Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Hilton Head Island: beautiful soup; last day; measure

        Well, Webb Chiles is finally over.
        First he finds a place ashore he really likes and now he is posting pictures of food.
        He too is food:  toast.

        On the other hand I might merely finally be going with the mainstream.  Almost all articles in so-called sailing magazines are not about sailing, but the food and shopping ashore.  And a recent post by a friend about a day sail with his wife and daughter included two photos of them and three of the food they ate afterwards.
        Bowing at last to your real interests I share the above photo of yesterday’s lunch at the Santa Fe Cafe here on Hilton Head Island, featuring ‘Painted Desert Soup’, which is a work of art that tasted as good as it looked.
        Restaurant reviews will now feature prominently in this journal.  Or not.


        Our last full day in Hilton Head has begun overcast and still.  I have now been living here a month and I look up a hundred times a day at the view and walk onto the terrace a dozen times with pleasure.
        Tomorrow we fly to NYC where I am to receive an award, then on to Evanston.  When I return about May 1 I will be living on GANNET.  The condo is about to be torn apart, floor and ceiling, and a lot in between.  Hopefully, three or four months and a small fortune later, it will be back together and a thing of beauty inside as well as out.

        Here is a paragraph I have cut from my award acceptance speech.  I will post the speech here after I give it and possibly upload a video of my rehearsing it.

        I believe that the species sends off random sparks that are original experiments.  I believe I am one, and as can be found in STORM PASSAGE, my first book, I went in knowing that almost all original experiments are failures.  I do not know if the experiment I am is a success or a failure.  I do not know how to measure that.

        So how do you measure a life?
        Many of you have children and if they have turned out well, that is certainly a valid measure.
        For many, probably most, money is the measure.
        If so, I offer an almost certain fact:  every single person reading these words has greater life time earnings than the person who is writing them.
        I saw the heading of an article in the NY TIMES a few days ago: ‘Everyone wants more followers on social media.’  It was about ways people game the system to appear to have far more followers than they actually do.
        My first thought was that almost any statement that begins “Everyone” proves the deficient intelligence of the person who wrote it.  There are perishingly few statements that can be made about ‘everyone’.  My next thought was that the NY TIMES is now being written by people far younger and less experienced of the world, not to mention less intelligent, than I.  And the last was that if life is measured by followers on social media, I don’t have one.
        Some measure life by awards.  I don’t. 
        So how does one measure a life?
        There is a perhaps apocryphal story about Abraham Lincoln.  At a cabinet meeting an issue came to a vote.  Everyone in the room voted, ‘Nay”.  Lincoln voted, “Aye”.  And then said, “The Aye’s have it.”

Monday, February 26, 2018

Hilton Head Island: powered; alligatored; ice

        Carol flew here Saturday and yesterday we took a brief jaunt on Skull Creek.  I fitted the new Torqeedo, which I am pleased to report started and ran as it should.  
        We only went to the mouth of Skull Creek, about a mile and a half each way.  At near low tide the current was negligible and with an SOG of about 2.5 knots the fully charged bigger battery was drained to 67%, which might give an optimistic range of nine miles under power.
        The wind instruments and the depthfinder worked as they should.
        A pleasant morning, but no birds on the spit, gliding pelican, or accompanying dolphin as when I first arrived.

        On a bicycle ride this morning we saw our first two alligators, lying beside a pond near the racket club.  One was about six feet long; the other slightly smaller.  The welcoming packet given to new residents warns against swimming in such ponds or letting your dogs do so.  I will comply.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Hilton Head Island: perfect; business trip

        Although those of you living in the north do not want to hear this, perfect day follows perfect day here.  It is in fact even nicer than usual for this time of year.  Savannah is seeing record highs in the 80sF.  On the coastal barrier islands, our highs are in the mid to high 70s, light wind, often early morning fog that the sun soon burns away.  I am sleeping with the windows in the  bedroom and doors to the terrace  open.
        I love watching the  light change on the water during the day and the tide moving in and out, covering and uncovering spartina, the sea grass which provided the name for a novel after which Steve Earley named his boat.  I am pleased to have this constant reminder of Steve and a small open boat.
        Living in this condo is like living on a boat, a very large and luxurious boat by my simple standards.
        The photos are of the trees just off our terrace.
        Live oaks and palms.
        Both are tenacious.

