Saturday, December 30, 2017
I thank Chris for the above photo which almost unbelievably to me was taken only last year. On August 24 to be exact. It seems much longer ago. I have just arrived in Durban, South Africa, after the 6,000 mile passage from Darwin, Australia. You can see the Q flag flying. As Chris noted I am holding my beer in a seamanlike manner—with both hands. I was then a mere 74 years old.
And I thank Andrew for a link to a blog in which “Webb Chiles, the madman intellectual” is mentioned. Kindly.
That is a new one and brings a smile.
I don’t think I’m mad, but then none of us madmen do, especially those in politics, and I don’t consider myself an intellectual, though I am often mistaken for a retired college professor and seldom by those who don’t know me as a sailor. Long ago I realized that whatever I look like is what a sailor looks like.
Though a few of you are academics, I don’t move in intellectual circles. Or any circles for that matter. Except around the world.
I do suspect that I may be the best read person ever to sail alone around Cape Horn and might be the only one to play Bach there.
But an intellectual? No. If a madman, a very calculating one. But then all of us madmen are.
Since I’m writing about myself, as always, I recently saw a challenge to define yourself in six words. I can do that: An artist of words, wind, women.
To expand slightly: The body of an athlete, the brain of a scientist, the soul of a poet: all world class.
On that immodest note, I leave you for the year.
Forgive me for amusing myself and have a splendid 2018.
Thursday, December 28, 2017
I am back on GANNET in less than two weeks and I don’t even know which direction I am going to sail. For someone who doesn’t like to do things at the last minute, this is most unsatisfactory.
Sailing small boats alone across oceans is not all that difficult, but it does require focus and attention to detail, and I am very distracted.
The Hilton Head Island condo was supposed to close tomorrow. It won’t because other people don’t have their acts together. I am advised that eventually the condo will be ours, but no one can say when. Life there may be good, but I hate others having control of my life, and I am talented at cutting through complexity.
Don’t buy the condo. For about what it will cost to renovate the unit, we could buy a better boat than I have ever owned and live aboard in California or sail the world. Get rid of everything that won’t fit on the boat. I don’t need possessions. Hundreds of thousands of dollars saved. No alligators. No threat of hurricanes. And in a world of rising oceans, what better place to be than on a boat?
Well, that isn’t going to happen. Carol has done her years living on board. I respect that. So the pursuit of this condo continues and it, and the incompetence of others, affects my life and plans.
Bob just sent me these photos taken yesterday showing that the little boat is ready to go back in the water. I thank him and I thank Marathon Boat Yard. Despite my frustration at the delay in getting the estimate and the repair underway, in the end the yard did exactly what they said they would when they said they would.
If the condo sale goes through, I will defer continuing the circumnavigation until 2019 and sail north to Hilton Head where I have arranged a slip for GANNET at the Skull Creek Marina and start coordinating the renovations that we want to make.
If the deal falls through, I will sail south for Panama and then to San Diego, but probably not until after my commitment to be in New York City on March 2. I am not deliberately being mysterious about this. I just cannot write about it until others make an announcement.
I could sail to Panama and fly back from there, but that would be complicated. I want to complete the circumnavigation in one movement, either next year or 2019. That will require about two and a half months, depending on how long it takes me to transit Panama.
There are those who will say that I am through. They may be right. I am seventy-six years old. I should have been through long, long ago. Everyone else is. But I am not everyone else and I am not yet used up. I have more to do, and it is my firm intention to complete this circumnavigation, time and chance permitting. You may recall that there were those who said before I left San Diego that I would quit when I reached Hawaii. That was 22,000 miles ago.
I have also made a commitment to speak at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum Small Boat Festival at St. Michaels, Maryland, in October of next year. Two commitments in a year is nothing to most people, but wildly excessive for me.
If I do keep GANNET on the east coast, weather permitting, I may sail her up to St Michaels.
I don’t speak in public much anymore.
If you want to see me in person, it may be your last chance.
So, in two weeks I am on GANNET and maybe I will be preparing to sail six hundred miles north and maybe I will be provisioning to sail fifteen hundred miles south. I am adaptable. I can do either. But there will become a time when I say Basta! and cut through the crap.
I made the mistake of suggesting to Carol that for a change we have a ham for Christmas dinner. I like ham. The mistake was that although she bought the smallest possible, there are leftovers forever and we are engaged in a hamathon. Ham and vegetables, ham sandwiches, ham and sweet potato soup—excellent, but there are still about four more bowls each, ham flatbread—also excellent, but also with leftovers of the leftovers. And I am told ham and pasta is also in our future.
Maybe we should just freeze it and have it for next Christmas as well.
