Friday, January 20, 2017

Durban: I love

I love:


Entering the monastery of the sea

A boat in the groove


Words, when they come together gracefully

Being as far from any other of our species 

Refections on water

Laphroaig 10 year

Making voyages no one else ever has or has even imagined

Having gone the distance

First light during a storm at sea

Owning no one anything except the truth

Standing in the companionway of GANNET listening to music, sipping a drink at sunset



The athletic grace of the young

That some of you understand

Durban: glad

        We slid back into GANNET’s natural element at 7:45 this morning and were in our slip a few minutes later.
        First I stowed everything, even tools I knew I would soon be using.  I wanted—no, I needed—to clear up the clutter, and I did.
        Then I removed one of the two floorboards so I could clean up the debris that had fallen into the bilge.  I can reach down there between the floorboards, but for a major cleaning need to remove a board.
       While I was wiping with a paper towel a crew member made the mistake of venturing aft into the bilge from a space below the v-berth.  He quickly realized his mistake, but not before I got him with kill on contact spray, which worked as advertised.
        Bilge acceptably, though not perfectly, clean, I went on deck and chipped loose paint from the deck and cockpit.  Borrowing a neighbor’s hose, I washed and scrubbed the deck of dirt and debris accumulated in my three month absence.
        When I stopped for lunch, for the first time since my return a week ago yesterday, GANNET was in order.
         There is more to do, but I just wanted to enjoy having the little boat being right for a while, and then light rain came.
        Now at 5:15 I’m sitting at Central, a plastic of tequila and tonic at hand, Leonard Cohen singing “Suzanne” on the Megabooms—a name that has some resonance for me, rain falling, the companionway open, the spray hood up.  I have still to connect two lines from grommets to eye pads to straighten out the trailing edges, but the broken toggles have been replaced and the installation is essentially complete.  We’ll see if it works at sea.  I live in hope.
        As I began to provision for the more than 6,000 miles from Durban to St. Lucia, GANNET will again become cluttered.  For tonight she isn’t.  I’m glad.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Durban: even cheaper

        Almost 6 p.m. and GANNET’s Great Cabin is cooling slightly.  The temperature is down to 86F/30C, from a high two hours ago of 96F/35.5C.  The highest outside temperature today was only in the mid-80s, but little breeze found its way to the below deck oven.  I have a battery operated fan pointed at me.
        The little boat is ready to go back into the water tomorrow.  I hope early.  A second coat of antifouling, the topsides touched up, the rub rail painted, stains waxed and polished out.  Her hull will pass the view-at-a-boat-length-test.  Her deck will not, but I can take care of that in the water.
        I also have a third bump on my head.  Another reason to want to be in the water.  Though I bump my head there, too, usually not so hard.
        The total cost of this haul-out comes to $305 US.  $130 for anti-fouling paint, rollers, brushes, etc.  $15 for the pressure wash.  $160 for hauling out and being in the yard two days.
        I remember thinking that my haul-out last year in Opua was inexpensive and checked the journal entry.  The cost then was $400.
        While I did not wax and polish her entire hull, GANNET has again been restored to the respectable beauty she deserves.  Aesthetics count.
        I am drinking an air temperature gin and tonic. 
        Earlier at the adjacent Point Yacht Club I had an ice tea and, at different times, two half liter glasses of beer.  That is a little more than a quart.  
        It was a thirsty day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Durban: hauled

