Friday, July 29, 2022

Lake Forest: paint and years


One of the advantages of being an old man is that you can pay young men to do things you no longer want to do.  Sometimes.  As I have observed here before, Hilton Head Island is an exception.  It is the most inconvenient place  to get work done in which I have ever kept a boat.

Above is a photo of GANNET just after I painted her.  That was ten years and a circumnavigation ago.  I used a one part paint, Pettit Easypoxy, because it is easier to apply than two part paints and I have found one part paints easier to touch up than two part.  I think the little boat looks good in the photo.  She certainly passes my viewed at a boat lengths distance test.  However, not surprisingly, she no longer does.

I have sought quotes from two boatyards to paint her topsides.  One, a yard with a good reputation, responded the next day with a quote of $6528.  I am not saying that is unreasonable, but I am not sure it includes taxes and I know it does not include more than $200 in taxi fares I would need between the boat yard and our condo.  That yard will not permit me to sleep on board while in the yard and, of course, it will not allow me to do my own work.  I have been told by a long time resident sailor that no yard in South Carolina will let owners do their own work.  A deplorable trend that I find increasing world wide.

The other yard never replied to my quote request.

I could afford the first yard’s price, but I am reluctant to.  Very reluctant to.  Pay three-quarters of what I paid for GANNET just to paint her?  That does not seem reasonable.  But then paying more than that to transit Panama was not reasonable either.  The difference is that in Panama I had no choice.

I have asked the dock master of Skull Creek Marina if I can paint GANNET in her slip.  He said yes.  

I painted THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s topsides while she was in the water and we were living on board in Boston.  Skull Creek is less exposed to wakes than Boston.  Painting GANNET would be easier.  I’d really like to pay young men to do it, but I expect I am going to do it myself.

I am also going to go up the mast myself and fix the spreader tips.  The tape put on in San Diego is working its way loose.  I have a friend with big shoulders who plans to visit Hilton Head this fall.  I will buy a bosun chair, which I have not had on GANNET, though I have had on all previous boats except CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and have him haul me up.  It seems there is no rest for some of the old.

I pause thinking back over the ten years since the above photo was taken a few miles north of here in Illinois.  A few days later GANNET was towed to San Diego from where she made her circumnavigation.

And I think back forty years because two of you have recently written that you are reading the open boat books which caused me to realize that I was jailed in Saudi Arabia forty years ago last month.  1982 was a dramatic and traumatic year in my life.  My grandmother, my only real relative, died.  I was falsely jailed as a spy in Saudi Arabia and CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE kept there.  And Suzanne and I separated and were divorced.

Also of time, last month Carol and I met twenty-eight years ago and next month we will have been married twenty-eight years.

None of those events seem that long ago.  Sometimes life seems too long.  Sometimes too short.  Time is an uneven medium.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Leak Forest: a clarification; the other side of the world; two poems and three quotes

This is not a sailing blog.  I have never claimed it is.  Regular readers know that.  They also know it is not any kind of blog, which is an ugly word.  When spoken ‘blog’ is the sound of someone in severe gastric distress.  This is an online journal.  I confess to having been remiss.  I doubt that many of you go to the journal page on the main site.

I don’t either, but I should long ago have copied the header there to this location.  If you look at the top of this page you will see that I now have copied most of it.  I could not do it all because there is a limit of 500 characters in the header.  I know not why.

The title of this journal and my main site is self-portrait in the present sea.  Not ‘selfie’, which is also graceless, but self-portrait, and I have been keeping it since long before the Internet existed.  I have shared it with others now for the past sixteen years.  Being a self-portrait it is about me.  I am among the most experienced sailors around, but if all you are interested in is sailing, you are often going to be bored here because I am interested in many other things as well.

Having said that, I will add that if you want to communicate with me you are advised not to use imperative sentences.  I don’t respond well to them.  

The above photo is of Markus’s boat anchored off the islet of Saarnaki, Estonia.  He sent it to me yesterday and I post it both because it is a lovely scene and because it is on the opposite side of the world from the photo in the last entry of Mat’s Lugger in Tasmania.

I read two books over the weekend.  LEGIONNAIRE by Simon Murray, an Englishman, is the journal of his five years in the French Foreign Legion starting on February 22, 1960, when he was nineteen.  He served mostly in Algeria during the end of the war for independence.

The book is well written and compellingly interesting.  It is not one I would usually have chosen and I thank David for the recommendation.

The training was brutal, far beyond any that would be tolerated in the United States military today and perhaps not even in the French.  So often were the living conditions, both in camps and in the field.

