Monday, November 29, 2021

Hilton Head Island: Christmas parade; no excuses


I saw the above beautiful photo on Steve Earley’s site and immediately wanted to share it with you.  I thank Steve and his friend, Lynn Schoenbaum, who took the photo, for letting me post it here.  It is of boats circling before the start of the Norfolk Christmas Boat Parade.  You will note a small yawl just to the left of center.  That is Steve’s well traveled and well sailed SPARTINA.  Steve advises that if you look closely you will find Rudolph on the bow.

You can view this also at Steve’s site and catch up with the notes on his recent fall cruise.

Carol has flown back to the frozen Midwest for three weeks, leaving me a pot of turkey, barley, vegetable stew/soup, which may last me that long.  We had bowls for dinner last night and I will eagerly have another tonight and several more nights to come, though not consecutively.

If I do nothing else this week—and probably I won’t—I am resolved to rebed the forward hatch.  I have been putting it off, partially because I am reluctant to tear things apart again and partially because I expect that after doing so the expletive deleted thing will still leak.  Here is Hilton Head’s weather forecast for the next seven days.

Pretty nice for the beginning of December in the Northern Hemisphere—I know it is the beginning of summer for those of you on the better side of the Equator.  I do hold the world in my mind—and as you can see I have no excuses.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Hilton Head Island: a quiet Thanksgiving; proverbs; back-up


Carol and I spent a lovely quiet Thanksgiving.  She cooked the traditional meal, though for the two of us only a turkey breast—I wonder what they do with the rest of the bird.  Dressing, gravy, green beans, sweat potatoes cut into chunks with onions and almonds, accompanied by glasses of cava.  

We ate at 2 PM then walked down to the marina pier and admired the water and spartina and back.  

Near sunset we each had a piece of apple pie—Carol’s favorite.

HIlton Head Island has been in a weather pattern of high pressure with clear skies which assure beautiful sunsets evening after evening.  They are a prime selling point for the restaurants a mile or so south of us along Skull Creek.  To us they are the norm, but never taken for granted.  I have posted many photos of sunsets from our condo.  The above was taken Thanksgiving evening. I might one evening set up a camera and take a sequence because the light changes dramatically during the hour before and after sunset.  I live with beauty.  I try to.  I am thankful that I can.

Often I wake during the night and read for an hour or so.  Last night I did and finished the last section of THE 1001 SMARTEST THINGS EVER SAID.  The last section was ‘Proverbial Wisdom’ most of which are so well known they have become cliches.  I was struck by how many proverbs come from Aesop, so much that I googled and found Aesop to have been a slave and storyteller who lived in ancient Greece 620-564 BC, and if he is responsible for what we know as his fables one of our species great originals.  Such a man a slave?

Beyond the known, such as ‘Familiarity breeds contempt.’ and ‘Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.’. Both from Aesop.  Here are a few I like.

If you want to give God a good laugh, tell him your plans.—Yiddish proverb

An army of sheep led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.—Arab proverb

Men often applaud an imitation and hiss the real thing.—Aesop

Love is friendship set on fire.—French proverb

I can testify to this last as I hope you can too.

This evening after a repeat of yesterday’s turkey dinner though with smaller proportions—I gained an unacceptable pound yesterday—Carol and I watched a good movie on Netflix, WIND RIVER, set on an Indian reservation in Wyoming in which there are a rape and two murders.  In one scene an FBI agent says to the local tribal police chief, “What about back-up?” He replies, “You are in the land of no back-up.  Here you are on your own.”

That is the essential fact of life.  I embrace it.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Hilton Head Island: procession; THE PIANO; departure

The snowbirds are passing, heading south on Skull Creek almost without exception in boats with masts under power even with the wind behind them.  I notice more than a dozen most days and I am not maintaining a constant watch.  Many must pass that I do not see.  One yesterday did have its jib set.  

The distance from Norfolk, Virginia, where the Intracoastal begins, to Miami is given as 1,095 miles.  That is statute miles, not nautical miles.  I googled why the Intracoastal is measured in statute miles, but did not find an answer.  I expect that much of the Intracoastal is beautiful and interesting.  Skull Creek is.  But that is a lot of powering.  Probably more than I have done total in my life.  There is an alternative:  go outside and sail.  That is what I have done on my two round trips up and down the coast, stopping only Beaufort, North Carolina twice and going the full distance from Florida to New York or New England the other two times.  I expect I know why these people power rather than sail.  

