Thursday, January 24, 2019

Skull Creek: a rough night; thanks

        In my desire to move GANNET from her slip which might be difficult to exit tomorrow morning if the wind is from the northwest as forecast, I made a very serious mistake.  I knew that south wind with the approaching front would be on GANNET’s beam and push her toward A Dock, but it was much worse than I expected.
        I retired to the pipe berth at 10 PM and slept until midnight and that was it until I dozed off for perhaps an hour at 7 this morning, sitting in my foul weather gear on the port pipe berth.
        Countless times in between fenders were pushed up or down by waves and GANNET’s motion, resulting in the boat’s beam hitting the dock with sickening jolts, so I had to go out and reposition the four fenders, one which vanished during the night.
        Both Fred, the dock master, and I saw on our wind instruments maximum wind gusts of 36 knots, at the low end of gale strength.
        No damage was done, but ten or more feet of the white paint on the starboard rub rail is gone exposing red plastic as it was when I bought the little boat.  Rub rail rubbed.
        The rain, sometimes heavy, came to an end at 9 AM, and the sky has partially cleared. I hope the wind veers west and then northwest as forecast.
        GANNET’s cabin is wet and we haven’t even started the passage.  So were my clothes, which I have brought up to the condo to dry in the dryer.
        I did not get to a supermarket or liquor store yesterday, nor will I today.  I will make due with what is already on board.
        LuckGrib and other weather sources still are consistent with our departure tomorrow.
        The Yellowbrick is presently deactivated. I will activate it tonight and if I remember tomorrow morning set it to upload positions every hour until I get clear of the land, when positions will be uploaded every six hours as in the past.
        GANNET's Yellowbrick tracking page is:


        This morning Fred brought a case of Heineken to GANNET which had  been delivered to the office by an Uber driver who told Fred only that it was a gift from a friend in Chicago.  I like to believe I have more than one friend in Chicago, so I thank whichever of you sent the beer.  It is appreciated.
        I also thank all of you who have sent me good wishes for the coming passage.
        I think it will take about twelve or fourteen days, depending on the wind.  Too much and too little will slow us.


        Michael sent me the above photo yesterday.  I seem to be a cheerful old man and now that my clothes are dry, I am.
        I put a new main halyard on GANNET last year, so I conclude Michael took the photo while we were at Marathon.

        I hope the next entry will be sent in a couple of weeks from Panama.
        Be joyful.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Skull Creek: countdown

        First light is around 7 AM.  I woke, found no wind, and quickly mounted the Torqeedo on the stern and powered around to side tie on the outside of A Dock.  GANNET is on the launching pad.
        Later in the morning I came up to the condo intending do a last load of wash and to bike for the last time to a supermarket and liquor store, but I have become trapped by unexpected rain.  According to the Dark Sky app it is due to end soon and when my clothes come out of the dryer I will bike to buy a few odds and ends and to procure another bottle of Laphroaig.  As much as possible essential systems should be backed up.


        I received a couple of queries about my sleeping bag system.  It was a most appreciated gift from Tom, who steers boats for Baby, the sea beagle.  I checked and found a label with Tennier Industries on it.  I Googled Tennier Industries and found what I believe is my system for sale many places, Amazon of course among them.

        I have been very comfortable in the bags at near freezing temperatures but hope never to come close to testing the -30º claim.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Skull Creek: a change of direction: camp fire

        Fred, the dock master and my near neighbor, who in his many years in this area after first experiencing it in Marine Boot Camp at Parris Island and who has stayed on board through I think four hurricanes, here at Skull Creek and at Beaufort, suggested that I should on my departure sail southwest on Skull Creek rather than go north to Port Royal Sound.  He is obviously right, particularly if the wind is north as forecast.  I will save about ten miles and get to see part of the island from the water that I haven’t.
        In the screen shot above, the radius of the circle around GANNET’s position is one nautical mile.
        As you can see Hilton Head Island is shaped like a shoe, about eleven miles long and five miles at its widest, running northeast to southwest.
        I was surprised to learn that after Long Island, NY, it is the second largest barrier island on the Atlantic Coast.

