Archive for the ‘In their own words – Nautical quotations’ Category

E.B. White

Monday, November 21st, 2011

If a man is to be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most.

I must say I puzzled over the connection between sailing and the man who edited and updated William Strunk’s well-known American handbook of grammar, The Elements of Style. Some of you, however, may be more familiar with White’s children’s books, Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, both now made into films.

I believe the connection was through his son, Joel White, a naval architect and boat builder.

Elwyn Brooks White was born in 1899 graduated from Cornell University in 1923 after completing his military service. In 1929 he married Katharine Angell, literary editor at The New Yorker, who had got him a job at the magazine in 1927, just two years after it was founded. He remained a contributor for the next 60 years.

In 1978 he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize: A Special Award and Citation – Letters: “For his letters, essays and the full body his work.”

White died on 1 October 1985 from Alzheimer’s disease, a sad fate for a writer.

Pete Culler

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

To be successful at sea we must keep things simple.

Captain R. D. ‘Pete’ Culler was an American naval architect. He designed a wide range of vessels, as the contents of John Burke’s book, Peter Culler’s Boats: The Complete Design Catalog show:
* Round -Bilged Open Craft for Sail and Oar
* Vee-and Flat-Bottomed Open Boats for Sail and Oar
* Power, Inboard and Outboard
* Cutters, Sloops, Yawls
* Ketches
* Schooners

Pete Culler also wrote about his design work in Skiffs and Schooners and Boats, Oars and Rowing. These two books were combined by John Burke into Pete Culler on Wooden Boats: The Master Craftsman’s Collected Teachings on Boat Design, Building, Repair, and Use.

R. Tucker Thompson, designed by Pete Culler

R. Tucker Thompson (photo courtesy Miso Beno)


Culler also wrote The Spray: Building and Sailing a Replica of Joshua Slocum’s Famous Vessel.

One of the schooners designed by Culler is the R. Tucker Thompson, a traditional gaff-rigged schooner owned and operated by the R. Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust. She (it seems odd to call a ship a ‘she’ when it carries a male name, says Annie!) carries passengers for day sails and longer voyages, taking in New Zealand’s beautiful Bay of Islands.

A sad ending

Culler also designed several schooners for the Concordia Company of Massachusetts. Sadly, one, an 83 tonner named the John F. Leavitt, sank on her maiden voyage. She was built for Ned Ackerman and launched in 1979 – the first wind-powered cargo vessel built in the USA for 40 years. 97 ft long, with a shallow draft of just six and a half feet, she was designed to carry 6,441 sq ft of sail.

Fully laden with lumber and canning chemicals, the John F. Leavitt set sail for Haiti. During a heavy winter three-day gale near the Gulf Stream the cargo broke free and damaged the hull. She sank on 29 December 1979 and, fortunately, her crew were all rescued by helicopter.

Among the crew of nine was Jon Craig Cloutier, a filmmaker who had recorded the progress of the ship’s building over four years. He was lucky to rescue from the foundering vessel 3,600 ft of film taken of the voyage although was unable to save another US$50,000 worth of camera equipment that was on board. In 1981 he released a film, Coaster: The Adventures of the John F. Leavitt. It had been edited from over 100,000 ft of film into a 90 minute documentary feature.

The ship was planned as the first of three and wholly financed by Ned Ackerman. She was valued at US$350,000. Her loss was the end of the project.

You can read more about the John F. Leavitt in a Time magazine article from Sept 1979, In Maine: A Bold Launching into the Past and a report of the rescue.

In their own words: Charles Landery

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Catherine Zimney*, who lamented not having an astronomy professor aboard to name the stars for her, would appreciate today’s quotation. A star chart is a pretty satisfactory alternative. And it’s cheap and doesn’t eat much!

The pleasures of being becalmed became threadbare; there is a limit to untutored star gazing.

Charles Landery was an American who served in the Royal Navy in WWII wrote a number of books, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1940), So What? A Young Man’s Odyssey (1940) and Whistling for a Wind (1952). The latter is an account of his post-war travels from England to Rhodes in the Greek Islands aboard his tramp sailor, Bessie.

*See the post “We’d be better prepared”.

E.E. Cummings

Friday, August 5th, 2011

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)
It’s always our self we find in the sea.

American poet Edward Estlin Cummings (1894 – 1962) was more commonly known as e. e. cummings (think of k.d. lang today). As well as writing nearly 3,000 poems, Cummings was also an author, painter and playwright. At the time of his death, he was second to Robert Frost in popularity as a poet.

I keep returning to his couplet and thinking about the truth of his words.

Howard Van Lieu Bloomfield

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Cruising has two pleasures. One is to go out in wider waters from a sheltered place. The other is to go into a sheltered place from wider waters.

Howard Van Lieu Bloomfield was born in 1900, graduated from Harvard in 1922 and died in 1998. His career was in journalism and he wrote several books including Sailing to the Sun (1946), Last Cruise of the Nightwatch (1956) and The Compact History of the United States Coast Guard (1966).

In the 1930s, when editor of the pulp magazine Adventure (published from 1910-1968) he was quoted as saying:

A good writer is never paid what he is worth.

And isn’t that the truth!