Mr. Pennyfeather on Yachting


THE tail end of a light southwest breeze, hardly strong enough to fill the sails, pushed us lazily along to our evening anchorage. The tide, its flood nearly spent, filled the brimming basin of the cove ahead of us, and gave us soothing promise that if the wind would continue to serve for another half hour we should be able to fetch the cove and anchor decently, without shouting and heaving, and — even more important from my friend Pennyfeather’s point of view — without having to start the auxiliary motor. He does n’t like motors, and motors know it and obey him promptly — in downright fear of the consequences, I’ve sometimes thought. His mildest epithet for them is ‘stinkpot,’ and his strongest are clad in rich purple and gold.

The setting sun turned the shore line into a bright tapestry of vivid green and black, outlining each candled twig of spruce and fir in living emerald: the armies of the coast of Maine, the patient, stubborn trees, marching eternally forward to dip their gnarled feet in the rock-bound sea. Behind us, to the south, the low blanket of fog — muffled, silent, mysterious — through which we had sailed all day moved stealthily into the wind which had blown us hither. Against its cotton-whiteness the sharp mainsail and gleaming hull of a tall racing cutter, just emerged from its folds and overhauling us rapidly in the light air, showed whiter still, as if cut out of paper.

Mr. Pennyfeather emerged from the cabin, a saucepan of unshelled peas in his hand, his head wreathed in smoke from the wood fire he had just kindled in the galley, and took his customary seat on the deck against the port rail, his back to the sun, peace and contentment in every line of his relaxed body. The boat, a small ketch, is his; I, his guest on board, was also his, though I might have been coowner for all he did to make me feel subordinate. I asked him what made the fog travel upwind the way it did; he said, in a lazy voice that was almost a whisper, that he did n’t know: something to do with the tide, was n’t it? We let it go at that. My lack of scientific curiosity is equaled only by his own. Moreover, when Pennyfeather does n’t know, he never tries to pretend he does. I have never heard him manufacture a half-baked or merely plausible explanation for an unfamiliar fact simply to be polite, or because he’s ashamed of not knowing the answer, or for any of the other common reasons. One has the impression only that he does n’t know — and does n’t mind not knowing.

He looked solid, contented, lazy, sitting there with his broad back propped against the rail, placidly shelling peas. The day had suited him. We had n’t had to hurry. A leisurely beat out through the Thoroughfare, the satisfaction (despite the fog) of picking up all the marks on the nose as we reached across the ledge-studded bay; and now the prospect of a decently conducted ending, with a fire in the galley and a good supper to be cooked and eaten at our leisure. The big white sloop was catching us fast, slipping along at a rate that would get her in while we were still off the little round island at the cove’s mouth.

‘Trim that mainsail a hair, Pennyfeather,’ I suggested. ‘See if we can’t beat her in.’ The main sheet was belayed at his elbow.

He took his pipe from his mouth and squinted down the funnel of smoke expelled from pursed lips, and otherwise moved no muscle.

‘Why?’ he muttered, after a pause that lasted so long I thought he had n’t heard me. ‘What for?’

The mainsail was hanging almost slack, hardly pulling an ounce. I considered the question. ‘I don’t know. Why not? To see if we could, that’s all.’

Pennyfeather wagged his head. ‘If you want to go about beating boats — ’ He stopped, as if the effort of completing his thought were too much for him. ‘You belong in Marblehead; plenty racing there. Why do you want to beat her in ? ’

‘I suppose I want to get the best I can out of her,’ I replied, ‘and —’

‘ Of course,’ he interrupted with more animation. ‘Naturally. But you don’t need another boat for that. Use your imagination. People who always want to beat someone else are people without imagination. There’s that boat, here’s this one. You see her overhauling us, and your first thought is to beat her. Why? It’s childish. Why beat any boat, anywhere? We have nothing in common with that cutter except that we’re both headed in the same direction. Yet that accidental and wholly irrelevant fact is enough to make you want to stir up your emotions by making a competition of it. Blasphemous! Are you capable of feeling the essence of the moment? This moment? Yes. You are. That’s why you’re on board. I don’t take everyone cruising. Yet you speak of beating that boat.’ He smiled at me. ‘Very careless of you,’ he said, flinging a handful of peas overboard and carefully placing the pods in the saucepan.

