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Why drinking makes you a better sailor

31st October 2015
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Why drinking makes you a better sailor


Becoming a better sailor?

Drink and being a better sailor.

Having been sat in a storm for the last week in Greece it has given me plenty of time to think about being a better sailor.

Walking home drunkAs we sway from side to side wallowing in the sea that has been kicked up by the strong winds I realised that the drinking I did in my younger days (that means yesterday and before), were all part of a strict training regime.  At the time I unknowingly undertook this training program to prepare me for this liveaboard life and to be a better sailor.

You see, having one or two too many alcoholic drinks changes the universe dramatically. Newton’s laws on gravity no longer apply. As you walk down the street trying to find your way home suddenly gravity changes and pockets appear in the fabric of the universe. They drag you towards bushes and street lights or push you away. You stagger from one side to the other as you fight them. Sometimes you see the world in front of you as a blur and on other occasions you see a parallel universe running alongside your own as the vision splits in two. This phenomenon is more readily known as “a drunken state”.


Why does being drunk make for a better sailor?

So how is this related to the sailing life and why should it make you a better sailor? Well, a boat is not really a stable platform so a past life of drunkenness gives you a head start in being able to stand whilst the boat bucks underneath you. Through years of being in the “Drunken state” walking along the decks without being pulled this way or that becomes second nature. It is only when a sailor gets back onto dry land do they have problems. That is why when you see a someone from a boat ashore he or she will often have a beer or wine to hand as they attempt to capture their natural environment.



For those unfortunate souls that suffer from seasickness I say “drink up and keep drinking”. Eventually the inevitable run of shamYou make me sicke to the toilets will happen but what better way to prepare yourself for sudden bouts of seasickness when you have a well-practised routine you have perfected on dry land many times before. This training will make you a far better sailor and be able to cope when the need arises. ……You also now know why a sailor calls the toilet the heads. People with sea sickness spend a lot of time with that part of the body down them.

A word of warning here. If you are feeling sick a toilet bowl becomes your best friend. You like to hug them, talk to them, put your head inside and ultimately sleep with them. It is to be avoided at all costs. They will not reciprocate your love and the relationship will not last. There are plenty more toilet bowls in the world which brings me on to



Toilet routines

Learning to use a toilet on a boatAt some point when out sailing you will need to go to the toilet or heads. In a rough sea or when healed over there is a definite technique but through years of drinking in the past you will already be very well prepared. You will know how to hang on to the wall with one hand as you stagger from side to side hitting everything in sight except the bowl. This isn’t too much of a problem as it will just help the person who follows you in with seasickness to overcome it quickly.



Drinking is usually done in a social atmosphere and the same is true on boats. When you meet other liveaboards you are likely to get a beer thrust into your hand as a greeting. This then leads to conversation and yet more drinking. Before the night progresses or should I say degenerates just think back a little and ask yourself “Did I actually tie the boat to the dock before I started drinking and chatting”. It is always a good idea to tie it on first otherwise getting back on to reach your own alcohol supply becomes more difficult.


Boat Designs

Boat designers are responsible people and have realised there is a drinking problem aboard boats. To try and discourage it they have added three obstacles.


  • A Passarelle or wooden board. This is a throwback to the days when unwanted crew members were made to walk the plank. It has now been slightly adapted and is used as a means to get back on your boat from the dockside. Don’t be fooled. In a drunken state there is no difference between walking the Passarelle and walking the plank. You will often find yourself in the water as a result.


  • Lines on boats. Designers have been clever with this one. They make them look as if holding one for support will help you clamber over the decks but as soon as you grab one they move making you look like a pole dancing elephant. You will end up in a dishevelled, upside-down heap but fear not. You will still manage to hold onto your drink and not spill a drop. It is all part of becoming a better sailor.


  • A sailor can always find his boat
  • Dinghies. These were designed as the ultimate weapon against drinking. They were made to be a soft landing place as you cannot get into one elegantly even on that one day you were sober. After socialising the night away with people you cannot remember the names of a dinghy becomes the Rubik’s cube of the boating world. Just getting into it is to be celebrated and of course your two man dinghy can now get sixteen of you in. Hours later as dawn breaks numerous overloaded dinghies can be seen in the anchorage weaving about as owners swear that someone has moved their boat overnight. Eventually you find your own boat and try to get back on board. This is often the time for a fully clothed swim.


Going to bed.

The more drinking practise you can do ashore the easier the liveaboard life will become. Take going to bed for instance. Drink a lot and you will find that your bed seems to be moving and the world is spinning. It is something you need to get used to. On a boat at anchor your bed will be moving and the boat will actually be spinning. This can be disconcerting to beginners but if you have put the proper training in place you won’t even notice.


The pain barrier.

Drunken sailorBoats are meant to make you bleed and leave scars. If you haven’t completed basic training by getting drunk regularly these injuries can hurt. Drinking allows you to overcome the pain barrier and build up a tolerance. After a good night’s drinking you will wake up with scars, bruises and stitches. You will still be hugging the mobile phone you made that 3am call to tell someone, anyone, you love them. You will not have felt any pain in getting your battle scars. When you move onto a boat your pain threshold will be so high that you will not even notice your right arm being wrenched off by a winch and hoisted up the mast. It is only when you come to tie your shoelaces will you discover there is something missing.


Side effects

So, there you have it, my reasoning behind why getting into a drunken state is good practise for becoming a better sailor. There is no time like the present so get out there and always remember that drinking can have dramatic side effects. These are commonly known as “Beer goggles” and it is something you should be aware of.

Beer goggles



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  1. Your irresponsibility is completely uncalled for.

    Cheers! Mines a pint !

    Bob & Maureen
    Modus Vivendi 435/25
    (Madness Vinoveritas)

  2. The wisdom in this post is invaluable for any landlubber preparing to head out to sea. As we are in a marina for the season (because I am certain to get a job…right?) you’ve convinced me of the import of continuing a rigorous training program of ‘sundowners’ to maintain my sea legs.

    Once again your words, images and captions have made me roar! Where do you find those images?

    I truly hope we end up in the same anchorage someday. I am already laughing in anticipation.

    Hope the storms have abated.

    Looking forward to more.

    1. Lisa, the world is a small place when it comes to the sailing community and we often bump into people we meet on the internet. I have no doubt we will meet in some anchorage and practise with a few sundowners. Just don’t bring the camera. The pictures would probably bring about one of those slapping the head moments and words of “I didn’t did I”

  3. Thanks for the hilarious read! I very much enjoyed it as I’m sitting on watch at work offshore, giggled out loud a few times. I unfortunately have to detox from “training” whilst at work. Apparently, the Coast Guard doesn’t share the same viewpoint as us, no longer can we drink and drive a ship. They say it’s dangerous…who knew.

    Enjoy your writing, keep it up!


    1. Thank you for the comment Ronnie. Loved your website by the way. Keep practising. It all goes to make you a better sailor and if you are driving a ship you have practised more than most.

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