Monday, April 30, 2018

Hilton Head Island: Marshall 'Major' Taylor; Ben Saunders; chameleons

        Another lovely day.  You may be getting tired of hearing that.  I am not getting tired of experiencing it.  Sunny and with temperature in the low 70sF/21-22C.  Only a slight breeze.  I use Spanish Moss as tell tails.  The moss is presently swaying slightly, not dancing.
        I rode my bike to the store this morning.  I’ve never before looked forward so much to grocery shopping.  Four miles there and back through park like settings and mostly along what are nature trails and I’ve closed my exercise and move circles for the day.  I’ve added a basket to the bicycle so I can carry more than a backpack load on each trip.
        Pat sent me links to three videos about bicycles.  One about bicycles in Seattle a hundred years ago and the other two about Marshal ‘Major’ Taylor who became the first black American to be world champion in any sport.  I did not know of Major Taylor, but then, contrary to public opinion, there is a lot I don’t know.
        Click here and you will find all three short videos.  I thank Pat for bringing them to my attention.
        Ban cars from city centers.  Allow only public transportation, bicycles and pedestrians.  You would save lives, and possibly the planet, and simultaneously reduce pollution, congestion and fat.
        Of course it is not going to happen.
        Life makes much more sense if you do not believe we are an intelligent species.


        I thank Tom, who sails his beautifully built Pathfinder, FIRST LIGHT, when he is not flying jets across oceans for Delta, for links to two videos of Ben Saunders talking about his Antarctic expeditions.

        Ben Saunders is certainly the genuine article, with caveats.
        There is a huge and decisive difference in going to the edge of human experience when you are working with a safety net and can call for help and when you can’t.  If you watch the second video you will learn that Saunders and his partner couldn’t reach a cache of food and so had a supply flown out to them.  If Scott had had a sat phone he would have survived.  If Saunders had not had a phone, he probably wouldn’t have. 
        Second he blogged every night.
        That must often have been an unpleasant chore after an exhausting day hauling across ice.  I suppose it was necessary to satisfy sponsors.  
        If you have been here a while you know that I think if you call home or play to an audience every day, you aren’t totally in the moment and haven’t truly left society behind.
        Third is the vacuous assertion that if you dream and want something then anything is possible.  Only in the world of Disney.  Not in any world or life I have experienced or observed.
        Again the greatest truth I have ever read:

Ecclesiastes 9:11 King James Version (KJV)
 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. 


        To no one’s surprise work has not commenced on the renovations beyond the present stage of carpet removal, exposing vast expanses of cracked concrete.  I don’t expect it will this week, though there is a chance on Friday. 
When/if it ever starts, a lot is going to be done.  The proposed contract calls for “substantial completion” in eighty days. 
I don’t know when I will move to GANNET.  When I do I’ll miss two small light green lizards which I am told are chameleons who visit our deck almost daily, individually not together, and sometimes climb up the screens and peer in.  And I’ll miss the refrigerator.  

Friday, April 27, 2018

Hilton Head Island: doomed; a tour; glassd

        For the past two days this has been among the ten most viewed articles at the GUARDIAN.  Increasingly it seems that these may be the Good Old Days.


        Having read Meyer Hillman’s quite plausible prediction, you may need a drink.  I thank Ian for this link to a tour of the source of my favorite liquid.
        Though I find John Campbell intelligible, I am amused that someone thought it necessary to provide subtitles in English.  When Carol and I spent a few days in Scotland many years ago, the locals did seem to be speaking a foreign language.
        The video caused me to feel acutely my lack of Laphroaig.  I biked 3.58 miles (as shown by my activity app) to the nearest liquor store this morning and bought a bottle.  Also one of Botanist, which also comes from Islay.  
        Given time I hope to visit the island whose economy I so diligently and ardently support.


        Another lovely day here.
        I am so glad to have the wind and sky and tide be a part of my life again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Hilton Head Island: two islands

