Thursday, August 29, 2019

Evanston: laudable efficiency; Camoes

        In the past two days I have encountered three examples of rare efficiency.

        Some of you will recall that I erroneously bought the wi-fi version of my iPad Pro only to discover at sea to my dismay that it does not include GPS.  I have since bought a Bad Elf Bluetooth GPS which makes my iPad a useful chart plotter, but I have not been satisfied and now spending weeks at a time on GANNET in San Diego would like to have an iPad cellular plan, so when Amazon recently lowered the price of my model of iPad to an all time low I bought one intending to sell the old one.
        I first checked to see what Apple would offer.  The amount was $350.  I then googled and found Klyman, who after a few clicks establishing what I wanted to sell and its condition, offered me $730.  This was all so easy I was skeptical.  I gave them my address.  They sent me a mailing box and a pre-paid one day delivery label.  Carol mailed the iPad for me Saturday.  I got a confirmation email Monday that it was received.  Wednesday the $730 was in my PayPal account.  Totally painless.

        After posting Monday afternoon about the repair kit from Duckworks, I placed an order.  An hour later I got an email it had shipped.  You can’t get much more efficient than that.

        The last comes from of all places a government agency.
        I need to renew my passport, so I go to the Travel. State. Gov. site where I find all the information I need, including a form filler that determines what form you need and fills it out as you respond to questions.  When finished, download, date and sign.  Mail it in with the old passport, a new photo, and a fee which is now $110, and that is it.
        I do not know if I am the only old person who thinks this way, but passports are good for ten years.  I may not need another.

        I am rereading for at least the third time Luis Camoes THE LUSIADS, his epic poem about the voyage of Vasco de Gama.
        I am only a third of the way through, but have already come across words worth sharing.

        “The price of heroic deeds
          Is great effort and endurance;
          To risk life to the point of losing it
          Is the guarantee of glory.
          The man who is not cowed by abject fears,
          Though life be short, his fame survives the years.”

           Rightly acquitted is Fernando
           By those experienced in love;
           While those who are the most disposed to blame
           Were never touched by fantasy or flame.

        At the end of Canto Four there is a remarkable diatribe by an old man on the banks of the Tagus just as De Gama’s ships are due to sail from Lisbon who tells the sailors that they are foolish to seek glory and should stay home.  My favorite line is:

          The devil take the man who first put
          Dry wood on the waves with a sail!

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Evanston: shelf clouds; a repair kit

        This dramatic photo of a shelf cloud was taken by Don Burdick and illustrates an interesting article about them that I came across on Steve Earley’s site.  Go there for a link to the article and some photos Steve has taken of similar clouds.  

        I have seen something like them several times at sea.  They move one to immediate action.

        Steve also wrote me about an useful repair kit which can be found at:
        I have ordered one.

        Obviously I am doing nothing interesting myself.  Really I am doing nothing at all except climbing stairs and taking walks.  However I am much improved over how I was a few days ago.  I no longer hesitate before every change of position, knowing a flash of pain will come, and I stopped taking medications Sunday night.  I don’t like to take medication and prefer to let my aging body heal itself.  I really miss not being able to workout, and the rib may affect when I return to GANNET.
        At least a half a dozen of you have written of your own cracked ribs.  My favorite story involves a spider in a shower but I am not going to pass it on.
        A clarification:  I do not believe that all who fall and fracture a rib should be immediately dispatched, only the old like me.  That does not yet seem to be government policy, so I will stumble and sail on.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Evanston: in praise of sea gulls

        I like birds.  If I were not a homo sapiens, I would surely be a wandering albatross endlessly circling above the Southern Ocean.  But I do not like all birds, and I do hope that all will in my absence not roost on GANNET.  Birds are notoriously not boat broken.  Their droppings have created wealth and were, I believe, the cargo on the last commercial sailing ships to round Cape Horn.  GANNET has to her advantage that she is small and low.  Birds usually prefer high perches.
        Among the birds I have not admired are sea gulls.  They are too much like us:  aggressive, loud, bickering, thieving, and will eat anything.
        An article in today’s NY TIMES has caused me to reconsider gulls.     

