Thursday, February 24, 2022

Lake Forest: day off: Steve Earley’s winter cruise

 I have the day off.

The past two mornings I have walked the two blocks to the train station and caught the 8:14 toward Chicago with the rest of the commuters.  A half hour later I got off both mornings in Evanston.  On Tuesday for my first physical since before the pandemic.  Yesterday for a routine dental checkup.

The physical was interesting, different from any I have had before.  Less invasive.  More being offered choices.  This may be due to the doctor whom I had not seen before, but I sense it is because when you reach 80 doctors know you are in the end game, even if most patients don’t want to face that fact, and so have a different orientation, less concerned about certain conditions because they know something else is more likely to kill you first. 

I had the pleasure of startling him.  He was typing information into a screen when he asked if I exercise.  I said I do.  He asked for details.  I gave them.  His head jerked from the screen to me.  “You do 80 push-ups?  In succession?”  I replied that is just the first set.

It is quite satisfying to be able to startle people at 80.

He suggested that I have a tetanus booster.  I accepted.  He suggested I have a new improved anti-pneumonia shot.  I accepted.  For this I was rewarded with a very sore arm which has prevented me from working out for two days.  I will find out in a couple of hours if my arm is up to it today.

After questions, prodding, blood testing, the conclusion is that I am a healthy old man, but I already knew that.

I was quite happy not to have to catch the train this morning.  

My next appointment is next Wednesday with the beautiful skin cancer specialist.  Then the following Monday for a routine check of my good eye.  When I can return to Hilton Head will depend on whether follow up is necessary with the skin cancer doctor.  Usually she chops bits off for biopsy.  If they come back cancerous, I have to go back to be chopped again.

In between the last two appointments, Carol is going to drive us to St. Louis for a weekend where I will for the last time confront—originally I had written ‘view’— a few sites from my very distant past.

The photo of Steve Earley’s SPARTINA makes me homesick.  

Steve has just trailered SPARTINA south and is in the vicinity of Charleston, SC, about to begin his winter cruise through the Low County to Florida.  I am sorry not to be in Hilton Head this year as he passes through.  I wish him a safe and fulfilling sail, and I will be following.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Lake Forest: Les Powles 1925-2022


I thank Zane for a link to a notice of the death of Les Powles.

I met Les in Papeete, Tahiti, in 1976, as I was near the end of my first circumnavigation and he was part way through his first, heading in the opposite direction.

At the time Les was nearly penniless, having had his boat, SOLITAIRE, broken into at an anchorage in the Caribbean and all the money he had in the world stolen.  He found work in Papeete.  Enough to keep him going.  I, who had more provisions on board than I needed for the final passage from Tahiti to San Diego, gave him a couple of months of food.  He made it to  Gladstone, Australia, where he found work in a boat yard, and continued onward eventually completing his first of three circumnavigations.

I note that today Les wouldn’t have been permitted into French Polynesia because of regulations imposed in the 1980s requiring visiting sailors to post a bond equal to an air ticket from Papeete to their home country.

We remained in contact though postal mail and then email for several decades.  He wrote that I was the first Cape Horner he had ever met—there weren’t many of us back then, and there are still fewer now than those who stand in line every year to summit Everest—only fools call Cape Horn the Everest of the sea—Everest isn’t even the Cape Horn of mountains—and I first turned his mind toward the Horn.

I had not heard from Les now for many years.

When he returned to England after his third circumnavigation Yacht Haven gave him a free slip for life at their marina in Lymington.  A very generous offer that enabled Les, living as far as I know only on the UK’s old age pension, to remain on  SOLIAIRE.

I wrote about Les, changing his name, in an article, ‘The Seasick Kinkajou and other Stories’, published decades ago in SAIL magazine.  You can find the full article on the main site.

Les may have had a bad beginning, but he persisted, prevailed, and had I hope a good ending.

