My main site is
www.inthepresentsea.com. Starting October 1, 2013. I began duplicating my journal here. Because of inadequate Internet connections while traveling, beginning April 4, 2016 the journal is being updated only here.
The tracking page for GANNET is:
Chicago is a great city. It has great architecture. Museums. Food. Music. Public parks and spaces. A magnificent lakefront. But as I have noted before, no one lives here for the climate. Or if they do, they are demented. Even by Chicago standards Tuesday was weird.
When Carol and I walked in Calvary Cemetery in mid-afternoon the temperature was 80º, about twice what it has been around here lately. Others were there too. A young man was tossing a ball among the graves for his dog. On the far side an older man was sitting in a lawn chair reading. Individuals and couples were walking. We kept our distance from all, and all of us were sweating. Sweat has not been seen In Chicago since last October.
Four hours later a predicted cold front passed through with lightning, strong wind, heavy rain, and a drop to near freezing. During the night hail fell, smashing windshields on parked cars. Carol and I slept through that. Her car is in our garage.
Two days later snow is in the forecast.
I thank Jay for forwarding the above dramatic photograph taken looking south toward downtown Chicago by his son, Jimmy Grizzell, and I thank Jimmy for permission to share it with you.
From Cornell University’s Bird Lab comes a video of dancing albatross.
Apparently some of our species have named the chick, Pippa. Somehow I doubt she knows that. She does look as though she is wondering what the hell is going on and wishes it would stop.
The Webb Chiles mini-festival continues, and concludes, with an article in the just released May issue of YACHTING WORLD, which they have titled ‘Pacific Solo’. It is a repeat of what I titled ‘Act Three’. I will add it to the articles page on the main site next month. The brief note about me at the end is of course wrong. I have owned more than three boats. It should have read ‘three great boats’.
It has taken a while, but I have formulated a loose plan for the rest of my life, or the next four or five years, which is probably the same thing. It presumes that I remain healthy and alive. No details. I don’t like to talk about what I might do. I prefer to report on what I have done. So you will have to hang around to find out.
Time to do some stairs and then resistance bands.
———— An update. I wrote the above four or five hours ago. Now, at 6:08 PM snow is falling. Actually being blown sideways.
Last week while corresponding with Bill who lives in the UK and is a professional musician among many other things, I mentioned that the three favorite songs of my long ago young adulthood are Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’, Bette Midler’s ‘The Rose’, and Don McClean’s ‘Vincent’. I don’t know how old Bill is. From his photos he looks about 40 to me, but I have always been a bad judge of age and have become worse. Now that I am really old, people 60 seem young to me. Whatever his age, Bill is a lot younger than I. He is naturally very active. In addition to running a business during the day, he plays in a band that is usually booked forty weekends a year, performing mostly in the southwest UK; he races dinghies on a nearby lake and sails CALSTAR, a Westerly 26, with his father out of Plymouth; additionally he is married, has a family, and walks his dogs. Almost all of which has come to a screeching halt due to the pandemic. Bill wrote back that ‘Vincent’ stuck in his mind and so, largely restricted to his home, he made a video which he has posted on his website, scapegoats anonymous, and has given me permission to share. To the minor extent I had anything to do with this, I am pleased. Maybe my life hasn’t been a complete waste. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=169&v=JvRzILlQyAI&feature=emb_logo
Thinking about songs from my past, my mind moved forward a few decades to 1995. Carol and I met in June 1994 and were married in Key West two months later. She was on a six month leave of absence from her architectural firm and we had wonderful first months feasting on one another on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in the Florida Keys. In December I had HAWKE hauled from the water and we drove to the frozen north, where for a year and a half we lived in the rented downstairs of a house in Belmont, a Boston suburb, before we moved back on board HAWKE at Constitution Marina in Boston Harbor. When I did my workouts in Belmont I turned on VH1. Now I turn on one of the sports channels which at present when there are no live sports usually means watching classic soccer games. Back then I liked some of the music on VH1. Two songs stayed with me. One the sensual video of Melissa Etheridge singing ‘I’m The Only One’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCphbDRkZSo
