February 9, 2011

The Mad Hatter

Some blog posts begin with the best of intentions. But, sometimes we assume too much.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a blogger out of you and out of me.

For my last post, I thought I had the perfect formula for a successful post:

- An online quiz and googling contest - which, you may have heard, are very popular today.

- A picture of a cute kid wearing a funny hat.

- A guaranteed prize of a free hat, which is very rare today (there seldom being such a thing as a truly free hat).

How could I miss? The perfect formula for the perfect blog post. Well, like the producers of the halftime show at the SuperBowl sometimes discover, the perfect formula can sometimes end in a shambles, no matter how many people you have wearing funny costumes.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a black-eyed pea out of you and out of me.

As much as I like the crab hat featured in my last post, and as much as I would still like to have one, it turns out there is a very good reason why I couldn't find one on The Google, and why anyone who tried probably couldn't find it either. It appears the hats have not been marketed commercially for some time. I figured, since the wearer of the hat in the photo was of fairly recent vintage, that the hat was too.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a little pooper out of you and out of me.

I also figured that since the wearer of the hat was Tillerman's grandkid, that Tillerman would know of the hat's origins and so, for fairness to other contestants, he should be declared ineligible to compete.

Bad call.

As it turns out, Tillerman is one of the few people on the planet who actually does know where the hat comes from, which significantly limited the field of potential contestants. I did go back to The Google and, try as I might, found no reference to that crab hat I hold so dear. It is on the internets, but you really need to know where to start looking to have any chance of finding it.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a crustacean out of you and out of me.

The hat does have an interesting story though, which, thanks to Tillerman, I have been able to unravel. The guy who originally designed and made it is something of an artist who has created a whole series of cleverly designed hats, as well as other artwork, too. You can view his art at his web site here, and here are a few photos of his hats, stolen from his web site, for which I will probably be sued for copyright infringement.

You may know the old adage:

When you assume, you make a defendant out of you and out of me.

All photos copyright Tom Hyndman

But the hats are just the beginning of what is, for me, a far more interesting story.

The artist, Tom Hyndman, while minding his business and trying to survive as an artist in Syracuse, New York, happened into one of those quirks of happenstance a few years ago that many people dream about finding their whole lives.

He won what amounted to a lottery of sorts to become caretaker of a three hundred-year-old inn owned by the Scottish government on one of the most remote of the remote Shetland Islands, halfway between the mainland of Scotland and never-never land. He's technically in the UK, but closer to Oslo, Norway than London, on an island so small that it's accessible only by boat. Oh, heck - accessible only by boat.

Here is the crummy old place he now lives in.

And here is the insufferable view out his front window that torments him, day in and day out.

But it gets worse.

Even that depressing view is blocked half the time by these funny looking birds (which are, for some reason, popular with surfers on Long Island). These birds are in the way, no matter where you look.

And, half the time, he can't get out of his driveway, because it is blocked by flocks of Shetland sweaters on the hoof.

Tom's island is occupied by 65 people, 1200 of the sweaters on the hoof, and about 50,000 of the funny birds. And by a whole lot of other kinds of critters, from which he draws inspiration for the designs of his hats and other artwork.

So, you may want to take a look at Tom's web site if you are someone who likes fish or funny birds, or if you live in the UK, or if you used to live in the UK, or even if you are just fascinated by those rare places on this planet that still look a lot like they did before those of us who walk upright started messing everything up.

Oh, a few more words about hats. Tom's web site says he sells his hats directly now, but I don't know which ones are available or how much they cost. I think you have to e-mail him if you want some.

And if you think that you might like to visit Tom, you can. The old inn, or auld inn I should say, is now a B&B, so I'm sure Tom would love to see you.

So, I apologize if I led you on a wild hat chase. But, the chase took me somewhere I never expected to get, which, in this case, turned out to be a good thing for me, and, I hope, for you, too. There won't be a free hat after all, but, then again, there seldom really is.

This did prove that the internets and Mr. Google can lead you to places and people you never knew existed, if you know how to fly them (the internets, not the people). And if you read the label on your grandkid's hat.

And I am still interested in getting one of the crab hats - which must be one of the best sailing hats you can wear. But another of Tom's hats caught my eye, so I may have to get one of those, too:



  1. Come on O Docker. The solution is simple. You need to fly the UK (or Norway) and charter a yacht and sail to Fair Isle and buy as many as Tom's hats as you want. I'm sure if you tell him you are coming he will have a crab hat ready for you.

