Friday, October 15, 2021

Hilton Head Island: sailed and provisioned


I went sailing Wednesday and Thursday.  Well, sort of.  At least I left the dock.

The weather was just as forecast:  sunny and very light wind.  I pushed GANNET out of her slip at about 9:30 and it took me an hour and a half powering with the mainsail up but not assisting much and 50% of the battery against an incoming tide to cover the 1.8 miles to the mouth of Skull Creek.  Once on Port Royal Sound I set the jib as well and sailed slowly down the sound and then half way back and anchored in the middle a mile from either shore.  The best part was sitting in the cockpit at 5 sipping some tequila that was on board and listening to music.  I also ate my freeze dry beef stew on deck and some cookies I brought with me.

The sound was completely flat that night and I slept well.

I waited Thursday morning for wind and some came up about 11.  I raised anchor and sails and made it to about a half mile outside the mouth of the creek when what was only very light wind at best, died completely and the water went glassy, so I powered the rest of the way.  This time with the tide with me making more than three knots and using only 30% of the battery although I powered father than on my way out.

I am beginning to understand these waters and while the currents here are nothing like those of Northern Australia with its eight meter/26’ tides and other places, they must be taken into consideration.

I had to adjust to the current when docking as well, feeling it trying to push GANNET sideways.

It was good to be on the boat and the water, even if the sailing was not great.  The condo is seductive.  My eye and mind are repeatedly drawn to the changing beauty outside. Skull Creek rising and falling, covering and uncovering spartina.  The light reflecting off it differently as the sun moves across the sky.  The live oaks and Spanish moss hanging still or moving in the wind.  The birds and squirrels and occasional raccoon and even more occasional alligator.  I like living with the minimum membrane between myself and the natural world and for a land dwelling this condo is that.  I can be outside on the deck or on the screened porch in a few steps and seconds.  But looking at the water, however beautiful, is not the same as being on and surrounded by it and being the only boat anchored on Port Royal Sound.  That there is so much room on the water here and that you can anchor almost anywhere are great virtues.

That is the longest the boat has had hatches open for months.  GANNET feels the heat, too, and needs to breath.  The summers are too hot, but the next eight months should be good.  I need to do this more often.

I have written that you never really know a boat until you live on board her for an extended time.  Even in my two days on board, my to do list has increased.

The new main halyard did not solve the problem of clutch slippage.  It has a softer cover than the old halyard which I thought the clutch might grip better.  It didn’t.  There are solutions, but none that I yet consider acceptable.  I will give it more thought.

I biked down to GANNET this morning to put her in order.  After docking I had removed the Torqeedo from the transom, but left it on the cabin sole and I had left the anchor and rode bag on the v-berth.  I brought the Torqeedo battery up to the condo to charge overnight.  I had also refueled at anchor, taking the battery down below to charge.  GANNET is her own fuel dock.

I have been wanting to turn GANNET in her slip so I can scrub the starboard side of the bottom with the extension broom and when I got to the little boat at about 10:30 this morning I realized the conditions were perfect.  Near low tide slack water and no wind, so I did it, tying a long line around a stern cleat, pushing her out into the fairway, then turning and pulling her back in with the stern cleated line.  Why not just have backed her in when I returned?  Two reasons.  One, I don’t like to use reverse under power and second my flawed depth perception makes it difficult for me to judge close distances well.  So I keep it simple and go in bow first.  GANNET is so light that it is easy to push her out and around.

While sailing I saw several dark spots on the mainsail and some black crumbly clumps of dirt on the deck.  I don’t know where they came from.  You may recall that wasps started to build a hive in my dock box.  Perhaps they or a bird tried to build a nest in the furled mainsail.  In any event, I raised the mainsail and scrubbed the spots which mostly disappeared.  I expect exposure to sunlight under sail will do the rest.

I properly stowed the Torqeedo and battery and anchor and rode and then scrubbed the deck.

The temperature was only a maximum of 81F/27C, but I was pouring with sweat by the time I was finished and biked with relief to the air conditioned condo.

