October 12, 2010

The right one to pray to

IT WAS THE WELSH POET George Herbert (1593 – 1633) who said: "He that will learne to pray, let him goe to Sea." (I know that for sure because I just looked it up.) And Herbert was right, of course, as anyone knows who has been badly frightened in a storm at sea.

But what our savvy Welsh friend doesn’t reveal is probably the most important part: To whom do you pray?

A couple of thousand years ago it was easy. They had gods for every occasion then, so you could go straight to the guy in charge and get things sorted out. Things have certainly changed in 2,000 years, but some of us sailors who carefully avoid walking under ladders or setting sail on Fridays still hanker after a personal and positive connection with the powers that be.

So here’s a handy list you might want to post up in your panic station on board. It details [1] the stuff likely to cause you trouble, and [2] who to pray to.

[1] The engine, gearbox, driveshaft, propeller, galley stove, rudder fittings, anchors, chain, and standing rigging.

[2] Hephaistos, the god of fire. He was also known as Vulcan, a superb blacksmith and craftsman. Wonderful with anything metal.

[1] Storms, calms, sails, and self-steering vanes.

[2] Aeolus, god of the winds.

[1] Big waves, choppy seas, adverse currents, and leaks your bilge pump can’t deal with.

[2] Poseidon, god of the sea. Also known as Neptune. (Always try both names just in case.)

[1] The head, the holding tank, the Porta-Potti and the connecting lines.

[2] Cloacina, goddess of sewers. Yes, I’m not making this up. She’s the one they used back then and I bet she’s still holding her nose.

[1] Consistently losing yacht races.

[2] Nike, the goddess of victory. Buy her shoes and all will come right.

[1] Boredom and excessive sobriety.

[2] Dionysus, the god of inspiration, ecstasy, and wine. (Especially wine, but OK with beer, too, if plentiful enough.) Also known as Bacchus.

[1] Mayhem in general.

[2] Zeus. He is the god of gods. The boss. Ignore him at your peril. But he hates being disturbed for petty problems, so always try the other gods first.

Finally, if it comes to the worst, it might come in useful for you to know that the ruler of the Underworld is called Hades. I understand he meets a lot of sailors.

Today’s Thought
Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a flea, and yet he will be making gods by dozens.
— Montaigne, Essays

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #106
Provisions for horses. You never know when somebody might ask you to take a horse somewhere on your boat. In the days when navies transported horses on sailing ships, each horse was allocated 1,350 pounds of stores every five days. Good luck with that.


“I met your girl friend last night. I found her very attractive.”
“I know you did. She says you asked her to marry you.”
“Omigod. Did she accept?”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Ken said...

This should be in Chapman Piloting.
I know, I'm going to paste a copy of it over the chart inside the back cover.