Sailors throughout time have been the masters of improvisation, finding shortcuts, quick fixes, low cost remedies and dodges to make life at sea easier.
Of course, the skilled sailors make the most complicated jobs look easy – but they all started with little knowledge and learned their craft by listening, discussing, watching, practicing and learning from others. In the modern age we are fortunate to have the internet to answer all our questions and YouTube to show us how to do it. However, basic skills, practice and preparation are still needed for anyone thinking of heading out to sea.
Some lessons are hard won – On my first trip to sea as an apprentice I almost got washed over the side during a gale in the Bay of Biscay. I was halfway over the side when the Bosun hauled me back inboard and gave me a good thumping and the sound advice (in colourful terms) “One hand for yourself and one hand for the ship”. A lesson I have never forgotten and always practiced.
Some time later the Bosun walked past me on sunny day when I was sitting on the ships rail – in a low voice he said “Fools, first trippers and engineers sit on ships rails” – I was embarrassed and to this day would never think of being so stupid to sit on a ships rail. Two simple lessons for life.
The bosun was a hard man, the last of the breed that sailed on sailing ships around Cape Horn. You can learn a lot from such people, almost by osmosis, his seamanship skills were tremendous. In the modern age most of his skill would now be obsolete, outdated or negated by Health and Safety rules. Seamanship is a continuously evolving skill, boats change and develop, new materials make the impossible possible – we are constantly learning new tricks from new generations of seafarers.