By Deborah Fallows
In a recent post, I mentioned that the term “Down East” in Maine has origins in sailing terms, when prevailing winds sent ships from Boston sailing downwind (hence down) to head north along the coast of Maine.
Well, thanks to readers, I’ve learned that there is another Down East; it is down south in Carteret County, along the Atlantic coast around the middle of North Carolina! Just look at the similarities of the coastline in Down East Maine and Down East North Carolina. Here is Maine:
And here is North Carolina:
In both cases, the prevailing west winds mean ships sailing downwind are sailing east, or Down East.
Not to be outdone, a sailor on Long Island writes in about a similar usage. My reader described sailing “up island” when sailing west, or up into the prevailing winds. I’m presuming the opposite also holds true and the prevailing westerly winds sends you sailing downwind, or “down island” out to the east. Sailors out there: is this true?
I suppose we should scour the Atlantic seaboard to see if there are others areas where you would sail downwind to travel east.
I’m writing this from Down Under, watching the sailboats out in Sydney Harbor. There are stiff winds today, probably about 40 knots, and the flags at the Royal Botanical Gardens indicate southeasterly winds, at least right here.
Any sailing talk about Sydney Harbor becomes complicated very quickly; there are hills and valleys all around the harbor, and many inlets along the main waterway, which lead to the headlands and out into the ocean. The wind must be finicky and shifty, to say the least. It is too much of a brain teaser to imagine what sailing Down East means here Down Under. Anyone?
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