A Bad Beginning

    Gresham’s law states that when two forms of currency are in circulation, the lesser drives the better out of circulation.  If, for example, gold coins and paper money are both in use in a given  economy, people will hoard the gold and spend the paper.  The law is meant to apply to economics, but it seems to me that in many spheres of human activity the lesser drives the better out of circulation.

    A commonly accepted list of the greatest living British sailors would include those men and women who are most famous.   They are famous not necessarily because of their sailing achievements or because they best exemplify courage and endurance and the other qualities the British like to believe they possess and for which they like to be admired, but because  they are best at raising money and obtaining sponsorship and have the loudest PR agents.  The English give lip service to the solitary man struggling modestly against the odds, but they don’t honor him much in the flesh.  Or rather, his achievements are lost in the din of press releases about the sponsored few.  England, of course, is not the only country where this happens.  On none of the lists would you find the name of the man I believe exemplifies the finest in the British seafaring tradition.  Spencer Griff is so modest he probably wouldn’t even include himself.

    Of the English-speaking countries, England has the strongest class system, where class often means simply that several hundred years ago one of your ancestors was a successful brigand.  Spencer was not born into the British yachting establishment.   He was born into working class Birmingham in the 1920’s.  He read books and he dreamed of sailing.

    Spencer became a mechanic like his father, working for an automobile manufacturer.  During the Second World War he was called into the Royal Air Force to work on airplanes.  He married during the war and had two children.  In 1970 his wife died.  He was almost 50 years old.  His children were grown.  And he was no closer to sailing the world than he had been as a child dreaming beside the gray Irish Sea.  He knew that it was then or never.  He quit his job and sold his modest house and rented a barn from a farmer he knew and started to build a boat.  He had never sailed in his life.

    Spencer was good with tools.  He bought plans for a 34’ fiberglass sloop, and two years later SOLITUDE was trucked to Bristol and launched.  Spencer had about $1,000 left in the world.  He knew that the longer he remained in England, the more money would trickle away, so although it was late February, he set sail for Barbados.  He made it--even if he did so on the bounce.

    Spencer taught himself celestial navigation, as I did; but I guess that I read more of the book before I left on my first voyage.  On the other hand, I do not possess the ability to build a boat and so had more time to read.  Spencer would be the first to tell others not to follow his example, both in inexperience in navigation and sailing and in leaving with so little money, although  everyone is inexperienced in the beginning, and the only way to learn to sail is by sailing.

    When he left England, Spencer  had used the sextant once to  bring the sun down to the chimneys of Birmingham, and he knew only how to work noon sights for latitude.   Before one decries this too much, it should be remembered that most of the great voyages of exploration were made without the ability to do more.   And of course, in this age of GPS, many go to sea who can’t even do as much.   Sailing to the latitude of Barbados and then due west is not bad seamanship no matter how you find your position.  Besides, Spencer planned to read more of the navigation text while under way.   He did not count on being so seasick that he could not read, and he did not remember that on March 21 the sun would cross the equator, after which he would have to add rather than subtract, its declination to its altitude to obtain his latitude.

    Day after day in late March, the sun moved farther north.  Day after day, the error became greater.  A more experienced and less seasick navigator would have realized what was wrong.  But Spencer thought only that he was being set north by a current.  Day after day he compensated for the set by steering south of west.

    On the night of April 12, he was thrown from his bunk as SOLITUDE went aground.  From the deck it appeared that she had done so in mid-ocean.  Land was nowhere to be seen.  Gingerly Spencer backed her off under power.  Although the night was clear and he remained at the helm, in an hour he was aground again.

    For two days and nights, SOLITUDE bounced off one invisible obstruction after another.  Spencer could not decide if he had been set too far north of Barbados by the current or had overcompensated and sailed too far south.

