February 15, 2011

Into the wild blue yonder

THE INMATES up at the Walnut Street pen have started wondering about the Rule of the Road at sea. You may recall that half a dozen of them are planning to steal boats when their time is up, and sail off into the wild blue yonder, where they won’t have to sleep behind bars any more.

A letter to the editor in the latest issue of the Walnut Street Gazeout (should be Gazette) says:

Does anyone know the code for avoiding collisions on the water? Do they drive on the right like us? How about at night?
--Lefty Foreshanks, Level 4, Row E, Cell 45

► Well Lefty, I think I can help you. Here’s bit of poetry to lift your soul and keep you out of trouble when you’re motoring in the dark, as I don’t doubt you will be, at least until you’re well clear of land. Commit it to memory. I didn’t write it and I don’t know who did. It’s as old as the hills, but it’s still valid advice:

Meeting steamers do not dread;
When you see three lights ahead
Starboard wheel and show your red.

Green to green or red to red,
Perfect safety, go ahead.

If to starboard red appear,
’Tis your duty to keep clear;
Act as judgment says is proper:
Port—or starboard—back or stop her.

But when upon your port is seen
A steamer’s starboard light of green,
There’s not so much for you to do,
For green to port keeps clear of you.

Both in safety and in doubt
Always keep a good look-out;
In danger with no room to turn,
Ease her—Stop her—Go astern.

PS: Lefty, in case you’re wondering, the red (port) light goes on the left side of the boat, facing forward. The green (starboard) light goes on the other side. And the word “steamer” means all kinds of boats being moved by power, including yachts that also have sails up.

Today’s Thought
America has the longest prison sentences in the West, yet the only condition long sentences demonstrably cure is heterosexuality.
— Bruce Jackson, Professor of Law and Jurisprudence, State University of NY, Buffalo

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #160
The “purchase” or power gained by a tackle, is equal to the number of lines leading into and out of the moving block only, including a line attached to its becket, but excluding a line attached to the load.

“Where’s John these days?”
“Got six months for stealing a car.”
“Jeez, what a dummy. Why didn’t he buy a new one and just not pay for it, like the rest of us?”

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

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