Thursday, December 29, 2016

Evanston: movies and shoes

        Through a combination of holidays and vacation days Carol has time off from before Christmas until after New Year’s and we have been watching more movies than usual. 
        Woody Allen’s latest, CAFE SOCIETY, is good.  I grew tired of him mid-career, but his latest movies are better, though as Carol observed, the main character in CAFE SOCIETY is a young Woody Allen played by a different actor.
        CITIZEN FOUR showing Edward Snowden at the very moments he was giving his information to journalists of THE GUARDIAN in Hong Kong is historically important. 
        When I first read George Orwell’s 1984 the date was more than twenty years in the future.  Now it is more than thirty years in the past.  
        CITIZEN FOUR proves that the Orwellian government surveillance state is no longer the future, but the present.  One can only wonder how future Presidents will use this power.
        But by far the best movies we have seen are THE READER and MERU, both available for free streaming with Amazon Prime in the U.S.  I don’t know about elsewhere, but they are worth seeking out.
        Larry who told me about THE READER, a 2008 film, one of the years I was making my fifth circumnavigation on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, stars Ralph Fiennes and Kate Winslet, who won an Academy Award for best actress for her performance, advised me not to read any reviews of the movie, just to watch it.  Good advice.  Carol caught on to the key to the plot before I did, one of the pleasures of marrying a woman who has a great and different intelligence than your own.
        MERU may be the best mountain climbing movie I have ever seen.  I don’t climb mountains.  Don’t want to.  Am afraid of heights for reasons I have explained here before.  (For those of you who don’t know, my father committed suicide by jumping from the eleventh floor of the Mark Twain Hotel.)  But I think I understand mountain climbing and believe that my sailing has more in common with a few purist climbers than it has with most sailors.
        MERU is about the truest of the true. Or almost. One of the true told a woman he loved that he would give up climbing.  I never told Carol I would give up sailing.  And the woman he married, the widow of his former climbing partner, knew better and accepted reality, though she says, only half in jest, “I might have done better to marry a cowboy.”
        In the film is related a process of climbers mentoring others.  Take this how you will:  no one mentored me.  I created myself.  I stand as alone as Dante's peak of Purgatory in the Southern Hemisphere, not at all a bad analogy. 
        I have total admiration for the men in this film whose attitudes and even some equipment I share.  On the side of a mountain they cooked on a JetBoil as I do at sea level.  I also have total admiration for the wife who said she might have done better marrying a cowboy.
        Most of you reading this are sailors.  You can learn a lot about sailing oceans by watching MERU.  


        Imagine spending your life trying to devise self-lacing shoes.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Evanston: the death of Ulysses and Penelope's Song and Ithaca, illinois

        Translation is a fine and difficult art as well as a great public service.  I just finished reading Dante’s INFERNO for the third or fourth time.  On this occasion in the fine John Ciardi translation.  
        I had forgotten that Ulysses is in the eighth circle of Hell, one reserved for those whose sin was fraud.  Ulysses was guilty of other sins as well, but his primary one was the Trojan Horse.  He and the others dwelling in that circle have been turned into eternal pillars of flame.
        Homer leaves Ulysses upon his return to Ithaca after his ten year voyage home from Troy after the ten year Trojan War, an extremely slow VMG (velocity made good.)  Dante, as did his fellow poets, Tennyson and Kazantzakis, did not believe restless Ulysses stayed there.
        Here is Ciardi’s version of the end of Canto XXVI in which Ulysses and his few remaining loyal men sail through the Strait of Gibraltar, then south for five months, the Pole star touching then sinking below the horizon as they cross the Equator.  This was an impressive feat of imagination by Dante, who died in 1321, more than a hundred years before any European sailor crossed the Equator into the Southern Hemisphere.
        In the first line ‘it’ refers to the double pillar of flame in which Ulysses resides with his co-conspirator, Diomede.

"When I left Circe," it said, "who more than a year 
detained me near Gaeta long before 
Aeneas came and gave the place that name, 
not fondness for my son, nor reverence 
for my aged father, nor Penelope's claim 
to the joys of love, could drive out of my mind 
the lust to experience the far-flung world 
and the failings and felicities of mankind. 

I put out on the high and open sea 
with a single ship and only those few souls  
who stayed true when the rest deserted me. 

As far as Morocco and as far as Spain 
I saw both shores; and I saw Sardinia 
and the other islands of the open main. 

I and my men were stiff and slow with age 
when we sailed at last into the narrow pass 
where, warning all men back from further voyage, 
Hercules' Pillars rose upon our sight. 
Already I had left Ceuta on the left; 
Seville now sank behind me on the right. 

