The origin of Messing About In Sailboats

  • The original quote is from Kenneth Grahame's Wind In the Willows: "There is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats."

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January 06, 2011



Twain was wrong. I am very disappointed by some of the things I did do, and hardly give a thought to the trillion things I didn't do.

For example, it doesn't bother me at all that I never learned Urdu, never married by first cousin, and never learned how to spell Connecticut.

On the other hand I am intensely disappointed that I did break my gooseneck while leading a race, did break my trailer spring heading to a regatta, and did capsize so many times at last year's Masters Worlds.

The only way to avoid disappointment is to stay at home with a glass of Scotch and read Moby Dick.


A land lubber might regret being on the water even when things go well but a sailor yearns for the water, the waves, and even the disappointment. "Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit."
- Brooks Atkinson
I too await spring and will undoubtedly be on the water a good month or two before I should.


It is better to be lost at sea than found on the couch.


Actually I think Twain's words are good advice for looking forward. Clearly it's better to do stuff than just dream about it.

But I think the prediction about future disappointment is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy that encourages you to dwell too much on the "things you didn't do." That is a recipe for a frustrated old age. There are so many things you didn't do. I didn't walk on the moon. I wasn't a Beatle. I didn't found Microsoft. So what? No point in thinking about all that stuff. Much better to count current blessings...

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