Monday, December 5, 2022

vbi: the new sextant: the Race to Alaska


I take some satisfaction in being among the last to have navigated with a sextant.  I still have one on GANNET—actually it is at present in the dock box—and I think it probably a good idea to know how to take a noon sight for latitude before going offshore.  But I don’t recall when I last took a sight.  Almost certainly it was more than thirty years ago.

Kent, of Audrey’s Armada, once asked how I would prepare a Drascombe Lugger for ocean passages differently now than I did in 1978.  An interesting question, at least to me.  Among other things I would not now have any paper charts on board or the Air Sight Reduction tables or a sack of books and I would be able to listen to music.  All thanks to technology.

I taught myself celestial navigation from books, just as I taught myself how to sail from books and then buying a boat and going out on San Francisco Bay and making mistakes—obviously none too serious—and correcting them.

I navigated by sextant for my first two circumnavigations, from 1974 to about 1985 when I bought what was called a Sat-Nav unit.  If I remember correctly there were not many satellites and they provided a position only every hour or so.  

I bought my first GPS unit in 1991 for my fiftieth birthday as Jill and I were preparing to sail RESURGAM from Auckland around Cape Horn to Punta del Este, Uruguay.  It was a handheld unit made by Sony and cost $2000.  I checked the inflation calculator and find that would now be $4,376.  My word!

As many of you know on the GANNET circumnavigation I navigated by iPhone.  Now, with the exception of displaying electronic charts, I can navigate by glancing at my wrist.

Above is an Apple Watch Ultra.  More rugged than the standard Apple watches, it also has more precise GPS.  It is highly customizable.  The face I use Apple calls Wayfinder.  In addition to the time—how prosaic—it has eight of what Apple calls complications.  I have configured the four outer ones starting in the upper left:  day and date; battery life; start an activity; wind speed and direction.  This last is not measured by the watch, but comes via cellular from the watch itself or a nearby iPhone.  The first ring is a compass.  By default this displays magnetic, but you can change that to true, which I have done.  As you can see the inner ring, which Apple calls the bezel, displays latitude and longitude.  That can be switched to altitude.  Inside the bezel, from the top mine shows heading, to the right air temperature which is not measured by the watch but comes over cellular, touching the icon at the bottom brings up the list of waypoints, and touching the one to the left starts a measurement of heart beat.  Mine remains satisfactorily in the 40s at rest as it long has been.  During workouts I sometimes see numbers in the 120s and rarely 130.  At my age an optimum maximum heart beat is 139.  

On the right side of the watch, not visible in this photo, is what Apple calls the Activity Button.  I have mine programmed to create a waypoint.  Thus I could press the button at noon creating a waypoint, give it a name, and then the following noon check the waypoint list and see the day’s run.  However, the watch is set up with hikers in mind not sailors and gives distances in statute miles.

Apple has an input page and I have suggested that they create a sailing activity which offers the option to show latitude and longitude in degrees and minutes rather than degrees and decimals as it now does; an option to display speed and distances in nautical miles; and a page that displays COG and SOG.  iSailor has an Apple watch app that does display these, but it only works when the iSailor app is open on the iPhone.  That is not necessary.  The watch has the sensors itself.

The Apple Watch Ultra is relatively expensive.  Compared to my first handheld GPS it is a huge bargain.

At Sailing Anarchy I saw a link to the trailer for a film about the Race to Alaska.

I rented it from Amazon Prime.  I found it an interesting and entertaining view of a different part of the sailing world than mine.  You might, too.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hilton Head Island: communication; men to match mountains; rudder; cave


There are so many disparate thoughts that I don’t know where to begin.

I have learned that when overwhelmed, which I am not now but have sometimes been, just start anywhere.  Take one problem, solve it.  Solve another and another and a pattern will form.  So, I quote something I have posted here before:

        No one can judge a marriage from the outside.

       We all do.  Societies.  Courts.  The intrusive ‘Media.’

       We judge the marriages of our friends.  Our neighbors.  Co-workers.  Casual acquaintances.  Celebrities we don’t even know.  And we are always wrong.

       Even when we’re right, we’re wrong, because our opinions are based on inadequate information.  Marriages are too complicated and too subtle.  They turn over the years on words said and unsaid, tones, pauses, touches gentle or rough, welcomed or shunned, sex or lack of it, money or lack of it, gestures, expressions, a face turned toward or away.  Thousands and thousands of bonding or eroding moments.

This is not about my present marriage, but about all close relationships and the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of complete communication.

There are questions we cannot ask of those we are close to and expect an honest answer.  The answer to such questions will always be compromised by what the responder believes is in the best interests of the relationship, or perhaps themselves.  Thus, as I have observed, we have the odd situation in that we are herd animals, yet inside we know we all are alone.

Consistent with this, you cannot know a writer if you do not read his words.

