Monday, March 30, 2020

Evanston: a 6,000 mile passage

This is the photo that heads this journal.  Most of us, including me, pass over it without a glance as our eyes move to the journal entries.  I am rather proud of it.  The leaf was floating in a narrow moat surrounding the open living area of a villa Carol and I rented in 2008 on the north shore of Bali.  Almost all the tourism in Bali is in the south.  The north coast, at least then, was quiet and uncrowded.  I did not even crop that photo.  I did remove a slight change in color in the water.  I wanted a flat plane.  I am not a zen person, but I feel a zen-like calm in the photo.

Here is a photo of the view we had from the villa as the sun was about to set over Java.

Of zen, while I was in Fremantle, Australia in 2002, near the end of my prolonged fourth circumnavigation, Buddhist priests made elaborate and beautiful drawings on the beach at the water’s edge at low tide.

Jay, who cannot get to his Olson 34, SHOE STRING, because it is in a virus closed storage facility in Chicago, is working on boat parts in his home shop.  Yesterday he wrote that he is ‘making progress toward an uncertain end’.  Sounds like a definition of success to me.  Or life.

An article in the NY TIMES yesterday on medical ethics confirmed what I expected:  I am expendable.  If decisions have to be made between giving medical treatment to some and not others, the criteria are likely to be who has the best chance of survival and who likely has the most years left.  I agree entirely.  Quality of life cannot be measured; quantity can.  Those of us who have lived as long as I have had a life.  Twenty year olds have not.  So it is incumbent on me to avoid being in the situation where others have the power to make that decision about me.  That is not entirely in my control,  but I am going to do what I can.

Being expendable reminded me of a good novel about PT boats in WW2, titled THEY WERE EXPENDABLE.  I haven’t read it for sixty years, so in an act of faith or blindness to the future, I ordered a copy from Amazon.

Thus far the pandemic has changed my life about as little as it has anyone’s.  The main change is that Carol is always home, which bothers her more than it does me.  We were due to fly to Hilton Head next week to see the progress made on the condo.  That is not going to happen.  We are due to fly there just before Memorial Day.  That remains to be seen.

I am going to make a suggestion.  Treat the pandemic as I do a long passage, such as the 6,000 miles GANNET and I did between Darwin, Australia, and Durban, South Africa.  I didn’t permit myself to think about the end until it was near.  I focused on the next ten degree line of longitude and when I reached it I thought about the next.  I did that through one hundred degrees.  So don’t think about when this will end.  Think about getting through this week.  And then think about getting through next week.

In the meantime I amused myself by glancing through old photographs.

In no particular order.

New Zealand’s Cape Brett and Piercy Island.

GANNET making 9.2 knots in the Indian Ocean.

GANNET when she was still GROWLER.  This was the day she was delivered to me by the previous owner.  The time stamp is:  May 8, 2011. 10:27 AM, which sounds right.  Almost nine years and a circumnavigation ago.  it does not seem that long.

Carol at the lookout on Roberton Island, Bay of Islands.  THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is at anchor below.

GANNET under sail on Lake Michigan.  I can date the photo by the old boom and mast which I replaced in San Diego.

GANNET’s interior when I was refurbishing it just after I bought her.

Looking aft when I first repainted the interior.  I got stuck back there for a while.

Sunset over Opua from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s mooring.

When I first looked at this I wondered why I had so little sail set in such light conditions, then I remembered I was deliberately sailing slowly on a passage from Darwin so I didn’t reach Bali before the start date on my cruising permit.

Carol again, now in Sky Tower Restaurant, Auckland.  For those who think I married her for her money.

Moon rise. Somewhere.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Evanston: steps; two glass rule; slightly encouraging

Tim sent me the above screenshot of his activity app after his recent virtual marathon.  That is a lot of steps.  Note too the calories. 

Tim is an inch or two taller than I and weighs a little more and is more than twenty years younger, but we have about the same slim build.  I asked him about diet.  Surprisingly he does nothing special before running a marathon.  I am not sure where those 5,000 calories come from.  I expect he snacks after running a marathon and before playing the violin.

Carol and I are entering the second week of our self-imposed two glasses rule.  Having read that alcohol can have a negative effect on the immune system I decided on more disciplined consumption.  The rule is simply only two glasses per evening, whether wine or spirits or a combination.  Obviously glasses are not of equal size and to fill a double old fashioned to the brim with gin would be self-defeating.  Last evening with Thai takeout food we each had a glass of white wine and a martini.  One of my pleasures is to listen to music in the evening while sipping.  A couple of evenings last week I sipped while listening after Carol went to bed.  The temptation for a third glass of Demon Rum was strong, but I valiantly resisted.  In this case it was actually Demon Laphroaig, but Demon Run sounds catchier.

