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We are very fortunate to have access to so much water. Some of us fish those waters, many of us play in them, while others simply admire their beauty. It’s fairly safe to say almost everyone knows someone with a boat.
I didn’t grow up in Atlantic Canada, but the farm was very close to the St. Lawrence River, so my dad always had a boat. He loved to fish. Sadly for all of us, we didn’t get out very often. In the warmer months, when the weather was good for fishing, it was also good for working on the land. Sometimes, between the first and second cuts of hay, if the wind wasn’t from the east, we’d get out on the river. I can count on one hand the times my mom came with us. She was not a fan of the water. My grandmother was a good swimmer but I don’t remember her ever getting in the boat. Maybe it’s because she loved to whistle…
There are many strange tales about whistling on the water. In the 18th century, whistling was thought to call the wind. When the seas were calm, sailors would whistle in hopes of raising winds and getting on their way.
But as is often the case, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing. Too much whistling could bring on sudden gusts and when that happened, the Devil was surely on board. Even worse, he was probably there because the whistling had made him angry.
The other day, I was reading an old book I picked up at a yard sale and came across more interesting whistling lore:
In Europe, in the 17th century, sailors working in the rigging of a ship used whistles to communicate, and the sailing orders were issued on a small pipe called a fife. Any casual whistling was liable to bring a heavy boom or a pulley-block down on your head, not to mention naval discipline.
A couple of things to think about the next time you feel the urge to whistle a tune on a boat.
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Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network.