Monday, October 24, 2016

Evanston: trees and streaks and videos and a healthy life

        We moved into this building ten years ago when it was new.  A tree planted in the small front yard reached only to the first floor.  We are on the third floor and now look out onto its highest branches whose leaves today seemed to change before my eye.  Yellow.  Brown.  Gone.  Not all, but many and at an increasing rate.  
        It has been a lovely fall day.  Sunny, light wind, temperatures in the low 50sF/10-12C.  Inside I am wearing a t-shirt, Levis, and vestigially going without socks.  When I go outside I quickly realize that I am deluded.  Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in the Southern Hemisphere anymore.
        The photo above is not the tree outside our window, but a Baobob in South Africa.


        I don’t watch what poses as the national evening news.  I am a Trump-free zone.  I do watch the local news; and the only local news is the World Series, which presumes that the world consists of the United States and Toronto, Canada.  
        Cleveland is a deserving team that has played superbly in the post-season, but they have won the World Series in my lifetime—if just barely—and the Cubs haven’t for 108 years.  As I think I have pointed out before, there are places that have won the World Series that weren’t even places when the Cubs last did.  I think particularly of Arizona and Florida where in 1908 there were respectively only rattlesnakes and gila monsters and mosquitos.  
        Go, Cubs.

        I no longer read the NZ HERALD online.  It has become a silly shadow of a newspaper.  It is not the only one that has debased itself in an effort to survive at all costs.  If you can only survive by relinquishing integrity and honor, perhaps you shouldn’t.
        That has not kept me from knowing that the All Blacks have just set a world record, assuming the world is the eight or so countries that play big-time rugby, by winning their eighteenth test match in a row.  What is particularly impressive is that the streak continues despite the retirement of some of the greatest New Zealand rugby players ever.
        Go, All Blacks.


         There are now nine short GANNET in the Indian Ocean videos on YouTube.  I appreciate the positive response.  There are more to come.


        I have often written that life aboard GANNET is naturally healthy.  
        This was true in Opua, where I rowed ashore and walked around and frequently climbed the Opua hill.
        It was true in Darwin where I rowed forever just to reach the shore.
        But returning to land life in Evanston, I have realized that it is not true during a long ocean passage on GANNET, when during one two week period of rough weather I probably only stood up for a total of one hour, or in Durban, where in a marina slip my only significant exercise was a long walk on the dock to reach the yacht club to shower.
        I have resumed wearing my Apple watch, resumed my full workouts three times a week, resumed doing my shoulder physical therapy maintenance exercises twice a week, resumed climbing twenty flights of stairs a day, resumed completing all of the Activity circles on the watch app each day, taking only the weekends off.  
        The realization that life aboard GANNET has its limitations came when all of the exercises here hurt.
        They don’t much anymore.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Evanston: GANNET in the Indian Ocean videos

        After a rather frustrating morning in which I discovered that my Nikon AW1 camera makes videos in a format that cannot be imported into iMovie, I have started to upload a series of short videos directly to YouTube.  Before anyone emails me, I have learned how to convert the videos into an iMovie acceptable format, but the process is too time consuming.
        The first three videos are now viewable at:
        More will follow, including a tour of the Great Cabin and ending with some taken during the final 50 knot gale off Durban.
        I am a writer, not a cinematographer.  This is raw, unedited footage.  In this case, cinéma veríté is a euphemism for amateur hour.  But I hope the videos enhance your understanding of my GANNET experience.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Evanston: the virtue of losing it

