Posts Tagged ‘sailing’

Adventure is calling!

June 11, 2011

I should’ve paid attention to my horoscope this morning (I must mention here that I most definitely don’t believe in astrology, but do occasionally read my horoscope for amusement). It read:

Saturday is the day for lovely Librans to shine. All sorts of social and outdoor activities are favoured, as you flex you mind and muscles in exciting new ways. Adventure is calling.

So I shouldn’t’ve been surprised when the first race of the winter series at Fremantle Sailing club was a little more exciting than planned! We could’ve done worse – two sportsboats were dismasted, we only damaged a spinnaker (and our pride), and had to flex our minds and muscles in exciting new ways to solve our problems, before retiring to drink coffee and eat cake on the long motor back to the club! Adventure called indeed!

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Christmas at sea: of Sting and Robert Louis Stevenson

December 8, 2010

Its that time of the year and I’ve started listening to my Christmas playlist on my iPhone.   I’ve been particularly touched by the beautiful and melancholy Christmas at sea from Sting’s Winter/Christmas album of 2009 – If on a winter’s night.

 

Album cover for "If on a winter's night" by Sting

If on a winter's night / Sting

Today I discovered that the lyrics are selected verses from a poem of the same name by Robert Louis Stevenson,  originally published in Ballads, 1890. (On the album Stevenson’s words  are interleaved with a Gaelic song from the Isle of Skye Thograinn Thograinn sung by Mary McMaster).  Stevenson came from a family of lighthouse engineers and was a sailor himself so it’s no wonder he captured the feel of beating off a lee shore in bad weather so evocatively.  I commend both the song and the poem to my friends, particularly those that sail in square rig…

Christmas at Sea

The sheets were frozen hard, and they cut the naked hand;
The decks were like a slide, where a seaman 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 cliff 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 longshore 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 blessèd 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 blessèd 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 mighty 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.

Robert Louis Stevenson

James E Buttersworth / Ship in a Storm

James E Buttersworth (1817-1894) Ship in a Storm

 

 


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