While ashore after a weeklong regatta, I noticed something I had not really paid much attention to before. We boaters are a motley crew! As I walked the streets, I noticed a stark contrast between the tourists with their clean colorful shirts, fanny packs and pasty white skin and the dishoveled riff raff that had just arrived in our small vessels.
The sailors were easy to spot: their hair was a tangled mess and they looked like they had not shaved in days. Ladies of the group appeared to have lost their makeup bags overboard weeks ago although, in their defense, they looked a lot better than their male counterparts! (Of course that might have been the result of having just spent seven days at sea with just two other guys to look at!) Most of the sailors dressed in ragged T-shirts and shorts wearing deck shoes that looked as if they had been salvaged from a desert island beach.
Even the sportfish guys with their gold chains, cigars, and Rolex watches had a scruffiness that took a liberal douse of saltwater to perfect. The deep, dark tans acquired over weeks in sun clearly separated the yachties form the much pinker tourist’s fresh off the cruiseships.
I am not at all ashamed of my lack of concern regarding my attire when I am cruising. This is a tradition we boaters work hard to maintain. Okay, maybe we don’t put much effort into it – it’s more a form of diligent neglect. Historically, most sailors looked shabby, at least those not in a navy or yacht club.
The pirates, of course, seemed to have taken this to a new level. Not only did they look shabby, but somehow managed to look cool doing it. In some form we may all fancy ourselves modern day pirates. I personally think that being a pirate would be way too much effort. All that plundering, pillaging and such would be such hard work! Many of us could get onboard for the rum swilling part though.
If you’ve ever run into someone in the real world that you have hung out with on the docks, the contrast can be startling. You may not recognize that dock bum who you’ve known for years at the local marina should you meet him on the street. Disguised in an Armani suit, neatly shaved with polished shoes you would never think that this is the person who just last weekend you swilled beer with while grilling mackerel on the aft deck.
Yachtsmen who dress in fancy blue blazers with pressed khaki pants and a neat cap are simply not getting it in my opinion. We take to the docks and the waves to get away from all that impressing the Jones’s stuff. This is our time to let our hair down (assuming we have any) and relax.
The fact that we all dress likes slobs removes the barriers of class and position. That is one of the great things in the boating life – the fact that we can meet and hang out with anyone who will share a beer or rum with us regardless of how much we make or where we live in the real world. Out here, whether it is a tropical island or the local marina, we are all equals and all slobs!
Capt. Wayne Canning, AMS, is a boat surveyor based in Wilmington, N.C. Visit his site at www.projectboatzen.com.