Lit Bits

Driving Miss Gipsy (Moth IV)

 

My recent foray into Chris Eakin's A Race Too Far inspired me to re-read Gipsy Moth Circles the World, Sir Francis Chichester's account of the one-stop solo circumnavigation he undertook in 1966-67. As Eakins relates in his book, there was a great media frenzy in the U.K. on Chichester's return, and this led immediately to the launching of the Golden Globe Race of 1968-69 by the Sunday Times newspaper. Over here in the U.S., some may recall, the echo of that frenzy landed Chichester on the cover of Life magazine. I am just old enough to remember that little publicity bomb well, and Chichester's book was the first I ever read about a voyage of this type.

I always remembered it as being a bit dry and boring. I have not read it since and am pleased to report I liked it much better the second time. Chichester's prose is indeed dry, but is also precise and very intelligent. With it he carefully documented, and modestly understated, what was truly a remarkable voyage.

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Island of the Tripping Squirrels

 

On returning from a solo cruise to Mt. Desert Island in Maine some years ago, I stopped and anchored for the evening next to an uninhabited islet off the northwest corner of Swans Island. (At least I thought it was uninhabited...)

The sun was already low in the western sky, with (perhaps...) just enough daylight left for an expedition ashore. The tiny island beckoned to me. I hurried through my chores--rigged a snubber line on the rode, snugged the sails down for the night--then jumped in my tender and pulled for a thin stone strand I could see at the foot of the low cliff that ringed the island's shore.

Facing the anchorage there was a shallow ravine that cut through the cliff, up which I scrambled once I shipped my oars and secured the tender. At the top of the ravine I found a well-worn trail leading inland. And just a few yards down that trail I found a doorway standing alone at the edge of the forest that stretched across the middle of the island.

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The Zen of DIY

One thing I learned early on in my bluewater sailing career is that there are, in fact, just two sorts of bluewater sailors: there are poets, who become engineers in spite of themselves, and there are engineers, who become poets in spite of themsel ves.

I count myself among the former. From the very beginning, one of the things that most attracted me to sailing was the simplicity and elegance of its apparatus. When we were boys, my brother could amuse himself--and confound me--by tinkering with the innards of such things as lawn mowers and outboard engines. Meanwhile I prided myself on being able to get a boat to move with just some sticks, rope, and canvas. To me this was beautiful. It wasn’t until much later, while pursuing the dreamy poet’s ambition of sailing across an ocean, that I realized how complicated sailboats could be.

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Golden Globe Revisited

 

And just what was I reading while cruising aboard Lunacy during the holidays? A book about sailing, of course. I gobbled this one up in no time and can recommend it highly to sailors and non-sailors alike.

But first a threshold question: do we REALLY need another book about the 1968-69 Golden Globe Race???

Apparently we do. I've read a great deal about the race over the years, but still I learned a lot from this book. For example... did you know that Nigel Tetley died wearing women's underwear???

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