Yesterday Caro and I bicycled a mile and a half to the beach, partially though a small park and mostly beside mansions. Lake Forest is among the wealthiest towns in the country. Somewhere between number 10 and 30, depending on which metrics are used. Carol had told me that the beach itself is reached by a long set of steps. Somehow this is no longer the upper flatland. Elevation has crept in, but I don’t know where. It still seems all flat when you drive or take the train from Evanston the twenty miles north to here. As you can see the beach is a long way down. I counted and it is 118 stairs. I had no idea.
Monday, August 2, 2021
Friday, July 30, 2021
The less than two hour flight from Hilton Head to Chicago was uneventful. The best kind. I put on my noise cancelling headphones, read some of Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE and some of a novel, WINTER JOURNEY, by an Australian, Diane Armstrong, and we landed, and after a mere $120 taxi ride I was home. I knew it would be expensive. Lake Forest is twice as far from O’Hare as is Evanston, but the real difference is that Lake Forest is beyond the standard Chicago taxi zone and the meter is multiplied by 1.5. It is considerably cheaper to prearrange for a limo, which is what I will do on my few remaining returns to the upper flatlands.
There is more adjusting to be done than in the past. I was here at the Lake Forest apartment only briefly when we moved in and since then Carol has reorganized and moved things around. She is presently at the office and I am mostly finding what I am looking for and mostly remembering how things work.
At 1:30 PM the temperature is a pleasant 73F/22.7C which feels like 73. Hilton Head is 92F/33.3C which feels like 112F/44.4C. This is very much to the point.
Recently published research shows that parts of the world are becoming too hot and humid for humans to survive.
Here is a link to a WASHINGTON POST article.
Here is a graphic from that article.
And here is more detail of the part of that graphic covering the United States.
The darker red the dot, the more dangerous the heat combined with humidity. One of the darkest red dots in the US is over Hilton Head.
If you read the article or one of the many similar others online, you will learn that the problem is heat combined with humidity so high that sweat doesn’t evaporate to cool the body. I have twice experienced this in Hilton Head during the past few weeks. One was serious. Once less so.
When Carol and I returned to the slip after our brief sail I removed the Torqeedo from the transom. This is not arduous. The electric outboard breaks down into parts, the heaviest of which, the shaft, weighs only twenty pounds. Yet by the time I had done so and moved it into the cabin, I was in trouble. I could not stow it in the stern, but had to leave it on the cabin sole, close the boat and walk back to the condo. Normally an easy ten minute walk, I almost didn’t make it. Obviously I did and was saved by air-conditioning, drinking cold water, and ice on my neck and forehead supplied by Carol while I sat collapsed for an hour.
The second time was less severe and occurred during the last quarter mile of a bike ride to and from the supermarket. I was not riding hard and I was fine on the way over and almost all the way back, but an invisible threshold was crossed as I neared home. I had no choice but to keep on going, locked up the bike, took the elevator instead of the stairs, got into the air-conditioned condo and recovered quickly.
Part of this is my age. Unquestioningly I can handle heat less well than when I was younger. I spent years sailing in the tropics in my thirties, forties and fifties without problems. But I believe the science. Part of this is that the world is rapidly becoming too hot and humid.
I have learned that I am going to have to be careful in the summer in Hilton Head. My directions for sailing from San Diego to Cape Horn are sail south until the rigging freezes over, then turn left. I don’t think the rigging will freeze over on the way to Iceland, but having to consider being too cold next July is increasingly attractive.
Recently I wrote to a friend a year older than I that I have never believed in the good old days, but maybe he and I have lived them.
Wednesday, July 28, 2021
People have said that I am mad so often and for so long that decades ago I prepared stock responses by quoting Aristotle: No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness. And the Australian Nobel Prize winning novelist, Patrick White: “You are mad,” shouted Angus, who had learned to cherish his own limitations as a sure proof of sanity.” I am sure you all recognize those as quotes used in the front of some of my books.
Actually I am not called mad much anymore, at least not to my face, now that I am an established legend and have been married to the admirable and genuine American success story, Carol, for twenty-seven years.
