Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Hilton Head Island: 48 years ago; final word

Hilton Head Island is returning to normal.  50ºF/10C today.  Thursday should see us back in the 60sF/16 or 17C.  Sunny.  Spanish Moss hanging limp.  Skull Creek glassy and golden in the setting sun.  Two ducks have taken up residence between the marina and our shore.  I look up and see them diving to forage for whatever it is they find to eat on the bottom.  Carol and I biked to Dolphin Point on Port Royal Sound today and I did my weight workout.

For whatever reason I found myself wondering where I was on EGREGIOUS forty-eight years ago.  I knew roughly that I had left Papeete, Tahiti, just before Christmas after receiving bolts from Ericson to replace those that had sheered off, and almost lost the boat when becalmed in Papeete Pass.

Here is the entry from STORM PASSAGE for December 27, 1974,

   December 27

THE island of Raivavae is a mountainous grey silhouette off the port bow. Late yesterday afternoon I calculated that if the wind remained steady, we would pass near the island between 8:00 and 10:00 this morning. At dawn it was clearly visible on the horizon and is abeam now at 9:45 a.m.

Ever since I entered this part of the Pacific a month ago and knew that the Marquesas and Tuamotus were within a few days’ sail, I have felt as though all these island groups were a snare designed to keep me from the open sea. Now at last I am escaping from that trap. Should I be forced to the southeast, there are other islands in the way, but directly south there is no land until Antarctica. I am free.

Yesterday should become a world holiday. Parades and pageants should be presented; young girls should sing songs of joy and young boys recite the great deeds they will perform when they become men. The cause for such celebration: during the twenty-four hours of December 26, 1974, nothing broke aboard the cutter Egregious.

However, on December 27,1 am again the foil of the gods, the prankster gods, the fun-loving gods of bibulous humor, the schoolboy gods who delight in tying tin cans to cats’ tails and tormenting me with breakage. I am a vain man made vainly vaneless.

At 1:30 this afternoon, Egregious came up into the wind and quietly hove to. Which would have been fine if I had wanted to heave to. But I didn’t. The breakaway coupling I installed in Tahiti is well named and has, for reasons of its own, broken away. It is designed to break if the servo-rudder should hit something such as a partially submerged log, but I am certain we hit nothing.

Because this happened while we were sailing on the wind in the full light of midday, I began to think the gods were becoming sloppy with their jests. It took only a minute for me to tie the tiller a bit to windward and have the boat steering itself south again.

Two hours later, however, I regained my confidence in the maliciousness of the powers that be. They had only been setting me up the first time. At 3:30 the wind died and we jibed. I had to go on deck and rebalance everything. In heavy rain.

The sun and I passed one another today, heading, alas, in opposite directions. Although it seems to be directly overhead, the sun is now actually north of me. I wonder when I will be beneath it again.

The late afternoon is delightful. The clouds have burned away and the cutter is sailing easily south. I sit in the cockpit, enjoying the sail and the open ocean spreading before me like an empty canvas. With the regained illusion that we are making progress, I have fully enjoyed these last two days.

EVENING. Raivavae is lost in the haze to the north. As I sailed closer to it, a tern flew out to welcome me. The island became green with foliage, and I could smell the unfamiliar odor of land. Because it is so isolated and unknown, Raivavae appeals to my imagination much more than did Tahiti. The Sailing Directions claim that about 800 people live there, but I saw no sign of man. I wonder if those who do live there, literally at one of the ends of the earth, appreciate their remote home, or do they long for the bright lights of Papeete or Chicago. I wonder what the view is like from the highest mountaintop and whether the wooded islets inside the reef are as peaceful as they seem.

Almost certainly I was seen from the island. Few boats pass this way, so I imagine that many Raivavaens are speculating this evening on who I am, where I came from, and where I am going. They are all good questions. I often speculate about them myself.

Of the final questions, they are good and I still speculate about them.

By chance I finished MOUNTAIN HOME:  The Wilderness Poetry of Ancient China and Thomas Hardy's last book of poetry, WINTER WORDS IN VARIOUS MOODS AND METRES on the same day.  WINTER WORDS was published posthumously in 1928, the year Hardy died at age 87.  Here is the very last poem in the book.  I do not know that it is the last poem he wrote, but is is certainly his final word.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Machado de Assis; wimp; two views of Christmas

I have had the Kindle edition of 26 STORIES by Machado de Assis on my iPad Mini, which is my primary e-book reader, for a long time I suppose because I did not know who Machado de Assis was.  My ignorance.  My loss.  I finally got around to reading it and was barely into the book before I came upon ‘The Alienist’, by far the longest of the stories included, when I realized I was in the presence of an exceptional writer.  I did some research which revealed that de Assis is considered the greatest Brazilian writer of the Nineteenth Century.  I immediately bought two of what are reputed to be his three best novels.  The third is not available in English in a Kindle edition.  I will probably end up buying  a paperback copy.

