Sarah P’ s comments: Since I seem to be on a kick of writing about northern sailing, here is another classic I discovered last year. Not quite Rockwell Kent but a good read nonetheless. The author does not name the year he sailed to Labrador but, from clues in the text, I would say it’s sometime in the 1920’s.
Google Books Link
‘I write that the coexistence of abysmal terror and God-like elation is responsible for much seafaring, especially the small-boat kind.‘
‘And thus, in the unpainted cabin of this schooner…did we three fatuous asses bray that the luck which is God’s mercy to fools was nothing more nor less than our sterling seamanship.’
‘For boats, even the uglier ones, are among the loveliest creations of man’s hands, and though owning them brings a train of debts, hangnails, bruises, bad frights, and all kinds of worries not experienced by those who content themselves with the more practical vices, the relation between a man and his boat is as personal and intimate as the relation between husband and wife.’
Sarah P’s comments: I thought sailing to Greenland was Kent’s greatest adventure and then I discovered that six years earlier, he’d sailed to an even more remote place: Tierra del Fuego. No matter what edition you can find, this book is worth reading, however the Internet Archive has made a scanned copy of the original available which is the best way to view Kent’s woodcuts.
Voyaging Southward Internet Archive
Only the voyager perceives the poignant loveliness of life, for he alone has tasted of its contrasts. He has experienced the immense and wild expansion of the spirit outward bound, and the contracted heartburn of the homecoming. He has explored the two infinities – the external universe – and himself.
All things look good from far away and it is man’s eternally persistent childlike faith in the reality of that illusion that has made him the triumphant restless being he is.
In quietness the soul expands.
(This quote is from ‘Wilderness, A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska‘, another of Kent’s books but I like it so much I had to include it. )
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’