    Sometime during that terrible ordeal, SOLITUDE hit hard enough to crack her hull.  As in many English built boats, SOLITUDE’s bilge pump is operated from the cockpit.  Spencer is fair skinned and mostly bald.  Working the bilge pump handle for hours beneath the tropical sun in a desperate effort to keep SOLITUDE afloat, Spencer soon suffered from sunstroke.  On the third day, he knew he was becoming delirious.  When a faint outline of land appeared on the horizon, he steered the sloop toward it even though he believed it to be an hallucination.  Only when he felt the keel again touch did he trust his senses.

    Spencer has no coherent memories of what happened next.  He thinks he recalls some people paddling out to him in a kind of dugout canoe.  Then he was in a barn, something like the one in which he had labored for two years creating SOLITUDE, but this one was a maternity hospital in which he was the only male patient.  During the daytime bats hung upside down from the roof, but he assumed they were another hallucination.  When he had rested enough to know that the bats were real, a man wearing a uniform indicated that he should write where he came from and how he happened to be there.

    No one spoke English or any other language that Spencer could recognize.  He was given a pencil and some paper, and he wrote how he had made an error in navigation of 50 miles and ended up going aground repeatedly on St. Lucia, as in the quiet of the hospital he concluded he must have done, before finally making it here to Barbados.  The uniformed man could not read what Spencer had written, but he smiled and took the report.  Everyone smiled at Spencer.  Everyone treated him very gently.  Everyone acted as though he were mad, which Spencer reflected, he more or less had been when he reached shore.

    A week passed before he awoke from an afternoon nap to find a priest sitting beside his bed.  The priest said, “How are you feeling, Mr. Griff?”

    The English words brought tears to Spencer’s eyes.  But he wondered aloud, “How did you know my name?”

    The priest lifted some sheets of paper he had been reading.  “Your report.  The officials brought it to me to translate.”

    “Then you know what happened.  How I went aground at St. Lucia..”  And all the pent-up feelings and words poured out.

    The priest listened attentively, if uneasily, to Spencer’s monologue, until finally he interrupted.  “Yes.  Yes.  I’ve read all that.  But you have not told me yet how your are feeling now, Mr. Griff.”

    “Why I’m fine.  Fine.  Rested.  Fed.  But I am a bit worried about my boat.”

    “Your boat is fine.  The navy towed it to a mooring in the river.”  The priest hesitated for a moment.  “I don’t want to upset you, Mr. Griff, but there is something you should know.  You are not in Barbados.”


    “No.  And you did not run aground on St. Lucia.”


    “No.  You went aground on the Amazon delta.  You are in Brazil.”

    Missing your first landfall by a thousand miles would have stopped most sailors, but Spencer kept on.  He diligently studied the navigation text before he left Brazil.  He managed to find work at boatyards along the way, and he made it back to England a little more than three years from the wintry day he had sailed from Bristol.  A year after his return, he set off again.  This time he made an epic voyage nonstop via the great capes.  I think he was the first man to complete solo circumnavigations in both directions.

    Monetarily, Spencer Griff is a poor man.  He is in England now, working at a boatyard, trying to save enough to make another voyage--if not all the way around a third time, he hopes at least to escape to someplace warm.

    Many obvious lessons could be drawn from Spencer Griff, among them that if you teach yourself seamanship, you had better have a good teacher; and that perseverance can take you a long way.   But I think his experience also says something about the nature of fame and fortune.  I think Spencer quietly wanted them  both, that he hoped for the wealth that has followed a few well-publicized voyages and that he longed for acceptance by an establishment from which he had been excluded by birth.  If you seek fame and fortune now--and perhaps it was ever thus--the first thing you need is not to be a good sailor; I can name at least two world-famous “sailors” who are barely competent.  The first thing you need is a PR man.  The second is a newspaper or television contract.  And the third is a radio transmitter so you can keep in touch with the first two.

    Spencer Griff’s achievements are greater than those of many people who have found fame.  He is the better driven out of circulation by the lesser, the genuine overshadowed by the strident.  To me Spencer Griff is England’s greatest living sailor, although he would be embarrassed to hear me say so.  In our day he is too modest for his own good.

