The Keel

We know that Sailors were very superstitious. And of course this did not stop at shipbuilding. The keel, for example, which was considered the heart of a ship, has always been subject to special rituals. And that is why the shipbuilders paid special attention to the observance of the prescribed rituals (some of which date back to antiquity) when laying the keel, in order to guarantee a successful, happy ship. After all, one did not want to be to blame for the ship sinking just because one was not paying attention.


The keel is the fundamental structural member of a wooden ship. This diagram shows how the keel is put together, particularly when a single timber cannot be found to make the keel out of one piece. For this example, the keel is about 12″/ 30,5 cm wide and the pieces are fastened at scarf joints with bolts. This image is from Basil Greenhill and Sam Manning, The Evolution of the Wooden Ship, 1988, p. 99. 

Such rites could include hammering the first nail through a horseshoe or drinking to the health of the ship before work began. Red (the color of blood and therefore of life) was a suitable deterrent for witches or those who possessed the dreaded Evil Eye. This was also true for the so-called witch signs which since the Middle Ages found their way onto houses and, in the case of ships, also in the area of the cannons. It was also used miraculously in shipbuilding.

The keels were to be laid in a north-south orientation whenever possible. Shipbuilders believed that this aligned the ship’s inherent magnetism with the poles, thus reducing compass deviation. No keels were laid on Thursday, named after Thor, and on Friday, named after Frigg, the wife of Odin, both of whom were known for their fiery temperaments, at least that is what the Vikings said and did; there is no explicit evidence of this custom for modern times.

Good omens during this delicate phase were the presence of seagulls (the reincarnated spirits of the ancient seafarers), a westerly wind combined with a rising tide, or a full moon visible during the day, all of which ensured an abundant catch, a successful voyage, great prizes or cargo to be hauled.

Omens that heralded an unlucky ship included sparks produced by the hammering of the first spike (indicating that the ship would perish by fire) or accidental bloodshed, which meant that it would be a death ship.



I hope that I’m not the only one who likes to dip french fries into horseradish sauce/



22 SAS D squadron commander Cedric Delves after the successful raid on Pebble Island’s airfield destroying 11 Argentinian aircraft during the Falklands War. May 1982


In the News



Mexican states that experienced rolling blackouts on 16 Feb 2021.


Brutal cold hung over Texas and the central United States on Yesterday, bringing chaos to parts of the U.S. not used to severe winter weather. Solar panels were covered with snow, windmills didn’t turn, and the green new deal is revealed for what it is.

Millions are facing the freezing cold without heat, as grid operators have been forced to cut power on a rolling basis to avoid wider blackouts. In Texas, more than 4.4 million homes and businesses remained without electricity on Tuesday morning.


Birthplaces of Top 100 Ranked Tennis Players, as of Feb. 2021.


Most Populated Subdivisions in the World.


Jewish Emancipation in Europe by Country.


  1. “I hope that I’m not the only one who likes to dip french fries into horseradish sauce”

    Nope. I love horseradish. Maybe it’s your Swiss heritage.

    A bunch of Swiss-German guys and I nearly got kicked out of a bar for eating too much horseradish. We were in Philadelphia and trying to get dinner at some downtown restaurant. Our table had not yet been cleared, so the hostess put us in the bar section to wait. Needless to say, beers were ordered. Each bar table had a big (like maybe 3 liters) apothecary-style glass jar of ground horseradish. Everyone there liked horseradish as it happens. A waitress brought us some crackers, and we began eating the horseradish. It took 2 (or 3 for some) beers before our table opened up. By that point the 5 or 6 of us had eaten over a liter of horseradish, collectively. When the hostess came to get us she did a double take at the now half-empty jar. “That’s for decoration! You’re not supposed to eat that!”
    “Then why was it open on the table?” asked one of the guys.
    “It’s expensive,” said the hostess, dodging the question. “I should charge you for that!”
    “You got the price of over a dozen beers already,” was the rejoinder.
    “And that was for American beer” someone else muttered in a tone of loathing.
    There was a bit of a spirited discussion after that, but we did not end up paying for the horseradish.