'Shipmates,' I said, 'who through a hundred thousand 
perils have reached the West, do not deny 
to the brief remaining watch our senses stand 
experience of the world beyond the sun. 
Greeks ! You were not born to live like brutes,
but to press on toward manhood and recognition!' 

With this brief exhortation I made my crew 
so eager for the voyage I could hardly 
have held them back from it when I was through; and turning our stem toward morning, our bow toward night, 
we bore southwest out of the world of man; 
we made wings of our oars for our fool's flight. 

That night we raised the other pole ahead 
with all its stars, and ours had so declined 
it did not rise out of its ocean bed.

Five times since we had dipped our bending oars 
beyond the world, the light beneath the moon 
had waxed and waned, when dead upon our course 
we sighted, dark in space, a peak so tall 
I doubted any man had seen the like. 

Our cheers were hardly sounded, when a squall 
broke hard upon our bow from the new land: 
three times it sucked the ship and the sea about 
as it pleased Another to order and command. 
At the fourth, the poop rose and the bow went down
till the sea closed over us and the light was gone." 
        The peak was the Mountain of Purgatory.  In Dante’s geography, the Southern Hemisphere is all water except for that peak which rises from the sea at the point directly opposite Jerusalem.

        In doing some research on Dante after finishing the Ciardi translation, I came upon an even more recent one by Clive James that I liked enough to buy as well.  It includes all three parts of THE DIVINE COMEDY.  I don’t recall reading PURGATORY or HEAVEN before.
        Here in Clive James’s version of the death of Ulysses.

“When I left Circe, having lived with her
More than a year in Italy, before
Aeneas got there, no love for my son,
No duty to my father, and what’s more
No love I owed Penelope—the one
Who would have been most glad—could overcome
In me the passion that I had, to gain
Experience of the world, and know the sum
Of virtue, pleasure, wisdom, vice and pain.
Once more I set out on the open sea,
With just one ship, crewed by my loyal men,
The stalwart who had not deserted me.
As far as Spain I saw both shores, and then
Morocco, and Sardinia, and those
Numberless islands that the sea surrounds.
But men grow old and slow as the time goes,
And so did we, and so we reached the bounds
Of voyaging, that narrow outlet marked
By Hercules so nobody should sail
Beyond, and anybody thus embarked
Knows, by those pillars, he is sure to fail.
Seville on my right hand, I left behind
Ceuta on my left. ‘Brothers,’ I said,
‘Dangers uncounted and of every kind
Fit to make other sailors die of dread
You have come through, and you have reached the west,
And now our senses fade, their vigil ends:
They ask to do the easy thing, and rest.
But in the brief time that remains, my friends,
Would you deny yourselves experience
Of that unpeopled world we’ll find if we
Follow the sun out into the immense
Unknown? Remember now your pedigree.
You were not born to live as brutes. Virtue
And knowledge are your guiding lights.’ I gave
With these words such an impulse to my crew
For enterprise that I could not, to save
My life, have held them back. We flew
On oars like wings, our stern, in that mad flight,
Towards the morning. Always left we bore.
Stars of the other pole we saw at night,
And ours so low that from the ocean floor
It never once arose. Five times the light
Had kindled and then quenched beneath the moon
Since first we ventured on our lofty task,
When we could see a mountain, though not soon
Could see it clearly: distance was a mask
That made it dim. But it was high, for sure:
Higher than anything I’d ever seen,
It climbed into the sky. Who could be more
Elated than we were, had not we been
Plunged straight away into deep sorrow, for
The new land gave rise to a storm that struck
Our ship’s forepart. Three times the waters led
Us in a circle. Fourth time, out of luck.
Stern high, bow low, we went in. Overhead
Somebody closed the sea, and we were dead.

        By chance the other afternoon I was listening to the Canadian, Loreena Mckennitt, sing ‘Penelope’s Song.’  Penelope being Ulysses faithful and long suffering wife.
        And if you care to make the leap, you can tie this all together with ‘Ithaca Illinois.’
        Some sailors still leave their wives “to follow the sun into the immense unknown.”

Friday, December 23, 2016

Evanston: when and if; a bargain?; why I don’t follow the Vendée Globe

        In a recent email to Steve Earley I wrote ‘when and if I reach San Diego next year’ which reminded him of the above schooner named, WHEN AND IF.
        She was built for General Patton who said, “When the war is over, and if I live through it, Bea and I are going to sail her around the world.”  He survived the war, but not long enough to sail the boat.  
        I agree with Steve that WHEN AND IF is a very good name.


