Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Evanston: fragmented

        I’m sitting before the lit fireplace.  
        Carol is in California for a couple of days on business.
        I was listening to Leonard Cohen’s final album, YOU WANT IT DARKER, recorded during the last year of his life as he was dying.  His voice is pretty much gone.  He speaks the words.  But I think it is one of his best.
        I am feeling fragmented:  Carol, GANNET, this condo, the one in Hilton Head.  And then I realized that fragmented is my normal state.  Perhaps the normal state of all of us almost always.
        Fragmented is not necessarily bad, if you can keep the core together.
        I have usually been fragmented by the love of solitude and the love of women without regret or by living where I did not want to be with regret.  If given the choice, I would not have been born in Saint Louis or spent most of the first two decades of my life there.  Or lived in Boston or Evanston.
        When I think back there may have been only one period when I was not fragmented and that was from when I left San Diego on November 2, 1974, in EGREGIOUS on my first attempt at Cape Horn until whatever date in March, 1976, when I met Suzanne in Auckland, New Zealand.  
        A year and a half out of seventy-six.
        On November 2, 1974, I left behind on the dock three women.  All beautiful, intelligent, charming and sexy.  They knew of one another.  For the preceding year I spent two nights a week with each and had Sunday to myself.  One was the woman I most regret not having married.  She and I were together off and on for seven years, but the timing was wrong.  Another was a Philippine/American of doe like grace.   And the third was an ex-wife with whom I shared great sex and a liking for classical music.  You would think that would be enough, but it wasn’t.
        They were all woman any man would desire, but I left them.  And I lost them.
        As I wrote in STORM PASSAGE, that voyage was a matter of life and death--but then all of my voyages have been.  More it was a proving of Webb Chiles to Webb Chiles that he was what he thought he was.  And for that year and a half I was unfragmented.  Made pure sprit oddly by putting my flesh on the line.
        I am fragmented now more than I like to be.   
        If I live long enough to see Carol retire, life may become simpler again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Evanston: penalized; Berlin Babylon; appalled; voted; I.Q. test

        I received the renewal notice from BoatUS for GANNET’s insurance.  Included with it was a statement that the company evaluates risk by, among other things, checking credit reports and because they could not find my credit history, I am not entitled to their lowest rates.
        As regular readers know, I have no credit history because I have not owed any money since I paid off EGREGIOUS in 1973.  You will find on the ‘wit and wisdom’ page of the main site:  Debts are chains.  Although I am aware that many very wealthy people disagree, I believe it to be undeniably true.  Of governments as well as individuals.  They are just comfortable living with big chains.  I won’t live with even a little one.
        So I pay BoatUS more than if I were in debt.
        Perhaps a valid commentary on modern life.


        We have been watching on Netflix the excellent and most expensive non-English language television series ever made, Berlin Babylon.  A police drama set in 1929, this is not about Nazis, but clearly depicts the conditions that gave them the opportunity to come to power. 
        Netflix has the sixteen episodes of what were in Germany seasons one and two.  A third season is being developed.
        Google and you can find out more, including universal critical acclaim, but I wouldn’t bother because of the danger of spoilers.  If you have access, just give Berlin Babylon a try.


        I am not one of those who hate New York.  In fact I lived there on the very outskirts at City Island for most of a year.  But as we rode the taxi from LaGuardia through Queens on a dreary winter evening, I shuddered at the site of row after row of ten or twelve story tenements with grimy, blind windows facing their mirror images across ugly streets.  Soul destroying, I thought, perhaps because the contrast was so great from where we had just come.  People in those tenements probably couldn’t afford to live on Hilton Head Island, though property values there are modest compared with New York and California and Auckland and Sydney and London.  But I could escape those mean streets, and would have, on a $9,000 boat.  Or, if necessary, a $1,000 boat.
        I noted in an entry last month that since 2008 more of our species live in cities than rural areas.  Yesterday an article in the GUARDIAN states that by the end of this century, 80-90% of us will live in cities, and that one, Lagos, Nigeria, may be the biggest city in the world with a population approaching one hundred million, the vast majority of whom will I expect be living in slums compared to which the Queens tenements are mansions.
        I do not long for ‘the good old days’, but we may be living in them.