While I was away my order of freeze dry food was delivered, as was the replacement Pelican flashlight and Capt. Tully’s Creeping Crack Cure which Jim recommended as a possible fix for the leak around the compass.  Porch pirates are not a problem inside this gated community.

Those packs in the photo represent over 100 meals.  I will sort them into three bags of about 35 meals each.  This will be a bit more complicated than usual because many of these packs are two meals rather than one.  I expect that my aged brain will figure it out. 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Hilton Head Island: .500

Batting .500 in baseball even for a short stretch is outstanding and no has batted even .400 for an entire season since Ted Williams did it the year I was born.  However .500 for tiller pilots is not so good.

I biked to GANNET this morning.  During her circumnavigation and even when in the marina in San Diego GANNET was complete, but since trucking her here a year ago I have moved much off her to store in the dock box or at the condo, so I wanted to find out if I still had essentials on board.  With the exception of a bottle of Laphroaig, which some might not consider actually to be essential and I can live without for a brief period, they are.  

I filled one 5 gallon jerry can and my four smaller day bottles with water.

I fit the Torqeedo on the stern.  It started as this one always has.  Good Torqeedo.

I brought up a tiller pilot and plugged it in.  Instead of the usual beep when it first comes on, it made a constant shrill sound and none of the controls worked.  I went down below and brought up another tiller pilot.  Plugged it in.  Same constant sound; same dysfunction.  This caused me to wonder if something had gone wrong with the wiring.  I went below, cleared bags, foul weather gear, and Avon off the starboard pipe berth, slithered aft with a headlamp.  The wires were properly attached.

I slithered back to the Great Cabin, crawled onto the v-berth and took the remaining two tiller pilots on deck.  Plugged one in.  Single beep and it worked.  Plugged the other in.  Single beep and it worked.

Of the tiller pilots, the two that don’t work date from 2019, the two that do work date from 2019 and 2015.  The one from 2015 should go in the Raymarine tiller pilot hall of fame.  The two that don’t work are still under warranty.  I have brought them up to the condo to send to Raymarine.  We should arrange a regular courier service.

After this charming exercise, I went down below and applied another coat of oil to the companionway bulkhead and the floorboards.  Closed up and biked home.

Tomorrow I go for a sail.  Although our fine weather is not accompanied by much wind—I see nothing more than eight knots for several days—it will be good to be on the water and watch the sunset at anchor somewhere.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Hilton Head Island: comfort

A lovely day. The low that has been sitting a hundred miles offshore and causing our rain has eased north.  70F/21C when I biked down to GANNET at 9 this morning with a slight breeze from the NE. This was the first day I have been able to work in comfort on GANNET for months.

I scrubbed the overhead with mold spray, removed the floorboards and sanded them on the dock, cleaned the bilge in their absence and chipped away flaking paint, put them back in place and oiled them and put another coat of oil on the companionway bulkhead, after which I had to get off the boat while the oil dries.  I notice that there were no signs of water dripping from the compass and we have had significant rain since my last attempt at sealing it.  Maybe I was successful.  I live in hope, however unrealistically.

I also found that the cover on the battery compartment of my waterproof Pelican flashlight has broken off.  I like this flashlight which is small and has a luminescent body and is easy to find at night, so I’ve ordered a replacement.  

The forecast for the coming week is perfect, so I may do something radical and go sailing and anchor overnight somewhere not far away.  This perfection does not include much wind.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Hilton Head Island: a log: THE PEARL; reader


Another day of steady rain.  Above is the current radar.  Rain is to be expected when you live in a swamp, even a very nice swamp.

I am sitting on the screened porch, enjoying the sound of the rain on the roof, deck, trees and Skull Creek, as I have enjoyed the sound of rain on the deck from inside the cabin of boats, assuming none of it was leaking on me.  I am curious what I will find below the compass when I am next on GANNET.

This morning I read John Steinbeck’s novella, THE PEARL.  I last read it more than fifty years ago and while I remembered the trajectory, I had forgotten the details, so it was like reading a novel I had not ever read before, but knew the ending.  A good story.  I think you would enjoy it.

