Solace of the Sea Archive

23rd May 2020

CHARLES DARWIN – THE VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE (1831-36)

“While sailing a little south of the Plata on one very dark night, the sea presented a wonderful and most beautiful spectacle. There was a fresh breeze, and every part of the surface, which during the day is seen as foam, now glowed with a pale light. The vessel drove before her bows two billows of liquid phosphorus, and in her wake she was followed by a milky train. As far as they eye reached, the crest of every wave was bright, and the sky above the horizon, from the reflected glare of these livid flames, was not so utterly obscure as over the vault of the heavens. I am inclined to consider that the phosphorescence is the result of the decomposition of organic particles, by which process the ocean becomes purified.”

22 May 2020

DUDLEY POPE – LIFE IN NELSON’S NAVY (1981)

“In the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), the Royal Navy lost 133,700 men by disease and desertion, but only 1,512 were killed in battle. In the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, which lasted with a short break for twenty-two years, the Royal Navy lost 1,875 killed in the six major and four minor battles fought by its fleets and four by its squadrons, compared with more than 72,000 who died from disease or accident on board, and another 13,600 who died in ships lost by accident or weather. A musket ball, the slash of a cutlass or the jab of a pike – these took a negligible toll of men’s lives compared with scurvy, typhus and yellow fever.”

21 May 2020

CAPTAIN J.H.ILLINGWORTH, R.N.  – OFFSHORE (1949)

“Ocean racing can be anything you choose to make it, from the occasional jaunt offshore, to a way of life. The driving of small fast-cruising type yachts for great distances at sustained top speeds sets a whole series of special problems in design, equipment, preparation, crewing and navigation. The point is, that every part of sailing has a special ocean racing aspect. And to those of you who have not tried racing off shore I would tell you that my first race was great fun; and that since then in each year in which I have had the good fortune to get to sea for ocean racing, I enjoy it a little bit more. Your summer will be a full round of high endeavour, interspersed with that special sort of relaxation which follows an all-out effort.”

20 May 2020

Virgil – The Aeneid – Book I (c.29-19 BC)

“Neptune, meanwhile, greatly troubled, saw that the sea

was churned with vast murmur, and the storm was loose

and the still waters welled from their deepest levels:

he raised his calm face from the waves, gazing over the deep.

He sees Aeneas’s fleet scattered all over the ocean,

the Trojans crushed by the breakers, and the plummeting sky.

So he speaks, and swifter than his speech, he calms the swollen sea,

scatters the gathered cloud, and brings back the sun.

Cymothoë and Triton, working together, thrust the ships

from the sharp reef: Neptune himself raises them with his trident,

parts the vast quicksand, tempers the flood,

and glides on weightless wheels, over the tops of the waves.

So all the uproar of the ocean died, as soon as their father,

gazing over the water, carried through the clear sky, wheeled

his horses, and gave them their head, flying behind in his chariot.”

19 May 2020

JOHN GRAHAM – LETTER TO THE ADMIRALTY (1735)

“John Harrison, having with great labour and expense, contrived and executed a Machine for measuring time at sea, upon such Principle, as seem to us to Promise a very great and sufficient degree of Exactness. We are of Opinion, it highly deserves Public Encouragement, In order to a thorough Tryal and Improvement, of the severall Contrivances, for preventing those Irregularities of time, that naturally arise from the different degrees of Heat and Cold, a moist and dry Temperature of the Air, and the Various Agitations of the ship.”

18 May 2020

THOR HEYERDAHL – THE KON-TIKI EXPEDITION (1947)

“The cook’s first duty when he got up in the morning was to go out on deck and collect all the flying fish that had landed on board in the course of the night. There were usually half a dozen or more, and one morning we found twenty-six fat flying fish on the raft. Knut was much upset one morning  because, when he was standing operating with the frying pan, a flying fish struck him on the head instead of landing right in the cooking fat. But the unprovoked attack was quickly forgiven by the injured party, for this was a maritime land of enchantment where delicious fishes came hurtling through the air.”

17 May 2020

DANIEL DEFOE – ROBINSON CRUSOE,

I had slept well in the night, and was now no more sea-sick but very cheerful, looking with wonder upon the sea that was so rough and terrible the day before, and could be so calm and so pleasant in so little time after. And now, least my good resolutions should continue, my companion, who had indeed entic’d me away, comes to me. ‘Well, Bob,’ says he, clapping me on the shoulder, ‘how do you do after it? I warrant you were frighted, wa’n’t you, last night, when it blew but a cap full of wind.’ ‘A cap full d’you call it?’ said I, ‘’twas a terrible storm.’ ‘Do you call that a storm? Why, it was nothing at all; give us a good ship and sea room and we think nothing of such a squall. But you’re but a fresh water sailor, Bob; come, let us make a bowl of punch and we’ll forget all that.’”

