May 23, 2010

Polishing the gearknob

YES, IT’S TRUE. A landbubber friend wants to know if I fall on my knees and polish the gearknob before trying to start the engine. Well, yes, of course. I’ve done it with every boat I’ve ever owned that had an engine. How else would the engine start, pray tell. Polishing the gearknob is an essential step in th engine-starting ritual and comes even before opening the seacock. And you must use a clean handkerchief, too. Any hint of snot on the gearknob and your engine won’t start for a week.

I have a friend in Australia who makes handkerchiefs. I think I’ll suggest to her that she makes one specially for gearknob polishing. No nose-blowing allowed. Anyone with a yacht would invest in one.

Landlubbers don’t understand these things. They just climb into their cars, stick in the key and turn it. And that’s that. But boats are different. Boat engines aren’t so easily pushed around. They have character. They’re emotional. And they dearly like having their gearknobs polished. Oh, it spoils them, I know, but the rewards are great. And if you neglect to do it, the punishment is painful.

Of course, this is just one of many rituals practised by old salts. I have to tell you that there’s another one that has been exercising my mind lately. It’s the one about the coin under the mast.

I got sort of carried away one time and placed a real gold coin under the mast of a 22-foot raceboat I owned. I glued it down well with epoxy, so the thieving boatyard hands couldn’t remove it. Well, actually, to tell the truth it wasn’t a coin so much as a very thin coin-shaped piece stamped out of sheet gold. Nevertheless, that was in the days when gold cost $375 an ounce.
To my great chagrin, I saw the other day that gold is selling for over $1,100 an ounce. Now I wish I had my old boat back. I’m pretty sure the gold is worth more than the boat. And it’s gnawing at me.

Today’s Thought
When we have gold we are in fear; when we have none we are in danger.
— John Ray, English Proverbs.

Boater’s Rules of Thumb, #55
Exterior brightwork on a yacht is subject to the John Keats Varnish Rule: “A thing of beauty is a job forever.”

A local junior-school teacher was trying to teach the concept of distance. She asked whether her pupils throught they lived close to school, or far away.
Nobody was willing to hazard a guess except little Susan, who was quite adamant that she lived very, very close to school.
“How are you certain?” asked the teacher.
“Well, every time I come home my mother says: ‘Hell, are you home already?’”


oztayls said...

Gee John, I'm nearly finished building my Goat Island Skiff and am wondering what sort of coin is appropriate for under the mast? I can tell you now that at $1100 an oz, a gold coin is out of the question, but will the Gods object if it's just a penny? It's a real dilemma for me at the moment.

An NOW you tell me the John Keats Varnish Rule when I'm almost done!

I'm doomed I say, DOOMED...

John Vigor said...

Dear OZTayls:

Funny you should ask. The ancient Greeks believed there was a boatman called Charon who (for a small fee) ferried the recently dead across the River Styx to Hades, the underworld.

Now, seeing as how the Greek eceonomy is in such a mess at the moment, and threatening to pull down the whole of Europe with it, I think I can get you a good deal for your Goat Island Skiff.

See full details in upcoming Wednesday's column.

And cheer up. You ain't doomed until the fat lady sits on you.


John V.

Aaron Headly said...

Since my Centennial is a ketch, I figured two coins were in order, and since my ketch is named Centennial, I went looking for coins celebrating centennials.

The mainmast got a 10 rupee coin honoring the centennial of Ghandi's birth, and, since I'm on a budget, the best I could do for the mizzen was a Russian coin honoring Lenin's 100th birthday.


Jennifer Moran said...

I think a good hanky for gearknob polishing in the southern hemisphere might be Fair Blow - it features the Southern Cross
Polishers to the north might like X Marks the Spot so that you can dream of treasure....