    What's that you say? It will be cold? It's a long way? Who would use excuses like that to miss out on a sailing trip and come back with a (not quite free) hat?

  2. Tillerman, Fair Isle looks like one of those places it would be hard to leave - until the first solid freeze set in, which is probably around the end of August.

    It's probably colder than Maine, where it's said the sailing season is the last weekend in July.

  3. From http://www.southlightfairisle.co.uk/theclimate.asp

    "The climate of Fair Isle is far milder than you might expect; in May 2010 it was yet again recorded by the Met Office as being the sunniest place in Britain - and even in the depth of winter it rarely snows or freezes.

    The island is surrounded by the Gulf Stream. This ensures that the air temperature seldom drops below freezing in winter - and in summer often allows better weather than experienced by the rest of the UK."

    You will need a better excuse than that.

  4. That it seldom freezes is a surprise. And one of his photos shows a decent-sized cruising boat anchored in the harbor not too far out, so the little bay looks navigable. Hmmm...

    But being the 'sunniest place in Britain' is kinda like having the fastest Catalina 30 in the marina.

  5. LOL. Really. I did laugh out loud.

    Actually I had a chuckle at that "sunniest place in Britain" claim too, but for another reason. As Fair Isle is so far north it must have very long days in the summer, so it can clock up more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the UK. It didn't say it was warm.

  6. He's got some good looking puffins there. And they must have Scots accents! (Puffins have accents...there is a puffin aficionado who has documented the difference in accents of Icelandic and Maine puffins.

  7. I have a distinct accent, too, after just a wee bit of Scotch.

  8. Compared to Syracuse, Fair Isle must seem like the tropics.

    Great hats. Thanks for tracking that down (if that's how you hunt crab).

  9. arm lentil2/9/11, 2:33 PM

    He had a good hunting dog to help him.

  10. Yup, a good hunting dog named Nat Miller.

  11. Compared to Iceland, Syracuse must seem like China.

  12. Congrats! you found me. LOL! I'm the designer and maker of the Crab hats in Question? bbbut by the time you factor the exchange rate and shipping from the other side of the world on a custom made had you may wish you hadn't! Cheers! Tommy here is a link to my Blog:

  13. Tommy!

    Thanks for joining the conversation. I really do think you need a consultant wise in the ways of search engines. Or, maybe, I do.

    Can you tell us what the weather has been like in beautiful, downtown Fair Isle. Some of us have been wondering.

    I hope that 'bbbut' was a typo and that you're staying warm.

  14. Renal Milt2/9/11, 3:23 PM

    Don't worry Tommy. O Docker is a fearless ocean going sailor. He has a Catalina 30 and knows how to use it. He is preparing now to head out of the Golden Gate Bridge and keep turning left (or maybe it's right) until he reaches Fair Isle. Please have a couple of Crabby hats and one Viking hat ready for him when he arrives.

  15. No Snow! sometime we do get some but it quickly melts even though we are about 60 degrees north. It's because we are so close to the sea. the Summer's top temps reach 65 to 70 degrees max again because of the surrounding sea temps. The humidity does make it feel much warmer until you go swimming... ouch! you can fly into Fair Isle? but the day you sail in as many do, I'll sew you a Crabby Hat while you wait with my compliments. Cheers!

  16. O Dock? take a look at my new post about your email: http://fair-isle.blogspot.com/2011/02/you-your-hats-and-photos-i-have-stolen.html

  17. Oh come on Tommy, don't let "Syracuse, New York" get the credit.

  18. Tommy said, "the day you sail in as many do, I'll sew you a Crabby Hat while you wait with my compliments."

    Woo hoo O Docker. You are going to own the hat of your dreams. And you get to have a little sailing trip. And you can write a blog post every day during the voyage. And Tommy gets oodles of free publicity for his hats with your vast worldwide readership.

    It's win-win-win-win.

    When do you leave?

  19. Looks great up there: I'd join you in a sail up there - just get your tub round cape horn, across the atlantic and moor its somewhere northish.

    But watch out for those pirates Renal Milt and Arm Lentil - terrible at disguises and will lace your food with Marmite.

  20. Tommy, thanks for the replies.

    I do see quite a lot of traffic from the UK is now being referenced to my blog from your post.

    Hopefully, my post will have some of the same effect for you.

    But this symbiotic blogging is giving me an idea. It seems you may need an agent in the US to help direct inquiries to your web site and O Dock has been looking for a promotions rep in the Shetland Islands for some time, to help flesh out the European sales operation.

