An ‘ocean’ post.
The ocean posts are going in 2 very different directions, one line of posts is the practical seamanship side of long distance sailing, if you like that’s the ‘sailorising’ that Donald Crowhurst seemed to despise. The second side is the experiential one….the stories within the story. I have a sense that in my thinking and writing that this is the next layer down in the possible layers of experience and then writing about that experience. Bear with me a bit on this as i barely have the skills as a writer to attempt this journey.
A longer term writing project in the blog is to write about each of the ‘nine’ that set out in the original Golden Globe race. So far it is Donald Crowhurst who has had most attention and it just so happened that i was re-reading his story at about the time the film “The Mercy” came out. In my own experience of course was a the time i met Robin Knox-Johnston who was the one sailor to complete the voyage and the race. I liked RKJ immediately especially in that he took the time to talk to me about the circumnavigation we had just done. I did meet Chay Blyth a few times when i became a stand-in medic in the first BT challenge race and my reaction to him was almost the complete opposite. Chay struck me as a hard-nosed businessman who only did the sailing he did so that he could then promote a business and ultimately sell that idea to ‘credit-card’ adventurers…and that’s an oxymoron if ever there was one. For sure he did try to sail a completely unsuitable boat in the Golden Globe race without any prior experience and he did get as far as South Africa. Its also fact that he then went on to do a circumnavigation in the opposite to normal direction, gained ‘fame’ for doing so and went on the create the successfull BT Challenge on the back of that. In later years i developed a degree of cynicysm about characters like Blyth, and later people like Bear Grylls who seem to do what they do to create an image, business and persona around that thing. That’s just my opinion by the way but comes from having to then look after, at sea, the very people that Chay and others pulled into the industry.
The polar opposites of the nine, to my way of thinking, were Bernard Moitessier and Commander Bill king and it’s those 2 who are featuring heavily in my thinking and the posts i am trying to write now. I have consciously avoided saying much about Moitessier so far and that is because he almost always wrote about the inner experience of his time at sea and in doing so always comes across as the spiritual/mystic one. That he was a thoroughly practical sailor and excellent seaman is undoubtably true and that he inspired generations of young guys….often young French guys….to go off to sea and seak similar experiences is also true. If so far you read ‘The French Connection’ in recent posts you might see that each of those sailors are to some extent right out of the Moitessier mould. I think that each of them are in a way modern storytellers who have gone out into physical and internal ‘deep waters’ and brought back great stories. Of course i also have my own ocean adventures, don’t talk about them very much and have hardly ever written about them in my blog. Why not i’m not sure except perhaps that those experiences are personal and very few translate into great stories that haven’t been told much better already by other sailors.
Today, before dipping into my own stories i want to introduce another young French sailor who i think is right out of the Moitessier Mould but one who has gone in a very different direction with the boat and the experience : Capucine Trochet. Nearly everything that could be different , at detail level, is different in her story. Capucine Trochet’s story is truly inspiring as she went through a really horrible illness and multiple surgery to get back to the sea that she clearly loves. Her boat is ‘way out there’ not only based on a native Bengal fishing boat but partially built out of Jute fibre and with locally acquired junk making up most of the hardware. Its an odd looking craft to be sure, some 9 metres long and only 2 in the beam. To me it looks more like a big sea-kayak than sailing boat. Coming from a background of some sea-kayaking myself the boat actually looks totally ‘right’ and capable…..just not like anything in this part of the world.
Capucine Trochet. http://interestingsailboats.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-most-beautiful-sea-story.html
Don’t try to translate….just absorb
Non sailors probably won’t understand the inner tension that these characters have to live with, its very close to what Jordan Petersen describes as the fine line between order and chaos. The chaos is of course the sea, the forces that the sailor has to contend with and is definitely a reality. The order….well that is what we have to bring to it to have the adventure, it is the design and construction, the knowledge, skills and preparation which we put into our craft. All of that is hard won if it is ‘true’. Moitessier says in one video that the adventure is absolutely rooted in reality, mere day- dreamers can’t do this stuff.
Moitessier’s boat (Joshua) was stunningly rugged and simple, most modern yachtsmen would be appalled at it’s lack of modern gear, but it had exactly and only just everything that it needed….actually needed. Trochet’s boat (Tara Tari) is just about the rawest ,simplest and most basic ocean going sailing boat that i have ever seen and yet it does the job. Both beg the question “how much of this modern crap do we need” ?. The industry and the sailing media only thrive on selling boats and gear that are way out of most of our possible reach financially. Most ‘modern’ boats with all their questionably up to date gear sit in marinas month on month and year on year, going nowhere. My experience is that it is often the owners of small basic boats that are out there having the adventures.
I discovered Capucine Troche and Tara Tari several years ago, my reaction then was very much as it is today and that is to wander outside and re-measure the yard to work out whether i could build a slightly less raw version of her boat and in locally available plywood and whatever secondhand useful junk i can find…..there are 3 excellent scrapyard/reclamation yards within a few miles of here ! Todays blog meditation if there is such a thing is to strip away the frippery from the craft, strive for ultimate simplicity and strike for the raw experience but one that is rooted in the deep skill of genuine seamanship.
At the end of today’s post i do want to tell a recent story, and it’s an odd one. As some of you know i get my head into some odd things, currently i spend a lot of time in psychologist Jordan Petersen’s lectures and in doing the follow-up reading. For those that know a little about Dr Petersen (i have written about him in the blog) he describes himself as a Jungian ie ‘depth’ psychologist. It is said that his mentor Sigmund Freud was the one who started to poke around in the basement of the mind : Petersen says that it was Jung who went right out through the floor and explored the cave underneath……Accidentally i have become a complete amateur student of psychology. We may not think we do but we actually use a lot of Freudian and Jungian terms in everyday parlance : ego, id and persona are some, archetype and archetypal dreams are another. Exactly at the time i started work on the ocean series of posts i had what psychologists would call an ‘archetype’ dream in a Jungian sense. I won’t recall the dream here except that involves the exploration of a complex and interesting house. Dream interpretation is a difficult subject although once again Jung covered the subject well in one of his books. Most dreams are apparently just mental clearing-out and there is a hell of a lot of pop-psy and woo-woo about meanings of dreams. Archetype dreams though are something very different and the one i have just had, similar in structure to ones i have had before, is strongly suggestive of the mind exploring new mental territory. The one i have just had is the richest version of that archetype i have ever had and i have to say that it’s very significant to me that my mind ‘knows’ that i am trying to explore new territory with these posts.