Thursday, October 19, 2017

Evanston: an accurate barometer; a month at sea; dream or nightmare

        To the dozens of things the iPhone has replaced, we may have to add barometers.
        Ashore I use a number of weather apps, but as most of you know when I go to sea I look at the sky, I look at the sea, and I look at the barometer.
        There are two barometers on GANNET, both digital, both generally inaccurate no matter how often in port I adjust them to known values.  This actually doesn’t matter, but is the reason I do not give barometric pressure in the passage log.  What is important is direction and rate of change.
        However, I recently downloaded the Barometer and Altimeter Pro app for iPhone which I have found thus far never to vary by more than .5 millibar from the current pressure shown online.   It does not work with all iPhones and iPads.  Only the recent models that have a barometric sensor in them.
         If it continues to be this accurate, I will record barometric pressure in future logs.


        A few days ago Sailing Anarchy ran a link to a ten minute time lapse video of a month at sea on a container ship that you might enjoy as much as I did.


        I subscribe, if that is the right word, to Texture, an app that for $15 a month gives access to the digital versions of over two hundred magazines, several of which, such as NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, CRUISING WORLD, SAILING WORLD, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I read anyway, and enough others of sufficient interests to make Texture a bargain.
        I have learned the YACHTING, where I sold one of my first two articles decades ago, is now a power boat magazine, and I have been struck by how much of the advertising in many magazines is for by my standards extremely expensive luxury items.  I am not poor, but obviously a lot of people are really rich.   
        I skim backpacking magazines, whose photographs are often spectacular and which discuss gear that may be useful on a boat.  And surfing and travel magazines as well.  I have THE ATLANTIC, NEW YORKER, SMITHSONIAN and a dozen others set to download each new issue automatically.   It may just be me, but the NEW YORKER cartoons are no longer funny.
        Of the magazines I did not know, I find NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY the most interesting.
        One paragraph in a recent article in SAILING WORLD about a J-class regatta in Newport, RI, where six of the huge boats raced one another, caught my attention: 

Masts reaching for the sky.  The grace of a bygone era expressed in bold overhangs, a delicate sheer.  A teak deck as a work of art.  Dozens of people busy on deck, where a battery of high-tech machinery hints that inner dragons wait to fly.  For the three owner-drivers—the pros too, for that manner—we hold these thrills to be self-evident.   If this isn’t living the dream, what is?
        I have seen two J-Boats under sail—and to be clear we are not talking about the current plastic boats, but the 120’+ ships that raced for the America’s Cup early last century.  They are beautiful and impressive.  
        But all those people—professional crews of 24 to 30; all those other boats around you; all that noise; all the stresses on rig and rudder; all that money; all those egos. “If this isn’t living the dream, what is?”
        You know my answer:  standing in the companionway of a small boat as you sail her alone across an ocean, hundreds of miles from any other human, moving fast toward the setting sun, a crystal glass of Laphroaig at hand, Bach or perhaps Mark Knopfler of Gurrumul playing on the Megabooms.
        One man’s dream:  another man’s nightmare.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Evanston: gold rush in the sky; Ophelia; making Buffalo Trace; voiceless

        The NY TIMES has a remarkable article about the collision between two neutron stars 130 million light years away.  Such collisions are thought to be the manner in which heavy metals are formed.  This one may have dispersed gold equal to 40 to 100 times the mass of the Earth.  Were such gold collected, it would no longer be a precious metal.  The cosmic chirp the collision caused had never before been observed.
        The article is amazing in that some of us are so clever as to be able to imagine, invent, build and assemble the equipment necessary and to be able to interpret such a brief and obscure event.   The article is also amazingly well written, clearly explaining some difficult science.
        There is a video with the article, which is worth viewing, too.


        SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has a weekly Sign of the Apocalypse.   There have been a good many recently outside the world of sport as well.  Presumably most of you have heard of Hurricane Ophelia and those of you in Ireland and the U.K. have felt it first hand.  A chart at Ars Technica shows how aberrational Ophelia was.  