        Reportedly they are intelligent, adaptable, good parents, and a climate change success story.
        I will try to look upon them differently when I return to Mission Bay; but I would rather be an albatross.

        John and Chris sent me links to a video of a tour of the Laphroaig distillery.

  The process of producing my favorite liquid is more complex than I knew.  Even the water is peaty.  Given time I will make the pilgrimage to Islay. 

        As I have learned several of you have also fractured ribs.  One also landed on the edge of a coffee table.  Who knew that coffee tables are so dangerous?  The consensus is that recovery is slow and painful.
        Mine goes by time of day.  
        I am almost pain free in the afternoons, but the nights are difficult.
        I deeply regret that the fractured rib will prevent my resuming my workouts for at least a month.  I don’t enjoy working out.  I do like what working out does for my aging body.  
        I won’t be able to do push-ups for a month or more.  I might be able to do crunches.  At present I can climb stairs and walk.  I did thirty floors of stairs today.  Maybe I am going to have to do more and walk more and maybe bike ride.
        I have writing to do.  Three articles for magazines in the US and the UK. But I am going to have to find ways to use my body within the limitations of my fractured rib.   At any age a flabby Webb Chiles is an impossible contradiction in terms.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Evanston: cracked; ageless ballerina

        Harsh reality has become harsher.
        Last evening I tripped over the power cord for my iPad and fell, hitting my left side hard on the edge of the coffee table and fracturing a rib.  Mine.  The coffee table is doing quite well.  
        This morning Carol drove me to a Northwestern walk-in clinic which verified that was all I broke.  I was given a prescription for some anti-inflammatory/pain medication and told that the rib will heal itself in a month or two.  I share the opinion of those who believe that old fools who fall should be dispatched forthwith.  Hopefully humanely.
        I had planned to resume my workouts today.  That is not going to happen for a long time.
        It might seem odd to some that I should injure myself on land rather than on water, but not to me. I know that the land is far more dangerous than the ocean.

        I thank Larry for a link to a video of a performance of infinite beauty and skill by I was told a 74 year old Chinese ballerina and her grandson.   It takes two minutes and thirty-six seconds.  You are unlikely to spend a better two minutes today. 

        There is a spoiler.  Don’t read below the link until after you have viewed the video.  I am putting extra space after the link to assist you.

        My initial impression was of awe and disbelief that anyone 74 years old could look so youthful and perform so magnificently.
        That disbelief was justified.  Further searching reveals that the man is her husband and the child who appears briefly is their son.
        Whatever her age, she is the embodiment of elegance and grace.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Somewhere Over America: a wine bottle; harsh reality; new videos


        We are halfway through the three hour flight from Phoenix to Chicago and five or six miles above northern Texas or Oklahoma.  Maybe Kansas.  Though written Sunday, this won’t be posted until tomorrow.
        Carol and I enjoyed our days in Sedona, Arizona.  We drove to the Grand Canyon on Thursday and flew over it yesterday.  The Grand Canyon is the Grand Canyon, one of the great natural wonders of this world, although on Thursday views were lessened by smoke from wild fires.  Yesterday was clearer.  But what has been most surprising is the dramatic and spectacular beauty of Sedona.  The red rock formations and mountains are almost otherworldly.

        We had clear views of them from the windows and deck of our resort cottage.  We watched the light change in the morning and at sunset, and Venus and the first stars appear in the waning light, followed by the full moon.  Last night I saw Scorpio just above the horizon to the west.
        The resort consists of cottages not hotel rooms.  The land is an incline from beside Oak Creek.  We were on the highest level, but enjoyed sitting beside the creek, watching ducks, listening to the babbling water, reading.

