Sunday, July 29, 2018

Evanston" CHESAPEAKE; CANNERY ROW; out not beside

        I just reread James Michener’s CHESAPEAKE and John Steinbeck’s CANNERY ROW.
        From CHESAPEAKE  I remembered the mosquitos.  
        This is not an exact quote, but a Chesapeake farmer told of two mosquitos who carried off one of his calves.
        One mosquito said to another, “Let’s take it down to the beach to eat it.”
        And the other said, “No.  Down there the big ones will take it away from us.”

        Of CANNERY ROW I remembered Henri who was always building a boat he never finished.
        “But that boat—“ he cried.   “He’s been building that boat for seven years that I know of.  The blocks rotted out and he made concrete blocks.  Every time he gets it nearly finished he changes it and starts over again.  I think he’s nuts.  Seven years on a boat.”
        Doc was sitting on the ground pulling off his rubber boots.  “You don’t understand,” he said gently.  “Henri loves boats but he’s afraid of the ocean.”
        “What’s he want a boat for then?”  Hazel demanded.
        “He likes boats,” said Doc.  “But suppose he finished his boat.  Once finished people will say, “Why don’t you put it in the water?”  Then if he puts it in the water, he’ll have to go out in it, and he hates the water.  So you see, he never finishes the boat—so he doesn’t ever have to launch it.”

        In rereading the book I was also struck by how Monterey, California has changed since it was published in 1945.  No room there now for the characters of the novel.  The vacant lots in which they lived now sell for millions.


        I very much need to sail.  
        The need is real and fundamental.
        I need to get away from the complications and compromises and despicable pettiness of the land.
        I need to be alone.  A few days will not be enough, but they will be something.
        I hope I can sail to the Chesapeake in September, but that is completely weather controlled and problematic.  But even if I can it will be coastal.  
        Even if at times I am two or three hundred miles offshore, the entire rest of this circumnavigation will be coastal, and I am a creature to go out not beside.
        When I consider the world, only the Pacific and Southern Oceans may suit me, and perhaps not even they are vast enough.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Evanston: the fallacy of numbers; five weeks

        An item a few days ago on what poses as television news celebrated the singer/songwriter Billy Joel’s 100th sell-out performance at Madison Square Garden.  Because I doubt many others have been counting, I assume this was placed by his PR agents.  
        During the course of this ‘news item’ a reporter said, “It isn’t Shakespeare, but then Shakespeare couldn’t have sold out Madison Square Garden a hundred times.”  
        Clearly numbers matter—to most.  Clearly Billy Joel is greater than Shakespeare.


        I fly to GANNET five weeks today.  Until last evening I did not realize that Carol is going too.  I knew we had planned for both of us to be there over Labor Day, by which time the renovation was to be completed.  However, that is still a stalled disaster. No progress has been made and I thought she had cancelled her flight.
        The plan was that I would remain at Hilton Head, other than going up to St. Michaels, Maryland for the Small Boat Festival, until I sail for Panama next January and Carol would fly down to spend a week at Thanksgiving and two at Christmas.  Bobby Burns told us what happens to the best plans of mice and men. 
        I had hoped to take everything off of GANNET and store it at the condo while I repainted the interior, then only move back on board what is essential for me to sail her to Panama and San Diego.  
        Actually I would love to get rid of every possession that won’t fit on a THE HAWKE OF TUONELA size boat and live on board again.  I can live on GANNET quite well by myself with what can fit on her, but she is a bit small for two permanently.  
        Twice in my life I have lost every single physical possession I owned.  I would gladly get rid of almost all I own now and sail from Hilton Head Island next January and never glance back.


        The schooner is a tiny model sailing on a green granite sea.  I don’t recall where the model came from.  The sea is our kitchen countertop.  I know I have run the photo before, but having taken nothing worthwhile recently am running it again.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Evanston: cute and cuddly; perfection

        Steve Earley wrote that recently he has had to correct two passersby who told him his Welsford Pathfinder, SPARTINA, is a cute boat.
        I was reminded that once I, too, owned a ‘cute’ boat and so I looked up the passage in THE OPEN BOAT: Across the Pacific.

        And this afternoon as I sailed across from the marina to the greater privacy of a mooring for the night, it all become overt when the light breeze carried a girl’s voice from a passing Cal 25.  Her words were not intended for my ears, but I heard them clearly as CHIDIOCK and I bobbled in their wake:  “What a cute little sailboat.”  No search of the horizon was required to know of whom she spoke.  Nevertheless I made one.  Unfortunately there could be no mistake.  Cute?  Cuddly?  Me?   

