Saturday, February 28, 2015

Evanston: precipitation; companion; nag

        NASA has just released a very interesting—at least to me—short video of global precipitation during 2014 as observed from a twelve satellite system.  I’ve watched it several times seeing something different each time.
        On viewing it Carol said, “Are you sure you want to sail GANNET in the Southern Ocean?”
        In fact I don’t.  That is one of the advantages of attempting Cape Horn from the east.  
        I have had some of my most severe storms not off the Horn, but in the stretch of Southern Ocean between South Africa and Australia.  EGREGIOUS was capsized twice there.  And on a six week passage between Cape Town and Fremantle in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, we had eight storms of gale strength, four of which reached Force 10, more than 48 knots, and two of which reached Force 12, hurricane force of more than 64 knots.
        So I can summon little enthusiasm for spending months of repeated storms on an eastward circumnavigation in the Southern Ocean.
        Attempting to round Cape Horn from the east the exposure is much less, even though sailing against the prevailing winds.  
        The distance from the Falklands to Cape Horn is about five hundred miles.  Leave with a favorable forecast and GANNET could be past the Horn in four days.  However she would still have a thousand miles with Chile a dangerous lee shore before reaching Puerto Montt.  Keeping a hundred miles offshore would make the entire passage at least sixteen hundred miles.
        In good conditions GANNET could do that in eleven or twelve days.  A Cape Horn passage does not generally provide good conditions.  It would be expected that she would face at least one or two gales and I’d have to heave to or stream the Jordan drogue not to lose hard gained miles.  I’d be happy to make the passage in three weeks or even four.  Still far better than three or four months going the other way.
        Assuming I can get first GANNET past Horn Island.


        Many of you have emailed of your admiration for Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels. 
        I just came across and downloaded what appears to be a useful companion volume for the series, HARBORS AND HIGH SEAS by John B. Hattendorf.
        Although I’ve sailed most of the waters described in the novels and know something about sailing the world, I’ve found much information in the book I did not know, including details of passage times in Aubrey/Maturin’s times:  in a word, ‘slow’, with average daily runs of far less than one hundred miles.
        In a section on navigation, I found this from a Captain Lecky who believed that celestial navigation is not difficult:  “There are, however, men afloat who won’t try, and who for downright, double-barreled,  cooper-bottomed, bevel-edged bigotry are matchless in all other professions.”


        My health app awarded me The Marathon Badge, for walking 26.2 total miles; then at 60 miles the Lock Ness Badge which apparently is the distance around that lake.
        However, now that my physical therapy sessions have been reduced, Tuesday morning my app was disappointed and emailed: 
        “You’ve never done so few steps on a Monday.  I’m sure you can do more tomorrow :)”
        Fortunately I had physical therapy on Wednesday and did.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Evanston: dinoflagellates; hooked; unswum


Day 90        February 16 (1975)

        We are sailing through the doldrums again, speed varying from 6 to 2 knots, but without the spectacular cloud formations or the squalls we had last November.  Yesterday evening the wind began backing from the southeast to the northeast.  Every quarter hour after 8 PM, I had to trim the sails flatter, until by 10 PM we were hard on the wind.  Several times during the night, I was awakened by rain, lightning, and changing wind; but we were actually becalmed for only a half hour at about 3 AM.
        There is great phosphorescence in the water here, and during one of my spells on deck, three green wakes seemed to form spontaneously and streak directly toward us like torpedoes.  At first I thought they might be sharks, but then it became obvious that they were porpoises.  I never did see them, but their sinuous paths illuminated the sea around us for several minutes.

        I remembered that passage while reading an article in the current NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC about bioluminescence, which I incorrectly called phosphorescence.  And what I called porpoises were probably dolphin.  Ah, well, it has only taken me forty years to make the corrections.
        From NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC I learned that the illumination in the water was made by dinoflagellates, life forms so small that they can’t swim quickly enough to escape tiny shrimp-like creatures who prey on them.  They emit light when the water around them is disturbed both to startle the predators and to attract predators of their predators.
        Unintentionally they also often bring moments of beauty to the sailor as in the paths of those dolphin I remembered all these years and in the greenish wake of a boat brightening dark sea and night.


