Thursday, November 30, 2017

Evanston: one versus many; hurricane animation

        I seldom buy ‘real’ books any more.  Only when there is not an e-edition of something I really want to read.  The photo above shows the reason.
        Mats in Sweden recommended THE FRINGES OF POWER, the diaries of John Colville, personal secretary to three British Prime Ministers, including Winston Churchill.  I thank him.  I bought a used copy via Amazon.  It is a very interesting book, showing the inner bred social relationships of England’s governing class and how even those at the center of power often, perhaps usually, function blindly in the fog of war.  However it is a big, heavy, awkward to hold book.
        To the left:  one book.  To the right 400+ books, not to mention 700 albums of music and electronic charts sufficient for GANNET to sail around the world.

        The Astronomy Picture of the Day recently ran an interesting short animation of this year’s extreme hurricane season.

        Tomorrow being the first day of December, I would normally be making my reservation to fly back to GANNET in early January, but as far as I know the boat yard has done nothing except quickly charge my credit card for the 50% deposit on the repair.  I’ll wait another week and, if I have not heard anything, call them.  Sigh.


        In the past I have paid scant attention to the America’s Cup which is about too much money and too big egos, but I found this last one interesting because of the foiling catamarans sailing in ways and speeds beyond my experience.  Thus I was disappointed at the rumors that NZ was going to revert to monohulls for the next Cup to be held in Auckland in 2021.  I shouldn’t have been.  The Kiwis have come up with a design at least as radical as the foiling cats and perhaps even more bizarre and potentially exciting.


        I doubt I will post again until next Tuesday or Wednesday.  When I do, I expect it will be about an Old Folks Home.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Evanston: sex doesn't matter

        I don’t believe it does.  I asked Carol and she doesn’t either.
        Now that I have your attention, to universal disappointment I am not talking about the act, but the gender of a translator.  
        I have just finished reading a new translation of THE ODYSSEY, the first by a woman, Emily Wilson.  I find that surprising.  THE ODYSSEY has been translated dozens, perhaps hundreds of times into English over hundreds of years, but apparently not until now by a woman. 
        Being Ulysses I like to read about my past from time to time and have read several translations of THE ODYSSEY.  Lattimore.  Fitzgerald.  Fagles.  Emily Wilson’s is a pleasure.  Not the greatest poetically, but clear, contemporary and very readable.   I don’t recall ever enjoying reading the epic more.
        I did notice that several times in her translation Emily Wilson uses the objective case rather than the nominative after the verb ‘to be’.  As I’m sure she knows, “It is he.”  was proper usage in the past.  In her translation, “It is him.” is routinely used.  Language is always changing and perhaps I am behind the times.  If so, I will continue to be.
        I had not remembered that almost half the Odyssey takes place after Ulysses returns to Ithaca, which he does in Book 13 of 24.
        I also had forgotten that as related in Book 19 he was given his name by his grandfather, Autolycus.  In her notes Wilson says the verb odussomai can mean to hate or to be angry at.  Others translate it as giver or receiver of pain.  Ulysses was both.
        While I enjoy THE ODYSSEY, I prefer THE ILIAD.  I hope Emily Wilson translates it soon.

        Carol and I had a quietly pleasant long Thanksgiving weekend.  We watched a few movies and episodes of season three of the Netflix series, Narcos.  
        I also watched some basketball and football and was struck by lunkhead plays.  Turnover ratio in football.  Walking the leadoff batter in baseball.  Unforced errors in tennis.  Across all sports, the most critical statistics and the most profound lesson is:  Don’t beat yourself.


