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The Mast-Head: Bacalao and Bilge

Wed, 08/30/2023 - 17:54

Paul in production at The Star asked me if I was going to write whining with an H, as opposed to wining. I had announced that I was headed into my office to come up with a column, but what had not been said is that my thought was to gripe about how I had not been sailing in Cerberus as much as I had hoped this summer. I held my tongue; Paul is in year two of a massive boat restoration and gets out on the water only floating on the generosity of friends. I did not want to rub it in while he was sweating the Labor Day issue.

The truth is that it has been almost too hot to sail comfortably since the beginning of summer. Cerberus has shade at anchor, but underway, we sit in the cockpit quick-dried and salty like a bacalao on sunburnt legs. I’ve only recently gotten the ancient auto-helm working (it was just a fuse), which will allow me to dart below out of the sun for a few minutes. There is a problem there, too.

Cerberus is a 28-foot-long Cape Dory sloop heavy enough to have its own gravitational pull, at least into the bilge. A stubborn black goo has settled there and if the floorboard is lifted it smells like the bathroom in the Mos Eisley Cantina in the first “Star Wars.” Nothing says welcome aboard, friends, like the sharp stink of an intergalactic pissoir.

My sailing companions have been of an earthly sort. These included two young adults who thought my notion to rename my little ship King Ghidory, after the three-headed monster and Godzilla nemesis, King Ghidorah. Cape Dory, Ghi-dory, get it? Well, they thought it was amusing. Cerberus, the guard dog of hell, was probably a relative of the Japanese kaiju circa 1964 in any event.

According to Dante in “The Divine Inferno,” hail, rain, and sleet continually covered the place where Cerberus lurked and “Stank all the land whereon that tempest fell.” Hence the bilge. But changing the name of a boat is not to be taken lightly and is attended by all sorts of ritual practices that I would rather not have to get involved with.

There is still sorting out why the red-green navigation lights at the bow are not working and sorting out the cause of the engine running hot and what lurks in the bilge. We decided that sourcing a King Ghidorah flag to fly in the rigging would have to do for now.

Someone not terribly familiar with boat ownership asked me recently what the “blue book value” of my old sloop would be. I had to stifle a guffaw. Does a negative count, I asked. No, as the Fates might say, it is the quality of the days we have under sail, not how many we get.

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