October 1, 2009

Let's hear it for burgees

IT’S VERY DISAPPOINTING that nobody takes any notice of the colorful triangular burgee that I habitually fly from the top of my mast. I mean, it’s unusual. It’s intriguing. It’s splendid.

People are supposed to ask: How do you do that? Doesn’t it hang up on your VHF antenna? What club does it represent? Why don’t you fly it from the spreaders, like everyone else? How beautiful it looks up there. How very clever of you.

But no. Nobody asks.

I put it down to jealousy. I don’t think they’d have the faintest idea how to fly a burgee from the masthead, specially among the array of electronic sensors and antennas and lights that seem to breed on top of sailboat masts these days.

When I grew up, long ago and far away, everyone flew a burgee from the truck. It had its own halyard and it swiveled on a varnished pigstick. It not only showed which direction the wind was coming from, it also showed what yacht club you belonged to. It kept seagulls from perching up there and bombing the deck. It added color and movement to the mast when you were at anchor, and nicely balanced and echoed the flutters of the national ensign flying from the stern.

But this is the age of the ubiquitous Windex, a sterile plastic wind vane that just sits up there and stares down accusingly at you, a humorless, colorless artifact lacking all vestiges of passion.

Practically my first action when I bought my present boat was to remove the Windex and fit a burgee halyard. A proper halyard for a proper burgee. If I had my way, people would go down on one knee and salute my burgee when they come past. It is, after all, a direct connection to the pennants and flags of sailing craft stretching back through countless ages.

But no. The modern children of Windex ignore me.

My proud little burgee obviously makes them feel uncomfortably inadequate and disconnected from the nautical heritage that should stir deep in their souls. Just as they no longer know how to arm the lead, or handle a sextant, so have they forgotten how to fly a burgee.

Long may they suffer, I say. Long may it serve them right. If they choose to defile Nature by affixing a lump of soulless black plastic to the masthead, they deserve all the discomfort they get.

Today’s Thought
Take thy banner! May it wave
Proudly o’er the good and brave.
— Longfellow, Hymn of the Moravian Nuns of Bethlehem.

The drunk shuffled into court again. The judge sighed. “I thought I told you I didn’t want to see you in here again.”
“Yes, you did,” the drunk replied, “and I told the cops, but they wouldn’t believe me.”


Aaron Headly said...

If Captain Slocum had spoken as much about his burgee (assuming he even had one) as he did about spiders, every boat afloat would probably have one (and, perhaps, fewer spiders).

I have two seldom-used halyards that reach the truck (gaff topsail and jib topsail), but no yacht-club membership. I'd like to fly a burgee, but could use some guidance on selecting or designing one ('Margaritaville', jolly-roger or crossed martini glasses are all non-starters — for me anyway).

Would you consider writing a post on your thoughts on the subject? I'd be happy to hear them.

PS - I did see quite a few boats with burgees on the east coast, but they were all NYYC ones. I shudder to think what it costs to fly one of those.

Anonymous said...

Hit me again! Somebody has to keep saying, "Do it." I have looked at the project for a year and still have not made the club. "Bravo!" Keep it flying.