Friday, January 27, 2023

Lake Forest: the need for artificial intelligence; transition; a wasted day; frost and still waters


Eric, who lives in Montreal, wisely keeps a boat in Florida on which he spends the winter.  Yesterday he wrote:  Perhaps you can explain this mystery to me.  This early morning there were two sailboats stranded on a shoal, however well indicated on the nautical charts, and as I write a third has just joined them hoping to pass between the two.  Is this a new way to avoid the drudgery of anchoring?

Artificial Intelligence is needed because obviously our species does not have enough.



A comment was just made on ‘A State of Grace’ video to which I would also like to respond here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3epMf4qGS-Q

The comment:  Gorgeous spot.  I am wondering what it feels like to be back in society after spending a lot of time on the ocean?  Does human civilization seem strange?

My reply:  I have always made the transition easily, but then human civilization always seems strange to me, and now I don’t really experience it much.  I am not much around people.  I get news of the world by reading, not listening to the deliberately anxiety inducing voices on television.  And where we live on Hilton Head Island is isolated from the tourist areas, quiet, serene, and as you can see beautiful.

When I tied GANNET to the Customs dock in San Diego after the passage from Panama, people commented with surprise that I looked as though I had just come in from a day sail; and when I reached Auckland, New Zealand, in March 1976, after five extreme months at sea, I stepped ashore unknown and unnoticed.  After dealing with the authorities, I returned to EGREGIOUS and was restless.  I bailed her bilge as I had been doing every hour night and day for months, then that evening unable to sleep walked up Queen Street.  There was an incline and my legs were weak.  I stopped opposite a shop selling hot dogs called appropriately or ironically, Uncle Sam’s, and started back down.  At a stoplight a woman came up beside me.  I still remember the smell of her perfume.  I had been alone a long time.  Within a few hours chance brought Suzanne to me.



I finished ZEN POEMS OF CHINA AND JAPAN.  Here is the last in the book.





The photo is the view from this apartment toward the east.  Lake Michigan is a mile away.  Snow flurries continue, but there has been only two or three inches accumulation.  So far this winter Chicago has had only half its usual 18” of snow by this date.  The temperature is well below freezing.  19F/-7F.  We go outside.  We have good winter clothes here.  They will not be taken to Hilton Hilton.



Bill Gribble has on his site some beautiful photos of the almost frozen lake on which he sails in southwestern England.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Lake Forest: a different view


 Not quite Skull Creek, but the present view out the front window.  Snow is still slowly falling, but we are not due to get much more accumulation.  Slightly below freezing.  I take solace in that winter ends for me a week from Thursday when I fly to Hilton Head and a different view.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Lake Forest: an unexpected sense of humor: clipper ships with reservations; definitive proof of global warming

From Larry comes a video of Nick Saban for which I thank him.

For those of you who do not follow US college football, Nick Sabin is the coach of the University of Alabama and the most successful and highest paid of all college football coaches in the country.  His present contract pays him more than ten million dollars a year.  He is all business and suffers the press only stoically as part of his job.  He is not known for a sense of humor, but obviously he has one.  From his appearance this video came from a presentation a decade or two ago.  I laughed out loud when I watched it.  I did when I watched it again.



From Eric comes a video about the age of the Clipper Ships which I enjoyed with reservations.  I thank him for the link.

The commentary is inaccurate and hyperbolic, written as I expect is always the case by those who have never sailed those or probably any other waters.  The Forties are not treacherous.  They cannot be.  No ocean has made a pact with man that could be broken.  Not all sailors are superstitious.  Nor is Cape Horn the nightmare of all sailors.  I know that as a fact because I know at least one sailor for whom those assertions are not true.  Using words precisely and having real experience is a wearing burden.  Still I enjoyed this and perhaps you will too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YuDLsjFGQU


It has been truly said that you may deny climate change, but your insurance company does not.  This was personally brought home to Carol and me when our Hilton Head Home Owners Association charged a special assessment because the cost of insurance on the units has doubled since last year.

