Friday, June 11, 2021

Evanston: a sunset and some quotes

The beautiful sunset comes from the deck of Jay’s Olson 34, SHOE STRING, during last Wednesday night’s race.  Chicago’s skyline from the water is spectacular.  Enough to make one want to have a boat on Lake Michigan.  Oh, that’s right, I’ve done that.  I thank him.

Amidst increasing disruption I am reading MACHINES LIKE ME a novel by Ian McEvan, perhaps best known as the author of ATONEMENT.  It is about a 30ish Englishman who buys one of the first synthetic men, a lifelike robot, and I suspect will turn into a love triangle with the man’s girl friend.  I am not far into it, but have already come across two good lines.

Factory settings—a contemporary synonym for fate.

An old friend—a journalist—once said that paradise on earth was to work all day alone in anticipation of an evening in interesting company.

Of quotes, Geoff in Ireland, wrote about my observations on listening to HUCKLEBERRY FINN that perhaps I had chosen the wrong classic.  He suggests James Joyce’s ULYSSES.  I am going to take him up on that or at least give it a try.  I have never finished the novel, though I have started it twice long ago and recall that it has two great quotes in the first hundred pages.

God is a shout in the street.

History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.

Geoff also mentions that Joyce makes reference to forty-six different Dublin pubs, all of which have been closed for the past twelve months.  When they reopen he intends an epic crawl with his adult children to all forty-six in a weekend.  By the end crawl indeed it may be.  I hope for a report.

Also of quotes, Google notifies me that a site of quotes for Oceans Day includes A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.  I did not even know that oceans have their own day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Evanston: in disarray and out of focus

From Carlos comes a link to a video about an ingenious sail for cargo vessels.  This could resurrect the profession of sailing master for merchant ships and the irony of having oil tankers propelled by wind.

After about seven minutes it becomes Michelin self-promotion, but the first part is good.

I thank Carlos.

I came across the above photo at CNN.  The elephants are part of a herd of fifteen that ‘escaped’ from a nature reserve in South China last year and have now wandered more than three hundred miles.  Heavy rain made the going difficult this day and so they lay down to sleep.

As you may know each afternoon when I have Internet access I go the the All of Bach site

And then to their YouTube channel.

If nothing is new, I listen to some of my own recordings.

Yesterday I found this amusing three minute video.

Things must come apart before they can be put back together and this condo is coming apart.  Closet doors are open.  Boxes are scattered.  One trash sack holds shredded documents.  Another old clothes.  Almost every day I throw away a trash sack of long unneeded debris.  The moving is proceeding as planned, but I will be very glad when it is over.  And I miss glancing up and seeing Skull Creek.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Evanston: back in the upper flatlands

We arrived back in Evanston around noon on Saturday. The last stretch was along Lake Shore Drive.  Chicago has a wonderfully accessible lake front due largely to planning by Danial Burnham a century ago. On this glorious summer post-pandemic day, sunny and in the 80s F, walkers, runners, cyclists moved along the lakefront path.  On the water beyond, boats sailed, powered or were anchored with crews sipping and chewing.  

We left Gatlinburg Friday morning soon passing through Pigeon Forge the home of Dollywood. 3,000,000 people a year visit Dollywood, more than visit Hilton Head Island, making it the most visited ticketed attraction in Tennessee.  The main street of what was not that long ago a tiny country village is now a six lane divided highway, bordered for miles by wall to wall spill over attractions.  Arcades, thrill rides, helicopter rides, restaurants, motels, gun shops, even what looks like a court house complete with Greek columns built for some reason upside down. 

We resisted the siren call of all of these and continued north to Frankfort, Kentucky, where we stopped at the Old Friends Farm for retired race horses.  We knew their tours were already booked, but were able to see horses from a reasonable distance, most alone in large penned fields.  Near the entrance to the farm is a graveyard for horses who have passed to that great race track in the sky, complete with tombstones.  I have long thought  that cemeteries for people are a waste of space.  You can infer my thoughts about cemeteries for horses.

