Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hilton Head Island: sex on the deck; the Polish voyage revisited

        I am writing from the screen porch about to walk down to GANNET to spend the night.   I want to post this here where I have good Internet.
        Yesterday I was sitting on a Sportaseat on the floor when I noticed an anole on the deck, his red neck pouch inflated.  This is done to intimidate male rivals or to attract females.
        I waited a few moments and then stood and found two anoles entwined.  They were not fighting. The male greener and smaller than his female partner.
        The photo is the best I could make with my iPhone shot from within the condo.  I did not want to move closer and disturb their moment.
        Afterward a bright green anole remained on our deck most of the afternoon.
        I saw him twice dart forward, catch something, and chew satisfactorily.
        I do not know if it was the same small lizard.  
        If it was, perhaps he has fond memories and hopes of repetition.  I wish him fulfillment.
        A few days ago I saw a brown anole walking along the gutter drain.  I don’t know why we find some creatures attractive—koalas and baby pandas, and others abhorrent—cockroaches; but I find green anoles charming and brown not.

        I thank James and Markus for clarifying some aspects of the Polish sailor’s voyage.
        He did not self fund the voyage.  He had sponsorship.  More than twenty.  
        As I expected his boat was not the smallest to circumnavigate.  An Australian, Serge Testa, circumnavigated in an 11’10’/3.61 meter boat in the late 1980s.  
        The Polish boat is probably the smallest to have circumnavigated nonstop, but only by a few inches/centimeters.
        Still it was a difficult and impressive voyage, although really slow.  270 days was less than 100 miles a day.  I pretty much did that in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  I’ll leave it at that.
        It is quite possible that the Polish sailor never claimed to have been self-funded or the smallest boat to circumnavigate.  Journalist have been known to get facts wrong.
        You can read on the Internet that I am the first American to have sailed around the world alone.  That is, of course, not true and a claim I have never made.  I was the first American to have sailed around Cape Horn alone.  Apparently some journalists can’t tell the difference.
        You can also read on the Internet that I am the greatest sailor who has ever lived.  While I appreciate the compliment, that, too, is a claim I have never made and never will.  That there has never been one greater,  well, that might be true.
        Back to Skull Creek and GANNET.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Skull Creek: a great photo and an impressive voyage

        The photo, which might have been a painting by Winslow Homer, was taken by Steve Earley as he sailed SPARTINA up the Manokin River at dawn during his just completed spring cruise.  Zoom the photo as large as you can.  You will find his track and more photos here.
        I thank Steve for permission to use it.


        I thank Tom for a link to an article about the smallest boat to have circumnavigated.  The voyage was also made non-stop.
        I am surprised that the smallest circumnavigating boat is this large, and while it does not diminish the achievement, I wonder why if he had no sponsors there all those signs on the hull and sails.
        Free advertising?


        A rainy morning.
        I checked the radar on a phone app—and though that now seems commonplace, it really is almost miraculous—and think the rain is coming to an end.  I hope so.  I need some things from the supermarket and I need exercise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Skull Creek: more essential than blood; 'Piper to the End'; a thin membrane

        I ate dinner of a micro-waved Lean Cuisine on the screened porch, accompanied by two minitinis.  You may recall that the glasses I bought from Amazon are half the size of those we have in Evanston.  So two Hilton Head minitinis are the equivalent of one Evanston martini, which admittedly is strong.  Four ounces of gin, one ounce of vermouth,  one olive.
        Abruptly I decided to abandon the land and to sleep on GANNET.  It is fine to be able to execute such a decision in a few minutes.  I stowed the air mattress and a few other items in the exterior storage closet.  Packed my laptop, foul weather parka, and other items in my knapsack, and was off.
        As I walked down the ramp to the marina dock I felt the wind, as a great poet once wrote, ‘more essential than blood’ against my skin.  It blows still through the forward hatch against my back.
        My bird apps tell me there are two species of egrets here, Great and Snowy.  I have seen both.  A relatively small, about two feet/.66 meter tall Great Egret politely stepped to one side of the dock to let me pass.  I politely stepped to the other.  Neither of us took flight.


       I have had clearer understanding of my life than most do of theirs.  I have thus far divided it into Longing and Being and I know the exact date of the  transition:  November 2, 1974, when I pushed EGREGIOUS from her slip at Harbor Island Marina in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn.
       If I reach San Diego in GANNET next year, the Being part of my life will come to a pleasingly symmetrical end where it began forty-five years earlier.  What will come next, I do not know.