Monday, February 21, 2022

Lake Forest: getting serious; Emnati: $950,000; Burgundians and Putin: two quotes


Yesterday I purchased the iSailor charts for Iceland and the Irish Sea.  Each cost $15.  I already had the charts for the west coast of Scotland.  With that kind of money invested, I have to go.

The tight ring just east of Madagascar in this morning’s Earth Wind Map is cyclone Emnati.  This will be the fourth major storm to hit that area in the past six weeks.  You may have noticed that life is not fair.  My sympathy for those unlucky people, and I will try to find some way to donate to their relief.

I thank Larry for a link to an article about absurdly expensive whiskies and ‘cheaper’ alternates.  The alternates are still to my mind absurdly expensive.  The most expensive of all is a bottle of Yamazaki 55 year old listed at $950,000 a bottle.  That is not a misprint.  There are about twelve 2 ounce drinks  in a .75 liter bottle, which comes out to $80,000 a drink.  Occasionally I have a slight suspicion that some people have too much money, but of course in this best of all possible capitalistic worlds that can’t be so.

I just finished reading the very well written and interesting THE BURGUNDIANS by Bart Van Loo which filled in some gaps I had in Medieval European history.  Set mostly in the 1400s when the Dukes of Burgundy were nearly the equals of Kings, the succession was from John the Fearless to Philip the Good to Charles the Bold.  For Charles ‘Bold’ is a kind translation for fool hearty.  I also like an earlier king, Louis the Do Nothing.

I was most struck by how kings and dukes managed to get others to die for their egos and greed, as I am stuck today that one man, Vladimir Putin, can cause the deaths of tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, in the Ukraine.  I would not have given my life for any of them.

Joan of Arc is included in THE BURGUNDIANS.  She was of course betrayed by the King of France whose throne she saved, tried by the English, and burned at the stake.  The book relates that when the authorities wanted to show some kindness to those burned at the stake, they used wet wood so death would come by smoke inhalation rather than flames.  With Joan they refused to use wet wood.

I am now rereading Gore Vidal’s novel, BURR, based on the life of Aaron Burr.  I read it first decades ago.  A quote I find interesting:  I suspect Cromwell was right:  the man who does not know where he is going goes farthest.  Talleyrand used to tell me that for the great man all is accident.

Last night Carol and I rewatched THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER.  At the end Sean Connery, the captain of the Russian submarine, quotes Christoper Columbus:  And the sea will grant each man new hope, as sleep brings dreams of home.

Friday, February 18, 2022

Lake Forest: 1’; The Ocean’s Greatest Feast

You may have read recently that ocean levels are predicted to rise by one foot/.3 of a meter in the next thirty years.  That is equal to the total rise in the past 100 years.  Although I am at the moment far inland, my primary home is on ocean’s edge.  At high tide, Skull Creek comes within about ten yards of the base of our building.  There is a bank there four feet high.  I don’t expect to be around in 2050, but Carol may well be and so I have more than passing interest in the ocean level.

NOAA has an online map into which you can type an address and adjust a slider on one side to show what land will be covered by increased ocean levels in 1’ increments.  I am pleased to see that our condo will still be above water in 2050.  It will even be dry when the ocean is 3’ higher than it is now. 

I don’t believe our condo is property we could leave to our grandchildren, but then we don’t have any. 

Here is the link to the NOAA map if you want to check a location.

I want to thank Jim for making me aware of a stunning PBS Nature program, The Ocean’s Greatest Feast.

Off the tip of Africa takes place the greatest biomass migration on the planet, far greater than the famed Serengeti migration.  The creature is a sardine.  Billions of them in a mass sometimes twenty miles long follow a cold water current east along the South African coast and are fed upon by predator after predator.  Sea lions, gannets, dolphin, sharks, whales, sea gulls, tuna.  There is no known advantage to the sardines to make this migration.  There is a huge advantage to the predators.

The lessons of nature are harsh.  Life feeds on life.  Aggression is rewarded.