        At this time of year the resort restaurant has open air tables beside the creek.  We had our anniversary dinner there Friday.  After dark we could not see the creek, but we heard it.
        Usually I prefer for others to choose the wine to accompany dinner.  Carol did that night and chose an Argentine Malbec that as you can see carries the words “Red Schooner” and “Voyage 7” on the label.  I am quite certain she did not choose the wine for those, but because it was one of the few bottles on the list that cost less than $100.  Two notes:  several bottles were more than $1000 and a few more than $3000; and some years ago a reader sent me the great line:  ‘’I refuse to drink anything that costs more than my first car.”  But how unlikely is it that a wine labeled “Voyage 7” should be offered to a sailor who has just completed voyage 6?  
        I like to believe that though frayed by time, I am still good.
        Yesterday I was confronted by harsh reality.
        Between the flights to and from the Grand Canyon, we had a ground tour in a Hummer.  There were four other people on the tour in addition to Carol and me.  A married couple in their 30s and a man and his daughter who is 21.
        The guide took us off the main paved tourist paths and I, with my failed vision, could not follow.  My compromised depth perception is not comfortable with uneven surfaces and precipitous edges without guard rails.  I am not around other people under those circumstances much, but here it was obvious that while I can do things almost no one else can, I cannot do things that any ‘normal’ person can do.
        I know that some of you have much greater impairments than I, but I am not used to being the one who cannot keep up with the group.  I am used to being the one the group cannot keep up with.
        Some have been impressed that I made the GANNET voyage in my 70s.  Age never entered my mind about the voyage.  I have written that the ocean does not give senior discounts and if it did, I would have refused to accept one.  But my failed vision and hearing are significantly affecting my life.  Among other things, I am not good in complex spaces such as airports and I can’t see in the lighting in big box stores.  I am tired of apologizing and saying, “I am blind in my right eye and did not know you were there.”  I am best alone and in limited familiar spaces where I know where everything is.  GANNET obviously.  Our Evanston condo.
       I don’t have a conclusion, but I am troubled.
       All the more reason to return to the sea you might think.  And you might be right.

        I have just posted the two videos I made a few days ago on GANNET in her new home.
        They can be found at:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

San Diego: last evening

        “The sea is our most universal symbol for memory.”
        The words come from one of the short stories in THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER which I bought through the ungracefully named but useful BookBud.
        I am not certain that the words are true, but they are worth considering.
        I knew John Cheever’s name, but had not read anything of his before THE STORIES, most of which first appeared in THE NEW YORKER and are about residents of that city or suburbs.  Some are set in other parts of New England and more than a dozen in Italy, though usually about American travelers or ex-pats living there.  
        I am not one of those who hate New York.  I lived there on the fringe at City Island for most of one year and have sailed there two or three times.  But I am also not one who thinks New York is the center of the universe.  That I read all 900 pages of John Cheever’s stories is testament to how fine a writer he is.
        Perhaps my favorite is ‘The Swimmer’ in which a man in one of the suburbs decides to swim several miles home from the house of an acquaintance, going from backyard swimming pool to backyard swimming pool.  His feat has an unexpected ending.

        I went from John Cheever to another BookBud purchase, FACING THE WAVE:  A journey in the wake of the tsunami by Gretel Ehrlich which is stunning in her intelligence, insight, sensitivity and writing ability.  
        The tsunami is that caused by the 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011.
        By chance the first chapter is titled, ‘The Swimmer’, a very different swimmer than John Cheever’s.
        In another chapter, a farmer who lost everything except his life in the tsunami gives his niece one of four fresh tomatoes he has managed to grow where he has been relocated.  She says, “This is absurd.  You have nothing and are giving us food.”  He stares hard at her:  “The less I have the happier I am.”

        I am writing in late afternoon and will soon go up to shower.
        Earlier a man, now 50, came by with his son and mother, whom I had met before.  He grew up in Mission Beach and on a November morning in 1978 his father walked him and his brother to the bridge over part of Mission Bay and watched CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE head out the channel to began her voyage.
        Before that I walked three miles to the closest liquor store that carries Laphroaig 10 year.  I was out—yes, all those bottles I was given upon my arrival on April 29 have been emptied.  In mitigation, I did not drink it all myself.  I shared—and I wanted to savor a sip on this my last evening on GANNET and the water for a while.
        I have been here seven weeks today and I accomplished what I wanted to.  Next time I will go sailing for a week or two.  I know not where.
        Most of my life is public, but part private and what more than a 25th wedding anniversary, so the rest of this week is for Carol and me.  The next entry will come from Evanston next week, where I will also upload two videos of the restored GANNET and her new home.
        Be kind to one another in my absence.  Be kind to one another period.

