Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Russell, Opua: gannets at twilight

September 28

        I sailed here yesterday under thick overcast.  The Met Service radar showed scattered rain just off shore, but with an east wind and the tide with me I hoped to reach Russell before it did.
        The tide was running out hard.  I raised the mainsail and tried to turn GANNET’s bow north before dropping the mooring, but the tide wouldn’t let me, so I had to drop the mooring with the bow pointing south, gain speed and turn toward the marina breakwater dock to gybe.  Not a lot of room, but GANNET is small and nimble and we made it easily.  
        I hand steered until we cleared the end of the breakwater and the mooring field, then engaged the tiller pilot and set the jib in the beginning of an ongoing revelation:  moving forward in the bridgeless cockpit is so easy.  I felt it time and again during the brief sail.  The new cockpit configuration is huge.  A greater improvement than I even imagined.  One of the best  changes I have made to GANNET.
        The wind remained light, usually less than seven knots, swirling and dropping as it came off or was blocked by hills and headlands, but it remained on or near the beam and I had GANNET’s anchor down forty-five minutes after we left the mooring.  
        The Russell anchorage is divided by a public jetty for day trip boats and small passenger ferries that ply back and forth between Russell and Pahia.  For whatever forgotten reason, I invariably anchor north of the pier, but yesterday decided to anchor south.   
        I pumped up the dinghy.  This too is much easier in the new cockpit.  I had wondered if there would be room aft of the pod to stow it and am pleased that there is.
        I wore my foul weather parka to row the quarter nautical mile to shore—moorings prevent me from anchoring closer—and was comfortably seated at the Duke of Marlborough, waiting to learn if their salt and pepper calamari are as good as I remembered—they are—before rain began to fall.
        I was seated on the semi-enclosed veranda and discomforted by heating units.  I was surprised to find a fire in the fireplace at the Opua Cruising Club the other evening, too.  It is not that cold.  I live here at air temperature and changed tables to get as far away from the heaters as possible. 
        The rain stopped before I finished lunch, but by the time I had shopped at the two small markets, both better stocked and less expensive than the Opua General Store, and the liquor store, where I replaced the exploded bottle of Laphroaig at considerably greater cost and bought a bottle of Brokers Gin, which still falsely claims to be “the world’s best gin”, and began to row out, it resumed, but lightly and I didn’t get very wet.
        The rain soon stopped again and I was able to stand in the companionway with a gin and tonic at 6 p.m.  
        GANNET is the only boat at anchor and I had seen no one on any of the moored boats nearby, so I was startled by a loud splash on my blind side.  I turned and found a gannet bobbing back to the surface a boat length away.  He looked at GANNET and maybe me.  I raised my glass to him.  He swallowed his catch and took off.

        Light rain is pattering on the deck as I am writing this Monday afternoon. 
        The morning was windless and the water glassy.
        My intention is definite—not to go back to the mooring until I have set the new gennaker—but my plans are not.  Wednesday and Thursday look to be the best this week.  If there is wind, I may sail tomorrow.  If not, I’ll wait.

September 29

        The gannet returned to hunt last evening as I expected he would.  From the number of dives he was making, fishing here is pretty good, unless he is inept and diving without catching.  
        There has been no rain today and little wind.  
        When I got up this morning, the sky was sunny overhead, but thick fog lay over the inlet and I couldn’t see Pahia.  It burned off by late morning, but I’m enjoying the change of scene and decided to stay.  
        I cleared off the port pipe berth and slithered aft to fetch the Torqeedo battery, which along with the Torqeedo shaft and the outboard mount now resides in the stern out of sight and mostly out of mind.  I was impressed to find it still 99% charged.  I don't recall when I last charged it, but it would have been at least four months ago.  I only used the Torqeedo once when I was here earlier this year, and then just to see if it still ran.  I’ll do so again sometime for the same reason.
        I also put up the U.S. and New Zealand flags.  This was not a matter of disrespect.  I just forgot until I came across them while looking for something else.
        I didn’t go ashore yesterday, but I rowed in to have lunch today, again at the Duke of Marlborough. 
Seafood chowder which was excellent, though the Marina Cafe also has great chowder.  I checked the wind instrument before I started in.  It showed wind speed of 2.9 knots which I think was about right.  There is a little more now at 3 p.m., but I’ll wait to sail until tomorrow.
        The negative side of anchoring at Russell is wakes.  They are not constant, but more frequent and violent than I wish.  GANNET is easily thrown around and I have to keep things secured here as though we were at sea.  Wakes are seldom a problem at Opua.
        I am rereading and enjoying Saint-Exupéry’s WIND, SAND AND STARS.  It has been a long time since I read it.  I came across comments he makes about Joseph Conrad writing about a typhoon.  I’ve always remembered them, but had forgotten the source.  
        I also came across this:  Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.
        Saint-Exupéry was writing about airplane design, but the truth of simplicity is universal.

