Bernard Moitessier Pelagic Wisdom for Celestial Loons

Inscription from the author

“I am a
citizen of the most beautiful nation on earth. A nation whose laws are harsh
yet simple, a nation that never cheats, which is immense and without borders,
where life is lived in the present. In this limitless nation, this nation of
wind, light, and peace, there is no other ruler besides the sea.”

Bernard Moitessier

            If you don’t
know anything about sailing and would like to know more you could do a lot
worse than to head to your favorite book vendor and acquire anything written by
Bernard Moitessier. I had the great fortune of studying celestial navigation
aboard his world record setting steel ketch Joshua in 1981 in Sausalito. He was a capable navigation instructor.
He spoke with a French accent. At that time I didn’t know his life story and
had no idea he’d been born in Viet
Nam. He embodied both East and West. He
looked all French to me. I knew he was a circumnavigator. I knew he had gone
alone non-stop one and three quarters time around the world aboard Joshua. I
knew right off at first sight that he was a romantic, that his life was a story
of the poet, the soul, the delicate balance between foolishness and courage.
Seeing sailing through Moitessier’s prose is to transcend the practical, the technological
and instead penetrate to a man who has found a method for speaking about the
natural wonders of the oceanic world. Yes, he can be practical. But, it is his
spirit that shines in his books. His bed aboard Joshua was lush, sizable, with
an abundance of velvet pillows and thick multiple colored quilts and goose down
comforters. It was mysterious, celebratory, it was a refuge, a place where deep
sleep could be found, spirits revived, a place where lovers could play. Joshua
was at first sight a no nonsense sea boat. Her purpose was visible even to a
novice. Here the boat and man stood, a team, a boat with a hull made of steel
and a man with a soul infused with the heart of a poet. So, as I suggested at
the outset of this essay and I emphasize at the end. Where do you go to find
out about things? Who do you trust? I would suggest that a place to begin would
be by reading some of Bernard Moitessier’s books. He will prove to be a
reliable timeless guide to the art and craft of sailing the oceans of the world
by way of the soul.

BANKRUPT HEART                                 THE SECOND NOVEL 

“He’s heading out?”
Kristine asked.

“That man loves
open water.” Jackie couldn’t manage a smile. Lenny’s leaving was just as well.
“Those close calls, the false alarms, break a girl’s heart when it turns out to
be nothing.” Jackie was pensive, she reconsidered, “It was better than that.
Must have been, when this one ended it hurt like hell, worst heartache I’ve
ever had.”

“Sometimes a man
can tear a hole right through us,” Kristine said.

“Men will do that.”
Jackie lamented. “But, I’ve never been drawn close to a man who’s not full of a
fight. I like the brawlers, someone you can argue with, I’m talking about a man
that’s trying to make something of his life.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith




Prideful Mariner and the Wooden Sloop that Could

The Joy of Painting

What is it about sailing that you don’t get? The
years I devoted to Maestro had more to do with my learning how to show up and
do something. The relationship between the sleek wooden sloop and my character
expanded me. I became a more complete sailor. I learned that I could handle a
lot of things I didn’t think I could handle. Some days I was lost. Some days I
didn’t know what to do next. Some days I’d spend the whole day doing something
I thought I was going to be done with in less than ten minutes. Hah! What I
believe happens to a sailor who repairs their own wooden boat is that the relationship
between the sailor and boat is more intimate. You come to know every plank,
every screw, every part of every inch that is the boat you sail. And then
sailing does one of the best parts of what sailing can do and that is teach us
more about ourselves, teach us about our capacity to learn. Another piece in
the puzzle is the pleasure that wooden boat is as an experience when actually
being sailed. They have their own motion, they make their own sounds. The
reality is that the whole thing is so temporary, a paint job lasts a year or
two. Everything is from the first day forward in decline and the end of a boat
is not lost from the sailor’s sight. It is the metaphysics of the boat, her
soul, her temporary visit into your life, and the certainty of her final demise
that turns the whole experience into something precious and to be cherished.
Much of this journey will come to be felt as a pain, a vivid sharp pain in your
ass. But, isn’t it always like that?

