Friday, January 17, 2020
I finished reading THE SEA WOLVES last evening. Despite the butchery, it was an enjoyable book, divided into four parts: the raiders; the explorers; the traders; the homeland. I found all interesting, but the explorers most. Sailing west partially by chance ships being blown off course, partially deliberately, the Vikings moved from present day Scandinavia to the Orkney Islands, the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and in our year 1000 to what is now Newfoundland.
Seventy years ago I read such books and thought I can do that. Now I read such books and I know I can do that.
One of the pleasures of THE SEA WOLVES is names. Gorm the Old. Athlered the Unready. Aud the Deep Minded. Basil the Bulgar-Slayer. Bjorn Ironside. Charles the Bald. Charles the Fat. Charles the Simple. Erik Bloodaxe. Harold Bluetooth—reportedly the source of the name of Bluetooth wireless technology. Harold Greycloak. Ivan the Boneless—who may have been double-jointed. Sitric One-Eyed—my kind of man. Sitric Silkbeard. Thorgils the Devil. Sigurd the Stout. Rollo the Walker—who may have been a giant so big that no horse could carry him. Eyjolf the Foul. Richard the Fearless. Eric the Victorious. Svein Forkbeard. Edmund the Just. Eadwig the Fair. Edgar the Peaceful. Edward the Martyr.
A Viking ship captained by Olaf the Peacock got lost in fog and drifted for five days. When the fog lifted, there was debate among the crew about which way they should head. They informed Olaf who ignored them and told the navigator to make the decision. “I want only the shrewdest one to decide because in my opinion, the council of fools is all the more dangerous the more of them there are.”
So much for Facebook, Twitter and crowd sourcing.
One of the sites I visit each morning is the Earth Wind Map. You can turn and enlarge it. Click on any point and it will show latitude, longitude, wind direction, and wind speed. Kilometer per hour comes up first. Click on that to cycle through meters per second, knots, and miles per hour.
Zane, a New Zealand friend who lives in Auckland, is presently sailing his junk-rigged 26’ Contessa in the Bay of Islands and sending me beautiful photographs that make me home sick for a place that is not my home.
The above is a photo I took some years ago at anchor in Whangamumu Harbor.
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
I finished reading the excellent Frederick Rebsamen translation of BEOWULF during the third quarter of the college championship game Monday night. I muted the volume at half time to resume reading. Because I was almost finished with the book I left the sound off on the TV and read between plays. With on average only about 12 or 13 minutes of action in a 60 minute game that takes three hours to complete, there is ample reading time. In order to remain awake for the entire game, I had a dry night, drinking only club soda. I was successful and saw the game to its conclusion at 11:15 PM Central time, although the outcome was not in doubt after LSU went three scores up in the fourth quarter.
Here is a passage describing Beowulf’s return voyage home to Gotland after slaying Grendel and Grendel’s mother who is never given a name in the poem.
The sail grew taut tugged by ocean winds
Mast-ropes trembled tight sail-anchors—
Piling seaswells pounded clinker-boards
Bound for Gotland—the good wave-cutter
Plunged into the foam flew with sail-wing
Followed the swan-road
Skimmed across the sea
Till headlands of home
Hovered above them
The known sea cliffs—nudged by the wind
The keel carried them to calm shore-sand.
The first letters of the lines except for the first one should not be capitalized, but the system will not let me do otherwise.
Beowulf was not a Viking, although I am, but after finishing the poem I begin reading a history of the Vikings titled THE SEA WOLVES. My claim to Vikinghood is that I have a mild to moderate case of Dupuytren’s Contracture, also known as the Viking disease. While my ancestry is mostly English, there was a pillager somewhere back there a thousand years ago.
So far I have found in the book two quotes I like:
Wake early if you want another man’s life or land. No land for the lazy wolf. No battle won in bed.
—Edda of Saemund the Wise, a collection of the sayings of Oden
Braver are many in word than in deed.
