Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hilton Head Island: communication; men to match mountains; rudder; cave


There are so many disparate thoughts that I don’t know where to begin.

I have learned that when overwhelmed, which I am not now but have sometimes been, just start anywhere.  Take one problem, solve it.  Solve another and another and a pattern will form.  So, I quote something I have posted here before:

        No one can judge a marriage from the outside.

       We all do.  Societies.  Courts.  The intrusive ‘Media.’

       We judge the marriages of our friends.  Our neighbors.  Co-workers.  Casual acquaintances.  Celebrities we don’t even know.  And we are always wrong.

       Even when we’re right, we’re wrong, because our opinions are based on inadequate information.  Marriages are too complicated and too subtle.  They turn over the years on words said and unsaid, tones, pauses, touches gentle or rough, welcomed or shunned, sex or lack of it, money or lack of it, gestures, expressions, a face turned toward or away.  Thousands and thousands of bonding or eroding moments.

This is not about my present marriage, but about all close relationships and the difficulty, perhaps impossibility, of complete communication.

There are questions we cannot ask of those we are close to and expect an honest answer.  The answer to such questions will always be compromised by what the responder believes is in the best interests of the relationship, or perhaps themselves.  Thus, as I have observed, we have the odd situation in that we are herd animals, yet inside we know we all are alone.

Consistent with this, you cannot know a writer if you do not read his words.

Moving on, I have said that I was formed by the legends of the American West and the myths of Ancient Greece.

On the remote chance you have viewed my YouTube video Beginnings 1, watch you will know that to my surprise from the bedroom in which I spent much of my childhood dreaming of ‘greatness’, I was looking north.  I thought west.  My mind certainly went west.

Just now that west is being portrayed, accurately or not, with frequency on television.  And it is not the West I saw in my childhood mind.

Back then I knew a poem, perhaps doggrel, but one of the few that has stuck in my mind. 

Bring me men to match my mountains.

Bring me men to match my plains.

Men with empires in their purpose.

Men with new eras in their brains.

I have googled and learned that the poet was Sam Walter Foss, and that those words were inscribed on a granite wall at the US Air Force Academy to inspire cadets and officers, but were removed in 2003.  Curious and revealing.

I did seek to match the mountain equivalent:  the ocean; and I believe I have.

I did not seek to do any of the others.  But as I have dared to say, at least I dreamed big.

This is mostly, but not completely a disjunct.

Perhaps you have already seen the top photo elsewhere.

Three men living on top of a ship’s rudder for eleven days and 2500 miles from Nigeria to the Canary Islands.

I, who know what it requires to survive at sea, wonder about details.  Food is not that important, but water is.  You can’t go eleven days without fresh water.  Where did they get it?  How did they sleep?  The rudder would not have been moving much during the longest part of the passages, but it would have been moving some.  How did they hang on?  How did they perform bodily functions?

I am impressed by what these men endured and survived.

I do not know if their suffering meant anything.  I do not know if they were granted asylum in the Canary Islands.  I do not know that any suffering has any meaning.

This is not a great photo, but it is what I saw three nights ago when I slept on GANNET.  Title it ‘Cave with Leg’.

We are all Africans.  Fifty or sixty thousand years ago some of our species walked out of Africa.  My ancestors turned left into what is now Europe, where those with less melanin in their skin thrived because they could absorb more vitamin D from the weaker sun.  This ended up giving us not white skin, but as Evelyn Waugh observed ‘pinko-gray’.

Others turned right and walked to what is now China.

How odd that I feel an affinity with some of those who lived there more than a thousand years ago, mostly alone in caves and huts in mountains and forests.

At dawn, even a pure recluse must yearn;

now I just invite clear wind for company.

So wrote Liu Tsung-yuan fourteen hundred years ago and he speaks clearly to me, who is a monk, though a much married one.

I admire that Han Shan/Cold Mountain wrote his poems on rocks and trees, and that they have survived a thousand years.

So this is my cave.

I can and have lived as simply as those Chinese recluse poets.

I have written that a 35’ boat, plus or minus a few feet, is the right size for one or two people.  

