November 15, 2012

Learning the ropes

YOU DONT HAVE TO learn the names of all the ropes immediately you start sailing. Some boat owners like to show off their knowledge by using technical terms that beginners can’t understand. They give the impression that you can’t sail, or even crew efficiently, if you’re not familiar with nautical jargon.

That’s not true, of course. You only have to see the kindergartners sailing the Optimists to know that. In fact, the more a skipper insists on pompous correctitude, the less likely he or she is to be a capable and experienced mariner.

Sailor’s lingo was important in the heyday of sail, when sailing ships had hundreds of lines and sailors had to know each one by name. But those times are past. If you’re a beginner, you can pick up the right terms at your own pace now.

Skippers whose self-importance exceeds their knowledge often insist that when rope is taken aboard a vessel, it becomes line. Not so. There are several kinds of ropes, including bolt ropes and foot ropes. And guess what sailors themselves said of a hand who showed professional competence? They said he “knew the ropes.” No experienced sailor ever boasted that he “knew the lines.”

If you’re a skipper trying to teach someone to sail, it helps if you repeat the correct phrase after giving a simplified one, so that your novice can learn the sailor’s lingo quickly and naturally.

Today’s Thought
To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching.
— Amiel, Journal, 16 Nov., 1864

“And how’s Mr. Vigor doing this morning, nurse?”
“Much better, doctor. He tried to blow the foam off his medicine.”



Jack said...

John, Oh how I so agree with your sentiments on this subject.
My own brother-in-law at the tender age of 50 has embarked upon sailing as a new sport. I fully encouraged him of course,(the thought of fresh "rail meat" was too strong),so after a few lessons at a local sailing club, his first and really only serious concern was all the terminology thrown at him by his instructor. Falling over-board and capsizing the dinghy numerous times didn't seem to phase him, but those "weird" terms could of been a deal breaker.
My first though was to supply him with every back issue of every sailing magazine I could lay my hands on, you know, the ones you save for that "really interesting article" in it, which as it turns out is all of them, and supply web address's of useful sites to bone up on. Then, like you I realized I would only compound the issue and with that, lose some 200+ lbs of useful weight.
I had the perfect opportunity at a national boat show that I took him to some weeks later, where we perused all manor of craft. I stowed my tongue and listened. This worked wonders, if Jerry asked about that "thing stuck on the pointy end" I would explain it's purpose in layman's terms and end with it's nautical term. How much stuck I'm not sure. I am sure though, he wasn't intimidated to ask more and more questions, which I took as a good sign.
He is presently looking for a suitable vessel of his own. A lesson in less is more.

KevinH said...

A sailor knows the ropes. An actor knows his lines. Perhaps that is what the pompous skipper is.!

Claus said...

Dear John,
together with some other sailors I run a small sailing school in Germany and I couldn't agree more...especially looking back at my own development....
Would you mind if we used this blog entry (actually its German translation) and selected others on our homepage? We would properly reference them, of course, as the flowers should go where they really belong.
Looking forward to hearing from you,

John Vigor said...

Hi Claus: Yes, certainly, go ahead and use what you like from my blog.
Best wishes,

John V.