16 May 2020

COMMANDER JAMES COOK – JOURNAL OF THE SECOND VOYAGE (1772-1775)“

At 4 o’Clock we discovered from the Mast head thirty eight Islands of Ice extending from the one Bow to the other, that is from the SE to the West, and soon after we discovered Field or Packed Ice in the same Direction and had so many loose pieces about the Ship that we were obliged to luff for one and bear up from another. From the Mast head I could see nothing to the Southward but ice. I did not think it was consistent with the safety of the Sloops or any ways prudent for me to persevere in going farther South, even supposing this to have been practicable, which however is doubtful.”

15th May 2020

QUEEN ELIZABETH I – SPEECH TO HER TROOPS AT TILBURY AS THE SPANISH ARMADA APPROACHED, 1588

“I am come amongst you as you see at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die among you all, to lay down for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honour and my blood, even in the dust. I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma of Spain or any Prince of Europe should dare to invade the borders of my realm, to which, rather than any dishonor shall grow by me, I myself take up arms, I myself will be your general, judge and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. By your valour we shall shortly have a famous victory over these enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.”

14th  May 2020

JEFF TOGHILL – SYDNEY HARBOUR OF YESTERYEAR, 1982

Competitive sailing in the early part of this century was a tough game. Ropes were made of coarse vegetable fibre which became stiff with water, tearing skin from the palms of the hands and rapping knuckles until they bled. Sails were made of cotton canvas that became stiff and unforgiving in use. Handling a flogging sail meant calloused hands and torn fingernails. Even the cloud of canvas that was carried by the smallest racing skiff often required eight or more to keep it under control. Indulging in sail-boat racing, therefore, was something of a masochistic exercise and one wonders where the battered crews found so much enthusiasm, particularly for such a tough competitive sport as was practiced every Saturday on Sydney Harbour. It was a spectacle without peer.”

13th May 2020

JOHN RUSKIN – THE HARBOURS OF ENGLAND (1856)

“Take it all in all, a ship of the line is the most honourable thing that man, as a gregarious animal, has ever produced. By himself, unhelped, he can do better things than ships of the line; he can make poems and pictures, and other such concentrations of what is best in him. But the ship of the line is his first work. Into that he has put as much of his human patience, common sense, forethought, experimental philosophy, self-control, habits or order and obedience, thoroughly wrought handwork, defiance of brute elements, careless courage, careful patriotism, and calm expectation of the judgment of God, as can well be put into a space of 300 feet long by 80 broad. And I am thankful to have lived in an age when I could see this thing so done.”

12th May 2020

SYDNEY-HOBART NEWSPAPER REPORT – THE SUN (DECEMBER 29, 1945)

“SYDNEY, Friday:– This afternoon the first ‘casualty’ of the Sydney Hobart yachting race was reported. It was the Archina, a 52ft. Bermudian ketch, owned by Mr. P. Goldstein, which was observed to be in distress off Montague Island. A ship which rushed to the scene later reported that the crew was safe and would try to continue in the race. At 4.45 p.m. the Archina was seen anchored 20 miles from Montague Island. Late this afternoon the yachts again struck bad weather south of Twofold Bay, with a southerly gale blowing in gusty squalls at never less than 23 miles an hour, and at times reaching a velocity of 50 miles an hour. Last reports received to-night revealed that the 52ft. ketch, Winston Churchill, was still in front off Red Point. Next in line was the Kathleen.”

11th May 2020

HONDA TOSHIAKI (1744-1821) – A PASSENGER POKES FUN AT HIS JAPANESE SEAFARERS

“Even when the weather improves, the crew are at a loss to tell in which direction to head, and the ship floats about helplessly. As a last resort they cut off their hair and make vows to Buddha and the gods. Then they take out pieces of paper on which have been written the names of the twelve directions, roll them up into balls, and put them into a basket with a hole in its lid. Then they grasp the basket in their hands and strike the lid. Then, when one of the pellets jumps out, they pick it up, their eyes blinded by tears of joy, and cry that it is the direction vouchsafed by Buddha and the gods. Then they set course by it, and go completely astray.”

10th May 2020

UFFA FOX – HANDLING SAILING BOATS, 1960

“Although a man may take up sailing in order to go cruising, it will be well for him to race for a season early in his sailing career. It will teach him perfection in the handling and sailing of his craft; which will stand him in good stead when he goes cruising. It is frequently the cruising man who has raced who makes his harbor without any trouble; whereas a man who has only cruised goes about things in a much more slovenly manner, for he has not the exactness and the skill found in racing men.”