        GANNET came out of the water at 7:30 this morning.  
        I dragged the Torqeedo aft of starboard pipe berth yesterday.  It started after I carefully scraped some green from a contact point and applied WD40.  The battery, last charged more than four months ago, was still at 99%.
        After a pressure wash removed slime, I chipped off a few hard tiny volcanos, taped the waterline, and had the first coat of anti-fouling on before lunch.  A round of applause for small boats.  I also had two lumps on the blind side of my head caused by straightening up while painting and smashing into the cradle.  Not serious enough to be an excuse for aberrant behavior, but sensitive to the touch.
        After lunch I touched up the topsides for the last time with this can of Pettit Easypoxy platinum.  The can was so rusty that handling it caused the bottom to break.  I put it in a plastic bag to finish the job.  I’m glad it didn’t happen at sea.
        Today is lovely, sunny, with a moderate breeze that would be blowing through GANNET in her slip,  but is beam on here on the hard and it is hot down below.
        Tomorrow a second coat of anti-fouling and painting the rub rail whose original red is showing through.  I’ll also hopefully polish some stains from the hull.
        Then back in the water on Friday.
        The deck still needs to be painted, but that is more easily done afloat.
        Not a great photo, but the best I could do in close quarters and sun angle.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Durban: fifty years a sailor

        A windy and rainy day.  I enjoyed having the masthead wind unit again and being able to see that the wind was blowing 20-25 and gusting 30.  This is as I thought, but it is nice to have your estimates confirmed.
        I managed to get ashore and arrange for GANNET to be hauled out early Wednesday morning.  Assuming I find nothing unexpected when she comes up, and the weather cooperates, we should be back in the water Friday.  Among the many virtues of small boats is that it does not take much time or paint to anti-foul their bottoms.
        Other than Ubering over to the chandlery to get anti-fouling paint and other supplies, I didn’t accomplish much today.
        The rain and wind were coming from the bow, so I was able to raise GANNET’s new spray hood and leave the companionway open.  The installation is not yet complete.  When it is I’ll post a photo.  I do not expect the hood to eliminate all water from coming below.  Water reduction will be enough.  I hope and even sort of think this hood might work.
        Of waterproof, as I have observed before GANNET-proof is a much higher standard that even exceptionally well-built devices such as Yellowbrick trackers sometimes fail.  
        Charging stuff is one of my first activities upon returning to GANNET, and this time for a while I thought we had come to the end of the Yellowbrick road.  
        Some of you may recall that water got into the Yellowbrick’s USB charging port while crossing the Pacific Ocean when it was mounted on the stern rail.
        The Yellowbrick people provide exceptional support and they repaired it even out of warranty.
        Last year I mounted the unit inside the cabin to one side of the companionway where it had a clear view of the sky.  When water poured over it there, I relocated it to a drier centered position.  
        When I went to charge the unit last week, it wouldn’t.  I tried different USB cables and plugs.  Finally the third cable worked.
        I know that many of you like to follow GANNET’s track.  Carol, for whom it was originally intended, does.  And I like to review the track when I reach port.  So I was prepared to order a new one and have it shipped to me here.  I’m glad I didn’t have to.  But I repeat my caution:  If the Yellowbrick stops sending positions during a passage, keep calm.  The most likely reason is that the battery has run down and I can’t recharge it.
        When the men and few women who sail the hyped round the world races get in trouble they get on the radio and a helicopter or ship comes out to save them.  Unless what happened to my right eye, happens to my left, I don’t expect anyone to come save me.  I will live or die on my own as I always have.  
        Of other equipment, I brought four new LuminAid lights with me.  The new models have a five way switch:  high, medium, low, flashing, off.  Two battery operated cabin lights were dead upon my return.  The LuminAids are now my only cabin lights other than flashlights and headlamps.  They are perfect for GANNET.  
        With one old LuminAid I have five on board.  I also have five tiller pilots.  
        GANNET left San Diego with four tiller pilots on board:  three new Raymarines and one old Autohelm that came with her.  She reached New Zealand with none working.
        Last year GANNET left New Zealand again with four tiller pilots:  three Raymarines and one Pelagic.  She arrived in Durban with one Raymarine working, but only because I sailed about 7,000 of the 9,000 miles using sheet to tiller self-steering.
        After reaching Durban I contacted the local Raymarine representative who repaired the two failed units under warranty.  
        I took the Pelagic back to the U.S. with me and sent it to Bryan, who is Pelagic.  He checked it out, said the problem was the gain setting and a software update, tested it on his own boat.  I brought it back with me, but have not yet completed the reinstallation because my wire crimping tool rusted to destruction and I haven’t yet been able to buy a replacement.
       That’s four.
        So what did I ask for for Christmas?  Of course, a tiller pilot.  Carol gave me another Raymarine which I also brought back with me.  
       Raymarine ST 1000+ only cost $360 from Hodges Marine online in the U.S.  By registering them I increase the warranty from two years to three.  My five tiller pilots cost less than one autopilot on larger boats.
        GANNET may be the most tiller piloted boat on the ocean.  I hope I can keep some of them working.