        It is not entirely unrelated that I decided today to answer differently when asked what I do.
        Knowing that most people really aren’t interested, and in my case there is a dog whistle effect, where they can’t comprehend a life so far from their quotidian own, I have said, “I sail boats alone around the world and write about it.”  They then often tell me about a relative who once chartered a boat in the Caribbean.
       Well, in the future I am going to say, ‘I have gone to the edge of human experience and sent back reports.’  
        They won’t understand that either, but it is the truth.
        In some ways I have mellowed with age and in others become harder.


        I was listening to music this afternoon and ‘Piper to the End’ came up on a playlist.  I greatly admire this song and thought it a traditional ballad.  I googled and found that it was written by Mark Knopfler, my favorite male singer/song writer, in memory of his uncle Freddie.
        To quote from Wikipedia:

The song is about Knopfler's uncle Freddie who was a piper of the 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish, the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment. Freddie carried his pipes into action in World War II and was killed with fellow fighters at Ficheux, near Arras in the north of France in May 1940. He was just twenty.

        That would have been on the retreat toward Dunkirk, a year before I was born.  Maybe better to have died early in the war than late.
        There are several YouTube videos of the song.
        And here are the lyrics.

        Rain just began to fall causing me to stop and raise the spray hood over the companionway and lower the forward hatch.  I am glad to have only a thin membrane between me and the elements.

        To return to Mark Knopfler, there is a resonance in some of these lyrics to the early ‘Brothers In Arms’.

        Now the sun's gone to hell and
        The moon's riding high
        Let me bid you farewell
        Every man has to die
        But it's written in the starlight
        And every line in your palm
        We are fools to make war
        On our brothers in arms


       And I am going to leave you tonight with some words of my own, written in 1978 before I left on what might have been my most audacious voyage.

        judge a man, then, by that
        against which he must strive
        against what 
        if not this soft night
        against the wind and sea
        against the myth
        he must become
        and his own will

        the ocean waits
        to measure or to slay me
        the ocean waits
        and I will sail

        Although I let the poem stand, I never had to struggle against the myth I must become or my own will.  I have embraced what I am.

As I have been writing a thunderstorm has arrived.  Heavy rain pounding on the deck.  GANNET pushed around by wind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hilton Head Island: a 78'/23.8 meter wave: a quote from Herman Melville

        Although reference to this wave was made today at Sailing Anarchy, Jim  sent me a link four days ago that I neglected to post.  I thank him.
        What is most interesting to me is that this giant wave was created by only 65 knot wind, barely hurricane force.
        I have been in that much wind and more at least eight times and never seen a wave I thought to be more than 30’-40’.  Measurements of waves in storms I have been in recently near New Zealand and South Africa tend to establish that I underestimate wave height; but I have certainly never seen anything like a  78’ wave.  That would be a sight to go out on.
        There is grandeur in such Southern Ocean storms.  I remember vividly thinking so at the time, when THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was being blown at hull speed under bare poles in front of more than 65 knots of wind on a passage from Cape Town to Fremantle that saw eight storms of gale force, four that reached  Force 10, and two Force 12.  In one of those Force 12, great trains of mile long waves rolled through, crests breaking and foaming.  It was a magnificent spectacle.  
        I was glad when that passage was over.  I am glad I made it.


        Bobby sent this photo of a plaque he saw last week in Mazatlan, Mexico.  I thank him.
        I don’t completely share Herman Melville’s sentiments.  Forbidden seas.  Yes.  Though by whom or what forbidden except self-imposed limitations?  Landing on barbarous coasts.  No.  I’d rather not land at all.  
        Today because of neurotic neighbors there was an impulse to get on GANNET and sail away forever.  It passed.  But I believe there are a few lines in STORM PASSAGE written forty years ago in which I imagined lifting off from the sea and sailing into space endlessly.  Not toward the nearest star, but the farthest.
        If I could, I would.
        But you already knew that,

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hilton Head Island: from the screened proch

