The Waterside Community "Gam"

~ An opportunity for social exchange afloat or ashore ~  

Navigate home   Note Ship's Pro-log for next gam held Sun 8/14/11
mouse aboard The Ship to see
whose Spirit takes "the helm in love"

The Ship's Pro-Log:
Plans are in motion for community "gams" & gatherings during "The Year of Resolution (and Resolve)" (Mar 25, 2011 - Mar 24, 2012)
Come to know more about the unfolding plans for upcoming "gams" & gatherings at the Virtual Wolfe Tavern
Check for updates to the manifest & roster for the Waterside gam to be held Sun 8/14 at Market Landing Park
Published Press Release
Sun 8/14 gam flyer 1 (pdf) flyer 2 (pdf)

IMPORTANT 8/14 gam updates

The Ship's Log:
All about gams (this webpage)
Captain Ray Pike on Gams
Once in a Blue Moon gam 7/31/04
Ring's Island Gam ~ 9/11/04
Roster ~ 7/29/06 Gam program
(Detailed "gam plan" 7/29/06)
Once in Blue Moon gam ~ 5/31/07
Community gathering, Market Square ~ 7/27/07
Community gathering, Market Square ~ 9/23/07
"Jam & Gam," Market Landing Park ~ 10/21/07
"Jam & Gam," Market Landing Park ~ 7/13/08
The Ship ~ Navigating the Narrative
What is a gam?[1] An old nautical term used to describe a social gathering, afloat or ashore. After a friendly hail at sea, dropping sail and anchor for a gam was an occasion for familiar commerce between two (or more) whaling or merchant vessels. A gam offered the ships' officers and crews an opportunity to share information: to discuss were they had been and where they were going ~ exchange correspondence and newspapers from distant or home ports ~ and adapt their ship's course as necessary, based upon one another's experience. Often, provisions would be shared to prepare a special repast ~ and pastimes would take place for the amusement of one and all. Especially when shipmasters' wives and families were aboard ~ gams were sought to break up the monotony of a long voyage. Accordingly, a gam ashore would be a similar experience ~ and an entertaining and enlightening time for old salts and landlubbers alike.

Note that the word "gam" can be used as both a noun and verb ~ as well as in its inflected forms, gammed and gamming. A participant in such a social visit is a gammer. The word's exact etymology is vague, although is considered to be of British or Celtic origins, perhaps derived from the word "gammon" (to gab or speak in jargon) or "game." The latter is appropriate(d) since "the time spent talking and visiting" might well entail a gambit of "show and tell" ~ where a gammer might be called upon to share a story, sing a tune, play an instrument or dance a step on deck.

And while etymologists have not identified the universal knit ~ it should be duly noted that the prefix gam- or gamo- [which is taken from the Greek gamos] means "united" ~ and that whalers also used the term to describe any congregation or herd of whales. All in all, the word seems the perfect ply to encourage (pro)Motion of Comity in the Waterside.

[1] In Herman Melville's 1851 novel Moby Dick, the narrator Ishmael asks (and answers) the same good question[2] ~ defining a gam as a "social meeting of two (or more) ships, generally on a cruising ground." The passage from that epic tale can be found on the pages opening Chapter 53 entitled, "The Gam":

"But what is a Gam? You might wear out your index-finger running up and down the columns of dictionaries, and never find the word, Dr. Johnson never attained to that erudition; Noah Webster's ark does not hold it. Nevertheless, this same expressive word has now for many years been in constant use among some fifteen thousand true born Yankees. Certainly, it needs a definition, and should be incorporated into the Lexicon. With that view, let me learnedly define it. "GAM. NOUN - A social meeting of two (or more) Whaleships, generally on a cruising-ground; when, after exchanging hails, they exchange visits by boats' crews, the two captains remaining, for the time, on board of one ship, and the two chief mates on the other.

"There is another little item about Gamming which must not be forgotten here. All professions have their own little peculiarities of detail ..."

Henceforth this being the accepted definition, explained and expanded at Merriam-Webster Online and American Heritage Dictionary at and printed versions. Of course, referring to "another little item about gamming which must not be forgotten" ~ the Waterside people also profess our own "little peculiarities of detail" as well, collectively and individually.

Fast forward nearly four generations after Melville's ponderous parable ~ when an adventurer and shipbuilder with the given name Columbus was more wont to use the word "gam" to mean a friendly conversation or visit between those more landlocked ~ identifying the bedside chair he would set his ailing wife upon to encourage visits and conversations with family as the "gamming chair."

A generation later, as one of today's generations of the Waterside people ~ his granddaughter hoped to revive the word to identify the Waterside gatherings held in a Motion of Comity ~ be they large community gams or more intimate meets. Launching the concept in 2001 (during the old-style calendar Year of Inauguration, see link within) --- the word seemed to have (at)traction. And it was a beginning.

And inevitably people ask the question: What is a gam? This offers the opportunity to explain and expound and expand our horizons, exchanging the "certain knowledge" imparted here and elsewhere. With many taking part in the conversation.

[2] Ishmael ~ being one of the Knowing Ones ~ obviously knows to ask good questions and question the answer. Though observe the monomaniacal Captain Ahab, who is interested only in the answer to one question: "Hast seen the White Whale?" At the Waterside community gams, both the questions and the quest will be more far-reaching: Well-versed and diverse ~ extensive and comprehensive ~ entertaining and enlightening. Proposed and posed and posited (then posted) by today's generations of the Waterside people who aspire to become the Knowing Ones. Do you?

[3] Sometimes elaborate, more often improvised from a sturdy Windsor chair, an oak barrel or the bosun's chair (link without) ~ the "gamming chair" would be used to transport those less adept at seafaring (usually women and children) from one ship to another. Securely tied into the gamming chair ~ the prospective gammer would be dropped down to a dory or wherry then rowed over to socialize with the other shipmasters' family.

While the officers and crew "gammed" amongst themselves ~ the women would socialize, share news and sew, exchange sewing patterns or fabric and such. The children would do what children are wont to do: explore new hiding places, play and gambol about ~ and scramble in and out of the way on deck.

Sometime during the first or second dog watch (4PM to 8PM) a dinner would be arranged by the mistress of the hosting ship. (Provisions from all ships' galleys were frequently shared for this special occasion ~ offering victuals beyond the more mundane "square meal.") Amusing pastimes and musings would be enjoyed on deck, and then the gam would end. Visitors would then return to their own ship ~ some dropped down via the gamming chair to the dory, rowed back and hoisted aboard to make the next leg of their journey ~ recording the gam in both the ship's log and in personal journals.

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