My Mom could whistle really loud by putting a piece of grass between her thumbs, cupping her hands, and blowing. My brother Scot caught on pretty quickly but I never mastered the grass thumb whistle. Whistles are a big thing in the lives of boaters. Coast Guard Rule 33 mandates that vessels 12 meters or more in length carry a whistle. Boats of 20 meters or more must have a bell in addition to the whistle. For those of you planning a Caribbean cruise with a bottle of Kaopectate and a few thousand other vacationers, take comfort in knowing your safety is ensured with a whistle, a bell, and a gong on board that makes a loud tone and sound that can’t be confused with a bell. Little boats like our Whaler, Finn and fleet of kayaks can get away with just a whistler aboard.
My grandpa was a railroad-man who worked the caboose. Like sailors who built their homes with a view of the sea, Grandpa always lived near train tracks. One warm afternoon he took my brother, cousins and me to watch for trains by standing near the tracks that bordered the lawn. He checked his pocket watch and grinned, “I’ve got a surprise for you.” and waved at the approaching freight train. To our amazement it stopped right in front of us. The engineer stuck his head out and in a deep baritone called, “All Aboard!” We clamored aboard the massive locomotive engine, waved at cars stopped at the crossings and rode from Caledonia to Retsof right into the round house. Each of us got to blow the whistle at least once as we powered through cross roads. I probably got to blow it more than once, because I was the oldest and my brother could always just blow his grass whistle.
Two advancements in scientific research were announced last week. First, dolphins whistle at each other by name. They apparently choose their own whistle signal and keep it for their entire lives. Proper dolphin etiquette is to address others by their name before launching into conversation.
The second announcement involves the connection between music and workouts. Our gym caters to Baby Boomers and the sound system blasts rock and roll oldies and moldies. Classic rock often makes me feel like Keith Richards looks, it does not enhance my endurance or the joy of a good sweat. According to researchers, making music, by singing, humming – or whistling rather than just listening while exercising makes for easier workouts. It’s daunting to think that fitness centers will morph into karaoke lounges. I know a lot of words to many songs but not all of the words to any songs so I’m going to follow the seven dwarves and whistle while I work out. If we meet during one of my sessions and you hear a whistle – consider it a dolphin sort of greeting. However, if I blow out five short blasts – back off. I’m trying to tell you the workout is killing me, or my life is off course, and I need some space between you and me.
Railroads decoupled cabooses long ago and liability lawyers assure us that wayward children are not allowed in train engines where they could be tempted to blow the whistle. I’m glad whistling increases one’s emotional motor control while messing with boats because playing in and on the water demands a degree of fitness. With all of the physical energy required to sail or kayak it’s nice to know that by simply whistling we can boost our sense of wellbeing and better enjoy time on the water.