Monday, November 17, 2008

Studs Terkel Memorial Sailing Supper

For those of you who read this and aren't in the know, there's a sailor in the blogging community who is very fun to read and quite knowledgeable about the subject of making your boat float in the wind, despite his protestations to the contrary. Occasionally, he puts out a call to his blogging compatriots to respond on topic.

This post of mine today is in response to Monsieur Homme de Talle's request for proposals detailing who they'd most like to have a supper with from the sailing world. Knowing how limited our imaginations are, the man at the tiller offers us loose restrictions and this time he said our subjects could be dead, alive, real, fictional, as long as we were inspired to detail our reasons for wanting to spend some time with the sailors we choose.

Who would I most want to invite over to my house for dinner from the sailing world? I immediately thought of the characters who've most sparked the romance in me for the sea, travel in general, and exotic locations in particular. Sadly, just about the time of the Tillerman's call to action, Studs Terkel passed away, which, although not a conscious choice of mine, is the general direction I wanted to go with this one; to write something similar to what the man of the people would have chosen.

If you haven't read anything by Studs so far, seek something out and I guarantee you'll find a couple of the gems in the rough he's able to unearth in his man-on-the-street interviewing, researching, and reportage. Similar to Howard Zinn, writer of The People's History of the United States, Studs pursues the story from the other end of the spectrum that's heavily weighted toward the 'great man' bias.

So, who are my men of the people? Away we go and in no particular order.

Denton Moore, who wrote Gentlemen Never Sail to Weather, is a guy I get the impression would be a good companion for an evening supper. All I know of him comes from his book, which I found to be a page-turner. He's honest about the mistakes he makes and his own shortcomings as a captain, especially in regards to a couple of crew he takes on for different passages. I'd recommend it to anyone doing a circumnavigation, with the caveat that I haven't done one. He gives great detail about all of the places they spend time and I thoroughly enjoyed his adventures in Costa Rica, New Zealand, Tahiti, and across the Indian Ocean. He and his wife set out to retire in the Caribbean on a boat and become almost accidental circumnavigators.

Keith Broussard who I went to high school with in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was a military brat, so found myself in spots all over the country. This one place was a quite a contrast to my California roots. Keith was one of nine kids, third from the back of the line, and fifth out of six boys. His older brothers owned the Little Flower, a Biloxi-rigged shrimp trawler and they took me in like one of the family. I had a lot of exposure to the ocean, boats, and fishing and those guys are at the core of it. Would be good to have some seafood gumbo with an old friend.

Robb White, probably most well-known for Up Periscope, was the guy who I read at that 8-12 y/o highly impressionable age. I still love his novel Secret Sea, despite some colloquial and vernacular challenges, when he gets going about boats and sailing and warm tropic harbors, I get swept away.

Richard McKenna, the author of The Sand Pebbles, great movie with Steve McQueen and an even better book. McKenna's written descriptions of the operation and maintenance of the reciprocating steam engine onboard the San Pablo are the most beaufitul poetry. This is a man who obviously found joy and salvation in the feeling of competence he developed operating steam plants onboard Navy ships for his 30-year career. He writes only the way a boy who escaped to sea from Sand Point, Idaho could. I'd like to thank him for the words that helped me get through some long months of 6x6 watchstanding as I did my own stint for Uncle Sam.

Liz Clark, who truly sails like a girl onboard Swell, I'm very much enamored of her writing and doubly so of her photography. I've seen more incredible shots of simple scenes in her work than in any collection I've ever viewed. I willingly admit the photo attraction for me may simply be the subject matter of the equatorial Pacific illustrated by surfing locations I've always dreamed about, mixed with the context I bring knowing the shots are taken by this solo sailor exploring places and cultures I love, but you have to admit she has an eye for beauty in what are seemingly mundane daily moments. Her words are a wonderful companion; tales told with an open eye, full of hope, but feet flat on deck, too.

And of course the Tillerman. For the reason that most who participate in this little corner of the interwebs, this ostensibly-sailing related blog-posting-commenting community seem to be turning in a widening gyre with the little Laser closest to the center. It would be nice to meet you, my friend.

Pardon my sincerity. Back to the snarkiness, post haste.

1 comment:

Greg and Kris said...

Thor Heyerdahl! Of course I'd like to meet that guy, too. I read Kon Tiki as a kid and loved it. I think I must have spent way too much time reading books and dreaming of far-flung adventure. No. Actually, I don't think there is such a thing as too much of that kind of stuff. There may too much time spent playing video games, however...