I have sailed that coast several times and never knew this migration was happening beneath me.

You can stream the program online.  I recommend you do.


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Lake Forest: walked; log definition; helicopters again; nearing the end


While I have been working out dutifully for more than a week, the cold has been keeping me mostly inside and too sedentary.  This morning temperatures rose as predicted to 46F/7.7C, so I took advantage of the heat wave and walked the 1.25 miles to the lake and back.  The photo above is proof.  Also that I am not in Hilton Head.  You may have noticed the absence of Spanish Moss.  I enjoyed the walk.  It was a good thing to do.  Two and a half miles isn’t much, but due to the virus my last weeks in Hilton Head and the frigid cold here, much farther than I have walked in a month.  Unfortunately it is not likely soon to be repeated.  A front is due this afternoon with rain turning to sleet and snow, accompanied by plunging temperatures.

Kent, of Audrey’s Armada fame, continues to educate me.

He came across this definition of ship’s log.  As a keeper and sometimes publisher of ship’s logs I am grateful to know what I should include.

He also introduced me to yak shaving for which I also thank him.

I have nothing against helicopters.  I even rode in one once.  But from Bill, a sometimes glider pilot in England, comes a line too good not to share.

He writes that a pilot friend of his told him helicopters can’t really fly, they are just so ugly the earth repels them.

From today’s entries in THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK from 1915:

I find myself wondering what part their disappointment at finding when they reached the South Pole that Amundsen had been there before them played in their deaths.  Had they been first would their will to live have been stronger enough to have made the difference? 

Monday, February 14, 2022

Lake Forest: rogue wave; TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD; LUSITANIA; cold

Several of you have sent me links to recent articles about a 58’/17.6 meter high rogue wave recorded off Canada’s Vancouver Island.  All of you were correct that I would be interested and I thank you, but as it happens I had already read about the wave and planned to write about it.

By the definition of a rogue wave being at least twice as high as the surrounding waves, I have encountered them several times during my years at sea, most recently on GANNET’s passage from Honolulu to Apia, Samoa.

At just after noon three hundred and fifty miles north of Apia, Samoa, I was standing in the companionway when I saw two 10’ waves coming at us, high above the average 4’ waves.   They were steep and close together and coming at a right angle to the other waves.  As the first one hit, I ducked below, sliding the companionway over me.  However, the vertical slat was not in place and not reachable.  The second wave exploded into and over us, knocking GANNET down, masthead almost in the water.

With GANNET heeled 90º I braced myself from falling and stared down at the ocean.  GANNET’s lee rail was below water.  The ocean only a few inches from entering the cockpit.  The wave was gushing in and pressing us down.  It was a matter of whether the ocean would reach the cockpit before GANNET came back up.  Time slowed almost to a stop.  Probably a few seconds passed.  GANNET came back up.

I have learned from those occasions when I have been able to compare my estimates of wave height to those given by official metrological sources ashore that I tend to underestimate wave height.  One example is the gale off Durban, South Africa, in which the met service said the waves were 6 meters/20’.  I estimated them at 12’-15’.  So perhaps the waves that knocked GANNET down were a little bigger.  Whatever their height, I am glad they were no bigger.

As a writer I am probably biased, but I consider books to be the greatest bargains.  How could one have greater pleasure, entertainment and instruction for $3 than by buying a book?  I would not disagree with those who would make the claim for music, but there is not much music you can buy for $3.  This comes to mind because I have just finished reading TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Harry Thompson, recommended to me by Steven, for which I thank him.

The novel is quite long, really a trilogy, about Charles Darwin and Capt. Robert FitzRoy, who was captain of the BEAGLE during the circumnavigation when Darwin was on board.  Thompson claims it to be historically accurate and I believe it is.  He also states in an afterward that FitzRoy is the hero of the book.  He certainly is the tragic hero.  When first published in the UK, the title was the much superior, THIS THING OF DARKNESS, which is apt as it relates to Capt. FitzRoy’s mental state.  He was given to anxiety, rage and depression, some of which was appropriate considering the enemies he had in and lack of support from the Admiralty.  He bankrupted himself spending his personal wealth carrying out his duties as he saw them and ended committing suicide at age 65.

