Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Opua: DESOLATION ISLAND; CHANCE


        What I thought to be only a lull was in fact the end of the storm.  Patches of blue sky persisted until sunset, after which the sky cleared, the wind went calm, and GANNET and I rested quietly.
        Yesterday and today have been mostly sunny, with only a few brief passing showers and gusts of wind.
        I got a number of small boat tasks done:  bought two new fenders and cut and whipped lines for them; applied sealant to the starboard lower shroud padeye; made a new screen for the companionway; scrubbed mold beside the port pipe berth and rearranged stowage there; retied the U.S. and N.Z. flags to backstay and shroud; bought what I need to oil the wood and paint the bilge.
        I’ve now gone through everything on the boat except two duffle bags of clothes.  One with ‘good’ harbor clothes; the other with passage/work clothes.  There really isn’t much difference between most of them.  When we get a day without rain I’ll take both on deck and see if anything can be tossed.

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        On Monday I finished DESOLATION ISLAND, which is really Kerguelen Island, Number 5 of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels.
        There is a ship chase in the Southern Ocean that ends with dramatic suddenness.  Perhaps because I’ve sailed those waters, I can visualize it; but O’Brian writes the scene wonderfully.  
        As he does an approach to Desolation Island across a severe tide rip, just ahead of an approaching gale, in a ship with a jury rigged rudder.
        I’m not giving more detail because I don’t want to spoil the novel for you if you read it.  DESOLATION ISLAND is my favorite in the series so far.

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        I often read two books at once, and completed Vol. 1 of Edward Gibbon’s THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE the same day.   I’ve read a three volume abridgment of Gibbon’s massive work, but bought all six volumes in a Kindle edition for a couple of dollars.  I’m not sure I’ll get through them all.  The history is common knowledge.  The pleasure of the books is Gibbon’s ironic wit and intelligence.
        I’m now rereading Joseph Conrad’s CHANCE. 
        A man whose first name is Chance wrote me not long ago.  I like the name.  I’m happy with Webb; but if I weren’t Webb, I think I’d like to be Chance.  It suits me.  It suits us all.
        From CHANCE, the novel:  “The exacting life of the sea has this advantage over the life of the earth that its claims are simple and cannot be evaded.”   And:  “Sailors are not adventurers.”