Personally I have experienced the definitive proof of climate change.  A bottle of Laphroaig bought only last Saturday is now empty.  Clearly this is due to evaporation caused by Chicago having a warmer than usual winter.  No other explanation is possible.  I am willing to repeat this experiment and offer it for peer review, assuming you can find my peers.  In fact I am so interested that I will buy another bottle and carefully observe the results.



Monday, January 16, 2023

Lake Forest: the good old days

Last Saturday I received an email from Elaine Lembo whom I knew as an editor with CRUISING WORLD announcing that she has become the editor of CARIBBEAN COMPASS, a publication of which I was not aware.  I goggled and found it online and skimmed through the December issue in which I came across a piece about new tolls for transiting the Panama Canal.  Increases go into effect on January 1 of each of the next three years.  Effective January 1, 2023 the toll for vessels up to 65’ is $1,760.  2024  $1,935.  2025  $2,130. 

The first two times I transited the Canal in the 1980s I paid $125 for the 36’ RESURGAM.  This, combined with global warming, increasingly uncivil politics, the frequency of mass shootings, social media lies and hysteria, ever increasing rules and regulations, causes me to wonder if in fact I didn’t live in the good old days.  

Perhaps all old people think that; but I have not until recently.




Friday, January 13, 2023

Lake Forest: refrozen; wave; repeat

I had good news yesterday when the results of my biopsies were reported more quickly than usual.  Three of the sites were benign and two require only to be frozen again.  That is scheduled for later this month, and I instantly proceeded to book my flights back to Hilton Head for February 2.  

I plan to go sailing in March to no where in particular.  I would like to put the wind on or aft of the beam and head offshore for several days, perhaps a week, and then make my way back.



I thank Tim for this link about the most extreme wave ever recorded.

https://www.sciencealert.com/extreme-rogue-wave-in-the-north-pacific-confirmed-as-most-extreme-on-record

I am surprised that it was only 58’/17.6 meters.  I note the ‘only’.  58’ is certainly big, but I thought bigger waves had been recorded.  I also do not think ‘rogue’ appropriate.  Rogue implies deliberate hostility.  Waves are not sentient.  Waves are not hostile.  They just are.  Freak might be better, but no doubt is a politically incorrect word.

I am also surprised that the standard to be considered a rogue wave is to be only twice the height of surrounding waves.  That seems too small a difference.  I think it should be at least three times surrounding waves.  Even by that greater standard the two waves that struck GANNET a few hundred miles off Samoa were ‘rogues’.  They were three to four times higher than surrounding waves.



Jared just commented about a journal entry published almost three years ago.  I am pleased that a few read past journal entries.  I reread it myself.  Jared liked it.  I like it.  You might too.

https://self-portraitinthepresentseajournal.blogspot.com/2020/05/evanston-good-question-on-marriage.html

Monday, January 9, 2023

Lake Forest: in case of emergency; a new record; from recent reading

In response to my recently writing "I will miss glancing up and seeing water."  Douglas in Scotland sent me this video with instructions:  Open in emergencies, or when sipping you know what.  Lock Ness today.


Not long ago he sent me this photo of a goose taking flight.


Scotland has sublime beauty.

I thank Douglas for sharing it with me and giving me permission to share it with you.



Carol and I landed at O'Hare yesterday just after sunset.  26F/-3C.  Normal Chicago January.

Today I had an appointment with the beautiful skin cancer doctor.  It is a pleasure to see her.  In some ways more than others.  She froze enough of me so that full body immersion in liquid nitrogen might be more efficient, and chopped off five bits to be sent for biopsy, a new and undesired record.  I expect to have to return for further chopping when the results are known.  



