Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Lake Forest: the horse you rode in on


Over my now many years I have come increasingly to believe that our lives are mostly set by our genes at birth, that we are stuck with the horse we rode in on.  I think mine has been.  I considered this to be anecdotal, not science, but in a recent email David, who presently resides in Thailand, sent me links to two articles that claim it is science.  I thank him for them.



As a long ago philosophy major I am familiar with Kant’s ‘ought implies can” and I am also familiar with his categorical imperative, which states that you should always act so that your behavior could become a universal law.  Thus you don’t kill others because if everyone did, no one would exist.  This would counteract part of the experiment in the ATLANTIC article because some would realize that not cheating results in better societies and lives for all than does cheating.  But even the disposition to that is likely genetic.  

I realize that many with genetic gifts have had no chance of fulfilling them:  born into extreme property, female in cultures where women are chattel, in the midst of one of our species’ incessant wars. 

I found myself wondering how many live in the first world.  If you google, you will find numbers around 15%.  I think that is too high.  It includes the entire populations of what are considered first world countries, in many of which significant numbers do not live in first world conditions.  In South Africa, which is counted first world, the vast proportion of people lead third world lives, and even in wealthy countries tens of millions live in poverty.  But if you are born at least in the middle class in the first world, you have sufficient opportunity to fulfill whatever your genes permit.

Another friend, Ron, appends to each of his emails, ‘Sometimes I think life is just a rodeo.  The trick is to ride to make it to the bell.’

I have often felt during my life that I am just along for the ride.  I have often fallen off the horse I rode in on, but I have always gotten back on.  That too is probably genetic.

For weeks each morning when I have checked the National Hurricane Center’s site, the map of the Atlantic has shown ‘No activity expected in the next 48 hours.’  As you can see above, that is no longer the case, though as you can also see from the world wind map the disturbance in mid-Atlantic is not yet well organized.  I hope it does not arrive at Hilton Head simultaneously with us on Saturday.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Lake Forest: chop. chop

A great writer has observed that life is the process of turning baby smooth skin into scar tissue, but this is getting ridiculous.  I am running out of space.  Now it is scar tissue over scar tissue.  Soon there will be nothing but scar tissue left.  Sometimes I find it difficult to believe I was once beautiful.  Quite possibly I am not the first octogenarian to think this. Today the beautiful skin cancer specialist removed two more bits of me.  I am a garden of cancer and it is harvest time. 

Less you think this is serious, thus far it isn’t.  Only inconvenient and scarifying. 

The upside is that having undergone radical weight loss this morning, I can have ice cream for desert tonight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Lake Forest: some forgotten words

I reread a good book last week.  Immodestly I wrote it.  I don’t remember exactly when, but at least a dozen years ago.

I remembered the plots of the stories.  

In ‘Shadows’ an American surgeon tormented by his failure and that of his profession to save his wife from an early cancerous death sells everything except his boat and sails west across the Pacific, finally reaching Asia, where a storm brings him and another man and his son who have lost even more into the same anchorage with disastrous results.

‘Last Born’ is a man who is among the last living after a radical environmental group try to save the planet by eliminating human reproduction.

In ‘Saint Stylites of Las Vegan’ a man dirving home to Los Angeles after a divorce hearing in Denver chances to hear an item on the radio about Saint Stylites who in the fifth century lived for 37 years on top of a pillar and turns off the highway to try to exceed that record.

‘Sailing to Africa’ follows a sailor crossing the Indian Ocean from Australia to Africa who sails down a wave unknowingly into another universe.

If you are a reader I recommend the book as objectively as I can.  I find the stories unusual, insightful and well written.  

I dislike sites that are always trying to sell something.  This one doesn’t.  You can buy the Kindle edition of SHADOWS from Amazon.  I would prefer you did.  But you can also download the PDF and read it for free.

The cover photo was taken from THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring off Opua, New Zealand.

While rereading me last week I also reread the Credo on the main site.  I had forgotten it too.  There have been a lot of words and I am losing track.  Fortunately there are physical books and sites to remind me.



    A gibbous moon directly above the masthead illuminates THE HAWKE OF TUONELA’s white deck and white asymmetrical spinnaker as she slides across a dark sea.  We are three weeks and a day out of Panama.  Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas Islands is a week and a day or two ahead.  

    I take a cup of tea and sit on deck.  I cherish these nights.  I’m 67 years old.  This is my fifth circumnavigation.  If there is ever a sixth, it will be in the Southern Ocean and via Cape Horn again.  One way or the other there won’t be that many more nights gliding before the trades.  

    Once when being interviewed I was asked what in one word sailing means to me, and my instant reply was, “Freedom.”

    I’ve wondered about that since then.  I am after all free enough on land.  I stopped working for other people and owing money in 1974.  But I never feel as free on land as I do at sea.