Today the average cruising boat is at least ten feet longer and likely a miserably sailing catamaran which is really a power boat/mobile home with masts.

I have written that if something will not fit on a 35’ boat I don’t need to own it.

I have twice in my life lost every physical possession I owned.

The first time was gradual when sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  When I was forced to fly from Saudi Arabia in 1982, I did not own a thing other than the clothes I was wearing that I owned when I  began the voyage in San Diego four years earlier.

When I stepped ashore after sinking RESURGAM in 1992 I again owned nothing but the clothes I wore.

When nine months later I left Key West driving a rental car north to try to resurrect my life, all my possessions fit in one duffle bag.

Now I half own a great many things in this condominium that would not fit on a thirty-five foot boat, much less GANNET.

But what you see in that photo is my space.  My cave.  My Chinese mountain hut.  

Were I living by myself, I would now say I do not need to own anything that will not fit inside GANNET.  I could do that easily and live I like to believe with grace.

I am one with few, but I am one with Han Shan.  And I am certain had he seen GANNET, he would have understood instantly.


Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Hilton Head Island: the married monk; some poems; one child, one vote

I live mostly alone.  Most days I speak to no one beyond saying 'Good morning' to those I pass on bicycle paths or marina docks.  That is different now that Carol is here.  She flew in last Friday and will spend ten days over the Thanksgiving holiday and will be back for almost three weeks over Christmas.  I will return with her to Illinois in January for about a month.  So I am now often having conversations.  How odd.  But daily I read the poems of ancient Chinese and Japanese, often monks.  They sought the monasteries of the land.  I, a much married monk, found the monastery of the sea.  I miss it.  I must enter it again, which I am finding unexpectedly difficult.

My poetry reading these days is Walt Whitman's LEAVES OF GRASS and MOUNTAIN HOME:  THE WILDERNESS POETRY OF ANCIENT CHINA.  

I have read Whitman on and off for decades.  I am still not certain what I think of him.  Certainly he is original, but I don't share many of his beliefs or desires.   I am completely at home with the  ancient Chinese, one of whom, Han Shan, took the name Cold Mountain on which he lived alone writing poems on rocks and trees, which were admired by the local prefect who collected and preserved them.

Here are four poems from the book.

Li Po  (701-7620

Tu Fu (712-770)

Cold Mountain/Han Shan  (c. 7th-9th centuries)

From Larry comes a quote about democracy with which I was familiar and believe I have published here before.  I thank him for reminding me of it.

The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter.
                --Winston  Churchill

If you have been reading this journal for a while you know my thoughts on democracy.  I repeat the link for those who may have forgotten.

There is an interesting test of democracy presently underway in our neighboring state of Georgia where a violent, unstable former football player is running for the Senate based on no qualifications other than he was once an excellent football player.  So was O.J. Simpson and we know how that turned out.

Also interesting is that I have read of a court decision in New Zealand which may lower the voting age from eighteen to sixteen.  What a splendid idea.  I have always had the greatest admiration for the sound judgement and wisdom of children.  I expect that my Kiwi friends can look forward to Taylor Swift being their next Prime Minister.

As you would expect I have been watching the World Cup which is my favorite of all sporting events.  I have no original thoughts about it.  I missed the startling Saudi Arabia upset of Argentina because the match started at 5 AM my time.  I did see the highlights and have all the matches being recorded on YouTubeTV.

Tomorrow Carol will prepare the traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner.  I am very much looking forward to that.

I wish my fellow Americans a happy holiday, and the rest of you a fine day wherever you are.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Hilton Head Island: HEARTS OF THE WORLD; admired sailors


During what we now call World War 1 the British made a concerted, cynical, and largely successful effort to portray themselves as righteous and the Germans as brutes.  This was not true.  That was not a war between good and evil.  It was a war about empire, wealth, revenge, and the egos and stupidity of emperors and kings and politicians.  The German soldiers were no worse and no better than the French and British and Italians and Austrians and Russians, and all the rest, and the men in the trenches knew it.  Memoir after memoir of those in the front line state that the writer knew he had more in common with the poor bastards on the other side of the barbed wire a few yards away that any of them had with those at home.

