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December 2003
Dear Friends

Since, for the past two months, we have been secured to shore, living in the floating house we described in our last letter, we have little news to share with you. We have added three new dates and locations to our seminar tour schedule; we have enjoyed the amenities of this lovely town. We have had some great parties with old and new friends.
But rather than go into that, we would like to send along a gift, something we wrote specially for you to share with friends in front of a roaring fire, holiday cheer in hand, as the winter winds blow.

Have a wonderful holiday season and Happy New Year.

Lin and Larry

Notice
One more location has been added to Lin and Larry's winter seminar schedule. The Texas Mariners Cruising Association will be presenting their evening slide show in Kemah, Texas March 6th. The next day, American Sailing Association will present their all day seminar in Clearlake, Texas. For reservation information or to find a seminar location closer to your home, click here.

Sea Stories

Rain beats against the deck. Wind howls in the rigging. Laughter drowns these sounds most of the time. But between the joking, the clatter of knives and forks as ten of us share a cruisers pot luck on board Sina, the creak of mooring lines, the slap of restless seas against a tightly restrained hull remind us of the lateness of the season.

Six couples fresh from voyages through the islands of Patagonia are sharing this feast. Each of us glad to be in the island protected security of Puerto Montt, 1000 miles from Cape Horn at the northern end of the Chilean canals. We welcome the excuse to get away from our own cabins as for the past six days the storm has raged to keep us from our goals. Three couples are bound north; three are trying to get boats ready for a winter in the south. Now we have gathered on board the 53-foot kauri ketch Noel and Litara Barrott lovingly hand built and sailed from New Zealand to Iceland and around the bottom of South America through the Beagle Canal. The wood-burning stove takes the damp and chill from the air, oil lamps glow. Stomachs full of food, the laughter stills and for a few minutes we all listen as the wind crescendos, then dies away and another lashing of rain pommels the decks. Litara, with her natural Samoan warmth, says "I want to read you my favorite sailing story." She grabs a well-worn book from the shelf. Trekka Around the World falls open naturally to the page she has read aloud many times before. Roars of laughter fill the air as we listen to John Guzzwell describing Miles and Beryl Smeetons' attempt to bring their heavy ketch Tzu Hang, up to a mooring at the Royal Akarana Yacht Club in downtown Auckland New Zealand with the commodore and half the club members watching. Of course the engine fails, Miles ends up in the water, Beryl keeps them out of the worst trouble and both some how manage to keep their British Aplomb.

"Reminds me of the best sailing story I ever read," says another replete sailor, citing a chapter from one of Irving Johnson's amazing adventures. I listen and laugh and finally when I note a lull in the rain, I climb over the tangle of feet, slide the hatch open and feel only a light drizzle. I dash down the marina dock to where Taleisin tugs at six mooring lines. Down below I grab my reading glasses, thumb through my file box and wrap my treasure in plastic for the dash back to the intoxicating camaraderie on board Sina. During the next pause in the round of stories I ask, "mind if I read the finest sea story ever written?" Noel charges everyone's wine glasses. I watch contentedly as these friends, who, a short while before had been only names, adjust their bodies into comfortable positions. Then I begin "For over a week of strong westerly gales we had kept the open sea, steering to the north as best the wind allowed. A lull had come a break in the furious succession, though still the sea ran high..."

The howl of wind above decks is the perfect accompaniment as I read of a brave Captains fight to bring his ship clear of the rocks of western Ireland. Written by David Bone over one hundred years ago the story feels highly relevant to each of us who had witnessed the fury of the Pacific beating on the rock bound lee shore we'd just sailed past. Ten minutes later I read the last lines... "And, high above the tumult of the waters and the loud, glad cries of us, the hoarse, choking voice of the man who had backed his ship."

"Done it, ye bitch!" -- and now a trembling hand at his old gray head. "Done it! Weathered -- by Goad!"

