This week, we’ll burn our socks. It’s a tradition in the maritime community to celebrate Spring, which begins in the Northern Hemisphere on the vernal equinox. Burning socks a mariner tradition?

Yes, it is known.

So why do we burn socks?Burning Socks a Mariner’s Tradition - Robin Van Auken

Despite the fact that we’re landlocked, we love boats. We also qualify because we owned a sailboat. But, more importantly, we love warm weather, boats, bonfires and beer.

Yes, beer.

Burning Socks a Mariner’s Tradition

The concept of burning socks while drinking beer on the equinox began many years ago when Capt. Bob Turner, who managed the Annapolis Yacht Yard at the time, shed his dirty socks, dropped them in a paint-roller tray, sprinkled them liberally with lighter fluid and put a match to the mess.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, one he saluted with a beer.

You see, by the end of winter, his socks often were ruined from all the paint, varnish and fiberglass he used when working on other people’s boats (OPBs).

Other sailors embraced the event, ceremoniously stripping off socks and burning them because once boating season starts, nobody wears socks. Well, they don’t wear socks unless the temperature drops below 30 degrees Fahrenheit and winds increase to 17 knots. That’s when the “wimp-chill factor” kicks in. But, at all other times, sailors must wear boat shoes sans socks.

The Maritime Museum in Annapolis resurrected Turner’s tradition a dozen years ago and thanks to the Internet, its popularity has spread coast-to-coast.

Even here, in the highlands of Pennsylvania, we burn our socks. Since we live by the river, our place has become a gathering point for friends and neighbors on the equinox, and we start a fire, pass around the bottles of beer and toss socks onto the flame.

We chat about plans we have for the upcoming spring and summer, boat shows we want to attend, when the minor league baseball season starts locally, and where along the river we may put in our canoes and kayaks.

The Wall Street Journal understands the importance of burning socks! Its writer John Clarke gave us a call about our tradition and gave us a bit of space in his article:

Robin and Lance Van Auken host a burning in Williamsport, Pa., on a cliff overlooking the Susquehanna River. “We’re wannabes who relocated to Pennsylvania 20 years ago from Florida.” said Mrs. Van Auken. 

Burning socks is more than a tradition to celebrate spring. It’s a good time and it’s an ice breaker. Literally.

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