Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Skull Creek: less; the longest night

        Some of you will recall my quoting Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the early French aviator and writer, that perfection in airplane design is achieved not when there is nothing more you can add, but when there is nothing more you can remove.  Obviously I believe the same is true of boats.  And writing.
        So today I removed two small sheet tracks on either side of the mast.  They were on GANNET when I bought her and I kept thinking that someday I might use them, but not having done so now for seven years and more than 25,000 miles, it became obvious I never will. 
        I wanted to get them off before new non-skid decking arrives later this week.  It is made by a company in Seattle called Raptor and is said to be similar to Treadmaster, but less harsh.  I have Treadmaster on the cockpit sole.  It is excellent non-skid, but very hard on skin.
        I learned of Raptor in the Yahoo Moore Owner’s group.
        Their website does not seem to be fully up to date and the sheets I am receiving are not shown there.  They did send me a sample before I placed my order.
        I have become tired of having to repaint the deck with Interdeck every year or so.
        I filled the bolt holes, five for each track, with Dr. Sails self-mixing epoxy.  It is expensive, but very good, and I didn’t have a container to mix standard epoxy.
        In an orgy of ambition, I also re-glued the velcro for the screens around the hatches.  For this I used another effective adhesive, Gorilla Super Glue.
        And finally I went on deck and polished the metal.
        I have still to oil the interior and re-bed the main traveler.
        The interior needs repainting.  That might happen, but not right now.
        And on the list is the eternal:  look for leak near the bow.  That is a gesture.  I have been looking for years and don’t really expect I will ever find it.  It is not serious.  It is a mystery.


        Steve Earley’s entry today, “a perfect day, the longest night” is classic.  It might be subtitled:  you do what you have to do, and could only be written by a really good sailor in a really small boat.
        And if you go to the entry you will have the added bonus of getting to view the great lead photo, which I posted here, again.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Skull Creek: the greatest strength; my right foot

        Evening.  Overcast sky.  Cooling breeze blowing up Skull Creek from the south.  The wind has been from the south for more than a week.
        Here we were only on the fringe of Alberto, which in any case is not a significant weather system.   Moderate steady rain that fell through last night ended this morning.  I took my lunch and foul weather parka when I walked up to use the condo’s Internet, but did not need the parka.
        I watched parts of a couple of baseball games, caught up on email, viewed some video links sent by friends, showered, then came back down to GANNET.
        Dinner of freeze dry Santa Fe Chicken and Rice, accompanied by boxed red wine and John Luther Adams  BECOME OCEAN followed by Handel’s MESSIAH.  Sometimes only substantial music will do.
        This was my first freeze dry dinner in a while.  
        Last week I ate ashore with Carol’s family and yesterday I biked to the supermarket and brought back among other things a prepared salad.


        A reader wrote after my most recent quote of Ecclesiastes 9:11 that it is romantic, but not the way the smart money bets.  I have heard that before, but Ecclesiastes is not even slightly romantic, it is harshly realistic.  Ask millions of farmers and fishermen who have worked hard and seen their efforts destroyed by weather.  Ask 6,000,000 Jews who happened to live in Europe in 1940.  Ask the middle class in Germany in the runaway inflation of the 1920s.  It is a useful cultural myth that if you work hard, you will achieve your goals.  It sometimes is even true.  But Ecclesiastes knows that however hard you strive, however intelligent, however strong you are, you can still be destroyed by time and chance.
        I have said that Ecclesiastes 9:11 is the greatest truth I have ever read.
        The greatest strength is also Christian:  to absorb the evil done to you without passing it on.  A strength not often practiced by those who call themselves Christian.  A strength that if I have ever achieved at all, took me more than half a century to do so.
        Perhaps I am thinking of this because I was listening to THE MESSIAH.  
        I am not a Christian, but the religion has inspired some wonderful music to which I am about to return.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Skull Creek: essential wind; two on a small boat; Gannets


   ‘Wind more essential than blood’ the poet wrote.  Obviously not literally true, but for a few almost.  
        I have probably written that before and will again.
        Carol is on her way back to the 600’ flatlands and until a few minutes ago I was standing in the companionway, sipping Botanist and listening to the non-classical playlist on the Boom 2s.  A partially cloudy sky and a 12 to 14 knot breeze blowing up Skull Creek from the south.  I loved the feel of the wind on my skin.  The land has been too much with me these last few days and will be again.  But to be here, on the water, feeling GANNET move beneath me—who wants stolidly and stability?—was wonderfully restoring and will enable me to face the hassles ahead.
        Just before I came below a snowy egret walked past.  Black beak, yellow feet=Snowy.  Yellow  beak and black feet=Great.  Also Great Egrets are bigger, but that depends on their age.
        This snowy didn’t even notice me.  Another— though I cannot be certain it is the same one, I believe it is—has now twice simply stepped aside when I walked past.  It knows I won’t bother it.  I hope its trust in our species is not betrayed.

