Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Evanston: proven despicable

        I had determined not to give these intrepid voyagers another thought, but this morning I chanced upon the following in the GUARDIAN.

        If the facts in the article are true—and one can never be certain these days—the women are proven despicable.
        They are not the only ones.
        I became so irritated at the coverage of this on the NBC evening news last Friday that I vowed, not for the first time, never to watch network news again.  
        If you measure success by appealing to the greatest possible number, you will lose your soul.  Network news, an unholy amalgam of the National Enquirer and Entertainment Tonight designed to increase hysteria whenever possible, has long lost its soul, if it ever had one.
        I probably will watch again on the occasion of natural and unnatural disasters, such as hurricanes and the next mass shooting, but I will not watch regularly or often.  One of the pleasures of life on GANNET is that when on board I never do.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Evanston: progression; Sign of the Apocalypse; the plan

        After a warm early fall with temperatures here averaging 8°F above normal, the past week has seen a steady progression toward winter.  Shorts to Levis.  Wearing socks.  A long-sleeved shirt over t-shirt.  Change Nest thermostat from ‘cool’ to ‘heat’.  And for the past three mornings, lite the fireplace.


        Borrowing from Sports Illustrated’s weekly Sign of the Apocalypse, today’s Sign of the Apocalypse is a news item that the Google cheeseburger emoji has the cheese on the bottom while the Apple cheeseburger emoji has the cheese correctly on top.   Google announces that they will rectify the error.  The sign:  that this was a news item.


        I have been asked several times, most recently by Paul in Alaska where he built this elegantly simple structure, which he refers to as a barn, to store WINSWEPT for their serious winter, about my plans for the completion of GANNET’s circumnavigation.
        While the overall strategy is clear, tactical details are uncertain, partially for reasons that I cannot presently disclose but that will be explained in time.
        The overall plan:  sail from the US to Panama; get GANNET across the isthmus; sail from Panama to San Diego.  Unless compelled by circumstances, we would sail direct to Panama from the US and direct from Panama to San Diego.  The first is 1500 to 2000 miles, depending on starting point.  The second about 3,000 rhumb line miles, but because the last thousand or so miles will be to windward, the distance over the bottom will be significantly greater.
        First GANNET’s keel must be repaired.  
        Actually first I must get the elusive estimate for the repair.
        Assuming Marathon Boat Yard can and will do the repair within the next two months at an acceptable cost, I will have them do it.  If not, I will have to fly  down soon and sail GANNET to another yard either in the Keys or Miami/Ft. Lauderdale.
        Originally I had planned to return to GANNET in early January, provision and sail for Panama before the end of the month, completing the voyage in time to celebrate Carol’s birthday with her in April.  However, I have recently agreed to be in New York City on March 2, which complicates matters.
        I could leave GANNET in Panama and fly back for a few days from there, and I may.  However, I am tending toward remaining in the US until after my appointment in NY and sailing for Panama then, missing Carol’s birthday, to which she has already given her approval, and being in San Diego before the start of the hurricane season in June.
        If I do remain in the US until March, I will still return to GANNET in January and possibly sail up to Hilton Head, South Carolina for a few weeks.
        Details will be provided as they emerge.


        The lead photo was taken by Steve Earley just as spray came on board during a blustery day on his recent fall cruise.  Steve is a GoPro master and often sets his to take photos at two second intervals for two minutes.  This one caught the moment.
        It also shows by implication the virtue of a yawl rig on a small open boat.  I assume Steve had his camera mounted on the mizzen.  You can see that the main is furled.  When the wind came up CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE sailed beautifully balanced under her equal sized, 30 sq ft jib and mizzen, or, if the wind was strong enough, under jib alone.  I’m sure Steve’s Welsford Pathfinder, SPARTINA, does as well.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Evanston: pitiable or despicable; taste test; Delancyplace; waiting

        This does not compute.
        Did they leave Honolulu intending to power all the way to Tahiti?  Did they not know how to sail?  Did they not know how to navigate?  Did they not have any backup navigation system?  Why would anyone provision for a year for a passage of less than 2,500 nautical miles?
        In the video of the 'rescue' the mast is upright.  The  uncovered mainsail is tied to the boom.  The headstay and backstay are in place.  So seem to be the shrouds.  The furling jib is furled on the headstay.  There is a wind generator and what seem to be solar panels at the stern.  The hull is intact.  I cannot see the rudder, but there has been no report that it was broken.  If it was, there is this thing called 'jury-rigging.' 
        The mother of one of the women describes her daughter as ‘resourceful’.  Right.
        I can conceive of only two possibilities.
        Either these women are so stupid they are pitiable and need a court appointed guardian, or they did it to attract attention, in which case they are a great success, and despicable.
        At the very least they should be charged with cruelty to animals.

