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Sailing With Charlie: Hats

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Hats are important in the tropics, especially for baldies or those with thinning hair. This is even truer while sailing in the noonday sun; skin cancer being all too prominent these days.

There are lots of options out there when it comes to appropriate lids. Most self-respecting yachties wear the red Mount Gay cap, but it can’t be a new one. It has to look like it’s done a couple of circumnavigations; shabby, faded and salt stained. Topsiders are similar yachtie high fashion. They should have the ‘Survived Hurricane Hugo’ look.

The problem with most baseball style yachting caps is that when you look up at the sails the wind catches the peak and blows your hat off.  If you have this problem then buy a retainer; a string with an alligator clip on one end to attach to the neck of your T-shirt. Charlie recently saw a video of an updated version of this (called the Boomerang) whereby the string was exchanged for thin bungee cord. The hat flies off, reaches the end of its stretch and then lands right back on your head again – what ingenuity. (Note: The video was later identified as being fake; the last part just being a video rewind – what pirates!).

Charlie reckons that one hat blows off for every one week sailing trip he makes. ‘It provides for instant “crew overboard” recovery practice because no-one is expecting it, making it close to a real life situation. A cap will only stay afloat for a minute or two, so speed is of the essence.”

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Just imagine how many caps must be on the BVI’s sea bed. It might even impact your anchor’s holding ability if it were to land on a stack of hats.

There are lots of options out there when it comes to head gear for sailors. Wide brimmed straw hats and Mexican sombreros are not suitable because they tend to tear off in a gale or squall. Pancho Villa might not agree. The entomologist’s special with neck sun guard could well be the best option but somehow it looks a bit dorky. Tilley hats have some great designs and you could easily personalize one with a skull and crossbones, centre forward.

For special parties Charlie likes the tricorn or cocked hat like Nelson wore and which pirates adorned with ribbons, feathers and sashes; very cool for the right occasion.

Some yachtsmen from Eastern Europe proudly adorn the modern officer’s cap with scrambled egg on the peak, which no other self-respecting yachtie would wear unless he came from somewhere east of the Adriatic. It relays the message that “I can remain on the bridge and order you eggless minions to risk your lives in dangerous confrontations.”

When all is said and done we come back to the red Mount Gay cap. If you have to get a new one just soak it in bleach and water (not too strong or it’ll disintegrate), stomp on it while doing The Twist and then use it to wipe your engine’s dipstick a couple of times. Make sure to wear it at the regatta party; you’ll probably find girls approaching you and asking for your autograph.

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Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’.

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