‘Careless!’ I pointed a finger at the pods.

‘Oh yes, a human failing, I know.’ He got to his feet. ‘The important thing is feeding the stove.’ He went below, taking the shelled peas with him. I heard the rattle of coal, the clank of iron, and presently the wood-perfumed smoke from the stovepipe turned acrid and stank. Pennyfeather’s head came up the hatch, and he stayed there, his elbows resting on the top step.

The cutter had caught us. Now she was almost abeam, to windward. I could see the blue-uniformed sailing master at the wheel, two white-clad sailors on the foredeck, busy with the spinnaker. Behind a canvas screen amidships I observed four passengers, young people by their looks: two men, two girls, smartly turned out in ‘yachting costumes,’ playing cards at a table, too absorbed to glance at the lovely composition of sea and shore and sun round them, or even at the tubby little ketch wallowing slowly along — already behind them, so swiftly did the cutter glide by.

Pennyfeather turned his head to follow the vision as long as it remained in his sight. Then he closed his eyes and sighed gently. ‘There are folks,’ he observed, ‘who never ought to be allowed near salt water. Do you know who said that?’ I shook my head. ‘Conrad,’ he said, and disappeared down the hatch.

The cutter had anchored, her sails were furled and covered, and her launch was riding to its boom by the time we drifted in past her, to an anchorage near the north end of the cove, and farther away from the landing float pertaining to a large white summer cottage on the eastern point. We had only just way enough to turn into the wind. I went forward and dropped the hcadsails, let go the anchor. When she started to settle back I gave her more scope, then went aft and dropped the mizzen, and furled and stopped it, waiting in laziness for Pennyfeather to come on deck and give me a hand with the heavy main.

The sun was cut in half by the purple hills of the back country by the time I’d finished. The wind had wholly died; yet between us and the vividly green shore —— artificially green, like a lawn under a searchlight — the silver surface of the water seemed to flow like a rippling river current, stationary though I knew it to be. I leaned against the shrouds, watching, sniffing the sharp, clean scent of salt and fir, mesmerized by the clear light and its clear beauty. And as I gazed the sun sank, the sea turned steel-black, and the shore to dull olive and gray, dead, like the ashes of an old fire. Three gulls swung slowly by, low over the water, cruel eyes alert, yellow feet tucked up against snowy tail feathers, headed for some chilly ledge along the shore. The syrupy electric voice of a radio sounded from the cutter, a shrill laugh, and a catcall. I shivered, suddenly chilly, and called to Pennyfeather to give me a hand on the main.

The cork buoys of a herring net wound like a snake from shore to shore across the surface of the cove. As we furled the mainsail, the four young people of the cutter got into the launch held by a waiting sailor, and started for the landing float. The seine was obviously in their course — but that didn’t faze them. We heard and saw it all: the launch slowing up, stopping; one of the men complaining loudly that the so-and-so fishermen had no right to block the cove; the other calling out with a laugh, ‘Wait a minute, Harry! I’ll fix ’em!’ Then we saw him pick up a bight of the net, cut it with a knife, throw the ends aside, and the launch continue on its course.

I have seldom seen Pennyfeather so angry. When he had simmered down enough to speak, he did so, and it was a treat to hear. It did him good; for finally he laughed, ruefully. ‘No,’ he said, ‘the fishermen had no right to net off the cove. But would n’t you think those muckers would show a little decency? Yachters! If anything ever turns me bright red, it’s a thing like that. Set the riding light. Let’s get supper.’


