The Surly Bonds

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds,-and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air….
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark nor ever eagle flew-
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God

High Flight by poet and
Royal Canadian Air Force fighter pilot John Gillespie Magee Jr.

As “we” (Hazel, Rhett and I) prepare for our departure to the Bahamas this afternoon, I feel the stomach churn and the old feelings return.

Although I might appear outwardly adventuresome (as I might appear outwardly extroverted), taking that last step off the dock before a long voyage—which is the first step onto the boat—is difficult. Thinking about our embarkation, my trepidation and the “surly bonds” that hold me back, reminded me of this poem that is now the official poem of the Canadian Royal Air Force and the Royal Air Force (U.K.) It also must be recited from memory by forth class cadets at the United States Air Force Academy. Although Rhett’s late-father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, she didn’t know the poem and it was wonderful to introduce her to it.

Our weather window looks good to depart this afternoon, sail through the night and arrive in West End, Grand Bahama in the morning. It’s about a 60 nautical mile sail and should be a beautiful night with 15-20 knot winds from the south, veering to the southwest and west through the night. The sun will set off our stern and moon will rise off our bow at about 9:00 PM.

We’ll keep you posted as to our progress. In the meantime, our new satellite communications system provides us with a real-time tracking page of our location. The page defaults to a wind map view (the “Map” button), by clicking on the “Satellite” button, our position will probably be a bit clearer. Also, the “+” and “-” buttons in the lower left of the screen seem to work best for zooming in and out. If you go on the site today (Sunday, January 31), before we depart, you’ll see our track from our shakedown sail the other day. Over time, I’ll add micro-blog comments to the track. This tracking only works when our satellite communications system is powered up so don’t panic if we appear to disappear “off the grid” from time to time.

We christened and launched Lil’ Dinghy the other day! She rowed like the proud vessel she is and we’re looking forward to our first sail with her in the Bahamas.

Lil’ Dinghy’s two halves bolted together and awaiting first launch.
Just before launch, offering libations and prayers to King Neptune and his court (sparkling grape juice of course).
She floats! If you look closely, you can see the vertical seam between her bow section and stern section.
Back on deck after the maiden voyage with bow section nested inside of the stern section.

Finally, if you’re wondering about Rhett’s numerous and significant contributions to our voyage preparations. Here’s a “before and after” comparison of Hazel’s saloon. “Before” is from when I was sailing by myself last year. “After” was taken yesterday evening when we left Hazel at the dock.


Fair winds and following seas, and we’ll talk to you on the other side.

8 thoughts on “The Surly Bonds

  1. Thank you Dan. I’m sure I have heard parts of “High Flight” quoted before, but I don’t remember reading the whole thing. What a wonderful and inspiring thought. I don’t know if you’re aware, but John Gillespie McGee wrote this poem at age 19 and shortly there after was killed in a collision over England in 1941.

  2. The saloon looks great! But what did Rhett do with that large piece of equipment on the left?? I hope you didn’t need that… 😉

    1. Very observant Craig! That large piece of equipment was a solid fuel heater (burned charcoal, etc.). I know hazel has some Maine history so probably makes sense up there. I never used it and pulled it out to reclaim the space.

      Similarly, she had a water heater in her and I pulled that out to make room for the water maker.

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