        I arrived at Skull Creek late yesterday afternoon.
        In preparation for the renovations, Carol and I moved everything, which wasn’t much, from the condo to the external storage closet.  It took me about a half hour to move the bare essentials, such as the inflatable mattress and the martini shaker, back inside. 
        In my absence the carpet was removed exposing a heavily cracked 1” layer of concrete, a small section of which had also been removed, resulting in a pile of rubble.  This did not bother me.  I knew I was entering a construction zone.
        I am told that a square foot of concrete 1” thick weighs 12 pounds.  It is going to be replaced with two  layers of ¾” plywood which I am told will weight 2 pounds per square foot.  Over the plywood will go hardwood flooring which will add some weight, but basically we are going to take more than 7 tons out of this building.
        I turned on the main water switch and the refrigerator, hoping it would make ice quickly enough to chill martinis.  It did.
        I moved one wicker chair from the screened porch, where we had stowed them under a cover.  No work is going to be done there.  Showered and then made a video call to Carol.
        The welcoming sound of ice clunking into its catchment tray led me to the kitchen, and with the resulting martini, I took a Sportaseat and sat on the terrace.
        The sun is decidedly farther north than it was when we left seven weeks ago.  The tide was high.  Water rippled by a light breeze and turning gold in the lowering sun was only fifteen or twenty yards away .  The only sound was the wind blowing through the trees and moss.
        I slept last night with the windows and doors open.  I thought my sleeping bag might be too heavy, but a cool breeze blew in from the creek.
        This morning I biked to the marina.
        GANNET is as clean as I have ever found her upon returning anywhere.   Down below there was maybe a half inch of water in the bilge.  The depthfinder works.  So does the wind display.
        The necessary permits for the condo renovation have just been obtained.  Serious work begins Monday, so I will be living aboard again starting Sunday.
        From the marina I biked to a supermarket.  There are three about 4 miles away.  I can get to all of them on bike paths, but the ride to one is prettier and I usually go there, even though it is slightly more expensive than the others.
        Late afternoon again.  I’ve been here twenty-four hours.  The windows and doors are still open.  Shorts and t-shirt weather.  Sunny and in the 70sF/about 25C.
        I had wondered if I would like it here as much as I remembered.  I do.


        The NY TIMES has an article, The Whisky Chronicles, of another island dear to my heart, 26º of latitude north and 75º of longitude east of Hilton Head:  Islay, Scotland, home of Laphroaig and other fine, if inferior, single malt whiskies.
I did not know that more Scotch whisky is sold than that produced by the United States, Canada and Ireland combined.  A rare sign of human intelligence.
Inexplicably the author did not visit Laphroaig.


  Time to shower and take advantage of ice while I have it.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Evanston: THE BOYS OF SUMMER.3; Florida is gone; so am I

        I just finished reading Roger Kahn’s THE BOYS OF SUMMER, to which I have twice already referred.  It was a different and ever better book than I expected.  More about the lives of the players on the Jackie Robinson era Brooklyn Dodgers before and after their playing days than their achievements on the field.  It is also a portrait of a time and a nation.  These men mostly grew up hard and poor during the Depression.  The black men, including Roy Campanella and Joe Black as well as Jackie Robinson, were among the first black professional athletes and faced deplorable conditions and attitudes.  Some of them, black and white, suffered tragedies after their playing days ended.
        I was about ten years old in a suburb of Saint Louis when they were playing.  Saint Louis then was the only major league baseball team west of the Mississippi.  I listened to Cardinal games on the radio and though I have not thought of these players, except for Jackie Robinson, for many years, their names came back to me:  Duke Snider, Pee Wee Reese, Carl Erskine, and others.  
        There is much fine, intelligent and compassionate writing in the book and many good quotes.
        One from J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist not as far as I know a baseball player of renown: 
        Sometimes the answer to fear does not lie in trying to explain away the causes.  Sometimes the answer lies in courage.


        I don’t mean to provide a spoiler, but our Hilton Head condo is not a good long term investment.


        Spring seems finally and simultaneously to have come to these 600’ flatlands, Norfolk, Virginia and Plymouth, England.  However, for me too little, too late.
        Today is sunny and in the low 50s/12C.
        Carol took the day off and we walked down to the lake.  A cold wind was blowing from the northeast across murky white-capped water.
        I looked at the lake dispassionately and said goodbye.  I don’t live here anymore.  I’ll come back for a couple of months this summer and from time to time after that, but it will only be to visit.
        I’ve lived in the Midwest for 43% of my life, 33 of 76 years.  I did not like the first 21 near Saint Louis.  I have not minded the last 12 here in Evanston.  Chicago is a more attractive and interesting city than Saint Louis, and Lake Michigan far better than the Mississippi River.  But I am a creature of the ocean and inland has never been my home.
        I fly tomorrow to the Low Country and GANNET and the ocean.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Evanston: warm and cold

        Cold first.
        On Monday my friend, Tim, who famously—or it should be—once ran a full marathon in the morning and played violin in a symphony orchestra that evening, ran the Boston Marathon.  This was not his first Boston, but it may have been his and everyone else’s most unpleasant.  Cold, rain, wind.  I watched on television and the leaders were hypothermic at the end, shivering uncontrollably after the finish.
        Under such adverse conditions the times were slow and American runners did unexpectedly well, an American woman winning for the first time in thirty-three years and seven of the top ten women and six of the top ten men being American.
        Tim finished in just under four hours in a race that the women’s winner later said that early on she doubted she could complete the course.  I’m sure many, if not all the other runners must have had such doubts.
        Four cold, dreary hours pushing your body through pain.
        I’m proud of Tim.
        There is much to be said for self-discipline, perseverance, and determination.

