Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Evanston: the world is; two good movies; the difference between amateurs and professionals

        The world is far, far, far, far, far too much with me.
        So the other evening when Carol was trying to salvage what she can from various airline tickets we had already bought to go back and forth to Hilton Head, I told her not to change mine for August 31, when we both had planned to fly there ahead of Labor Day.  
        As mentioned here before I have agreed to speak at the Chesapeake Maritime Museum's Small Boat Festival at St. Michaels, Maryland, on October 6.
        I need to go to sea and, if the weather cooperates, I will sail up there in early September.  Cooperating weather in September, the height of the hurricane season, is a big ‘if’.
        The distance from Hilton Head to Norfolk is about 500 nautical miles.  There are several places in the first half where I could stop if necessary, most likely Beaufort, North Carolina.  
        St. Michaels is about another 120 miles north of Norfolk with numerous anchorages along the way.
        GANNET is passage ready.  All I will have to do is put on some provisions and water.  That shouldn’t take more than a day or two.  I could do it in one if I Uber to the supermarket rather than bike, but I will probably bike.
         I really need to go to sea.

        Recently Carol and I have watched two good movies brought to my attention by readers.  I thank Tim for writing about HOSTILES on his site--scroll down to 'The Flint Hills Tell Their Own Story, and I thank David for emailing me about YOUTH.
        We rented both from iTunes.
        You can find many reviews online.
        Here are links to the NY TIMES.
        If you watch them, be sure to pay attention to the very last scene in each.  The last moment in HOSTILES is cool.  In the one in YOUTH the Michael Caine character does something that for impeccable reasons he said he never would.  All I can think of is that some studio executive thought it would look good with the credits.  If you can explain it better, let me know.


        A friend who is about to embark with his wife on a perhaps endless cruise recently wrote that he hopes not to have adventures.
        I agree entirely.
        Amateurs seek adventures.  Professionals seek to avoid them.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Evanston: The World Cup and the Goldberg Variations

        Naturally I am watching the soccer/football World Cup.
        I watched some of the one in 2014 at the Waikiki Yacht Club in Honolulu, not long into my present voyage, and sailed for Apia on the day Belgium eliminated the U.S. in the Round of 16.
        There were those who before I sailed from San Diego bet that I would quit in Hawaii.
        I don't hear that much anymore.  And considering my record shouldn't have then.
        There have been some good matches this year with some exciting finishes.  I have no favorite and would not even if the U.S. had qualified.  FIFI wants the U.S. in the World Cup and makes it incredibly easy for the country to be there.  That it isn’t, losing to soccer giant Trinidad/Tobago in its final match when even a draw would have seen the US qualify, is ridiculous.
        I did hope that Iceland, with a population of only 337,000 by far the smallest country ever in the World Cup, would perform well.
        I often watch sports listening to music with the television muted.
        Recently I have been listening to Bach’s Goldberg Variations performed on harpsichord by David Shemer.
        Several weeks ago the NY TIMES ran an article about the possible virtues of playing the Goldberg Variations on harpsichord rather than piano.
        I already had the Glenn Gould 1955 and 1981 recordings of the Goldberg on piano.  The 1955 made him famous, but I seem to recall reading that he preferred the 1981.
        The Shemer performance is not available digitally, so I ordered a CD from Amazon to be delivered to Evanston and found it upon my return last week.
        I am in no way qualified to judge whether the harpsichord is preferable to the piano for this or any other work.  
        I have listened to all three performances several times again.  Often the same track in each version in succession.
        The harpsichord sound is more complex and to me fuller than that of the piano, so much so that the Goldberg Variations played on harpsichord seems almost an entirely different composition than on the piano.
        I like and will continue to listen to all three performances. 
        If you have any interest in this sort of thing, you might want to seek out Shemer or some other harpsichord version of the Goldberg and hear for yourself.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Evanston: glad; too thin; older than most

        A gray, rainy day.  63°F/17°.  I am exceedingly glad to be here.  In fact I don’t ever recall being quite as pleased to return to the Midwest flatlands as I was yesterday.  93°F/34°C in Hilton Head at present with a ‘feels like’ of 99°F/37°C.  Heat is, of course, not all that compelled me to leave Hilton Head, and would not matter as much if I had a normal air conditioned home rather than a despicably stalled construction site.


        I am surprised to discover that “You can never be too rich or too thin” is attributed to Wallis Simpson, the American who became the Duchess of Windsor.
        I doubt that either sentiment is acceptable today.
        I am certainly not in danger of being too rich, but when I weighed myself this morning I found as I expected that at 149 pounds I am too thin.  That is the least I have weighed in quite some time, except perhaps at the end of ocean passages when I did not have an opportunity to weigh myself.  I like to weight 153 or 154 pounds.
        Cycling and walking I got plenty of exercise at Hilton Head, but I am in some respects slightly out of shape.  I have not been able to do my usual workout ever since the concrete subfloor was removed from the condo.  It takes me a day or two to adjust to being back here.  I’ll resume working out and climbing stairs not later than Monday, and maybe tomorrow.


