Friday, December 31, 2021

Hilton Head Island: Paul Johnson; feeding chickens; 2022


My friend Roger sent me this morning the above photo of his friend, Paul Johnson, who recently died.  He is seen on board his 18’ Shetland boat decked over with plywood on which he crossed the Atlantic in the 1960s, possibly about the same time I was teaching myself to sail on San Francisco Bay.  I am told that at the time she was the smallest boat to have done so.  She is the same length as CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and her hull reminds me of CHIDIOCK’s.  A remarkable voyage, particularly at that time, of which I had not known and is now almost forgotten, except for the moment by those who are reading this.  I thank Roger for bringing Paul Johnson to my attention.

I am almost finished reading Alfred Mahan’s magisterial, THE INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER ON HISTORY.  This is one of those books I have seen referred to many times, most recently in a biography of Theodore Roosevelt which finally caused me to download and read it.  I am doing so with great admiration and pleasure.

Mahan was writing in 1890 in an effort to have the US. Navy built into a world class force.  Though his friendship with Roosevelt he succeded.

The book covers 1660 to 1783 and could as easily be titled, THE RISE OF ENGLAND.

They were decades of almost constant wars as England, France, Austria, Spain, Holland, and others sought power, wealth and dominance.  Wars between England and the Dutch.  Wars of the Spanish Succession, the Austrian Succession, the Polish Succession, and many more, including as you will have concluded from the final date of 1783, the American Revolution.

Despite some paragraphs many pages long, the book is very readable, largely because of the clarity of Mahan’s mind and vision.

I have sailed most of the waters in which the sea battles of which Mahan writes were fought and can though his words see them in my mind.  He was himself here at Hilton Head as a young naval officer in the Union invasion of Port Royal in 1861.

Among the many great, and not great, admirals in the book is the Dutch, Michiel de Ruyter, considered by many to be the greatest admiral of his time.

I like this description of him by the Comte de Guiche after de Ruyter’s greatest victory.

I bought a Kindle edition of the book from Amazon for $0.99.  Books are the greatest bargains.

I am looking forward to the new year and hope you are too.  Have a splendid one.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Hilton Head Island: eagles; two poems; reader; shorts; shadowed

I have not seen bald eagles around Hilton Head and only yesterday learned of an eagle-cam at a nest somewhere on the island.  Since then two eaglets have hatched.  I saw the mother feeding the first this morning, tearing off strips of flesh from some creature either she or her mate had caught and brought to the nest.  When I last looked a few minutes ago, only one of the parents was visible sitting on the nest with the eaglets presumably beneath her.

From THE PENGUIN BOOK OF JAPANESE VERSE an anonymous poem dating from around a thousand years ago with a sentiment eternal to some.

And from the BEING ALIVE anthology a contemporary poem, Black Moon by Matthew Sweeney, that I like and not just because the artist drinks Laphroaig.

While I was sitting on the screened porch yesterday afternoon reading Carol took the top photo.

The warm weather continues.  We had our sunset drinks on the deck last evening and today I switched from Levis to shorts.  

I went down to GANNET this morning around 11 am, hoping to paint the non non-skid parts of the deck.  Although the temperature is in the 70s, the expletive deleted ferry boat was still blocking the sun from reaching GANNET and the deck was still wet with dew.  I  re-glued the track that secures the forward edge of the companionway spray hood and then gave up.  I will try again one afternoon around 1 pm.  

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Hilton Head Island: Christmas


My Christmas gifts included the traditional annual tiller pilot, which after taking down to GANNET and plugging in to be certain it works, I immediately registered to extend the warranty from two years to three.  I wonder why. 

In late morning Carol drove us to the ocean side of the island for a walk on the beach.  With a temperature of 68ºF/20ºC, a good many others had the same idea including the man and admirable dog in the photo above.  We watched them for quite a while as the man threw a green ball far into the ocean.  The dog waited until given permission to pursue it, which he then did with great enthusiasm, going out through the first line of surf into water of for him swimming depth.  The water is now a cool 57º/14ºF.  He didn’t seem to mind and returned the ball, sat down and waited for the next throw.