De Assis is original, ironic, widely self-educated, and writes with clarity.  His paternal grandparents were slaves.  His mother a washer woman.  He made his own way from age seventeen.

The stories are mostly set in Rio de Janeiro and vary widely.  One is about a man who takes part in a Brazilian civil war to kill the estranged husband of a woman he is in love with so he can marry her.  One about a man who learns the language of spiders and creates a society among them based on the Venetian Republic.  Another about The Devil founding his own religion on Earth.  One, advice from a father to his son on how to become a bigwig.

All are good.  ‘The Alienist’ is a masterpiece.

‘Alienist’ was an early name for a psychiatrist.

In a town west of Rio an alienist convinces the officials to let him establish a lunatic asylum.  I know the tern is politically incorrect now, but that’s what they called it then.  As the story develops, the definition of who is and is not insane is turned tipsy-turvy.  Not wanting to spoil it for you, I say no more.

Coming across a writer as good as Machado de Assis is one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Everyone in the United States is aware than unusual Arctic cold is sagging over more than half this country.  Starting Friday Hilton Head Island will have lows below freezing for five consecutive days.  On Saturday the low will be around 20F/-6.6C and the wind chill 9F/-13C.  This is by far the coldest it has been here since we bought this condo five years ago.  The normal December temperatures on Hilton Head are highs of 62F/17C and lows of 42F/5.5F.  It has been cloudy, rainy and raw here for several days.  Planned tennis for Carol has been cancelled three days in a row.  Everyone is complaining about the weather, including us.  We have, of course, all become wimps.  Carol checked the weather for Lake Forest.  Tomorrow the high will be 0F and the low -8F.  Wind chill will be -23 to -34.  

I donate to the Netherland’s Bach Society and just received from them a Christmas gift which I would like to share with you.


A few days ago I came across a somewhat different view of Christmas in a poem written by Thomas Hardy six years after what was then still known as The Great War.

Friday, December 16, 2022

Hilton Head Island; guardian angels; feel; wakes

 I doubt you ever expected to see guardian angels in this journal, and your expectations were correct.  I do not believe in angels of any variety, and even if they existed, I do not believe I am deserving of a guardian one.

Yet when I consider my life, a strong case could be made that I have had a guardian angel.  I have come so close to dying so many times.   Sometimes of my own doing,  But often not.  

I am not going to repeat the survival stories that appear in my other writings, but there were countless other instants of which I have not written in which I came close to dying.  As I have written:  Almost dying is a hard way to make a living.  In truth I did not push limits to make a living, but to be myself. 

And there is the timing that brought Carol and me together in the only narrow window in which we could have met and for months feasted on one another.

I don’t have any conclusion to reach from this.

I have through whatever strength and intelligence I was given at birth, and chance, grown old, which presents problems I never anticipated.

I very much need to go to sea.  To enter the monastery of the sea.

You would think not having had a ‘real job’ for almost fifty years, that would be easy, but it isn’t. 

In this part of the world the hurricane season blocks many months and there are holidays to spend with Carol, and deliveries, and other mundane interruptions.  I have hopes for March of next year.  

That I re-enter the monastery of the sea  is of great importance to me.  I must.

I read that the Internet does great harm in amplifying false information.  I have no social media accounts or experiences myself, so my knowledge is only second hand.  An example is the report that after the Saudi Arabia upset of Argentina in the group stage of the World Cup each Saudi player was going to be given a Rolls Royce worth $450,000.  This was picked up and published by many newspapers and “news services”.  I put news services in quotes because the only basis for this was social media posts.  No Saudi official ever said this was true, and it was not.

On the other side of the Internet I am grateful that it enables me to know you, most of whom I will never meet in person.  I hope I enrich your lives.  I know that many of you enrich mine.  An example being that Kent, of his and Audrey’s Armada, mentioning a book by Nathaniel Philbrick, SECOND WIND.

I have read and enjoyed many of Philbrick’s books, but did not know of this one, which is about his returning to racing Sunfish in what he considers his middle age.  He was a former North American champion in the class. 

I have no interest in racing.  Often I get emails that have a variation of, “I sail, but of course I have not done anything comparable to you.”  And a couple of days ago, after at a request to relate my experiences while adrift when CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE was pitchpoled in the South Pacific, a woman friend who is leading an usual life said, “I feel like a wimp.”

This might be the most egotistical statement that you will ever hear, but I am not competing with any of you or anyone else on this planet.  I have ever only competed against myself.  And I don’t know whether I have won or lost.  And I never will.

To go back to Nathaniel Philbrick, he is good at the sailing he does, which is very different from the sailing I do.  Here is an excellent passage from the book about feel.


 I hope to meet Kent and Audrey sometime.  It is unlikely I will ever met Victor who lives in Chile, though I would like to.  He is a sailor and has made me aware of Spanish language poets I did not know.  I thank him for that.  I wish I spoke and could read Spanish.  Growing uo in the Midwest when I did, Spanish was not even thought of.  I took Latin in high school and French in college.  Yet now Spanish is the second language in the United States, and the first in parts, and I like a lot of Spanish music and wish I understood the words.

