Friday, September 22, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Ordinary Men; broken; shot; written on water

I watched ORDINARY MEN, an extremely disturbing documentary on Netflix the other evening and highly recommend that you do, too.  In fact if I could I would make viewing compulsory for everyone everywhere.

The documentary is about how and why Germans in special units murdered more than a million Jews.  The Nazis murdered at least six times more than that, but the documentary is only about those police units.  It is disturbing for the footage showing some of the mass murders and because as the title states most of the murderers were not fanatical Nazis or sadistic killers.  They were ordinary men such as are in the majority of every society I have experienced in person or have read about.

I increasingly believe our extreme summer heat has broken.  Long before climate change, the Low Country was too damn hot in the summer.  The marsh has now been pleasant for several days.  I am routinely breakfasting on the screened porch and having a drink there or on the deck in the evening.  High temperatures have been in the high 70s and low 80s F/ mid-20s C.  It is no longer necessary to engage in outdoor activities only in the early morning.  I went for a walk today starting at noon and hardly broke a sweat.  Two weeks ago I would never have even considered a walk at noon.  The marsh is again becoming paradise.

I have two slightly sore arms.  Yesterday I biked four miles to a Walgreens and got the latest COVID and flu shots.  My appointment was at 10:30.  That, too, meant biking later in the day than I would have wanted to not long ago.  

I am not certain how many COVID shots I have had.  Four or maybe five.  Whatever the number I am not susceptible to conspiracy theories and will keep on getting them whenever advised to do so by the CDC.

My main site is back online.  That loud sound you hear is the world’s collective sigh of relief.

It was down for four days.  I was told by various members of the webhost’s support team that a server became corrupted—I expect by spending too much time on social media—and that all the data on it had to be transferred to another server.  In doing so they messed up the connection to mine. After several futile phone calls, eventually I reached a man named Roger who fixed it.  I thank him.

I have the site on an old laptop that I keep just for that purpose, but uploading it presents technical difficulties that are not of much interest.

There is a lot of me in that site.  Perhaps more than any other single place.  And I realize how dependent it is on factors beyond my control.  I have been thinking about what to do about that.

When I was in Fremantle, Australia, now more than twenty years ago during my fifth circumnavigation, some Buddhist monks went to the shore at low tide and drew elaborate and beautiful designs in the sand, knowing they would be erased in a few hours as the tide rose.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Webb Chiles: the movie; down

The day you have so eagerly been waiting for is here.  Safe Harbor released the first episode of their Storytellers series this morning.  If you can endure nine minutes of me, you can view it here.

In the unlikely event you have tried to go to my main site

since yesterday, you will have seen only an error message.  The company hosting the site has a server failure.  They tell me that hopefully the problem will be resolved and the site will be back online later today.

Monday, September 11, 2023

Hilton Head: starring Webb Chiles; still too hot

Not words I ever expected to write, much less see, but it has happened. It only took eighty-one years, but I have been discovered.

I do not recall how many times during those eighty-one years I have been approached by someone with a project.  Books, translations, audiobooks, films.  I have learned that most of these vanish as quickly as a bottle of Laphroaig, and with less satisfaction.  Three men have started to make short films about me.  One has not been heard from for years.  The jury is still out on one.  And one has actually created a film.  Carol and I saw the final version last Thursday.  It is due to be released this coming Friday.

Safe Harbor, which now owns the Skull Creek Marina, as well as more than one hundred other marinas, has decided to produce a series of short films under the title, Storytellers, about people who keep their boats in one of their marinas.  I believe they asked dock masters for recommendations and Ben, who was then the dock master at Skull Creek, submitted me.  I did not seek this and was not aware of it until Safe Harbor decided to begin the series with me and emailed asking if I would be willing to participate.  I agreed, not to promote myself, but because as a writer I care about my words—I know that is inconsistent, but some writers do—and I hope that some who see the film will be interested enough to explore further and read some of my words who otherwise would not have.

