Those who do not remember the past are condemned to miss some interesting stuff

Acronym of the day: BARF (Boats Are Really Fascinating).  Well, lots of them are.  I’m sure there’s some ghost ship full of lost souls doomed to sail the seven seas for eternity with nothing to do and no booze or Netflix, either.  But from the deck of SY Wake this past week, we sighted another vessel anchored alongside us, a particularly striking yacht with a peculiar history:

well would you look at that
Kinda makes you feel embarrassed about dumping Tupperwares full of cat crap overboard

 

“Oh, check out that boat!” “It’s so pretty!”  “It looks all retro, nice!”  “Goddammit which of the cats puked on the sundeck?”

party like its 1959
Every girl needs that special “nighttime look”

 

And, as it turns out, this yacht’s specialness isn’t only in its foxy look, but in its past, too…

I'm out of your league bitches
You can tell it’s historical because back then color didn’t exist

 

So her name is the Christina O.  Now a charter boat (coming in at $520,000 per week, for those of us who take shopping therapy really seriously), the Christina O owes her unique aesthetic to Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon and second husband of the former Jacqueline Kennedy (apparently he first became a young entrepreneur after listening into business calls as a telephone operator in Argentina, which I did not know).  Christina O was named for his daughter (though the O wasn’t added until 1999), and was a maritime palace, ferrying Aristotle and his family between their sundry houses across Europe.

there is no record of what Jackie is doing in this photo
To this day, historians debate just what the hell Jackie is doing in this photograph.

 

Being the property of a very rich guy, the yacht was a social hotspot for numerous dignitaries and celebrities, including Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Grace Kelly, Greta Garbo, Frank Sinatra, Maria Callas (‘cause she and Ari were banging for a while there), John Wayne, Winston Churchill, Princess Grace, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy (awkward).

WINSTON CHURCHILL WAS A TOTAL JERK
Just chilling in an empty swimming pool, as world leaders do

 

But that’s not all!  Onassis actually refurbished Christina O in the years following World War II, purchasing it from the Canadian government in 1947 for $34,000 (almost $390,000 today, or the equivalent of three hundred and ninety thousand bags of M&Ms).  During the War, the boat was actually an anti-submarine frigate, the HCMS Stormond, which served as an escort convoy in the Murmansk supply runs to the USSR, during the Battle of the Atlantic, and she was present at the D-Day Normandy landings.  DUDE.

WARSHIP-YACHT

Everybody hates their old yearbook photos.

 

You guys, history.  I mean, how extraordinary all are these connections and contradictions and all the past waiting just between the surface of our now?  From torpedoes and blood in the water, laughing starlets and gems…  I love this crap.  Anyways Aristotle gave the Stormond a complete Pimp-My-Ride renovation.  He commissioned eighteen staterooms, a spiral staircase, a beauty salon and massage parlor, a sports room, a library, a helicopter pad, marble bathrooms, a lapis lazuli fireplace, its own seaplane, a children’s playroom, on- and below-deck bars, and a controlled-temperature swimming pool holding a mosaic featuring the infamous Minotaur, which at the press of a button could be lifted to become a dance floor.  The whole refit cost four million dollars, but hell, this is how you live like a baller.

I scoff at your puny rowboats you rubes
#richgreeksofinstagram #summerfun #profligatespending

 

So I managed to rustle up some historical and modern photos of Christina O, which are pretty dope:

 

And, because BARF, the barstools are made from the foreskins of whales.

because knowledge is power!

Boat Songs #2: “The rum is for all your good vices”

Well ahoy again!  Welcome to the second entry in our SY Wake playlist, in which we get our groove on to music about boats or sailing or the sea.  This one is an obviously essential number, because there’s no excuse for being on a boat and not hearing some classic Jimmy Buffett (unless you are an old-timey pirate, since back then Jimmy Buffett hadn’t been invented yet).  So here’s his song “Son of a Son of a Sailor”, from the 1978 album of the same title:

*margaritas optional but highly recommended

 

Boat Songs #1: “Old Captain Ahab ain’t got nothin’ on me”

Welcome to the first sample of the SY Wake playlist!  With weeks upon weeks nestled in a cockpit watching the cats chasing bugs,  obviously music is a necessity for marginal sanity.  And what better than songs about boats?

Our first number comes from Tom Waits, a virtuoso and multifarious musician whose career spans decades of the blues and the experimental, the poetic and the sinister, the mysteries of trainyards and the glittering highways  – and the sea!  Here’s his song, “Shiver Me Timbers”, from the 1974 album The Heart of Saturday Night:

The fog’s liftin’ and the sand’s shiftin’, enjoy!

In which we discover what lies beneath the boat

Holla!  Kitty here, and it’s been a long time since I’ve put up a blog post, due to a mixture of sloth, a visit from our tremendously awesome friends, and a number of concerts (Davi touched Lenny Kravitz! and his security guard punched me in the throat)—basically, lots of Shore Leave.  But we’re back, with further videos and pics to come, and the dark, dark tale of a rather embarrassing episode in the life of SY Wake.

don't pay the ferryman
“You kids better stop whining or I swear I’ll turn this boat around”

 

See, it’s been *counting on fingers* six months since we met the boat and brought her back here to La Spezia, and since then our “work” has consisted largely of on-and-below-deck improvements, lounging, and figuring out how to build a floating bar on the paddleboard (totally achievable).