        I’m halfway through H.M.S. SURPRISE, the third of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, having moved quickly from MASTER AND COMMANDER and POST CAPTAIN.  I’ve bought the next seven of the twenty book series.  Twenty-one counting a novel left unfinished at Patrick O’Brian’s death.
        Obviously I am hooked.


        My physical therapy sessions have been reduced from three times a week to two, and next week and the week after only one.          
        They have resulted in significant improvement.  I can now sort of sleep on my left side and I have less discomfort.
        My therapist has said that if I were a normal old man—he didn’t quite use those words—he would have already discharged me, but since I’m not, he hasn’t, and we will continue to try to increase strength.
        While something may surprise me when I’m back aboard GANNET, I believe I can do everything I need to sail.  What I can’t know and what can’t be tested in advance is whether the shoulder will withstand shock loads, such as when I have to grab onto the boom or mast when reefing the mainsail and an unexpected wave hits.
        I doubt that I will be able to resume doing my age in push-ups.  They continue to be too painful.  An end of an era.
        More disappointing is that recently I realized that I probably can’t swim either, other than perhaps side stroke or just kicking my feet wearing flippers.
        At a dinner with other couples the other evening, I was asked about my shoulder and related the above.  Someone said, “But of course you wear a life jacket.”
       A clear proof of total lack of understanding the situation.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evanston: some fools don't deserve to be saved; unwimped; early

        My initial subject line for this entry was ‘some fools deserve to die.’  Perhaps I’m mellowing in my old age.  I changed because I realize they don’t deserve to die—if they can save themselves.  What they don’t deserve is to be saved by anyone else.
        You may have read reports as I did of a father and son rescued last weekend from a sailboat 150 miles off Nantucket Island in a blizzard.  If you did you surely thought as I did:  What the hell were they doing out there?
        I googled and learned.  A pretty good report can be found here, even though the journalist uses the hackneyed ‘once in a lifetime adventure’.   Another of the infinite misuses of the word.  In this instance ‘adventure’ should have been replaced by inanity.  And I suspect this was not a ‘once in a lifetime’ occurrence with these people.  I deliberately don’t call them ‘sailors’.
        I don’t like those ashore who second guess and criticize those at sea.  They have often done so with me.  Wrongly as I have proven.  But the blunders here beggar belief; and on first thought I disagreed with the younger man’s assertion that “If anyone sat down and worked things out they’d understand why we left.”  Actually I do understand:  they were too stupid and inexperienced to know what they were getting themselves into.  This was a failure, multiple failures, of intelligence and imagination.
        I don’t care that they left Newport in February on an ill-prepared and perhaps structurally defective boat with a blizzard forecast.  I do care that they called for help and were rescued at considerable risk to the rescuers.  
        If you do something so foolish, I believe the Coast Guard should have the authority to require you to sign a waiver before departure that any distress calls will be ignored.  Even better, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a radio transmitter or EPIRB on board.
        If these people had not known that if they got in trouble they could call for help, I doubt they would have sailed.  
        On the other hand, they might have.
        In which case they would have already gotten what they deserved. 


        Chicago set a record low temperature for the date this morning:  -8°/-22°C.
        Yesterday was a physical therapy day for me.  It was not quite as cold when I left for my appointment, about 9°F/-13°C, but it was windy.
        I mentioned to several people I emailed that I might wimp out and take the train rather than walk.  But I didn’t.  With many layers and a good winter parka, I was fine except for the slight amount of exposed skin around my nose and eyes.  I don’t cover my nose with a scarf because that causes my eyeglasses to fog up.
        However I did walk the distance five minutes faster than usual.


