Our " Flying Green Pig" Figurehead

“Spring has sprung” day, Match 20, 2019

Since mankind began venturing out to sea, symbols, images and then figureheads have adorned the bows of their ships to appease their particular God's while also exclaiming their might to other ships at sea.

On the good-ship CoupRider, aka Lady Love, rather than asserting power from man-made God's, she will be emanating the mystery, innocence, frivolity and love of a Flying Green Pig figurehead named Gloria . . . certainly, the only ship at sea so dressed. Please note her purple toenails.

I must admit to a 70-year fascination with bowsprits and figureheads. In fact, for years in my youth believed "sprit" was misspelled, really meant “spirit”; thus figureheads were and always will be bowspirits to me.

The advent of my relationship with these spirits goes all the way back to my parent's invention of an 'on-the-cheap' babysitter which was my 3-year old self wrapped in a bunch of bright orange vertical tubes filled with cork and balsa wood loosely held together with white straps that more than doubled my girth. This contraption was thus strapped on me backward like a straight-jacket so I could not reach the clasps and then was attached to a 50-foot line tethering me to the edge of the dock. Thus my geography was defined as 50 feet out into the bay or 50 feet up the beach, barely reaching the seawall.

Some of my earliest memories are dog-paddling out a little beyond the dock as these huge, powerful racing sailboats would go chugging by like water-borne trains, hugging the docks trying to take advantage of the shore lift. The bigger boats had threatening looking bowsprits sticking forward out over the water with trailboards tucked underneath port and starboard with gold-flake scrolls embossed with the vessel's name. Some of the old larger, square-rigger boats which could only motor up and down the bay to get out into open water had a figurehead carving in front of the trailboards under the bowsprit.

When I was 8, my dad said it was time for swimming lessons. Leaving my life-jacket in the yard, he walked me out on the dock and threw me in. After climbing back up the ladder sputtering, the wiseacre said: “I knew you already could swim; it's just that you didn't.” Free of my tether, me and my like became sea-nymphs playing with the sailboats racing by. If one with a bowsprit was spotted coming up the bay, we would run down the fixed pier, dive over the rail down into the water inside the floating dock, swim under the dock to pop up out of the water virtually unseen in front of the dashing sailboat so as to grab on to the bobstay (the tension structure holding the end of the bowsprit down to the hull), for the thrill-ride of being dragged through the water at 8 knots. If the boat had no bowsprit, we would float down the leeward rail, topsides usually down in the water, providing us with a chance to grab a loose line off the deck. Of course, we would then incur the racer's wrath as they witnessed five-kids playing sea anchor dragging behind their boat. Some even threw winch handles at us, forgetting how expensive they were; others would tack out into the bay so we would have to let go or risk getting caught by the harbormaster.

Fast forward 70-years and my first cruising boat offered up the opportunity to create my own bowspirit. The original green and gold trailboards immediately sparked the vision of Gloria as a figurehead, and one of the signs along with the double-13 vessel number indicating she was to become my steed. My inspiration for a “Flying Green Pig” flows forth from the heart and creativity of a musical group of the same name back in Minneapolis consisting of Barbara McAfee, the late Frank Anthony, Tim Frantzich and myself.

Gloria's body is heart-of-palm, her ears, wings and legs of teak, her tail of 1/2” round stainless (the most challenging bending attempt ever), her mount is aluminum with stainless thru-bolts. Hopefully always strong enough to inform the waves that the love boat's coming.