        One oak appears to have sent up five trunks while another made a strong move sideways and sent up two.  They are flexible.  Their limbs move with the wind.  They live for hundreds of years.
         I hope to enjoy watching them for a few.


        A week from today I leave this version of paradise and fly to New York on what Carol has pointed out is for me a business trip.  Webb Chiles on a business trip?  Put on your hard hats, the sky must be falling.


        GANNET has a new main halyard.  She recently also had a new main sheet and jib sheets.,
        When I tied a bowline into the rigger’s bosun chair last week I noticed that the outer cover was frayed at the point where the halyard curves around the masthead sheave when the sail is at full hoist.  
        I have cut pieces off the line to renew it in the past  and I have double-ended it, but it was time to buy a new halyard.  I think a new main halyard every 25,000 miles can be justified.

        I stopped writing and hear silence.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Hilton Head Island: shells at sunset; clean canisters; ISS

        I have just come inside after sitting on the terrace watching the sunset.  Several rowing shells passed as graceful as water spiders.  Two twos, two fours, and an eight.  Some accompanied by a coaching boat.  
        Skull Creek in my brief experience has always been flat.  I’ve seen ripples, not waves, though with the wind from the right direction they must occur.  The marina was seriously damaged by a hurricane in the 1980s and partially in Hurricane Matthew two years ago.  If it happens again while I am here, I promise you will not see me raise my hands to the non-existent heavens and cry, “Why me?”  The risk is calculated, as have been all of mine, even in a period when extreme weather events are becoming more common. 
        If ocean levels rise as some predict by 2’/.6 meter by the end of this century, this might not be desirable real estate.  But neither Carol nor I will be here to care.
        The sunset was beautiful.  I am not going to post a photo of every beautiful sunset.  A couple of restaurants not far away make their living off those sunsets.


        There have been four canisters on GANNET since before the beginning of this voyage in which I keep oatmeal, trail mix, powered milk, and protein powder.
        While I have wiped down the outsides, they have never really been cleaned and looked it.
        This is the first place I have ever had GANNET with access to a dishwasher.
        I put them in, uncertain because of their shapes if they would really get clean.  They did.  They look nice and no longer constitute a health hazard.


        I thank James for this link to a fascinating tour of the International Space Station.  As I watched I thought:  I could do this.  They live much as I do on GANNET and even like the same breakfast.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Hilton Head Island: numbers; cord cutting; fixed

        Since 2008 more of our species live in cities than in rural areas.  The urban percentage has now climbed to 54% and is expected to be nearly 70% by mid-century.  Yet we are not naturally city dwellers.  Certainly I am not.  We evolved wandering around the savannah, which happens to be the name of the nearest city of any size to Hilton Head Island.
        Our condo is bucolic.  The only manmade objects in view are the marina and boats.
        I wondered how many people there are around here.  
        40,000 people now live on Hilton Head Island.  In 1950 the number was about 3,000.
        Hilton Head is part of what is known as the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort metropolitan area, comprising the two southernmost South Carolina counties with a population of 211,614.  
        The three Georgia county Savannah metropolitan area has a population of 384,024.
        Other than the artificial state line division, it really is one area of about 600,000, which would make it the 94th largest metropolitan area in the U.S.   Spread over five counties, still pleasantly small.

