Tag Archives: Sailing

The Unprepared Sailor

The informant related a legend his Sailing professor told him as an example of why one should always be prepared when going sailing.


There’s this guy and he’s leaving from Long Beach and he’s only going to Catalina which you can actually see when, um, you, um, leave the harbor over there and, ha, so, ya know, he… he’s a novice. He doesn’t really know what he’s doing. But he thinks Oh, it’s just Catalina, I can see it um, ya know, what could go wrong?  Haha. And whenever you say that ya know, you know there’s gonna be a story after that. Um.

So anyway, um. What ends up happening was he had this um GPS system which ended up not working, um. I think what happened was first, his propeller went out. And so, his onboard battery only lasted a certain amount of hours before his GPS died. So after that died, he had no way of knowing where he was. And he had no, no motor. And after that point he didn’t really know how to sail cuz he wasn’t an expert on that ya know. He just knew how to use his, his motor.

And, uh, long story short, he wasn’t prepared at all. Only had enough for maybe lunch. Uh, couple gallons of water. And uh, after, after a while he decided he needed to start saving his food. He like had a stack of crackers that was left. [Gestures to represent about a one foot stack of crackers.] And he was out to see for probably three months. So um, he got by and survived. But um, basically what happened was maybe half of his stack of crackers went by. He was eating ya know, like one or two a day. He, he started reasoning oh, ya know, I should start using this to hunt. And, when you’re on a boat and you don’t have a fishing line the only thing you can really hunt is seagulls. So he would set out maybe like, a piece of a cracker out and hide, wait for the seagull to come then he’d take his oar and like whack it. [Mimes braining a gull with an oar.]

And uh, our teacher said that seagull meat is the worst meat to eat. It’s such salty meat and it tastes terrible. So that’s why we don’t eat seagulls. But this guy had to eat it. He, um ya know, ran out of water so the only water he was drinking was small doses of sea water which would make you go insane cuz you would dehydrate you, uh, make you hallucinate, do all kinds of crazy things.

At the end of the story, they found him three months later. He was in Costa Rica. Off the shore. And uh, so, ya know, a small ship or a small journey to Catalina ended up being this looooong journey to Costa Rica. And uh, when they found him, they said he was crazy. He was out of his mind. He thought that, that the rescuers were there to steal his food, which he didn’t really have much of. So he, when they came on board he was trying to fight them and he attacked them [Shadowboxes.] biting them and stuff. So they had to wrestle him down, restrain him, put him in one of those, like a, one of those jackets. [Wraps his arms as though in a straightjacket.]

And uh, you know, he eventually regained his senses. They got him healthy, fed him food, gave him water, got him all shaved up, ya know he had a long beard.

Uh, that’s all I really know from the story my professor told me but uh, the point of the story is: Be Prepared.


The popular graphic novel Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons appears to have used a similar story as inspiration for one of its subplots. In the graphic novel, a character reads a comic book called Tales of the Black Freighter in which a sailor is shipwrecked and makes a raft out of his fallen comrades to sail home. In the process, he is driven mad by starvation and heat and ends up catching and eating the gulls that come to feast on his raft.

This is interesting in that the Graphic novel was written in 1986, well before the advent of GPS, showing that the story has likely evolved into its current version from something slightly different. The core however is still there.

Sailor Story

“My grandpa’s best friend, who is a sailor, always tells this story about a seagull. There’s this couple or this sailor out on the water and it’s a beautiful day and they’re sailing along. And the swell starts to pick up and it’s so rocky that his fake teeth fall into the water. And he can’t get it. And I guess they go back to the harbor, to the bay, and tie off the boat, and a seagull flies back over them and has the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. And it’s the man’s teeth.”


The informant told me that her grandpa’s best friend is a sailor with a really corny sense of humor and she said she is pretty sure that he has fake teeth. She said that her grandpa also has fake teeth. Thus, the two of them really like retelling this story because it contains elements that they can relate to and identify with. However, the story seems to have a deeper meaning. Sailors can never be certain of how the sea will treat them and sailors can develop a rocky relationship with the sea. Sometimes it’s smooth sailing and other time’s things don’t go your way. In the story, the day starts out beautiful and the water is smooth, but then something changes and the water is suddenly rocky. The story seems to be saying that regardless of how the waters are, you need to maintain a good sense of humor about it. After all, the sailor is lucky to survive the rough conditions. Sure, he loses his teeth, but he makes it out alive, and despite the unfortunate fact that he is now toothless, he can get a good chuckle from seeing the seagull with his teeth.