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View Full Version : Need help with identifying what this is; Jack London - John Barleycorn



D.C. McCormick
07-03-2014, 01:58 PM
Help a brother out!
Novel in question: Jack London - John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs

1. What, on dear mother Earth, are Bull Head and Army Points? Villages, monuments? Cities? - They are supposed to be marking the entrance to Suisun Bay, California; circa late 1800s, early 1900s.

2. What does the underlined idiom stand for --which I knew was smoking--? Full of life?

"And right here something happened to me, the gravity of which I never dreamed for many a long year to come. I had had no intention of stopping at Benicia. The tide favoured, the wind was fair and howling—glorious sailing for a sailor. Bull Head and Army Points showed ahead, marking the entrance to Suisun Bay which I knew was smoking. And yet, when I laid eyes on those fishing arks lying in the water-front tules, without debate, on the instant, I put down my tiller, came in on the sheet, and headed for the shore. On the instant, out of the profound of my brain-fag, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to drink. I wanted to get drunk."

If someone can help, thank you!

Helix
07-03-2014, 02:16 PM
Presumably (and a cursory internet search supports this idea (http://www.esg.montana.edu/gl/huc/gnis/18050001.html)) Bull('s) Head and Army Points are capes that define the entrance to Suisun Bay.

ETA: Here's a Google Earth link (https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Army+Point/@38.0380251,-122.1285721,15z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x80856fa9db996b75:0x429ffbc3a2805 715), if it's any help.

King Neptune
07-03-2014, 05:06 PM
Help a brother out!
Novel in question: Jack London - John Barleycorn: Alcoholic Memoirs

1. What, on dear mother Earth, are Bull Head and Army Points? Villages, monuments? Cities? - They are supposed to be marking the entrance to Suisun Bay, California; circa late 1800s, early 1900s.

2. What does the underlined idiom stand for --which I knew was smoking--? Full of life?

"And right here something happened to me, the gravity of which I never dreamed for many a long year to come. I had had no intention of stopping at Benicia. The tide favoured, the wind was fair and howling—glorious sailing for a sailor. Bull Head and Army Points showed ahead, marking the entrance to Suisun Bay which I knew was smoking. And yet, when I laid eyes on those fishing arks lying in the water-front tules, without debate, on the instant, I put down my tiller, came in on the sheet, and headed for the shore. On the instant, out of the profound of my brain-fag, I knew what I wanted. I wanted to drink. I wanted to get drunk."

If someone can help, thank you!

"was smoking"
Refers to the great speed he was making.
It should have been clear from the context what the two landmarks were.

Bufty
07-03-2014, 05:15 PM
Point and Head are perfectly normal references to coastal features/promentories.

jclarkdawe
07-03-2014, 06:30 PM
The two names refer to the points you want to sail between. When you're within sight of land, you usually use fixed points to navigate with. In this case, London is telling us the character has a clear path to sail for. He's aiming to pass between these two points in the center.

A sailboat is "smoking" along when it is going fast. Especially in San Francisco Bay, current (which is tidal) makes a lot of difference. A boat has two speeds, one is through the water and one is over the ground. If you're sailing directly into a 5 knot current, and going 5 knots, you're going 5 knots through the water but 0 knots over the ground.

In London's description, the wind was "howling" or strong, blowing in his favor, and the tide was rising, meaning the tide is going to push him into Suisun Bay. So let's say he's making 10 knots through the water, with a 3 knot current in his favor, and his speed over the ground jumps to 13 knots. As a result, he's "smoking" or "flying" along, going quite fast for a sailboat.

Best of luck,

Jim Clark-Dawe

D.C. McCormick
07-03-2014, 06:38 PM
Brilliant, guys!

At first I thought the smoking referred to the liveliness of the Bay area, you know, people, crowd, whatever-wise.

Much appreciated, thanks a lot!