        Today was much like yesterday:  cool—again 34º outside when I got up, 40º inside—sunny and windy, but it warmed into the low 50s and I was able to bike to Walmart.  The wind decreased significantly once I was away from the water.
        I have not checked weather sources since this morning, but a Friday departure was still on then, though another front is forecast to pass quickly on Thursday.  I hope it arrives and leaves on schedule.
        Fred gave me permission to move from our slip to a side tie on A dock, which I will do tomorrow if the wind permits.  I will be able to sail off there in a north wind.
        The people at this marina could not be nicer.

        Yesterday I received an email from Tom—not the shipmate of Baby, but a different Tom, this one a rancher in east Texas, which has brought me great pleasure.
        First let me repeat something I have written in this journal before.  I was formed—no, I formed myself—on the legends of the opening of the American West and of Ancient Greece.  I know the flaws in both, but both were epics, and I have for as long as I can remember wanted to live an epic life.  Whether I have or not is a matter of opinion, one of which matters to me more than others, but I don’t take a step back from that even as a seriously old man.
        Go back sixty, seventy years and imagine a solitary boy sitting in his bedroom in a small house on the edge of Saint Louis suburbs, looking out at an undeveloped field, and not wanting to be there.  He was a reader and books took him beyond what he could see.  To the west, to the sea, to the world.
        The Gateway Arch had not been built then.  I consider it, along with the Sydney Opera House and the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, DC, to be the greatest public constructions of the 20th Century. 
         I have no fondness for Saint Louis, but located as it is at the junction of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, it once was the gateway to the west and caused my mind to go that way, and when my grandparents retired to a tiny house in Mission Beach, California, my body did too in the summers as a teenager and again after I graduated from college.
         The west meant freedom to me as it has for many in the history of this country.
         Yesterday Tom wrote that he follows my journal and has viewed many of my videos and that each year in early November his family and friends get together for a few days and cook and sit around campfires and drink various liquids, toasting people they know who aren’t with them and some of whom they only know through reading.  
         A few years ago Tom brought along a bottle of Laphroaig—I have sold a few bottles for that distillery, which I hope to visit some day—and they raised their glasses to Webb Chiles.  Tom gave me the words of the toast which I think immodest to share.  They please me greatly, as does that people I have not met drank to me around an open campfire.  
        Not even knowing them, Tom, your words are how I have sought to live.  I am trying still.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Skull Creek: addendum

        6:45 PM  A couple of hours after I posted the earlier entry today.
        The sun set around 5:30 and shortly afterwards I begin to see my breath in the Great Cabin, not excuse but reason enough to do what we knew I would:  open a bottle of Laphroaig.
        I almost did not dig out one of the two crystal glasses, but you have to have principles about something and Laphroaig deserves better than plastic.
        So I unbubblewrapped a Dartington Crystal Double Old Fashioned glass and poured.
        The aroma instantly filled the Great Cabin and raised the temperature several degrees and the spirits my spirits, which weren’t low but I couldn’t resist the phrase.

Skull Creek: chilled and lighted

        The front arrived Saturday night at midnight as forecast with heavy rain, which woke me briefly, and 40+ knot wind.  I was surprised to learn from a link emailed to me by Kent, for which I thank him, that gusts that high were recorded between midnight and 2 AM at a Skull Creek station a few miles from GANNET’s slip because I slept through it.  Possibly GANNET was sheltered by bigger boats nearby.
        The sky cleared yesterday and wind regularly gusting into the 20s had the Spanish Moss on the oak trees beyond our balcony dancing feverishly.
        The temperature dropped steadily all day heading toward freezing predicted for today’s dawn.
        I dug out my Winter Silk long underwear, which actually is silk, light and warm, and slept in it and socks and was comfortable in the sleeping bag system which has several layers.
        At 7 AM the outside temperature was 34ºF/1ºC.  In the Great Cabin it was 40ºF/4.4ºC.  Remaining mostly in the sleeping bags, I slid from the pipe berth to Central, put on gloves and had nicely chilled orange juice.
        Today has not warmed up much, but the sun has heated the Great Cabin to a comfortable late afternoon 58ºF/14.4ºC.  Typing without gloves my fingers aren’t numb.
        I have two unopened bottles of Laphroaig on board.  Not certain if I can find Laphroaig in Panama, one is intended for the passage there.  One for Panama to San Diego.  Thus far I have resisted the desire—far more than an impulse—to open one.  As the Great Cabin chills with the setting sun in an hour, I may resist no more and, cue the crocodile tears, sadly have to buy a third bottle.
        Today’s review of weather sources still shows a Friday departure, though I like what I see happening after that more on LuckGrib than Windy.  Once I get to sea, I’ll deal with it, whatever it is, as I always have, until I don’t.