I also read in today’s entries of THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK a discussion by the Scottish poet, Alasdair MacClean, of the differences between diaries and journals.  He died in 1994 and so was fortunate enough probably never to have heard the abomination, ‘blog’.  The last paragraph came as a flash of insight.

This is not a journal or a diary, it is a log.  That’s what I write.  Land logs and passage logs.

If you are, as I and others believe, what you actually do rather than what you say you do or would like to do, I found myself wondering what I have actually done most in my life, not including sleep, which is probably what we all do more than any other single activity.  

I suppose that for most people what they have done most is work at whatever their jobs have been.  That might even be true of me who hasn’t worked for anyone else since 1974.  My job may not have been to have a job.

I am not sure how much time I have spent making ocean passages.  It is certainly more than eight years, maybe ten or more.

My first thought was that what I have done most is write.  I have been writing steadily, almost daily for more than sixty-five years.  But then I realized that I read more than I write.  So that’s it. The activity I have spent more of my life performing than any other.  I would not like it to be the single word to define me.  I much prefer the triad:  writer, sailor, lover.  But I can’t deny:  Webb Chiles, reader.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Hilton Head Island: 1ºC; peril; four poems

Finally some sunshine this morning after days of cloud and rain.  I biked down to GANNET and reeved the new main halyard and got a coat of oil on the interior wood.  Actually two coats on some areas.  I also tried to fix an intractable leak around where the cockpit compass passes through the companionway bulkhead.  I could see clearly where water had run down over the newly sanded wood.  I have applied sealant to the compass many times before and applied some more. But I am beginning to consider removing it and sealing the hole with a piece of plastic.  I seldom use it.  I have the Velocitek and both my phone and my Apple watch have accurate compasses.  I am giving it warning.

On the rainy days I did housework.  In fact I did all the housework and had none left to do after mopping and polishing the hardwood floors.

I also watched some sports on television and a Netflix documentary about climate change titled BREAKING BOUNDARIES.  In it I was told that during the Holocene, the current or perhaps just ended geological epoch, the temperature of the planet has been constant, varying by only one degree centigrade.  For my American friends that is 1.8ºF.  If the Holocene has ended it is because we have ended it, increasing the planet’s temperature more than that since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

I also read a book, PERIL, by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, about the end of the Trump presidency and the beginning of Biden’s.  I don’t read much about current politics—it is too depressing—but saw in Apple News an interview with Woodward and Costa that interested me.  I am not going to make a comment on the book other than that if there is a good guy in it, he is not a politician, but a soldier.

In STAYING ALIVE, the anthology of modern Western poetry a few pages of which I read each afternoon, I am in a section about death and dying.  Here are four poems on that subject.  Two from the book.  Two by me.

I went to the poetry page of the main site and find there only twenty-four poems left.

I have been paring away for decades.  Of the twenty-four death is mentioned in eight.

The next was written by Ruth Stone.


                                           no one who has ever read the Iliad

                                           has remembered you

                                           until me


                                        raised by a loving family

                                        your father a king

                                        you married

                                        but left for the glorious war

                                        before you had lain with your bride

                                        and in your first combat

                                        Agamemnon killed you

                                        that is all

                                        Homer gave you perhaps twenty lines

                                        blew life into you

                                        marched you into battle

                                        had you slain

                                        meat butchered by heroes

                                        the first time I read the Iliad

                                        even I did not notice you

                                        but the second

                                        during my “honeymoon”

                                        absurd word

                                        in Chicago in 1962

                                        with a woman from whom I am long divorced

                                        your brief life made me wonder

                                        what happened to your virgin bride   

                                        how soon did she forget

                                        and you

                                            did you have time for regret before you died

                                            or was the thrusting sword too quick

                                        you could not know

                                        that Homer would sing of you

                                            however briefly

                                        and that in 3000 years

                                        I at last would be touched by your death

                                        but if you had known

                                        I wonder

                                        if that would have been enough


Monday, October 4, 2021

Hilton Head Island: 36 years and a good joke

I am back in the air conditioned condo after biking to GANNET and getting a little work done this morning.  I scrubbed the half of the bottom facing the dock with an extension broom which works quite well, and I filled some gouges and sanded the companionway bulkhead.  This was the first time I’ve used my DeWalt battery operated sander.  I like it.  The temperature now is 86F/30C, but I think the maximum while I was on board was 80F/26.6C.  I have a hand size fan that runs on the ship’s DC which significantly improves cabin comfort.  Relative comfort.  Rain is in our forecast, so progress may be slow.  I have more wood to sand and then to oil it all.  On GANNET I have to move stuff to clear work space and then move it back to clear different space.