However, I have written that no one ever lived in Chicago for the climate, or if they did they were deranged. Tomorrow I fly to Chicago for the climate, which is more pleasant than Hilton Head Island’s in the summer. I will not dispute whatever conclusion you reach.
I don’t know if you can see in the top photo a Great Blue Heron and a Great Egret. Rare for the two to be hunting so close together and it didn’t last. The Great Blue soon chased the egret away.
Sunday, July 25, 2021
My friend, Larry, is doing my work for me. He is responsible for bringing both the items in this entry to my attention. I thank him.
First, why if he were alive Mozart would not be participating in online composition forums.
And now click on the link below and say, “Oh, My!” Or words of your own choosing. After seeing this I wrote back to Larry and told him he had made my day. Of course it was all for charity, so it must have been a good idea.
I found that the previously posted link was not working, so have changed it to this.
Other reports said he was trying to ‘walk’ to New York. He lasted less than one day.
Friday, July 23, 2021
I am sitting as usual at this time of day near our oversized bedroom window looking out on the above. I think most would agree that it is beautiful. This place is a version of paradise, if one accepts that paradise may be for a few months overheated.
My observation of conceptions of paradise is that paradise is not the same for all people and that for most it is over the next hill, not where they are.
I saw this most clearly when early in the CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE voyage in the Marquesas Islands, which are certainly one legitimate version of paradise, I was invited into a local home where the teen age son had put up posters of snowy mountains and skiing in the French Alps and was looking forward to being drafted into the French army in hopes he could go there. I am reasonably certain at that same moment there was a boy in the French Alps dreaming of the Marquesas.
As far as I can tell this condo on Hilton Head Island is the best version of paradise possible for me. ‘Possible’ is the key word. Would I rather live in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands? Of course I would, but that is not possible. I am far too old to meet New Zealand’s immigration rules, which the last I knew had a cut off at age 55. I understand the reasons. But even if it were possible for me to live permanently there, I probably wouldn’t because of the Hiscocks.
Some of you, perhaps most, will know of Eric and Susan Hiscock, who were the best known cruising couple of their generation. They were English and liked New Zealand’s Bay of Islands as much as I do. Eminently respectable, they still had difficulties in obtaining permanent residency. Eventually they did, but when Eric died, I was surprised that Susan soon sold their boat and returned to England. Now with more age I understand and I would probably not live permanently in the Bay of Islands because of Carol who will almost certainly far outlive me. Her family is here. After my death she would be too isolated in New Zealand. So I am constantly aware and grateful for my not quite perfect version of paradise, which is after all more perfect than I am.
My friend, Grant, on whose mooring off Opua GANNET swung during her time there, has just been sailing in the Bay of Islands and sent me these photographs that bring back memories and emotions of a different paradise. I thank him for permission to share them with you.
While writing I saw motion from the corner of my eye and glanced up to see a murder of crows landing in the live oak just beyond our deck. I remembered that there is an unusual collective noun for a group of crows, but confess I had to google to find ‘murder’ which brings a smile.
I went swimming this afternoon in our condo pool. Once I was a strong swimmer. My summer and winter jobs in college were as a life guard. I got married the first time on my then minimum wage earnings of $1.25 an hour, although in the summer we did get the big bucks of time and a half for more than forty hours a week. And I did make the long swim of twenty-six hours, covering more than 130 miles with the help of the Gulf Stream after I sank RESURGAM; but that was all a while ago and, while still a magnificent animal, I accept that I am not what once I was. Swimming was awkward, unnatural. I was a fish out of water in the water. I will attempt to correct that with more time in rather than just on my natural element.
You may not have noticed a comment on one of my journal entries about Lacklan Morgan.
It includes a link to a video of him and his older brother biking half way across Australia from Port Macquarie on the east coast to Uluru in the continent’s center which I found interesting, even if I do not share some of their humor. I note that the ride was made eight years ago when they were even younger, and I am of course old. Still he is original. And as you may know I have no higher compliment.
I recently wrote that I am enjoying ancient Chinese poems more than contemporary Western, but yesterday I came across two contemporary poems in the BEING ALIVE anthology that may be sad and give me pause.