About fifteen miles to the west of Old Friends we stopped at Buffalo Trace.  As we knew there, too, the tastings and tours were fully booked and had been more than a week in advance, so we were able only to walk through a small part of the distillery to the gift shop.  The place was much bigger and older and more industrial than I expected.  The buildings are reminiscent of old textile factories in New England.

The gift shop has Buffalo Trace branded merchandise beyond imagination.  We came away with a bottle of Buffalo Trace, a bottle of Buffalo Trace Old Fashioned—Carol likes Old Fashioneds, and a box of Buffalo Trace filled chocolates—I like chocolates.

Onward to the west where we drove around Churchill Downs in Louisville.  It was a race day, but Carol had read that they have a dress code prohibiting shorts, which was all we had with us, and even jeans.  That was o.k.  I am not a gambler and don’t follow horse racing.

While I am likely to irritate some, I find Indiana to be a dull state.  You may recall that Mike Pence was once governor.  The state is flat and I presume good farmland.  We travelled the length of it and the only sight of interest was a huge wind farm north of Indianapolis.

We crossed the state line into Illinois with relief.

At the moment we have three homes and a pocketful of keys.  By the end of the month we will have one less home and several fewer keys.

The morning news reports that on this glorious weekend fifty-five people were shot in Chicago.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Gatlinburg, Tennessee: this is my happy face

You leave Interstate 40 and drive for 25 or 30 miles on a winding two lane road with little traffic and several turnoffs for lookouts to vistas of the Smoky Mountains, then descend into Gatlinburg, a tiny town with a permanent population of 4,000 happily presently overrun by far more than that many tourists.  A mountain Duvall Street.  T-shirt shops.  Pinball arcades.  A ‘Space Needle”.  $16 for an adult to ride to the top.  Outside of town are zip lining, hiking, white water rafting, and zorbing, among others.  I did not know what zorbing is.  I have learned that it is ‘rolling downhill in an orb’, a double walled plastic ball.  A known risk is depleting the oxygen inside the ball and suffocating.  

The crowd seem mostly happy and to be having a good time.  Masks are in complete absence, including us.  We are vaccinated.  I doubt that all others on the crowded main street are.  Tomorrow we breakfast on ‘low calorie biscuits and gravy.’  Well, perhaps not.  An drive on to Buffalo Trace.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Hilton Head Island: stravaig and two others things I did not know plus gone


After almost eighty years there are still things I do not know.  This is surprising when many much younger than I are confident they know it all.  

Recently three friends have increased my knowledge.  Sadly I am becoming  doubtful that I will live long enough to know everything, but I am trying.

From Douglas in the UK comes ‘stravaig’ which is Scottish and he says means ‘something like aimless wandering with no destination.’

I googled and find this at the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

A synonym of "roam," "wander," and "ramble," "stravage" (also spelled "stravaig") isn't likely to pop up in your local newspaper-unless you're stravaging in Scotland or one of its neighbors. "Stravage" is not a new word; our earliest evidence of it dates to the late 18th century, when it likely developed by shortening and alteration from the now-archaic word extravagate, a synonym for "stray" and "roam" that can also mean "to go beyond proper limits." Note that if you use it correctly, you won't be extravagating by using "stravage"-no matter where you call home.

I particularly like ‘to go beyond proper limits’ and wonder who sets them.

From California friends, Susan and Howard, who are driving through the South for the first time, comes the revelation that the world’s biggest fire hydrant is located only 150 miles away.  That is it in the photo above.  It is almost 40’ tall and weighs 675,000 pounds and is so absurd I am unable to resist sharing it.  And I have tried for days to resist.  I am weak.  For more details should you wish them:

We are not planning a visit.

From Tim comes information about a new Laphroaig.

Since Suntory bought Laphroaig seven years ago I have noticed that the distillery has come out with several new versions.  I have bought bottles of all of them.  Some are all right.  Some, such as Triple Wood, I quite dislike.  None appeal to me as much as the original 10 year which the MBAs who are presumably now making the decisions have thus far been intelligent enough not to mess with.  I have also noticed that the 18 year old Laphroaig has been replaced by a 15 year.  Three years quicker to market.  I have not had the 15 year, but I have drunk with pleasure the 18 year.  It is unquestionably smoother than the 10 year, but I think has less character.