Mr. Pennyfeather is a pretty good cook. I say ‘pretty good’ because, although he likes cooking, and brings to it the necessary care and patience, his dishes sometimes turn out to be something less than masterpieces. His attitude toward the art is hopeful, and a little apologetic; he approaches the stove with a certain humility. Yet he seldom makes excuses for his failures, as well he might, considering that the stove draws feebly when the vessel is on the starboard tack, and like a blast furnace on the port; and that the coal, picked up here and there along the coast by the bagful, may vary in consistency between slate and powder. Such a state is not conducive to well-regulated cookery.

To-night, he said, we’d better have the stew warmed up, green peas, corn bread, and rhubarb for dessert. This pleased me, because stew always improves on the second go, and his corn bread (over which he exhibits a positively bride-like anxiety) is nothing short of elegant — sometimes. Deep furrows scar the Pennyfeather brow as soon as the pan goes into the oven, and stay there through the series of furtive glances by which he checks its state of health during its brief imprisonment. I tell him he must n’t open the oven so often, that corn bread does n’t like Peeping Toms. He says he knows that, and can’t help it; but behind his helplessness, we both know, is the sad fact that he fully trusts neither the chemistry of heat nor his own hand for cooking.

His last moments at the stove before serving are anxious and a little frantic: he’s never quite sure of his timing. Thus he looks like a xylophone artist playing ‘Kitten on the Keys,’ with his last-minute stirrings and dippings and pepper-and-saltings. To-night, however, the results were good. The stew was thick, the peas sweet and tender, and the corn bread, as he drew it steaming from the oven and placed it on the table, a crisp golden-brown. The furrows vanished from his brow and reappeared on each side of a broad smile of triumph. ‘Hot dog!’ said Mr. Pennyfeather. ‘Let’s eat!’

We sat late in the cabin, — hunger satisfied, minds and bodies fatigued but not tired, skin burning with the sting of the sun fog, — and enjoyed the peace that comes only with the seclusion of a longshore cruise. Pennyfeather had put out the rum and water after we ’d washed the dishes, and lit his pipe, and now lay stretched out on the starboard bunk. The little cabin felt very warm and snug; bright where the overhead lamp shone down on the table, dimly shadowed elsewhere. Now and then, as the cutter’s launch passed on its frequent trips to and from the shore, the boat rocked gently, with a slap of rigging and a faint groaning of blocks, and a whispered curse from Pennyfeather: the eaglets were gathering on board the cutter. From my position, leaning back against the forward end of my bunk, too contented to speak, and conscious of the delicious drowsiness of the rum creeping up through my head, I could see one great cold star blazing down through the open hatch.

Pennyfeather is a good man to cruise with. He does his share of the work with smooth competence, and lets you alone to do yours in your own fashion. He has the rare ability to watch a man doing a job in an inefficient manner without giving way to the impulse to correct him. He does n’t talk too much — by which I mean he does n’t talk without provocation. He likes conversation, of course; but his feeling for the appropriateness of sympathetic silence is instinctive. He does n’t gabble, or tell anecdotes merely because he thinks you may not have heard them; he seldom hums, or whistles, or fidgets. He never lets confusion get the upper hand. Only once have I heard him raise his voice in alarm, and on that occasion his sudden shout to the man at the wheel saved the boat from certain collision with another vessel groping blind, like ourselves, through a foggy night offshore. He hates to be hurried. Frenzied seamanship, like sloppy seamanship, annoys him.

He himself is a wholly competent seaman. He has what might be called the professional point of view, in so far as the professional point of view can be transmuted into that of the amateur. Cruising suits his temperament: the isolation; the dependence on self; the challenge, never offered twice on the same terms, to get the best he can out of his boat — which he properly regards as a tool whose effective use depends on his own care, forethought, knowledge, resourcefulness, and judgment. He likes the way of life, with its constant necessary work in a sane environment, and the sense it gives of being master, even on make-believe terms, of his own destiny. He knows that his welfare depends on his own efforts alone, knows that a man in a boat may never relax and say to himself, ‘Now I am safe’; and he confirms it by quoting Conrad’s assertion that ‘a seaman laboring under an undue sense of security becomes at once worth hardly half his salt.’

