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SEX and the SINGLE HANDER

I think it is unfortunate how, just because of the way a certain group of lonely sailors entertain themselves in private, they should be held up to public ridicule. This should stop. It is not PC. I mean, sailing couples aren’t known as ‘orificiers,’ are they? And, frankly, what singlehanders are doing is traditional. For hundreds of years, the nautical saying has been, “One hand for the ship!” which, of course, politely leaves out what the other is doing.  And, for all I know, many solitary boatmen might be ambidextrous—switch hitters, so to speak. I don’t feel it is any of my dang business! Why, this whole thing can easily be carried too far: what will I be labeled, a ‘raging heterosexual’ perhaps? And my gay sailing friends: how long must they endure the ‘butt pirate’ tag?

I mean, isn’t it time we matured beyond innuendo?

The yacht racers are among the worst offenders, always ‘hardening up’ and such. Frankly, I’ve been highly embarrassed during a recent Heineken Regatta by the constant shouting of ‘pole tip up’ during spinnaker changes. Really!

How juvenile!

And I often feel sorry for solitary sailors—during offshore SSB radio nets, for instance. I mean, how’s a singlehander supposed to civilly and chastely respond to a “position report” demand? I mean, what’s he supposed to say, “…sitting?”

…sounds lame, don’t it?

Generally speaking, singlehanders don’t generally speak about sex. Which isn’t to say they don’t speak—they usually do. Nonstop. Without pause. And with great, oceanic endurance!

Yes, singlehanders are mighty stingy with punctuation marks like periods. They love run-on sentences… which go on-and-on-and-on… like ‘how-to’ instructional phonograph records from the Toastmasters Club which skip/repeat… and skip/repeat.. and skip/repeat some more!

Which isn’t to say I don’t like singlehanders. I do. I just don’t like to encourage them. Thus, I avoid them. The reason I avoid them is they glom-on to you. By that I mean, if you show them ANY kindness whatsoever, they immediately smile and utter the universal singlehander greeting of, “…why, sure I’d love to come to dinner aboard your boat!”

Why are all singlehanders—even ones on multi-million dollar yachts—starving?

I guess it has something to do with the way they provision their vessels for offshore: I noticed the shopping cart of one Joshua Slocum wanna-be was filled with Ramon noodles and boxes of Kleenex… nothing else… but what more do they need?

Frankly, I try to tell each singlehander I meet that they talk too much— but it is hard to get a word in edgewise.

I found this very difficult to handle… until my wife Carolyn recently gave me those Bose noise-canceling headphones for Christmas.

 …sweet relief!

Speaking of Christmas gifts for the companion-impaired, how about a mirror?

I mean, where in HELL do singlehanders get their fashion tips?

It’s almost a uniform: the duct-taped, grinning topsiders… those stained, broken-zippered sailing shorts held up with hemp twine… baling-wired bifocals atilt… the faded & ripped t-shirt with dribble-bib!

It is obvious singlehanders don’t buy Gentleman’s Quarterly with their Lats and Atts!

…must all of them look like rejects from Jack Sparrow’s crew? I mean, where will this new trend of weaving nose hairs into dreds stop… at their barb-wire eyebrows or far lower?

Of course, I’ve single-handed myself. Or, to put it another way, I bought a girl who was sailing with me a pair of shoes—and she walked out on me. (Another sad sailing-chick-departs-story: I purchased a different female crew member a bicycle… and she’s still peddling her ass in San Juan!)

Yes, I’ve learned these lessons the hard way: never invite a woman aboard who can swim, that’s my motto. 

No, I don’t like singlehanding… because I hate sailing with an idiot. And a jerk in the galley. Or a imbecile as a navi-guesser. 

Let’s put it another way: I’m a man who is a good judge of people and has low self-esteem.

Yes, Cap’n Fatty offshore alone on a sailboat is probably the worst collection of sailing incompetents ever gathered together on the briny deep.

Frankly, I think that sailing without a crew member to berate, ridicule, yell at, and terrorize… well, takes a lot of the pleasure out of pleasure boating.

I mean, when I look back at the best moments I’ve had offshore… they almost all include a crew member weeping, puking or begging to return to shore.

…sometimes all three. 

Oh, I hate quitters most of all. I’ve had numerous crew members… let me rephrase that… most of my crew members… demand to be ‘let off’ at some point. I’m always obliging. I open the lifeline gate via its pelican hook and say, “Okay. GO!”

Suddenly, they change their mind real fast. “I meant, to be let off on land… not into the water in deep ocean!”

“Well then,” I hiss, “that’s a different matter, isn’t it? But not to worry, you wishy-washy bully boy… sure, you can quit on me… let down the team… fail to make the grade… renege on your promise… and spit in the face of 4,000 years of nautical tradition… in about a month or two when we get to our next port!”

