Monday, November 30, 2015
Evanston: 40 years ago; 1914 travel times; space ship; otium
November 30, 1975
A magnificent day. Partially clear blue sky, wild white-capped ocean, albatrosses and shearwaters swooping and soaring, rigging so taut it hums. We sail at 7 knots directly for the Horn— now less than two weeks away—what pleasure in those words— under double-reefed main and staysail. All would be splendid if I did not know that 8 feet of seam are ripped out between the first and second set of reef points on the main. The wind is abating, and I may take my dose of seasickness this afternoon.
Nights here are only six hours long, which makes the odds 3-1 against problems occurring during darkness. Yet they always manage to. Everything in these latitudes happens so quickly. Highs and lows rush through; the barometer leaps about like a spastic toad, moving not less than a half inch each of the past three days; the weather changes and then changes again; and with every change comes the concern that this time the storm will continue to build and build and build.
So far that has not happened, but last night was bad enough. I had already twice left the haven of my sleeping bag to reduce sail before at 2:20 a.m. the self-steering vane was overpowered by a forty-five knot gust and we accidentally jibed. Perhaps 5,000 miles ago the main might not have ripped instantly, but not now. I really have put off repairing it long enough. In these conditions, without that sail set, the motion in the cabin leaves much to be desired. Hello, sailmaker’s palm; good-bye, lunch.
The above map shows travel times in 1914 from London in days, not hours. Ships and trains, then. The Panama Canal opened in 1914. I do not know if it was included in these calculations. Most of Australia and New Zealand were thirty to forty days away. The interior of Australia even longer.
When big money is involved in sailing I am usually not interested. However there is a link at Sailing Anarchy to a short video of SPINDRIFT 2, a giant trimaran trying to set a record for the fastest circumnavigation, that I find interesting because it is an whole different world from my sailing. SPINDRIFT 2 seems more space ship than boat.
From SPQR, a new and excellent history of Rome by the British academic, Mary Beard, I learned a new word: otium.
Professor Beard writes: Latin vocabulary itself captured the idea: the desired state of humanity was otium (not so much ‘leisure’, as it is usually translated, but the state of being in control of one’s own time).