        I wondered what percentage of the world’s population is older and younger than I.
       Assuming this chart is accurate at my 76 years, 5% is older, 94% younger, leaving 1% the same age.


        I took the top photo of GANNET as I left her yesterday morning.
        As I have written earlier, I unbent the jib, but I left the fully battened mainsail in place.  Removing it is a huge hassle, requiring removing both boom vang and boom in order to slide the Tides Marine batten cars from the track and unscrewing six screws from each car to remove the battens.  So I left it on the boom.  It was on the boom during Irma.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Hilton Head Island: leaving

        The situation ashore having become intolerable, I am flying to Chicago tomorrow.
        If you have been here a while, you know I disdain   hyperbole.  ‘Intolerable’ is ‘intolerable’.
        I have been sleeping on GANNET, but the Great Cabin is too hot now during the day, so I come up to the war zone for the air conditioning.
        No work has been done here for four weeks yesterday.
        This morning before walking up I prepared GANNET for my absence.  Last time I left the jib on the furling gear, but now in the hurricane season I lowered it and, with difficulty, stowed it on the v-berth.  That is one stiff sail.
        I don’t know when I will return.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Skull Creek: daysailed

        From time to time people ask me why I don’t day sail.  The answer is that it is too much work.  Once you have your boat set up properly, it is as easy to sail across an ocean as to go for a day sail, and I like to go out, not out and back.
        Nevertheless I did daysail Saturday and Sunday in order for photographs to be taken.  The above from a drone.  This by me.

        I mostly enjoyed myself.
        The wind was light, but GANNET sailed well at times.
        From the marina to open deep water in Port Royal Sound is about two miles.  
        On Saturday I was able to sail part way out and part way back into Skull Creek.   Back at the dock, the Torqeedo battery, which had started at 100%, was at 79%.  But yesterday, after charging the battery overnight to 100%, there was no wind all the way out and I had to power more than two miles.  On the way back the wind died and I had to power almost three miles.  With the tide against us, I had to use more throttle than usual.  A half mile from the slip, the alarm sounded indicating only 20% of battery charge remaining.  I reduced throttle and the tiller arm showed that at 2.5 knots we could still power three miles.  This was the new, larger 915 watt battery.  I would have completely drained the older standard battery. 
        With the lack of any breeze the sun was brutal on the way back.
        I put GANNET in order, then staggered up to the condo where I collapsed until the air conditioning revived me enough to make a life saving martini.


        A couple of Carol’s friends recently saw Brandi Carlile perform live in Chicago.   To no one’s surprise I had never heard of Brandi Carlile until Carol sent me a link to a video of her song ‘The Joke’.   Not my usual kind of music, but I do like that video.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Hilton Head Island: why; not; more spartina

        The usual afternoon thunderstorm just passed.  One of their virtues is that they cause an immediate 10ºF drop in temperature.  A pleasant 76ºF/24.4C now.
        I am sitting on the screened porch.  Slow rain is still falling, but with no wind it is not coming in.
        If any of you wonder why I am not resuming the voyage until January, the above image is the reason.  The hurricane season has started.  That is the inelegantly named Bud.  I don’t mean to be sexist, but I really wish hurricanes were still all named after women.  I would much rather be destroyed by an Alice or a Maria.  To be killed by a Bud is ignoble.
        That image is a day old.  Two days ago Bud was a Category 2 hurricane.  Now he is only a tropical storm.  Still he is right on the track I will eventually sail from Panama to San Diego and he won’t be the last storm this season.


        A short film at the NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day site is stunning.  Really beyond imagination, though it does its best to stretch ours.
        There are fleeting moments when I almost doubt that the universe really is all about us.


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Skull Creek: happy anniversary