Monday, August 12, 2019

San Diego: the richest man in the world

        The richest man in the world is not Jeff Bezos or any other billionaire.
        The richest man in the world is Webb Chiles because he has enough and knows it, and because he has had the greatest wealth of all:  time.
        Neither of these came about by chance.
        I have enough because I don't need much.
        More than thirty years ago a British journalist wrote: "Perhaps no one in the history of seafaring has done as much with as little as Webb Chiles."  That was after the $29,000 EGREGIOUS and the $5,000 CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, but before the $35,000 RESURGAM, the $22,000 THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, and the $9,000 GANNET.  While I spent more on each of them than that initial cost, I have never owned a boat that likely cost as much as your car.
        Of time, mine has been my own for more than forty years.  That was a deliberate decision.   Few, if any, billionaires could claim as much.  Their wealth owns them as much and perhaps more than they own it.

        I have just come below after sipping Plymouth gin and listening to music on deck, a mix that included an African, an Australian aboriginal, an American, a Spanish group, a Portuguese group, a Brazilian, a Canadian, an Irishman, and an Englishman.
        Friday night I started to listen to a Beethoven string quartet until a power boater in the next finger started working on his engine, which was always loud and became deafening when he revved it, as he frequently did.  Poor Beethoven didn't stand a chance.

        I did my laundry today.  As I walked to and from the shore, I noticed four more owls on boats, in addition to the one on the power boat across from me.
        Imagine at the end of your life being asked what you did and replying, "I made plastic owls."
        "To frighten birds off boats."
        "Did it work?"

        Last evening while I was on deck a young man, at least by my standards, perhaps in his late 20s, came into view crossing from right to left on a stand up board.  He had on a black tee-shirt.  It read: 
                                      I ❤️ MY
                                      (and then a word with smaller letters I could not read)
        When he got close enough I saw that the missing word was MEXICAN.
        I called to him that I had been trying to read his shirt and said, "Good for you."
        He laughed and waved.
        A few seconds after he passed out of view to the left, an attractive young woman on a stand up board paddled into view from the right.  She was smiling and I made the connection.
        "You are the one he loves."
        She nodded and grinned.
        It is good to be young and in lust and love, which I believe is the usual progression.
        It is good to be old and in lust and love.
        And anywhere in between.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

San Diego: the anti-GANNET

        I pass this boat each time I go ashore.  It--and I intentionally do not use 'she"--is on the main dock near one of the two ramps to the marina.  Apparently the owner is unaware or chooses to ignore the rule about storing bicycles and other crap on the dock.  


        A clarification.
        If--and note the 'if'--I ever cross another ocean it will not be for years.  If it happens I am saving it for my 80s which don't start until November 2021, assuming I last that long. 
        I am so content in GANNET's present location that I may sip Plymouth gin or 10 year Laphoaig on deck though the remaining sunsets of my life.


         My time on the little boat is almost over.
        Next Wednesday I fly to Phoenix where I will meet Carol who will drive us to a resort in Sedona, Arizona, near the Grand Canyon, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary.  On August 18 we fly together back to Chicago.
        I will return to GANNET in October or November, depending on where Carol wants to spend Thanksgiving.  

Thursday, August 8, 2019

San Diego: ‘Scorpion’; sea dogs; feels like

        I thank both Bill and Art for tracking down a reference I made to Lucy Kaplansky’s song, ‘Scorpion’, in GANNET’s passage log.  Art also found the earlier reference I made to it in the journal.


        Dogs in kayaks and on stand up boards pass GANNET daily.  Usually several a day.  They are not doing the paddling.  They have trained people to do that.  I have even seen several two dog boats, which perhaps should be the title of something.  I do not recall that dogs on the water were common here five years ago.  Almost all of them are wearing life jackets and almost all seem quite content and usually curious.  One or two have looked a bit worried, and one yipped continuously until he returned to the dock.
        None are the equal to Tom’s, Baby, of whom I have posted pictures before.  
        Baby stands lookout when Tom paddles his kayak or sails his Welsford Pathfinder, FIRST LIGHT, and wags her tail as a metronome to keep his strokes up to the desired pace.
        Tom sent me a video of them out on a beautiful glassy morning in the Florida Keys.

