Monday, November 30, 2015
November 30, 1975
A magnificent day. Partially clear blue sky, wild white-capped ocean, albatrosses and shearwaters swooping and soaring, rigging so taut it hums. We sail at 7 knots directly for the Horn— now less than two weeks away—what pleasure in those words— under double-reefed main and staysail. All would be splendid if I did not know that 8 feet of seam are ripped out between the first and second set of reef points on the main. The wind is abating, and I may take my dose of seasickness this afternoon.
Nights here are only six hours long, which makes the odds 3-1 against problems occurring during darkness. Yet they always manage to. Everything in these latitudes happens so quickly. Highs and lows rush through; the barometer leaps about like a spastic toad, moving not less than a half inch each of the past three days; the weather changes and then changes again; and with every change comes the concern that this time the storm will continue to build and build and build.
So far that has not happened, but last night was bad enough. I had already twice left the haven of my sleeping bag to reduce sail before at 2:20 a.m. the self-steering vane was overpowered by a forty-five knot gust and we accidentally jibed. Perhaps 5,000 miles ago the main might not have ripped instantly, but not now. I really have put off repairing it long enough. In these conditions, without that sail set, the motion in the cabin leaves much to be desired. Hello, sailmaker’s palm; good-bye, lunch.
The above map shows travel times in 1914 from London in days, not hours. Ships and trains, then. The Panama Canal opened in 1914. I do not know if it was included in these calculations. Most of Australia and New Zealand were thirty to forty days away. The interior of Australia even longer.
When big money is involved in sailing I am usually not interested. However there is a link at Sailing Anarchy to a short video of SPINDRIFT 2, a giant trimaran trying to set a record for the fastest circumnavigation, that I find interesting because it is an whole different world from my sailing. SPINDRIFT 2 seems more space ship than boat.
From SPQR, a new and excellent history of Rome by the British academic, Mary Beard, I learned a new word: otium.
Professor Beard writes: Latin vocabulary itself captured the idea: the desired state of humanity was otium (not so much ‘leisure’, as it is usually translated, but the state of being in control of one’s own time).
Friday, November 27, 2015
Evanston: a neat boat; a remarkable voyage; another reason to prefer the Southern Hemisphere; captiaterraphobia
When I view photos of boats under sail, I am struck by different things. Of maxis going to windward I am impressed by how flat their sails and how far inboard the headsails are sheeted. On photos of Steve Earley’s Pathfinder 17, SPARTINA, how neat and well organized she is, proof of a sailor on top of his game, as you can see in the photo above taken yesterday on a Thanksgiving Day sail.
If you go to his website and check past images I don’t think you will find any of SPARTINA, under way or at anchor, in which she is cluttered and disorganized. Perhaps Steve doesn’t share those moments with us. They must come to every boat. But I believe that on SPARTINA they are rare.
In an email Jud reminded me of one of the most admirable, and relatively unknown, at least in the United States, voyages of our times: the non-stop solo circumnavigation by Alessandro di Benedetto in a Mini-Transat.
Mini-Transat boats are built for the 4,000 nautical mile race of that name from France to Brazil with a single stop at Madeira. They are slightly shorter and lighter than GANNET, but with more beam, draft and sail area.
What is perhaps most remarkable about Alessandro di Benedetto’s circumnavigation is that roughly the last quarter of it was made after his boat had been dismasted. His time of 268 days is slow, but not for a boat under jury rig. I would be interested to know his average daily run before and after the mast came down.
Here are some links, including a short video, if you want to know more.
Another reason to prefer the Southern Hemisphere: Donald Trump is in the Northern.
Bill reminded me of captiaterraphobia which is now included on the wit page.
Monday, November 23, 2015
When weather in Chicago breaks records, it is bad news. We just did with a storm that dropped 11.2”/ 28.4 cm of snow, the heaviest fall recorded in November in more than a hundred years. Protected by a micro-climate caused by the relatively warmer water, here by the lake only a couple of inches/5 cm accumulated, but the temperature was 14ºF/10ºC when I got up at 6 a.m. yesterday morning.
