Sarah P’s comments: As an artist, Rockwell Kent does not need an introduction but for many years I wasn’t aware he was a writer as well. Two of his books are sailing stories and over the years I would see N by E mentioned here or there as, in Maine, it’s touted as a ‘classic’.
Finally, one sailing summer, I read Kent’s story of cruising north to Greenland in 1929 on his 33′ cutter. The illustrations, the descriptions, the subsequent shipwreck…all make for a riveting read. In fact I liked it so much I hunted up his other sailing story which was even better…and which I will write about next…
Sarah P’s comments: I can’t go further with this blog about sailing stories without paying homage to sailors Hal and Margaret Roth. Although, he wrote the books, she was every bit an equal sailing partner. Together, they sailed over 250,000 miles over three decades and Hal’s books are sailing adventure classics.
Hal Roth, in fact, is the guy who sparked the dream for me…In my mid-20’s I was working in a library in Maine and feeling directionless. One day I walked by a new book on display: Always a Distant Anchorage (Hal’s 5th book). From the first line, I was hooked (see quotes below)…
Wikipedia article: more about his life an travels as well as a list of all his books.
First line from ‘Always a Distant Anchorage’: It was a cool day in late July when Margaret and I sailed from Somes Sound in Maine towards Bermuda.
We sailed on a wonderful magic carpet named Whisper…
The Chileans have a saying: The wind always blows from the bow of the ship.
a picture from Two Against Cape Horn
Sarah P’s comments: Humor in sailing books is not all that common. Most tales tend to the deep or the disastrous…so Herb Payson’s story is refreshing. When I first this book it was fairly new, now I read it and think egads they had an alcohol stove and a sextant?! However, this ‘get-away-from-it-all story is timeless. For description, I am going to defer to words from The Boat Galley blog:
SAIL magazine article about Herb Payson (2015)
‘Sunday dawned dull and dreary…but before long the sun came out bright and warm, the wind freshened, we raised sail and experienced that amazing sleight-of-mind that happens when a beautiful day on the water blots out all thoughts or previous discomfort.’
‘To depend on luck is to court disaster; to sail without it is to do the same. From this delicate balance is a sailor’s superstition born.’
‘Life is a series of lessons with no chance to practice. Second only to foresight, a sailor’s best insurance is his ability to improvise. It’s an ability that depends upon attitude, an art that can improve with experience.’
‘I loved cruising the coast of Maine. For one thing, it helped me conquer my fear of fog. Not that I have learned to feel secure in the fog, but at least I have learned how to grope without panic.’
Sea Foam: Herb & Nancy Payson’s boat
Sarah P’s comments: Another contender in the infamous first Golden Globe Race of 1969 was Bernard Moitessier. I’d heard of him but never read his books until I read A Voyage for Madmen. When I learned that he could have won but chose to keep sailing instead, I immediately checked out The Long Way, his story about the race. This is a classic from a classic sailor…
Video about Moitessier including interviews
‘And go on deck more often, regardless of weather. Many things are cured by wind and sea, if you stay on deck with them long enough.’
‘I think all those that go to sea prefer the moon to the sun.’
‘To have the time…to have the choice…not knowing what you are heading for and just going there anyway…’
‘It is here, in the immense desert of the Southern Ocean, that I feel most strongly how much man is both atom and God.’
Moitessier on board ‘Joshua’
Sarah P’s comments: This book is a gripping account of the 1968 first ever Golden Globe Race in which nine sailors set off to single-handedly circumnavigate the globe nonstop. It had never been done and ten months later, only one of the nine men would cross the finish line and earn fame, wealth, and glory. For the others, the reward was madness, failure, and death.
How’s that for a plotline? A fascinating read even for those not interested in sailing books. This story has risen to the top of my list of blog posts because just this year they released a movie about one of the sailors in it.
British businessman, Donald Crowhurst entered the race with little funding and even less sailing knowledge. His start was difficult and things went downhill from there. The movie is aptly (in my opinion) named The Mercy and stars Colin Firth, which fact alone is enough to make me want to view it.
However, I would encourage you to read the book because A Voyage for Madmen tells the story of all the racers, the two which I found most fascinating being; Robin Knox-Johnston and the infamous Bernard Moitessier. In fact, it was reading the details of Moitessier’s race, that led me to deciding I had to read his books…
In the next few blog posts, I will share the books that these sailors have written.
‘They can’t answer the question why. They can’t make people who couldn’t do what they do – understand.‘
*I completely disagree with this cataloguing choice. This is adventure of the tallest order which is 910.4 not 797.14 (boating)!
Sarah P’s comments: Once in while I am going to deviate and include a children’s book. For years I was a children’s librarian so it’s bound to happen…
This year we sailed to Nantucket and I biked to Sankaty Head. This lighthouse has been on my bucket list ever since I first read Nightbirds on Nantucket many years ago. Written by Joan Aiken (Conrad Aiken’s daughter), the first third of the book takes place on a whaling ship from Nantucket. It’s fun, it’s authentic, and it makes a great read-aloud if you’re trying to get small fry interested in sailing and ships…
‘Oh, fierce is the ocean and wild is the sound,
But the isle of Nantucket is where I am bound-
Sweet isle of Nantucket! where the grapes are so red,
And the light flashes nightly on Sankaty Head!’
Me @ Sankaty Head, Nantucket, summer 2018