Murray saw combat in skirmishes against the fellagha who were fighting for independence.  

I am most impressed by the almost superhuman physical conditioning of the legionnaires.  They routinely marched thirty or more miles a day in deserts and mountains with sixty pounds of gear on their backs.  On one march Murray notes that they covered the first five miles in less than an hour.  Maybe all soldiers do that.  I don’t, even on flat sidewalks and with nothing on my back.

Murray closes the books with two poems presented without comment.

 I am familiar with both.  

Alan Seeger was an American who volunteered to fight with the French Army before the U.S. entered the war.  He died at age 28 during the Battle of the Somme.  He was the uncle of the folk singer, Pete Seeger.

On an unplanned military weekend, the other book was SAILING TRUE NORTH by retired U.S. Navy Admiral James Stavridis.  The book is less about time at sea than about the lessons of leadership Stavridis takes from the lives of ten admirals through history from ancient Greece to modern times.

Stavridis rose to four star admiral rank and I smiled when he notes that he spent about nine and a half years of his forty year career at sea because that is about the same amount of time that I have spent at sea.

Three quotes from the book:

A physical voyage at sea is a demanding undertaking, requiring intensity, energy, forehandedness, and intelligence, among many other qualities; but it is vastly easier than the inner voyage we all must sail every day of our lives.  That voyage of character is the most important journey each of us ever takes.


The World War II fleet admiral Ernest King once remarked, “The sign of a great ship handler is never getting into a situation that requires great ship handling.”

And from Rear Admiral Grace Hooper, the first woman to hold that rank, who retired in 1986:

The contemporary malaise is the unwillingness to take chances.  Everyone is playing it safe.  We’ve lost our guts.  It’s much more fun to stick your neck out and take chances.  The whole attitude is to protect yourself against everything, don’t take chances.  But we built this country on taking chances.”

In the list of quotes I have used in the beginnings of my books on the main site, you will also find from her:

A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Lake Forest: a Lugger in Tasmania: THE MAIS finished


This beautiful photo comes from Mat in Tasmania.  I thank him for permission to share it with you.  Mat writes that his boat, I believe named SCUPPERS, is one of only two Drascombe Luggers in Tasmania.

I have sailed past Tasmania to the south and the north, but never stopped.  From all I have heard and photos I have seen this is my loss.

On my first circumnavigation I sighted the southwest coast of the island on February 22, 1976, the first land I had seen since the Diego Ramirez Islands near Cape Horn 9,000 miles to the west on the late gloomy afternoon of December 11, 1975,  I recall sailing on and being unlikely becalmed in Storm Bay.

I completed that circumnavigation in the 37’ EGREGIOUS  San Diego to San Diego in less than a calendar year.  I completed my fifth circumnavigation in the 37’ THE HAWKE OF TUONELA  Opua, NZ, to Opua, in less than 18 months.  My extremely slow fourth circumnavigation Sydney, Australia to Sydney took thirteen years and two boats and two wives.  During its final leg from Fremantle to Sydney I sailed through Bass Strait north of Tasmania.  I don’t recall if I saw Tasmania itself, but I did see several small islands in the strait which is an obstacle course.

On the remote chance I ever get down that way again I’ll stop.

I finished THE MAIAS last evening.  Carol and I were reading in bed.  When she wanted to go to sleep she said I could leave the light on, but I turned it off and went back out to the living room and read the last page at 9:45.

The book was a continued pleasure.  Perhaps having been in Lisbon many times, I appreciated it more.  Slow moving by thriller standards, but I don’t read thrillers anyway.  There were unexpected twists in the plot and amusingly ironic last sentences.  It must have created quite a sensation and scandal among Lisbon’s high society whose empty values, foibles and failings it mercilessly portrays when it was first published in 1888. 


Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Lake Forest: the year the United States committed suicide; have-yachts

Perhaps history will look back upon 2022 as the year the United States committed suicide.

I do not claim that this true, but why would the thought that it might be even occur:

January 6.

The Supreme Court decision revoking Roe vs. Wade.

The Supreme Court decision stripping the EPA from controlling green house gas emissions.

The repeated, now almost daily, mass killings and the continued sale of assault rifles to private individuals.

A Congress so paralyzed that one man from a small, poor state can block legislation and jeopardize the future of the planet.

And the year is barely half over.  Surely there is more to come.

On Apple News+ I was able to read a long, interesting and entertaining NEW YORKER article about the megayacht business, ‘The Haves and Have-yachts.’

I googled and found a link to the article which is free for viewing for a limited time, so if you want to read it, do so soon.