I was recently asked to provide some photos of CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and of GANNET.  Among them are the above two which were taken from the same vantage point on a bridge in San Diego’s Mission Bay thirty-six years apart.  The one of CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE by Suzanne in 1978 shortly before I began the open boat voyage.  The one of GANNET by Steve Earley in 2014 shortly before I began GANNET’s circumnavigation.

In yesterday’s entries in THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK I came across a joke that causes me to chuckle every time I think of it.  Be warned that it contains a vulgar word, so don’t read on if you are likely to be offended.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Hilton Head Island: medical bulletin; remiss; service interruption

 I know the world is anxiously awaiting the report on my aged body’s reaction to being shot twice yesterday.  In a word:  none.  Now on to more important things.

I have been remiss in not mentioning that Steve Earley is a week into his fall cruise.  He has been in St. Michaels, Maryland, for the small boat festival and is again underway this morning.  Here is his tracking page:

And here is a link to his site where he has been posting photos along the way.

I might also mention that the current October issue of CRUISING WORLD contains my article, “My Seventh Circumnavigation”, which includes a lovely photo of Skull Creek.  The Chamber of Commerce should put me on retainer.

MacHighway which is the webhost for my main site advises that they are migrating to new servers a week from today, October 9, and service will be interrupted for eight or ten hours.  I know this will leave a huge gap in your day.  You may just have to reread old journal entries instead.  Personally I am going to watch soccer on television.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Hilton Head Island: double shot; two women singing; into a hurricane

I received my second Pfizer COVID shot six months ago yesterday, so today i biked to Walmart where I was shot twice.  COVID booster in my left arm.  Flu in my right.  I had no reaction to my first two Pfizer shots and I have never had a reaction to flu shots other than the slight soreness that comes with any shot.  We will see what my body thinks of this.

I have recently come across videos of two women singing that I enjoy greatly,  Both have recorded extensively and are well known, but not until this week by me.

I thank Andy for the link to Joan Armatrading.  His favorite of her songs is ‘I’m Lucky’ which I like, too, but my favorite is ‘Already There’.  You of course already know that under the heading ‘I love’ on the lists page of the main site is, among others, “the athletic grace of the young’.

 The dancers in the background of this video have amazing grace and beauty.

The other is a Bach aria sung by Magdalena Kozena which I came across by happy chance.

I am going to watch them both again as soon as I post this entry.

I thank Larry for a link to a video taken by a nautical drone that was steered into Hurricane Sam. This is a very good use for such a drone.  I have been in 91 mph/79 knot winds several times.  I don’t know if I have been in 40’ waves.  I don’t recall if I ever claimed I’ve been in more than 30’ waves, but I have learned that I tend to underestimate.  I expected the conditions to look worse than they do, but then cameras flatten waves.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Hilton Head Island: nomad

Earlier today I had an email that led to confusion.  In part of the interchange, the other person wrote that he felt privileged to converse with a celebrity/legend.

I replied:

 I am not a celebrity.   I am now in old age routinely called a legend in a very small world.

I am alone.  I always have been, despite the women in my life.  I write that with minimal regret.  It has become my natural state.  The minimal is that I sometimes wonder what I would have been if I had had useful parents.   I believe I am an original and I have understood from the beginning that almost all original experiments are failures and think I may have written that in STORM PASSAGE.  

If you read the September 27 journal entry you will find Kant, Bach, Glenn Gould, Mahler, Mozart, Camoes, all from memory and from a body that has made voyages no one else ever made or ever even imaged.  And is trying to figure out what he/it ought still to do.