        An aside on pronouns.
        English is an expressive language, but pronoun deficient.
        When I wrote ‘it’ about the egret, traditionally in English when the sex is unknown, the masculine is used.  This is clearly sexist, but to say 'he/her' is graceless and 'it' doesn’t seem right when the creature is one sex or the other.
        Also the second person pronoun,  in English both singular and plural are ‘you’.  In many languages there is a superior difference between the personal and the general.  The French ‘tu’ and ‘vous’ for example.  
        No conclusion.  Just a writer’s musings.

        While I was standing in the companionway, I watched another snowy egret walking down the next dock following by a large man.  The man was gaining.  Both disappeared and reappeared behind boats.  I image the egret looking anxiously over its shoulder.  Two boats from the end of the dock it took flight and circled around to land behind the man.

        Carol’s parents, sister and brother-in-law were also here this week.  They rented a condo on the ocean side of the island, which is a very different world.  It was a nice place, right on the beach and with fine views of the ocean, but in two five story buildings there is only one couple who are permanent residents.  
       To bike to the ocean is about a six mile ride and you can ride bikes on the beach.  
        I will.
        Since Tuesday Carol has been sleeping on GANNET.
        This necessitates a third interior configuration, beyond passage mode and harbor, but the v-berth is large enough for two.
        We had breakfast in the Great Cabin, which requires coordinated movements but was satisfactory, and ate other meals with her family ashore.
        GANNET is now back in harbor mode and Carol is missed.


I thank Tom for sending me the POINTS EAST cover.
That GANNET is a handsome boat, but is suspect that some GANNET's are faster than others.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Hilton Head Island: treading water; open and shut

        I have not posted this week because Carol is here and we are having daily meetings with the contractor, inspectors, condo committee members.  All those aspects of normal modern life that I have avoided for  forty years and make me long for the purity and simplicity of the open ocean.
        Joel happened a few days ago to send me a relevant quote from the Fitsgerald translation of THE ODYSSEY.  I thank him.

Only Odysseus time and again turned craning towards the sun, impatient for day's end, for the open sea. Just as a farmer's hunger grows, behind the bolted plow and share, all day afield, drawn by his team of wine dark oxen: sundown is a blessing for him, sending him homeward stiff in the knees from weariness, to dine; just so, the light on the sea rim gladdened Odysseus
        The condo is nearly gutted.  No longer a refrigerator for yoghurt, ice and cold martinis.  Or frozen Lean Cuisines, which doesn’t matter because there is no longer a micro wave either.
        About all that is left is the guest bathroom, electricity, the Internet and air conditioning. 
        Due to dreary complications no work is presently being done. 
        I’m on the screened porch.  We do still have the view.


        Praise for the South African sailor who has long claimed an open boat circumnavigation appeared at the Sailing Anarchy site.
        This specious claim has been made far too long.
        I did not correct it earlier because I did not want it to appear that I was protecting my own open boat voyage, but now that Yvon Bourgnon has made an open boat circumnavigation that is no longer an issue and I sent an email linking to my journal post last year about the South African boat, which Sailing Anarchy calls ‘an open and shut case.’
        You can find all this here.
        Scroll down to ‘Open Sore’ and ‘Biggie Small’.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Hilton Head Island: sex on the deck; the Polish voyage revisited

        I am writing from the screen porch about to walk down to GANNET to spend the night.   I want to post this here where I have good Internet.
        Yesterday I was sitting on a Sportaseat on the floor when I noticed an anole on the deck, his red neck pouch inflated.  This is done to intimidate male rivals or to attract females.
        I waited a few moments and then stood and found two anoles entwined.  They were not fighting. The male greener and smaller than his female partner.
        The photo is the best I could make with my iPhone shot from within the condo.  I did not want to move closer and disturb their moment.
        Afterward a bright green anole remained on our deck most of the afternoon.
        I saw him twice dart forward, catch something, and chew satisfactorily.
        I do not know if it was the same small lizard.  
        If it was, perhaps he has fond memories and hopes of repetition.  I wish him fulfillment.
        A few days ago I saw a brown anole walking along the gutter drain.  I don’t know why we find some creatures attractive—koalas and baby pandas, and others abhorrent—cockroaches; but I find green anoles charming and brown not.