Moving on, I have said that I was formed by the legends of the American West and the myths of Ancient Greece.

On the remote chance you have viewed my YouTube video Beginnings 1, watch you will know that to my surprise from the bedroom in which I spent much of my childhood dreaming of ‘greatness’, I was looking north.  I thought west.  My mind certainly went west.

Just now that west is being portrayed, accurately or not, with frequency on television.  And it is not the West I saw in my childhood mind.

Back then I knew a poem, perhaps doggrel, but one of the few that has stuck in my mind. 

Bring me men to match my mountains.

Bring me men to match my plains.

Men with empires in their purpose.

Men with new eras in their brains.

I have googled and learned that the poet was Sam Walter Foss, and that those words were inscribed on a granite wall at the US Air Force Academy to inspire cadets and officers, but were removed in 2003.  Curious and revealing.

I did seek to match the mountain equivalent:  the ocean; and I believe I have.

I did not seek to do any of the others.  But as I have dared to say, at least I dreamed big.

This is mostly, but not completely a disjunct.

Perhaps you have already seen the top photo elsewhere.

Three men living on top of a ship’s rudder for eleven days and 2500 miles from Nigeria to the Canary Islands.

I, who know what it requires to survive at sea, wonder about details.  Food is not that important, but water is.  You can’t go eleven days without fresh water.  Where did they get it?  How did they sleep?  The rudder would not have been moving much during the longest part of the passages, but it would have been moving some.  How did they hang on?  How did they perform bodily functions?

I am impressed by what these men endured and survived.

I do not know if their suffering meant anything.  I do not know if they were granted asylum in the Canary Islands.  I do not know that any suffering has any meaning.

This is not a great photo, but it is what I saw three nights ago when I slept on GANNET.  Title it ‘Cave with Leg’.

We are all Africans.  Fifty or sixty thousand years ago some of our species walked out of Africa.  My ancestors turned left into what is now Europe, where those with less melanin in their skin thrived because they could absorb more vitamin D from the weaker sun.  This ended up giving us not white skin, but as Evelyn Waugh observed ‘pinko-gray’.

Others turned right and walked to what is now China.

How odd that I feel an affinity with some of those who lived there more than a thousand years ago, mostly alone in caves and huts in mountains and forests.

At dawn, even a pure recluse must yearn;

now I just invite clear wind for company.

So wrote Liu Tsung-yuan fourteen hundred years ago and he speaks clearly to me, who is a monk, though a much married one.

I admire that Han Shan/Cold Mountain wrote his poems on rocks and trees, and that they have survived a thousand years.

So this is my cave.

I can and have lived as simply as those Chinese recluse poets.

I have written that a 35’ boat, plus or minus a few feet, is the right size for one or two people.  

Today the average cruising boat is at least ten feet longer and likely a miserably sailing catamaran which is really a power boat/mobile home with masts.

I have written that if something will not fit on a 35’ boat I don’t need to own it.

I have twice in my life lost every physical possession I owned.

The first time was gradual when sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  When I was forced to fly from Saudi Arabia in 1982, I did not own a thing other than the clothes I was wearing that I owned when I  began the voyage in San Diego four years earlier.

When I stepped ashore after sinking RESURGAM in 1992 I again owned nothing but the clothes I wore.

When nine months later I left Key West driving a rental car north to try to resurrect my life, all my possessions fit in one duffle bag.

Now I half own a great many things in this condominium that would not fit on a thirty-five foot boat, much less GANNET.

But what you see in that photo is my space.  My cave.  My Chinese mountain hut.  

Were I living by myself, I would now say I do not need to own anything that will not fit inside GANNET.  I could do that easily and live I like to believe with grace.

I am one with few, but I am one with Han Shan.  And I am certain had he seen GANNET, he would have understood instantly.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Hilton Head Island: the married monk; some poems; one child, one vote

I live mostly alone.  Most days I speak to no one beyond saying 'Good morning' to those I pass on bicycle paths or marina docks.  That is different now that Carol is here.  She flew in last Friday and will spend ten days over the Thanksgiving holiday and will be back for almost three weeks over Christmas.  I will return with her to Illinois in January for about a month.  So I am now often having conversations.  How odd.  But daily I read the poems of ancient Chinese and Japanese, often monks.  They sought the monasteries of the land.  I, a much married monk, found the monastery of the sea.  I miss it.  I must enter it again, which I am finding unexpectedly difficult.

My poetry reading these days is Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS and MOUNTAIN HOME:  THE WILDERNESS POETRY OF ANCIENT CHINA.  

I have read Whitman on and off for decades.  I am still not certain what I think of him.  Certainly he is original, but I don't share many of his beliefs or desires.   I am completely at home with the  ancient Chinese, one of whom, Han Shan, took the name Cold Mountain on which he lived alone writing poems on rocks and trees, which were admired by the local prefect who collected and preserved them.