To satisfy my insatiable and pitiless Apple watch, at 10:30 I walked to the lake.
I was not concerned about the cold. By then it was 25ºF/-4ºC and unfortunately I have winter clothes. What is unfortunate is that I need them.
I was concerned about ice. Slipping and falling on my left shoulder is not a good idea.
The sidewalks were mostly icy, so I mostly crunched through the snow beside them.
The morning was bright and clear and sunny. The snow was pristine and pure white.
Some lingering leaves had fallen and made interesting patterns on the snow.
Ice sparkled like diamonds on bare branches.
I noted that the walk took me four minutes longer than usual.
My watch beeped approval.
A few of you, who are consequently now counted among my dearest friends, correctly identified the line, he holds the world in his mind. One local sailor, who I do count as a friend, thought the line came from THE BIBLE. I think highly of myself, but not that high.
Art was by far the first and his prize will be on the way tomorrow after I use the walk to the post office to appease my watch. Today is a full work-out day which, along with twenty flights of stairs, gets the circle closed.
Of those stairs: this morning I demolished my old personal best of 48 seconds with a blazing 42 second sprint. I’m not sure I’m ever going to improve on that.
If you are curious about the source of the line, go to the poetry page and scroll down to ‘Ithaca, Illinois’. You could read down, but I suppose that is too much to ask.
I lifted the spectacular photo above from Sailing Anarchy. It is reported to be the French sailor, Frank Cammas, ‘rounding Cape Horn in a foiling catamaran.’
I think it was an interesting sail. I don’t think he rounded Cape Horn, which traditionally has meant sailing from 50º South in the Pacific Ocean to 50º South in the Atlantic Ocean, or vice versa, outside of everything but the Diego Ramirez and Staten islands. It does not mean sailing down the channels and hanging around until conditions are fine, then darting out, around Horn Island, and back in.
Everything is hyped. Everything is cheapened. Rounding Cape Horn shouldn’t be.
Three articles have been added to the articles page: ‘Pounded’, ‘The Good Old Days in Neiafu’, and ‘love of the thing itself’.
If you have been here a while, you will find that they are, as almost all my published writing now is, reworkings of entries from this journal.
Saturday, November 21, 2015
At 11:00 a.m. in Evanston snow was falling. It still is, though there has so far been little accumulation here near the lake. I knew that Steve Earley in Norfolk, Virginia, where it was noon, was hoping to sail this weekend. I emailed him and almost instantly got a reply with the above photo. He is indeed sailing and had just tied up SPARTINA for a few minutes to get a sandwich for lunch. Quite civilized.
The snow is pretty. I keep telling myself.
Sail on, Steve. Sail on for those of us who can’t.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
“The purpose of terrorism is to terrorize.”
Unfortunately it works.
I was surprised and pleased to see this morning a piece in the NY TIMES, repeated in both the front and sports pages, on the death of Jonah Lomu of a heart attack at age 40. As the article correctly states, Jonah Lomu was little known in the United States, but a legend in the rugby world.
I, who have spent years in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and England, know who Jonah Lomu was. For my fellow Americans think of tackling Cam Newton running at full speed in the open field, neither of you wearing padding. Even in a game of big, strong men, Jonah Lomu stood out. Tacklers often bounced off him, and often he just ran over them as though they were not there. For those of you old enough, think of Jim Brown.
THE NEW ZEALAND HERALD, of course, carried not one piece about Lomu’s death, but more than a half dozen.
He was a rare athlete and a great pleasure to watch.
Above is the fourth copy of Alan Lucas’s excellent CRUISING THE CORAL COAST that I have owned. It arrived yesterday from Boat Books in Australia. I couldn’t find the most recent edition in the U.S.
I know the way the five hundred miles from Cairns to Cape York—’He holds the world in his mind’—a prize will be awarded to the first to identify the line—but I am considering entering Australia farther south and sailing parts of the coast I have not before.
