Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Southern Cross

I posted a few days ago on the band Crosby Stills & Nash. About the same time, I found out that David Crosby is an avid sailor and bought a 60-foot wooden schooner named The Mayan a couple of years before Crosby Stills & Nash began, and still sails it today. As a result, a lot of CSN and sometimes Y songs were sailing related. Southern Cross not only mentions sailing, but is nearly about sailing, perhaps more so than any other pop song. Unfortunately the recording is from the 80's and the style is very 80's. Oh well. Not that that's the worst thing in the world, but I wish it was more like their older stuff. It's still a pretty good song. You can listen to a quick snippet of it here if you forget what it sounds like. It plays on the radio sometimes. So I thought it would be fun to post the lyrics and define the boating terms either alongside the term, or with a link:

Got out of town on a boat (Boat: A large hole in the water into which you throw money)
Goin' to Southern islands. (I need help with this one... anyone know which Islands this would be referring to?)
Sailing a reach (Reaching is when the sail is to one side, with the wind coming from the other side. This is one of 3 positions (points) of sailing. The others are sailing against the wind ("beating to windward" or "close hauled") and with the wind (Running)).
Before a followin' sea. (Following sea basically means a sea that is perfect for sailing: Plenty of wind, but the swells are small enough as not to swamp you.)
She was makin' for the trades (The tradewinds are so called, of course, because commercial ocean sailing vessels used to take advantage of them to make the best time to their destination)
On the outside, (I haven't been able to figure out what "on the outside" means. Anyone know?)
And the downhill run (as mentioned above, this is one of the three points of sail. A run is when sailing with the wind. I assume he means that when he gets to the trade winds, he'll sail with them to his destination. Sailors sometimes refer to sailing with the wind as sailing "downhill" and against the wind as "uphill". Therefore, saying "downhill run" is technically redundant, but its often said that way in sailing "slang")
To Papeete.
Off the wind on this heading
Lie the Marquesas.
We got eighty feet of the waterline. (Waterline is the length of the hull where it touches the surface of the water. The overall length of the boat (LOA) is usually longer than the length of the waterline (LOW). A classic wooden vessel with 80 feet of waterline could easily be 100 feet overall, with the overhang of the bowsprit in front, and the main boom behind).
Nicely making way. (Way = movement of a vessel through the water, or potential movement. Giving yourself leeway means you've left room on the downwind side, in case a maneuver is required. If the vessel is pointed high (beating to windward) then maneuvering to the lee side may be the only option in a tight space, since sailboats can only point so high).
In a noisy bar in Avalon
I tried to call you.
But on a midnight watch I realized
Why twice you ran away.

Chorus
Think about how many times
I have fallen
Spirits are using me
larger voices callin'.
What heaven brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world,
Lookin' for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.

When you see the Southern Cross
For the first time
You understand now
Why you came this way
'Cause the truth you might be runnin' from
Is so small.
But it's as big as the promise
The promise of a comin' day.
So I'm sailing for tomorrow
My dreams are a dyin'.
And my love is an anchor tied to you
Tied with a silver chain.
I have my ship
And all her flags are a flyin'
She is all that I have left
And music is her name.

Chorus
Think about how many times
I have fallen
Spirits are using me
larger voices callin'.
What heaven brought you and me
Cannot be forgotten.
I have been around the world,
Lookin' for that woman/girl,
Who knows love can endure.
And you know it will.
And you know it will.

So we cheated and we lied
And we tested
And we never failed to fail
It was the easiest thing to do.
You will survive being bested.
Somebody fine
Will come along
Make me forget about loving you.
At the Southern Cross.

23 Comments:

Blogger amie-j said...

I love it when you realize things like that. It makes the music seem more personal to you.

September 28, 2005  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Indeed! Now I just wish it wasn't an 80's song, even if it is more tastefully done than many 80's songs. I've heard it rumored that there is an earlier version of it from "CSN and sometimes Y's" earlier days (this one from the greatest hits CD was recorded during their "reunion" years). I'll be checking into that soon.

September 29, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO, I believe the Avalon he is singing about is the city/port of Avalon on Catalina Island. Doesn't make sense that he would stop off in England on his way to Tahiti.

September 06, 2008  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

Aha!!! Thank you!

September 06, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could the phrase "on the outside" mean in the ocean, as opposed to in an inland waterway?
I think I saw something about someone sailing from Maine to Florida several times, both on the ouside and using the inland waterway.

February 17, 2009  
Blogger AndyOfVermont said...