From RIVER OF THE GODS about the 'discovery' of the source of the White Nile by Richard Burton, the 19th Century explorer not the 20th Century husband of Elizabeth Taylor, and James Speke:

Of Burton who spoke more than twenty languages and had impartially studied the world's religions while believing in none of them:  The only aspect of religion that he scorned was the idea that there existed any true believers. 'The more I study religion,' he wrote, 'the more I am convinced that man never worshiped anyone but himself.'

Burton also wrote:  Of the gladdest moment in the human life, methinks, is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands.

Burton quoted an old proverb:  The world is a great book, of which those who never leave home read but a page.

After shaking hands with Burton, the Dahomey king said, "You are a good man, but too angry."  Burton agreed, "Travelers like poets are mostly an angry race."


From:  THE CLASSIC TRADITION OF HAIKU.

How I envy maple leafage

which turns beautiful and then falls!

        --Kagami Shilo  1665-1731


I sleep...I wake...

    How wide

The bed with none beside.

        --Kaga No Chiyo   1703-1775


Men are disgusting.

They argue over

The price of orchards.

        --Masaoka Shiki   1867-1902


There are many haiku references to butterflies.  Permit me one of my own.

Our lives are as brief

as a butterfly's cough.


I like to believe that some of those Japanese poets would have approved, but as always I have never known.



From  HORACE: THE COMPLETE ODES AND EPODES

9

...

Avoid speculation

about the future; count the credit the days

chance deals; youth should not spurn

the dance of sweet desire;


this is your green time, not your white

and morose.  In field or piazza

now is the proper season for

trading soft whispers in the dark;


the tell-tale complaisant laugh

of a girl in some secret nook;

the pledge removed from an arm

or a helpfully helpless finger.


31

...

Son of Latona, grant me I pray

to enjoy the things I have and my health

and to pass my old age with a sound 

mind, with my cithara, and with style.



33

...

This is Venus's way:  her cruel humor

is pleased to subject to her yoke of bronze

incompatible bodies and minds.


Even I, when a better love sought me,

was detained in pleasant chains by Myrtale,

a one-time slave girl more stormy than

Adriatic waves rolling round to Calabria.








Saturday, January 7, 2023

Article: The Joy of Small Boats

Now that I can no longer access the main site, I will post articles here after they have been published.  This one appeared several months ago in GOOD OLD BOAT, who asked me to write a piece for their small boat issue.  They changed the title to ‘Little Wings’.  I like mine better.  Those of you who have the good taste to have been reading me for some time will not find much new here.  In reusing old material and themes, I am in good company.  Bach did too.



The Joy of Small Boats


2022



I have owned three great boats, and two of them were small:  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an 18’ Drascombe Lugger yawl, and GANNET, an ultralight Moore 24 sloop.  The other great boat was RESURGAM, a Sparkman and Stevens designed She 36 sloop.  I have great affection for small boats, who if well designed, well built, and well sailed, can do so much more than most people believe possible.      

I made most of my second circumnavigation in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and my sixth in GANNET.  In both instances I choose the boats because I wanted a new and different experience of the sea.  I did not want to be like some old rock star who is forever singing the songs of his youth.  I wanted to sing new songs and I believe that CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and GANNET and I have.

After I completed my first circumnavigation in the engineless 37’ cutter, EGREGIOUS, with only two stops via Cape Horn in 1976, I had very little money and did not know what I would do next.  Selling EGREGIOUS and the publication of STORM PASSAGE, my first book, provided some money and after a year I sought a new challenge.  I wanted a qualitatively different experience, even simpler, even closer to the sea, with even greater reliance on myself.  That the boat be inexpensive was a given.  All my boats have been.  With only 12” of freeboard and no deck, CHIDIOCK certainly brought me closer to the sea.  In fact one night between Fiji and what is now Vanuatu she hit something, probably a container, and threw me into the sea and I ended up drifting for two weeks and three hundred miles before reaching land.  

