Ships In The Harbour


John Steinbeck's Truck With Camper Back in Steinbeck Museum

I was listening to Dave Hollis’s latest podcast episode and he was reading from his upcoming book Built Through Courage. In it, and in much of his work lately, he builds off of the quote

A ship in a harbour is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

John Shedd

Hollis goes on to talk about why he does, and we should, take chances and risk failure because that’s what life is about. If you never get out of bed you won’t trip, but you also won’t go anywhere (my line, not his).

I was reminded from a story in one of my favourite books Travels With Charlie by John Steinbeck, which is about a trip he took around the U.S. in his camper truck he had dubbed Rocinante with his standard poodle Charley as his companion. Early in the book he tells the story of saving his boat the Fayre Eleyne when Hurricane Donna came up the Eastern Seaboard in 1960, and slammed into where he lived in Sag Harbor, New York, right before he set out on his trip. While Steinbeck said that it looked like his boat was doing fine at its place at the pier, there were other boats that were tied together and to the pier and as Donna came in, they smashed into each other.

But the two lashed boats dragged anchor, swarmed down on Fayre Eleyne, and bracketed her. She was dragged fighting and protesting downwind and forced against a neighbouring pier, and we could hear her hull crying against the oaken piles. The wind registered over ninety-five miles now.

John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley

Steinbeck went down to the pier in an effort to save his boat, which he did by pulling up her anchor and getting her away from the piers.

I agree with sentiment of Shedd’s quote, and we should get out of bed and risk tripping for the chance to experience life. But the story about the Fayre Eleyne is important to remember. It’s not always safe for a boat to stay in the harbour. Sometimes that is the bigger risk. Sometimes, the best thing we can do and the safest thing we can do are the same thing.

Featured image is of John Steinbeck’s truck with camper back at the National Steinbeck Center, Salinas, California. Photo courtesy of Wayne Hsieh under a CC-BY-NC license.

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