Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Kill Devil Hills: a modern dilemma; what boat?; books read

        You are in mid-flight.  The seat belt sign is lit.  Your watch taps your wrist and tells you to stand.

        John has bought the boat above but doesn’t know the designer and/or class.  She is 18.5’ long, 6’2” beam, with a rounded stern.  If you know, please email me and I’ll pass the information on.
        Whatever she is, she is pretty and should sail well.


        Just over a fifth of the books I read January—June of this year have been by Patrick O’Brian.  At this rate I’ll have read all the Aubrey/Maturin novels by this time next year.

            FAUST   Goethe
            GERONTIUS   James Hamilton-Paterson
            THE SEA AND THE SILENCE   Peter Cunningham
            MOZART’S JOURNEY TO PRAGUE   Eduard Mörike
            GUANTANAMO DIARY   Mohamedou Ould Slahi
            POST CAPTAIN   Patrick O’Brian
            H.M.S. SURPRISE   Patrick O’Brian
            VOYAGE OF THE LIBERDADE   Joshua Slocum
            THE HUNTERS   James Salter
            CONTEMPT  Alberto Moravia
            THE MAURITIUS COMMAND   Patrick O’Brian
            THE LOST CITY OF Z   David Grann
            SOUTH SEAS VAGABONDS  John Wray
            THE ART FORGER   B.A. Shapiro
            IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS  Erik Larson
                    Edward Gibbon
            DESOLATION ISLAND   Patrick O’Brian
            CHANCE   Joseph Conrad
            FIRE IN THE HOLE   Elmore Leonard
            THE FORTUNES OF WAR   Patrick O’Brian
            BANG THE DRUM SLOWLY   Mark Harris
            THE YEAR OF THE DEATH OF RICARDO REIS  Jose Saramago
            DAVID COPPERFIELD  Charles Dickens
            YOUNGER NEXT YEAR  Crowley/Lodge
            THE SURGEON’S MATE  Patrick O’Brian
            CONGO   David Van Reybrouck
            A SPORT AND A PASTIME  James Salter
            HEART OF DARKNESS   Joseph Conrad

Friday, June 26, 2015

Evanston: OZ; more silence; wandering Paradox; GANNET is the future; unstitched

        I am privileged to be on the email list for updates on SHOE STRING, Jay’s Olsen 34, based here in Chicago, so I knew that he and his crew were going to perform a mandatory man over board drill before or after Wednesday night’s race.  I don’t do man over board drills.
        In Jay’s words they “turned west and witness(ed) greatness.”
        The Chicago skyline is best seen from a boat a few miles out in Lake Michigan, rising so unexpectedly from the flat land.  
        I’ve only viewed it from there once, at dawn, and felt as though I were sailing toward OZ.
        Thanks, Jay, for permission to share the photograph.


        From Sam comes a link to an effort to restore the ‘soundscape’ of the Grand Canyon in part by establishing a no-fly zone over the central canyon.  East and west of that, he has been told a plane or a helicopter passes over about every 90 seconds.  This is something I had not considered, and I thank him for the link.
        The absence of all man-made sound, unless I play music, is one of the qualities I love about sailing oceans.
        Pure silence never exists in cities.  Always, night and day, there is at least a low background hum.
        When I return to Opua, never a noisy place, I am struck by the silence at night, broken only by an occasional dismal outboard.
        I’m sure you recall from your last visit to the poetry page of this site the following written I am surprised to see forty years ago:

                my silence
                is like glass blown by an apprentice
                flawed and cracked

                but now I have learned to form silence
                and next time I will do it right
        Alas, I never have.


        When last seen Dave Scaife was sailing his 14’ home built, and as far as I know still unnamed, Paradox in Hilo, Hawaii, so I was confused when I got an email from him a few days ago headed:  A Message from South Texas.  All is now explained on his website.  
        A Paradox if you don’t remember makes GANNET look huge.
        I wish him a fine cruise.


        Wind and solar powered GANNET is the future.