        I stood in the companionway at sunset. Quiet.  Peaceful.  Beautiful.  Only a breath of wind.  This is my place.  And it isn’t.  I first sailed into New Zealand forty years ago next year.  I’m not sure when I first sailed into the Bay of Islands.  Possibly in 1985 or 86.  I love it here, but I don’t have many more days here.  When I sail away next year, I may never be back.  I cherish each moment.

September 30

        A San Diego day:  sunny and light wind.
        With some cats-paws on the water, I raised the anchor at 9:45.  Russell has a muddy bottom and raising THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s all chain rode was a slow process of scrubbing mud from chain, but GANNET’s mostly line rode came in clean and I had only to raise and dip the twenty feet of chain attached to the anchor itself a few times to clean it.
        We ghosted out toward the cats-paws, gained a little speed and headed north toward the widest part of the bay.  
        When we cleared the nearest land, we still had to dodge several small boats drifting and fishing, but finally found clear water.  
        The wind was only five or six knots from the east.  Being able to read wind speed and angle by looking at the TackTick is a pleasure, if not a necessity.  I tacked, furled the jib, brought the new G1 on deck, rigged and set it.  This first time it was set flying and went up and filled easily.  I furled it a couple of times on the furling gear, then let it out again.  Because the clew is lower than on the fuller cut running asymmetrical, it furls unevenly, well at the foot, less well at the head.  A top down furler would solve this, but I don’t think I can justify buying a furling gear that costs more than the sail.  
        I took some photos, but it is difficult to photograph sails from GANNET even with an extreme wide angle lens.  Carol designed the sail with gannet colors and I like the way it looks.

        I furled the G1 near Russell and continued back to Opua under jib and main, and finally approached the mooring under main alone.  
        With fluky wind mostly from the north opposed to tide running from the south, picking up the mooring was tricky and took me three tries.  On the first I came in too fast.  GANNET does not have a clean bottom and I thought we’d slow more.  On the second the wind died completely and GANNET drifted sideways with the tide.  On the third I caught the mooring buoy amidships, cleated it down, dropped the mainsail, and sorted the boat out at leisure.
        Although it seems I just got here, I fly back five weeks tomorrow.  I’ve completed the work I wanted to get done, except anti-fouling, which I think I’m going to leave until next March.  Leaving GANNET to sit on her mooring for three months with a perfect bottom seems pointless.
        A couple of fronts are due this weekend, but then the weather looks to be fair.  I might dare to try for Whangamumu, all of twenty-five miles away.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Opua: travelered