Returning to Skull Creek we ate in mid-afternoon on the screened porch a Christmas dinner of Thanksgiving dinner leftovers that Carol had frozen accompanied by a bottle of Cava.  The food was as enjoyable as it had been in November.  

I watched parts of error prone football games.

At another beautiful sunset we ate small pieces of pecan pie.  

In the evening we enjoyed on Amazon Prime the movie, BEING THE RICARDOS, a better film than expected.  Here is a valid review.

A lovely quiet and pleasant day as befits an octogenarian and a much younger woman.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Hilton Head Island: Low Country Christmas lights

 Carol drove us around last evening to view Christmas lights.  This is my favorite.

I wish all of you a happy holiday season and a splendid 2022.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Hilton Head Island: White Christmas; reading novels; $140,000

A rainy, windy and cool day in the Low Country as a forecast front passes.  Solid overcast.  Spanish moss weaving and swaying.  And only 48ºF/9ºC in mid-afternoon.  However the front will move offshore tonight or tomorrow morning and Christmas Day is supposed to be sunny and 70ºF/21ºC.  I heard on the local news that Savannah had its last and only White Christmas in 1989.  Records have been kept since 1874.  That seems a good proportion to me.  I find White Christmases far overrated.  I much prefer sunshine and 70º.  Bing Crosby has a lot to answer for.

On this date in 1850 the twenty-two year old Leo Tolstoy wrote in his diary:  Must not read novels.

The current January/February issue of CRUISING WORLD includes their Boats of the Year.  The winner in the Best Pocket Cruiser/Daysailer category is the Beneteau First 27.  I think she is an interesting and pretty small boat.  As regular readers know I am not in the market for another boat, but I checked the price on the Specs page at the end of CW’s presentation.  $140,000.  That is 15.5 times what I paid for GANNET for three more feet and a little more interior headroom.  The Beneteau may sail well, but I doubt she sails as well as GANNET who is obviously one of the sailing world’s greatest bargains.

Overall CW gave awards or runners up to 27 boats.  Of these 13 cost more than $1,000,000 each.  I am glad so many sailors are rich.  I wonder how many of them or their million dollars boats will ever sail as far as $9,000 GANNET.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Hilton Head Island: interruption; RAN; correction


The company that hosts my main site is migrating to new servers so the site will not be accessible from about 3 pm EST tomorrow until about 6 a.m Sunday morning.  I know how acutely you will feel this loss, but perhaps you can just read old journal posts instead.  The journal will not be affected.

Last evening I rewatched Akira Kurosawa’s 1985 RAN, his Japanese version of Shakespeare’s KING LEAR with some overtones of MACBETH.  I first saw it many years ago, probably about the time it was first released.  Many consider it among the greatest movies ever made.  It is epic, dramatic, and visually arresting.  I enjoyed it.

I have read KING LEAR three or four times.  I believe I have written this before in this journal, but I have my own interpretation of King Lear.  Generally he is just considered mad, but madness is a condition, not a tragedy.  My reading of the play is that as it opens King Lear is mad and all powerful and as the play unfolds he becomes progressively less mad and less powerful, until at the end he is completely sane and completely helpless.  That is the tragedy.

In listening and viewing The Golden Record’s contents in the YouTube video I realized that there are two pieces by Beethoven.  I had said that no one except Bach has more than one.  I also rewrote a few other sentences in that entry.

I have twice this week engaged in a traditional sailor’s task:  chipping paint.  Mine that on deck between the Raptor nonskid pads in preparation for repainting those areas.  

The photo above has nothing to do with any of this.  It was taken some years ago from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring in New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.  I just like it.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Hilton Head Island: Bach and the Golden Record; terrible times; three poems

I am sipping cava and listening to Bach.  I could post a photo of yet another spectacular sunset from this evening but I have pity on you and don’t. 

