Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Hilton Head Island: cushioned; an impressive voyage; two books; one poem; Rustoleum warning

 My leg is sufficiently healed so that I biked down to GANNET today, although I did ride the condo elevator instead of taking the stairs as I usually do.

Once carefully on board GANNET I found the v-berth cushions to be exactly as desired.  These are 5” thick, two inches thicker than the old ones, and fit much more snugly.

I restowed the stuff that belongs in the forepeak, but did not try to fit the pipe berths which requires contortions I did not want to risk.  Maybe tomorrow.  They, too, look to be perfect.

I am tired of being sedentary and will do some weight exercises this afternoon that only involve the upper body and try some crunches.

I thank Tim for a link to a piece about Alberto Torroba who crossed the Pacific Ocean in a 15’ dugout canoe that makes CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE seem luxurious.  As you know I don’t read much about sailing, and the highly publicized big money events and races don’t interest me, but I am impressed by Alberto Torroba’s voyage, though it is not one I would have chosen to make.  I don’t think his dugout sailed well enough to meet my standards.


If you read the piece you will find that this happened more than twenty years ago, back in the 1990s.  Alberto obviously possesses rare qualities, but then he met a woman, had a child, and seemingly gave up the sea.  I wonder how that is possible.  How the sea can be so much a part of your life, and then it isn’t?  I met women, and lost some because of my voyages.  I always knew that I could not have children and live as I wanted to live and so I didn’t.  I lost a woman or two about that as well.  But give up the sea?  Not unless I am physically or mentally incapacitated.  I am 79 and in the dying part of a life which has gone on far longer than I ever imagined and I sit looking out at Skull Creek and consider what I ought to do next.  I hope Alberto Torroba has found contentment as in a way I have.

A few days ago I finished an exceptionally  good novel, WOLVES OF EDEN, by Kevin McCarthy, which came to me via BookBud.  I suppose WOLVES OF EDEN is a western in that it is set in 1866 mostly in what is present day Wyoming and was then part of the Dakota Territory during what is known as the Red Cloud War after the Sioux Chief of that name.  But this is no mere western.  It is a fine novel.

As you would expect from his name, Kevin McCarthy is Irish, and three of the main characters in the novel are Irish immigrants who joined the Union Army during the Civil War because that was the only work open to them.

I am not going to say more, but if you are seeking something good to read, I recommend WOLVES OF EDEN.

After I finished WOLVES OF EDEN I started reading DRACULA, which I never have before.  It is much different and much better than I expected.  Even knowing what Count Dracula is, as almost everyone now does, the story is told with fascinating skill.  An enjoyable and deserved classic.

FACING THE MOON:  THE POEMS OF LI BAI AND DU FU has caused me to buy three more books of classical Chinese poetry.  In them I often find significantly different translations of the same poem. 

‘The River-Merchant’s Wife:  A Letter’ which I posted here early this month


is in another anthology titled ‘Song of Changgang’ in a translation that is not I think equal to Ezra Pound’s.

I read that another poem of Li Bai’s, ‘Quiet Night Thoughts’ is the most famous Chinese poem, still memorized by Chinese school children today thirteen hundred years after it was written.  Here are two translations.  

A pool of moonlight on my bed this late hour

like a blanket of frost on the world.

I lift my eyes to a bright mountain moon.

Resigned, remembering my home, I bow.


Rustoleum makes a line of marine paint.  I did not know that when I painted GANNET’s interior with Rustoleum and so used the widely available standard paint.  I need to report that it has not held up and is flaking off.  I will probably touch it up for a while, but will have to repaint the interior years sooner than expected.  So, if you use Rustoleum on your boat, I strongly advise you find their marine paint.

Friday, March 26, 2021

Hilton Head Island: chopped 3.0; cushioned; provisioned; returnees; remembered

I am presently sitting on our bed with my left leg elevated and iced.  It was operated on yesterday for the third time to remove a tenacious squamous cell cancer.  I hope this will be the last.