—The Saga of Grettir the Strong
From Kent who maintains and is sometimes permitted to steer some of Audrey’s Armada comes a quote attributed to Pete Culler: Boat Building is simply correcting one mistake after another, with the first mistake being to have begun in the first place.
Correcting one mistake after another is the essence of life. Hopefully the number of mistakes gradually is reduced and hopefully one does not spent a lifetime correcting the same mistakes. Of not beginning in the first place, I don’t think he meant it and I don’t think we have a choice.
I downloaded a calorie counting app yesterday. Actually I downloaded several and kept Calorie Counter + by Nutra Check. No I am not getting fat. A fat Webb Chiles is a logical impossibility and an abomination not to be imagined much less seen. I am 6’1” and weighed 155.4 pounds this morning. But I was curious about my intake, particularly calories in alcohol which I have been known to drink.
I have learned several things. There are more calories in beer than whiskey and gin. Good. I don’t drink much beer. This of course depends on how much you consume. A bottle of wine has about 600 calories in it, which is about 60 more calories than in two martinis as I make them.
However the revelation is the amount of calories and protein I eat in my normal breakfast of grapefruit juice, uncooked oatmeal with protein powder, trail mix, and fruit, and two cups of black coffee.
Here is a screen shot of the details:
764 calories and 40 grams of protein are both twice what I would have guessed. All good and I have no desire to change.
Yesterday I took in about 1800 calories including 4 ounces of Plymouth gin. This is well below the 2100 a day Nutra Check says I am permitted. I may have to drink more gin.
The photo of the eponymous bird was taken years ago one evening from the deck of THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her morning in the Bay of Islands.
Monday, January 13, 2020
Carol and I saw the movie 1917 yesterday. It is a good film, probably worth viewing a second time. If I have a criticism it is that the movie is not grim enough. There are trees and grass in many of the scenes. In the photographs I have seen by 1917 there was not a tree or a blade of grass within miles of the front lines. Nor a standing building. Nothing but flattened mud.
April 6, 1917 is the date given at the beginning of the film Six months later on October 12 at Passchendaele New Zealand suffered what has been called “the greatest disaster in New Zealand history” when in one morning 843 New Zealand men were killed. The population of New Zealand at the time was about one million, so the dead numbered about one thousandth of the entire country. An equivalent in the United States now would be 300,000 dead. In one morning. US military total dead in WW II were 407,316.
It happened that a few days ago I came across a quote made by Winston Churchill during WW I about the “many thousands of young men moving resolutely and blithely forward in this, the hardest, the cruelest, and the least rewarded of all the wars that men have fought.”
Now Winston was very good with words and he was also very good at killing men. Gallipoli was his idea. But for Hitler his position in history would have been one of ignominy, not glory.
‘Blithely’? Maybe in August 1914, but I doubt any soldier in any army moved anywhere blithely in 1917.
I buy most of my books through the inelegantly named BookBub. I get an email with four or five selections each morning and find something of interest every few days or weeks. Recent purchases have included CIRCE, THE OREGON TRAIL, GIVE ME A FAST SHIP about the founding of the US Navy, an excellent translation of BEOWULF by Frederick Rebsamen, and the deeply disturbing OVERTHROW by former long time NY TIMES foreign correspondent, Stephen Kinzer which describes the fourteen legitimate foreign governments the United States has overthrow by overt or covert means from Hawaii to Iraq.
I knew generally about most of these, but the details of the suffering we caused in Honduras and Guatemala and Chile and the Philippines and others are more than distressing. Often the motive was to obtain resources or to protect US business interests, but there has also been a self-righteous belief that we Americans know ‘the true way’ and therefore have the right to impose our way on the world.
I have written that the self-righteous are always willing that others suffer for their beliefs and we Americans are.
I actually don’t care what anyone believes so long as they are not so certain in their faith, political or religious, that they feel justified to persecute and kill those who do not share their opinions. And ‘faith’ and ‘opinions’ they are.
