diary of a mad
househusband

18 may 2000

 

 unscratched itches: sailing

As I've aged, I've gradually if gracelessly accepted the fact that there are things I won't ever do. The chances that I'll fly a sailplane or a hang glider or an ultralight are now a lot thinner than I am, though they were keenly felt desires for many years. My ambition to become a good enough contract bridge player to make a living at it has faded like the markings on an old Bicycle deck.

Sailing is the one dream or ambition or desire that refuses to fade away. It infected me when, at the age of ten or so, I read Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki. Nourished by the writings of Heyerdahl, Joshua Slocum, William Robinson, Robin Lee Graham, Robin Knox-Johnston, and above all Sir Francis Chichester and Robert Manry, the infection grew stronger.

In the early '70s, I had the opportunity to sail with a friend, in his employer's 23-foot sloop on Galveston Bay and on various lakes aboard several types of board boats.

In the mid '70s, I had the opportunity to buy a boat, from another friend. It was a Wildflower design-- a (nearly) 12-foot dinghy made of plastic foam covered with plastic skin, thoughtfully equipped with oarlocks and outboard engine mounting plate in addition to the sloop rig, centerboard and rudder. It was the perfect unsinkable learning boat for the family's all too infrequent excursions to nearby lakes.

I had to leave the boat behind when my first wife What's'ername told me, so many years ago, with that logic that was hers and hers alone: "I'm leaving you--get out!" I haven't sailed in the nearly 20 years since (nor, to the best of my knowledge, has What's'ername).

From the beginning, my desire has been to sail to and between islands. At first, under the influence of Heyerdahl (and Michener, and Robinson, and Biddle and O'Brien and who knows how many others), my focus was on Aku-Aku and Fatu-Hiva, Hiva Oa and Nuku Hiva, "and the downhill run to Papeete." Later, the writings of Richard Baum, Peter Nichols and Jimmy Buffett (and Michener again) made the islands of the Caribbean attractive-- and seeing so many of them from the air, on flights from Miami to Aruba and back last December, made them seem downright achieveable.

At the age of half a decade past half a century, sailing to and between those islands doesn't seem very likely. On the other hand, Robert Manry turned 47 the day after he set sail from Falmouth, Massachusetts, USA to Falmouth, Cornwall, UK in the 13 1/2 foot Tinkerbelle (a craft only slightly larger than my Wildflower). And one-lunged Francis Chichester celebrated his 65th birthday a month into his solo, single-stop circumnavigation in the 54 foot Gipsy Moth IV (a craft much larger than he wanted, and which gave him much trouble).

So I absolutely refuse to give up the hope that I'll "see the Southern Cross for the first time" with my own hand on the tiller of a boat that's under sail.

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