Summer Dreams, Brad Van Liew, and Moitessier
May 27, 2011
In New England, the first hint is the fog and tide blowing through open windows and then revealing, at once, the sky. The wash of color drops hints of ball game hot dogs, batter-dipped clams, and a boat on the water. Your boat.
I can feel it. This will be a very big summer. The solstice still lies ahead, and look what the year has brought us already. The America’s Cup slips into San Francisco. Brad Van Liew sashays into La Rochelle with a clean sweep in the Velux 5 Oceans around the world race. And Practical Sailor opens up our archives to subscribers.
Van Liew’s sweet success got me thinking about the madness of single-handers. (Or perhaps they are the only sane ones?) And thinking about single-handers got me thinking about Bernard Moitessier, and soon enough, I was thumbing through his first, and lesser-known travelogue: “Sailing to the Reefs,” which he wrote in 1960.
In 1993, Moitessier’s boat, Tamata, was anchored a stone’s throw from our Tosca off a boatyard on the north end of Raiatea in French Polynesia. I saw him come and go on his dinghy, but we never spoke. We were kindred spirits with tired double-enders, what else was there to say?
In one of my favorite passages, Moitessier describes how the sailor’s ears are finely tuned to what’s happening aboard. As much as possible, I try to run this magazine as I would a boat, listening and responding to the fluttering sails and creaks in the hull. I've yet to hit a quiet lull, and hope I never do. It’s taken a while to get the archives open and running, but I hope you are enjoying exploring the files. We’ve got our own big summer of testing ahead, so please let me know what you’d like to see, what holes we need to plug quick and fast.
It is one of my many regrets that I did not muster the courage to do more than wave when I saw Moitessier on deck one morning, shirtless and hanging a pareu in the rigging as I rowed past in my own dinghy. Later, I learned he was busily working on his last book “Tamata and the Alliance.” He died one year later of cancer.
Summer, sadly, does not last forever. May this one be your finest yet.