So in April Johnny Harrington, who happens to live in Ocean Beach, California, less than a mile from where I docked GANNET in Mission Bay, and three other young men came to Hilton Head and filmed and interviewed me for parts of four days. They are very good at their jobs and I enjoyed observing them work.

The final film is just under nine minutes long.  While naturally there are omissions in reducing eighty-one years, six circumnavigations, seven books, six marriages, another million or so words, and some other relationships, to nine minutes, both Carol and I like the film very much.  I do not believe that I could be portrayed better in that length of time.

There are a few errors in the film.  I did not have the opportunity to fact check it.  Only one of the errors is of much significance and that is where in the opening title sequence it is written of me:  ‘six time solo circumnavigator.’   As some of you know, while I have circumnavigated six times, only three of those voyages have been completely solo—the first, fifth, and sixth.  Jill sailed with me a thousand miles of the second, much of the third, and part of the fourth.  Carol sailed 10,000 miles with me on the fourth.  I have always tried to avoid exaggeration or hyperbole believing that if you do it right, the plain truth is enough.  So if someone comments that Webb Chiles has not made six solo circumnavigations, tell them Webb Chiles agrees.

As I said, the other errors are minor.  A photo of THE HAWKE OF TUONELA is said to be RESURGAM and when that photo is shown RESURGAM is spelled RESERGAM.

I have notified Johnny of the errors, but it is probably too late for them to be corrected.

The film was premiered last Friday at a film festival at Newport, R.I.  I am told that it received a standing ovation.  I am pleased for Johnny and perhaps a little for myself, too.  While it is my life, it is his film and he deserves all the credit for that.

There is a trailer on a Safe Harbor site:

I’ll post a link to the film after Safe Harbor releases it Friday.

I was paid for my starring role somewhat less than the more than $100,000,000 Tom Cruise has reportedly been paid for his starring role in TOP GUN:  MAVERICK.  I was paid my usual nothing.  But then that helps keep my taxes simpler than Tom’s.

Carol flew back to Chicago yesterday.  

I biked down to do some minor chores on GANNET this morning.  I went down before 8 a.m.  The temperature was a reasonable 78F, but with the humidity and no wind, I was soon drowning in sweat.  I wore work clothes, which was a very good idea, because on my return after an hour to the blessedly air-conditioned condo, everything was soaked and is now out in the sun on our deck drying out.

Usually the extreme heat moderates here this month, but it hasn’t yet.  The marsh is still broiling.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Hilton Head Island: GANNET; two disasters; two poems

Carol and I walked to GANNET Sunday morning and found the little boat as I had left her except for some water in the bilge which I pumped and sponged out.  As you may recall GANNET has no through hull fittings, but some water inevitably makes its way from above through two holes where the backstay enters and exits the deck and a leak in the bow I have not been able to locate for more than a decade.  There were not even any bird droppings on the deck.  Good.

I have now spoken to several people who were here during the passing of Idalia all of whom say it was just a windy, rainy day.  Fred, the former dock master of Skull Creek Marina who lives aboard his 31’ sloop, said that the highest gust he saw on his wind instrument was 52 knots, but the the wind was generally in the 30-40 knot range for six hours.  He said that three boats in the marina broke loose.  All because of inadequate dock lines.  Too old or too small or both.

Here is the link to a long, but I found interesting article about the greatest peacetime disaster in the history of the United States Navy.  I knew of this, but not the details.

I was among those who thought ‘dead reckoning’ had evolved from ‘deduced reckoning’.  Wikipedia says otherwise:

Contrary to myth, the term "dead reckoning" was not originally used to abbreviate "deduced reckoning," nor is it a misspelling of the term "ded reckoning." The use of "ded" or "deduced reckoning" is not known to have appeared earlier than 1931, much later in history than "dead reckoning" appearing as early as 1613 in the Oxford English Dictionary. The original intention of "dead" in the term is generally assumed to mean using a stationary object that is "dead in the water" as a basis for calculations. Additionally, at the time the first appearance of "dead reckoning," "ded" was considered a common misspelling of "dead." This potentially led to later confusion of the origin of the term.