        A few days ago I realized that I bought my first boat fifty years ago this month.  Now many of you did this much better than I and were born into families that sailed.  I did not.  I can’t remember a specific epiphany, a moment when I knew I wanted to sail oceans, but I have since I was about eleven or twelve years old.  Buying that first boat, an Excalibur 26, and sailing her alone, my first time sailing alone and only my third time sailing at all, from Oakland’s Jack London Square to the Berkley Marina, was one of the greatest days of my life.
        I don’t remember the exact date, but it was about now.  That calls for a switch from boxed red wine to Laphroaig.  
        (Hell, you are thinking, he’s always looking for an excuse.  But you are wrong.  I don’t need one.)
        I was going to say “Cheers” but decided to google ‘drinking toasts’ and found this.  Most are ‘to health’ or ‘may it be good for you’.  I like the Turkish ‘to honor’.  But the Filipino, Mubuhay, and the Hebrew, L'Chayyim, are my favorites. 
        So, to fifty years a sailor and to life. 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Durban: a naked Mexican

        Now 4 p.m. and about time to walk up to shower. 
        I started writing this entry this morning, stopped to do boat work, then Ubered to the Musgrave Shopping Centre for lunch and supplies.
        The original heading was a dull ‘complete’, as in my transition back to GANNET is now complete, or almost.
        The new heading wrote itself when I had a Naked Mexican for lunch.  This is not as lascivious as it seems.  A Naked Mexican is a beer, local I presume.  I don’t usually drink until 5 P.M. or an hour before sunset, whichever comes earlier, but wanted something more interesting with grilled kingsklip, a fish.  Both good.
        I am no longer out of paper towels, gin, Laphroaig, various other essentials; and four roach baits now adorn GANNET’s cabin awaiting visitors.