One last song. I try to use words carefully. I am more a man of words than anything else. Some give me pause. ‘Soul’, ‘spirit’, ‘great’, ‘genius’. Some such as ‘hero’ and ‘adventure’ are among the most debased in our times. ‘Friend’ both gives me pause and is debased. My experience is that people come and go. Carol is the first person I have been reasonably confident I can count on for the distance. There were a few other women before her who might have done so, but they came along too soon. Of men, I was disappointed decades ago to learn that those I thought were friends proved merely to be acquaintances. I may be wrong but I believe that I have more true friends now than I ever have had. If I am wrong, leave me my delusion. A few of you I know personally. Some of you I will never meet. But I have given this thought and I consider you friends in the true sense of the word. So ‘Amigo De Veridad’. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S32dIr2XIRI&list=RDS32dIr2XIRI&start_radio=1
This noble bird was photographed by Brian Horsley, a charter boat captain, off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The great images came to me through a mutual friend, Jim. I thank Jim for forwarding them and for the sunset photo below that he took himself, and I thank Brian for permission to share them with you. I like the Outer Banks. There is a sense of wildness and a justified feeling of being more on the edge of the continent there than I have experienced anywhere else on the East Coast. Perhaps only those who have sailed the East Coast offshore really understand how far Cape Hatteras juts out. You experience that with your body. I think I have passed Hatteras six times, three heading north, three south, and I have always been glad when it is astern. Jim, who lives in the Outer Banks, writes that they are closed. If I remember correctly there are only two bridges to the islands so they can be easily isolated, though not so easily evacuated for hurricanes. Police are stationed at the bridges, checking IDs. Much of the property on the islands belongs to out of state owners. Even they are banned from entering. Hilton Head has only one bridge. As far as I know it is not closed, but then South Carolina is one of the few remaining states without a shelter in place order. Work continues on the no longer evil condo and is on track, unless stopped, for completion next month. We have refundable tickets to fly to Hilton Head over Memorial Day. Whether we will use them is in doubt. Here is Jim’s photo of I think last night’s sunset over the sound.
We made another liquor store run yesterday and now are spirited for the duration. At least for the first wave. We have toilet paper. I think I found oatmeal. Three boxes of Quaker Oats are due to be delivered tomorrow. But, alas, people are now hoarding martini olives. I have great sympathy for those suffering the economic consequences of the pandemic. Among them a dairy farmer shown on television the other evening dumping 20,000 gallons of milk every day. With schools and restaurants closed, consumption of milk like gasoline, is far down and the cows don’t halt production. I have long been on the record as stating that we are not Homo sapiens, which means ‘wise’ or ‘knowing’ man, but Homo inspiens, ‘unknowning’ or ‘foolish’ man, yet from time to time, in fact all too frequently, I am shocked by how stupid some of us are. The latest example is that some of the demented are burning down 5G cell towers in the UK because of a conspiracy theory spread though ever reliable social media that 5G is causing the Covid 19 pandemic.
Readers have sent me interesting and useful virus links. This is in distinct contrast with the television news. Every piece on the NBC national evening news last night was emotion based, and NBC is usually less sensational than some. From Larry comes a letter written by F. Scott Fitzgerald when he was quarantined in France in 1920 during what is often called the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Evidence seems to establish that the epidemic began in Kansas and was spread by movements of US soldiers, but somehow we managed to pass the blame to Spain.
It was a limpid dreary day, hung as in a basket from a single dull star. I thank you for your letter. Outside, I perceive what may be a collection of fallen leaves tussling against a trash can. It rings like jazz to my ears. The streets are that empty. It seems as though the bulk of the city has retreated to their quarters, rightfully so. At this time, it seems very poignant to avoid all public spaces. Even the bars, as I told Hemingway, but to that he punched me in the stomach, to which I asked if he had washed his hands. He hadn’t. He is much the denier, that one. Why, he considers the virus to be just influenza. I’m curious of his sources.
The officials have alerted us to ensure we have a month’s worth of necessities. Zelda and I have stocked up on red wine, whiskey, rum, vermouth, absinthe, white wine, sherry, gin, and lord, if we need it, brandy. Please pray for us.
You should see the square, oh, it is terrible. I weep for the damned eventualities this future brings. The long afternoons rolling forward slowly on the ever-slick bottomless highball. Z. says it’s no excuse to drink, but I just can’t seem to steady my hand. In the distance, from my brooding perch, the shoreline is cloaked in a dull haze where I can discern an unremitting penance that has been heading this way for a long, long while. And yet, amongst the cracked cloudline of an evening’s cast, I focus on a single strain of light, calling me forth to believe in a better morrow.