        I drove Carol’s car today.  Hardly earth shattering—at least I hope not—but the first time in a long time, perhaps this year.   I wanted some things from Home Depot.  Carol took the train to work.  The car was in the garage, so I drove it.  For those of you who are new here, this is a big deal because I am blind in my right eye.  I drove like a half-blind old man, keeping to the speed limit and pivoting my head at stop signs and traffic lights like a demented turtle.
        After Home Depot I continued on to Binny’s, a liquor store, where I found Laphroaig 10 year on sale for $40 and also bought a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon, which has become my favorite whiskey after Laphroaig and at $25 a bottle a bargain.
        Attached to the bottle was a scan code to a YouTube video about the making of Buffalo Trace.  I scanned, watched, and enjoyed, as I will the finished product this evening.


        Carol and I have been sharing a virus.  We are both better now.  One of her symptoms was laryngitis which for two days rendered her unable to make a sound.  So, in a sign of the times, if not the Apocalypse, we sat side by side on the sofa, within arms reach, and texted one another. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Evanston: havoc; HUE; restored; influx; queued

        Greg, whose admirably named SOMEDAY FOREVER  was GANNET’s neighbor at Durban Marina, sent me a link to a video of damage done to the marina by a recent storm.  Fortunately SOMEDAY FOREVER was not seriously damaged.  Boats aren’t safe anywhere, even in port.  Perhaps particularly in port.


        I suppose it is because we are at the fiftieth anniversary of some of the key events of what we call The Vietnamese War and the then North Vietnamese called The American War, that we have the Ken Burns  PBS documentary and several new books.  I just finished one, HUE 1968, about the fighting there during the Tet Offensive.   The book is compelling reading.  The author, Mark Bowden, also wrote BLACK HAWK DOWN.
        I am not going to comment about the war.  Several of you were in the military.  Perhaps some in Vietnam.   I will note that the casualties in Hue were staggering on both sides.  A Marine company of 147 men was reduced in two days to 7.  17 killed.  123 wounded.  And one North Vietnamese Army battalion went into Hue with about 800 and came out with 50.
        Dave, who has been cruising in VIKING FUNERAL, his 14’ Paradox, which is up for sale, is presently traveling by bicycle through Vietnam.  This is his second trip and he likes the place very much, as does my friend, Louise, who was there working with the Red Cross during the Tet Offensive, and has since been back.
        In the epilogue, Mark Bowden writes:  Beware of men with theories that explain everything.  Trust those who approach the world with humility and cautious insight.


        Kent and Audrey, who beautifully restore boats and have an armada of them, sent me tempting links about a Drascombe Lugger.  This one about their restoration.  This the sale listing.  They are pretty boats that have been a special part of my life and from time to time I think about buying one again.  This is not the time.  GANNET and I are perfectly matched and I’m dubious about owning two boats again, even small ones.  The asking price for ROAMER of $5900 is about $900 more than I paid for CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE new in 1978.  However, I found an online calculator that shows $5,000 in 1978 to have the value of about $19,500 today.


       James and Bob and Bev sent me links to a CNN piece about commercial flights that are finally due to begin from South Africa to St. Helena.  I thank them.  With one flight scheduled per week limited to 76 passengers, some of whom will be residents of St. Helena, “the sudden influx of visitors,” will hardly be overwhelming.


        I’ve received several emails asking about GANNET’s keel repair.
        After waiting what I thought a reasonable time after Irma I telephoned the boat yard Monday and am “in the queue” to get an estimate for the repair.   Hopefully they will get back to me next week.
        I asked the woman who manages service how things are there and was told “hectic.”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Evanston: BLADE RUNNER 2049 and others