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
I found the above in my Christmas stocking yesterday, a gift from Carol of a future neighbor, assuming the Hilton Head condo purchase closes as scheduled this Friday. I say ‘assuming’ because the hoard who get their fingers into such transactions do not live by my precept not to do things at the last minute. To the contrary. They seem only to do things at the last minute, and tedious, but significant details keep appearing.
A few weeks ago Matt asked for a list of my favorite books of all time. I have since given that some thought and the result is below . Some books immediately came to mind. Some I remembered later. Some I found on our few remaining bookshelves. Some by reviewing my list of books read, which goes back eight years.
There are some perhaps surprising but deliberate omissions, among them WAR AND PEACE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, MOBY DICK, Fyodor Dostoevsky and Ernest Hemingway.
I’ve read WAR AND PEACE three times, but I prefer ANNA KARENINA.
If I had prepared this list six months ago HUCKLEBERRY FINN would certainly have been included, but I recently reread it and found it to be perhaps two-thirds a great novel—when Huck and Jim are on the river, ruined by the last third or quarter when Tom Sawyer makes his appearance and the book becomes stupidly childish.
MOBY DICK, too, is uneven. Part is great, but too much is deadly boring.
I haven’t read Dostoevsky for decades and, though I recall being impressed by CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, that speaks for itself.
I am uncertain about Ernest Hemingway. Some of his books were good; some terrible. If I were to include him it would be his collected short stories, A MOVEABLE FEAST and maybe THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA. I just downloaded a Kindle edition of THE OLD MAN to reread and will let you know my opinion when I do. I very much liked a book titled BY-LINE: ERNEST HEMINGWAY, a collection of his journalism pieces.
They are in the order in which I thought of them.
For some prolific authors, many of whose works I admire, such as Conrad, Hardy, Zola, I arbitrarily picked a few books and then noted ‘others’.
For some I’ve suggested various translations.
Not all are of equal quality. I’ve included the Aubrey/Maturin and The Last Kingdom series because I enjoyed them, but I don’t remotely think them the equal of the other books on this list.
If I prepared this list a year from now, it would vary some, but mostly be the same. These are the books that for me have lasted through the years, now decades.
THE HORSE’S MOUTH Joyce Cary
Joseph Conrad HEART OF DARKNESS; TYPHOON; THE NIGER OF THE NARCISSIS, others
Thomas Hardy THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE, others
Emile Zola DEBACLE; BEAST IN MAN, others
Honore de Balzac OLD GORIOT; EUGENIE GRANDET, others
Jose Saramago THE YEAR OF THE DEATH OF RICARDO REIS, BATHASAR AND BLIMUDA, others
ILIAD Homer trans. Richard Lattimore, Robert Fagles, Robert Fitzgerald
ODYSSEY Homer trans. Emily Wilson, Robert Fagles
INFERNO Dante trans. Robert Pinsky
THE ODYSSEY: A MODERN SEQUEL Nikos Kazantzakis; also THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST
AENEID Virgil trans. Robert Fitzgerald
LUSIADS Luis de Camoes
THE CIVIL WAR trilogy Shelby Foote
THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS; TRUMAN; JOHN QUINCY ADAMS, others David McCullough
PARADE’S END Ford Madox Ford
SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD Joshua Slocum
ANNA KARENINA Leo Tolstoy
A SENTIMENTAL EDUCATION Gustav Flaubert
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT Erik Maria Remarque
POEMS William Butler Yeats
POEMS C.P. Cavafy
POEMS Fernando Pessoa
THE BOUNTY TRILOGY Nordhoff and Hall
A SOLDIER OF THE GREAT WAR; WINTER’S TALE Mark Helprin
VOSS ; THE VIVISECTOR Patrick White
THE WAR AT THE END OF THE WORLD Mario Vargus Llosa
A SAND COUNTY ALAMANAC Aldo Leopold
WEST WITH THE NIGHT Beryl Markham
NIGHT FLIGHT; WIND, SAND AND STARS Antoine de Saint-Exupery
OUT OF AFRICA Isak Dinesen
THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS Erskine Childers
THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET Lawrence Durrell
SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE Kurt Vonnegut
THE STRANGER; THE PLAGUE Albert Camus
FAR TORTUGA Peter Matthiessen
DAVID COOPERFIELD Charles Dickens
REGENERATION TRILOGY Pat Barker
LIFE AND FATE Vasily Grossman
HARLAND’S HALF ACRE David Malouf
MEMOIRS U. S. Grant
GUNS OF AUGUST Barbara Tuchman
BY A SLOW RIVER Philippe Claudel
BIRDSONG Sebastian Faulks
RAGTIME E.L. Doctorow
THE DWARF Par Lagerkvisk
The Aubrey/Maturin novels Patrick O’Brian
The Last Kingdom novels Bernard Cornwell
Sunday, December 24, 2017
The above image is a satellite photograph of Cape Horn taken on July 12, 2014 and today’s NASA earthobservatory image. At first glance I did not recognize it, though I have studied charts of the area extensively and sailed those waters twice. I've seen those islands as gray, not green. I still have Cape Horn as a favorite on the Windfinder Pro app, which shows current wind to be 29 knots from the west, temperature 43ºF/6ºC and rain. It is colder in Evanston: 22ºF/-5.5ºC and snowing. But here it is winter. Off the Horn, it is summer.