F. Scott Fitzgerald
About an hour after I posted the above, I received an email from Justin that the letter is in fact a parody and not written by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I thank him. https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/this-side-of-paradise-a-letter-from-f-scott-fitzgerald-quarantined-in-the-south-of-france
One can believe in nothing. I should have known that. From Ken in Perth, Australia, comes a link to the Worldometers site with accurate numbers and graphs about the pandemic. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/
Yesterday Spring came to these upper flatlands. The temperature officially at O’Hare was 70ºF/21ºC and Carol and I had a very pleasant walk among the tombstones. A cold front passed during the night and took Spring with it. Not much above freezing again with dreary low overcast. As I have observed before, no one ever lived in Chicago for the climate. Of if they did they were demented. And last. Do your duty.
“We are all in this together” is all over television and other media. It is a myth. In reality we are all in this competitively, like economy passengers scrambling for bag space in overhead bins on airplanes. The proof is in lack of face masks, sterile wipes, latex gloves, the infamous toilet paper, and even oatmeal. It has taken a pandemic, but more and more are becoming like me. Or trying to. Oatmeal has never before been in short supply. I have been able to restock almost anywhere in the world. Not now. I conclude that someone somewhere online has advised previously non-oatmeal eaters to stock up. I have enough oatmeal for a few more weeks. I may start reducing my usual ½ cup to ⅓.
The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant wrote “ought implies can.” That means that it is useless to say someone ought to act in a certain way if it is not possible for him to do so.
I read that the US government is going to advise that everyone wear face masks in public. When there are no face masks available this is worthless.
An odd consequence of the pandemic is that San Diego’s Mission Bay is closed.
I heard from my marina neighbor, Kevin, that the marina is closed, but it is still possible to get to his boat. As I believe I have mentioned before, the boat yard with the marina toilets and showers is closed and inaccessible.
But Kevin also said that anyone venturing out on the water is being forced to return to their slip by the Life Guards. Where better to socially isolate than on the water? Carol suggests that perhaps they want to keep outsiders out.
This is unabashed bragging.
While doing my workout on Monday I tweaked something in my damaged left shoulder. Nothing serious, but subsequently there were occasional twinges of pain. I wondered if I would be able to do my weight workout on Tuesday. I was. And then Wednesday, bad shoulder be damned, in the first set of push-ups of my workout I went to 100 for the second time this year.
As I have mentioned I did want to get to 100 once this year and unexpectedly did so in January. My fear is that I am going to decide that I should now do so at least once a month.
If you viewed yesterday’s entry early, be advised that I later changed the last word from ‘happy’ to ‘calm’.
James Taylor and Yo-Yo Ma. A very pleasant way to spend eight minutes. How could 109 people give this a thumbs-down?
Too much is being written and said about this virus. I hesitate to add more and had decided not to post this, but obviously changed my mind.
I wrote this morning to a friend largely facetiously: Be more zen-like like me, who as I have noted am not, but I do seem calmer than most. Kipling’s: ‘if you can keep your head while all about you are losing theirs’. The conclusion is that I may be a man, my son. There is of course an alternative ending: if you can keep your head while all around you are losing theirs, perhaps you don’t understand the situation. I prefer the original.
I am not interested in speculation or opinion or feel good or be terrorized stories. I seek facts and numbers.
Above are two screen shots, one from the NY TIMES, the other the BBC, which if studied have some interesting facts, including death rates except in a few states of less than 2 per 100,000, which are pretty good odds, and that the death rate from the virus parallels normal death rates. 10% of the population over 80 in the UK die every year, and yesterday I checked normal deaths in the US, which number about 3,000,000 a year. That is a little less than 1% of the total population. More than a half million of those deaths come from heart disease and cancer each.
I am not suggesting that this pandemic is not serious. I take it seriously. I adamantly do not want to be in a hospital. But as I have noted before this is not the Black Death which in the fourteenth century reduced Europe’s population by 30%-60%.
So I am going to listen to some music, read Evelyn Waugh and a few poems. Do my exercises. Today resistance bands. As well, of course, stairs and maybe a walk. And this evening have a good bottle of wine with Carol.
