One of the most remarkable things about sailboats is their capacity to inspire us to dream. Inside every cruising sailor's head there is a fantasy, be it of a palm-studded tropical lagoon, an antique Mediterranean harbor, some barren high-latitude fjord, or just the cove around the next headland. And all of these visions, however various, can be both personified and provoked by that most magical of objects: a boat propelled by sails.
Yesterday was the second anniversary of the sinking of the Canadian school ship Concordia, a tragedy I will always relate to the controversial sinking just over 50 years ago of Chris Sheldon's school ship Albatross. This is a story that ties into a strong tide that has long flowed through my mind. It in fact first started flowing about 40 years ago when, at age 13, I found a paperback copy of Ernest K. Gann's Song of the Sirens stashed on the shelves of a lending library in a U.S. Army hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. The cover of the book (seen above) was so attractive I at once swiped it and quickly devoured it whole. On finishing it I swore to myself I would one day sail across an ocean. Fortunately (or not), I eventually kept that promise, and this had all sorts of consequences, one of which is the blog you are now reading.
I ran into Don Street at the Annapolis show and he pressed on me a copy of his latest book, Street's Guide to The Cape Verde Islands, published by Seaworthy Publications. No, this isn't some updated retread of one of Don's many earlier cruising guides. It is an entirely new book, which struck me as pretty damn impressive, given that Don's now in his early 80s. I can only pray I'm still going strong, sailing and writing, if and when I ever reach his age.
What's also impressive is the book itself. Having now spent some time noodling over it, I can certainly recommend it as a must-buy if you are planning on sailing to, or even just thinking of sailing to, the Cape Verde Islands. Don's big pitch is that you shouldn't cross the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the West Indies in November or December, hoping to spend Christmas in the Caribbean, as there's a good chance the tradewinds won't have filled in yet. He recommends instead that you spend Christmas cruising in the Cape Verdes, then cross to the W'Indies in January, when the trades will be honking for sure.
It is certainly one of the biggest cliches in the literature of boating. What the Water Rat said to the Mole: "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing--absolutely nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."
But here's a little tip. Any purportedly literate mariner who quotes that little snippet of Kenneth Grahame's classic The Wind in the Willows at you (it appears very early on, in Chapter 1, The River Bank) probably hasn't bothered to read the entire book. Because the very best bit--the part any cruising sailor, at least, will most readily relate to--doesn't appear until much later in Chapter 9, Wayfarers All.
Editor’s note: Quite the exciting Fastnet Race this week! The largest race fleet since 1979, two new course records (outright record to super tri Banque Populaire; monohull record to the VO70 Abu Dhabi), plus the maxi monohull Rambler 100 (ex-Speedboat), which was en route to a record, lost its keel and capsized right at Fastnet Rock. Rather than bore you with newsy details you’ve already garnered elsewhere, I thought I’d share my own (one and only) Fastnet experience.
IT WAS A LEAP OF FAITH is what it was. There could be no other explanation. For the last time Don Street nearly succeeded in luring me aboard a boat of his, that boat had been instantly destroyed. This was Li’l Iolaire, Don’s 28-foot plywood yawl, on which I had agreed to crew back in the winter of 2004. Just hours before I committed myself to this fate by buying a plane ticket down to West Indies, Don had called to share the terrible news. Li’l Iolaire had been swept out to sea and sunk by Hurricane Ivan as it roared over the island of Grenada.
Now again, in the summer of 2005, in spite of the letters J-O-N-A-H stamped upon my resume, he had summoned me once more. This time to serve on the original Iolaire, the antique 48-foot Harris Brothers yawl on which he had long ago established his reputation as a trail-blazing West Indian charter skipper, sailing journalist, and chart surveyor.
“Iolaire will be 100 this year,” he crowed to me over a bad cellphone connection. “I’m turning 75. We’re going to celebrate by doing the Fastnet Race. You want to come along?”
(From the September 1934 issue of The Atlantic Monthly)
Tuesday, October 31, 1933
I sat on deck sewing as we went through Hell Gate, feeling very much the schooner house wife (Stephen called me 'Tugboat Annie'). We anchored off the New York Yacht Club at 26th Street, and Lucius came on board for lunch. He picked up a china plate to see the trade-mark on the back, noted the silver dishes, the candlesticks, and all other appurtenances of elegance, he tried the electric lights to see if they really worked, and departed--not without noticing that there was a slim volume of his own verse among the books. He asked me where we had found our steward-sailor, and I had to explain that he was the carpenter's son, that he had never cooked or been on a sailboat before, but that we had engaged him because he was so nice.
We continued down the East River, hugging close by the Battery, the New York sky line towering above us tremendous and impressive. There were boats passing in all directions, tiny little tugs maneuvering great rafts of railroad cars. I marveled that there were not constant collisions. We passed Governors Island, where I had been as a child to see Dad receive his Distinguished Service Cross. On that occasion I wore a new hat with blue wool flowers crocheted upon it, and I remember that I had great difficulty in deciding whether to choose blue for infantry or red for Harvard.
Editor's note: Some more true adventures of and by Lt. Scurvy Bastard, USN. The sequel and conclusion to the recently discovered 19th century Barbary War memoir the first part of which was published here on March 22.
WHEN we fetched back to Sicily the morning of 19 February 1804, three days after torching the frigate Philadelphia and so depriving the Pasha of Tripoli of his most potent weapon against us, we was immediately hailed as brave heroes by all of Commodore Preble's squadron. They spied our canvas out of Syracuse harbor about 10 a.m. and owing to the light airs was immediately out in boats to help haul us in. Weren't but half an hour before they had us in the harbor proper, whereupon the crews on all three ships come up on deck to give us three big cheers as we sidled by.
"Weren't never nothing like this in the Indies," I exclaimed to Mr. Skull. Me and me boys being all up on the taffrail gaping at it, excepting old Doc Plague, who were lashed to a belaying pin as he were delirious from celebrating.
Skull was beaming all over, and I could tell he ain't never been plauded in such a manner before. Same with young Billy Breeze, whose eyes was all moist from the grand emotion of the moment.
Soon as we set our hook there were a boat straight over from Constitution to take me and Lt. Decatur for an interview with the commodore. There were an honor watch to pipe us aboard proper and two midshipmen to escort us right down to the great cabin.
Page 3 of 6
Offshore Passage Opportunities
Attainable Adventure Cruising
Blue Planet Times
Father & Son Sailing
Cruising Sailor's BB
Good Old Boat
North American Sailor
Liz Clark and the Voyage of Swell
Onboard with Mark Corke
All Content © 2011-12 Wavetrain - All Rights Reserved Site Design By FortySix Web