Also yesterday I received an email that GANNET’s new v-berth cushions and pipe berth covers have been completed and are inside the boat.  However it will be a few days before I can get down there, and installing the pipe berth covers requires contortions I may not be able to perform for a while longer.  Nevertheless I am pleased they have been made.  I trust I will continue to be pleased when I see them.

Two days ago I placed an order for thirty-eight freeze dry meals in anticipation of sailing around Bermuda.  I have about twenty meals on GANNET as well as four or five Omeals which are self-heating.  I have tested one of the Omeals, a pasta dinner which does have a different texture and taste than freeze dried food.  I liked it and may buy more.

As mentioned here before my former source of freeze dry meals, Campmor, no longer has the selection it once had.  I have ordered from Amazon, but searching there is time consuming.  Googling I found LDP Camping Foods which carries the three major US brands, Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry and AlpineAire, so I ordered from them.  AlpineAire has several new to me dinners which I will test.  The food should be here next week.  Whether I make the sail this spring will depend on how quickly my leg heals.


In the past few weeks rowers and birds have returned to Skull Creek.

There is a rowing club a mile or so down the creek from us and recently I have seen two singles, the four person crew in the photo above, and an eight.

Of birds, there are considerably more around than during the winter.  More pelicans, egrets, great blue herons, and a beautiful bright red male Summer Tanager who sometimes frequents the live oak just off our deck.  A line of more than fifty cormorants flew up Skull Creek single file one morning.

I am not the only one who has noticed the increasing number of birds.  A hawk glided silently past at tree top level.

I am pleased to report that for the past two afternoons I have managed to return the jug of iced tea to the refrigerator, proving perhaps that I am still capable of learning and correcting my mistakes.  At least sometimes.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Hilton Head Island: two bad signs


At the Earth wind map this morning I found the above.  This is far too early.  The water is still too cold to sustain a hurricane.  Two or three months from now it won’t be.


Looks innocent enough.  A bottle of ice tea on a shelf.  Except it shouldn’t be there.

Early yesterday afternoon I poured myself some tea, took it to my chair in the bedroom where I was watching Oregon blow away Iowa in the basketball tournament.  A while later Carol, who was working from home in another part of the condo, went to get herself some tea.  She couldn’t find it and asked if I knew where it was.  I replied, “In the refrigerator.”  But it wasn’t.  Eventually she found it on the shelf where the cup I had poured it into normally resides.  Obviously I took the tea from the refrigerator, the cup from the shelf, poured tea into cup, and put the tea on the shelf instead of back in the refrigerator where it belongs.  I have no memory of this.

Now it might be that I was merely preoccupied with profound thoughts.  I often have profound thoughts.  It is a curse, but usually I can still perform normal functions while I am having them.  Or, like the image of the tightly wound low just off our coast, it might be a sign of something more serious.

Upon finding the tea, Carol said, pleasantly enough, “You are losing your mind.”  I replied, “You may be right.”  Stay tuned for further developments, if any.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Hilton Head Island: a new threat; cushions; music reviews; cross training; anniversary year

Nothing special about the above.  You’ve seen it before.  It is just what at present I see when I glance up from where I am sitting.  I never tire of the view.  The change of light in the sky and on the water.  The tide approaching and retreating, covering and uncovering spartina.  The wind ruffling Skull Creek and the live oaks and palms and Spanish moss.  The birds and squirrels and occasional raccoon.

Thursday afternoon we had a tornado watch.  Today we are under a three day gale watch.  What kind of a tourist mecca is this?  Hurricanes and alligators are known risks on Hilton Head Island, but I had not considered tornados.  None appeared.  The front itself passed quickly with nothing more than an hour of moderate wind and rain, and on this, the landward side of the island, there is no gale.  Wind less than ten knots and sunny.

Thursday morning Kevin, the canvas man, arrived at GANNET to take away the pipe berth covers and v-berth cushions to use as templates for the new ones which will be ready early next week.  Good.  You may recall that I put in the order last October.  While he was on the boat I mentioned that I was eventually going to need a new spray hood for the companionway.  GANNET’s was made in Durban, South Africa four years and 15,000 miles ago and is deteriorating.  Kevin took some measurements and that afternoon emailed me a quote which was less than I expected.  I emailed back to put me on the schedule.  He has.  The spray hood will be made in August.  Kevin has a pretty good business.