CHIDIOCK survived that as a bigger boat might not have.  Although gunnel deep in the water, she had sufficient floatation not to sink and I tied her and the inflatable together and she followed me over the reef onto Emae Island.  With new masts, sails, rudder, floorboards and oars shipped from England, she sailed again five months later and completed 15,000 more miles.

I would not go to sea in just any small boat, or just any big boat either.  For me a boat must be well built, look pretty, have clean, uncluttered lines, and sail well.  You may notice the absence of be comfortable.  In my experience no boat is comfortable in a gale, and I have the advantage of not getting sea sick.  I am glad to be writing this on a comfortable sofa in a sunny room in our condo on Hilton Head Island overlooking the Intracoastal waterway, but comfort is not a life.

Before I set out from San Diego in November of 1978 the longest open boat voyage had been made in a wooden Drascombe Lugger, so the design had been tested.  I learned that a park ranger in Anaheim, California, was selling Luggers part time using his own as the display model, so I made an appointment and one Saturday Suzanne, who was then the woman in my life, and I drove up.  We found a very pretty boat on a trailer in Rich’s driveway.  I examined her, found the quality of construction excellent, and asked if I could step on board.  Rich said yes.  I climbed up and looked around, then lay down.  There was just enough room for my shoulders beside the centerboard trunk.  I got up and said, “I’ll buy one.”   Rich said, “Great.  What are you going to do with her?”   I replied, “I’m going to sail her around the world, but we are going to Disneyland first.”  Suzanne, who is from New Zealand, had never been.  Rich cashed my check quickly.

That was in June.  In November I rowed from the marina in San Diego’s Mission Bay and set out for Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands 3,000 miles away.  We made it in thirty-four days, only a few more than several forty footers sailing at the same time.

I sailed more than 25,000 miles in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I and II.  The first remained in Saudi Arabia where I was jailed on suspicion of being a spy.

I must confess that I found the Drascombes a bit confining as a full time home and so I bought 36’ RESURGAM and then THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, a 37’ IOR one-tonner, and lived on board for most of the next three decades.

In 2006 I moved with Carol, my wife since 1994, to Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago on Lake Michigan.  At that time I was basing HAWKE in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands and I decided to get a second boat to sail on Lake Michigan during the northern summers.  Naturally the boat would be small and relatively inexpensive.  Checking boat listings I came across a Moore 24 for sale in Detroit.  I knew of Moore 24’s superb reputation.  The first ultralight class built in the U.S. and a 1970s design that is still winning races fifty years later.  I did not want to race, but experiencing such performance was tempting.  Unfortunately the Detroit boat sold before I could see her.  But the seed had been planted and I found another Moore for sale in Duluth, Minnesota.  I made an offer and GANNET, then GROWLER, was mine the following May.  

One of the first changes I made in addition to changing her name was to give away the two old gas outboards and replace them with an electric Torqeedo.

I kept GANNET on Lake Michigan for only two summers.  I found that having two boats and a wife was too complicated.  I also found that I did not enjoy sailing on Lake Michigan.  I am pelagic.  I like sailing oceans.  I need endless horizons.  I don’t want to set out one morning and see Michigan appear before sunset.  So I sold HAWKE, had GANNET towed to San Diego, and decided to sail her around the world.  Moore 24s have been successfully raced from San Francisco to Hawaii.  No one had gone farther than that, but I thought if 2,000 miles, why not more?

All of my boats have been stock boats.  I did not make great modifications to either CHIDIOCK or GANNET.  I did replace GANNET’s mast and boom and when doing so had the rigging increased by one size as I have on all my boats except CHIDIOCK.  Probably a good decision because GANNET’s masthead has gone into the water at least four times.  I have put the mastheads of four boats in the water, a club you don’t want to join.