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Only a small part of the book is concerned with Iceland and being caught up in a very good biography of the Roman Emperor Augustus, I have yet to read it. But this may be taken as proof that I am getting serious. As I have noted Hilton Head Island is too hot in the summer. I am reasonably certain Iceland won’t be.
I have been following the weather in Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital for a while. For the past few weeks it has been similar to that in Opua, New Zealand.
Of course it is winter in New Zealand and summer in Iceland, but I have spent winters on the unheated THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring off Opua without discomfort.
Note that sunset is at 11:08 PM.
If you are interested, and of course you are, the Sea Distance calculator shows the distance from Savannah, Georgia, the nearest major port about twenty miles from Hilton Head Island, to Reykjavik to be 3230 nautical miles.
From time to time I have the pleasure of coming across in an anthology a poem that I know and admire. It is a chance meeting with an old friend. This happened yesterday in the BEING ALIVE anthology.
Some of you may recall that I have run this poem here before. Allegedly it’s subject is a Pope who abdicated a few months after his elevation, but surely it has wider meaning.
Yesterday I also came across ‘The Seafarer’ translated from Old English by Ezra Pound. The original dates from about a thousand years ago and parts speak to me. It is too long to publish here, but if you are interested below is a link. I have read it now three times with interest and pleasure.
Monday, July 19, 2021
I came across an article yesterday that pointed out that had the politicization of vaccines which currently plagues us—a deliberate choice of words—existed in the 1950s we would never have eradicated polio. I had not thought of that, but it is so obviously true.
In the United States and the rest of the developed world you would have to be my age or older for polio to be more than a word from history. I went to grade school with a boy who was crippled by polio. He could barely walk with crutches and leg braces. He died when we were in high school. I do not know the numbers, but polio was a common disease then. I expect most people knew someone who had it.
I remember when Dr. Salk’s vaccine became available. The year was 1953. I don’t know exactly when I received the vaccine, but it was administered at school via swallowing a sugar cube. There was no controversy. No resistance. Only grateful acceptance and relief that this terrible disease would no longer cripple and kill.
Fast forward to 2001. Carol and I sailed from Gibraltar to Dakar, Senegal, to obtain visas for Brazil. We were there two weeks and were at first confused by the number of cripples we saw every day on the streets, pushing their maimed bodies, legs shriveled and twisted, on carts propelled by their arms, or just sprawling helplessly on the sidewalks. We learned that they had polio. This almost fifty years after the vaccine become available. How could this be? The answer is superstition, stupidity, and religious fanaticism. Health workers administering the vaccine in many countries have been killed by religious fanatics.
I am pleased to read that now twenty years later polio is said to have been eradicated in most of the world, including Africa.
But now we have the madness of COVID vaccine resistance.
The difference between now and the 1950s is the League of Village Idiots.
There have always been village idiots. There always will be. Until very recently, during our lifetimes, the village idiot wandered around, mumbling to him or herself, and unless he or she was violent, was tolerated and given some simple task and lived out his or her life in confused obscurity, never knowing there was one or more like him or her in the next village. Now the village idiot can go online and find the idiot in the next village and in villages all over the world. They are no longer alone. They can chant and re-enforce their fears and frustration and rage—rage has become so popular a word that surely a movement will develop to amend the Bill of Rights: Life, liberty and the pursuit of rage. Screw happiness. We want rage.
I am long on the record that to name our species homo sapiens, which means ‘wise or knowing man’, is a cosmic joke. There is a constant, overwhelming flood of proof. Among them that there is any controversy about COVID vaccines, beyond that many in the less developed world do not yet have access to them, and that we live in an age of the League of Village Idiots.
Friday, July 16, 2021
Another sunny day with a chance of waterspouts. We live on the right side of the island. There are none in sight on Skull Creek.
I woke early yesterday morning and biked down to GANNET before 7 am intending to do some work before it got too hot, but I was already too late.
I installed the mounts for the Raymarine wind display. One in the cabin; one in the cockpit. This required nothing more strenuous than screwing in three small screws for each. I didn’t even need to drill holes because I could see where I had filled the screw holes from the previous mounts. Nevertheless by the time I had taken the few minutes needed to do this, sweat was blinding me.
I sponged a little water out of the bilge.
