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  #1  
Old 05-01-2008
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Is it me or are their egos bigger than the books they write?

Circumnavigators:
Bernard Moitissier, Robin Lee Graham, Tania Ehbie, Joshua Slocum and Cook (many others who did not write books).
Want to be circumnavigators in recent memory:
Ken Barnes from California who was rescues by the Chilean Navy; another from California in a self made cat that was highly ridiculed on this forum - I saw his book in the bookstore just the other day - David Vann, who sank his first ship, a good omen no doubt.
I have been reading these kind of books for some time now and at a great rate and although I enjoyed all their stories and pains I still prefer the few I started with: Moitissier, Slocum and even Tristan Jones and even "Last time around Cape Horn" by William Stark (even though the last two never really circumvented the globe on one mission) over everyone else who was really just trying to sell me a story that glorifies or describes the tribulations of a trip across several big ponds.
Robin Lee Graham leads us back to the bible in his novel "Dove", the first three quarters of the book being more devoid of the god theme. Alvah Simon ("North into the night") leads us to endure his own ego to overcome the horrors of a winter in Newfoundland. The recent want to be circumnavigators that never got past one ocean are probably still doing the Opra circuit (nothing wrong with Opera by the way). Why are people still trying to make a go on this kind of preposterous journey?
Slocum, Cook, Jones and company write with a mastery of understatement while the newcomers try to overcome us with the conviction of a minister. I really enjoyed William Starks rendition of is half circumnav as member of the "greatest generation" even though he took his own life by jumping off a Colorado mountain peak. Life was tough then and it is now as well.
I still love the fiction of Patrick O'Brian and as he, himself is not a sailor of such stripes I cut him some slack. I have re-read his Aubrey/Maturin series of "Master and Commander" recently and it serves me well in my respect for the sea and the men and women who endured and continue to do it with teams of backup for support as in the PBS series "Carrier".
In many ways it is the same as it ever was but the people who try to do it alone are in many ways kind of crazy to start with, as they may have always been. Nowadays a nuclear aircraft carrier can go from port to port without many of the hassles of the old days.
Why re-invent the wheel? I am not saying that we should all join the navy but why should we make these crazy attempts illegal as well?
I am not ready to try it myself, I am just asking.
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Old 05-01-2008
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For unassuming, factual "been there did that" accounts of impressive sailing/survival skills check out Myles and Beryl Smeeton's books of their voyages on Tzu Hang.
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Old 05-01-2008
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They and the Hiscocks were very good at the "oh, dear, the mizzen's come down and smashed my arm...would you make some tea, dear, now that it's moderated to Force 10?"

I find more fun in cruising narratives prior to 1980 than since then, although technically, there's more useful info in the more current stories due to changes in tactic, materials, designs and the wider range of serviced locations, SAR and weather/communications options.
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Old 05-01-2008
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I watched a Pardey DVD the other day and it made me want to hurl the TV out the window. He's not so bad I guess but she is just bloody annoying. Then there is the singing. Oh my god the singing. Vomit inducing.

Didn't so much mind the Hiscocks, Smeatons and the like but I was a lot younger then. My family is half English so that "pip pip old chap, stiff upper lip and all that" nonsense didn't bother me so much. I did like the Canadian fellow whose name I forget , he had Trekka and later Treasure, also sailed with the Smeatons. (edit John Guzzwell)

Some of the other older guys like Street were OK but why do their wives always look so po faced and seemingly never get any credit for anything other than doing the cooking and cleaning. I really cannot believe that that was all they contributed but maybe that's why the po face.

O'Brien, though fiction, didn't hold up for me. Read the first two or three and was absolutely entranced but by seven/eight/nine started getting bleary eyed and gave up. Can't stand Crowe so didn't like the movie.

Harsh reality is that most of the single handers are/were egotistical arseholes only concerned with their own self interests. That's why they are solo sailors. Wankers, the lot of them. I guess that's why I empathise with them.
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Old 05-01-2008
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Well, when I write MY books- "Wu-Wei- the Tao Art of Carnival Cruises- How to Get to Platinum and Avoid Sailing Your Own Boat in Bad Weather Because the Buffett is Really Delicious and They Make Towel Animals" or "Ha ha ha, Suckers, Not Stuck in the Boatyard This Year!" I fully expect my Sailnet crowd to buy them. Oh no, nothing exciting about my own ego. "Oh crap, 2 more WEEKS of vacation? Cruise? Leaves tomorrow? Sure. Love the towel animals, and why don't WE have a Casino on the boat? Why doesn't my bed get turned down at night with little chocolates on the pillow, while I am feasting on prime rib on our OWN boat?"
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Old 05-02-2008
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Thanks gentlemen for reassuring me.

Wu-Wei, have a nice cruise. I haven't been and don't plan on using Carnival or NCL or whomever for my jollies but enjoy anyway. Never been to Disney World either BTW.

