Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wanderer by Sterling Hayden

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen who play with their boats at sea... "cruising" it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about. 
"I've always wanted to sail to the south seas, but I can't afford it." What these men can't afford is not to go. They are enmeshed in the cancerous discipline of "security." And in the worship of security we fling our lives beneath the wheels of routine - and before we know it our lives are gone. 
What does a man need - really need? A few pounds of food each day, heat and shelter, six feet to lie down in - and some form of working activity that will yield a sense of accomplishment. That's all - in the material sense, and we know it. But we are brainwashed by our economic system until we end up in a tomb beneath a pyramid of time payments, mortgages, preposterous gadgetry, playthings that divert our attention for the sheer idiocy of the charade.
The years thunder by, The dreams of youth grow dim where they lie caked in dust on the shelves of patience. Before we know it, the tomb is sealed. 
Where, then, lies the answer? In choice. Which shall it be: bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?
― Sterling Hayden, Wanderer

That quote is from the first few pages of Hayden's autobiography. That quote is classic. Seen it several times over the past years during my adventure travel reading or nomadic wandering.

As a movie star who "…photographs well and is able to handle dialogue…", Sterling Hayden made lots of money to live the good life. His real love was the open sea aboard a boat. From an early age, boats of all kinds were his fascination and sailing became his obsession. Starting sailing as a teenager and eventually a captain, he sailed the oceans from New England to Tahiti and beyond more than once before becoming the movie star.

From childhood to his adulthood, he traces his life of constant movement. Throughout the book, Hayden inserts many of his life time experiences of sailing adventures, the boats, the seaports, the old sailors, as well as the art of sailing.

Wanderer was written as autobiography and a travel log of his illegal trip to Tahiti from San Francisco. In the middle of an ugly divorce, Hayden took his four children -- against court orders -- and other sailing friends to Tahiti to pursue a wandering drive. He couldn't explain the reason. From the words of this book, a psychologist might be able theorize why he had this desire to sail the oceans.

Once in Tahiti for several months, the author fears that this life may not be the best for his children. He also seems to mature some to the point of giving in to society "norms" -- and the movie career that made good money. He weighs anchor and returns to the US a wiser man to face the inevitable legal problems of broken contracts and defying court orders.

If you are looking for an adventure tale and have a love of sailing on the open water, Hayden's Wanderer is your book.

My experience with sailing… When on a vacation in Australia in 1998, I spent a week on a Windjammer with sleeping space for ten. I will never forget the experience of sailing almost directly into the fifteen knot wind with salt spray pealing over the bow. (The photo.) That was when the captain thought we might be able to get another half knot if something were done to the sails. Got way to technical for me. Amazing that we were able to sail almost directly into the wind. An experience to remember.


  1. Who's that guy with all the hair?

  2. Enjoyed your post. Very interesting.

  3. Jesus said the same thing 2000 years ago when He said to live to for today. He also said not to worry about eating or what clothing to wear. It's a hard concept to embrace when the car needs repairing or the air conditioner is out.

  4. "...bankruptcy of purse or bankruptcy of life?" How so poignantly put...

  5. Glenn, Been wondering the same thing. :-)

    Thanks for all the comments.


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