March 31, 2015

Go now, go young, go broke

STERLING HAYDEN had some radical ideas about sailing. He reckoned you couldn’t go voyaging if you had money. If you were financially independent, what you did was cruising, not voyaging. To be a voyager, you had to be poor.

I’m not sure how he defined the difference between voyaging and cruising, but I have to admit he lacked no credentials as a professional sailor or as a yachtsman. Most people knew him as a famous movie star, in cowboy movies, mostly, but Hayden won his first command when he was 22. He skippered the square rigger Florence C. Robinson from Massachusetts to Tahiti in 1938.

I found his opinion about voyaging on an appropriate website* — the one organized for the 750-mile Race to Alaska, which starts at Port Townsend on June 4, 2015, and is open to any watercraft as long as it lacks an engine.

Here’s what Hayden said:

“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea . . . ‘cruising’ it is called.

“ Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

“‘I’ve always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can’t afford it.’ What these men can’t afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of ‘security.’ And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine — and before we know it our lives are gone.

“What does a man need — really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in — and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That’s all — in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.

“The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed.

“Where, then, lies the answer? In choice.

“Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?”

Today’s Thought
Life is the west-going dream-storm’s breath,
Life is a dream, the sigh of the skies,
The breath of the stars, that nod on their pillows
With their golden hair mussed over their eyes.
— Vachel Lindsay, The Ghost of the Buffaloes

Man walks into a bar and places a miniature piano on the counter. From another pocket he produces a little guy about a foot high, who sits down and starts to play the piano.
A man down the counter says: “That’s fantastic. Where did you get all this from?”
“There’s a guy just outside the door who’s granting wishes,” said the first man. “He’ll give you anything you want.”
The second man rushes outside and comes back a little later surrounded by a thousand ducks. “Your magic guy is hard of hearing,” he complained. “I asked for a thousand bucks, not ducks.”
“Tell me about it,” said the first man. “You don’t think I asked for a 12-inch pianist, do you?”

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


Alden Smith said...

There are of course lots of people who do live this precarious kind of life.

Annie Hill who wrote "Voyaging On A Small Income" lives close by here in Northland on her Junk rigged 'Fantail.'

The late Mike Bailes lived a very simple life on his small Folkboat from the time when he left the Royal Navy. He lived an increasingly poverty stricken life as his Services pension was eaten up by inflation.

Nick Skeates has lived and voyaged for years on Wylo 11.

I could go on ---- I think the people who are successful at all of this make very determined, calculated choices and don't bet sucked into the romanticism of sailing away from their troubles and problems - they sail into their problems and troubles of making a life... and do it well ... the people who are successful at the romantic dream I think would be successful no matter what they turned their minds to.

SailFarLiveFree said...

I've found inspiration from Hayden's quotes for years. Kind of ironic coming from a Hollywood actor, but he did a ton of sailing/voyaging before ever getting to Hollywood. The man also defied a court order by sailing off to the South Pacific w/ his 4 kids after a divorce. Thanks for keeping his words alive on the web!

biglilwave said...

One of my favorite Sterling Hayden quotes:
"A sailing ship is no democracy; you don't caucus the crew to where you'll go anymore than you inquire when they'd like to shorten sail"

There's a great picture of him sailing to weather in Wanderer with the rail in the water and every ounce of canvas. The picture clearly shows conditions of 25kt +.
He sailed liked he lived.