I’m a bilingual sailor

I’m bilingual; I speak fluent English and American. When I worked in the USA a colleague and I wrote an English/American dictionary and it was a surprisingly weighty tome. Once you get past the well known boot/trunk, queue/line, hood/bonnet translations there’s plenty more to go at: Catty-corner, for instance. It means diagonally opposite. You guys can as easily refer to a married couple as to a group of blokes and a buddy is a mate. Definitely not a chum – chum in America is what you throw over the side of a boat to attract big fish. (Does anyone call there friends chums any more? I never have and I’m old).

My proficiency in American extends to nautical terminology as well. But the first thing you have to learn is that, just as Americans drive on the wrong side of the road, they also sail on the wrong side of the water – they use the IALA B system (red, right, returning) and not our IALA A system (is there any red port left?). This is quite an important distinction to grasp – I tried driving on the left in America and it was quite noisy.

Once you’ve mastered IALA B you’ll need to know that you dock your boat in a slip, you don’t take a berth. And if you want to talk like a native, navigational marks are boo-eys.

Running dead downwind with a sail out each side, as the boat in the picture is doing, is called wing n’ wing over the pond, here we say goosewinged. To stop the boom from lifting in this situation you use a kicking strap over here, a boomvang over there – or so I was forcibly reminded by the skipper on my recent Scotland sailing adventure. Actually, I thought that was a dinghy versus keelboat thing, but I would never argue with my skipper.

You shelter behind a spray hood here and a dodger over there. To add to the confusion, they call a dodger, the thing we use to keep wind out of the cockpit, a lee cloth which is the term we both use for the thing that stops you falling out of your bunk. I tell you, it’s a minefield.

So, if you need a translator for your upcoming luxury yacht charter in American waters, give me a call (a ring).