I will buy a bottle of the sherry finished 10 when I can find one and will dutifully report.

I thank Douglas, Susan and Howard, and Tim.

Carol begins to drive us back to Illinois tomorrow.  Nightfall should find us in the Smokey Mountains and Gatlingburg, Tennessee.  We will make the trip in three days this time instead of two and fly back here at the end of the month to meet the Mayflower truck carrying our incoming furniture.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Hilton Head Island: an anniversary

Twenty years ago this week—I think twenty years ago today—Carol and I sailed from Boston for the Azores in the resumption of my long interrupted fourth circumnavigation.  I completed my first circumnavigation in less than a calendar year; my fifth in less than eighteen months; but my fourth took thirteen years, two boats, and two wives.

We had made a five year plan to escape from the land.  This was my second such plan.  I stuck to both and succeeded both times.  The first led up to my first circumnavigation.

Boston is an interesting city with American history, fine colleges, a world class orchestra, rabid sports fans, and an abundance of aggressive and discourteous drivers, but I do not like northern winters and places where I cannot sail year round.  I recall thinking as we started across Massachusetts Bay and I turned and watched the Boston skyline recede beneath the horizon that I would not see it again.  I eagerly turned my back on it and looked east toward the Azores and the future.  How wrong I was.

At Carol’s request I had several pieces of equipment on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA then that I have never had before or since, including an EPIRB, a life raft and radar.  HAWKE had a two cylinder Yanmar diesel, but I have never been willing to run an engine every day to charge batteries.  However, I had determined that the two solar panels we carried on deck were sufficient to run a radar scan for 30 seconds every ten minutes.  I hoped that it could stand collision avoidance watch for us at night, but it proved to provide far too many false positives and I soon rarely used it.

In the next six months we sailed to the Azores, Portugal, Gibraltar, Senegal and Brazil.

Christmas found us in Salvador, Brazil, where an email arrived from one of the founding partners of Carol’s former architectural firm asking her to return to work.  Before our departure Carol was joint number two of the firm of more than fifty architects, behind only the two founding partners.

I told Carol to do whatever would be better for her, but that I hoped never to live again full time in the U.S. and until the past two years I haven’t.  She wanted to see South Africa and told her firm that she would return in June.  We sailed from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro, from Rio to the Bay of Ilha Grande, from there to CapeTown, where after land touring Carol flew back to being a productive member of society and I again became a solo sailor.

Later than year I sailed from Cape Town to Fremantle, Australia, a rough six week passage through the Forties, with eight storms of gale force, four of Force Ten or above, at least two of which went to Force Twelve.  The ‘at least’ is because a wave in one of those storms knocked THE HAWKE OF TUONELA down, masthead below water, and tore off everything up there, wind instruments, tricolor, and Windex.

In 1993 I sailed from Fremantle to Sydney, finally completing by far my slowest circle begun there thirteen years earlier in RESURGAM.

The EPIRB and life raft made it to New Zealand, where one day I chanced upon the EPIRB and found the antenna had broken off.  I disposed of it in the trash and gave the life raft away.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Hilton Head Island: alligators have right of way; great shoot out; electronics

Why did the alligator cross the road?  Usually it is to get to another body of water but during the mating season which runs from late March to early June it may be to get to the body of another alligator.

We know this fellow.  Not on a first name basis, but a bike path we often use is on the other side of the road from the pond that is his primary residence.  We often see him sunning himself on the bank.  The photo was taken a mile from our condo.  He is described as 12’ and ‘magnificent’.

This is not the gator whose photo I have run here before.  That one resides in a different pond and is only about my size.

Soccer fans, of whom I lamentably know that most of you are not, watched an unparalleled Europa Cup final Wednesday between Manchester United, who are one of the three richest clubs in the world and the NY Yankees of English soccer, and Villarreal, a town of 50,000 in the east of Spain.  Truly David and Goliath.  However Villarreal has a young manager who has already won the Europa Cup three times with another club.