9th May 2020

SARA VIAL – POEM INSCRIBED AT THE CAPE HORN MONUMENT (1992)

“I am the albatross that awaits you

At the end of the world.

I am the forgotten soul of dead mariners

Who passed Cape Horn

From all the oceans of the world.

But they did not die

In the furious waves.

Today they sail on my winds

Toward eternity,

In the last crack

Of the Antarctic winds.”

(The poem has been variously translated from the original Chilean Spanish.)

8th May 2020

NICOLAS BAUDIN – LETTER TO NSW GOVERNOR KING (1802)

“To my way of thinking, I have never been able to conceive that there was justice or even fairness on the part of the Europeans in seizing, in the name of their governments, a land seen for the first time, when it is inhabited by men who have not always deserved the title of savages or cannibals that has been freely given them; whereas they were still only the children of nature. It would be more glorious for your nation, as for mine, to mould for society the inhabitants of its own country over whom it has rights, rather than wishing to occupy itself with the improvement of those who are very far removed from it by seizing the soil which belongs to them and which saw their birth.”

(Baudin’s enlightened French humanism fell on deaf colonial ears. He died of tuberculosis, aged 49, on the passage home.)

7th May 2020

WARRINGTON SMITH – MAST AND SAIL (1906)

“What is it in the sea life which is so powerful in its influence? It whispers in the wind, it hums in the music of the tropical night. It is the same to Ulysses and Columbus as it is today to the barge’s skipper or the young fourth officer on a Liverpool tramp. The Northland fisherman, the Arab, the Malay, have felt its extraordinary depth and intensity. It is there to the man who holds the night watch at sea. There is nothing sordid, cramped, or unhealthy for body or mind in what a man may learn from sailing boats. Apart from mere physical triumph which man has in handling tackle, there is for sailing men the additional glory, namely, the glory of the pathfinder.”

6th May 2020

RMS TITANIC – FIRST CLASS DINING ROOM DINNER MENU (1912)

Hor d’oeuvres Varied

Oysters

Consommé Olga    Cream of Barley 

Salmon    Mousseline Sauce   Cucumber

Filet Mignons Lili

Sauté of Chicken Lyonnaise

Vegetable Marroe Farcie

Lamb Mint Sauce

Roast Duckling Apple Sauce

Sirloin of Beef    Chateau Potatoes

Green Peas     Creamed Carrots

Boiled Rice

Parmentier & Boiled Potatoes

Punch Romanie

Roast Squab & Cress

Cold Asparagus Vinagrette

Paté de Fois Gras

Waldorf Pudding

Peaches in Chartreuse Jelly

Chocolate & Vanilla Eclairs

French Ice Cream

(This was the meal served on April 14, the evening the Titanic sank.)

5th May 2020

FRANCIS CHICHESTER – GIPSY MOTH CIRCLES THE WORLD (1967)

“I don’t think it would be possible anywhere to find a people more generously friendly than the Sydney-ites, and particularly the Sydney Yacht Squadron. All their facilities were offered to refit Gipsy Moth for her Cape Horn venture. They immediately enlisted the help of Warwick Hood, the naval architect, who had designed the Dame Pattie, the 1967 challenger for the America’s Cup. Alan Payne also offered to help and advise me, so straight away I had most wonderful help and advice from two of the naval architects I admire most in the world. The Lewmar winches had given me a lot of trouble and landed me in difficulties several times. An Australian firm making Barlow winches sportingly presented me with a set of these in Sydney. On the homeward passage, I never had to clean them, or even give them a spot of oil and they looked brand new at the end of it.”

May the fourth!

CHARLES BURLAND – THE SHIP CAPTAIN’S MEDICAL GUIDE (1868)

“Drunkenness is a fruitful cause of many diseases. Most ships now sail on teetotal principles, but if alcoholic stimulants are entirely withdrawn, an extra allowance of coffee of cocoa should be given in their place. It is on shore, and more especially at foreign ports, that drunkenness is most likely to prevail, and the bad quality of liquor sold is as much to blame as the quantity consumed. Make the ship as comfortable as possible for the men so as to lessen the inducements for them to go on shore where they are liable to become drunk and useless, and to fall into the hands of undesirable persons.”

3rd May 2020

 BOB ROSS – VETERAN AUSTRALIAN YACHTING JOURNALIST AND OFFSHORE SAILOR, OCEAN CLASSICS (1993)

“The seas are levelling out now. Driven by the south-west gale, they have hammered us all the way across Bass Strait. We know our boat is strong and we have been confident in her ability to climb wall after wall of deep swell and crash through the sometimes breaking wind-driven wave on top. Her hull and rig have survived. We’re not so confident about our own endurance. Little or no sleep through hour after hour sitting huddled on the rail or being flung about below ‘resting’ has drained the reserves of even our toughest crewmen. Everything is saturated. Hot food is but a memory. Exhaustion is enveloping everyone. But quite suddenly the feeling goes through the whole boat that the worst is over. ‘We’re in the lee of Tasman Island,’ confirms the navigator.”

