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Sailing has long been considered a specialized sport that many people idealize and dream of doing someday. There’s so much more to it that just boarding a boat and catching wind with a large piece of canvas, though!
No one can pinpoint the exact beginning of the act of sailing, although- we know that it dates back further than 4000 B.C.E. Ancient Egyptians would actually attach poles with squares of cloth to logs in order to travel faster by water. Rowing was often exhausting, and required huge crews when heavy cargo was involved. This made long voyages nearly impossible, and harnessing the wind was a very natural step.
The art of sailing is what has allowed us to travel the oceans, and to explore a world that was otherwise a mystery to us. It can be credited with the discovery of nations, and the decimation of them. In present times, sailing is just as difficult and involved as its always been. It requires extreme physical exertion, an understanding of boat mechanics, navigational skills, and the money to purchase and maintain a vessel.
If this seems a bit more involved than you’d like- there are plenty of vacation spots that can offer you a sailing experience with none of the added responsibility. Whether you’re considering boat ownership or a Costa Rica sailing tour- this sport definitely offers something for everyone. It’s a unique sport, and it comes with its own unique set of interesting facts!
1. The Doldrums
This is more than just an expression of sadness or depression. It’s actually a term used in sailing that refers to an area on either side of the equator that has little or no wind activity. Ships have become stranded in this area when there simply isn’t enough wind to help them on their way. Before the addition of a backup motorized engine of some kind- this could be an incredibly dangerous situation for many sailors.
2. Three Sheets to the Wind
When we hear this, we tend to think of someone who is so drunk that they’re completely incapacitated. The phrase has its origins in sailing. When a crew member would lose control of the vessel they would have lost their hold of the “sheets” or the lines controlling them. One thing led to another, and we developed one of our favorite descriptions for intoxication today!
3. Birth on Board
It’s no secret that many sailors missed female companionship when they left for long voyages. Some were bold enough to remedy this by smuggling a lady love on board. Once they had left, there was very little that anyone could do- and many sailors were willing to risk whatever punishment it warranted.
Naturally, many of these women became pregnant while on board. If it was a particularly long voyage, the woman sometimes had to give birth on the ship. It was customary for a woman to give birth between the cannons on the lower deck. This actually led to the saying “son of a gun”.
Nautical miles are measured in knots. This term was adopted when early sailing ships would tie a piece of rope to a buoyant piece of wood, throw the wood overboard, and then count how many of the evenly placed knots in the rope had been pulled into the water over a specified length of time. This would give them a basic estimate of their speed, and it allowed them to chart patterns within the ocean.
A nautical mile is around 6,076 feet, and was only standardized in 1929. This is a definite piece of sailing history that has had a lasting effect on maritime culture!