Pennyfeather demands this security less for his own sake than for that of his vessel; he insists on it, and prepares for it, because it is one of the attributes of good seamanship to be always prepared for an emergency and to know how to meet it when it arrives. Everything works in a boat of Pennyfeather’s, even the loathed motor. He carries the usual aids to navigation: charts, tide tables, Coast Pilot, barometer, chronometer, lead and line, patent log and foghorn, and so forth; but, unlike many men I have cruised with, he can put his hand on them at need, and he knows he’ll find them in working order. He’s gone on rocks plenty of times — but always, so to speak, with his eyes open, in the course of exploring out-of-the-way creeks and coves, which he likes to do. He has never yet gone on by mistake, any more than on purpose. He ships a motor as he does a fire extinguisher, the one for convenience, the other for emergency; but he uses his motor only for the purpose of bucking a head tide, clearing a crowded anchorage or a lee shore, or, for comfort’s sake, getting into an easeful anchorage on a rough night. Of course, given a motor, he says, a man would be a fool not to use it when necessary or convenient.

On this particular evening he could n’t seem to get the cutter out of his head, and it led us to talk about the different types of cruising men we knew. ‘I really don’t know why they go to sea, people like that,’ he said. ‘Maybe because owning a yacht feeds their vanity or gives them a standing with their friends. There’s a lot of ’em like that. They generally buy their boat off the shelf and let the paid crew handle her, while they play cards, just as they do at home. Maybe they enjoy the illusion of going places — though of course they don’t go places, really, for all they get out of it. One anchorage is as good as another. If they had telephones they’d be perfectly happy; and they’ll have them, too, before long. Keep in touch with the market, call people up for a cocktail, make a fourth at bridge. In fact they try to make sea life resemble shore life as closely as possible, even to traveling under power instead of sail most of the time.

‘You know Guy Ritter? Now he’s one of the romantic tribe. A good sailor, too. But he loves to quote sea poetry, and beat his chest and let the wind whistle through his hair, and “go where the wind listeth,” which is silly. A good seaman uses the wind and sea to the best of his ability to get where he wants to go. Guy takes a sort of fatalistic delight in making his boat a football for the elements. He’s never so happy as when he’s put himself in actual danger, all on account of his incorrigible romanticism. He’s making believe, all the time: pretending he’s a clipper-ship master, when he knows full well that the captains of those vessels — the finest seamen in the finest ships the sea has ever known — took risks only when risks successfully taken meant better profits. Romantic self-deception, like Guy’s, is not one of the attributes of good seamanship. He’s a fool for speed, too; takes pride in keeping the lee rail under even when the boat would sail better if eased. Men seem to carry their temperaments to sea with them.’

‘They do,’ I agreed. ‘I once spent three days with a crowd whose idea of cruising was to visit every golf course on the coast of Maine. We ate out of tin cans and off paper plates. The cabin was a welter of golf clubs and gin bottles. It was bad. Fun, too, in its way. But —’

‘All temperament, I know,’ Pennyfeather interrupted. ‘ I never did trust the kind of story in which a man’s nature is transformed by the sea — purified or brutalized. Nothing changes men’s natures, from birth to death. Did you ever cruise with Palmer Royce? He’s another type. He lays down an iron-clad schedule before he starts, and sticks to it come hell or high water: so many miles each day, such-and-such a cove each night, get up early or stay out late to make it good. If he runs behind schedule he gets nervous and gives everyone else on board the fidgets too. He only breaks it when he thinks he can make a record day’s run and so get ahead of it, — why do people want to break records? — and then, no matter how good the wind or how well the boat is doing, he’s all for shifting canvas, starting the motor, thinking up trick rigs and setting sail on the bowsprit or the Charlie Noble or the lee rail — anywhere! One day he made us all lie flat on the foredeck for an hour, on a reach, to see if the trim would help her speed. Damn nuisance. I told him so, too, when we got in. He was simply astonished!’

