Tag Archives: sailing

A Tale of My Father: Storm on the Sea

4 Jul

July 4, 2013

Saying that my father knew people is a gross understatement. A candidate for local office may shake the hands of hundreds of people, and still may not equal the number of people my father knew- and knew by name.

For example, Dad would take two or three trips to Las Vegas, along with my grandmother, every year. Along with the normal luggage you’d expect- clothes, for example- he would take a couple of dozen bagels, a gallon of pickles, and other assorted New York foods. Why? Because he knew one of the chefs in a big Vegas hotel and they could not get that type of food out West. (Some people smuggle drugs in their suitcases, Dad packed kosher half-sours.

This particular Tale of My Father is not his finest moment but it is a good story.


Dad loved to go fishing, and he especially loved to go fishing from boats. Fishing off a dock is not nearly as much fun, take it from me, and the type of people you meet fishing off the seawall in Brooklyn? The less said the better. But Dad knew someone who owned a boat and invited him and some others to go fishing. This was a sailboat and you needed to know what you were doing if you wanted to be on one. It takes a certain amount of effort to crew a sailboat. For example, you have to know what lines to pull to make the sail swing around, and you have to be very, very aware when the sail swings around because the beam it is attached to is a- very, very heavy, and b- more or less at the level of your head. So imagine a heavy piece of canvas attached to a log flying around the deck and you have a clue as to why you had to know what the sail was doing at any minute.

So on this occasion Dad and his friends were somewhere on the water fishing and the fishing was great. You should have been there. (There are two fundamental rules for every story about fishing. One is the fishing was always better some time in the past, before you showed up to fish- usually “yesterday.” And two, invariably, when asked how the fishing is, someone will tell you “you should have been here yesterday.”) The weather was nice, the fishing good, the soda and beer plentiful, and the water calm.

And then suddenly a storm came out of nowhere and drenched them all.

minnow-dont-panicThe sea became rough, the boat was tossed, almost but not quite Gilligan’s Island style, and the fishermen soaked. Dad, of course, was ready and had his rain suit with him. In the pouring rain, on the storm-tossed water, he grabbed his wet-weather gear and started to pull it on. If you’ve seen the deck of a sailboat you know there is not much to keep you from being tossed off the boat, just a small rail. So here is Dad, deck pitching, getting soaked by the rain, trying to pull on his rain gear, but above all, watching out for the sail, which in this condition was flying around the boat like the aforementioned flying log.

So it is understandable that he put on the first thing he grabbed, which were his rain pants. Rain pants are not like normal pants in that they have no belt and are not a snug fit. They are loose and held up by suspenders. And as Dad found out, in a heavy downpour, they act as a rubber funnel and all the rain collects inside and soaks your legs. So poor Dad was frantically searching for his rain coat, dodging the sail, and trying to keep from being pitched overboard, all while getting soaked to the bone in his legs. Ideally, you would already be wearing the rain gear when the rain starts or have a dry shelter in which to put them on since the pants have to go one first. In less than ideal weather, you would put on the pants and very quickly put the coat on atop them. These were not less than ideal conditions.

By the time Dad got the rain coat on it was almost pointless. He was soaked, drenched, waterlogged- you can name your favorite description- and the water was now just sitting on him and steaming under the heavy layer of rubber. It is amazing that he didn’t catch the cold or a flu from that, and just as amazing that no one else got conked on the head by the flying sail, but the fishing was great.

You should have been there.

A Sailor’s Life for Me! (Classic Rant Repost)

24 Jul

July 24, 2012

This one goes all the way back to 2006. And you know what? Nothing has changed since then.

from September 23, 2006

I’ve always been drawn to the sea. Even as a child, I had sea-water in my veins. This caused a big problem when I was born. I required a series of very dangerous transfusions to replace all that sea-water with actual blood. But I digress.

My family has a strong naval heritage. While Admiral Bradford Jacobson (1898-1953) may be the most prominent member of the Jacobson naval fraternity, he was by no means the first. The first documented sailor Jacobson was Bryce Jacobson, from Scotland in the 15th century. Trust me- it was not easy being a Scottish Jew. Haggis is not kosher, and that’s all anybody ate around there- haggis omelets for breakfast. Haggis on rye for lunch. Haggis fermented into a sort of rum for dinner. It was a real drag. Great-grandpa Bryce enlisted in the navy with the intent of jumping ship in a kosher country. Not finding one, he stayed on board for the next twenty years and eventually died of scurvy.

I have always had an affinity for the ocean. In my room at work I have nautical prints hung and at home a portrait of Lord Nelson hangs above my bed. I learned to swim in the Long Island Sound and the radioactive glow did little to diminish my love of the open water. As a youth, I first went fishing for fluke and then advanced to blues and, later, marlin, by age ten. So it has been a long, deliberate process which has brought me to this decision: I want to be a pirate.

That’s right. A pirate.

“Arrr me mateys! Avast there!” See? I have all the lingo down. Pirates do exist. In Indonesian and Asian waters there exists today a serious problem with piracy that costs the oil industry millions of dollars each year. That is not what I mean. I want to be an eye-patch wearing, stripped shirt sporting, walk-the-plank dude. Why not? Pirates don’t punch in at nine, go home at five. They’re pirates 24/7. Wake up, hang someone from the yardarm. Breakfast, then forty lashes for the cook. Lunch, then spot a Spanish galleon of the port bow, unfurl all sails, prepare the cannons. Dinner, then a cutlass duel and a drink till dawn. Plenty of lusty wenches, lots of treasure to bury, nothing but the open waves and the smell of freedom in the air. No boss to report to. Someone has beef with you, shoot them in the back. Go where you want, do what you want, take what you want. You can be as obnoxious as you want to and offend anyone you want.

Pirates remain the last group that is not politically correct. To be a pirate is to BE someone. To be respected. Walk tall, oh men of the ocean! For you are the last true free men. And that is what I aspire to be.

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