        As regular readers will know, as opposed to the rescued Australians, I never do things at the last minute and always leave ample time.  However I may have just out done myself.
        The duffle bag arrived yesterday from CampMor and I wanted to be certain that all the stuff I’m taking back to GANNET fits inside, so this morning I tested.  It does.
         I’m packed three weeks and five days early. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Evanston: the absence of beauty; first date; found

        Old sailor walks briskly up Chicago Avenue through falling snow.  He passes a few other bloated amorphous shapes, bundled as is he in parkas and gloves and boots and ski caps and scarves.  He passes the AutoBarn, sandwich shops, a pizza place, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, a pet store, dry cleaner, shoe repair.  Mostly two story brick buildings.  Nondescript rectangles.  As he nears the city center, the buildings rise to five and six stories and more.  Still rectangles.  Still nondescript until he comes to a former Christian Science church with Greek columns that has been turned into a music school.  This is not great architecture, but at least it doesn’t look like everything else.  In front of a care center are, as always, even in falling snow, four or five residents smoking, as presumably they are not permitted to inside.
        There is no beauty.  None.  Not a glimpse.  Not a glimmer.  Sometimes the sky is beautiful, he remembers.  But now it is low and gray and dull.  In summer there are flowers.  The lake a half mile or so to his right is often beautiful.  Though he cannot see it, he knows it is now as dull as the sky.
        The old sailor hurries on.
        Far away the ocean waits.


        The first sail in a newly purchased boat is a great day for any sailor.  A cliché says that the second greatest day is when he sells her; but I have not found that to be true.  The first sail is even more special when the boat is your first or a very different boat from those you have owned before.  
        In England last Sunday Bill, who has mostly raced dinghies, and his father, Roger, who has a Drascombe Lugger named ONDINE, went for their first sail on CALSTAR, a new-to-them Westerly Griffin, and at 26’ qualitatively bigger than their other boats.  I believe that if you can sail small boats, you can sail big ones; though not necessarily the other way around.
        Bill wrote about this on his site in an entry headed, ‘First Date.’  
        I think this is something all of us can relate to.  
        And note the smile on Roger’s face.


        The boat was sighted approaching the Australian coast by a young Aucklander vacationing there.  A couple wanted on other criminal charges apparently used it to escape from New Zealand when they would have been arrested at an airport. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Evanston: beautiful wood

        David, the sailing obstetrician, is presently in working mode in Tasmania, while his sloop SAPPHIRE sleeps in Fiji.  A few weekends ago he had time off and attended the Wooden Boat Festival in Hobart where he took these photos which he has permitted me to share with you, for which we all thank him.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Evanston: fifty years back; five weeks forward

        The chance synchronicity of Brian Cockburn writing music to a poem I wrote in 1967, Jeff Spangler restoring the first EGREGIOUS I bought in 1969, and my undergoing physical therapy where I am unusually for me around people fifty years younger than I, has turned my thoughts back to the 1960s when I was their age.
        1967 was the year I bought my first boat, an Excalibur 26.  I wrote ‘Leaves of Men of Leaves’ a few months later in the apartment in Oakland, California, I shared with Mary who was then a part of my life.  Surprisingly perhaps considering the number I did marry, I didn’t marry them all.  I don’t remember what inspired the poem.  
        That was the year of flower children and “If You Go To San Francisco” and there was a special feeling in the city.  I doubt I need to tell you I was not a flower child.
        Mary, known as M2 because my first wife was also named Mary, sailed with me on the Excalibur to San Diego in late August 1967.  
        We lived aboard in Quivira Basin a few hundred yards from where I kept GANNET almost a half century later.
        After a year in San Diego I placed the order for the Ericson 35 and took delivery in early December 1969.  That was a great day in my life, even though the yacht broker’s minions first stepped the mast backwards.  I was twenty-eight years old and at last had a boat on which I could sail the world.  I began my five year plan and left for Cape Horn, though on a different boat, fifty-nine months later.
        I have good memories of those years; but unlike Bob Dylan’s song, I have no desire to be “Forever Young.”  Once was enough.