        Almost 8:30 p.m.  The sun has set unspectacularly.  An overcast sky.  Limited color.  Trees and leaves almost black.  Sky shades of grey from light to dark.  Silver water.  Boats in the marina that I know are white seem gray.  A  big power boat I know is dark blue seems black.  A bird calls.
        I spent the weekend up here, then struck the set this morning and went down to GANNET, where I did some minor work.  She actually doesn’t need much.  My to-do list is diminishingly small.  But it has become hot here.  Often 90+F in the Great Cabin and I have become decadent in my old age and walked  back up in the absence of workmen and minimally re-established myself.  The attraction of air-conditioning, an ice cold martini, and a fast Internet connection irresistible.  
        The marina has free Internet, but repeaters are not working and the signal does not reach GANNET.  
        So I am on land looking down on water instead of inside the Great Cabin at water level.  I can see more water here.  I am graced by having my choice of views.

        The work on the condo has stalled, temporarily I trust, on fire proof plywood.
        A couple of you have asked for photos of the renovation process, something I had never considered,  but will.  This whole thing is totally beyond my experience.


        Yesterday Roger and Laurie, two local sailors, came by and picked up me and my bicycle and drove us to the entrance of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, where we biked for seven or eight miles though a rare paradise along gravel and grass trails.  No cars.  Only walkers and bike riders.  In places rookeries where dozens, perhaps hundreds of white egrets nesting are confetti in the trees.
        The photo, taken with my iPhone does not do the spectacle justice.
        Roger, who has lived here most of his life, once biked across a four foot alligator on one of these paths.  The alligator, understandably annoyed, bit his foot, but was thrown off by the bike’s rear wheel.
        The Low Country is a new world to me and I continue to find unexpected beauty here.


        Almost all who read this are men, but Nancy, one of the few women who do, recommended a book to me a while ago, LOST ISLAND, by James Norman Hall, who with Charles Nordhoff wrote the deservedly famed BOUNTY TRILOGY.
        I have read other books by Hall, who was an Iowan who fought as a pilot in WWI and then lived in Tahiti and married a Tahitian woman who was still alive when I first sailed there in the 1970s.
        LOST ISLAND was published in 1944, during WWII, and is remarkably readable, intelligent, and prescient.  The story is related by a National Guard Colonel engineer who is sent out not long after Pearl Harbor to turn a tropical atoll into a military base.  From the description I conclude it was one of the Tuamotus, the Low Archipelago, three or four hundred miles northeast of Tahiti.
        I am not going to tell you more.  It is not available in Kindle.  You can but a used hard cover copy for a few dollars from Amazon.
        I enjoyed the book and thoughts of it have stayed with me afterwards.  
        I thank Nancy for the recommendation.


        Most of an hour and a martini have passed since I started writing.  When I close the display of my MacBook, darkness is broken only by the flood lamp on the seven trunked Live Oak almost within arm’s reach from our deck, a few lights to my right in the next condo development, and ahead on boats in the marina, and flashing red and green lights on buoys marking the Intracoastal channel.  
        The only sound something like crickets.  Perhaps it is crickets.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Skull Creek: verticals

        I polished GANNET’s topsides today.  
        I did part of the port side yesterday and finished it and the transom this morning, working from the dinghy.  
        I then wired the light for the replacement compass.  Or think I did.  It is getting dark and I’ll soon know.
        The compass was a new model of the old one, a Plastimo Mini Contest.   The old one had a bubble in the fluid and a sun damaged dome that made it difficult to read.
         I generally get courses and bearings electronically, from GPS in chartplotting apps in my iPhone or from the mast mounted Velocitek.  But sometimes, particularly when the wind changes in the middle of the night, it is useful to be able to see a compass.
        I had hoped the cutout in the bulkhead would be the same, without from long experience not much confidence.  That lack of confidence was justified, but it only took a hack saw blade and some epoxy putty to make the necessary modifications.
         After lunch I started on the starboard side of the hull, which is toward the dock, but soon quit.  The temperature went into the 90s for the first time this year.  Everything was too hot to touch, from the toe rail I needed to hold onto to keep GANNET within reach, to the concrete dock which was too hot to lie upon.  
        That boats put us into awkward, uncomfortable, ungraceful positions is a reality worth enduring.
        I’ll finish the starboard side tomorrow morning.
        Even though GANNET needs repainting, I can clearly see the line between where I have polished and where I have not yet.  An acceptable reward for effort.
        I am as I write listening to music.
        As is well known I usually drink and listen to music in the evenings.
       One of the great virtues of a westward circumnavigation is that you can do so while sailing into the sunset,  hopefully your boat perfectly balanced speeding toward the vanishing horizon, with your music as loud as you want without disturbing anyone else.   An endlessly repeatable joy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Skull Creek: serenade of the Drum Fish; some work; demolition

