Man The Lifeboats: Women, Children And Premium Champagne First

Martin Mull, back me up on this one:

For some reason, there are a lot of homoerotic terms associated with being a seaman.  Poop deck, sperm whale, cockswain, hanging around the buoys, ‘All hands on dick deck’.

Going down on the ship.

Shiver Me Morning Timbers, I Need the Head…

Going down with the ship, however, is a naval captain’s historical, chivalric and often legal obligation.  Titanic’s CO E.J. Smith is lionized to this day for his passive suicide; apparently, he wandered the decks in a daze until the boat finally sank.

Other famous captains who have gone down with their ships:

  • Arrrgh… I’m seein’ double!

    Tamon Yamaguchi, Hiryū

  • Ernest M. McSorley, Edmund Fitzgerald
  • Ernst Lindemann, Bismarck
  • John Leach, Prince of Wales
  • Davy Jones, Flying Dutchman

Not all such seafaring schmeckelehs have behaved so honorably, of course.  As you’ll recall from earlier this year, Captain Francesco Schettino was charged with ‘abandoning ship’ when the Costa Consordia sank off the coast of Giglio, killing thirty-two passengers.  And then there’s Viscount Hugues Duroy de Chaumereys of the French frigate Medusa, who not only appropriated the reef-bound ship’s best lifeboat, but shortly cut loose the raft it was towing—the 147 forsaken passengers promptly began to murder and eat one other, as is immortalized in Théodore Géricault’s classic painting.

Cap’n Wussy

Other famous captains who did not go down with their ships:

  • Captain Underpants
  • Captain America
  • Cap’n Crunch
  • Captain Beefheart
  • Captain Kangaroo


Where’s The Relevance In All This Naval History, Mr. Chris?

Right here, Snuggles:  In 2010, a number of widows were found at the bottom of the Baltic Sea, the unsaved victims of ship wrecked near the Åland Islands in 1841.  The amazing part is, although submerged in the frosty Finnish waters for 170 years, most of these widows were still alive!

In fact, one just sold at auction for $37,290.

By widow, of course, I am referring to Veuve-Clicquot, the renowned Rheims Champagne House headed by Madame Cliquot between 1805 and 1866, who took the reins from her late husband Philippe.  Among the numerous innovations for which the veuve (French for widow) is credited is the ‘riddling rack’—an invention that sped up the crucial process of dégorgement to the point where mass production of Champagne was suddenly feasible.  Among her fans was Nicholas I, Tsar of Russia , toward whom the recently discovered, bubble-burdened ship was headed when it foundered in a storm.

Richard Juhlin

In all, 162 bottles of sparkling wine were discovered on the wreck, 145 of which were salvageable.  Each one was opened, tasted and assessed by Veuve-Cliquot enologist Richard Juhlin before being re-sealed by Portuguese corkmeister Amorim.

Juhlin states, “I found these wines prove that Champagne possesses an undeniable ability to age perfectly. No other wine could have survived in such conditions and developed such aromas.”

The conditions of which Juhlin speak include ambient darkness, seabed pressures and steady temperatures of around 40°F; circumstances somewhat difficult to duplicate in the wine cellar.

His seal of approval set the starting price of these wines at between $15,000 and $18,000.

And The Lucky Winner Is…

…The lovely Ms. Julie Sherstyik-Viswanathan of the Republic of Singapore, whose accommodating husband Ravi paid top dollar for a bottle at the recent Artcurial Briest-Poulain-F.Tajan auction in celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary.

As tin is the traditional tenth anniversary gift, Ms. Sherstyik-Viswanathan, it may be interesting for you to note that according to the London Metal Exchange, for what the old man coughed up you could have held out for three tons of silvery, malleable, post-transition tin from which you could have made 41,739 cans, then filled them with Spam, creamed corn, fish mouths, silkworm pupae or BBQ scorpions, which however gross, still sounds like a better investment than a single bottle of Veuve-Cliquot that you know goddamn well you are never going to drink.

But what do I know?  As F. Scott Fitzgerald quipped, ‘The rich are different.’

Personally, I’d like to see these, and all shipwrecked wines enjoyed as they were meant to be enjoyed—guzzled from the bottle on some desert island.

Naturally, the only cat on the entire planet that could carry this off with any degree of class is Captain Jack Sparrow, the most effeminate seaman alive, and by the way, somebody else who refused to go down on with the ship.

‘Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of Mount Gay Rum…’

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2 Responses to Man The Lifeboats: Women, Children And Premium Champagne First

  1. Winey the Elder says:

    In fact Nicholas I was drawn to Madame Veuve-Cliquot precisely because of her infamous rack. It is rumored that he suffered from premature degorgement and she his only hope.

    • Chris Kassel says:

      Aye, ye gets it matey. As I said the other day, there is no act in pro sports more phallic than when the victor holds a shaken-up Champagne bottle crotch level and spews all over his adoring public.

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