was so dried out. The planks were so dry you’d see daylight through the seams! Nothing much to that normally; just pump until the dry wood “takes up” the moisture needed to close the seams. But this boat never seemed to take up. They hauled her out and did a proper survey. They declared it a total loss. Spinney looked like a fool, and Preston looked like the conniving dealer he’s been known as ever since. Maybe it was made worse that Spinney served in the Pacific for the whole war, while Preston wrote press releases down to the Fargo building in Boston. Spinney wound up a petty officer, and Preston wound up a Lieutenant Commander.” I could tell there was more than Payson wasn’t saying, but Micah was through speaking. But if Micah’s tale was accurate, why had Spinney put up with Preston all those years?
The answer came during the Second Battle of Old Gem two days later. A whole lot of staging, ladders and extension cords had found their way to Old Gem during the past Sunday. Sunday is the only day Spinney isn’t in the yard. Monday everyone was looking for, what had been leaning on their current project on Friday or Saturday. Preston had been working on his hull and fully enveloped it in all the staging and ladders he could gather. A long snake of joined extensions cords wound it’s way to the boat. A lone electric sander whined in the morning air, not the chorus of sanders, drills, and saws usually heard.
A delegation of owners and yard workers converged on the office, and soon Spinney was seen getting up steam and setting a course towards the Old Gem. Within minutes the two men were circling with milling arms, and the first punches in a new fight were being thrown. Then a clear soprano called out: “You Maynard, and you, Carl! A pair of foul, noisy old men. Old dried up sticks! You’ve been at each other for years over an old rotted hulk, and never the sense to either have it out or forgive.” “That boat’s sunk almost forty years and you two children haven’t forgotten. Maynard, your check for that damn boat bounced, and you Carl sold your best friend the worst hulk in the county.” She seemed to run down after this. But more quietly added, “…and I don’t know what I ever saw in either of you when we were courting.” Some of us idlers standing around gave choruses of silent Ahahs! Some of us, with a smile on our faces, turned away from the scene. Hell, most of us hadn’t even known that Spinney and Preston had first names, much less that Marion had dated them both. Marion Preston just confirmed what irritation had lain between the two all these years. No pearls had come from them, only two sour old clams.
The old men glared at each other. Like old tom cats no longer sure of their ground, they pointedly looked away from each other, spat on the ground, hitched their baggy pants up around their skinny hips, and stalked away.

A week later, I was back, between jobs, and just nosing around. Old Gem still sat in her cradle, looking no closer to launch than she had on the day of the fight. I was hoping to find out what had happened since but didn’t quite dare ask. Gladly, I didn’t have to. Marion Preston walked over from Old Gem, and asked Maynard if he would please give Carl the benefit of his superior knowledge…said just like that. Not saying anything, Spinney strolled over. The two warily exchanged mumbled greetings. “Got a problem, cap’n?” Spinney asked. “Just scraping away at this paint on the transom, and found this patch. What do you think it is?”
Spinney turned without a word went into his office. In a moment, he returned with a long ice pick sheathed in leather. Perhaps because he had been so thoroughly burnt in his virgin outing Spinney had become a skillful marine surveyor: valued by potential buyers, and feared by sellers. His tool of choice for judging the soundness of a hull was this ice pick. Up the ladder went Spinney. He thwacked the transom soundly, then pulled his pick and handily shoved it in. He dug into the offending spot with relish. Cap’n Preston winced. Out came chunks of rot. Spinney commenced humming a bit tunelessly. I, not too smartly, mentioned that this appeared to be something missed on the survey. Preston looked at me with a sick look on his face and said that he hadn’t had a proper survey done; he knew he was going to buy the sloop regardless.
Spinney excitedly called down from his perch “I love digging out the rot, it’s like being a dentist.” The excavated pocket soon was almost enough to swallow Spinney’s large hand. Grinning, he cheerfully pointed out that this was an old problem never adequately dealt with, as was evidenced by a short piece of plank let in on the port side of the transom. “Look here! See that flat spot? That’s where they let in a new piece of wood in an earlier repair…never really fixed the underlying problem.” Years of water, salt, and fresh had seeped in beneath an inadequately designed and bedded rail. Hearing this report, I now looked at those separations between the transom and the planking with new suspicion. Spinney was pointing out a hollowing in the transom near the short plank and below the rot pocket, and saying “…you always need to watch for this sort of thing.” He hopped down from his perch and dusted off his hands. A white-faced Preston thought about the size of the problem that had just opened up. “Well,” he said, “you know I want a quick fix. I just want to sail her. Can I just put a patch on and cover it over with fiberglass?” “Well,” said Spinney, a broad grin fixed in place as he strolled away,” sure… it’s your boat.”

