Wednesday, May 30, 2012

friends of Willie the Whaler

I was recently contacted by Vince M. who writes:
Somehow, I stumbled upon your column and found the Willie the Whaler cartoons.  I love them!  I despise anyone that hurts or kills whales, but I do love all things nautical...
After establishing his excellent tastes and anti-animal cruelty coolness, he then proceeded to clarify many of the issues that I had been wondering about during the period from November 2010 - June 2011 when I was blogging about the Willie ads:
Since you already correctly described the bowsprit and martingale, I’ll describe the others.

What is now called a bowsprit (the spar extending forward from the bow) was once called a gyb by the Dutch.  The English spelling of which is, jib.  The English eventually started calling that spar a bow sprit, but they continued to call the sails attached to it, jib sails. (jibsail, inner jib, outer jib, flying jib, jib topsail...) As you know, with few exceptions, sails are named after what they are attached to. (not the other way around)

A jib boom is yet another spar that is attached to the jib (bow sprit).  It extends the bow sprit by roughly 50% to 90% in length.  Another spar may be attached to the jib boom, to extend it even further, and that is called a flying jib boom.

Headstays are lines that are attached to the forward most mast of a sailing vessel, and they are either terminated at the bow or on various points along the bow sprit, jib boom, or flying jib boom, however the vessel is equipped.  Headstays 'stay' the mast from falling over backwards, whereas back stays prevent the masts from falling forward.

The very upper part of the bow of a sailing vessel is where the head timbers are located, which help support the bowsprit.  That's also where the 'bathroom' (head grating) was located, hence the term 'going to the head'.  So, the ‘head’ of the vessel, is the front of the boat.  The sails that are located forward of the most forward mast, are called headsails, even though they have individual names. (all sails do)  The lines that stay the mast to the bowsprit group are therefore called headstays.

Larger boats have masts that are made in sections.  For instance, a typical square rigger's foremast, (the one furthest forward) has a lower section called the foremast.  Above that would be the fore topmast.  Above that would be the fore topgallant mast.  Then the fore royal mast.  Each one of those masts has a stay that goes forward and down, to the bow, the bowsprit, the jib boom, or the flying jib boom.  The taller the mast is, the longer the bowsprit and its extensions will be...
...When Willie said, “…I don’t see fitten for to lower.”  I see that as it was windy enough that he SHOULD have lowered his sails, or at least reefed them, but he’d rather go faster (at the risk of putting the ship in peril) and drink to have the courage to replace his lack of prudence.  Many Captains did just that...

Swinging the lead, or sounding, was a fairly easy job, and the lucky ones to get assigned to do it, were happy to have a ‘lazy job’ to do for a change.  It did eventually come to mean that you were a “Lazy Jack” if you were ‘swinging the lead’.  (Lazy Jacks today, are a system of lines to control a sail while lowering it……a labor saving device)

You nailed it about the ‘sun is over the foreyard’.  Once the sun was above the lowest yard on the foremast, the Captain allowed rum rations to be distributed.

Camber is the curve that the surface of the sails have when powered by wind.  Just like an airplane wing.  It is built into the sail during the construction of them by carefully cutting the separate panels that make up the sail.

If one goes for a camber, it means to go for a sail.  However, in keeping with the traditions of Willie, I can only assume that his walking path would be a curve (camber) after having slugged a bit of plush.
Wow - so many mysteries solved - but maybe the biggest mystery solved was this commentary on my bafflement over this Willie ad - Willie says: "Let's straighten the Monongehela with our addlings." Vince writes:
I just looked up addling, which one definition of it is the verb form of addle.  Whiskey, (or any alcohol) can addle your brain, but I think it means something completely different in this case.  The Monongahela reference is, in my opinion, the river in southern Pennsylvania and northwestern West Virginia.  It is a very crooked river, and parts of it were straightened to allow for easier traffic for the commerce that uses it for transportation.  It was probably big news for a few weeks or months at some point in time.  I found references about straightening it, but couldn't nail down exactly how much of it was straightened, but it wasn't that much of it according to current maps.

I found a site that shows addle to be a synonym of puddle.  Here is the 4th definition of it:

4. (verb) puddle
wade or dabble in a puddle
Synonyms: pee-pee, make water, micturate, wee, addle, piddle, muddle, relieve oneself, make, urinate, pass water, spend a penny, wee-wee, piss, take a leak, pee

The next several definitions of puddle, also include addle as synonyms.  Here is the link to that site.  So, I think that Willie and company drank so much that their addlings straightened the Monongahela River with the extra flow of liquids.
Yes, that would totally be like Willie to say something like that! I think Vince has solved this most mysterious of all Willie mysteries, by Jove! Way to go Vince!

He also suggests that I might want to write an article on Willie for a sailing magazine:
It's called Good Old Boat and here's the link for the online portion of their magazine.  They cater to the 'poor' sailing people, unlike Sailing and other magazines, which is for the rich, snooty bastards with their multi-million dollar yachts.
Fascinating - it never occurred to me that there was a class hierarchy in the world of boating. Of course I know almost nothing about boats, as is obvious in my posts about Willie. I almost got to ride in a sailboat, a few years ago - the actor in one of my theater productions offered to take the cast and I out on his father's sailboat, but then I had a falling out with the actor so that never happened. So I wrote a scene on a boat in my play JULIA & BUDDY to make up for it. That's what art is all about - sublimation.

I just might write the article on Willie, after some research and permission - I'm not sure what copyright issues, if any, pertain to these Willie ads and the New Yorker, so I'd better contact the New Yorker and ask. They also might have more information about the origin of the character, the artist, etc.

I popped in at the Whaler Bar at 38th and Madison just last week, while waiting for an appointment. Unfortunately drinks were not being served - I walked in on what looked like a private event in the bar, a meeting of a bunch of suits who looked like extras from Mad Men. But the mural was still there so I was happy.

The image at the top of this post is this Willie the Whaler ad that I colorized with Photoshop.

Thanks again, Vince!