        This is a noisy marina.  Not above the water, where it is quiet, uncrowded and friendly.  But below with noises that I could not identify.  They sounded something like a boat fender rubbing against a dock, or a dock rubbing against a piling.  But not quite.  And one morning when I stepped off GANNET on to the dock, they definitely seemed to be coming from the water and moving around.  They were.
       The source I am told are Drum Fish, who grow to substantial size, 80 pounds, 36 kilos, and more, and eat among other things the barnacles growing on the docks.  While doing so they emit every few seconds a sound.  For long periods of time.  When more than one is present, there is a kind of refrain:  a sound, a reply that is not identical, a sound, a reply.  Such a dialogue went on last night for more than an hour in close proximity to GANNET from 2:00 to 3:00 a.m.  I am going to see if I still have earplugs on board.
      The good news is that I am told that Drum Fish are quite tasty.


        I got two coats of paint on the rub rails yesterday and touched up the topsides today.  The topsides need a full repainting.  It has been six years since I turned GANNET platinum.  It would have happened this year if I could do my own work in the small boat yard by the marina.  I have the time and even the inclination.  But they won’t let owners do their own work, so I can’t.  Maybe next year.
        In lieu of a full topside job, I will start tomorrow to see what can be done with wax and polish.


        I walked up to the condo a couple of times today.  
        The first to get my bicycle to take the lovely ride to the supermarket.  
        A young man, a boy really, was trundling a wheelbarrow filled with concrete and some other items I could not identify from the elevator to an open trailer.  I felt sorry for him.  I expect he is glad to have work, but he seemed to me so young he should still be playing rather than laboring.
        I went back up around 5 p.m. when I assumed the workmen had gone and found considerable intended destruction.  The master bathroom is gutted.  Part of a wall gone.  The wet bar gone, leaving a second doorway from the living room to the kitchen.  
        Only a little more demolition remains before, hopefully, rebuilding will commence and a more elegant phoenix rises from the ashes.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Skull Creek: worked; above; cruising statistics

        Another lovely day here, but it is starting to warm up.  82ºF/27.7ºC in mid-afternoon, kept comfortable by a pleasant breeze blowing in the companionway.
        I think about buying a sun shade, and may, but it will make getting on and off GANNET more difficult.
        I prepped the rub rails this morning.  Scraping. Sanding.  Taping.   I’ll paint tomorrow.
        In order to reach the port side, I had to dig out, pump up, and clean the dinghy.  I’ll go for a row one of these days.
        After painting the rub rails, I need to touch up a few spots on the topsides and then polish them.
        With the Avon not occupying the starboard pipe berth, I slithered aft and inventoried my freeze dry meals.  I have 60 New Zealand meals and 32 US.  I will conserve the NZ for next year and eat the replaceable US meals.
        In checking food bags, I came across two packages of trail mix bought in Durban, South Africa, a year ago January.  Opened.  Tasted.  Still good, as there is no reason why they should not be after 8,000 miles.


        Of anoles, Jim wrote:

Traveling to Florida, beginning in the 60s, I would see green anoles around pools and patios, snacking on tasty insects.  Gradually, they were supplanted by invading Cuban brown anoles, which are huskier.  At my parent’s, the greens were rarely seen after the turn of the century.  Investigation reveals the greens had moved aloft.  Where browns exist, the greens tend to inhabit shrubs, trees, etc., living above the browns.  One might postulate elevated patios are more likely to feature greens than browns. Please continue your research on green anoles to verify the hypothesis. 

        If you watched the anoles video link in the May 3 entry, you know that the more aggressive invasive browns are driving the native greens out, and probably up.  
        I have only seen greens on our third story deck.
        It is a sad truth of evolution that aggression is rewarded.