2nd May 2020

FROM THE JOURNAL OF ELIZA BROCK – THE NANTUCKET GIRL’S SONG, (C.1820)

“Then I’ll haste to wed a sailor, and send him off to sea,

For a life of independence, is the pleasant life for me.

But every now and then I shall like to see his face,

For it always seems to me to beam with manly grace,

With his brow nobly open, and his dark and kindly eye,

Oh my heart beats fondly towards him whenever he is nigh.

But when he says ‘Goodbye, my love, I’m off across the sea,’

First I cry for his departure, then laugh because I’m free.”

1st May 2020

BILL FICKER – WINNING AMERICA’S CUP HELMSMAN ON INTREPID(1970)

“I think that the skipper gets far too much credit in the America’s Cup. The credit, if it is due for anything, should be due for selecting the crew. Our crew was probably the youngest to ever defend the Cup, averaging 23 years of age, and they were a wonderful group. It was the individuality of the crews and skippers that made the 12-Meter competition so enjoyable. In the Intrepid days, we were unfettered by demands from the sponsors or television scheduling. We saw the thrill of competing for the America’s Cup and striving to win it as a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

…and 45 years earlier

Sir Thomas Lipton – Leaves from Lipton’s Logs (1925)

“The first four Shamrocks all failed – some less completely than others. But in each one of them my fond hopes were centered. With them I made four attempts to ‘lift that auld mug’ – surely the most elusive piece of metal in all the world so far as I am concerned – but I can truthfully say that in the quest of it I have spent some of the happiest hours of my life. Neither money, nor time, nor trouble – aye, nor disappointment – have marred my joy in pursuit of it.”

30th April 2020

JEREMY SEAL – THE CALEDONIA DRIVEN ASHORE IN 1842, FROM THE WRECK AT SHARPNOSE POINT

“‘Lee shore!’ shouted Tasker as he scrabbled aft. The storm grew to a pitch of violence that none of the men had known. The mainsail was first to go, splitting from head to foot with a sharp crack. For an instant, the wind streamed through the gap it had made. Then the sail dissolved into ribbons that streamed from the boltrope along its base before the wind tore them away leaving only the reefs and the sheets that had held the sail, cracking like insane whips until they were hauled tight. Then the foresail blew. Now only the spanker, the two topsails, and the jib were left. Together they lent their weight on the helm one last time to bring the ship to windward. But she would not come around. They were singing when she grounded. There was a brief screech from her coppered hull before the rocks bit into her timbers.”

29th April 2020

PETER MOUNSEY – CIRCUMNAVIGATOR, SOLO RACER, DELIVERY SKIPPER (1986)

“In the last single-handed race I did there was one incident I will never forget. It was very calm on the ocean – the water was like glass – and there was perfect silence. I mean, how many people have heard nothing? There was not a sound on the boat, there was no swell. I thought to myself ‘I can’t hear anything’. No birds around – it was absolutely quiet. And I sang out, real loud, ‘Hey!’ I had a tape recorder and I went and put on the 1812 Overture and had it on real loud and poured myself a scotch and sat down like the king of the world! It was a wonderful feeling.”

28th April 2020

‘BOB STAY’ – IN ‘THOUGHTS ON YACHTING’, AUSTRALIAN TOWN & COUNTRY, MARCH 1882

“I believe that the rule or method of measurement which gives the designer no option but to build for speed only, is bad to say the least of it, because it has a decided tendency towards the production of a mere machine only suitable, under certain circumstances to travel fast, without any concomitant advantage of any sort. When a man begins to talk of ‘Speed sir, speed sir, hang your seagoing qualities and comfort, give me speed!’ it always seems to be as if he were inclined en route backwards in the scale of civilization and were aiming at the inborn intuitive talent of the savage.”

27th April 2020

Heaving the lead……..

RICHARD GORDON – THE CAPTAIN’S TABLE (1954)

“‘You see, this Captain, sir, was one of the old school and always heaved the lead when his ship was coming into port, like in the old days before echo-sounders and all that. He prided himself he could tell what port they was in just by looking at the lead and seeing the mud what was brought up from the bottom. But one day the Chief Engineer grabs the lead, sir, on its way to the bridge, takes it to his cabin, and wipes his best boots on it. The Captain takes one look at it, you see, and says to the mates: ‘Gentlemen,’ he says, ‘I have the honour to inform you that the ship is now situated at the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Argyll Street.’”

