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Cape Cod Barnacle Bill The Sailor

The hero of the popular song by that title is entirely a myth, but barnacles are no myth. Anyone who has ever tried to scrape them from the bottom of a boat knows they are a very stubborn fact.

Barnacles, which are small shell-covered creatures about the size of a pea, love to fasten themselves to the ships’ bottoms, pilings of wharves, and tide-line rocks. Their attachment to such places is almost unbelievably firm. In enormous numbers, so in-numerable as to conceal completely the surfaces of the objects to which they may attach themselves below the surface of the sea, they often impede the progress of great vessels and must be removed.

In the old days, sailing ships overburdened with barnacles were beached in favorable weather, and when the tide was out and the ships were lying on their sides, scrapers were brought to play and the grip of the barnacles was broken there-by. It was/is a task requiring muscle and patience.

When one side was cleared of the tenacious little creatures, the ships were put over onto their opposite sides as the next tide ebbed, and the work was completed.

When whalers and other craft from Cape Cod harbors were on long voyages, beaching them had to be repeated as suitable island beaches were available, for vessels heavily encrusted below their waterlines were sluggish and harder to manage in foul weather.

Most seagoing vessels today, and many coastal craft, including yachts and even rowboats, have their hulls protected against the barnacle and other sea pests by the use of special bottom paint, and in the case of the large craft, by means of special sheathing.

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Cape Cod
Posted by Cape Cod - (website) on 06/01/06
Categories: BoatingNature
Keywords: boating, critters, maritime, nature


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