Excusing a couple of solecisms—Thompson writes in one place of a ship ‘keeling’ over.  Ships heel over, not keel over;  And in another of a storm ‘cracking halyards’—Thompson writes well about ships, the sea, the hardships of surveying the islands and channels of Tierra del Fuego.  He also writes well of the conflict between those who were beginning to interpret the world in terms of science rather than Biblical dogma.  Curiously FitzRoy was one of those who disparaged Darwin’s view of evolution, yet he himself was a pioneer in meteorology and among the first to believe weather could be understood scientifically and forecast.

The book spans far more than the BEAGLE circumnavigation.  FitzRoy was later Governor of the infant colony of New Zealand and I learned that initially the New Zealand Land Company had a monopoly and sold poor immigrants land to which it had no right or title.

I bought the Kindle edition of TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD from Amazon for $2.99.  Truly a bargain.

The other evening Carol and I watched a very well done docu-drama on Amazon Prime, LUSITANIA:  Murder on the Atlantic.  We have both also read Erik Larson’s book on the subject, DEAD WAKE.  I recommend both.

There are lasting controversies about the sinking of the LUSITANIA by a German U-Boat just off the Irish Coast in 1915.  

One is caused by her sinking so quickly, in less than twenty minutes, after being struck by only one torpedo, though as you will see from the film, the British Admiralty attempted a cover up claiming the ship had been hit by two or even three torpedos.

The LUSITANIA was carrying munitions.  It is now thought that they did not explode.  There was an explosion, but it was probably caused by ignition of coal dust in the by then almost employ holds or by cold sea water hitting super heated pipes and boilers.

The other controversy is whether some in the British government did not fully protect the LUSITANIA in the hope that if she were sunk with hundreds of U.S. citizens on board it would propel the U.S. into the war on the British side.  I have no conclusion on that.  But do I believe that there were some in the British government who would have considered the deaths of a thousand passengers a bargain price to get the U.S. into the war?  I do indeed.

For the past three mornings the temperature has been 10ºF/-12º or less when I’ve gotten up around 6 am.  The wind chills have been around -6º/-21C.  These are temperatures that many of you have never known and never will.  Well done.

Friday, February 11, 2022

Lake Forest: garage window light: replaced; Super Bowl; Entr’acte; a poem


The beautiful photo above was taken by Steve Earley of SPARTINA’s spars.  He refers to it as ‘garage window light’.  I believe that even by his high standards it is exceptional.  The spars remind me of a musical instrument.  They are.  I thank him for permission to share it with you.

You may have read recently that something called DARPA, which stands for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, has flown a Black Hawk helicopter without a pilot for the first time.

Kent, who builds, maintains and is self-designated moveable ballast on Audrey’s Armada is also in his spare time a pilot for Delta and was a Marine helicopter pilot.  I emailed him a warning that he might be replaced, at least as a pilot.  His Armada services are irreplaceable.  He wrote back an interesting and amusing reply.  I thank him for permission to share it with you.

I flew the UH-1N. Only the Army can afford Blackhawks.

The robots do a fantastic job flying...until something goes wrong...which it always does. The humans will remain part of the human-machine interface when live cargo is involved, because we protect the system against vagaries of the machine. .

But if I'm wrong, I won't mind being a remote pilot for a machine, keeping an eye on it with my ipad, while sitting in a recliner. With grog nearby.

Harry Reasoner once wrote the following about helicopter pilots: "The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by an incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to."

I always said that helicopters are constantly trying to return to their natural state, minerals drawn from the earth.