        Carol gave me a tiny UCO Leschi flashlight for Christmas.  She saw it in a catalog.  I had never heard of UCO, but I like the light so much I ordered another.
        Constructed mostly of plastic and seemingly reasonably water resistant, the light is bright for using only one AA battery and can be telescoped into a lantern mode.
        They are available from many stores, including Amazon and Target, for about $10.
        I don’t know if they will survive life on GANNET, but they are presently my flashlight of choice, and at that price a painless loss.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Skull Creek: an enviable madness

        A second post in one day.
        Almost 9 PM.  Wind increasing.  Shaking GANNET.  
        A few days ago when I unfurled the jib, I moved the spare jib halyard, the spinnaker halyard, and the vestigial spinnaker pole topping lift from the bow pulpit where they are secured in port to near the mast where they are secured at sea.  Near the mast in wind they rattle against the mast.  So I went out a while ago and pulled them away with shock cords.
        I love the increasing wind.  I like having a minimal membrane between me and the natural world.  GANNET is certainly a minimal membrane and as I have been sitting here, listening to music and sipping wine, I have thought as many times before that she is perfect for me.  As is Carol.
         I look around this tiny space and I love its simplicity.  
         As I have written before I can fit every important part of my life on GANNET, except Carol, who does not want to fit on GANNET.  I can write.  I can sail.  I can read.  I can listen to music.  That and Carol are all that are essential.
         Of Carol, I have sometimes thought that we are almost perfect for one another, but not quite.  Maybe 95%+.  Surely enough that no one but a complete fool would seek in this imperfect world for more.  But I have come to realize that we are perfect for one another, at least she is for me.  Both complicated individuals who came together a quarter century ago in love and lust and have evolved and accepted differences that have allowed both of us be who we are.
        There are those who over simplify me and think I am only a sailor. That I am a sailor for the ages is quantifiable.  But I am also a monk, a much married monk, which historically is not unknown, and while I would gladly leave the land behind, I would not leave Carol behind.  Recently she said, “All those other women were merely practice for me.”  And she is right.  They were rare and wonderful women from whom I received and believe I gave joy--forget the despair--and learned to be Carol's husband.  That she would have the wit and wisdom to say it is proof that she is right.
         So I seek perfection and don’t believe that I, or anyone else, often achieves it.  I believe I have with words achieved perfection in a few limited passages.  A few sentences.  Poems.  I have not reread ‘Sailing to Africa’ for a while, but when I last did I would not have changed a word.  In the past year my Blue Water Medal acceptance speech might be perfect, as might be ‘A slice of life’—with the aid of the title being provided by Steve Earley, and part of the journal post ‘Some of us are.’  Not much.  But perfection is difficult.  A billion selfies are taken every day, but a true self-portrait rare.
      I am often called mad, usually with a smile of respect, but sometimes with spite by those whose efforts I have eclipsed.  Yet I suggest it is an enviable madness in which not  by chance I have survived long enough to become a legend, have connected a few perfect words, and have ended with the perfect boat and perfect woman.

Skull Creek: dogged and mugged

        Being bored last evening while listening to music I Goggled ‘A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind’ to see what is new.
        While I admit to not understanding the women’s shoe ad that used my words,
this photo of a dog captioned ‘A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind’ is absurd.  The site is Russian.  Maybe it makes sense in that language.
        The top dog, as indeed she is, is Tom’ inestimable Sea Beagle, Baby, on Alert.  I would be honored if she were captioned with my words.
        I also found that I have been mugged.

