Monday, June 29, 2020

Hilton Head Island: exposed and eluded

From mid-March until yesterday Carol and I had been within six feet of other human beings only a handful of times and never for more than a few seconds.  Yesterday that changed.  Big time.  We have now been around hundreds, some of whom wore masks, some of whom did not, and we continue to be around many more each day.

O’Hare’s Terminal 3 seemed slightly less busy than before the pandemic, but only slightly.  Social distancing was difficult, sometimes impossible.  We flew on American Eagle on an aircraft that was almost full.  American requires passengers to wear face masks and all did, but one young man in the row in front of us and on the other side of the aisle kept lowering his to turn around and talk to his friend behind him, until another passenger asked him to stop.  He apologized and did.

At Savannah Airport where we landed, most passengers wore masks, but few of the employees in the various airport businesses, including the car rental agency, did.

The Marriott Hotel where we are staying for a couple of nights is ten stories high, by far the tallest building on the island which has been intelligently developed and does not want to become another Miami Beach.  I don’t believe any other building on Hilton Head is more than four stories high.  The behind the scenes story of how the Marriott got permissions might be interesting.

All the staff of the hotel wear face masks, almost none of the guests other than us do.  We have seen a few more masked today.  Only one other yesterday.

In response to the pandemic the hotel does not provide room service and rooms are only made up every three days or, of course, earlier at the end of your stay.

We had an appointment with the contractor at the condo this morning.  He failed to appear for reasons yet unknown, but a plumber and two painters were there, along with a foreman, all unmasked.

We’ve gone into a Whole Foods and a Fresh Market, in both of which all employees and customers were masked, as were all in a Spectrum store where we picked up a self-install Internet kit.

The numbers of cases and deaths per 100,000 in South Carolina are not yet high, but they are in steep ascent.

Of the condo itself.  Much work has been done and is outstanding.  Unfortunately more needs to be done than we expected.  The place is still a construction site.  A mattress is scheduled to be delivered Wednesday.  We had planned on sleeping there that night.  Whether we will remains to be seen.

Hilton Head Island is beautiful and continues to elude us.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Evanston: We the Sheeple

This is a rare second post in a single day.

While as usual in early evening, sipping a martini and listening to Bach—Sonata No, 3 in D Minor—I happened across the above while scrolling through Apple News.  

Just before that I read that South Carolina, among several other states, set a new daily record high of reported coronavirus cases, and that local leaders are ‘considering’ a mandatory face mask requirement for some businesses, while the Governor of South Carolina declares that a mandatory face mask requirement is unenforceable.

Proofs that we are not an intelligent species just keep on coming.  As is to be expected because we aren’t.

Evanston: some numbers; congratulations; into the maelstrom

The United States has 4% of the world population.

The United States has about 25% of the known coronavirus cases and about 25% of the known coronavirus deaths.

The United States spends far more on health care that any other nation.

If you are a soccer fan you already know that two days ago Liverpool clinched their first English Premier League title in thirty years with I think seven matches to go.  They are on a multi-record breaking pace and are now champions of Europe, champions of the world, as well as champions of England, which probably means the most to their players and fans.  They are also a joy to watch.

From our third floor condo in Evanston we have clear views of the sky to the south where before the pandemic there were almost always several planes in landing or takeoff patterns for O’Hare thirteen miles away.  Now planes are noticeable by their absence to the extent that when either of us sees one, we comment.  Tomorrow we will be on one of those seemingly few aircraft.  I am curious what is normally one of the busiest airports in the world will be like.

In checking the weather for Hilton Head, which unsurprisingly will be hot, I found a ‘Special Weather Statement’.  Air quality will be low because of the combination of heat and Saharan dust that has blown across the Atlantic.  Hurricanes are expected risks in Hilton Head.  But sand storms?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Evanston: first sail; open; wronged by algorithm; risk; a great hope

Several readers were taken by ZIP, the square rigger masquerading as a wooden Sunfish.  I thank Larry for permission to share his sail on Sunfish, a plastic one.