I’ve been gradually ordering things to take back to GANNET in no particular sequence. I order a few. They arrive. And I order a few more. Courtesy flags for South Africa and Mauritius also arrived yesterday. I already have one for Australia.
So far I have Dyneema line to replace GANNET's lifelines, which are not seriously worn, but critical and GANNET-size line is cheap; a dock line to replace one I’ve used as a bridle on her Opua mooring; LifeSeal sealant which I can’t get in New Zealand; Dremel cutting discs which I can get in New Zealand, but not easily; a flag pole and a flag pole mount—tied to the backstay, the fluttering U.S. flag jerks the rig around too much.
Snow and below freezing temperatures are due tomorrow night. My sailing season is over. So may be yours. All we have is winter dreams and the certainty that “you can never hold back spring.”
Snow and below freezing temperatures are due tomorrow night. My sailing season is over. So may be yours. All we have is winter dreams and the certainty that “you can never hold back spring.”
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
You take turning on a light after sunset for granted, so do I on land but not on boats.
Electric lights are a relatively recent phenomenon, becoming common in cities only a few years before the beginning of last century and in rural areas only during my lifetime.
I have a number of lights on GANNET. Two headlamps, two small flashlights, two small lamps that use rechargeable eneloop batteries. All LEDS. One large Maglight. And, my cabin lights of choice, LuminAid solar lights.
I’ve written about LuminAid lights before.
Steve Earley first told me about them.
They were invented by two young design students in response to the Haiti earthquake.
While the lights can be inflated, I use mine folded flat to about the size of a deck of cards.
They have two levels of power. I usually use the lower, and each morning set the light on the cockpit floor to recharge, though daily is not necessary. For some reason I find this simple act more satisfying than obtaining light by recharging eneloop batteries from the ship’s batteries which are also charged by solar power.
I don’t have a lot of things on my list to take back to GANNET this time, but it does include spare LuminAids. In the past I’ve ordered them from Amazon, but yesterday I went to the LuminAid site and came across their Give Light, Get Light package. For about $10 more than the cost of a single light, you can buy one and have one donated to a charity which will distribute it to someone in need. This is really a great idea.
If you have a boat, you can use a LuminAid as a cockpit light, reading light or just keep around as an emergency light that takes up minimal space. They could also be of use on land, camping or at home.
I bought my spares through Give Light, Get Light and encourage you to do so as well.
I just received an email from Dennis:
I sailed into Opua after a 12-day upwind beat from New Caledonia, and saw little Gannet on her mooring. Thinking of you and hoping all is well. Thanks for giving me your spare seat cushion last year in Tonga — I’m thinking of posting an article to Latitude 38 entitled “How Webb Chiles saved my a$&%” .
I had forgotten about that and mention it only to pass on the great title and a smile at the idea of GANNET as supply ship.
From Tim came links to three commercials for my favorite liquid. I like this one best. Given enough time, I really have to go to Islay.
Listening to Bach while sipping Laphroaig off Cape Horn. I’m not saying it is going to happen. But there are worse ambitions.
The photo is an old one that I’ve run before.
The fish were tuna who followed THE HAWKE OF TUONELA for several days during the fifth circumnavigation. I think the photo was taken in the South Atlantic, but it may have been the Indian Ocean. Sometimes they look alike.
Friday, November 13, 2015
A few weeks ago I did a Skype interview from GANNET for reasons of no importance. The young man who interviewed me was intelligent and friendly, but he brought up the usual suspects: Are you mad? Actually he asked, “Does your wife think you are mad?” To which I honestly replied, “I don’t know.” And the eternal, “Why?”
My putative madness only amuses.
If you have read my books or just the list of quotes I’ve used in the front of them, you have found:
No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness.
“You are mad,” shouted Angus, who had learned to cherish his own limitations as a sure proof of sanity.
from VOSS by Patrick White
Long time readers will know that I don’t consider ‘why?’ a good question.
As a species we are better at ‘how’ than ‘why’.
People either understand instinctively why I sail or they probably won’t ever understand at all.