In case you have forgotten or never knew, the full name of the site and this journal is ‘self-portrait in the present sea’, a title I carried around with me for decades before finding a use. Two articles have been added. The SMALL CRAFT ADVISOR interview and ‘Lessons of the Sixth’. I have changed the chart of the fifth circumnavigation on the logs page. I have changed the title of what was the wit page to lines. I am not completely happy with that and have considered alternatives, but it will do for now. I have also added three new lines to the page. I am not going to tell you which. If interested you can go and find out for yourself. Considering there are only thirty-six in all, that is a good year’s work. I am rereading and very much enjoying Evelyn Waugh’s fine WW2 trilogy, SWORD OF HONOR. Carol and I are watching the third season of BABYLON BERLIN on Netflix and the fifth season of BETTER CALL SAUL recorded from AMC, which is much better than season four which I found to be mostly repetition of parts of BREAKING BAD. Last weekend we watched and enjoyed LA LA LAND, a good movie for hard times.
This is the photo that heads this journal. Most of us, including me, pass over it without a glance as our eyes move to the journal entries. I am rather proud of it. The leaf was floating in a narrow moat surrounding the open living area of a villa Carol and I rented in 2008 on the north shore of Bali. Almost all the tourism in Bali is in the south. The north coast, at least then, was quiet and uncrowded. I did not even crop that photo. I did remove a slight change in color in the water. I wanted a flat plane. I am not a zen person, but I feel a zen-like calm in the photo. Here is a photo of the view we had from the villa as the sun was about to set over Java.
Of zen, while I was in Fremantle, Australia in 2002, near the end of my prolonged fourth circumnavigation, Buddhist priests made elaborate and beautiful drawings on the beach at the water’s edge at low tide. Jay, who cannot get to his Olson 34, SHOE STRING, because it is in a virus closed storage facility in Chicago, is working on boat parts in his home shop. Yesterday he wrote that he is ‘making progress toward an uncertain end’. Sounds like a definition of success to me. Or life. An article in the NY TIMES yesterday on medical ethics confirmed what I expected: I am expendable. If decisions have to be made between giving medical treatment to some and not others, the criteria are likely to be who has the best chance of survival and who likely has the most years left. I agree entirely. Quality of life cannot be measured; quantity can. Those of us who have lived as long as I have had a life. Twenty year olds have not. So it is incumbent on me to avoid being in the situation where others have the power to make that decision about me. That is not entirely in my control, but I am going to do what I can. Being expendable reminded me of a good novel about PT boats in WW2, titled THEY WERE EXPENDABLE. I haven’t read it for sixty years, so in an act of faith or blindness to the future, I ordered a copy from Amazon. Thus far the pandemic has changed my life about as little as it has anyone’s. The main change is that Carol is always home, which bothers her more than it does me. We were due to fly to Hilton Head next week to see the progress made on the condo. That is not going to happen. We are due to fly there just before Memorial Day. That remains to be seen. I am going to make a suggestion. Treat the pandemic as I do a long passage, such as the 6,000 miles GANNET and I did between Darwin, Australia, and Durban, South Africa. I didn’t permit myself to think about the end until it was near. I focused on the next ten degree line of longitude and when I reached it I thought about the next. I did that through one hundred degrees. So don’t think about when this will end. Think about getting through this week. And then think about getting through next week. In the meantime I amused myself by glancing through old photographs. In no particular order.
New Zealand’s Cape Brett and Piercy Island.
GANNET making 9.2 knots in the Indian Ocean.
GANNET when she was still GROWLER. This was the day she was delivered to me by the previous owner. The time stamp is: May 8, 2011. 10:27 AM, which sounds right. Almost nine years and a circumnavigation ago. it does not seem that long.
Carol at the lookout on Roberton Island, Bay of Islands. THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is at anchor below.
GANNET under sail on Lake Michigan. I can date the photo by the old boom and mast which I replaced in San Diego.
GANNET’s interior when I was refurbishing it just after I bought her.
Looking aft when I first repainted the interior. I got stuck back there for a while.
Sunset over Opua from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s mooring.
When I first looked at this I wondered why I had so little sail set in such light conditions, then I remembered I was deliberately sailing slowly on a passage from Darwin so I didn’t reach Bali before the start date on my cruising permit.
Carol again, now in Sky Tower Restaurant, Auckland. For those who think I married her for her money.