The game itself was not exciting.  Villarreal scored first.  Man U. tied later and regulation play ended 1-1.  In most soccer games that would be it, but a few matches, usually championship games, must have a winner, so thirty minutes of extra time were played without another goal being scored.  

Still drawn the winner is decided by a penalty shoot out.  Five players alternating from each team kick from the penalty spot against the goal keeper.  All is in favor of the shooter, but sooner or later, the goal keeper guesses right or the kicker shanks his kick. 

None of the first five from both teams missed.  So it goes on until someone does.

On Wednesday it went on to 10-10.  I have never seen that or even heard of it happening.  This left only the goal keepers of each team to shoot against one another.  The Villarreal keeper made his shot.  The Manchester United goal keeper is Spanish and the goal keeper for the Spanish National Team.  He shot.  The diving Villarreal keeper got a hand on the  ball and deflected it and David won 11-10.  A dramatic moment in sport that probably will be remembered forever in Villarreal who had never before won a major tournament.  

I have sailed to Spain twice and spent several months there.  I didn’t even know where Villarreal is, but I am happy for them.  Unless you are a Manchester United supporter how could you not be?

Joshua wrote:   Would you share what electronics you used on the last circumnavigation? I myself am a minimalist (too?). It is sometimes difficult to sort out  from the gimmicks and the "more is more" salesmanship. Practical examples are more reliable. 

The question has been asked by others, so I decided to answer it here.  I have a vague feeling that I might already have done so.  If I have, forgive the repetition.

Before that I want to comment on the ‘more is more’.  

As you know I don’t read much about sailing anymore, but over the decades I have seen an absurd number of items described as ‘essential to go offshore.’  I have never owned most of them and am reasonably confident that I have spent several more years and circumnavigations offshore than those who consider these items essential.  People set themselves up as experts on what I consider very little experience.  That they get by with it does not change my opinion about the general lack of human intelligence.

On GANNET’s circumnavigation her electronics were:

Velocitek ProStart
Raymarine tiller pilots
iPhone and iPad as chartplotters with iSailor and iNavX apps and charts
Raymarine Tacktick wind instruments
iCom handheld VHF radio
Yellowbrick tracking device

I also had on board two or three Garmin eTrex GPS units, but never used them, and an old iPad that also could serve as a chartplotter, but never used it.

The wind instruments failed three times due to the masthead being under water during knockdowns.

The tiller pilots failed many times due to getting wet.  I do not criticize Raymarine for this.  They do not build tiller pilots to meet my needs.  It would not be profitable to do so.

The Velocitek is not essential.  I use it to read out COG and SOG on deck.  I can get that information from my iPhone, but the Velocitek is hands free and more convenient.

I carried no radio on my first two circumnavigations and only started carrying a handheld VHF in South Africa on the third when port authorities expressed displeasure that I did not call them when entering port.  As far as I know there is no international law that requires a yacht to have a radio.

The Yellowbrick is totally optional.  I carry one for Carol.  Others are welcome to look in and I like seeing the track after I complete a passage.

So what is truly essential:  a depthsounder, although I sailed into the shallow waters of Hilton Head Island the first time with mine not working due to the transducer being taped over by the boat yard that antifouled GANNET and forgot to remove the tape before launching her in my absence, and some kind of chartplotter, though a sextant and charts work for those who know how to use them.

A solo sailor also needs self-steering.  A wind vane is in most cases preferable to an autopilot, but I can sail anywhere without either using sheet to tiller self-steering or tying the tiller down to windward.

I am writing later than usual.  Now a little after 7 pm and I have had dinner of tortellini with pesto sauce, salami and olives prepared by Carol and accompanied by red wine.  I am sitting by our oversized bedroom window.  Looking out I can see the top of GANNET’s mast.  I biked down to her today to check a details of the new dodger and wash her down.  Snowy egrets sometimes leave calling cards.  I am trying to visualize her and consider if I have forgotten any electronics.  If I have let me know and I’ll make the correction, but the fact is that very little is essential other than the will and strength and competence of the sailor.