Each person around me seems lost in thought when I finish. Slowly conversation rekindles itself, almost like a candle flickering back to life. "Lessons to be learned from that" Noel comments quietly. Yes, I think, and lessons to be learned by evenings like this. A good story never dates, nor do good adventures spiced by the realization that like the good captain in the story, only by going to sea and taking risks, can we say "Done it! Weathered by God" then appreciate just how good it feels to reach a safe haven and savor the end of another voyage.


I have kept the original spellings and punctuation style, including the Welsh and Scottish terms used by the author as I think this is part of the charm of the following story.

T' Wind'ard
Captain David Bone(1874 -1954)
(From The Brassbounder published in l898)

For over a week of strong westerly gales we had kept the open sea, steering to the north as best the wind allowed. A lull had come-a break in the furious succession, though still the sea ran high-and the Old man, in part satisfied that he had made his northing, put the helm up and squared away for the land. In this he was largely prompted by the coasting pilot (sick of a long unprofitable passage-on a 'lump-sum' basis), who confidently asked to be shown but one speck of Irish land, and, "I'll tell 'oo the road t' dub-lin Capt'in!"

Moderately clear at first, but thickening later, as we closed the land, it was not the weather for running in on a dangerous coast, ill-lighted and unmarked, but, had we waited for clear weather, we might have marked time to the westward until the roses came; the wind was fair, we were over-long on our voyage; sheet and brace and wind in squared sail thrummed a homeward song for us as we came in from the west.

At close of a day of keen sailing , the outposts of the Irish coast, bleak, barren, inhospitable, lay under our lee-a few bold rocks, around and above wreathed in sea-mist, and the never-dying Atlantic swell breaking heavily at base.

"Iss, indeed, Capt'in! The Stags! The Stags of Broad-haven I teel 'oo," said the pilot, scanning through his glasses with an easy assurance. "indeed to goodness, it iss the best landfall I haf ever seen, Capt'in!"

Though pleased with his navigation, the Old Man kept his head. "Aye, aye," he said. "The Stags, eh? Well, we'll haul up t' th' wind anyway-t' make sure!" He gave the order, and went below to his charts.

Rolling heavily, broad to the sea and swell, we lay awhile. There was no sign of the weather clearing, no lift in the grey mist that hung dense over the rugged coast-line. On deck again, the Old Man stared long and earnestly at the rocky islets, seeking a further guidemark. In the waning daylight they were fast losing shape and colour. Only the breaking sea, white and sightly, marked them bold in the grey mist-laden breath of the Atlantic. "Present themselves, consisting of four high rocky islets of from two thirty-three to three ought-six feet in height, an' steep-to" he said, reading from a book of sailing directions. "Damme! I can only see three." To the pilot, "D'ye know the Stags well, Mister? Are ye sure of ye're ground?"

"Wel, wel! Indeed, Capt'in" Mr. Williams laughed. "I know the Stags, yes! Ass well ass I know Car-narvon! The Stags of broad-haven, I tell 'oo. When I wass master of the Ann Pritchard of Beaumaris, it wass always to the west of Ireland we would be going'. Summer and winter, three years, I teel 'oo, before I came to pilotin', an' there iss not many places between the Hull and Missen Head that I haf nor seen in daylight an' dark. It iss the Stags, indeed! East South-east now, Capt'in, an' a fine run to Sligo Bar!"

Still unassured, the Old Man turned his glasses on the rocky group. "One-two-three-perhaps that is the fourth just open to the south-ard" - they certainly tallied with the description in the book - "high, steep-to." A cast of the lead brought no decision. Forty-seven! He might be ten miles north and south by that and former soundings. It was rapidly growing dark, the wind freshening. If he did not set course by the rocks-Stags they seemed to be-he would lose all benefit of landfall-would spend another week or more to the westward waiting for a rare slant on this coast of mist and foul weather! Already eighteen days from Falmouth! The chance of running in was tempting! Hesitating, uncertain, he took a step or two up and down the poop, halting at turns to stare anxiously at the rocks, in the wind's eye, at the great Atlantic combers welling up and lifting the barque to leeward at every rise. On the skylight sat Mr. Williams, smiling and clucking in his beard that "he did not know the Stags, indeed!"