Here are four poems from the book.

Li Po  (701-7620

Tu Fu (712-770)

Cold Mountain/Han Shan  (c. 7th-9th centuries)

From Larry comes a quote about democracy with which I was familiar and believe I have published here before.  I thank him for reminding me of it.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
                --Winston  Churchill

If you have been reading this journal for a while you know my thoughts on democracy.  I repeat the link for those who may have forgotten.

There is an interesting test of democracy presently underway in our neighboring state of Georgia where a violent, unstable former football player is running for the Senate based on no qualifications other than he was once an excellent football player.  So was O.J. Simpson and we know how that turned out.

Also interesting is that I have read of a court decision in New Zealand which may lower the voting age from eighteen to sixteen.  What a splendid idea.  I have always had the greatest admiration for the sound judgement and wisdom of children.  I expect that my Kiwi friends can look forward to Taylor Swift being their next Prime Minister.

As you would expect I have been watching the World Cup which is my favorite of all sporting events.  I have no original thoughts about it.  I missed the startling Saudi Arabia upset of Argentina because the match started at 5 AM my time.  I did see the highlights and have all the matches being recorded on YouTubeTV.

Tomorrow Carol will prepare the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  I am very much looking forward to that.

I wish my fellow Americans a happy holiday, and the rest of you a fine day wherever you are.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Hilton Head Island: HEARTS OF THE WORLD; admired sailors


During what we now call World War 1 the British made a concerted, cynical, and largely successful effort to portray themselves as righteous and the Germans as brutes.  This was not true.  That was not a war between good and evil.  It was a war about empire, wealth, revenge, and the egos and stupidity of emperors and kings and politicians.  The German soldiers were no worse and no better than the French and British and Italians and Austrians and Russians, and all the rest, and the men in the trenches knew it.  Memoir after memoir of those in the front line state that the writer knew he had more in common with the poor bastards on the other side of the barbed wire a few yards away that any of them had with those at home.

A few evenings ago I chanced upon at Amazon Prime one of the results of the British propaganda campaign, D.W. Griffith's 1918 silent film, HEARTS OF THE WORLD.  

Griffith, of course, is considered one of the great directors in film history.  As I have since learned, he was asked by the British Prime Minister Lloyd George to make the film and was given unparalleled access to military areas to do so.  

The lead characters are Americans living in France, one of whom goes to fight with the French before the U.S. enters the war.  The Germans are portrayed as in the poster above.  Griffith later regretted his treatment of the Germans.  "War is the villain," he is quoted as saying, "Not any particular people."

I watched the two hour film an hour each on two nights.  I don't exactly recommend you do.  It is surely not to everyone's tastes.  It is not even to mine, but I found it interesting.

I don't recall ever watching a full length silent film before.  I was immediately struck by what an awkward and artificial way that is to tell a story.  The actors are performing pantomime.  Words appear on the screen frequently to help the viewer understand what is happening.  And the intent does get through.  At the time it was the most advanced technology, but I believe the simple written word was better.  Then I still do.

Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about the film.  


A side note is that in the credits at the beginning and end of the film listing the actors, the very last name "A man pushing a wheelbarrow" is Noel Coward, who was eighteen at the time and reportedly went on to greater things.

In an email Kent asked me what sailors I admire.

Permit me to pause and explain a change.  I have often written here of one person or another as 'my friend', some of whom I have met in person, some of whom I have not met but have corresponded with for years.  However, I am no longer going to append 'friend' to a name.  l count all who read this journal regularly as friends.  I even count Carol who doesn't read it, a friend, too.

So to respond to Kent:

Of solo circumnavigators, I admire Slocum and Vito Dumas, probably others but those names come to mind.   Moitissier, whom I admire for dropping out of the round the world race, but later met in person, was I believe more interested in being a guru to a young following than anything else, and as I wrote in THE OPEN BOAT was used up in his 50s when I met him in Tahiti and Moorea in 1979 while I was sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.

Of non-solo, of course I admire Capt. Cook, though he pushed himself too hard and was clearly under too great a strain on his last voyage.  I admire Drake as a seaman, though he definitely was a pirate sanctioned by the Crown.  Also Capt. Blight, who has had unfair bad press, and FitzRoy who was captain of the BEAGLE.  Again I am sure there are others who are not immediately coming to mind.

I greatly admire the unknown Polynesian sailors/navigators who populated the Pacific Islands, often mere specks of land, against the prevailing wind and current.

And if the reference in Herodotus is true about a Phoenican circumnavigation of Africa about 600 BC, and I believe it is,  I certainly admire and envy the leader of that voyage.  

I speculated about that voyage in RETURN TO THE SEA when Carol and I sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar.  I have also been through the straits and almost killed there in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and putting various voyages together, I have also circumnavigated Africa.

