Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sailing by Ash Breeze...

I love this saying. Sailing by Ash Breeze.

It sounds so peaceful, doesn't it? Sounds so romantic. But it's not. Not at all.

This term was first introduced to the kids and I when we read "Carry on Mr. Bowditch." It is the story of Nathaniel Bowditch who lived around the time of the American Revolution. He was apprenticed (indentured for nine years!) to a ship's chandlery, "where he kept books and sold marlinspikes, belaying pins, and hemp rope" (p. 66). He eventually became a navigator and captain.

This was in the days of ocean travel and trade, when ships were powered by sails. I guess you have probably heard of being "becalmed" which is a single word for "the wind isn't blowing and we are not going anywhere."

..."When a ship is becalmed - the wind died down - she can't move - sometimes the sailors break out their oars. They'll row a boat ahead of the ship and tow her....Oars are made of ash - white ash. So - when you get ahead by your own get-up-and-get - that's when you 'sail by ash breeze'." (p. 48) Sailing by ash breeze is really hard work--moving a ship by shear muscle and grit. The stuff sailing men were made of in those days!

It doesn't sound so peaceful and romantic now, does it?

I think a lot of life is like this. We think marriage and raising kids and managing a house will be fairly easy. I mean, if we are competent people we should be able to do it all. Right? But, sometimes it is just plain hard work. We are sailing along, everything is going fine, and then we are "becalmed" by hardships of one type of another, and now we need pure muscle and grit to get our job done.

I love this quote from Carry on Mr. Bowditch. Sam says, "Bah! Only a weakling gives up when he's becalmed! A strong man sails by ash breeze!" (p. 47)

You can do it! Whether you have just had a new baby, or an illness, or your income has changed for the worse, or you have to move, or you are having discipline issues with a child--you can do it. You can sail by ash breeze--I think we have all had to do it from time to time.

The sailing is over, the work begins.

Let me know if I can help or encourage you in any way. I have sailed by ash breeze many times in my life--it makes me appreciate the days when I can raise the sails and just sit back a bit and let the wind do the work.

Take care,

[As a note, Nat taught himself many languages, including Latin, by using a grammar, a dictionary and a New Testament. He also realized that the navigational tables of the day were wrong so he re-calculated them and wrote The Practical Navigator. It is interesting to note that a copy of Bowditch's The New American Practical Navigator is still carried on board every commissioned vessel in the United States Navy. And all this from a boy who dropped out of school at age 10!]


  1. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" [smile]. I must admit, I much prefer smooth sailing...


  2. Ahh, I think we all do Luke. But realistically, I think we all should be prepared to sail by ash breeze once in a while. :)

  3. I loved this book! And I agree, I love this saying! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jill!

  4. One of my favorite books too, and one of the best lessons from it!

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. I have read that book too, but what else in Nat's life was a long time to sail by ash breeze? that his family died or...?