        Most of the books I buy these days, I buy through the inelegantly named BookBub.  I believe it was Larry in California who told me of BookBub, and I thank him even though it costs me $30 or $40 a month.  
        After you create an account and specify genres, BookBub sends an email each day with several ebooks on sale, usually for $1.99 or $2.99, though once I paid $3.99 and some are free.  
        In the past month I bought 14 books from Amazon via BookBub.  Obviously I haven’t yet read them all.  A few turn out to be mistakes, but the loss is insignificant, and many have proven to be great finds.  Several that have been offered I didn’t buy because I already own them, such as a biography of Catherine the Great and Beryl Markham’s, WEST WITH THE NIGHT.
        A couple of days ago I bought a novel, A FINE IMITATION, which has the following quote at the beginning:  Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, one by one.  —Charles Mackay.
        My return to the United States has made me think that the herd has indeed gone mad.
        During my fifty-five days at sea between Darwin and Durban, the world had news of me via the Yellowbrick tracker, but I had no news of the world.  This was quite a satisfactory arrangement.
        When I reached South Africa I became aware that my age related hearing loss, noticeable for the past year or so, has become more severe.  Alone on GANNET it didn’t matter, but now too often I can’t understand what people are saying.  I’ll get a hearing aid, but probably not until next year, after, hopefully, I have completed the circumnavigation.
        Having been more than half blind for several years and now becoming deaf, clearly I am losing touch with reality.  Reality being what it is, I don’t mind.


        Kathleen Saville, who rowed across both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans with her late husband, Curt, has another excellent quote at the beginning of her book, ROWING FOR MY LIFE, to be published next year.  I have written of Kathleen and Curt here before and was sent a prepublication copy.
         It is easier to sail many thousand miles through cold and storm and cannibals, in a government ship, with five hundred men and boys to assist one, than it is to explore the private sea, the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean of one’s being alone.  —Henry David Thoreau

Friday, October 14, 2016

Evanston: good quotes

        As I noted a while ago, this journal is approaching a million words.  In addition I’ve had seven books published, numbering I do not know how many words, and countless magazine articles.  Of all those words, I expect that the ten above are the most likely to last.  
        My friend, Larry the dentist, who is the sole purveyor of toothbrushes for the GANNET voyage, took the above photo at the Annapolis Boat Show.  I think he also bought the sweatshirt, for which I receive no royalties.  A rather busy design in my opinion.  
        I thank him for the photo.
        In the email that accumulated during my recent land travel were some other good quotes.
        From Bill:  “I have no special talents.  I am only passionately curious.” —Albert Einstein
        From Jay, who thinks them appropriate to my life, lyrics from a Cat Stevens song he heard at a live concert:

            Miles from nowhere
            Not a soul in sight
            Oh yeah, but it’s all right
            I have my freedom
            I can make my own rules
            Oh yes, the ones I choose

        And from Sid one that I have run here before, but can bear repetition:   “On the Plains of Hesitation, bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the Dawn of Victory, sat down to wait—and waiting, died.” —George W. Cecil

        I thank them all.

        To them I add from a book I finished while traveling, BURNING THE DAYS by James Salter, “I had come very close to achieving the self that is based on the risking of everything, going where others would not go, giving what they would not give.”