One of the governments we overthrew was Iran. In 1953. We did so to protect British and American oil interests. You have only to glance at today’s news to see how well that turned out.
I was amused to find Henry Kissinger quoted in OVERTHROW. When the Chilean foreign minister accused him of knowing nothing about the Southern Hemisphere, Kissinger replied, “No, and I don’t care. Nothing important can come from the South. History has never been produced in the South. The axis of history starts in Moscow, goes to Bonn, crosses over to Washington and then goes to Tokyo. What happens in the South is of no importance.”
But then all of you in New Zealand and Australia and South Africa and everywhere else on what I consider the better side of the Equator already knew that.
I checked. Of the world’s current excessive population of 7.3 billion, 6.5 billion, 90%, live in the Northern Hemisphere, accounting for at least that percent of the world’s problems, if not more.
The photo is another I recently happened upon.
Thursday, January 9, 2020
My five year old 12” MacBook is showing its age. The battery needs replacing. $200. The display needs replacing. $500. So reluctantly I bought a new one. Reluctantly because my IPad Pro meets 95%+ of my needs and is a very enticing device, but a few apps, particularly iWeb, only work on Macs, and I have almost two decades of photos on my MacBook that I don’t want to transfer to the iPad. I attempted to move the photo library to an external drive which almost led to disaster and I will not try again.
Apple stopped making 12” MacBooks six months ago but a few big vendors still have them and I was able to find one with the specs I want. It arrived yesterday and the setup and transfer of data went smoothly this morning. This one is gold because gold was $100 cheaper than space gray or silver. I can live with it.
Possibly this will be my last laptop. I seldom make changes to my main website except to add new articles as they are published. I did a few days ago add to the wit/wisdom page: Read some poetry and listen to some Bach everyday. I thought about adding: And don’t eat too much. But decided not to. I do need to replace the chart with one that includes the GANNET voyage, but I expect that I can soon consider the website complete and add whatever new I want here in this journal.
I bought my first laptop in September 1992, a month after I sank RESURGAM. It was an Apple PowerBook and at $2400 the most expensive computer I have owned. It had 4 MB of RAM and a 40 MB hard drive and a slot for floppies. Those are not typos. I wrote two books on it.
Outside is gray and grim and gloomy and cold and unphotogenic, so I will be running older photos that I recently came across. The above was taken by Patrick as GANNET and I entered Bundaberg, Australia, on the passage from New Zealand. I thank him.
I thank Larry for the link to this Bliss cartoon.
Monday, January 6, 2020
Almost all of you, even if you are not residents of the USA or football fans, know that the New England Patriots lost to the Tennessee Titans in the first round of the NFL playoffs Saturday evening. The loss was front page and national TV news because the game might have been the last for Tom Brady, the New England quarterback. Brady is now 42 years old. He will be 43 before the next NFL season begins. He is not what he used to be, and I find myself wondering, as do many, if he has stayed too long.
I do not have an opinion about Tom Brady, but I have wondered the same thing about myself. I, too, am not what I used to be. A friend, half jokingly (I hope), has called me “an old sailor who is a mere shadow of his former self.” It is absolutely true. As you may have noticed there are no 78 year old active players in the NFL or the English Premier League or any other sport.
However what I do does not require that level of athletic ability, though it does require some. You may recall my advice to make yourself as strong as possible and sailing your boat as easy as possible. And some of you may recall my writing during GANNET’s passage from San Diego to Hawaii, ‘Use yourself up, old man. Use yourself up.’ That was in 2014 and while I am five years more frayed by time and sometimes wonder if I am deluding myself, I still don’t feel used up. So while this is statistically the decade in which I am likely to die and I am knowingly in the third and dying part of my life, I am looking to the future with eagerness that surprises me.
