Saturday, January 28, 2012

Flotsam and jetsam

There once were 2 men off Nantucket
Who fished from a 26' bucket
Till the wind blew up,
The boat threw up,
And sent them to shore saying, "F**k it."

The following story appealed to me because I could showcase my limerick-writing skills, because the image at the top looks so strangely abstract, and because it gives me a vehicle to discuss the difference between 2 seemingly indistinguishable nautical terms.

Aug. 25, 2008
New Jersey resident Scott Douglas and his brother-in-law Rich St. Pierre were fishing off Nantucket, Massachusetts in Douglas's boat, the "Queen Bee." The weather had gotten worse and the seas were dangerously high, with 6'-8' waves. Both men were thrown from the boat and were unable to get back aboard, although they were able to retrieve the personal flotation device that had also ended up in the water. Forced to swim to Esther Island on the west side of Nantucket, the challenge took them 2 hours. “There were times when both of us didn’t think we were going to make it. Everything had to go our way. It was a miracle,” said Douglas, happy to have lost only the boat rather than their lives.

Jan. 17, 2012
Flotsam* was found 20 miles off the coast of Spain in the form of a rusted and barnacle-covered boat (pictured above). The Maritime Rescue Coordination Center in Madrid contacted the U.S. Coast Guard, which linked the vessel to the 2008 search and rescue near Nantucket. It was indeed the same boat lost by Douglas and St. Pierre, several years and 3,500 nautical miles away. “The Coast Guard’s opinion is it went up north the coast of New England, Canada, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, across the northern Atlantic, Greenland and then eventually getting to Ireland and making a right going down the European coast. It took 3 1/2 years to do that,” explained Douglas, who has no legal right to the boat anymore after having settled with his insurance company. "We were lucky enough to be saved, and the heck with the boat, but the boat - being a well-made boat - decided that she wanted to be okay too.” The Queen Bee - a little worse for wear - is now the property of the Spanish Government.

*To paraphrase Michael Quinion, flotsam (from Anglo-Norman floteson, connected to float and to late Latin flottare, to float) is goods from a ship that has sunk which can be recovered because they remain afloat, while jetsam (a variant form of English jettison formed by association with the slightly older flotsam) is goods that have been deliberately thrown overboard in an emergency to lighten and thereby save a ship from wrecking.

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