I have now listened twice to the three albums I bought a few days ago, partly yesterday while watching March Madness basketball with the sound off.  I have greatly enjoyed all three.  The Mozart string quartets are new to me.  Most of the other music I already knew.  I am pleased that the Minnesota Symphony performances of the Sibelius symphonies brought them again to my attention.  I had not listened to them for too long.

RAPA NUI ODYSSEY is a double album.  Again I was familiar with most of the music, but there is a lovely ‘Prelude and Nocturne for the Left Hand’ by Alexander Scriabin which I had not heard before.  I am not qualified to judge the quality of Marina Teave’s playing other than I find it beautiful.  That she, herself, is beautiful, I am qualified to judge.

If you have been here a while you know that I no longer read much about sailing.  I do read about many other things, which I consider cross training.

From an article in the BBC Music Magazine about Mozart:  For centuries composers (including Mozart) wrote only for their time, and it was assumed that they would be forgotten after their deaths. 

Beethoven changed that, setting himself as the model of tortured demi-god who wrote for the future.  In this Beethoven may not have done us a service.  And as you know, I prefer Bach.

And from a poem by Du Fu, ‘Dreaming of Li Bai’:

                    Immortal fame, hard to enjoy in the tomb,

                    Will not replace joys that were never lived!

I recently realized that this is an anniversary year for me.

In May I will have owned GANNET for ten years.

In June it will have been twenty years since Carol and I sailed from Boston in a continuation of my extremely slow fourth circumnavigation.

And if I make it to November, I will be eighty years old.

My word!

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Hilton Head Island: an easy fix; an ironic death; it’s been done; Rapa Nui Odyssey

I biked down to GANNET this morning and removed the furling line frozen lead block and replaced it with a ‘Harken 40 mm Carbo block stanchion block assembly’—a long name for a small block—and it solved the problem.  I also bypassed another block, though I left it in place in case I find I need it in the future.  The jib now furls without undue effort.  Sometimes solutions are easy,

I thank Dan for a link to a NY TIMES obituary of Aleksander Doba who kayaked across the Atlantic three times.  I recall reading of him, but would not have recognized his name.  Note where and how he died.


I read that an attempt to circumnavigate in a sailboat leaving no carbon footprint has been delayed.  The article seemed to consider such a voyage novel.  It isn’t.  It has been done countless times by all the ships before about the mid-1800s and by everyone who ever sailed an engineless boat around the world.  I have done it twice.  In the engineless EGREGIOUS and in GANNET.  As you know if the world does not, GANNET is totally self-contained.  She works on sails, solar power and my aged body.  She has never been attached to shore power or taken a drop of fuel on board.  It could be said that GANNET did have a minuscule carbon footprint in the fuel used by the truck that towed her across Panama, but I don’t think that  is significant enough to count.  They are trying to reinvent the wheel.  Perhaps in ego; perhaps ignorance.  It’s been done, people.

I consider the $9.99 I pay each month for Apple News+ to be a bargain.  With it I have access to digital issues of hundreds of magazines, of which I actually do regularly peruse twenty-five or thirty, among them the BBC Music Magazine, the current issue of which ended up costing me $40.  

Articles and reviews caused me to buy from iTunes a recording of the Sibelius Symphonies No. 3, 6, and 7 performed by the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra conducted by Osmo Vanska.  Sibelius is among my favorite composers and I already have recordings of those symphonies, but this rendition is said to be exceptional.  

Another review caused me to buy The Mozart String Quartets, Vol. 3 performed by The Armida Quartett. (sic)

And a third, Rapa Nui Odyssey performed by Mahani Teave.  I had already watched a documentary about her, Song of Rapa Nui, on Amazon Prime.  Rapa Nui is known to many of us as Easter Island.  I enjoyed the movie, both for her story and the beauty of the island, and highly recommend it.

