Friday, September 22, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Ordinary Men; broken; shot; written on water

I watched ORDINARY MEN, an extremely disturbing documentary on Netflix the other evening and highly recommend that you do, too.  In fact if I could I would make viewing compulsory for everyone everywhere.

The documentary is about how and why Germans in special units murdered more than a million Jews.  The Nazis murdered at least six times more than that, but the documentary is only about those police units.  It is disturbing for the footage showing some of the mass murders and because as the title states most of the murderers were not fanatical Nazis or sadistic killers.  They were ordinary men such as are in the majority of every society I have experienced in person or have read about.

I increasingly believe our extreme summer heat has broken.  Long before climate change, the Low Country was too damn hot in the summer.  The marsh has now been pleasant for several days.  I am routinely breakfasting on the screened porch and having a drink there or on the deck in the evening.  High temperatures have been in the high 70s and low 80s F/ mid-20s C.  It is no longer necessary to engage in outdoor activities only in the early morning.  I went for a walk today starting at noon and hardly broke a sweat.  Two weeks ago I would never have even considered a walk at noon.  The marsh is again becoming paradise.

I have two slightly sore arms.  Yesterday I biked four miles to a Walgreens and got the latest COVID and flu shots.  My appointment was at 10:30.  That, too, meant biking later in the day than I would have wanted to not long ago.  

I am not certain how many COVID shots I have had.  Four or maybe five.  Whatever the number I am not susceptible to conspiracy theories and will keep on getting them whenever advised to do so by the CDC.

My main site is back online.  That loud sound you hear is the world’s collective sigh of relief.

It was down for four days.  I was told by various members of the webhost’s support team that a server became corrupted—I expect by spending too much time on social media—and that all the data on it had to be transferred to another server.  In doing so they messed up the connection to mine. After several futile phone calls, eventually I reached a man named Roger who fixed it.  I thank him.

I have the site on an old laptop that I keep just for that purpose, but uploading it presents technical difficulties that are not of much interest.

There is a lot of me in that site.  Perhaps more than any other single place.  And I realize how dependent it is on factors beyond my control.  I have been thinking about what to do about that.

When I was in Fremantle, Australia, now more than twenty years ago during my fifth circumnavigation, some Buddhist monks went to the shore at low tide and drew elaborate and beautiful designs in the sand, knowing they would be erased in a few hours as the tide rose.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Webb Chiles: the movie; down

The day you have so eagerly been waiting for is here.  Safe Harbor released the first episode of their Storytellers series this morning.  If you can endure nine minutes of me, you can view it here.

In the unlikely event you have tried to go to my main site

since yesterday, you will have seen only an error message.  The company hosting the site has a server failure.  They tell me that hopefully the problem will be resolved and the site will be back online later today.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Hilton Head: starring Webb Chiles; still too hot

Not words I ever expected to write, much less see, but it has happened. It only took eighty-one years, but I have been discovered.

I do not recall how many times during those eighty-one years I have been approached by someone with a project.  Books, translations, audiobooks, films.  I have learned that most of these vanish as quickly as a bottle of Laphroaig, and with less satisfaction.  Three men have started to make short films about me.  One has not been heard from for years.  The jury is still out on one.  And one has actually created a film.  Carol and I saw the final version last Thursday.  It is due to be released this coming Friday.

Safe Harbor, which now owns the Skull Creek Marina, as well as more than one hundred other marinas, has decided to produce a series of short films under the title, Storytellers, about people who keep their boats in one of their marinas.  I believe they asked dock masters for recommendations and Ben, who was then the dock master at Skull Creek, submitted me.  I did not seek this and was not aware of it until Safe Harbor decided to begin the series with me and emailed asking if I would be willing to participate.  I agreed, not to promote myself, but because as a writer I care about my words—I know that is inconsistent, but some writers do—and I hope that some who see the film will be interested enough to explore further and read some of my words who otherwise would not have.