Initially I planned to put a self-steering vane on GANNET, but I found that because of her ultra-light construction her transom would have to be strengthened to support a vane at a cost of more than half of what I paid for her.  I decided that I could buy a lot of tiller pilots for that amount, and I have.  I also knew that I could use sheet to tiller self-steering, which I also have.  In all I have sailed more than 50,000 miles on three different boats using sheet to tiller.

I carried some equipment on GANNET that I never had on earlier boats:  a dry suit, an emergency rudder, and a Jordan drogue.  I was glad to have them on board, but I was also glad never to have needed to use them.

I navigated on GANNET by iPhone using both iNavX and iSailor charts and apps.  I made my first two circumnavigations using a sextant and I have a plastic one on GANNET though I have not taken a sight in years.  Perhaps it is worthwhile when going offshore to know at least how to take a noon sight for latitude.

Small well built boats are capable of surviving severe weather.  Both CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and GANNET were each in at least two 55 knot gales as recorded by official sources ashore.  CHIDIOCK with her yawl rig hove to better than any boat I have ever owned by furling the jib, lowering the main, putting the center board ¾ of the way down, tying the tiller amidship and flattening the mizzen which weather cocked the bow into the wind, so on her I hove to.  In GANNET I lay ahull.  Both boats were corks that rose over waves.  Mostly.

The most dangerous moments of GANNET’s circumnavigation did not come in gales, but on a sunny moderate trade wind day three hundred miles from Apia, Samoa.  Just after noon I was standing in the companionway, which on GANNET comes just above my waist, when my attention was caught by two 10’-12’ waves coming at right angles to the 3’-4’ wave pattern.  They were steep and close together.  As the first one hit I ducked below, sliding the companionway over me.  However, the vertical slat was not in place and not reachable.  The second wave exploded into and over us, knocking GANNET down, masthead touching foaming water.

With GANNET heeled 90ยบ I braced myself from falling and stared down at the ocean.  GANNET’s lee rail was below water.  The ocean only inches from entering the companionway.  The wave was gushing in and pressing us down.  It was a matter of whether the ocean would reach the companionway before GANNET came back up.  Time slowed to a stop.  Probably a few seconds passed.  GANNET came back up.

The other most dangerous moments of that circumnavigation came during the 55 knot gale the morning we reached New Zealand.  10’-12’ waves slammed into our starboard beam.  At age seventy I completely lost vision in my right eye, so the waves were literally blind-siding me.  I was hand steering with only a scrap of furling jib set.  Often the waves knocked me from where I was sitting on the starboard side of the cockpit to my feet where I was looking down at the ocean.  I could not leave the tiller to go below for my safety harness, so I tied a sail tie around my right wrist and the other end to the toe rail.  As long as my arm remained attached to my body, I would remain attached to GANNET.

GANNET’s other 55 knot gale came at the end of our longest nonstop passage, 6,000 miles from Darwin, Australia, to Durban, South Africa.  We lay ahull for thirty-six hours in twenty foot waves, but I never felt we were in danger.

Although I believe if you are going to cross oceans, you should be prepared to face gales, gales are not the norm.  Most days are pleasant and I spend them reading and listening to music and keeping the boat sailing well.  I do not push GANNET as hard as those who race Moores, but I try to keep her in the groove.  She accelerates faster than any other boat I have owned.  Going six or seven knots, she catches a wave or a bit more wind and instantly is doing twelve or fourteen.

When I voyage I enter what I call the monastery of the sea.  I disconnect from land.  On GANNET I carry a Yellowbrick tracking device so Carol can see where I am.  Others seem to enjoy seeing that too.  But I do not communicate with the land.  I believe that those who do, who blog every day, still have their minds ashore and are not really in the moment.

I get no weather information.  I look at the sea, I look at the sky,  I look at the barometer.  In each case I am looking for change.

The monastery of the sea has a beauty and purity and clarity that modern urban life does not.  There is no ugliness there that you do not bring with you and, particularly if you sail alone, you are completely responsible for your boat and yourself.

