The editors here at Terrapin Tales generally follow the Fun Boat Manifesto: as long as it’s fun, and doesn’t harm anyone else, go for it. But we haven’t been on the water as much as we should lately, and maybe that’s what’s making us a bit cranky. Aside from being irked by large motor boat wakes, which we’ll get to in a later editorial, we’re here to state that we’re firmly against pirate flags, except on actual pirate ships.
Pirates these days fall into one of two camps: scary pirates from countries undergoing strife or civil war, and paunchy middle aged folks who bought a boat and decided that affixing a black and white flag to their rigging would add just the right touch of rebellious attitude – like slapping a Harley sticker on a Winnebago. We feel sorry that geopolitical forces have forced the first camp to resort to violence for survival, but at least we understand their predicament.
The second group tends to have no economic hardship, aside from paying for their slip and their children’s higher education costs. So why the flag? A pirate flag on a boat is not the sign of a good seaman, a fun boat, or a world cruiser. It says one thing: I’m middle aged, and I don’t know how to create my own adventures anymore.
If you’re truly looking for excitement, the editors have a few recommendations: rather than installing a pirate flag, skipper, sell your over-large boat for something smaller and tippier: perhaps a Laser or an open-water rowing shell. Both will test your balancing skills, get you physically fit, and put you more in touch with the water than a tubby yacht. A small craft will be lively, exciting, and perhaps damp- but nobody said that being a pirate was going to be dry.
If you’re unwilling to go with a smaller boat (that we’re certain you’ll use more than your big toy), we recommend that you make your own flag. Given the long tradition of semaphore and flags in maritime culture, this would be a keen way to learn something new and impress your yacht club, or at least your mate.
If you’re like most people flying a pirate flag, you probably aren’t sailing during the winter cold (though real pirates wouldn’t let a little unpleasant weather stop them) So you should have plenty of time to pull out the old sewing machine (or acquire one- another exciting opportunity) and get started.
Better, make a few flags and give them away to fellow boaters as initiation presents for your new secret adventure club. Don’t divulge the meaning of whatever obscure symbol you choose—unless you’re offered some good grog. Go on some kind of sailing expedition to waters you’ve never ventured into before, even if that’s just an overnight cruise beyond your day sailing grounds. After that, plan another cruise—this time at night, when the chance of adventure increases tenfold.
We’re guessing historic pirates were good seamen, able to overtake other vessels under sail power alone, and smart enough to reach their destinations solely with traditional navigational tools. So, while you’re improving your piratical skills, how about turning off the electronics and steering with just a map and compass?
Whatever you do, we hope that once you ditch the pirate flag, you’ll make skill-building, risk, and challenge part of your life in 2017. Happy sailing.