Five Lies You’ve Been Told About Boats

Are you screwed if you sail through the Bermuda Triangle? And is that *definitely* a nautical-themed pashmina Afghan? Let’s find out the truth.

The world is full of lies, and it’s hard to get through life without taking a few on board. Luckily, we’re here to sort the fact from the fiction, and find the plankton of truth in the ocean of bullshit. This week: Boats! How luxurious is a luxury cruise, really? Can you go hell for leather in international waters? All aboard (AHAHAHA) as we find out.

Lie #1: Watch Out for the Bermuda Triangle!

A lot of kids’ entertainment is action-packed, and as a child, it’s easy to imagine that adulthood will involve a lot more derring-do, a lot more adventure on the high seas and a lot more threat from things like the Bermuda Triangle than it actually ends up providing. You grow up, life kicks the shit out of you a bit and you realize you will spend a lot more of your adult life battling things like tax bills, shitty landlords and a-hole colleagues than swinging on ropes and kicking pirates off the side of ships. Real life totally sucks!

The Bermuda Triangle, and the idea that something unearthly is somehow consuming or spiriting away all the craft who enter it, has been fascinating people since long before the name was actually used (the term “Bermuda Triangle” was only coined in 1963). There have been loads of incidents there, mainly involving small planes going missing but also including:

  • The U.S.S. Cyclops mysteriously vanished there in 1918 with 306 people on board, the single largest loss of life in non-combat Naval history.
  • In 1945, five bombers on a training flight disappeared, as did the search plane that went looking for them.
  • In 1948, a flight from San Juan to Miami disappeared with 32 people on board.

The full list is really long — and pretty bonkers reading. But think about it: If the Triangle is defined as being between Miami, Puerto Rico and Bermuda, dude, that’s some busy sea. Pleasure craft heading for the Caribbean, little-ass planes piloted by billionaires, party boats heading out of Florida… it’s chockablock. It’s also at a fairly cyclone-heavy latitude, with the Tropic of Cancer passing right through it. Importantly, it’s full of The Sea as well, which is fucking really dangerous. 

In other words, bad things sometimes happen in the Bermuda Triangle because loads of bad things happen in the sea. For the size of the Triangle, there isn’t some crazily disproportionate amount of disasters — the sea is just a big deadly monster. There are at least 10 chunks of sea even worse, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s list of the most dangerous oceans. Fuck the sea!

Lie #2: A Cruise Sounds Nice!

Cruises suck, yo. They’re horrendous for the environment, with one cruise company independently pumping 10 times more sulfur dioxide into the air around Europe than all the continent’s cars combined. The crew on cruise ships are treated like shit, with some being paid as little as $45 per month. Children keep drowning in cruise ship pools due to the cost savings of not having a lifeguard. There are loads of sexual assaults onboard, which are then handled by cruise line staff rather than the police, which means downplaying it and persuading the victim there was no crime out of fear of lawsuits. Lots of people die on board, their bodies then being sailed around for weeks. And everyone gets diarrhea. A death-boat full of bad people shitting themselves: luxury.

Lie #3: In International Waters You Can Do Anything!

The idea that anything goes in international waters is quite an exciting thought — we’re all 15 minutes in a speedboat away from lawlessness! Jet ski out for a bit and you’re in a floating Wild West where murder is legal, anarchy reigns, dudes have gills and Kevin Costner drinks his own piss. International waters, baby!

Turns out, though, it’s not that exciting. Everything up to 24 miles off the U.S. coast comes under U.S. jurisdiction (it’s 12 miles everywhere else, but, you know, America), and it’s international waters beyond that. But that doesn’t mean nobody’s in charge. While, per the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, “No state may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty,” under international law all boats need to be registered somewhere and signal that with a flag, which means they then come under the jurisdiction of that country. (Cruise ships, which we’ve established are run by bastards, are often registered in places with relaxed labor laws so they can employ people for minute wages.)

If you don’t fly a flag, anyone can investigate you. Universal jurisdiction applies to crimes like piracy, slavery and illegal broadcasting, meaning any ship from anywhere can intervene, and the “passive personality principle” means that if you commit a crime that has a victim, you can be subject to the laws of wherever they’re from. 

Lie #4: “You’re Up Shit Creek Without A Paddle!”

There isn’t anywhere called Shit Creek, it’s made up. If it existed, it would be on Google Maps. There is, however, both a Shitten Creek and a Shitepoke Creek in Lane County, Oregon (as well as Poop Creek in the same state), plus a Shite Creek in Clearwater County, Idaho. Iran contains three different towns called Shit.

There’s also Pee Pee Creek in Ohio, named after the initials of settler Major Paul Payne, and Poopoo Creek in British Columbia, Canada. Iowa contains Long Dick Creek; Big Dick Creek is in Idaho. But jack-shit Shit Creeks, paddle or no.

Lie #5: “I’m On A Boat And / It’s Going Fast And / I Got A Nautical-Themed Pashmina Afghan”

The Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat” is to sailing what “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” is to baseball — they’re both songs that people who sail or play ball as a job probably don’t sing every day, but people who occasionally find themselves doing it for a special occasion can’t stop goddamn singing. However, it’s not a pashmina Afghan. It’s a pashmina, sure, one customized with anchors by SNL staff, but not an Afghan. A pashmina is generally woven, while an Afghan is knitted. The Lonely Island? More like The Can’t Differentiate Between Specific Types of Shawls Island!