        Yesterday Carol and I walked to scenic downtown Evanston to view BLADE RUNNER 2049.  The original BLADE RUNNER has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it during its initial release in 1982.  I have subsequently seen it in various revisions, including the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut.
        I deliberately did not read any reviews before we  went to 2049.  If you want to see reviews, here are two just ones, one from the NY TIMES, one from the GUARDIAN.  I particularly agree with the one in the NY TIMES. 
        2049 has many incredible images, imaginative effects, good acting, several beautiful woman, and the same mood and tone as the original.  I enjoyed it and consider it a worthy successor, which is high praise.  In time I will watch it again.
        Until the release of 2049, I had forgotten we are only two years away from the dystopian future portrayed in the original BLADE RUNNER, which was set in the then distant 2019.  Things are bad, but not that bad. 
        We made the mistake of paying a few extra dollars to watch 2049 in XD.   XD has slightly more comfortable seats, a bigger screen, and painfully loud sound.  In XD the movie registers on seismographs.  I turned my hearing aids down.  Carol said she wished she had hearing aids she could turn down, too. 


  From Chris comes a link to an obituary of solo sailor Edward Allcard, who died earlier this year at age 102 of complications following a leg broken while skiing.  I admire Edward Allcard for staying active so long and I thank Chris for the link.   I have always thought skiing more dangerous than sailing oceans alone.
I knew of Edward Allcard and Peter Tangveld as well.
‘Dean of loners’ ?  ‘Last survivor of the Ulysses Generation’?  Figments of journalists’ too fervid imaginations.  As we all know, Ulysses is alive and well in Evanston, Illinois.


Speaking of which, Eric’s hard drive failed which caused him to ask if I had a copy of a poem he once wrote.  I could not find it, but he did in a post from March 2015.  That’s long enough ago to warrant running it again.  It still brings a smile.

Now you are alone and the ocean waits
When your eyes will study the sky far away
Alone with yourself and sinking into yourself
When the salty mist burns your skin and fills your lungs
And when you feel all your limbs numb
Time will stop and begin your destiny
You will leave like gannets plunge into the sea
You will see the pilot of the Pinta flying like an elf
And you’ll drink Laphroaig with Slocum on Spray
On the ocean veil sailing with your new mates


From Sid comes a quote from Sir Francis Chichester, “The ocean was never meant to be a place where you could call for help.”  I did not know Sir Francis said that.  Obviously I agree.  Even in this always connected social media world.  I thank Sid for bringing it to my attention.


The above photo was taken by Steve Earley during his just completed fall cruise in his almost Drascombe Lugger, SPARTINA.
  I think the composition is perfect and not by chance.  The bow exactly on the horizon.  The horizon slightly tilted.  The triangles of hull, water, sky sails.  Beautiful.  The man has talent.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Evanston: BEING A.P.

        I expect that those of you who live in Ireland, and perhaps throughout the U.K., know of the jockey, A.P. McCoy.  I do not follow horse racing and had not heard of him until I watched BEING A.P. on Netflix.  More than just a champion jockey, he was a champion of champions and set records that may never be surpassed.
        I came across BEING A.P., as well as BREAKING 2, in a NY TIMES piece about offbeat sports documentaries.
        Here is what they wrote about A.P.

The single-minded obsession of truly elite athletes can be both awe-inspiring and disturbing because their pursuit of glory often comes at the expense of all other considerations. “Being A.P.” follows Tony “A.P.” McCoy in his 21st and final year as a record-setting British jockey, capping an absurd 20-year run at the top of the rankings, during which he notched more than 4,000 victories. McCoy competed in the National Hunt, a form of horse racing that requires jockeys to leap over hurdles and other dangerous obstacles, which led him to sustain dozens of fractures all over his body. McCoy’s willingness to fight through enormous pain is astonishing, but the documentary implies that life off the saddle may be tougher for him to wrangle.