From today’s NY TIMES comes the above.  The numbers are still going up, but the trend is slightly encouraging.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Evanston: survival skill; puddle; virtual marathon; old men; horses

A few hours after I posted about SAILING TO FREEDOM Justin added a comment about Latvian cousins of his who also escaped Soviet repatriation by sailing from Sweden to the United States.  Here is a link to a LIFE magazine article about their voyage.  You need to scroll up as well as down.

Latvia is west of Estonia.

Even before Markus I knew of the Baltic States because long ago one of the women in my life was from Latvia.  When a little girl, she and her family were trying to escape.  I think from the Soviets, but it might have been the Germans.  She and her mother got across a bridge just before it was blown up.  Her father was on the other side.  They never heard from him again.

In those days sailing was a survival skill.  Had I been trapped in Europe I surely would have done the same.

I found myself thinking about the Pacific Puddle Jump.  The intent to share information is good.  The name is not.  The Pacific Ocean is not a puddle.  The North Atlantic is not a pond.  I speculate that the inexperienced call them such in an attempt to render the unknown and perhaps frightening more friendly, but to do so is dangerous self-deception.  I do not think it difficult to cross oceans as long as you take them seriously.  I think anyone who sets off should be prepared to face a gale and if they aren’t they should never leave port.  I have never called or even thought of an ocean as a puddle or a pond.

I got an email last evening from my friend Tim who casually mentioned that he stopped work at 4 PM yesterday and went for a run.  A 26.2 mile run.  A virtual marathon to make up for one scheduled on March 14 that was cancelled.  The promoter gave credit, the medal and tee-shirt to those who ran the distance on their own and supplied corroborating data.  I smile at the thought of completing a virtual work day and then running a virtual marathon.

I hear and read of cabin fever, a malady from which I do not suffer.  

Those of you who went to gyms no longer can.  I never did and my exercise has not changed.  I can stay in shape without ever leaving the building.

My exercise equipment cost $60.  $30 for two ten pound dumbbells.  $30 for resistance bands.  Both naturally from Amazon.

My push-up/crunch based workout uses no equipment at all.  I am doing that three times a week.  I felt good the other day and went to 90 push-ups.

I use the dumbbells on two of the alternate days and the resistance bands on one.  Both are based on maintenance exercises for my torn left shoulder rotator cuff to which I have added extras.

I do 21 floors of stairs all six days, in three sets of 7 floors each.

I take one day off.

I sift through the over abundance of Covid 19 words and sounds, seeking facts, not opinion, speculation, feel good or trying to frighten stories.  Unfortunately there appears to be data to show that I am doubly at risk, being old and male.

There is no country for old men.

A friend, Ron, includes a quote at the bottom of his emails.  For a while it was my:  Amateurs seek adventures; professionals seek to avoid them.  But most often it is:  Sometimes I think life is just a rodeo.  The trick is to ride and make it to the bell.

To which I add a corollary:  You are stuck with the horse you rode in on.

Those whom the gods would destroy they first make mad is attributed to various sources.  I misremembered it and came up with what I consider an improvement:  Those whom the gods would destroy they first make proud.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Evanston: SAILING TO FREEDOM: a book for troubled times

I do not read much about sailing any more, but I am very glad that Markus, who is an Estonian commercial fisherman and sailor, told me about SAILING TO FREEDOM by Voldemar Veedam and Carl B. Wall.  I read the book in two sittings.

Above you have the 37’ ERMA at the end of her 8,000 mile voyage from Sweden to Norfolk, Virginia in 1945 with sixteen Estonian refugees on board, covering three generations, seven men, five women, and four children.

For Americans most of whom have no idea where or what Estonia is, some background is in order.  Estonia is one of the Baltic States on the southeast coast of the Baltic Sea, just to the west of Russia and therein lay the problem.  During the Second World War Estonia was invaded by the Soviet Union, Germany, and then the Soviet Union again.  Many Estonians escaped by boat across the Baltic to Scandinavian countries.  About 25% of the population of Estonia died during the war, among the highest percentages of any country.  At the time that would have been 40,000,000 American dead.  Now it would be 80,000,000 dead.  Try to imagine that.

After Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945, the Soviet Union began to pressure Scandinavian countries to forcibly repatriate refugees from countries the Soviet Union then controlled.  For many this was a death sentence.

Rather than take that risk, several Estonians in Sweden bought a then fifty year old boat and set out with friends and family to sail to the United States.  Along the way they stopped in Norway, Scotland, Ireland and Madeira.  They were tough, determined, skilled at improvising, one of the most important qualities in making a voyage and one that probably can’t be taught, persistent, lived in harsher conditions than I do on GANNET, and lucky.  This last in being reprovisioned close to the end when they were out of food and water.  I think their only mistake was in not aiming for Florida rather than New York. 

This is a great story that deserves to be more widely known of the sea and of men and women and children of admirable character against a background of a war shattered Europe.  

I have thanked Markus for bringing it to my attention and do so again.

As far as I know the book is not in print.  I bought mine used from Amazon.

Here is a NY TIMES review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Evanston: insane; The wave; comments

Carol and I walked in the cemetery again yesterday afternoon.  Others have discovered the cemetery too.  We saw a half dozen people there.  Two men walking dogs, one of which was a superb gray greyhound.  I called to the owner, “Your dog is beautiful,” and then because of the way the dog proudly carried himself, “and perhaps he knows it.”  The man laughed and said, “He does.”  A woman was with her young son riding his tricycle.  A middle aged woman walked slowly alone.

The cemetery stretches down to the street that runs along the lakefront.  We crossed and looked at the water for a while.

It is strange what the mind does.  That is the fifth biggest lake in the world.  I cannot see the other side, but my mind knows that Michigan is only fifty or sixty miles away.  I do not disparage Lake Michigan.  It is a serious and sometimes dangerous body of water.  I was born in the center of the continent.  I have lived in the Midwest almost half my life, though as an adult I have always been able to get away.  I have circumnavigated twice during the fourteen years we have lived in Evanston.  But I am a creature of the ocean.  A lake is water dominated by land.  A continent is land dominated by water.  70% of the Earth’s surface is water.  I need to know that beyond the horizon land is not fifty miles away, but thousands.

Even though we will probably maintain a residence here for three more years, assuming we live three more years or weeks, Evanston is over for me.  San Diego, which has been more at the heart of my life than any other place on land, is over for me.  I believe Hilton Head is the future.  Carol said something I did not expect the other day.  “You will be restless wherever you are.”  I know that.  I did not know she did, but I should have.  She is intelligent and has been around me longer than anyone else.  I am really old.  I am eagerly looking forward toward the future.

Reading online yesterday I saw three articles on ‘How to remain sane in a world gone insane.’  My thought was:  How can that the world is insane be a surprise?  Have these people not been paying attention?  Have they read no history?  And of course the answer to both questions is a resounding ‘Yes.  They haven’t.’

You don’t even have to read much history to know that the world is insane.  The first half of the 20th Century is proof enough.

I also saw in headings “terrified’ four times, ‘fear’ three, and ‘outraged’ three, as well as articles about how in the United States people who appear to be Chinese are being spit upon and beat up as being responsible for the pandemic.  

In the unfortunate event that Carol were not a part of my life, I would provision GANNET for two or three months and go to sea.  From San Diego I might sail a clockwise circle around the North Pacific, over close to Japan, up toward Alaska, down off the West Coast.  By the time I got back to San Diego the first wave of Covid 19 should be over.

I would not be able to provision GANNET as I usually do.   In another example of the herd following my lead, freeze dry food is in short supply.  I thought of buying some.  I will want to have at least a month’s supply on hand in Hilton Head for hurricanes.  Amazon, CampMor, Mountain House are all almost out.  There is so little available it is not worth placing an order.

It should be unnecessary to say that I am glad Carol is a part of my life and I have no desire except to see this through with her.

I suppose we have a mini-social network here with me as the nexus.  From time to time some of you tell me of books or films or music you think I might enjoy and sometimes I share that in this journal.

I first learned of Max Richter from his score for the film, THE HOSTILES, which Tim told me about.  I liked the film enough to put it back on my watch list to view a second time and the score exceedingly.  When last week I chanced upon ‘Return 2’ and wrote about it, Douglas in England suggested other music composed by Max Richter.  I bought and have listened to three albums.   I like them all, but unquestionably the piece that moves me most is ‘The Waves:  Tuesday’ from the album THREE WORLDS:  MUSIC FROM WOOLF WORKS.