        Of the three bits the dermatologist sliced from me, the one on top of my head proved to be squamous cell carcinoma.  Surprisingly considering the exposure I had to the sun when I was young, this is only the second positive biopsy.  The other was also squamous cell on my left leg in 2003 in Sydney, Australia.  
        So I had to go back and she cut more away, leaving me with a stitched pate right on the edge of what might optimistically be called my hair line.  Or laughingly.
        I went back yesterday and have become unstitched.
        You may recall my line:  life is the process of turning baby smooth skin into scar tissue.  Well I have another.
        Though obviously fraying, I am otherwise, in part due to my nagging watch, in splendid condition and good for a while longer.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Evanston: perfect silence

        Initially the words heading this entry were separated by a semi-colon, but as I think you will see it is better this way.
        Yesterday was perfect.  The day before saw tornados not far away and tonight more severe weather is due.  But yesterday was perfect:  mid-70sF/low 20sC.  Sunny.  Light to moderate wind.
I walked down to the lake and then turned north and kept walking just for the pleasure of it.  Lunch on our small balcony.  An evening martini there with Carol when she came home.

        That was the perfect; the silence is Guy Dickinson’s luminous website, tracing silence.  I thank Douglas for bringing it to my attention.  He thought I would find a kindred spirit and I have, even to the point that Guy Dickinson has not a blog, but a journal.  
        There are evocative photographs of the wilderness  into which he walks, as I sail into the monastery of the sea, and excellent quotes.  My favorite from Jorge Luis Borges:  “Don’t talk unless you can improve the silence.”
        We differ perhaps in that Guy Dickinson embraces, perhaps even seeks, discomfort and I try to avoid it as I do adventure, though I accept that on the edge of human experience some discomfort is likely.  If it were easy there would be a crowd sprawled in lounge chairs drinking beer.
        So no semicolon.  Perfect and silence belong together.
        I expect Guy Dickinson would agree.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Evanston: James Salter; the gym; THE WAY; sinking

        James Salter died a few days ago.  THE NY TIMES in a fine obituary calls him ‘a writer’s writer’, and others ‘the best writer you’ve never heard of’.  Well, I have heard of him and admire him greatly.
        I read his first novel, THE HUNTERS, earlier this year and immediately bought Kindle editions of several of his other books, though I have not yet read them.  The obituary caused me to download LIGHT YEARS as well.
        I kept THE HUNTERS on my Kindle, knowing I will want to reread it.  Set in The Korean War, in which Mr. Salter was himself a fighter pilot, it is much more than a ‘war novel.’   I highly recommend it.
        Mr. Salter died at age 90.  His last nov el was published at age 88.

        I don’t believe in expensive exercise equipment.
        Mine consists of an elastic band and two 5 pound weights, which are actually Carol’s.
        You could also count shoes in which I walk.  Unsurprisingly mine are boat shoes.  And a $150 bicycle I bought at Target.  It has 21 gears, of which here on the flatlands, 20 are superfluous.  In San Diego I had a one speed.  Friends asked me why I didn’t have a better bike and I said I wasn’t trying to make it easy on myself, I was trying to make it hard.
        Our building’s stairwell is also part of my gym.  That’s one flight in the photo above.  I’ve assigned myself twenty a day.  Starting at the bottom and going to the roof is six flights.  This may become expensive if the condo board discovers that I’m wearing out the carpet.
        After I again completed all three circles every day last week, this morning my activity app again tried to up my goal, this time to 420 calories a day.  Again I dialed it back to 300.


        A friend is walking part of the Camino Compostela, the 800 kilometer/500 mile long medieval pilgrimage trail across the north of Spain ending at the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela where allegedly St. James is buried.  Through this I learned of a 2010 movie, THE WAY, written and directed by Emilio Estevez and starring his father, Martin Sheen.  
        A recent article in the NY TIMES states that in 1984 423 completed the pilgrimage.  in 2014 the number was 237,810.
        THE WAY is something of a road movie, something of a buddies movie, not great, but good, with lovely scenery and very enjoyable to watch, which we did Saturday via Amazon Prime Instant Streaming.
        One character in the film, an Irish writer, says that when he was young he wanted to be the next William Butler Yeats or James Joyce.  To want to be the ‘next’ anyone is clear proof that one is second rate at best.  An artist is an original or nothing.
        If you do watch THE WAY open a good bottle of red wine before you start.  This being Spain, the pilgrims drink a lot of red wine with their meals.  It is too tempting.  I had to pause the film 
to open one for us.
        By the time the movie was over, so was the wine.  We drank water with dinner.
        That, too, was perfect.


