On the Water: Don’t mess with Mother Ocean

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Nothing quite so sad as a boat filled with smoke. Courtesy photo

Mother Ocean can be a pretty unforgiving loved one. She has a short temper and a long memory. She seems to know if you’ve been good or bad.

She remains a mystery to most even though 63 percent of the world’s population lives within a coastal zone. These populations that live and work on the ocean or near Mother Ocean have evolved to include a surprising number of Gods and Demons to explain the unexplainable.

We are all very familiar with the Greek Poseidon and his Roman counterpart Neptune, but would it surprise you to discover that there are more than 260 other ocean deities that play a role in our maritime activities?

This plethora of gods leads to a wide-ranging group of superstitions, not the least of which is the bad luck brought about by bringing bananas onto a fishing boat.

On that topic I can attest that Afishinados Charters has broken the spell. We were having a bit of bad luck finding quality fish for our customer to catch earlier in this season, so I got my crew together to go fishing.

As soon as we had left the dock, I exposed my complicity by pointing out that we had a banana sticking out of the center rod-holder. “We have a few spells to break”, I announced.

That day went well, we caught some fish and recorded some new high spots on our fish-finder. Since that day the fish have been kinder to us. We even had excellent Bonito fishing this week without a single sea lion crashing our party.

I probably have a few superstitions, but I would not consider myself to be superstitious by nature. Of course, I would probably be the last to become aware of some of the things I do to appease the sea gods.

Apparently it is bad luck to rename a boat, but there is no way that I was going to run around with HoughGarten on my transom. So, we renamed that boat K’s Hurrah and did the full naming ritual by breaking a bottle of champagne over the bow at launch time.

I should say we tried to break the bottle, but gel coat and fiberglass is not up to the task. It is harder than you might think to break a bottle when you try to. They only break when you are not trying.

When it came time to rename our newest boat GUSTO, we burned a little sage as I peeled off the old SunRuss III sticker. Who knows if we did the right thing, but she has been a reliable vessel so far …

The tricky thing is that superstitions can easily get confused with common sense. Some would say it is simply not sensible to taunt the gods with a banana or by renaming a boat or by doing any of a hundred things the gods frown upon.

There are a few things that are hard and fast rules and no amount of superstition will overcome the consequences. If boaters learn these rules early they will have more satisfying maritime adventures.

Number One: Never launch your boat without drain plugs in place.

Number Two: Boats break, so learn how to fix yours if you want to use it.

Number Three: Before you go too far forward, make sure you can get back. (You will be surprised to find a different ocean on a heading only 180 degrees from the one you took).

Number Four: Mother Ocean does not tolerate sloppy maintenance of your equipment.

There are weaknesses in every boat and in every boat design. Boats are basically a complex set of compromises to overcome the physics of mass, displacement and buoyancy which means you are starting out with some disadvantages.

So when your boat breaks, and it will, do not make matters worse by blaming the gods, they will not help you. And DO NOT MAKE RASH DECISIONS! Slow it down and insure your safety first, and then start to break down the problem.

I remember a shaft log giving way while my family was aboard during a crossing to Avalon. The boat started to wallow and feel heavy, but I had no alarms. Still, I opened the engine room for a quick check and found about two feet of water inside the hull. Not good.

I was able to off load my passengers and get some pumps working to remove the water before discovering the cause and stemming the incoming flow.

As I sat wet and exhausted but safe, I will never forget a distinct motherly voice whispering in my ear, “it could have been worse.”

Capt. John runs Afishinados Charters and Catallac Tours – john@afishinados.com – 888-613-7770.

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