A few evenings ago I chanced upon at Amazon Prime one of the results of the British propaganda campaign, D.W. Griffith's 1918 silent film, HEARTS OF THE WORLD.  

Griffith, of course, is considered one of the great directors in film history.  As I have since learned, he was asked by the British Prime Minister Lloyd George to make the film and was given unparalleled access to military areas to do so.  

The lead characters are Americans living in France, one of whom goes to fight with the French before the U.S. enters the war.  The Germans are portrayed as in the poster above.  Griffith later regretted his treatment of the Germans.  "War is the villain," he is quoted as saying, "Not any particular people."

I watched the two hour film an hour each on two nights.  I don't exactly recommend you do.  It is surely not to everyone's tastes.  It is not even to mine, but I found it interesting.

I don't recall ever watching a full length silent film before.  I was immediately struck by what an awkward and artificial way that is to tell a story.  The actors are performing pantomime.  Words appear on the screen frequently to help the viewer understand what is happening.  And the intent does get through.  At the time it was the most advanced technology, but I believe the simple written word was better.  Then I still do.

Here is a link to a Wikipedia article about the film.  


A side note is that in the credits at the beginning and end of the film listing the actors, the very last name "A man pushing a wheelbarrow" is Noel Coward, who was eighteen at the time and reportedly went on to greater things.

In an email Kent asked me what sailors I admire.

Permit me to pause and explain a change.  I have often written here of one person or another as 'my friend', some of whom I have met in person, some of whom I have not met but have corresponded with for years.  However, I am no longer going to append 'friend' to a name.  l count all who read this journal regularly as friends.  I even count Carol who doesn't read it, a friend, too.

So to respond to Kent:

Of solo circumnavigators, I admire Slocum and Vito Dumas, probably others but those names come to mind.   Moitissier, whom I admire for dropping out of the round the world race, but later met in person, was I believe more interested in being a guru to a young following than anything else, and as I wrote in THE OPEN BOAT was used up in his 50s when I met him in Tahiti and Moorea in 1979 while I was sailing CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.

Of non-solo, of course I admire Capt. Cook, though he pushed himself too hard and was clearly under too great a strain on his last voyage.  I admire Drake as a seaman, though he definitely was a pirate sanctioned by the Crown.  Also Capt. Blight, who has had unfair bad press, and FitzRoy who was captain of the BEAGLE.  Again I am sure there are others who are not immediately coming to mind.

I greatly admire the unknown Polynesian sailors/navigators who populated the Pacific Islands, often mere specks of land, against the prevailing wind and current.

And if the reference in Herodotus is true about a Phoenican circumnavigation of Africa about 600 BC, and I believe it is,  I certainly admire and envy the leader of that voyage.  

I speculated about that voyage in RETURN TO THE SEA when Carol and I sailed through the Straits of Gibraltar.  I have also been through the straits and almost killed there in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and putting various voyages together, I have also circumnavigated Africa.

I tried to imagine them coming through the straits more than two thousand years ago, hugging the far shore, joyous to be back in the known world.  There would have been many fewer people and many more animals then.  It must have been hard for them to leave the Garden of Eden around Table Mountain, and I think they would have known great despair in the fog along the coast of the Namib Desert, and then again when they had to follow the bulge of Africa west.  What sailors they must have been; what men to have endured and survived.  I would have loved to have led them.

That the sun was on their right was exactly where it would have been for much of the last half of the voyage, despite Herodotus' skepticism.  But then probably no one believed most of the stories they had to tell when they got home.

I like to picture them years after the voyage, sitting in a tavern along the waterfront of their small home ports, gazing out at the sea, remembering, knowing they had seen things no one around them could even imagine.

There is another sailor I admire, whom I consider to be as good as any who ever lived, but modesty forbids.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Hilton Head Island; Levis and Omniheat; dog steals car; snowbirds on parade; two quotes

Two days ago it was 70F/21C here.  When I woke this morning at around 6 it was 45F/7C.  Now at noon it is a sunny 55F/13C.  It will often be 70 here again during the fall and winter, but 45-55 is the forecast pattern for the coming week.  I don't mind.  