         From Zane in New Zealand comes a tempting link to a sister ship of RESURGAM for sale.  
        RESURGAM was a great sea boat, better than the bigger EGREGIOUS and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.  If I were in the market for a boat this size, I would have already been on the phone and might well soon be on a plane.  At an asking price of $21,000 US, if this one is structurally sound—and She 36s were built to a high standard—this may be a real bargain, even if she needs some work.
        I’d replace the wheel with a tiller.  Paint out the blue deck.  Paint the hull black or perhaps some shade of blue—I’ve never had boats those colors.  Replace the upholstery.  Put a self-steering vane on the stern and a carbon fiber sprit on the bow for an asymmetrical.  And name her RESURGAM II.
        I don’t want the complication of two boats, but it keeps sounding better the more I write.
        I thank Zane for the link.  Or maybe not.


        I receive emails from time to time about the Vendée Globe Race. 
        While the boats are incredibly fast, they are also incredibly expensive.  Too expensive.  And the race is too hyped.  ("Too hyped" is redundant.)  It is not ‘one man against the ocean’, but a team sport more akin to Gran Prix auto racing than solo sailing. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Evanston: an unexpected Christmas gift

        I am sitting in front of the fireplace, a glass of Laphroaig to my left.  Christmas tree to my right.  I was listening to music, Liz Story’s ’17 Seconds to Nowhere’, but have stopped to write this thank you note for the Christmas gift we have all just been given.
        Donald Trump is fulfilling his campaign promises—well, some of them.  His tweet today gives all working Americans, and for that matter  men and women above the poverty level all over the world, a big increase in disposable income without even a tax cut.
        You no longer need to contribute to a 401K or an IRA.  You no longer need to plan for retirement at all because there won’t be one.  Spend it now.  There will be no tomorrow.  You might even consider whether going to the office is the best use of your few remaining days.  The apocalypse in a tweet.
        There are those who believe that this universe is a simulation, like the MATRIX films, that all your joy and pain are nothing more than insignificant details in a distant being’s computer game.  I am beginning to agree.  
        Think of the word:  tweet.  The sound of a canary bird.  Tweet.  Tweet.  And hundreds of millions die.
        Unthinkable?  So was life in the trenches in WW1.  And Stalingrad. And the Holocaust.  And Iwo Jima.  To name but a few.
        The philosopher George Santayana wrote:  Those who who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
        A few weeks ago on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an official at the USS Arizona Memorial said that most of the young who come to the memorial don’t know anything about WWII, not even who won.
        The world is too much with me. I long for the beauty, serenity and sanity of the open ocean.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Evanston: a pretty boat; Japanese whisky; nav apps revisited; heat wave

         The very pretty little boat above is a Penobscot 17.
        Kent writes:  ‘Audrey misses BARBASHELA so I bought her a Penobscot 17.  Name pending.’
        I have written before of BARBASHELA, the 20’ long rowing boat Kent and Audrey reconstructed for a museum.  Here and here.
        I do like small boats and wish Kent and Audrey great pleasure with this one.


        I thank James for bringing to my attention that I have unsuspectingly been drinking Japanese whisky.  (I know there are two spellings but couldn't remember which countries use which.  A site, whiskyforeveryone, which does not happen to be a sentiment I share, says:  The spelling whisky is generally used for whiskies distilled in Scotland, Canada, Australia, Japan and Europe, while whiskey is used for the spirits distilled in Ireland and America.)
        Laphroaig has belonged to the Japanese brewer and distiller, Suntory, since 2014.
        I’ve had Suntory whisky a couple of times.  I seem to recall that it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t leave a distinct impression.
        Suntory’s ownership may explain the rash of variations of Laphroaig that have recently appeared in an apparent effort to reach a wider audience and that Laphroaig no longer bottles 18 year old, which has been replaced by 15 year old.  Three years quicker to market.
        I occasionally bought 18 year old Laphroaig.  Carol prefers it.  Unquestionably 18 year was smoother than 10, but I think it had less character. 
        I will try the 15.
        I will never forgive Suntory if they screw up my favorite liquid.


