My sister Joy once commented that listening to Dudley and me talking on our sailboat was similar to hearing a foreign language. Until she mentioned it, I had been so intent on learning sailor jargon over the years that I hadn’t really thought about what it may sound like to non-boaters who join us for a simple day sail.
With that in mind, the Captain and I have compiled a list of questions and statements that we’ve heard along the ICW that might raise eyebrows on land. Take a look and see if you can decipher what is meant by each.
- Are you going out?
- How much do you put out?
- How much do you draw?
- What’s your draft?
- Traffic at 7:00.
- How many heads do you have?
- Can I use your head?
- My head is stopped up.
If nothing else, maybe the answers will bring an occasional chuckle.
- The number one question that we’ve heard coming down the ICW, and even from sailing friends back home: Are you going out? Back on land, this question could mean a few things, like “Are you going out to dinner?” or to the grocery store, or outside to enjoy the nice weather. But on the ICW, this inquiry pertains to whether boaters plan to go out into the ocean rather than remaining inland, journeying down the “ditch” affectionately called the ICW. If we had a dollar for every time we’ve been asked that question, or have asked others that question, we could have stayed 2-3 nights at the most expensive marina thus far. Our answer: No. Not until we decide to cross over to the Bahamas. Except that we did kiss the ocean on Day 50. More about that later.
- An amusing question to hear is “How much do you put out?” which on land has connotations that I seem to recall from trash talk in high school and college locker rooms. But in our sea world, this is asked when we debate how much chain or line to “put out” for anchoring. We typically put out a 1:5 scope, but that will vary according to winds, current, and other conditions. A friend recently told us he generally puts out 1:10. We know people who only put out 1:3. And we’ve watched other boaters only put out a 1:2 and act surprised when they drag anchor. See blog post Life on the Hook (Day 33).
- How much do you draw? Well, I do sketch quite a bit, mostly pencil as well as pen and ink. But that’s not the typical sailor answer. This answer has to do with the response to the next question too.
- What’s your draft? I’m not a beer drinker now, but I used to be, and I remember asking what beers the restaurants had on draft. But that’s not a sailor inquiry. Well, actually it is, but I digress. What I mean is that, on boats, “how much we draw” and the “amount of our draft” refers to the same fact: the depth of our boat from the waterline to the bottom of our keel. This is the minimum amount of water we need (plus a foot more for good luck and easy breathing) in order to not run aground. Belle Bateau draws 5’6” — that is doable down the ICW as long as we are very careful (see 90% of our posts). Draft is also a concern on the Chesapeake, so the ICW doesn’t have a monopoly on caution. In fact, most anywhere we want to go, including the Bahamas, draft is something to seriously consider. Hmmm, do you have Blue Moon on draft?
- Traffic at 7:00. It’s been two months since we were concerned about traffic jams during rush hours on the messed up highways in the Baltimore/Washington metro area. So when the person at the helm hears “traffic at 7:00,” it means that another boat (usually a fast powerboat) is approaching from over the left shoulder. We use time analogies throughout each day. The bow of the boat (the front pointy part) is noon, and the stern (the center back) is 6:00. The rest of the times follow as we all learned in first grade. We say “dolphins at 2:00” or “shrimp boat at 11:30” or “big huge mega tug and barge bearing down at 7:00.” Knowing how to tell time the good ole fashion way is a safety feature on boats!
- How many heads do you have? Let’s face it (get it—pun—ha ha!), it would be really weird to hear someone on land ask a friend that question. But that’s a common question we get when people see the length of our sailboat. We have two heads, meaning toilets. And ours are new electric heads. Oooh la la! That means that we push a button and the flush happens easy peasy. Before Belle Bateau was refit last winter, she had manual pump flush mechanisms. I like the electric swoosh. Because if someone asks…
- Can I use your head? It’s quite natural to say sure, use either of our heads. And that can mean, tap into what the two of us know, or feel free to use either “his head” or “her head” as long as you only flush the smallest iota of TP with your personal business. Because as a famous Baltimore captain once posted in his head on his sailboat: “There are no plumbers at sea.”
- My head is stopped up. I’m sure by now you have already guessed that this statement does not refer to having a head cold. Thankfully, neither of us has uttered these words — because we follow the guidelines stated in #7 above. But we’ve heard a few stories of other sailors who have had the misfortune of this ailment at sea. Not something either of us wants to add to the “fix 3 things a day” list.
There are so many other phrases or words common to sailing lingo. “Ease the sheets” and “I’ll give you a slow pass” and “How long is your snubber?” We could go on and on. But we won’t.
Instead, we’d rather share the two big pieces of news that happened in the last few days. When we departed Jekyll Island, we kissed the Atlantic Ocean.
Yep! We had to “go out” for just a teeny bit to navigate St. Andrew’s Sound before passing Cumberland Island on our way back inside to Fernandina on Amelia Island. Ironically, it was the first day of the entire trip that we planned to leave on LOW tide, because the breakers would be less fierce. And it was relatively calm.
Once on Fernandina Beach, we toasted “50 days at sea” at Ciao, a delightful Italian restaurant. We think it’s only fitting that we “went out” on a day that we “went out.” Ha! Get it?
You are catching on fast! See, this sailing life isn’t that tough to learn.
And by the way, we are in Florida! Our sixth state!