26th April 2020

ROBERT FROST – NEITHER OUT FAR NOR IN DEEP, (1936)

“The people along the sand

All turn and look one way.

They turn their back on the land.

They look at the sea all day.

 

As long as it takes to pass

A ship keeps raising its hull;

The wetter ground like glass

Reflects a standing gull.

 

The land may vary more;

But wherever the truth may be –

The water comes ashore,

And the people look at the sea.”

 

25th April 2020

To sail into the inferno…

J.B. PRIESTLY – RADIO BROADCAST AFTER THE DUNKIRK EVACUATION (BBC LONDON, 1940)

“To my mind what was most characteristically English about it – so typical of us, so absurd and yet so grand and gallant – was the part played in the difficult and dangerous embarkation by the little pleasure steamers. We’ve known them and laughed at them, these fussy little steamers, all our lives. They seemed to belong to the same ridiculous holiday world as piers, sand castles, and crowded, sweating promenades. But when they were called out of that world those ‘Brighton Belles’ and ‘Brighton Queens’ left that innocent foolish world of theirs to sail into the inferno – to defy bombs, shells, mines, torpedoes, machine-gun fire – to rescue our soldiers. Some of them – alas – will never return.”

24th April 2020

Heed the call…….

SEA RAT (SPEAKING TO WATER RAT) – KENNETH GRAHAME, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS, 1908

“There, at its destined hour, the ship of my choice will let go its anchor. I shall take my time, I shall tarry and bide, till at last the right one lies waiting for me, warped out into midstream, loaded low, her bowsprit pointing down harbour. I shall slip on board, by boat or along hawser; and then one morning I shall wake to the song and tramp of the sailors, the clink of the capstan, and the rattle of the anchor-chain coming merrily in. We shall break out the jib and the foresail, and then, once outside, the sounding slap of great green seas as she heels to the wind, pointing South! And you, you will come too, young brother; for the days pass, and never return, and the South still waits for you. Take the Adventure, heed the call, now ere the irrevocable moment passes!”

(Ratty, regrettably, does not succumb to this entreaty and Sea Rat disappears from the story.)

23rd April 2020

OLIN J STEPHENS II – THE DESIGN PROCESS, 2002

“The plans of a yacht depends on more than one process. It is always the product of the architect’s ideas and values. Good appearance is equally desired. I had always in mind the matter of balance, not only on the helm, but in all design elements. I thought of balance – end for end, above water vs. below, sail area vs. lateral plane, and as broadly as possible in the whole design – as the avoidance of extremes. There, with the uncertainty of much yacht design, I made choices on estimated probability. No matter how small the detail, if one choice seemed likely to be more favoured than its alternative, it was worth doing.”

22nd April 2020

A Joyous feeling…..

GUY DE MAUPASSANT – SUR L’EAU (‘AFLOAT’) (1876)

“Then the men shipped the anchor. I seized the helm, and the boat, like a big ghost, glided through the still waters. In order to get out of the port, we had to tack between the sleeping tartans and schooners. We went gently from one quay to another, dragging after us our little round dinghy, which followed us as a cygnet, just hatched from its shell, follows the parent swan. As soon as we reached the channel between the jetty and the square fort the yacht became livelier, quickened its pace, and seemed more alert as though a joyous feeling had taken possession of her. She danced over the countless short waves – moving furrows of a boundless plain. Quitting the dead waters of the harbour, she now felt under her the living sea.”

21st April 2020

RICHARD ‘SIGHTIE’ HAMMOND – LEGENDARY OFFSHORE NAVIGATOR (1998)

“The older boats bury in the water downwind, right down to deck level. The modern racer is a lot more thrilling to sail downwind. But I don’t like what they’ve done with the ballast of the modern boats. They’ve taking it out of the keel so you have to stick the crew on the rail and they’re not allowed to get off. I don’t want to sail like that and I think they’ve lost the plot a bit there, compared to the days of the nice solid boat capable of withstanding hard weather and with proper eating and sleeping conditions. I do worry a bit about how strong they are and their ability to withstand some of the weather I’ve been through.”

20th April 2020

ERIC NEWBY – THE LAST GRAIN RACE (1956)

“The Second Mate was thin, water-eyed and bad-tempered. My arrival did not seem propitious and after dressing me down for not reporting aft directly I had come on board, he suddenly shot at me: ‘Ever been aloft before?’ He pointed to the lower main shrouds which supported the mast and said simply: ‘Op you go then.’ I could scarcely believe my ears. At this time Moshulu was the greatest sailing ship in commission. The main mast cap was 198 feet above the keel. ‘Port side. If you fall you may fall in the dock. When we’re at sea you will always use the weather rigging. Never the lee rigging. And when I give you an order you repeat it. Op the rigging!’ ‘Op the rigging,’ I said.’”