        A sunny morning with a slight cooling breeze coming through the companionway.  Last evening I ate my first freeze dry meal—wild mushrooms with lamb risotto.  The transition back to GANNET is complete.
        Emirates Air delivered my errant duffle bag at 9 a.m. on Friday just as they said they would.  They are a good airline, if such is possible, and treat economy passengers better than any other on which I have flown, but I hope never to see Dubai again.
        Dubai is both admirable and deplorable.  Admirable in that what has happened there has not happened by chance, but by human intention.   Dubai, in the middle of no where and with few natural resources—it is not oil rich—is now the fifth most visited destination in the world.  Chicago is an architect’s city.  The first sky scraper was built there.  It has a great skyline.  That skyline has taken a hundred years to develop.  Dubai has a greater skyline built in the last ten years.
        What is deplorable is that it is all about consumerism.  There is a Las Vegas kind of superficiality and unreality about Dubai.  The city is one giant mall.  Buy.  Buy.  Spend.  Spend.  More.  More. You trudge a long way to your gate in the airport past shop after shop after shop.  Far more than I have seen at any other airport.  Not one or two, but dozens of duty frees.
        Dubai is a great success by all measures of profit and greed.   And a wretched excess.
        I have stowed the contents of my two duffle bags and installed some of the replacements, including the Solar Boost 3000i regulator and the Lewmar hatch hinge.
        The 3000i is the new version of the 2000i.  The back is now partially enclosed and on the front is a button that cycles the display through several modes,  my favorite being the one that flips back and forth between battery voltage and amps being sent to the batteries.  The simple solid state regulator I had been using after the 2000i died performed properly and is still in place as back-up, but has no display, only a couple of lights that change color to show condition.
        I only needed three small plastic parts, probably costing less than a dollar to manufacturer, to repair the Lewmar hatch hinge, but had to buy an entire hinge at a cost of $60.  The repair was not possible without an extra pair of hands.  Chris, a local friend whose boat is just down the dock from GANNET, offered them yesterday.  I told him it would take less than five minutes or it would become curse-worthy.  Sometimes things go right and it took less than five minutes.   I can now open the forward hatch without having to prop it up with a box of wine.
        A Blue Performance sheet bag is to a minor extent curse-worthy.  The Chinese got the dimensions just a little wrong on the small side.  It was impossible to fit onto the hooks that held the same size bag that was washed overboard last year and one of the loops on the back pulled out.  A sailmaker could fix that, but I’ll screw it in place.
        I returned to find that Gavin the rigger had placed reef tack line cleats on the mast and a custom made bracket to prevent the Tides Marine luff track from pulling away, a new Windex and a new Raymarine wind transducer on the masthead.  I am pleased to again have wind information.
        Before I left Chicago Chris had sent me a photo captioned, GANNET has a hoodie.  She does.  The spray hood was in place when I stepped on board and I promptly broke it.
        The hood has to be folded forward for me to get in and out of the companionway.  As I pushed it forward I felt some resistance that soon gave way.  Later I saw that the resistance had come from the aft most toggles securing the sides to the deck.  I didn’t realize that they will have to be loosened before pushing the hood forward.  Now I do.
        The hood is made exactly as I specified.  It is a compromise.  I still have to install cleats or eyebolts for lines to keep the hood in place.  They, too, will have to be released each time I go in and out.  I’ll have to see if the benefits of reduced water coming below, assuming it is reduced, outweigh the inconvenience. 
        My body has adjusted to moving eight time zones forward—one does this at a more acceptable pace under sail—and I’ve slept well the last two nights.  
        I’ll do some boat work for a few hours, then go to a shopping center for lunch and to buy food and supplies.  I’m out of paper towels and gin.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Durban: a difficult transition

       I am surrounded by chaos and cockroaches.  The chaos is all too visible.  The cockroaches not.  I have seen three since I came aboard yesterday noon and one may have run across my hand last night.  I killed one and sent bug spray in the direction of the fleeing others.
        It is now 6 a.m. Friday morning.  My second cup of not bad instant coffee is at hand.  Bach’s ‘Well tempered Clavier’ is playing on the Megabooms.  So the world is not a total loss, though one of my duffle bags may be.
       The flights back were worse even than usual, due to a fidgeting child beside me, a medical emergency necessitating a landing at Ankara, Turkey to offload a middle-aged man who apparently had a heart attack, unnecessarily complicated procedures at Dubai, pure duration, and that Emirates Air, which generously allows two free checked bags, ungenerously put one of mine on the wrong airplane.  I am told it will show up today.  I hope so for it contains boat supplies that I cannot replace easily, or at all, in South Africa.  It also contains my razor and I haven’t shaved for three days and my face itches.
       GANNET is in reasonable condition for having been neglected for three months.  Insignificant mold.  Only a few drops of water in the bilge.  Batteries charged.  But she looks forlorn, dirty, and needs cleaning and painting and organizing.
        Almost all zippers on storage bags are frozen.  So far with the aid of WD40 I’ve freed them. 
        After dark last night I found that two battery operated cabin lights have died and I had not thought to put the one remaining LuminAid out to charge, so I was reduced to a head lamp and a solar flashlight that can also be charged with a hand crank.  Three or four new LuminAids are also in the lost bag.
       Light rain forced hatches to be closed last night, but after a hot afternoon, the night was not uncomfortable.  I slept from about 6 p.m. to midnight, then intermittently until 3 a.m. when I read and waited for dawn.
        My immediate goal is to impose order on the cabin chaos and hope my lost bag arrives.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Evanston: officially harmless; classes: peasant and priestly; stress; not used up; gone

        My flight to Dubai leaves tomorrow evening.  Now that I am 75 I will not have to remove my shoes at the TSA inspection point.  I am officially harmless.