The image above is from Jane Campion’s 1993 film, THE PIANO.  I saw it when it first came out and then watched it last week on Netflix.  The soundtrack has long been one of my favorites, but seeing the film again was stunning.  If you haven’t for a while or ever, I suggest you should.  It is amazing that such an unlikely film was ever financed and made.  Yet it was a commercial as well as a critical success, costing 7 million dollars to make and earning 140 million.  Quite a decent return on investment.  Sometimes excellence is rewarded.  I will watch THE PIANO again this coming week with Carol.

From a documentary about an expedition that rafted down the Blue Nile:

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Hilton Head Island: book burning; photograoh changes

 I thank Steve for the following:  

I thought that as a writer you would appreciate the quote below.  It was said by a librarian in response to certain novels becoming a political issue in Virginia where some school board members advocated removing books from school libraries and suggested…..incredibly….burning them.  

“If you have a worldview that can be undone by a novel, let me suggest that the problem is not the novel,” 

They are always among us.

I have reorganized the photographs page on the main site and in doing so realized that I should have a page of photos from GANNET’s circumnavigation..Perhaps eventually.  I have added a page of photos of Hilton Head. https

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Hilton Head Island: equipment; changes to main site; ships in bad weather; many, many marathons



For my birthday Carol gave me the Icom M94D handheld VHF I requested.  I already have an Icom handheld VHF, but this is the first to include AIS tracking.

I unboxed the radio and found that almost nothing about it except turning it on and off is intuitive or obvious.  I turned it on and immediately got a series of piercing beeps and a flashing ‘Collision Warning’ on the screen.  I pushed the Clear button and thankfully it stopped, only to resume after a short interval.  I turned the radio off and began to read the 75 page instruction book.  It is not necessary to read it all because the radio does a great many things I don’t need and won’t use including setting waypoints.  I do that in my navigation apps on my iPhone and iPad.

Once I had learned how to turn the volume up and down and change channels and how to display the AIS screen and control its functions, I found that there is a boat in the marina with an AIS transmitter constantly on.  This is what the radio determined was too close to me and likely to result in a collision.  It had no way of knowing that I was on the third story of a building on shore and reasonably safe.

From the porch of our condo I received signals from a dozen ships and boats.  I do not know yet what I would receive from GANNET’s considerably lower elevation or if AIS will be useful to me.  We will find out.

Here is a link to a review of the radio:

One of the dozens of magazines that I can read through Apple News+ is the British YACHTING WORLD.  In the current issue they ran tests of five small outboards in the 3 hp range.  Three were gasoline and two electric.  One of the electric was Torqeedo and the other a Spirit Evo of which I had not known.  The reviewer liked the electric outboards for the same reasons I do and he preferred the Chinese made Spirit over the Torqeedo because of its larger battery and because its propeller if left in the water while under sail at four knots or more free wheels and recharges the battery.  This would make some noise, but is a very good idea.  Were I buying an electric outboard now I would give careful consideration to the Spirit Evo.

I have added my 80th birthday photo to the immodest page of pictures of myself on the main site and reorganized the page so that the captions can now all be seen.  I have also made minor changes to some of those captions and to the page that was labeled ‘condominium’ and is now called ‘Evanston’.  I will soon add a Hilton Head Island page as this is now my land home.  The picture at the top of this entry is of last night’s lingering sunset which I watched while sipping cava on the porch.  You may already be bored with such sunsets, I am not and there will be more.

From Larry comes a link to a video of dramatic footage of ships and yachts in bad weather.  I thank him.   The sailboat near the pier caused an involuntary expletive.  What were those fools doing anywhere near that spot?  They survived only through dumb luck.  Dump being the operative word.  I would have been heading straight out to sea before I got anywhere near such waves.

Of another scene I quote Larry:  ‘Note the guys on the rock steadaircraft carrier laughing at the rough ride of a destroyer escort. I remember doing the same.’

