HANDS UP those of you who know what salopettes are.
Yeah, well, okay, I should have known there would be some smart-asses among you. Salopettes, for the rest of us, are sailing trousers and tops combined, a sort of Frenchified, adult onesie. You might say they’re a fancy kind of waterproof bib and trousers — sleeker, cooler, and much hauter in the ranks of nautical haute couture. And, naturally, correspondingly more expensive.
I mention this because someone called Torp has been writing about them on Yachting Monthly’s “Scuttlebutt” forum. Salopettes have been giving Torp problems:
“I have a pair of enthusiastically bright yellow salopettes,” he writes. “They are my pride and joy. However, I used to race on an old boat with blue ‘grippy’ stuff all over the deck. Courtesy of a good few sea hours buttock-down on the windward rail, I have found that this stuff has transferred itself to the seat of my trousers and no amount of scrubbing has made a dent in. So, long ago, I stopped trying.
“I don't mind, and the clothes are still waterproof so I'm not planning on forking out for a new set. However, I've been sailing on a different boat recently. This is one of those posh icebergs with gleaming gelcoat and fixtures and fittings pretty much still in their shrink-wrap.
“The skipper is fiercely boat-proud and ALWAYS well turned-out in the latest, freshest kit in a sleek pale grey (a color that wouldn't last five minutes on me). Today I received several vibes that my dirty bottom and I are not quite up to the required standard. Remarks were directed towards my dulled posterior 'letting the side down', and I did observe the skipper later checking the spot I had just quit, presumably to make sure that none of my ancient arsegrime had contaminated his treasured decks. A further subtle hint I picked up on was that whenever we passed another crew at close quarters I was hastily bundled into the cockpit.
“Anyway, it's a great boat and I'd like to continue sailing on it, but I'm fairly sure I'm soon to receive an ultimatum from the owner — he's going to tell me that my smutted cheeks are making the boat look bad. So please, can anyone recommend a product that will get rid of him?”
A little later, Torp, returned to the forum with an update on his unfortunate problem:
“Following hours of fruitless scrubbing and sluicing over the past few years, for no apparent reason some of the seemingly-unshiftable filth started to come off in last weekend's dreadful weather.
“When we got back the skipper watched, stoney-faced and silent, as I had to hose all the buttock-width streaks off his gleaming gelcoat.
“The weird thing is, though, the salopettes don't even look any cleaner! And judging by the state of the boat afterward, LOADS came off. LOADS did. What the hell is that stuff?!
“Also! Does anyone else need crew?”
Well, as you can imagine, Torp received many suggestions from fellow forum members concerning what to do about his dirty bottom, most of them more humorous than practical. There was one that caught my eye, however. It suggested that if the skipper wanted his crew to match his own splendid outfit, he should provide them all with the appropriate uniforms, as all the top racing owners do. Absolutely right.
Meanwhile, as the owner of nice comfortable 20-year-old foul-weather gear, I have no plans to replace it with fancy salopettes. I fear it will take more than new duds to make me acceptable on gin-palace racing boats.
It is possible in England to dress up by dressing down, but it’s a good idea to be a duke before you try it.
— John Russell, NY Times, 9 Mar 86
“Sara says she ran into you at the vegetarian club.”
“That’s a lie. I’ve never met herbivore.”(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)