        Several days ago yesterday was forecast to the the rainiest of the week, instead it was one of the nicest since I’ve been back, with only one brief light rain shower at 4 p.m. by which time I had completed the mainsheet traveler move to the cockpit sole and was in The Great Cabin pouring a celebratory plastic of red wine.  
        The last part I had been waiting for, a new Harken traveler car was delivered that morning.  The old car was a windward sheeting car, the most expensive Harken makes for GANNET’s track.  It came with the boat, but I have never liked it.  I can see its advantages when short tacking up the windward leg of a race course, but in sloppy conditions at sea or even with wakes at an anchorage or mooring, the lack of resistance to leeward causes the car to slide back and forth wildly and I installed cleats on the old traveler bridge to tie the control lines down.
        The previous day I used a high strength epoxy to glue the pod in place.  Probably this was enough, but I bolted it as well.  Bolts are cheap, and if the pod started to detach from the cockpit sole in the middle of an ocean I would not be happy.
        I couldn’t have done the job alone without ViseGrip pliers.  For a while yesterday I was Webb-In-The-Box, popping up in the companionway to tighten bolts, popping down to reset a ViseGrip on the next nut, tying off the handle to the under deck part of the backstay control line to keep it from turning.
        Everything went about as expected, except that moving a spring loaded block from the old car to the new one took twenty minutes before I succeeded in compressing the spring in one hand and securing the pin in a shackle with the other.
        I had downloaded photos of several Moore 24s that have their travelers on the cockpit sole.  I don’t know the names of the boats, but appreciate the guidance they offered.
        Gilles Combrisson made the pod, provided and cut the Harken track and the backing strip of G10 to size, provided bolts, nuts and risers, and told me of the Harken DuoCam which elegantly solves how to run the backstay control.
        I have not met Gilles in person, but once while we were speaking on the phone, I said something to the effect that if everything was about right, I would sort it out.  My experience of owning and maintaining boats for a half century in various parts of the world is that ‘about right’ is usually the most you can hope for.  I don’t recall Gilles exact words, but it was clear that ‘about right’ is not good enough for him.  He wants things to be right, perfect if possible.  I admire those who set their own standards, and I thank him for his help.
        Disposing of the bridge and moving the traveler has opened the cockpit up nicely and was a very good thing to do.
       GANNET is again in sailing condition and I’d like to go.  Light winds and showers are predicted forever.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Opua: rain and progress

        The photo above taken late yesterday afternoon, though I could take another quite similar right now, and this ten day forecast for KeriKeri, the nearest town to Opua for which the NZ Met Service publishes forecasts, show why New Zealand is green, and also one of the reasons my progress in moving the mainsheet traveler is slow.  It is not raining constantly, though this coming Thursday looks to be a complete washout, but there is seldom a dry hour between passing showers, some of them heavy.

        Yesterday I undid many, many difficult to reach nuts on obstinate bolts, above deck and below.  When I thought I had removed them all, the mainsheet traveler bridge remained solidly in place, so I concluded, correctly, that it was epoxied as well as bolted.  
        I usually wake frequently during the night.  Every time I did so last night my mind resumed considering alternate plans for removing the bridge.  Plan one was not subtle.  I would try with a hammer and chisel, if I had one on GANNET—I don’t and used a big screw driver instead—to separate the main part of the bridge from wood supports to which it had been bolted and which themselves had been bolted through the sides of the cockpit.  If that didn’t work, there was going to be a lot of slow and unpleasant hand sawing.  Fortunately, it did.  Whacking things with a hammer is not often good advice, but sometimes it works, particularly if you don’t need to preserve what you are whacking, and generally it is satisfying.
        With the ends loose, I still had the center support tube which passed through the cockpit sole to disengage.  In it I found four small screws that I had overlooked yesterday and a plastic collar that gave way to a Dremel tool whose cord just barely reached.  A fitting riveted below deck proved unremovable, but finally I was able to push the tube down into the cabin rather than pull it up into the cockpit.
        Then the rains came and I quickly taped over now empty bolt holes and the pipe hole.

        In this photo the removed bridge is at an angle, the center tube and one of the side support blocks beneath it.
        Below is the cockpit after clean up.  The traveler and pod are not yet fixed in place.  The adhesive I need for the pod is due next week; and I want to think a bit before drilling holes in the cockpit sole.