        I thank James and Markus for clarifying some aspects of the Polish sailor’s voyage.
        He did not self fund the voyage.  He had sponsorship.  More than twenty.  
        As I expected his boat was not the smallest to circumnavigate.  An Australian, Serge Testa, circumnavigated in an 11’10’/3.61 meter boat in the late 1980s.  
        The Polish boat is probably the smallest to have circumnavigated nonstop, but only by a few inches/centimeters.
        Still it was a difficult and impressive voyage, although really slow.  270 days was less than 100 miles a day.  I pretty much did that in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  I’ll leave it at that.
        It is quite possible that the Polish sailor never claimed to have been self-funded or the smallest boat to circumnavigate.  Journalist have been known to get facts wrong.
        You can read on the Internet that I am the first American to have sailed around the world alone.  That is, of course, not true and a claim I have never made.  I was the first American to have sailed around Cape Horn alone.  Apparently some journalists can’t tell the difference.
        You can also read on the Internet that I am the greatest sailor who has ever lived.  While I appreciate the compliment, that, too, is a claim I have never made and never will.  That there has never been one greater,  well, that might be true.
        Back to Skull Creek and GANNET.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Skull Creek: a great photo and an impressive voyage

        The photo, which might have been a painting by Winslow Homer, was taken by Steve Earley as he sailed SPARTINA up the Manokin River at dawn during his just completed spring cruise.  Zoom the photo as large as you can.  You will find his track and more photos here.
        I thank Steve for permission to use it.


        I thank Tom for a link to an article about the smallest boat to have circumnavigated.  The voyage was also made non-stop.
        I am surprised that the smallest circumnavigating boat is this large, and while it does not diminish the achievement, I wonder why if he had no sponsors there all those signs on the hull and sails.
        Free advertising?


        A rainy morning.
        I checked the radar on a phone app—and though that now seems commonplace, it really is almost miraculous—and think the rain is coming to an end.  I hope so.  I need some things from the supermarket and I need exercise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Skull Creek: more essential than blood; 'Piper to the End'; a thin membrane

        I ate dinner of a micro-waved Lean Cuisine on the screened porch, accompanied by two minitinis.  You may recall that the glasses I bought from Amazon are half the size of those we have in Evanston.  So two Hilton Head minitinis are the equivalent of one Evanston martini, which admittedly is strong.  Four ounces of gin, one ounce of vermouth,  one olive.
        Abruptly I decided to abandon the land and to sleep on GANNET.  It is fine to be able to execute such a decision in a few minutes.  I stowed the air mattress and a few other items in the exterior storage closet.  Packed my laptop, foul weather parka, and other items in my knapsack, and was off.
        As I walked down the ramp to the marina dock I felt the wind, as a great poet once wrote, ‘more essential than blood’ against my skin.  It blows still through the forward hatch against my back.
        My bird apps tell me there are two species of egrets here, Great and Snowy.  I have seen both.  A relatively small, about two feet/.66 meter tall Great Egret politely stepped to one side of the dock to let me pass.  I politely stepped to the other.  Neither of us took flight.


       I have had clearer understanding of my life than most do of theirs.  I have thus far divided it into Longing and Being and I know the exact date of the  transition:  November 2, 1974, when I pushed EGREGIOUS from her slip at Harbor Island Marina in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn.
       If I reach San Diego in GANNET next year, the Being part of my life will come to a pleasingly symmetrical end where it began forty-five years earlier.  What will come next, I do not know.