        Of warm, Kent and Audrey, who live near Pensacola, Florida, and restore small boats of which they have an ever changing fleet of about twenty, sent me these photos after my plaint yesterday for warm.

        Warm looks good.
        Very, very good.
        Thanks, Kent and Audrey.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Evanston: wisdom; Mozart in Siberia; the rest of the year

        I have made two additions to the wit page, subtitled with temerity ‘and wisdom’.  They are the two just above “Go out, going forward” which thus far I have kept at the end, though I am becoming uncertain how to define ‘forward.’
        One you may recognize from a recent journal entry, the other from the Blue Water Medal acceptance speech.  I did not include the reference to having had countless such moments while sailing small boat across oceans because I have also known countless moments of joy on land, as well as despair on both, but that becomes too complicated.  I also did not point out the obvious conclusion:  Seek joy.  You are going to have to figure out some of this yourself.

        Bobby, who is about to become the owner of a Welsford Pathfinder, advised me that there is a DVD of a Berlin Philharmonic/Simon Rattle/Peter Sellars—I got that wrong in an earlier post spelling the last name as did the actor, though I did know they were not the same person—performance of Bach’s SAINT JOHN PASSION as well as the SAINT MATTHEW PASSION of which I have written in the past.  I bought it from iTunes and watched and listened yesterday.
        Bach is astounding.  
        If you care about this kind of music, the films of these performances are worth viewing.

        Carol and I are currently watching the fourth and final season of the Amazon series, Mozart in the Jungle.  
        For obscure reasons I googled ‘requiem’ and was surprised to come across the assertion that the greatest recording of Mozart’s REQUIEM comes from Siberia and is conducted by Teodor Currrentzis, of whom I am ashamed I had not heard.  
        Although I already had two recordings of Mozart’s REQUIEM, conducted by Abbado and by Gardiner, I found the Currentzis recording at iTunes and downloaded it.  I am in no way qualified to judge if it is the best, and doubt there is a ‘best’, but it is certainly worth listening to.
        Mozart in Siberia?  Who knew?  I most certainly did not.
        Of requiems, my favorite is probably Faure’s.  I have come to prefer his acceptance to Mozart’s anguish, though Mozart died young and so had reason to be anguished.  
        I checked and Faure died at age seventy-nine.
        He completed his Requiem at age fifty-six.


        I received an email from a friend who asked if the renovations on the Hilton Head condo have been completed.  They haven’t even started.  Permissions must be obtained from the condo association, the Plantation Owner’s Association—The Plantation is the gated community in which we live, and the City of Hilton Head.  I may be forgetting others.
        The renovations are going to be extensive.  I will be surprised if they are completed by July 4.  Maybe by Labor Day.
        In any event I am at Hilton Head next week and will stay until after July 4.  Carol will fly there over Memorial Day and July 4.
        I expect to return to these upper flatlands—Evanston is 600’ above sea level—with her in July and then go back to Hilton Head around Labor Day and stay until I sail for Panama early next January.  Carol will use vacation time to extend Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas to spend time at the sea level flatlands.
        The temperature is right at freezing.  Something is falling past our windows.  I am not sure if it is rain, sleet or snow.  Maybe all three.
        I am counting the days.

        The photo is of Morris Island in Far Northern Queensland, Australia.
        I need warm.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Evanston: inscrutable mage; Terror; boys of summer

        “Inscrutable mage.”  It has a sound.  A mystery.  It is itself inscrutable. 
        It is in fact a typo in an email I sent to Guy of tracing silence fame.  He caught it.  I didn’t.  Both of us are amused.  ‘Inscrutable image’ was intended, but is much less interesting.