If you go to the site, you can read how Charles Darwin spent the days just before Christmas in 1832.
When I was young, growing up some three hundred miles to the SSW and dreaming of the ocean, I avidly read Irving Johnson’s articles in NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC about his voyages in the brigantine YANKEE with paying crews. He and his wife Exy made seven eighteen month circumnavigations in the YANKEE. If I remember correctly, in less than a year after she was sold, the new owner wrecked her on the reef at Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
A few days ago Greg sent me a link to a YouTube video, The PEKING Battles Cape Horn, shot by Irving Johnson as a young man in 1929. I thank him. The PEKING was one of the last of the great sailing ships to remain in commercial service and the video is truly amazing, in part because of the daring of Johnson himself.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Yesterday Bob took these photographs of GANNET. I thank him.
When I bought the then GROWLER, she had a mirror-like racing bottom covered unfortunately for me with VC17, a teflon fresh water only anti-fouling paint. If you have been here for years, you already know that removing it was the worst task ever on GANNET and perhaps on any boat I’ve owned. It appears from the photos that her bottom may again be almost as smooth as when I bought her.
I am back aboard three weeks from yesterday. Despite being distracted by the pending Hilton Head condo closing, I’m getting excited.
Monday, December 18, 2017
The photos of GANNET Karen forwarded last Friday gave me enough confidence to make my reservation to fly back to the little boat. I fly on Tuesday, January 9, not coincidentally the day after the college football championship game. The one way basic economy fare Chicago to Ft. Lauderdale on United: $40, of which the airline only gets $23.26. How is that even possible? The rest is taxes. United will make another $25 from me because I will check a bag, but still.
In the chapter of BRAVE COMPANIONS about Miriam Rothschild, one of the Rothschilds who was a self-taught scientist of great repute and lived in the English countryside, she is quoted, “In the city it takes such a lot of energy to cut out the things you don’t want to hear and you don’t want to see.”
In the photo above GANNET is awaiting her tow west to San Diego with freshly painted topsides and bottom. The photo is dated October 1, 2012. Five years and 25,000 miles later, her topsides need painting again. It might even happen next year.
Friday, December 15, 2017
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Curiously in the past few days two of you—Michael in Florida and Patrick in Australia—have brought to my attention a quote from Anais Nin, “I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
I am currently reading David McCullough’s collection of brief biographies, BRAVE COMPANIONS.
From the chapter on Theodore Roosevelt, who was given to depression, “Black care rarely sits behind a rider whose pace is fast enough.”
And from the chapter about the artist of the West, Frederic Remington, who wrote after a perilous canoe trip, “The zest of the whole thing lies in not knowing the difficulties before hand.”
This morning the most viewed article in the GUARDIAN is “Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart.”
As you may have noted, I do not engage in social media. I prefer to communicate in more measured ways and believe that the “wisdom of the crowd” is one of the greatest of oxymorons.
Despite its great virtues, the Internet has deified the mob and legitimized begging.
The world is too much with me.
In addition to the boat yard, there is now the Hilton Head condo and the hoard who have a hand or at least a finger in real estate transactions.
On Sunday morning an unexpected thought occurred to me which may change my plans for 2018. I’ll let you know if it does.
Sunny and icy in the flatlands, 20°/-6.6°C, with wind chill I am told of 0°F /-18°. I have to be told because I have no intention of going outside except to empty the trash this afternoon, which takes about a minute.
Saturday, December 9, 2017
That GANNET’s transom is a face was first observed from a photo taken as she was towed several years ago from North Point Harbor on her way to San Diego and the open ocean.
After viewing the photo above posted yesterday, Larry observed that just as I have one good eye, so does GANNET. The little boat and I are truly one.
If her face is facing aft, her bad eye is her left. Mine is my right. Together we have normal vision.
GANNET’s mouth is the exit from the cockpit drains.
The square above her mouth is for the Moore 24 outboard bracket.
The square above her mouth is for the Moore 24 outboard bracket.
I assume her port eye was for a man overboard pole required by racing rules.
I have no idea of the purpose of her blind starboard eye. There is nothing inside the hull from that circular vent.