Our lives are as brief as a butterfly’s cough.  I believe they are redeemed by moments of joy.  I have known countless such moments sailing small boats across oceans.  I hope you know moments of joy wherever you sail.




Thursday, January 5, 2023

Hilton Head Island: last sunset over Skull Creek (for a while)


I am sipping a martini and listening to Max Richter’s recomposition of Vivaldi’s FOUR SEASONS while watching my last sunset over Skull Creek for a while.  Carol drives us to Charlotte tomorrow and we fly to Chicago on Sunday, where I will stay for about a month.  I will not be just wearing shorts and a t-shirt next week.  

I think I have written here before how admirable I find Max Richter’s recomposition.  How audacious to rewrite what was at one time and may still be the most recorded classical composition, and it turned out well.  

I will miss glancing up and seeing water.

L’Chaim.


Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Hilton Head Island: frozen in time; books; 3Dless

In case you have not read the introduction to my main site recently, which I expect likely, here is some of the first part:

Note:  This site is created using iWeb which Apple has not supported for years, so be advised that it may become frozen in time without warning.

There is something to be said for publishing on paper.


That has now happened.

When I tried to upload ‘The Joy of Small Boats’ I was unable to connect to my site.  Despite repeated efforts by the support team at Machighway, which hosts the site, and myself over the past two days, I still can’t connect.  I expect the problem is that iWeb has become corrupted.  I have kept an old MacBook with the Mojave OS just for iWeb because the application will not work on any more recent OS.  There may still be a way, but upon reflection I am not sure I want to.  There is enough on 

https://www.inthepresentsea.com/the_actual_site/webbchiles.html

to keep my future biographers busy for years and if they want to know what happens from now on, they can come here.  There is a life there.


So the main site is frozen in time.  I am not.  Yet.




I was asked to comment on the books I read in the last six months.


In looking over the list, several are classics and favorites I have read before, often more than once, and can highly recommend, though your tastes may not be the same as mine.  BARRABAS, THE UNDERDOGS, THE MAIAS, VICTORY.  I think I have read all of Conrad, much of his work at least twice, and find myself regretting there is not more.


While James Vance Marshall's THE WIND AT MORNING is not a classic, I think it should be and have written about it in a journal post a while ago.


hilton-head-island-wind-in-morning.html


I had the pleasure of coming across two new to me great authors last year:  Yasunari Kawabata and Machado de Assis.  Before even finishing the first of their books, I bought two more.  I've read a second by Kawabata, but not yet de Assis.  Both men are famous in their own countries and should be more widely.


LEGIONNAIRE was a pleasant surprise.  The memoire of a young Englishman who enlisted in the French Foreign Legion and served at the end of the colonial war in Algeria.  I found the view into a world I do not know interesting, educational and entertaining.


BOLIVAR is a fine biography of the liberator of much of South America and a study in perseverance, great success and great failure.


The one book on the list that I would not recommend is the 1900 edition of THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH VERSE.  There are other editions that I have enjoyed, but the 1900 is full of obscure, verbose, graceless 'poems'.  I put that in quotes because most of them do not deserve the name.


THE GREATEST DAY IN HISTORY, a day by day account mostly in the words of those then living of the last week of what we now call World War One was eye-opening and shocking.





Yesterday afternoon Carol and I saw AVATAR:  THE WAY OF WATER.  Carol saw it in 3D.  I did not.  I learned that 3D doesn't work with only one eye.  The movie is entertaining and a technological triumph because it seems real and almost none of it is.  Both of us agree, along with others, that at more than three hours it is too long.










Monday, January 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: that’s more like it

 A correction.

The number of push-ups and crunches done last year was underreported by almost half yesterday.  9,300 was the number of those in the first set.  I forgot to include the 40 of each I do in the second and in the third sets.  The true number of push-ups and crunches done in 2022 is 18,420.

You either get stronger or you get weaker.  This year I aim for 20,000.