Thursday, September 15, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Thursday evening


Almost 7 pm.  Above is what I am seeing.  I am sitting on our deck, a glass of New Zealand sauvignon blanc--would I drink any other?--to my left.  The temperature is 80F and quite pleasant.  A front passed three days ago, leaving behind it sunshine and lower humidity than usual in the Low Country.  The true temperature and the heat index have been only two or three degrees F apart.  Routinely in the summer here the difference is ten to fifteen degrees with heat indexes of 105-115F.

It is quiet. 

In this condo complex there are four buildings.  Each three stories high.  Each with three units on each level.  The two end units on each level are three bedroom.  The middle unit on each level two bedroom.  We are the middle unit on the third floor and so have both a screened porch and an open deck.  I like both, but when insects are not a problem I prefer the deck.  You know I like space around me.

Even though I regularly use my body, I had today a more active day than usual.  I walked down to GANNET trying to find screws to secure the replacement track for the port pipe berth.  Yes, you can say Webb has a screw loose.  Actually a couple of dozen.  I have twice searched the condo and GANNET without success.  I have a third set of screws of a different length, but would like to find the others if only because I know they exist somewhere.  I also swam in the condo pool and did my weight workout.  Even if you are gifted with good genes, you have to keep using your body, though the will to do that may also have been in those genes.

As I have been writing of course the sun has lowered and is now just above Pickney Island.  The colors are more dramatic.  I am not going to take another photo.  Use your imagination.

A pause as insects drove me into the screened porch.

As I have written paradise is usually somewhere else.  

Hilton Head is a valid version of paradise about eight months of the year.  It is too hot the other four months which are now coming to an end.  The serpent in this paradise is not alligators, but bugs.  I have found unexpected happiness here, but this is second best.  My paradise is somewhere else:  New Zealand's Bay of Islands, but for reasons of the New Zealand government that I accept as being completely valid, I can't live there full time, and I don't want to fly back and forth.  So I adapt and accept the charms of the possible.

As an aside I am an American.  I somehow think I would have been different had I been born a New Zealander or an Australian, both of which I would be pleased to be.  I can't define how, but different.

Of Australians, there is a good documentary on Netflix about their winning the America's Cup in 1983.  Untold:  The Race of the Century.

That very long link will only be of use if you have Netflix.

It begins with John Bertrand, the winning Australian helmsman, saying he has never met a world champion who was not screwed up in some way.  Defining 'screwed up' in my own way, I accept his statement.  I understood instinctively the species' need for originality and the exceptional individual.  You want to be the best in the world.  The best ever.  You are not going to be one of the guys or girls.

In the documentary, Dennis Conner says of the America's Cup, it is about "Show me the money." Thus I have limited interest in it, as I have in the big name round the world races.

In this Dennis also claims to be the best sailor in the world.  For a while he was the best in sailing 12 meters around buoys.  I am not aware that he has ever sailed across an ocean.  I am reasonably certain he has never done so solo.  And I don't believe that he can any longer claim to be the best America's Cup helmsman.  Russell Coutts may have that claim.  I googled and correct myself, Sir Rusell Coutts.

I have goggled and learned that Dennis is about a year younger than I.  I am surprised to learn that he is not richer than he is.

Once we passed near one another.  The year must have been in the early 70s.  I was driving along Shelter Island in San Diego when to my left I saw him in a boat yard climbing onto a Ranger 32 that he had bought and did not keep long.

On the day the seventh race of that America's Cup was to be run--as I recall it was postponed for reasons I do not remember--I almost died sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE 2 through the Straits of Gibraltar.

The southern most point of the mainland of Europe is Tarifa, Spain.

A strong easterly wind known as a Levanter came up and increased to 50 knots as it funneled through the Straits.  I had full sail up on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE 2, but could not leave the tiller even for an instant to release the main halyard only six feet away and drop the sail.  We continued, and as we approached Tarifa we were sailing by the lee.  It was very close and delicate.  To gybe was certain capsize.

People ran down to the point of Tarifa as we neared to watch me die.  As is evident I didn't.  I finessed it and barely cleared the land.  

