The Cap’n might have had an almost divine sense for what would work for his boat. But when it came to the crew, they looked towards him and saw Captain Bligh. The mutiny was in the air. They’d been looking for an hour long Sunday sail. 

The daughter, my wife, led the deputation to the quarter deck. ” Daddy, we’re wet and tired.” The other mutineers, my brother in law and I stood close behind her, nodding in agreement. “We want to turn towards home.” He looked glumly, and I could see his mouth set and the beginning of a “grumble you may, but go you shall” talk coming. You didn’t mutiny on board the Psyche!

Then my wife said, ” Mommy will be mad if we’re late for dinner.”

“Oh.” He said. ” Prepare to come about.”


I was attempting to separate a tangled mess of audio cables. After a shoot last week, an intern had been in a hurry to head off for a fun weekend. This Monday, the boss, me, had the pleasant duty of taking the entangled mess and turning it into neatly coiled audio cables – ready to be used at the next remote shoot, Friday.

I knew one intern who wouldn’t be getting a satisfactory performance review. Well, as the Cap’n would have said: “You’ve been there, You’ve done that. Don’t do it again.” So I guess there will be the lecture on the Seven P’s – Prior, Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Then I remembered my experience with a mess of tangled lines.

Years before, while getting the 34-foot ketch Psyche ready for summer sailing, I had opened the chain locker where I had hurriedly stowed an assortment of running rigging the previous fall without properly coiling it. I didn’t remember leaving it such a mess. But there the pile sat, filthy, tangled, and a seeming Gordion’s Knot of line. Knowing what the Cap’n’s reaction would be, and being able to price out the replacement cost of whatever I could not salvage, I spent an entire day on the wharf unknotting and carefully coiling. Like a three-year-old, I hoped that my sins of omission and commission would go undiscovered. Unlike a three-year-old, I realized that a good captain doesn’t trust a green hand without verifying the work done and undone. Sometime that afternoon, before the Cap’n returned, I figured out that he knew, and this was his way of teaching me a lesson. 

Sure enough, when he returned, he had a big smile plastered on his face. He merely pointed the stem of his pipe at the neatly coiled running rigging, smiled at me, and said: “good job, Wes.”

Thinking about that memory, I took the one cable I had properly coiled and laid it neatly on the tangled cables. I took a piece of notepaper from the pad and wrote a quick note. ” Hey Bob, don’t forget to add a quarter turn counter-clockwise to each loop as you coil the audio cables. It keeps them from tangling.”

I’d see soon enough If my intern took the hint and earned praise. Or, if he needed a dramatic reading of the Seven P’s before a poor performance review.

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.

Coastal English 202

I’ve posted previously about Psyche, about the Captain, and about the Captain and his family’s turn of Biblical Phraseology. Well, here is how it turned out one day with the Captain:

The Captain owned a beautiful Ketch called Psyche. As general dogsbody, I tried to keep up on the maintenance. One day I was aboard cleaning up from a week-long family jaunt to Monhegan when the Captain appeared and started getting ready to make sail. I fumed that half the items stowed below were adrift, and I needed a whole day to re-stow them. That started an argument. One didn’t argue with Frank…he’d spent the years ashore since swallowing the anchor selling soap for Lever Brothers. No was just another opportunity to get you to yes.
After ten minutes of futile argument on my part, he just tamped a new charge of Holiday tobacco into his pipe, lit up, puffed to get it going, looked at me, and said “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” let’s get underway. I was desperately looking for a way to turn the argument back in my favor. But, sweet reason never did work with the Captain. I began digging through my collection of aphorisms for something that would stop him in his tracks. Let’s see – He who sups with the devil should use a long spoon? No. “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” ( Proverbs). Nope. “the wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools ( Proverbs). Nope. Then, thinking on how tired I was, and how hard I had worked all day I came upon “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn” (Corinthians). This one stopped the Captain for a few seconds, I had picked it up from him, and it was a personal favorite. Then his eyes took on that steely glare that most Master Mariners learn, and he replied to me with a phrase that was probably ancient in the days of the Athenian Navy -“ Grumble ye may, but go you shall.”

We went for a lovely sail.

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