        At the moment it is raining and I’m through for the day.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Opua: sailed; exploded; charts

        GANNET and I sailed yesterday, but not very long and not very far.  Still everything worked as it should and I didn’t forget how to sail, so we’ll count it a modest success,
        GANNET’s mooring is at the southern tip of the southernmost inlet of the bay.  With the tide coming in, I had to wait until 10:45 for a slight wind to enable us to move against it.  The wind was from the north.  I dropped the mooring under mainsail alone, but was able to unfurl the jib within a couple of boat lengths.  The little sloop heeled a few degrees, and her speed increased to three knots.
        On port tack I steered through the field of moored boats into open water and tacked on the edge of the boats moored on the other side.
        Short tacking up the inlet, giving way to the car ferry, I hand steered, climbing over the thankfully soon to be gone cockpit bridge to handle the jib sheets, then back after the tack was complete.  I can steer from the forward end of the cockpit with the tiller extension, but prefer being farther aft.
        As the inlet widened, our tacks lengthened and I was able to engage the tiller pilot some, though I put it in standby when we tacked.
        Being able to read the wind angle from the TackTick display without having to look up at the masthead Windex was satisfying, but I kept thinking that the wind speed readings were too high.  The unit was displaying 8 and 9 knots when I knew the wind was not more than 5.  Then I realized that of course the readings were high because they are of apparent wind and we were going to windward.  With a full TackTick system on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, including speed, compass and GPS, I always set the wind unit to display true wind, not apparent.
        Against the tide our progress was slow.  It took us two hours to get as far as Russell and by then clouds were pouring over the hills to the northwest and the wind increased to 15 knots, gusting 20.  We still needed to get four or five more miles to windward before we would be in clear enough water to set the new gennaker.  When rain began to fall, I decided this was not the day, turned around, and sailed out of the rain and back to the mooring first wing and wing and then under mainsail alone.  
        The weather stayed to the north.  I picked up the mooring under mainsail in 10 knots of wind and sunshine.
        Steady rain last night and this morning has diminished to passing showers this afternoon.  Between them I’ve taken the first steps in moving the mainsheet traveler to the cockpit sole.  The solid boom vang has been unbolted from the boom.  The outer end of the boom lowered to the deck.  Mainsheet removed.  Stops removed from one end of the traveler track.  
        However there is only so much I can do in wet conditions and more rain is forecast for tomorrow and maybe Sunday.
        Rain is pattering on the deck as I write.


        When I opened a bottle of duty free Laphroaig last evening the contents exploded all over The Great Cabin and me.  This bottle was not carried on the plane but bought at ground level on arrival at Auckland.  I have no idea how it became pressurized.  Not a drop was left in the bottle.  There was a big puddle on the port pipe berth and more in the bilge.  GANNET’s bilge is clean, but unfortunately not clean enough to drink from.
        I wiped up the mess as well as I could, but with hatches closed this morning I was drunk on fumes.  


        An article at the NASA Earth Observatory site discusses changes in how nautical charts are updated and, incidentally, how long it has been since some areas have been physically surveyed.  
        On my early circumnavigations I recall charts of the South Pacific referencing surveys done in the Nineteenth Century.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Opua: 50 for 50; SPARTINA; winded

        My friend, Tim, runs marathons.  I have written of him here before, most recently when he pulled off the unique double of running a marathon one morning and playing violin in a symphony orchestra concert that evening.  He has now completed his 50th marathon; and I have his permission to report that he is 50 years old.  I have congratulated him and do so again.  He writes that his next goal is 100 marathons, which at an average of five a year—though he ran numbers 49 and 50 just five days apart—he expects to reach his century at age 60.  If I’m still alive and in the U.S. I’ll be waiting at the finish line.


        GANNET has not sprouted a second mast.  The photo is of Steve Earley’s SPARTINA and I’m running it just because she is so pretty.  So is Steve, but he blushes when people tell him so.  The photo was taken by a friend of a friend of Steve’s who saw them sailing one day and sent a print to Steve as a thoughtful surprise gift.      
        Steve and SPARTINA are about to start their annual fall cruise.  You can follow them here.