You might be onto something... except I don't think you could "make for the trades" except on the ocean, right? But I wonder if you can be "inside" or "outside" of the trades somehow.

February 17, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe the southern islands he is referring to are those in the South Pacific, since The Marquesas, Papeete Tahiti, and Avalon, New Zealand would all utilize navigation by the constellation Southern Cross. Also if the name of his ship is MUSIC, it should be capitalized or italicized.

June 01, 2009  
Blogger Nic said...

the "outside" refers to being leeward (pronounced lou ard) or downwind.

March 23, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My best guess is that "Heading for the trades on the outside" means that he's heading towards the trade winds upwind of his destination. Thus, when he hit the tradwinds, he would be positioned to turn starboard and run straight downwind to Papeete.

August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wrong on the "following sea." A following sea is just that: wind and waves are following you, and it can be quite nasty, causing the vessel to slew around, or, in an extreme situation get "pooped" (have the sea come aboard from the stern), or even "pitchpole" -- burying the bow in the trough of wave and having the following sea flip the vessel end over end.

September 18, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Following Seas": Defined by Bowditch's American Practical Navigator as "A sea in which the waves move in the general direction of the heading." It further defines "Tide" as "the periodic rise and fall of the water resulting from gravitational interactions between the sun, moon, and earth. . . . the accompanying horizontal movement of the water is part of the same phenomenon." In simple terms: the movement of the water, the waves, and the surface, correspond with the movement of the tide.

March 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. This song is about Judy Collins, as are just about any of his songs in which Stephen Stills mentions a woman such as Bluebird, Rock and Roll Woman, Helplessly Hoping, or, of course, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

March 25, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Negatory.

Origin (per wikipedia): Southern Cross is based on the song "Seven League Boots" by Rick and Michael Curtis. Stills explained, "The Curtis Brothers brought a wonderful song called 'Seven League Boots,' but it drifted around too much. I rewrote a new set of words and added a different chorus, a story about a long boat trip I took after my divorce (his first wife, singer-songwriter Véronique Sanson). It's about using the power of the universe to heal your wounds. Once again, I was given somebody's gem and cut and polished it."

April 18, 2014  
Blogger Rebel Charm said...

"She" is in reference to a woman, not just the boat.

January 23, 2015  
Blogger Phillip Remaker said...

The "Southern Islands" probably refers to the Islands of the South Pacific, which lines up with the references to Papeete, Tahiti and the Marquesas, both in French Polynesia.

Avalon, though? Catalina Island is pretty far from Polynesia.

February 21, 2015  
Blogger CP C said...

"On the outside" refers to being outside of the doldrums, an area of poor sailing winds which lies between the bands of trade winds. One must sail across this area on occasion (depending upon where one starts out from of course) to get TO the bands of trade winds. So the song refers to the intention to grab the downwind advantage (downhill run) once the ship gets past the doldrums.

June 11, 2015  
Blogger CP C said...

Another take on being "on the outside" has to do with where a sailor catches the wind. If the draught of the wind is across the face of the sail, pulling the boat along like an airplane wing does, then the sail is "inside" the wind. If the wind is behind the sail, shoving the boat forward, then the sail is "on the outside".

The closest Avalon is in Australia, on the eastern side, toward Tahiti. Logically this is the Avalon in question, and the "southern islands" referred to (as Phillip notes above) are all those tiny little islands east and north of Aussie-land, which includes the Marquesas, with Papeete being along the way.

June 11, 2015  
Blogger Dan said...

My vote is for Avalon Beach, New South Wales, Australia. The Avalon options in New Zealand are not port town. There is a big sailing and harbor at Avalon Beach, Australia.

September 03, 2015  
Blogger ILWU Thomas Lee said...

Well his Journey may have started in Long Beach California. The stop in Avalon might make sense in that case. Last ditch effort to contact her and all. Reach, following sea and on the outside, leads me to believe he's sailing south for Argentina. The Pacific side of South America is leeward of the prevailing trades all the way down to Argentina. So he is sailing souh toward Argentina fairly close to the coast, the whole way down leeward of the prevailing trades. Slow going since he is prolly sailing with sails close hauled and more dangerous because there is also a following sea.
He is making to sail around the Horn the easier way hoping to catch the Westerly trade winds and sail downhill with the wind all the way to Tahiti. A good route since you avoid the horse latitudes and the possibility of becalmed seas. A great way to go if you want absolute solitude for self reflection and what have you. A midnight watch would be set to keep an eye out for icebergs.The Marquesas archipelago would be off the wind on this heading.