Michael, Layne and Rusty are now at Barra de Nexpa, a beautiful surfing beach far down the west coast of mainland Mexico.  I emailed him commiserations that he would miss the Super Bowl.  This was in jest because I know Michael, born in Italy of an Italian mother and a British father, has no interest in American football.  What is inexplicable is that coming from those two great soccer nations, he also has no interest in soccer.  He replied with this photo.

The Super Bowl is everywhere.

I expect that Michael will not attend, except possibly for the food.   I will dutifully inform him of the result.

Of the Super Bowl, I may well be the only person on the planet who has zero interest in the pre-game hype, the ads, and doesn’t watch the halftime follies.  I am actually only interested in the game itself, which often seems a minor interruption of the side shows.

I read of people spending absurd amounts to be at the game.  Tickets ranging from $6,800 to $81,800.  Parking spots for $5,000.  Tables at private parties for $120,000.  And the beat goes on.

I do not like crowds.  Not only would I not pay those prices, I would not attend the game if I were paid to do so.  I will sit at home and watch on TV with Carol and have a better seat than any in the stadium.

In addition to spending time with Carol, I have several routine medical/dental appointments scheduled this month.  I have yet to find satisfactory medical and dental professionals in Hilton Head.  I expect they are there, but I may not find them until Carol retires which will open up a greater range of possibilities.

However I have come to realize that my time in wintery Lake Forest is an unplanned fortuitous entr’acte.  Being sequential has its advantages, but also disadvantages, and during the past few months in Hilton Head I was stalled by the holidays, weather preventing painting and adhesives from setting, and a virus.  When I return to Hilton Head, probably next month, I will be able to focus entirely on GANNET and preparing her for this summer’s voyage.

From the PENGUIN BOOK OF JAPANESE VERSE a short poem by Ito Sachio.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Lake Forest: a change of view; immortality; a dog’s dog; THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE; cured


As you can see from the above, we are no longer in Hilton Head, Toto.

I flew from Hilton Head to Charlotte on Thursday. Carol  flew to Charlotte from the opposite direction.  We met up there and spent three pleasant days with her family celebrating her father’s 95th birthday.  Happy birthday again, Fred.  And flew on to Chicago yesterday.

We landed around noon.  On the approach over Lake Michigan we saw ice floes out in the middle of the lake.  The official water temperature is 33F.  That was also the air temperature when we landed.  I am surprised by how I have forgotten so quickly what real winter is and I have lived through many.  There are a couple of inches of frozen snow on the ground, but the streets and sidewalks are clear.  Today it is only 21F/-6C and sunny.  I bundled up in my winter parka, gloves, ski cap and walked across the parking lot to mail a card for Carol at the Post Office and was fine.  The gloves and the ski cap will make it to Hilton Head.  The parka definitely will not.

From the February 5 entries in THE ASSASSIN’S CLOAK comes this from Jean Cocteau about immortality and writing.

Here we have a photo of my friends, Michael and Layne’s, dog, Rusty who is enjoying Mexico where all three are voyaging in their van, serendipitously named GANNET 2.  Michael and Layne, who sailed from California to Key West a couple of decades ago and who are otherwise sensible people, prefer in their retirement to travel by road.  There is no accounting for tastes.  I have some shady friends, but you being among them know that.

You can follow their travels at:

I do.

From Pat in Australia came a recommendation for the New Zealand film, THE HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.  

Here is a link to a just review by Roger Ebert.

I agree with him that the film shouldn’t work.  I automatically tune out and turn off at the words ‘coming of age’.  I came of age a long long time ago and have sympathy for those who haven’t and perhaps never will, but their trials do not interest me.  I also agree with him that against the odds this movie does work.  Carol and I watched last night and throughly enjoyed it.  Thanks, Pat.

Of Australia, you may have read that the country is about to open to vaccinated foreign visitors.  So is New Zealand on a different schedule.  However by the middle of the year there will again be destinations on the other side of the Pacific for visiting sailors.  I know several whose boats and plans have been stuck on the east side of the Pacific for two years.