19th April 2020

The fact you were there…

NORMAN RYDGE JNR – OWNER/SKIPPER LORITA MARIA (1965)

“The sense of satisfaction we get from ocean racing doesn’t necessarily mean coming first, but sailing a boat well. And there is a tremendous feeling of adventure and comradeship. The crew, I think, feel it’s a chance to prove themselves. You can, for example, be in Bass Strait when the wind turns, as it did a couple of years ago into a hard South-West gale. Now you can’t say you enjoy it while it’s happening, but when you’re having a beer in Constitution Dock you enjoy the fact you were there. You enjoy the fact you weren’t found wanting, and your boat wasn’t founding wanting, or your crew.”

18th April 2020

I worry about the future……

BOB BAVIER – AMERICA’S CUP FEVER (1980)

“The America’s Cup races are unique for many reasons, but most of all because they represent the longest unbeaten string in any sport. The real carrot for the challenger is the incentive to be the first to achieve the unattainable. Should we lose, the Cup competition will continue for a while as we design and build new boats and travel abroad to win it back. It is when we do win it back that I worry about the future. Will the challengers then be willing to spend the millions and exert the prodigious effort that is required to be the second nation to win the Cup from the Americans? Maybe so, but maybe no. Most people know that Hilary and Tensing were the first to scale Mt Everest. But I am yet to find anyone who can name the second duo to do it. It is well for Americans who feel it would be ‘good for the sport’ if we lost the America’s Cup to ruminate on these thoughts.”

(Bavier helmed Constellation in the 1964 defence and was part of the Courageous campaign in 1974. His prediction makes interesting reading today.)

17th April 2020

Devised by the restless mind of man…

E.B. WHITE – THE SEA AND THE WIND THAT BLOWS, 1977

“If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. If it happens to be an auxiliary cruising boat, it is without question the most compact and ingenious arrangement for living ever devised by the restless mind of man – a home that is stable without being stationary, shaped less like a box than like a fish or a bird or a girl, and in which the homeowner can remove his daily affairs as far from shore as he has the nerve to take them, close-hauled or running free – parlor, bedroom, and bath, suspended and alive.”

16th April 2020

The vagrant gypsy life…

JOHN MASEFIELD – SEA FEVER (1902)

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face and a grey dawn breaking.

…..

I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.”

 

Terence ‘Spike’ Milligan – Muses With Milligan, BBC-TV (1964)

“I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

I left my vest and socks there, I wonder if they’re dry?”

And finally – And Sea Fever as a song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bGkW8B-_fw

15th April 2020

The wings of the rushing wind…

JEROME K. JEROME – THREE MEN IN A BOAT (TO SAY NOTHING OF THE DOG) (1889)

“There is no more thrilling sensation I know of than sailing. It comes as near to flying as man has got to yet – except in dreams. The wings of the rushing wind seem to be bearing you onward, you know not where. You are no longer the slow, plodding, puny thing of clay, creeping tortuously upon the ground; you are part of nature! Your heart is throbbing against hers. Her glorious arms are around you, raising you up against her heart! Your spirit is at one with hers; your limbs grow light! The voices of the air are singing to you. The earth seems far away and little: and the clouds above your head are brothers, and you stretch your arms to them.”

14th April 2020

Which I think would be an insult…

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD – EXCHANGE OF LETTERS TO THE EDITOR ON 18-FOOTER RACING DURING WWI

From: H.C.Bell, Vice-President of the Sydney Flying Squadron (16 September 1916):

“Sir; I consider that, in face of the serious aspect of the war, the boat owners and crews should reconsider their intention to continue the season’s sailing programme. The yacht clubs, the Sydney Amateur Sailing Club, and other aquatic bodies have cancelled all events, and as 250 to 300 smart young fellows engaged in the 18 footers can be more seriously employed in the naval reserve, or otherwise, let them enlist. I appeal to the boat owners and crews to recognise their duty to the Empire.”

From: Sapper Fisher, who returned fire the following day – and didn’t miss:

“Sir; Mr Bell insinuates that the boats are to be manned by young fellows who would be better at the war, and tries to make out they are all shirkers. Well, in defence of those who cannot go, I would like to say that out of the Sydney there are 11 of us who are either in camp or at the front. Now, the Sydney is going to race this season (with rejects and men over age), and I suppose he likes to term her a shirker’s boat, which I think would be an insult to the two dead and two wounded of the crew.”

(More than 150 of the 18-footer sailors served in WWI. Of them, 27 died – seven at Gallipoli – and 49 were wounded.)