Here are a few highlights:

In the Victorian era. it was said that the length of a man’s boat, in feet, should match his age, in years.

(Obviously I am seriously deficient.)

Since 1990 the United States’ supply of billionaires has increased from sixty-two to more than seven hundred…In that time the number of truly giant yachts—those longer than two hundred and fifty feet—has climbed from less than ten to more than one hundred and seventy.

The collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, had minted a new generation of billionaires, whose approach to money inspired a popular Russian joke:  One oligarch brags to another, “Look at this new tie.  It cost me two hundred bucks.”   To which the other replies, “You moron.  You could have bought the same one for a thousand.”

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Lake Forest: The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last Berth to be broken up; an article; last century


Well, not quite, but reminiscent. 

You may be familiar with the Turner painting with that title.  If not, here it is:

HMS TEMERAIRE was a 96 gun ship of the line launched in 1798.  She distinguished herself during the Battle of Trafalgar and was henceforth known as The Fighting TEMERAIRE.  She served until 1838 when she was broken up.

Regular readers will recognize the top photo as being of the somewhat less distinguished former New York Harbor ferry, FATHOM THIS, being towed from Skull Creek Marina to be prepared to be sunk as an artificial reef.  The photo came in an email from the marina I received yesterday.  I regret not witnessing the removal myself.  FATHOM THIS is presently in Georgetown, South Carolina, between Charleston and Myrtle Beach.  When she will be brought back and sunk off Hilton Head Island I do not know.

I was asked to write an article for the small boat issue of GOOD OLD BOAT, a publication of which I had not previously known.

Regular readers will not find anything new, but if you want to read it, here is a link.

And here are the editor’s comments about one of Steve Earley’s outstanding photos of GANNET.

GANNET’s hull appears to be blue in the photo.  It was not.  Light gray as always.

I also wish to state that ‘Little Wings’ was not my title.  I called it ‘The Joy of Small Boats’.  Not great, but better than ‘Little Wings.

About fifteen years ago, not long after we moved to Evanston, I told Carol that we needed to buy more book shelves.  Then I bought a Kindle and bookshelves were instantly obsolete.  I now read on an iPad mini or my iPhone and rarely buy a ‘real’ book.

I’ve moved about a dozen books to Hilton Head, half of them ones I wrote.

We still have a couple of hundred books on shelves here at Lake Forest. 

I have bought e-editions of many I might want to read again.

Yesterday I went over the shelves to see if there were any I have missed and came across THE MAIAS by Eco de Queiros, considered Portugal’s greatest 19th Century novelist, often favorably compared to Flaubert and Stendhal.  I remembered admiring the novel and decided to reread it.  I went to Amazon to buy a Kindle edition and to my surprise found there is none in English.  I searched further without success.  My paperback is published by Penguin, which apparently does not think there is a sufficient English reading market to warrant an e-version.  Shocking.  This is one of the great novels in European literature.

So I am reading the paperback.  I am enjoying the novel, but not the paperback.  It is a thick book, awkward to hold and awkward to turn thin pages, and I can’t read it in bed at night after Carol goes to sleep.  So last century.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Lake Forest: meaningless; suburbanite


You have probably seen the above image, one of the first from the James Webb telescope.  I am very much in favor of the telescope and expanding our knowledge, but that image proves that the universe is meaningless, or at least that it is beyond comprehension, certainly beyond mine.

Except for a few stars in the foreground, each dot of light is a galaxy.  Each galaxy composed of more than 100 billion stars. Some of the light in that image has taken 13 billion years to reach the mirrors of the James Webb telescope. And that image is an infinitesimal part of the universe.  It has been compared to looking at a grain of sand held at arms length.  Our species has been in existence for about 200,000 years and the age of science two or three hundred.

One of the lessons I learned as a long ago philosophy major is that our species is not good at answering, ‘Why?”, though a few of our species are very good at figuring out how.  Thus a few were able to design and build and launch and control the James Webb telescope.  What it is showing us is not so much beyond meaning as outside of meaning.

For over a thousand years the Ptolemaic version of the universe was accepted.  It placed the Earth in the center with the sun, moon, other planets and stars all revolving around us.  That was flattering and coherent and despite a few glitches it seemed to make sense.  However it was not true.  And everything we have learned since shows a universe of inconceivable size and void of meaning and purpose.

