Thursday, May 11, 2006

Consider the BN

A reader commented the other day on a Captain Ron quote - saying that whomever wrote the movie script knew a lot about sailing from the "BN" perspective. He was right.

I'm going to proceed with the assumption all of you know what a "BN" is, or at least what it stands for. If not, ask your closest boat bum friend.

The term "BN" - despite its coarseness - delineates a very specific and useful class of sailor...those who, in somewhat blue collar fashion, work with and often live on sailboats. If you consider highly paid rockstars like Dennis Conner and Gary Jobson the tip of an iceberg, the supporting mass of "BN's" are the bulk that lies beneath the surface. Often unrecognized and certainly unsung, BN's earn their living as deck sanders and scrubbers, bottom painters, plumbers, electricians, mates, riggers, etc. Every offshore voyager has (luckily) a bit of the BN in them...but most weekend warriors on the beer can course do not (especially the wealthier ones). I'm proud to say that I was once a BN through and through and still carry the blood with me...despite breathing canned air and piloting a desk nine hours a day.

A BN, above all, is authentic. Given that they must co-exist with society of hull thumping poseurs and Mount Gay cap-wearing sock jockey misfits...this authenticity is rare and estimable.

I'm going to write more about the BN archetype - and what it embodies - in the near future...interested in your thoughts.


Tillerman said...

I was hanging out with some of the Australian sailors at the Laser Masters World in Cadiz a couple of years ago. About the third day of the regatta I asked one of the guys about how his racing had gone that day and he replied, "I'm not a sailor - I'm just the B*** N*****." Now a Laser sailor doesn't really need a BN - except perhaps to bring out his launching dolly to the boat ramp after sailing. I finally figured out that BN and his buddy were a couple of gays and BN was not there for the sailing at all.

Zen said...

What is a BN? I do not know any boat bums!

Anonymous said...

it's short for boat nigger

EVK4 said...

This post is why I took down your link. I don't like the term, it's not coarse, it's offensive. The job is a great one, there are great people who perform it but there are tons of better names for it.

Zephyr (Sail) said...

The explanation for why you removed the link to Zephyr from your EVK4 blog is disappointing - all the more so because I consider us "colleagues" (in a manner of speaking), given our choice of subject matter and the consistency of our postings over the past two years.

As well, I think it demonstrates more than a little sanctimony on your part to censure me for one lone post amongst nearly two years of writing.

The term "BN" - in my mind - is fair game for discussion as a part of the broader sailing lexicon. And isn't discussion a central point of all of this? If you have something to say, then say it, EVK4. Give vent to your self-righteousness in the aptly named "Leave Your Comment" tool ;-)
I agree that the term can be construed as offensive...but that doesn't make it less real. Is your point that we are we to shut out all things that offend us?

It's your blogroll and your choice...but know that the link to the EVK4 Blog on Zephyr stays in place. Dark will be the day that I excise you because I disagree with something you say, or find your topic matter offensive. I’ll let you know my thoughts face-to-face – like I’m doing now – as I strive to take a direct and open approach...and hopefully resist the urge to be condemning, censorious and retaliatory.

Weldon said...

I agree that your blog post is out of line. Sure, it's one thing to discuss an aspect of boating culture, but another to use an offensive term freely as though it's acceptable.

And don't get hung up about getting jumped on for one small indiscretion. Lots of public figures have hindered or destroyed their careers with one careless comment. It's the nature of the game, and is just as true online as it as on TV. I think the burden is on you to make nice with EVK4 (and other readers similarly offended), not to call him out while defending your right to use a horrible word that is extremely offensive to many people.

The content of the article was fine, and the intent behind it is innocent enough. But couldn't you find another term to make your point? Your writing shows you cultured enough to avoid such low language, even when disguised behind initials.

Zephyr (Sail) said...

I appreciate your thoughts Weldon - though I have to respectfully disagree. When reporters covered the Michael Richards rant they reported, rightfully, on the facts. The fact included the use of that word. When I write about a term used to describe a certain type of person in the boating world, I am "reporting" on the facts. The facts include the use of that word. I think that it's important to understand the context and intent behind the event in which either a "reporter" or, in this case, a "blogger" when he or she chooses to either allude to or cite the use of a word that though it is most certainly offensive, is certainly a legitimate issue. I think we need to be careful to not give in to the urge to knee jerk condemn a person with good intent who is representing a's what they call a "slippery slope." It was Michael Richards who used the word in a derogatory and racist fashion...not the reporters who relayed the facts. Many in the boating world use the "BN" term. A fact. Why come after me for trying to discuss it? This is the focus of my protest of EVK4…not being hung up on being “jumped on” for an indiscretion. I don’t consider it an indiscretion, in fact. And it’s my opinion that condemning someone for honestly trying to discuss a real issue has a “chilling” effect on the freedom of the press as enumerated in the First Amendment. Not a good trend. Again…thanks for your comments and Happy New Year! Please keep reading…

Anonymous said...

I haven't done any sailing for some years, but the other day I was recounting a story in which I had to refer to the job of BN and didn't know what words to use. At the time, "boat nigger" was not derogatory, at least not to the person doing the BN job. So, to the point of my writing this, what is the acceptable term these days for the person who cleans and does odd jobs around a yacht these days?