So in April Johnny Harrington, who happens to live in Ocean Beach, California, less than a mile from where I docked GANNET in Mission Bay, and three other young men came to Hilton Head and filmed and interviewed me for parts of four days. They are very good at their jobs and I enjoyed observing them work.

The final film is just under nine minutes long.  While naturally there are omissions in reducing eighty-one years, six circumnavigations, seven books, six marriages, another million or so words, and some other relationships, to nine minutes, both Carol and I like the film very much.  I do not believe that I could be portrayed better in that length of time.

There are a few errors in the film.  I did not have the opportunity to fact check it.  Only one of the errors is of much significance and that is where in the opening title sequence it is written of me:  ‘six time solo circumnavigator.’   As some of you know, while I have circumnavigated six times, only three of those voyages have been completely solo—the first, fifth, and sixth.  Jill sailed with me a thousand miles of the second, much of the third, and part of the fourth.  Carol sailed 10,000 miles with me on the fourth.  I have always tried to avoid exaggeration or hyperbole believing that if you do it right, the plain truth is enough.  So if someone comments that Webb Chiles has not made six solo circumnavigations, tell them Webb Chiles agrees.

As I said, the other errors are minor.  A photo of THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is said to be RESURGAM and when that photo is shown RESURGAM is spelled RESERGAM.

I have notified Johnny of the errors, but it is probably too late for them to be corrected.

The film was premiered last Friday at a film festival at Newport, R.I.  I am told that it received a standing ovation.  I am pleased for Johnny and perhaps a little for myself, too.  While it is my life, it is his film and he deserves all the credit for that.

There is a trailer on a Safe Harbor site:

I’ll post a link to the film after Safe Harbor releases it Friday.

I was paid for my starring role somewhat less than the more than $100,000,000 Tom Cruise has reportedly been paid for his starring role in TOP GUN:  MAVERICK.  I was paid my usual nothing.  But then that helps keep my taxes simpler than Tom’s.

Carol flew back to Chicago yesterday.  

I biked down to do some minor chores on GANNET this morning.  I went down before 8 a.m.  The temperature was a reasonable 78F, but with the humidity and no wind, I was soon drowning in sweat.  I wore work clothes, which was a very good idea, because on my return after an hour to the blessedly air-conditioned condo, everything was soaked and is now out in the sun on our deck drying out.

Usually the extreme heat moderates here this month, but it hasn’t yet.  The marsh is still broiling.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Hilton Head Island: GANNET; two disasters; two poems

Carol and I walked to GANNET Sunday morning and found the little boat as I had left her except for some water in the bilge which I pumped and sponged out.  As you may recall GANNET has no through hull fittings, but some water inevitably makes its way from above through two holes where the backstay enters and exits the deck and a leak in the bow I have not been able to locate for more than a decade.  There were not even any bird droppings on the deck.  Good.

I have now spoken to several people who were here during the passing of Idalia all of whom say it was just a windy, rainy day.  Fred, the former dock master of Skull Creek Marina who lives aboard his 31’ sloop, said that the highest gust he saw on his wind instrument was 52 knots, but the the wind was generally in the 30-40 knot range for six hours.  He said that three boats in the marina broke loose.  All because of inadequate dock lines.  Too old or too small or both.

Here is the link to a long, but I found interesting article about the greatest peacetime disaster in the history of the United States Navy.  I knew of this, but not the details.

I was among those who thought ‘dead reckoning’ had evolved from ‘deduced reckoning’.  Wikipedia says otherwise:

Contrary to myth, the term "dead reckoning" was not originally used to abbreviate "deduced reckoning," nor is it a misspelling of the term "ded reckoning." The use of "ded" or "deduced reckoning" is not known to have appeared earlier than 1931, much later in history than "dead reckoning" appearing as early as 1613 in the Oxford English Dictionary. The original intention of "dead" in the term is generally assumed to mean using a stationary object that is "dead in the water" as a basis for calculations. Additionally, at the time the first appearance of "dead reckoning," "ded" was considered a common misspelling of "dead." This potentially led to later confusion of the origin of the term.

