The officers and crew of Team Black Magic
Have the Honour to Invite the following Guests
to the Sailors’ Dinner Party:
Ah, but whom should we invite and what should be the purpose of this floating feast? Should it be an assembly of the great and famous of today’s sailors? Or should it be a vernal Fiddler’s Green to reunite those mariners who have gone before?
If the latter, perhaps we should engrave upon our roster of invitees the first to sail those wine dark seas, Homer’s Odysseus. What really happened under Illium’s fabled walls and upon the storied seas thereafter?
If we wish for a further immersion in nautical origins, perhaps we could book Jason and his Argonauts. Or we could invite some simple fishermen from the Sea of Galilee to tell us what really happened two millennia ago.
Were we to set our starting line in less shrouded and distant times, perhaps we should invite Sir Francis Drake, who followed a successful cruising career with a high-level appointment as a club administrator. He also placed rather well in the Spanish Armada cannonball regatta, doing a quite brilliant job of luffing his competitors beyond their intended mark. Lord Nelson, vice admiral, did rather well in his contest with the French and Spanish fleets, and was rather an interesting character. Perhaps he could bring a few of his “band of brothers” to the affray.
We do not forget the great navigator-explorers of the past; they (DeGama, Columbus, Magellan, Cook, Vancouver, Hudson, etc.) are many and deserve their fame. And perhaps Mr. Harrison could bring along some of his excellent chronometers, for navigators owe him, if not exactly the world, at least much of the Longitude.
Joshua Slocum showed the way for generations of self-reliant small-boat sailors to come and wrote intelligently about his pioneering voyage. It is well that we honour him.
Along with Slocum we should invite all those artists and authors who sought to depict the seas and those who sail upon them with truth, conviction, and insight. John Masefeld, Henry Dana, Joseph Conrad, Herman Melville gave inspiration and insight; without them by what stars would we steer? And they are joined by pictorial artists, from Gericault to Winslow Homer, and by modern minstrels of whom but one of the more recent is Jimmy Buffet, adored by his Parrotheads and many others. Nor do we forget the other sort of artists upon whose canvases we have been more directly dependent; the great naval architects who advanced our sport deserve a nod.
Were our dinner party to focus on contemporary, living sailors, we still would face many choices. Should we invite great racers? If so, should we focus upon public celebrity and invite Jimmy Connor and Ted (formerly “the mouth of the south” but now a part-time neighbor for us New Mexico sailors). Why not? But we should also invite talented racers who are better known only among sailors, such as Vince Brun or Kenny Read or Anna Tunnicliffe. And we cannot forget pioneering women, such as Dawn Riley or Dame Ellen MacArthur. It would be fascinating to know what made Ellen so tough and resourceful and to know what drove her to sail solo about the globe and venture up a wildly whipping mast. Tania Aebi and her family might be available to relate some of the sea changes that led her around the globe solo, ashore to rear children, and back to sea now and then to lead cruises and conduct seminars.
Speaking of our racing friends, there are a few names that would not appear on our list. While some sailors think pirates romantic, too many of them were thugs and would not make congenial dinner guests. Similarly, we would not invite some of the more outrageously oversized egos from the modern racing world, such as Ernesto Bertarelli, whose ambition seems to be “The Grinch Who Stole the America’s Cup”. I would only that nautical billionaires, instead of serving only their egos, would instead dedicate themselves to serving and improving the sport by helping make it more available. And, yes, some privileged sailors have done much to serve the sport.
Yet perhaps we are not wholly focused upon those who sail for trophies, glory, or celebrity. What of those who have made a life of sailing the seven seas and the great oceans? Would we not learn something by visiting with the Pardeys and the Dashews and discussing their different styles afloat?
We should invite our own coaches and those who first introduced us to the water, who first took us out on a boat, who first told us tales of adventure afloat, who had the patience to teach us to become sailors. Chuck and Nancy Crane were one such couple in my childhood; they took me out on Chatauqua and told me stories of their travels and service in the Yucatan. Captain George Colley, Sr., was another captain for me, especially when I was working as a deckhand on his family’s fishing boats. Carol Anne, in her post, has mentioned more recent influences such as “Zorro”.
And what of all those often anonymous sailors who give themselves to the sport? The volunteers who make the regattas happen by serving as organizers, judges, race committee members, and myriad helpers deserve a seat at the table. The volunteers who teach children, adults, and special needs individuals to sail are surely jewels in our community.
Ah, but here I near the true purpose of our dinner party. It is not primarily to be a great Awards Banquet for the famous, or to be a Fiddler’s Green for the greats of times past. Instead, it will be a Sailor’s Rondy, though not under the aegis of the Impress Service or of a Captain seeking more crew for his next voyage. The Joining Bounty that we shall offer will not be golden guineas, but rather the simple pleasures of time on the water, of skills learnt, of communing with the many moods of wind and wave, of shore and sea. For our prime invitees are youth; we seek future sailors and some means to share our joy with future generations.
The great, living and those who have voyaged onward, serve to inspire and educate us, but without new crew there can be no more voyages. Invite the kids.
Labels: sailing essay