I wore Levis and an Omniheat jacket when I biked down to GANNET this morning to put a second coat of Deks Olje Number 1 on her wood.  I stopped varnishing decades ago.  Varnish looks much better than oil, but if you really sail your boat, as I have been known to do, varnish chips and flakes and demands too much time.  Deks Olje goes on quickly, protects, and looks good enough for me.  When I stepped below I was pleased by the appearance of the first coat.  Now with the second applied I can check 'repaint interior' off my to do list.  I have only to go down tomorrow to straighten up the interior, which I cannot do immediately after applying oil to the wood, including the cabin sole.

Yesterday afternoon saw the most incredible ending to a football game I can remember.  This is American football, not what Americans call soccer.  It was the game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Buffalo Bills.  If you watched, you already know.  

This morning I read a very entertaining article about the game in the WALL STREET JOURNAL in which Jason Gay likened it to you taking your dog for a walk and your dog steals a car.  You don't have to be a football fan or even know anything about American football to find this amusing.  I read the WALL STREET JOURNAL though Apple News+ which for $10 a month gives me access to hundreds of magazines and newspapers, a very great bargain.  I have tried this link and it opens, so I hope they will let non-subscribers read it.


I am sitting by our bedroom window.  I just glanced up as I often do and saw another snowbird sailboat powering south.  Sails down naturally.  There is a parade of them this morning.  I think it was my friend, Michael, who once did this himself and said that powering down the Intracoastal is like driving the Interstate at six miles an hour.  I do not know.  I have always sailed outside, which is what real sailors do.  The few, the proud--no, that's The Marines.

From my friend, Tim, come two quotes for which I thank him.


Truly there would be no reason to go mad were it not for music.

Goethe on Beethoven:

He isn't altogether wrong in finding the world detestable; but that doesn't make it more enjoyable for himself or others.

Friday, November 11, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Armistice Day; 1883 and 81; Nicole

I know it is now Veterans Day, but when I was born it was Armistice Day, marking the end of what was known as The Great War until we had a greater one.  The Armistice, which was really just a cease fire until the warring nations, which had bleed themselves dry, could raise a new generation to continue the slaughter, took effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

I am indebted to my friend, Tim, and his mother, Elnora, for permission to share the above painting which he chanced to send me today.  It is very appropriate for the day.

Elnora painted it many years ago when Tim was a boy and the family was visiting the site of the WW1 battle of Verdun.  Tim's father is explaining the battle to him, which went on for almost the entire year of 1916 and resulted in between 336,000 and 355,000 German casualties, of which 143,000 were dead; and between 379,000-400,000 French casualties, of which 163,000 were dead. Truly astounding numbers.  Inconceivable, at least to me.

Last evening I watched the final two episodes of the ten part television drama, 1883.  It is a prequel to the series, Yellowstone, which I have not seen, but will start with Carol when she is here over Thanksgiving.  1883 is startlingly good.  Very well written, very well acted, and very tough minded.  This is not your average Western.  It is available on Paramount Plus, to which I subscribe because it carries Champions League soccer.  You can try Paramount Plus for a week for free.  The series can be bought from Amazon for $25.  I highly recommend it.

I am 81 today.  I shake my head in disbelief.  And yes, I have done my age in push-ups today.  In fact I did 161 push-ups and crunches today.  81 in the first set, 40 in the second and 40 in the third.

In early 1993 I gave a series of talks along the east coast, sponsored by BoatUS and CRUISING WORLD, starting in Boston and ending in Miami.  In Annapolis one of the questions asked at the end was about how I keep fit.  I replied that among other things I do my age in push-ups,  I was then 51.  I added, "Just think what great shape I'll be when I'm 100."  That brought the expected laugh.  But I'm getting there.

Nicole passed well to the west of Hilton Head Island and was a non-event here.  Nothing more than a moderately rainy day.  I turned on the Weather Channel briefly and got the expected hysteria.  I also watched part of the local news from Savannah where a talking head who had no idea what he was talking about keep saying the storm was making its way up the coast, when in fact it was tracking north along the Alabama/Georgia border.