 

BUT apparently you are supposed to scrub and scrape the underside of a boat on a regular basis, lest it become rife with maritime pests, such as barnacles.

damn sure not going anywhere
Somebody call Rick Moranis

 

Let’s talk about barnacles!  They’re part of the subphylum Crustacea, which means they’re rather unexpected relations of crabs and lobsters (like how aforementioned Lenny Kravitz and Al Roker are distant cousins, look it up).  A newly hatched barnacle is called a nauplius, and consists of basically a head with a tail; in the larval stage the head starts secreting a gooey adhesive substance which is kind of gross, and attaches itself to a suitable substrate (such as rocks or our own damn boat).  Barnacles then develop an exoskeleton of hard plates, begin using teeny legs to eat plankton, and become the acne of pirate ships which we all know and love.

bummer me hearties
Pirates of the Caribbean Part VI: The Nuisance of the Black Pearl

 

Also, in Olden Days, certain barnacles were thought to hatch into the goose species Branta leucopsis (unsurprisingly named the Barnacle Goose), because people can be dumb as hell sometimes.

dipshits
Ferioufly, which maftermind thought of thif fhit?

 

Sooooo when Wake began to cruise at a slower and slower pace, we figured there were probably a few barnacles clinging to the hull, thus hindering the boat’s streamlined progress.  No prob, we thought, just gotta take her out of the water on the haul and get her cleaned.  Just a couple o’ barnacles.  Well, as I said, people can be dumb as hell sometimes.

There exist moments in life in which few words can express the true nature of a sight, and in the case of Wake being lifted from the marina, the sole turn of phrase which came to mind was “holy shit”.  See:

dav
You gotta be kidding me.
sdr
Is that… is that ectoplasm?

 

Yep.  It turns out that barnacles grow freaking fast, and that spooky weeds can sprout around them, too.  Fortunately, the good stevedores (can I call them stevedores? that’s a word we don’t use enough) of Porto Mirabello knew just how to power-hose the little bastards off the hull, which kind of reminded me of the guns they use in Ghostbusters.

 

Meanwhile, each and every worker took the time to ramble over and admire the cats, who waited in their carriers pretending to be wholesome while big burly Italian dudes cooed at them.

those-soulful-eyes.jpeg
27 pieces of Meow Mix and some string for whoever lets me out of here

 

At last, Wake was clean, returned to full function and ready to return to the waves, and we learnt a valuable lesson in why you need to scrub the hull frequently.  Away we sailed, the wind whispering redemption around us, when at once we heard a mournful cry…

And then the boat gave birth to a beautiful new goose!

a christmas-in-july miracle
His name is Fteve

Vikings with nice ankles, or, a brief history of La Spezia, Italy

Being hardened sailors with nothing left to lose, we of SY Wake have obviously been engaged in a long and punishing journey across the seven seas—indeed, it’s many a good soul who’s been lost to these deeps.  Like Percy.  We used to have a cabin boy named Percy.  Not anymore.

None of that was true, although I’m sure Percy was a very nice person.  Seeing as it’s only the first summer we’ve had the boat, and we’re still learning/lazy as hell when we feel like it, we’ve been bouncing forth and back between Home Base in Florence and the sun deck, or the town where Wake is currently docked: La Spezia, Italy.

the city center, aka the cleanest part
Historical fact: they fought about the “La” for a century until a decree in 1930 said you HAD to use it

I’m quite certain we’ll end up taking a number of photographs of modern La Spezia (or maybe not, see aforementioned laziness), but today I’ve decided that the healthiest thing a person can possibly do is live entirely in the past (that’s what they say, right?).  So let’s all take a step back and a swig of cheap wine, and learn some historical shit about La Spezia!

Where stuff is
The “boot” of Italy: kicking Sicily around since 100,000 B.C.

Located in a picturesque and highly strategic little gulf upon Italy’s west coast, on the Ligurian Sea (I’ll get to the gulf in a later blog entry, ibid. laziness), the area of La Spezia has been occupied since Ancient Times, which were really important.  Before there was history, there were prehistoric people: we know this because they left their crap lying around for us to find.  In the days of the Roman empire, when it was completely chill to put people in a ring with lions and see what happened, the place was a significant maritime asset, though I presume the tourist industry didn’t thrive as it does today because they hadn’t invented sunscreen yet.

the continuing glory of the latin language
Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled of elderberries

Anyhow the empire got embarrassingly sacked, after which the Byzantines took control of the region, followed by Lombard rule. Over the next few centuries La Spezia saw some Saracen invasions (sad emoji) and Viking raids: apparently this one Viking dude, Hastein, pretended to convert to Christianity, faked his own death, and subsequently leapt out of his coffin during the sacraments and decapitated everybody, which is totally metal.

viking cat
Bringing the Ragnarok

Beginning around the twelfth century, La Spezia became one of those assets tugged and tossed around by Italian city-states engaged in political bitch fights, mainly Milan, Genoa, and a brief episode in which the city belonged to a single family, the Fieschi, who began construction of the castle of San Giorgio, which is still around today.