        I am on the record as not believing in democracy.
        Democracy does not work and never has, except perhaps on a village scale.  
        The United States is a plutocracy and always has been in which the monied nobility maintain their control by political contributions and lobbyists, while giving the masses the illusion of the vote.
        Thousands of years of history are ample proof, but if more were needed Cambridge Analytica provides it.
        Nevertheless I donned my winter parka—right at freezing here today with a strong breeze off the lake (I could not resist peeking and find it 71º on Hilton Head)—and walked a few blocks to vote.


        As a footnote I add a simple, self-scoring I.Q. test:
        Do you get your news from social media?

Monday, March 19, 2018

Evanston: speech video; sailing for us

        There is a video of my CCA acceptance speech.
        I thought I had already posted a link, but apparently I haven’t.


        In the past few days two friends have gone sailing in their small boats in almost identical 51º temperatures on opposite coasts.  Doryman took out his Stone Horse, BELLE STARR, in the Pacific Northwest, while in Norfolk, Virginia, Steve sailed his 17’ Pathfinder, SPARTINA, after a cold February kept him off the water.
        I thank them for sailing for those of us who presently can’t.


Friday, March 16, 2018

Evanston: not long; complications; the greatest strength; the number of stars; Whangaroa to Whangamumu

        Well, that didn’t take long.  I lasted three nights.  I was on my second when I wrote on Wednesday, but have gone to four glasses tonight:  a Botanist; a martini; and two of Buffalo Trace.  What can I say.  I am weak.  
        Of Buffalo Trace, I am presently reading THE CONFESSION OF NAT TURNER which uses the word ‘trace’.  
        Drinking can expand your vocabulary. 


        Some have expressed surprise after viewing the acceptance speech video that I, who have by choice spent so many years completely alone, am a good public speaker.
        That is not by chance.
        As in everything, I plan.  I prepare.  I have empathy, learned as a young animal in a hostile environment who knew instinctively that he had to understand the adults on whom he was dependent.
        I can move crowds.  A few of you have heard me speak and know that.
        Generally I choose not to.
        I will give you another seeming contradiction:  a much married monk.
        And another:  a young man who left three beautiful women to listen to Bach in Force Twelve off Cape Horn.


        This really deserves a heading to itself, but is given now.
        I have written of the greatest truth I have found in a lifetime of reading:  Ecclesiastes 9:11:  I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all.
        So I give you my belief of the greatest strength:  to absorb the evil done to you and not pass it on.
        A Christian virtue not often historically practiced by Christians.
        It took me a half century to achieve it, if I ever have.


        Even though the greatest truth I have found and the greatest strength I have learned have come from the BIBLE, I am not a Christian.  I do not believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, and I never understood the Holy Ghost,
        I am not alone in the last.
        In Russia under either Catherine or Peter, both called ‘Great’, millions were killed and persecuted because they made the sign of the cross with two fingers instead of three.  Two because they denied the ‘Holy Ghost’.

        Only a few weeks ago I realized something that I should have long ago.
        There are five thousand stars visible with the normal naked eye from Earth.   Only half of them from any one location.
        All of our major religions were formed when that was the extent of our knowledge of the universe.
        Now we know more.  Far, far, far, far, far more.


        I like our place on Hilton Head Island. 
        There is unexpected beauty and serenity there.
        But I have not forgotten New Zealand.
        Whangaroa to Whangamumu.
        Here a thousand miles from any ocean and eight or nine thousand miles from there, I can see and hold every headland and island in my heart and always will.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Evanston: two glass limit

        Halftime of the Syracuse/Arizona State NCAA tournament play-in game.
        I am attempting to impose upon myself a two glass libation limit per evening.  
        This evening I had a martini followed by a glass of Laphroaig which is now lamentably empty.
        The obvious next step:  buy bigger glasses.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Evanston: too well; an epic passage; Tamborine

        I thank Ian for the above photo which caused him to think of me.
        Contemplating, as I am sure you often do, the list of things I love, you know that the last item is that some of you understand.
        Obviously, some of you understand too well.