A second disaster is imminent actually counting climate change, this is a third.

Sixty years ago a perspicacious college student wrote that throughout our history the mass of homo sapiens provided muscle power and a gene pool neither of which was any longer necessary.  What he postulated in 1960 is obvious now, or if it isn’t to some, it soon will be.

Here is an article stating that in a little over ten years 38%-65% of the jobs in Las Vegas may be automated.  That’s a lot of unemployed bartenders.

I have read that the two most famous Chinese poets are Li Po and Tu Fu.  Both names are Anglicized in various ways.  They lived at the same time and met one another.  During his lifetime Li Po was well known and admired.  Tu Fu was not.  Li Po was born about 701 AD and died in 762.  I have posted some of his poems here in past entries.  Tu Fu was born 712 AD and died in 770.  They met in 744 and remained friends, both writing poems to the other.

Here are two poems written by Tu Fu toward the end of his life.


Saturday, September 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: capititerraphobia cured


A little after 8 PM here and this is what I am seeing from my chair by our bedroom window while listening to Handel’s ‘Water Music’ and sipping Plymouth gin.  Not exceptional, but beautiful and tranquil.

Last evening Carol and I sipped margaritas—no reason to pretend—and ate lobster rolls and sirloin sliders beside Lake Michigan.  It was pleasant.  

A young boy was playing in the water with a body board.  I am not a good judge of age.  Perhaps he was nine or ten.  He was a skinny kid.  I said to Carol ‘that is me seventy years ago’. I was a skinny, weird kid who has become a skinny, weird old man.

The boy tried unsuccessfully to catch some of the small waves coming ashore.  I could see that he was not judging them correctly.  He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then he got it right and caught two and got a few seconds ride in to his joy.  I was happy for him.  Take whatever moments of joy come your way, and even better take whatever moments of joy that would never have existed had you not created them.

I never board surfed.  I body surfed and I caught my last wave a little over two decades ago at age sixty off a small island in Brazil’s Baia da Ilha Grande.  I do not recall the name of the island and it does not matter.  Carol and I had sailed from Rio de Janeiro forty miles or so west and anchored.  

We soon learned that the few buildings on the shore were mostly family homes and a few surfer hostels.  

As we sat drinking our morning coffee in the cockpit we saw locals come from their homes and set up plastic chairs and tables on the beach.  Late in the morning day trip boats with masts but always under power arrived from the mainland a half dozen miles away and disgorged passengers who rushed to the tables and ate and drank, before re-embarking for the trip back.  

Carol and I often joined them, rowing ashore, pulling the Avon up the beach, tying it to a palm tree, and enjoying very inexpensive and good grilled shrimp and cold beers.

Sometimes we followed the surfers over a ridge to the ocean side of the island which had then as beautiful unspoiled beach as I have seen.  I hope it still is. 

That is where I caught my last wave.  The ride remains in my mind.  A long one.  

I will not seek another.  My almost severed supra spinatus cannot be risked being slammed into a seabed.

I do not regret there will never be another body surfing wave.  I have known enough, and unless time and chance destroy me there will be more waves, hopefully with GANNET and me above them.

As we flew from Chicago this morning I thought:  this is probably my last flight from the Midwest.  I will fly back once more next year, but Carol will drive us away.

I have written that some of my countrymen I most admire were Midwesterners:  Lincoln; Grant; Twain: Truman.  But I am perhaps the most misborn Midwesterner ever.  A creature of the open ocean born a thousand miles from the sea.  Inevitably I found my natural element.  All creatures do or die trying, and I often almost did die trying.

I am so—I hesitate for the word—Glad.  Happy.  Yes.  But mostly just content to know that it is likely that for whatever is left of my life only a few weeks will be spent away from the ocean.