Yes, the sad truth of it is that I’ve sailed with everyone in the Caribbean once, but none twice. Except for my current wife… who is, admittedly, as shoeless as she is clueless.

That’s one of the reasons I had to cruise the Pacific—to find new people to irritate.

Actually, none of the above is true. The reason I don’t single-hand is because I’m embarrassed. Some sailors can be nonchalant while saying they’re ‘…sailing with the five sisters’ but not me.

Ditto, ‘shaking hands with an old friend’ or ‘playing pocket pool’ or any of the other euphemisms the rain-coaters-with-sailing-harnesses use.

I mean, while I’m hauling up my Danforth or my CQR, I don’t want my fellow yachtsman to be thinking, “Who is the wanker at the anchor?”

Of course, not all singlehanders are men. Some are woman. But they have similar complaints… opposite, perhaps… but almost-the-same.

“The moment I poke my boat’s bowsprit into a new hidey-hole harbor, the eager-beaver sailor-boys start circling in their dinghies,” one tough ole Ms. Bligh told me. “…like, well, flies to honey. You wouldn’t believe the blunt offers I’ve had… yes, lots of ‘em want to help me with my plumbing… as if, I, a former corporate lawyer from LA… really purchased a small sailboat and singlehanded it across the Indian ocean… and dropped the hook in landless, peopleless Chagos… in desperate hopes of getting laid by some old toothless codger about to broad-reach through the Pearly Gates…”

It does seem an odd way to go about it, eh?

 But I’ll say one thing for singlehanders regardless of gender: they have some pretty big egos.

I was once drinking in a waterfront bar with a singlehander when the USCG sail training ship Eagle charged by on the horizon. “I could sail it,” said the fellow nonchalantly. “It would take me awhile… getting all those sails trimmed from all those yards… there would be a lot of running and climbing involved and I’d have to use more brains than brawn… but I could do it. No problem!”

Of course, a lot of people think singlehanders are all crazy. I do not. I believe, for instance, that Donald Crowhurst was taken by aliens into their spacecraft for scientific study… which must have set back their humo-social-research at least a decade or two.

Oh, sure. There are people who delight in being mean to singlehanders… showering them with non-self-launching man overboard gear for Christmas… MOB hoisting units, horseshoe buoys, Mini-RDFs, giant fiberglass poles with MOB flags and those cute little yellow drogues… all tightly attached to the vessel… but not the poor sap forlornly treading water behind it.

…oh, yes, such sadists exist… giving just the pink ‘her’ towels to the male singlehanders and the blue ‘his’ towels to their floating female equivalents. Or giving one of those battery-operated voice-actuated toy dolls which, when someone in the room speaks, says, “You’re talking to yourself again,” or “I’ve heard this story before, sailor!”  

…human cruelty knows no bounds. I recently was inspecting my life raft supplies and came across a waterproofed and sealed ‘survival ration’ box I hadn’t noticed before. I carefully read all the emergency marine stuff which was inside… all the water, food, spear guns, suntan lotion, solar cookers, desal plants, DVD players, plasticized Playboys, searchlights and sat-phones… until I realized with a start it was TOTALLY impossible all that gear could fit inside it. So I cautiously opened it—and jumped backwards in surprise when the emaciated, obviously dying-of-thirst sailor/skeleton exploded out of the Jack-Tarr-in-the-Box. 

Sick, huh? (I assume my wife must have placed it there as a joke… who else could hate me that much?)

If such ‘harmless’ pranks happen even to me, I assume singlehanders have it even worse.

All joking aside (if you can say such a thing this late in a humor column), perhaps the reason singlehanders are subject to such abuse is… because they can take it. They are mentally strong. I mean, if I wrote such insults about hetero couples… the ladies would scratch my eyes out. But the men… just sprinkle on more cologne and head ashore with high hopes yet again.

The true reality is I’m incredibly impressed by most singlehanders. Frankly, I don’t how they do it. For every minute I spend alone with myself, I have to spend an hour with my therapist (and even she, I can tell by the way she grimaces during our awkward sessions, doesn’t really like me… only my money).

My wife Carolyn and I have been sailing offshore together for almost 40 years now. We recently sailed through a series of gales in the Roar’n Forties and were utterly exhausted when we finally plopped the hook down. A couple of minutes later, a singlehander anchored close by and came over. “How did you handle those last three gales,” I croaked, bleeding heavily from both external and internal boat bites.

“…what gales?” he smiled back.

And that myth that they’ll all eat you out of ‘house-and-home’ is false. At least two of them only made it halfway through the provisions aboard Wild Card… before daintily leaning over the toe rail to purge.

No, I consider all solitary sailors to be my friends. I do not have any problems with them at all… except for halyard slap!

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