I tried to imagine them coming through the straits more than two thousand years ago, hugging the far shore, joyous to be back in the known world.  There would have been many fewer people and many more animals then.  It must have been hard for them to leave the Garden of Eden around Table Mountain, and I think they would have known great despair in the fog along the coast of the Namib Desert, and then again when they had to follow the bulge of Africa west.  What sailors they must have been; what men to have endured and survived.  I would have loved to have led them.

That the sun was on their right was exactly where it would have been for much of the last half of the voyage, despite Herodotus' skepticism.  But then probably no one believed most of the stories they had to tell when they got home.

I like to picture them years after the voyage, sitting in a tavern along the waterfront of their small home ports, gazing out at the sea, remembering, knowing they had seen things no one around them could even imagine.

There is another sailor I admire, whom I consider to be as good as any who ever lived, but modesty forbids.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Hilton Head Island; Levis and Omniheat; dog steals car; snowbirds on parade; two quotes

Two days ago it was 70F/21C here.  When I woke this morning at around 6 it was 45F/7C.  Now at noon it is a sunny 55F/13C.  It will often be 70 here again during the fall and winter, but 45-55 is the forecast pattern for the coming week.  I don't mind.  

I wore Levis and an Omniheat jacket when I biked down to GANNET this morning to put a second coat of Deks Olje Number 1 on her wood.  I stopped varnishing decades ago.  Varnish looks much better than oil, but if you really sail your boat, as I have been known to do, varnish chips and flakes and demands too much time.  Deks Olje goes on quickly, protects, and looks good enough for me.  When I stepped below I was pleased by the appearance of the first coat.  Now with the second applied I can check 'repaint interior' off my to do list.  I have only to go down tomorrow to straighten up the interior, which I cannot do immediately after applying oil to the wood, including the cabin sole.

Yesterday afternoon saw the most incredible ending to a football game I can remember.  This is American football, not what Americans call soccer.  It was the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.  If you watched, you already know.  

This morning I read a very entertaining article about the game in the WALL STREET JOURNAL in which Jason Gay likened it to you taking your dog for a walk and your dog steals a car.  You don't have to be a football fan or even know anything about American football to find this amusing.  I read the WALL STREET JOURNAL though Apple News+ which for $10 a month gives me access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers, a very great bargain.  I have tried this link and it opens, so I hope they will let non-subscribers read it.


I am sitting by our bedroom window.  I just glanced up as I often do and saw another snowbird sailboat powering south.  Sails down naturally.  There is a parade of them this morning.  I think it was my friend, Michael, who once did this himself and said that powering down the Intracoastal is like driving the Interstate at six miles an hour.  I do not know.  I have always sailed outside, which is what real sailors do.  The few, the proud--no, that's The Marines.

From my friend, Tim, come two quotes for which I thank him.


Truly there would be no reason to go mad were it not for music.

Goethe on Beethoven:

He isn't altogether wrong in finding the world detestable; but that doesn't make it more enjoyable for himself or others.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Armistice Day; 1883 and 81; Nicole

I know it is now Veterans Day, but when I was born it was Armistice Day, marking the end of what was known as The Great War until we had a greater one.  The Armistice, which was really just a cease fire until the warring nations, which had bleed themselves dry, could raise a new generation to continue the slaughter, took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

I am indebted to my friend, Tim, and his mother, Elnora, for permission to share the above painting which he chanced to send me today.  It is very appropriate for the day.

Elnora painted it many years ago when Tim was a boy and the family was visiting the site of the WW1 battle of Verdun.  Tim's father is explaining the battle to him, which went on for almost the entire year of 1916 and resulted in between 336,000 and 355,000 German casualties, of which 143,000 were dead; and between 379,000-400,000 French casualties, of which 163,000 were dead. Truly astounding numbers.  Inconceivable, at least to me.

Last evening I watched the final two episodes of the ten part television drama, 1883.  It is a prequel to the series, Yellowstone, which I have not seen, but will start with Carol when she is here over Thanksgiving.  1883 is startlingly good.  Very well written, very well acted, and very tough minded.  This is not your average Western.  It is available on Paramount Plus, to which I subscribe because it carries Champions League soccer.  You can try Paramount Plus for a week for free.  The series can be bought from Amazon for $25.  I highly recommend it.

I am 81 today.  I shake my head in disbelief.  And yes, I have done my age in push-ups today.  In fact I did 161 push-ups and crunches today.  81 in the first set, 40 in the second and 40 in the third.

In early 1993 I gave a series of talks along the east coast, sponsored by BoatUS and CRUISING WORLD, starting in Boston and ending in Miami.  In Annapolis one of the questions asked at the end was about how I keep fit.  I replied that among other things I do my age in push-ups,  I was then 51.  I added, "Just think what great shape I'll be when I'm 100."  That brought the expected laugh.  But I'm getting there.