        Carol returned from Boston last night and I completed my Good To-Go taste test.  The conclusion:  Good To-Go is good.
        Of the three meals, I will buy more of the Herbed Mushroom Risotto and the Thai Curry.  I rate both 4 to 4.5 on a 5 point scale.  I was concerned that the curry might be too spicy and thirst inducing for an ocean passage where fresh water is limited.  It is not.  I consider it mild to moderate.  The Bibimbap, described on the packet as a Korean dish, is too spicy for me on passages and I won’t be buying it again.  
        Good To-Go makes eight entrees and two breakfasts, oatmeal and granola.  I already have breakfast covered and their versions would not be cost effect.  However, I like the risotto and curry enough so that I have ordered one each of the other five entrees.  I don’t know when I’ll eat them, but when I do, I’ll let you know my opinion.


        I am simply sharing a link to Delanceyplace that Larry gave to me, believing that some of you may also find it interesting.  I thank him.
        Delanceyplace:  “(short) eclectic (book) excerpts delivered to your email every day”. 
        It’s free and usually interesting.  
        Today’s excerpt happens to be from a biography of Ulysses S. Grant that I had already bought, but have not read.  I did read Ron Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton, which is said to have inspired the Broadway musical, and I have long admired Ulysses Grant.  I have read his memoirs twice and agree entirely with the praise offered them and him. 


        I despise pushing and shoving, though as the Great Pusher and Shover-in-Chief in Washington has shown, they are clearly ways to get ahead; but there is a downside to good manners.
        Believing that the boatyard had enough to do in the aftermath of Irma, I did not call them for three weeks.  Two weeks ago last Monday, I did call and ask for an estimate for the repair to GANNET’s keel.  I was told I would be put in the queue and hear back “in a week or two.”  Not having heard back, last Monday I called and was told that the person I needed to talk to would not be in the office until Wednesday.  On Wednesday I called and another person told me he was handling my estimate and would get back to me yesterday or today.   The boat yard is closed for the day.  He hasn’t.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Evanston: two faces of Tim; slaughter of the innocents; taste test

        Last Saturday my friend, Tim, repeated his unique world class double by running a full marathon in the morning and playing the violin in a symphony orchestra that evening.  To prove he is human, he did take a nap in the afternoon.  
        He also finished the night with a glass of Laphroaig, proving that I am a good or bad influence.  I like to believe good.
        This was Tim’s 60th marathon.  Multiply 26.2 miles by 60 and you get 1572 miles, almost the distance from his home near Kansas City to Los Angeles.
       Many of you have abilities and do things I cannot do.  Let Tim stand for all of you in my admiration.

        I thank Sam, I think, for a link to a BBC piece about hunting and eating young gannets in the Faroe Islands.  This is news I would rather not have, but rather feel I should.
        As you would expect my sympathy is entirely with the gannets.  Perhaps there was a time hundreds or thousands of years ago when such food was necessary for the islanders to survive.  Even then I might have sided with the gannets who have just as much a  right to survive as we do and are generally better looking.  Considering their fish diet I can’t imagine that gannets taste good.  In any event I will gladly contribute to any organization that trains gannets to cut ropes and supplies them with beak attached knives.  
        Of the Faroe Islanders, let them eat Spam.


        Carol is in Boston on business this week, so I am testing some freeze dry meals from Good To-Go.  You may recall my mentioning that Wirecutter choose their Thai Curry as the best freeze dry meal in a test that did not include New Zealand’s Back Country Cuisine.
        Last night I ate the Herbed Mushroom Risotto.  It was good, even very good.  I would rate it 4 or 4.5 on a 5 point scale and gladly eat it again.
        I had not known that all three meals are vegetarian.  Neither a plus or minus for me, so long as they don’t contain dried gannet.  
        The instructions on all three call for them to be steeped for twenty minutes, about twice as long as other brands.  I routinely steep freeze meals longer than specified, but decided that twenty minutes is enough and ate the risotto then.
        I’ll report on the other two after consumption.