        We are cutting the cord.
        The process has started here in Hilton Head where I get Internet from Spectrum and television via YouTube TV streaming.  I have been watching on my MacBook, iPhone and iPad mini.  For $35 a month with no contract there were about 40 channels.  They just added several more and will raise the price for new customers to $40.
        I am completely satisfied with YouTubeTV.  It has all the channels I want to watch; the picture quality has been indistinguishable from cable TV; and the cloud DVR is unlimited, though recordings are automatically deleted after nine months, and easy to use.
        In Evanston we get Internet, TV and landline phone from Comcast.  Our bill is in excess of $200 a month with frequent increases.  Quite some time ago I telephoned Comcast and asked how much our bill would decrease if we dropped the landline telephone.  I was told that if we did that, our bill would increase, not decrease.   That makes sense:  less service, higher price.
        When you add our two cell phone services, the total is over $300 a month. 
        Cable companies have through lobbyists managed to have near monopolies.  RCN has just started service in Evanston, so at last there is some competition.  
        When I return we will drop Comcast.  Go with RCN.  Use YouTubeTV.  And eventually move our cellular plans to Consumer Cellular.  This will cut our bills for Internet, TV and phone in half.


        Windy here today, blowing 20 knots at 1:30 this afternoon.  I know because my Raymarine wind system told me so.
        I brought the masthead unit and display up to the condo intending to send them to Raymarine for repair, but when I turned on the display and spun the anemometer cups on the masthead unit, they talked to one another and wind speed and wind angle were shown.
        I put them both out on the terrace in the sun to charge for a couple of days, then checked again.  They worked.
        I left the masthead unit on the terrace and walked to the far side of the condo, a distance greater than that from GANNET’s masthead to deck, and still got readings.
        I speculate that although the icon on the display showed it to be fully charged in Marathon, it wasn’t.
        This afternoon the riggers came to fix the masthead tricolor.  I had the man who went up the mast take the Raymarine with him.  Installed it still worked.
        While up there he found as I expected a loose wire to the tricolor.  He tightened the screw holding the wire in place.  The tricolor now works.
        In fact everything works:  wind, tricolor, depth.
        For now.


        The photo is just as it came from my iPhone.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Hilton Head Island: even closer; solved; ripples

        The other evening I was sitting on the terrace, almost literally, being on a Sportaseat at terrace level, watching the sunset, martini at hand, part of GANNET in view:  the upper half of her furled jib and mast.  The rest of the little boat naturally was hidden by bigger boats in the foreground.  Having GANNET so close is a constant pleasure.  Usually when I have been living on land, she was at least a continent and usually an ocean or two away.
        However, Peter, who is even older than I and lives aboard his Sadler 29 in Cannes, sent me the above photo of a seaman who has his boats even closer.  I thank him. 
        From the color of the water I think there might be enough depth for GANNET,  but I am not tempted.


        Last week I called to ask a diver to come and clear whatever was on GANNET’s depthfinder transducer and a rigger to go up and fix the masthead tricolor.  Of these, the depthfinder is by far the more immediately important.  GANNET’s 4’1” draft is too much for significant portions of her new home waters.
        To back up, when Bob sent me photos of GANNET while her hull/keel cracks were being repaired, what I saw caused concern about the depth transducer being covered with barrier coat.  I telephoned the yard and was told that they had taped over the transducer.
        After the diver went in the water with instructions to clean off whatever was on the transducer, I heard a few moments of heavy scraping.  When he came up, he told me what I suspected.  He found the transducer covered with anti-fouling paint, barrier coat, and tape.  
        Free of these burdens, the depthfinder told me that GANNET was in 12.6’ of water.


        While I am obviously happy in our condo, sitting in GANNET I heard ripples against the hull; I felt her slight but constant movement.  
        Even though GANNET and condo are within sight of one another, my life is slightly out of focus.  I had everything on GANNET I needed to live for six or seven months.  I have moved some of that to the condo and now I don’t have everything I need in either place.
        In time my life will come back together, but probably not for several months.  I believe I can move a substantial amount from GANNET that has accumulated and no longer needs to be on board.  She will be the better for it.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Hilton Head Island: music and a query