And I answered the question definitively forty years ago. It is time for the world to do its home work and catch up.
Still I answered the interviewer by quoting the first words from my first book, STORM PASSAGE: I was born for this. Which then, of course required more explanation.
After the interview was over, I decided I should check and see if I had quoted myself correctly. I did. But once I started reading I decided to continue, partly because the longest passage I have ever made, and perhaps the most seminal, was going on forty years ago, starting last month and continuing until next March, when I will be back in New Zealand to watch in my mind EGREGIOUS limp past.
The only other time I’ve reread STORM PASSAGE since it was published in 1977 was when I proof read the Kindle edition in 2011. I noted then that I was struck by how different the two parts of the book are: Part One about my first two failed attempts to reach Cape Horn; Part Two about my successful third attempt.
I also said that I would not write the book the same way now, but I resist the desire to make changes and let it stand as true to what I was and thought and felt then.
On this last rereading I feel the same and even more so.
I like Part Two. I like the Webb Chiles in Part Two. Less in Part One where there is too much anguish. The portrait is accurate. I was an exposed nerve. It is almost too painful to read, though perhaps Part Two needs Part One as context. Those first two failed attempts, when crossing oceans was new to me, were a crucible in which I was formed and strengthened, though the actual process was both the crucible heat of passion and the washing away of impurities by water.
The real change came not at sea, but during those seven months I was back in San Diego between passages in 1975. As I observed in a brief note in the Kindle edition: The man who sailed from San Diego for Cape Horn in 1975 was the same man who set out in 1974, and he wasn’t. The ‘wasn’t’ is crucial, even while I am struck by how much of me, of my writing, of my fundamental ideas, was there from the beginning:
A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.
Time and chance happen to them all.
I want society to be well enough structured so that I can find the edge and live there.
On this rereading I was a little surprised by what I had forgotten.
I was queasy the first week or two of the first attempt.
I do recall that I vomited twice, once a few days out after trying to work out a moon sight. Once much later in the Southern Ocean while down below hand stitching a torn mainsail. But I did not remember vomiting in the Southern Ocean after a capsize. I had been hit in the head by a drawer full of books and may have been concussed.
That was the last time. I never have since.
I didn’t remember that EGREGIOUS sailed as fast as she did. There are many references to her doing ten or eleven knots. She was almost as fast as GANNET.
I did remember that the Aries wind vane was broken as I headed for Tahiti for repairs, but did not remember that it broke again after I left Tahiti, and that I sailed all the way back to San Diego from the Southern Ocean using sheet to tiller steering.
In both instances the failure was of the breakaway coupling, a solution worse than the problem it was intended to solve. Back in San Diego I had the breakaway groove welded over and the coupling never failed again.
I did not remember how much more damage EGREGIOUS sustained on that long trek back from the Southern Ocean after the second round of rigging damage. Side supports broke free of the overhead. All the bolts sheered off at the base of one side of the main bulkhead. The bolts through the mast broken. I am amazed that I reached port with the mast still standing.
I did not remember that I often wrote about being afraid.
I am not now afraid at sea, except for those fortunately rare few seconds when a boat is thrown by a wave and out of control. Fear is usually fear of the unknown, and in STORM PASSAGE the sea was much more unknown than it is to me five circumnavigations later.
And I was afraid then of failure, of being destroyed before I had achieved. As I am not now.
I like to believe that I am a better sailor and writer now than I was then, though there are parts of STORM PASSAGE which I think are very good, and that I am even mentally tougher than the young Webb Chiles.
Of sailing, no furling gear on EGREGIOUS. It was a novelty then and, I thought, unproven. Also I couldn’t afford it.
And I cooked more, believing that freeze dry food uses too much water, which of course it does not.
I note with satisfaction that I estimated before I set out that I would complete the circumnavigation in 200 days. My actual time was 203 days, an error of only 1.5%
Of writing, while I almost steadfastly held to my tenant that the ocean is insentient, I once succumbed to the pathetic fallacy and called waves ‘fierce.’ Shame on me. Certainly not a mistake I would make again.