Pennyfeather was well warmed up. I tilted the rum. ‘Thanks, just a drop,’ he said. ‘Yes, there are all kinds. Slobs like this crowd in the cutter — I bet that paid crew have a hell of a time of it! And the opposite variety, so afraid of their crews that they never leave the mooring for fear of wetting their brasses or spoiling their paint. When one of that kind does go out he navigates his vessel like an ocean liner, never moving off the direct line between buoys, never at ease unless he knows he’s got forty fathom of water under his keel. Tim Barr’s like that: I was with him once. He was below working out courses; I had the wheel, and was making a leg inshore to fetch a buoy on the next hitch. I got in a mite close — bold shore, plenty of water; I knew it like my own bathtub. He came on deck, and looked, and — you know, he screamed, literally screamed! It was awful.’ Pennyfeather shook his head and laughed.

‘ Reminds me of the two kids I met at Castine last summer,’ I said. ‘They lay next to us, in a little sloop with grass on her bottom a yard long. We’d watched them coming in, at high water, sailing right over a flock of ledges. We asked ’em aboard. Well, it seems they’d sailed clear from Plymouth with nothing but the back of a railroad timetable for a chart. They wanted to know what all the red and black sticks in the water were for. Spar buoys, we told them. They said, “Oh.” We gave them spare charts, and showed them how to use a parallel rule, and I don’t believe they had any fun the rest of the trip, they were that scared, seeing what they’d come through. Shove the water over. Thanks.’


We discussed the racing crowd, too. Pennyfeather does n’t care for organized racing himself, though he has respect for those who do — or for some of them — and readily admits that there’s no better way to learn boat handling. ‘But the real trouble with racing,’ he said, ‘is its effect on certain individuals. Racing seems to render some men unworthy of their own boats. They are n’t so much interested in racing — or even in sailing — as they are in winning. Competition is bad for some natures. I know men — so do you — who never look at their boats, never even sail in them, except to race. The paid hands prepare the boat, tune it, mother it, serve it. The owner steps on board in time to get out to the starting line; after the race he tosses the reins to the groom and forgets his boat till it’s time to race again. He treats his lovely and faithful creature as he would a tennis racket. Such a man is unworthy of his boat; and such a man, incidentally, wins fewer races than his more devoted competitor — except perhaps for the most important leg of all: the race to the Committee boat, after crossing the finish line, to lodge his protests.’

Mr. Pennyfeather reached up to the shelf behind his bunk and brought down his familiar blue-covered copy of The Mirror of the Sea. He turned at once to the place he wanted. ‘Listen: “I would say that the yacht-racing skipper who thought of nothing but the glory of winning would never attain to any eminence of reputation. The genuine masters of their craft have thought of nothing but of doing their very best by the vessels under their charge. To forget oneself, to surrender all personal feeling in the service of that fine art, is the only way for a seaman to the faithful discharge of his trust.”

‘And that is my only objection to yacht racing as a sport — or, as Conrad calls it, as a fine art: the thing it does to so many of the participants. Unless they are men of firm character, the competitive element dissolves their sense of proportion, and often, eventually, destroys their human integrity as well. For rules in yacht racing are not regulations indicating practices to be avoided. They have come rather to be thought of in the light of aids, rewarding the man who is more clever than his opponent in interpreting and taking advantage of their ambiguities. To an upright man of simple honor the slickness required for successful racing is obviously despicable. Rules are not restraints applicable to all contestants alike, but handicaps which have the effect of penalizing not only the lazy, the sloppy, and the less shrewd, but also the men of greater natural simplicity and generosity. I understand that in the big races certain owners go so far as to ship a special rule-book expert with the afterguard, a sea lawyer whose function it is to advise the master as to how far he may go in shaving the rules. And at the post-race hearings before the Committee — which appear to be an accepted corollary to all the big races — this fellow also acts as an expert witness for the defense. The Committee members are thus forced into the rôle of nautical G-men, to be outwitted if possible, and subsequently blamed for failure to get their man. Boats are debased by shenanigans like that, or would be if they were susceptible of corruption. As it is, only their masters are debased, which is perhaps of minor importance.

