“It was a day to make your heart glad. It was a clear day, a sunny day, a day of brightness and splendour. The sun was glorious in the sky. The sky was of a blue unspeakable. We were tearing along a splendour of sea that made you sing. Far as one could see there was the water shining and shaking. Blue it was, and of a dazzling brilliance in the sun. It rose up in hills and in ridges. It smashed into foam and roared. It towered up again and toppled. It mounted and shook in a rhythm, in a tune, in a music. One could have flung one’s body to it as a sacrifice. One longed to be in it, to be a part of it, to be beaten and banged by it. It was a wonder and a glory and a terror. It was a triumph, it was royal, to see such beauty.”
I didn’t write those words, though I wish I had. That honor goes to the great British poet John Masefield, recalling that of all his days at sea, this one stood out “above nearly all my days, as a day of joy.” Surely everyone who has sailed offshore has experienced that same elevation of the spirit, an upwelling of the life force, or whatever you choose to call it; you’d have to be dead inside not to.
We sailors are blessed, for we can also find our days of joy closer to home. “The sweetest, prettiest morning that God’s sun ever shone on. The air so cool and fresh, the sunshine so bright and warm. The river narrow and bordered either by big overhanging trees or wide, sweeping meadows freshly green. Mile after mile as through an English land in June. We entered the Delaware and Chesapeake canal where it was still more beautiful with the Scotch broom a glorious yellow and all the other flowers nodding from the banks. The canal itself taking reflection of the mass of foliage was an indescribably, translucent green and all the world was wonderful.”
That’s Henry Plummer, from his 1912 cruise in a catboat as described in the classic The Boy, Me, and the Cat. Truly, there’s a poet inside every sailor, though perhaps we should be grateful that it remains concealed in most of us—except perhaps in appreciation of the joy of being alive on a perfect sailing day, a day to make your heart glad.
Photo by Andrew Sims