The story begins almost four years ago, while I was enjoying my first 1,000 miles of sailing aboard the beautiful schooner LIBERTY CLIPPER. A young deckhand aboard, named Alex, told me that all good sea stories must begin with a very salty and gruff opening: “So, therrrre I wuzzzzz…” And thus began Alex’s tale about walking the streets in NYC while on liberty the night before, and meeting a pretty girl who invited him to watch a fight in a bizarre underground setting.
Since then, I have found Alex’s yarn spinner an effective beginning to my own tales of adventure and danger, telling stories of a rogue wave, a mast bent in two directions at once, the bad timing of infernal outboards, boarding a schooner by jumping from dock to shrouds and swinging from the rigging to the deck below, various accounts of bloody encounters, and beating a crew of scurvy rats.
In addition, I have gladly shared the story starter with many a sailing student, friend, and Sea Scout, including those of Sea Scout Ship 100. During a recent phone conversation with Ship 100′s skipper, Todd Skiles, he shared his own story about sea stories.
Todd began by relaying that an adult leader from another unit had said they love to hear about the inevitable Sea Scout “moments” when they come from Ship 100, because the ship relates these as great stories. Todd said he informed the person that the reason is that I had been the unit’s sailing coach for two years, and also taught him and the scouts the proper way to tell a sea story. “Put your left elbow on your left knee, lean forward, squint your right eye, and start with, “So therrrre I wuzzzzz…”
The skipper went on to tell me that one of his young “Midshipman” scouts had been in trouble at home, and the boy’s father, aiming to hold the 10-year-old accountable, told the son, “Why don’t you tell your skipper the story of how you got in trouble?” Without hesitation, the boy put his left elbow on his left knee, leaned forward, squinted his right eye, and began with, “So therrrre I wuzzzzz…”