I know you regularly reread the poems on the main site

but permit me to repeat the last one on that page:

To Nicholaus Copernicus


you did us no kindness

when you proved we are not the center of the universe                

easier to believe our lives had meaning then

harder now


it is better 

to know

the truth


Lovely here last evening.  72F/22C.  Pure blue sky.  Slight breeze.  So like good suburbanites, Carol and I had our drinks in the back yard.  She a glass of wine.  I a Webb.

I got my bike out of the basement this morning.  Pumped up the tires.  And rode down to the lake.  The inland sea is still there.  Blue and white-capped today.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Lake Forest: the new and distant view; Maud Lewis; the end of the earth


The photos above and below were taken Friday morning.  We walked down to GANNET.  The wonderful difference since the removal of the detested ferry boat is experienced even as you walk through the gate and down the ramp to the docks.  No giant hulk is looming and lurking in the distance.  And with every step it is better and better.

You can see that GANNET is smiling.

That view while new and enormously pleasing is now distant.  You may have noticed that this entry comes from Lake Forest.  After an enjoyable weekend with Carol’s family we had an early flight from Charlotte to Chicago this morning and were at the apartment before 9 a.m.  I will be glad to be here for a while, but I do miss glancing up and seeing Skull Creek.

I did not know of the Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis, until my friend Eric recommended a fine movie about her, MAUDIE.  The movie is not a documentary, but from what I have since read it is largely accurate about her difficult and unexpectedly successful life.  Crippled by severe childhood arthritis and without any training, she absorbed the pain, both physical and emotional, she suffered and painted what she saw around her in her native Nova Scotia.

In fact Maud Lewis’s life was darker than the art gallery would have us believe.  She had a child out of wedlock that was taken from her and she never saw.  A scene in the movie where she observes her by then teen age daughter from a distance without ever approaching her is pure fiction.  And the relationship with her husband was at times harsh.  

I have read that she sold her paintings for between $1 and $5,  lacking confidence to ask for more.

We rented the film from Amazon Prime.  I thank Eric for bringing it and Maud Lewis to my attention and now I have brought them to yours.

On the flight this morning I finished NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON which is an original novel that did not go as I expected and which I am surprised to learn was a most unlikely commercial success because it deals with some serious philosophical questions, if any philosophical questions are really serious and not cosmic jokes, as I believe the central character in the novel who has died before it begins would consider them to be.

Along the way there are quotes I like from a 12th Century Muslin geographer, El Edirisi. written when he was in what is now Spain.

From Santiago we went to Finisterre, as the peasants call it, a word that means the end of the world.  You see nothing more than the sky and water, and they say that the sea is so stormy that no one could travel on it, and so you can’t know what is on the other side.  They told us that some, eager to fathom it, disappeared with their ships and none ever came back.

No one knows what is in this sea, nor can it be examined, for there are many obstacles that confront the ship voyage:  the profound darkness, the high waves, the frequent storms, the countless monsters that inhabit it, and the violent winds.

Thursday, July 7, 2022

Hilton Head Island: amazing x 4

I thank David for a link to this video of a kind man rescuing sea turtles from our debris.  The amount of net the one turtle swallowed is amazing.

I thank Dieter for a link to this video of the clearest images yet sent back from the surface of Mars.  That we are seeing photos taken on Mars is amazing.  A lot has changed during my lifetime.

Also amazing is the change around GANNET’s slip since the ferry boat was removed.  I biked down there yesterday morning.  The space is transformed.  It is now light and open.  Free and fresh.  I felt the south breeze where before there was a steel wall casting a deep shadow.  It is as though GANNET was at the bottom of a well and has been brought back to the surface.  Wonderful.

From an exceptional novel, NIGHT TRAIN TO LISBON, by the Swiss writer, Peter Bieri, who writes under the pseudonym Pascal Mercier, which is far better than its title and I find was made into a film which I will try to view after I finish the book:

There were people who read and there were the others.  Whether you were a reader or a nonreader—it was quickly noted.  There was no greater distinction between people.  People were amazed when he asserted that and many shook their head at such crankiness.  But that’s how it was.  Gregorio knew it.  He knew it.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Hilton Head Island: gone; close; the solace of water


An hour ago Carol and I were sitting on the screened porch when I suddenly got up and ran out on the deck.  Carol called, “What are you doing?”  I responded with glee, “It’s gone.  It’s gone.” And as you can see from the above photo, it is.  The unlamented once New York harbor ferry boat, FATHOM THIS, is gone.  I don’t know exactly when.  She was there when we walked to GANNET yesterday morning.  I sat by the bedroom window part of today watching the fourth stage of the Tour de France and then reading.  Certainly I looked up often, but I cannot say if the ferry boat was there or not.  We did go out shopping this afternoon for an hour.  I would have liked to see her departure, but that is not important.  What is, is that she is gone.  Gone, I tell you.  I am so pleased.