I often referred to ‘phosphorescence’, now I would write ‘bioluminescence’.
I recorded in STORM PASSAGE my height of 6’ 1”, weight 155 pounds, and resting heart beat of 52 per minute.
Today I have probably shrunk a little, but still call myself 6’1”. Yesterday I weighed 153 pounds. And my resting heart beat is 47.
It can’t be that I’m in better shape now, too.
I read STORM PASSAGE in the Kindle edition on my iPhone. Readers can underline passages in Kindle books, though I myself never do, and if enough readers underline a given passage, somehow Amazon inserts the underline in the book. As an author I was interested to see what had particularly struck others.
Here are the passages underlined by substantial numbers of readers.
I believe in greatness, the heroic, the epic, pride, honor, and my dreams. And I believe the hardest people in the world are not cynics, but those romantics who will not compromise; who insist that their dreams become reality. I am an adamantine romantic. (on my birthday 1974) November 11, 1974
Now I know that what is called genius stems only from an inexplicable innate belief in oneself, which in turn creates a perseverance in one’s efforts that is unfailing. One cannot help but to continue to believe in oneself, so one cannot help but persevere and endure. Once I took those virtues lightly, but they are everything. Everything but luck. December 22, 1974
Sailing a boat without an engine is like working on a high trapeze without a net: there is no room for error. December 24, 1974
My life is reduced to the essentials for which I have longed. I keep alive. I sail. I read books by or about genius. I write. That is all. There is only beauty and greatness here. An exquisite balance of the physical and mental. I am alive as never before. January 2, 1975
That any explanations are necessary, that adventure is no longer understood instinctively, that people have to ask, Why?, is proof of the decline of our civilization. February 10, 1975
In other oceans, you can trim for the average conditions and live through the gusts. In these high southern latitudes— 49°44’South 9l°30’West at noon—you have to trim for the gusts and be content to let the boat sail less than optimally in the average. The gusts are too strong, too dangerous, and too frequent. December 4, 1975
I often think that those men who compromise or abandon their dreams do so from a pathetic inability to imagine their own deaths. They live as though death were optional. I know that I could not contentedly face my death after a life in which I was no more than a lover of women. February 4, 1975
The ancient Greek concept of the tragic flaw is proven once again: my strength has become the instrument of my destruction. March 5, 1975
And here are some passages that struck me, including the definitive answer to ‘why?’.
I was born for this moment and for all the days ahead. November 2, 1974
8:00 P.M. The sea and sky are a painting by Albert Ryder: the sea completely black, the waves completely indistinguishable, except for the phosphorescence which illuminates the cutter’s passage across its surface in an eerie green light. Unexpectedly and irregularly, a wave crests, and the ocean seems to open up to reveal a flash of that same green light shining up from deep within the sea; as though a woman opened a window and as quickly shut it when she saw me too near, as though I were sailing through a city blacked out by its inhabitants so that I would not suspect its existence. The windows open in front of me and close; then to starboard, then ahead again, then behind, and I can almost hear the frantic whispers: “He’s gone. I’ll just peek. Yes.” “No, he’s right there! Draw the curtain! Quickly! Quickly!”
I call down to them. “Don’t worry. I’m sorry to disturb you. I won’t harm you. I don’t even want to be your friend. Just to sail on and leave you and be left in peace.”
Still the windows open and close.
There is no moon, yet the horizon is distinct in every direction; the layer of clouds just above the surface of the sea thin enough to let starlight lighten them not to a shade of grey, but rather a ghostly pallor. And the sky overhead is not as black as the sea below, but is broken into phantasmagorical shapes by the same unknowable light. Unknowable because there is no moon, starlight is not really enough, and yet . . . and yet there can be no other out here a thousand miles from land and man.
As I stand on the companionway steps, my head and shoulders above deck, the bow seems always to be pointing downward; as though we sail down the face of a gradually rising wave, miles down a gigantic crest, sailing not upon—but into—the sea.