        A lovely sunny day.  The third in a row.  Monday was the first evening I was able to sit on deck and watch the sun set behind the Opua hill, rather than stand in the companionway.  I expect I will be able to sit again this evening, or rather late afternoon as New Zealand has yet to go on summer time and the sun sets early.
        Bob, the rigger, arrived as scheduled this morning, swarmed up one of the shortest masts he will ever climb, and installed the TackTick masthead wind unit.  It is working.  The wind is presently 5.3 knots.  Being wireless and solar powered, installation of masthead unit and deck level display is elegantly simple.  I hope it continues to function.
        I scrubbed the waterline from the dinghy.  Mike, from Yacht Care, who checks on GANNET in my absence, dives and cleans the bottom every other month.  She needs to be anti-fouled, but I don’t know whether I will do that now or wait until next March.
        GANNET is not a boat for cold climates.  Even in our only moderately cool temperatures with lows in the 40sF/6 or 7C, condensation forms over night on the inside of her thin uninsulated hull.  Other than that she has been remarkably dry despite the rain upon my arrival.  The forward hatch is not leaking and only a few drops of water, which enters from the deck opening for the backstay control and who knows where else, has collected in the bilge,  
        A spider moved aboard in my absence and there is, or was, a spider web in the bilge.  I don’t think it was a good choice.  I did not find the spider.
        I still haven’t dug out the Torqeedo.
        If the weather holds, and the forecast is that it won’t, I’ll go sailing tomorrow and set the new gennaker for the first time.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Opua: worked

        Gray to cream clouds hazy against a pale blue sky seen through the open companionway from Central.  The sun has set behind the Opua hill, but light lingers.  I’ve had my dinner of freeze dry beef teriyaki accompanied by a plastic of New Zealand sauvignon blanc.   A warming glass of Laphroaig will follow later.  It is not really cold here.  Last night 45ºF/7ºC.  Today in the mid-50sF/12C.  But cool enough so that my shoulder aches, and a few other joints.   I got a lot done today.  GANNET is sorted out, organized and ready to sail.
        The wind continued to gust yesterday, but I was able to row ashore and wash and dry sodden clothes and sleeping bag. 
        I measured the distance on an iNavX  chart from Gannet to the Opua Cruising Club dinghy dock at 245 yards/225 meters.
        I usually prefer places off season.  The fleet from the islands won’t arrive until about when I fly back to the U.S. in early November.  The dock was delightfully uncrowded with only two other dinghies tied there.
        Sleeping bag manufacturers are notorious for packing their products in impossibly small stuff bags.  The bag I brought with me may well be the world champion.  When I removed it from the dryer I knew it was hopeless.  The sleeping bag was at least twice the size of the stuff bag.  They must have  forced it in with an hydraulic press in a vacuum chamber.  I engaged in a brief slapstick, stuffing the bag in here while it bulged out there; stuffing in there while it bugled out here; before accepting the inevitable and rolling it as well as I could to be later tied with a piece of webbing.  
        The wind eased as predicted today and I was able to bend on the furling jib and new jib sheets, replace a torn cockpit sheet bag with a new one and install a fifth sheet bag, this one at the aft end of the cockpit.  Originally this was intended for the end of the backstay adjustment line when I planned to bring that above deck.  I’ll find some use for it.
        GANNET does not have much surface area for mounting instruments in the cockpit.  I mounted the outside TackTick wind display bracket in the center, just below the companionway, and the inside bracket to the port side of the companionway.  One of the advantages of TackTick, a complete system of which I had on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, is that the displays are self-contained, waterproof and can be easily moved from one position to another.
        In the Great Cabin, I replaced the old Solar Boost 2000e regulator, which still worked but whose digital readout has failed, with a new one.  Comparing them, Blue Sky has made some changes to the circuitry, but fortunately not to the size or input wiring attachments.  I took a photo with my iPhone of the six wires running to the old one before removing it which made connecting them to the new one easy.