        The oceans may not be rising due to climate change after all.  North America may be sinking.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Evanston: many, many (thirsty) people; YOUNGER NEXT YEAR; neighbors

        While watching a Copa America soccer match last evening between Columbia and Brazil, I wondered what the population of Brazil, by far the largest serious soccer playing nation, is now.  Google provided the above which surprises in several ways.  
        Three of these countries—India, Pakistan and Bangladesh—were part of British India which, if still one, would have more people than China.
        Three countries are projected to have smaller populations in 2050 than now:  Russia and Japan dramatically so; China slightly.
        And, most surprising of all, is that the United States  population is projected to increase by 37%, only 1% less than Pakistan and Bangladesh.
        The national parks, beaches and freeways are going to be really crowded.
        If you are dreaming of sailing around the world, you may want to do so soon before the new billions turn to desalinization and drink the oceans dry.

        Of soccer there is a lot going on.
        In addition to the Copa America for South and Central American countries being held in Chile, the World Men’s Under 20 competition is being held in New Zealand—the U.S. was eliminated in a penalty shootout in the quarter finals; New Zealand in the group stage.  The Women’s World Cup is being held in Canada, where the U.S. woman are favored, but haven’t been impressive so far.  And a couple of weeks ago the U.S. men beat both The Netherlands and Germany in those countries.  These were friendlies and the results would likely have been different in real competition, but still it was the first time the U.S. men had beaten either country in their own homes, and U.S. players displayed impressive skills in doing so.


        Joe, owner of Moore 24 #67 which I am told is going to be renamed RAVEN—power to the birds!—is a physician who kindly sent me a copy of YOUNGER NEXT YEAR for which I thank him.  I have since learned that the book has been around for a decade.  If, like me,  you have never heard of it, you should.  And perhaps that’s why Joe sent me a copy because I don’t think I’m the target audience.  I will not retire until life retires me.
        The message is simple:  our bodies have evolved to forage and hunt.  When we lead sedentary lives they decay and send the wrong signals to the brain.  Exercise prevents and reverses decay and can enable people to be active and healthy until death.
        Hardly original, but it is presented persuasively; but this is not snake oil, but science.
        The book is written by two men:  Henry(Harry) Lodge, an internist of high reputation, and Chris, a former lawyer who is one of Dr. Lodge’s patients.
        Each writes separate, usually alternating chapters. 
        Chris’s are mostly cheerleading, salesmanship and pep talks. I don’t need that and skimmed them.
        Harry’s provide the science.  I knew some of this, but not all.  I read his chapters carefully and with interest.
        One take away from the book is that you need to exercise six days a week for the rest of your life.  Seven is better.  Which is the intent of the Apple activity app.  The book has caused me to wonder what my primitive brain makes of those days when I am storm bound on GANNET and hardly move at all.
        Reportedly more than a million copies of the book have been sold.  The telling statistic would be how many of those buyers exercised today.

        When I walked down to the lake yesterday I turned right instead of left as I usually do and returned through Calvary Cemetery.
        Quiet neighbors.
        A line from Longfellow I misremembered:

            Life is real!  Life is earnest!
            And the grave is not its goal.

       Which brings us back to soccer.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Evanston: cut; pushy; monk; air raid

        Although all race as one design, not all Moore 24s are identical.  The last half dozen or so built have a wedge rather than flush deck in an attempt to provide a little more room down below, and recently transoms have been cut out of some.  This has advantages of making the cockpit instantly self-draining and looks sexy.  Disadvantages are that it costs at least half of what I paid for GANNET—but then so did the new rig I put on her— reportedly makes the hull less stiff, and the significantly shorter rudder post results in more lateral flex of the rudder.  This last concerns me most,  for I must confess that I like the way the open transom looks and would enjoy standing in the companionway and seeing following waves through an open stern.  Fortunately GANNET is safely in New Zealand, where there are people who could do the work, but far from the temptation of those like Gilles Combrisson who routinely do.
        Joe, owner of Moore 24 #67, is having the surgery done and sent these photos for which I thank him.  It is interesting, to me at least, to see a Moore in cross section.