You know about the Fourth of July shooting in Highland Park, Illinois.  Highland Park is only a few miles from Carol’s apartment in Lake Forest.  The young man charged with the shooting was taken into custody about a mile from her apartment.

I first learned of the shooting from an email from Steve Earley who asked, ‘What kind of world are we living in?”

I replied, “One in which there are too many guns in the United States and too many spineless politicians who are unwilling to do anything about it.”

I saw an email today from a man who describes himself as a conservative gun owner who wrote that sale and private ownership of assault rifles should be illegal in this country.  I agree.

My friend, Jay, sent me the above photo of his resurrected Olson 34, SHOE STRING, on her mooring in Monroe Harbor in downtown Chicago.

I wrote back, ‘As I have often said, a mooring in Monroe Harbor is one of the world’s best urban places to have a boat.’   It is.  Sydney, Australia, and Auckland, New Zealand, also have their claims.

SHOE STRING was dismasted last year, which resulted in the insurance company wanting to consider her a total loss.  Jay demurred and as you can see, she has risen again as she deserved to.  Well done, Jay.

Also well done is a subsequent email from Jay,  ‘We met friends Saturday on the Columbia YC dock at 10.  We were motoring out to the lake by 10:30.  Light air (5-7) clocking from NE to E. The girls chatted; Jim helmed as I tweaked. We ‘circled’ all of the no-go buoys protecting 4-mile crib. Egrets and swallows provided the soundtrack…and headed W to harbor.

STRING put away, lunch at the club outside in shade, watching the kaleidoscope on the lake build in numbers of participants and variety of vessels. Our early start avoided the crowds and conflict. Perfect.

Laurel, who learned Wednesday her mom is terminal and has only weeks remaining, sent a thank you with ‘I forgot everything as soon as we boarded the tender to begin our sail’. Also perfect.’

The solace of water.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Hilton Head Island: cosmos mariner; maverick; prepared; books read; pieces of the puzzle


A few evenings ago Carol and I rewatched MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF GOOD AND EVIL which is largely set in Savannah.  When we first saw it in the late 90s we never thought we would be living nearby.  At least I didn’t.

You may have noticed David’s comment on the post ‘Outside’

and possibly wondered about the reference to ‘Cosmos Mariner’.  It comes from the book on which the movie is based.  The poet, Conrad Aiken, was sitting on a bench beside the Savannah River when he saw a ship heading toward the ocean.  Her name was COSMOS MARINER.  Aiken wondered where she was going and found in the shipping news:  COSMOS MARINER:  destination unknown.

Saturday afternoon we went to see and thoroughly enjoyed TOP GUN:  MAVERICK, a worthy successor to the original TOP GUN.  Jim, a retired fighter pilot, recommended it and wrote me that it may be the best flying film ever.  It has hand grabbing excitement.  I know because Carol grabbed mine.  It also has an actress, Jennifer Connelly, of arresting beauty at age 51.

The film includes a gratuitous sailing scene.  As Jim pointed out, San Diego does not have enough wind to make it dramatic, so it was shot on San Francisco Bay.

Yesterday morning Carol and I biked early six miles round trip to Dolphin Point on Port Royal Sound and swam in the condo pool in the afternoon.

This morning we walked down to GANNET, where I prepared the little boat to be left for two months, doubling dock lines, tying down the tiller, tying the clew of the furling jib, stowing a couple of loose pieces of gear in the interior.

Removing the sails and stowing them below is a good idea, but I choose not to.  Removing the fully battened main is a major project requiring removing the boom from the mast. Lowering the jib is not difficult, but bending it back on the furling gear again alone is.

Unfortunately the detested ferry boat is still tied on the other side of the dock.

Books read January to June 2022.

Pieces of the puzzle:

I am good health.

I love where I live, surrounded by serenity and beauty, and with GANNET 500’ away.

I have lived far longer than I ever expected and have accomplished more.

I have lived the life I wanted to.


I miss the monastery of the sea.

Something inside says:  If you can do more, you ought to.  Even:  you must try.

The top photo comes from the BBC WILDLIFE magazine.  I’m sure you recognize the birds.

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Hilton Head Island: surprise!


Tropical storm Colin unexpectedly formed overnight just north of Hilton Head Island.  It will move northeast away from us and has no noticeable effect on our weather.  The morning is sunny with only light wind swaying the Spanish moss.