13th April 2020

Wrought with my own hands…

PHINEAS PETT – MASTER SHIP MODEL-MAKER TO THE ROYAL NAVY, 1607

“After my settling at Woolwich, I began a curious model for the Prince my Master, most part whereof, I wrought with my own hands; which being most fairly garnished with carving and painting, and placed in a frame, arched, covered, and curtained with crimson taffety, was by me presented to the Lord High Admiral at his lodging in Whitehall. His Lordship well approving of it, after I had supped with His Honour that night, gave me commandment to carry the same to Richmond where the Prince, my master, then lay. His majesty was exceedingly delighted with the sight of the model and spent some time in questioning me divers material things concerning the same, and demanding whether I would build the Great Ship in all points like to the same, for I will (said His Majesty) compare them together when she shall be finished.”

 

12th April 2020

Only the ship remains faithful…

ARTHUR BEISER – THE SAILOR’S WORLD, 1967

“At nightfall the world shrinks to a sphere a boat length across whose centre is the red glow of the compass. Stars appear, lights flicker along a distant shore, yet the feeling of isolation persists. The air is suddenly chilly, its texture different. The wind is no longer friendly, but instead full of subtle menace. The senses become more acute in darkness. Every sound carries a message. The flap of a sail invites its sheet to be trimmed. A creak somewhere forward, a change in tempo of water rushing past the counter. The sea, barely visible, gives no hint of its intentions. Only the ship remains faithful, a steadfast ally whatever lies in store.”

11th April 2020

Pleasuring on the bay…

JOSHUA SLOCUM – SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD, 1899

“Summer was approaching, and the harbour of Sydney was blooming with yachts. Some of them came down to the weather-beaten Spray and sailed round her at Shelcote, where she took a berth for a few days. The typical Sydney boat is a handy sloop of great beam and enormous sail-carrying power; but a capsize is not uncommon, for they carry sail like Vikings. In Sydney I saw all manner of craft, from the smart steam launch and sailing-cutter to the smaller sloop and canoes pleasuring on the bay. Everybody owned a boat. If a boy in Australia has not the means to buy him a boat he builds one, and it is usually one not to be ashamed of.”

(In 1909 Slocum set off on another solo voyage in the Spray and was never seen again.)

10th April 2020

The boat must be a pleasure…

RUSSELL SLADE – OWNER/SKIPPER JANZOON II, 1966

“I don’t care what the boat is, or how old. But she must be soundly designed, have good lines, and represent a beautiful design of her era. It doesn’t matter if you sail a VJ or a 12-metre. If you love the boat you will be down to her every Saturday and Sunday. You will watch her carefully. But the boat must all the time be a pleasure. She must never become a burden in time or money – or you lose your affection for her. This is completely impersonal. It is love for the boat, not yourself. The pleasure and satisfaction come when you make it go well. There is satisfaction also in being part of a team, among crewmen who can sustain the effort of sailing and navigating to win.”

9th April 2020

The first encounter…

HERMAN MELVILLE – AHAB SIGHTS THE GREAT WHITE WHALE, MOBY DICK, 1851

“But suddenly as he peered down and down into its depths, he profoundly saw a white living spot no bigger than a white weasel, with wonderful celerity uprising, and magnifying as it rose, till it turned, and then there were plainly revealed two long crooked rows of white, glistening teeth, floating up from the undiscoverable bottom. It was Moby Dick’s open mouth and scrolled jaw; his vast, shadowed bulk still half blending with the blue of the sea. The glittering mouth yawned beneath the boat like an open-doored marble tomb; and giving one sidelong sweep with his steering oar, Ahab whirled the craft aside from this tremendous apparition.”

(The famous climax of the book is based on the sinking of the whaleship Essex in 1820 after it was rammed by a sperm whale.)

8th April 2020

How the crew of the Gretel II challenge kept their spirits up with song ….

THE CREW OF GRETEL II – THE NEWPORT SONGBOOK, 1970

(Sung to the tune of ‘Men of Harlech’)

Life presents a dismal picture

Dark and dreary as the womb,

Alan has an anal stricture

Gretel has a fallen boom.

 

Even now young Aero’s started

Having academic fits,

If he sees the tell-tales parted

You can bet he’s got the shits.

 

Freer and Freedie fiercely flaying,

Grinding hard with groans and grunts,

Strength is waning, Jim is praying,

‘Come on, wind, you hopeless *****!’

 

(‘Alan’ was the yacht’s designer, Alan Payne; ‘Aero’ was the young port trimmer, John Bertrand; ‘Freer’ and ‘Freedie’ were Chris Freer and John Freedman on the coffee-grinders; ‘Jim’ was the skipper, Jim Hardy.)