        I didn’t complete this last evening.  I fell asleep instead.  I had a good night’s sleep and am over any lingering jet lag.
        Today is lovely.  Sunny and warm, which feels good on my shoulder and back.  While I try to keep in shape in Evanston, GANNET is a whole other world in which my body is often forced into awkward positions.
        I realized almost immediately that I shouldn’t have brought my Apple Watch.  I frequently bang my wrist, and other body parts, in GANNET’s close confines.  I will wear it ashore occasionally to see what measurements it gets as I walk up the hill or row, but I doubt I will bring it to the boat again.   
        No wind when I rowed ashore this morning to shower and pick up the new gennaker from Roger at North Sails.  It is neatly folded.    I’m looking forward to setting it, and trust it will go back in its bag more easily than did the sleeping bag.
        I’ve done everything except dig the Torqeedo out of the stern where it is out of sight and out of mind to see if it still runs, and install the pod and move the main sheet traveler.  That will wait until after I go sailing, which will have to wait until after the rigger comes on Wednesday, and then possibly the weather. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Opua: soaked

        Rain when I left Chicago.  Rain when I arrived in Opua.  I stayed dry in Chicago.  I didn’t in Opua.
        The rain was cold, but not heavy when the Super Shuttle dropped me and I dropped my duffle bag, messenger bag and sack with three bottles of duty free Laphroaig at the Opua Cruising Club and walked the two or three hundred yards/meters to the dinghy rack.  But it became torrential before I reached it.  
        I had left both the awkward fiberglass dinghy and the old Avon chained together at the rack, along with a set of oars and a cheap pump to inflate the Avon.  All were still there, but the combination lock had corroded and refused to open for several tries.  By the time it did, I was soaked to the skin.
        I wrestled the dinghy into a dock cart and returned to the Cruising Club dinghy dock, where I had to knell holding the hose to the dinghy inflation values with one hand and pumping with the other.  This is supposed to be a foot pump, but isn’t really.
        Dinghy in the water.  A short walk to the General Store for bottled water, trash bags, a bottle of red wine, and a sandwich for lunch.  
        With rain forecast, I had thought to bring a plastic bag for my messenger bag, which held my laptop.  I bought the trash bags to try to cover the duffle bag, but it was too big.  Everything carried down to the dinghy, and I rowed out to GANNET.  Fortunately the row was downwind.  With a tail wind of twenty knots, I covered the two hundred or so yards/meters quickly.  The rain never completely stopped and again become torrential as I rowed.  It didn’t matter.  I was already so wet I couldn’t get wetter
        Onto GANNET, who seemed to my brief glance in good condition, and down below where the cabin was dry until I brought considerable water with me.  
        Removing clothes so sodden they stick to skin is not easy in GANNET’s Great Cabin.  Dried myself with a towel and put on dry.
        In time I opened the duffle bag which appeared not to have been inspected.  Everything was as I had left it, except that the sleeping bag in which I had wrapped everything was soaked.  
        As I have noted before, GANNET’s interior is an interlocking puzzle in which I usually can’t move one piece without also moving several others.  A wet sleeping bag and a pile of wet clothes add complications.  When the rain eased in mid-afternoon, I put them in a trash bag in the cockpit.  I’ll wash and dry them ashore tomorrow.  
        After seeing that there is no water in the bilge and that the solar panels have kept the ship’s batteries charged, one of my first tasks is to start charging things that have gone dead in my absence:  electric razor, bluetooth speakers, YellowBrick; and devices I’ve used en route such as my iPhone for music and reading and my laptop.
        Wearing Polartec, I was able to stand in the companionway near sunset.  I was surprised to see no birds on the breakwater dock.  Grant, my landlord, who happens to be here for a few weeks on his own boat, rowed out to say hello, and told me there are a few birds at the other end of the breakwater, but no sign of the hundreds that were formerly my neighbors.
        Today has seen only a few passing showers, but strong, sometimes howling, cold wind from the southwest that has us bobbing and swaying, swinging wildly around the mooring, and at times heeled far over.
        I rowed ashore this morning to shower, make arrangements for the rigger to come next week to install the TackTick masthead wind unit and do a rigging inspection, fill a jerry can with water, and buy a few more things from the General Store.
        Gradually GANNET is becoming a little better organized.
        It is good to be back in New Zealand and back on board, even with the wet welcome.
        The weather is supposed to ease tomorrow. 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Evanston: down but not out