The piece begins with a woman’s voice reciting what I recognized as Virginia Woolf’s suicide letter to her husband of almost twenty-nine years, Leonard Woolf.

Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can't go through another of those terrible times. And I shan't recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can't concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don't think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can't fight it any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can't even write this properly. I can't read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that—everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can't go on spoiling your life any longer. I don't think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.

She then filled the pockets of her overcoat with rocks and walked into the River Ouse.  She was fifty-nine years old.  

The wave of madness grows and swells in Max Richter’s beautiful and haunting music, looming ever higher, until in the nineteenth minute it breaks and engulfs her.  Water washes back into the ocean, leaving behind if not peace at least the absence of anguish.

This may not be your kind of music, but here is a link to a performance.

Some have told me they have not been able to post comments.  I did some research and may have fixed the problem by changing comments from embedded to pop-up.  A test I ran worked.  There may also be a problem with browsers.  I have found that there are certain actions I cannot complete in Blogger and YouTube in Safari that I can in Chrome.  Google owns Blogger and YouTube and Chrome.  If you still have a problem, please let me know.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Evanston: sheltering; 290; a Chinese poem

Our second day under a shelter in place order and as you can see snow.  Neither has made much difference to our lives so far, though the city outside is quieter.

On Saturday before the order went into place Carol and I took a walk through the cemetery just across the street.  It is a big cemetery.  We covered 1.75 miles almost all inside its bounds and could have made an ever bigger loop.  The cemetery is a very good place to walk.  No one else was there.  I dislike walking on sidewalks where I have to avoid others, most of whom are looking at their phones.

Yesterday afternoon we drove to the supermarket to pick up an order placed online.  While there was less traffic than usual, there was more than I expected.  Nothing like the photos I have seen of completely deserted streets.  We passed a Home Depot along the way.  It was open and its parking lot perhaps a quarter full, as was the supermarket’s.

Our supermarket had pick-up service before the virus.  You take one of several designated parking spots, telephone the number on a sign in front of the spot, and in a few minutes your order is carried out to you.  Ours was by a thin smiling girl who seemed surprised when I thanked her, as I did a flight attendant a week earlier, for doing her job in these difficult times.  These people should be thanked.  We returned to the condo with a minimum of human contact, put the supplies away, which included bizarrely precious toilet paper.  I then carried the paper bags in which the groceries had been packed down to the recycle bin and wiped down everything they and we had touched.

Snow began to fall late in the afternoon and into the night.  Less than an inch, but some was still on the ground this morning.

Leaf buds began to appear last week on the trees outside our windows.

There is less traffic on the streets.  One is supposed to go out only for essential activities.  Walking for exercise is permitted so long as people keep a distance apart which Is not a problem in the cemetery where I expect to confine my walking for the foreseeable future.

Supermarkets, pharmacies, laundromats, dry cleaners, Home Depot, banks are still open, as I am advised by an email is our liquor store, which someone has wisely decided is an essential business, though they have reduced their hours.  They are among the many businesses which are limiting their first hour to senior citizens.  Geezer power.

A friend sent me a link to a video of a young man sailing a 23’ boat solo from California to Hawaii.  I skimmed it.  He seems a pleasant enough young man.  I noticed that the video has had 1,450,000 views.  Now we all know that success is measured by numbers of views and followers and Facebook friends.  The most views any of my videos has had is 5,000.  Most have had less.   Therefore it is obvious that by current standards this young man is 290 times the sailor that I am.  Perhaps the standards are suspect.

I am reading a good novel, TIME AND TIDE, about life on a Navy heavy cruiser in the Pacific during WWII.   In it I came across lines from an ancient Chinese poem ‘Visiting the Hsi-Lin Temple’ by Po Chu-i:

This year there is war in An-Hui,
In every place soldiers are rushing to arms.
Men of learning have been summoned to the Council Board;
Men of action are marching to the battle-line.
Only I, who have no talents at all,
Am left in the mountains to play with the pebbles in the stream.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Evanston: trapped; good decisions; stillness; AirPods; comments

After posting yesterday, I received an email from Craig, who now lives aboard in Seattle but whom I met while we were both in New Zealand, both having sailed there solo from the US.

The situation for boats trying to cruise the South Pacific this year has become even worse.  Quite simply it has become impossible and cruisers are facing hard decisions.  While we both realize that there are more serious consequences to this pandemic, the plight of these people strikes close to home to both Craig and me.