Victor sent me a link to a music video of a song based on a poem by Antonio Machado, “Caminante, no hay camino”.  I think Victor is a kindred spirit.

Here is a link to the video:  https://youtu.be/RyZZ1ZFUuvM 

And here is a translation of the lyrics in English.

Countless times I have looked back at the vanishing wake of my boat and thought how quickly I have passed without a trace.

A poem written forty-one years ago:

I like to believe that I am more than a once pretty face.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Hilton Head Island: celebrity and Pitcairn Island; two poems

The recent Senate race in neighboring Georgia caused me to consider the all-powerful place of celebrity in our society.  A video about Pitcairn Island suggested to me by James, for which I thank him, has too,

Mark Twain said that there is not native criminal class in the United States--except Congress, so it is difficult to say with certainty that one of the candidates in the Georgia race was the least qualified person ever to run for Senate election, but surely he is a contender.  A member of his own party said they would have done better to have run a child.  He had nothing going for him except that he was once an exceptional football player, and still he got almost half the votes.

Pitcairn Island is also noteworthy only because it is a celebrity, made famous by the mutiny on the BOUNTY and subsequent books and movies about it.  There is nothing intrinsically significant about the island.

James asked if I had ever been there.  I have not.  As you can see in the video there is no harbor and no anchorage.  Ships hover offshore and the locals go out in longboats and bring supplies and people in.  Sailing alone I could not go ashore.  This is also true of Easter Island which does have a very marginal tiny harbor into which I would not try to enter even with a boat as small and as maneuverable as GANNET.

I enjoyed the video, although it is an incomplete portrayal of life on the island.  Among other things it does not mention that all but one of the mutineers died within a few years of arriving on the island or the conviction in recent years of several of their male descendants for sexual offenses against underage girls.

Polynesians reached the island as seemingly they did every speck of land in the Pacific Ocean more than a thousand years before the BOUNTY mutineers.  The video shows rock art dating back then.  Wisely the Polynesians decided Pitcairn was not viable.

After I wrote of Han Shan writing his poems on rocks and trees, Pat in Australia emailed about the Aboriginal rock art on that continent dating back millennia.  Such art is found many places in the world and may be the earliest and longest surviving art of all.

There are now about fifty permanent residents on Pitcairn.  Their administrative headquarters are in Auckland, New Zealand.  I don't think they should be forced to leave, but I also think they should receive no subsidies.  I am not impressed by celebrity. 

Here is a link to the video:  watch

I had enough Walt Whitman and switched to Thomas Hardy, whose collected works, including all his novels and poems cost me many years ago all of $2.99 in a Kindle edition.  Hardy was as far as I know the only writer in the English language to have been both a great novelist and a great poet.  I am reading the last book of poetry he published, WINTER WORDS IN VARIOUS MOODS AND METERS.  Here are two, one ironic, one saddening.

The photo was taken at sea during the GANNET voyage, bur I don't remember in what ocean.

Friday, December 9, 2022


The greatest day in history is, of course, my birthday, oddly celebrated with unusual perspicacity twenty-three years before I was born.  It also happens to be the title of an excellent book by Nicolas Best about the final week of what we now call World War 1.

Best understands, as some academics do not, that history is the story of individuals, not trends or labels or movements artificially imposed on often chaotic events, and he relates that final week of madness through individuals, both in the trenches and at home in many parts of the world, some then famous, some who would become famous, and some who were not.  

I found the book fascinating throughout and learned a great deal I did not know.  That Belgian civilians castrated German stragglers as their army disintegrated at the end.  That many, including General Pershing in command of the American forces, were against the armistice because he and they believed the war should be continued until unconditional surrender which was only days away, otherwise Germans would be told their army had never been defeated in the field, but had been betrayed by politicians, and another war would have to be fought.  That many careerist army officers who wanted their records to show how aggressive they were ordered senseless attacks up to the very last minute.  The Western Front saw 10,944 casualties on November 11, including 2,738 dead.  What ironic tragedy to have died in those last eleven hours.

An email from Alan has resulted in my watch now displaying latitude and longitude in degrees, minutes and seconds.  He wrote that in two photos he has seen of Apple Watch Ultras latitude and longitude were shown that way.  This caused me again to search the settings.  When I did I found under Compass Grid System a cryptic list:  DMS; Decimal Degrees; MGRS/USNG; UTM.  There was a check mark beside Decimal Degrees making it the default.  Alan’s acute observation led me to decipher DMS to stand for Degrees, Minutes, Seconds.  I checked that and it does.  

Curious about the other choices, I googled and discovered as those of you who were in the military already know, MGRS stands for Military Grid Reference System.  USNG is United States National Grid; and UTM is Universal Transverse Mercator.  I am happy with DMS. Thank you, Alan.

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.