        It is not entirely unrelated that I decided today to answer differently when asked what I do.
        Knowing that most people really aren’t interested, and in my case there is a dog whistle effect, where they can’t comprehend a life so far from their quotidian own, I have said, “I sail boats alone around the world and write about it.”  They then often tell me about a relative who once chartered a boat in the Caribbean.
       Well, in the future I am going to say, ‘I have gone to the edge of human experience and sent back reports.’  
        They won’t understand that either, but it is the truth.
        In some ways I have mellowed with age and in others become harder.


        I was listening to music this afternoon and ‘Piper to the End’ came up on a playlist.  I greatly admire this song and thought it a traditional ballad.  I googled and found that it was written by Mark Knopfler, my favorite male singer/song writer, in memory of his uncle Freddie.
        To quote from Wikipedia:

The song is about Knopfler's uncle Freddie who was a piper of the 1st Battalion, Tyneside Scottish, the Black Watch, Royal Highland Regiment. Freddie carried his pipes into action in World War II and was killed with fellow fighters at Ficheux, near Arras in the north of France in May 1940. He was just twenty.

        That would have been on the retreat toward Dunkirk, a year before I was born.  Maybe better to have died early in the war than late.
        There are several YouTube videos of the song.
        And here are the lyrics.

        Rain just began to fall causing me to stop and raise the spray hood over the companionway and lower the forward hatch.  I am glad to have only a thin membrane between me and the elements.

        To return to Mark Knopfler, there is a resonance in some of these lyrics to the early ‘Brothers In Arms’.

        Now the sun's gone to hell and
        The moon's riding high
        Let me bid you farewell
        Every man has to die
        But it's written in the starlight
        And every line in your palm
        We are fools to make war
        On our brothers in arms


       And I am going to leave you tonight with some words of my own, written in 1978 before I left on what might have been my most audacious voyage.

        judge a man, then, by that
        against which he must strive
        against what 
        if not this soft night
        against the wind and sea
        against the myth
        he must become
        and his own will

        the ocean waits
        to measure or to slay me
        the ocean waits
        and I will sail

        Although I let the poem stand, I never had to struggle against the myth I must become or my own will.  I have embraced what I am.

As I have been writing a thunderstorm has arrived.  Heavy rain pounding on the deck.  GANNET pushed around by wind.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Hilton Head Island: a 78'/23.8 meter wave: a quote from Herman Melville

        Although reference to this wave was made today at Sailing Anarchy, Jim  sent me a link four days ago that I neglected to post.  I thank him.
        What is most interesting to me is that this giant wave was created by only 65 knot wind, barely hurricane force.
        I have been in that much wind and more at least eight times and never seen a wave I thought to be more than 30’-40’.  Measurements of waves in storms I have been in recently near New Zealand and South Africa tend to establish that I underestimate wave height; but I have certainly never seen anything like a  78’ wave.  That would be a sight to go out on.
        There is grandeur in such Southern Ocean storms.  I remember vividly thinking so at the time, when THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was being blown at hull speed under bare poles in front of more than 65 knots of wind on a passage from Cape Town to Fremantle that saw eight storms of gale force, four that reached  Force 10, and two Force 12.  In one of those Force 12, great trains of mile long waves rolled through, crests breaking and foaming.  It was a magnificent spectacle.  
        I was glad when that passage was over.  I am glad I made it.


        Bobby sent this photo of a plaque he saw last week in Mazatlan, Mexico.  I thank him.
        I don’t completely share Herman Melville’s sentiments.  Forbidden seas.  Yes.  Though by whom or what forbidden except self-imposed limitations?  Landing on barbarous coasts.  No.  I’d rather not land at all.  
        Today because of neurotic neighbors there was an impulse to get on GANNET and sail away forever.  It passed.  But I believe there are a few lines in STORM PASSAGE written forty years ago in which I imagined lifting off from the sea and sailing into space endlessly.  Not toward the nearest star, but the farthest.
        If I could, I would.
        But you already knew that,

Monday, May 14, 2018

Hilton Head Island: from the screened porch

        Almost 8:30 p.m.  The sun has set unspectacularly.  An overcast sky.  Limited color.  Trees and leaves almost black.  Sky shades of grey from light to dark.  Silver water.  Boats in the marina that I know are white seem gray.  A  big power boat I know is dark blue seems black.  A bird calls.
        I spent the weekend up here, then struck the set this morning and went down to GANNET, where I did some minor work.  She actually doesn’t need much.  My to-do list is diminishingly small.  But it has become hot here.  Often 90+F in the Great Cabin and I have become decadent in my old age and walked  back up in the absence of workmen and minimally re-established myself.  The attraction of air-conditioning, an ice cold martini, and a fast Internet connection irresistible.  
        The marina has free Internet, but repeaters are not working and the signal does not reach GANNET.  
        So I am on land looking down on water instead of inside the Great Cabin at water level.  I can see more water here.  I am graced by having my choice of views.

