An exploding block can be so funny!

September 2003

By Dodge Morgan

I believe I am the funniest son-of-a-bitch I know. At least I am when I am alone with myself. I am continually pulling off hilarious acts for my own pleasure. Of course it could be that my sense of humor simply has a hair trigger when I am alone. No matter, the bottom line is that I do make delightful company for myself.

It is difficult to know which comes first, the real and actual comedian in me or just the proclivity in me to laugh at damned near anything I do. What I do know is that anyone who sails, alone or with others, and who cannot laugh at themselves is writing a tragedy when a comedy is clearly called for. Laughing at others is pedestrian, wasted humor and consummately self-absorbing. It is much more engaging to be an active player rather than a simple observer.

Humor is humanity’s great defense against reality and anybody who does not know that is doomed to a life of stress. If you cannot laugh at yourself, avoid sailing in general and ocean passages in particular. I actually know people who make mistakes and perform stupid acts and then get angry. They should remain ashore and take up a profession that demands taking oneself too seriously, such as investment banking or bomb disposal.

One might make the case that a very serious person is a perfectionist, worthy of respect because of the quest for excellence. This is flawed logic. Flawlessness is not a human trait. Even Einstein knew that. The phrase “everything is under control” is a weird concept and a quite funny one as well.

A professional comic intends to make others laugh. But the really good ones find themselves funnier than their audience does. Red Skelton was one of these. He spent at least as much time hooting at his own jokes as he did telling them. Fellow Points East columnist Tom Snyder is another. He makes his mark poking fun at himself and encouraging others to do the same. Quite contrary to common thought, the mindset of people who can poke fun at themselves does most often rest on a platform of self-confidence.

When I recount some of my own sailing voyages in the light of the follies I made, and which were enhanced for me by circumstances, I sometimes get a reaction of distaste. Some take my inclination to view events as hilariously absurd for a sign of incompetence. I can almost hear them ask themselves how this fumbler, me, ever accomplished a successful voyage. Okay, wise one, try it yourself first and then tell me that sailing on the edge is not a series of comedic blunders. My prime objective is to keep the screw-ups small enough to remain funny. What is yours?

Sailors who have been out there more than once do understand. Good cooks especially get a laugh out of my bread-baking escapades: “The loaf is brick-sized and brown throughout and would make suitable building material for the nether orifice of the Sphinx.”

Real sailors find it funny when in 50-foot seas and 70-knot winds I decide to take a hot shower: “As my soaped up, naked body bounces off the walls of the tiny shower, I see myself as a lathered up drunk in a phone booth and collapse in fit of laughter.”

When the rubber-cheeked mainsheet block explodes under pressure: “Suddenly I am a hockey goalie watching the puck fly by.” When a shackle blows open and I watch the jib drop and the halyard slowly tuck itself into the masthead sheave, the image I see is: “Oh-oh, she’s crossing her legs now.”

This column is going nowhere. I wonder how I can make a joke out of it?

Dodge Morgan broke all sorts of records when he single-handed American Promise around the world without stopping in 1985 and ’86. He lives on Snow Island in Harpswell, Maine.