June 16, 2015

It's not all beer and skittles

ONE OF THE TRUISMS about long-distance cruising in a sailboat is that it’s not all beer and skittles, as many people imagine. It’s not all relaxing in the cockpit with a cocktail in your hand as the sun sets amid a flaming cloudscape at the end of a gorgeous day.

A famous cruiser from the last century put it in better perspective. Dr. Peter Pye said:  

“Washing your face in an inch of water, feeling the salt in your flying hair, the warmth of the sun through an ancient shirt, turning out in the night to silence a tin that rolls with the rolling ship, seeing the same faces from four feet across the cabin sole day after day, week after week — if these things don’t seem worth while, give up your dreams of the southern seas and take Mr. Weston Martyr’s advice and catch the nine-fifteen.”

That’s from his fascinating book, The Sea is for Sailing.  Yet, despite his description of the seamier side of cruising, Peter Pye and his wife Anne cruised the world’s oceans for 20 years and would have cruised longer had he not tragically died aged 64 during a minor operation in a British hospital in which a cylinder of anesthetic gas had been wrongly labeled. Furthermore, while he admitted that cruising was not for everyone, his own deep love of sailing overwhelmed the drawbacks, and his enthusiastic books attracted hundreds of newcomers to the sport of deep-sea voyaging.

Peter and Anne Pye bought a wooden 29-foot fishing boat in Cornwall, England, in 1931. She was in pretty poor shape, having been built in 1896, and she cost them £25. They converted her to a seagoing cutter and named her Moonraker of Fowey, a name that was to become famous in cruising circles.

Pye was a doctor, but not an ordinary doctor. After World War II, when the British healthcare system was about to be nationalized, he retired from medicine and decided to go sailing full-time. He was greatly influenced in this decision by a book called The £200 Millionaire, by the Weston Martyr mentioned above.

He and Anne covered many tens of thousands of sea miles, advising anyone who cared to listen that “log, line, and lookout” were more important to survival at sea than any number of modern gadgets.

The Sea is for Sailing, first published in 1957, describes Moonraker’s voyage from England to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal and across the Pacific to the Marquesas and Hawaii. From there she set sail for Victoria, British Columbia, where the Pyes rendezvoused with Miles and Beryl Smeeton. Finally the Pyes took Moonraker back to England via Panama and the USA.

It’s a charming book, beautifully written, and copies are still available on the Internet from Amazon.com and other sources. If you’re a long-distance cruiser with ambitions of writing a book about it, this is how to do it.

Today’s Thought
 We sail with one hand in God’s pocket.
 — Anne Pye  

A husband and wife at a hotel in Alabama asked for a 6 a.m. alarm call. On the stroke of 6, the phone rang and a voice said: "Hi y’all, this is your wake-up call."
The guest said thanks and put the phone down. A minute later the phone rang again and the voice said: "Hi, y’all this is your wake-up call."
The husband was annoyed. "But you phoned only a minute ago,” he said.
"Yeah, sure," replied the receptionist, "but there’s two of y’all."

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

1 comment:

Gary Underwood said...

I met the subsequent owners of MOONRAKER in Denmark Charles and Katie Robson, near Copenhaven
It was in 2003 a few years ago now!