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Following Seas

Happy Holidays, More Days Off For You and Me.

July 19, 2006

August has no real holidays. Oh, there’s National Mustard Day on the 5th and National Spongecake Day on the 23rd, but just try getting off from work for those bogus celebrations.

Then again, maybe August should be thought of as a 31-day holiday as it’s at the heart and soul of the boating season. Nah. A good rationalization, but chances are you get only four weekends to enjoy it. So I’d like to propose a holiday you can legitimately take the day off for. In fact, I have lots of holidays that I’d like to give to the other holiday-free months such as March, April, and June. And one more just for the hell of it. Let’s face it, you can’t have too many holidays – just ask the Italians.

For August, I’d like to make the last Friday of the month Sea Hog Day – might as well get a long weekend out of it. This is like Groundhog Day, but with a porpoise. Porpoises, by the way, used to be called sea hogs, from the Middle English word porpeis (derived from porc for pig, and peis for fish). If Flipper sticks his head out of the water and sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of summer. Yaaaaay!

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In March I’d make the first day of spring, which used to be the 21st but is now the 20th, the Wearing of the Red Day. This dates back to when Druids painted themselves blue. But in this case ancient boaters found themselves covered in red copper-based paint after getting ready for the coming season. It’s a male pagan festival that’s still joyously celebrated in boatyards worldwide, although now participants have a lot more colors and chemistry from which to choose.

April lends itself nicely to Heaving Day. Not a particularly joyous holiday, but one that should be observed at the beginning of each season. Think of it as a day of atonement, wherein you must choose and then chuck overboard all the useless junk you accumulated from the previous season. This holiday came about when designers discovered that the two most important factors affecting a boat’s speed and efficiency are weight and horsepower. They also found that removing weight is almost always better (and cheaper) than adding power. Gains in speed require geometrical increases in power, whereas the effect of weight reduction is linear. So give that useless ballast the old heave-ho. If it’s late June, Delivery Day is right around the corner – along with your sanity. The boat you ordered last fall was supposed to be ready and in the water by April 1. What a fool you were to believe that one. Delivery Day is always on June 30, the last day of the month. No one knows why, it just is. There’s no use in threatening the salesman screaming that the season is half over. Think of it as having half the season left. Get over it, inhale deeply of that new-boat smell, and enjoy.

I know September has Labor Day, but that’s at the beginning of the month when the weather is still like August. What we need is to extend the long season hopefully predicted on Sea Hog Day. So I’d like to have St. Danforth’s Day on the last Wednesday of the month.

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It has a good religious sound to it and no boss would dare keep you from worshiping at the church of your choice-even if you have to take your boat to get there.

The holiday acknowledges the Danforth anchor. God bless it. The classic fisherman’s anchor had been the symbol of hope for a few millennia and didn’t change much until Richard Danforth patented his stockless masterpiece in 1939. Given a good heavy chain of at least 8′ and more than 7:1 scope, your prayers will be answered. Of course, there have been a lot of false prophets. About a decade before the Danforth, it looked like we might have a new messiah in the CQR plow. But this pretender is too heavy and awkward to stow. All good reasons to keep the faith and beat those plowshares into Danforth flukes.

So, until the next time I see you outside the inlet, remember that as long as you’re on the water, life’s a holiday. Now go out and celebrate.

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