        Click here and then click on ‘Images’ and scroll down you will find the mug and the dog and a navy vessel and photographs and drawings and paintings.  I did not realize I am so famous.  Or a few of my words are.


        A pleasant afternoon with a high of 68ºF/20ºC, which is rather nice for mid-winter, is turning windy with the approach of a cold front due tonight with rain and gale force winds.
        Today has been the first that the weather sources did not push back my possible departure date.  At the moment all agree that following another front in mid-week, starting Friday the wind will be from the north and west for several days.  If the forecasts remain constant, GANNET and I will sail Friday. 

Friday, January 18, 2019

Skull Creek: broken vortex; flat Earth; vanished insects

        A lovely afternoon here.  Sunny and windless.  Water like glass.  70ºF/21ºC in the Great Cabin with the hatches open.
        I checked the weather sources as I do each day and each day the most likely departure day moves a day forward, always a week in advance, though there is a chance next Monday.  I am getting bored.  With GANNET in passage mode, I can’t do any work on the boat without tearing the interior apart and I won’t devolve into that chaos.
        Steve Earley ran a link to a disturbing article about the breakdown of the Polar Vortex which likely will mean severe winter weather in the eastern US for many coming weeks.
        I need to get out of here.

        I am sitting at Central writing just after 6 PM and a dinner of freeze dry Mountain House Chicken with Dumplings.  This was a new one for me and as soon as I opened the packet I understood why they stopped selling chicken stew in individual pouches.  Chicken with Dumplings is Chicken Stew with some balls of flour added.  Not being a lover of starch, I prefer Chicken Stew, but the dumplings version is acceptable.

        I have  been biking  to supermarkets every other day and returning from them with among other things a salad for dinner.  On alternate nights I eat a freeze dry.  But yesterday my breakfast was  limited to a protein bar because I had to go to the condo early to accept delivery of a hearth stone Carol picked out when she was here.  So we now have a hearth, but we don’t have a floor.
        There are four restaurants within about a mile of here.  One, the Old Fort Pub, is in walking distance but only open in the evening.  The other three are just outside the Plantation gate and an easy bike ride.  I decided yesterday I wanted some real food for a change and went for a late lunch/early dinner to the long time favorite, Hudson’s, which at 2 PM on a winter weekday I found atypically empty.  I had a taste for a grilled fish, but that isn’t done much on this island, so I had a blackened shrimp Po Boy and a local ale.  If you recall the Tibetan proverb, I really do eat half.  I managed to finish the Po Boy, but I was stuffed.
        I am considering biking to a pizza place tomorrow for lunch/dinner, and bringing the leftovers back, which with my usual breakfast, should see me through the weekend.
        That I am writing about food is proof of how bored I am.


        The GUARDIAN recently ran two articles of particular interest to me.
        One is about a cruise planned by the Flat Earth Society that will of course be on a ship navigated by science and seamen who know the Earth is round.
        Flat Earthers believe that all the moon landings were faked and that those of us who circumnavigate only do so by following the edge of the pizza.  That I, among others, have done so multiple times following different routes is not explained.
        One of the many problems with democracy is one man, one vote.  I fully understand the possibility of abuse in deciding what beliefs are so inane that they are proof of insufficient intelligence to vote, but clearly some are.  A flat earther’s vote counts just as much as yours and mine.
        Cringe for the future.

        There are those who deny global warming, just as there are those who believe the Earth is flat.  I believe that what can be quantified is no longer a matter of opinion
        There are parasites who invade a host and ultimately cause the host’s death, as well as their own.  They do so unknowingly.
        We presently have on this planet businessmen and women who are destroying their host planet for short term financial gain.  They are doing so knowingly with deliberate campaigns to deceive and distort quantifiable science.
        Again, cringe for the future.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Skull Creek: drying day

        40ºF/4.4ºC when I woke at 7 this morning has become 60ºF/15.5ºC this afternoon with as you can observe in the above photo almost no wind.  GANNET’s hull is, of course, not insulated and considerable condensation forms inside at night.  I hope not ice this weekend. 
        I scrubbed mold from the overhead and sides of the Great Cabin and then have left the hatches open to let some fresh air in.  Sleeping bags, pillow, various moldy hats are drying on deck, where several solar lights are charging.
        In studying the various weather sources, I now don’t see my departure before a week from today.
        That means I am going to have to do another load of laundry, buy another roll of paper towels, another box of Kleenex, and another box of Cheese-Its.  I've already eaten half my passage Cheese-Its.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Skull Creek: holding pattern

