The Waterside Community "Gam"
~ An opportunity for social exchange afloat or ashore ~
|Navigate home||Note Ship's Pro-log for next gam held Sun 8/14/11|
The Ship ~ Navigating the Narrative
What is a gam?
An old nautical term used to describe a social gathering, afloat or ashore.
After a friendly hail at sea, dropping sail and anchor for a gam was an
occasion for familiar commerce between two (or more) whaling or merchant
vessels. A gam offered the ships' officers and crews an opportunity
to share information: to discuss were they had been and where they
were going ~ exchange correspondence and newspapers from distant or home
ports ~ and adapt their ship's course as necessary, based upon one another's
experience. Often, provisions would be shared to prepare a special repast
~ and pastimes would take place for the amusement of one and all. Especially
when shipmasters' wives and families were aboard ~ gams were sought to
break up the monotony of a long voyage. Accordingly, a gam ashore would
be a similar experience ~ and an entertaining and enlightening time
for old salts and landlubbers alike.
Note that the word "gam" can be used as both a noun and verb ~ as well as in its inflected forms, gammed and gamming. A participant in such a social visit is a gammer. The word's exact etymology is vague, although is considered to be of British or Celtic origins, perhaps derived from the word "gammon" (to gab or speak in jargon) or "game." The latter is appropriate(d) since "the time spent talking and visiting" might well entail a gambit of "show and tell" ~ where a gammer might be called upon to share a story, sing a tune, play an instrument or dance a step on deck.
And while etymologists have not identified the universal knit ~ it should be duly noted that the prefix gam- or gamo- [which is taken from the Greek gamos] means "united" ~ and that whalers also used the term to describe any congregation or herd of whales. All in all, the word seems the perfect ply to encourage (pro)Motion of Comity in the Waterside.
In Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick, the narrator Ishmael
asks (and answers) the same good question
~ defining a gam as a "social meeting of two (or more) ships, generally
on a cruising ground." The passage from that epic tale can be found
on the pages opening Chapter
53 entitled, "The Gam":
this being the accepted definition, explained and expanded at Merriam-Webster
Online and American Heritage Dictionary at Bartleby.com
and printed versions. Of course, referring to "another little item
about gamming which must not be forgotten" ~
the Waterside people also profess our own "little peculiarities
of detail" as well, collectively and individually.
Ishmael ~ being one of the
Knowing Ones ~ obviously knows to ask good questions and question
the answer. Though observe the monomaniacal Captain Ahab, who is interested
only in the answer to one question: "Hast seen the White Whale?"
At the Waterside community gams, both the questions and the quest will
be more far-reaching: Well-versed and diverse ~ extensive and comprehensive
~ entertaining and enlightening. Proposed and posed and posited (then
posted) by today's generations of the Waterside people who aspire to
become the Knowing Ones. Do you?
Sometime during the first or second dog watch (4PM to 8PM) a dinner would be arranged by the mistress of the hosting ship. (Provisions from all ships' galleys were frequently shared for this special occasion ~ offering victuals beyond the more mundane "square meal.") Amusing pastimes and musings would be enjoyed on deck, and then the gam would end. Visitors would then return to their own ship ~ some dropped down via the gamming chair to the dory, rowed back and hoisted aboard to make the next leg of their journey ~ recording the gam in both the ship's log and in personal journals.