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Evanston: flattened

        We arrived back in Evanston two days ago after a splendid two weeks traveling in South Africa.  Near the beginning and the end, we stayed at two exceptional places, and in between we saw a lot of animals in Kruger Park, most noteworthy a pride of eight lions, six lionesses and two adolescents, feasting on a freshly killed kudu above a dry river bed.  We did not see any leopards or cheetahs, but we did see two rhinos which are rare because some of our deluded species believe their horns possess medicinal properties.
        Eastern South Africa is enduring a severe drought.    In Kruger it is in its third year.  Small creek beds are dry.  Rivers whose banks are hundreds of yards/meters apart are reduced to streams ten yards/meters wide or even to puddles in isolated declivities.  The hills are brown.  Vegetation sparse.  A guide told us that the skeletons of thousands of hippos who have starved to death liter the bush.  Part of the park looks like a lunar landscape.  And, as they say, there is no end in sight.
        Before driving north to Kruger, we stayed for two days at the Champagne Castle Hotel in the Drakensberg Mountains.  I don’t think many foreign tourists visit the Drakensberg.  A couple from Australia seemed to be the only non-South Africans there other than ourselves.  
        The place is simply wonderful.  The view of the looming mountains spectacular.  A small bar that feels as though it is a room in an English country house.  Food so dangerously good that even I overate.  Hiking trails.  Pure air at 5,000’/1500 meters.  Endless serenity.
        Carol wanted to go for a sunset horse back ride, so I got on a horse for the first and probably last time in my life.  I was given an old tired horse, which is just what I wanted, who nevertheless had lee helm and a tendency to veer to port.  The lurching motion reminded me of a power boat smashing into waves.  I had just been reading a history of the Civil War and two hours in the saddle gave me new respect for cavalry.
        After Kruger we splurged and spent two nights in a tent at Summerfields Rose Retreat and Resort in Hazyview.  This is not your usual tent.  Two stories high on a platform just above a small stream.  A king size bed.  On a side deck a bathtub and a shower.  A front deck with nothing in view but jungle.  No sounds but those of the stream and birds.  Excellent food and service.  And again blissful serenity.
        If we did not live so far away, we would visit both Summerfields and the Champagne Castle often.
        We flew to Chicago via Dubai.  Not exactly on the way, but Air Emirates offered by far the least expensive tickets.
        A woman with whom Carol used to work now has a consulting business in Dubai, so we stayed over and saw some of the city.  As we were driving on the main expressway, seven lanes of traffic on each side where ten years ago there was a two lane road, the skyline seemed be from a science fiction movie.  This may be the future, but it is not a future I want.  A land of malls and money, of buying stuff and artificial amusement.
        We rode up in the Burj Khalifa.  124 floors in one minute with no sensation of motion whatsoever.  To go to that level costs about $30 US.  For an additional $60 you can go to the 148 floor.  
        If you have ever been to the top of any other tall building, I wouldn’t bother to go up in the Burj at all.  The view is not qualitatively different from 100 stories, and the viewing areas of the Burj are jammed with people taking selfies.
        From the outside, the Burj Khalifa is I think the most beautiful of the super tall buildings.  At a few miles distance, so slender it doesn’t seem possible that it stands.  Up close you see that it is an elegant elongated pyramid.  Truly a rare human creation.
        The flight from Dubai, which is now the third busiest airport in the world, took fifteen hours.  Presumably to avoid Syrian air space, we headed north over Iraq and Russia, passing near Moscow, then turning west, over Stockholm, near Oslo, out over the North Atlantic, just south of Iceland, over the tip of Greenland, and curving south crossing into Canada and flying near Hudson Bay.
        We took off at 9:30 a.m. Dubai time, +4 UTC, and landed at 3:00 p.m. Chicago time, -5 UTC because of Daylight Savings Time, on a warm, sunny afternoon, which resulted in odd jet lag in which I was initially not tired at all though it was midnight in our bodies and I didn't go to bed until it was 4 a.m. in Dubai where we last woke up.
        A few leaves have fallen, but Evanston is as overwhelmingly green as Kruger is brown, and after almost seven months south of the Equator I am still adjusting to the season being fall rather than spring.

        The photo was taken from the balcony of our room at the Champagne Castle Hotel.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Durban: last night

        My last evening on GANNET this year. 
       A tumbler of boxed red wine at hand.  Spanish music, which I also listened to last night, coming from the Megabooms.
        I put a second coat of Deks Olje on the wood today.  The cabin is transformed from the tidal pool it was a few weeks ago. 
        I’ve been aboard now for almost seven months, the longest I have lived on board continuously, slightly longer than I did two years ago, and the longest I have been away from Carol.  Too long.
        When I arrived in Durban some congratulatory emails told me to get a hotel room and relax, but I stayed with the little boat.  The first night I slept in a moist sleeping bag on a pipe berth, but by the second I had restored some order and slept forward on the v-berth.  I have two homes:  GANNET and where Carol is.
        As regular readers will know I’ve been largely packed for a while, and today, in addition to oiling, had only to tie down the tiller, lower the flags, and set up the running backstays.  None of which would have mattered if I hadn't done them.
        16,000 miles along the way GANNET is, as far as I can tell without hauling her from the water, in good shape.
        Two of the main projects I wanted done before sailing on have been completed.  The sails have had minor repairs and the main a fourth reef sewn in.  My tiller pilots have been returned repaired under warranty.  At the moment I have three working Raymarines on board.  
        GANNET also has new mainsail and tiller covers.
        Two other projects will be completed in my absence.  The spray hood made.  And, Gavin and Derrick, riggers, will install the replacement masthead wind units, brackets to prevent the Tides Marine track from bulging when the mainsail is reefed, and cleats on either side of the mast to secure the reef tack line.
        When I return in January I will haul and antifoul, touch up the rub rails and the interior, and probably give the deck a new coat of non-skid.
        There are a good many items to buy in the U.S. and bring back with me, including an as yet undetermined number of additional Raymarine tiller pilots. Hopefully I will also bring back a functioning Pelagic pilot.
        But for now I’m gone.
        The next entry will be from the flatlands sometime after October 9.
        I won’t be answering email until then either.
        The next two weeks are for Carol and me.