In part this is because after a year and a half it is possible, even likely though I fear to say it, that the Hilton Head condo logjam may be breaking up and the renovation will resume. I have not written about that here and will not now. There has been a plethora of lawyers, insurance companies, home owners association, government officials, and I am not going to write anything that could make matters more complicated, if that is even possible. Nevertheless there is a chance, perhaps even a good chance, that the evil condo will become habitable this year. If so, GANNET will have another truck ride which I expect will cost less than did her forty mile jaunt across Panama.
In the meantime I have decided to push my aging body harder. Each workout I am doing a few more push-ups or crunches. No set amount. Just a few more. And I bought a set of 10 pound dumbbells to go with the 5 and 2.5 pound ones Carol already had. I use them on days I don’t do my usual workout and on one of my three seven floor stairwell climbs each day I carry 30 pounds in a knapsack on my back. Not much for those of you who have been through Marine Boot Camp, but then I am old.
‘Use yourself up, old man.’ I’m trying.
I have written about my friend, Roger, who cruised up and down the east coast this summer in TRAVELLER, his excellently home built 40’ catamaran. He is now preparing to cross to the Abacos. Roger grew up near Hilton Head and if I remember correctly has sailed on Skull Creek since he was a boy, but living on board more or less full time is new to him and he recently wrote in an email some eloquent words about that which he has kindly permitted me to share with you.
I am settling into this life now, but it has been odd to me how difficult it is to relax. When I was working we would sail on my summer vacations and I could easily fall into some state of relaxation, but perhaps it was a wishful state or like practicing to relax, but I find now that there is a true state of solitude and comfort in this life aboard Traveller. Hard work it is and my situational awareness is about Traveller and her well being which is one and the same as my own well being. I am changing for the better and my heart is tucked into the natural world around me. I am only a reflection of the wind and water and the boat I built; nothing more than an instrument to them, as they play me.
I was going through old photos when I came across some I had forgotten, including the above, which is not me and Tom Brady, but me and Carol on the pier leading out to the Skull Creek Marina. Our shadows are on what I believe to be spartina, after which Steve Earley named his almost Drascombe Lugger.
Friday, January 3, 2020
If you live in the Unites States you will probably have seen ads for the Burger King Impossible Whopper. I was curious, so yesterday while Carol and I were out running errands we stopped at a Burger King and I ordered one. I can report that it looks like beef and it tastes like beef. However, as you can see the Impossible Whopper has little nutritional advantage over a regular Whooper. Neither is good for you.
IMPOSSIBLE WHOPPER VS. REGULAR WHOPPER NUTRITION FACTS
|Impossible Whopper||Regular Whopper|
|630 calories||660 calories|
|34 g fat (11 g saturated fat)||40 g fat (12 g saturated fat)|
|0 g trans fat||1.5 g trans fat|
|10 mg cholesterol||90 mg cholesterol|
|1080 mg sodium||980 mg sodium|
|58 g carbohydrates||49 g carbohydrates|
|4 g fiber||1 g fiber|
|12 g sugar||11 g sugar|
|25 g protein||28 g protein|
It should be noted that I seldom go to fast food establishments and don’t know what a regular Whopper tastes like.
One possible virtue to the Impossible Whopper is in savings of water and land needed to raise beef. It is reported that 1,799 gallons of water are needed to produce one pound of beef.
630 calories is an enormous amount for me to consume. My normal lunch in Evanston is yoghurt to which I add trail mix. Less than 200 calories total. I will not be returning to Burger King soon.
Despite, or maybe because, of the Impossible Whopper, when I worked out later that afternoon, I went to 90 push-ups which would be enough to do my age though November 10, 2032.
Even for football fans there are far, far too many made for TV college football bowl games. I believe the count this year is 40. Teams don’t even need a winning record to be in a bowl. Several have gone in with 6 wins and 6 losses. Most of these are games that only alumnae of the participating schools and the local chambers of commerce care about. Perhaps the most ludicrously named is the Gasparilla Bowl played in Tampa Bay, Florida. What in hell is gasparilla? I wondered. So I googled and learned from Wikipedia that:
“The game was renamed the Gasparilla Bowl in 2017 as a nod to the legend of José Gaspar, a mythical pirate who supposedly operated in the Tampa Bay area and who is the inspiration for Tampa's Gasparilla Pirate Festival.”