       And a few nights later anchored in San Diego Bay, a couple rowing their dog ashore from an ungainly motorsailer came close.

        When they were in range the man called:
“What kind of boat is that?”
        I told him and forestalled the obvious next question by adding that she had been built in England.
        “Nice boat for the bay.”
        It could have been said many ways, but his tone was just a shade offensive, just a shade too superior and patronizing.  I started to say, “Yes, she is.  But this one is going around the world.”  Just in time I caught myself and merely smiled.  I might as well stay cute and cuddly as long as possible.


        Our Evanston condo building has eight units.  Of the original eight owners, three of us are left.  One couple moved away last week.  He had retired from the faculty of Loyola University and still had contacts there.  At a goodbye party for them, he commented that an IT person from the University had come over to help him transfer his data to a new computer.  He said that he had thought he had about 80,000 photos on various hard drives, but discovered he actually has 130,000.  
        I am reasonably certain there have not been130,000 photographs worth saving since Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first one in 1826 or 1827.
        This vast number caused me to recall the pioneer aviator/author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s observation that in aircraft design perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing more to remove.  So I believe it is in art and boats and life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Evanston: title change; 'Hallelujah'

        Should you have reason to check past entries, you will find that ‘A Modern Myth’ is now ‘A Slice of Life’.  Much better.  I wish I had thought of it, but I didn’t.  Steve Earley described the story that way in an email.  Knowing a good thing when I read it, I promptly stole it.  As some of you will know with that title it was run by Sailing Anarchy.  You'll need to scroll down. I thank Steve for the title and Scot for enabling the piece to reach a much wider audience.
        I continue to like ‘the slice of life’ and have included it in the fiction page of the main site.


        Perfect summer weather in the upper flatlands caused me to take a long walk along the lake yesterday.  To the north white sails on small boats contrasted with dark blue water.  I sort of remember than I like to sail.  I definitely should do it again sometime.


        I’ve written of Leonard Cohen here many times since his death in late 2016.
        Last evening I happened across a video of a great live performance of ‘Hallelujah’.
        I also watched again the perfect video of ‘The Joke’.  Even if you watched the first time I mentioned it, it is worth viewing again.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Evanston: Djarimirri; The Fountain of Youth; $754.88; not all world records are equal

        I have written here several times about Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, the aboriginal singer known to the world by his middle name.  I first heard him on an Australian radio station during the THE HAWKE OF TUONELA circumnavigation before he became a world sensation and was immediately moved by his music.
        His fourth studio album, released posthumously after his death last year from kidney and liver disease at age forty-six, DJARIMIRRI, has just been released in the U.S.  I had pre-ordered it from iTunes and received an email Friday that it was available.  When I checked iTunes on my computer I found in the magic of this age, it was already in my library, and I had only to tap an icon on my phone to download it there as well.
        I believe that the last two Gurrumul albums, THE GOSPEL ALBUM and HIS LIFE AND MUSIC were inferior ‘cash-in’ albums exploiting his unexpected fame.  There may not be anything wrong with cashing in; but then again there may be.  Had Gurrumul lived we might have been treated to GURRUMUL SINGS FRANK SINATRA.
        As I noted here earlier the bittersweet nostalgic purity of Gurrumul’s voice was completely wrong for the live recording with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra.  The true Gurrumul is found only on his first two albums, GURRUMUL and RRAKALA.
        However, DJARIMIRRA, which I have now listened to three times, also has accompaniment by classical musicians, yet in smaller numbers than an orchestra that do not overwhelm him.  Some of the instruments sound like Balinese gamelan; some Aboriginal.  The orchestrations are original, sometimes complex and strange, and I believe a serious attempt to broaden Gurrumul’s music. I enjoy the album more each time I listen.
        I still prefer his first two albums, but DJARIMIRRA is an interesting and worthwhile successor.

        Recently Kent, co-commodore with his wife, Audrey, of Florida’s answer to the Spanish Armada, recently ran a fine article by Howard Rice.  Scroll down to ‘The Fountain of Youth’, but slowly enough to enjoy what you find along the way.
        Even if I never built my own boat, or wanted to, obviously I agree with most of it.


        I thank James for sending me a link to a NY TIMES article about some of the outlandish prices being asked for books by private sellers on Amazon.  I have encountered this myself from time to time and wondered who in hell would ever pay such amounts.
        After finishing the article I decided to see what is being asked for some of my books and found this:

        Note Red Rhino's percentage of positive ratings over the last twelve months and the total number of ratings.  Why am I skeptical?
        I will, by the way, sell you a copy of THE OCEAN WAITS for half price, a mere $377.44, with free shipping of course.