        Tim sent me a link to surfline, a site I did not know.
        He wrote:  While you were sailing, I used this website to see what the wave height was in the Indian Ocean. There was a stretch for more than 2 weeks that your path was in the red, meaning 20+ feet or more.
        The waves in the gale I had on my approach to Durban were forecast also to be 6 meters/20’.
         I did not think the waves were that high in either place, but they were certainly high enough to throw GANNET around, and I may have to revise my estimates.


        I gave a talk at the Point Yacht Club a couple of weeks ago, only the second I’ve given in perhaps ten years, and I’ll conclude this as I concluded then:  I raise my glass to you and to me, and to our dreams, and the passion to pursue them.
        (Passion from a seventy-four year old:  absurd!)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Durban: courge and honor; Seattle sailors; lounging

        I oiled GANNET’s interior wood today, and cut off a foot of the jib halyard I used this year whose cover had become frayed, and read more of Volume 2 of Shelby Foote’s:  THE CIVIL WAR.  
        Shelby Foote was perhaps the star of Ken Burns’s PBS series about the Civil War and later told Ken that he had made him, Shelby, a millionaire from renewed sales of books written decades earlier.
        I just read about Pickett’s charge on the third day of Gettysburg.  One Mississippi regiment achieved the unenviable perfection of 100% casualties.  A North Carolina regiment came close, with only two non-casualties, a flag bearer and the man beside him, who survived only because the Union soldiers impressed by their courage did not shoot them, but let them to continue on and become prisoners.
        One Tennessee soldier when forced to retreat did so walking backwards because he did not want to be shot in the back.


        Three sailors from the Seattle area have made remarkable solo voyages returning from New Zealand to their home waters in the past year, all in boats between 30’ and 40’ long, small by current cruising boat standards.
        Craig, of LuckGrib fame, did it with one stop.  Opua to Hawaii to Washington state.
        Dennis did it in two.
        And Steve in ROVER OF TACOMA sailed 22,000 miles in ten months, going from Whangarei around Cape Horn to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, to Panama, Hawaii, and then to the mainland.
        With the exception that you can pick your weather when leaving New Zealand as you cannot when approaching, it is much more difficult to sail from NZ to the US than vice versa.
        All admirable voyages in which Craig, Dennis and Steve should take justifiable pride.


        Jay sent me a quote from from Robert Scott who died on his return from the South Pole, having been beaten by five weeks to that goal by Roald Amundsen.  Among Scott’s final written words were:  How much better it has been than lounging in comfort at  home.
        I like to believe that I understand, but I must confess that sailing GANNET across oceans is hard and I am very much looking forward to lounging in comfort at home for three months.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Durban: the end of a lovely day; poor no more

        The sun set a half hour ago.  The sky is dissolving from blue to black at the end of a lovely day, after a raw and blustery weekend.  This part of South Africa is suffering from a several years’ drought.  I cannot begrudge them the rain even if it exposed leaks in GANNET, and had me sleeping beside a plastic container to catch drips from the forward hatch hinge.
        This morning I disassembled that hinge and found a gasket folded back upon itself which was the obvious source of the leak.  In trying to put the hinge back together I stripped threads, steel screws into plastic.  I’ve taped the whole thing over.  New hinge parts cost $60.  A new hatch $500.  I’ll first try for the new hinge when I return.


