Sunday, October 4, 2009

Song of the Sirens

Ernest K. Gann:

One of the greatest blessings the oceans bestow upon man is a sense of everlasting permanence. The oceans do change, but they take their time about it and a thousand years is only an interval. Time apparently stands still for the oceans - and the play of liquid, the sounds and scent of salt air, and the inhabitants are basically the same as they were long ago. Thus modern man needs the oceans more than ever, for the minute slice of earth upon which he dwells changes constantly and sometimes overwhelmingly. 

Where is the house of my childhood? Where is the building in which I found my first job, the church in which I was married, the park where the team played, the fields where we used to hunt, and the ponds where there were so many fish? Torn down, burned down, occupied by a shopping center, laid out in a housing development, polluted - all changed since only yesterday. 

This is very hard on a normal man's deep yearning for stability. Many simply cannot endure such accelerating progress and try desperately to lose themselves in nostalgia or hurl themselves into personal tragedy. Familiarity with the oceans can do much to reassure that part of us which instinctively fears change.

Today the seasons changed over Sozadee. 

Saturday was balmy and becalmed. Late in the evening there was a hint of a Santana. The morning dawned with a brisk 30+ knot northerly. Off Ledbetter beach there were two large yacht races scheduled. In my race, out of the usual 22 boats, only three started and none finished. Before the day was over, crews were in the water and in the hospital. My circumstances, age and injuries, kept me far from the cusp of making the wrong decision. I called the team early to cancel.

In the past, I've always said it always pays to under-estimate adverse sea conditions and sail because your scores in any series will put you in the silver over the faint-hearted crews. Currently? I'm trending toward caution.

And today? I took my banged & bruised sorry old ass down close to the water, but kept it dry. Ballou had the same idea.


  1. Familiarity with the oceans can do much to reassure that part of us which instinctively fears change.

    Spot on.

    What a wonderful picture of the sea you've got in the masthead!

  2. I let loose salty language because I was brought up that way... because I miss not having my own helm right now. (Right now = going on 9 years) You may understand ...? Lonesome not to have. But as Oso observed, I have either taken or been allowed to venture which ever direction I wanted to in my life...and that is probably because I am a Captain. It's the second finest gift I was ever given, though you know the work in it. And I was as young as law allowed in obtaining it. I love the sea... Pacific is Mother Ocean while Atlantic is Father, to me. I don't know the Pacific on my own... but the Caribbean, up through NYC harbor past locks into upstate and all of FL I've navigated. I once got 'pounded' with a formula to navigate inland ... red, right, returning. I try not to run aground. Your post makes me remember that.

    As Hillblogger observed, SPOT ON.

  3. ...had trouble posting... adding on here, Vig, if it counts... I think you're IN the silver... tho I understand dearly the disappointments of not shoving off at all...

  4. A wise decision, Vig. I grew up three blocks east of the Atlantic Ocean and one block west of the inland waterway. I miss the sea.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. @Vig,
    my friend, caution is just knowledge applied. Don't ever regret your wisdom and know-how, even when it makes you do something unpopular... with yourself.
    The ocean always waits for us, and sometimes it asks, -however rudely, that we wait for it.

  7. I lived within just a few hundred yards of the ocean for about 20 years. Sadly, that experience, or just the fact that I got older, diminished that "romantic" sense I always had about the sea. While I still enjoy it the view is just not the same as it once was. Beautiful picture however......

  8. Stage Fort Park in Gloucester MA, with its views of the harbor, the Fisherman's Statue, Rocky Neck, etc.. That's where I have a tendency to go. Not always in person, mind you, but, still, I go.

  9. Seal Beach,Tin Can Beach,Marrano Beach beside the Pomona Fwy,the Long Beach Pike where I got my first tattoo about a thousand years ago.Northern Cali does not have real beaches.

  10. A further observation of the relative changeableness of landscapes and seascapes:

    As luck would have it, we took yesterday off to drive down to the Palm Springs area for a small private burial. On the way back we took a small detour through Claremont, which had been our home town up to the last decade. The new owners of our distinctive and modest home had changed it into a monstrously immodest and indistinctive home. Other than that, the dramatic changes in the commercial center were very impressive. Even in my old foggy-ness, I had to admit it was all for the better. And all of that in just ten years!

    In response to the thoughtful comments above, I point out that Claremont had been an hour away from the Pacific Ocean. While I lived there, this Colorado native always referred to it as purgatory; meaning it was the only place I could live in California, if I couldn't live in a beach city. It's Will Hart's final sentence above that reminds me that, in retrieving the paper every morning in Claremont, I always took notice of how the air was moving and imagined how the water was responding one hour away.

  11. Vigil, of course you have known me long enough that this post would absolutely throw me for a loop. For me, exiled to this Joe-you lie-Wilson inland berg I live now stewing in the juices of all these shallow people so happily wrapped up into their sanctimonious lives I long for the sight of the ocean and the people who live around it.

    Whenever I feel about to be overcome with it all I then I do the same thing Will Hart mentioned above in his final sentence.

    I truly feel that despite plenty of their own faults (and my own) that the people in my hometown were to some degree a better people for living next the ocean that offered that steady reminder that there was something far greater than the squabbling, petty, and exaggerated activities of those I live around now.

  12. was this great picture on the top of your site taken just south of santa barbara? it sure looks familiar. it has been 15 years since i have been around that area.

  13. R.Z., This is Ledbetter Beach, if I have the spelling correct. It's right below the "Mesa", West of the Harbor.

  14. Beach, there's this line that I swear I heard in the movie The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea, A GR8, GR8, GR8 movie! Long ago I have combed the book and not found it. It goes,

    Nothing significant occurs on land.

    Hyperbolic... Did I just imagine it? Hope not, because I have often cited it.

  15. Vigil, "Clareville" was further than 1 hour away from the beach. It was more like 90 minutes or more. YOU LIAR!

  16. Come on, T.W.! I'm not a liar. Just a fudger, maybe...