A second disaster is imminent actually counting climate change, this is a third.

Sixty years ago a perspicacious college student wrote that throughout our history the mass of homo sapiens provided muscle power and a gene pool neither of which was any longer necessary.  What he postulated in 1960 is obvious now, or if it isn’t to some, it soon will be.

Here is an article stating that in a little over ten years 38%-65% of the jobs in Las Vegas may be automated.  That’s a lot of unemployed bartenders.

I have read that the two most famous Chinese poets are Li Po and Tu Fu.  Both names are Anglicized in various ways.  They lived at the same time and met one another.  During his lifetime Li Po was well known and admired.  Tu Fu was not.  Li Po was born about 701 AD and died in 762.  I have posted some of his poems here in past entries.  Tu Fu was born 712 AD and died in 770.  They met in 744 and remained friends, both writing poems to the other.

Here are two poems written by Tu Fu toward the end of his life.


Saturday, September 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: capititerraphobia cured


A little after 8 PM here and this is what I am seeing from my chair by our bedroom window while listening to Handel’s ‘Water Music’ and sipping Plymouth gin.  Not exceptional, but beautiful and tranquil.

Last evening Carol and I sipped margaritas—no reason to pretend—and ate lobster rolls and sirloin sliders beside Lake Michigan.  It was pleasant.  

A young boy was playing in the water with a body board.  I am not a good judge of age.  Perhaps he was nine or ten.  He was a skinny kid.  I said to Carol ‘that is me seventy years ago’. I was a skinny, weird kid who has become a skinny, weird old man.

The boy tried unsuccessfully to catch some of the small waves coming ashore.  I could see that he was not judging them correctly.  He was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but then he got it right and caught two and got a few seconds ride in to his joy.  I was happy for him.  Take whatever moments of joy come your way, and even better take whatever moments of joy that would never have existed had you not created them.

I never board surfed.  I body surfed and I caught my last wave a little over two decades ago at age sixty off a small island in Brazil’s Baia da Ilha Grande.  I do not recall the name of the island and it does not matter.  Carol and I had sailed from Rio de Janeiro forty miles or so west and anchored.  

We soon learned that the few buildings on the shore were mostly family homes and a few surfer hostels.  

As we sat drinking our morning coffee in the cockpit we saw locals come from their homes and set up plastic chairs and tables on the beach.  Late in the morning day trip boats with masts but always under power arrived from the mainland a half dozen miles away and disgorged passengers who rushed to the tables and ate and drank, before re-embarking for the trip back.  

Carol and I often joined them, rowing ashore, pulling the Avon up the beach, tying it to a palm tree, and enjoying very inexpensive and good grilled shrimp and cold beers.

Sometimes we followed the surfers over a ridge to the ocean side of the island which had then as beautiful unspoiled beach as I have seen.  I hope it still is. 

That is where I caught my last wave.  The ride remains in my mind.  A long one.  

I will not seek another.  My almost severed supra spinatus cannot be risked being slammed into a seabed.

I do not regret there will never be another body surfing wave.  I have known enough, and unless time and chance destroy me there will be more waves, hopefully with GANNET and me above them.

As we flew from Chicago this morning I thought:  this is probably my last flight from the Midwest.  I will fly back once more next year, but Carol will drive us away.

I have written that some of my countrymen I most admire were Midwesterners:  Lincoln; Grant; Twain: Truman.  But I am perhaps the most misborn Midwesterner ever.  A creature of the open ocean born a thousand miles from the sea.  Inevitably I found my natural element.  All creatures do or die trying, and I often almost did die trying.

I am so—I hesitate for the word—Glad.  Happy.  Yes.  But mostly just content to know that it is likely that for whatever is left of my life only a few weeks will be spent away from the ocean.


I paused.  Night has fallen.  Outside the window all is dark except for a few lights in the marina.  My glass is almost empty.  There is little in the bottle still in the refrigerator.  I think I will drink it going twice beyond the two glass limit.  I reflect upon my life and find that I am still alive and writing this to you at almost age 82 beggars the imagination.  I say that without pride, but with incredulity.  Yet I seem still to be here and seem still to be moving.  I like to think forward.  But who knows.  At least I am moving.