    Part of that freedom is escape.

    I grew up in a suburb of Saint Louis and I didn’t want to be there.      My fellow Missourian, Mark Twain, said that all adventure begins with a book and with running away from home.  Mine certainly began with books, and Carol, my wife, says I am still running away from home.  That isn’t quite true.  Boats have been my home of choice during most of my adult life, and the time I spend ashore is the willing compromise I have made for love.

    Other than freedom from Missouri, sailing is freedom from the restrictions, regulations, and banal, ubiquitous ugliness of modern urban life.  Those restrictions and cluttered ugliness are always there; and they seem only to increase.  Beauty can be found in cities, but as isolated oases glimpsed between telephone poles, billboards, and graceless buildings.

    And sailing is freedom to.  To a world that is simple, direct, as beautiful as this soft night, uncompromising, and unsentimental.  

    The sea is not cruel or merciless.  The sea is insensate and indifferent.  It is what you make of it and of yourself.  A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.  The sea is the canvas; a still, with a few exceptions, pristine canvas.  

    I love the beauty of the open ocean.  I love not hearing news of greedy financiers and self-serving politicians.  I love that the only sounds for the past three weeks have been the wind, and the water, and the music I have chosen to play.  I love feeling THE HAWKE OF TUONELA move in perfect balance through waves.  I love having the clear-cut responsibly for myself and my actions. 

    Sailing across oceans is not always this easy.  Nor should it be.  I’ve been in Force 12 conditions eight times and put the mastheads of three of my boats, including this one, in the water. (Now four.)  I know the masthead was in the water because everything up there--the tricolor running light, the Windex, the instrument system wind transducer--was torn off.   

    To allay fears, all of these incidents except one took place in the Southern Ocean, and the exception was a cyclone in the Tasman Sea.  Avoid the tropical storm seasons and you can sail forever in the trade winds without ever encountering even Force 10.  But I do think that you should be willing to face a gale before you set off across an ocean.

    Sailing in the tropics is pleasant, but it isn’t enough for some.  The Southern Ocean has its own cold fierce beauty, with albatrosses whose wing spans equal the beam of this boat and jagged seascapes like mountain ranges. 

    Long ago I wrote, “Define a man, then, by that against which he must strive.”  When I was young I looked around and saw that the biggest thing on this planet is the ocean.  So it has been that against which I have chosen to strive.

    That is perhaps the greatest of sailing’s freedoms:  the freedom to be myself.

Not bad.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Lake Forest: why I have no interest in the round the world races; and a drowned cat

In Sailing Anarchy this morning I read a piece by Ronnie Simpson who has been offered a 50’ boat to sail in one of the now plethora of round the world races.  He writes:

Three days after … reaching terra firma, I’ve got an LLC being formed, a web developer hired, a sailing crew hired, a media guy and some plane tickets to Maine. I’ve cobbled together some used TP52 kites to supplement our downwind inventory and pulled the trigger on a couple of final preparation projects at the yard. 

We are already aligned with the Veteran’s sailing non-profit US Patriot Sailing and have a tax-deductible means of accepting campaign contributions. I started a GoFund Me account to raise some seed money and we have raised more than $13,000 in less than a day. Not bad for a few days of work. We have a boat, a fundraising and sailing team apparatus taking shape and a bit of cash to get off the dock.

I want to make it clear that I am not criticizing Ronnie, whom I know and like.  He has long wanted to be part of that scene and all the things he has done are I conclude standard in it.  I hope the experience fulfills his expectations.  But that is why I don’t follow the round the world races:  they are about money and business.  They most definitely, despite the hype by the hired PR people, not about one man against the sea.  I didn’t even know you need an LLC, a web developer, a sailing crew, a media guy, be aligned with a non-profit, and a GoFund Me to go to sea.  Obviously I’ve been doing it wrong all these decades.  I must be an anachronism.  I almost wrote ‘an old anachronism’, but that is probably redundant.

From an early edition of THE OXFORD BOOK OF ENGLISH VERSE a poem by Thomas Grey I like with a famous last line.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Lake Forest: competitive ecosystem; quote; hiding in plain sight

In case you missed a comment on the previous post for which I thank the sender who called it a competitive ecosystem, I include the link to a remarkable video which does not inspire me to swim in Skull Creek.


Mark in Australia wrote that he came across a quote attributed to me which he likes.  I do not recall when I wrote that—I have now written well over a million words and I can’t remember them all—but I certainly agree with it and gladly take credit.  I will even include it on the Lines page of the main site.

The fallacy lies in expecting anything at sea to be as it ‘should be’.

                                                    —Webb Chiles

Carol and I celebrated out 28th wedding anniversary a few days ago.  We were married in Key West two months after we met.  And people doubted it would last.  There is always satisfaction in confounding doubters.  I can now pass as a normal stable member of society, hiding in plain site.