Nicole passed well to the west of Hilton Head Island and was a non-event here.  Nothing more than a moderately rainy day.  I turned on the Weather Channel briefly and got the expected hysteria.  I also watched part of the local news from Savannah where a talking head who had no idea what he was talking about keep saying the storm was making its way up the coast, when in fact it was tracking north along the Alabama/Georgia border.

Intermittent rain yesterday and the threat of rain today has caused me to run out of essential supplies:  raspberries and Laphroaig.  So I will have to toast myself this evening with something other than my favorite liquid.  I expect I will find something.


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Gurrumul and Nicole

I am writing this two Webbs in.  An eponymous drink if you are not a regular reader.  I am feeling them, as I want to.  But I know enough usually not to write after drinking.  I do so now because the Internet has gone out again.  This has become a daily occurrence.  We don’t have many Internet options here.  One is T-Mobile over their cellular network.  I have ordered a router from them.  I will see if it is a viable option.

I received a birthday card from an American woman I knew decades ago when she and her husband were sailing across the Pacific when I was in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, accompanied in port by Suzanne—and permit me to say that her living in port with me on CT was rare and admirable.  Few women could have done so.  I was only friends with this woman, who remained in Australia—a good decision—and have not seen her for maybe twenty years, but with the failed Internet I am listening to an Australian singer, Gurummul. 

I have written about him in this journal several times before.  When I first heard him over Australian radio I thought what a shame that such a pure original voice would remain unknown.  I was wrong.  He became, briefly, a world wide sensation.  I expect he will soon be completely forgotten, as will I, unless some academic happens across me and wants to further his or her career by ‘discovering’ a forgotten genius.

But I sit here, two Webbs in, having just watched the last lingering orange-gold post sunset glow over Pickney Island.  Early now that we are off Daylight time.  I wish we always were.  I like living with natural rhythms.

Nicole is heading my way.  I do not expect much of it.  As you may know I don’t think storms should be named and I refuse to call it ‘her’.  It is an unknowing it.

A friend emailed concern about Nicole a few days ago.

Here are my responses:

I appreciate your concern.  I get information from many sources, but in fact there is nothing I can do no matter what weather develops that I have not already done.  GANNET is as prepared as she can be.  Lines doubled, etc.  And, although I have been eating into my hurricane supplies as the season draws to a close, I still am fully capable of being self-sufficient for well over a month, and if necessary by rationing, two. Are you?  Is anyone else reading this? I truly have lived on a different dimension and have no way to evacuate and don't want one.  I've been in eight storms of hurricane force at sea.  Never one on land.  However, remaining calm and awaiting events when you can do nothing about them seems to me appropriate.

And to a later email in which he apologized for being alarming and said I was right and he was wrong:

I don't think anyone at this moment is right or wrong.  As I have written, meteorology is not yet an exact science.  I rather expect that with even more powerful computers and better sources of data accumulation, it may be in a decade or so.  Too late for me.  But then I have done well enough by looking at the sky, looking at the sea, looking at the barometer.  And by animal instinct which I expect is more sensitive in me than most.

I have been prepared for the hurricane season since June, as I believe all who live in the hurricane zone should be, but few are.  So when I learn a storm may come this way, I don't have to do much.  At this moment I would need to go down to GANNET and bring back a knapsack of stuff:  the foldable solar panel, solar lights--which I forgot last time; a solar charging flashlight.  I would also need to fill the two 5 gallon jerry cans with water which I have left up here, and fill the bathtub, and bring in the outside furniture.  I can do all that in an hour. 

I might still be killed by a storm if this building collapses, but I would put myself in the safest place possible, and I could have died at sea dozens of times more likely.  

So I pay attention to the weather, but there isn't much I can or need to do if a storm comes my way.  I have lived totally unsupported at sea and unable to call for help for years, probably a decade.  The longest period was two days short of five months.  I would not be one of those in the long lines at supermarkets trying to buy supplies.  Or one of those in long lines on highways evacuating.  

This might seem egotistical, but I don't mean it to be, but I am likely the most prepared for hurricane seasons of anyone in this country or perhaps the world.  I am not your average bear.  I never was, and think that over now eight decades I have proved it quantifiably.  And the words, which are at least as good as my voyages, can't be quantified.

I have faced the natural world unsupported for half a century.  If it finally kills me--no, unquestionably the natural world will finally kill me and relatively soon--I have had a life, and I believe I have done what I was genetically designed to do:  go beyond the limits of human experience and report about it.  What I did not do is send my genes into the future, which seems  to be the most fundamental demand.  