"We haul off, Pilot," said stout Old Jock, coming at a decision. "If it had been daylight…perhaps…but I'm for takin' no risks. They may be th' Stgs, belike they are, but I'm no going oan in weather like this! We'll stand out t' th' norrard-'mainyards forward, "Mister'-till daylight onyway!"

Sulkily we hauled the yards forward and trimmed sail, leaving the rocks to fade under curtain of advancing night, our high hopes of making port dismissed. The "navigators" amoung us were loud of their growling as the ship lurched and wallowed in the trough of the sea, the decks waist-high with a wash of icey water-a change from the steadiness and comfort of a running ship.

Night fell black dark. The moon not risen to set a boundary to sea and sky; no play of high light on the waste of heaving water; naught but the inky ridges, rolling out of the west, that, lifting giddily to crest, sent us reeling into the windless trough. On the poop the Old Man and pilot tramped fore and aft, talking together of landfalls and coasting affairs. As they came and went, snatches of their talk were borne to us, the watch on deck-sheltering from the weather at the break. The Old Man's "Aye, ayes," and "Goad, man's", and the voluble welsheman's "Iss, indeed, Capt'in," and "I tell'oo's". The Pilot was laying off a former course of action. """Mister Williams," he said, "I can see that 'oo knows th'coast," he said, "an"…I oo'dn't go in myself," he said; "but if 'oo are sure---'"

"Brea-kers a-head!" - a stunning period to his tale, came in a long shout, a scream almost, from the look-out!"

Both sprang to the lee rigging, handing their eyes to shield the wind and spray. Faint as yet against the somber monotone of sea and sky, a long line of breaking water leapt to their gaze, then vanished, as the staggering barque drove to the trough; again-again;there could be no doubt. Breakers! On a lee shore!!

"Mawdredd an'l! O Christ! The Stags, Capt'in…MY God! My God!" Wholly unmanned, muttering in welsh and English, Mr Williams ran to the compass to take bearings.

Old Jock came out of the rigging. Then, in a steady voice, more ominous than a string of oaths, "Luff! Down helm m'lad, an' keep er close!" And to the Pilot, "Well? What d'ye make of it, Mister?"

"Stags, capt'in! Diwedd i! That I should be mistake…The others…God knows!...If it iss the stags, Capt'in…the passage t' th' suth'ard…I know it….we can run…if it iss the Stags, Capt'in!"

"An' if it's no' th' Stags! M'Goad! Hoo many Stags d'ye know, Mister? No! No! We'll keep th' sea, if she can weather thae rocks…and if she canna!" A mute gesture-then passionately, "T'hell wi' you an yer bloody Stags; I back ma ship against a worthless pilot! All hands, there, Mister-mains'll an' togalan's'l oan her! Up, ye hounds' up, if ye look fur dry berryin'!"

All hands! No need for a call! "Breakers ahead" the words that sent us racing to the yards, to out knife and whip at the gaskets that held our saving power in leash. Quickly done, the great mainsail blew out, thrashing furiously till steadied by tack and sheet. Then topgal'n'sail, the spars buckling to overstrain;staysail, spanker - never was canvas crowded on a ship at such a pace; a mighty fear at our hearts that only frenzied action could allay.

Shuddering, she lay down to it, the lee rail entirely awash, the decks canted at a fearsome angle; then righted - a swift, vicious lurch, and her head sweeping wildly to windward till checked by the heaving helmsman. The wind that we had thought moderate when running before it how held at half a gale. To that she might have stood Weatherly, but the great western swell - spawn of uncounted gales - was matched against her, rolling up to check the windward snatches and sending her reeling to leeward in a smother of foam and broken water.

A gallant fight! At the weather gangway stood Old Jock, legs apart and sturdy, talking to his ship.

"Stand, good spars," he would say, casting longing eyes aloft. Or, patting the taffrail with his great sailor hands, "Up tae it, ye bitch! Up!! Up!!!" as, rasing her head, streaming in cascade from a sail-pressed plunge, she turned to meet the next great wall of water that set against her. "She'll stand it, Mister," to the mate at his side. "She'll stand it, an' the head gear holds. If she starts that!" - he turned his palms out - "if she starts th' head gear, Mister!"