The first boat I ever sailed was a Sunfish on Traverse Bay, Michigan.
It was during the summer of 1970. I was 30.

A beautiful young woman impressed by my confidence, as well as my assurance that we would not drown, agreed to join me for her first sailing experience as well.
We easily sailed offshore for two hours without incident - then we had to get back to the dock. That proved to be a lot harder than we expected!
A zillion tacks later we made it.
Lesson learned: It’s a lot tougher sailing against the wind.
But we were both hooked on sailing during that beautiful day 49 years ago.

It is indeed tougher to sail against the wind.  I try to avoid it.  Not always with success.  I recall a biography of Robert Lewis Stevenson, who suffered from poor health all his too brief life, aptly titled VOYAGE TO WINDWARD.

From Jimmy and Jay comes the above recent photograph of Monroe Harbor in downtown Chicago.  The harbors have finally opened, but obviously many owners have decided not to launch this year.

I received a comment about one of my YouTube videos so I watched it.  When it ended YouTube’s algorithm tried to run next something titled, “Seasick Leaving Gibraltar”, by a middle aged couple of I know not what nationality or boat.  I did not watch.  Obviously I am beyond the algorithm’s understanding.  Or perhaps it has me confused with someone else.

Yesterday I learned of the first person I personally know to have died from COVID 19.

Carol and I have been well isolated since March.  That is changing.   Her office is reopening next month and, more immediately, we are flying to Savannah, where we will rent a car for the thirty mile drive to Hilton Head, on Sunday.  American Airlines emailed that our flight is nearly full and that we can change to another without charge.  The plane is smaller than a 737 with only two seats on each side of the aisle.  I do not like face masks, which cause me some difficulty breathing and fog up my eyeglasses, but I wear one when around others.  People in Illinois do. The virus numbers are decreasing here.  It will be interesting to see what people are doing in South Carolina, where the numbers, while still relatively low, are sharply increasing.

Last evening in THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY I came across ‘The New Colossus’, the source of the words on the Statue of Liberty.  I did not know the whole poem.  This country once was one of the great ideas and great hopes in the history of our species.

The opening lines refer to the ancient Colossus of Rhodes.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Evanston: sighting; Square Rigger; magnetic

We walked through the cemetery to the lake this morning and saw a coyote for the first time in several weeks.  This one was at some distance from the den we located earlier.  We read that coyotes often change dens.  Whether the one above is the growing pup or one of the parents we do not know.  He was breakfasting on a squirrel or a rat.  He did not want to share and keep his eye on us.

Above you have Audrey, Admiral of the Small Boat Armada maintained by Kent, who is also Fleet Photographer.  She is sailing ZIP, a wooden Sunfish.  Both Kent and Audrey like the wooden Sunfish because it creaks and sounds like a square rigger. 

Here is a link to a short video of ZIP underway.

Some people have all the fun.

Speaking of which I am suffering from an increasingly severe case of captiterraphobia, which as some of you may remember is my self-named disease of fear of being trapped by land.  I have now been in the upper flatlands for more than three months.  Too long.  Fortunately a cure is at hand.  We fly to Hilton Head on Sunday.

We watched a film, MAGNETIC, last evening on Netflix.  This is a 2018 documentary about “men and women attracted by the magnetic force of unleashed elements.”  Hmm.  Despite this —and I remember only one token woman—there is footage of young people performing astonishing feats:  riding huge waves, skiing down perpendicular mountains,  mountain biking, kiting, parasailing.  The movie is entertaining.  One aspect that perhaps I am one of the few to have noticed is that all the endeavors were team efforts.   I found myself wondering what the lives of these athletes will be like, and if they survive to 78, if they will still be trying to figure out what they ought to do next.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Evanston: sailing with cello; Tony Benn again; the Portuguese: sigh of relief

That further proof is not needed is obvious, but more has been provided that my people are everywhere.  Above you have John, who when not working at the testing tank at the US Naval Academy, sails his 47 year old Pearson 30, OLD BLUE, on the Chesapeake.  A week or so ago he was on his own social distancing cruise at the same time and in the same waters as Steve Earley on SPARTINA, although they were never quite in the same place at the same time.  