November 9, 1974
as I entered the southern ocean for the first time:
There is nothing ugly out here but me; and at this moment when I want for nothing, when I am no longer striving, when I am not in a process of becoming but of being, when I am whole, complete, one, transcendent, I am also transcended and do not exist, except as an essential part of the beauty around me. How incredible that this should happen here as I enter the Forties. How incredible that it should happen anywhere.
The sea is steel-blue and the sky light grey. On the western horizon, a single pale yellow band lingers behind the already set sun. Although it is dusk, there is a sense of dawn, of expectancy, of anticipation. I can easily believe that the world looked like this the first day after creation.
January 3, 1975
THIS morning I am remembering with some embarrassment the thoughts and conversations I had about my motives before I left on this voyage. Almost all of what I said then seems to me now to have been nonsense. I believe that my motives have become apparent in this log and would add only the following passage from The Sea and the Ice, a book I have been reading about Antarctica by the naturalist, Louis Halle:
‘One can only speculate on the reason for the penetration of skuas, penguins, and seals into a region so extensive where no life can survive for long. Among crowded or colonial species of birds, the course of evolution has sometimes produced impulses leading to the dispersion that is necessary if inbreeding is to be avoided. The young feel an impulse, not unknown to the young of our own species, to leave the parental home, to push out into the unknown, to make a new life for themselves beyond the horizon. . . .
Perhaps the impulse that moves skuas and penguins to set out from the rim of the continent ... is not altogether unrelated to the impulse that impelled Captain Cook and his successors to seek a new world beyond the pack ice. That such voyages of discovery, potentially so rewarding, are hazardous, that they take a high toll of life, is true for skuas, penguins, and for man alike.’
I reject all facile labels for myself, and “masochist” even more than “loner” or “suicidal.” One does not come out here to suffer or die, but to live. And I have never been more alive. Pain is the price of my obsession; intensity and pride the rewards.
That any explanations are necessary, that adventure is no longer understood instinctively, that people have to ask, Why?, is proof of the decline of our civilization.
February 10, 1975
A few days ago I read Tolstoy quoting Lermontov:
He in his madness prays for storms
And dreams that storms will bring him peace.
May 15, 1976
In Auckland, Suzanne and I attended an exhibit of Chinese art. One of the objects was a figure holding aloft thirty-two concentric spheres, only the outer half dozen of which were visible, all carved from a single piece of ivory. The satisfaction of the artist upon completing carving all thirty-two spheres and knowing that each—even the innermost which would never be seen—was perfect, is the same as that of a man who completes a solo circumnavigation, who fulfills any dream, even though no one else knows.
I smile to myself as Egregious sails slowly across the dusky harbor; and behind the sea-etched face of the man, a small boy grins because he has made his dream come true.
Egregious man, boat, voyage, life.
The fool smiles and sails on.
May 26, 1976
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Bach has long been my favorite composer. I just read in STORM PASSAGE, “I would have been more proud to have been you than any other man who has ever lived.” The ‘you’ is Johann Sebastian.
I played his music in the Southern Ocean and specifically off Cape Horn. Although I don’t recall why, his “Little Fugue in G Minor” was a particular favorite then. It isn’t any longer. But there is no bad Bach.
I happened recently to receive an email from Jud mentioning that with understanding. He wrote: A mad and complex Bach fugue, bringing musical, mathematical order, in the greybeard wilds of the Southern Ocean on a steadily leaking boat!
That is exactly right.
And from Armando comes a link to an unexpected, and unexpectedly effective, paring of guitar and trombone playing Bach’s unfinished Contrapunctus 14, which appears three times in my Requiem playlist.
Some scholars claim that this is not Bach’s last work. One of his sons said that it is. I prefer to agree with the son. I see Johann working, being interrupted by a visitor knocking on the door or his wife calling him to dinner, getting up from his desk and never coming back.
Thank you Armando for the link.
At the Sailing Anarchy site this morning is mention of a video of a truly ingenious small boat winter haul out. The Sailing Anarchy link didn’t work for me. You can find the video here.