        Nearing 8 PM.  I am sitting at Central with sleeping bags as lap robes and a watch cap on.  It isn’t that cold—48ºF/9º—but I am trying to be as comfortable as possible.  Last night I used the sleeping bag system as designed, inserting the heavy bag inside the lighter bag onto which I snapped the water repellant cover and slept blissfully
        A shuffled playlist of non-classical is playing at low volume on the Boom 2 speakers at the moment  ‘Goodbye’—by Hootie and the Blowfish.  Maybe sometime I will write about the music you would not expect me to have.
        A tumbler of Coppola Pinot Noir is at hand—left as always where I can see it.
        This afternoon was pleasant.  Sunny and no wind.  I unfurled the jib and applied a self-adhesive patch North Sails provided to the tack of the jib where it rubs against the pulpit and then raised the mainsail and put self-adhesive patches where it can rub against the spreaders.
        Below deck I tied the bags on the sides of the v-berth in place and the water jerry cans.
        Other than those last minute actions such as topping off daily water bottles and fitting the Torqeedo and notifying credit card companies that I am going to be in Panama—I face complications that Ulysses and Slocum never imagined—GANNET and I are ready to sail and I am becoming restless.  I do not speak for GANNET whose patience is as great as her acceleration.
        I continue to view LuckGrib, Windfinder Pro, Dark Sky, Windy, and the Weather Channel apps.  They all agree that a cold front is going to pass through here Sunday with rain.  All agree that the wind will be from the north or northwest on Monday and that Hilton Head will be colder than Cape Horn, near freezing and climbing only into the low 40sF.  They do not agree as to what will happen after that.
        I have cold weather clothes and heavy foul weather gear which I have not ever worn on GANNET.
        Tomorrow I will scrub mold from the overhead and review the weather apps.
        Now I am going to pour another tumbler of wine.  (A typo made that ‘pour another tumbler of wind.'  If only I could.)
        Joan Baez is singling ‘Forever Young’.  I like the song, not the sentiment.  I embrace being old.  When I think back about my life I know I could not have done it twice.  No one could have.  As that great American philosopher, Mae West, observed, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Skull Creek: pipe berthed; water; Yellowbrick; waiting

        Last night was my first back sleeping on a pipe berth, specifically the port one.
        In many way being on a pipe berth is more convenient, though a couple of drops of condensation that formed on the overhead fell on me.  The pipe berths are comfortable, but they require somewhat different sleeping positions than the relatively more spacious v-berth.  I might be the only one ever to use ‘spacious’ about a Moore 24.
        I biked to the Harris Teeter supermarket where I bought a few things, including a 12 pack of Heineken for the passage, one of which nicely chilled from the bike journey back to the condo went well with half a roast beef sandwich.  I’ll eat the other half for lunch tomorrow.  As noted here earlier, GANNET almost has refrigeration these days.
        Mentioning the beer brings to mind a question Chris emailed me about how much water I carry.
        Thinking it might be of general interest here is my reply:

My Jerry cans are standard 5 gallon US which is 18.92 liters.  I don’t fill them quite to the top.  There is a spigot I can move from can to can that makes transferring water to my one quart/liter drinking bottle and my half gallon/1.89 liter daily water bottle.  I have found repeatedly on the GANNET voyage that my consumption of fresh water is .37 gallon/day or 1.4 liters a day.  I also get liquid from juice in the morning and a can of beer in the afternoon, and whatever spirit or wine I have at sunset.  I also take some bottles of neutral liquid to drink.  Club soda, etc.  Here in the US I take a mixture of tea and lemonade made by a company called Arizona.

For the 6,000 mile passage from Darwin to Durban, I bought extra bottled water at the supermarket and had close to 35 US gallons on board when I sailed.  Far too much weight, but I have almost died of thirst twice and it is horrible.  I don’t recall how much water I had left when I reached Durban.