I went up on deck and tried to remove the torn non-stick pads and learned that Raptor uses strong adhesives and this is not going to be easy.
And I got on my bike and rode back to air conditioning.
My GANNET to do list:
New wind instruments (obtained but not yet installed)
New Windex (obtained but not yet installed)
Two new snatch blocks (ordered)
Sand and oil or paint interior wood (battery sander and sand paper discs obtained)
Replace non-skid torn by Panama rigger (sheet of Raptor non-skid obtained)
Solve slipping main halyard
Re-bed forward hatch (Butyl tape obtained)
All work to be deferred until at least mid-September.
As noted here before each issue of the BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE costs me money. This month it caused me to buy an excellent recording of Bartok’s First and Second Violin Concertos performed by Christian Tetzlaff and the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.
Also in that issue an article about Camille Saint-Saens quotes Hector Berlioz, who was serving on the jury for the Prix de Rome, which Saint-Saenz did not win reportedly because he was already too famous, as saying of Saint-Saens, “He already knows everything, but he lacks inexperience.”
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
I am sitting in my favorite chair near the bedroom window, sipping chardonnay and listening to Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” on new Sonos One SL speakers. I bought a pair for the living room and like them so much I bought two more for the bedroom. These are the least expensive Sonos speakers and differ from the Ones by having no voice control. I have no desire to talk to speakers. They are small, unobtrusive, and sound good to my old defective ears. Perhaps the very best thing about them is that the setup is easy and flawless. Sonos has got this. I thank them.
Yesterday I received an email from Roger, an experienced cyclist, who puts Lachlan Morton’s achievement in clearer perspective. Here it is and my reply.
I sometimes talk to myself in this journal, putting tentative thoughts into words in an attempt to clarify them. Doing so publicly may or may not be wise, but I am a writer.
I did not mean to tease about the passage I might make next summer, but I also do not like people who talk about what they might do. I prefer those who report after they have done. Nevertheless having mentioned a possibility, I want to clarity.
It is too hot on Hilton Head Island in July and August. It is not too hot in Iceland. I have sailed in those temperatures. Perhaps I still can. I am not totally committed. I was totally committed to all my previous voyages and I am not certain one can make a difficult passage without such commitment. But that is what I am considering.
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
SWORD OF KINGS Bernard Cornwall
SATCHEL Larry Tye
SHACKLETON’S FORGOTTEN MEN Lennard Bickel
THE HORSE’S MOUTH Joyce Cary
BAD LAND Jonathan Raban
EMBERS Sandor Marai
EXTRAORDINARY LIVES various
IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE Sinclair Lewis
VEXATIONS Caitlin Horrocks
NEVER LET ME GO Kazuo Ishiguro
WOLVES OF EDEN Kevin McCarthy
DRACULA Bram Stoker
HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN 100 OBJECTS
Neil MacGregor/British Museum
PEELER Kevin McCarthy
GULLAH DAYS Barnwell/Grant/Campbell
ARCH OF TRIUMPH Erich Maria Remarque
CAPTAIN WILLIAM HILTON AND THE FOUNDING OF
HILTON HEAD ISLAND Dwayne Pickett
THE PERFECT MILE Neil Bascomb
DEAD SOULS Nikolai Gogol
MACHINES LIKE ME Ian McEwan
CONVERSATIONS WITH BEETHOVEN Sanford Friedman
ALONE Michael Korda
1984 George Orwell
RETURN TO THE SEA Webb Chiles
There are many very good books in that list. I saved the best for last.
I bought a speedometer/odometer for my bicycle. It actually is a mini computer with a display the size of my Apple watch that attaches to the handle bar and records many things besides distance and speed. It functions via GPS. It cost $36.
Some of you may remember that I bought my first GPS, a handheld unit made by Sony, thirty years ago this fall in New Zealand. The GPS system was not officially in operation, but the satellites were up there and it worked. The Sony handheld was one of the least expensive available at the time. It cost $2000.
Lachlan Morton is in Paris. He made it faster than I expected, riding through the night and covering the last 579 kilometers/360 miles in nineteen hours. Impressive, indeed.