As you can see John is also a musician and sails with his cello.  I don’t think that would work on Steve’s SPARTINA or on GANNET.  I don’t think a cello would even fit through GANNET’s hatches.  How much better than listening to others it is to make your own music at anchor?  I have said this before.  I have lived the life I wanted to and I would rather be me than anyone else, but if I weren’t I would like to be a musician.

Sailing as everyone knows is dangerous and harsh.  Well, perhaps not always as you can see below.

I thank John for permission to share his photos.  His well presented cruise log can be found here:

I again watched Xavier Foley play the Bach Cello Suite No. 1 on the double bass.  It struck me that the instrument is so large that Xavier seems to be wrestling a bear with the touch of a brain surgeon.  The video causes me to have some hope for the young and maybe even the future.

I thank Michael for a quote from Tony Benn:

James Michener wrote in IBERIA that whether you prefer Spain or Portugal depends on which you visited first.  He first visited Spain; his wife Portugal.  I, too, first went to Portugal, sailing both RESURGAM and CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE II there in 1983 from different directions.  I met Jill there on Christmas Day of that year; and Carol and I were there on 9/11/2001.

As a sailor I have long been impressed how a small nation with a population then of only a million could in a single generation have exploded over the world.  The Portuguese claim to be “First in All Oceans”.  They had the advantage of geography being in the southwest corner of Europe and looking out at seemingly endless ocean, but no other nation pushed deliberately and persistently out, voyage by voyage south along the African continent. 

Three poems by the Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa.

Yesterday I received and paid the invoice from the web host for

You can breathe a sigh of relief.  You will have benefit of my charm and wisdom for at least three more years.  I hear a welling of cheers in the distance.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Evanston: Elliot Bay; double bass; corruption of the monastery; age

Everything in this post except the photos comes from others.  I appreciate the assistance and I thank David, Tim, Larry and Bill.

From David comes a link to a video of beautiful Elliot Bay in New Zealand, but then much of New Zealand is beautiful.  Elliot Bay is just south of Whangamumu, one of my favorite anchorages, which I have often mentioned in this journal.  The photos are all of Whagamumu.  

When I first sailed to New Zealand in 1976, the population was about three million.  It is now about five million, a third of which live in or near Auckland.  There is still a lot of unspoiled land.  Saving it is eminently worthwhile.

Who knows, I might get back there one more time.

From Tim comes a video of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 being performed beautifully on the double bass.  As it happened I listened to that suite last evening being played on the lute.  I have also heard it played on the guitar, but never before on the double bass.  I have listened to it once and will again this evening while Carol watches the “evening news.”

From Larry comes a link to an article about Elon Musk’s SpaceX plan to cover the planet with satellite Internet.  As I wrote Larry I have mixed feelings about that.  If the price were reasonable, I would have a hard time refusing to be connected on ocean passages.  A serpent entering the Garden of Eden.  The monastery of the sea corrupted.  Quite possibly it will not be in place in time to test my character, such as it is.

And on Bill’s site I found a link to a speech given in 2007 by Tony Benn.  I did not know of him.  I like the speech without agreeing that power has passed to the people, whom I believe are still of all races controlled by the wealthy few.  He appears to have been an intelligent, compassionate and wry politician.  I did not know that was even possible.  Toward the end of the speech he says:

I’m 82 now, and it’s wonderful, if I’d known what fun it was to be 80 I’d have done it years ago, because you have a bit of experience and you don’t want anything.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Evanston: three unlikelies; faint praise; intelligent life

Chicago’s weather has been unlikely for several days:  it has been perfect.  Weird.

Yesterday Carol and I had a lovely morning bike ride to Northwestern’s campus.  The bike path along the lakefront was too crowded, so we rode on the streets which weren’t.  I haven’t been to Northwestern for a long time.  More than a year.  Maybe two.  They have several impressive new buildings but, of course at present, no students.