‘Listen to this, now.’ He turned to The Mirror again. ‘You know the way Conrad continually emphasizes the friendliness of ships, as he keeps harping on the unworthiness of men, and the enmity of the sea? Every line he wrote proclaimed the beauty, the fidelity, of that most beautiful and faithful creation of man — the sailing vessel. Here it is: “Of all the living creatures upon sea or land, it is ships alone that cannot be taken in by barren pretenses, that will not put up with bad art from their masters.”

‘And that’s quite true, you know, just as true as what he says about the sea’s eternal bitterness. Nobody honestly loves the sea — it’s not capable of awakening love. The seashore, yes; swimming, rowing, sailing, and the other pastimes connected with water — not forgetting the universal temptation to write about it in juicy verse or prose. But the sea itself, never! Anybody who sails long enough comes to regard the sea as a sly, mighty, and never-to-be-trusted enemy, feared as a brave man fears any worthy foe: with respect, and with confidence in his own ability, aided by his ship, to withstand its relentless, treacherous assault.’


Pennyfeather closed the book and lay back in his bunk, his expression solemn. It is not often that he lets himself go, and I wondered what had caused it this time. The rum? No. Rum and Conrad? Well, perhaps — following his earlier and quickly conquered rage at our neighbors. Rum does liberate thought, as it also releases the ego from its self-conscious fetters. (Therefore rum is to be praised.) But in this case the net cutting had set the key of his sombre mood, and the rum had merely performed its usual office of intensifying a temper otherwise evoked. Mr. Pennyfeather never gets drunk by accident, any more than he runs on rocks by accident. When he does, on occasion, get drunk, he does so unafraid and deliberately, in the belief (whether well or ill founded I know not) that the exaltation of drink has a mysterious cleansing quality, easing the strain on a spirit perturbed by the pricks and goads of existence. Not that he was in the least drunk on this occasion; but his spirit and his tongue were both somewhat liberated, and this I welcomed.

He had apparently done with yacht racing for the evening. He lay back, eyes half closed, the fact that he was still awake indicated only by the slow contraction of his lips as he pulled at his pipe. I picked up The Mirror of the Sea and turned to the essay entitled ‘Emblems of Hope,’ in which Conrad speaks of the function and meaning of anchors, and in which also he says his say about those who misuse nautical language. ‘ Your journalist,’ he wrote, ‘whether he takes charge of a ship or a fleet, almost invariably “casts” his anchor. Now, an anchor is never cast, and to take a liberty with technical language is a crime against the clearness, precision, and beauty of perfected speech.’ As I read, I had a mental image of a sort of nautical cowboy standing on the foredeck of a ship and whirling an anchor round his head like a lasso before casting it out on the water.

And I thought too of the type of sea chronicle which is invariably written with a lumbering waggishness, as if there were something intrinsically comic in, say, the figure of an elderly mariner, to whom the reporter, in the course of his dissertation on matters unfamiliar to him, always refers as ‘Cap’n.’ Now, nobody has ever said ‘cap’n’ for ‘captain’; the t is always faintly sounded; and if the word is used colloquially it should be so written: ‘capt’n.’ Another common irritant, much used by show-offs, is to write such words as ‘gunwale, forecastle, tackle, sheave,’ as they are generally pronounced: ‘gunnel, fo’c’sle, taikle, shiv.’ The scribes are usually fifty per cent lucky with the points of the compass: they are likely to use ‘ nor’west ’ and ‘ sou’west ’ correctly, and then make the mistake, as they go east, of employing the same system, when everyone qualified to use such colloquialisms knows that ‘no’theast’ and ‘s’utheast’ (with the th hard in both cases) are the common pronunciations.