        They were out early to avoid the southern summer heat.
        At noon today San Diego was 70 with a ‘feels like’ 70.  I checked Hilton Head which was 92 feels like 108.  Hmmm.

        When I went up to shower a power boat named BAD BUOY was being hauled from the water.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

San Diego: Lucy Kaplansky; freed; what’s left

        I have written about Lucy Kaplansky here before, but I can’t find the entry.  I called her ‘Scorpion’ the sexiest song ever written.
        I have several of her albums.  I enjoy them all and have been asked which of her songs are my favorites.
        ‘Scorpion’ is certainly one of them.  I have two different versions and prefer the one on the album, RED HORSE, which she shares with Eliza Gilkyson and John Gorka.
        Another of my favorite of her songs is also on that album, ‘Blue Chalk.’
        ‘Ten Year Night’ from the album of that name and ‘The Tide’ from the album of that name round out my top four.
        I particularly like the contrast between ‘Scorpion’ in which a woman wants to give everything and ‘The Tide’ where she has nothing to give.


        Last week my removable bow sprit wasn’t.  One of the knurled knobs securing the flange that holds it in place was frozen and despite my massive strength could not be budged, so I painted around and beneath it, then sprayed it with Corrosion Block and WD40 and tapped it with a hammer a couple of times.  Yesterday I was surprised to find that one or the other of the sprays had worked.  The knob moved with fingers.  It still does.  A sailor’s small pleasure.


        I have had an indolent day.  I have done nothing but listen to music and read THE STORIES OF JOHN CHEEVER.  I have only left GANNET to put a sack of trash on the dock and move a can of paint into the dock box.  I expect to muster sufficient ambition to take the trash up with me when I shower later.
        The GANNET to do list is down to:
                   Stern running light
                   Wind instruments?
                   Repair foul weather gear
                   Upholstery:  pipe berths, v-berth
                   Replace spray hood
                   Replace standing rigging; furling gear inspection
                   Leaks bow and forward hatch

        I expect that the stern running light is only a loose wire, but before I crawl back there I will buy an LED light.  The present one has a bulb.
        The question mark after wind instruments is that I will probably buy another unit, but I sailed much of GANNET’s circumnavigation without wind instruments and am tired of them malfunctioning.
        The seam in the seat of one set of foul weather gear needs regluing.
        The pipe berths need replacing, but it is an ordeal to remove the covers and I may buy a yard or two of vinyl and glue it over the top third of each berth.
        The v-berth cushions are all right, but I have always wanted them to be an inch thicker and of firmer foam.
        The spray hood made in Durban is showing signs of weakening due to sun exposure.
        I see no defects in the standing rigging, but I always replace standing rigging after a circumnavigation.  
        Depending on what the rigger finds, I may replace the jib furling gear too.
        Listing the leaks is a gesture.  I have been trying to find and fix them for years. I have rebedded the forward hatch twice.  Maybe someday when I am really bored, I will try again, though I expect that I will have to continue to live with them.

