Keep Calm and Carry On Cursing


Every once a while, we have a good malapropism wash over the transom and into our Mailport section. This letter dates from several years ago, but with laughter being so rare and necessary these days, I thought it was worth recycling.

Dear Practical Sailor,

What do you think about a J/24 for cursing?

Thank you,
A Loyal Subscriber


Dear Loyal Subscriber,

Thanks for your letter.

In my opinion, a J/24 is a little too small for serious offshore cursing. They are pretty sensitive boats and might not hold up to well to a long, hard curse. Then again, schools like the OCSC Sailing School in Berkeley, California use J/24s to teach basic cursing. And frankly, I know plenty of sailors who wouldn’t hesitate to curse a J/24. I should mention that these are mostly racing sailors, but they can curse right up there with best of us.

PS contributor Bob Muggleston and his family sometimes curse their classic Pearson Commander on Narragansett Bay near Newport, Rhode Island, which is a beautiful place to curse in the summer (photo courtesy of Bob Muggleston).

Some people will tell you to that cursing any boat under 30 feet is sheer madness. But there are plenty of people who have cursed some very small boats across the world’s oceans. Transhumanist and GOP candidate Zoltan Istvan cursed a small Pearson Commander from the U.S. West Coast all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. You know what they say, “One person’s sheer madness is another person’s grand ambition to rewire human race.” I think that holds true for cursing. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Closer to home, trans-Pacific small-boat veteran Steven Cannon and I cursed a Balboa 26 during a one-week charter in the Florida Bay. It’s only a little bigger than a J/24, and it had all the basic equipment you need for cursing. A marine toilet, which we sailors call a “head,” is of course essential if you want to do some serious cursing. The Balboa had a port-a-potty, which, according to the owner, had worked flawlessly despite three years of cursing.

Believe me, if you are planning to sail around the Florida Bay, or any shallow waters, you want a boat like the Balboa, with a centerboard that can raised up quickly. Each time we struck an oyster bar, it barely interrupted our cursing, we would just lift the centerboard and carry on cursing. For authentic back-country cursing, you really can’t beat the Florida Bay, where you can discover some secret spots to curse like the The Nightmare. As you can tell by the name, the charts used for cursing this region are very old, dating back to the time when state of Florida still had a grip on reality.

You can curse a centerboard boat like the Balboa 26 just about anywhere there is water. (Billy Black photo)

I must warn you, however. Once you start cursing, it is hard to stop. I have this problem myself. My girlfriend blames the rum—she says that the more I drink, the more I want to curse. I say that’s crazy, cursing is in my blood. And she says, that’s her point.

Although technically she’s a “horse person,” she’s a natural at cursing (maybe there’s a connection?). She really seems to enjoy it, so I’m hopeful about cursing together in the future. I think it is important to temper her expectations. To be honest, full-time cursing can be really exhausting!

Anyway, you are doing the right thing by asking lots of questions. Cursing is a continuous process, and even the experts are always learning. It certainly helps if you have the right boat. Once you are ready to commit, we recently reviewed several sailboats under $75K that would be well-suited for cursing. Before you sign on the dotted line, though, you’ll want to hire a good marine surveyor who will be able to warn you if boat has been cursed beyond the point of repair. Like I said, some boats just aren’t made for a long, hard curse.

Fair winds and happy cursing,

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor

Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


  1. I didn’t realize that offshore cursing was different than regular cursing. Is there a special dictionary for offshore cursing?

  2. I often remember fondly our time cursing our steel 30 footer while situated in the Bahamas, Cursing was my main objective when we considered the wisdom of using that properly unprepared craft, and we certainly had many excellent opportunities to curse it through those memorable days!! So carry on cursing, it’s what us sailors do best … LOL!!

  3. As a trailer sailor, I can say with confidence that even the mostly solo day sailing I do provides me plenty of cursing opportunities. Even though I never leave sight of shore, my little 22 footer is very good for overnight and weekend cursing — even on day trips. In fact, I don’t even have to be on the water to curse her. The act of rigging and preparing her for launch by myself is more than many non-cursing bystanders can take. Good luck and have fun!

  4. I find that wine-ing is a lot more fun than cursing. The crew responds better and it’s a lot more relaxing. Goes good with the crabs, too.

  5. A great laugh. Having raced (while cursing) a J 24 for many years, and weekend cursing for many years with a family of 5 on a Balboa 26, this brought back fond memories of cursing.


  6. I started cursing the minute I started reading this article and saw the word ‘malapropism.’ I hate words I have to look up.

  7. Way bac k, I got a 420 ( called a Club 420 in the USA ?)
    I cruised a lot in Zeeland, sometimes camping on a beach, sometimes, sleeping in it with the tent over the boom. It might not be cursing, not cruising, but “cramping” ?

  8. I’m gonna save this article and prepare my friends who go out cursing with us, the reason we curse. The rum does have an effect on the cursing in that sometimes, you have to stop cursing and pick up more rum. We were going on a week long curse in the Virgins but with the Covid19, we figured on cutting back on the rum and switching to Corona but still continue cursing. Next year we’re going to go and curse for a full ten days. Have fun cursing when you can. We can’t even curse locally this year, yet, because the marinas are closed. Probably ran out of Corona…. Stay safe and healthy. Curse it all!

  9. I swear, you guys do a great job for the cusstomer. I have often wondered about blue language sailing. you have to be able to read an off-color sky, I know. some basstards like to fish off their boat. they should be hauled ashore by the balls of their feet and kicked in their dingy dinghies. in Norfolk. I’m a bulkhead man with a very fat girlfriend aboard. I do like to feel her chines. I lashed her to my rode and rode her off the beach. I met her in Wales, naturally.

  10. For some reason our cursing seems much more prevalent at the dock, and seems to drop off quite a bit once we’ve left the dock and are out cruising!

  11. I’m with John Connell, a 22’ boat provides lots of opportunities for weekend cursing, especially when the cursed gusts pick up. Our dear little Certainty, a Rhodes 22, seems to summon small craft warnings as soon as we get an hour out of the slip, which leads to lots of cursing following the screams of terror evoked by a big puff.

  12. My wife an I just spent 7 months cursing in Mexico, our 44’ catamaran has 2 of everything, we’re pretty handy sailors so we work on our own projects…we are bilingual and love cursing with the locals…SV Baja Fog is a hell of a cursing cat….even our kids are getting into cursing(we’re so proud).

  13. Thoro’ly enjoyed the piece. One thing caught my attention; the similarities sailing a boat with controlling a horse. You can point out to your gf that a boat has reins and you can steer with your knees. I swear that in a blow a sailboat feels like it has a mind of its own. This accompanies cursing but does no good.

  14. New to the site, our 40+ year O’Day 20 is still on the hard being refurbished by complete novices with great enthusiasm. Dream about gunkholing and cursing daily. We’re sheltering in place while the “Lacey Bleu” is sheltering in place 4 1/2 hours from us awaiting TLC. Yup, cursing every day. Thanks to all for the much needed laughter.


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