        I thank Jim for sending a link to Jimmy Cornell’s most recent cruising statistics.  It verifies my impression that the average cruising boat is now 45’/14 meters long.  It is nice that so many sailors are rich.
        There is at least one error in the article.  You do have to go to the Royal Cape Yacht Club if you clear out of South Africa from Cape Town, but you can clear from other ports without stopping in Cape Town.  I cleared from Durban in GANNET and from Port Elizabeth in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.
        Cape Town is one of the most beautiful and interesting cities in the world, and if a sailor has not been there, he or she should certainly stop.  But the Royal Cape Yacht Club, where I have stayed twice and been treated with great hospitality, is located in an often windy corner of a busy, dirty, industrial harbor, and I did not want to take GANNET in there, and didn’t.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Skull Creek: three views from Central

        The first two were taken a few minutes ago.  The third last evening.
        I had a dinner of freeze dry Thai curry.  I might be the world’s foremost expert on freeze dry meals.  I’ve been eating them for decades.  New Zealand’s Back Country Cuisine is in my considered opinion the best brand.  The Good-to-go curry is good, but needs raisins.
        I am listening to music.  
       One of my three favorite songs from when I was a young man just played, Bette Midler singing ‘The Rose’.
        The other two are Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘The Boxer’ and Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’.
         I just learned that the  lyrics to ‘The Rose’ were written by Gordon Mills, who was born six years before I was and died in 1986.  They are good lyrics.
         I have always especially appreciated:  ‘And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live.’  Not me.  But you knew that.
        But they are all good:

Some say love, it is a river, that drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor, that leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed

It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance
It’s the dream afraid of waking, that never takes the chance
Its the one who won't be taking, who cannot seem to give
And the soul afraid of dying, that never learns to live

When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows
Lies the seed that with the sun's love in the spring becomes the rose

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Hilton Head Island: from the Great Cabin; in praise of immigrants

        Evening.  An hour before sunset.  Mid-level clouds cover the sky with a slight chance of rain tonight.
        I am sitting at Central, writing from the Great Cabin.  I moved here this morning as our condo is being torn apart.  It is beautiful up there.  It is beautiful, and different, down here.  I believe you only truly know a boat when you live aboard her.  You see things you otherwise might miss.   An experienced sailor who saw GANNET recently commented on how well she is thought out.  Well, I’ve been thinking and working on her for seven years and 25,000 miles, yet today I noticed three changes I might make.
        There is little wind and no waves.  I have yet to see a wave on Skull Creek, which is an excellent natural anchorage throughout its length.  But when I glance up through the companionway, I see that we are moving slightly,  up and down, side to side.  GANNET isn’t any more alive than the condo, but she seems to be.
        I sipped air temperature Plymouth gin on deck while listening to music on the Boom 2 speakers—one of my Megabooms died, so I bought Boom 2s which are more than loud enough for GANNET—then came below and turned on the JetBoil and had dinner of New Zealand’s Back Country Cuisine Beef Teriyaki.  I will take inventory and preserve the Back Country for next year.  When they are gone, there will be no more.
        Home is wherever Carol is.  Home is the condo 565’ away.  But this is home.  Not more than Carol, but more than any place on land, however comfortable and beautiful, can ever be.
        Water is beneath me.
        It is good to be home.


        I moved from the condo because the uneven concrete floor was to be removed.
        Yesterday Jerry, the main contractor for the renovations, I and Gino, who was to remove the floor, met in the condo.
        Jerry is a man of almost my age with great construction experience.  Gino is an Italian immigrant of stocky build and medium height.  This condo is almost identical in size to the one in Evanston, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, 1600’ square feet.  I had thought the concrete was 1” thick and weighed 12 pounds a square foot.  It is actually 1.5” thick and weighs 18 pounds per square foot.  We did not want all the concrete to be removed, but roughly 1500 square feet.  That is more than 27,000 pounds of concrete.  
        Jerry had told me it would take two or three days.  He asked Gino, who responded with a thickly accented, “Tomorrow.”
        Jerry expressed surprise.
        Gino said, “When I work, I fucking work.”
        Gino arrived at 8 a.m. this morning with two helpers.  Today is a Saturday.  I expect that Gino works any and all days he can.
        I walked back to the condo at 2:30 this afternoon to pick up a package that I saw online had been delivered.  Gino was gone.  So was more than thirteen tons of concrete.
        Gino will never know how much I admire him and probably wouldn’t care.
        We are all immigrants.  Even those called Native Americans.  We are all truly Africans, something I sense when I am on that continent.
        I raise my glass to Gino.