Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Longing for the Open Water

Ellen MacArthur’s next project will be a personal crusade to save the Albatross. ( She has an affinity with this majestic bird of the oceans, and from December, for two months, she will be accompanying biologist, Sally Poncet, on her annual bird life survey on South Georgia. That’s a fine way for this creative and youthful ‘Dame’ to spend Christmas, never being far from the sea and the breeding colony of the endangered albatross.

For many of us less ambitious sailors, but, like her, passionate lovers of the sea, our boats are laid up for winter and we pine for the open water and sea salt spray. Perhaps we can take some consolation by reading John Masefield’s poem, ‘A Wanderer’s Song’?

A WIND'S in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels,
I am tired of brick and stone and rumbling wagon-wheels;
I hunger for the sea's edge, the limit of the land,
Where the wild old Atlantic is shouting on the sand.
Oh I'll be going, leaving the noises of the street,
To where a lifting foresail-foot is yanking at the sheet;
To a windy, tossing anchorage where yawls and ketches ride,
Oh I'l be going, going, until I meet the tide.
And first I'll hear the sea-wind, the mewing of the gulls,
The clucking, sucking of the sea about the rusty hulls,
The songs at the capstan at the hooker warping out,
And then the heart of me'll know I'm there or thereabout.
Oh I am sick of brick and stone, the heart of me is sick,
For windy green, unquiet sea, the realm of Moby Dick;
And I'll be going, going, from the roaring of the wheels,
For a wind's in the heart of me, a fire's in my heels.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Bolt Together Boat

Bolt Together Boat

There’s been sparse activity on this blog, because I’ve been busy with those things that ‘need’ doing; one of them has been assembling new furniture in the Ikea range. It occurred to me, while joining parts of the furniture, that it would be possible to create a small kit boat that could be assembled by unskilled people, using the same principle.

The boat would be bolted or screwed together with a number of cleverly designed components, similar to those used in the furniture, but two main problems would need to be addressed: watertightness integrity and structural strength, such that the boat would be able to survive rigorous use, or even misuse, both ashore and afloat. Watertightness could be achieved by rubber seals and gaskets, and strength by the use of appropriate materials – providing the designer basis his boat on the principles of sound engineering.

There would be several advantages of such a kit boat; for example, almost anyone could ‘assemble’ this boat that could be manufactured for a mass market. Distribution and carriage would not be a problem, because the components of each boat could be packed in several small containers, each being light enough for one person to carry. This would also make it easy for transportation to distant lands where the boat could be assembled, for immediate use.

Here, I’ve set out a proposition for an enterprising person who could earn a great fortune by designing, testing and manufacturing the ‘Bolt Together Boat’. If that person is you, please contact me when you have made your fortune and reward me accordingly. Many thanks. Bill.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

“The Wreck of the Hesperus”

There’s no chance for a foolish skipper and his crew when he ignores the wisdom of the wise.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Wreck of the Hesperus”, illustrates this very point with the story of a proud and incompetent sea captain who takes his most precious possession to sea with him.
Here’s a lesson for all who go to sea in ships – let us heed the bard’s dire warning not to overestimate our own ability, or the seaworthiness of our ship, nor to underestimate the forces of nature, particularly the fearsome power of a winter gale.
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintery sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.

Blue were her eyes as the fairy flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.

The Skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his mouth,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.

Then up and spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed the Spanish Main,
"I pray thee, put into yonder port,
for I fear a hurricane.

"Last night the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!"
The skipper, he blew whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.

Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast,
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.

Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable's length.

"Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow."

He wrapped her warm in his seaman's coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.

"O father! I hear the church bells ring,
Oh, say, what may it be?"
"Tis a fog-bell on a rock bound coast!" --
And he steered for the open sea.

"O father! I hear the sound of guns;
Oh, say, what may it be?"
Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!"

"O father! I see a gleaming light.
Oh say, what may it be?"
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.

Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.

Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.

And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow'rds the reef of Norman's Woe.

And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf,
On the rocks and hard sea-sand.

The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.

She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.

Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!

At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.

The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.

Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman's Woe!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hibernation for Paradox

In our particular part of England for the past few days the weather has been fine, being dominated with a high pressure system, but that has meant freezing conditions, especially at night. As most of my boat building takes place in the open, I’ve placed it on hold and taken the opportunity to catch up on some interior decoration of the home. Unless one’s place of residence is periodically maintained, it deteriorates, reducing the value of the property; therefore I’m pleased to assume the role of painter and decorator – at least until the spring of next year when, hopefully there will be some pleasant sunshine, sufficient to raise the temperature above 15 degrees Celsius for the efficient working of epoxy adhesive.

As we approach the Festive Season of Goodwill and the commemoration of the birth of Christ there’s always much to occupy ones time, and no doubt hours and days will pass quickly. In view of the situation it’s highly unlikely I’ll manage much boat building during the coming months, but within the next couple of days I’ll try to upload some pictures of my mast and rudder to my Paradox web site: .

With thoughts of Christmas; how about this poem by Robert Louis Stevenson:
"Christmas at Sea"
The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seamen scarce could stand;
The wind was a nor'wester, blowing squally off the sea;
And cliffs and spouting breakers were the only things a-lee.

They heard the surf a-roaring before the break of day;
But 'twas only with the peep of light we saw how ill we lay.
We tumbled every hand on deck instanter, with a shout,
And we gave her the maintops'l, and stood by to go about.

All day we tacked and tacked between the South Head and the North;
All day we hauled the frozen sheets, and got no further forth;
All day as cold as charity, in bitter pain and dread,
For very life and nature we tacked from head to head.

We gave the South a wider berth, for there the tide-race roared;
But every tack we made we brought the North Head close aboard:
So's we saw the cliffs and houses, and the breakers running high,
And the coastguard in his garden, with his glass against his eye.

The frost was on the village roofs as white as ocean foam;
The good red fires were burning bright in every 'long-shore home;
The windows sparkled clear, and the chimneys volleyed out;
And I vow we sniffed the victuals as the vessel went about.

The bells upon the church were rung with a mighty jovial cheer;
For it's just that I should tell you how (of all days in the year)
This day of our adversity was blessed Christmas morn,
And the house above the coastguard's was the house where I was born.

O well I saw the pleasant room, the pleasant faces there,
My mother's silver spectacles, my father's silver hair;
And well I saw the firelight, like a flight of homely elves,
Go dancing round the china-plates that stand upon the shelves.

And well I knew the talk they had, the talk that was of me,
Of the shadow on the household and the son that went to sea;
And O the wicked fool I seemed, in every kind of way,
To be here and hauling frozen ropes on blessed Christmas Day.

They lit the high sea-light, and the dark began to fall.
"All hands to loose topgallant sails," I heard the captain call.
"By the Lord, she'll never stand it," our first mate Jackson, cried.
..."It's the one way or the other, Mr. Jackson," he replied.

She staggered to her bearings, but the sails were new and good,
And the ship smelt up to windward just as though she understood.
As the winter's day was ending, in the entry of the night,
We cleared the weary headland, and passed below the light.

And they heaved a might breath, every soul on board but me,
As they saw her nose again pointing handsome out to sea;
But all that I could think of, in the darkness and the cold,
Was just that I was leaving home and my folks were growing old.

Monday, November 14, 2005

"The Lifeboat"

"The Lifeboat"
By George R. Sims

Been out in the lifeboat often? Ay, ay, sir, oft enough.
When it's rougher than this? Lor' bless you! this ain't what we calls rough!
It's when there's a gale a-blowin', and the waves run in and break
On the shore with a roar like thunder and the white cliffs seem to shake;
When the sea is a hell of waters, and the bravest holds his breath
As he hears the cry for the lifeboat -- his summons maybe to death --
That's when we call it rough, sir; but, if we can get her afloat,
There's always enough brave fellows ready to man the boat.
You've heard of the Royal Helen, the ship as was wrecked last year?
Yon be the rock she struck on -- the boat as went out be here;
The night as she struck was reckoned the worst as ever we had,
And this is a coast in winter where the weather be awful bad.
The beach here was strewed with wreckage, and to tell you the truth, sir, then
Was the only time as ever we'd a bother to get the men.
The single chaps was willin', and six on 'em volunteered,
But most on us here is married, and the wives that night was skeered.