If you have subscribed to Mark McQuire’s Because Wonder emails, and I do— will have recently read of The Golden Record which was placed on Voyager 1 when it was launched in 1977.  Actually there are two ‘records’, gold plated copper discs intended to last billions of years and to carry far into the universe twenty-seven tracks of music in an attempt to convey to any other intelligent life—I am inclined to put ‘intelligent’ in quotes because our species often isn’t—some essence of human life.  While I know that the universe is far beyond my imagination—the universe is itself the most extreme example of wretched excess in the universe—what I can imagine causes me to believe that we are not the only so called intelligent life forms extant. 

You can listen to the Golden Discs from a number of sources.  Spotify.  Apple Music.  YouTube.  I am listening to it on YouTube.

I note that three of the tracks are Bach.  Beethoven has two.  No one else has more than one.  That seems right.

Of Bach, James sent me a link to a performance of Bach’s CHRISTMAS ORATORIO, for which I thank him.  I noted the comment as shown below.

I read further and found many other than myself listen to Bach everyday. 

Of the terrible times, this is historical myopia.  

I have just watched the ten episodes of a very well done Netflix series:  The Greatest Events of WW2 in Color.  I know the history, but I have learned and seen a good deal that was new to me.  The episodes on the bombing of Dresden and the Allies reaching Buchenwald were particularly revelatory.  Those were terrible times.  Our pandemic is nothing by comparison.

Of the series, my only criticism is that it is too slanted toward us and does not give enough time to the Eastern front in Europe.  The Soviet Union suffered more than twenty million deaths in the war.  The US 500,000.  There is an episode on Stalingrad.  There should have been ones on Moscow, Leningrad, and Kursk, the greatest tank battle in history after which German defeat was inevitable even without D-Day.

On another music video that I admire, Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Joke’, I saw this comment which I find very sad.  Many responses told her she was not old at forty-four, with which of course I quite agree, but I feel her loneliness and isolation.  I am not latino, an immigrant, or gay.  I am old and I need mostly to be alone, but that is not the usual human condition.  As I have written before, we are herd animals who know deep inside that we are all alone.

I noted that after finishing an anthology of Chinese poetry I downloaded one of Japanese.  

The first Japanese poems in the anthology were by or about emperors and princes and not worth being preserved.  However as the anthology progressed beyond nobility, it became interesting. Dates and background of the poets are not provided,  but I admire these two by Tajihi, whoever he was and whenever he lived.  His loss reaches across time.

I also read each afternoon some Western poetry, presently from the BEING HUMAN anthology in which I came across the following.  I could have written it myself.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Hilton Head Island: an historic triumph


The forecast front passed through yesterday afternoon with strong wind and heavy rain for two hours before it moved offshore where it only distressed multi-billionaires who couldn’t find dock space for their megayachts.

This morning I biked to GANNET, opened the companionway, and with fear and trepidation climbed down into the Great Cabin.  Finally I mustered the courage to look at the v-berth.  It was dry.  Dry, I tell you.  Not a drop of water.  Anywhere.  I fixed the leaks.  For the present.  I sang Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’.  Twice.  Which disturbed two egrets and the flock of blackbirds that reside on the upper deck of the ferry boat.  And biked home.

I am writing sitting by our bedroom window and glanced up to see the above.  You are just going to have to put up with sunset photos.  I can’t help myself.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Hilton Head Island: poor little rich girl; Lord Byron: a poem: a leak fixed?; two songs

I happened across this tale at Apple News+ of unbearable suffering.  Rough, sleepless nights at sea.  I can’t imagine.  We must have sympathy for the mega-rich.

As I presume you know, eighty years ago today Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in what many of her naval leaders knew was a tragic mistake even as they carried it out.  I was twenty-six days old.  I have no memories of WW2, though perhaps those of us who were infants and young children then were unknowingly affected by our parents fears.  My father and step-father were both in the US Army though neither saw combat.  What is odd to me is not that we kill one another in terrible ways, but that at some point it stops and we become friends with our former enemies.  After WW2 almost instantly in fear of our former ally.  We are a strange species.

It is said that the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant was so punctual in taking his walks that his neighbors in Konigsberg could set their clocks by him.  I am not that reliable, but if you think that around 4 PM in whatever time zone I am in I am working out and that at 5 PM I am pouring a drink, reading some poetry—having finished the Chinese anthology, I bought a collection of Japanese—and then listening to Bach, you are right.  Also for the year beginning July 1 I am reading the daily dairy entrees in THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK.  Two hundred and eight years ago Lord Byron wrote:

From the anthology, BEING HUMAN, a poem that I had not read before by the Portuguese, Fernando Pessoa.

