Quarantine!

Quarantine: What it Meant and How it Began The year was 1348, and the bubonic plague was spreading its black pall of death over Europe. Venice, one of Italy’s most important ports, lost 600 citizens in a single day. The Venetian Council frantically sought a means to protect their city, and ordered the Doge (their senior-most elected official) to command all incoming ships to remain at anchor, and traders to remain outside the walls, for quaranta giorni, or “forty days.” The number of days was no accident; according to the Bible, Christ himself had spent forty days in the wilderness cleansing himself and preparing for his ministry. Forty days was a divine number. Quaranta Girorni became, of course, the word “Quarantine”; a concept which quickly was adopted throughout the world and is with us to this day. A vessel entering a foreign port is required to anchor, raise a yellow
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All Hail the Entrance of the Boar’s Head!

The tradition of the Boar’s Head Festival goes back to Medieval England, where, it is said, on a cold Christmas Eve in the 14th century (or, perhaps, the 16th century—nobody is entirely sure), a university student was walking through the woods, lost in thought as he studied his copy of Aristotle. In the fading twilight a wild boar attacked the scholar, and the quick-thinking lad saved himself by ramming his book down the animal’s throat. The next day’s feast at Oxford featured a tasty treat: roast pork. It was the custom of the time to present the head of the animal to the hunter, but, in honor of the day, the Boar’s Head was brought into the dining hall and set before an effigy of the Christ Child, in thanksgiving for the young man’s life. Over the years, the Boar’s Head ceremony was seen to represent God’s power to slay evil, and the
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“Never, never, never give up.” — Winston Churchill

This 1905 photograph hangs in the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club. It shows one of the most remarkable men of the 20thcentury at the helm. It would be meaningless if he had not identified himself by the inscription on the back which reads, in part, “I enclose two copies of prints enlarged from a Kodak, showing me at the helm of the ice yacht HAWK. I suggest that you have this framed and hung on the wall over the spars. . . .” We’ll get to the “driver” in a minute, but first, for those of us who live in warmer climes, and believe that “ice” is something that is found only in refreshing drinks, a few words about the peculiar world of iceboating: What is an Iceboat? An iceboat consists of a long, slim hull attached to a perpendicular cross- piece called a “runner plank.” The boat is supported by
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“Salvage” does not mean “Finders Keepers”

Last month I left a lot of readers hanging when I mentioned that the intricacies of the Law of Salvage were brought home to me during my tenure as an Assistant Attorney General.  A local denizen of the community (no doubt one of the “flotsam and jetsam of humanity” from last month) had been convicted of stealing a boat and sent off to prison from which he launched an appeal. He represented himself and wrote a brief in which he argued the State of Florida could not prosecute him because by taking the boat he was acting under the “federal law of salvage.” Since his brief contained the word “boat,” and everybody knew I was a “past commodore,” the case was assigned to me. I quickly headed to our law library to do some research. I learned that “salvage” does not mean “finder’s keepers.” In fact, the Law of Salvage is pretty
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What is a club?

What is a “club,” anyway? As far back as the first paperback edition of Yachting Customs and Courtesies (20 years ago!) we’ve repeated the same mantra: “A club is first and foremost a group of people. Compatibility comes first; the name is secondary.” The lesson could not have been plainer than it was earlier this month when the Palm Beach Sailing Club provided the venue for the Jack Swenson Memorial race which was hosted by the Royal Turkey Yacht Club. The regatta was part of the international laser masters series and attracted 68 competitors from 8 countries. A few people (fewer every year, thank goodness) become red in the face and argue that a “sailing” club cannot, by its very nature, be a “yacht” club, ignoring some very fine old institutions like the Buffalo Canoe Club whose clubhouse is not located in Buffalo, and whose only canoes are two on
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Preserving your good name to the very end

The first Cadet Chapel was constructed on the grounds of the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY, in 1836. Its unadorned windows, severe Gothic design and plain white walls accentuate both its ecumenical use and its military heritage. Fittingly, the only decoration other than the “Peace and War” mural by Robert W. Weir, an Academy professor from 1833 to 1876, consists of black marble tablets, mounted around the walls; each tablet bearing in gold the name, rank, and dates of birth and death of a general officer of the Revolutionary War. High up in a rear corner of one wall, almost out of sight near the railing of the choir loft–and, in fact, cut off by the railing–is a solitary plaque which carries only the rank and date of birth of a general officer of that war. The name and date of death have been conspicuously removed. It
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The Story of the Brooklyn Bridge

January: A time to look forward — and back. Whether you call it a “Change of Watch” or “Change of Command” or “Passing the Gavel,” January is the month of rebirth in the world of clubs and associations. The name of the month is taken from the Roman god Janus, the protector of gates and doors, as well as beginnings and endings.  Romans believed that in return for his hospitality to the great god Saturn, Janus was given the ability to see both the future and the past; and so he was depicted in their culture with two faces, one looking back and the other looking forward.  Since ancient times, the month of January has been seen as a bridge between the old and the new. It may be only a coincidence, but construction of the greatest icon of all American bridges began on January 3, 1870.  Although it would take another 13
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The Friendliest of Enemies

In an era of all-out-give-‘em-hell war, it’s nice to think about the days of yore when armed disputes between nations were put in the hands of gentlemen—mostly “second sons”—who, after they had done their duty and covered themselves in glory, were eligible to marry gracious young women with titles like “Lady,” and set about raising a brood of children for the next generation. Well, maybe it didn’t happen that way exactly, but it’s nice at least to contemplate such legends. One of those legends involves the battle between the hurriedly-constructed Fort George located on the Canadian side of the Niagara River and Fort Niagara, a stone fortress begun by the French in 1687, captured by the British in 1759, and lost to the Americans in the treaty that ended the Revolutionary War. The story goes that British and American military officers had much more in common with each other than
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Trophies

A club’s trophies serve two important functions: in addition to being awards for current contests, they are a daily link with the club’s history. Yacht club trophies may come in many shapes and sizes, but the one thing they should not be is a mass-produced, multi-columned, wedding-cake-top affair with the ubiquitous figure of a small human being holding a torch, a globe, a golf club or anything else. Yacht club trophies have been fashioned from glass or ceramic objects of art, and some clubs have trophies that were custom-made from binnacles or cannons. St. Petersburg Yacht Club (Florida) has a trophy that is awarded annually to the winner of the Royal Gaboon Race. The trophy is made from a silver cuspidor said to have been “liberated” in 1948 from a notorious New Orleans “establishment.” The club will not reveal the exact nature of the es-tablishment, but explains that “gaboon” is
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Folding the Flag

Just in time for Flag Day and the Glorious Fourth! Many traditions surround the American flag; among them is the proper method of folding the flag before storing it or presenting it at a ceremony. Regardless of size, it takes thirteen folds to properly fold our Nation’s flag: two lengthwise folds and eleven triangular folds. Some people have found significance in that fact, linking the number 13 with the thirteen original colonies, and they have attempted to attach a special meaning to each fold. In fact, the flag is folded thirteen times in order to achieve a compact and pleasing result; the number 13 is coincidental. Several people have written “Thirteen Folds” ceremonies meant to be read while the folding process is taking place. Lt. Col. Samuel Hudspath, Chief of Protocol of the United States Air Force, who has researched the subject, has written: There is no shortage of scripts
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