        A quote from a recent biography of Mohammed Ali by Jonathon Eig:  Destiny is a function of chance and choice.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Evanston: an accurate barometer; a month at sea; dream or nightmare

        To the dozens of things the iPhone has replaced, we may have to add barometers.
        Ashore I use a number of weather apps, but as most of you know when I go to sea I look at the sky, I look at the sea, and I look at the barometer.
        There are two barometers on GANNET, both digital, both generally inaccurate no matter how often in port I adjust them to known values.  This actually doesn’t matter, but is the reason I do not give barometric pressure in the passage log.  What is important is direction and rate of change.
        However, I recently downloaded the Barometer and Altimeter Pro app for iPhone which I have found thus far never to vary by more than .5 millibar from the current pressure shown online.   It does not work with all iPhones and iPads.  Only the recent models that have a barometric sensor in them.
         If it continues to be this accurate, I will record barometric pressure in future logs.


        A few days ago Sailing Anarchy ran a link to a ten minute time lapse video of a month at sea on a container ship that you might enjoy as much as I did.


        I subscribe, if that is the right word, to Texture, an app that for $15 a month gives access to the digital versions of over two hundred magazines, several of which, such as NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, CRUISING WORLD, SAILING WORLD, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, I read anyway, and enough others of sufficient interests to make Texture a bargain.
        I have learned the YACHTING, where I sold one of my first two articles decades ago, is now a power boat magazine, and I have been struck by how much of the advertising in many magazines is for by my standards extremely expensive luxury items.  I am not poor, but obviously a lot of people are really rich.   
        I skim backpacking magazines, whose photographs are often spectacular and which discuss gear that may be useful on a boat.  And surfing and travel magazines as well.  I have THE ATLANTIC, NEW YORKER, SMITHSONIAN and a dozen others set to download each new issue automatically.   It may just be me, but the NEW YORKER cartoons are no longer funny.
        Of the magazines I did not know, I find NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC HISTORY the most interesting.
        One paragraph in a recent article in SAILING WORLD about a J-class regatta in Newport, RI, where six of the huge boats raced one another, caught my attention: 

Masts reaching for the sky.  The grace of a bygone era expressed in bold overhangs, a delicate sheer.  A teak deck as a work of art.  Dozens of people busy on deck, where a battery of high-tech machinery hints that inner dragons wait to fly.  For the three owner-drivers—the pros too, for that manner—we hold these thrills to be self-evident.   If this isn’t living the dream, what is?
        I have seen two J-Boats under sail—and to be clear we are not talking about the current plastic boats, but the 120’+ ships that raced for the America’s Cup early last century.  They are beautiful and impressive.  
        But all those people—professional crews of 24 to 30; all those other boats around you; all that noise; all the stresses on rig and rudder; all that money; all those egos. “If this isn’t living the dream, what is?”
        You know my answer:  standing in the companionway of a small boat as you sail her alone across an ocean, hundreds of miles from any other human, moving fast toward the setting sun, a crystal glass of Laphroaig at hand, Bach or perhaps Mark Knopfler of Gurrumul playing on the Megabooms.
        One man’s dream:  another man’s nightmare.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Evanston: gold rush in the sky; Ophelia; making Buffalo Trace; voiceless

        The NY TIMES has a remarkable article about the collision between two neutron stars 130 million light years away.  Such collisions are thought to be the manner in which heavy metals are formed.  This one may have dispersed gold equal to 40 to 100 times the mass of the Earth.  Were such gold collected, it would no longer be a precious metal.  The cosmic chirp the collision caused had never before been observed.
        The article is amazing in that some of us are so clever as to be able to imagine, invent, build and assemble the equipment necessary and to be able to interpret such a brief and obscure event.   The article is also amazingly well written, clearly explaining some difficult science.
        There is a video with the article, which is worth viewing, too.


        SPORTS ILLUSTRATED has a weekly Sign of the Apocalypse.   There have been a good many recently outside the world of sport as well.  Presumably most of you have heard of Hurricane Ophelia and those of you in Ireland and the U.K. have felt it first hand.  A chart at Ars Technica shows how aberrational Ophelia was.  

        I drove Carol’s car today.  Hardly earth shattering—at least I hope not—but the first time in a long time, perhaps this year.   I wanted some things from Home Depot.  Carol took the train to work.  The car was in the garage, so I drove it.  For those of you who are new here, this is a big deal because I am blind in my right eye.  I drove like a half-blind old man, keeping to the speed limit and pivoting my head at stop signs and traffic lights like a demented turtle.
        After Home Depot I continued on to Binny’s, a liquor store, where I found Laphroaig 10 year on sale for $40 and also bought a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon, which has become my favorite whiskey after Laphroaig and at $25 a bottle a bargain.
        Attached to the bottle was a scan code to a YouTube video about the making of Buffalo Trace.  I scanned, watched, and enjoyed, as I will the finished product this evening.