I biked to GANNET today and sealed the tube through which the masthead electrical wires pass through the deck.  I could see where the sealant had pulled away from the tube.  I hope I fixed it.  
Tomorrow for the first time in a month we are due to have rain.  I will soon know.

You may recall that I am very much taken by Joan Armatrading’s song and video of “I was already there’.  I have since sought more of her music.  I don’t like it all, but I like some exceedingly.

Here are the links to videos of two of her songs, ‘Dry Land’ and ‘It Could Have Been Better’.

You will observe that the boats in Dry Land are not my kind of boats, but while I am at home at sea, I have longed for dry land.  Never more than after the five month passage in EGREGIOUS around Cape Horn when she was sinking beneath me, after the two week drift when CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE was swamped, after the twenty-six hour swim after I sank RESURGAM.

The video of ‘It Could Have Been Better’ is as much about the elegant grace of Fred Astaire, born Fred Austerlitz—his backstage parents changed it so the public would not associate it with the Napoleonic victory—as it is about the song itself.  He was born at the right time.  Today his grace would have no place and he no career.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Hilton Head Island: found; Franz Romer and the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane; a little shared serenity

The leak is found.  

I biked to GANNET this morning, covered the plastic plate into which the hinge screws go with duct tape, and turned the hose on the hatch.  When I went below there was a puddle on the v-berth cushion aft but not directly under the hinge.  I got a flashlight and examined the overhead in the vicinity of the hinge and the aft edge of the hatch.  It was dry.  Then a drip fell on me not from the hatch, but from where the masthead electrical wires pass through the deck.  Eureka!  Or words to that effect.  I returned to the dock and turned the hose on the tube that channels the wires being careful not to turn it on the hatch.  Down below again a puddle.  When it dries I will attempt to fix it.  Possibly I didn’t even need to rebed the hatch, but it is done.  The tube through which the wires pass should be easier.

I thank Bob and Bev for a link to an interesting article and video about a voyage and a storm I had not heard of.

In 1928 Franz Romer, a German, crossed the Atlantic in a 21’6” kayak with a sail on an 8’ mast.  Starting in the Canary Islands, he landed at St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands after 58 days.

After recovering from the passage, he crossed to Puerto Rico which he left on his next leg with an ultimate destination of New York City one hour before a hurricane warning was issued for what became a Category 5 storm and the second deadliest in North American history.  It was named the Okeechobee hurricane because most of the dead were killed near that Florida lake when a dyke gave way.

Here is a link to the article if you want to read more.  The video is imbedded in the article.  I watched it.  It is well done, though there are some images of a kayak sailing with jib and mainsail which I doubt is how Romer’s was rigged.

I think he took too much water and too few hats.  His average of 35 miles a day would have mostly been due to current.  I don’t think his sail did him much good.  And I doubt he went five days and nights without sleep. 

Of hurricanes, naturally media came out with articles after the official end of this year’s season on November 30.  I think they are deceptive.  Merely counting the number of named storms is fallacious.  

Not all lines are created equal.  Storms are named when they reach Force 8, 34 knots.  That is not seriously bad weather.  Hurricanes began at 64 knots.  Even that in my opinion is not cause for alarm.  If you look closely at the above, three of those tracks passed over or very near Hilton Head, hardly being noticed.

Here are the tracks of major storms.

If you live in Southern Louisiana, parts of New England and Mexico, you had a bad hurricane season, but for most of us it was a mild one despite the number of named storms.


I had to compress this to get it under the Blogger 100 mb limit so it is a little fuzzy.  Taken last evening from the screened porch, I wanted to share the serenity.  The music is from Erik Satie’s Trois Gymnopedies.  