        I thank Zane for a link to an article about Albert Einstein as sailor.  I read a biography of Einstein a few years ago and knew of his love for being on the water and his lack of concentration, or even awareness sometimes, of the matter at hand.
        I thank Jay for a link to an article about a small boat voyage made by Francis Brenton of which I was completely unaware for reasons the article explains toward the end.  If you google his name, you can find photos of his boat.  
        As an ordeal his voyage is impressive.
        But Francis Brenton was an adventurer, not a sailor.
        Although I have been called one, I am not an adventurer.  I am a sailor.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Evanston: Theater of War; in the moment

        I believe that the writings of classical Greece are relevant to modern life.  So does Bryan Doerries who co-founded The Theater of War which performs his translations of plays of Sophocles and Aeschylus before military families, health care givers, conflicted communities, prison guards, followed by free and hopefully cathartic discussion by the audiences.
        I learned of the Theater of War from an article in Smithsonian Magazine.  It is a long article, but if you can find time worthwhile.  Here is a link to a shorter NY TIMES  piece.
        Four of Bryan Doerries translations have  been published in ALL YOU SEE HERE IS GOD.   Sophocles’ WOMEN OF TRACHIS  ends with the chorus declaiming: 

                My friends,
                you have seen
                many strange things:
                countless deaths,
                new kinds of torture,
                immeasurable pain,
                and all that you’ve 
                seen here is  god.

        The main characters in the four plays are a warrior who believes his honor has been compromised and commits suicide; another warrior who is abandoned by his comrades and lives alone for ten years on an island, suffering from an unhealable snake bite; Prometheus, eternally tortured for aiding mankind; and Heracles who suffers an excruciating death from a poisoned robe given to him by his wife who was unaware of its fatal qualities.
        I am not qualified to judge the accuracy of Bryan Doerries’ translations, but they are in contemporary English, very readable, and very powerful.


        I am intentionally not being specific because I  don’t wish to disparage any one individual, but a couple of readers  have sent me links to an audacious voyage currently underway.   What strikes me  is that the solo sailor is blogging almost everyday.   I don’t understand how you can be truly in the moment and be constantly playing to an audience.  You haven’t truly cut ties with the shore, which is one of the great pleasures of an ocean passage.   You are never truly alone, and you certainly have not entered into the monastery of the sea.
        I have been writing for more than half a century.  I am pleased to have an audience, but only when I reach land.  I believe a valid standard by which to judge a voyage is whether the sailor would have made it if no one else ever knew.  
        I do not claim that my way is the right way.  Obviously it is not the only way.  But when I go to sea, I go to sea.
        I pause and then I smile, for I realize that it has been too long since I have been.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Evanston: waves; fault; taste

        Sailing Anarchy ran a link to a video of shockingly big wave surfing off Portugal.  A British surfer recently had his back broken in a wipe-out there.


        Non Sequitur has an excellent cartoon about ocean rescues.  You know I agree about  it being you own fault.


        I concluded my tasting of the eight Good To-Go  entrees last week.
        Unless I missed something, all are vegetarian.  All take about one cup of water and require steeping for fifteen to twenty minutes.  All have 10 to 20 grams of protein and, except for the Pad Thai, between 300 and 400 calories.  The Pad Thai had more than 400 calories.  I don’t recall the exact number.
        At Campmor they cost $6.75 single serving and $12.50 to $12.95 double serving.  Carol not sharing my interest in freeze dry meals, I bought singles and ate them on evenings when she had tennis or work appointments.
        Taste is a matter of taste and yours probably differs from mine.
        Overall I rate the brand highly.  
        Of the eight entrees, I found four to be excellent and will be buying several of each to take to GANNET.
        They are:  Thai curry; herbed mushroom risotto; smoked three been chili; classic marinara with penne.
        The Mexican quinoa bowl has a mole seasoning and I don’t like mole sauce.
        I found the bibimbap, which the package says is a Korean dish, and the Indian vegetable korma too spicy.
        I didn’t like the Pad Thai at all.  It was bland and tasteless.

        I thank Larry for this quote, which is usually attributed to Mark Twain:
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
        I thank Zane for pointing out that Mark  Twain apparently did not write it.
        And I thank David for a link to a video of Leonard Cohen  talking about and singing his song, “Suzanne”.  It has nothing to do with sailing or my twice ex-wife.  I just like the song.


