Monday, November 13, 2006

"Messing about on boats..."

Almost every English speaker knows Kenneth Grahame's marvelous children's book The Wind in the Willows (1908). Sailors especially know it for Mole's encounter with Water Rat:

'Hullo, Mole!' said the Water Rat.

'Hullo, Rat!' said the Mole.

'Would you like to come over?' enquired the Rat presently.

'Oh, its all very well to talk,' said the Mole, rather pettishly, he being new to a river and riverside life and its ways.

The Rat said nothing, but stooped and unfastened a rope and hauled on it; then lightly stepped into a little boat which the Mole had not observed. It was painted blue outside and white within, and was just the size for two animals; and the Mole's whole heart went out to it at once, even though he did not yet fully understand its uses.

The Rat sculled smartly across and made fast. Then he held up his forepaw as the Mole stepped gingerly down. `Lean on that!' he said. `Now then, step lively!' and the Mole to his surprise and rapture found himself actually seated in the stern of a real boat.

'This has been a wonderful day!' said he, as the Rat shoved off and took to the sculls again. 'Do you know, I've never been in a boat before in all my life.'

'What?' cried the Rat, open-mouthed: 'Never been in a -- you never -- well I -- what have you been doing, then?'

'Is it so nice as all that?' asked the Mole shyly, though he was quite prepared to believe it as he leant back in his seat and surveyed the cushions, the oars, the rowlocks, and all the fascinating fittings, and felt the boat sway lightly under him.

'Nice? It's the only thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. 'Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing -- absolute nothing -- half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: 'messing -- about -- in -- boats; messing -- -- '

'Look ahead, Rat!' cried the Mole suddenly.

It was too late. The boat struck the bank full tilt. The dreamer, the joyous oarsman, lay on his back at the bottom of the boat, his heels in the air.

' -- about in boats -- or with boats,' the Rat went on composedly, picking himself up with a pleasant laugh. 'In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it. Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your destination or whether you reach somewhere else, or whether you never get anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not....'

Some time ago, I was invited to launch a new sailing blog as one of several "community bloggers" for the San Francisco Chronicle's web site The project has been underway for several months, and today at about 1:00 p.m., it is being launched. SFGate readers will see links appearing to the new community blogs feature throughout this week.

With Water Rat's words firmly in mind, my new SFGate blog "Messing about on boats..." appears under my screen name Spindrift. I'll be musing regularly about all sorts of topics related to sailing from doing it on San Francisco Bay to cruising in the Caribbean and whatever comes up in between. It's going to be great fun, and I hope you'll take a look.


Blogger Tillerman said...

Good luck on the new blog. I took a look and was going to leave you a comment but it seems you have to go through one of those annoying registration processes. Too bad. Life is too short for filling in web forms when I could be messing about on boats...

11:12 AM  
Blogger Zen said...

BIG CONGRATS, Professor!

T-man does want to be tracked...;-)

But I'll do the paparwork!

1:18 PM  

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