Monday, May 24, 2021

Hilton Head Island: home; hooded; a changed word


We arrived back in Hilton Head a little after six last evening after a tiring 950 mile drive for Carol and a tiring ride for me.  I am not designed for land travel.  It was a great relief and pleasure to step into the condo and be again in the presence of live oaks and Spanish moss and palms and spartina and Skull Creek and the marina.  We soon were having evening drinks on the screened porch.

The drive crossed six states:  Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.  Indiana is a flat as Illinois, but the country becomes hillier and prettier once you cross the Ohio into Kentucky and becomes dramatically beautiful near the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.  That is, I read, the most visited of all national parks with 12.5 million visitors in 2019, which seems like several million too many to me.

Along the way we passed an extensive wind farm in Indiana, the Buffalo Trace and other distilleries in Kentucky, a farm for retired race horses, various places related to Daniel Boone, the birthplace of Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Dollywood, and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  We did not stop at any, but may on our way back, taking three days instead of two.  If we do, Dollywood will not be among them.  Buffalo Trace will be.

Not expecting to find southern radio stations to my taste I downloaded four free audiobooks to listen to along the way.  BLEAK HOUSE, HEART OF DARKNESS, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN.  I have read them all more than once.  Carol has not read HUCKLEBERRY FINN so we listened to about three-quarters of it.  I have observed that upon rereading the novel a few years ago, I enjoyed and admired it less than in the past, especially the last chapters where Tom Sawyer makes his appearance.  Listening to it on the drive, I found my lack of enjoyment also extends to the chapters about the con men known as the King and the Duke.  I regret to criticize a book so admired and praised, but it really may be just for children.

This was the first audiobook I have listened to.  Although it is out of date and fashion, I prefer reading.

While I was away a new dodger was made for GANNET.  The material is SeaMark which is now owned by Sunbrella.  It is like Sunbrella with a rubberized interior surface which should make it more impervious to water which sometimes soaked through the old dodger.  They replaced the lines I used to tie it down with adjustable straps.  The workmanship looks first rate.

I changed a word on the home page of the main site. ‘beyond’ instead of ‘to’.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Evanston: more early disturbances; coming apart; love


We have already seen in the past few weeks the earliest formation of a tropical disturbance in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a rare Indian Ocean cyclone hitting the west coast of India, and now as you can see above two early disturbances in the Atlantic.  Tropical storms—hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons are the same except in name—are heat machines and the ocean is already too warm.

I, of course, have a deep personal interest in this, having found a place on land I really like that is in the hurricane zone.  I will be in Hilton Head for only part of this hurricane season.  If Carol is there and a storm is approaching, we will evacuate.  If I am there alone, I won’t.  I am among the world’s most experienced at living without outside support and if our building continues to stand and I am uninjured I will be prepared to survive self-sustained for at least two months.  Naturally I hope this doesn’t happen.  I am aware of the possible irony of our condo being destroyed just after it has become habitable after all of the time, expense and stress, mostly Carol’s, of making it so, but that is a known risk and if it were to happen, I will not wring my hands and cry out, “Why me?”

The Evanston condo is coming apart and it will not ever come together again until the new owners move in.  We took the living room carpet to be cleaned and now there is a sheet covering the mat.  This afternoon we will remove some pictures from the walls to be taken to Hilton Head, along with glasses, cutlery, clothes, and I know not what else.  The next five weeks are going to be busy and difficult.  Then, hopefully, our lives will be simpler.

I was at the main site yesterday seeking on the lists page one of the quotes I have used in the front of my books and found a list I had forgotten headed ‘I love’.  I did remember that I have posted it here before and through the Blogger search found that I did so in Durban, South Africa, more than four years ago.

I stand by that.  Perhaps it is worth reading again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Evanston: EGREGIOUS found; ‘s’; autopilot; a really bad idea


When I completed my first circumnavigation in early October 1976 I had less than $2,000.  About $9,000 now.  Still not much for two people to live on for more than a few months, even though Suzanne and I were staying rent free in my grandmother’s house in Mission Beach.