A mythical pirate? Come on.
In any event, I have not watched many of the games, preferring to watch the football that we Americans call soccer. Yesterday I watched Liverpool extend their unbeaten run in the English Premier League to a full year. They are in first place in the league standings and arguably not just the best club in England, but the world, having won the most recent Champion’s League, the top club competition in Europe, and the FIFA Club World Cup. They are a joy to watch and if not perfect, close enough.
Additional proof that we are not an intelligent species is not needed, but more is continually offered.
On January 1 recreational marijuana become legal in Illinois. Lines formed at outlets before dawn. I don’t know what time the doors opened, but the evening news carried onsite interviews with people who had been standing in line for up to six hours. The temperature was below freezing. The people being interviewed appeared happy. Case closed.
Wednesday, January 1, 2020
Sunny, clear and cold here in the upper flatlands, with an inch or two of frozen snow on the ground.
I find myself unexpectedly enthused as we began a new year and a new decade. I have said that I did not want to be like some old rock star forever singing the songs of his youth, so I am looking forward, not back, and hope and expect that 2020 will be a year of change.
I find myself unexpectedly enthused as we began a new year and a new decade. I have said that I did not want to be like some old rock star forever singing the songs of his youth, so I am looking forward, not back, and hope and expect that 2020 will be a year of change.
Regular readers will recognize Baby, my favorite sea beagle, also looking forward on one of her boats that she lets Tom steer for her. I do not know if she has named the kayak. Baby’s big boat is FIRST LIGHT, a Welsford Pathfinder, that Tom built for her.
A brief accounting of the past year before I put it behind me.
GANNET and I sailed 7,000 miles in two passages, completing her first circumnavigation and my sixth. I read in the brief author’s note at the end of a recent article of mine in CRUISING WORLD that I have made six solo circumnavigations. I have not and have never claimed to. Three of my circumnavigations were solo: the first; fifth and sixth. Jill and Carol sailed with me on parts of the other three.
I did my full workout only thirty times during 2019. This is by far the lowest number since I began keeping records in 2004. The next lowest was 43 in 2009 and 2014. In partial mitigation I was sailing or preparing to sail for the first four months of the year and I lost two months to a fractured rib and another to a virus. Thirty workouts means I did only about 4,800 push-ups and crunches during the year. However I have worked out seven times in the past two weeks and am again my usual self.
Here are the books read in the past six months.
RIGHTEOUS Timothy Jacobs
THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER John Cheever
FACING THE WAVE: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami.
THE HEART OF THE MATTER. Graham Greene
THE LUSIADS. Luis Camoes
THE PHANTOM FLOTILLA. Peter Shankland
BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA. Jose Saramago
THE MARCH OF FOLLY. Barbara Tuchman
NARROW ROAD TO THE INTERIOR. Matsuo Basho
I, IAGO Nicole Galland
SHOUT AT THE DEVIL. Wilbur Smith
LOST HORIZON. James Hilton
THE BRILLIANT DISASTER Jim Rasenberger
A BURNT-OUT CASE. Graham Greene
ALICE IN WONDERLAND Lewis Carrol
THE FEAST OF THE GOAT. Mario vargas Llosa
MIDNIGHT AT CHERNOBYL. Adam Higginbotham
UNDER OCCUPATION. Alan Furst
HELL BEFORE BREAKFAST Robert H. Patton
CIRCE. Madeline Miller
Of them, I particularly recommend FACING THE WAVE; BALTASAR AND BLIMUNDA, which I have now read three times; THE MARCH OF FOLLY; MIDNIGHT AT CHERNOBYL; and CIRCE, an original and imaginative retelling of part of the ODYSSEY from the perspective of the demi-goddess who turned some of Ulysses’ crew into swine and with whom he lived for a year.