I signed up to receive ten more free videos.
The first was about a couple who sailed from North America to New Zealand in a 24’ Pacific Seacraft. A little over a minute in the voice over says, “We wonder how anyone can sail so far in a boat so small.” And I stopped watching.
One of the very first things I do when I get up in the morning on GANNET is turn on the Sony radio. It is set to Radio New Zealand Concert, the national classical music station and my favorite in the world. I listen intermittently during the day and play my own music in the evenings.
Back in the flatlands, I miss New Zealand Concert. Chicago has an uninspired classical station.
So I downloaded the Radio New Zealand app to both my iPhone and iPad mini, and now with a couple of taps, via the Internet and an Apple TV, I hear New Zealand Concert live, though what I am accustomed to listening to at 7 a.m. is on in Evanston at noon the preceding day.
I am listening as I write this.
I am willing to learn from others, but often I am doing things no one else has ever done or even thought of, and can’t.
My sailing for next year is set, time and chance permitting, but the year after I will make the decision at St. Helena to go northwest to Panama or southwest to the Falklands and an attempt at Cape Horn from the east.
You might think that circumnavigating in a Moore 24 would be enough, and perhaps it will be. But if you can cross the Pacific, you can cross the smaller oceans, and I am still seeking to test my limits.
I often change my mind about which direction I will go from St. Helena several times a day and do not know what I will ultimately do.
I do not mention this anywhere but on this site. That is one of the perks you get for being here. I can’t offhand think of any others.
So with the possible prospect of cold weather and cold water sailing in GANNET, and cold water in GANNET, I am considering buying a dry suit, specifically an Ocean Rodeo Ignite. Perhaps it should be mentioned that I already have two good suits of foul weather gear.
Parenthetically, when I rounded Cape Horn the first time, I did so in foul weather gear labelled ‘coastal’ which was all I could afford.
Vito Dumas, the first man to round the Horn and survive, had less than that and stuffed newspapers inside his to keep warm. Or try to.
I have rounded Cape Horn twice and spent more than a year south of 40ºS, so I know what it is like down there; but if any of you have used Ocean Rodeo or other dry suits or have advice about clothing for cold weather sailing, I’d appreciate the benefit of your experience.
Monday, November 9, 2015
I was jet-lagged and tired Friday, so I gave myself the day off. But Saturday I strapped on my Apple Watch and closed all three circles. I also did 21 flights of stairs and my complete workout.
Our stair well is clean, well lit and carpeted, but boring. The views from Opua hill are superior.
I did not workout while on GANNET, but I did work. I would not have been disappointed if I could not have completed my full routine, and I will not push my shoulder too hard if I experience pain. That life aboard GANNET is exercise enough was proven by my not only doing my age in push-ups, but, knowing that in a few days Tom and I are going to have to do one more, I added two and did 75, which will make me good until November of 2017.
Although most trees are bare, Chicago was an unseasonable 70ºF/21ºC when I arrived, but the past two nights have seen lows below freezing and this morning I lit the fireplace for a while.
The afternoon is sunny and 52ºF/11º C. This was the usual low temperature while I was in Opua. I may take a bike ride tomorrow, my first in several months and possibly my last for the year, or even until 2017. I don’t figure to be here during bike riding weather next year.
Epics from ancient Greece and Rome and the American West helped form me.
I came late to Virgil’s AENEID and this was only the second time I’ve read it. Written in the century before Christ and long after Homer, it is part ILIAD and part ODYSSEY.
The Trojan warrior, Aeneas, survives the destruction of his city and leads others west to fulfill his destiny to found Rome.
There are storms at sea, tricks by malevolent gods, a love affair with Dido, the Queen of Carthage, the subject of a famous opera, and, of course, wars, from a vivid retelling of the fall of Troy, to battles as the Trojans establish themselves in Italy. All the equal of Homer.
The poem was unfinished at Virgil’s death and he left instructions that it be destroyed. The Emperor Augustus had it published instead.