        In 1966-67 when I lived in the San Francisco area, the woman who was then a part of my life and I often rented bicycles and rode through Golden Gate Park.  There were buffalo in one area who came to the fence and gently took pieces of bread with thick knobby black tongues.  At the west end of the park were a Dutch windmill and a 70’ sailing vessel.  On land, not water.  I asked around and finally discovered that it was the GJØA on which Roald Amundsen and five companions completed the first transit of the Northwest Passage, reaching San Francisco in 1906.  A seventh crew member died during the three year transit.
        The Terror is an AMC television series about an earlier, fatal attempt to find a Northwest Passage by the British under the leadership of Sir John Franklin that departed England in 1845 and vanished.
        The series airs in the U.S. on Monday evenings.  Episode 5 will be on tonight.
        So far The Terror has been interesting in depicting deterioarting  life on the frozen ships, but something is attacking and killing men.  If this is a polar bear or Eskimos fine.  But if it proves to be a supernatural monster, I’m through.  I don’t do supernatural.


        Snow is blowing diagonally past our windows.
        On Saturday the Cubs played baseball in what have been described as the coldest conditions ever at Wrigley Field with rain and wind chill temperatures well below freezing.  Even worse weather caused yesterday’s game to be postponed.  Baseball weather it is not.
        And not just in these flatlands.
        Having used the expression ‘the boys of summer’ a few days ago, I realized that I have never read the classic sports book of that name by Roger Kahn and so downloaded the Kindle edition.
        I did not know that the title comes from a poem by Dylan Thomas:

I see the boys of summer in their ruin
Lay the gold tithings barren,
Setting no store by harvest, freeze the soils.

        I have read less than half the book, but the introduction, ‘Lines on the Transpontine Madness’ is so good that I read it twice.
        A quote:

You may glory in a team triumphant, but you fall in love with a team in defeat.  Losing after great striving is the story of man, who was born to sorrow, whose sweetest songs tell of saddest thought, and who, if he is a hero, does nothing in life as becomingly as leaving it.


        I think Dylan Thomas would have liked ‘inscrutable mage’.


        Winter ends a week from tomorrow.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Evanston: toasted cheese; gannet's bath; weakening Stream

        Today is a glorious National Toasted Cheese Sandwich Day in Evanston.  Yes, as I learned from the morning news, there is such a day.  I did not learn why.
        The air temperature is 72ºF/22ºC.  I walked down to the lake which is doing its Caribbean Sea imitation.  At least in color.  A beautiful turquoise.  Not water temperature.  Currently 42ºF/5.5ºF. 


        I miss the epic.
        My life is enviably pleasant.  I live in comfort.  I don’t have to do much, if anything, I don’t want to.  But pleasant is not enough.  So I have been listening to Bach and just completed reading Seamus Heaney’s excellent translation of BEOWULF.  
        Beowulf is certainly epic, sailing from what is now southern Sweden across what is now the Kattegat to what is now Denmark to kill the monster Grendel by ripping off its arm in hand to hand combat, then Grendel’s mother in a battle underwater, and finally fifty years later, more or less at my age, losing his life while slaying a dragon.
        Seamus is a fine poet.  I enjoy his language and particularly his calling the broad sea “the gannet’s bath.”

        A weakening Gulf Stream will make some places such as Iceland and northern Europe colder.  
        Warmer water temperatures along the eastern coast of the United States will make hurricanes stronger and perhaps more frequent.
        I have claimed never to have taken an uncalculated risk, but this one may be incalculable.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Evanston: the boys of summer; concussion; viking navigation; farewell tour

        Snow is slowly and steadily falling. 
        I woke this morning to find a thin blanket on the ground.
        The Cubs home opener is scheduled to be played this afternoon.  I wonder if it will be.  The start has already been moved back an hour. 
        The temperature is 34ºF/1ºC.
        The boys of summer it is not.

        We watched the excellent film, CONCUSSION, this weekend.  It is a rare movie that is going to change my behavior.
        As regular readers know my favorite sport is what Americans call soccer and most of the world football.  While that has been true a long time and I am very much looking forward to the coming World Cup, when I was a boy American football was my favorite sport.  In recent years, going back at least a decade, football has fallen in my esteem for four reasons.
        Some, by no means all, football players are thugs.
        I find the strutting, look-at-me antics after almost every play childish and distasteful.
        I dislike all the peripheral crap used to try to sell the game to the greatest possible audience.  I don’t care about the human interest stories.  I don’t watch the Super Bowl halftime show.  I don’t listen to pre or post game shows.  And I most assuredly do not listen to talk radio.  I am one of the tiny minority who are only interested in the thing itself, whether that is football or sailing or music.
        A fourth reason is not that the game can lead to brain damage as clearly shown in CONCUSSION, but that when the evidence first became known, the NFL acted exactly as did tobacco companies when scientific proof established that smoking causes lung cancer.
        I admire skill, grace, discipline, determination, willingness to play through pain.  I accept that society needs warriors.  I even understand that a young man might reasonably risk his physical and mental health for a short life of glory and wealth, rather than a longer one devoid of each. (I wrote decades ago: “intensity not duration” and am oddly surprised that somehow I have had both.)  Now young men can make an informed choice.  
        Until very recently football players were innocent victims, as were those who smoked cigarettes until about 1960.  Now they can decide whether they want to be willing victims.
        As I have liked football less, I have come to enjoy baseball and college basketball, including women’s, more.  I don’t know how much football I will watch this fall, but I expect it will be less.



