April 7, 2011

Damning the dreary dawn

THERE ARE TIMES when amateur sailors become over-emotional about their boats. They gurgle with praise for their boats’ good qualities, and treat them like members of the family. They give them pretty names, and look back at them with blatant love when they leave them. Some even talk to their boats, and swear they have souls. They are overwhelmed by the romance of it all, the common notion of sailing off into the sunset toward sighing palm trees on sandy white beaches, and gentle breezes on warm blue waters.

Because the human mind tends to favor the memories most pleasing to it, and deliberately subdues those that distress it, very few sailors ever talk much of the hard times that lurk in wait for every sailor, no matter the size of his boat. But one of the few was the long-time editor of Yachting Monthly magazine, Maurice Griffiths. His job was to promote the sport of yachting but he was a realist. He also recorded the bad times. Here’s a refreshingly honest excerpt from his book The Magic of the Swatchways (Sheridan House Inc.).

“Acquaintances on shore who do not go sailing sometimes exclaim rapturously, ‘How perfectly mar-vellous to be able to watch the dawn rise at sea!’ Except that I could not stand having such people aboard, I wish on occasions like this they could be here to see how much pleasure there really is in watching daybreak at sea in a small yacht.

“I have seen a good many, and every single one has seemed hours overdue, dull, tedious, bitingly cold, and infinitely long in minding up its mind what it is going to do.

“You are usually feeling either dead tired or faint from continuous seasickness, or both, and when by the time you can see clearly, and you teeth are chattering and your fingers and toes have lost all felling, the sun appears, and almost immediately a cloud gobbles him up and you probably don’t see him for the rest of the day.

“Meanwhile, the boat plunges on and a few icy showers of spray warn you to put on your oilskins. No, I never like the dawn at sea, especially when it follows a warm, almost tropical night as this one had been.”

Today’s Thought
The dawn is lonely for the sun,
And chill and drear;
The one lone start is pale and wan,
As one in fear.
— Richard Hovey

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #182
Good seamanship starts in port. Detailed preparation is the secret of a successful passage. Inexperience and poor preparation are the parents of adventure; and adventure is another word for circumstances out of control.

A well proportioned young woman walked into a bar in a remote village in Kenya and ordered a whisky. She sat on a stool, ogling a small group of suddenly silent men, until one came across to her.
“Excuse me madam,” he said, “but this is a private meeting of big game hunters.”
She fluttered her eyelashes and said: “That’s okay, I’m big — and I’m game.”
So they shot her.

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

1 comment:

Ben said...

I do like the dawn, but it is amazing just how cold it can be in those moments before the sun rises. as the Sky gets lighter I quickly start to wake up and feel human again.