        Carol and I have been sharing a virus.  We are both better now.  One of her symptoms was laryngitis which for two days rendered her unable to make a sound.  So, in a sign of the times, if not the Apocalypse, we sat side by side on the sofa, within arms reach, and texted one another. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Evanston: havoc; HUE; restored; influx; queued

        Greg, whose admirably named SOMEDAY FOREVER  was GANNET’s neighbor at Durban Marina, sent me a link to a video of damage done to the marina by a recent storm.  Fortunately SOMEDAY FOREVER was not seriously damaged.  Boats aren’t safe anywhere, even in port.  Perhaps particularly in port.


        I suppose it is because we are at the fiftieth anniversary of some of the key events of what we call The Vietnamese War and the then North Vietnamese called The American War, that we have the Ken Burns  PBS documentary and several new books.  I just finished one, HUE 1968, about the fighting there during the Tet Offensive.   The book is compelling reading.  The author, Mark Bowden, also wrote BLACK HAWK DOWN.
        I am not going to comment about the war.  Several of you were in the military.  Perhaps some in Vietnam.   I will note that the casualties in Hue were staggering on both sides.  A Marine company of 147 men was reduced in two days to 7.  17 killed.  123 wounded.  And one North Vietnamese Army battalion went into Hue with about 800 and came out with 50.
        Dave, who has been cruising in VIKING FUNERAL, his 14’ Paradox, which is up for sale, is presently traveling by bicycle through Vietnam.  This is his second trip and he likes the place very much, as does my friend, Louise, who was there working with the Red Cross during the Tet Offensive, and has since been back.
        In the epilogue, Mark Bowden writes:  Beware of men with theories that explain everything.  Trust those who approach the world with humility and cautious insight.


        Kent and Audrey, who beautifully restore boats and have an armada of them, sent me tempting links about a Drascombe Lugger.  This one about their restoration.  This the sale listing.  They are pretty boats that have been a special part of my life and from time to time I think about buying one again.  This is not the time.  GANNET and I are perfectly matched and I’m dubious about owning two boats again, even small ones.  The asking price for ROAMER of $5900 is about $900 more than I paid for CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE new in 1978.  However, I found an online calculator that shows $5,000 in 1978 to have the value of about $19,500 today.


       James and Bob and Bev sent me links to a CNN piece about commercial flights that are finally due to begin from South Africa to St. Helena.  I thank them.  With one flight scheduled per week limited to 76 passengers, some of whom will be residents of St. Helena, “the sudden influx of visitors,” will hardly be overwhelming.


        I’ve received several emails asking about GANNET’s keel repair.
        After waiting what I thought a reasonable time after Irma I telephoned the boat yard Monday and am “in the queue” to get an estimate for the repair.   Hopefully they will get back to me next week.
        I asked the woman who manages service how things are there and was told “hectic.”

Monday, October 9, 2017

Evanston: BLADE RUNNER 2049 and others

        Yesterday Carol and I walked to scenic downtown Evanston to view BLADE RUNNER 2049.  The original BLADE RUNNER has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first saw it during its initial release in 1982.  I have subsequently seen it in various revisions, including the Director’s Cut and the Final Cut.
        I deliberately did not read any reviews before we  went to 2049.  If you want to see reviews, here are two just ones, one from the NY TIMES, one from the GUARDIAN.  I particularly agree with the one in the NY TIMES. 
        2049 has many incredible images, imaginative effects, good acting, several beautiful woman, and the same mood and tone as the original.  I enjoyed it and consider it a worthy successor, which is high praise.  In time I will watch it again.
        Until the release of 2049, I had forgotten we are only two years away from the dystopian future portrayed in the original BLADE RUNNER, which was set in the then distant 2019.  Things are bad, but not that bad. 
        We made the mistake of paying a few extra dollars to watch 2049 in XD.   XD has slightly more comfortable seats, a bigger screen, and painfully loud sound.  In XD the movie registers on seismographs.  I turned my hearing aids down.  Carol said she wished she had hearing aids she could turn down, too. 


  From Chris comes a link to an obituary of solo sailor Edward Allcard, who died earlier this year at age 102 of complications following a leg broken while skiing.  I admire Edward Allcard for staying active so long and I thank Chris for the link.   I have always thought skiing more dangerous than sailing oceans alone.
I knew of Edward Allcard and Peter Tangveld as well.
‘Dean of loners’ ?  ‘Last survivor of the Ulysses Generation’?  Figments of journalists’ too fervid imaginations.  As we all know, Ulysses is alive and well in Evanston, Illinois.