        I have mentioned in a past entry the Texture app which gives you access to the digital editions of more than 200 magazines.  Until recently it cost a monthly fee of $14.99. Apple bought Texture a few months ago and last week I received an email that they are lowering the cost to $9.99 a month.  
        One of the magazines I now peruse is THE SMITHSONIAN, which recently ran an article about the return of the hula hoop, noting these world records. 

        You may need to click on the image to enlarge it.
        While I am slightly impressed that anyone ever thought of swimming while balancing a hula hoop on his head, clearly not all world records are equal.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Evanston: a slice of life

        Once not so long ago there was a sailor who crossed oceans alone in small boats.  He did this for many, many years and became a legend.
        He found purity and joy in what he called the monastery of the sea and loved sailing toward the setting sun or toward the dawn.
        When as a young man he departed on his first voyage, three tantalizing sirens kissed him good-bye and waved until he disappeared over the horizon and then, as sirens often do, forgot him.
        He suffered hardships, not eagerly but inevitably.  Sometimes he starved.  Twice he almost died of thirst.  He learned that thirst is much worse than hunger.  Eight times he survived the great storms that are called hurricanes and cyclones.
        People often told him he was brave because he made voyages that not only had no one else ever made, but that no one else had even thought of.
        He did not consider himself brave.  He did not fear the sea and he knew that men do not conquer the sea or mountains, they only transit them.  Still he was at home at sea as few others have ever been.  He did fear thirst.
        After every voyage the sailor made a pilgrimage to a beautiful sorceress.  Wise men told him he must do this and so he did.
        The sorceress dwelt in a high tower beside a lake so vast some thought it an inland sea.  That lake was deceptive, sometimes as turquoise as the Caribbean, sometimes as black as the North Sea in a gale.
        The sorceress had coal black hair, a friendly smile, and a gay laugh. 
        Each time the sailor visited her she sliced small pieces of flesh from him.  Though the pieces were small, they did not grow back and over the decades they added up.  Each time the sailor returned to the sea he was smaller.
        The sailor lived far longer than anyone expected, including himself, and though he grew old he kept crossing oceans.  Sometimes he wondered at this.  He did not believe in the gods and never asked them to protect him. 
        Finally when he was very, very old, he sailed his small boat into harbor and made his customary way to the sorceress’s lair.
        The sorceress did not age.  She was still beautiful.  Her hair still jet black.  Her smile still friendly.  Her laughter still gay.  She welcomed him and cut the tiny remnant he had become into three pieces and he vanished.

        (I made my biannual visit to my skin cancer specialist today and amused myself on the train ride in by writing this in my mind.  I typed it out when I returned home.
        Originally the title was a dull 'Modern Myth'.  Steve Earley in an email called it a slice of life.  I wish I had thought of that, but I didn't.  He did, and, knowing a good thing when I read it,  I stole it.  Thanks, Steve.)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Evanston: windward; undriven; enslaved

        The Windward Passage is between the east end of Cuba and the west coast of Haiti.  Sailors will also know it as the name of a seminal 73’ Alan Gurney designed sailboat. 
        I have sailed past the Windward Passage several times on my way from the Caribbean to Florida—I think three, but I lose track.
        I think it was Michael who first suggested that I should sail through it on my way next January from Hilton Head to Panama.  He is quite right.
        In 1990 Jill and I sailed from Key West to Panama and went around the west end of Cuba through the Yucatan Passage.  From the Florida Keys that makes sense.  But from Hilton Head I will sail southeast outside of the Bahamas and then turn south into the Windward Passage and then southwest for Panama.
        The advantages are obvious and multiple.  Sea room.  Not having to sail against the Gulf Stream.  Encountering much less shipping than in the Florida Straits.  Avoiding numerous offshore islets and reefs along the coast of Honduras and Guatemala.  And, once through the Windward Passage, a much better wind angle for Panama.
        The distances are difficult to measure precisely on my electronic charts, but they seem to be nearly the same:  1600 miles from Hilton Head to Cristobal, Panama, either way.
        The red dot in the image above is just off Hilton Head Island.  The cross hairs, the Windward Passage.
        Not a voyage for the hurricane season, but I wish I were sailing it now.


        I'm about to give up my driver's license.  It expires this year.  I hardly ever drive and don't need to.  While it is legal to drive with only one eye, I am not comfortable doing so and fear that I may cause an accident or injure someone coming from my blind side.  It was such a big deal to get that first license sixty years ago.  Not a big deal to get rid of the last, but nevertheless a milestone of sorts.


