My Favourite Quotes

 

from Sterling Hayden's book "Wanderer"

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea - "cruising," it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.

"I've always wanted to sail to the South Seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone.

What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense. And we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention from the sheer idiocy of the charade.

The years thunder by. The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it the tomb is sealed.

Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?

WANDERER, first published in 1963, is the autobiography of Sterling Hayden, seamen, US Marine, film-star and adventurer. He was a Grand Banks fisherman when Hollywood offered him a screen test. The passage reproduced here explains why he escaped from Hollywood and returned to life at sea. All of us face the dilemma of whether to live for the day or save for tomorrow. Like Zorba the Greek, Hayden chose to let the future take care of itself. Sterling Hayden died in 1986 after a final comeback as an actor in "The Godfather." His life interest was sailing and he wrote two books about life at sea, "Wanderer" and "Voyage." He died of cancer in 1986.

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There Is No Death

I am standing on the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch her until at length she is a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says, "There! She's gone!" Gone where? Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living weight to her destined harbor.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, There! She's gone! there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, "There she comes!"

And that is dying.

-- Henry Jackson van Dyke

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Born November 10, 1852, in Germantown, Pennsylvania, and educated in theology at Brooklyn Polytechnic, Princeton, and Berlin, Henry Jackson van Dyke worked twenty years as a minister, first in Newport, Rhode Island, from 1879 to 1883 and next in New York until 1899. His Christmas sermons, his essays, and his short stories made him a popular writer. His poems reveal a classical education as well as a common touch in matters of faith. He became Professor of English Literature at Princeton in 1900. In 1907, he wrote the still popular hymn Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (set to Hymn of Joy from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony).

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From Rachel Louise Carson's "The Sea Around Us"

“The sea lies all about us. The commerce of all lands must cross it. The very winds that move over the lands have been cradled on its broad expanse and seek ever to return to it. The continents themselves dissolve and pass to the sea, in grain after grain of eroded land. So the rains that rose from it return again in rivers. In its mysterious past it encompasses all the dim origins of life and receives in the end, after, it may be, many transmutations, the dead husks of that same life. For all at last returns to the sea – to Oceanis, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.”

(Rachel Louise Carson) The Sea Around Us [1951], ch.14, ending

Born on May 27, 1907 Rachel Carson was a writer, scientist, and ecologist. She graduated from Pennsylvania College for Women in 1929, studied at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory, and received her MA in zoology from Johns Hopkins University in 1932.

Rachel Carson is arguably one of the most influential environmentalists of our time and I find her style of writing most appealing because it is based on a scientific foundation. The above quote was chosen for my home page as it is one of my favourites. She was employed by the U.S. Government to write scientific articles on conservation and natural resources, but it was in her own time which she turned her research into lyric prose, first as an article "Undersea" (1937, for the Atlantic Monthly), and then in a book, Under the Sea-Wind (1941). In 1952 she published her prize-winning study of the ocean, The Sea Around Us, which was followed by The Edge of the Sea in 1955. These books constituted a biography of the ocean and made Carson famous as a naturalist and science writer for the public.
Rachel Carson died in 1964 after a long battle against breast cancer. Her witness for the beauty and integrity of life continues to inspire new generations to protect the living world and all its creatures.

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The Ship That Sails

I'd rather be the ship that sails
And rides the billows wild and free;
Than to be the ship that always fails
To leave its port and go to sea.

I'd rather feel the sting of strife,
Where gales are born and tempests roar;
Than settle down to useless life
And rot in dry dock on the shore.

I'd rather fight some mighty wave
With honor in supreme command;
And fill at last a well-earned grave,
Than die in ease upon the sand.

I'd rather drive where sea storms blow,
And be the ship that always failed
To make the ports where it would go,
Than be the ship that never sailed.

-- Anonymous

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The Sound Of The Sea

The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep,
And round the pebbly beaches far and wide
I heard the first wave of the rising tide
Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep;
A voice out of the silence of the deep,
A sound mysteriously multiplied
As of a cataract from the mountain's side,
Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep.
So comes to us at times, from the unknown
And inaccessible solitudes of being,
The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul;
And inspirations, that we deem our own,
Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing
Of things beyond our reason or control.

