August 26, 2013

Watch out for boat pheromones

I WAS WATCHING a question-and-answer show on Canadian TV the other day when the question of pheromones came up. Apparently, living things emit pheromones in an invisible stream as a form of automatic communication. They don’t have any smell, but they seem to be able to affect our physical reactions and emotions.

Having absorbed this complicated information at least partially, it occurred to me to wonder if boats emit pheromones. Wikipedia says plants communicate by pheromones, and there’s lots of wood in boats.

You’d naturally expect boats with wooden hulls and decks to be more powerful in the pheromone department than fiberglass boats. So the question arises:  Do wooden boats, like roses, say: “Look at me, I’m beautiful?”  Would that explain the strange attraction we have for wooden boats, even if they’re more demanding in the way of maintenance and upkeep?

Is this why a mere mortal stands no chance against a gorgeous little wooden lapstrake Folkboat? I’m sure that teak speaks to us. Who can resist all that varnished teak on Cape Dories and Hinckleys?

Do wooden boats really say come hither?  Do they really make themselves look desirable in a man’s eyes? I’m reliably informed that men are not really in control of who they marry. It’s not a woman’s figure or her brilliant mind that drives a man crazy with desire.  It’s her pheromones taking over control of his brain. If those womanly pheromones decide they want a certain man, he’s a goner.

Indeed, there are men, I’m told, who wake up months after the wedding and take a good look at their brides for the first time, and go: “What the heck? What was I thinking?”  Much the same thing can be said about boats, of course.  Such is the mighty power of the tiny pheromone.

And what else might boat pheromones be saying?  “Ouch, the nails hurt.” “My bottom’s dirty.”  “The water’s cold.”  “You don’t care about me any more.”

I wonder, too, if boat pheromones, which are, after all, female, nag?  “My varnish is peeling.” “My seams are coming apart.”  “You never clean my bilge.”

If, through no fault of his own, a man were to fall in love with a boat, would his wife label him as unfaithful?  Perhaps it’s no wonder that so many wives get the hell-in with yachting husbands.  No wonder so many wives develop antagonism toward boats. They sense an affair of the heart and mind, if not of the corpus, in which the man is a stupid, if innocent, dupe.

That’s not quite fair, of course, since men have not yet found a defense against the all-powerful and very sneaky pheromone.

I shall continue to listen to Canadian TV and let you know if the scientists ever come up with an answer.

Today’s Thought
Science is a first-rate piece of furniture for a man’s upper-chamber, if he has common-sense on the ground floor.
— O. W. Holmes, The Poet at the Breakfast-Table

Writers whose works are shot down in flames should take comfort from the fact that the world has far more statues of writers than critics.

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


John Vigor said...

Kyle: You were asking who took the photograph on the cover of my book "The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat." I tried to e-mail you twice, but the messages bounced back. Anyway the picture was taken by Onne Van Der Wal of Newport, Rhode Island. Google him.


John V.

Anonymous said...


I read a while ago about a study that indicated that people get all kind of good vibes having wood around (in wooden houses in this study IIRC); something about lower blood pressure etc...
I have a wooden boat and even sitting a couple of hours in her cockpit is relaxing... I can easily forget the grass at home that needs cutting and other such really not so important stuff...