Thursday, August 31, 2023

Lake Forest: safe—for now; a notable sail

I have received emails this morning from the marina and the condo management company which confirm that as I expected there has been no damage.  I ran a GRIB yesterday morning which indicated winds would be 30-40 knots with gusts to 50.  I don’t know that they were even that strong.  The highest recorded wind in the area I have found is 52 mph at Savannah.  When the eye of the storm was inland closest to Hilton Head last evening, the sites I checked online were showing wind in the low 20s.  

The hurricane season is far from over.  September is historically the most active month.  A new system has just emerged from Africa.  If another storm reaches Hilton Head I will experience it first hand.

I thank Robert for a link to a record breaking sail across the Atlantic in a Transat Mini sailboat.

I am particularly impressed by Jay Thompson’s tenacity and the repairs to the rudder he made underway.  Well done.

Initially I was skeptical about ‘thousands of Minis and their owners’ having sailed across the Atlantic, I googled and find the race has been run almost every other year since the 1970s and so perhaps a thousand or so have.

Transat Minis are slightly shorter than GANNET, displace about the same, are beamier and have much more sail area.

  Here are the numbers for a Moore 24.

They also cost much more, often in excess of $100,000. 

Saturday, August 26, 2023

Lake Forest: 60; journey 2

There are 60 soccer matches on television today.  Actually there are more, but I only have access to sixty.  Additionally the U.S. college football season starts with a game between Notre Dame and Navy played in Dublin, Ireland, and the U.S. and the International finals in the Little League World Series are played this afternoon.  I am going to be busy.

The second half of JOURNEY is less interesting than the first and is, as are all general histories, bottom heavy toward recent events and fads before time winnows them.  The last tenth of the book covers the past eighty years, disproportionate I think for a journey that begins 5,000 years ago.  Here, however, are a few things I found of interest in the last half of JOURNEY.

Of the bicycle, which came into mass popularity toward the end of the 19th Century:

Of camping which also became popular about 1900;

Of immigration:  “In the 1880s alone nine percent of the total population of Norway immigrated to the United States.”

And here is a photo of Mulberry Street in New York City’s Little Italy in 1900.

The authors of JOURNEY write mindlessly of ‘conquering’ nature and of ‘adventure’.  If you have been reading here a while you know that I understand we do not conquer mountains or oceans or deserts or ice, we merely transit them, and you know that I consider adventure to be avoided.

Here is an except about climbing Everest.

The top photo of this entry is captioned:  ‘Permanently fixed ropes and ladders have made Everest easier to climb.’

Is that supposed to be good?

There are no fixed ropes or ladders around Cape Horn.

Now you will have to excuse me.  I have fifty-seven and a half more soccer games to watch.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Lake Forest: journey

Via BookBud I came across a Smithsonian book:  JOURNEY:  AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST TRAVELS.  Although it is not sufficiently up to date to include me, it is very interesting.  I am only about halfway through its more than 1100 pages, most of which are illustrations.  Covering migrations, trade, conquests, explorations, and finally tourism, from ancient times almost to the present, the descriptions of individuals and their travels are necessarily brief and incomplete.  I am surprised that they did not go back even farther to the first migration of some of our species from Africa, which is where the journey really begins.

Here are a few of the illustrations and words from the first half of the book.

The strikingly pure and beautiful hull above is a 9th Century Viking burial ship.

Marco Polo leaving Venice.


The Cantino Planisphere, completed in 1502, showing the world as known by the Portuguese after the voyage of Vasco de Gama.

The shipwreck of Vitus Bering’s ship on an uninhabited island 109 miles off Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula on the return from his second voyage to what is now Alaska and the straits that bear his name.  Of the 77 survivors, 31 died during the winter, including Bering.  The 46 survivors eventually built a boat from the wreckage and reached the mainland.

The arrival of Captain Cook’s RESOLUTION and DISCOVERY at Kealakelua Bay, Hawaii, in 1779, where he was killed on February 14.