        Above is the stuff I’m taking to GANNET.  I dug it out of the closet where it has been stored to see how big a duffle bag I need to buy.  20” x 36”/51 x 91 cm will do.
        The two flat cardboard packages at the back contain three replacement solar panels.  I will ship them to myself rather than take them on the airplane.
        The mass/mess in front includes two Raymarine tiller pilots, two tiller pilot pedestal mounts, a couple of pair of Levis, two Dartington crystal glasses, eneloop batteries, screen wire, Bang and Olufsen bluetooth speaker, two water bottles, two plastic measuring cups for uses never conceived by the manufacturer, boat shoes, headlamp, flashlight, pillow cases, cushion, tubes of LifeSeal, battery fan, Butyl tape, a tea ball and an umbrella.
        Still to arrive is a crushproof Pelican case for the Dartington glasses.  
        I will add a couple of long sleeved shirts if there is room.
        I’m also taking back the repaired YellowBrick, but that goes in my messenger bag/a.k.a. purse.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Evanston: previously owned by

        From the photos Jeff has done a fine job, putting in serious labor and some expense.
        As I noted in the earlier post, I installed the fireplace, but not the barometer or clock.  I also did not have the ship’s bell shown in this photo. And most definitely not wheel steering.  All my boats have had tillers and always—or at least as long as I own them—will.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA came with a wheel which I removed and gave away.

        The roller furler has also been installed by a subsequent owner.  I’m not sure roller furlers even existed in 1969.
        I do know that the two books on the bookshelf didn’t exist then because I had yet to write them.  
        Jeff doesn’t say whether they are included in the asking price.
        The boat looks good and always sailed well.
        An inexpensive waterfront vacation home in San Diego.


        The sun is shining and the temperature slightly above freezing, but it is supposed to get seriously cold again soon.

        I take solace:  five weeks from today I fly to GANNET.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Evanston: stolen; need; the right stuff

        This morning I saw in the NEW ZEALAND HERALD a piece about a stolen boat and as I read realized that I know her.  She was taken from a mooring not far from GANNET’s.  A sad thing.  I feel for the owners.
        I think it unlikely that anyone will sail away in GANNET.


        An answer to the off asked why I sail is for the same reason the girl ‘needs’ to play the viola.


        Yesterday afternoon I turned on the television a few minutes before the basketball game between Duke and Notre Dame and saw the last few minutes of an interview with Duke’s coach, Mike Krzyzewski.
        For those to whom his name is not familiar, Mike Krzyzewski is ranked among the greatest basketball coaches, with four national titles, and the only coach whose teams have won more than one thousand games.  He is now sixty-seven, will turn sixty-eight next week, and was asked if he has mellowed with success and age.  This isn’t an exact quote, but as near as I can remember and true to his words.
       “I like to think that I’ve learned over the years, that I’m a better coach now than when I was just starting.  That I’m still learning.  But people somehow believe that you can only have passion when you are young and before you’ve achieved anything.  That once you have a certain amount of success you have nothing left to prove.  But I have not mellowed.  I have as much passion and enthusiasm as I ever did.”

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Evanston: Star Chamber; Patrick O'Brian; voices

        A review in the NY TIMES caused me to buy and read GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamadeu Ould Slahi.  Before publication following a long legal battle, the book was edited by the U.S. government and much of it redacted, causing one to expect that the government would not have permitted falsehoods to pass.  If what is left in the book is true, we have resurrected the Star Chamber and betrayed the American Revolution.
        As is well known, I was jailed for a couple of weeks in Saudi Arabia falsely accused of being a spy.  If I had known from the beginning that I was going to be held for two weeks, I would have resigned myself and started to countdown.  But I didn’t.  No one knew where I was and I could have been held forever.  That was terrible.
        Mohamadeu Ould Slahi has now been held for more than thirteen years solely upon the decisions of bureaucrats, who we know never make mistakes.
        If there is evidence he has committed a crime, he should be put on trial.  If not, he should be released.
        Someone must have said, If you become like your enemy in order to defeat him, your enemy has won.
        If no one has, I just did.