        Not long after I posted the previous entry, I visited Doryman’s site and was distressed to discover that in a storm last Saturday, BELLE STARR, his 23’ Stonehorse, broke her mooring and was driven ashore.  After an impressively professional and daring salvage, she was towed from the beach, but was so badly damaged she sank.  Raised from 35’/10.6 meters of water on Sunday, she was towed to a boatyard and lifted onto her trailer.
        ‘Down but not out’ is the heading Doryman gives to his post.  Despite her extensive damage, Michael, who is a professional builder and restorer of wood vessels, tells me he expects BELLE STARR to be repaired by next spring.  BELLE STARR is fortunate to have an owner with the skills to do this, though I very much regret that he is going to have to.
        I wish Michael and BELLE STARR many more years of joy together.
        You can find more details and photos here.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Evanston: $3 boat ride; twelve months; around Ireland; gone

        Cities are usually founded on water: harbors, rivers.  Once they reach critical mass they continue to survive long after the initial reason for their being has become irrelevant.  None more so than Chicago which was settled because of an eight mile/thirteen kilometer portage between the Chicago and Des Plaines rivers linking the Great Lakes to the Mississippi/Missouri/Ohio River system that touches two/thirds of this country.
        Chicago is not a natural harbor.  Multiple breakwaters have been built to provide some protection.  It is difficult now to imagine Chicago as a significant port; but one hundred years ago the scene in the above photo would have been filled with ships.
        Carol took last Monday off work and we rode the train into the city and then, after a very short water taxi ride, walked a mile or so along the developing river walk which can be seen in the lower right as far as the lock to Lake Michigan, before retracing our steps to one of many outdoor restaurants along the river for lunch.  Chicago has great public spaces and continues to create new ones.
        In addition to water taxis, tour boats and rental kayaks ply the water in summer.  The river looks clean, but is not safe to swim in.  Perhaps some day.
        It was good to be on the water, however briefly.  And even better to know that I’ll soon be on the water for much longer.


        One evening last week I checked COYOTE’s tracking page and found the Medalist 32 a few miles off Bundaberg, Australia, heading slowly northeast.  I concluded correctly that Dan and Ashley were waiting for dawn to enter port and complete their crossing of the Pacific Ocean.
        Dan has posted a well written and well thought out piece about the past twelve months in which they transitioned from their very first night sail to successfully crossing the biggest ocean in the world in a small boat.  I have already congratulated them and do so again.
        If you read the piece you will discover that I am mentioned.  I trust you know that I have not provided the link because of this.  This is about Dan and Ashley.  

        I thank Shane for a link to a circumnavigation of Ireland in a Drascombe Lugger by two young men, though I am skeptical of thirty foot waves in Force 6.  Well done.


        The next entry should come from aboard GANNET.  I fly Tuesday.  Lose Wednesday to the Dateline.  And arrive Thursday, probably in rain.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Evanston: Richard Wagner and Pablo Escobar; res ipso loquitur

        I had two goals for this my last full week in the flatlands for a while:  watch GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG, thus completing Wagner’s Ring, and watch the first season of the new Netflix series, Narcos, based on the life of the late Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug king who was reportedly at one time the wealthiest criminal in history.  I finished GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG this morning and will watch the tenth and last episode in what will presumably be season one of Narcos this evening with Carol.
        I came to opera late and my opinion is of little value, but I enjoyed The Ring, not every minute of its fifteen hours, but mostly.  It is an immense work, not just in length, but an immense act of creativity.  The music is at times grand and others sublime.  There is lots of sex, mostly illicit, incest, bigamy—if unintentional, promiscuity among men and gods, and the stated belief that marriage without love has no value, this long before divorce become common.  For singers some of the roles must be the Cape Horns of their careers.
        I think that watching DVDs of performances of the four operas has some advantages over seeing them live.  If one did on four successive days, The Ring would certainly dominate life for that period, as I expect Wagner intended.  One would want a very comfortable chair.
        With DVDs I was able to pause when I wished to check the libretto or have lunch or climb a few flights of stairs when my watch told me to get up.  Also the camera could pan in for close ups of faces and details that couldn’t be seen from the audience except perhaps with opera glasses.
        The Centenary Boulez/Chereau production I watched was controversial in 1976 and, though less so now, still disliked by many.
        In time I may buy another Ring production; and I will listen to the famed Solti performance of the music.  But I’ve had enough Wagner for a while.

