September 11, 2012

Are you listening, Virginia?

YES VIRGINIA, there is a Shackle Fairy. She exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Shackle Fairy. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in the Shackle Fairy! You might as well not believe in Santa Claus!

Let me tell you why I know there is a Shackle Fairy. Yesterday I was looking through the stuff in my garage. I was looking for a roll of duct tape I put in a special place so I could find it again. But I couldn’t find it again.  Instead, in a plastic container under the big box of spare cat sand, I found 22 stainless steel shackles.

Now, Virginia, there is nothing that makes a sailor happier than 22 beautiful, smooth, shiny, stainless-steel shackles. Shackles by Schaefer, Harken, and Ronstan. Long D shackles and short twist shackles. Bow shackles and headboard shackles.  Pin shackles and threaded shackles. Cast shackles and stamped shackles. And my very favorites, those Wichart forged shackles,  one of the things the Frenchies do best after champagne and Brigitte Bardot.

Now I don’t know how I come to have so many shackles. I recognize one or two from old Freelance, a boat I sold in 1987. But I don’t remember keeping any shackles from Freelance, so somebody must have kept them for me and sneaked them into my garage here.  And we know who, don’t we Virginia? 

I’ve had a few boats since Freelance and they all had shackles, very nice shackles, most of them. I truly believe that shackles are the gems in a sailor’s jewelry box, but it would never occur to me to remove all the good expensive shackles from the boats I was selling, and replace them with cheap galvanized  shackles. Perish the thought. Heavens no. Unthinkable. No, Virginia, something bigger and more mysterious has been at work here, something that knows the things a sailor loves most, something that only those who really believe can know about.

 Did you ever see the Shackle Fairy dancing on the deck? Of course not, but that's no proof that she is not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

So be good, Virginia.  If you say your prayers at night and save your money and buy a nice boat one day, you, too, might find a box of beautiful shackles in your garage.  People will ask you how they got there and you will say you don’t know, because that will be the truth. But the truth is relative, isn’t it Virginia?  It all depends.  And we know the real truth, don’t we? Yes, Virginia, there is a Shackle Fairy.       

Today’s Thought
Believe! No storm harms a man who believes.
— Ovid, Amores.

“So you want to be a ship’s surgeon?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Well, what would you do if the captain fainted?”
“Bring him to, sir.”
“Very good. And then what?”
“Bring him two more, sir.”

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


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