"They'll hold, Sir!...good gear," answered the Mate, hugging himself at the thought of the new landyards, the stout Europe gammon lashings, he had rove off when the boom was rigged. Now was the time when Sanny Armstrong's spars would be put to the test. The relic of the ill-fated Glenisla now a shapely topgallant mast, was bending like a whip! "Good iron," he shouted as the backstays twanged a high note of utmost stress.

Struggling across the heaving deck, the Pilot joined the group. Brokenly, shouting down the wind, "She'll never do it, Capt'in! I tell 'oo!...An' th' tide…try th'south passage…Stags, sure!...See them fair now!...Th' south passage, Capt'in…It iss some years, indeed but I know. Diwedd an'l! Shel'll never weather it, Capt'in!"

"Aye…and weather it…an' the gear holds! Goad, man! Are ye sailor enough t'know what'll happen if Ah start a brace, wi' this press o' sail oan her? T" wind'ard…she goes. Ne'er failed me yet" - a mute caress of the stout taffrail, a slap of his great hand. "Into it, ye bitch! T' wind'ard! T wind'ard!"

Staggering, taking the shock and onset of the relentless seas, but ever turning the haughty face of her anew to seek the wind, she stuggled on, nearing the cruel rocks and their curtain of hurtling breakers. Timely, the moon rose, herself invisible, but shedding a diffused light in the east, showing the high summits of the rocks, upreared above the blinding spindrift. A low moaning boom broke on our strained ears, turning to the hoarse roar of tortured waters as we drew on.

"How does 't bear noo, M'Kellar? Is she makin' oan't?" shouted the Old Man.

The second mate, at the binnacle, sighted across the wildly swinging compass card. "No' sure, Sir…th' caird swingin'…think there's hauf a p'int…Hauf a p'int, onyway!"

"Half a pint!" A great comber upreared and struck a deep resounding blow - "That for yeer half a point" - as her head swung wildly off - off till the stout spanker, the windward driver, straining at the stern sheets, drove her anew to a seaward course.

Nearer, but a mile off, the rocks plain in a shaft of breaking moonlight.

"How now,M'Kellar?"

"Nae change, Sir!...'bout east, nor'east…deefecult…the caird swingin'"

The Old man left his post and struggled to the binnacle. "East, nor'east…east o' that, mebbe," he muttered. Then to Dutchy at the weather helm, "Full, m'lad! Keep 'er full an' nae mair!...Goad man! Steer as ye never steered…th' wind's yer mairk…D'na shake her!"

Grasping the binnacle to steady himself against the wild lurches of the staggering hull, the Old Man stared steadily aloft, unheeding of the roar and crash of the breakers, now loud over all - eyes only for the straining canvas and standing spars above him.

"She's drawin' ahead, Sir," shouted M'Kellar, tense, excited. "East, b'nor…an' fast!"

The Old Man raised a warning heand to the steersman. "Nae Higher! Nae higher! Goad man! Dinna let 'r gripe!"

Dread suspense! Would she clear? A narrow lane of open water lay clear of the bow - broadening as we sped on.

"Nae higher! Nae higher! Aff! Aff! Up hellum, up!" His voice a scream the Old Man turned to bear a frantic heave on the spokes.

Obedient to the helm and the Mate's ready hand at the driver sheets, she flew off, free of the wind and sea - tearing past the towering rocks, a cable's length to leeward. Shock upon shock, the great Atlantic sea broke and shattered and fell back from the scarred granite face of the outmost Stag; a seething maelstrom of tortured waters, roaring, crashing, shrilling into the deep, jagged fissures - a shriek of Furies bereft. And, high above the tumult of the waters and the loud, glad cries of us, the hoarse, choking voice of the man who had backed his ship.

"Done it, ye bitch!" - and now a trembling hand at his old grey head. "Done it! Weathered - by Goad!"



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