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Nautical Knockout

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That's why they call it the "Boom"!note 

On a small, single-masted ship, the sail will be large and the deck so small you have to watch for the boom — it's the spar under the sail. So when the sail moves, it's likely to swing suddenly across the deck and knock the sailor unaware in the head. Sometimes this results in unconsciousness. Sometimes the sailor is knocked into the water. And sometimes, the sailor is knocked unconscious into the water.

In some cases, the target of the boom will get a warning that it's coming... but usually the warning comes a mere second before the impact, doing the target no good whatsoever.

Very much Truth in Television. When the boat is jibing (changing the sail orientation by moving the stern into the wind, as opposed to tacking, turning the bow into the wind), the boom can very suddenly swing across the deck at high speed, which can lead to a concussion (or worse) for anyone not paying attention. Keeping your head down is one of the first things taught to beginning sailors.

Compare Plank Gag.


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    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Cheaper by the Dozen: Happens to the father.
  • In Great White, the woman in the teaser climbs on to the yacht to escape the shark, but the fraying rope holding the boom snaps and the swinging boom smacks her head: knocking her out and knocking her back into the water.
  • Joe Versus the Volcano: Happens to Patricia (Meg Ryan's third role) during a storm, knocking her out. Joe jumps in to save her, hero that he is.
  • The Pirates of Penzance (the 1983 film): The Pirate King runs into the boom during the Pirate King number (but it doesn't knock him overboard, though he does that later on his own).
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: Jack Sparrow does this intentionally when Will Turner is holding him at sword point. Jack suddenly turns the wheel so that the boom comes too fast for Will to avoid it, sending him overboard.
  • Sabrina: Happens to Linus Laraby in the remake.
  • Played for laughs in the John Candy movie Summer Rental.
  • Done deliberately at the end of Wild Things. The victim is then left to drown.

  • Subverted in Dragondrums, in that Sebell, nautically inexperienced, doesn't react when warned to get out of the way of the boom. Fortunately for him, Menolly yanks him out of the way just in time.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's novel God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, Eliot Rosewater accidentally kills his mother when he takes her sailing on his small boat and tacks. The boom swung across, knocked her off the boat where she sank like a stone.
  • In the novel Man of the Century, 15-year-old Woodrow Lowe stows away aboard the yacht belonging to the prominent Balfour family, to try and get close to his love, their daughter, Amy. Almost as soon as he tries to venture on deck, he is hit smack in the face with the boom, which knocks him clean off his feet and right into the harbor.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Happens to Pierce in Community episode "Beginner Pottery" while in a boating class. Only since the college is nowhere near water, the boat is in the middle of the parking lot, yet the instructor insists that they act as if they were at sea, and Pierce is essentially left to die.
  • CSI: Miami. Played For Drama in an episode where a woman died as a result of getting struck with a boom, rupturing her breast implants
  • Doctor Who, "The Curse of the Black Spot": Happens to Rory.
  • Top Gear: Happens whenever the trio are tasked with turning cars into watercraft. Inevitably, James May decides that making a sailing car is so much easier than a motorboat-car (which it is) and neglects this trope. Cue the boom smacking into his head every few minutes.

    Web Original 
  • There is a minor piece of Polish internet lore which is a humorous dictionary of nautical terms. The dictionary mentions that the boom's main purpose is to sweep landlubbers, annoying crewmembers and miscellaneous litter from the deck.

    Western Animation 
  • Donald Duck:
    • In Sea Scouts, Donald orders his nephews to hoist the sail on his ship, but they raise the boom rather than actually unfurl the sail. As Don commands them to lower the boom, they accidentally let go of their rope, causing it to drop onto their uncle.
      Donald: Sometimes, they take me too literally!
    • A Running Gag in No Sail involves Donald putting nickels in a coin-operated sailboat and getting hit on the head with the boom of the sail when it pops out. The third time this happens, Donald moves to the opposite side to avoid getting hit, but the boom lowers on that side as well.
  • Comically reversed in the Goofy cartoon "How to Be a Sailor". When a boom hits Goofy, it shatters on impact to illustrate the era of Wooden Ships and Iron Men.
  • The New Adventures of Superman: In "Rain of Iron", Lois Lane is knocked out by the boom when she attempts to maneuver her sailboat to avoid a torpedo.
  • The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror XXI" — It's how they kill Dr. House.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures: A rather iconic episode has Plucky as the star of his own sea movie, Kon Ducki. While trying to film a scene where he's enjoying a glass of mango juice on the deck, he's smashed over the head by the falling mast. In every take.

    Real Life 
  • This is supposedly the source of the Royal Navy acronym BOHICA: "Bend Over, Here It Comes Again". It's claimed that the acronym references this trope, but it's also likely just a dirty joke.
  • A regular source of call-outs for coastal search and rescue organisations anywhere there's a lot of amateur sailors.