Monday, August 5, 2019

San Diego: world wide; ocean walk

        I am simultaneously on opposite sides of the world and part way in between.
        I thank Mark for sending a link to an article about me in the Australian AFLOAT magazine and Goggle has just notified me that an excerpt from THE OPEN BOAT: Across the Pacific has appeared in PRACTICAL BOAT OWNER in the UK.  
        I knew that both pieces were being prepared, but not when they would be published.
        The PRACTICAL BOAT OWNER piece does not appear to be available online.
        Kevin Green, the author of the AFLOAT piece and I have emailed at intervals for more than a year and we had an hour long FaceTime conversation.  He did his research and got it mostly right, but there are a few errors and I take exception to his assertion that I am the first American to sail alone around Cape Horn only because of the technicality that Joshua Slocum went through the Straits of Magellan.  I have said that I believe the Straits are more difficult with deep anchorages, other traffic—though not in Slocum’s day, williwaws, and always lee shores.  I prefer sea room.  But the Straits of Magellan are not rounding Cape Horn.  That is not a technically; it is a fact.
        Neither Chichester nor I made non-stop circumnavigations.  He stopped once; I twice.
        Suzanne was not my fifth wife, but my third and maybe fourth in that we were married twice.
        And I have never used the Torqeedo on my dinghy.  I have never used any outboard on a dinghy.  I row.  I have said that when I am too old to row ashore, it will be time to give it up.
        These are not to be seen as criticisms of what is a mostly accurate article in which Kevin used the now compulsory ‘legendary’ before my name, just minor corrections.


        After a few minor boat chores, I walked over to Mission Beach and along the ocean to a supermarket a little over three miles away.  As you can see it is as is to be expected here another beautiful day. 


Saturday, August 3, 2019

San Diego: restored

       I finished painting the deck areas between the Raptor nonskid this morning.  GANNET is restored to respectability.
      There is more to do, but this is enough for now.  I am no longer living in moldy squalor.  And the mad painter has left the room.  Or boat.

      Fifteen minutes or so ago I was sitting on deck sipping Plymouth gin and listening to Lucy Laplansky when two two person kayaks came past.  People in these kayaks are pretty much at eye level with me sitting on GANNET and so I often speak with them.  In this instance I said, “What a wonderful evening and how great it is to be on the water.”  I should perhaps preference that by noting that a bit earlier I watched another two person kayak go past with a young man, perhaps boy, and young woman, perhaps, girl, who were clearly unfamiliar with being on the water and as clearly awed by the experience.  They went out a short distance and just drifted overcome by the grace and beauty.  One of the men in the two kayaks who were passing now responded, “How come you are not out sailing?”  I would not have said this had he not asked, but I replied, “I sailed this boat around the world finishing a few months ago and that is enough for a while.”  Gasps from four young people who of course had no idea of my other voyages.  I suppose one of my purposes is to stretch imaginations.


Thursday, August 1, 2019

San Diego: three surprises

        I painted the cockpit today. 
        Painting white on white in bright sunshine and with my flawed vision, I found in this evening’s subdued light  places I need to touch up which I will do when I paint the remaining parts of the deck between the Raptor nonskid panels.
        I am content here working on GANNET.  That is the first of the surprises.  I don’t know that contentment is my natural state.
        While I have lived more in the MidWest than anywhere else, I am not a MidWesterner, though when I think of Americans I admire, other than those of the true greatest generation,  that of the Revolution, the names that first come to mind are MidWesterners:  Abraham Lincoln; Ulysses S. Grant; Harry Truman.  But I am pelagic and and as I have noted Quivira Basin and Mission Beach are as much as any place on land the center of my life.
        The second surprise came when I learned that several people thought that I would sell GANNET after completing her circumnavigation.  That had never occurred to me.  I did not buy GANNET intending to sail her around the world.  That evolved.  She suits me perfectly and I think I suit her perfectly.  Unless, as I think highly unlikely, Carol decides she is willing to live on a boat full time again, in which case I would buy something THE HAWKE OF TUONELA size, GANNET and I are good for the duration.
        The third surprise to me is that only three months after we completed GANNET’s circumnavigation I have thought of another voyage I would like to make.
        It took me a year after my first circumnavigation before I thought of another.  And the passage from Panama was brutal and joyless.  I completed it from pride and honor.  I have a self-image of Webb Chiles being as far as possible out to the right of the bell shaped curve of normal distribution where the line flattens and never quite touches the baseline, a self-image I will not fail to live up to.
        I am not saying I will ever make another voyage.  If I do it will  not be a circumnavigation.  The first phase would be to sail GANNET across the Pacific to New Zealand’s Bay of Islands, where she would spend a final year.  And from there I know, but will not say.
        It may never happen.
        I am really old and we are all ultimately self-solving problems.
        I have done enough, and I haven’t.  I might never be able to do enough.
        Time and chance will solve that.