Intermittent rain yesterday and the threat of rain today has caused me to run out of essential supplies:  raspberries and Laphroaig.  So I will have to toast myself this evening with something other than my favorite liquid.  I expect I will find something.


Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Hilton Head Island: Gurrumul and Nicole

I am writing this two Webbs in.  An eponymous drink if you are not a regular reader.  I am feeling them, as I want to.  But I know enough usually not to write after drinking.  I do so now because the Internet has gone out again.  This has become a daily occurrence.  We don’t have many Internet options here.  One is T-Mobile over their cellular network.  I have ordered a router from them.  I will see if it is a viable option.

I received a birthday card from an American woman I knew decades ago when she and her husband were sailing across the Pacific when I was in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, accompanied in port by Suzanne—and permit me to say that her living in port with me on CT was rare and admirable.  Few women could have done so.  I was only friends with this woman, who remained in Australia—a good decision—and have not seen her for maybe twenty years, but with the failed Internet I am listening to an Australian singer, Gurummul. 

I have written about him in this journal several times before.  When I first heard him over Australian radio I thought what a shame that such a pure original voice would remain unknown.  I was wrong.  He became, briefly, a world wide sensation.  I expect he will soon be completely forgotten, as will I, unless some academic happens across me and wants to further his or her career by ‘discovering’ a forgotten genius.

But I sit here, two Webbs in, having just watched the last lingering orange-gold post sunset glow over Pickney Island.  Early now that we are off Daylight time.  I wish we always were.  I like living with natural rhythms.

Nicole is heading my way.  I do not expect much of it.  As you may know I don’t think storms should be named and I refuse to call it ‘her’.  It is an unknowing it.

A friend emailed concern about Nicole a few days ago.

Here are my responses:

I appreciate your concern.  I get information from many sources, but in fact there is nothing I can do no matter what weather develops that I have not already done.  GANNET is as prepared as she can be.  Lines doubled, etc.  And, although I have been eating into my hurricane supplies as the season draws to a close, I still am fully capable of being self-sufficient for well over a month, and if necessary by rationing, two. Are you?  Is anyone else reading this? I truly have lived on a different dimension and have no way to evacuate and don't want one.  I've been in eight storms of hurricane force at sea.  Never one on land.  However, remaining calm and awaiting events when you can do nothing about them seems to me appropriate.

And to a later email in which he apologized for being alarming and said I was right and he was wrong:

I don't think anyone at this moment is right or wrong.  As I have written, meteorology is not yet an exact science.  I rather expect that with even more powerful computers and better sources of data accumulation, it may be in a decade or so.  Too late for me.  But then I have done well enough by looking at the sky, looking at the sea, looking at the barometer.  And by animal instinct which I expect is more sensitive in me than most.

I have been prepared for the hurricane season since June, as I believe all who live in the hurricane zone should be, but few are.  So when I learn a storm may come this way, I don't have to do much.  At this moment I would need to go down to GANNET and bring back a knapsack of stuff:  the foldable solar panel, solar lights--which I forgot last time; a solar charging flashlight.  I would also need to fill the two 5 gallon jerry cans with water which I have left up here, and fill the bathtub, and bring in the outside furniture.  I can do all that in an hour. 

I might still be killed by a storm if this building collapses, but I would put myself in the safest place possible, and I could have died at sea dozens of times more likely.  

So I pay attention to the weather, but there isn't much I can or need to do if a storm comes my way.  I have lived totally unsupported at sea and unable to call for help for years, probably a decade.  The longest period was two days short of five months.  I would not be one of those in the long lines at supermarkets trying to buy supplies.  Or one of those in long lines on highways evacuating.  

This might seem egotistical, but I don't mean it to be, but I am likely the most prepared for hurricane seasons of anyone in this country or perhaps the world.  I am not your average bear.  I never was, and think that over now eight decades I have proved it quantifiably.  And the words, which are at least as good as my voyages, can't be quantified.