Many a time have Pennyfeather and I together deplored such sloppiness, and grieved that even so careful a writer as Kipling should go wrong, as he occasionally does in Captains Courageous. As Pennyfeather says, everything on board a ship has its own proper name; a spade is a spade, and is used — or was — for cutting blubber. The vocabulary of the sea is the result of generations of use; it is precise, workmanlike, and unambiguous to the initiated. In addition to the purely technical terms, there are hundreds of simple English words in the dictionary which have one meaning on shore and another at sea, — words like ‘trim, heel, sheet, warp, hand, bend, trip, stem, pin, port,’ to name a few, — any of which may betray the writing lubber, and make him guilty of ‘a crime against perfected speech.’


Pennyfeather presently came partly to life, as I was reflecting on these matters, and asked me if I ’d ever thought about the number of yachts and yacht clubs there were in the land of the free. I said no, I had n’t. He replied that he, on the contrary, had; and had furthermore looked into the question and was in a position to give me the facts if I wanted them, or not if I did n’t. I told him that I did n’t care one way or the other, and that I’d certainly forget them at once in any case, as I forgot most facts and all figures. All I knew was that sometimes there seemed to be too much of everything in the world, including yachts, and everyone seemed to think that if his town had more of a thing than the next, it was therefore a better town. And this I questioned.

He sat up. ‘I’m going to tell you, anyhow. Lloyd’s Register of American Yachts lists about 5700 vessels by name in United States, Canadian, and adjacent waters. There are presumably the same number of owners, more or less. There are some 650 yacht clubs, including a good many which have no right to the name — canoe, power-boat, and outboard racing associations, for example.’

‘What of it?’ I said.

‘This,’ he replied. ‘More than half of these 5700 yachts are owned and sailed in the most crowded and difficult sailing grounds in the country — that is, the small area between New York and the Canadian border: the area of most fog, strongest tides and currents, most numerous ledges and sand bars, and winds as strong and variable as anywhere in the middle latitudes. There must be some connection other than the obvious one that here also are found harbors and shelters in great number. About 2200 yachts are registered in the districts adjacent to Long Island Sound: New York, Long Island, Connecticut, Rhode Island. Nearly a thousand more are owned north of Cape Cod, in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. (Of course there are hundreds of little power-craft and sailboats which are n’t even registered.) The remaining 2500-odd hail from the West Coast, the Gulf, the inland lakes and rivers, Canada, and the Atlantic coast south of New York — I should say west of New York: I once heard an old Maine lobsterman speak of a Florida hurricane as a “ bad storm to the west’rd.”

‘The clubs are proportionately distributed; and they include some honeys, too, — you know, the old-fashioned verandah type, built round a barroom, a couple of ancient catboats, and a fleet of queer-looking power-craft, a cross between a houseboat and a boathouse, and used for Sunday-afternoon drowning parties. They include dozens of children’s racing clubs, and of course the big ones, like the Eastern and the New York. Also the Cruising Club of America, whose members are undoubtedly the most competent amateur seamen in the country, — they can’t become members till they’ve proved it, — and also, in their point of view toward the sport, the most civilized.

‘Strange how quickly shipping has disappeared from the coast of Maine. To-day the sea is nearly empty except for those who use it for their pleasure: for making believe in a nursery — an old and dangerous nursery, it is true, full of traps and perils for the unwary, but now a place for make-believe, nevertheless. Most of us feel a certain sadness over this change. We like to recall the old days of sail, when every little port from Boston to Eastport had its shipyard; when every town turned its face to the sea and lived simply in proud self-sufficiency on its commerce with the whole wide world; when the coastwise traffic in goods and passengers was carried not by the turnpikes but by the sea thoroughfares.’ Pennyfeather took another book from the shelf behind him, and turned to the back. ‘In this book —

‘What is it?’ I asked.

