Makes You Think

In the Cambridge Municipal Yacht Basin, there is this boat. Its hailing port is displayed on its stern, alone.

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The view from “F” dock.

For more information, you must refer to its two sides; and you would assume from the commonality you will find there that the boat’s official name is A2H.

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Self-explanatory? By no means.

In the radio alphabet you hear used in all the war movies, this would be rendered orally as “Alpha Two Hotel.” (More properly known as the “phonetic alphabet,” the radio alphabet is the key to the title of the 2016 Tina Fey movie, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, which deflates to WTF, which reinflates in social media parlance to something else entirely. Also, it is pretty useful on the radio. The alphabet, that is. Not the movie.)

But the owners who presumably christened A2H have come up with at least two other ways to convey that name to concerned bridgetenders as their boat comes zipping along toward those yet unopened spans in the ICW. Each alternative is displayed on one side of the boat, directly under the presumed name, for the contemplative pleasure of boaters and others who similarly have nothing better to do.

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To starboard.

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To port.

Anyone who has spent time in a boat racing, cruising, living aboard, or just whiling away the weekends might take it for granted that these are two ideas in opposition, two mutually exclusive sides of a coin. And the side that comforts or confronts us on any given day, we are wont to believe, will reflect whichever set of extremes we are destined to encounter in that day’s winds and waters.

But there is a second narrative into which these twin appellations also fit, one that draws them into a unity that complements the duality they more obviously suggest. It is a narrative that sailors strive always to remember and always to thrust away. And I wonder if it isn’t somewhere in the back of the owners’ minds as well.

Very simply put, the boat trip that goes All to Hell may well send the boat’s crew All to Heaven.

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