Tuesday, February 13, 2024


In My Seafaring Circle, the Most Storied Name

is ... Harvey Schwartz.  By trade Mr. Schwartz was a litigator, and a good one.  (I hired him on one occasion to represent a work colleague who was burdened with a frivolous lawsuit, and he handled the job with skill and high humor.)

For a while Harvey had a big sloop at our yacht club, then he had a catamaran that he had named "Trial."  When a client bugged him in the summer to set up a meeting, he would say "I can't do it that week; I'm on Trial."  He was our Borscht Belt Horatio Hornblower.

Harvey was very friendly with the man who edited Wooden Boat magazine, which is published up in coastal Maine, which is to say "Downeast."  (The prevailing winds in summer blow from the southwest, so the coast of Maine is downhill, or downwind, from the more populated parts of New England.)  The editor would hand the keys to the magazine to Harvey for a month in the summer.  It was a barter arrangement; Harvey was paid nothing in cash, but he was given a slick sloop to live aboard and to sail for the duration.

After he retired from the practice of law, Harvey decamped to Paris, where he bought a big barge to live on, echoing in my mind, I guess, the celebrated old French film "L'Atalante."

I heard nothing of him for years.  But just a couple of weeks ago, he surfaced as a recommended Facebook friend, looking in his photo every bit the octogenarian that he is.  

Having pushed the virtual button, I was regaled this week with Harvey's fulfillment of a long-held dream -- to cross the Drake Passage from Tierra del Fuego to Antarctica.

Of course it's high summer in Antarctica.  But at latitude 60 degs S, there is no landmass to break up the prevailing westerlies that Melville and Richard Dana wrote about way back when. On this passage, on a stout cruise ship, the waves were 45 feet and the winds gusted to 47 knots.  Virtually no one ate.  Few had the stomach for it, and those who did went flying across the floor juggling plates as if they were vaudevillians.

Harvey says that it was worth it.  Nothing in his decades of nature travel prepared him for the abundance of life on the edge of the continent.  Donning rubber boots to wade through penguin guano is not a Disney experience, just the experience of a lifetime to hear Harvey tell it.

One of the most beautiful of the 12-metre boats that competed during the heyday of the America's Cup was called "Intrepid."  One of the lumbering ships-of-the-line in Nelson's Navy was called "Indefatigable."  Harvey, in his 80's, remains intrepid and indefatigable.  I, whose default mode at a younger but still advanced age is "listless and listing," bow down to him once more.

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