Speaking of which, Eric’s hard drive failed which caused him to ask if I had a copy of a poem he once wrote.  I could not find it, but he did in a post from March 2015.  That’s long enough ago to warrant running it again.  It still brings a smile.

Now you are alone and the ocean waits
When your eyes will study the sky far away
Alone with yourself and sinking into yourself
When the salty mist burns your skin and fills your lungs
And when you feel all your limbs numb
Time will stop and begin your destiny
You will leave like gannets plunge into the sea
You will see the pilot of the Pinta flying like an elf
And you’ll drink Laphroaig with Slocum on Spray
On the ocean veil sailing with your new mates


From Sid comes a quote from Sir Francis Chichester, “The ocean was never meant to be a place where you could call for help.”  I did not know Sir Francis said that.  Obviously I agree.  Even in this always connected social media world.  I thank Sid for bringing it to my attention.


The above photo was taken by Steve Earley during his just completed fall cruise in his almost Drascombe Lugger, SPARTINA.
  I think the composition is perfect and not by chance.  The bow exactly on the horizon.  The horizon slightly tilted.  The triangles of hull, water, sky sails.  Beautiful.  The man has talent.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Evanston: BEING A.P.

        I expect that those of you who live in Ireland, and perhaps throughout the U.K., know of the jockey, A.P. McCoy.  I do not follow horse racing and had not heard of him until I watched BEING A.P. on Netflix.  More than just a champion jockey, he was a champion of champions and set records that may never be surpassed.
        I came across BEING A.P., as well as BREAKING 2, in a NY TIMES piece about offbeat sports documentaries.
        Here is what they wrote about A.P.

The single-minded obsession of truly elite athletes can be both awe-inspiring and disturbing because their pursuit of glory often comes at the expense of all other considerations. “Being A.P.” follows Tony “A.P.” McCoy in his 21st and final year as a record-setting British jockey, capping an absurd 20-year run at the top of the rankings, during which he notched more than 4,000 victories. McCoy competed in the National Hunt, a form of horse racing that requires jockeys to leap over hurdles and other dangerous obstacles, which led him to sustain dozens of fractures all over his body. McCoy’s willingness to fight through enormous pain is astonishing, but the documentary implies that life off the saddle may be tougher for him to wrangle.

        I must comment on the first sentence which obviously was written by someone who has no understanding of those who pursue true excellence.  I am not sure that is an obsession, and I don’t know that ‘glory’ is what is being pursued, but of course it comes at the expense of everything else.  Such people do not lead balanced normal lives.  Not until I was far older than A.P. did I accept compromises that have enabled me to have a lasting relationship, and, believing that artists should not have children, I never did.
        The film is about far more than racing.  A.P. is married with two small children.  His wife wants him to retire.  The riding he does can easily result in crippling injury or death.  I do not know the statistics, but I expect it is far more dangerous than driving a Formula One race car.  A.P.  knows that it is time.  He wants to go out on top.  But he cannot imagine a life when he no longer rides, when he no longer does what defines him and he loves.
        I am sitting in our living room.  Outside the leaves are turning golden.  A blue sky.  The windows are open.  Noise of the city coming in.  
        Although Carol is skeptical, I don’t believe I will circumnavigate again.  But, though the time may come, I can't imagine a life without an ocean passage before me.  No.  That's not true.  I can imagine such a life.  But like A.P., I don't want to.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Evanston: BREAKING 2

        I just watched online BREAKING 2, an excellent hour long National Geographic documentary about a Nike sponsored highly coordinated attempt to run a marathon in less than two hours.  Seeking optimum conditions:  low altitude, flat, no sharp curves, cool temperature, the attempt was made at Italy’s Monza Formula One Grand Prix race track.  The world record for a real marathon is 2 hours 2 minutes and 57 seconds set in Berlin.  
        The three runners chosen for the attempt were all East Africans, from Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Kenya, and I enjoyed the footage and insights into their lives there.
        While I am long on the record as believing that statements such as “No man has limits” are absurd and think that calling the attempt ‘epic’ is excessive, certainly many limitations are self-imposed and almost everyone can extend his or her limits if determined to try.


        Of pushing limits Michael recently wrote:
         I am glad Gannet is dry and in a strange way the keel cracks make me feel like you have truly sailed to the edge on this voyage. You are still exploring limits. I have no doubt they will be fixed but they are the marks of a sailor who doesn't hold back. Scars of which you can both be proud.