Page 5. " To Charlie Scribner and to Max Perkins "
Maxwell Perkins, 1943
Public DomainMaxwell Perkins, 1943

The Old Man and the Sea is dedicated to two of Hemingway's friends:

Charlie Scribner was Charles Scribner III, also known as Charles Scribner Jr., who served as president of Charles Scribner's Sons from 1932 until his death in February 1952. The Old Man and the Sea, which was first published in Life magazine in September 1952, was therefore dedicated to him posthumously.

Max  (or Maxwell) Perkins served as Hemingway's editor from the publication of his first major novel, The Sun Also Rises, through The Old Man and the Sea. Perkins also served as editor for Thomas Wolfe and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

You can see photos of the first edition of the book here.

Page 9. " He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream "

The Gulf Stream; warmer water is red, colder is blue. NASA image.
Public DomainThe Gulf Stream; warmer water is red, colder is blue. NASA image.
The Gulf Stream is an Atlantic Ocean current that "[begins] in the Caribbean." It "plays an important role in the poleward transfer of heat and salt and serves to warm the European subcontinent."

Page 9. " the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky "

Salao is a Latin American slang term for "jinxed." See discussion here.

Page 9. " it looked like the flag of permanent defeat. "

Note repeated references to "defeat" and "undefeated" throughout the novel. For example, on page 10 Hemingway writes, "Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same color as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated."

Page 11. " had butchered their marlin out and carried them laid full length across two planks "
Atlantic blue marlin
Public DomainAtlantic blue marlin

The Atlantic blue marlin can reach almost twenty feet in length. Marlin "are incredibly fast swimmers, reaching speeds of about 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph)."

Swordfish
Public DomainSwordfish
People sometimes use the terms "marlin" and "swordfish" interchangeably, since both fish have a sharp, elongated snout; however, they are two different kinds of fish.
Page 12. " Can I go out to get sardines for you for tomorrow? "

Sardines are small fish that Santiago uses as bait.

 

Page 14. " But you went turtle-ing for years off the Mosquito Coast "
The Mosquito Coast (in red)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Mosquito Coast (in red) - Credit: Anonymous
The Mosquito Coast is a thin strip of land on the eastern border of Nicaragua that extends up into Honduras. It lies southwest of Cuba.

"Turtle-ing" is a reference to hunting for sea turtles.

Page 15. " So I can get the cast net and go after the sardines. "
Fisherman using a cast net.
Creative Commons AttributionFisherman using a cast net. - Credit: Euku
A cast net is "a round net with sinkers around the edge and a rope through the middle. The rope pulls cords to draw the net closed after you throw it and it sinks, trapping fish as it goes down."
Page 15. " The shack was made of the tough budshields of the royal palm which are called guano "
Royal palm (Roystonea regia)
Public DomainRoyal palm (Roystonea regia)

The royal palm (Roystonea regia) is a species of palm tree indigenous to the Caribbean, generally growing 15-20 meters (approximately 50-65 feet) in height.

On the other hand, "in Spanish-speaking countries, guano is a common name applied to Coccothrinax species" of palm tree, which is characterized by fan-shaped leaves that are often used for thatch in buildings.

Hemingway mistakenly conflates the two types of palm trees in this sentence. Apparently he wasn't sure who his fronds were.

Coccothrinax argentea
Creative Commons AttributionCoccothrinax argentea - Credit: Scott Zona

Regarding "budshields," according to the EDIS, University of Florida IFAS Extension, "the growing point of the palm [from which all leaves originate] . . . is often called the bud or heart." The leaves or fronds that grow from it are called "budshields" and are used as building material in poverty-stricken areas in the Caribbean.

For a helpful discussion of Hemingway's obscure references in this sentence, see WordReference.com.

Here is how to thatch a palm frond roof. You can see a roof made of guano palm leaves here:

 

                        Playa Diana

Page 16. " there was a picture in color of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and another of the Virgin of Cobre "
Depiction of
Public DomainDepiction of "the Sacred Heart of Jesus"

The Sacred Heart of Jesus "is a devotional name used by some Roman Catholics to refer to the physical heart of Jesus Christ as a symbol of Divine love."

Our Lady of Charity, also known as Our Lady of Cobre
Creative Commons AttributionOur Lady of Charity, also known as Our Lady of Cobre - Credit: Francisco Javier Arbolí

According to sacred-destinations.com, the Virgin of Cobre, also known as the Virgin of Charity, dates back to 1608: "two Indians and a slave boy were gathering salt on the coast near El Cobre [Cuba] when they saw something floating in the water. It was a small statue of the Virgin Mary, carrying the Christ child and a gold cross. She floated on a board bearing the inscription, Yo soy la Virgen de la Caridad, 'I am the Virgin of Charity.' . . . Today, the Virgin of Charity in El Cobre continues to receive streams of visitors and stacks of votive gifts."