BANKRUPT HEART             THE SECOND NOVEL             

about purpose that gets a man’s juices flowing. Project like this fills a mind
with planning. There was a new project, unexpected surprises. He had seen
drawings of what his boats hull looked like, but this would be Ry’s first
opportunity to see her out of the water, to see her lines, her shape, what
condition she was in. He sat down with his yellow pad and pencil and began
making a list of the tasks he’d face, tools he’d need and the supplies to buy. Ry
began imagining that Jasmine would
soon be set loose from her dock and that her sails would be hoisted, the wind
would blow, and she would sail. It had been such a long haul. One task at a
time; and with that task now completed it was the appropriate moment to begin
to plan for the next.

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith



Total Displacement of Your Fate

Two point Five tons of fun.......

I sailed into an unexpected robust 29 knot steady wind
Saturday in San Francisco.
By October the autumn pattern has taken hold and with it lighter winds. My wife
and I sailed with another couple departing from the Sausalito Yacht Club. The
gentleman owns a Hinkley 43. It displaces 25,000 lbs according to the numbers I
looked up. Our Jeanneau

Sun Odyssey 36.2 displaces 12,500 lbs. There are a lot of
other disparities between the two boats, but lets just stick with the two
vessels total weight. What do these two numbers mean? One thing it means is
that the heavier displacement vessel, the Hinkley was built with the purpose of
sailing offshore, whereas the Jeanneau can sail offshore, but will handle and
feel begin to get pushed around when the wind and waves increase in speed and
size. For jaunts up and down the coast along California the Jeanneau is sufficient to the
task. Properly prepared the Jeanneau could be sailed offshore in the middle latitudes.
The lighter vessel will need to reduce sail area when conditions intensify, and
sooner. Depending upon the seaway it might be that the lighter vessel is more
difficult to settle down against larger swells and surface chop. The lighter
displacement vessels are attractive because they are designed to move in
lighter conditions where the heavy displacement vessels are ready to slog it
out in a blow. The heavyweight champion in the Hinkley 43 range would be the
Hans Christian weighing in at 31,500 lbs. The Island Packet and Westsail 42 all
go north of 30,000 lbs. J/133 weighs 17,500, a Baltic 42 tips the scale at
16,400… these are the boats that answer to their lighter angels…. The Beneteau,
the Jeanneau tip the scales right at 20,000 lbs. A Swan and Hanse get close to
that same displacement as the Hinkley. If you want to think about the character
of a boat a great place to begin is finding out how much the vessel weighs.
This will tell you much about what kind of sailing you will experience. Did I
mention that the A/C 45’s they’ll be racing in San Diego next month weigh 3500 lbs.? This
will tell you something about the nature of extreme sport. You don’t always
want to bring a knife to a fight sometimes you want a feather.

Bankrupt Heart                                                    The Novel

 It was almost
dark when into the channel the motor yacht Finn was piloting appeared. Her
navigation lights were illuminated. The deep throated rumble of the twin
diesel’s produced a resonant basso
profundo tone. Finn tooted the twin air powered horns announcing his

arrival and alerting other navigators to his movement. She was a sizable boat,
fifty feet long, fifteen feet wide, made of wood, displacing more than eighteen

            Philippe recognized her as soon as
heard the motor and approached the deck overlooking the channel. “Come, Finn
might need a few extra hands…”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Under the Spell of a Golden Gate Wooden sloop, Hull #18 Maestro

Baby in Cradle of the Imagination

Indian summer ignites my passions. I don’t mind a hot summer
day, don’t care for a cold winter night, but those last gasps of balm that
slather my skin as the Northern hemisphere inevitably marches toward winter
stir some deeper part of my yearnings. Because fitting out a wooden sloop is so
time intense they become objects of contemplation. Some days a single task
takes the whole of the day. You get out of a thing what you put into it. Put
your whole back into a marriage and you might just get the life partner your
heart has always dreamed of. So, like the feel of sun on my skin in October the
mere sight of a wooden sloop displaying a refurbished and seaworthy appearance
stirs some illusions I carry in my soul as I quest toward perfections that I
know do not actually exist in reality. And so against the odds a beautiful day
appears between the last storm and before the next. One repaired and soon to be
launched wooden sloop pushes back against the tyranny of all those neglected
hulls dissolving back into the primordial soup from which they arose. My mothers
love for her son was unconditional, absolute, and foundational. As Shunryu
Suzuki would say, “we must find perfection in imperfection.” Work on a wood
sloop beneath the healing beams of an Indian summer day comes close to such a


