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Boating Through the Ages: Part II

In our last episode we learned how Neanderthals first took to the water, flushed with the heady inspiration of “Happy Tree Sap.” With the ice age, they migrated south to where it was warm, prompting the Beast-Women to shed their deerskins. There was no turning back now: the sub-species Homo-boatnik-erectus was here to stay. As men tugged and towed their crude log rafts along, arguments arose over whose boat was nicer, then discussions over whether those with smaller, less refined rafts should be allowed to remain in the group. “Look how him not gnaw off messy vine ends, Thag. Him drag knuckles on ground, too. Him just not belong.” “Me hear his Beast-Woman sleep in low branches, Crom. Pass me happy tree sap. Is bone in my nose straight?” This behavior provided the essence of yacht club comportment, which remains unchanged to this day. A good number of the Neanderthals stayed behind, presumably those mated to Beast- Women who looked better with their deerskins left ON. These guys understandably took long, cold voyages. Making landfall near some quaint unsuspecting coastal settlement, razing, raping and pillaging ensued–just the thing to remedy their crankiness. This clan evolved into the Vikings, worshippers of Odin and Thor, and we will always be indebted to them for institutionalizing the behavior expected of sailors arriving in a strange port. “Eh, Leif, look ‘ow dose huts burn, vill ya!” “Shur’n, Sven, ve gotta come back again after dey rebuild. Pass me de mead!” We must also acknowledge the Vikings’ contribution to boat styling. As a reminder of why they left in the first place, sinister-looking fire-spitting dragons adorned the prows of their ships. The tradition continued and, by the age of great sailing ships, actual women busting out of their outfits were depicted. Political correctness has infected the modern boating era and anchors now adorn the bow, but the symbolism remains very much intact. The Egyptians squandered too much time building pyramids, big stone cat things and major libraries when they should have been digging skiing lakes, erecting dry-stack marinas and placing Slow Speed/No Wake obelisks along the Nile, so they have no place in boating history. The same goes for the Mayans and Incas. Any macho savage can hurl a young virgin into a volcano, but it takes a real man with some finesse to get her to agree to “...go below and help lay a couple lashes on the rowing slaves.” Along the shores of the Med we saw a remarkable instance of men going to sea to get TO a woman… provided her garb fits just right... the kidnapping of Helen of Troy, “The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships.” Of even greater historical significance–boatwise–this episode established and codified the commander and crew relationship that was then adopted as standard procedure and is practiced by navies to this day. King Agamemnon wanted his gal in the tight silk robe, Helen, back. He was the ultimate Commodore and commanded a thousand ships. Each ship required at least one hundred men, and they all went along willingly. What was in it for them? I don’t care if Helen was Homecoming Queen or voted most popular at Ilium High, no girl has a hundred thousand or so friends she can fix-up with the rowdy band of drunken, murderous followers that tagged along after her boyfriend. So why in the name of Zeus did all those sailors follow Agamemnon into the epic battles of the Trojan War? (Note here also, the very roots of the most effective water balloon projectile ever invented!) It’s quite simple for we boatniks to comprehend. Think about how many friends started calling when YOU first bought your boat, and this joker Agamemnon had a few marinas’ worth! Thus was established the principle of naval command: the more, or bigger boats you have, the more guys will follow your orders so long as you lend them a boat or let them onboard yours. To further illustrate the point: an aircraft carrier captain maintains command, not because of the authority he has attained as an officer of accomplishment and distinction, nor from a code of respect, honor and the ancient laws of the sea, but rather because he has a huge fleet at his disposal full of guns, missiles, smart-bombs, supersonic jet fighters, catapults, nuclear reactors, 24-hour cafeterias and bowling alleys...all the stuff guys really like. Have you ever heard of an aircraft carrier or submarine being undermanned? Heck no...they’re turning them away at the gangway. Later on, Greeks started using boats for commerce while Romans concentrated on pleasure barges, which explains why the Romans eventually became the dominant force of the region. Your typical pleasure barge was a marvel of forward thinking and marine design. It could accommodate a bunch of your close personal barging friends, slaves, heathens, oracles and gladiators–along with enough lambs, goats, chickens, figs, grapes and wine casks to party your way through the whole Christian revolution. The practicality of the design meant eliminating those nasty below-deck facilities so your barge full of drunken Epicureans could attend to bodily functions–like the barge purge–by simply and conveniently leaning over the leeward rail. “Feeling a little queasy there, eh, Senator.” “Hades no, Centurion, I’m not seasick.... just making a little room for the next course of cous-cous and goats eyes. Do you happen to have a clean feather? I’d even vote Democratic for some more of that honey-nectar.” “It flows, Senator... it flows!” “Ahh, good Centurion! A little wine for the cook, a little wine for the stew. We voyage ON!!” And still, there was no teak wood to interfere with the fun, so boating history progressed right along. Next time: The Great Explorers, Armadas, and the South Sea Natives Discover Teak

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