        Mentioning the coming soccer World Cup caused me to recall that I saw some of the previous World Cup at Waikiki Yacht Cub in Honolulu.  That was four years ago.  
        I spent an extra year in New Zealand because of my torn left shoulder and because I love being in New Zealand.  I am spending most of this year in Hilton Head because we bought a condominium there and I like it there.
        Perhaps I can be excused for not rushing what is likely my farewell world tour.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Evanston: sailing blind (partly); evacuation plan

        A fellow sailor who has recently suffered vision loss asked me to write about how I have adapted sailing half blind.
        I’ve had to stop and think about that because only one thing immediately comes to mind and that is to be certain of handholds and I do that ashore as well.  I know that objects are not where they seem to my one eye to be.  This can be irritating or amusing depending on circumstances and my mood.  Ever more prevalent touch screens can be challenging.  Early on after becoming monocular I would put a wine glass on the counter and pour, missing the glass completely.  I learned to move the bottle until its neck is actually touching the glass.  On GANNET I make sure that my hand has actually got a grip before I move.  On GANNET one seldom moves without having a grip on something.
        For me loss of depth perception is the most significant aspect of my right eye blindness, but there is also the loss of a significant portion of the normal visual field and possible loss of balance.
        I am most comfortable in relatively small controlled spaces where I know where everything is and most uncomfortable in large, crowded unfamiliar spaces, such as airports where people rushing from all directions suddenly appear inches away on my blind side.  On GANNET I benefit from having long believed that everything should have its place on boats and be able to be found in the dark in the middle of the night.
        I also benefit by having long believed in making yourself as strong as possible and sailing your boat as easy as possible.  ‘Easy’ in this case is almost a synonym for ‘simple’.  
        Jib furling gear, gennaker furling gear, slab reefing, being able to control the boat from the companionway, perhaps gain extra importance since I lost input from my right eye.
        So my way of dealing with my visual loss is to understand the specific nature of my limitations and to be continually aware that I need to compensate for them in multiple small ways.  In the end it isn’t that big a deal.  Though frayed by time, I’m still good.  Sail on, my sailing friend.  Sail on.


        Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project has just predicted a slightly more active hurricane season than usual this year with 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.  This compares to the thirty year average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.
        I, of course, have a greater interest in the North Atlantic hurricane season than I used to.
        GANNET will be exposed to all of this season and I  expect to be on Hilton Head Island myself for much of it.
        I have already made my plans if I am there during a mandatory evacuation.  They start with I am not leaving.
        I have been in hurricane force winds eight times at sea, usually only 70-80 knots winds, but at least once in I expect 100+ knot wind.  I have never been in hurricane force winds on land or in a harbor.  The most have been tropical force 50-60 knots.
        Hilton Head Island has 40,000 permanent residents and gets more than 2.5 million visitors a year.    I have no idea how many people are on the eleven mile long island at one time, but the majority of them are there during the summer.  There is one bridge off.
        Hilton Head has an organized evacuation plan, one part of which is that in a mandatory evacuation those who live inside our gated community must leave last.  There are only two gates into the community.  In a mandatory evacuation I suppose they just close the gates until all the others have left.
        I expect that there is some provision for transporting those who have no transportation of their own.  When I am at Hilton Head my transportation is my bicycle.  But since I’m not going, that does not matter.
        I am among the most experienced at living off the grid.
        After preparing GANNET as well as possible, 
I will fill the bathtubs with water.  I will take the four jerry cans from GANNET and fill them.  I will take the JetBoil, freeze dry food and other gear from GANNET, including a small folding solar panel to charge my iPhone.  I will provision the condo as if I were on an ocean passage.  I will buy all the Laphroaig I can lay my hands on.
        We are on the top floor.  Even if the roof is blown off, if the building doesn’t collapse I’ll be all right and capable of surviving for a couple of months.
        I hope it doesn’t come to that. 
       Hurricane seasons are going to be a fact of my life for the rest of my life.