        The March issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has an article about bird migrations.  I am most impressed by that of godwits, moderate size birds that forage in tidal waters.  In the northern fall they fatten up in their Alaskan breeding grounds and then fly non-stop to New Zealand in eight or nine days, with daily runs of about 700 nautical miles.  Six months later in the southern fall, they return to Alaska with a stop-over on the shores of the Yellow Sea.
        I am humbled.


        Old white men are not Chris Rock’s target audience, but both Carol and I enjoyed his recent Netflix special, Tamborine, in which he is funny while making some insightful observations.  I recommend it to those who are not offended by profanity.
        The title is spelled correctly, having been taken from a song by Prince which I have never heard.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Evanston: a successful challenge; a note in a bottle; free

        Tom has just successfully completed the Everglades Challenge, a three hundred mile expedition race from Tampa Bay to Key Largo, with check points along the way, in his beautifully home built Welsford Pathfinder, FIRST LIGHT.  Here is a link to a short video he shot the last day.
        FIRST LIGHT is moving well, has an uncluttered cockpit, and companions.
        If you click on ‘Leon Boy’ on that page, you will find more of his videos including one of his usual crew, but not on this race, enjoying a sunset.
        Congratulations, Tom, and to all those who participated.
        Well done.


        I’ve now seen references to this several places online, but I thank James for first bringing to my attention the oldest note in a bottle ever found.  An interesting and pleasing story.


        Today is a great day that should go down in the annals of time:  Comcast Freedom Day.  I just made the call and discontinued service.  Those of you outside the U.S.  will probably not understand, but my fellow Americans will.  
        Comcast is the biggest cable company in the U.S. with pricing and bills that are so deliberately opaque that even their own representatives don’t understand them.  Their bills do have one certainty:  they continually go up.  Our final bill from them was $229.94.  The replacement services will cost $100 per month and would be $15 less than that if we did not have to use an old cell phone to answer the front door intercom of our building.  I make that as an annual savings of S1559.28 or 31.18 bottles of Laphroaig.
        I will toast our delightful freedom this evening with contents from one of them.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Evanston: cold

        The Evanston sky is gray and low.  The temperature around freezing.  An inch or so of snow fell overnight.  With wind in my face, I was glad to have on my winter parka and gloves when I walked yesterday to the supermarket for yoghurt, berries, milk, bread and gin—all the necessities.  When in mid-afternoon I checked the temperature at Hilton Head Island, I found it to be precisely double ours.  I immediately booked my flight back, though it is not until seven weeks from today, after Carol’s birthday.

        The photo above is of real cold.  Markus, an Estonian commercial fisherman and sailor, sent it with this note:  February 27th at 60º40'N, 20º05E.  Wind 25 knots- gusting 30, air temperature -13ºC/08ºF  water -0 something.
        It makes me cold just looking at it.
        I checked out the position.

        That cold may be related to an ecological tragedy unfolding on English coasts.

        These photos were sent by Martin, whose daughter is the maritime environmental officer for the east coast.
        It is speculated that the drop in water temperature caused by two recent storms was so quick and severe that creatures were unable to adapt, particularly those who hold themselves in place on the seabed.  They literally lost their grip and were washed ashore.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