        Fortunately I went to the Yellowbrick site yesterday evening to create a new default event for 2019.  In doing so I realized that I had not renewed my line rental with Yellowbrick which was about to expire.
        To use a Yellowbrick requires in addition to the Yellowbrick itself that you have a line rental, which costs £10 a month and can be turned off and on monthly, and credits which cost £80 for 1000—I generally use 600-700 a year.
        Having paid for another year of service, I turned on the Yellowbrick, sent up a position to be certain all is working properly, then deactivated the unit to save the battery.

        I just downloaded a GRIB which if it can be believed indicates that I will probably not depart until a week from today at the earliest.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Skull Creek: transformed

        GANNET is now in passage mode.  Order is restored, although not everything is yet tied in place.  The four jerry cans are filled with water.  I am happy.
        The transformation took two hours this morning.
        I happened across seemingly good waterproof bags at Walmart last year.  I used two on my sail to the Chesapeake and bought three more last week.  One replaces the bag in which I keep electrical supplies and another replaces the bag in which I stow lunches.  One is now a bag in which I stow bags, zip-lock and trash.  The other two are filled with clothes, crackers, a tiller pilot and the Torqeedo tiller arm, which are more easily accessible than the duffle bags further forward in which they normally reside.
        I did not bike to a supermarket today.
        I did bring to GANNET the last of the clothes I had in the storage locker at the condo.  I am leaving behind a sleeping bag and our bicycles.  
        Although there are many fine qualities to life here and mostly friendly people, I will sail from Hilton Head Island with the prospect that I may never return.  If I don’t, I will miss my bicycle, which is the nicest I have owned.
        I downloaded a GRIB in LuckGrib an hour ago.  
        I will download another tomorrow, but from what I am seeing today, it seems likely that we will not depart this week.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Skull Creek: close

        I drank orange juice this morning, then applied a second coat of Deks Olje to the interior wood, went on deck and scrubbed the Raptor non-skid pads, and took my sleeping bag and pillow case to the condo to wash along with dirty clothes I had already left there.
       We have a Keurig coffee maker at the evil condo, so I had coffee and a bran muffin that I bought yesterday at the supermarket.  One of the few days my breakfast was not uncooked oatmeal, which by the way a recent study shows is very good for you in many ways.  High fiber is not consistent with fad low carb diets and far healthier.
        I did laundry while watching the Patriots/Chargers game and came back to GANNET just before sunset.
        Her cabin is still a mess but it won’t be by this time tomorrow.  I go to passage mode and order will be imposed. I truly hate clutter. I take pleasure in throwing things out, and one of my regrets about the condo debacle is that I wasn’t able to empty GANNET last year and store a lot of stuff on shore.  

        I do not know what day I will leave, but a few minutes ago I sent the following to Sailing Anarchy, Cruising World, and Latitude 38,  who have asked that I keep them informed.
       I also sent them these three photos:  two of me taken last year that I could not decide between  and one of GANNET in her slip here at Skull Creek Marina.
       I did this out of courtesy.  I do not seek approval of others. 
Webb Chiles, 77, is about to sail from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for Panama and San Diego, in GANNET, his ultralight Moore 24, to complete his sixth circumnavigation and her first.  Since leaving San Diego in 2014, GANNET’s daily runs total 25,028 miles.

Their intended course to Panama is east of the Bahamas and through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti.

Webb Chiles has never had sponsorship or shore teams.  He goes to sea with no radio beyond a handheld VHF with a range of less than ten miles.  He has contempt for crowd funding of other people’s dreams.  Decades ago he found freedom by choosing to be independently poor.  The key word is ‘independent’.

He and GANNET will depart when he sees a GRIB he likes, but no earlier than Wednesday, January 16.  Once at sea he cuts ties to the land completely and receives no outside weather information.  He studies the sky, the sea, and the barometer, looking for signs of change.

He hopes to reach San Diego in time to be with Carol, his wife, on her birthday in late April.

If you want to follow, GANNET’s Yellowbrick tracking page is:

His website is:  www.inthepresentsea,com

His online journal: