Tuesday, August 13, 2019

San Diego: last evening

        “The sea is our most universal symbol for memory.”
        The words come from one of the short stories in THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER which I bought through the ungracefully named but useful BookBud.
        I am not certain that the words are true, but they are worth considering.
        I knew John Cheever’s name, but had not read anything of his before THE STORIES, most of which first appeared in THE NEW YORKER and are about residents of that city or suburbs.  Some are set in other parts of New England and more than a dozen in Italy, though usually about American travelers or ex-pats living there.  
        I am not one of those who hate New York.  I lived there on the fringe at City Island for most of one year and have sailed there two or three times.  But I am also not one who thinks New York is the center of the universe.  That I read all 900 pages of John Cheever’s stories is testament to how fine a writer he is.
        Perhaps my favorite is ‘The Swimmer’ in which a man in one of the suburbs decides to swim several miles home from the house of an acquaintance, going from backyard swimming pool to backyard swimming pool.  His feat has an unexpected ending.

        I went from John Cheever to another BookBud purchase, FACING THE WAVE:  A journey in the wake of the tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich which is stunning in her intelligence, insight, sensitivity and writing ability.  
        The tsunami is that caused by the 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
        By chance the first chapter is titled, ‘The Swimmer’, a very different swimmer than John Cheever’s.
        In another chapter, a farmer who lost everything except his life in the tsunami gives his niece one of four fresh tomatoes he has managed to grow where he has been relocated.  She says, “This is absurd.  You have nothing and are giving us food.”  He stares hard at her:  “The less I have the happier I am.”

        I am writing in late afternoon and will soon go up to shower.
        Earlier a man, now 50, came by with his son and mother, whom I had met before.  He grew up in Mission Beach and on a November morning in 1978 his father walked him and his brother to the bridge over part of Mission Bay and watched CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE head out the channel to began her voyage.
        Before that I walked three miles to the closest liquor store that carries Laphroaig 10 year.  I was out—yes, all those bottles I was given upon my arrival on April 29 have been emptied.  In mitigation, I did not drink it all myself.  I shared—and I wanted to savor a sip on this my last evening on GANNET and the water for a while.
        I have been here seven weeks today and I accomplished what I wanted to.  Next time I will go sailing for a week or two.  I know not where.
        Most of my life is public, but part private and what more than a 25th wedding anniversary, so the rest of this week is for Carol and me.  The next entry will come from Evanston next week, where I will also upload two videos of the restored GANNET and her new home.
        Be kind to one another in my absence.  Be kind to one another period.

Monday, August 12, 2019

San Diego: the richest man in the world

        The richest man in the world is not Jeff Bezos or any other billionaire.
        The richest man in the world is Webb Chiles because he has enough and knows it, and because he has had the greatest wealth of all:  time.
        Neither of these came about by chance.
        I have enough because I don't need much.
        More than thirty years ago a British journalist wrote: "Perhaps no one in the history of seafaring has done as much with as little as Webb Chiles."  That was after the $29,000 EGREGIOUS and the $5,000 CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, but before the $35,000 RESURGAM, the $22,000 THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, and the $9,000 GANNET.  While I spent more on each of them than that initial cost, I have never owned a boat that likely cost as much as your car.
        Of time, mine has been my own for more than forty years.  That was a deliberate decision.   Few, if any, billionaires could claim as much.  Their wealth owns them as much and perhaps more than they own it.

        I have just come below after sipping Plymouth gin and listening to music on deck, a mix that included an African, an Australian aboriginal, an American, a Spanish group, a Portuguese group, a Brazilian, a Canadian, an Irishman, and an Englishman.
        Friday night I started to listen to a Beethoven string quartet until a power boater in the next finger started working on his engine, which was always loud and became deafening when he revved it, as he frequently did.  Poor Beethoven didn't stand a chance.

        I did my laundry today.  As I walked to and from the shore, I noticed four more owls on boats, in addition to the one on the power boat across from me.
        Imagine at the end of your life being asked what you did and replying, "I made plastic owls."
        "To frighten birds off boats."
        "Did it work?"

        Last evening while I was on deck a young man, at least by my standards, perhaps in his late 20s, came into view crossing from right to left on a stand up board.  He had on a black tee-shirt.  It read: 
                                      I ❤️ MY
                                      (and then a word with smaller letters I could not read)
        When he got close enough I saw that the missing word was MEXICAN.
        I called to him that I had been trying to read his shirt and said, "Good for you."
        He laughed and waved.
        A few seconds after he passed out of view to the left, an attractive young woman on a stand up board paddled into view from the right.  She was smiling and I made the connection.
        "You are the one he loves."
        She nodded and grinned.
        It is good to be young and in lust and love, which I believe is the usual progression.
        It is good to be old and in lust and love.
        And anywhere in between.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

San Diego: the anti-GANNET

        I pass this boat each time I go ashore.  It--and I intentionally do not use 'she"--is on the main dock near one of the two ramps to the marina.  Apparently the owner is unaware or chooses to ignore the rule about storing bicycles and other crap on the dock.  


        A clarification.
        If--and note the 'if'--I ever cross another ocean it will not be for years.  If it happens I am saving it for my 80s which don't start until November 2021, assuming I last that long. 
        I am so content in GANNET's present location that I may sip Plymouth gin or 10 year Laphoaig on deck though the remaining sunsets of my life.


         My time on the little boat is almost over.
        Next Wednesday I fly to Phoenix where I will meet Carol who will drive us to a resort in Sedona, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  On August 18 we fly together back to Chicago.
        I will return to GANNET in October or November, depending on where Carol wants to spend Thanksgiving.  

Thursday, August 8, 2019

San Diego: ‘Scorpion’; sea dogs; feels like

        I thank both Bill and Art for tracking down a reference I made to Lucy Kaplansky’s song, ‘Scorpion’, in GANNET’s passage log.  Art also found the earlier reference I made to it in the journal.



        Dogs in kayaks and on stand up boards pass GANNET daily.  Usually several a day.  They are not doing the paddling.  They have trained people to do that.  I have even seen several two dog boats, which perhaps should be the title of something.  I do not recall that dogs on the water were common here five years ago.  Almost all of them are wearing life jackets and almost all seem quite content and usually curious.  One or two have looked a bit worried, and one yipped continuously until he returned to the dock.
        None are the equal to Tom’s, Baby, of whom I have posted pictures before.  
        Baby stands lookout when Tom paddles his kayak or sails his Welsford Pathfinder, FIRST LIGHT, and wags her tail as a metronome to keep his strokes up to the desired pace.
        Tom sent me a video of them out on a beautiful glassy morning in the Florida Keys.

        They were out early to avoid the southern summer heat.
        At noon today San Diego was 70 with a ‘feels like’ 70.  I checked Hilton Head which was 92 feels like 108.  Hmmm.

        When I went up to shower a power boat named BAD BUOY was being hauled from the water.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

San Diego: Lucy Kaplansky; freed; what’s left

        I have written about Lucy Kaplansky here before, but I can’t find the entry.  I called her ‘Scorpion’ the sexiest song ever written.
        I have several of her albums.  I enjoy them all and have been asked which of her songs are my favorites.
        ‘Scorpion’ is certainly one of them.  I have two different versions and prefer the one on the album, RED HORSE, which she shares with Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka.
        Another of my favorite of her songs is also on that album, ‘Blue Chalk.’
        ‘Ten Year Night’ from the album of that name and ‘The Tide’ from the album of that name round out my top four.
        I particularly like the contrast between ‘Scorpion’ in which a woman wants to give everything and ‘The Tide’ where she has nothing to give.


        Last week my removable bow sprit wasn’t.  One of the knurled knobs securing the flange that holds it in place was frozen and despite my massive strength could not be budged, so I painted around and beneath it, then sprayed it with Corrosion Block and WD40 and tapped it with a hammer a couple of times.  Yesterday I was surprised to find that one or the other of the sprays had worked.  The knob moved with fingers.  It still does.  A sailor’s small pleasure.


        I have had an indolent day.  I have done nothing but listen to music and read THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER.  I have only left GANNET to put a sack of trash on the dock and move a can of paint into the dock box.  I expect to muster sufficient ambition to take the trash up with me when I shower later.
        The GANNET to do list is down to:
                   Stern running light
                   Wind instruments?
                   Repair foul weather gear
                   Upholstery:  pipe berths, v-berth
                   Replace spray hood
                   Replace standing rigging; furling gear inspection
                   Leaks bow and forward hatch

        I expect that the stern running light is only a loose wire, but before I crawl back there I will buy an LED light.  The present one has a bulb.
        The question mark after wind instruments is that I will probably buy another unit, but I sailed much of GANNET’s circumnavigation without wind instruments and am tired of them malfunctioning.
        The seam in the seat of one set of foul weather gear needs regluing.
        The pipe berths need replacing, but it is an ordeal to remove the covers and I may buy a yard or two of vinyl and glue it over the top third of each berth.
        The v-berth cushions are all right, but I have always wanted them to be an inch thicker and of firmer foam.
        The spray hood made in Durban is showing signs of weakening due to sun exposure.
        I see no defects in the standing rigging, but I always replace standing rigging after a circumnavigation.  
        Depending on what the rigger finds, I may replace the jib furling gear too.
        Listing the leaks is a gesture.  I have been trying to find and fix them for years. I have rebedded the forward hatch twice.  Maybe someday when I am really bored, I will try again, though I expect that I will have to continue to live with them.

Monday, August 5, 2019

San Diego: world wide; ocean walk

        I am simultaneously on opposite sides of the world and part way in between.
        I thank Mark for sending a link to an article about me in the Australian AFLOAT magazine and Goggle has just notified me that an excerpt from THE OPEN BOAT: Across the Pacific has appeared in PRACTICAL BOAT OWNER in the UK.  
        I knew that both pieces were being prepared, but not when they would be published.
        The PRACTICAL BOAT OWNER piece does not appear to be available online.
        Kevin Green, the author of the AFLOAT piece and I have emailed at intervals for more than a year and we had an hour long FaceTime conversation.  He did his research and got it mostly right, but there are a few errors and I take exception to his assertion that I am the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn only because of the technicality that Joshua Slocum went through the Straits of Magellan.  I have said that I believe the Straits are more difficult with deep anchorages, other traffic—though not in Slocum’s day, williwaws, and always lee shores.  I prefer sea room.  But the Straits of Magellan are not rounding Cape Horn.  That is not a technically; it is a fact.
        Neither Chichester nor I made non-stop circumnavigations.  He stopped once; I twice.
        Suzanne was not my fifth wife, but my third and maybe fourth in that we were married twice.
        And I have never used the Torqeedo on my dinghy.  I have never used any outboard on a dinghy.  I row.  I have said that when I am too old to row ashore, it will be time to give it up.
        These are not to be seen as criticisms of what is a mostly accurate article in which Kevin used the now compulsory ‘legendary’ before my name, just minor corrections.


        After a few minor boat chores, I walked over to Mission Beach and along the ocean to a supermarket a little over three miles away.  As you can see it is as is to be expected here another beautiful day. 


Saturday, August 3, 2019

San Diego: restored

       I finished painting the deck areas between the Raptor nonskid this morning.  GANNET is restored to respectability.
      There is more to do, but this is enough for now.  I am no longer living in moldy squalor.  And the mad painter has left the room.  Or boat.

      Fifteen minutes or so ago I was sitting on deck sipping Plymouth gin and listening to Lucy Laplansky when two two person kayaks came past.  People in these kayaks are pretty much at eye level with me sitting on GANNET and so I often speak with them.  In this instance I said, “What a wonderful evening and how great it is to be on the water.”  I should perhaps preference that by noting that a bit earlier I watched another two person kayak go past with a young man, perhaps boy, and young woman, perhaps, girl, who were clearly unfamiliar with being on the water and as clearly awed by the experience.  They went out a short distance and just drifted overcome by the grace and beauty.  One of the men in the two kayaks who were passing now responded, “How come you are not out sailing?”  I would not have said this had he not asked, but I replied, “I sailed this boat around the world finishing a few months ago and that is enough for a while.”  Gasps from four young people who of course had no idea of my other voyages.  I suppose one of my purposes is to stretch imaginations.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

San Diego: three surprises

        I painted the cockpit today. 
        Painting white on white in bright sunshine and with my flawed vision, I found in this evening’s subdued light  places I need to touch up which I will do when I paint the remaining parts of the deck between the Raptor nonskid panels.
        I am content here working on GANNET.  That is the first of the surprises.  I don’t know that contentment is my natural state.
        While I have lived more in the MidWest than anywhere else, I am not a MidWesterner, though when I think of Americans I admire, other than those of the true greatest generation,  that of the Revolution, the names that first come to mind are MidWesterners:  Abraham Lincoln; Ulysses S. Grant; Harry Truman.  But I am pelagic and and as I have noted Quivira Basin and Mission Beach are as much as any place on land the center of my life.
        The second surprise came when I learned that several people thought that I would sell GANNET after completing her circumnavigation.  That had never occurred to me.  I did not buy GANNET intending to sail her around the world.  That evolved.  She suits me perfectly and I think I suit her perfectly.  Unless, as I think highly unlikely, Carol decides she is willing to live on a boat full time again, in which case I would buy something THE HAWKE OF TUONELA size, GANNET and I are good for the duration.
        The third surprise to me is that only three months after we completed GANNET’s circumnavigation I have thought of another voyage I would like to make.
        It took me a year after my first circumnavigation before I thought of another.  And the passage from Panama was brutal and joyless.  I completed it from pride and honor.  I have a self-image of Webb Chiles being as far as possible out to the right of the bell shaped curve of normal distribution where the line flattens and never quite touches the baseline, a self-image I will not fail to live up to.
        I am not saying I will ever make another voyage.  If I do it will  not be a circumnavigation.  The first phase would be to sail GANNET across the Pacific to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, where she would spend a final year.  And from there I know, but will not say.
        It may never happen.
        I am really old and we are all ultimately self-solving problems.
        I have done enough, and I haven’t.  I might never be able to do enough.
        Time and chance will solve that.