In an article about New Zealand reopening I came across an almost unbelievable statement.  New Zealand has had 10 COVID deaths per 1,000,000 population.  I accept that the United States could not have shut down as drastically as has New Zealand, even if the population were willing.  I trust that New Zealanders will not be insulted when I say NZ is not essential to the world economy and the US is.  Actually this is one of New Zealand’s greatest advantages.  However if the US had the same COVID mortality rate as New Zealand, we would have suffered 3,300 COVID deaths, not 900,000 and counting.  

This is so startling that I’ve done the math a couple of times and it seems correct.  If I’m wrong, please correct me.

I would like to declare myself cured of whatever virus invaded me.  The proof may come this afternoon when I try to do my standard workout for the first time in three weeks.  If I can breathe well enough to get through the first 80 push-ups, I’ll be good.


2PM.  I just did my full workout without difficulty in a respectable time of 17:03.  I am cured.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Hilton Head Island: radio waves; lyricist; we’re number 1; WALKABOUT; how to get to Carnegie Hall


This strangely beautiful image comes from today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.  It is of radio waves coming from near the center of our galaxy.  

For a better explanation:

We finally bought a TV for Hilton Head.  It is a very nice TV with a large and vivid screen.  I must confess that I am enjoying watching the videos of GANNET’s voyage on it.  However too often the YouTube feed after presenting me with several of my videos throws in one about someone making their first crossing of the Atlantic or maybe cruising in the Caribbean.  Obviously the algorithm and those behind it can’t discriminate between us.  When the computer people take over the world—if they already haven’t—there will be no place for originals, because originals are beyond their experience and imagination.

I hesitated at ‘computer people’.  I don’t like ‘nerds’ and I may be the only one who knows that the original meaning of ‘geek’ was a carnival performer whose act consisted of biting off the heads of live chickens.  

However the other evening the stream of my videos had an unexpected and welcome interruption, Brian Cockburn’s music to one of my poems, ‘Leaves of Men of Leaves.’  

Brian composed this some years ago and I must confess I have largely forgotten it.  It was nice to hear it again and see the sheet music.

Larry sent me a link to a list of ‘Eleven Things You Wouldn’t Believe About These Countries.”

Well I not only believe them, I already knew many.  But I was not aware of Number 1.  The Country with the most people in prisons is the United States with 2.2 million.  China is second with 1.5 million, but out of a population four times larger than the US.  Russia is third with 870,00.  I wonder what we are so afraid of?

I was recently writing to a friend about THE UNDERDOGS, a fine novel about the Mexican Revolution written by a doctor who served in one of the armies.  As far as I know all revolutions are betrayed, including in our time our own.

Last evening I rewatched one of my favorite movies of all time, the Australian, WALKABOUT.  I have admired it since it was first released fifty years ago.

Walkabout is the Aboriginal trial of youth to manhood in which a teen age boy is sent out to live alone off the land for an indefinite length of time.

In the film a white sister and brother find themselves stranded in the Outback.  She is a teenager.  Her brother younger.  I am not going to explain how they got there because that is a startlingly dramatic scene.  After some time on their own they encounter an Aboriginal on his Walkabout.  He helps them survive and leads them back to ‘civilization.’

The Aboriginal and the girl are about the same age.  There is sexual tension between them.  I will not say how it is resolved, or even if it is.

The movie is beautifully filmed.  There are contrasting images of the implacable survival of species native to the Outback.  There are images of Eden before the fall innocence, such as when all three of them swim naked in a pool of water. 

Here is a link to what I consider a just review by Roger Ebert.  I suggest you read it after watching the film, not before.

I own the DVD, but you can rent  WALKABOUT from Amazon and iTunes, among others.

The current issue of BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE has an article about Jascha Heifetz which concludes

The last load of laundry is in the dryer.  

I am still not quite myself, but I’m getting close.  I have done an extensive amount of housework these past two days, and I am now ready to fly away tomorrow for a month or so.

To Life.