Friday, September 29, 2017
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.
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
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 will not be here
to be unseen
and the people ashore
will not be here
not to see me
Monday, September 25, 2017
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
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.
At the far other end of the continuum is Sebastien Bras whose restaurant in France has received gastronomy’s highest award, three stars in the Michelin Guide, since 1999. He is requesting to be removed from the guide. No other chef has ever done so in this way.
This morning this was the GUARDIAN’s most viewed article.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
I have heard no more about GANNET.
I believe that non-residents are now allowed into the Keys as far as Marathon and will soon be able to go all the way to Key West. In a capitalist economy, money rules, and the Florida Keys live on tourism. As soon as possible tourists will be back.
For myself I am waiting until Marathon Boat Yard returns to a state resembling normal. When they can accept new work, I will have them repair the crack in GANNET’s keel.
I have talked twice by telephone with Ron Moore about the crack.
I emailed the photos to him of it that I posted in this journal.
He says the crack is serious and has ideas how it should be repaired. He also said that he did not want one of his boats to kill me. I told him that if it does that is all on me, not him. I have taken a Wednesday night racer far beyond Wednesday nights. That she has survived so far beyond is proof of the quality of workmanship of Ron Moore and those who worked with him. Who else, what company, provides support for a product made in 1979? Only individuals can have honor. Put your name on a boat, put your name on words, on anything you have created, and stand behind it forever.
I have never met Ron Moore. I hope to do so next year in California. Ron Moore is an honorable man.
I have never met Ron Moore. I hope to do so next year in California. Ron Moore is an honorable man.
Bill, who owns an Express 26, which is an evolution of Moore 24s, sent me the above beautiful and sensual image of SAMBRUCA by the Spanish artist, Manuel Anoro, who is two years younger than I and who obviously shares my appreciation of women. Bill’s wife gave him a serigraph of the painting which he says brings him joy every time he sees it. Understandably. I thank him for sharing the image.
I see similarities to Gauguin in Anoro and have found that I am not alone in doing so.
I had not known of Manuel Anoro before Bill sent me this, so I googled and found many beautiful and vividly colorful paintings as well as this short video in which he talks about the difficulty of painting beauty in our time.
This evening, as I sit in comfort in Evanston, a second major earthquake in the past few weeks has destroyed parts of Mexico and a second major hurricane in two weeks is destroying parts of the Caribbean.
Cherish whatever joy and beauty you find.
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Residents were permitted as far as Marathon yesterday and Key West today.
Karen and Flip have returned and Karen just emailed the above photo she took of GANNET yesterday, confirming that the little boat has received no external damage. I thank her. Someone from the yard will check out GANNET's interior.
I note that even the new mainsail cover is in place and intact.
You can see how well protected GANNET was on either side. I did not remember that telephone pole off her stern and am glad it did not fall.
Thursday, September 14, 2017
I spent some time this morning studying the NOAA Irma site. You can click on any part of the darkened areas of the map and then zoom in. I think I can see that GANNET's spray hood, which I left up, and her mainsail cover are still in place.
I looked to see how the Marathon Marina, where GANNET was before I moved to the boat yard, fared. Some boats in outside slips are askew and one of the two boats stored ashore just in front of GANNET’s former slip has toppled over, her mast jutting out over the water. She would have missed GANNET, but not by much.
I was interested to see what happened to the boats in the mooring field and the free anchorage areas near the bridge.
Many boats are on the moorings. I assume they rode the storm out successfully, but perhaps traumatically for those on board. The anchorages are empty. A dozen or so boats are piled up against the bridge. More have been blown into the mangroves. Some of the anchored boats were derelicts. I doubt that any were properly anchored. They were too crowded to let out sufficient scope.
I looked at Key West as well. The boats in the marinas at Key West Bight appear to be safe, but again the anchorage areas are empty. They offer imperfect protection and are too crowded to anchor properly for serious weather. Boats are stacked up on the end of Wisteria Island.
A TV talking head proclaimed this morning that 95% of the homes in the Keys are damaged. If he means a lost shutter, perhaps. But I expect the amount of serious damage, except in the three or four keys hit first and hardest, to be much less than initially estimated.
I received an email from Tom the other evening in which he noted statements made about boats that survived Irma, such as, “I’m so proud of her.” and “I knew she would be there for me and pull through.”
Less than an hour earlier I wrote down “fury” “wrath” “rage”. All of which were used by TV faces to describe Irma. Obviously there are just not enough intelligent people to fill TV jobs.
Irma had no wrath, fury or rage. Irma didn’t even know it was Irma. It was a huge insentient weather system. You might as well expect love from a mountain. And some people probably do.
This is called the pathetic fallacy. You probably heard of it once in an English class.
Just as storms don’t have wrath and the sea is not cruel, boats don’t pull through for us. Boats actually don’t do anything on their own. They just sit there. If the owner secured her properly and the boat isn’t struck by impossible conditions, she will remain in place. No pulling through. Just remaining.
Some sailors even name their self-steering vanes. Perhaps they are lonely and want a friend. I never even thought of naming my wind vanes. They are purely mechanical devices. You might as well name the transmission in your car.
This caused me to look up something I wrote long ago in THE OPEN BOAT:
The terrible thing about the sea is that it is not alive. All our pathetic adjectives are false. The sea is not cruel or angry or kind. The sea is insensate, a blind fragment of the universe, and kills us not in rage, but with indifference, as casual byproducts of its own unknowable harmony. Rage would be easier to understand and to accept.
I thank Mark for sending me a link to a short interesting video about Jim Carrey as artist. His best line is: “If you are different, you have a shot at being original”.
I am going to have to rethink Jim Carrey.
I thank Dave for sending me this paraphrase from Damon Runyon, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that’s how the smart money bets.”
Wednesday, September 13, 2017
Chris, in Durban, South Africa, just sent me the above images which he found at the NOAA Emergency Response Imagery Site. The blue arrows point at GANNET. Chris, who walked GANNET out of her slip when I left Durban in February—it seems much longer ago—identified the little boat by the solar panels on her deck. I think this is certain proof that she is all right. Things might be wet on the inside, but that wouldn't be for the first time. Relief washes over me. I had not realized how tense I still was. Thank you, Chris.
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Karen posted the above photo of the boat yard office post-Irma. The short black mast sticking up behind the building is GANNET’s. It even looks as though the Windex and Raymarine masthead wind unit are still there. I think the little boat is all right.
Monday, September 11, 2017
Karen Webb just posted the above aerial view of the Marathon Boat Yard post-Irma. She drew the red circle to indicate the position of her and Flip's boat, REVERIE. Florida Bay is north at the top of the image. Boot Key Harbor, Boot Key, and the Atlantic Ocean south beyond the bottom of the picture.
Encouragingly the yard and surrounding area appear to be pretty much intact. Most of the boats, even those close to the water seem to have remained on their stands.
GANNET is not visible, nor could she be from this perspective even with higher resolution. She is at the very top of the right hand line of boats, hidden behind a Cal 40 being restored that has its mast down. There is reason to hope.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Florida Keys, they present especially difficult recovery problems. There is only one road in, sometimes four lanes, sometimes two, with forty-two bridges, all of which have to be inspected and, if necessary, repaired, before people other than rescue and repair workers, will be allowed back in. Electricity, fresh water and sewage systems will have to be restored. I expect that many who have become accustomed to ignoring natural forces and having their comfortable needs met will soon be complaining about delays. I will not be among them. I don’t expect definite news about GANNET for days, possibly weeks.
You know how much I admire the little boat, who I consider to be a masterpiece. The past few days when I have contemplated losing her have made me appreciate her even more.
Sunday, September 10, 2017
During my first passage in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, from San Diego to Nuku Hiva, the Marquesas Islands, in 1978, the boat was knocked down by a wave and, among other things, my bag of books was lost. Only one remained on board, DAS BOOT, much of which was about a German submarine in a storm in the North Atlantic in 1942. I read it twice in a storm in the Pacific thirty-six years later.
At the moment I write at 9:15 a.m. Central time, Hurricane Irma is over the Florida Keys. Live radar this morning has shown Marathon to remain mostly between the two bands of strongest wind. I watch the Weather Channel from time to time, but grow tired of their too-adrenaline charged reporters. They have one poor young fool standing ankle deep in water in Miami, which is visually dramatic, but totally unnecessary.
Last evening as Irma approached the Keys, I finished reading Peter Mattiessen’s SHADOW COUNTRY in which a hurricane hitting Florida’s Thousand Islands, forty miles north of Marathon, plays an important role.
SHADOW COUNTRY was originally published as three novels. Peter Mattiessen writes in a preface that he spent six years reworking them into one.
The structure of the novel is interesting. Each of the three parts portrays the life and death of Edgar Watson, a pioneer cane planter and criminal on the edge of the Everglades a hundred years ago, but from different perspectives. I must admit that I got bogged down in the second part in which one of Watson’s sons as an adult historian tries to discover the truth of his father’s life, though I can see its necessity. When in the third part, Watson tells his own story, the novel regained my interest.
The ending is beautifully written.
Watson raises what only he knows is an unloaded shot-gun toward an armed mob.
