October 13, 2013

Cruising boats need Samson posts

YOU DON’T SEE MANY Samson posts on small boats these days, which is a pity. Every cruising boat should have a Samson post. There is something very shippy about a Samson post, something that connects a sensitive person to a nautical heritage going back thousands of years. But if you’re not a sensitive person, or don’t give a damn about your nautical heritage, you probably don’t even know what a Samson post is. Well, for your edification let me quote from the Encyclopedia of Nautical Knowledge (Cornell Maritime Press):

“Samson post: a single bollard or bitt at the fore end of a small vessel for making fast a tow rope, anchor cable, etc.”

It is, indeed very useful for those purposes, and also for mooring lines. It is a sturdy, honest-to-goodness hitching post that puts to shame those piddling little deck cleats now supplied in its stead by tight-fisted, insensitive boatbuilders.

When I converted a little Santana 22 club racer into a mini-cruiser, the first thing I did was to make her a Samson post of 2-inch by 2-inch white oak. I took it right through the deck, bolted it through the forepeak bulkhead and footed it on the keelson. I stood back many times to admire it, confident in the knowledge that it was more than man for the job.

I shaped the top into the traditional pyramid form, filed comely curves into the upright edges, and varnished the hell out of it.  I knew the lines around it would wear the varnish off, but I couldn’t help myself.  I wanted it to start off looking good anyway.

It needed a through pin, of course, and I couldn’t decide at first whether it should north-south or east-west. I eventually made it east-west, responding to some half-memory of an illustration in an old book, and hammered a piece of 3/8-inch stainless steel rod into a hole slightly too small. The hole, unfortunately, wasn’t exactly horizontal, so the Samson post always had a slightly woozy look about it, but that never stopped it doing its manly job, and I loved it anyway.

Another nice thing about a Samson post is that if you ever need a tow, you can show off  by making the line fast with an esoteric knot like the capstan hitch, or the towboat hitch, which, I suspect, is the same thing. I understand that girls are attracted to sailors who can do the capstan hitch, but I can’t vouch for that personally. The closest I came to it was once when  woman told me she admired the way I coiled a line around my arm. She was the skipper’s steady girlfriend, so it came to nothing, and rightly so, because line-coiling demands none of the flair and expertise of the capstan hitch, and, of course, a capstan hitch is no darned good without a Samson post, which that particular boat lacked.

Today’s Thought
A knot is a picky thing; if you don’t tie it exactly right, it is an entirely different knot — or it is nothing at all.
— Brian Toss, Knots

 Johnny’s mother had just presented the family with twins.
His father said: “If you tell your teacher, I’m sure she’ll give you a day off school.”
Sure enough, Johnny came home smiling. “No school for me tomorrow,” he announced.
“Did you tell your teacher about the twins?” his father asked.
“I told her about one,” said Johnny. “I’m saving the other one for next week.”

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


biglilwave said...

Thanks again John for educating and humbling this insensitive, ignorant American. I always thought the Samson post served as handle bars while sailors used the head ;)

Millard Hiner said...
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Unknown said...

My Lord Nelson 41 has a proper Samson post....but which Samson is it named after?

stemp guy said...

The one in the bible.