Old' Man' of the Sea'
1. (in The Arabian Nights' Entertainments) an old man who clung to the shoulders of Sindbad the Sailor for many days and nights.
2. a burden, annoyance, care, or the like, from which it is extremely difficult to free oneself.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.