        I am not stupid about money, yet I’ve never made a lot.  For unexpected reasons I have become among the wealthiest of men because, unlike greedy billionaires, I have enough and know it.
        Yet this weekend found me reduced to the equivalent of $14 US.
        South Africa is apparently a country of great credit card fraud.  Since arriving I have had my cards denied multiple times, causing at least eight Skype calls back to the U.S.  
        Yesterday was Sunday.  I took a taxi to a shopping center where I was unable to get cash from multiple ATMs.  I telephoned my bank and was told nothing could be done until Monday morning.  I forwent lunch, carefully calculated my purchases at a supermarket, hoping I would not have to move aside things I couldn’t pay for, and, after taking a taxi back to the marina—the distance was too far to walk—had left the equivalent of $14 US.  
         I have far more than enough food on GANNET to last the week until Carol comes to my rescue, but I was feeling squeezed.  Fortunately today my cards were unblocked and I was able to get cash.  I paid a sailmaker for repairs and new mainsail and tiller covers and splurged on a cheese burger for lunch at the yacht club.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Durban: drip; short timer; glass

       Evening.  Rain is easing, but has been falling steadily, and sometimes heavily, since morning.  I have not left the Great Cabin all day.
       Sitting at Central, I was disappointed to hear water dripping behind me from the  forward hatch onto the v-berth.
        I crawled up there and found that it is not coming from the edge or any of the seventeen bolts securing the hatch that I applied butyl tape to, but from  one of the screws that attach the hinge to the underside of the hatch.  I will see what I can do about that when the rain finally ends, which may not be until Monday.
        I also closely examined the bolts of the spray hood frame and the relocated cam cleats.  No leaks.


        I am a short timer.  Only one more week on GANNET before Carol arrives and only two or three weeks when I return in January before I plan to sail on.
        Next week should/may see the rigger come and install the replacement Raymarine masthead wind transducer and brackets to keep the lower section of the Tides Marine mainsail track from bulging; a sailmaker come to take measurements for the spray hood; another sailmaker return my repaired sails with a fourth reef in the main and new mainsail and tiller covers; and two repaired under warranty Raymarine tiller pilots returned.
        I need to do something about the hatch hinge leak, get my laundry done, and pack.

       The photo was taken on July 9, the day I went for a swim during GANNET's magnificent twenty-eight mile noon to noon run.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Durban: found; framed; hatched

        Those of you who have read the Darwin to Durban passage log know that when the Great Cabin turned into the Great Dismal Swamp, I tried unsuccessfully to find the bivy I bought following Steve Earley’s lead.
        Yesterday I needed to change to a new gas canister for the JetBoil and there in the waterproof bag in which I stow the canisters was the bivy.  I don’t remember putting it there, but certainly no one else did.  Not a bad place for it.  At least next time I’ll know where to look.
        I also counted the canisters.  I left San Diego with a case of 24 and 2 or 3 extras.  I have 14 left.


        In an effort, or at least a gesture, that there won’t be a next time, I am having a spray hood made.  The frame is in place and measurements for the hood will be taken next week.
        Almost everything on a boat is a compromise, but GANNET was so wet on the last passage that I decided to try to accept those that come with a spray hood.   It needs to be low because GANNET’s boom is low when sheeted in close-hauled.  I didn’t want to have to relocate a lot of deck hardware.  The hood I am having made will require moving only two cam cleats.  And a hood will have to be quickly and easily folded forward, probably every time I move from cabin to deck and vice versa, and because I like to stand in the companionway.  If it meets all these requirements and also keeps some water out, I’ll be satisfied.


        I removed—tedious—and rebedded—easy—the forward hatch today.
        To rebed I used butyl tape.  If this works it will be wonderful because the tape is a pleasure to work with.  No mess.  No cleanup.
        I am not recommending this.  It has yet to be tested by rain, which is due this weekend, and an ocean passage, which won’t happen until next year. 
        If you are curious and want more information I bought mine here.