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: Laura Dekker is the youngest person to solo sail around the world…so far. Actually, there was such a outcry about her doing it, that I think the ‘official’ sailing world is discouraging anyone younger trying it. However you feel about her feat, it is quite a voyage (2012) and she is quite an interesting person. What I like most about her story is her sense of individuality and the fact she did it because she enjoys sailing rather than a trying to set a record. Plus, she is still sailing…
Her story has been told in a movie (82 min) shot mostly by herself while underway:
And there is also a paperback which just came out in May (original story is in Dutch):
24 minute YouTube video of Laura talking about her voyage.
American Sailing Association Interview
Website & blog: http://www.lauradekker.nl/
So popular the US created a stamp for her…
For me sailing is very pure. It’s just, you know, nature, as it was over 100,000 years ago. It’s the waves and the wind and the sea – it hasn’t changed in forever.
Sarah P’s comments: Dove is the story of Robin Lee Graham’s solo circumnavigation. At the time his story was sensational because of his age; he was only sixteen when he set off (from California) in 1965. His exploits were chronicled in National Geographic and his story became a movie in 1974. Since then he has been followed by ever younger sailors which has caused questions to be raised about whether this is ethical. Whatever you think about it, their adventures make for good reading, starting with Dove. (I will be writing more about the others in subsequent posts.)
YouTube movie: The Dove
SAIL article: Robin Lee Graham on the Latest Teen Circumnavs
Wikipedia List of youth solo sailing circumnavigations
Life would be pretty monotonous if the sky was always blue.
At sea, I learned how little a person needs, not how much.
Happiness has no frontiers, that it’s a state of mind and not a possession, not a set route through life, not a goal to be gained but something that steals in gently like an evening mist or the morning sunlight—something beyond our control.
Sarah P’s comments: Joshua Slocum sailing around the world on his sloop Spray from 1895-1898, is where it all began. As this blog is about collecting and documenting great individual sailing stories and ventures in all forms (books, movies, and now websites, blogs, podcasts, and videos), I really can’t go too far without paying homage to this story of the first (documented) solo circumnavigator…who then wrote a book about it. This book is timeless and a must-read for anyone contemplating voyaging of any kind. It is the Moby Dick of sailing literature and his adventures spawned the genre of modern sailing stories.
It’s easy to grab a copy of this book from a library or Amazon however, I love to read older versions, so here’s a picture of my favorite cover from the c1900 version:
The ebook is available for free from Project Gutenberg. There’s also a great YouTube video about Slocum’s life and adventures, and the Joshua Slocum Society (now unfortunately disbanded) site contains a wealth of information.
To young men [& women] contemplating a voyage I would say go. The tales of rough usage are for the most part exaggerations, as also are the tales of sea danger. To face the elements is, to be sure, no light matter when the sea is in its grandest mood. You must then know the sea, and know that you know it, and not forget that it was made to be sailed over.
But where, after all, would be the poetry of the sea were there no wild waves?
I once knew a writer who, after saying beautiful things about the sea, passed through a Pacific hurricane, and he became a changed man.
The days pass happily with me wherever my ship sails.
Sarah P’s comments: Yesterday, I discussed my favorite book by acclaimed circumnavigators Irving & Exy Johnson. Today, I want to talk about their movies. An interesting aspect of their unique lives was that Irving documented a lot of it using a movie camera.
One of the best sailing movies ever made (in my opinion) is The Peking Battles Cape Horn which has made it onto YouTube! This movie chronicles Irving’s stormy rounding of the Horn aboard the German windjammer in 1929 and is both a historical record of sailing and documentary filmmaking.
Johnson also kept a journal of his experience which was the basis for the book of the same name, originally published in 1929 and re-issued by the Mystic Seaport Museum (1997).
Irving & Exy went on to make many more movies some of which became National Geographic specials. All of their material is now housed at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. They sell a narrated compilation of the Johnson’s movies: Unfurling the World . It is well-worth the $29.95 price tag as it not only contains great sailing shots but is a visual record of sailing in what is now a by-gone era.
‘Look at this, the open ocean! The forces involved are fantastic! There’s no words that I can use in any language that will tell you what it’s like. If you’ve been there it’s the only way you’ll know because the forces are beyond anything you’ve ever experienced or thought was possible.’