Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why Sailors Are Drunks

Location: Hoorn, The Netherlands

Statistics
1 (cliches proven true)
1 (ankles twisted after too many Duvals)
1 (walls shimmied up by my skipper to steal the flag of Hoorn)

So it turns out that the image/ideal/song about sailors is, indeed, correct: damn, do sailors like to drink. Last night I was at a bar near port where a lot of the fleet likes to come to wash the salt out of their throats. I asked Koenraad, my skipper, and a female mate from another boat why it is sailors are such drunks. Here's what we figured out: 
- Liquor keeps better than water, thus, in a way, its safer to drink while at sea.
- Sailors tend to get paid in lump sums at the end of their trips. This leads to alcoholic splurges at the end of trips.
- The tradition of 'aanlegbiertje,' where immediately after the boat is moored and tied, the crew shares a beer. (The owner of my ship informed me the day we met: The rule is no drinking at all while sailing, and as much drinking as possible when you're not.)
- The passengers on ships are on vacation, and likely wanting to party. On a ship like ours, it is actually in the contract that the guests share all their food and drink with us.
- Historically, according to Koenraad, as a punishment criminals and drunks were forced to work ships. This was, in part, what established the culture of drunken pirate mayhem that ensued ever since.
- Sailors dock in new towns at night with nothing to do. What, they're going to take posed pictures by some 15th Century church? Come on.
- 'Getting laid,' the mate said, and then she downed an entire Duval.
- Sailors might naturally be a little socially awkward. (See: choosing a profession that brings you into the middle of the ocean for months at a time.) Koenraad estimates that about 85% of sailors have ADD or an autism spectral disorder. 'I'm pretty sure they all have one or both.' When Koenraad went to get his physical to be a skipper the doctor said that technically he should fail Koenraad, but 'I can't disapprove you because I would have to disapprove the whole fleet.'

So I guess that settles that.

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