Mahani Teave is a remarkable woman of rare talent.  She left the island and became a concert level pianist, then left her career to return to Rapa Nui to start a free music school for the children of the island.  

The review of the album in the BBC Music Magazine is filled with praise for Mahani Teave.  “There is genuine virtuosity without a note of bluff or bluster.”  and “This is sincere, magnificent and pure artistry.”  I have not yet listened to the album, but am about to.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Hilton Head Island: shot; clearer; weight loss

I biked the five miles to Hilton Head Hospital yesterday and received my first COVID vaccine shot.  Along the way I passed a neighbor.  He was on the far side of the road and pond.  Carol and I have seen him several times.  Once when we passed he was not visible and a school outing was being held on the grass.

Although it was a lovely day for it I was seemingly the only one to bike for a shot.  There were no other bicycles in sight.  Not even a bike rack.  I don’t suppose many people do bike to hospitals.

The annual tree trimming also took place yesterday.  A small crane was maneuvered behind the buildings and a man with a chain saw went up in the basket and seriously cut off branches.  We no longer have Spanish Moss within arm’s reach of our deck.  We do have a clearer view of the marina and Skull Creek which is nice.  I don’t what the squirrels think about this.

A comment that I find amusing was made about the My Seventh Circumnavigation/6 video.

2 and 1/2 pounds.  Good Lord!  Definitely quite (sic) listening to your doctor.  That is nothing.

To which I replied:

You may not know that I am 6’1” and weigh 153 pounds and do not need or seek to lose weight. I mentioned it because it was unusual and seemed odd after so brief and easy a time on the boat.

For real weight loss I recommend drifting for two weeks and three hundred miles in a 9’ inflatable dinghy, living mostly on six sips of water and half a can of tuna fish a day.  When I reached land I weighed 127 pounds.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Hilton Head Island: four recent photos; two poems; and a quote


In the SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY I came across an appealing unknown to me poem, ‘The River Merchant’s Wife:  A Letter’ by an unknown to me poet, Li Bai, who is also sometimes called Li Po in English, and who lived in eighth century China.  The poem was translated in 1915 by Ezra Pound.

The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter

After Li Po

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chōkan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.
At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever, and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed
You went into far Ku-tō-en, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me.
I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Chō-fū-Sa.

And I offer written forty years ago:

off Arnhem Land

                                        through the night

                                        on unseen wind

                                        and unseen waves

                                        I sail unseen


                                        in deserted coves

                                        I anchor



                                        I will not be here

                                        to be unseen

                                        and the people ashore

                                        will not be here

                                        not to see me


From Markus a professional seaman who lives in Estonia comes:  I totally agree with the idea of having no unpleasant surprises on a voyage.  One of the old sea captains who taught us in Maritime school said once, “Master mariner uses his great knowledge to avoid using his extraordinary skills.”

Thank you, Markus.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Hilton Head Island: done


Steve Earley’s cruise came to an end yesterday morning when SPARTINA’s mizzen mast broke during a gybe.


I do not know exactly where SPARTINA is.  I am sure Steve will tell the story when he has time.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Hilton Head Island: seventh circumnavigation 3

 Secure in the lee of Bermuda, which has an unusually long wind shadow, GANNET barely moved during the night and I slept well.  I woke a couple of times and went to the companionway where I saw the island where it was supposed to be and the green buoy where it was supposed to be.

The sun came up but the wind didn’t.

I ate my invariable sailing breakfast in the cockpit.  I had brought a bottle of grapefruit juice with me, but my other provisions—instant coffee; uncooked oatmeal; whey protein power; trail mix; dried fruit; powered milk—had been on board since at least before I had GANNET trucked from San Diego to Hilton Head the previous Labor Day weekend, and probably much longer.  They were all as tasty as ever, though some might disagree.

Through a bright, sunny, pleasant morning I waited, mostly reading Jonathon Raban’s BAD LAND in the cabin to stay out of the sun, going on deck from time to time to watch bubbles drift past on the outgoing tide and futilely look for any sign of wind.