Bankrupt Heart                                               The Second Novel 

“He had to start over and walk the length of the mast one more time. Seemed by the
time he got to the other end he’d forgot he was supposed to be doing a final
inspection instead of dwelling upon his new job. It was like that for Ry. He
looked up. He turned and looked one direction and then in another direction, he
looked up into the sky, it was blue the air clear the sun warm, he looked down
into the water it was calm, reflecting the sky it was darker but blue, the
siren like high pitched scream of a woodworker cutting an edge with a router in
the distance sounded right to his ear, Palo and Javier were moving boats with
the jitney, Max had just dashed by in his straw hat with his stoic manner, the
yard was alive with one man  painting a
bottom, another man carving out a piece of rot from the hull of a wood boat in
the early stages of a major refit. The long rainy season was giving way to
warmer days. The light of the sun shined more often and longer. The late
afternoon was after a hot shower, if a man had worked to his limit became a time for
satisfaction, for a beer, with the acknowledgement that a hard day’s labor had
moved a project closer to its end.”

Bankrupt Heart Copyright © 2011 by Dana Smith


Friends Change

I Still Talk to Her, Even if She Can't Hear Me Anymore

I departed on my journey inspired by the dreams of friends I made when my soul was still younger than spring. These were big dreamers. I had scrawny dreams. They weren’t even dreams, they were practical considerations, they didn’t contain ambitions, they were solutions to anxieties. I thought I’d adjust my aim so I wouldn’t be too inconvenienced by trying to do more than the world was likely going to allow. But, really I didn’t have my sights set too high when I met my buddies from high school. I wasn’t doing anything so artistically advanced as these two powerhouses unless nothing adds up to much of anything. It is amusing what you can do with 15,000 days in your life once you decide to do something with them. I got to it. Joined the Royal Lichtenstein Circus for a spell, mounted my first production and toured the United States as the Harlequin Street Theater, went solo and worked under my god given moniker, got a dog and named the act Dana Smith and His Performing Dog Sunshine, and then she passed and got another dog a decade later named Lacey. Wore her out and retired her. I wrote plays, songs, lyrics, poems, magazine articles, eventually one and then two novels. I’ve been hard at all these years. Been married, divorced and remarried. Happy as a husband can be. I’ve got a kid in college. I’m doing shows still, trying to get my second novel sold, and plotting the next one, Hot Spring Honeymoon. I still see my friends. We talk now and then. Some come on out and sail with me. But, we’ve all changed. We all have gone our own ways. Much as I thought we’d all continue to relate to one another, that our stories would somehow continue to feed our bond we sealed in youth with our dreams I’ve come to see that has changed. We’ve all produced different results, different experiences, different obstacles to overcome or not, and eventually
by dent of time I guess it would be honest to say we are not dazzled by one another any longer. What we thought was genius, brilliant, and inspiring all those many decades ago isn’t like that so much now. We just are not fuel for each others passions any longer. Sometimes one of my old friends surprises me and I’ll walk that last comment back, but more often than not what passes for encouragement between friends isn’t much more than a mundane service being rendered by a friend struggling to relate to what new work they’ve found by circumstances into witnessing. Seems odd to my mind, but truth goes where it goes. Turns out a stranger interested in fiction makes a better reader and provides a more pertinent reaction than a long time friend who isn’t much interested in fiction and by duty is forced to encounter material they would by
any other circumstance avoid. There’s only so far any of us can go, even in the service of old dreams, and old friends, and old promises we made to ourselves. Still, doesn’t change the fact I still love those old friends, just find much of what we have in common has changed.

Bankrupt Heart                                                  The Novel

Lenny laughed, “She’s a whirling dervish, a Tasmanian devil, part coyote and a
bonafide wild ride,” Lenny paused, mood shifted, smile vanished, turned and
looked at Ry. “I’m heading north, have plans to be in the Puget Sound this
summer, Jackie’s going to need her friends, someone she can spend time with,”

            “I can understand that, look forward
to seeing her anytime,” Ry said.

            “I was talking to her few nights
ago,” Lenny was trying to explain his arrival, his behavior, “I said that I
didn’t know what was going to happen when I got here, didn’t know how I’d feel,
what reaction I was going to have.”

            Ry looked at Lenny, wanted to hear
what he thought. “What do you think?”

            “I think it isn’t what I expected.”
Lenny said. “The first time is never like the next time. Five years is a long
time to be away, things change, it’s not that she’s so different, or that I am,
just that things are, the world is.”