I guess the cut-off period for readability is around 1980 as Valiente suggests. Nevertheless I have quite enjoyed TDW's accounts when he has the time to post them. I like the humour that more average Joe's or Wombat's seem to use when writing their accounts or 'narratives' of excursions to the more detailed and bombastic approaches of say Alvah Simon's "North into the Night". There can be more detailed and hence useful information in more recent books but I am still a fan of a good yarn, be it T. Jones or Wombat or whomever and never mind the technical details as "there is not a moment to be lost": I want to hear what was good at dinner and what was humourous. If the mizzen has come down on my arm I will ask for tea though, and rum and codeine and break out the sewing gear.
The funny thing about the 'literature' crowd is that there is what is considered boating literature and then there is narrative. I have been reading a 'narrative' by a Merican named Henry Plummer called "The Boy, Me, and the Cat; Life aboard a small boat, from Massachusetts to Florida and back in 1912" which is published by The Narrative Press Co. Not Penguin or Harper or any other mainstream press would publish this stuff. Yet it is quite funny in its antiquated way. The lines between what is considered 'literature' versus 'narrative' or 'local colorature' writing is quite clear to in the book business, with the emphasis being on literature above all. Pure snobbery and class-ism in my opinion. Some of Mark Twain's works borders on 'local colorature' but he is still considered an author of some weight. In fact, the 'narrative' form is probably considered the lowest of these classes of literature by editors as it has the least appeal to the mass market. Yet some of the insights of the author in the 'narrative' I am reading at the moment are quite funny as he plies up and down the US east coast in what would become what we call today 'the ditch' or ICW.

I am not that old (yet, 49) and the old ways fascinate me which is why I enjoy the writers I have mentioned. I will check out the voyages of the Tzu-Hang and am considering a brief review of Melville until TDW comes out with his latest account of a voyage.
Thanks all for your input.
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Old 05-02-2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tdw View Post
I watched a Pardey DVD the other day and it made me want to hurl the TV out the window. He's not so bad I guess but she is just bloody annoying. Then there is the singing. Oh my god the singing. Vomit inducing.
The Pardeys are perfectly suited for DVD, though. You can just skip the chapters where they sing or row in circles or have baths in the engine bay, and just watch the three or four brilliant and cheap tips they've devised that make the bother of watching it worth it.

I mean, the bucket flopper-stopper, the way Larry's got his tools sorted, the various ways they have to rig deck gear and the "preserve cheese in olive oil" thing were worth the musical interludes.

Almost.
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Old 05-03-2008
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I think ego in a solo sailor is absolutely necessary. What is ego if it isn't self-confidence and trust in yourself, being self-directed, self-sufficient, self-assuring, and self- a lot of other stuff ? Nobody accuses a groundhog of having too much ego when it survives a hard winter on it's own, or a bumblebee of obstinance when it buzzes right up in your face to check you out, they are just natural creatures making their way with boldness through life. I don't think it's any more unusual for a strong human individual to go out on their own and do the things they feel a desire to do, nor do I really think it's odd for them to have opinions about their experiences or their ways of doing things. I don't find that threatening, personally. Anybody who crosses even one ocean alone in a boat has my respect - I haven't done it, and even though I'd like to do it, I'm not ashamed to admit that the idea scares the hell out of me. One thing I think is certain, someone who isn't self-directed and pretty sure of what they are doing isn't going to get far on an ocean in a boat, alone. With nobody there to reassure them that they are doing the right thing, nobody to comfort them, nobody to care when situations become difficult and loneliness sets in, most folks would give up and turn back. These days, with Hollywood exploiting individualism in every product they make, you'd have to build a spaceship and fly it alone to Mars for most people to have respect for the effort, but anyone who sails in a boat alone has my respect regardless. I don't think it would easy to be out there day after day, alone, looking out at an empty horizon, knowing that if it all goes wrong nobody is even going to know what happened to you. I agree a lot of the better authors seem to be gifted with understatement, but that might be the ultimate expression of conceit.

Edit - that's not to say I don't think the 1000 days guy is a little weird, or that building a boat yourself and leaving for the southern ocean isn't a bit nutty, it is weird and nutty. But what the hell, you know ? They aren't hurting anybody, and they're doing what they want to do, I can respect that. This world needs more weird people, it's getting too freaking boring lol.
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Old 05-03-2008
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There's more than a one-letter difference between the words egoistical and egotistical, but the latter seems to have smothered the former in most conversation. Sailors should be egoistical, because a strong interest in self-preservation leads to completed voyages without a death count.
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Old 05-03-2008
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There's something PT Barnum-like in the pursuit of fame and headlines seen in the typical adventurer. It's always seemed so and, for what it's worth, this class of promoter seems to be chock full of Americans. It's of use to contrast their efforts against those who often did something first only to quietly retire to obscurity. Sir Edmund Hillary and Neil Armstrong come to mind immediately. Most of the former belong in the Guiness Book of World Records, the apogee of low-brow reading, and not some longer more tedious tome that attempts to impart some level of heroism not actually found in the deed itself.

Those with any amount of sea time have long ago lost the sense of necessity for the perceived soul-clensing purification of trial by sea. Fair weather sailors the lot of them by desire.
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