        I know that you are only here because I am a sailor, but I like to believe that I am more than a (once) pretty face, and while I have no musical talent, some of you know that I enjoy music, though not all. 
        Two fellow sailors have recently emailed me musical recommendations.
        Bobby, who is on the faculty at the University of Maryland, told me of the Berlin Philharmonic, Sir Simon Rattle conducting, staged by Peter Sellers (no, not that Peter Sellers), performance of Bach’s ST. MATTHEW PASSION.  Rather than buy the DVDs, I downloaded the film of the performance from iTunes for, I think, $19.95.  You could rent it for less.
        I am not a music critic, nor a Christian.  For the record I was raised as a Presbyterian but got over it.  But even to a non-Christian this performance is monumental and profoundly spiritually moving.  I cannot comprehend how anyone could write music this complex and beautiful.  It is as thought one man by himself built one of the Great Pyramids at Giza.
        The performance is three hours long.  There is an intermission and I watched the two acts on successive nights.
        If you google, you will find uniformly that critics were as stunned and impressed as I.

        The other recommendation came from Andy.  It is a slightly over an hour long interview with Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  Graham Nash is an amusing story teller, cares about his art, and knew everyone in the rock and roll world.  One of the best stories is about David Crosby turning over the pink slip of his Mercedes to obtain crack.  There are two twists to the story, but you will have to watch the interview.

        I thank Bobby and Andy.


        I recently learned that none of the few boat yards on Hilton Head Island permit owners to do their own work, and they charge a lot to do it for you. 
        I seem to recall that two or three of you have written me in the past from boat yards somewhere in this region and Florida who welcome do-it-yourself owners.  I have no need of them now, but would be grateful if you would email me if you know of any such yards.  


        A tale of two condos,
        An overcast day here.  Light wind.  Oaks and moss barely moving.  The current temperature is 60º/15.5ºC.
        In Evanston it is 25º/-4º and a foot of snow/.3 meter is falling on Carol.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Hilton Head Island: civilized and zippers and more

        I installed a new electrical panel on GANNET yesterday.  Not surprisingly the old one had corrosion problems.  The GANNET-proof electrical panel doesn’t exist and buying a new one every 25,000 miles is not onerous.
        The new panel is made by Blue Sea, who also made the old one.  The old model is no longer in production.  The new one has the same overall dimensions, but in the usual nature of things requires a slightly bigger cutout, which I achieved with a hand saw and a wood file.
        When the new panel was in place and wires connected, I tested and found the autopilot circuit to work, and then walked to the condo for lunch.  The day was sunny and warm.  On the way to GANNET I wore a fleece pullover.  On the way back a t-shirt.
        That evening after dark I walked back to the little boat to test the external lights.  Deck running, steaming and masthead anchor lit as they should.  The masthead tricolor not, as expected.
        The walk was pleasant and dark and quiet.  I had not previously noticed that there are no street lights.  Only one car passed me.

        Corrosion is not limited to the old electrical panel.  The zippers on all four of my waterproof bags are frozen.  Two froze part way open.  The other two closed.  Slicing a hole in a bag in order to reach the contents tends to make it somewhat less waterproof.  These bags were not specifically intended for boat use, but I once had foul weather gear on which the zippers froze.  Why would anyone put metal zippers on foul weather gear which just might happen to be exposed to salt water?
        So I bought a bag that has no zipper, took it to Marathon and have used it since.  I like it enough to have just ordered three more.


        Until extensive renovations are made, we are limiting what we bring into the condo, but there are bare minimums, and yesterday martini glasses, a jigger and a shaker arrived from Amazon.   Gin, vermouth and olives were already on hand.
        As I watched the sunset from the terrace last evening, I sipped.


        About Florida’s high boat insurance rates, Lee wrote:  I suspect lightning has a lot to do with it.  While researching what I might want to do about lightning protect for my boat, I came across a study of lightning-based insurance claims by state.  The numbers for Florida were far off the scale to everywhere else in the country.  The final take-away from my research was that the best lightning protection system for any sail boat is to simply stay out of Florida.
        I thank him and will follow his advice.
        I had not considered lightning and I have seen a lot in Florida waters, but I am still suspicious of those little overpowered powerboats.


        70ºF/21ºC, overcast and windy here today.  The wind in the trees sounds like the sea.
        Of my writing in the last entry of watching oak trees and Spanish moss dancing in the wind, Sid sent this great quote, for which I thank him:  And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be insane, by those who could not hear the music." Friedrick Nietzsche.