        I have spent some time recently comparing iNavX and iSailor.  I even bought some charts for iSailor, which comes with just one general world chart.
        Buying charts from iSailor is a simple in-app purchase, requiring on my iPhone only a touch of one finger on the finger print reader, before the charts downloaded instantly.
        Some charts can be bought in-app with iNavX, but not the Navionics charts I use.  I’ve written about problems I’ve recently had with charts disappearing.
        iNavX normally costs $50.  At the moment it is on ‘holiday season sale’ for $20.
        iSailor is free.
        iSailor makes its profits on charts.
        If you only sail one region, you will probably be ahead with iSailor.  But I checked what charts would cost to cover next year’s course from Durban to San Diego.
        With iNavX I need three regions, costing a total of $85.
        With iSailor I need five folios, costing a total of $185, and even then would have some sea areas in the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans not covered except on the world chart.
        iNavX chart updates are free only for one year.  Thus far iSailor updates are provided free indefinitely.
        iSailor has an Apple Watch app that is installed automatically on the watch when you download iSailor to your phone.  It displays several pages of information.  The first shows latitude and longitude, SOG and COG, making the watch into a useful navigation tool.  Before discovering this, I was uncertain whether I would take my Apple Watch back to GANNET.  Now I will.
        The iSailor folio I bought covers the east coast of Africa, including Durban to Cape Town.  Were I going to stop at Walvis Bay, Namibia, I’d need a sixth iSailor folio, bringing the total to $220.  All of Africa is included in one Navionics region.
        I’ll use both iSailor and iNavX when I return to GANNET and may have more thoughts. 
        Because I am familiar with iNavX and because of overall costs, I expect it will remain my chart plotting app, despite the vanishing chart hassles.  However, if I just sailed in waters covered by one iSailor folio, it might well be my choice.
        If you are interested in iNavX, the holiday sale will presumably end soon.


        We are having a heat wave:  it is above freezing.  Just.  34F/1C.
        Two nights ago the official low was -13F/-25C.  
        By the time I walked a mile and a half at noon the next day to have lunch with a friend, it was a balmy +10F/-12C.
        Not able to workout until stitches are removed next week, I’ve been walking everyday, no matter the temperature.

        I took this photo yesterday when it was around 23F/-5C.  Spray from waves had splashed onto the rocks and turned to ice.
        And here are a couple of Prisma variations.
        I could say that I’m not going to bore you with more of these, but I probably will.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Evanston: the mouth of the mother wolf; let your soul grow

        Fortunately the fringe benefits of being Webb Chiles are good, because the basic salary is not.
        By far the greatest of these is that I have had control of my time, with a few brief exceptions such as being imprisoned in Saudi Arabia, for more than forty years.  
        People often say I’m crazy.  This is a pure failure of the imagination.  Since 1974 I have spent zero minutes grid locked on a freeway commuting to or from work.  I have attended no team meetings and no conferences.  I have never been called into the boss’s office.  I have never been laid off or even threatened to be.  I have seen the sun rise from the sea thousands of times and watched it set while listening to music as my boat sailed toward darkness.  I have sipped wine and whisky and watched diving birds.  And some of the most charming, clever and beautiful women of two generations have shared their lives with me.  So, who’s crazy?
        Other fringe benefits include communicating with interesting people who sometimes offer me unusual compliments and remind me of things I have forgotten I wrote.

        Scott recently concluded an email to me:
Che tu possa viaggiare in bocca del lupo madre.
        Google translate offers:  You can travel in the mouth of the mother wolf.
        That looks right, but I wrote to Fabio, whose native language is Italian, for clarification. 
        He writes that he would translate the phrase as:  May you travel in the mouth of the mother wolf.
        He says that the expression may be a reverse superstition, that by wishing something bad, such as being in a wolf’s mouth, you keep away evil.  
        Alternatively, it may relate to mother wolves carrying their young with their mouths when fleeing from danger.
        Whatever the origin, the idea and image of GANNET and me traveling in the mouth of the mother wolf is pleasing.
        I thank Scott and Fabio.


        Steve Earley came across a quote attributed to me:  If a sailor doesn’t learn anything more from the sea than how to reef a sail, the voyage wasn’t worth making.
        It is a good line.  The problem is that I don’t remember saying that, though I’ve written more than a million words, and spoken who knows how many more, so I can’t possibly remember them all.  If I didn’t say it, I wish I had.
        As it happens, Fabio interviewed me by telephone not long ago for a site he is preparing about the psychology of sailing.  I have been interviewed often enough so that few questions are new, but when Fabio asked, “What are you still learning?” I did not have a ready answer.  Finally I replied that I did not know what I was still learning, but what I am still studying is how to sail ever more simply, that I take great pleasure whenever I can remove something from GANNET, and I am exploring my limits, which is what I have always done, curious to discover if and how those limits have changed and are changing now that I am old.

        On the slight possibility that you have not already had enough of me, the entire interview can be found here.


       I received an email inviting me to join The Circumnavigators Club.
       I did not know there was such an organization.
       I replied:  
       I thank you for your invitation, which brings a slight smile because I completed my first circumnavigation forty years ago.
       With respect I decline to accept because I am not by nature a member of clubs or organizations, nor a member of any.