I decided that if there were no wind by noon, when the tide would turn in our favor, I would lower the Torqeedo and power into the sound.  While my course the previous day had lots of curves and turns, I calculated that I had covered twenty-four miles and that I had ten more to go to GANNET’s slip.  I had no pressure of time.  No need to be back in the marina that day and could anchor in the sound and wait for wind on Thursday.  I just didn’t feel like staying where I was any longer.

A few minutes before noon I was kneeling at the stern preparing to tilt the Torqeedo into the water when I felt a breath on my back.  I turned and saw a line of darker wind ruffled water to our south, left the Torqeedo as it was, and made my way forward and raised the anchor.  It came up clean.  Hilton Head’s long white sand beach must extend offshore.

After lowering the anchor and rode deployment bag onto a plastic sheet on the v-berth, I raised sails and GANNET began to gather way.

For the first mile our course was north, then in the sound, northwest.  Wind on our beam steadily increased to twelve and fourteen knots, and moved forward when we turned.  Still smooth water, only 6” ripples.  More glorious sailing at 6 to 8 knots


Several rivers pouring into Port Royal Sound and the tides have carved out forty and fifty foot depths, but there are isolated and mostly unmarked shoals.  I am beginning to know these waters, but I continue to pay close attention to the depthsounder and the iSailor charts on my iPhone.

GANNET dashed along.  The contrast was great between this and the afternoon before and the eighteen hours we sat at anchor becalmed.  GANNET sails so well in almost any wind, but she does need some.

As we neared the red and green markers at the mouth of Skull Creek, the wind was blowing fourteen knots directly out.  I didn’t feel like short tacking the last 1.8 miles in the Intracoastal’s channel around a twisting bend in the creek, so I furled the jib, lowered the Torqeedo into the water and started it, and lowered the main.

A sand spit to the north of the creek entrance was covered with birds:  sea gulls, cormorants, and one pelican.

While GANNET’s two foot freeboard does not offer much windage, her ultralight weight does not carry far, and the headwind slowed us.

A few other boats passed, mostly power, but a few sail.  Those on board waved at the old man on his little boat.  I’m sure they thought how nice it is he still gets out on the water.  The old man waved back.

As we rounded the curve and pointed at the marina I put out fenders and dock lines and we powered slowly into GANNET’s slip, tying up at 2:30.  Circle completed. 

GANNET’s second circumnavigation and my seventh was by far the most uneventful and the most pleasant.  Amateurs seek adventures; professionals seek to avoid them.  We had no adventures.  We did have a fine time.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Hilton Head Island: departure

Steve Earley got away just before official dawn this morning which was 6:45.  Now as I write at 12:20 in the afternoon he has reached the Savannah River.  Good progress.

I enjoyed his visit whose timing was impeccable.  He had fine weather from Charleston to Hilton Head, arrived here just before a front that brought two raw days of rain, and left at the beginning of what is forecast to be another perfect week.

I look forward to following the remainder of his cruise.  He is a fine man and a fine sailor, and I wish him a rewarding and uneventful sail.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Hilton Head Island: SPARTINA and Steve Earley have arrived; wives


Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of going out on our condo’s deck and watching SPARTINA, Steve Earley’s 17’ Welsford Pathfinder yawl round up just past Skull Creek Marina and power into a slip on A Dock not far from GANNET.  I had been checking Steve’s tracking page at intervals and knew about when to expect him.  I enjoyed seeing a dot on a tracking page turn into a real boat.

Steve launched last Friday at Charleston and in four days has come seventy miles which is about a third of the length of his cruise to Jacksonville, Florida.

I will not preempt the story of his cruise more than to say that I am glad to see him and SPARTINA.  You will be able to read of it in time at:


Monday morning when I biked back from doing some work on GANNET including testing the four Autohelms, all of which work, but two of which are missing end fittings which have broken—replacements have been ordered; waxing a spot on the hull that really needs touch up paint; and drilling the holes in the replacement track for the forward ends of the pipe berths and getting a first coat of black paint on them; I noticed this boat with three people standing in the cockpit, two men and a woman.  I said as I passed, “I like your boat’s name.”  All three laughed so I guess it was all right.