         As an undergraduate more than fifty years ago I wrote a paper with the deliberately provocative title, ‘The Peasant Class’ which argued persuasively enough to get me an A that throughout human history the mass of our species provided unskilled muscle power and a gene pool, and neither of these was any longer necessary.  I might have been slightly ahead of my time, but that time is now.
        Recently I read that 40% of current jobs will not exist in twenty years, and yesterday in a NY TIMES article about continuing mob influence on the New York waterfront, it was mentioned that a hundred years ago there were 40,000 longshoremen working in the harbor, now there are less than 4,000 and that number will continue to decrease.
        Certainly new jobs will come into existence to offset in part those lost.  An ex-longshoreman can become a Uber driver, but probably not a brain surgeon and perhaps not a computer programer.  
        Numbers are not needed for the gene pool any longer either.  A few homo sapiens have the skill to design the rest of us.  I’m rather glad I will not be around for that.  I doubt any committee would design a Webb Chiles.
        The primary function of priestly classes has always been to interface between the illiterate masses and the god.  In our age the godhead is the computer and the priestly class are those who can write code or direct those who do.  Most of us are as functionally illiterate of this language as peasants were literally illiterate in the Middle Ages.
        As I postulated a half century ago, most homo sapiens are obsolete, and I’m not sure how long those who aren’t will continue to put up with us.


        Two people wrote that stress in the workplace is as unhealthy as being sedentary.  Though there is evidence that movement helps alleviate stress, I agree.  I’ve known stress, but not that of the workplace since 1974.  Some of you may recall my writing the following not long ago:

 People often say I’m crazy.  This is a pure failure of the imagination.  Since 1974 I have spent zero minutes grid locked on a freeway commuting to or from work.  I have attended no team meetings and no conferences.  I have never been called into the boss’s office.  I have never been laid off or even threatened to be.  I have seen the sun rise from the sea thousands of times and watched it set while listening to music as my boat sailed toward darkness.  I have sipped wine and whisky and watched diving birds.  And some of the most charming, clever and beautiful women of two generations have shared their lives with me.  So, who’s crazy?


        Between San Diego and Hawaii on GANNET’s first ocean passage, I wrote:

        Old man stands in companionway of small sloop.  One very weathered hand holds lightly onto a halyard stopper.  The other a jib winch.  A big grin is on the old man’s face as he watches a small sloop rush though the ocean, little more than an arm’s length away.  And because he is precisely where he is.
        Use yourself up, old man.  Use yourself up.

        Last week I was asked why, after compiling so great a body of work, I continue.  My answer was simple:  I’m not yet used up.


        I’m not going to explain the above photo, beyond saying that you are looking at a semi-frozen Lake Michigan through the window behind me and that it was taken this year.  An explanation may come eventually. 
        Today I dusted, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, mopped and waxed the hardwood floors.  Tomorrow morning I’ll do the bathrooms.
        I’m out of here.
        Find joy.  I will.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Evanston: joy; found; betrayal

        An article in THE GUARDIAN the other day with the fetching title, ‘Lycra leggings - the final step in the evolution of a running fanatic’ included these  observations about joy:  
        All of which leads us to the final phase, the confirmation, the apotheosis. What’s the one indisputable hallmark of the true convert? The classic giveaway? Simple. It’s joy. Yup. Nothing more complicated than that. It’s that tingle you get as you lace up your shoes. It’s that buzz when you break into your rhythm, when you hit your groove. It’s that exhilaration at seeing the end. It’s a joy that is deep and certain. Sometimes euphoric, but usually not. It’s a joy that recharges and revives, re-energises and repairs. Long after your run is done, it’s there, lingering on. Hang up your boots and it clings on just the same. By their joy, you shall know them. 
        I don’t think most people experience enough joy, and many none.  I think you must seek it, although sometimes it will spontaneously come to you, as when I stick my head out GANNET’s hatch and find a sky and sea of ethereal beauty.  I don’t think it possible to have too much.   I find joy in the sight of Carol.  I trust I will find joy in the Atlantic Ocean this year.
        I wish you joy.
        (The entire article can be found here.)