I had a good literary agent in New York, who had tried unsuccessfully to sell some novels I had written earlier and would now try to sell the manuscript about the voyage, but that was uncertain, so I put EGREGIOUS on the market.  Without an engine or lifelines or plumbing or an electrical system she was not an easy boat to sell.

I rewrote two episodes from the manuscript into magazine articles, one about the rounding of Cape Horn, one about the cyclone in the Tasman, and sent one to YACHTING, one to SAIL.  No one knew who I was then and magazines often take months to respond.  I get treated better now.  Eventually both magazines bought the articles and in her letter of acceptance Patience Wales, then editor of SAIL, asked that I telephone her.  I did and SAIL bought everything I sent them for the next twenty-five years.

In the meantime my money was diminishing with distressing rapidity.  I heard by chance of a delivery of an Ericson 35 from San Diego to La Paz, Mexico and back.  I do not like boat deliveries because I do not like to sail boats I have not prepared myself and I have done only two, but I accepted this one.

Suzanne and the boat’s owner accompanied me south.  This was in early December.  The arrangement was for Suzanne and me to return to the US, while the owner’s family flew down to spend the holidays on the boat, then Suzanne and I would return and sail the boat back to San Diego.

When we reached San Diego in late January, I learned that both book and boat had sold.  And soon thereafter that the magazine articles had too.  My money worries were over for a while.

EGREGIOUS was sold for $22,000 to a Canadian from British Columbia.  I know that he immediately had an engine installed and took her north.  A few days ago Gary, who owns an Olson 30, emailed that he had heard rumors that EMMA, a light blue Ericson 37 on a mooring in Maple Bay, B.C. was my old boat.  He tracked down and contacted the owners, Chris and Tricia, who affirmed that the gel coat under the paint is indeed yellow.  They are the third owners of the boat, having boat her in the 80s from a Canadian who had bought the boat in Southern California and sailed her home.

Note in the photos that she has a tiller.  Good for Chris and Tricia.  There cannot be that many originally yellow Ericson 37s with a tiller in British Canada.  I am reasonably certain that EMMA was once EGREGIOUS.  That even looks like the spinnaker I had.

She is a pretty boat and always was.  She looks to be in fine condition, particularly for an almost fifty year old boat that was once sailed as hard as any production boat ever had been.  I trust that she has brought sailing joy to Chris and Tricia and will for years to come.

I thank Gary for taking the time to track the boat down and for permission to use the photos.

You are not likely to have noticed, but this site and my main site are now https.  The change cost nothing for the journal.  Only changing one setting.  I thank Rik for informing me of this.  The host of the main site is charging me $50 a year for the ‘s’.  This is probably a rip off.  Almost the cost of a bottle of Laphroaig.  The sacrifices I make for you.  

If you have the main site bookmarked, you will have to go to the site by typing it into the address line and rebook mark it.  If it says ‘Not Secure’ you are going to the wrong place.

I was in Hilton Head for seven months.  Upon returning to our Evanston condo which we have owned for fifteen years, I discovered that I had forgotten how to do certain things here and where certain things are.  The first morning I stood for a few seconds in the middle of the kitchen trying to remember where the juice glasses are.  I have tried to toss trash into the location where the bin is in Hilton Head rather than here.  And I have tried to get ice from the refrigerator door as I do in Hilton Head rather than in the freezing compartment where it is here.  As has been noted before we live a significant portion of our lives on autopilot.  I have tweaked mine just in time to go back to Hilton Head.  I don’t think I’ve been gone long enough to have forgotten where things are there.  At least I hope I haven’t.

And as Art noticed, I automatically headed Monday’s post ‘Hilton Head’.  He caught it.  I did not. I thank him and have made the correction.

From Larry comes a link to essential equipment for my next voyage.  I don’t understand how I could have gone so long without realizing I need this.  I will now be able to grill my freeze dry dinners in mid-ocean.  I am sure you will rush to buy one, too.

Larry called this “a bad idea waiting for disaster.”  Indeed.  I thank him for the moments of amazement and amusement.

Don’t fail to scroll down and watch the video.