Romance Of The Sea

We are approaching a new continent (for me). We are pretty confident that it exists. The GPS and radio banish much geographical doubt.

That is one way our experience differs from the earlier mariners.

In many ways though nothing has changed. We see the very same scenes that Magellan , Cook , Drake , and the Smeetons all saw. I include them all in the same group. They all had big seas and flat calms ,worrying squalls, too hot and too cold , no life and surrounded by dolphins and albatrosses.

We sometimes motor through calm patches. That is another big difference.

We can stoke the fires of anxiety by looking at Grib file weather maps and barometers and anticipate bad weather to come. They did it by looking at the clouds and the barometer. (The mercury barometer was invented in 1643). Same worries.

The sounds of the ship under sail. Ours is a clank and creak of dacron , nylon and stainless steel , not wood and hemp.

Here I think is a big difference. Cook and Magellan and their like were Experts. They spent their whole life moving vessels under sail. Who has that experience now ? It is way different in a power vessel. I still marvel looking at a 60′ seiner punching into 25 knots in the Strait of Georgia , no problem. The same thing in a sailing vessel is a big effort requiring thought and planning. Who are the experts under sail now ? Maybe a few professional racing skippers , a few high latitude charter boat operators, a few ‘amateur’ short- handed small boat sailors. But very few sailors now spend the years full time at sea under sail , with little support. Even the crews and officers of tallships spend much of their time in port , and due to legal concerns they are quite constrained. I am open to correction here. I think it is mostly a bunch of fairly inexperienced amateurs out here (myself definitely included).

There is an intense low-pressure system around 50 S , not that far south of us. But far enough. It is about the same as hearing of storm force winds off Cape Scott (Vancouver Island) while going sailing near Texada Island. The big difference is that there are no barriers here between us and 50 knot winds and 8 metre seas. Hopefully distance is enough.

As we approach the continent the wind will rise and the seas will build , from that storm to the south. We will need to be careful at the shallowing of the continental shelf , about 40 miles off Valdivia. Maybe we will stop and wait a day or two if needed.

It is all really quite romantic and at times dramatic , I think.

38 13 S 80 04 w 300miles to Valdivia

Silas Crosby , history

Well , this is painful. I had written a looong post about Silas Crosby and his story and our history. Knocked a key with my left little finger and it vanished , as far as I can see forever. It is enough to make you go to paper.

Ah well , Silas Crosby was my great grandfather and Meredith’s great great grandfather. He was born in Sand Beach , Nova Scotia near Yarmouth. Born 1845 , died 1919 age 74. He was a ship captain until age 62.
He commanded several ships. Among them were the Equator of Yarmouth , the Ardnamurchan ,a steel full rigged ship and the Ochtertyre, an iron barque.
He was employed at least for a while in the Peruvian nitrate trade, which involved not only the nitrates from the guano islands but also the mined nitrates from inland. It was a huge trade for a few years. He must have doubled the Horn several times in his trips between Europe or Nova Scotia and Peru.

His daughter Hazel Keith Crosby , my grandmother, married a hardware merchant James Leicester Stanley Hutchinson and they moved to Saskatoon. He died of Addison’s disease in 1927. Hazel moved her kids to Vancouver. My mother Clara Keith Hutchinson was the oldest child. She met my father James McKim Millar (also from Saskatchewan) at university and they produced four children.
My grandmother had a cottage built at Tsawassen Beach between the wars. We spent all our childhood summers there. My brother John is the oldest. He bought a Hamish Davidson 9′ dinghy and had an epic trip or two , especially of note is the attempt to sail from Powell River 70 miles or so up the coast to Vancouver. A breeze is a gale in a 9′ dinghy.
He left this boat on the beach at Tsawassen and at age 9 I took to the sea. The romance and appeal of sailing the sea hasn’t slackened for 45 years.

Decades went by and I return from a 3 year voyage around the South Pacific with my wife, Barbara Drew, on our Spencer 35 , Cor Leonis. We had a son , Gavin , born in Tauranga, New Zealand in 1989.
On our return to Canada we settled in the Comox Valley in 1991.
We sold the boat , bought a house , had a daughter , Susan , and started building the steel boat all in a space of 7 months. John wanted to participate in the new boat project and so signed on as partner.

So here it is, the start of a new voyage on the Silas Crosby. Named in honour of a man from the other side of the continent who sailed the seas for work. His life is mostly unchronicled. We have a few letters that he wrote home to his wife in Yarmouth. They describe a bit of his life at sea and in port , sometimes anchored off the industrial guano islands of Peru.
Two and three generations of a family live their lives and we are back at it , heading off away from our comfortable homes and families for no good reason.
We sail the seas because we can, as recreation. Everything is different with GPS and radios and dacron sails. But we still can’t outrun a gale (not on our boat anyways) and we still get the sunsets and the albatrosses and the satisfactions of a landfall. We can choose to use a sextant or not.
‘The man who would go to sea for pleasure would go to hell for a pastime’.
Maybe so. Would Silas be messing around in a little 36′ sailboat on the high seas?
I think not somehow.
Joshua Slocum was born the year before Silas Crosby near Digby , Nova Scotia , the next county from Yarmouth (I think). He was messing around in little boats in big waters sailing around the world in 1895. Silas Crosby was still sailing ships in 1895. Slocum died at sea in the Spray in 1909. Silas died in his bed after a day of gardening at home. I wonder if they ever met.[album: Crosby and Ochtertyre/]