        I must comment on the first sentence which obviously was written by someone who has no understanding of those who pursue true excellence.  I am not sure that is an obsession, and I don’t know that ‘glory’ is what is being pursued, but of course it comes at the expense of everything else.  Such people do not lead balanced normal lives.  Not until I was far older than A.P. did I accept compromises that have enabled me to have a lasting relationship, and, believing that artists should not have children, I never did.
        The film is about far more than racing.  A.P. is married with two small children.  His wife wants him to retire.  The riding he does can easily result in crippling injury or death.  I do not know the statistics, but I expect it is far more dangerous than driving a Formula One race car.  A.P.  knows that it is time.  He wants to go out on top.  But he cannot imagine a life when he no longer rides, when he no longer does what defines him and he loves.
        I am sitting in our living room.  Outside the leaves are turning golden.  A blue sky.  The windows are open.  Noise of the city coming in.  
        Although Carol is skeptical, I don’t believe I will circumnavigate again.  But, though the time may come, I can't imagine a life without an ocean passage before me.  No.  That's not true.  I can imagine such a life.  But like A.P., I don't want to.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Evanston: BREAKING 2

        I just watched online BREAKING 2, an excellent hour long National Geographic documentary about a Nike sponsored highly coordinated attempt to run a marathon in less than two hours.  Seeking optimum conditions:  low altitude, flat, no sharp curves, cool temperature, the attempt was made at Italy’s Monza Formula One Grand Prix race track.  The world record for a real marathon is 2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds set in Berlin.  
        The three runners chosen for the attempt were all East Africans, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya, and I enjoyed the footage and insights into their lives there.
        While I am long on the record as believing that statements such as “No man has limits” are absurd and think that calling the attempt ‘epic’ is excessive, certainly many limitations are self-imposed and almost everyone can extend his or her limits if determined to try.


        Of pushing limits Michael recently wrote:
         I am glad Gannet is dry and in a strange way the keel cracks make me feel like you have truly sailed to the edge on this voyage. You are still exploring limits. I have no doubt they will be fixed but they are the marks of a sailor who doesn't hold back. Scars of which you can both be proud.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Evanston: a while

        When I reached Marathon in May I had sailed enough for a while, but a while has passed and I find myself missing the open ocean.  The hurricane season is not over and I still want to spend the holidays with Carol, so I am just going to have to wait a while longer.


        Michael, the Key West Police Department 911 dispatcher, visited GANNET on Wednesday and found her dry inside, with only a tiny bit of water in the bilge that he mopped up with a paper towel.  I speculate that it is so hot in the closed cabin that any water that manages to get in evaporates.  There is, of course, the remote possibility that I finally fixed the leak around the forward hatch just in time.
        He sent me photographs, most of which show the cabin in such a disreputable state that I will not post them. 
          This is Michael sitting at Central.  He seems happy there.  I thank him for easing my mind.
        I read that the Keys are going to reopen to non-residents on October 1.   


        I thank Bill for sending me the lead image.  I’m not sure what it is or where he came across it.  As always, I’m grateful that at least I’m given attribution.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Evanston: Gurrumul's last; Huxley and Orwell; November 10, 2022; off Arnhem Land

        I can save you money.  I bought Gurrumul last two albums, THE GOSPEL ALBUM and HIS LIFE AND MUSIC, so you don’t have to.  You might want to anyway.  Both are pleasant to listen to, but both are ‘cash-in’ albums designed to make money following his unexpected success and fame, and both lack the purity and plaintive simplicity of GURRUMUL and RRAKALA.  
        HIS LIFE AND TIMES was recorded with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra before a live audience.  The arrangements of Gurrumul’s songs are reasonably well done, but an orchestra is too big and complicated a sound for his voice.  Between the pieces brief explanations are given of their meaning which I rather enjoy, though I expect I will delete them in time.
        I’ve listened to HIS LIFE AND TIMES TWICE.  After doing so the second time I listened to the same songs in GURRUMUL.  There is no comparison.  GURRUMUL and RRAKALA are the essence.  HIS LIFE AND TIMES and THE GOSPEL ALBUM are business.


