A Maclean's report on the lure and lifestyle of WATERWAYS '69
JOHN ZICHMANIS,JON EBYApril11969
A Maclean's report on the lure and lifestyle of WATERWAYS '69
An estimated one million Canadians own pleasure boats. This means that if you count kids, wives, neighbors, girl friends and miscellaneous neighbors who clamber aboard, close to 20 percent of the population this summer will experience the slap of the waves, the tang of the air and the peculiar pleasures of life afloat. Clearly, boating is big. Why? Because a boat, any boat, is much more than a hull with the necessary amenities added on top. For some, it’s magic transportation. For others, it’s adventure and the purest form of competition. For still others, it’s the passport to a dungarees - and - gin - and - tonic lifestyle that’s sunnier and cleaner than life ashore. But for everyone, even for people whose marine exploits are limited to circling and recircling a puddlesized lake, a boat is a dream that, surprisingly often, comes true. This is a report, mainly for landlubbers, on the dreams and realities, the lure and the lifestyle of the great Canadian love affair with boats.
HOW TO BE AN OLD SALT
Anyone who doesn’t own a boat can be intimidated by anyone who does. This is because sailors, even novice sailors', know all kinds of secret stuff that landlubbers don’t know. As a service to landlubbers everywhere, Maclean’s proudly presents its Instant Seamanship Guide: master it tonight, and you can pass yourself off tomorrow as an Old Salt. But you’d better learn to swim, too
Quick, what has kept you away from boating up to now? Fear, right? Admit it. Oh, it’s not fear of something physical, personal destruction or anything like that. No, it’s knowing thatthe whole boating scene is one insufferable fraternity just waiting to inflict all sorts of unimaginable slights and snubs the moment you and your new boat hit water. If they had their way, they’d shave your head and make you shinny up a greased mast.
But how to turn the tables? For starters, consider the Instant Seamanship Guide Rule Number One: being an Old Salt is all in your head. Take the established boaters themselves. Why the crossed anchors on the Hats? Why the tattoos? Why all the funny talk? Insecurity, that’s why, rampant insecurity. Ergo, the great boating irony: it is they, dear landlubber, who are afraid of you. Afraid that you’ll pick up all their secret flimflam overnight and clue right into their sacred language, dress and rules.
And in truth, they’re right, because if you read closely, you’ll become an indisputable Old Salt long before you put the magic boat to anything wet. So, with our anthem of Red Sails in the Sunset in the background, on to Lesson One, that problem of language:
Right isn’t right — it’s starboard
Boaters are fanatic labelers. Everything has its own special name, almost always different from the one you normally use. It’s all a bit like the army, where a gun isn’t a gun, it’s a rifle. Everything is and isn’t at the same time.
Take the simplest article, the boat itself. You say it has a front. They say: nonsense, it’s a bow. And the back is a stern. Turn it to the left, it’s to port.
Right, it’s to starboard. If you’re driving it, you become a helmsman.
Of course, this is pretty elementary stuff. You’ll find they’ll soon start throwing such things as “stanchion” and “shackle” and “yaw” and “bollard” at you. When that happens, keep in mind two things. One, try to return the conversation to the subject of the boat itself. (Bow, stern, starboard, port. Remember?) Two, if any term sounds even vaguely familiar, above all resist the urge to guess what it means. Invariably, it will be the opposite.
The name game is tough, and it’s no shame if you sometimes feel that it’s all enough to make you jump off the edge . . . the gunwale, that is, pronounced gunnel.
Tying one on
Although the Encyclopedia of Knots and Fancy Rope Work lists some 3,100 knots, ties and so on, the three shown above will mesmerize all but your severest critics. Practice takes just some line (that’s rope) and any round solid object, such as a Jacobean table leg. First, get under the table. Then take the line in both hands and, carefully following the diagrams above, bend the line around the leg in the appropriate loops. Easy, no?
Well, perhaps you don’t have a visually oriented mind. But even in
words, it’s still a cinch. Take the two half hitches, for instance. Just bend the line around the leg, then over and under the long end of the line and then over itself, then under and up through the loop formed by the turn. Got it?
If no, not to worry. Work on the other two knots shown. All three are useful in their own right. The bowline (pronounced bowlin’) forms a beautiful loop that can be freed very quickly; the two half hitches make for permanent, tight mooring; and the bottom knot was a favorite on the Bounty, in any case, all three are quite easy once you get the hang of them.
Beware of the bight in the rode
Like brakes in a car, the anchor in a boat is not to be taken lightly by the serious boater. (So if you don’t feel serious, skip this part.) Good anchoring depends on two things: making the rode (anchor line) as long as possible and keeping the anchor on its side so the flukes can dig into the bottom. Once dug in, the anchor’s effectiveness depends on the scope (the length of rode compared to the water depth). With a scope of two to one (the rode twice as long as the depth of the water), for example, an anchor’s effectiveness is about 13 percent; a scope of 10 to one is about 85 percent effective.
The rode should always be coiled neatly, each turn a little inside the previous one. Then when the anchor is dropped, the rode runs out untangled. And for goodness’ sake be careful not to step into a bight (loop) of the rode. If you have lots of scope it’s a long way down.
The image: Ins and Outs
Sartorially In: A pair of topsiders, preferably well-worn. A special sole makes them slip-proof on wet decks and rocks and circumvents much embarrassment. Definitely Out: Topsiders worn with socks. Also In: A sailor's kit on board, either empty or full. Lufthansa and Japan Air Lines flight bags are highly prized. Like topsiders, they should be well-worn. (If you insist on carrying something inside the kit, try a collection of hats: white fatigue hat, baseball cap, yellow slicker.)
Intellectually In: Sailing charts of mysterious vintage. At least one chart of local waters also speaks well, but here you must be able to identify the nearest point of land as well as at least one potential hazard (rock, shoal, sunken log, collision course, etc.). Also impressive is a good mounted color photograph of the last America’s Cup winner.
Socially In: Filling up your own gas tank at the local marina. When you are ready for this, the man at the pumps will let you know. All others on the lake are created equal in his eyes, but reaching for the pump too soon could set your social progress back
disastrously. Be patient, use his first name a lot (“Oh, Jack, could I please, Jack, have some gas, Jack?”), and make frequent long trips to use up as much gas as possible. Your day will come.
Ultimate Out: Wearing a skipper’s cap on anything smaller than a destroyer. However, face the fact that sooner or later someone will give you one to go with the new boat. If the donor is a friend, lose it. But if the person is close, there is only one course open: wait for a gusty day and run full tilt into the wind. If you are lucky, it will blow off and sink in the wake.
Message received, I think
When boats start talking to each other, it is a flag-waving ceremony Mao Tse-Tung would envy. There are 40 flags in the International Code: 26 letters, 10 numerals, three repeaters and one code flag. The complete set is rarely found on a motorboat. Having all 40 brings an immediate prestige equal to owning a good parchment copy of Jacques Cartier’s map of the New World.
Some flags, though, are more useful than others. Casual messages such as, “Keep clear of me. I am manoeuvring with difficulty,” are sent by showing one flag only — in this case, the letter D. For disaster situations, two flags are flown at the same time to add “Urgent and Important” to the message. A and P together, for instance, will warn those around you that you are sitting still because you have run aground, not because you have found a good fishing spot.
One last suggestion for tvyo flags to have. They are H and P, very useful for one-upmanship on inland waterways, particularly the Great Lakes: “Submarines are exercising; navigate with caution.”
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