I took a deep breath and threw my shoulders back. “You boys want Watson’s gun that bad, you will have to take it.” And I swung the gun up in the face of D.D. House as if to fire.
finish it? that what he said?
well, he sure is finished
eyes come eyes go
in the star shadow
how the world hurts
this world is painted on a wild dark
I continue to suspend expectation, though I cannot repress some slight hope.
Saturday, September 9, 2017
I am trying to suspend judgement and expectation, but the above screen shot of an HRRR GRIB on LuckGrib, which Craig McPheeters, LuckGrib’s creator, tells me is the highest resolution model available shows at 3 a.m. tomorrow, Irma’s center passing west of Key West and wind at Marathon of 55 knots, gusting 79.
Naturally I have thought of what I will do if I lose GANNET. I have put a lot of time and money and myself into the little boat. She suits me perfectly and may be irreplaceable.
I thank Craig for the guidance. I was unaware of the HRRR, which is updated hourly and easily downloaded in LuckGrib. I will be doing so frequently.
Another friend, Michael, is a 911 dispatcher for the Key West Police Department and as essential personnel has remained in Key West. He will be in the police station for the duration.
He continues to update his site. For a view of ground zero go here.
I wish him and all those who are taking risks to help others safety.
Today is beautiful in Evanston. Sunny, clear blue sky, 66ºF/19ºC. Two weeks ago GANNET and I were on a mooring at Sombrero Light. Rather different there tonight.
Friday, September 8, 2017
A replacement compass cover arrived yesterday. I wonder if next week I will have a compass to put it on. The latest projected track for Irma shows her eye passing directly over Marathon.
Under normal conditions Marathon is the best natural harbor in the Florida Keys. Carol and I once rode out at anchor a tropical storm there. But Irma is far more than a tropical storm. The Weather Channel ran a graphic depicting the exponential increase in wind force with speed. Considering the power of a Force 1 hurricane as 1, the power of a Force 4 hurricane is 250, and a Force 5 500.
GANNET is more than a nautical mile from the southern side of Boot Key and a mile east of the entrance to the narrow channel into Boot Key Harbor. She is actually more exposed to surge from the north, where Florida Bay is only a quarter mile away. As I have pointed out the highest thing in Marathon is a curb. I doubt that any land is more than 10’/3 meters above sea level.
While I wish the storm’s eye wall would not pass over Marathon, I can hardly wish it to hit anyone else.
I find myself thinking of those beautiful new sails hardly used. New foul weather gear never worn. Ah, well, others will lose far more than I.
I am in fact fortunate that Marathon’s heat caused me to haul GANNET and fly home last week. Originally I was scheduled to haul this week.
As Karen and Flip drove toward the mainland yesterday afternoon they observed that Marathon was a ghost town. That is how I imagine it: people gone; buildings empty; the deserted yard filled with boats awaiting their fate.
Wednesday, September 6, 2017
When GANNET was hauled from the water last week, the above cracks were revealed. They are at the point where the lead keel joins with the fiberglass hull. The joint was faired perfectly and invisible until South Africa, where I noticed a hairline when I hauled there. Most of the 8,000 miles from Durban to Marathon were easy downwind light air sailing, but we did have to lie ahull twice off South Africa and took a masthead in the water knockdown in a gale off Namibia.
Despite the cracks, no water leaked in from below the waterline. GANNET’s bilge was dry when I returned to her after leaving her in a slip for more than two months and none came in during the five weeks I just spent on board.
I emailed the photos to Ron Moore who kindly telephoned me. He recommended that the keel bolts be removed, inspected and, if undamaged, retightened one by one and, naturally, that the joint be refaired.
I had intended to call the boat yard this week to ask them to do this, but Irma will cause me to wait until things return to normal, however ‘normal’ may post-Irma be defined.
I have received several emails from readers aware that GANNET is right in Irma’s path. I thank them all for their concern and good wishes. Irma is indeed following me up the Old Bahama Channel.
Initially I had planned to haul GANNET from the water this week. Fortuitiously Marathon’s heat caused me to haul last week and leave early.
GANNET is in a good position in the yard, well back from the water and slotted between a building and a larger sailboat. If neither falls on her, I think she will survive.
I have been in hurricane winds eight times and do not fear the lower ranges, but this storm is said to be the strongest ever in the Atlantic Ocean with winds of more than 150 knots and far beyond my and anyone else’s experience. While the storm is huge, the truly destructive winds extend less than fifty miles from the center. Everything will depend on what path it takes, which can not be predicted far in advance.