I have been close to two other sailors of fame:  Bernard Moitessier and Jon Sanders.

I have written in THE OPEN BOAT:  Across the Pacific of my having dinner with Moitissier.  He was in his mid-50s then.  I in my late 30s sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  He knew he was over and he was.

Jon Sanders was at St. Helena at the same time as I in GANNET.  One morning we rode the same launch ashore.  I was on first so perhaps he did not know who I was or what boat I had come from, but there were not that many boats there,  He was on a roughly 50' that had been given to him.  I said a few words about his boat.  He responded with a grunt.  Jon Sanders has made some impressive voyages.  Some of them were sponsored.  I do know know of his personal relationships or that he has words.  It seems not.  Sailing oceans alone does not require words except to the extent that as a reader you can learn from others, if you have words  teach others.  

In writing this I have goggled both Dennis Conners and Jon Sanders and found Wikipedia articles about them both.  There is no Wikipedia article about Webb Chiles.  I have considered commissioning one.  I could write it better myself, but don't want to deal with Wikipedia protocol. But I have decided not to.  I am certain Bach did not authorize a Wikipedia article about himself. I do not claim to be Bach, but if no one else thinks I am worth remembering, so be it.  If the species forgets me, the species' loss.  I have done my job.

Imagine Dennis Conner or Jon Sanders in a Drascombe Lugger pushing away from the dock to try to sail around the world.

Imagine either of them completing a circumnavigation knowing they had set a world record and telling no one.  Anchoring, rowing ashore, and getting a taxi to his grandmother's house and the  woman he then loved.

I never contacted Guinness.  I did not need their validation.  I needed only to prove to myself that I am what since childhood I believed myself to be.  I did write about the voyage.  I am a writer and I needed the money.  And after a while Guinness through Nobby Clarke, now long deceased, contacted me.

I don't know how to say this modestly or immodestly--and I would prefer modestly if that is possible--but I might be the pure flame.

I thank Larry for this link to light sails.

This science is beyond me, but I do know that sails of whatever kind are devices of simple grace.

Considering my limited understanding of the size of the universe, I expect there are many other civilizations more advanced than ours.  Considering the distances I doubt we will ever met them face to face or face to whatever they have.

From Mark comes a link to a new shape wine bottles.  He likes it and so do I.  I thank him.

On boats I carry boxed wine for its convenience.  The best boxed wine I have found is the Australian, Yalumba, which as far as I know is not available in the US.  Square bottles would make stowage easier on GANNET.

I read today that Roger Federer has announced his retirement.  He said that he knows the limits of his body.

Reinhold Messner, the exceptional mountain climber who among many other achievements climbed Everest without oxygen, stopped climbing in his 50s.

What they did demanded physical qualities that time erodes faster than it does what I do as a sailor.

But I still have this internal drive to push on, even though I no longer believe it matters.  That is significant.  During most of my life I thought what I did and wrote mattered.  Now I no longer do.  Being me, in a way that makes me want to push on even more.

I expect this is not what you expect, but then you can not expect the expected from an original.

It is lovely and silent and peaceful here.  I look out on a few lights in the marina and the flashing buoys on the Intracoastal.

It is now almost 9 pm, so it has taken me two hours to write this.  I am a writer.  I could not have spent the hours better.  My glass is empty.  Still I offer you:

L'Chaim, which if you do not know means,  To Life.


Sean K. said...

While reading this latest entry I searched Wikipedia for an entry about you. There is indeed an article . . . although it is woefully incomplete. This should be rectified, but I would never think to edit it myself. As you say, you could write it better.

Webb said...

Thanks, Sean. Obviously I have not checked recently. I don't recall when I last did. It appears to date from a few months ago. I thank whoever took the time to do it.

Unknown said...

I just watched "the untold story". I also just finished your book about your Pacific capsize. I don't know how you did it. You must have a vastly different risk tolerance than most people do. I now enjoy reading your blog. Mike Casey Nova Scotia, Canada

Webb said...

Thanks, Mike. I might sail up there one summer. I need to sail somewhere.