        A while ago Dave sent me a link to an article about the 100th anniversary of the birth of Richard Patrick Russ, who became better known as Patrick O’Brian, the author of the twenty nautical novels in the Aubrey-Maturin Napoleonic War series.
        I’ve read two or three at widely scattered intervals and never quite got into them.  Dave’s email caused me to start at the beginning with MASTER AND COMMANDER—quite a different tale than the Russell Crowe movie of that name.  
        I enjoyed it, though perhaps not quite as much as I recall enjoying the Hornblower novels long ago, and have now downloaded the next four in Kindle Editions.  I just began number two, POST CAPTAIN.
        I may have to live past eighty to finish them all.  And by then it’ll be time to circumnavigate again.


        Lately I have been listening almost exclusively to vocal music, much of it recommended by readers.
        I am still listening to Mark Knopfler’s PRIVATEERING.  And I’ve listened to Brian Cockburn’s other compositions.  I particularly like his ‘Stabat Mater’.  I did not know that the original ‘Stabat Mater’ was a 13th Century hymn to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
        The novel GERONTIUS caused me to buy Elgar’s magnificent THE DREAM OF GERONTIUS
        Tim brought Respighi’s CHURCH WINDOWS to my attention; Nancy, Elgar’s SEA PICTURES, of which my favorite is ‘The Swimmer’; and Bobby, David Lang’s original and beautiful Pulitzer Prize winning, THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL PASSION.  I thank them all.
        David Lang’s work is a Passion, as in the Passion of Christ, without in Lang’s words ‘either Bach or Jesus’, based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, ‘The Little Match Girl’, who is beaten by her father, sent out at Christmas time to sell matches, and freezes to death in cold and indifference.
        I am only an audience to music and not qualified to analyze it.  For that matter I wouldn’t want to anyway.  I don’t analyze good writing; I just enjoy it.  But the phrasing in the piece is unusual and arresting; and some of the music sounds to my untutored ear like Medieval chant.
        The rendition of THE LITTLE MATCH GIRL performed by the Theatre of Voices, Paul Hiller and Ars nova Copenhagen, I bought from iTunes came with a digital booklet which includes the words.  They are worth following.
        This is wondrous music.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Evanston: excess: snow and wretched

        Until this past weekend Chicago’s winter had average temperatures and less than average snow.  That changed with the fifth heaviest snow storm in the city’s history, 19.3”/.5 meter.  
        It snowed from Saturday night through Monday morning, often in blizzard conditions, officially defined as sustained winds of 35 mph/30 knots and visibility of less than ¼ mile/402 meters for at least three hours.  For most of Sunday we could barely see across the street.
        Yesterday was a physical therapy day for me.  I tried to walk.   The streets had been cleared, but most of the sidewalks not.   I floundered through thigh deep drifts for half a block, almost falling three times, before I said to myself, “What are you doing, you old fool?  This is not working.”  I fought my way out to the street and walked another half block to the train station, arriving for my therapy session a half hour early.
        By the time the session was over, the sun was shining and more sidewalks had been cleared and I did walk home.
        A little more snow is due this afternoon.
        This does not compare with what has fallen in the east.  Since we moved from Boston nine years ago—which makes this, even though I’m not here all the time, the longest I’ve lived at one address in my adult life:  for years I was not even in one country for more than four consecutive months—all winters, except the last one, have been worse in Boston than Chicago.
        Motivated by my app, I may bundle and boot up and walk down to the lake this afternoon.


        In what I consider a major achievement, I did not see a single minute of Super Bowl pre-game hype, though that did occasionally require lightning reaches for the remote when I was caught off guard.  I didn’t even turn on the game until after the national anthem and cleaned up the kitchen during half time after Carol had made world class fish tacos for dinner.
        I know I am not the only one to avoid the pre-game hype.  But those of you who live in other countries have it easier.  Here it is ubiquitous.
        In the ongoing chronicle of also ubiquitous wretched excess, the NY TIMES reports:
        The average price of a ticket being offered for resale on game day was $10,466.11, which is over four times more than last year, when the average price was $2,567.
        It was a good game; but no game is that good.