February 19, 2015

Shoes for walking on water

I HAVE NOTICED in my wanderings that some of the most macho sailors don’t wear shoes on board. They go barefoot. I have never been a macho sailor, but I do know that hardly anything feels as good as warm teak deck planks underfoot, especially if the owner of the planks knows his stuff and has not oiled them or (heaven help us) varnished them.

Nevertheless, I have rarely gone barefoot on long passages away from land for fear of injuring my feet. It’s very easy to stub a toe, or even break a bone, on a cleat or some other hardware you find on sailboat decks.

The question is: if you’re non-macho wimp like me, what kind of foot gear should you wear?

Sandals are tempting, but still leave toes vulnerable to stubbing,  and the tops of your feet  can still get sunburned, if you’re lucky enough to find some sun. Sandals are good for going ashore,   however, when you have to step out of a dinghy into water at the beach.

What about boots, then? Well, they’re very practical in cold climates, but not so good in tropical waters, where they tend to be sweaty and clunky. They also have to be several sizes too big so you can kick them off if you go overboard. It’s not easy to swim in boots.

In the dim and distant past when I used to race dinghies I wore Dunlop Magisters. They had navy-blue, lace-up canvas tops — and they probably had rejected car tires on the bottom. Although I looked like a Blue-Footed Booby, they were absolutely de rigueur at the time. In fact, when they were new they were very much admired by the ladies on the yacht club veranda as I sauntered past. But, alas, after a couple of weeks in my locker (having been put away wet) they smelled like a pigsty right before mucking-out time,  and they no longer attracted feminine interest.

Right now, I own some half-price-bargain West-Marine-brand boat mocs, sort of lace-up moccasins with lots of grooves in the sole to whisk away water from underfoot. I also have two standby pairs, very similar, that my wife bought for me in a thrift store for about one-fifth of the price I paid for my new half-price ones.  One of the standby pairs is Polo, by Ralph Lauren, and is almost unwearable. I suppose they would be totally unwearable by anyone but me, because the leather has dried out and cracked open wherever there was a crease, so they now let water in and won’t let it out. The other pair claims to have been “Engineered by Rockport.” It is in better shape, but looks worse, because the suede leather uppers have been discolored by years of dousings in sea water; so in deference to the feelings of the ladies on the verandah, I don’t wear them in public any more. Incidentally, despite their noble brand names, both were made in China. I imagine they’d look very nifty on a sampan.

Today’s Thought
My shoes are special . . . shoes for discerning feet.
— Manolo Blahnik

“You’re an hour late for work.”
“Yes, sorry boss, but I fell down the stairs and hurt myself.”
“A likely story!  Since when does it take an hour to fall down some stairs?”

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