Monday, September 7, 2009

Tools of the Trade: You Wouldn't Want That to Happen

Here in the US today is an iconic day. Labor Day. A celebration of America's workforce and, traditionally, the last day of summer. Time for one more trip to the State Fair, one last cook out and one final warm night of star gazing. As the old sailors adage goes, Oh! That it were ever September.

So, with that in mind, I thought I'd mention an iconic sailing image and how odd it is that such a thing would be so iconic in the first place. The "foul anchor", an example of which is seen above on a piece of French copper, is one of the most recognizable nautical symbols around. It is used routinely in naval and merchant insignia - in fact, I still have my Dad's foul anchor pin from his time in the Merchant Marines, may he rest in peace. The symbol represents an anchor around which the rode - either rope or chain - to which it is attached has wrapped.

Although lovely to look at in representational form, there's a good reason why such an anchor is known as "foul". The entangled anchor is a pure nightmare for seaman. The anchor fouled by rope or chain loses its holding power, allowing the ship to drift. Retrieving the anchor is difficult at best and sometimes impossible. More than one cable has snapped and the anchor lost for fouling. This is an expensive proposition for the ship and frequently cause for disciplinary action on those responsible. Generally speaking, sailors see an anchor fouled as a sign of inattention to duty and just plain poor seamanship. Nobody likes a bad seaman, after all.

Enjoy the holiday, my American Brethren. Keep your anchor clear of rode, and smooth sailing to one and all.


Timmy! said...

Arrr! That be a "foul" story indeed, Pauline... I'm afraid I'd make a bad seaman myself, though.

Pauline said...

Ahoy Timmy! Sad to say but, no you would indeed.