I have faced the natural world unsupported for half a century.  If it finally kills me--no, unquestionably the natural world will finally kill me and relatively soon--I have had a life, and I believe I have done what I was genetically designed to do:  go beyond the limits of human experience and report about it.  What I did not do is send my genes into the future, which seems  to be the most fundamental demand.  

I do not claim to know what is going on and I have tried.   But I have observed and noted in my journal before that consciousness resists unconsciousness in countless, perhaps all species, which is odd because consciousness is fraught with pain, and unconsciousness is not.  And that DNA seems to demand that it be projected into the future in an endless passing of the buck.  Males of many species engage in life threatening combat to try to obtain a mate. Well, I obtained many mates, but I was deliberately careful not to send my DNA into the future.  I did not believe I could be a good father and live the life I wanted to live.  Many artists do not share that value.  They casually leave unloved children behind.  Because of my childhood I could not do to another what had been done to me.

If I make it to next Friday I am going to be 81.  I have already said that I do not fear death, only the probable pain in the process.  It probably hurt to get in here--though we do not consciously remember that.  It is probably going to hurt to get out.

There can be great beauty and joy in between the pain of birth and death which may redeem what I have called our butterfly's cough of life.  I have known such beauty and joy with women on land and alone at sea.  I hope you and others have known such joy, too, wherever and with whomever you found it.

The Internet has come back on.  I think.  

I am going to reread this, which I have written offline.  If you are reading it, I have despite two Webbs decided to post it and am going to pour myself another glass of something.



Saturday, November 5, 2022

Hilton Head Island: small boat cursing; steady; days off

I thank Kent for forwarding a link that he received from Doug Elliott to an article at PRACTICAL SAILOR about small boat cursing (sic.) which is amusing and caused me to consider that perhaps there ought to be a book, THE COMPLETE CURSER.

From Eric in Quebec comes a link to a YouTube film, 'Steady As She Goes', about racing the 161' schooner, GOODWILL, in the 1959 TransPac from Los Angeles to Honolulu.   I thank him.  I do not watch many sailing videos, but I enjoyed this one, despite the narration being over the top, because of the history, the size of the boat, and some dramatic footage of damage she sustained.


1959 was the year I graduated from high school and started college.  Sailboat design and construction has changed a lot since then.  The 73' WINDWARD PASSAGE and the Santa Cruz ultra-lights were transformative.

Of ultra-lights, I got the second and last coat of paint on the bilge of mine on Thursday, and then took yesterday off.  Today, too.  And tomorrow.  I'll sand wood Monday.

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Hilton Head Island: stoop labor: the cows that swam through a hurricane; 65

Many years ago when Carol and I were spending a weekend with three other couples at the summer home of one of them, someone suggested going out to pick wild blackberries.  I demurred, saying, "I don't do stoop labor,"  a comment remembered with bemusement more than twenty years later by one then present.  Well, now I do stoop labor.  Yesterday I spent an hour and a half bent uncomfortably scraping paint from GANNET's bilge and then in the afternoon mopped the porch floor and on my hands and knees wiped it with paper towels.  This morning I painted the bilge, which is of course very small and required much less stooping than yesterday, and then came back to the condo and scrubbed the shower floor on my hands and knees.  Unfortunately I think there is more to come.  I am using a different paint on the bilge, one allegedly intended specifically for that purpose, and I think it is going to require a second coat.

In Apple News+ this morning I came across an interesting, entertaining, and very well written article, 'True Grit', about three feral cows who swam for hours to survive a hurricane on North Carolina's Outer Banks.  I knew of feral horses on the Outer Banks.  I have seen them.  But I did not know about feral cows.  Having spent twenty-six hours in the Atlantic once I can imagine what those indomitable cows went through.  Salt water in your eyes and mouth begins to feel like being stabbed with knives, and I survived solely because of the very same animal will that they did.

I believe you will find the article worth your time.


A friend just celebrated his 65th birthday which caused me to wonder where I was on my 65th which was in 2006.  That long ago?  My word!  Carol and I moved to Evanston in March of that year, so I assumed I was there.  However when I checked this journal I found that I was on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA on her mooring off Opua, New Zealand.  Above is a self-portrait I took that day.  Haven't changed a bit and I still have that shirt.