David O’ Neal is a funny guy. He’s written a sailors’ lexicon that will make any sailor laugh. I imagine him sitting with friends over glasses of wine while dreaming up crazy meanings for sailing words and inventing nonsense words for sailing situations lacking a word of their own. It can’t be easy. I don’t think he could do this sort of thing in isolation. A few examples follow.

Mast – 1) A church service, where prayers are offered for those putting out to sea. Half-mast is a shorter service. Captain’s mast are special prayers for the captain. 2) A most excellent conductor of lightening. In this sense, half-mast is after the lightening has struck.

Dousing sails – Sails occasionally burst into flames by spontaneous combustion in equatorial climates. Therefore they must be doused with water now and then. If buckets or hoses are not available, turning turtle will suffice.

Reef – 1) A ridge at or near the surface of the water usually composed of dead coral, a few live creatures, and parts of boats. 2) To reduce the sail area in order to avoid being overpowered by the wind. Reefing is usually done with lines, rather than with knives or shears, so that the reefed sail, when shaken out, will be the same size as it was originally.

Causeway – A raised way of land connecting two islands. Under no circumstances is a causeway to be confused with a bridge.

BATERISTAAR – Abbreviation for Boat Aground, Tide Ebbing, Reef Increasing in Size, Tow Aground Also — Rats! — which succinctly describes this nasty situation.

Abaft – In a direction farther aft than a specified reference position, such as abaft the mast. Abaft the bowsprit is vague and rarely used.

Obviously Dave is not taking any of this, including himself, all too seriously. In his biography, he says, “Mr. O’Neal now resides on a houseboat in Florida . . . He lives with his wife, Velocity Swift, his salty dog, Wharf, and his parrot, Kidd. . . . A consummate liar, Mr. O’Neal has falsified his credentials and fabricated his sailing résumé. Currently he is operating as a delivery skipper under several assumed names.

I don’t believe any of this. I don’t think his dog is named Wharf or that Wharf makes a noise like that when he barks (although David might). Every sailor knows that wharf and woof are the horizontal and vertical threads in Dacron sails which begin life as bed sheets but are then dipped in vats of Dacron coating, making them impermeable to rain but fragile when exposed to sunlight. Therefore all sails should be kept covered all the time. Except at night.

Hey! This is easy, after all! Refill my wine glass; I’m just getting started!

The Sailor’s Hornbook or ABC; With a Vermiform Appendix on Racing Terminology by David O’Neal (Global Publishing, 2004; 138 pages)