I quote from Craig’s email:

> Late yesterday the Government had stopped the entry of all non-residents into French Polynesia.   They are also sending all non-residents home.

> Any boats arriving now, where the crew is not showing signs of COVID-19, will be allowed to re-provision, re-fuel & effect repairs with the goal of going to Tahiti where the Maritime Affairs Minister will find a safe mooring for them so they can leave the boat and return to their home country by air from Tahiti.


Then today, the other popular agent who is based in Papeete, Tehani, sent a longer message.  There are three options, but only option 1 or 2 are available if you are just arriving or have been there less than a month.

> For those arriving in FP this season, you have option 1 or 2 only

> For those already in French Polynesia for more than 1 month, you have 3 options.

> 1/ Return home by airplane with boat remaining in French Polynesia

> This will mean finding a safe place to anchor, moor or to store their
> boat.  For the moment Nuku Hiva, Hiva Oa and Ua Pou are accepting
> boats in their anchorages.  However, no boats are allowed in Fatu Hiva
> at the request of the local population.  In Tahiti, the DPAM is
> reviewing docking and anchorage space.

> Decisions on repatriation need to be made quickly as airlines are
> limiting their flights with the risk that this option may fall away in
> the short term. Air Tahiti Nui is the only airline to be maintaining
> flights to France from next Monday.  AF, UN, FB, NZ, LT are
> progressively reducing flights; no transit is allowed through NZ and
> AU today; returning to the USA is becoming hard to arrange.

> 2/ Choose to continue sailing in the Pacific.

> We need to know who will be making a call to Tahiti to refuel etc and
> their estimated arrival date and location.

> 3/ Choose to stay in French Polynesia with their boat.

option 3 means you stay in one place and may need to move off your boat into temporary housing on land.

The Cook islands have closed their borders, as has Tonga, so option 2 of continuing to sail might mean the best destination will be back to the US.  Some people decided to return to Mexico, but now that border is about to be shut as well.

Australia and New Zealand have also closed their borders.  U.S. sailors could sail to Hawaii or back to the West Coast.  Whether other nationalities would be allowed in I do not know.  The crews would have gone through more than a two week quarantine on the passage before arrival.

By far the best choice would be to provision and go to sea for two months, but in my experience most cruisers don’t actually like being at sea.

All have my sympathy.

The inbox of the email account I give to businesses had a dozen emails in it this morning, all virus related.  Among them was one from Driscoll Marina stating that it and the boat yard are closed.  The toilets and showers for the marina are within the boat yard area.  Anyone in there without written permission will be considered to be trespassing.

I was scheduled to fly back from San Diego next Tuesday.  I anticipated increasing complications and wisely flew home last Sunday.

Another wise decision was to move most of Carol’s retirement money out of the stock market over a year ago.  Of course I did not foresee this pandemic, but I did know that the stock market was not going to go up forever, that a recession would come sooner or later, and as someone else observed:  better to get out a year too early than a day too late.

Illinois goes under a shelter in place order in six hours.  This won’t make much difference to me.  I am a physical animal, but I am capable of stillness.  The longest I have been totally alone is the five month passage around the Horn in EGREGIOUS.  But I have often been more than a month alone at sea—two months on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE during the passage from Singapore to Aden; two months on GANNET the passage from Darwin to Durban; and many others.  In all I have probably spent seven or eight years alone at sea, and a couple more years with Jill and with Carol.  And as some of you know I also spent two weeks in a Saudi Arabian jail cell.

Stillness is unnatural and threatening to many people.  Perhaps because they fear that if they have to sit quietly and look within they will find emptiness.

So after all these decades, the rest of you are going to have catch up and live for a while in isolation from the herd as I naturally do.  Who knows?  A few may even come to like it.

Apple’s AirPods are life changing.  I did not expect that.  On GANNET I still listen to music on my Boom 2 speakers.  I have Boom 2s here in Evanston, as well as a surround sound system, but I rarely listen to music on anything but my AirPod Pros.  Even more important is that Carol likes to watch some television I do not, including more news.  I bought her a pair of AirPod Pros for Christmas.  She uses them at work for phone calls.  Here in the condo she connects them to the Apple TV and watches news and other programs I don’t want to hear.  Thank you once again, Apple.

I find the comments made on my YouTube videos interesting.  So I have changed the settings to this journal and have opened it to comments.  I am not sure how this will work and may revert at any time, arrogant bastard that I am.

Be strong.