Friday, December 8, 2017
I was finally able to get through to Sherry, co-owner and service manager of the boat yard, who affirms that they still intend to get the repair completed before the end of this month, hopefully devoting full attention to it next week. I would like to make my flight reservation, but will hold off a little longer.
The photos of GANNET were taken this morning by Bob, whose own small boat is on a Boot Key Harbor mooring. It appears that they have ground the old anti-fouling paint off the port side of the keel. A start?
I thank him and I miss her. It has been far too long.
I thank Hugh for links to three short all but incredible videos of world record kite sailing.
Matt suggested I list my ten or fifty favorite books of all time. An interesting idea. I’ve started. You might be surprised at the the first book that leapt to mind: THE HORSE’S MOUTH by Joyce Cary, the best novel ever about an artist, also made into a pretty good movie starring Alex Guinness. I once considered naming a boat after the main character, Gulley Jimson.
I received an email questioning the sentence in the last entry: I receive Social Security, one of the worst deals the government ever made.
I did not mean that Social Security itself is a bad deal, only that Social Security made a bad deal with me specifically who would when young have foolishly opted out if I could have and have now received far, far more than I paid in, though the math is complicated by time and inflation.
I apologize for not writing more clearly.
A link to two outstanding ‘Season’s Greetings’ boat photos from Kent and Audrey. Click on them. They are best enlarged.
I thank Kent and Audrey and extend the sentiment to all of you.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Carol and I are back from a quick trip to South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, where we may, or may not, have bought a waterfront condo. Our offer has been accepted, contracts signed. The uncertainty comes from several serious issues that were revealed during Monday’s official inspection. Proceeding with the purchase will depend on how, or not, they are resolved.
As has been pointed out, ‘old folks home' should be singular. Carol is not old and will not retire for several more years. I am old and either will never retire or, as my late grandmother wryly observed, have been retired since the day I graduated from college.
Hilton Head is a very nice place, but not my first choice for what will probably be my last shore home. As those of you who have loyally endured here for a while know, New Zealand’s Bay of Islands would be my first choice if immigration rules made that possible and San Diego’s Mission Beach my second if property values had not become astronomical. A THE HAWKE OF TUONELA size boat would be third, actually first, but Carol has served her live aboard sentence.
Hilton Head Island is shoe-shaped, about eleven miles long and six miles wide at its widest, slanting northeast to southwest. The southwest end is the toe.
The island runs on tourists, retirees and those who service them.
In 1970 the population was around 3,000. Now it is 40,000, but the development has been done intelligently and tastefully. 2.5 million visitors come each year, but large parts of the island, including where we may live, are gated communities inaccessible to any but those who reside there and their guests.
The island is too hot in the summer, subject to hurricanes and the occasional alligator strolling across a golf course, but it has mild winters, miles of beaches on which you can walk and ride bicycles, in addition of course sunbathe—something I do not do—swim and surf.
Our potential home is on the landward side, facing a part of the Intracoastal Waterway known as Skull Creek. The Skull Creek Marina where I could keep GANNET with easy access to the open ocean is on our doorstep as can be seen from the photo above taken from the balcony of our possible unit.
On the other side of Skull Creek is the Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge. We would look out on beauty: trees, the marina, water, wilderness. The community is very, very quiet. And the sunsets are famous.
Whether this becomes the place from which I eventually totter off into one of those sunsets will be determined relatively soon.
The top windows and balcony would be ours.
We flew from Chicago to Charlotte, North Carolina, and then from Charlotte to Savannah, Georgia, driving the last 50 miles to Hilton Head in a rented car. According to my Apple watch, we walked 4.9 miles that day, almost all inside airports.
In case you are wondering, I will, time and chance permitting, sail GANNET—assuming she is ever repaired—to San Diego via Panama to complete the circumnavigation. It makes no financial sense to do so, sailing 5,000 miles and then spending thousands of dollars to have the little boat trucked back across the country, rather than sail her 550 miles north from the Florida Keys to Hilton Head.
Despite the majority who think so, money is not the measure of all things.
Despite the majority who think so, money is not the measure of all things.
Upon our return I found in the mail a notice that the government is giving me a three bottle raise next year. I receive Social Security, one of the worst deals the government ever made. All those of us who do are getting a 2% cost of living raise next year. Mine equals three extra bottles of Laphroaig. I suspect that the government’s hope is that I will drink myself to death and thus save them some money.
While waiting for our return flight to Chicago at the Charlotte airport all the seats were occupied except for one beside an empty four marked ‘Handicapped.”
Carol took the one and I took a ‘Handicapped.’
If confronted I was prepared to justify myself by pointing out my half blindness, partial deafness, almost severed supraspinatis, and that I am 76 years old. To my slight disappointment no one had the least doubt that I belonged there.