I do not claim to know what is going on and I have tried.   But I have observed and noted in my journal before that consciousness resists unconsciousness in countless, perhaps all species, which is odd because consciousness is fraught with pain, and unconsciousness is not.  And that DNA seems to demand that it be projected into the future in an endless passing of the buck.  Males of many species engage in life threatening combat to try to obtain a mate. Well, I obtained many mates, but I was deliberately careful not to send my DNA into the future.  I did not believe I could be a good father and live the life I wanted to live.  Many artists do not share that value.  They casually leave unloved children behind.  Because of my childhood I could not do to another what had been done to me.

If I make it to next Friday I am going to be 81.  I have already said that I do not fear death, only the probable pain in the process.  It probably hurt to get in here--though we do not consciously remember that.  It is probably going to hurt to get out.

There can be great beauty and joy in between the pain of birth and death which may redeem what I have called our butterfly's cough of life.  I have known such beauty and joy with women on land and alone at sea.  I hope you and others have known such joy, too, wherever and with whomever you found it.

The Internet has come back on.  I think.  

I am going to reread this, which I have written offline.  If you are reading it, I have despite two Webbs decided to post it and am going to pour myself another glass of something.



Saturday, November 5, 2022

Hilton Head Island: small boat cursing; steady; days off

I thank Kent for forwarding a link that he received from Doug Elliott to an article at PRACTICAL SAILOR about small boat cursing (sic.) which is amusing and caused me to consider that perhaps there ought to be a book, THE COMPLETE CURSER.

From Eric in Quebec comes a link to a YouTube film, 'Steady As She Goes', about racing the 161' schooner, GOODWILL, in the 1959 TransPac from Los Angeles to Honolulu.   I thank him.  I do not watch many sailing videos, but I enjoyed this one, despite the narration being over the top, because of the history, the size of the boat, and some dramatic footage of damage she sustained.


1959 was the year I graduated from high school and started college.  Sailboat design and construction has changed a lot since then.  The 73' WINDWARD PASSAGE and the Santa Cruz ultra-lights were transformative.

Of ultra-lights, I got the second and last coat of paint on the bilge of mine on Thursday, and then took yesterday off.  Today, too.  And tomorrow.  I'll sand wood Monday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Hilton Head Island: stoop labor: the cows that swam through a hurricane; 65

Many years ago when Carol and I were spending a weekend with three other couples at the summer home of one of them, someone suggested going out to pick wild blackberries.  I demurred, saying, "I don't do stoop labor,"  a comment remembered with bemusement more than twenty years later by one then present.  Well, now I do stoop labor.  Yesterday I spent an hour and a half bent uncomfortably scraping paint from GANNET's bilge and then in the afternoon mopped the porch floor and on my hands and knees wiped it with paper towels.  This morning I painted the bilge, which is of course very small and required much less stooping than yesterday, and then came back to the condo and scrubbed the shower floor on my hands and knees.  Unfortunately I think there is more to come.  I am using a different paint on the bilge, one allegedly intended specifically for that purpose, and I think it is going to require a second coat.

In Apple News+ this morning I came across an interesting, entertaining, and very well written article, 'True Grit', about three feral cows who swam for hours to survive a hurricane on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  I knew of feral horses on the Outer Banks.  I have seen them.  But I did not know about feral cows.  Having spent twenty-six hours in the Atlantic once I can imagine what those indomitable cows went through.  Salt water in your eyes and mouth begins to feel like being stabbed with knives, and I survived solely because of the very same animal will that they did.

I believe you will find the article worth your time.


A friend just celebrated his 65th birthday which caused me to wonder where I was on my 65th which was in 2006.  That long ago?  My word!  Carol and I moved to Evanston in March of that year, so I assumed I was there.  However when I checked this journal I found that I was on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring off Opua, New Zealand.  Above is a self-portrait I took that day.  Haven't changed a bit and I still have that shirt.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Hilton Head Island: unwrapped; more painted; a dinghy's tale


The above was taken a few minutes ago.  Hallelujah!

The bedroom window was partially unwrapped Saturday afternoon. 

I biked down to GANNET this morning and painted the small areas I had missed earlier and when I returned all the plastic had been removed from that window and from the four glass doors in the living room as well.  The door from the bedroom onto the deck which is to the right of the above is still covered as are the doors onto the screened porch, but I am no longer entombed.  I can see out. I can even walk out onto the deck and I have hopes that by this evening all will be completed and my condo will again be my own.

This morning's painting took less than a half hour.  All that is left is to paint the bilge and to sand and oil the wood.

However when I stayed on board last week I discovered that none of the lights in the mast are working.  Not the steaming light on the forward side of the mast nor the tricolor and anchor lights at the masthead.  I went over the wiring this morning.  It is simple, but I don't immediately see the source of the problem.  I will have to go back again and stay after dark, hardly an ordeal, and experiment.

