This post comes with a philosophical warning label.
Writing about my adventures on the water motivates me to get my children outdoors as much as possible and develop (hopefully) the same love for the briny that I have. In his book Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv talks about how fundamental is the human need for a sense of and connection to place. Indoors alone we can’t arrive at this sense of belonging. We need to get outside and connect our senses beyond sight to encompass the other four. I realise how true this is when I return to where I grew up and the smell of the damp soil and oak trees is suddenly palpably different in comparison to eucaplypt bushland in a way that I wouldn’t have recognised as a child. Perhaps thats just a consequence of travel and not age? I don’t know. A sense of place has been on my mind a lot lately. Recent upheaval in my family home has made more urgent my desire to put down roots and create a home and a sense of place for my children. At times lately I have felt like running away to sea (or at least the non-mother part of me has). Why do people run away to sea? The sea is a constant. Yes, there are tropical seas, icy southern seas and everything inbetween, but they are all salty, changeable, calming, comforting, stormy and menacing all at the same time. The way a boat harnesses the wind is the same wherever you are on the ocean. The wind blows from all the angles of the compass (and there are always 360). Going to sea is one of the last refuges from modern life. Stress is pointless unless it is urging you to put a reef in. Once you’re out of sight of land, whatever troubles plague you there is no point worrying while you’re at sea. A well equipped ship on a well planned voyage has all your basic needs met.
The sailing community has always been a global village. People talk about common interests binding people together but I do believe that the universal bond shared by sailors and seafarers stands alone. When I’m at sea or amongst these people I am in a happy place. This is why I’ll teach my kids to sail and encourage a love of the sea, because wherever they are in the world, if they are near the sea, then they’ll never be far from home.
Do you agree or am I off with the sea fairies?
Its not everyday you get invited to a 100th Birthday, but two in a fortnight is unheard of. I had the privilege this weekend of attending a celebration of 100 years of the beautifully restored classic yacht Uteikah II. It was on this yacht that I came across the nautical chart that inspired my post “The Magic of Maps”. She has been owned by a friend of the family for the last thirty years or so and has just undergone a complete restoration project which has taken more years than was anticipated, but the final restoration speaks for itself. She is a thing of great beauty and I had a job to put my camera down.
The celebration included a blessing of the boat. I couldn’t hear much of the pastor’s words from my spot on the wharf but, depsite still being unsure of my own religious persuasion the occasion rather stirred the emotions. I think anyone who “goes down to the sea in ships” might relate to this. It seems fitting and right to launch a vessel with a prayer that might help her and her crew weather any storms that come their way. Sailors are a superstitious bunch. The occasion reminded me of going with my Dad to the blessing of the fishing fleet and the harvest of the sea service in Porthleven. My Dad would say he is not a deeply religious man at all but he often went along to these occasions.
Uteikah has a long and rich history which I won’t attempt to record here in any detail at all as I’d probably get it wrong. The celebration was made particularly special though, by the attendance of the son and grandson of Uteikah’s original owner. The former of which pipped Uteikah to the post and got his telegram from the Queen last year. How special for a man and a boat who have shared the same century to be reunited in this way. Sent a shiver down my spine.
To some people boats are just a means of transport; a collection of wood, metal and cloth that are fashioned together to float and move from place to place. But to a sailor, like the once in a lifetime family dog, some boats are a bit more special than others. They bind together the people who have sailed on them through their shared memories and voyages and they take on a personality of their own by absorbing the spirit that is borne out of life at sea.
I’d love to hear about a vessel that was special to you and any thoughts or recollections on faith and seafaring?
I took too many photos to label and comment on so here are the best in a gallery. See if you can spot Grandad Water’s chunk of cedar that was once a table, then a wireless casing and is now set for a new life at sea.