On to the future, which I hope brings joy and fulfillment to all of you. And to me, too.
Monday, December 30, 2019
I have wondered in this journal how in this technological age when positions are known precisely in all kinds of weather ships can still run into one another. I thank Jason for a link to a long article that provides the answer, part of which is the technology itself, part the human interface with the technology, part human error, and as almost always a series of small failures that cascade into disaster.
An article in the NY TIMES makes the surprisingly good case that 2019 has been the best year ever.
Not having taken any photos of interest lately, or hardly any at all, I am running as an antidote to the gray overcast and intermittent sleet and snow outside our windows a repeat above of two fish who followed THE HAWKE OF TUONELA for several days across the South Atlantic ten years ago.
Here is a version in Apple’s Silvertone.
Saturday, December 28, 2019
Tom, who Baby, the sea beagle, permits to steer her boats, is in Ireland and sent me the above seen on the wall of the Temple Bar in Dublin.
Here is the author.
I have never been to Ireland. Obviously I should go.
I count at least three Welsford Parthfinder builders/sailors as friends: Tom and FIRST LIGHT; Steve and SPARTINA; and Rik and VANESSA. I know Tom and Steve personally: Rik who lives on Aruba by email.
Yesterday Rik who is visiting Key West and reads Michael’s Key West Diary was walking trough town and recognized Michael’s faithful companion, Rusty, from photos Michael has run and then Michael himself. Michael wisely runs far more Rusty photos than Michael photos. I smile as I write about the chance serendipitous meeting of two of my friends in a distant town.
From a NY TIMES review of 1917, a movie I want to see, comes this quote from Albert Camus:
“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, though the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
A few nights ago Carol and I rented ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD from iTunes and found it enjoyable, unusual and original. Leonardo DiCaprio’s acting is outstanding. Brad Pitt is good, but has a less demanding role.
The next night we went to see LITTLE WOMEN. I have seen reviews that say the movie is not just for women. I disagree. I also saw an article this morning that says men are being sexist when they are not interested in the film. I disagree again. And Carol shares that opinion. I have never read the novel. Carol did in school where it was required.
The film is well acted, well filmed and well directed. I am aware that women still do not earn equal pay for equal work, which is absurd, but the idea that women can be intelligent, independent and creative is hardly news. I think LITTLE WOMEN is not just for women, but for women who are far behind the times.
Monday, December 23, 2019
Last Friday I received an email that Louise, my oldest friend in terms of how long I had known her, had died. She had been seriously ill for years, so this was not entirely unexpected, but the fact came as a shock.
I had known Louise for a half a century, ever since we worked in the same State of California office building in the late 1960s. She was a social worker who spent most of her career on child welfare cases.
Like me, Louise was a Midwesterner, but also like me she thought beyond the Midwest and even the United States and saw the world. She was three months younger than I, born appropriately on Valentine’s Day for there were many men in her life.
I expect that the year she enjoyed the most was the one she spent as a Red Cross Volunteer in Vietnam at the height of that unfortunate war. She was there under artillery fire during the Tet Offensive.
Louise knew tragedy in the early deaths of close relatives and some of the men she cared for, many of whom were in the military.
With her interest and skill in photography, I once suggested that she would have been a good war photographer. She laughed and said as we both knew she was not the most athletic of people and would have been too slow to take cover.
Despite diabetes and congestive hearth failure, Louise continued to travel after her retirement, often grueling flights to the other side of the world, as long as she could. She had special fondness for Asia and Africa.
Louise and I always stayed in touch. She lived in San Diego all the time I knew her and when I was there we got together for lunch. During the five years I was making the GANNET circumnavigation, her health declined, preventing travel, and eventually causing her to be confined to her suburban condo. We last had lunch together there a few months ago. She had the food delivered and I stayed two hours before she tired. She recently mentioned in an email that was the last face to face conversation she had had.
Louise had the talent of all good photographers of seeing the moment, as she did in the above photo taken in Egypt in 2007.
I will remember her.