Saturday, December 10, 2011

"A half-step up, with the massive break-timber overhead, and into the ship's main cabin. Eight more bunks ranged around. Ten tons of fresh water tanked beneath the floor. Books and books and books -- some five hundred volumes in all. Books of the sea and books of the land, some of them streaked with salt, collected with love and care over more than twenty-five years.
Melville, Conrad, London, Stevenson; Gauguin and Loti and Rupert Brooke; Lubbock, Masefield, De Hartog -- Slocum and Rockwell Kent; Trelawney and Cook and Bligh; Chapelle and Underhill -- Nansen, Frobisher, Villiers and Scott and Louis Becke. Homer, Geribault, and Tompkins. Hundreds more: all cast in a common mold -- blessed with the genius that makes men feel, and dream, and go.
And a special section of books that deal with the greatest frontier of all -- the relationship between men: Marx and Whitman, Thoreau and Henry George, Victor Hugo, Thomas Paine and Jefferson. Lincoln and Emerson, Rousseau, Voltaire and Upton Sinclair, Shaw, Byron, Mark Twain, Roosevelt, Garrison, Jack London again and Shakespeare.
Five hundred books, distillate of distant seas, of a hundred thousand night watches. Of despair and agonies and conviction. Standing by this night, peering out from recessed shelves onto the inert and blanketed forms of seven young men and women come together -- haphazardly perhaps -- yet drawn as though by magic to the soft and urgent promise of the windship's lonely world. . .
. . . Storm sails and trade wind sails; mooring lines; hardwood, softwood, brass and galvanized rod. A bale of tarred oakum at rest by a barrel of pitch, and the tanned hide of a cow. All sorted and lashed in place. The rudderpost encased in a brute of a boxlike shaft.
Poised this night: seven children and thirteen adults; ten tons of water, six tons of fuel; a four-month supply of food; three hundred charts -- within the trussed shell of the last merchant-built windjammer to fly the American flag (museum ships excepted). Primed and able to go.
So near, yet so far -- three miles to the Golden Gate; fifteen miles to the inshore boundary of the high seas; six hundred miles to the realm of the northeast trade; four hundred and eighty miles to the rancid Mecca corner of Hollywood and Vine.
The stilled form of a wanderer, somewhat asleep in his bunk. Pillow swept in a locked embrace -- lamp turned low on the wall -- empty sheepskin coat above dank and hollow boots. Over his head a telltale compass peering down with dry card inverted -- older than the ship, brassbound, incorruptible, absolute.
How does she head this night? North by east it is.
What is her port of hail? San Francisco.
And where is she bound? Nowhere.
So they say."
-- Wanderer by Sterling Hayden


ernest said...

One of my favourite books ever! The best Hollywood autobiography ever.

Cerpts said...

15 chapters in and I'm finding it the most incredibly calming affect on these turbulent seas.