        I wish him a successful transformation.
        Here is the final result on another boat in which you can also see the pod I am going to install on GANNET.


        The Apple watch activity app considers weeks to start on Monday, so last Sunday marked the end of the first of  its weeks since I got the watch, and because I had completed all three circles every day, it awarded me for a number of achievements.  Parenthetically, the Withings app recently gave me the Oahu Award.  About this time last year I sailed there.  Now I have walked around the island.
        Monday morning I awoke to find that, having met goals for a week, the activity app, apparently and probably reasonably programed to expect users to be overweight, decided I should do more and arbitrarily raised my burned calorie goal to 390.  This is the only goal the wearer can adjust.  I immediately, and defiantly, reset calories to 300.
        Man over machine.  Sort of.


        The wife of a friend is hiking around Spain.  He sends me photos and updates from time to time.  This morning he wrote that she is on her way to a monastery which has no electricity, but where they make wine.
        I wrote back:  Wine and a solar panel.  Who needs more?  Well, maybe an occasional bottle of Laphroaig.  And a boat.  Wow, it's starting to get complicated.
        To which he replied with my line about entering the monastery of the sea.
        It is and I do.  The pure simplicity of life at sea is one of the primary qualities this much-married monk loves about ocean passages.


        Late yesterday afternoon a black band of severe weather swept off the plains and deluged Chicago with rain.  The heaviest fell just south of us.  There were tornado warnings.  I heard the sirens and thought they sounded like air raid warnings.  They were.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Evanston: R2AK photos; headless; 'navy strength'; death by sea lion; imbalance

        The Race to Alaska has been won but is far from over.
        The three man crew of Team Elsie Piddock sailing a Farrier 25c trimaran reached Ketchikan in just over five days, a performance that has been called incredible, but isn’t because they really did it.  It certainly is impressive and I add my congratulations to the many they have deservedly received. 
        Also nearly incredible are aerial photos of part of the race.
        Those are very serious conditions down there.  
        I had already seen the photos, but thank Barry for emailing me the link as well.  He was right that they are of interest.


        You may have missed notices of the death last Tuesday at age 74—a sensitive number to those of us who are 73—of former NEW YORK POST editor, Vincent Musseto .  In 1983 Mr. Musseto was responsible for one of the great newspaper headlines of all time:



        I am indebted to Mark for the knowledge that today is World Gin Day, a holiday I probably would have celebrated anyway.
        He sent a link to a review of a Australian ‘navy strength’ gin.  Something else I didn’t know.  
        I agree with the opinion that the finer nuances of gin are often lost in martinis, which doesn’t stop me from enjoying them.  However, I seldom make one with Botanist for that reason. Botanist is too good to be mixed and I drink it straight.
        I do like both the reason for ‘navy strength’ and the way it was tested.
        Happy holiday.


        From Jim comes another almost incredible story, this one about a man almost drowned by a sea lion. 
        Another reason not to go fishing.


        I am either going to have to exercise less or eat more.
        The equation is as certain as it is simple:  consume more calories than you use and you gain weight; consume less than you use and you lose weight.
        Except during survival experiences my weight has remained constant all my adult life at 156 pounds/70.76 kilos, plus or minus two pounds.  In the last few years I have noticed a tendency for my body to try to change.  At more than 155 pounds I feel bloated, so I’ve kept my weight around 154.
        Now that apps are causing me to exercise more, the balance has been lost.  I’ve steadily lost weight and am now down to 151/152.  That’s fine; but I don’t need or want to lose more.  
        I am not a big eater but I am going to have to eat more.
        Yesterday I made a start with a pizza.
        Bring on the ice cream.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Evanston: short old geek closing circles