        A couple of weeks ago Larry sent me an article comparing Aldous Huxley’s and George Orwell’s visions of the future which caused me to download and reread BRAVE NEW WORLD for the first time since student days.  I have reread 1984 since then.
        I’m about half way through BRAVE NEW WORLD, which is a treat.  That it was first published in 1932 further increases my admiration of Huxley’s imagination.  I had forgotten much of BRAVE NEW WORLD, including that time is dated not from Christ, but Henry Ford.
        Huxley sets the novel five hundred years in the future.  I don’t think it will take nearly that long.  In fact when I walk along a street and see almost every face staring at a small screen instead of the trees, the sky, the flowers, the birds, the people, the world around them, I think it is already here.


        I resumed my workouts three weeks ago and have not failed to do them the standard three times a week.  I also do other exercises, walking, riding my bicycle, hitting tennis balls to Carol (because of my dead right eye, I cannot hit them back.  They just aren’t where I sort of see them.) climbing at least twenty-one flights of stairs a day, and close the circles on my watch every day except Sunday, which I take off.  
        Recently on days when I felt exceptionally good, I did 80 push-ups and crunches instead of the requisite 75.  80 will enable me to do my age in push-ups through November 10, 2021.  That may be long enough.

        I first sailed past Elcho Island in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in 1981.  Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu would have been ten years old.  A few days later, anchored in a cove off Arnhem Land I wrote:

                    through the night
                    on unseen wind
                    and unseen waves
                     I sail unseen

                    in deserted coves
                    I anchor

                    I will not be here
                    to be unseen
                    and the people ashore
                    will not be here
                    not to see me

Monday, September 25, 2017

Evanston: the death of Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu

         Earlier this evening I was listening to music with a martini at hand—my left hand where I could see and not spill it—when on a shuffled playlist a song by Gurrumul came up.  I, the least tribal of men, found myself wondering if with his fame and wealth Gurrumul had remained close to his Aboriginal tribe on Elcho Island in far northern Australia, so I googled and was saddened to learn that Gurrumul died two months ago today at age 46 at the Royal Darwin Hospital.  In addition to being born blind, he suffered from liver and kidney disease.
      I have written about Gurrumul at least twice before and found the posts.  They are here and here.  I also found that Gurrumul has released two more albums, one of gospel music, one with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, both of which I immediately bought from iTunes.
       Of those who admire Gurrumul’s music, I am one of the few who know where his native Elcho Island is.  I don’t recall ever seeing it, but I’ve sailed past four times.  That his life moved from one of the most remote places on the planet to world wide fame is superbly unlikely.
       If you read my earlier posts about him, you will find that after first hearing Gurrumul on Australian radio, I thought it unfortunate that not many would ever hear him.  How fortunately wrong I was.
       Carol has come home.  We’ve had dinner.  She has gone to bed.  A Cubs game is on the television, sound muted.  The martini glass to my left has been replace with a Dartington crystal glass of Laphroaig.  I try to imagine Gurrumul’s life.  I am deeply touched by his death.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Evanston: a mess; new food; three star

        Karen just sent me four photos of GANNET’s interior, for which I thank her.  It is a mess because that is the way I hurriedly left it when my travel plans were changed by Hurricane Harvey.  I am too ashamed to post them.  But they show no interior damage and less than an inch of water in the GANNET’s narrow bilge.  
        I read that electricity has been mostly restored in the Keys.  I am told that the boat yard is open but with limited mail, internet and telephone service.  Apparently there is some cell phone coverage.  I hope that life is improving for those there.


        Wirecutter ran a review of ‘Best Backpacking Food,’ which of course for me is also sailing food, and their favorite is a Thai curry from a brand, Good To-Go, with which I am not familiar.  Good To-Go is available online from Campmor, where I buy my freeze dry food when in the U.S., in both single and double servings.   
        I already have about 100 freeze dry meals on GANNET, more than enough to complete the voyage, but I am going to test Good To-Go and perhaps some of the other meals mentioned in the article.
        Curry can be too spicy and thirst inducing on passages where water is limited.


        If you have been here a while, you know that my cooking ends on GANNET with boiling water and ashore with microwaving Lean Cuisines.
        This morning this was the GUARDIAN’s most viewed article.