Big boat sailors are cruel.

Two days ago I read of the remarkable achievement of Alyssa Clark in setting a woman’s world record by running a full marathon every day for 95 consecutive days.  Almost incredible that her body could recover day after day after day.

I did not even know there is such a record, but reasoned that if there is one for women there is one for men.  Indeed there is.  It is held by the Spaniard Ricardo Abad Martinez who ran a full marathon every day for 607 days.  That does not seem humanly possible.

I note that neither of them played violin in a symphony orchestra in the evening after running their marathon as my friend Tim has done twice.

I also note that when I set what was then the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation in a monohull in EGREGIOUS I didn’t even notify Guinness.  I felt no need of their validation.  Somehow they learned of the voyage and contacted me.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Hilton Head Island: thanks and so far, so good ; helmsman; over; my kind of boat

First I want to thank all of you who have sent me good wishes on becoming ancient.  It is heartening to know that I have been appreciated and may have been a good influence to some.

Carol and I have had two lovely days.

On my birthday she drove us to the ocean side of the island where we walked on the beach.  We returned to have lunch in GANNET’s cockpit.  Then went out to dinner at a restaurant named Poseidon.  Her choice.  Following which I did indeed have a few sips of Laphroaig and raised my glass as I said I would.

Yesterday we biked three miles and back to Dolphin Point which is on Port Royal Sound.  I don’t recall ever seeing dolphin there, but I almost always do on Skull Creek.

In the afternoon we went to a theater to see the latest James Bond movie, NO TIME TO DIE.  I saw the first James Bond movie, DOCTOR NO, in late May 1963 a few days before I graduated from college.  I think I have seen all of them since.  DOCTOR NO was low budget.  Sean Connery drove a Sunbeam Alpine in the chase scenes, not an Aston Martin.  We enjoyed NO TIME TO DIE which has deservedly received good reviews.

This was our first visit to a movie theater in probably two years.  This was an independent theater which surely has been hemorrhaging money since the pandemic began.  I don’t know how they have been able to stay open.  On a Friday afternoon there were only eight of us in the widely dispersed audience.

We returned to a frozen pizza expertly doctored by Carol accompanied by a bottle of Chianti.

This being seriously elderly has been pretty nice.  So far.

James sent me a fine poem, ‘The Helmsman’, I did not know by a poet, W.S. Merwin, I did not know but will investigate further.  I thank him.

Though I have no official status I officially declare the hurricane season over.  At least for Hilton Head.  As noted here before for reasons I do not know the tropics went quiet at the beginning of October and have remained that way.

According The first condition (to sustain a hurricane) is that ocean temperatures must be above 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit).  Below this threshold temperature, hurricanes will not form or will weaken rapidly once they move over water below this threshold.

Today’s ocean temperature at Hilton Head Island is 63ºF/17.2C.

The vessel in the photo at the top is NOAH’S VIOLIN.  She is slightly longer than EGREGIOUS and THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, but I doubt sails as well.  I like her anyway.  The explanation:


Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hilton Head Island: 80


The age of miracles has not passed.  I am eighty years old today.  Few, if any, including me, expected I would reach such an age.  ‘Almost dying is a hard way to make a living’, I once wrote, and I have almost died more times than I can easily recall.  It goes with the territory of pushing beyond the edge of human experience.  Either I was very good or I was very lucky.  Perhaps both.

I now mostly live in a condo on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island overlooking Skull Creek which is part of the Intracoastal Waterway.  GANNET is docked five hundred feet away.  I can see her mast from our windows and deck.

Hilton Head Island has a wonderful climate from October to May, but is too hot in the summer with heat indexes  routinely 105ºF.  So I am considering sailing somewhere cooler next summer.  Iceland sounds cool.

Carol and I will spend the day quietly.  I’ll go down and sit on GANNET for a while and consider what I’ve done with my life and what I might still do.  This evening we will go out to dinner and when we return I will pour some of my favorite liquid, Laphroaig 10 year old single malt Scotch, and raise my glass to you and to me and to our dreams and to the passion to fulfill them.

To life.