        I seldom post twice on the same day but am today.
        The last was headed Hilton Head Island, it was written in the condo.  This, Skull Creek, because I am back on GANNET.
        About an hour ago I was sitting sipping a martini on the screened porch when I realized that Carol and I met twenty-four years ago today.
        Late afternoon thunderstorms are common here in summer.  If the wind is not strong, it is lovely to sit on the porch and see the rain falling a few feet away on the deck and branches and leaves of Live Oak trees and Spanish Moss.  There is beauty here.
        The process that led to my remembering this date was caused by my thinking that our present morass with the condo renovation is my worst experience with people, with the exception of parts of my life with Jill, since I was imprisoned, falsely, as a spy in Saudi Arabia in 1982.
        Thinking of those bad times with Jill, and to do her justice there were many good times as well, made me realize that I have never had such bad days with Carol.  I know our twenty-fourth wedding anniversary is coming in August, and somehow I realized that we met on June 13, 1994.  I checked and am right.  It was a Monday.
        I had flown up from south Florida to sail Carol and the German man who was then a part of her life across the Atlantic.  
        I have done few deliveries because I don’t like to sail boats I have not prepared myself.  I did this one less for the money than the prospect that I might meet a woman along the way. 
        Our first sight of one another was in a loading zone at Logan Airport.  I doubt that love and Logan Airport have ever before been used in the same sentence.
        Two nights later, after a bon voyage party on the boat, one of Carol’s best friends said to her, “Henry is a good matchmaker.”  Impressively observant.
        Carol and I were married two months and three days later.
        Happy anniversary, love of my life.

Hilton Head Island: started

        Friends are coming this weekend to photograph GANNET under sail for CRUISING WORLD and other purposes, so I decided I better see if a Torqeedo would start.
        I’ve been sleeping on GANNET and first thing this morning I cleared the port pipe berth, slithered aft and retrieved outboard mount and Torqeedo and mounted them on the stern.  The motor started at the touch of the button, bless its little electric heart.  The battery, last charged at the end of February, showed 100%.
        I also tested the tiller pilots.  All three Autohelms work.  There is a loose connection in the wiring for the Pelagic which I will track down in time, but is of no immediate importance.
        At 7:00 the air temperature was a mild 73ºF/23ºC, but sweat was rolling off me, and this was not hard labor.


        A long pier leads out to Skull Creek Marina so that boats are in deep enough water.  I am told that even so, at extremely low tides some of the bigger sailboats touch bottom.  Not GANNET.
        This is only the last quarter of the pier.  It is as wide as a two lane highway in order to support the travel lift.  Boats hauled from the water are taken a long way to the minuscule boat yard ashore.
          I like watching the spartina cover and uncover with the tides.  So do herons and egrets who work the sea grass mostly at mid-tide.
        An original.

And a Prisma variation.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Hilton Head Island: C. S. Forester and Sara Teasdale

        A long, long time ago when I was young I read all eleven of C. S. Forester’s Hornblower novels twice and several of his other novels as well.  He was a very good and entertaining writer.
        I don’t suppose I have thought much about him since until a few weeks ago when his novel THE GENERAL was one of the offerings at BookBub.  
        The officer of the title is Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Curzon who rose to his rank early in WWI and commanded more than 100,000 men up to the Battle of the Somme in 1916.  
        I have written somewhere that soldiers often die not for their cause but because of the egos and stupidity of generals and politicians.
        THE GENERAL provides the best explanation I have ever read of how Great Britain’s officer caste killed so many men futilely.
        After reading it, I bought two more of Forester’s novels.  THE GUN, which I have read before, set in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars; and THE GOOD SHEPHERD, about a convoy crossing the North Atlantic during WWII.


        At least one of you has viewed ALBATROSS. Two counting Carol.  Three counting me.
        The film is part of The Midway Project, named after the Pacific Ocean atoll, once significant during WWII and now the nesting place for millions of birds.
        I read a book titled ALBATROSS a few years ago that must also be part of the project, so I knew what to expect.
        The film is both beautiful and tragic.  The beauty is in the birds themselves and the inspired and sometimes very clever photography.  The tragic in the corpses of dead birds cut open to reveal the almost unbelievable amount of plastic inside them.  Often dozens of pieces in a single bird.  One had both a disposable cigarette lighter and a toothbrush in it.
        David, the one of you I know viewed the film, after doing so sent me a poem by Sara Teasdale.

There Will Come Soft Rains

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white, 

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone
        I must confess that I did not know of Sara Teasdale, so I googled and learned that she was born in Saint Louis, as was I, and wrote another fine poem often connected with her suicide that reminds me of parts of two I wrote long ago.
        Those two were enough for me to buy a Kindle edition of her collected works for $0.99.
        Sometimes you do get something for nothing.  Or almost.  But you already know that.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Hilton Head Island: albatrosses and plastic

        Today is World Oceans Day.  For some us every day is.
        Recently the GUARDIAN, the INDEPENDENT, and the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, among others, have run articles about plastic pollution.  This is, of course, a disaster that has taken place entirely since 1950, within the lifetimes of many of us still living.
        I thank Martin for reminding me about World Oceans Day and for providing a link to a new film about albatross which can be viewed in its entirety at:   
        I have not yet watched it.  I will later today.  But I have a good idea of what it will show and expect some of it will be tragic.
        I don’t know if any of you have read ISLAND.  Published in 1944, James Norman Hall made the observation even then that our species was becoming a cancer to the planet.  And like other cancers we are metastasizing at an ever increasing rate.
        Martin, who was a merchant marine officer, observed that he who was on ships in the Southern Ocean and I who have sailed there are among the few who have seen in person the magnificent albatrosses in flight over those waters.  And that we might well be the last.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Hilton Head Island: my best words; Raptored