I paused.  Night has fallen.  Outside the window all is dark except for a few lights in the marina.  My glass is almost empty.  There is little in the bottle still in the refrigerator.  I think I will drink it going twice beyond the two glass limit.  I reflect upon my life and find that I am still alive and writing this to you at almost age 82 beggars the imagination.  I say that without pride, but with incredulity.  Yet I seem still to be here and seem still to be moving.  I like to think forward.  But who knows.  At least I am moving.



Thursday, August 31, 2023

Lake Forest: safe—for now; a notable sail

I have received emails this morning from the marina and the condo management company which confirm that as I expected there has been no damage.  I ran a GRIB yesterday morning which indicated winds would be 30-40 knots with gusts to 50.  I don’t know that they were even that strong.  The highest recorded wind in the area I have found is 52 mph at Savannah.  When the eye of the storm was inland closest to Hilton Head last evening, the sites I checked online were showing wind in the low 20s.  

The hurricane season is far from over.  September is historically the most active month.  A new system has just emerged from Africa.  If another storm reaches Hilton Head I will experience it first hand.

I thank Robert for a link to a record breaking sail across the Atlantic in a Transat Mini sailboat.

I am particularly impressed by Jay Thompson’s tenacity and the repairs to the rudder he made underway.  Well done.

Initially I was skeptical about ‘thousands of Minis and their owners’ having sailed across the Atlantic, I googled and find the race has been run almost every other year since the 1970s and so perhaps a thousand or so have.

Transat Minis are slightly shorter than GANNET, displace about the same, are beamier and have much more sail area.

  Here are the numbers for a Moore 24.

They also cost much more, often in excess of $100,000. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Lake Forest: 60; journey 2

There are 60 soccer matches on television today.  Actually there are more, but I only have access to sixty.  Additionally the U.S. college football season starts with a game between Notre Dame and Navy played in Dublin, Ireland, and the U.S. and the International finals in the Little League World Series are played this afternoon.  I am going to be busy.

The second half of JOURNEY is less interesting than the first and is, as are all general histories, bottom heavy toward recent events and fads before time winnows them.  The last tenth of the book covers the past eighty years, disproportionate I think for a journey that begins 5,000 years ago.  Here, however, are a few things I found of interest in the last half of JOURNEY.

Of the bicycle, which came into mass popularity toward the end of the 19th Century:

Of camping which also became popular about 1900;

Of immigration:  “In the 1880s alone nine percent of the total population of Norway immigrated to the United States.”

And here is a photo of Mulberry Street in New York City’s Little Italy in 1900.

The authors of JOURNEY write mindlessly of ‘conquering’ nature and of ‘adventure’.  If you have been reading here a while you know that I understand we do not conquer mountains or oceans or deserts or ice, we merely transit them, and you know that I consider adventure to be avoided.

Here is an except about climbing Everest.

The top photo of this entry is captioned:  ‘Permanently fixed ropes and ladders have made Everest easier to climb.’

Is that supposed to be good?

There are no fixed ropes or ladders around Cape Horn.

Now you will have to excuse me.  I have fifty-seven and a half more soccer games to watch.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Lake Forest: journey

Via BookBud I came across a Smithsonian book:  JOURNEY:  AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST TRAVELS.  Although it is not sufficiently up to date to include me, it is very interesting.  I am only about halfway through its more than 1100 pages, most of which are illustrations.  Covering migrations, trade, conquests, explorations, and finally tourism, from ancient times almost to the present, the descriptions of individuals and their travels are necessarily brief and incomplete.  I am surprised that they did not go back even farther to the first migration of some of our species from Africa, which is where the journey really begins.

Here are a few of the illustrations and words from the first half of the book.

The strikingly pure and beautiful hull above is a 9th Century Viking burial ship.

Marco Polo leaving Venice.