7th April 2020

The loneliness of the long distance navigator…

 MATTHEW FLINDERS – LETTER FROM THE CAPE TO HIS WIFE, JULY 1801

“Write to me constantly; write me pages and volumes. Tell me the dress thou wearest, tell me thy dreams, anything, so do but talk to me of thyself. When thou art sitting, at the needle and alone, then think of me, my love, and write me the uppermost of thy thoughts. Fill me half a dozen sheets, and send them when thou canst. Think only, my dearest girl upon the gratification which the perusal and reperusal fifty times repeated will afford me, and thou wilt write me something or other every day. Heaven bless thee with health and comfort, and preserve thy full affection towards thy very own, Matthew Flinders.”

(Flinders had only been married a few weeks before he sailed for NSW.)

6th April 2020

No place for “bodgies or bludgers”…

Merv Davey – Owner/Skipper Trade Winds, CYC Commodore 1949-51, 1957-59

“The type of person that goes ocean racing is self-selective. You are living in close proximity with others, and there is no way in the world a man can cover up his faults. This means that the bodgie or the bludger is just not there, because one trip and you’d find him out and you wouldn’t take him again. And the word would get around, so no one else would take him either. So any person who will not pull his weight or gets scared in an emergency or has personality defects is completely missing. And that enables you to say that a fellow – even if you haven’t any personal experience of him – who has sailed with ‘Joe Blow’ for three years can’t be a bad sort of bloke, otherwise he wouldn’t be there”.

5th April 2020

Big is grand, but not always best…

ADLARD COLES – SAILING DAYS, 1944

“The big and very lovely yachts are, it is true, owned by rich men. They are an indication that some rich men, at any rate, know how to spend their incomes wisely. The owners of the eight-metre and twelve-metre craft must be fairly well off too because the cost of racing in such classes is high. But although these yachts stand out in the foreground of the yachting picture, they are few in number compared with the great array of miscellaneous craft in the background. The fact is that the great majority of sailing folk have but average means, and not a few are downright poor. Yachting depends on the spirit in which it is entered and zest for the sea rather than upon the possession of a deep pocket. ‘The smaller the ship the greater the sport,’ and I guarantee that the purchase of a boat is the best investment a man can make, if he values sun and fresh air, happiness and freedom.”

(In 1947 Adlard Coles founded a nautical publishing house that now lists 300 titles and still bears his name. He died in 1985.)

4th April 2020

The last line sends a chill up my spine every time…

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1798

 

“A good south wind sprung up behind;

The Albatross did follow,

And every day, for food or play,

Came to the mariners’ hollo!

 

In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,

It perched for vespers nine;

Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,

Glimmered the white Moon-shine.

 

‘God save thee, ancient Mariner!

From the fiends, that plague thee thus! –

Why look’st thous o? – With my crossbow

I shot the albatross.”

3rd April 2020

A motivational broadside from the early days of Australian offshore racing…

Colin Haselgrove – letter to his crew on Nerida before their 1950 Sydney-Hobart win

“The first duty of the crew is to drive the ship and themselves to the limit of endurance and safety. All this implies hard work which produces fatigue. Therefore, when not on duty rest every minute you can. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The general morale of the crew is extremely important. Remember to be prompt and quick to respond to watchkeeping or ‘all hands’ calls, no matter how lousy you feel. If you feel like grumbling save it until after the race. Remember that a race is never won or lost until it is finished, and that a slow boat sailed hard will beat a fast boat not driven. Every man must be particularly keen to get the last fraction of a knot out of the boat – and in the right direction.”

2nd April 2020

THE SPIRIT OF SAILING AND THE SEA – EPISODE V

Behold the gentler side of one of the USA’s greatest ‘Founding Fathers’…

Benjamin Franklin – Journal of a Voyage, 1726

“Towards night a poor little bird came on board us, being almost tired to death, and suffered itself to be taken by the hand. We reckon ourselves near two hundred leagues from land, so that no doubt a little rest was very acceptable to the unfortunate wanderer, who ’tis like was blown off the coast in thick weather, and could not find its way back again. We receive it hospitably and tend it victuals and drink; but he refuses both, and I suppose will not live long. There was one came aboard some days ago in the same circumstances with this, which I think the cat destroyed.”

1st April 2020

George Gordon, Lord Byron – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, 1818

“Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean – roll!

Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;

Man marks the earth with ruin – his control

Stops with the shore; – upon the watery plain

The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain

A shadow of man’s ravage, save his own,

When for a moment, like a drop of rain,

He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan,

Without a grave, unknell’d, uncoffin’d and unknown.

 

And I have loved thee, Ocean! And my joy

Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be

Borne like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy

I wanton’d with thy breakers – they to me

Were a delight; and if the freshening sea

Made them a terror – ’twas a pleasing fear,

For I was as it were a child of thee,

And trusted to thy billows far and near,

And laid my hand upon thy mane – as I do here.”

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