I thank David for a link to an enjoyable duet sung by the unlikely duo of Luciano Pavarotti and James Brown.

A few nights ago we watched COOL HAND LUKE.  We had both seen it before.  I when it was first released.  I checked and am surprised that was in 1967.   I must be getting old.

The film, starring Paul Newman and George Kennedy, is about how some men brutalize others and some men become symbols of hope for others.  It appears on many all time great lists.  

Just before the end there is an unlikely and powerful monologue which Luke/Paul Newman speaks to God.  I am surprised that it appears in a 1960s Hollywood movie.  In our age of Internet mob rule it would not be possible.  The self-righteous would be righteously outraged.  There would be hashtags, demonstrations, boycotts, death threats. 

Nevertheless it is a very good movie.  I recommend it.

As I have mentioned here my iPad Pro is now my e-reader.  Amazon’s iPad Kindle app differs in some ways from reading on a Kindle itself.  Among other things it wants to be a cheerleader and encourage me to read.  I don't need encouragement.  Yesterday it congratulated me on reading for 96 weeks in a row.  I have no idea how it came up with that number.  I don’t recall when I first learned to read, but let’s say it was at age five.  That was 73 years ago and I have been reading ever since.  That is not 96 weeks, Kindle, it is 3,796 weeks.  Maybe Kindle can’t count that high.

I thank James for a link to an interesting article about the possible number of contactable alien civilizations.

Spoiler:  the number may be 36.  

I see a flaw.  The article talks about development of intelligent life on other planets when there is no evidence intelligent life has developed on this one.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Evanston: priorities; ubiquitous; instead of the evening news

Above you have a curious threesome, whose only link is that they all came to my attention in the past few days and interest me.

At the top is a photo Steve Earley took on his most recent Social Distancing Cruise.  Note how neat and uncluttered his Welsford Yawl, SPARTINA, is, as always.  To my eye pleasing and to my mind a mark of a good sailor.  SPARTINA is sailing off her namesake sea grass.  The land is the east shore of the Chesapeake, but it could be Hilton Head.  I thank him again for permission to repost from his online log.

In the middle is the front page of the THE WORLD reporting the destruction of Galveston in the 1900 hurricane.  I thank Tim for sending it to me.  He observes that the greatest national disaster in the history of the United States got second billing to a baseball game.

And last is ‘Satan Exulting Over Eve’ by the mystic poet painter William Blake which I happened across at Goggle Arts.  I include it because I smile every time I see it.  We have Satan who looks as though he works out, but does not seem happy with his triumph.  A sinister serpent.  And an Eve who appears to have passed out.  Perhaps the taste of the apple was too much.  Or her first sex.

The remnants of tropical storm Christobal passed not far to the west of us Tuesday night with rain and winds in the area reported as high as 74 mph/64 knots.  We did not have more than 30 knot winds here, but they were enough to set the sea of leaves outside our windows into seething motion.  I am surprised that the storm maintained such strength after being over land for so long.

I have warned you.  I am everywhere.  The latest proof came in an email from Sam, an American who is working on his doctorate in composites in Australia.  He saw my mention of the novel COVENTRY and wrote to tell me that he spent last year living and studying there.  He told me that Coventry is appropriately a sister city with Dresden, Germany, which was also bombed to destruction, but with much greater loss of life.

Also, Goggle notified me yesterday that SF Gate has just posted a link to the piece I wrote on why I sail for LATITUDE 38 last year.   They reference ‘Thoughts From A Single Hander’.
I went back and reread the piece myself.  Modesty prevents me from saying how much I like it.  Oh, I just did.  If you want to check my judgement.

As is known I do not watch or listen to what poses as the Evening News.  Carol does.  We sit side by side on the sofa.  She usually sipping an Old Fashioned; I a martini.  I have my AirPod Pros in with noise cancelling on and listen to music, usually Bach, or read poetry.  Sometimes it is ‘and/or’, but I generally pause the music when reading.  Poetry deserves undivided attention, as does Bach.  