        One of the finds on Bookbub was LETTERS OF NOTE, a collection of 125 letters written by the famous and not famous, mostly in the past hundred years, but some dating back much further.  Many are humorous, such as the one written to a government agency in Michigan requiring a man to remove an illegal dam on a stream on his property that had been built by beavers.  Many are touching, such as a letter from a young Korean widow written to her recently deceased husband asking how could he possibly have left her.
        When I bought LETTERS OF NOTE I did not realize that it was volume one.  Through Bookbub I paid only $1.99 for it.  The price is now $15.39 and there is a volume two which also costs $15.39, which I bought it just as the publisher hoped.
        Overall I enjoyed volume two less than volume one, though there are many fascinating letters in it.  The very last, number 125, is a detailed first hand account written by a British officer of the spontaneous Christmas truce in 1914 between German and British front line soldiers.
        There is one letter I deeply wish had not been included.  It is from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his nineteen year old cousin, Marianne, and is extremely disgusting.  I am not easily shocked, but I was.  I stopped reading part way through.  Enough was far too much.  How an individual who could create such beautiful music could write such filth, I do not know.  I am not sure that I will again be able to listen to Mozart without thinking of that letter, which may mean that I won’t be listening to Mozart at all.  At least it wasn’t Bach.
        All this may arouse your curiosity as to what I could find so disgusting.  Do not indulge it.  If you read LETTERS OF NOTE Vol. 2. skip letter 081, titled, Oh My Ass Burns Like Fire!
        To conclude on a more pleasant note, and one that is not unrelated to learning, Letter 098, Make Your Soul Grow, was written by Kurt Vonnegut to an English class at Xavier High School.  As a test of persuasive writing skills, the teacher, Ms. Lockwood, assigned the students to write to their favorite author, asking him or her to visit the class.  Five in the class choose to write to Kurt Vonnegut, who was the only author to respond.

November 6, 2006 

Dear Xavier High School, and Mrs. Lockwood, and Messrs. Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Conglusta,

I thank you for your friendly letters.  You sure know how to cheer up an old geezer (84) in his sunset years.  I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit:  Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or  badly, not to get money or fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your spirit grow.

Seriously!  I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives.  Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her.  Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and so on and on.  Make a face in your mashed potatoes.  Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it:  Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed.  No fair tennis without a net.  Make it as good as you possibly can.  But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing.  Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood.  OK?

Tear it into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash receptacles.  You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem.  You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Friday, December 16, 2016

Evanston: tough; best boat speakers; schizophrenic

        From Tucker comes a link to an admirably tough family who, among other things, have sailed the Northwest Passage in an unheated boat because of excessive condensation inside the hull.
        I lined THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s hull and overhead with a layer of thin insulation called, if I remember correctly, Reflectix.  It was essentially bubble wrap covered with aluminum foil on both sides.  Not the best insulation, but it did prevent condensation during the five years we lived aboard in Boston’s sometimes frozen harbor.
        GANNET would not be a good cold weather boat.  Even in much less severe temperatures, condensation forms on the inside of her unlined hull just from my breath and body heat.
        I thank Tucker for the link.


        I took the photo the other evening when Carol had an after hours work event.
        Martini to the left, the side where I can see it.
        The rectangular coffee table has been distorted by the panorama.
        Carol’s 13” MacBook Air is to the left.  My 12” MacBook to the right.
        My last laptop was a 13” Air.  I thought it was svelte until I got the MacBook last year.  Although the screen is only an inch smaller,  the MacBook weighs a pound less than the Air.  A pound doesn’t seem like much difference, but it is.  
        The blue and black cylinders on the far corners of the table are UE Boom 2 bluetooth speakers for when I want to listen to music instead of sports announcers while watching a game and don’t want to wear headphones.
        Some of you may recall that I have UE Megabooms on GANNET.  When I bought them, the Megabooms were waterproof, but the original Booms were not.  Now the Boom 2s are waterproof and are in my opinion the perfect boat speakers.
        The sound from an individual Boom 2 is good.  Two linked in stereo are great.  
        This, of course, is coming from an old man who needs a hearing aid, but the speakers are praised on many sites by younger and presumably unimpaired reviewers. 
        If you buy two, buy them in different colors and rename them in the app, so you know which you are connecting to in the bluetooth menu on your device.
        Carol is responsible for the Christmas decorations.  
        I water the tree.


        A new definition.
        Schizophrenic:  a solo sailor on Facebook.
        I know that there are solo sailors on Facebook, but that doesn’t mean the definition is wrong.