        You may recall that last month I mentioned that Steve Earley had come across a line attributed to me that I did not remember writingIf a sailor doesn’t learn anything more from the sea than how to reef a sail, the voyage wasn’t worth making.
        Yesterday another friend brought the Apologia at the beginning of THE OCEAN WAITS to my attention and I find that the above line is the third sentence.  It is a good line.  I’m pleased that I really wrote it.
        An ‘apologia’ is not an apology, but a defense of one’s ideas, actions and, most famously by John Henry Newman, life.  I learned the word reading his Apologia pro Vita Sua in a college English class.


        One of my oldest friends, who is in fact three months younger than I, but here I mean ‘oldest’ in terms of how long we have known one another, noted in a recent email that I am the only one of her friends, and including herself, who is not facing a life threatening disease.  A sobering and saddening thought.  Time and chance happens to us all, but not equally.
        In this I might just be lucky and have won the genetic lottery, but that I have continued to use my body hard and didn’t spend forty years sitting behind a desk may have helped.  We are meant to be hunter/gatherers, not office workers.  It is an axiom of history that all revolutions are betrayed.  By making us sedentary the agricultural revolution a few millennia ago, which is the basis for our societies and culture, betrays us.


        The photo has nothing to do with any of this.  I just miss New Zealand.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Evanston: bookkeeping and bit more

        I did my full work out only 53 times last year, the third lowest total since I started keeping records in 2004.  The other two were during the second year of my fifth circumnavigation and the first year of this one.   That means I did 8170 push-ups and crunches in 2016.  Hardly half of what I have done in other years.  Sailing oceans seriously interferes with work outs.  Sailing oceans is real.  Work outs are substitutes.
        I did my full work out today, though I am certain that this, too, will be a low number year.


        Books read July through December:

  THE FAR ARENA   Richard Ben Sapir
SAPIENS   Yuval Noah HarariWe
BLACK FRIDAYS   Michael Sears
BARKSKINS   Annie Proulx
DUSK   James Salter
TINSELTOWN   William J. Mann
THE CHOUANS   Honore de Balzac
DON’T POINT THAT THING AT ME   Kyril Bonfiglioli
END GAME   Frank Brady
NEVER CRY WOLF   Farley Mowat
THE GATE OF ANGELS   Penelope Fitzgerald
THE CIVIL WAR Vol. 1   Shelby Foote
THE CIVIL WAR Vol. 2   Shelby Foote
ROWING FOR MY LIFE   Kathleen Saville
GERTRUDE   Hermann Hesse
THE STORY OF SEX   Philippe  Brenot, Laetitia Coryn
LETTERS OF NOTE Vol. 1  Shaun Usher
LETTERS OF NOTE Vol. 2  Shaun Usher
THE INFERNO   Dante Alighieri   translated John Cardi  
THE RESCUE   Joseph Conrad

        Of these I read more than half during the fifty-five day passage from Darwin to Durban.
        Of these most are excellent books.  The greatest new discovery for me by far was Pat Barker’s REGENERATION TRILOGY, as in music the greatest discovery was Leonard Cohen,  whom I discovered only when he died.  May others have that experience of me, though my death will almost certainly go unnoticed.


        I love Carol.   I love being with her.  We’ve had a really great time over the holidays when she was off work.  But I love knowing that the beauty and purity of the open ocean are before me, and that I will again be on GANNET as she sings across the sea.