Adventures In Coastal Living – Thrift

The Cap’n and his wife Cora were not children of the Great Depression. They preceded it but lived through it. The Cap’n happily reminded me, whenever I was about to indulge in anything he perceived as a frivolous expense that ” In Maine, when the rest of the country got a cold, Maine got pneumonia.” It was his way of trying to teach me the frugal habits that had made him successful. His spendthrift son in law had not grown up impoverished. But, he hadn’t had a silver spoon shoved into his mouth either. The frivolity he was expressing dismay over was taking my wife, his daughter, out to a local restaurant. It was the second time in a month, and that was foolish.
Many of the Cap’ns ways made sense. We always painted one side of the house each year. He would make the trip to the hardware store and buy just enough of the cheapest exterior white paint he could find. We had a rotation, one side a year with some touch up on the nor’eastern side where the worst of the winter weather piles up. The slight variations in the different whites weathered out, and you really could not tell the difference. It was cheap to do it this way and divided the labor into reasonable annual amounts. Most important of all, it allowed more time to prep Psyche for summer sailing and meant more time to be sailing. The Cap’n had his priorities, and in that case, they aligned with mine.
I argued some times. He asked me to put a second long splice into a mooring line, and I rebelled. Making splices are a necessary part of a sailor’s skill set. But, multiple splices in a short line weaken the whole. In a mooring line, the single time it parts is the time you lose the boat. I won that argument and off we went to get a new coil of rope ( it’s only rope when it’s in the original coil – unwind it, and it’s line – fussy sailor stuff).
People who are not from New England tell jokes about string too short for saving. Well, I’ve been here for pretty much my entire adult life. Lots of that frugality wound up getting spliced into me.
When I emerged from a career as a government anthropologist, I walked back into boat shops where old paint, varnish, line, and wood got saved. Damn it that cost money. My shop and storage shed has lots of wood and supplies leftover from earlier projects. OK, I’ll admit it, I have wood in my store that’s been there since 1974. Every time I’ve moved, I moved it as well.
The Cap’n called it inculcation. I guess concerning my shop habits, it worked. But, I still do things that’d make the old itch furious; I love those new planes I bought last winter.

NEW FROM OLD

Sitting above my desk is a display shelf of small gifts and unique items. One of these is a piece of baggywrinkle. Don’t know what that is? It’s a particular rope product made for sailing vessels, fishing boats, and other craft. The bosun makes it by unlaying rope and then braiding the result together. It looks like someone lost their beard. Its use was to prevent chafing between lines or between lines and sails. Rubbing together created wear, wear opened the path for the failure of the parts rubbing. You used anti-chafing gear like baggywrinkle to stop that.
Well, the baggywringle was new.but it was created out of the old. The old line got reutilized to make new products for use onboard the ship. Baggywrinkle was one of those products. A rope parted? The bosun spliced it. Anyone rated Able Bodied Seaman would have been able to do basic ropework.
A rope was not the only thing, reused. When sails passed their useful life, the canvas could recycle into a variety of products. The list of items that you can fashion from sail is long: Small bags, ditty bags, for seamen to hold personal possessions, seabags for carrying around more substantial objects, hats, and even clothing.
Cooking grease found use as a dressing for the masts aiding mast hoops on their journey up and down with the sails.
In the 19th century, a sailing vessel could be very close to a closed system once out of sight of land. Making something new out of old was a necessity. This reuse extended into the sailor’s art—pieces of line, seashells, fragments of wood, and on whalers baleen and teeth.
Sailors fabricated models of ships from materials scavenged onboard.

Sailor’s – being superior sorts- were well in advance of the modern world when it came to reducing, reusing, and recycling. They made new from old.

Tack

Every few minutes, the little schooner tacked. The lobster boat kept on course. Both headed into the same harbor, the same distance away. The schooner looked as though it was going to cover about twice the ground as the lobster boat. The wind and tide featured large in this equation. But, the tourists were unfamiliar with the coast and had thought that the schooner was taking its time. Lollygagging.
There is a story among sailors about a captain who grew sick of the sea. He determined to move someplace where the sea and his trade were unimaginable. The captain shouldered an anchor and started walking inland. He walked for months looking for a place where what he carried would be unrecognizable. At last, he came to a place where the locals looked in wonder at the anchor and asked what it was. There he dropped anchor and became a farmer. The captain told stories to his children of the tides in the Bay of Fundy, currents, long passages at sea, and the smell of the land when you were still a long distance from the shore. They knew their father didn’t lie, but grabbing hold of the reality without experience was impossible.
The visitors were experiencing the coast for the first time. They weren’t naive, nor were they poorly educated. It’s just that knowing something intellectually and witnessing it can be different.
We all traverse physical distances as we travel. But most of the pleasure of travel is traversing experience—the cultural, culinary, linguistic, adventures of a new place.
Or of watching schooners tacking on a bay.