I wondered what Karen and Flip on REVERIE, my neighbors when GANNET was in the water, are going to do. REVERIE is being hauled on Thursday and they are evacuating. Karen provided me with a link to her blog, which I will be following to learn of their experiences.
I have also wondered what I will do if GANNET is destroyed.
She is insured, but only for $9300, which is all the coverage Boat US would give me this year. Before I left California she was insured for $13,000. I paid only $9,000 for her, but have spent many multiples of that on her.
I am watching the Weather Channel, reading the National Hurricane Center Advisories, and viewing Levi Cowen’s updates each evening. I will be glad when this weekend is over, but I am not particularly anxious. As some of you know, I have twice lost everything I owned, and I have long thought the greatest truth is Ecclesistes 9:11
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happens to them all.
We will see what time and chance brings.
I resumed my workouts Monday with enthusiasm and apprehension. Enthusiasm because I like the way I feel and look when I do them regularly. Apprehension because when I have not done them for a while, they hurt, and I had not done them for two months because of skin cancer removal stitches followed by Marathon’s heat. I was surprised, and slightly appalled, to find that with sailing for three months, I had only done them fifteen times so far this entire year.
I went down for that first push-up with some doubt, but it all was easy. I can still do my age in push-ups, though I’m aware that in two months I’ll have to do 76 and I’m not sure how long this can keep going on. And there wasn’t even much soreness yesterday.
I hope this afternoon’s workout goes as well.
Monday, September 4, 2017
This dramatic photo of a waterspout appeared on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day. It was taken four years ago off Tampa, Florida.
Florida waters are known for waterspouts.
I have seen them off the Keys. Fortunately at a distance.
Sailing Anarchy recently ran a link to Levi Cohen’s informative site tracking Atlantic hurricanes. Before leaving GANNET I asked the good people at Marathon Boat Yard to keep hurricanes away. They said they would. But I still check tropical tidbits every day.
While looking for a bank routing number, I happened across several other things in my notes that I had forgotten and don’t believe have ever been published.
Return to a city where you lived twenty years earlier or were in love. It is not the same. It has changed and you have. It fades even as you look at it, and you fade too. It seems solid, but is mostly space. Reality sketched lightly on a veil of oblivion.
It vanishes even as you look at it. Perhaps because you look at it. Or not. It vanishes anyway.
Fake book cover blurbs for A SINGLE WAVE:
I thank Webb Chiles for perpetuating my memory. May someone in centuries hence do the same for him and A SINGLE WAVE.--Chidiock Tichborne, poet
A SINGLE WAVE. Resurgam! --Christopher Wren, architect
Although Mr. Chiles has transformed my swan into a more bellicose bird, A SINGLE WAVE sings a glorious song of the sea. --Jean Sibelius, composer
Now that Webb has at last removed to New England, he is worthy to be my successor. I only wish I had written A SINGLE WAVE myself. --Joshua Slocum, sailor
And if in the end he had dreamed the wrong dream, the dream that others didn’t wish to enter, then that was the way of dreams, it was only to be expected, he had no desire to have dreamt otherwise.
MARTIN DRESSLER, Steven Millhauser
I am a brother to dragons, and a companion to owls. Job: 30:29
Where would a poet be today?
It is easier to say where he would not be. He would not be in a university. Or an ad agency. Or working for a newspaper or magazine or anywhere in ‘publishing’ or the ‘media.’ He might be almost anywhere else. A garbage collector. A surgeon. An astrophysicist. A cop. A sailor. A poet would be an original. ‘Genius’ is only a term of approbation. It means only that ‘I like your work a lot.’ Something akin to ‘superstar’, which is an irrelevant absurdity. If the language had not been debased by publicity agents and imprecise minds, ‘star’ would be enough. There are no geniuses, only originals who are admired.
They were making it up as they went along, improvising on the edge of catastrophe.
from FOUNDING BROTHERS by Joseph J. Ellis
For someone who has been called a romantic, I have a hard mind that seeks to quantify things in the belief that that which cannot be quantified is merely opinion, though I harbor the suspicion that what is most important cannot be quantified. As a boy I quantified my ambition as wanting to be loved by one woman and to have something I wrote be remembered a thousand years. What I really wanted was to join the pantheon of the immortals and I reasoned that if one is remembered a thousand years he will go on being remembered. Although that ambition never changed, I have been loved by many woman and I expect I will be totally forgotten.
Que lindo es soñar despierto. ‘How beautiful it is to dream while you are awake.’
The price of heroic deeds
Is great effort and endurance.
To risk life to the point of losing it
Is the guarantee of glory.
The man who is not cowed by abject fears,
Though life be short, his fame survives the years.
THE LUSIADS, Luis Camoes