And yes.  I have done my age in push-ups today.  In fact twice my age in push-ups and crunches in sets of 80-40-40, with some knee bends and side leg rises mixed in.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Hilton Head Island: high tides; three Japanese poems; and a splendid wall decoration


The low that was lingering offshore finally moved away yesterday afternoon, but before it did it caused the fourth highest tide recorded at Fort Pulaski at the mouth of the nearby Savannah River in the eighty-five years measurements have been taken there.  Of the twenty 10’+ tides ever recorded at Fort Pulaski thirteen have been recorded since 2015.  

I have noticed that the tides on Skull Creek have been unusually high these past few days, reaching almost to the base of the closest palm trees.  From my chair by our bedroom window I watched small egrets bobbing up and down on rafts of dead spartina.  

There is talk of building a creek wall, but I don’t expect that this condo and perhaps Hilton Head Island will be here in 2100.  But then neither will we.


The first two are anonymous dating from about 1600 A.D.  The third by Yuan Mei who lived 1716-1798 and seems particularly appropriate for one ten years older than the author.

As I have written here before Kent, self-proclaimed moveable ballast and maintainer of Audrey’s Armada of small boats, and Audrey have moved the fleet from near Pensacola, Florida, to near Norfolk, Virginia, because they were too settled and enjoy incredibly complicated moves.  I have found owning two boats beyond me.  They own about twenty.  I am not sure how many.  I don’t know that even they know.

One of them is a Drascombe Lugger, ONKAHKE, whose floorboards needed replacing.  Kent is one of you who can build anything and he made new floorboards.  Instead of discarding the old ones he and Audrey have hung them on the wall as in the photo above.  I am filled with admiration and envy.  We have blank walls in this condo, but I don’t have any old floorboards and I don’t think Carol would let me hang them if I did.

I thank Kent for permission to use the photo.

Sail on.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Hilton Head Island: heated; clutched; the end is nigh; HIGH NOON; Capt. Cook and other explorers

I seek no sympathy from those of you who have already experienced much colder temperatures, but today is overcast, rainy and raw by Hilton Head standards and it is only 48ºF/9C in mid-afternoon and I have turned on the heat for the first time since early in the year.  We have a gale warning for near coastal waters, but on this side of the island as usual there is much less wind.  The oaks and Spanish moss are swaying, but not yet frenzied.

I biked to GANNET on Wednesday and installed the new double halyard clutch and returned yesterday to give the bolts a final tightening after the sealant had set.  The new clutch is Spinlock.  The old was Lewmar.  Naturally the mounting holes did not quite match.  In the photo the darker blue line is the spinnaker halyard.  The lighter blue line in the middle is the main halyard.  And the gray line is the spinnaker pole topping lift.  I only set asymmetrical spinnakers and gave away my spinnaker pole years ago in Hawaii.  I’ve kept the line possibly to set the storm jib as a staysail, although I never have, or to help stabilize the mast should there be rigging damage.

This clutch is said to work with lines as small as 4 mm.  My main halyard is ¼”/6mm.  So hopefully it will hold and not slip.  If it does I have a 5/16” halyard which will also fit in the clutch.  This is much bigger line than GANNET requires, but if necessary I will try it.  Threading line though the Spinlock is easy.  On the Lewmar it is not.

James, a journalist who came to see me Tuesday morning, took me to nearby Bluffton to see his boat, SEA GYPSY, a Pearson Electra.  Along the way we stopped for coffee and outside I saw this sign.  It is quite enough that the United States considerately planned ahead and made my birthday a national holiday even before I was born.  But coming to an end on that day is simply too much.

I say farewell now.  It has been a pleasure to know you.

Last night I watched the 1952 Gary Cooper film, HIGH NOON, on Amazon Prime.  I saw it when it first came out and I was ten or eleven years old.  I have seen it since but not for many years.  It is one of the greatest movies ever made.  Perfect in stark black and white and every detail.  It was nominated for best picture, but did not win.  I googled and find that THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH did that year.  An egregious error.

I have written that I was formed in part by the epics of ancient Greece and the American West.  HIGH NOON was surely an influence.  If you haven’t watched it for a while, you should give yourself that pleasure.