        The work on the condo has stalled, temporarily I trust, on fire proof plywood.
        A couple of you have asked for photos of the renovation process, something I had never considered,  but will.  This whole thing is totally beyond my experience.


        Yesterday Roger and Laurie, two local sailors, came by and picked up me and my bicycle and drove us to the entrance of Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, where we biked for seven or eight miles though a rare paradise along gravel and grass trails.  No cars.  Only walkers and bike riders.  In places rookeries where dozens, perhaps hundreds of white egrets nesting are confetti in the trees.
        The photo, taken with my iPhone does not do the spectacle justice.
        Roger, who has lived here most of his life, once biked across a four foot alligator on one of these paths.  The alligator, understandably annoyed, bit his foot, but was thrown off by the bike’s rear wheel.
        The Low Country is a new world to me and I continue to find unexpected beauty here.


        Almost all who read this are men, but Nancy, one of the few women who do, recommended a book to me a while ago, LOST ISLAND, by James Norman Hall, who with Charles Nordhoff wrote the deservedly famed BOUNTY TRILOGY.
        I have read other books by Hall, who was an Iowan who fought as a pilot in WWI and then lived in Tahiti and married a Tahitian woman who was still alive when I first sailed there in the 1970s.
        LOST ISLAND was published in 1944, during WWII, and is remarkably readable, intelligent, and prescient.  The story is related by a National Guard Colonel engineer who is sent out not long after Pearl Harbor to turn a tropical atoll into a military base.  From the description I conclude it was one of the Tuamotus, the Low Archipelago, three or four hundred miles northeast of Tahiti.
        I am not going to tell you more.  It is not available in Kindle.  You can but a used hard cover copy for a few dollars from Amazon.
        I enjoyed the book and thoughts of it have stayed with me afterwards.  
        I thank Nancy for the recommendation.


        Most of an hour and a martini have passed since I started writing.  When I close the display of my MacBook, darkness is broken only by the flood lamp on the seven trunked Live Oak almost within arm’s reach from our deck, a few lights to my right in the next condo development, and ahead on boats in the marina, and flashing red and green lights on buoys marking the Intracoastal channel.  
        The only sound something like crickets.  Perhaps it is crickets.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Skull Creek: verticals

        I polished GANNET’s topsides today.  
        I did part of the port side yesterday and finished it and the transom this morning, working from the dinghy.  
        I then wired the light for the replacement compass.  Or think I did.  It is getting dark and I’ll soon know.
        The compass was a new model of the old one, a Plastimo Mini Contest.   The old one had a bubble in the fluid and a sun damaged dome that made it difficult to read.
         I generally get courses and bearings electronically, from GPS in chartplotting apps in my iPhone or from the mast mounted Velocitek.  But sometimes, particularly when the wind changes in the middle of the night, it is useful to be able to see a compass.
        I had hoped the cutout in the bulkhead would be the same, without from long experience not much confidence.  That lack of confidence was justified, but it only took a hack saw blade and some epoxy putty to make the necessary modifications.
         After lunch I started on the starboard side of the hull, which is toward the dock, but soon quit.  The temperature went into the 90s for the first time this year.  Everything was too hot to touch, from the toe rail I needed to hold onto to keep GANNET within reach, to the concrete dock which was too hot to lie upon.  
        That boats put us into awkward, uncomfortable, ungraceful positions is a reality worth enduring.
        I’ll finish the starboard side tomorrow morning.
        Even though GANNET needs repainting, I can clearly see the line between where I have polished and where I have not yet.  An acceptable reward for effort.
        I am as I write listening to music.
        As is well known I usually drink and listen to music in the evenings.
       One of the great virtues of a westward circumnavigation is that you can do so while sailing into the sunset,  hopefully your boat perfectly balanced speeding toward the vanishing horizon, with your music as loud as you want without disturbing anyone else.   An endlessly repeatable joy.