Edmund Burke, the 18th-century
British political writer, said, “Superstition is the religion of
feeble minds.” In speaking of a ghost and how to get rid of him,
Shakespeare’s most melancholy Dane cogitated, “All is not well;
I doubt some foul play.” On the other hand, a crusty captain I once
fished with dismissed the subject with, “Horse hockey!” Truth
is, poets, scientists, scholars, and others have debated the roots of
superstition throughout the ages, and of these people, none seems more
under its spell than those who go down to the sea in ships.
While you may ascribe to some Neptunian superstitions, I have chosen to
arm myself with a salty interpretation of Newton’s Third Law of Physics,
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,”
to dispel Old Gooseberry, Mr. Scratch, or the Devil, as he’s customarily
known, of coming my way. And in order to share my so far unbroken lucky
streak in dealing with these waterborne perturbations, I offer the following
It’s bad luck to change the name of a boat. Well, what if you don’t
like the name of the boat you’re buying? If you really can’t
stand Tripe Stew, Muck & Mire, Regurgitation, Skid Marx, and others I’ve
seen that are way too blue to be printed, you can change it without fear
of reprisal, but only in the following manner. First, you must obliterate
the old name everywhere you find it. For example, run a piece of sandpaper
once across any surface where it is festooned, including the transom,
bow, superstructure, tender, ship’s log (logs are often retained
by new owners for their maintenance schedules), life ring, life raft,
salt and pepper shakers, and so on. Then draw a single line through the
name everywhere it appears with a marker.
Now write the soon-to-be-exorcised name on a piece of paper, fold the
paper, and place it in a small cardboard or wooden box. Burn the box.
Scoop up the ashes and throw them into the sea on an outgoing tide. If
you live on a lake, do it at night and only during a new moon. River dwellers
should send the ashes downstream. You may now change the name everywhere
on your vessel without fear of irking any mischievous water sprite. But
of course the monogrammed towels will have to go.
In olden days becalmed sailors whistled, whether at the wheel, while swabbing
the decks, or chained in the fo’c’sle. Such warbling was believed
to bring up the wind. Of course, centuries later, the last thing powerboaters
need is a blustery day, so trilling aboard is absolutely verboten.
If you happen to forget yourself and by chance do pucker up and blow,
merely spit overboard in the direction from which the wind is coming,
and any errant gust will quickly disappear. There’s a more salty
approach, but again, this is a family publication.
Next page >
Evil Friday and more! > Page 1, 2