IMG_20180622_142129-2.jpeg
On the other hand, the Fieschi family now does late-night infomercials for pasta makers

As a well-situated port, La Spezia grew increasingly significant as a military hub, holding one of Italy’s most powerful maritime arsenals (it still serves as a naval base, so there’s a multitude of frustrating no-trespassing signs).  Correspondingly, the city saw extensive conflict and bombings during the second World War (dude, fuck Nazis), but the totally awesome Partisan resistance remained strong within its walls, eventually recapturing the city from the occupying Axis army; the city itself received national medals of valor following the war.  Subsequently, La Spezia served as a main departure point for surviving Jewish refugees, becoming known as the gate of Zion.  Seriously dude, fuck the Nazis.  In the decades to follow, the city was rebuilt, an economic crisis led to demographic decline, and it settled into the quasi-naval quasi-touristic very-pleasant place it is today, where we have been inebriated a number of times (like with these guys, which was so unspeakably awesome).

BUT in the course of my research regarding La Spezia, I discovered it was once the sometimes-home of this bodacious chick I just now decided to talk about.  Virginia Oldoini, Countess of Castiglione, was born in 1837 to a minor noble family and, according to the historical record, she was really hot.  One supposes this to be true, since most notoriously she was the mistress of Napoleon III of France; she was a pretty spicy lady.  But the coolest part is that, well aware that she was a fox, the Countess initiated a project in collaboration with two important early photographers whose names I forgot.  Directing and dictating each image, she posed in theatrical outfits with exquisite postures, portraying herself as Jezebel, Lady Macbeth, a nun, Medea, a hooker, pretty much anything she wanted—and homegirl showed no modesty, going so far as to show her ankles, which is just about as scandalous as banging the emperor.  See (NSFW):

$25 and you can look at the other eye
$25 and you can see the other eye
We've all been there
Go home Virginia, you’re drunk
that bosom though
So much hairspray involved in the making of this photograph
That kid don't look happy
There are 23 more children under that skirt
NSFW
An image kept under the mattresses of so many 19th century adolescent boys

You go girl.

The best skies are blue: a weekend with our friend Gregory!

With immense happiness and slight hangovers, we’ve returned from a fantastic weekend with our friend Gregory – an incomparable singer, a wise and worldly soul, a sweet New Yorker and a wonderful friend.  Between diving (Greg leaping from the bow) and dinghies (we went fast!), Prosecco (have another glass, please), sunbathing and reading and the terrible greed of cats at lunchtime, we had a freaking awesome time – so here’s an album for the awesome jawesome memories!

 

 

 

 

Etymology like a boss

As some of you may have noticed, our boat is named Wake.  Hey, that word means more than one thing at once!  And that’s why we’re here to drink explore its meanings and history, and what the shit that might mean to us.

So, as a verb (that’s the activity kind!), to wake derives from a Middle English fusion of Old English wacan, meaning “to become awake, arise, be born, originate”, and Old English wacian, “to be or remain awake”, both emerging from the proto-Germanic waken, which in turn finds its origins in the proto-Indo-European root *weg-, “to be strong or lively”.  Do you ever just read this crap and wonder how goddamn weird ancient people sounded when they spoke?

the olde warrior
© Bodleian Library, Oxford

 

So if we’re getting all metaphorical up in here, the boat could represent a kind of awakening which is:

  1. Intellectual
  2. Spiritual
  3. Emotional
  4. Hungover

Fill in the bubble entirely; answers will be graded after class.

Years spent making the calculator spell out BOOBS
So many years spent making the calculator spell out BOOBS

 

But as a noun, a wake can denote “the track left by a moving ship”, first attested in the 1540s and perhaps taken from Middle Low German or Middle Dutch wake, “a hole in ice”, from proto-Germanic *wakwo.  Is wake then a literal reference to what the boat actually does?  Fuck if we’re going to be sailing through any ice, though.

Please draw a wake here:

blank
Don’t screw this up, it will appear on your transcript

 

Or a wake may indicate the act of “sitting up at night with a corpse”, which is either really Irish or really hardcore.  This usage dates from the early 15th century, though there’s also an obsolete Scottish rendition, lichwake (why are we no longer using this word?).  It’s not necessarily all bad, though, as it’s meant also to celebrate the memory of what is lost and loved.   Or it’s just spooky, how should I know.

Holy crap, you woke up
Dude, how long have you been awake???

 

Thus, if we are to persist in our really smart analyses of the word, the boat’s name touches upon the notions of death and mourning in order to remind us of: ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________.

Please use complete sentences; spelling and grammar errors will be recognized as consequences of the irrevocable transience of humankind.  Essays due at the Apocalypse.

The final judgement
Behold, for the great day of Wrath hast come

Three cats, three queers, endless love in an endless world