‘It’s called Sailing Days on the Old Penobscot,’ he answered. ‘By George S. Wasson and Lincoln Colcord. Wasson died only a few years ago — a great old man. He was a painter, till his eyes began to fail. It was then he took up writing—or so I’ve been told. He wrote Home from the Sea, and Captain Simeon’s Store, and The Green Shay. All out of print now, but still the most authentic Maine stories ever written, though old-fashioned in some respects. He wrote this Sailing Days before it should be too late, and Lincoln Colcord compiled the appendix, from old customhouse and other records: a list of some 2500 vessels — pinks, sloops, schooners, barks, brigs, ships — built during the last century in twenty-five Penobscot Bay towns. He says that the roster is far from complete, at that. And this area was not by any means New England’s most noted shipbuilding district. Look at some of these names: Rippling Wave, Seaman’s Brule, Starlight, Rose in Bloom, Sparkling Sea. Nice, eh? Most of them were named after men and women — some queer ones, too. Imagine calling a ship Sam, or John; and here’s the Jew, a brig, one hundred and eighty-seven feet over all, built in Brewer, in 1822. And how about Dr. Kane, and Wealthy Pendleton, and Reverend Salvation JohnMurray, a Deer Isle pink built in 1840?

‘Here are some others I marked — queerer than the names they give to race horses, some of them: Improvement, Experiment, Syntax, Deposit, Rail Road, Dime, Temperance, Maine Law, Science. And here’s one called ThinksI-To-Myself, a schooner burned by the British at Castine, in 1814.

‘ But romance has n’t gone from the sea. It could n’t: it was never on the sea, but only in men’s hearts, which change little enough through the ages. True, maritime Maine’s chief commodity — summer folks — is considerably less savory than the India goods, China silks and tea, the ivory and peacocks of the old days; and true also that the substitution of steam and gasoline for wind as a motive power has taken from seafaring its fine quality of art — it is less a matter of love, as Conrad says. To-day the sea carries yachtsmen, and the working boats and few remaining coasters carry what they and the summer people need: coal, wood, oil, gasoline. A few battered little steamers, locally owned, still ply between the mainland and the outer islands, and they are almost the last vestige of the fleets of sail and steam packets that used to connect every little town on the coast of Maine with every other.

‘It’s a miracle, in a way, that the down-Easters have retained their pride of character as they have, considering the extent to which they have been forced into dependence on summer people for a living. Yet their Yankee reserve, their uncommunicativeness, their self-reliance, even their stiff, gruff, ungracious manner, have survived with little deterioration — as an outward sign, perhaps, that their inward independence is merely lying fallow, waiting for better times. Another thing they have never lost is their deep and inarticulate affection for their way of life, and for the severe beauty of their stubborn coast. A man I know, who worked as boatman for some summer people, and who after years of service lost his job when they lost their money, took his fix not only philosophically but with a certain grim humor. He admitted he was having a hard time to make both ends meet; “but,” he said, “long’s the tide comes in twice a day I guess we don’t need to starve.” Of course he has his vegetable garden and his fruit trees, same as all the natives. They put things up for the winter. The depression has been just as hard on them as on everyone else. But you don’t hear them yelling about it so much. And the best of them have found that in their natures which resents outside patronage: they’d rather be pinched than obliged. The character is still there, though cash is lacking, and economic opportunity, for the moment anyway, seems to be restricted to the summer trade.

‘People who live by the sea set their lives by its pulse. And the tide is regular. It breeds patience; it never changes. As long as this is so, the down-East character, in its fundamentals, will be a thing to count on. I’d a lot rather depend on any one of them than on these rich stiffs in the cutter, so help me!’

Mr. Pennyfeather laughed, and stood up. He drew a glass of water and unhooked his toothbrush from the rack by the cabin steps. ‘Guess it’s about time to turn in,’ he said, and went on deck to brush his teeth. When he came down again he was smiling to himself, a little sheepishly, I thought.

‘What’s up?’ I asked.

He rubbed his eyes, and yawned. ‘I had a strong impulse on deck just now,’ he said, ‘to slip over in the dinghy and cut the cable on that cutter — see how they like it, eh? But of course a boat that size would anchor to a chain, damn ’em!’