        The photo is an old one taken on my mooring in Opua.  I’ve run it before.  I think of it as ‘moon feather’.  The feather is a cloud.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Evanston: old revisited; TREKKA; the decisive moment

        Mats in Sweden recently mentioned in an email ‘On  Becoming an Old Sailor’, an article I wrote a little  more than ten years ago.  Out of curiosity I reread  it myself.   One of the benefits of making a  career of narcissistically writing about yourself  is that you can follow the evolution of your thoughts, such as they are.
        I was sixty-five when  I  wrote the article.  I still owned THE HAWKE OF TUONELA  and her mooring in  New Zealand.   
        I  have now been seventy-six for  a few days.  HAWKE and her mooring are long gone.  I’ve almost completed two more circumnavigations since then.  And for the record, I can still do my  age  in push-ups.   In fact  this week  I have  done 80 in the first set instead of the  requisite 76.  That was  still followed by 40 each in the second and third sets.  
        I  have gone blind in my right eye, almost completely severed the supraspinatus  in my left  shoulder, wear hearing aids, and have had several skin cancers whittled away.  
        The fact is that none of this matters very much.  They are mere  nuisances.  I  may  be deluding myself,  but I think I am still good.
        As I noted in an addendum to the original piece, I  did  buy Facnor gennaker furling gear, which revolutionized  how I  sail.   On GANNET I replaced it with a ProFurl Spinex top down furler, which is even better.   I set asymmetricals  much more often than I used to rather than less.  GANNET is very much  a three sail boat.
        I never did  buy a power windlass for THE HAWKE OF TUONELA  and certainly don’t need  one on GANNET.
        My  back seldom bothers me  and my memory is still reasonably good, though I am aware that if I don’t  use  new information I tend to lose it.
        The  last  sentence  of  the  article is:  So far turning a middle-aged fool into an old one hasn’t made much difference.
        Turning  an old fool into a much older one hasn’t either.


        Chris in South Africa and Graham in Australia independently wrote to  me about John Guzzwell’s TREKKA ROUND THE WORLD.  I very seldom read sailing books any more.  I read this one decades ago.  After their  emails, I  found  and downloaded a Kindle edition and just  finished and  enjoyed  it, in part because I have since sailed  many  times to the  places and along the  routes he followed and was interested to learn how  they were when he was sailing TREKKA in the  late 1950s, and  in part because John Guzzwell’s thoughts and  opinions about boats and seamanship are much the same as mine.  
        We do vary in significant ways.  He is a trained  carpenter and built his own boats which  I cannot do.   On the other hand, I don’t get seasick or sail in  company with others.  Some single-handers are more solitary than others.
        If  you  do not know of TREKKA, she was 20’ long,  built of wood, and at the  time the smallest  boat to circumnavigate.  Guzzwell built her in nine months near  Victoria, British Columbia and then made a four year circumnavigation when he was in his mid-twenties.
        TREKKA was a fine boat and ahead of her time.  Guzzwell went with light displacement when most sailors wanted heavy boats.  Oddly, some still do.  TREKKA, a few feet smaller than GANNET, displaced only six hundred pounds more.  As a percentage that is  almost 30%, but remarkably light for TREKKA’s time.
        The sailing world was very different in the 1950s.   Few boats.  Few facilities.   And far fewer regulations.
        I second Chris’s and Graham’s recommendation of TREKKA ROUND THE WORLD.


        The famous French photographer,  Henri Cartier-Bresson was  known for trying to capture the decisive moment.  My friend Steve Earley just took a photograph worthy of Cartier-Bresson when he heard a bicycle rider approaching as he was preparing to shoot a docked hundred year old sailing ship.  That perfect image appears on his site separately under the heading ‘On the waterfront’ and in ‘A walk in the park', a collection of excellent images taken at various times near the same location.   