        The above photos are brought to you courtesy of the Apple watch activity app.  
        Tuesday afternoon found me thirteen minutes short of completing the exercise circle and one hundred and three calories short of completing the burned calorie circle.  I was also four hours short of standing up every hour, but that would take care of itself by evening.  So I went out and walked down to the lake which I otherwise would not have done just then.
        I like to think that I have always been fit, but undoubtedly the app is making me fitter.  I am moving and exercising more than I would without it.  Part of this admittedly is vanity.  I like weighing what I did when I graduated from college and wearing the same size Levis.  But part of it is business.  Next year I will be sailing GANNET seriously again, and crossing oceans on a Moore 24 is physically strenuous, as perhaps only those who have raced to Hawaii can fully appreciate.  My body is constantly, day and night, resisting motion and gravity.  That more than handling lines or the tiller concerned me earlier this year when my shoulder was painful.
        The life of an artist goes against everything known about positive reinforcement.  He or she writes or paints or composes, and when the work is sufficiently finished goes to the deepest well on Earth and drops it in.  When he is young, he waits hopefully and impatiently, but finally grows bored and continues on with life, perhaps even writing or painting or composing something new and dropping it in the well too.  If he is fortunate, weeks or months or years later, when he is doing something else, watching a baseball game, eating dinner, sleeping, he hears a splash and wonders what it is.  
        An example:  I’ve sailed to Australia’s Lord Howe Island twice.  I wrote an article about that beautiful but little known island during my first visit.  It appeared in print during my second, four years and a circumnavigation later.  Fortunately I was paid on acceptance.
        To be an artist demands fanatical self-belief.  And I expect that all artists must from time to time wonder if that self-belief is not only fanatical, but delusional.
        Activity apps work because they function oppositely, providing immediate positive reinforcement and gratification.  I can see my progress at a glance.  And completing those three pretty circles is compelling and addictive.  Perhaps the best way to fit the plague of obesity is to give everyone an Apple watch or a Fitbit.
        I’m in the same situation today as I was on Tuesday with my calorie and exercise circles only half complete, but it is about to rain and I have a sore head.
        The rain precludes a walk.  The sore head, a consequence of the skin cancer specialist removing so much tissue yesterday that I may no longer be more than six feet tall, precludes my doing anything as strenuous as push-ups or crunches until tomorrow.
        I’m on a roll, having completed all three circles for five days in a row.  If I make it to seven I get an award.
        I’ll figure something out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Evanston: R2AK; health benefits; sailing the condo

        An interesting race is underway from Port Townsend, Washington to Ketchikan, Alaska, a distance of 750 miles with almost no rules other than that the boats can have no engine or support team.  
        Doryman was at the start and has posted photos on his site.  You need to scroll down past ‘Classic Mariners Regatta’.
        Doryman  has been busy lately.  Continue below the R2AK to find his circumnavigation of Lopez Island in his 23’ Stone Horse, BELLE STARR.
        As I wrote to Doryman, it is odd that the northwest is the only corner of the U.S. in which I have not lived for it might suit me best.
        I have not sailed the R2AK course, but I did once transit it in the other direction in December on what was known as the Alaskan Maritime Highway, a kind of cruise ship without frills on which even in winter some passengers pitched tents outside on the upper deck.
        Much of the way is sheltered from the open ocean, but not all, and the middle of the race could be rough.  Even the more sheltered waters have strong currents, shipping and logs floating on or just below the surface.
        You can learn more about the race and follow it here.
        Whoever writes the site is very engaging.  Read the FAQ.  If you know who he or she is, give him or her my compliments.
        As I have noted here before ‘adventure’ is among the most misused words today.  
        The R2AK is truly an adventure.

        From Larry comes “The Health Benefits of Sailing” for which I thank him.
        As though you need an excuse.
        Not all apply.
        Sailing GANNET alone does little for my communication skills.


        Zane in New Zealand is worried that I miss the ocean, which of course I do, and has provided a link that brings the sounds of the sea to our condo. Also a good many others, including the jungle.
       Quite realistic, but not GANNET.