I have not been in Paris for many years, but I remember the traffic and thought the most dangerous part of Lachlan’s ride might be those last few miles. From the photos it seems he wisely arrived after dark.
Monday, July 12, 2021
My hope springs eternal Raymarine wind instruments have arrived and been duly registered to extend the warranty from two years to three. I wonder why I think I need that.
Raymarine has changed the color of the case for the display unit from cream to charcoal. I like the new color. And they have paired the display with the masthead unit at the factory. This is most welcomed. In the past the user had to pair the units which I found to be a cumbersome and often frustrating procedure.
I still do not know how and when the masthead unit will get attached to the masthe
Steve Earley who has the same brand of dry suit I do, Stohlquist, but a different model wrote that his has a zipper from one shoulder to mid-chest which makes it easier to get on and off than mine.
When I successfully put mine on the other day, I did so partially while standing and I have realized that on GANNET I am going to have to get into it while sitting or sprawling, so this morning I sat on the living room carpet and managed to get in and zipped. I am now confident I can do this. After removing it, I spayed all the zippers again with teflon.
I have been watching and enjoying the Tour de France. Today is a rest day for the racers, but not for Lachlan Morton, the Australian who is racing the peloton on his own. On Friday’s broadcast of the Tour he was interviewed live. Here is his tracking page then:
He started behind the racers, but passed them on the second day and as you can see was then far ahead. He cycles about twelve hours a day, then finds a place to camp, puts up a small tent and cooks his dinner, presumably on something like my JetBoil. He estimates that his bike and gear weight about 50 pounds. The bikes ridden in the race weigh about 15 pounds.
Lachlan needed to be far ahead of the peloton because in a few days all the racers will fly 400 miles from Bordeaux to near Paris. Lachlan will bike the distance.
I just checked his tracking page again.
He’s going to do it. He’s almost there. I am smiling. What a great challenge. What a great thing to have done. Good on you, Lachlan.
Saturday, July 10, 2021
Above is a somewhat distorted version of my present view. It is 7:12 PM and I am sitting on the deck, sipping cabernet sauvignon and listening to the soundtrack of MASTER AND COMMANDER on headphones. The temperature is 81ºF and there is a slight breeze fluttering the Spanish moss. I am quite comfortable, but I also was last night when I sat out here from 8 to 9 PM listening to music and sipping Laphroaig when the temperature was 91ºF, but there was also then a cooling breeze.
This condo is a legitimate version of paradise. I say that not boasting, but in continual surprise that although it took almost eighty years I am happier here than any other place I have ever lived ashore.
I am filling time before the Copa America final between Brazil and Argentina which begins in forty minutes.
Permit me to copy one of the quotes on the lists page of the main site that I have used in the front of my books.
(I) am, I believe, following the clear path of my fate. Always
to be pushing out like this, beyond what I know cannot be the
limits--what else should a man’s life be? Especially an old man
who has, by a clear stroke of fortune, been violently freed of
the comfortable securities that make old men happy to sink into
blindness, deafness, the paralysis of all desire, feeling, will.
What else should our lives be but a continual series of beginnings,
of painful settings out into the unknown, pushing off from the
edges of consciousness into the mystery of what we have not
yet become, except in dreams that blow in from out there
bearing the fragrance of islands we have not sighted.
--from AN IMAGINARY LIFE by David Malouf
I am an old man, partially deaf and I estimate between 60% and 75% blind. I have enviable comfort, but my desire, feeling, will are not paralyzed.
I paused for a moment because I sometimes wish they were. A line from a poem I long ago discarded: ‘intensity not duration’. Yet I lived both intensity and duration and am stuck with both, which have had their rewards, but also their trials. It is possible to live too long.
Only a half an hour before the match begins so I need to hurry.
The relevance of this, if any, is to my dry suit.
With application of teflon spray to the zippers and the addition of loops of Dyneema to the zipper tabs which gives me better grip, I donned my dry suit yesterday and got all the zippers closed, including the one around the back of my neck.
One most definitely does not need a dry suit in Hilton Head in July, but I am planning a voyage next summer to waters that are cold. I am not going to say where. I may not even say in advance before I set out. I will say it is not Cape Horn.