Friday, November 10, 2017

Evanston: estimated; a change

        Fat snowflakes are drifting lazily past our windows.  The first snowfall of the season is an novelty.  In a few weeks it won’t be.  We tied the record low this morning—18°F/-7.7°C—that isn’t really cold, but Chicago has a serious climate and when a record low or high is broken or tied here it is noteworthy.  


        Yesterday morning I reluctantly telephoned the boat yard.  A week ago yesterday I was told I would have the estimate for GANNET’s keel repair in a few days.  Last Monday marked five weeks since I first requested the estimate.  I try to be patient.  I don’t like to repeatedly call people, but, while I was courteous, my frustration was obvious on the telephone yesterday and I did not care.  A few hours later the estimate was emailed to me.   It is higher than I hoped, but about what I expected, amounting to half of what I paid for GANNET when I bought her six years ago.  
        I pause because it does not seem that long ago.
        The estimate includes antifouling, something for which I have never before paid.  I’ve always done my own, but the yard does not permit owners to work on their boats in the yard.
        I have told them the work must be completed by December 31.


        I told Carol this morning that I am ready for a change.  I don’t know what.  I don’t have anything in mind.  But I am.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Evanston: Russell and Whangamumu

        Grant, GANNET’s former landlord—he owns the mooring on which she swung while in Opua—wrote after reading my last entry about his first visit to Whangamumu in 1975 and included a photo of Russell.  Here is what it looked like then.

        And here now.

        I first sailed past the Bay of Islands the following year in a sinking EGREGIOUS.  Not planning to go to New Zealand, I had no detailed chart, only one showing a third of the South Pacific Ocean.  Had I entered the bay instead of continuing to Auckland, my life, and several others, would have been very different.  Among other things I would never have met Suzanne.
        The Bay of Islands still does not seem to me overdeveloped or overcrowded, except perhaps at the long Christmas and Easter holidays, and some of the development, particularly that in Opua is a decided improvement; but certainly it has changed. 
        Grant keeps his boat, KALAI,  in a marina slip and will be back on board in the next few weeks, when he expects weather permitting to sail to Whangamumu, which he says “is a special place just to be.”  Obviously I agree.
        Here are some photos I took from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA and GANNET anchored there.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Evanston: the first Alma; obvious solution; JEREMIAH JOHNSON; paradise lost; testing

        Last evening a segment of 60 Minutes was devoted to a twelve year old musical prodigy, Alma Deutscher, who plays piano and violin and composes music.  Some of her music was performed and it is enjoyable and impressive, but what impressed me most was when the interviewer compared her to Mozart and she replied—I don’t claim to have her words exactly— “That is flattering, but instead of being the next Mozart, I would rather be the first Alma.”


        The world often takes a while to catch up with me.  Sometimes it never does.
        The current issue of one of Carol’s professional architecture magazines is also about global warming and has maps of which areas of the U.S. east coast will be flooded twice each month at king tides by 2100 in worst case scenarios.  It also includes an article headed, ‘Some people don’t believe the climate is changing, but the insurance industry sure does.’
        The solution is obvious and I lived it fifty years ago.  Water rising:  live on a boat.

        Something James wrote in an email reminded me of the 1972 Robert Redford film, JEREMIAH JOHNSON.  I’ve not seen it for many years.  Yesterday Carol and I rented it from iTunes.  It is as good as I remembered.


