Sitting here amoung us is a person with a secret identity. He appears to be just a dapper, mild-mannered fellow who speaks quietly, but under that calm exterior is CAPTAIN SALTY!
Like Superman, Captain Salty is faster than a speeding bullet (unless he stops to tell you a story),
More powerful than a locomotive…able to maneuver a boat down the powerful waters of the Intercoastal Highway,
Able to leap tall ropes in a single bound….bravely propelling himself off the dock and onto his craft. (A trick I certainly can’t do gracefully!)
Yes. It’s Captain Salty, our guide to the nautical world with powers and abilities far beyond those of non-nautical men. Captain Salty, who can change course on mighty rivers, tie and untie a surplus of different knots with his bare hands, and who, disguised as Wally Jansen, Thursday writer and husband of Jane, holds a never-ending passion for boats, seafaring, and the right-of-way.
When Captain Salty casually took on the task of my son’s maritime education, I had NO IDEA how many different things this encompassed. Coming from western Pennsylvania where there isn’t a lot of sailing activity, boats and the like were an undiscovered world and one we didn’t really think of very much. As I’m finding out, the nautical world is a conglomeration of many very different webs. It’s not, as I first thought, just getting into a boat and going.
Who would’ve ever guessed that standing on a boat meant 1,000 new terms to learn? The terminology is just the beginning and it’s overwhelming. Captain Salty, of course, foresaw this and supplied my son with books with simple, colourful pictures and easy definitions. We’re finding out that the language of the seafaring world is a web of its own. But after just a weekend with Captain Salty on the boats, already it’s seguing into our conversations.
Speaking of conversations, who knew that being down at the marina would be such a social event – a veritable web of interaction? Just standing there on Sunday watching my son row in his boat, Captain Salty introduced me to the boat owners on either side of his slip. On one side was a waterman preparing his nets with little clams as bait for the crabs he hoped to catch the next day….definitely not a web I’ve ever thought of before. On the other side of our slip was a boat owner patiently scraping the discoloured wood on his boat so he could re-varnish it later. (Maintenance, I’m seeing, is another huge web all its own when it comes to boats). Captain Salty also told me the stories of each boat owner nearby and even the occupants of the houses near the docks. He informed me that anyone down at the marina is always happy to talk about their boat. Obviously, he’s spent much time in this social whirl.
That waterman preparing his bait for the next day also led us into the web of underwater wildlife. Who ever knew that just sailing boats would give so much insight into the environment beneath the water? But indeed, Captain Salty and the waterman swapped many stories about the right baits for precise prey, various seasons of stock, what water temperatures in which areas sustain which creatures, and even some more colourful stories about the sometimes very odd characteristics of underwater critters.
I also had no idea that when you’re out on a boat you had to be aware of weather, winds, and water conditions. But indeed, down at the docks, these are big topics of conversation. Boaters want to talk about what’s going on, what just happened, and what’s coming up with the weather. They talk about how rough or calm the water is, and even what they can see in the water (oil, small fish, algae, etc). They all seem to have a different way to predict the weather and also different ideas on what they’re going to do to the boats because of the weather. For example, in the winter, some people leave their boats in the water and others take them out and store them. I haven’t figured out the rhyme or reason to this yet. It’s just another of the many webs I am being introduced to right now.
And oh the knots! Everything has to be tied down just so to protect from the perils of the weather and water. The first day my son spent on the boat, Captain Salty taught him two different knots with the practiced moves of a spider spinning a web. Spencer thoroughly enjoyed himself when his father tried to tie something down and Spencer got the chance to look at him disdainfully, give a little chuckle, undo his father’s handiwork, and demonstrate the proper way to tie something down and clip it off. In reality, those first two knots Captain Salty showed him seemed to be one of the most exciting things to Spencer and we later found out in our books that there are as many knots in the world of sailing as there are things to tie down! The world of knots seems a web of its own – how they look, the action of tying, and in knowing which knot goes where.
My husband and I are only bystanders while Captain Salty teaches our son and already this much is in our heads. After Spencer’s first day on the water, he fell asleep fast and we sat down to watch some TV. When one of the characters on our show jumped into a rowboat we both perked up and said, “Hey! Those are oar locks!” and on seeing the oar catch on the water instead of making a clean sweep shouted “Oh, I think he ‘caught a crab’ there!”
Don’t let the lack of a cape or the mild-mannered exterior fool you…..we’ve got an unsung superhero right here on the Eastern Shore. It isn’t everyone who will take the time to share almost 80 years of boating knowledge and experience with a boy (and his parents) and make it seem such an easy and enjoyable thing. It’s quite an assemblage of webs, this whole nautical world, but luckily for us we’ve got Captain Salty at the helm navigating us through all the webs and skillfully handing a whole new world to the next generation.