No one takes me for what I am.  Whatever that might be.

I am usually thought to be a retired professional, a lawyer or an academic.  Sometimes retired military.  That I assume is because of my command presence, which is odd for I have never commanded anyone but myself.

No one takes me for a solo sailor, but as I realized a long time ago when you actually are something, you don’t have to look like what people expect.

L’Chaim.  (Though it is only 12:30 and I have not had a drink.)

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Lake Forest: an over abundance; two drinking poems

There are 64 soccer games on television today.  I am going to miss some.

From THE POETRY OF ZEN, by Po Chu-i (772-846)

And from the other side of the world a thousand years later.

Got to go.  Manchester United/Brentford about to kick off.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Lake Forest: gibbous moon; diminished; owes nothing

We walked down to the lake after dinner two evenings ago.  I had already had an active day with a bike ride and my weight workout, but Carol had been in the office all day and wanted exercise.  

As I have often noted, I lose track of the moon when ashore as I never do when at sea and found as we sat at the bottom of the 120 steps down to the beach an almost full gibbous moon.  I have always liked the odd word ‘gibbous’.  It comes as I have learned from the Latin gibbus, meaning ‘hump’ through the Late Latin, gibbosus, ‘hump-backed’.

The column below the moon is a shower.

I woke at 5 am this morning and rode with the productive members of society into Chicago on commuter trains to keep an appointment with the beautiful skin cancer doctor.  She sliced two bits for biopsy and froze several others.  As always I am slightly smaller than I was before seeing her.  Business as usual.  

She does not know that I find her beautiful or that I have made her immortal. 


Bookbub recently provided me with THE ROBBER BARONS by Matthew Josephson, originally published in the 1930s and considered a classic, about the creation of great fortunes between the end of the Civil War and 1900.  I found the book interesting and enjoyable.  It filled in some gaps of my understanding of American history.  As I wrote to a friend earlier today I am going to get it all together just before I die.  

While there were many fortunes made, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and Morgan rise above the others.  All fortunes came from monopolies.  Good for producers.  Bad for consumers.  The end of that came with the assassination of McKinley and the ascendence to the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. 

Two quotes from the book.

In the life of every conquering soul there is a ‘turning point,’ when deep understanding of the self coincides with an equally deep understanding of one’s immediate mission in the tangible world.

And in the late 1890s when Mark Hanna, the then head of the Republican Party, wrote to a young prosecuting attorney in Ohio: You have been in politics long enough to know that no man in public office owes the public anything.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Lake Forest: the other Webb; David McCullough: a successful diet; wild flowers

I felt quite honored until someone told me the sign is not for me, but the other Webb, the James Webb Space Telescope.  Disappointed again.

By chance Carol and I saw James launch live on television last Christmas Day.  Last evening we watched a fascinating Nova episode about its development, launch, and deployment a million miles above Earth.  I highly recommend it.


A few of our species are very clever.  There were if I recall correctly 344 individual fail points in the launch and deployment of the telescope.  All the planning, all the construction, all the calculations had to be perfect.  They were.

As I had forgotten the Hubble telescope was found to be out of focus after it was launched, but it was within range of astronauts who were able to reach and repair it.  The James Webb is far beyond astronaut range.  

The project cost ten billion dollars, far more than the original estimate, and was years behind schedule.  I am reminded of the former Illinois senator, Evert Dirkson, who reportedly said several decades ago, “A billion here.  A billion there.  And soon you are talking about real money.”

I do not begrudge the cost of the James Webb.  I am in favor of the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake without any practical application even when it tends to demonstrate our own insignificance.

For that matter ten billion dollars is not all that much today.  I goggled the list of the world’s richest people.  The one I found only showed the top thirty, starting with Elon Musk at number one with 251 billion to MacKenzie Scott, Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife, with 41 billion.  Any one of these people as well as several more could have paid for the entire project and never even missed the money.

If you have any exposure at all to the news you know that Olivia Newton John died yesterday.  You probably don’t know that David McCullough, the author and historian, died the day before.  I  saw four separate articles about Olivia Newton John’s death on Apple News this morning.  One, far down the screen, about David McCullough.  I like Olivia Newton John and regret that she or anyone suffers as I expect she did.  But I admire David McCullough more.  Celebraty rules.  But that is not news.


I weigh myself each morning just after I get up.  Four days ago I was horrified to see that I had gained a pound and a half.  I want the scale to read just under 153 pounds.  Almost always it does.  But I was confronted two mornings in a row with an undeniable 154.  So I went on a diet.  And I am proud to say that the past two mornings I have seen a satisfying 152.6 and 152.5.  I really don’t see why there is so much fuss about dieting.  It is easy.  I gave up ice cream.  Nothing to it.