Page 17. " Think of the great DiMaggio. "
Joe DiMaggio, 1937
Public DomainJoe DiMaggio, 1937

Here Santiago and Manolin discuss their hero, New York Yankees center fielder Joe DiMaggio, and Santiago thinks of him more than once while he is out fishing. Clearly both have a strong interest in professional American major league baseball.

Joe DiMaggio began playing for the New York Yankees in 1936. He never played for any other professional team. By the early 1950s, when The Old Man and the Sea was written, he was a living legend among baseball fans. With him on the team the Yankees won the World Series in 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1941, 1943, 1947, 1949, 1950, and 1951. He retired from baseball after the 1951 season because he was "full of aches and pains."

According to joedimaggio.com, “DiMaggio was a beautiful hitter with a classic swing. He had an exceptionally wide stance that gave him a controlled short stride, strong wrists that generated enormous power, and the ability to wait until the last instant before lashing into a pitch.” He was also an outstanding fielder and base runner. No wonder the old man always refers to him reverently as "the great DiMaggio."

 

Joe DiMaggio shakes hands with President Ronald Reagan, 1981
Public DomainJoe DiMaggio shakes hands with President Ronald Reagan, 1981

According to Wikipedia, DiMaggio remarked on his retirement in December 1951: "I was full of aches and pains and it had become a chore for me to play. When baseball is no longer fun, it's no longer a game, and so, I've played my last game." Born in 1914, DiMaggio died of complications related to lung cancer on March 8, 1999.

Page 17. " Do you think we should buy a terminal of the lottery with an eighty-five? "

Santiago want to buy a lottery ticket that ends in 85: eg XXXXXX85

In parts of Latin America, if your ticket corresponds with the winning number in at least these last numbers you win a small prize.

Page 18. " Anyone can be a fisherman in May. "

This oft-quoted line refers to the fact that "the great [large] fish come" in September, the month during which the novel takes place; smaller fish are plentiful in May. Thus it takes greater strength, skill, and endurance to be a fisherman in September than in May.

Page 20. " But this is in bottles, Hatuey beer, and I take back the bottles. "

Hatuey beer was a popular Cuban beer bottled by the Modelo Brewery starting in 1948. Manolin means he returns the bottles when they are empty to receive some money back on them.

Hatuey beer is making a comeback.

Page 21. " 'In the American League it is the Yankees as I said,' the old man said happily. 'They lost today,' the boy told him. "
The original Yankee Stadium in the year it opened, 1923
Public DomainThe original Yankee Stadium in the year it opened, 1923

The American League and the National League are the "two leagues that make up Major League Baseball in the United States and Canada."

Since we know the story takes place in September and the year is probably 1951 (the book was published in 1952, and 1951 was DiMaggio's last season), below is the Yankees' schedule for September 1951. (Their entire 1951 schedule can be found here.)

We might even attempt to determine the exact day of the story, based on Manolin and Santiago's talk about teams on page 17 and the fact that the Yankees "lost today."

Game

Date / Box Score

Opponent

Score

Decision

Record

128

09-01-1951

at Washington Senators

4-0

W

81-47

129-I

09-03-1951

at Philadelphia Athletics

3-1

W

82-47

130-II

09-03-1951

at Philadelphia Athletics

2-3

L

82-48

131

09-05-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

2-4

L

82-49

132

09-07-1951

vs Washington Senators

4-2

W

83-49

133

09-08-1951

vs Washington Senators

4-0

W

84-49

134-I

09-09-1951

vs Washington Senators

7-5

W

85-49

135-II

09-09-1951

vs Washington Senators

2-0

W

86-49

136-I

09-11-1951

vs St. Louis Browns

3-4

L

86-50

137-II

09-11-1951

vs St. Louis Browns

3-6

L

86-51

138

09-13-1951

vs Detroit Tigers

2-9

L

86-52

139

09-14-1951

vs Detroit Tigers

5-2

W

87-52

140

09-15-1951

vs Detroit Tigers

4-7

L

87-53

141

09-16-1951

vs Cleveland Indians

5-1

W

88-53

142

09-17-1951

vs Cleveland Indians

2-1

W

89-53

143

09-18-1951

vs Chicago White Sox

1-7

L

89-54

144

09-19-1951

vs Chicago White Sox

5-3

W

90-54

145

09-20-1951

vs Chicago White Sox

5-4

W

91-54

146

09-21-1951

at Boston Red Sox

5-1

W

92-54

147

09-22-1951

at Boston Red Sox

0-5

L

92-55

148

09-23-1951

at Boston Red Sox

6-1

W

93-55

149

09-26-1951

vs Philadelphia Athletics

1-4

L

93-56

150-I

09-28-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

8-0

W

94-56

151-II

09-28-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

11-3

W

95-56

152-I

09-29-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

4-0

W

96-56

153-II

09-29-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

3-1

W

97-56

154

09-30-1951

vs Boston Red Sox

3-0

W

98-56

Page 21. " In the other league, between Brooklyn and Philadelphia, I must take Brooklyn. But then I think of Dick Sisler "

Dick Sisler, 1953
Public DomainDick Sisler, 1953
"Brooklyn" is a reference to the now-defunct Brooklyn Dodgers (1890-1957), which became the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1958.

