The Good Sailor’s Emergency Handbook - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
The Good Sailor’s Emergency Handbook
Sunk Sailboat (AH Images -

They call them pleasure boats and that’s where the problems begin. The vacationers board, in the hopes of a good time, aware of Archimedes’ Principle completely unaware of Archimedes’ footnote: “any body that floats in a fluid can stop floating at any time”. The Greeks understood that the theory of floating bodies works best when the bodies are on dry land. It should not surprise us that historians claim Archimedes, in the defense of Syracuse, devised a system of burning glasses to reflect concentrated sunlight against enemy ships, intent on setting them alight. But that’s more or less like trying to kill someone by hand delivering the bullet.

This particular example of Greek ingenuity was not a great success but, as far as we are concerned, it sheds light on Archimedes’ true intentions and the issue of keeping ships afloat.

It’s important to master seafaring jargon, but if we want to keep our heads above the water, we can’t stop there. Some theorists claim that merely shouting out “cleat!”, “shroud!”, or “gooseneck!”, is enough to calm the waters and set a ship sailing in an orderly fashion with astonishing precision. I appreciate, however, that these vociferations should be bellowed out only when at high sea, if possible. The last time I yelled “gooseneck!” while in my little sailboat on the lake, the guy on the boat next to me smashed me over the head with an oar as he shouted “and you’re an idiot!”.


Everyone talks about them, but no one knows where they actually are. It’s like an election promise. Sometimes, under the sea, the keel is in what is known as a ‘careen’. Whatever. The keel is always underneath you, except on a catamaran. That’s a whole different kettle of fish and about as alien to me as it is uninteresting. I don’t see any advantage to a boat where it is precisely the boat that is missing.


Almost everything you do on the boat is dangerous except standing still. But on a sailboat, standing still can also be deadly during a jibe. As a rule, if you see the boom coming, duck. If you don’t see it coming, duck. The goal is to avoid the blow. If you don’t know what that thing is, pay attention: the boom is a horizontal pole that is supported on the stern crown and secured to the mast closest to it, and is used to secure the gaff rig. I guess, in life, it is important to know how to catch a crab sail. 

It is especially dangerous to smoke on boats carrying inflammable items, such as an ankle. Contrary to what many people believe, the ankle tends to become incredibly inflamed at sea, both from sprains and impacts against the boom. However, to hit your ankle with the boom, you would need to make a very strange movement, which would be quite capable of capsizing the boat, and is particularly discouraged by traumatologists. If you do manage to hit the boom with your ankle during a jibe, congratulations. Now go to Wikipedia and start studying the ‘man overboard’ maneuver.

Drinking on board is also a risky activity. Due to the influence of the old pirates, as soon as someone opens a bottle of rum on a ship, the rest of the crew lose their heads and make a grab for it. The rules of chivalry oblige the bearer of the bottle not to fight with his hands, but to draw a cutlass and challenge anyone who wants to steal the rum, to a duel. All this is very easy when you are opening the first bottle. From the second bottle on, you may find that the group of assailants seems much larger than it is. And from the third, some claim to have seen Jack Sparrow on deck, surrounded by smoke, and singing Bob Marley songs. From the fourth, the ship is you, and you are about to run out of shrouds.


Hunting fleas with a Colt semi-automatic M1911, on deck. 


Finally, if the imaginary lines projected from the prows of two sailboats, marking their trajectories cross and you are on one of the boats, and you are able to see it with your own eyes, it means that you are close enough to die in the next few minutes. The way to avoid this is for one of you to turn away. If you both veer off course at will, there is a 50 percent chance of fatal impact. So it’s best to learn the simple rules of right of way while at sea. To wit:

When two sailboats approach the point of collision receiving the wind from opposite sides – like the Red Sox and the Yankees – the one receiving the wind from the stern is expected to give way, provided the other doesn’t demand it too sternly. Whereas if it is your boat that receives the stern wind, the right thing to do is to stop being stern and say thank you. If both sailboats receive the stern favor, the best thing to do is to go windward and hope good God’s will. 

Itxu Díaz
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Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist, and author. He has written 10 books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. He is a contributor to The Daily Beast, The Daily Caller, National Review, American Conservative, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, as well as a columnist at several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an adviser to the Ministry for Education, Culture, and Sports in Spain.
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