    I'll have the O Dock accounting department investigate the feasibility of entering into a commercial relationship with Tommyart as soon as they complete their current task which is calculating the real cost of my complimentary crabby hat.

    I have long held that there is, in fact, no such thing as a free hat.

    You will note some remarkable properties of my vast readership. Many of them have names which are, amazingly enough, anagrams of 'Tillerman', who is the sometimes crabby blogger who is somewhat responsible for the beginnings of my quest for the crabby hat.

    Patricia's comment leads me to believe that I may have gotten the story of your origins wrong and I would like to hear more about that, if so.

    And I think most of my readers would love to hear more about sailing in Fair Isle and its environs and about what life in general is like in such an apparently idyllic spot.

    And JP is a Londoner who is a frequent visitor here. I would highly recommend his blog to you, if you aren't already aware of it.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you.

  21. I think we need to plan a Sailing Bloggers' Reunion/ Fair Isle Cruise for the summer solstice.

  22. O Docker, as the spiritual leader of our blogging community, perhaps you would prefer one of Tommy's Bishop Hats?

  23. I moved from Saratoga Springs New York. 5 years ago, I did live in North Syracuse "CICERO" from the age of 3 to 14 - a wise man once told me " the most expensive way to get something is for free... or stealing it. come and get it!

  24. I just posted about the Fair Isle Harbour and a tall ships race this summer for you to look at?

  25. O Docker, how can you resist an invitation like that?

    I see that the Tall Ships Lollapalooza includes a "cruise in company" that stops in at Fair Isle, and that the festivities include a football game between Fair Isle and the Rest of the World! You need to be in on that!! Think of how you could write it up on your blog!!!

    Contact Jimmy Stout NOW to reserve your berth.

  26. Tommy, I think Lint Realm may be right. This is looking like an opportunity too good to pass up.

    (And I've just noticed - can you believe it - yet another commenter whose name is an anagram of 'Tillerman' ! What are the odds of that?)

    I do see that the official race stop is Lerwick and that Fair Isle is an 'open port' for the race.

    Does this mean that sailors too inebriated to be admitted at Lerwick will be accomodated at Fair Isle?

  27. This just gets better and better. I see now that Björn Again, performing the greatest hits of ABBA, will be appearing as part of the Tall Ships Lollapalooza. How can you miss the chance to see them again O Docker? I know what a big ABBA fan you are.

    One thing to remember is that July comes every 12 months, but it would seem that a Tall Ships Race comes to Fair Isle but once a lifetime. Or maybe about every 12 years.

    In addition, its worth remembering that as of this morning, there are already 50 Tall Ships signed up. If you continue to ponder then the decision may be made for you!

  28. Mean Trill - sorry, I don't mean 'mean' in a mean sense, Mean, only that you're name is actually Mean - I have also been reading something fascinating about Shetland weather:

    Between October and March there may be 30-40 days of gales; between April and September we wouldn’t expect more than about 10... Steady wind speeds of 60-70 miles an hour are not uncommon during winter gales and, a few times each winter, we may experience gusts of 100 mph or more...

    So, it looks like Fair Isle would be a perfect place to hold the next heavy weather Laser slalom competition. Or maybe even the next Laser Masters Worlds.

    One thing's for certain. Any hat constructed in Shetland is bound to hold up very well as a sailing hat.

    I do notice that the crabby hat has been designed to be used for sailing. The appendages are built low to substantially lower the center of effort, unlike ordinary crabby hats.

    And I do wish you hadn't mentioned the ABBA thing. I've nearly completed the twelve-step program and have been entirely ABBA-free for nearly seven months now.

  29. Fantastic idea O Docker. But here has already been an international Laser competition in the Shetland Islands.

    Thanks to The Google I discovered that there is an event called the Island Games which is a sort of multi-sport mini-Olympics between a number of islands ranging from Rhodes to Prince Edward Island, St Helena to Bermuda. How splendid!

    Naturally the sailing event in the Island Games is sailed in Lasers and Laser Radials. And in 2005 the Shetland Isles were the "host nation" for the Island Games. Here are the results for the Lasers. (How did Gibraltar get in there? It's not an island is it?

    Anyway, I see that this year the Island Games will be in the Isle of Wight. Maybe we could compete in our Lasers on the way to the Tall Ships Lollapalooza in Fair Isle? I will be applying in my capacity as Fleet Captain of the Spar Island Laser Fleet. You could sail for Alcatraz!