When I was a boy lost in the Midwest, dreaming of sailing, the two magazines were RUDDER and YACHTING.  I read both assiduously.  RUDDER ceased publication in 1977 and the last time I looked YACHTING had become purely power boats.  

After I completed the EGREGIOUS circumnavigation my literary agent sold the manuscript which became STORM PASSAGE and I sold one of my first two published articles to YACHTING.  I prepared one about the rounding of Cape Horn and one about the cyclone in the Tasman and sent one to YACHTING and one to SAIL.  I don't now recall which to which.  This was late 1976 and correspondence was by postal mail.  Both articles sold, but Patience Wales, who was then the editor of SAIL, sent a letter asking me to call her.  I did and SAIL published everything I wrote for the next 25 years.

This has come to mind because Kent recently sent me a link to a charming article which appeared in RUDDER about a small dinghy named WEE PUP.  I thank him.  Perhaps you will enjoy it too.

Read the original 1906 The Rudder magazine article

It was indeed a different time.

I once had a similar small dinghy.  It was the last rigid dinghy I owned.  I solved some of Mr. Thompson's problems by going with Avon RedStart inflatables, which don't make noise or scratch paint when they bump into the hull while at anchor, and by almost never towing dinghies, and always regretting doing so when I have.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Hilton Head Island: from the Great Cabin


The above was taken a few minutes ago.  I was tired of being entombed in our condo, not able to see outside or even go out on our deck or porch.  It became worse this morning when paint splatters begin appearing on the plastic outside doors and windows.  So I walked down and will spend the night on GANNET.  I could not have done this until I reorganized the interior yesterday.

Sitting here at Central is like coming home, except that I already was home.  I can see the sky and feel a modest breeze.  

Looking around I am satisfied with the paint job.  I have still to sand down and oil the wood, paint the bilge, and paint the two small areas beside where I am sitting that I missed earlier.  I'll do all that next week.

I brought down half a store bought Santa Fe Chicken salad and a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  I am presently charging the bluetooth speakers and in an hour will go on deck and sip wine and listen to music.  Just like old times.



Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Hilton Head Island: painted and viewless


I painted the forepeak today and didn't even get very much paint on myself.  The forepeak is easier to paint than the Great Cabin with fewer bolts in the overhead and more uncluttered surfaces, all easier to reach, except for the very bow which is a long stretch over a partial bulkhead.  Now GANNET's interior is painted except for the bilge and the dead space in the stern aft of the pipe berths.  The bilge is small and easy.  The space aft is not going to be painted by the present owner who got stuck back there last time.  He does spray mold retardant into that space from the safety of the pipe berths.

I spent three hours scraping paint yesterday and two and a half hours painting today.  So far the project has taken about twelve hours, evenly divided between scraping and painting.

When I biked back to the condo I found that somebody had stolen my view.  This place is very different without the view.  I miss it.  The identity of the thieves is known.  The exterior of our building is being painted.  I will be glad when it is done and I have my view back.

Friday, October 21, 2022

Hilton Head Island: manana was yesterday; death poems

I returned to work mode yesterday morning and labored on GANNET for three hours, scraping paint, taping bulkheads, and cleaning up the mess I made.

I returned this morning and painted for three hours.  GANNET's interior is now painted from the main bulkhead to the aft end of the pipe berths.  And so am I.  Some of the painting was directly overhead and gravity was not my friend.  I checked myself in a mirror before leaving GANNET and applied turpentine liberally.  It burns, but I already knew that and quickly rinsed with the hose.  However upon returning to the condo I saw a blob I had missed and later felt another farther back on my bald pate that I cannot see.  They will wash and wear off in time.

Work will not resume until Monday when I will move everything from the forepeak  and scrape paint there.  Paint Tuesday.  And then a more complete cleanup, including sanding all the interior wood I can reach.  I have always been a messy painter and have become messier with age.

I read ten pages of JAPANESE DEATH POEMS each day.  Unfortunately I have only five more days to go.  I have enjoyed them and given enough time will reread them again, but not immediately.

Some were prepared in advance, but many were written the day the writer died.  Here is another I like.

The thought came to me last evening that I wrote a death poem many years ago.  I looked for it on the poetry page of the main site, but it is not there.  So somewhere along the way I rejected it.

I remembered the first line:

wind and waves of torment cease

Then it occurred to me that I had ended STORM PASSGE with it, but I was wrong.  When I checked STORM PASSAGE I found that the last words are:

Egregious man, boat, voyage, life.

The fool smiles and sails on.

Not bad if I say so myself and maybe even a death poem.

Some of you may know that I named EGREGIOUS after the root meaning of the word, which comes from the Latin and means away from the herd, which I certainly was on that voyage and have been all my life.  In the past being away from the herd was thought worthy and the word meant something remarkably good.  With the rise of equalitarianism, and even more now when the herd dictates through social media, being away from the herd is considered to be shockingly bad.