I read a brilliant translation by Robert Fitzgerald. I highly recommend it.
Fitzgerald includes a postscript, giving some of the historical background of the poem and Virgil, and relates how as a young naval officer in 1945 he read the poem on a South Pacific island while being deployed for the invasion of the Japanese home islands. “More than literary interest,” he writes, “kept me reading Virgil’s descriptions of desperate battle, funeral pyres, failed hopes of truce and peace.”
I have at various times met four men, an America, two Englishmen and an Australian, all of whom were also being moved toward that invasion where a million Allied casualties were expected. All told me that but for the dropping of the atomic bombs, they did not expect that they would have been alive.
Peter Stark’s ASTORIA is subtitled: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson’s Lost Empire: a story of wealth, ambition and survival. All without exaggeration.
Carol and I have been to Astoria, Oregon, but I did not know that it was the first American settlement on the west coast. The Spanish had opened a string of missions as far north as present day San Francisco and the Russians had a few trading posts in what is now Alaska, but there was no European/American settlement in between.
Astor wanted to monopolize the fur trade. Thomas Jefferson, while no longer President, wanted the young United States to span the continent and encouraged Astor in his plans.
At his own expense—Astor is ranked as the fourth richest American of all time based on equivalent currency values—Astor send a ship around Cape Horn and a party overland, both to meet at the mouth of the Columbia river and establish a settlement there as well as a string of fur trading posts inland. Of a total of 140 men in both parties, 61 died.
One pregnant woman, married to a half Indian interpreter, with two small children, survived, including one winter alone in snowy mountains on her own.
The story is epic. No other word will do. Peter Stark tells it very well.
I am in fact rereading a third epic, STORM PASSAGE.
Forty years ago today the author was twenty-two days out of San Diego on his third attempt at Cape Horn. South of the Equator his 37’ cutter, EGREGIOUS. was sailing well, making 160 to 170 miles a day on a close reach against the southeast trade winds. He knew her hull was cracked.
I’ll write more about STORM PASSAGE when I finish it and know how it turns out.
Saturday, November 7, 2015
Thursday was a long day for me, thirty-seven hours from when I woke at 6 a.m. in Opua until midnight in Evanston, and I didn’t even try to go to sleep until an hour later.
What had once been forecast to be a washout was a perfect morning in Opua. The meteorologists had the sequence right, but not the timing or intensity, which is why I don’t put much credence in more than 48 hour forecasts.
Usually when I leave Opua I row in only once, taking a sliver of soap and some paper towels to dry off after I shower, but the early morning was sunny and windless, so I rowed in after my first cup of coffee, showered, and rowed back out to GANNET to finish my breakfast.
I rowed in again at 9:30 when light wind began to come up.
All the flights were on time and as painless as possible.
Los Angeles was sunny and the basin clear when we landed at 10:00 a.m., still Thursday, November 5, and when my next flight took off at 1 p.m.
I always book an aisle seat, but as you can see from the photo above, somehow ended up with a window.
The plane took off to the west, turned south in a long curve, flying over Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor, which like Cape Town’s, is only an all weather port because of breakwaters.
I lived down there a block from the beach near the right edge of the photo in 1963-64.
I didn’t sleep much between Auckland and Los Angeles, but did fall asleep on the way to Chicago, waking after a couple of hours to look down on snow covered fields.
It was dusk as we neared Chicago at only 4 p.m. and shockingly dark before the taxi dropped me at the condo at 5.
Carol was not yet home from work.
I showered, changed clothes, and made myself what Dave correctly pointed out after my last post is a martinus.
You may recall the joke:
Legionnaire goes into a Roman bar and says: I want a martinus.
Barman: You mean a martini.
Legionnaire: If I had wanted two, I’d have asked for them.
The GUARDIAN has run two excellent articles recently, one about the U.S. Presidential race, which is intended to be humorous, and is, but is also tragically accurate.
The other is an excerpt from a book about the fisherman who was adrift in the Pacific for 438 days.