New York: CCA Blue Water Acceptance speech

        I have been writing for sixty years.  Sailing for fifty years.  And published for more than forty. 
        Of all my words, I am confident ten will outlive me.  I hope more will,  but of:  A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind, I am certain.  They have been used on t-shirts, greeting cards, photographs, paintings, countless websites that collect quotes of sailing and the sea, even an ad for women’s shoes.  I don’t understand that one.
        Perhaps in coming years every now and then someone will happen across those words and wonder who Webb Chiles was and find more of my words.
        I am pleased to be here this evening.  I am pleased, and a little surprised, to be anywhere this evening.  Age 76 and the year 2018 are numbers from science fiction.  Though frayed by time, I believe that I am still good, that I am not yet used up, that I can still do more.
        That I have grown old is unexpected.  My father and both my grandfathers died before age forty.  Yet I who took the greatest risks have now more than doubled their lives.   That might have been due to chance, though I do not consider myself lucky.  But it also might have been because I planned and I prepared to the extent of my resources.  I never did anything at the last minute.  And though I took risks, I never took an uncalculated risk. 
        Of my circumnavigations I believe that my first, most of my second, and my current sixth, were cutting edge.
        In each I sought a new experience.  I did not want to be like an old rock star forever singing the songs of his youth.  I wanted to sing a new song, and I think that GANNET and I have.
        I have owned three great boats.  Two of them small:  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an undecked 18’ Drascombe Lugger yawl;  GANNET, an ultralight Moore 24; and RESURGAM, a Sparkman and Stevens designed She 36.
        I have great affection for small boats, who if well designed and built can do so much more than most believe possible.
        Eternity is long.  Our lives as brief as a butterfly’s cough.  I believe that they are redeemed by moments of joy.  I have known countless such moments sailing small boats across oceans.   
        I thank you for this medal and I wish you sailing joy.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hilton Head Island: beautiful soup; last day; measure

        Well, Webb Chiles is finally over.
        First he finds a place ashore he really likes and now he is posting pictures of food.
        He too is food:  toast.

        On the other hand I might merely finally be going with the mainstream.  Almost all articles in so-called sailing magazines are not about sailing, but the food and shopping ashore.  And a recent post by a friend about a day sail with his wife and daughter included two photos of them and three of the food they ate afterwards.
        Bowing at last to your real interests I share the above photo of yesterday’s lunch at the Santa Fe Cafe here on Hilton Head Island, featuring ‘Painted Desert Soup’, which is a work of art that tasted as good as it looked.
        Restaurant reviews will now feature prominently in this journal.  Or not.


        Our last full day in Hilton Head has begun overcast and still.  I have now been living here a month and I look up a hundred times a day at the view and walk onto the terrace a dozen times with pleasure.
        Tomorrow we fly to NYC where I am to receive an award, then on to Evanston.  When I return about May 1 I will be living on GANNET.  The condo is about to be torn apart, floor and ceiling, and a lot in between.  Hopefully, three or four months and a small fortune later, it will be back together and a thing of beauty inside as well as out.

        Here is a paragraph I have cut from my award acceptance speech.  I will post the speech here after I give it and possibly upload a video of my rehearsing it.

        I believe that the species sends off random sparks that are original experiments.  I believe I am one, and as can be found in STORM PASSAGE, my first book, I went in knowing that almost all original experiments are failures.  I do not know if the experiment I am is a success or a failure.  I do not know how to measure that.

        So how do you measure a life?
        Many of you have children and if they have turned out well, that is certainly a valid measure.
        For many, probably most, money is the measure.
        If so, I offer an almost certain fact:  every single person reading these words has greater life time earnings than the person who is writing them.
        I saw the heading of an article in the NY TIMES a few days ago: ‘Everyone wants more followers on social media.’  It was about ways people game the system to appear to have far more followers than they actually do.
        My first thought was that almost any statement that begins “Everyone” proves the deficient intelligence of the person who wrote it.  There are perishingly few statements that can be made about ‘everyone’.  My next thought was that the NY TIMES is now being written by people far younger and less experienced of the world, not to mention less intelligent, than I.  And the last was that if life is measured by followers on social media, I don’t have one.
        Some measure life by awards.  I don’t. 
        So how does one measure a life?
        There is a perhaps apocryphal story about Abraham Lincoln.  At a cabinet meeting an issue came to a vote.  Everyone in the room voted, ‘Nay”.  Lincoln voted, “Aye”.  And then said, “The Aye’s have it.”