This will be decisive. I wrote on the first passage of GANNET’s circumnavigation “Use yourself up, old man. Use yourself up.”
On the two sails I have made since then I have not reached my destination. If I don’t next summer, unless it is due to breakage or chance beyond my control, if it is due to failure of will and determination, I will accept that I have used myself up.
I don’t suppose many almost eighty year olds wonder what they ought to do next, but I do. 2022 will be an important year in my life, assuming I live that long. And if I am used up, I am, and I take solace and satisfaction that I have lasted decades longer than I or anyone else thought I would.
My other prevailing today was over wasps.
I walked down to GANNET this morning, carrying a roll of Raptor non-skid and wasp spray. Upon arrival I cautiously opened the dock box wasp spray in hand. The wasps have good scouts and were gone.
The music has ended. A hawk glides by overhead without moving a feather. The sun is about to set. Skull Creek is golden. The soccer match is due to start in twelve minutes. There are a couple of sips of wine still in the glass.
Friday, July 9, 2021
Elsa passed as expected with moderate wind, distant lightning, and some rain. It was all over in a few hours. Really a non-event. At most a blip. Leaves, Spanish moss and twigs were blown onto our deck and have been swept overboard. During the five years we lived on board THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in Boston Harbor I had to do that to snow. A definite improvement.
NOAA recently released a report that La Niña is developing in the Pacific Ocean. One consequence of this is drier than usual weather in western states, which they do not need, and a more active hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean, which we do not need.
On his recent cruise Steve Earley had a love affair with his dry suit. Some might think this odd, but I found it intriguing. He seemed to slip in and out of his dry suit with ease. The only time I tried on my dry suit, it was like battling an octopus, and I was in our Evanston condo. I think I won, but I’m not sure. It might have been a draw. I have never tried to put on the dry suit at sea. However, with Steve’s sterling example I decided to dig out my dry suit and study the situation more closely.
First I had to find the thing. Eventually I did in a waterproof bag with my set of heavy foul weather gear far in GANNET’s stern behind where I stow the Torqeedo.
I brought it up to the condo, spread it out, tried all the zippers, some of which are difficult to zip, particularly one that goes around the back, and gave it a go. It went better than I remembered except for that zipper around the back of the piece through which you put your head. A tube of lubricant was provided with the suit, but has not made an appreciable difference. We will see what teflon spray can do. Even without that zipper closed, I think the suit would keep me dry, although I might have to wear a foul weather parka over it.
I an relieved to discover that there is a fly zipper so that I will not have to lower the suit to my waist when I need to be relieved.
At the top of the journal page on the main site is a reference to THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK, an excellent anthology of diary entries though the centuries.
In the Evanston condo we had two seven foot high book shelves. When we put the condo on the market I went through the books and selected ten to move to Hilton Head, five of which I had written myself. Ten or twelve years ago those bookshelves were becoming full and I told Carol we were going to have to buy more, but then I started to prefer reading Kindle editions of books. I even bought Kindle editions of many of those on the shelves.
In looking over the shelves a few months ago I noticed THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK and rather than move it here, bought the Kindle edition. On July 1 I started rereading it. Reading each day the diary excerpts of that date. Usually there are three or four each day. On July 7 there were entries by H.D. Thoreau; Leo Tolstoy; Sofia Tolstoy; and Denton Welch. Yesterday William Soutar; Cesare Pavese; and Joseph Goebbels. A most interesting and entertaining book. Highly recommended.
Soccer fans are rejoicing. Tomorrow sees the final of Copa America between Brazil and Argentina and Sunday the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. Quite surprising to me at least is that England has not been in the final of a major international tournament since 1966.
I continue each afternoon to read a few poems, some ancient Chinese; some more modern Western. I much prefer the Chinese. Perhaps because they have endured for centuries, whereas many of the more modern are concerned with trivialities, but also because none of the Chinese poems are set in cities, and there were cities then. They are poems often of wanderers or exiles living alone or at most in villages. As a species we are now urban, but we did not evolve to be, and I most definitely am not.
Here are two chosen almost at random. There are many others.
The first is by Li Bai, one of whose poems I included here earlier. He lived 701-762.
This by his contemporary, Du Fu, 712-770.