February 19, 2009

Flying the flag

OLD WOTSISNAME who moors down the row from me says we have something in common. “We both fly a burgee from the masthead,” he said.

I hope that’s all we have in common, considering the state his old wreck is in, but he’s right, I do maintain the old fashion of flying a club burgee from the very top of the mast. In fact, one of the first things I did when I bought my present boat was to remove the Windex wind vane to make way for a burgee.
My thinking was that it’s a neck-breaking task to keep checking the wind direction by looking straight upward at a Windex. Any decent sailor ought to be able to judge wind direction roughly by the feel of the breeze on his or her face or neck, and if you need more accurate indication you can tie old cassette recording tape to the backstay and shrouds. In addition, you can tell if your sails are stalling by looking at the telltales.

I have no use whatsoever for a Windex and I can’t imagine why just about every other boat I look at has one on top of the mast. I guess it must be one of those mass hysteria things, or some infectious fad that has spread through the sailing world, some thoughtless knee-jerk reaction that has worked out very well for the Windex people.

I love my burgee. It brings life to my boat when she’s at anchor and it’s fluttering bravely up there. It makes a fine show under sail, too, flying according to a tradition that goes back centuries, connecting us to all the old-timers whose ways and responsibilities we have inherited.
It gives me pleasure to raise it and lower it correctly, too, making its passage up or down the mast one smooth movement rather than a series of jerks. It takes two hands and some concentrated practice to do that.

We’re a dying race, of course, me and Old Wotsisname. Two of the last burgee flyers in the country, I’ll bet. Just as long as the herd mentality trumps common sense and tradition, Windex will rule the masthead.

Today’s Thought
Take thy banner! May it wave
Proudly o’er the good and brave.

The bank robber shoved a note across the counter to the teller. It read: “Put the money in a bag, dummy, and don’t make a move.”
The teller pushed back another note: “Straighten your collar, stupid, we’re taking your picture.”

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