        For whatever reason the thought passed through my mind this afternoon that it is time the masses were again enslaved, but then I realized they already are. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Evanston: strange; HEART; it has begun

        “I am a strange old man.”  
        Not my words, but spoken by the fisherman in Ernest Hemingway’s THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.  For some reason they struck a chord in me.
        I have mixed feelings about Ernest Hemingway.  Some of his writing is wonderful and a lot of it is terrible.  He himself was a self-aggrandizing bully and a liar.  Traits that too often lead to success.  For proof read HOTEL FLORIDA, which is worth reading anyway.
        My favorite Hemingway includes many of his short stories;  BY-LINE:  Ernest Hemingway,  a collection of his early reporting and journalism; the ending of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS; and THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, which I just reread and may be perfect.
        There are other parts of his books that are good, but he wrote about sex embarrassingly badly.  Perhaps for all his boasting, he wasn’t much good at it.
        I expect that all of you have read THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.  It is worth reading again.


        The other evening Carol and I watched IN THE HEART OF THE SEA about the sinking by a whale of the ESSEX in the Pacific in 1820 and the subsequent ordeal of her crew in the ship’s boats.  We both found the film to be much better than we expected until the final credits showed Ron Howard to be the director, which explained the quality.
        Nathaniel Philbrick’s book on which the movie was based was not published until 2000, but I knew of the Essex when I made my first attempt at Cape Horn in 1974 and was aware that EGREGIOUS suffered her first rigging damage not far from where the ESSEX sank, two thousand miles west of South America, two thousand miles east of the Marquesas Islands, the difference being that South America was to windward, the Marquesas Islands downwind.  I reluctantly turned downwind, eventually passing the Marquesas and landing at Tahiti.  I wondered then why the ESSEX crew tried to go east.
        THE HEART OF THE SEA is worth watching.


        Among the numerous resources to follow the hurricane season I find TRACK THE TROPICS very useful and subscribe to its emails.  I thank James for bringing the site to my attention.
        As you can see from the top image, Beryl, the first hurricane of the season is out in the Atlantic heading for the Caribbean and an area of disturbance off North Carolina may further develop.
        I wonder what early September, when I would like to sail to the Chesapeake, will bring. 

Monday, July 2, 2018

Evanston: books read; some interesting percentages

January 2018

FLIGHT TO ARRAS  Antoine de Saint-Exupery
THE SANDS OF TIME:  A History of Hilton Head Island         Margaret Greer
1688:  A Global History   John E. Wills, Jr.
THE BERLIN STORIES   Christopher Isherwood
BEOWULF  translated by Seamus Heaney
LOST ISLAND  James Norman Hall
THE SUCCESSOR   Ismail Kadare
THE GREAT GAME   Peter Hopkirk
THE GENERAL   C. S. Forester
  BEAUTIFUL SWIMMERS   William W. Warner
        The Hilton Head debacle and the World Cup have seriously cut into my reading time.  Also I have only made a single three day passage and I always read more at sea.
        This is a great World Cup.
        Seven of FIFA’s top twelve ranked teams have already been eliminated and an eighth, Chile, did not qualify.  
        Those out include 1.  Germany  4. Portugal  5. Argentina  8. Poland  (9. Chile)  10.  Spain  11.  Peru  12.   Denmark.
        And I just watched 61st ranked Japan almost defeat 3. Belgium.


        I don’t often go to parties, but there was one a week ago for one of the original couples in this building who are moving away.  At one point I said, “The problem is that there are too many of us on the planet.”  Everyone, except Carol, thought I was making a joke and laughed.  One reason I don’t much go to parties.
        In the last book on the above list, BEAUTIFUL SWIMMERS, about crabbing on the Chesapeake Bay, William Warner said forty years ago that the problem with the bay was too many people.
        That book won the Pulitzer Prize back then and describes a hard, admirable, independent way of life that I expect is now largely gone.  I, who am not a fisherman much less a crabber, learned a lot from the book and highly recommend it.   I thank Ron for sending me a copy.
        The current issue of NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC has an article about the approaching extinction of many species of sea birds whose world wide population has been reduced by 70% since records began being kept in 1950.  Of 360 species of sea  birds, 110 are in crises.
        The two greatest threats according to the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC are induced predators, such as mice, rats, cats, and commercial fishing techniques that kill birds inadvertently.  These techniques, such as long line fishing, can be modified so that they do not catch birds, and some nations have done so, but two/thirds of the world’s commercial fishing vessels are from China and Taiwan which do not care about sea bird mortality.
        Ingested plastics are a third.
        The GUARDIAN recently ran an article headed:  Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals.
        ‘Last Born’ is looking better all the time.  And I’m not even thinking of our Hilton Head neighbors.  Well, maybe a little.