The Lonely Sea and the Sky

Greg Pease, "Yacht Racing Past Thomas Point Light House"

Greg Pease, “Yacht Racing Past Thomas Point Light House”

Today is the conclusion of Maryland’s Governor’s Cup Race, an overnight race that begins in Annapolis, Maryland’s second capital, and concludes in St. Mary’s City, its first. Often the most frustrating part of the race occurs at the end, when the sailors round Point Lookout, leaving the Chesapeake Bay and entering the Potomac River. For many boats, this occurs around dawn, and the wind often drops at this point, making for a drawn out last few miles to their final destination.

As they enter the St. Mary’s River, however, they often have their spinnakers at full mast and it’s a glorious sight. Since 1982, my wife has organized a church breakfast for the exhausted sailors and we listen to them reliving the journey and comparing notes. No matter how slow the journey, they are always thrilled to have taken part.

Here is one of England’s most popular poems to celebrate their journey:

Sea Fever

By John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking,
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

Although there are not many whales in the Chesapeake and August breezes don’t cut like a whetted knife, the sailors experience “the grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.” And after they exchange merry yarns, they return to their boats and enjoy a quiet sleep.

And then there’s a party.

This entry was posted in Masefield (John) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Literature is as vital to our lives as food and shelter. Stories and poems help us work through the challenges we face, from everyday irritations to loneliness, heartache, and death. Literature is meant to mix it up with life. This website explores how it does so.

    Please feel free to e-mail me [rrbates (at) smcm (dot) edu]. I would be honored to hear your thoughts and questions about literature.

  • Sign up for weekly newsletter

    Your email will not be shared or sold.
    * = required field

    powered by MailChimp!
  • Twitter Authentication data is incomplete