Mind Your Helm

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">While growing up in New York, my Merchant Mariner father sought to teach me how to survive either ashore and afloat. Here are his rules:While growing up in New York, my Merchant Mariner father sought to teach me how to survive either ashore and afloat. Here are his rules:

• Always keep your wallet in your front pocket. It can’t be easily stolen from that location. Seeing a sailor running down the street in a liberty port pursued by a pimp who had cut his wallet out of his back pocket confirmed my father’s take on this.

•Be careful what articles and agreements you sign. Fairly obvious, but for a sailor, this one can be deadly. Near mutiny of the crew, except for the engine room, on my father’s first passage ingrained that in him, and subsequently in me.

•Tattoos are used by the police to identify you, and many people have the same design. My father had the usual eagle with fouled anchors that thousands of mariners had, so he knew.

•Sooner or later, every sailor winds up under the tutelage of some deck ape bosun. The bosun wants you to chip paint. So, learn how to chip a map; it looks like you are keeping busy. My father’s favorite was a map of Ireland. I assure you that this does not work when deployed against older mariners.

•When drinking in foreign ports with your buddies, buy a sealed bottle from the bar. Have the bartender open your bottled beer in front of you.

•Museums are generally a safe place for sailors to visit.

•Always walk like you know where you are going, look confident. Looking confused or lost is an invitation to a mugging.

 •Most importantly, “Mind You Helm” – the nautical equivalent of mind your own business.

Many of these are adaptable to current situations, the rules generally encourage you to be cautious and prudent.

Cunners

<p class="has-drop-cap" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The cunners lurked below. They swam near the rock recesses and around the pilings of the wharf where we were eating lunch. The Cap'n pointed out a small group. "They don't school, hang around together sometimes. They weren't bad panfish, but were some bony." How do you catch them? He laughed: " They steal bait, they'll catch themselves for you on a piece of bread." " During the Depression, kids would be sent down to catch them for dinner if there was nothing else." "I'd rather take a minnow and fish for pollock, or jig for mackerel."<br>I mentioned that when I went out with my dad, we often went for fluke and flounder. He answered by broadening out his Maine accent: " Theah bottam fish. Garbage cleaners of the sea." But you eat lobster and the tamale; I pointed out. He looked at me, filled his pipe, lit it, puffed it to life, and then ended the discussion by pointing out that – "lobsta is different."The cunners lurked below. They swam near the rock recesses and around the pilings of the wharf where we were eating lunch. The Cap’n pointed out a small group. “They don’t school, hang around together sometimes. They weren’t bad panfish, but were some bony.” How do you catch them? He laughed: ” They steal bait, they’ll catch themselves for you on a piece of bread.” ” During the Depression, kids would be sent down to catch them for dinner if there was nothing else.” “I’d rather take a minnow and fish for pollock, or jig for mackerel.”
I mentioned that when I went out with my dad, we often went for fluke and flounder. He answered by broadening out his Maine accent: ” Theah bottam fish. Garbage cleaners of the sea.” But you eat lobster and the tamale; I pointed out. He looked at me, filled his pipe, lit it, puffed it to life, and then ended the discussion by pointing out that – “lobsta is different.”

Adventures in Coastal Living – Clams

The mess I made behind my uncle’s couch was a life-changing event. It wasn’t just a three-year-old getting sick after too much excitement on Easter. The doctors were sure. The youngest Carreras was allergic to bivalves – clams, quahogs, scallops. Anything possessing two shells that clapped together was forbidden.
Seafood was a significant part of the family diet, and there was little my father loved more than day-long ocean fishing trips. Weeks followed as my family tested my tolerance to types of seafood. Shrimp seemed to be OK. Cod, fluke, and flounder passed muster. No one even thought to try lobster or crab. Those were experiments I’d have to make on my own later.
As an adult, some of my “research” grew bolder. Friends in Boston took me out for seafood and drinks the night before I shipped out for the first time. The ship sailed directly into heavy weather, and I spent the midwatch worshipping the throne. I deny that I was seasick. It had been the clams.
Years passed. I developed a passion for Oysters Rockefeller. Perhaps the serving sizes were not large enough to tilt my body into reaction. Then came a physical exam in which I gave a complete medical history, and the story of the scallops came out. My doctor gave me that look: “you know, it’s only a matter of time before you have an anaphylactic reaction.”
Years passed. I religiously avoided anything with two shells that clapped together. My current physician urged me to go to an allergist for my seasonal allergies. During the evaluation, the story of the scallops came out. He rather thoroughly tested me—no allergy to bivalves. I was free to visit the Clambox in Ipswich; I could once again visit the Old Union Oyster House in Boston.
Are you sure? “The acid test is for you to bring your favorite meal and eat it here under controlled conditions.” The thought of eating Oysters Rockefeller in an exam room while he and his nurse waited to give me a shot or intubate was unappealing.
I’ll leave things as they are for now without visits to the Union or the Clambox.

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