        Like I expect most of you, I don’t often visit the main site.  I regret having separated the journal from that site, but uploading and revising a post with Blogger is decidedly faster than with iWeb.
        Nevertheless I have just made changes to the home page of
        This followed reading an interview this past weekend with an original artist during which some of my words were mentioned.
        While there is no doubt in my mind that ‘A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.’ is my best known and likely will be longest remembered sentence, my statement of an artist’s defining responsibility may be my best.  I am not aware that anyone else has ever said it better.  
        I wasn’t sure there was room for those words.  I’m glad there is.


        I finished applying the Raptor non-skid to GANNET’s deck.  Just in time.  A blister has formed on my thumb from using the shears.


    Being white on white, the Raptor panels don’t show up as well in the photos as in person.
        I like the way it looks and it seems to be a good non-skid surface.  Water over the deck, inevitable in time on GANNET, will tell.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Hilton Head Island: ashore; waves

        I am sipping a cold martini.  It is very good.
        The condo continues to be stalled.  No work has been done now for two weeks and I have no idea when any will be done.
        At times I consider starting a new page on the main site listing the evidence that we, homo sapiens, are not an intelligent species.
        If I did, the years 1914-1945 would head the list.  Many other spans could be included, but those are inconvertible.  
        Also would be lotteries.  Not that they exist, but that people buy tickets.
        And third would be this renovation.
        I am not going to go into the detestable details and will not respond to emails asking about them.  If you have been reading this journal, you are aware of how much I liked Hilton Head Island.  The tense of the verb is accurate.  At this moment I wish that I had never heard of Hilton Head Island.  Perhaps that will change again in time.  Perhaps.
        In the meanwhile I have moved back into this shell.
        Two afternoons ago I heard thunder and glanced up and saw an apocalyptic sky over Pinckney Island.  I had no food up here and knew that when the storm hit, it would do so in an instant.
        I made it back to GANNET with a minute to spare before the rain and wind came.  Even though protected by larger boats on either side, GANNET heeled and was buffeted.  I turned on the wind instrument which showed a maximum gust of 35 knots.
        Yesterday afternoon I walked back under sunny skies and when I opened the hatch, the Great Cabin was 104.3ºF/40.16C.  Not quite the 106º it reached in Marathon, but hot enough.
       Only the guest bathroom and the utility room and the screened porch and deck are intact here.  Everything else is gutted.  The air conditioning works and so does the Internet.  Some, not all, electrical outlets are functional.
        So we ordered a coffee maker, portable microwave, and a tiny 1.7 cubic foot refrigerator at a total cost of less than $200.
        They arrived today.  Thus I have a cold martini.  And will soon have another.  Then, but for the lack of ice, eight or ten more.


        I thank Art for links to some spectacular photographs of waves taken by Rachael Talibart.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Skull Creek: partially decked; a minority opinion

        Three 2 meter x 1 meter/six ½ feet x 3 ¼ feet rolls of Raptor non-skid were delivered late yesterday and I got five pieces in place this morning, one on either side of the cockpit, and three in the bow.
        GANNET’s non-skid is eclectic. Diamond pattern Treadmaster on the cockpit sole; two strips of a New Zealand product on the starboard side of the foredeck to protect it when anchoring; and now the Raptor.
        The Raptor is interesting.  A different kind of surface with less texture and therefore less abrasive to skin and clothes.  It costs about $110 or $115 a sheet and is easy to work with.  I cut it with a shears.  One caveat is that after making cuts, the paper covering the adhesive on the bottom tends to shred on the edge of the cut and must be removed carefully.
        As I may have mentioned Raptor says the decking is UV resistant and should last seven years.  
        If I am still alive and still own GANNET, I’ll let you know.
        Here is a link to their website.  I don’t believe they make the diamond pattern any longer.  If you click on their online brochure, what I am using is like that on the Transpac 52.
        I have not yet figured out what shapes I am going to use in the area around the mast.


        At 32º North Hilton Head Island is well beyond the Tropics, but it does not feel like it.  
        I had to wait for the dew to dry on the deck before starting work this morning and then had to stop when sweat pouring into my eyes made it impossible to see.  91ºF/almost 33ºC at 1 p.m.
        I understand that in most of the world summer is longed for and cherished.  Not here.  Not by me.  It is too hot and the hurricane season.
        I can hardly wait for November.