Our women ain't chicken-hearted when it comes to savin' lives,
But death that night looked certain -- and our wives be only wives:
Their lot ain't bright at the best,sir; but here, when the man lies dead,
'Taint only a husband missin', it's the children's daily bread;
So our women began to whimper and beg o' the chaps to stay --
I only heard on it after, for that night I was kept away.
I was up at my cottage, yonder, where the wife lay nigh her end,
She'd been ailin' all the winter, and nothing 'ud make her mend.

The doctor had given her up, sir, and I knelt by her side and prayed,
With my eyes as red as a babby's, that Death's hand might yet be stayed.
I heerd the wild wind howlin', and I looked on the wasted form,
And though of the awful shipwreck as had come in the ragin' storm;
The wreck of my little homestead -- the wreck of my dear old wife,
Who'd sailed with me forty years, sir, o'er the troublous waves of life,
And I looked at the eyes so sunken, as had been my harbour lights,
To tell of the sweet home haven in the wildest, darkest nights.

She knew she was sinkin' quickly -- she knew as her end was nigh,
But she never spoke o' the troubles as I knew on her heart must lie,
For we'd had one great big sorrow with Jack, our only son --
He'd got into trouble in London as lots o' lads ha' done;
Then he'd bolted his masters told us -- he was allus what folks call wild.
From the day as I told his mother, her dear face never smiled.
We heerd no more about him, we never knew where he went,
And his mother pined and sickened for the message he never sent.

I had my work to think of; but she had her grief to nurse,
So it eat away at her heartstrings, and her health grew worse and worse.
And the night as the Royal Helen went down on yonder sands,
I sat and watched her dyin', holdin' her wasted hands
. She moved in her doze a little, then her eyes were opened wide,
And she seemed to be seekin' somethin', as she looked from side to side;
Then half to herself she whispered, "Where's Jack, to say good-bye?
It's hard not to see my darlin', and kiss him afore I die."

I was stoopin' to kiss and soothe her, while the tears ran down my cheek,
And my lips were shaped to whisper the words I couldn't speak,
When the door of the room burst open, and my mates were there outside
With the news that the boat was launchin'. "You're wanted!" their leader cried.
"You've never refused to go, John; you'll put these cowards right.
There's a dozen of lives maybe, John, as lie in our hands tonight!"
'Twas old Ben Brown, the captain; he'd laughed at the women's doubt.
We'd always been first on the beach, sir, when the boat was goin' out.

I didn't move, but I pointed to the white face on the bed --
"I can't go, mate," I murmured; "in an hour she may be dead.
I cannot go and leave her to die in the night alone."
As I spoke Ben raised his lantern, and the light on my wife was thrown;
And I saw her eyes fixed strangely with a pleading look on me,
While a tremblin' finger pointed through the door to the ragin' sea.
Then she beckoned me near, and whispered, "Go, and God's will be done!
For every lad on that ship, John, is some poor mother's son."

Her head was full of the boy, sir -- she was thinking, maybe, some day
For lack of a hand to help him his life might be cast away.
"Go, John, and the Lord watch o'er you! and spare me to see the light,
And bring you safe," she whispered, "out of the storm tonight."
Then I turned and kissed her softly, and tried to hide my tears,
And my mates outside,when the saw me, set up three hearty cheers;
But I rubbed my eyes wi' my knuckles, and turned to old Ben and said,
"I'll see her again, maybe, lad, when the sea give up its dead.":

We launched the boat in the tempest, though death was the goal in view
And never a one but doubted if the craft could live it through;
But our boat she stood in bravely, and, weary and wet and weak,
We drew in hail of the vessel we had dared so much to seek
. But just as we come upon her she gave a fearful roll,
And went down in the seethin' whirlpool with every livin' soul!
We rowed for the spot, and shouted, for all around was dark --
But only the wild wind answered the cries from our plungin' bark.