Dick Sisler was a first-baseman and left-fielder who played for the Philadelphia Phillies from 1948-51.

Page 22. " They say his father was a fisherman "
Joe DiMaggio salutes his bat (1941)
Public DomainJoe DiMaggio salutes his bat (1941)
George Sisler at the University of Michigan, early 1900s
Public DomainGeorge Sisler at the University of Michigan, early 1900s
The old man and the boy are generally correct in their statements about DiMaggio's and Sisler's fathers. According to joedimaggio.com, “Giuseppe, [Joe’s] father, was a fisherman, as were generations of DiMaggio’s [sic] before him. He hoped all five of his sons would follow his footsteps. The two oldest sons, Tom and Michael, joined their father as fishermen but, Joe had no desire to follow in his father’s chosen career. As Joe recalled, he would do anything to get out of cleaning his father’s boat as the smell of dead fish made him sick to his stomach. This earned him Giuseppe’s ire, who called him ‘lazy’ and ‘good for nothing.’”

Dick Sisler's dad was "Gentleman George" (or sometimes "Gorgeous George") Sisler. He played professional baseball from 1915 to 1930. He was born in 1893, which means he started "playing in the big leagues" when he was about twenty-two. It seems unlikely that Manolin is that old.

Page 22. " When I was your age I was before the mast on a square rigged ship that ran to Africa "

"Before the mast" means to serve "as a common sailor, because the sailors live in the forecastle, forward of the foremast."

According to Wikipedia, "Square rig is a generic type of sail and rigging arrangement in which the primary driving sails are carried on horizontal spars which are perpendicular, or square, to the keel of the vessel and to the masts." Below is a video of the lovely French square-rigged ship Belem sailing into Boston Harbor in 2008.

 

Page 22. " Tell me about the great John J. McGraw. "

John J. McGraw, 1912
Public DomainJohn J. McGraw, 1912
Colorful baseball Hall-of-Famer John Joseph McGraw, a.k.a. "Little Napoleon" or "Muggsy," played major league baseball from 1890 to 1912 after which he became a famous baseball manager for thirty-three years. Born in 1891, he died in 1934.

Page 23. " If Durocher had continued to come here each year your father would think him the greatest manager. "

Leo Durocher baseball card from 1933
Public DomainLeo Durocher baseball card from 1933
Leo Durocher (1905-91) was a shortstop (1925-45) and then major league baseball manager (1939-73). His outspoken manner earned him the nickname "Leo the Lip," although in the 1920s, because of his unspectacular playing, Babe Ruth dubbed him "The All-American Out."

According to Wikipedia, "Durocher still ranks tenth in career wins by a manager."

Page 23. " Who is the greatest manager, really, Luque or Mike Gonzalez? "
Dolf Luque, 1911
Public DomainDolf Luque, 1911

"Dolf Luque, in full Adolfo Domingo Luque Guzman, byname the Pride of Havana or Papá Montero  (born Aug. 4, 1890, Havana, Cuba—died July 3, 1957, Havana), Cuban professional baseball player and manager who was the first player from Latin America to become a star in the U.S. major leagues. . . . Although he was an outstanding player in the major leagues, Luque’s most important legacy to baseball is his career in Cuba. He played more than half of his 23 Cuban seasons with Almendares, the team he debuted with in 1914. Luque had 93 wins and 62 losses in official Cuban League games, but he also barnstormed throughout the island, hiring himself out to several sugar mill teams. He managed eight Cuban League championship teams between 1919 and 1947 and was elected to the Cuban Baseball Hall of Fame in Havana in 1958" (britannica.com).

Mike González with the New York Giants, 1920
Public DomainMike González with the New York Giants, 1920
"Miguel Angel González Cordero (September 24, 1890-February 19, 1977) was a Cuban catcher, coach and interim manager in American Major League Baseball during the first half of the 20th century. Along with Adolfo Luque, González was one of the first Cubans or Latin Americans to have a long off-field career in the U.S. major leagues" (Wikipedia).
Page 25. " Usually when he smelled the land breeze he woke up "

During the day, because the land is warmer than the ocean causing the air above it to rise faster, a sea breeze blows in from the ocean. Overnight the land cools down faster than the sea, so the direction of the wind reverses. Click here for a helpful animation of the process.

Page 25. " and then he dreamed of the different harbours and roadsteads of the Canary Islands. "

Canary Islands (in red)
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCanary Islands (in red) - Credit: HansenBCN
The Canary Islands are an archipelago located off the northwest coast of Africa. Roadsteads are places where ships can anchor, less protected than a harbour.