The Cantino Planisphere, completed in 1502, showing the world as known by the Portuguese after the voyage of Vasco de Gama.

The shipwreck of Vitus Bering’s ship on an uninhabited island 109 miles off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on the return from his second voyage to what is now Alaska and the straits that bear his name.  Of the 77 survivors, 31 died during the winter, including Bering.  The 46 survivors eventually built a boat from the wreckage and reached the mainland.

The arrival of Captain Cook’s RESOLUTION and DISCOVERY at Kealakelua Bay, Hawaii, in 1779, where he was killed on February 14.

And some words.

Those who sail close to the shore never discover new lands.  —Andre Gide

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.  —Herodotus, 440 B.C. (about a system of horsemen in the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great, somewhat later adopted by the U.S. Postal Service.)

Unlike the mediocre, intrepid spirits seek victory over those things that seem impossible.  —Ferdinand Magellan

Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.  —Captain James Cook

Ambition leads me not only to go farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.  —Captain James Cook

And finally,

Monday, August 21, 2023

Lake Forest: spinning; captiterraphobia relapse

After weeks of the National Hurricane site showing ‘No Activity Expected In Next Seven Days’, the Atlantic has become active.  At the moment none of these systems seems likely to be significant, but that is a lot of spinning.

Like malaria, captiterraphobia, my self-diagnosed and named disease of fear of being trapped by land, once contracted never leaves the body, though it can go into remission, in my case when at sea or on the coast.  Lake Forest is very pleasant.  Carol and I again had drinks and dinner on the beach last evening.  But my symptoms are increasing.  I am daily more anxious to get to Hilton Head.  A week from Saturday.  I am counting the days.  Almost the minutes.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Lake Forest: a novelist; a composer; a painter; a poet


Above is the inspiring dedication to the novel, POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAS CUBAS by Machado De Assis, of whom I have written here before, the most famous Brazilian novelist of the 19th Century.  This is the third book of his I have read after happening across him when BookBud offered a volume of his short stories.  All have been original, interesting, and entertaining.  He is probably the greatest writer of whom I had not known.  

The POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS are the autobiography of Bras Cubas written as indicated after his death. Remember this is a work of fiction.  Bras Cubas was a wealthy resident of Rio de Janeiro, mostly a dilettante, and his memoirs are largely about a long affair he had with a married woman.  In the telling of this, style is everything and  the self-educated Machado de Assis, whose mother was a washerwoman and whose father a house painter, has style in exuberant abundance.

I am not the only one who wonders why De Assis is not more widely known and read.  Here is a link to an article that wonders, too.

Ottorino Respighi’s music sounds to me as though it were written centuries ago, but his life almost overlaps mine.  He was born in 1879 and died in 1936.

I just realized that everyone I am writing about in this entry, I have written about before.  Respighi appears again because a couple of evenings ago when I put on headphones to avoid hearing what poses as the evening network news which Carol was watching, I listened again to his ‘THREE BOTTICELLI PICTURES’.

Here is a link to a performance of the music.

Here a link to an article explaining the three paintings which include perhaps the greatest image of female beauty ever created.

I just finished THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY for the second time.  On this reading I was particularly impressed by some poems by Robert Frost that revealed aspects of him I did not know, enough so that I bought a book of his poems and am now reading them.

Here is one from the SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY that impressed me.

I have probably said this here before—I have certainly said it often in recent emails to friends—we fly to Hilton Head two weeks tomorrow.  I to stay the rest of this year; Carol to stay ten days and return again for Thanksgiving and for Christmas.  Lake Forest is very pleasant and Hilton Head will still be brutally hot in early September.  I saw online a map of the United States showing admissions to emergency rooms due to heat and Hilton Head is in the second highest area, exceeded only by most of Texas and parts of Arizona.  Heat related admissions in Hilton Head are eight times higher than in Chicago.  Nevertheless I am eager to get back.  I miss the ocean.