February 11, 2016  
Blogger ILWU Thomas Lee said...

Okay, my interpretation of the meaning behind the lyrics.

He sets sail out of a port in California. Prolly San Francisco, or my favorite, Long Beach. He makes a quick stop in Avalon harbour on Santa Catalina island off of the coast very near Long Beach California. He makes a last ditch effort to call her before he follows through with his plan which will put hI'm out of touch with her for many months.
When you "reach" for the wind you are nor sailing with the wind but adjusting your sails to get the best out of what wind there is. A "broad reach" is pretty good and almost with the wind. The boat will be keeled over quite aways and it's a fun and bumpy ride. But in this case I think he is sailing very close to into the wind which is setting the sails "close haul reach". The going is very slow and difficult. That symbolizes how difficult it is to leave her behind. Add to that a "following sea". A "following sea" is a condition that happens when the direction of current and the swell is the same as your heading. This is very common. It becomes dangerous in the rare circumstance when the sea is flowing against the wind. It can cause you to capsize easily. When your sailing " close haul reach" and you have a "following sea" you run the chance of having your bow going under a swell. This can literally break the backbone of the boat or even cause the boat to flip stern over bow. ( ass over head as we used to say, painful as hell amazes you how flexible you can be ).
What I think this means is that 1. Memories of her are very hard to escape and 2. his past is catching up with him through self reflection in the solitude of sailing.
"Making for the trades on the outside" tells me he is sailing for Argentina and a trip the easier, but still very rough, way around the horn. Then catching the westerly trade winds and fast and smooth sailing toward Tahiti. In this case "outside" means he is sailing on the leeward ( protected, sheltered,from the wind ) side of South America. Another reason for the slow conditions he is experiencing. I think this symbolizes his position as a celebrity. A position that kept him sheltered and unaware just how badly his marrige was going until it collapsed suddenly around him. "The midnight watch" symbolizes sleepless nights spent in introspective thought.
Once he gets around the horn, symbolizing his beginning to accept the idea of losing her, he catches the westerly trade winds. He is no longer so devastated as to be crippled by his loss. He is moving on with life even if he still has a long ways to go to understanding what happened between them. The deeper reasons and causes, for his behavior etc.
"Off wind of this heading lie the Marquesas" symbolizes the temptation to leave his heading and go back to his old familiar ways of thinking and living. From the heading he is on the Marquesas are in a direction of a much more inhabited area with lots of ports and distractions. He realizes he has to stay focused and on course if he is to grow and avoid repeating his mistakes. The southern cross constellation symbolizes his finally understanding fully what happened and why. This constellation is used in navigation to find north in the southern hemisphere. He had found his true heading and can now stay on it, but also find it again if he should fall. The rest of the song is pretty self explanatory, well really the whole song is, just the symbology may use some interpretation. Oh and Papeete bay is just the representation of the goal. The ultimate destination. Interestingly this location was used in the documentary "Endless Summer". It was the location of the surfing swell they called "ins and outs" you could catch the wave going toward the beach or going away from the beach. Thinking about it, since I am absolutely sure he saw the movie, that has some symbolic meaning too when you think about it.

February 11, 2016  
Anonymous Bob Snead said...

Anonymous said in 2014 that Rock and Roll Woman was a song about Judy Collins. No. Sure, Suite Judy Blue Eyes is about Judy, but Rock and Roll Woman is about rock and roll personified as a woman -- an amazing, brilliant composition of lyrics and instruments. If any more proof is needed, Judy C did not sing rock & roll, but rather folk music, some of the very best of its time, like Both Sides Now (written by Joni Mitchell) and Send in the Clowns (written by Stephen Sondheim). I see Rock and Roll Woman as the best of Buffalo Springfiled and one of the greatest songs in all of rock and roll.

April 19, 2017  
Blogger shawn said...

Catilina Island is off the Coast of California, I'm not aware of one in England. The Catilina Islands" Which so many confuse those with the Marquesas" located at 9°00S 139°30W, How They confuse them...? is Beyond me, He speaks of PaPeete and Avalonn both Located where..? Tahiti. The Trade winds are the Prevailing pattern of Easterly surface Winds found in the Tropics. The trade winds have bn used for Centuries and have established Trade Routes for the world. Also the song is about The Southern Cross, which can be only be seen from the Southern Hemisphere. A few country's have The Southern Cross on their Flags, Australian, New Zealand... etc.

July 14, 2017  
Blogger Food Masters said...

"Downhill Run" refers to a due South (180 degree) heading on the compass

July 31, 2017  

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