Monday, May 11, 2015

Opua: unexpected; big; brief abstinence; THE WRIGHT BROTHERS

        When I raise my head through the companionway in the morning, I expect to see beauty, but today’s foggy dawn was an unexpected variation.


        For several days a very large sailboat, and perhaps I use ‘sailboat’ loosely, has been anchored to the north.  She is 100’/30 meters—give or take a few million dollars—long.  I am not a good judge of boats that size.
When I went ashore yesterday after Skypeing with Carol, I noticed that the boat had moved to the jetty.  After showering I walked to the jetty and found that she was alongside to refuel, which required not one, but two tanker trucks.  I assume the mast is decorative.
        Before rowing back to GANNET, I went to the General Store and bought a sandwich for lunch and a couple of bottles of wine.  One day of abstinence is enough.
        Today I walked up and over the Opua hill to the Roadrunner and bought a bottle of Bombay gin and Glenfiddich.  They don’t stock Brokers or Botanist or Laphroaig.  Brokers gin carries a tag around the neck proclaiming it “The Best Gin In the World.”  Not so.  In my opinion, The Botanist is, but I’ve not seen it in New Zealand.
        I actually did the walk for the exercise and the beuaty as well as the spirits.  New Zealand is as good for walking as it is for sailing.

        Coming up what I call the Opua hill on the return is the longest and hardest of local hills.  I confess I had to pause part way.  I earned my spirits, one of which I sipped while serenading sea gulls and terns a while ago.


        David McCullough’s most recent book, THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, has caused me to reconsider my aversion to the word ‘genius’.  If anyone was, Wilbur Wright was.  He and Orville worked together, but I don’t think Orville would have done it on his own.  I think Wilbur would have.
        That they fulfilled man’s age old dream to fly had nothing to do with chance and everything to do with intelligence, skill, perseverance and character.  The Wright brothers by their own efforts in Dayton, Ohio, and Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, made themselves the foremost aeronautical engineers of their time.  They even devised a wind tunnel in which they tested wing shapes made of pieces of hack saw blades.
        I am filled with admiration of what they did and how they did it:  on their own and with their own resources and on their own terms.
        I am also struck by how brief a time ago that was.  
        The first flight in 1903; the first public demonstration at Le Mans, France in 1908.  
        Only six years later what we now call WWI began and before it ended the airplane was a weapon of destruction.
        It is truly amazing how the automobile and the airplane changed the world and human life in one hundred years.
        When my grandmother was born late in the Nineteenth Century the fastest man could move was on a train pulled by a steam locomotive.  By the time she died in 1982 man had landed on the moon.  I don’t know that any other generation in history, including those now living, have seen such change.
        In one hundred years flying has gone from being miraculous to being an ordeal, thanks largely to the MBA’s who run airlines.  Yet the NY TIMES review of THE WRIGHT BROTHERS concludes by quoting a comedian who says, “Come on.  You are sitting in a chair.  In the SKY!”