June 21, 2016

The bravery of the simple sailor

I CAN’T HELP THINKING that there are a lot of wusses in the sporting world. You know, the weakling, wimpish kind of wuss. Those football players, for example.  Always complaining about head injuries and broken bones — despite all the helmets and padding and armor they wear.

When it comes to bravery and fortitude, people who endure pain and terror without complaint, you have to admire the amateur sailors of the world.

Sailing is a sport conducted in an arena filled with dangers completely unknown to football players. Sailors compete in the same waters as sting rays, electric eels, poisonous puffer fish, sea snakes, moray eels, killer whales and, of course, all kinds of sharks.

A journalist friend of mine called Ivor Wilkins was in his little yacht, Thistledown, on the way to New Zealand once when he ran into a whale at full tilt. He was lucky his boat didn’t sink. On another occasion, a 30-foot Van de Stadt-designed Pionier-class boat was racing across the Atlantic in 1971 when she was attacked by a pack of killer whales. Her keel was so badly damaged that she sank, and it was only by a miracle that an American freighter, forced off course by gales, came across her crew in their inflatable life raft.

People who cruise in the Pacific Northwest can add bears and leeches to the list of nasty surprises, not to mention shellfish poisoning. And, of course there is also the danger posed by the water itself. Few people last more than 20 minutes after falling overboard in frigid water.

Now, what protective gear do sailors wear? Practically nothing, compared with football players and even the genteel cricketers. We are so macho, compared with them. I mean, unlike the cricketers, we don’t wear protective boxes over our manly parts. We let them flap in the breeze, willy nilly, and allow them to fend for themselves against the sting rays and killer whales. What the world of sport needs is less whining about the dangers of football and more appreciation for the bravery of sailboaters. They could learn a lot from us.

 Today’s Thought
Those athletic brutes whom undeservedly we call heroes. 
— Dryden, Fables: Preface

"Doctor! Doctor! Help me! I think I'm shrinking!"
"Now calm down, Mrs. Jones, I’m afraid there's nothing to be done. You'll just have to learn to be a little patient.”

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