        While I will appear at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Small Boat Festival in October, I will not sail GANNET up there.  The timing is wrong.  I want to be here in Hilton Head in November and December when Carol will use vacation days to stretch the holidays.  In January 2019 I will sail for Panama.  Being away from Evanston in late September and October as well is too much.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Hilton Head Island: new videos; correlation; intelligent; a real bargain; a front


        Kent, who is co-commodore with Audrey of a fleet of small boats in Florida, wrote suggesting that perhaps there is a correlation between higher prices for alcohol and lower insurance rates.
        David wrote suggesting that Nigel the lonely gannet might have been the brightest of birds.  He said there are certainly times he would rather be in the company of dummies who can’t speak, rather than those who can.
        And Larry did research and learned that the $20,000 bottle of Glenlivet Winchester Collection 1966 whisky at Costco is in fact a bargain.  In the UK the price is £20,000, which equals $28,000.
        I thank them all.


        Carol flew here for the weekend.
        Yesterday a front passed through and we happily sat in our living room and watched oaks and Spanish moss dance in the wind and rain fall on Skull Creek.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Hilton Head Island: a lonely gannet; a bargain at Costco; a compensation

        The GUARDIAN has an article about a gannet, whom humans named Nigel, who lived a lonely life on a New Zealand island surrounded by replica gannets.  It’s a good human interest story, but not I think a tragedy.  Nigel may not have been the brightest of birds.


        Ron sent me the above photo, taken at a Costco.  When I first saw it I thought the price was $2,000 and wondered who would go to Costco to buy a bottle of whisky that expensive—a billionaire bargain hunter?  In a subsequent email Ron corrected my misperception.  The bottle is priced at $20,000.  Well, actually a dollar less to appeal to bargain hunters.  He and I are going to see if they will give us a case discount.


        A few days ago I telephoned BoatUS with whom GANNET is insured to notify them that she is now based in South Carolina.  I don’t believe in insurance really of any kind and expect that if the entire industry vanished, prices for goods and services, particularly health care, would drop dramatically, but you have to have your boat insured to be in marinas and boat yards.  
        I was pleased, but not surprised, to learn that moving from Florida to South Carolina will cut my annual premium by more than half and entitle me to a refund of $116 for the current year.
        I’ve now had GANNET insured in four states:  Illinois, California, Florida and South Carolina.  The premium in Florida was almost three times greater than any other state.  I asked the agent if that was because of hurricanes and was told only partially.  The primary cause is that Florida is a “high claim” state.
        Could that possibly have anything to do with all those little power boats with two or three 300 horsepower outboards and too many beer can holders?
        Booze is more expensive in South Carolina that I am used to.  The savings on boat insurance will help compensate.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Hilton Head Island: risen

        I have moved up in the world.
        I am no longer sitting on the floor, but in a chair.  This is a bigger deal than I expected.  One of the great moments in civilization was moving from sitting on the ground to furniture.  Perspective changes, as well as temperature.  I will continue to sit on the floorboards on GANNET, but that is a completely different thing.  Boats are special.
        This chair is part of a six piece set of patio furniture, the others being a three piece sofa, a small glass topped coffee table and an ottoman.  Eventually we’ll use it outside, but for now it is in the living room.
        The set arrived late yesterday afternoon in three enormous boxes with the ominous ‘some assembly required’ warning.  Justly ominous.  What the manufacturer claimed would take an hour, took me more than four.   
        The problem wasn’t the assembly itself.  That was only tightening bolts.  It was trying to put together the parts of the puzzle and figure out which of numerous similar but with crucial minor differences pieces went together.  It would have been much easier had the manufacturer color coded or labelled, but they didn’t.
        Anyway it is all finally together and I am sitting in the single chair, facing the four glass doors from the living room to the terrace, my feet on the ottoman, an iced tumbler of Botanist within reach on the corner of the coffee table, and I have only to glance up to see Spanish moss swaying in the wind.
        Sunny.  62º/16.6ºC on February 1, which I remind those of you in the better hemisphere is winter here.
        What’s not to like?