Finally I remembered what follows wind and waves.

The couplet is:

wind and waves of torment cease

to become a poem of this senseless voyage.

I expect I wrote that during the painfully slow sail back to San Diego from the Southern Ocean with broken rigging and an unsteady mast after my second failed attempt to reach Cape Horn.  Consider a play on 'senseless'.  Expecting oblivion, death will be without senses as well as meaning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Hilton Head Island: as others see us; on poetry; non


Who is that old man?  I don't recognize him.  So that's what it's like to be in the oldest 1% of the living of our species.

I thank my friend, Michael, I think, for giving me permission to use the photo which he took a couple of evenings ago on his, Layne's, and Rusty's way through on their temporary return to Key West.

Sometimes it is good to see ourselves as others do.  Perhaps.

As is known I read some poetry every day.  Usually I read some Western poetry and some Eastern.  I have come to prefer Eastern.  


There have been many editions of THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH VERSE.  My Kindle edition is a copy of that of 1900 and it almost gives poetry a bad name.  There are as many bad, too wordy, too obscure, too long poems in it as there are bad paintings of Madonna and Child in museums in Lisbon, Portugal.  Probably museums everywhere; but Carol and I particularly noticed them in Lisbon.  I judge editions of OXFORD by whether they include Chidiock Tichborne's ELEGY also known as ON THE EVE OF HIS EXECUTION because that is when he wrote it to his wife.  He was executed for his part in a Catholic plot to assassinate Elizabeth I.  The 1900 OXFORD does not.

Chinese and Japanese poetry, at least that which I have come across, is simple, concise, and elegant.

Here are two more Japanese death poems.


I continue in non-working mode.  I really don't have an excuse, but then being my own boss since November 2, 1974, I don't need one.  I'll get back to working on GANNET mañana.  Or the mañana after.

Friday, October 14, 2022

Hilton Head Island: reberthed and rebuttoned


I biked down to GANNET this morning to a triple pleasure and a minor disappointment.

The first of the pleasures was the approach on the dock, looking out onto openness and the sun shining on Skull Creek rather than the rusting wall of the abominable ferry boat.  In time this will become normal and be forgotten, but for now it is continued delight.

The second was opening the hatch and stepping below and finding the Great Cabin organized, when for the past week or so it has not been.

I do not by nature like clutter.  It happened that I wrote to Kent about how well organized his work shop is.


He replied that is so he can find things.  

I understand and agree.

If you go to sea long enough there will be instants when you have to find objects in the dark while living at a severe angle.  When I see a boat with all kinds of clutter on deck, I expect there is all kinds of clutter below deck and the person is an incompetent sailor.

Even ashore, with my vision, which I estimate is about one-third normal, if I have to start hunting for something, it is likely to be a long hunt.  So everything has its place, except when as recently almost everything was out of place. That made me uneasy.  GANNET is again organized and I am easier.

The third pleasure was that today was perfect.  Sunny.  Relatively low humidity after the front passed.  And a temperature of 70F/21C when I was working.  I didn't even break into a sweat.

I got the port berth lee cloth laced into place.  I will not likely need it in the near future, but I want GANNET to be seaworthy.

I reglued a piece of wood that acts as an attachment point for one of the stowage bags.

I cleaned a lot of loose paint flakes that had made their way into the bilge.

I have more painting to do.  

In the photo above only the side of the hull has been painted.  Not the overhead or the strip above the companionway bulkhead.  I consider sanding down that bulkhead and painting it off-white.  I don't know if I will.

The remaining painting will be in two or three stages.  The hull and overhead of the starboard pipe berth.  The v-berth hull and overhead.  And the areas around the counters aft of the main bulkhead.  The two or three depends on whether I do those on the same day I do the starboard pipe berth.

The minor disappointment was to discover that relatively small birds as demonstrated by their relatively small droppings are roosting on GANNET's boom sail cover.  I like birds.  If I were not a human, I would like to be a Wandering Albatross.  I might even have rather been a Wandering Albatross than a human, but was not given the choice.  None of us are.  This was easy to clean up.  But I wish they had better manners.

Of the rebuttoned, I have become so fat that a button popped off my shorts.  Actually I am at my desired 153 pounds/69.39 kg and the button on an old pair of shorts just popped off.  So I ordered a $7 sewing kit from Amazon which arrived yesterday and sewed the button back on today.  The hardest part for one of my age and vision was threading the needle.  Long ago on my first circumnavigation I sewed dozens of feet of sail repairs.  By the time I reached New Zealand waters the mainsail was unusable below the first reef.  Younger then and bigger needles.

I later learned from a sailmaker to make repairs at sea using contact cement rather than stitching.

I am on the screened porch.  The sun is lowering over Pickney Island.  A bird is kawking.

Be well.