Bill Buckley’s Shocking Sailing Logs Discovered; Erudite Colloquies by Day, Drinking, Mayhem and Murderous Intent by Night
(Not to mention an occasional interlude of onshore wenching to relieve the tension)
An undated photo of conservative icon and Renaissance man William F. Buckley in a companionable mood prior to an Atlantic voyage. One wishes Mr. Buckley a smooth final voyage as he sails beyond his last horizon.
STAMFORD, CT (Sportsman’s Daily Wire Service) — Conservative icon, publisher, writer, raconteur, TV host, harpsichordist, skier, painter, sailor, husband, father, friend and mentor, former CIA spook, Yale alum (Skull and Bones, ‘50), gourmet cook and male model (etc., etc.) William F. Buckley, died this past Tuesday at the age of 82. The author of 50 books, ranging from spy novels to political polemics, Buckley also penned a series of well-received journals/meditations on his epic sailing adventures. Usually accompanied by an assortment of highly accomplished friends – ambassadors, undersecretaries, prominent writers and barons of industry – his sailing books recount high-minded exchanges among unfailingly convivial spirits, with generous doses of the author’s characteristic erudition, charm, wit and philosophy. So it came as a tremendous shock when recently discovered log entries reveal the dark, previously unreported underside of Mr. Buckley’s seemingly larkish, good-natured adventures.
A former friend of Buckley’s, who asked that his name be withheld out of respect for the Buckley family in their time of grieving, confirmed the side Buckley displayed in the unpublished logs:
“I was with Buckley in ’85, the 4,000 mile Pacific cruise he wrote about in the ironically titled ‘Racing Through Paradise.’ Paradise my ass. The book says there were 5 friends on-board. I was the sixth. I don’t care what words he put in Galbraith’s or Clurman’s mouth, it was a goddamn nightmare. During the day, everything’s fine – civilized conversation, laughs over cocktails, that sort of thing. But as the sun went down and Bill abruptly moved us from the claret to the Glenlivet, things got ugly fast. What three hours ago was a civilized disagreement over Vietnam, SALT II or a controversial appointment to the Second Circuit Court, would resurface with bloody fangs and brass knuckles. Buckley was almost always the instigator, his eyes bulging, the famous reptilian tongue flicking at your jugular, as he assaulted you in a polysyllabic staccato of slurred, though logically air-tight, invective. What could you do, you’re his guest, you’re hundreds of miles from land…you just sit there and take it and wait for the sun to come up to reunite Buckley with his senses.”
A sample entry from a log chronicling Buckley’s 1985 Pacific crossing reads as follows:
“Time loses its meaning. You just sail, and sail, and watch the moon descend ever so slowly . . . when, mirable dictu, one is overcome with a deep fear and loathing – not to mention abiding regret – upon contemplation of the various and sundry defects of the companions you’ve enlisted for the journey. First principles of modern conservatism point to human imperfectability; no finer specimens could one hope to find than the lumpen collection of imperfectitude who, as I am writing this, are indolently meditating on things large and small – mostly small – under a sky a-twinkle with malign intent. Perhaps these violently disagreeable sentiments emerge as I reflect on the egregiously reductive argument in Clurman’s earlier discourse on the Manichean nature of conservative thought (which, to use the vernacular, is a boatload of total BS)…perhaps it’s Galbraith’s interminable and internally incoherent exegesis on Veblen and the so-called grotesqueries of the leisure class, of which I’m a proud member (it’s enough I’ve had the insufferable bastard on Firing Line countless times, why I had to compound my exquisitely veiled misery by inviting him on this trip is one of life’s ineffable unknowns)…or perhaps it’s the third Glenlivet…but suffice it to say I am convulsed with Shakespearean levels of barely manageable rage…at the first hint of land, I shall proceed to procure a wench with whom I shall have my way -- there’s nothing quite like a spasm of Grecian catharsis to disgorge one’s nagging disquiet …”
A sample entry from a log chronicling Buckley’s 1990 crossing from Lisbon to Barbados indicates an even darker side to the Buckley persona:
“…the ketch battled twenty-foot waves and winds reaching 76 knots…The mainsail tore loose from its mast and had to be reeled in. The dinghy broke loose as lines whipped about the deck. During all this, I put life and limb at risk scampering perilously from stem to stern, fastening the rigging and wrestling with a temperamental mainsail. One would think at least one, just one of my five companions would be stirred to action but lo, they remained uselessly huddled below deck, fretting and praying for their scarcely-formed lives. Yes, I took – and take – full responsibility as the captain in charge, but I would have been completely within my rights to give the worthless bastards the old heave-ho – particularly as we were, mutatis mutandis, adrift in international waters. When the wind and rains abated, I ironically thanked them for their lack of help and offered up a calming round of drinks – to this day they remain blissfully unaware their gin was liberally commingled with bilge water, prompting an all-night chorus of heaving and diarrhea – let’s just say no one would have mistaken the violent intestinal voiding with the acappella stylings of my beloved Whiffenpoofs.”
Another of Buckley’s erstwhile shipmates anonymously also attested to his penchant for erratic behavior – completely at odds with his reputation for urbane wit and social grace -- but he was quick to point to his former friend’s steady hand at sea.
“Yes, those log entries reveal a side of Bill that would every so often surface. But there’s no one I’d rather have captaining a 71 foot boat on the high seas. You see, it’s not the squalls and hurricane-force winds that scare you. It’s the long, lazy stretches when you’re just lolling about, thousands of miles from land, without a breeze in sight. With Buckley you were never mired in the doldrums for long – he was never at a loss for long, windy soliloquies and words that went on for eight syllables…before you knew it the sails would stiffen and we were off.”
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