Friday, June 5, 2015

Evanston: the coming storm; found; Patrick O'Brian; working it

        The photo above was taken by Steve Earley and can be found on his site.  I love it even though I don’t understand it.  (A bon mot:  Love without understanding is possible or marriage wouldn’t be.)  I thank Steve for blanket permission to repost from The Log of SPARTINA. 
        Steve just posted another great photo there today.  He’s getting pretty good at this photography stuff.  Who knows what he might do with a little practice?


        Someone—undoubtedly a Moore 24 owner—said that the Moore 24 is the boat the J-24 would like to be.
        From Larry comes this photo of a J-24 that has a ways to go.      
He writes:  ‘A J-24 disappeared from its mooring in New York two years ago and was finally located—directly under the mooring ball.’
        I thank him for the photo and explanation.


        From Matt comes a link to an article about Patrick O’Brian, the author of the Aubrey-Maturin novels, of which I have now read the first six.  Interestingly they are a triumph of intelligence and research rather than experience.
        I do not agree with the claim that during his lifetime O’Brian was the finest author writing in the English language.  Modesty forbids my saying who is.
        I thank Matt for the link.


        Enough about other people.  Me.  Me.  Me.  If you can tear yourself away from Caitlyn Jenner.
        In response to my observation that I am being cut down to size, two readers emailed that I will better fit in GANNET.
        In addition to being whittled away—and I go back next week to have more of my head cut off—I am still reading DAVID COPPERFIELD alternately with a history of the Congo descriptively titled CONGO.
        Inspired by the activity app on an Apple watch, ordered in April, arrived a few days ago, I am working my aged body harder than usual.
        The activity app has three circles measuring calories burned from movement, thirty minutes of exercise, and standing for a minute an hour for each of twelve hours.  You set the amount of calories.  The other two standards are fixed.
        At the start of the day the app looks like this:
        As you progress the circles increase.

        If you have been sitting all hour, the app taps your wrist at ten minutes before the hour and tells you to stand.
        At various intervals the app also informs you of your progress.
        A companion health app on the iPhone keeps your history and provides graphs, including one that accurately measures flights of stairs climbed.  
        Our building has an elevator, but I never use it except when I’m carrying packages.  This is nominally a four story building, but starting at the lowest level and climbing to the roof deck is 102 steps, about six stories.  I’ve set myself a goal of twelve stories a day.  At the moment it is 1:18 p.m. and I haven’t done any. 
        Now that I can again do push-ups, I do my normal work-out of 153 push-ups, crunches etc. in sets of 73-40-40 three times a week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday.  I have eighteen shoulder maintenance exercises provided by my physical therapist.  Half are with an elastic band; half light weights.  Three pound weights are recommended.  I use five pound weights.  On Tuesday I use the elastic band; on Thursday the weights.
        In addition I bike ride and walk—not as fast as Steve Earley, who is Olympic caliber, but fast enough for my app to consider it exercise.
        Yesterday was the first day I completed all three circles.  My app gave me an award.

        I wasn’t trying to, but I’ve lost two pounds this week and am down to 153.
       Or maybe that was just flesh removed by the dermatologist.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Evanston: drone over Antarctica; more attractive; race; whittled

        At The Verge website I came across a link to a spectacular video shot from a drone controlled by the crew of a sailboat cruising Antarctica.  Among the better ways you can spend eight minutes today.


       If you can find two more minutes, here is an article and a short video about gannets.  I thank both Grant and Mark for bringing it to my attention.

        Melanie Wells, the researcher who narrates the video, describes gannets as something like sea gulls “but a lot more attractive.”  She is right.  We are.


        The dramatic top photo is from Audrey and Kent who restore and sail an ever changing fleet of small sailboats, including a Drascombe Lugger, from their home in Florida.  I thank them for permission to use it.
        Kent emailed:  “Took two boats out today, so I guess it was a race.  Audrey won.”

        For myself I’m slowly accumulating stuff to take back to GANNET.  So far, a tape measure in inches to replace one that died of salt water.  A roll of clear duct tape that isn’t available at the Opua chandleries.  A UE Megaboom waterproof Bluetooth speaker with superior sound to the EcoXgear speaker.  More to come.
        I’ve also been making routine medical appointments.  
        Yesterday to the skin cancer clinic where three bits were cut off and various others frozen.
        I am being cut down to size.