Another James—you people are everywhere—recently emailed that the 293rd anniversary of Capt. James Cook’s birth will be this Sunday, November 7.  November is obviously a month of great sailors.

I wrote back:  I have read much of Cook, who did not circumnavigate three times because he was killed in Hawaii during the third.  He definitely changed during the eleven years from the beginning of his first circumnavigation to his death.  Too much almost constant stress.  Yet here was a man of rare ability who was in the right place at the right time and more than fulfilled the unlikely opportunity that opened for him.

Of explorers I recently came across in the STAYING ALIVE anthology, T.S. Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’ part of which I have quoted before.  As I approach 80 it is appropriate to quote it again.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Hilton Head Island: the social monk; Hitler; oblivion; affairs; Brenno Blauth

I am sitting by our bedroom window looking out at twilight after the setting sun.  I have taken a couple of photographs, but they do not capture the reality.  They are too insipid.  I tried to edit the images but could not come close enough to do justice to what I see.  Even more than half blind my vision is better than my iPhone and iPad can capture.  We are evolutionary miracles.  So you are going to have to take my word that I am glancing up and seeing vivid beauty.

Let’s go back almost thirty years.  A few weeks after I sank RESURGAM I am in Littleton, New Hampshire, staying with friends as I slowly began to heal.  One Sunday we go out to brunch and are talking about a magazine article in which a man claims expertise about sailing with Webb Chiles.  He was in fact the yacht salesman who arranged the deal in which I traded my Ericson 35 for the Ericson 37 in which I made my first circumnavigation.  He ‘sailed’ with me upon delivery for less than an hour.  I related this to my friends and said, “I don’t sail with anyone I don’t sleep with.” Upon which an attractive younger woman at the next table said, “I’ll sail with you,” and gave me her business card.  I thought:  If she has any sense of logic that is a pretty good offer.  I am not going to go into detail as to what else happened between us except to say that her sense of logic was sound.

Fortunately for some I have mellowed with advancing years.  I hesitate.  I am not sure I have mellowed.  Maybe having done far more and having lived far longer than I ever thought I would, I have become more…again I hesitate.  More what?  I don’t know.  I do know to the relief of a few that it is no longer necessary to sleep with me to sail, briefly, with me, and in the past week I have gone for day sails with friends twice.  Tim and Cheryl several days ago and Michael yesterday.  That this happened twice in a week is rare.  In the ten years that I have owned GANNET only twice before have I sailed on GANNET with anyone other than Carol, with whom it is no secret that  I do indeed sleep with.

Both of the recent sails were pleasant.  Michael wrote of our sail on his site including photos I did not know he took.  Doing so while he was at the helm is impressive.

There is no conclusion here.  What is next?  Webb Chiles party animal?  I think not.  I have called myself a much married monk, so I can also be a sometimes social monk.  But monk I am.

Trending now on Netflix is a 1977 West German documentary HITLER A CAREER.  

I know the history.  I have read a good many books on Hitler who was by many accepted standards a great success story, but I found this film interesting.  The narration is extremely well written and spoken and there is much archival footage that I had not seen before.

Why it is trending now I do not know, but if you have Netflix it is well worth your time.

In today’s entries in THE ASSASSINS CLOAK is one from Noel Coward from 1961 in which he is considering those of his friends and relatives who have died as he has grown older.

Those of you who have watched my two ‘End of Being’ videos will know that I too expect oblivion.

In them I state that I do not fear oblivion, but I do have some apprehension about the probable pain in the process.  I have thought about that.  I do have such apprehension about that probable pain, but I have greater apprehension about becoming infirm and incapable and dependent before my death.  Webb Chiles in a nursing home?  The horror.

Today in the ANCHOR BOOK OF CHINESE POETRY I read a section of anonymous erotic poems dating from about 1600.

I could not get the Nun on a page by herself, so disregard the other fragments.

And finally from Fred comes a link to music by Brenno Blauth, a Brazilian composer of whom I had not known,  I thank him.  It is interesting that he heard it at Port Townsend, a place I have not visited, but know is welcoming of sailors, some of whom do more than sail.  Perhaps you will enjoy it as much as I do.