Don't call him Ishmael. Call him Kirshenbaum.
It is true that the crust of the seasoned salt, the fragrance of the old tar, the squint of the Ancient Mariner may seem to be eternally in his visage. But he is, in fact, not Barnacle Bill or Mr. Christian. He is not Captain Ahab, not Captain Bligh, not even Captain Queeg. Call him Kirshenbaum. And in one pocket of his oilskin slicker look for a bottle of Dramamine and in the other a vial of Bonine. Perhaps beneath that fine, crumpled Greek fisherman's cap, you may even find a secret cache of Marezine.
In covering the early trials and tribulations of America's Cup contenders on the waters off Newport (page 32), intrepid mariner Kirshenbaum went deeply fearing—and fully prepared for—the worst the seas could deal a land-loving man: mal de mer.
It is not that life upon the bounding main is absolute anathema to him. nor is it that seasickness is always his fate at sea. Indeed, water has long been a significant part of Kirshenbaum's life. He grew up in Benton Harbor, Mich., hard by the tossing waves of Lake Michigan, and swam and boated there. He has spent many fully healthy hours on watery assignments for SI, including a sailing race off California's Marina del Rey and a powerboat race outside New York Harbor. He also has covered swimming for SI since 1970 and this fall he will assist Mark Mulvoy with our coverage of ice hockey (who is to say that is not a water sport?). So it has been pretty much water, water everywhere for Kirshenbaum, yet the America's Cup assignment in the notoriously choppy seas off Rhode Island left him markedly uneasy.
"If you have ever been seasick—really seasick—you never forget it. Never," says Kirshenbaum. "In 1958 I went to Europe aboard a Greek freighter that was carrying 13,000 tons of coal. The voyage over was no problem. I loved it. But coming back the freighter was empty, and it rolled and tossed like a cork. I was seasick for 11 days—11 straight days."
After that desperate experience, Kirshenbaum's sea stomach steadied for many years, until 1973 when he wrote a story on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent. One afternoon he chartered a 34-foot sloop for an island-hopping trip from Bequia to Mustique and, lo! he sank to his knees again. He did not recover until the natives of Mustique brought him round with cognac.
Before he ventured to Newport. Kirshenbaum took the precaution of consulting a doctor, who recommended Bonine pills. As Kirshenbaum gingerly cast off for his first Rhode Island sail he popped a pill. He then spent four hours at sea, returning to port in the best of health. Indeed, so serene were those pill-filled hours that Kirshenbaum dropped off for a short nap at one point during the trials. Later he said, "It was the only sporting event I've ever covered where I could sleep for half an hour, wake up and not miss a thing."
The leisurely flow of the trials at sea is a decided change of pace from the hectic whirl of urgent design changes, clashing egos and other pre-challenge maux de t√™te. Kirshenbaum has analyzed them all in a manner that indicates he has his old sea legs back.
KIRSHENBAUM: A STOMACH FOR THE SEA