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Law of the sea repealed.

An ancient chauvinistic myth has it that women on boats bring bad luck. Traces of that belief survive to this very day--not in actual practice, true, but in male conversation at marina bars. Disregarding the very obvious fact that women have long since been defying the wrath of Neptune by boarding any boat they please, some men continue to grumble about what they see as a sorry state of affairs. A few even go so far as to claim that their personal vessels are off-limits to females, except, of course, female fish, which are usually bigger and more impressive than the males.


Literature tells us that in the days of sail, many an old sea dog would refuse to sign on if he knew that a woman would be aboard ship, and if a female stowaway were discovered, some saiiors were sure to threaten mutiny unless she was thrown overboard. Fortunately, not many lasses were dealt such a fate because most of the crew were practical sorts, happy to abandon superstition in favor of the more appealing philosophy of "waste not, want not."

Anyway, most of today's weekend sailors who claim women are forbidden on their boats, do not seem to extend that bias beyond their own gunnels. In fact, they greatly admire any ladies they spot on other boats, and will often travel as much as a quarter-mile off course to get a better look.

Because that kind of navigational deviation is mostly practiced during warm weather, when shorts and swimsuits are in full bloom, one might erroneously conclude that the detour was made for ogling purposes. Not so. Subconsciously, those modern sailors are merely following another ancient law of the sea, a law enacted during some remote era when overanxious seamen would occasionally spot a "mermaid" lolling at the surface, sometimes with a "child" at her breast.

It was said that the nearest one of those old sailing ships ever came to planing was when the lookout reported the sighting of a mermaid in the distance, whereupon the rest of crew would gather behind the mains'l and blow upon the canvas for all they were worth.

If the ship managed to draw near enough, it was discovered that the object was not a half-naked half-woman at all, but a completely naked whole ugly creature that eventually came to be known as "dugong" in some seas and "manatee" in others. The shock of seeing a fat, big-nosed imposter instead of the anticipated mermaid caused many a hardened veteran of tempest and hurricane to get violently seasick for the first time.

Actually, that sort of harrowing experience was pretty common in the old days, happening so frequently that it gradually worked its way into man's evolutionary makeup, with the eventual result that no sailor--whether on a multi-ton vessel or a tiny outboard boat, fails to check out every such sighting with extreme care, lest a perceived semi-clad sunbather turn out to be a naked manatee.

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Title Annotation:Waterfront View
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2011
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