Currently I am reading a poem or two each evening from a Greek, C. P. Cavafy; a Portuguese, Fernando Pessoa; an American, Sara Teasdale; and an Englishman, Wilfred Owen.  It is a great pleasure to touch such minds and spirits.

Last evening I read:

By Cavafy




Owen was killed seven days before the end of the war.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Evanston: What!?

Google has notified me that I am included on a Facebook page Famous SciFi Movies. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

Evanston: a storm, two paintings, and an epiphany

I just finished reading ISAAC’S STORM about the deadliest natural disaster in US history, though not ‘the deadliest hurricane in history’ as the book cover boasts.  Although most Americans don’t know it, the rest of the world has history too.

The hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas, on September 8, 1900, killing between 8,000 and 12,000 people out of a population of about 40,000.  The number of dead is unknown because there were too many to bury and bodies were simply piled together and burned.

The Isaac of the title is Isaac Cline, the chief meteorologist in Galveston at the time.  That there was a storm somewhere in the Caribbean was known, but it was not severe until it exploded after passing over Cuba and it was not thought to be heading toward Texas.

Eric Larsen is a fine writer and the book gripping.  The descriptions of the storm damage are enough to cause one to wonder why anyone lives on low land in a hurricane zone.  Oh, that’s right, we’re planning to.

Of the ‘greatest’ claim, I did some research.  While this storm did kill more Americans than any other, it isn’t even number one in the Atlantic.  That title goes a hurricane of 1780 that killed twice as many on Caribbean islands.  Because the number of dead in Galveston is uncertain, many lists put it third behind Hurricane Mitch.

And no Atlantic storm comes close to comparing with those in Asia.

I don’t believe in multitasking, but sometimes do.  While sipping a martini and listening to Bach the other evening, while Carol watched what poses as the evening news, I viewed paintings by one of my favorite artists, J.M.W. Turner, in the Google Arts and Culture app.

Some of you may recall that I posted Albert Ryder’s ‘Death on a Pale Horse’ a week or so ago.  Here is Turner’s version.

In my Turner search some things unexpected appeared, including this “View of the Heads, Port Jackson’, painted in 1853 by Conrad Martens.   Port Jackson is Sydney, Australia.  A great harbor and a great entrance.  I have sailed through the Heads many times.

Last Friday I had an epiphany.  

I paused for a moment trying to remember.  I think my last was about sixty years ago and it was a reverse epiphany.  I had gone to college with the intention of becoming a Presbyterian minister.  I’ll bet that comes as a surprise.  I had as a teenager convinced myself of the existence of God on the basis of what I later learned is the cosmological argument; but the instant I stepped onto campus I knew that I could not be a minister.  I majored in philosophy instead.

I don’t recall what led to last Friday’s event.  Simply stated, I was off Cape Horn the first time on December 12, 1975 and on Friday I realized that December 12, 2025 will be the 50th anniversary of that date.  Where more appropriate to spend it than off Cape Horn again?

Clearly the answer is:  no where.  I am not saying I will attempt it, but given time and continued health, I might.

A clarification for those who remember that I considered Cape Horn when I began my sixth circumnavigation but soon decided against it.  That would have been a rounding east to west against the prevailing winds.  I continue to believe GANNET could not do that except in very abnormal conditions.  This attempt would be west to east with prevailing wind behind us.

I would be 84 years old then.  I have no intention of googling to discover who is the oldest to sail alone around Cape Horn or what the smallest boat and I adamantly don’t want to be told.  I repeat adamantly.  Perhaps you recall I compete only with myself.  If not, here is a reminder.


                                        judge a man, then, by that
                                        against which he must strive
                                        against what
                                        if not this soft night
                                        and the wind and sea
                                        against the myth
                                        he must become
                                        and his own will

                                        the ocean waits
                                        to measure or to slay me
                                        the ocean waits
                                        and I will sail