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.

Friday, September 17, 2021

Hilton Head Island: gannets attack mode and repose


I biked to GANNET this morning before breakfast and found her as in the lower photo which was taken before I hosed her off.  Only one bird dropping on the deck and few on the dock, although I did cause a nearby snowy egret to take flight. The interior is musty and needs to be wiped down and aired out on a sunny day, none of which are in prospect. Only a few drops of water in the bilge easily removed by a single paper towel.

I inventoried my freeze dry meals and found I have 27, although several of them make two dinners for me.  I’ll order more today, but I am already pretty much set to be self-sufficient for almost two months, by which time I expect you people to have restored some basic services.

Unfortunately as I already knew from the view from the condo, the damn ferry boat is still there.

The superior photo I put first is of gannets seeking dinner off Scotland’s Shetland Islands.  

My GANNET never looked that fierce, but then she has never been that hungry.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Hilton Head Island: last night; 156 years; more than a month

Above is my view from last night and is my view now.  

We arrived not long before sunset yesterday and had drinks and cheese and crackers by the bedroom window.  All is well with the condo and I assume with GANNET.  I can see the top of her mast but imminent rain is preventing me from going down.  Hopefully I will later this afternoon.  It is completely quiet and lovely to be looking out at live oaks, Spanish moss, spartina, the marina and Skull Creek again.

This sign is about thirty miles from our condo beside South Carolina State Highway 462.  We have seen it before and yesterday I took the photo.  As you can see the sign is in good repair.  The wavy line in the photo is a reflection on the car windshield.

General Sherman’s March to the Sea took place in November and December 1864.  He occupied Savannah on December 21, 1864, after the Confederate General William J. Hardee decided the city could not be defended and moved his troops across the Savannah River into South Carolina the day before.  In January of 1865 Sherman pursued him.  That was 156 years ago.

This morning Carol and I went grocery and liquor shopping.  In addition to what we would normally buy, I got enough oatmeal, powdered milk, crackers, cans of chicken and of fish, for breakfasts and lunches for more than a month.  I just ordered a supply of trail mix from Amazon and will order more freeze dry dinners after I inventory what is presently on GANNET.  I am already sufficiently provisioned to live without outside assisatance in case of a major hurricane for more than a month.  Soon I will be prepared for more than two.  If as I hope no such storm occurs, the food, none of which is perishable, will be used on future voyages.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Denver: snow; storm tracks; long shore

If you notice the headings of these posts, you will be surprised to find this one coming from Denver.  That is Denver, North Carolina, not far north of Charlotte, to which we flew on Sunday to spend a few pleasant days with Carol’s parents.  This afternoon Carol will drive the two of us to Hilton Head where I expect to remain for the rest of the year.

As shown in today’s NASA Earth Observatory site, Hurricane Larry dropped the expected snow on Greenland.

The Astronomy Picture of the Day is a graphic showing the paths of all the hurricanes, cyclones and typhoons from 1985 to 2005.  I recall that they have run something similar in the past.  I am impressed by how many there are and surprised by how many off the west coast of Mexico.  Note the single one in the South Atlantic,

Steve Earley provides a link to a short video, THE LONG SHORE, about the Chesapeake Maritime Museum and Bay.  I think it will be of interest to many.  It is particularly to me because I once sailed there, which I also owe to Steve.  I thank him doubly.

Moving on.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Lake Forest: weather report

Even with rapid intensification of tropical storms becoming more common, Typhoon Chanthu near the Philippines is extreme.  In 48 hours it went from a 30mph/26 knot tropical depression to a 160 mph/139 knot Category 5 typhoon.  Only five other storms have ever intensified this quickly.

Tropical storm Mindy became the third this year to pass over Hilton Head Island.  Fortunately all were only tropical storms when they did.

I was interested to learn how much rain Mindy dropped on the island.  Inexplicably the page of National Weather Service at Hilton Head Airport does not show rainfall.  However, I found this from nearby Beaufort.


Meanwhile Hurricane Larry’s core is turning from hot to cold—don’t ask me to explain because I can’t—and is going to bring heavy snow to Greenland and a gale to Iceland.

This world is a very strange place and becoming stranger.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Lake Forest: two views of the north

I believe I have written this here before, but it was a while ago and readers come and go and forget, so forgive me if you recognize repetition.

I lived in the San Francisco Bay area in 1966-67 in an apartment in Oakland near Lake Merritt.  I bought my first boat then and taught myself to sail on San Francisco Bay.

That was a special year there.  Of flower children.  Of Haight Ashbury.  Of drugs and rock and roll.  If you really understand me you know I was not a part of any of those; but there was a unique and quickly vanishing feeling in the city that year of kindness and peace.

The woman who was then a part of my life, with whom I lived off and on for longer than anyone until Carol and with whom I woke one morning in Lake Tahoe intending to drive to Reno to get married, but didn’t, and I often drove across the Bay Bridge and rented bicycles in the Haight Asbury to ride through Golden Gate Park.

There were then buffalo in an enclosure in the park, great shaggy beasts who came to the fence and gently took slices of bread with their thick pebbly black tongues from our hands. I sensed that they were confused being there, but maybe I was only projecting my own feelings.

At the west end of the park, just short of the Pacific Ocean, was a replica Dutch windmill and a wood ship about 70’ long sitting in a sand pit.

This is not exactly the way I remember it, but the best photo I can find online.  I expect it was taken before the ship and her voyage had been mostly forgotten.

The ship was the GJOA in which Roald Amundsen completed with if I remember correctly five shipmates the first crossing of the Northwest Passage in 1906.  There was no marker beside the ship when we saw her and I had to ask many people before I learned who she was. You may during your lives have observed that more people are oblivious than curious.