I was strainin' my eyes and watchin', when I thought I heard a cry,
And I saw past our bows a somethin' on the crest of a wave dashed by;
I stretched out my hand to seize it. I dragged it aboard, and then
I stumbled, and struck my forrud, and fell like a log on Ben.
I remember a hum of voices, and then I knowed no more
Till I came to my senses here, sir -- here, in my home ashore.
My forrud was tightly bandaged, and I lay on my little bed --
I'd slipped, so they told me arter, and a rulluck had struck my head.

Then my mates came in and whispered; they'd heard I was comin' round.
At first I could scarcely hear 'em. it seemed like a buzzin' sound;
But as my head got clearer, and accustomed to hear 'em speak,
I knew as I'd lain like that, sir, for many a long, long, week.
I guessed what the lads was hidin', for their poor old shipmate's sake.
So I lifts my head from the pillow, and I says to old Ben, "Look here!
I'm able to bear it now, lad -- tell me, and never fear."

Not one on 'em ever answered, but presently Ben goes out,
And the others slinks away like, and I say, "What's this about?
Why can't they tell me plainly as the poor old wife is dead?"
Then I fell again on the pillows, and I hid my achin' head;
I lay like that for a minute, till I heard a voice cry "John!"
And I thought it must be a vision as my weak eyes gazed upon;
For there by the bedside, standin' up and well was my wife.
And who do ye think was with her? Why Jack, as large as life.

It was him as I'd saved from drownin' the night as the lifeboat wentv To the wreck of the Royal Helen; 'twas that as the vision meant.
They'd brought us ashore together, he'd knelt by his mother's bed,
And the sudden joy had raised her like a miracle from the dead;
And mother and son together had nursed me back to life,
And my old eyes woke from darkness to look on my son and wife.
Jack? He's our right hand now, sir; 'twas Providence pulled him through --
He's allus the first aboard her when the lifeboat wants a crew.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Jumblies

You'll never stop the foolish from taking unnecessary risks, or the ignorant from stepping out in their own wisdom. Brave men who man our lifeboats give testimony to many an incident when ignorant and stupid people, both old and young, have set forth on the open sea in woefully unseaworthy vessels without a knowledge of what the sea demands, even on the calmest of days. They are wise in their own eyes; sure in their own confidence and uncaring as to the consequences of their actions, both for themselves and others, but in Edward Lear's poem, “The Jumblies”, the crew of the Sieve had unbelievably good luck, and although all the odds were stacked against them, their rash adventure miraculously turned out for the better; they arrived home the richer for their experiences, and hopefully they had gained some wisdom.

“The Jumblies”

They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, "You'll all be drowned!"
They called aloud, "Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
In a Sieve we'll go to sea!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
"Oh won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
In a Sieve to sail so fast!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,
The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, "How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
While round in our Sieve we spin!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;
And when the sun went down
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
In the shade of the mountains brown.
"O Timballoo! How happy we are,
When we live in a sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
In the shade of the mountains brown!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jackdaws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
And no end of Stilton Cheese.
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
In twenty years or more,
And every one said, "How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
And the hills of the Chankly Bore;"
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And everyone said, "If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,
To the hills of the Chankly Bore!"
Far and few, far and few,
Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

To the Sea in Ships

I found this today in Psalm 107, starting at the 23rd verse:

23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,
24 They see the works of the LORD,
And His wonders in the deep.
25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26 They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
30 Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So He guides them to their desired haven.
31 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
32 Let them exalt Him also in the assembly of the people,
And praise Him in the company of the elders.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Lack of Progress

Since coating the rudder and stock with epoxy I’ve not been able to work on them again, due to more important matters and unfavourable weather; it’s either been too cold or too wet. On the weather front for the next few days, things are looking equally bleak, but there’s a lot more to life than building boats. People and their needs take priority, and following that, comes property and possessions. Bring out the violins when I say I come last in all of all of these, but that is a privilege some may find hard to understand. The Good Book says those who will be last shall be first*, and that paradox like many is true, as I can vouch from personal experience.

There’s no need for me to panic, as weeks and months lie ahead before I expect to have my Paradox sailboat finished and on the water. All this is within God’s providence; thererore I can relax and build a little at a time whenever occasions arrive. In between times I can dream of sailing adventures yet to come, perhaps cruising the many creeks and estuaries of the east coast of England or sailing afield on new waters accessed by use of a road trailer.

* Matthew 20:16