Pirates were sailors. Navy personnel were/are sailors. One thing they did not have in common was – pirates wore eye patches! At least the way they are generally portrayed in stories and film – the eye patch, and their peculiar manner of speech, are uniquely pirate. It seems that there is no accepted reason for this depiction other than it is a manifestation of stories, for example “Treasure Island” and films such as “Captain Ron”. ( Each of these examples have other redeeming values.)
One explanation for the use of an eye patch was that pirates lost an eye during the many battles they had while fighting other ships, what with cannonballs crashing into the side of wooden boats and splinters flying everywhere – but why just one eye, and why not so many sailors?
Another explanation is they covered one eye in daylight on deck so that when they ventured below to a darkened ship’s hold they could remove the patch, or switch it to the other eye, to have instant good visibility with the eye that had been in the dark all the time – but that would mean they’d have very poor depth perception all the time seeing through one eye, which could be quite dangerous working on a ship or fighting in a battle. By the way, this idea of covering one eye was proved “plausible” by the TV scientists on “Mythbusters” a few years ago.
And still another explanation is that sailing navigators of old used sextants, or other older versions of angle measuring devices, to take “sights” of the sun to determine their position and consequently suffered eye damage. While I like this one best there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of records to support this either.
So, what does all this have to do with a Safety Tip? Well, it’s a stretch but, how about “night vision” on a boat? Those of us who have sailed at night are certainly aware of both the nuisance and help that light provides at night. Our visibility becomes very keen when our eyes are nicely adjusted to the full darkness of our surroundings. But then we have to expose them to artificial lighting when we read our instruments. At some point we will go down below to take a nap or get some food or something. Since you can’t see very well in the darkness you turn on a light and are immediately blinded for a time while your eyes adjust, and you’ve illuminated the cockpit somewhat which affects others who might be on watch. To get around this problem we installed a combination red and white LED light in our saloon. The human eye works well enough with red light so that you can do what is necessary below and return to the cockpit with little readjustment to darkness. During nights at anchor or in a slip we use the white light and while underway at night we use the red light. It’s a better solution than putting a patch on one eye when going below, turn the white light on, then take the patch off when returning to the cockpit.
If you have any questions or suggestions feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-682-4543. Sail safely!