After a front went through over the weekend the upper flatlands have been delightful.  In the 60s F this morning, high teens C, so I went for a long bike ride.  In t-shirt and shorts I was almost too cool at the start, but I warmed up.  There are several fine bike paths around Lake Forest.  The one I took today is lined for miles by wildflowers.  Lovely.

Monday, August 8, 2022

Lake Forest: prescient; the hurricane season

Tim, the violin playing marathon runner, likes to read old newspapers online.  I thank him for the above written by a clever Kiwi.  Note the date.  The author’s only error was timing.  It did not take centuries.  The world population in 1910 was about 1.75 billion.  There are four times that many of us cluttering up the planet now.

I thank Jack for sending me a link to an article, ‘What’s Wrong With the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season?’  The answer is nothing.  90% of storms occur after August 1.  I knew that.  I expect you did too.  But it is starting.  Each morning I check the National Hurricane Center site.  During July I consistently found “No activity is expected in the next 48 hours.’  This morning:

Here is this morning’s Earth Wind Map.  Notice how far north of the Equator the tropical convergence zone is in both oceans.  I still prefer to call it the doldrums.  The trades that carry storms west are clearly defined.

While the Atlantic has been quiet, the eastern Pacific has not.  There has been an almost constant stream of storms forming just off the coast of Central America and moving northwest into uninhabited regions of the ocean where they have dissipated largely unnoticed.  There is one there now.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Lake Forest: walked, read, a great day; and three poems

Above are the 120 steps leading down to Lake Forest’s beach.  I counted them.  I did so last summer as well and only came up with 113.  I cannot account for the inconsistency.  We walked down to the beach this morning, a gradual downhill on a street charmingly named Deerpath before reaching the final bluff and the 120 steps and then back up a different street, Westminster, besides the mansions of the very wealthy, many of which are mostly hidden by walls and high hedges. Of those that can be seen many are quite attractive, though far too large for one who can live in small spaces and prefers to.  Just over three miles round trip.

My life here has settled into a routine.  A walk or a bike ride most days.  My workouts, of which I have not missed one for well over a month, reading, watching some sports on television, and of course Bach and a few poems each day.

I have been reading far more than usual.  My average is about a book a week and normally I read more at sea than on land, but a few minutes ago I finished my fifteenth book since July 1.

However that will change because today is the great day that the new English Premier League season begins, earlier than usual because of the long break in November and December for the World Cup being held in Qatar during the winter rather than in the summer as in the past. Considering that everything is air-conditioned there I am uncertain why it matters.  Arsenal versus Crystal Palace kicks off in a half hour.  I won’t be reading this afternoon.

Three poems from an anthology, THE POETRY OF ZEN, which I am enjoying though I am decidedly not a Zen person.

The first two are by Wang Fan-Chih, which autocorrect keeps trying to turn into Wang Fan-Chihuahua.  Sigh.  I have included the second one here before when I came across it in another anthology.

And from Shih Te who wrote in the 8th Century:

Monday, August 1, 2022

Lake Forest: sea monsters; wind; 1000 miles in an open boat; James Lovelock; wrap


Above you have “Sunrise with Sea Monsters”, by one of my favorite artists, J.M.W. Turner, for no other reason than I like it.  It is my current iPad Pro and Mini desktop.  I have seen countless sunrises.  Zero sea monsters.

We are told that most of the damage from major tropical storms comes from water which is roughly 800 times denser than air.  However as this startling video of a typhoon in I believe China shows great wind can alone wreck havoc.  I thank Larry who sent it to me.


James Lovelock died last week on his 103rd birthday.  Reportedly he was in good health until a fall a few months before his death.  He was an original, who among other accomplishments created the concept of GAIA.  I thank James for a link to his obituary.


Steve Earley is a most modest man, but he mentioned in a recent Log of SPARTINA entry that adding his last fall cruise on the Chesapeake and his winter cruise from South Carolina to Florida comes to almost 1000 statute miles.  I doubt few other open boats have been sailed so far so well in this past year.  Well, done, Steve.


From Jason, a former South Carolinian who is now a resident of New Zealand came an email suggesting that I wrap GANNET rather than paint her.  I replied that I did not under ‘wrap’ as he used the word.  He sent me this link:


I googled and found others, including places that do this here in Illinois and in South Carolina and now I know.  I had never heard of this procedure before.  The price for a do-it-yourself kit from a company in Australia is less than $900 US.

I am not going to wrap.  I have pretty much decided to paint GANNET myself at her slip or possibly at anchor after doing the prep work in the slip where I can conveniently work whenever spirit and weather permit.  This would be my forth topside painting.  I painted THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on the hard in Opua as well as in the water at Constitution Marina in Boston.  And GANNET on the hard here in Illinois.  My only excuse is laziness and I can overcome that.  Probably.