-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) was born in Portland, Maine. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine and was a classmate of both Nathaniel Hawthorne and future President Franklin Pierce. He later became a professor of language at Bowdoin.

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Ballad Of The Tempest

We were crowded in the cabin,
Not a soul would dare to sleep--
It was midnight on the waters,
And a storm was on the deep.

'Tis a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, "Cut away the mast!"

So we shudddered there in silence,--
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry sea was roaring
And the breakers talked with death.

As thus we sat in darkness
Each one busy with his prayers,
"We are lost!" the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took his icy hand,
"Isn't God upon the ocean,
Just the same as on the land?"

Then we kissed the little maiden,
And we spake in better cheer,
And we anchored safe in harbor
When the morn was shining clear.

-- James T. Fields

James Thomas Fields (1817-1881) was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He served as editor of the Atlantic Monthly from 1861 to 1870. He authored several books and at least two volumes of poetry. "Ballad of the Tempest" is his best known poem.

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The Winds of Fate

One ship drives east and another drives west,
With the self-same winds that blow,
'Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That tell them the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate,
As we voyage along through life,
'Tis the set of the soul
That decides its goal
And not the calm or the strife.

-- Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) was born in Johnstown Center, Wisconsin. Living most of her life in New York City, she was one of the best-selling poets in the late 1800s.

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Regret

"20 Years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bow lines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the tradewinds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."

Mark Twain

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Morning Song

A diamond of a morning
Waked me an hour too soon;
Dawn had taken in the stars
And left the faint white moon.

O white moon, you are lonely,
It is the same with me,
But we have the world to roam over,
Only the lonely are free.

-- Sara Teasdale

Sara Teasdale (1884-1933) was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She lived in seclusion in her later years until her suicide in 1933.

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from The Sea and the Wind That Blows

During his seventies, E.B. White wrote an essay about sailing for Ford Times, called "The Sea and the Wind That Blows." In this extract he describes the mystery and allure of a boat.

"If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble. If it happens to be an auxiliary cruising boat, it is without question the most compact and ingenious arrangement for living ever devised by the restless mind of man--a home that is stable without being stationary, shaped less like a box than like a fish or a girl, and in which the homeowner can remove his daily affairs as far from shore as he has the nerve to take them, close hauled or running free--parlor, bedroom, and bath, suspended and alive."

E.B. White is best known for his children's books: Charlotte's Web, The Trumpet of the Swan and Stewart Little (of recent movie fame). He also co-authored with William Strunk, the very popular Elements of Style.

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A Quote from L. Francis Herreshoff

"Sailing is a wonderful and unique thing, and the sensation of being noiselessly and smoothly propelled without cost of fuel is one of the most satisfactory pleasures known, but when you add to this the fact that the sailboat itself is one of the most interesting things which God has let man make--well, then you get a combination which is almost sacred."

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A Quote from Joel White

"Perhaps the first Wanderer will slip into Center Harbor at sunset. The owners, friendly folk, will invite me aboard, and sitting below at the cabin table, I will look around and it will all be just as I imagine it--the feeling of space and comfort, soft highlights glinting off the varnished trim, the combination of aromas that emanate from the interior of a choice wooden vessel--cedar, teak, and tar, supper and rum, and the accumulated wind and sunshine of a good day's run."

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A Quote from Richard Bode

"For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar with the breeze."

-- from First You Have to Row a Little Boat

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"A sailing vessel is alive in a way that no ship with mechanical power ever be."

Aubrey de Selincourt

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"The acquisition of the knowledge of navigation has a strange effect on the minds of men."

Jack London

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"There never was a great man yet who spent all his life inland."

Herman Melville

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"No matter how important a man at sea may consider himself, unless he is fundamentally worthy the sea will someday find him out."

Felix Riesenberg

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"The sea's most powerful spell is romance."

H. W. Tilman

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"The charm of singlehanded cruising is not solitude, but independence."

Claud Worth

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"It is as hard to describe the fascination of the sea as to explain the beauty of a woman, for, to each man, either it is self-evident, or no argument can help him see it."

Claud Worth 1926
Yacht Cruising, 3rd ed.