FROM AN EARLY AGE it was this image in particular, by artist Rockwell Kent, and a few others like it, that were pressed into my mind as nearly Jungian archetypes of what a life afloat must be like. There were several of Kent's dynamic high-contrast wood-block prints hanging about our house while I was growing up, most of them of nautical subjects, and they made an enormous impression on me. Later, when I was older, my grandfather presented me with one of Kent's books, N by E, which had just been reissued by the Weslayan University Press. This made an even bigger impression.
It helped, of course, that several of the prints I'd long admired turned out to be illustrations from the book. It helped, too, that Kent's prose style is just as muscular and dynamic as his illustrations. The art in the book takes up nearly as much space as the text, and the two complement each other exceedingly well. Together they today seem a tad archaic and mannered (delightfully so, IMHO), but they also present a unique account of cruising under sail in what almost amounts to a very modern "graphic-novel" format.
Before Joshua Slocum could become the man we remember today--the one who invented bluewater cruising by sailing around the world singlehanded in a rebuilt oyster smack named Spray--his prior life first had to be unmade. Identifying such turning points is sometimes an arbitrary business, but in Slocum’s case there is little doubt about when his world was first turned upside down. The date most certainly was July 25, 1884, when his first wife, Virginia, age 34, died after a brief illness aboard the family’s 138-foot bark Aquidneck in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
During much of that long night as our fine Alden schooner, Constellation, lay crippled on her side in the river, I found myself thinking of the bulls.
Tim, the first mate, and I had gone to see them at the Plaza del Toros in Puerto de Santa Maria, across the bay from Cadiz, not long after we first landed in Spain. Neither of us had ever witnessed a bullfight before, so initially we’d had trouble grasping what was happening. It seemed unfair that one bull should have to fight all those men--the picadors, the banderilleros, the haughty matador with his sword and cape--and as one animal after another slumped to the sand lathered in blood, I could not help but feel that their deaths were cruel and meaningless.
My recent foray into Chris Eakin's A Race Too Far inspired me to re-read Gipsy Moth Circles the World, Sir Francis Chichester's account of the one-stop solo circumnavigation he undertook in 1966-67. As Eakins relates in his book, there was a great media frenzy in the U.K. on Chichester's return, and this led immediately to the launching of the Golden Globe Race of 1968-69 by the Sunday Times newspaper. Over here in the U.S., some may recall, the echo of that frenzy landed Chichester on the cover of Life magazine. I am just old enough to remember that little publicity bomb well, and Chichester's book was the first I ever read about a voyage of this type.
I always remembered it as being a bit dry and boring. I have not read it since and am pleased to report I liked it much better the second time. Chichester's prose is indeed dry, but is also precise and very intelligent. With it he carefully documented, and modestly understated, what was truly a remarkable voyage.
One thing I learned early on in my bluewater sailing career is that there are, in fact, just two sorts of bluewater sailors: there are poets, who become engineers in spite of themselves, and there are engineers, who become poets in spite of themsel
I count myself among the former. From the very beginning, one of the things that most attracted me to sailing was the simplicity and elegance of its apparatus. When we were boys, my brother could amuse himself--and confound me--by tinkering with the innards of such things as lawn mowers and outboard engines. Meanwhile I prided myself on being able to get a boat to move with just some sticks, rope, and canvas. To me this was beautiful. It wasn’t until much later, while pursuing the dreamy poet’s ambition of sailing across an ocean, that I realized how complicated sailboats could be.
And just what was I reading while cruising aboard Lunacy during the holidays? A book about sailing, of course. I gobbled this one up in no time and can recommend it highly to sailors and non-sailors alike.
But first a threshold question: do we REALLY need another book about the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race???
Apparently we do. I've read a great deal about the race over the years, but still I learned a lot from this book. For example... did you know that Nigel Tetley died wearing women's underwear???
Lots of cruising sailors maintain blogs about their voyages and adventures. One of the best I'm aware of is written by Antonia Murphy, who sails aboard Sereia, a 36-foot Mariner ketch, with her husband Peter and toddler son Silas. They've been in New Zealand for some time, and here you see them recovering from a knockdown they recently suffered in Cook Strait. Antonia's detailed account of the event, which she just published today, is amazing! I urge you to read it and explore their past adventures in detail. At the end of her most recent post, Antonia has announced they now plan to abandon ship and explore New Zealand by van, but I'm sure her posts from shore will be as lively as ever.
Page 5 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
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