        I woke for a while around 1 a.m. last night and half imaged, half dreamed I was sailing across the Bay of Islands toward Cape Brett and Piercy Island.  I could hear the water rushing past the hull.  I could feel the wind on my face.  I went outside Piercy  Island and gybed south beyond waves breaking on ledges.
        As we neared the narrow entrance to Whangamumu Harbor, I lifted the anchor through the forward hatch and carried it to the bow.  Tied down the end of the rode to the port bow cleat, pulled twenty feet of chain and fifty feet of line from the rode bag, tied the line off on the starboard bow cleat, and secured the anchor to the pulpit so it couldn’t fall over board prematurely.
        A couple of hundred yards out, I furled the jib, lifted the tiller pilot off the tiller and steered with my left hand and hand held the mainsheet with my right.
        Inside, pleased to find I had the place to myself, I sailed to my usual spot in the middle of the harbor, turned into the wind when the depthsounder read 20’, released the mainsheet and dropped the tiller pilot onto the tiller pin to keep it amidship.  I went forward and released the anchor, looping the rode around the cleat briefly at 50’ to set the anchor, then letting it catch again where it was tied off at 75’, before uncleating it, letting out another 50’ of rode and tying it off a last time.
        I returned to the cockpit and sat in a Sportaseat, gazing around at pristine wooded hills, fading light on rocks and water, savoring the scent of the sea and silence.
        For me, paradise lost.
        I happen to be re-reading Milton’s PARADISE LOST just now, along with Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant.
        Visiting the poetry page of the main site frequently, as I know you do, you will be familiar with the following, which perhaps because I just saw JEREMIAH JOHNSON reminds me of an Indian chant.

            I know these trees.
            I know these hills.
            I know this water.
            I know this sky.
            I know this light.

            I will carry them with me.

        And I do.


        This week I will be dining  mostly on the above Good To-Go freeze dry meals.  I probably won’t finish them all until next week.  
        I’ll report the subjective results.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Evanston; the advantages of having bad parents; the cause of collision; promise of repair; part three?

        Carol and I just finished watching the final episode of the Ken Burns ten part documentary on Vietnam.  It is a profoundly moving experience about serious matters.  I highly recommend that you view it.  On a personal level the series adds validation to a conclusion I reached decades ago from reading history that warriors often die not for their cause, but because of the stupidity and egotism of generals and politicians.  At one time for kings.
        The advantage of having bad parents is that one does not trust authority figures.  Another lesson of history is that one shouldn’t.


        I have questioned here how US Navy destroyers could be involved in collisions with merchant ships.  In one instance as reported by Ars Technica men died because of a failure of interface between man and computer.  This is totally beyond my experience or imagination.  The computer age giveth; the computer age taketh away.  Sheet to tiller steering has its advantages.


        I am not sure it is an advantage, but another consequence of having bad parents, which I did—and I am stating a fact here, not looking for sympathy—is that you truly hate—not too strong a word—to be dependent on others.
        Before I go on I want to say that another consequence is that you realize how important it is to be a good parent.  You know by absence how much a parent owes his or her child.  I once wrote that being a great parent is as rare as being a great artist and probably more important.  I would not now use the word ‘great’, which is too much a subjective value judgement, about either, but still I consider being a parent a responsibility so serious that I did not think I could fulfill it and live the life I wanted to and so never had children. 
        Well, I am dependent on others.  GANNET has damage I cannot repair.  
        Yesterday I received a phone call from the boat yard.  I still do not have the estimate, but I was assured that the repair will be done before the end of the year.

        It is 10:30 pm.  I am sitting in our living room.  Buffalo Trace in a tumbler to my left.  Carol has gone to bed.  I sailed 8,000 miles this year in three months.  But I have only sailed a few hours on two days since then.  I have an enviably comfortable life here, if comfort is your standard, and I am well aware that for most of the billions on this planet my life is an unreachable vision of paradise; but I miss being on the water.  I miss the open ocean.  I did not seek comfort.  I sought the epic.  Maybe, almost impossibly, I have known both.
        In a few days I will become 76 years old.  An age I never expected to reach.  
       Next year will be a watershed—an appropriate word.  Time and chance permitting, I will complete this circumnavigation.  I cannot see clearly beyond that.
        My life thus far has two parts, longing and being, divided by November 2, 1974, when I stopped working for others and made my first attempt at Cape Horn.
        I find myself wondering if after I reach San Diego next year can there be a third part of life after ‘being’.  I do not know.  I invented myself.  I am still making myself up as I go along.  As are we all.