    • I’ve always had respect for establishments which offered finger food, without charge, while I waited for a table. And when they keep pouring schooners of beer, without other refreshment, they need to accept your consumption of the decorations in stride.

      I like horseradish and hot Chinese mustard with almost anything. It only is completely satisfying when you’re sure that your head will explode.

    • I just had fries with my BLT tonight, and I couldn’t bring myself to dip them in BBQ sauce or shrimp cocktail sauce (my usual choices( because they were so delicious by themselves!
      Perfect fries at my favorite diner.

      • It’s difficult to find perfect French fries. Sort of a search for the Golden Fleece or the Holy Grail. But they are out there. And once found, you have a duty to savor them.

  2. The Active Duty Map poses a question. Are the active duty personnel in the state counted as state residents? In a sparsely populated state like North Dakota, Minot AFB could tilt things.

  3. Gives credence to “operating on an even keel”…we certainly need more of that these days.

    Fries and horseradish? Just happen to have a new jar. It’ll clear the sinuses, and possibly fend off SARS CoV-2 since according to “experts” it’s the only virus we have to deal with since flu is effectively nil.

    What if you moved to one of those tennis hot spots, would your chances of becoming world class increase?

    • “What if you moved to one of those tennis hot spots, would your chances of becoming world class increase?”

      Probably not. But it’s very likely that your relative local standing would decrease. I somehow made Gold on Northwest Airlines (RIP) one year while living in Boston. I had a connection in MSP and ended up chatting with one of their counter people. “It’s almost impossible for a normal person to make Elite in Minneapolis,” quoth she. “It’s the top [1%, 2% I forget] of the local market. What with all the corporate headquarters here and executives flying all over the world, 100k miles is nothing.”

      Here is a Hate Thought for the day. What would an overlay of mean IQ by country over the Top 100 Men’s Tennis map look like?

  4. Horseradish works on MANY things… Re the keels, there are some interesting stories around keel laying in WWII, but I’ll be dipped if I can find it again.

      • I suppose the practice of not laying keels on Thursday and Friday was not observed with Liberty Ship production. I wonder how that worked out? Some of them were problem children. I’m not generally superstitious but…….

  5. “No keels were laid on Thursday, named after Thor, and on Friday, named after Frigg, the wife of Odin.”

    They used to say, don’t buy a car built on a Monday or a Friday. Same idea?

    • Maybe so? They had a lot of experience with such things. There is also a lot of tradition in the christening and launching a US Naval ship and they must go off without a hitch if you don’t want an unlucky, or worse still, a cursed, ship.

  6. Setting a keel on a north/south alignment? Seems weird, but they’ve found so many sound scientific reasons for ancient ‘myth-based’ processes, I wouldn’t be surprised if magnetic alignment does matter, maybe to keep one side from being too different from the other.

    Superstition often times isn’t. It’s just misunderstood and misapplied.

  7. I recall hearing some stories about when they laid the keel for the Sea Launch Commander. She was built in Glasgow, and they put one or two coins at the bow of the keel. I can’t remember if it was tradition, or some kind of “time capsule” thing.

    For dipping fries, cocktail sauce works for me, as does tzatziki. I really can’t see much use for bottled ketchup, other than maybe dumping on top of a meatloaf before you bake it.

  8. Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk 1 (no star) because of bolt release.
    Probably made and used in WWII.
    The bayonet is a puzzlement.
    The No.4 Mk 2 is the Cadillac of the Lee Enfields (my opinion).
    If you can find one they are fetching in excess of $1500.

  9. waepnedmann – have a Lee Enfield purchased 30 years or so ago, for the princely sum of 75 bucks. Someone had sporterized it with a plastic stock but had kept all the wood and banding. I have it back to original well worn appearance but have no clue which type it actually is (could be an armory built or all original). If I dig up the markings would that and the S/N range tell me what I have? Pointers on what to look for much appreciated.

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