Sunday, June 22, 2014

Honolulu: the great and the small; an open boat around Britain; not bad

        On the Tuesday morning I was in Hilo, I looked up from Central and saw a wall outside the companionway.  Considering that we were on a mooring well away from shore, this was disconcerting.  I pulled myself up and discovered a cruise ship, THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA, moving slowly toward the pier.
        That evening as I enjoyed a libation I watched her head back to sea.  And that I thought was that, until a few days ago I received an email from David—a lot of you people have the same name.  I don’t know how you tell yourselves apart—who is half owner of a Moore 24 named GRUNTLED, as well as second captain on THE SPIRIT OF AMERCA, and recognized a sister ship in GANNET, tracked me down, and offered a tour of the ship when she was in Honolulu last Saturday.  I have never been on a cruise ship and have never met a Moore sailor I didn’t like, so gladly accepted.
        From a GANNET eye view, THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA looked big.  From her upper decks, she looks even bigger.  This is like being on top of a 14 or 15 story building.  I’d rather have a parachute than a life jacket.  The water is a long, long way below.
        If I remember correctly, roughly 90% of the 900 crew are involved with passenger services.  Less than a hundred run the ship.
        The passenger amenities are luxurious.  Theaters, restaurants, swimming pools, state rooms, a wood paneled library that could be in an English country house.  But, naturally, it was the workings of the ship that most interested me.  Up in the bow, winches drawing dock lines the size of my arm bow tight and an anchor chain one length of which would be an anchor for GANNET.
        The bridge is huge.  The wheel unexpectedly small, smaller than that on your car.  But then no one is going to muscle this floating city around, so why not?  And, in fact, the ship is really steered by joy sticks.
        Now I’m not sure I got this right, but I think the two propellers are electric powered, with the electricity coming from diesel generators.  
        There is no reverse gear, but the entire underwater assemblies can pivot 180°, providing equal thrust forward and astern.
        There are also three 13,000 hp bow thrusters.
        Wind and current can complicate docking with the hundreds of stateroom balconies becoming sails catching wind.
        I was treated with great kindness by everyone I met, and very much enjoyed seeing this other way of the sea.
        Among the things some of the ship’s officers and I have in common is that we eat the same oatmeal breakfast each morning.  I do think that they cheat and heat the water, though.  And I’m reasonably confident that they don’t lean over and wash their bowls in the sea.
        Thank you David, Kjell, and everyone I met aboard THE SPIRIT OF AMERICA.


        Bill in England sent me some links about two men attempting to break the record for sailing an open boat around Britain.  I didn’t know there was one.  78 days seems slow to me.  Baring mishap, they should do so easily.
        However, I am going to criticize them.  Not for making the attempt; but for claiming they are doing so to raise money for a charity.  That the charity—a very worthwhile one—is so uptight it has disavowed them is irrelevant. 
Sail because you want to sail.  No pretense or pretext needed.
        Here is a link to their Yellowbrick tracking map.

        And to their website.


        Many of you have read my books more recently than I.
        I have been doing this for what is now a long lifetime and don’t remember every word.  Sometimes they come as pleasant surprises, as did the following which Lynn emailed me a few days ago, for which I thank him.
        Not bad, if I do say so myself.
        This from STORM PASASSAGE was probably the first time my most famous line ever appeared in print.

I write to several possible audiences. I write to myself. I write to those I love and to my personal friends. I write to an unknown boy who lives in a crowded city far from the sea. I write to those who love solitude and sailing and the sea. And I write perhaps most of all to a being who may exist only in my perhaps-too-vivid imagination.

One night more than a year ago, a few months after Egregious had been built, I sat looking up at the stars from her deck. In the southern sky was the constellation we know as Scorpio, with its brightest star, Antares. I had been wondering how many other planets have oceans and beings who love to sail upon them; and as I gazed toward Antares, I became convinced that at that moment someone on the third planet of Antares was preparing to sail across its seas, just as I was ours, and that he was thinking of me, as I of him, and that across space we both knew and understood. So I write this also to my friend on Antares.  A fanciful, childish thought? But I don't wish to grow any older.

I claim for myself that I am an artist and an original and an
anachronism at age thirty-three. A sailor is an artist whose
medium is the wind; a writer an artist whose medium is words. I am both of those. A voluptuary is an artist whose medium is flesh. I have been such. And I may in the course of this voyage become an ascetic; an artist whose medium is spirit.

I believe in greatness, the heroic, the epic, pride, honor, and my dreams. And I believe the hardest people in the world are not cynics, but those romantics who will not compromise; who insist that their dreams become reality. I am an adamantine romantic.