Friday, December 3, 2021

Hilton Head Island: hatched; around the neighborhood

I biked to GANNET yesterday and comprehensively bedded the hatch.  I used two layers of butyl tape and wrapped each bolt with a collar of butyl tape.  I returned this morning and hosed the hatch.  I then hopefully went below.  I would like to report that there was no leak, but sadly I cannot.  There were several drops of water below the middle of the aft end of the hatch.  No water came from the hatch flange.  I believe the leak is at the hinge.  Two screws go through the hatch to a small plate on top.  I will let this dry.  Put a piece of tape over the plate and hose again.  If dry below, I have found the culprit.  If not…sigh.

A few readers have asked for photos around the neighborhood.

First a Google view of the neighborhood.

That is Skull Creek from the only bridge onto the island at the bottom to Port Royal Sound at the top.  The image was taken sometime since early September of last year because GANNET is in it as perhaps you can see in this close up.  She is the fourth boat opposite the ferry.

The top image is of our condo development’s pier.  It ends in a platform with rocking chairs to enable those who don’t own a boat to enjoy being on the water.  People often gather there for evening drinks.

Here is the ferry from our pier.  It looks even worse from this side.  The US Marshall’s signs are still on it, but nothing has happened.

The only canon at Fort Mitchell.

The Civil War began with the firing on Fort Sumpter on April 12, 1861.  Less than seven months later on November 7, 12,000 Union troops landed and took Hilton Head Island is what was the largest amphibious landing until D-Day in WW2 in order to secure Port Royal Sound.  Overwhelmed Confederate troops escaped across Skull Creek.  More than a thousand slaves on the island were the first to be freed by Union troops.

Savannah, only a little more than twenty miles away, did not fall for three more years until General Sherman occupied the city on December 21, 1864.

Our building.  This complex is called Indian Springs presumably because there once was one here.  It consists of four identical three story buildings with three units on each floor.  Some are three bedroom, some, including ours, are two bedroom.  We are the middle unit on the third floor and have the advantages of an open deck and a screened porch.

Hilton Head remains mostly green year round, but some trees lose their leaves and there is some color.

The African Americans who lived on South Carolina’s sea islands and low country were known as Gullahs and some still are.  There is a Gullah cemetery near the pier that runs out to the marina.  Many of the markers date back a hundred years, but people are still being buried there.

Spartina for Steve Earley.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Hilton Head Island: a start; a sign; a poem

I said I would and I did. I biked to GANNET this morning and worked for three hours removing and cleaning the forward hatch and the deck beneath it.  Tedious labor and on GANNET often performed in awkward positions.  Sixteen bolts to be removed along with butyl tape and LifeSeal.  The butyl tape was still soft and pliant.  I don’t recall exactly when I last rebedded the hatch, but it was several years ago.  Possibly before GANNET’s circumnavigation.  I stopped when my ancient back cried, ‘Enough.’  I cleaned up the considerable mess I had made and dropped the hatch back in place.  Hopefully I will finish tomorrow.  Wistfully the hatch will never leak again.

Above is a sign you probably don’t have in your neighborhood.  Carol and I saw it a couple of days ago when we walked through the site of Civil War era Fort Mitchell, our next door neighbor.  There were two of these signs on the grounds and we later saw another farther along Skull Creek Drive. We don’t recall seeing them before, and we have only ever seen one alligator from our condo.  It was floating between the shore and the marina late one afternoon.  A man on another boat said he saw an alligator on the shore beside the pier leading out to the marina one morning.  Earlier this year a woman about my age was grabbed by a gator on the edge of a pond behind her back yard who tired to drag her into the water.  She was saved by her neighbors, one of whom beat the alligator about the head with a shovel until he let go, but that was two miles from here.  Nevertheless I am not tempted to go into Skull Creek to clean GANNET’s bottom.

I finished reading THE ANCHOR BOOK OF CHINESE POETRY.  I have been reading a few poems in it every afternoon for several months.  The book claims to cover 3,000 years from ancient to contemporary.  I much prefer the old poems to the new. Almost all the contemporary poems were written by Chinese in exile.  That is to be expected.  If they weren’t, we would never have heard of them.

An exception is a poem by Yang Lian, who was born in 1955 and now lives in London.  It is titled ‘To a Nine-Year-Old Girl Killed in the Massacre.”