I don’t know for whom I write.  The numbers are few.  Too many zeros right of the decimal point even to consider.  I suppose I write because I am a writer.

In any event I try to bridge the gap between myself and others and feared I had responded too abruptly to you earlier.

While writing this I have been listening to the soundtrack of the movie NOMADLAND which Carol watched on her return flight from a business trip to California and recommended to me.  I rented it from Amazon and watched earlier today.  While grim, it is superbly acted, directed and filmed.  Carol thinks the words about some people being nomads applies to me.   I have never thought of myself that way.

I wish you well and hope I make it for another six weeks and join you as an octogenarian because that will be one of the greatest cosmic jokes ever.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Hilton Head Island: the view from here Monday evening


5:34 PM.  It is said that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant was so regular in his routines, including his walks, that neighbors could set their clocks by him.  I like routine in part I expect because at times my life is at extremes and I don’t want, indeed can’t think of quotidian details.  I eat the same breakfast almost every morning year in and year out.  When ashore I workout six days a week about 4 PM.  After which I shower and read some poetry and listen to some Bach.  At 5 PM I pour my first of two drinks.  Of late, usually but not always, Monday is a dry night.  I have only tonic and lime.  For whatever reason tonight I wanted a real drink and mixed a pitcher of two martinis, one of which you see in the glass above.  Beyond it is my iPad Pro which is playing the 1981 Glenn Gould recording of Bach’s GOLDBERG VARIATIONS.  I seem to recall that Gould preferred this version to the 1955 performance which made him famous.  I prefer the 1955, but he did know more about music than I.

Our weather continues perfect.  I suppose we will have some more too hot days, but they will be the exceptions not the norm they have been since mid-May.  In many places spring and fall are the best seasons.  In Hilton Head I much prefer fall which leads to eight mostly pleasant months. 

I woke at 6 AM, read in bed for a while, then came out here on the screened porch for my breakfast which I was eating just at sunrise.  Looking southwest I did not see the sun, but the sunlight coloring Skull Creek a slight blush of rose ever deepening.

I walked down to GANNET after breakfast because I wanted to bring the unused Raptor nonskid back up here to store and the roll is too big to carry on my bicycle.  While there I scrubbed the interior and came to the sad conclusion that I really am going to have to repaint it.  The Rustoleum is flaking off excessively.  I also attempted to fix a leak around one of the halyard stoppers and examined the main halyard, concluding I need to buy a new one, which I since have done online.  I also collected five moldy hats to bring up to the condo to put in the washing machine, which I also have since done.

I did my workout.  I have read poetry, both ancient Chinese and some modern.  The modern is in an anthology, BEING ALIVE.  I am in a section of poems about death and dying.  I think I have done better and may impose mine on you in a future post.

While writing Glenn Gould has continued to create beauty and I have finished my first martini.  I pause to fetch the second.

That did not take long.

The temperature is 81F/27C.  There is no wind and I was a trifle hot when I first came out before I remembered to turn on the overhead fan.  It makes a decided difference.  Carol has created a very nice place here.

Of music, Mark sent me a link to a project to finish Beethoven’s Tenth Symphony.  I don’t know what to make of this. 

There is Mahler’s Tenth Symphony completed by Deryck Cooke which I like very much and there is Mozart’s Requiem in part written by Franz Xaver Sussmayr.  Perhaps others.

Of Beethoven, I admire his late string quartets more than his symphonies.  I can not say why.

I am curious to see what this project produces.

If artificial intelligence can ‘create’ music the equal of Beethoven, we have designed our species into obsolescence.

I am indebted to my friend, Michael, for remembering something I have not.

He recently sent me a note of quotes that I once sent him from the Portuguese poet, Luis de Camoes, whom I have not forgotten, that are worth sharing.  

As I sip my martini, enjoy the auditory and visual beauty around me and approach my 80th birthday and contemplate 2022 which will determine if I am finally used up, I smile particularly at the last quote.  I have sailed to and from the Tagus.  I once began a novel about Camoes that will almost certainly never be finished.