I read of Amundsen and admire him greatly, but I have never been tempted to try the Northwest Passage.  Not because it is cold, but because it is all coastal and I am a creature of the open ocean.

The top image comes from today;s NASA Earth Observatory site.

It shows that even with global warming, this year ice is blocking the passage.  Amundsen went north of Somerset Island and east and then south of King William Island and was frozen in to what is now known as Gjoa Harbor near the southeast corner of the island.  The GJOA took three years to cross from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The second image shows among others the projected track of Hurricane Larry.  I have a friend named Larry who considerately agreed to stay offshore, but he is heading eventually toward Greenland and Iceland.  

As you may know I have been observing the weather around Iceland for quite some time.  The temperatures are least uncomfortable in July and August.  I think I can get there without encountering ice during those months.  With hurricane tracks like Larry’s I don’t know if I can get back.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Lake Forest: quotes; plump


Carol and I walked to the beach on Sunday.  1.33 miles from our apartment to the bottom of the 118 steps.  As you can see a lovely day.  75ºF/24C with a moderate breeze moving a few sailboats smoothly on the lake.  We sat on a shady bench and people watched for a while.  The small boy in the red suit just below the center of the photo was a bundle of energy.  Swatting at and missing plastic balls with his slightly older brother.  Running down to the water and carrying buckets of it back to fill a hole they had dug.  Dancing wildly, almost screwing himself into the sand.  About 77 years from now he may be sitting on a bench watching another three year old do the same.

I have read the sections of THE 1000 SMARTEST THINGS EVER SAID on Love and Friendship and the one on Success.  Here are some quotes.  I did warn you.

A person is only as good as what they love.   —Saul Bellow

It’s sad when someone you know becomes someone you knew.   —Henry Rollins

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.  —Winston Churchill

The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.  —Paul  Valery

Take calculated risks.  That is quite different from being rash.  —George Patton, Jr.

The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  —Michelangelo

The cure for boredom is curiosity.  There is no cure for curiosity.  —Ellen Parr

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  —Antoine de Saint-Exupery     (Some of you may remember that I have quoted this before.)

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire Cat in a tree.  “Which road do I take?” she asked.  “Where do you want to go?” was his response.  “I don’t know,”  Alice answered.  “Then it doesn’t matter.”  —Lewis Carroll

You can get a lot farther with a kind word and a gun than with a kind word alone.  —Al Capone

You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.  —Henry Ford   (This no longer seems to be true.)

The wind and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigator.  —Edward Gibbon

I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving—we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, or lie at anchor.  —Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

There is only one success—to be able to spend your life in your own way.  —Christopher Morley

When you reach the top, keep climbing.—Zen aphorism

I’ve started reading AMERICAN LION, a biography of Andrew Jackson which is prefaced by a good quote from him:  I was born for a storm and a calm does not suit me.

He was President from 1829 to 1837.  At the beginning of his second term he was 65 years old faced with the threat that South Carolina would try to secede from the Union.  I did not remember that there was talk of secession as early as that.

Jackson is described at being my height—6’1”—but weighing only 140 pounds.  I have always considered myself slim, but by comparison I am positively plump at 153 and will have to go on a diet.  A week from today I am in Hilton Head.  I’ll start then.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Lake Forest: the lessons of Ida; two poems by W.H. Auden; some playful Bach

I wanted to learn from Hurricane Ida whose winds far exceeded my experience.  

For those who have inexplicably deprived themselves of the pleasure of reading STORM PASSAGE, my baseline is Cyclone Colin which capsized EGREGIOUS in the Tasman Sea on March 5, 1976.  When I reached Auckland a few weeks later I went to the Met Office where I was kindly shown the charts of that date when the storm had 70 knot winds.  Force 12, Hurricane Force, starts at 64 knots.  I have been in such winds at least eight times.  Once in I believe wind at least 20 to 30 knots stronger.  So 90 to 100 knots is all I know first hand.  I did not at the time expect to survive that 90 to 100 knot wind if it lasted for very long.  That I am writing this almost half a century later is proof that it didn’t.

So atypically I watched what poses as the news on television and Ida videos online.  The storm’s strongest recorded gust was 174 mph which is 150 knots.  Other only slightly less strong gusts were also recorded, but it needs to be remembered that the area of strongest wind was not great. I have read only about twenty miles in diameter.  I did not see anything in the videos that was to me startling.  And in the aftermath of the storm I am surprised that so few people died in the area of the landfall, and of course that so many died days later in the northwest.

I read one article by a professional journalist about how he had planned to remain in his home for the storm, but then at the last minute changed his mind and evacuated.  I was struck by his claim that he was fully prepared to stay.  He wrote that he had three gallons of water, food for a week, a portable solar panel to recharge his phone, a flashlight, and that someone was mailing him a battery radio.  What a failure of imagination and understanding.  Did he really think that services were going to be restored in a few days?  I conclude he must have.

If I am in Hilton Head when a hurricane approaches I will have more than twenty gallons of water, and I know that on GANNET I use .37 a gallon of fresh water a day.  Food for two months.  Flashlights.  Batteries.  A portable solar panel to charge devices.  Two Jetboil stoves.  Foul weather gear.  Etc.  Etc. Etc.  And several bottles of Laphroaig.  If the condo building stands I will be self-reliant for at least two months and if necessary longer.

Recently I have come across two poems by W.H. Auden that I had not previously read.

Both are long, but eminently worth your time.  I provide links to ‘Refugee Blues’ and ‘The Shield of Achilles’.

And here is a link to three charming minutes of Bach.

I continue to look after your well being.