Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I found a great quote recently, about the effects of natural selection on cultural evolution, using the Polynesian canoe as a model. Translated from the original French, is this quote, from the French philosopher Alain (Émile-Auguste Chartier) in 1908.

Every boat is copied from another is the sea herself who fashions the boats choosing those which function and destroying the rest.

As a selective force, the sea can indeed be very powerful. This, needless to say, is the source of much worry for seafarers, but it is also the driving force behind us, more so than the wind itself. For of what use is a voyage if it does not test us? It must test our seaworthiness, in every sense, from the craft itself to the skills and strengths of those who sail her. It tests the seaworthiness of our judgement, our knowledge, our alertness, our stamina. If we are found seaworthy, in the conditions nature throws at us, we will reach our intended shore and it will mean something to us, that we have passed a rigorous test indeed and were not destroyed.

As this is my voyage, from top to bottom, and all the building, planning, outfitting, navigating etc. are my project, then it is I alone who am being tested. Am I seaworthy? Time will tell. The first Manatee ran into a few flaws, and they were fixed with no real harm done, until the last one. But by then I had already deemed the boat unfit for such a voyage as I had planned, so the loss was small. And more was learned by that simple shipwrecking, than was lost to me in the event. The second Manatee will be all the better-built for it, and I will be better prepared for the next failure, whatever it may be.

Still, whatever events I may plan for, I am sure the sea will be throwing up new ones at me, even unto the day I arrive at my destination, after months of sailing. And more complicated than one finds aboard any ordinary sailboat, is the fact that this boat and I must be able to land on the beach, time after time. The deep blue sea has dangers enough, but any sailor will tell you the most dangerous place in the whole ocean of the world, is the place where it collides with the land: an unstoppable force meeting an immoveable object.

So will the Manatee II and I be seaworthy and shoreworthy? Time and tide will tell.


  1. Anonymous7:28 p.m.

    Happy New Year! We hope that you and your "ship" are safe and sound during your journeys.

    Love to you from the North Bay Kellys


  2. Anonymous2:03 p.m.

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