There should be a bigger gap between ‘his fame survives the years’ and ‘Rightly acquitted’.  They are not related.

And I suggest that while I deeply admire Camoes, he was probably wrong about the guarantee of glory.  I have risked life to the point of losing it for decades and doubt I will be remembered, something I accept with diminished regret.  

I have done what I was meant to do.  I still am.  Others do not define me.

My music has moved from Bach to the African, Ismael Lo’s album THE BALLEDEER.

L’Chaim (to life)

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Hilton Head Island: a glorious day: to windward; food


A glorious day.  64F/18C when I got up at 6 am.  70F/21C at noon and as you can see sunny.  Hilton Head cools in September and is a legitimate version of paradise until the following May.  From about mid-May to mid-September it is a legitimate version of hell.  However I like it here and the good far outweighs the bad.  

I biked to GANNET at 8 am and replaced the three Raptor nonskid pads that had been damaged by a negligent rigger in Panama.  The process left me very impressed with the adhesive Raptor uses.  It was suggested that a multitool would have made this easy.  I do not have one and am reluctant to buy a tool that I will seldom use again, so I used my hands and a putty knife driven under the edges of the damaged pads with a hammer.  Removing the old pads took about an hour and a patch of skin on the palm of my right hand.  Cutting and fitting the new pads took ten minutes.  You can see the color difference.  The new ones are whiter but not glaringly so.  They are the two closest to the mast and the one on the port side of the forward hatch.

While I was working the riggers came.  Someone in their office was supposed to call me but hadn’t.  It was fortunate I was there.  They installed the new Windex and the new Raymarine masthead wind instrument.  I think these are the fourth of each to go on GANNET’s mast and hopefully will be good until I put her masthead in the water again which, even more hopefully, will be never.

I wrote to a few friends that I have checked two tasks off my to do list.  However when I looked at it I checked off three.  The Raymarine and the Windex were listed separately.  A glorious day indeed.

An article today at Ars Technica reports the results of a genomic analysis that purports to trace and time more accurately than has been done previously the Polynesian settlement of the South Pacific.  The article itself is rather dry.  The essence is in this chart.

As a sailor who has crossed that ocean many times I have long been impressed by those early Polynesian voyages.  Big stretches of empty ocean and mostly small targets.  That the voyages were made once could have happened by chance.  But, and this is what I find most impressive, they were repeated and if you know anything about the winds in the South Pacific, they were mostly to windward.  Only the broad line from Samoa to Fiji is partially with rather than against the trade winds.

New Zealand does not appear on the chart.  While it is a big target, the voyage from the tropical islands to there is across wind patterns and it is my experience that you are likely to encounter severe weather as you approach New Zealand.

They were sailors.  I like to believe I am their equal.
I have no higher praise.

Here is a link to the article:

From time to time I am asked about freeze dry food, so here is an order I just put in with LPD Camping Foods.

While if my addition is correct there are 73 pouches, they contain at least 111 meals because many of them are two meals for me.

BP stands for Backpacker’s Pantry.  AA for AlpineAire.  MH for Mountain House.

All of the AlpineAire are two meals.  So are the BP Santa Fe Rice and Beans and Chicken and the MH Spaghetti, Pepper Steak, and Chicken with Dumplings.  Some of the others might be stretched too.  300 calories is a meal for me, any pouch with over 600 calories counts as two.  That might not be enough for others.

I always advise testing before you buy in quantity though occasionally I have not done that.  Some freeze dry food tastes terrible or like nothing and some is too spicy or salty for a passage made on a boat with a limited supply of fresh water.

This order works out at $5.06 per evening meal.  About $150 a month.  Add oatmeal and trail mix for breakfast, cans of fish and chicken and Laughing Cow cheese and crackers for lunch, and a few snacks, plus of course wine and spirits, and life at sea is less expensive than on land, until something breaks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hilton Head Island: rain; another view

The above photo was taken two days ago. 

Here today:

I have observed that in a lifetime of reading, the most profound words are:

Ecclesiastes 9:11

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” 

I believe that is proven by history, but I came across a poem that suggests the possibility of exceptions.