        Netflix began streaming Narcos a week ago today.  I saw a favorable review in the NY TIMES, so we watched the first episode and were hooked.  Do not watch if you are offended by sex and violence.  There is even more here than in The Ring, and it is more explicit.
        Narcos and The Ring also have in common that they are both concerned with the attempt to obtain absolute power.
        Hitler admired Wagner greatly.  I wonder if as he watched the operas he saw himself as Siegfried?


        You hear about some voyages even before they begin, particularly if the sailor and/or his sponsors have a PR agent, and then nothing else.  For some reason I found myself wondering the other evening what had happened to an American sailor older than I who was planning to try to circumnavigate non-stop in a 60+ foot boat.  I couldn’t remember his name, but did recall an article about the boat in CRUISING WORLD, whose editor, Mark Pillsbury identified the man as Stanley Paris and gave me a link to his site.
        This will be old news to some of you, but Stanley Paris tried twice and abandoned both attempts at Cape Town.  
        You can find out some of what happened at his site and more by googling his name.
        I recall seeing a photo of his boat with four hydrogenerators on the transom.  Each of these costs about $4,000, though perhaps they give bulk discounts, and my thought at the time was that they alone cost more than I paid for GANNET.


        My Withings app awarded me the Lake Baikal badge for having walked 450 miles, the length of the lake.
        I achieved a new personal stair well best:  49 seconds from bottom to top.  I doubt I can improve much on that unless I take stairs two at a time.  I did as an experiment and made it up in 37 seconds.  It was in fact easier two at a time as well as faster, but I’m not looking for easy and so will stick to taking each step.
        Although it is probably sufficiently water resistant, my Apple watch is not going to be a sailing  watch.  I think it would get banged around too much.  But I am going to take it to NZ with me.  I’m curious what it will make of the Opua hill.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Evanston: new old ships

        I cheated.  Calm down.  This is not an Ashley Madison confession.  You may recall my intention to limit myself to one Patrick O’Brian novel a month; but after finishing Saint-Exupéry’s SOUTHERN MAIL I started reading THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD before the end of August when I should have waited until September 1.
        I was in part corrupted by Carlos, a small boat sailor my age, who worked as crew on the film MASTER AND COMMANDER and sent me many photos of the making of the movie, including those in this post.  I thank him for permission to share them with you.
        The Russell Crowe film was based on several of the O’Brian novels, including THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, which Carlos tells me was the original name of the the movie and happened to be the next one I was due to read.
        Carlos owned a 1978 Drascombe Lugger, the same year CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE was built, but recently sold it to buy a Montgomery 17 because he finally wanted a cabin to sleep in, thus joining me and Tony in England in moving inside.  I refuse to accept that we are getting soft.
        This is the way crew slept in ships two hundred years ago.

        From Tim comes a link to a rather expensive reconstruction of the SAN SALVADOR, the ship in which Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to sail into what is now San Diego Bay in 1542.  She is headed for the San Diego Maritime Museum.
        I was not into the Aubrey/Maturin novels when I had GANNET in San Diego, which is unfortunate for I have since learned that among their ships is a replica of the HMS SURPRISE, which figures in several of the books.  This one was not built for the movie, but in Nova Scotia.  Had I known, I certainly would have visited.  And if GANNET and I are in San Diego again, I certainly will.