And some words.

Those who sail close to the shore never discover new lands.  —Andre Gide

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.  —Herodotus, 440 B.C. (about a system of horsemen in the Persian Empire of Cyrus the Great, somewhat later adopted by the U.S. Postal Service.)

Unlike the mediocre, intrepid spirits seek victory over those things that seem impossible.  —Ferdinand Magellan

Do just once what others say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their limitations again.  —Captain James Cook

Ambition leads me not only to go farther than any man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.  —Captain James Cook

And finally,

Monday, August 21, 2023

Lake Forest: spinning; captiterraphobia relapse

After weeks of the National Hurricane site showing ‘No Activity Expected In Next Seven Days’, the Atlantic has become active.  At the moment none of these systems seems likely to be significant, but that is a lot of spinning.

Like malaria, captiterraphobia, my self-diagnosed and named disease of fear of being trapped by land, once contracted never leaves the body, though it can go into remission, in my case when at sea or on the coast.  Lake Forest is very pleasant.  Carol and I again had drinks and dinner on the beach last evening.  But my symptoms are increasing.  I am daily more anxious to get to Hilton Head.  A week from Saturday.  I am counting the days.  Almost the minutes.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Lake Forest: a novelist; a composer; a painter; a poet


Above is the inspiring dedication to the novel, POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS OF BRAS CUBAS by Machado De Assis, of whom I have written here before, the most famous Brazilian novelist of the 19th Century.  This is the third book of his I have read after happening across him when BookBud offered a volume of his short stories.  All have been original, interesting, and entertaining.  He is probably the greatest writer of whom I had not known.  

The POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS are the autobiography of Bras Cubas written as indicated after his death. Remember this is a work of fiction.  Bras Cubas was a wealthy resident of Rio de Janeiro, mostly a dilettante, and his memoirs are largely about a long affair he had with a married woman.  In the telling of this, style is everything and  the self-educated Machado de Assis, whose mother was a washerwoman and whose father a house painter, has style in exuberant abundance.

I am not the only one who wonders why De Assis is not more widely known and read.  Here is a link to an article that wonders, too.

Ottorino Respighi’s music sounds to me as though it were written centuries ago, but his life almost overlaps mine.  He was born in 1879 and died in 1936.

I just realized that everyone I am writing about in this entry, I have written about before.  Respighi appears again because a couple of evenings ago when I put on headphones to avoid hearing what poses as the evening network news which Carol was watching, I listened again to his ‘THREE BOTTICELLI PICTURES’.

Here is a link to a performance of the music.

Here a link to an article explaining the three paintings which include perhaps the greatest image of female beauty ever created.

I just finished THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY for the second time.  On this reading I was particularly impressed by some poems by Robert Frost that revealed aspects of him I did not know, enough so that I bought a book of his poems and am now reading them.

Here is one from the SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY that impressed me.

I have probably said this here before—I have certainly said it often in recent emails to friends—we fly to Hilton Head two weeks tomorrow.  I to stay the rest of this year; Carol to stay ten days and return again for Thanksgiving and for Christmas.  Lake Forest is very pleasant and Hilton Head will still be brutally hot in early September.  I saw online a map of the United States showing admissions to emergency rooms due to heat and Hilton Head is in the second highest area, exceeded only by most of Texas and parts of Arizona.  Heat related admissions in Hilton Head are eight times higher than in Chicago.  Nevertheless I am eager to get back.  I miss the ocean.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Lake Forest: deck sailing; on the beach; soccer; unstitched

Kent, of Audrey and Kent’s Armada fame, can build things.  I who cannot am very impressed and jealous.  One of his most recent constructions is this work deck which now is a sailing deck.  Kent informs me that he plans to take another photo with the sail pointing the other way because he thinks the closer end of the deck may be the bow.  I don’t know how he can tell.  To me she looks like a double-ender.  

I thank him for permission to share this charming photo and wish him fair winds.

Last evening Carol drove us down to the lake front for drinks and dinner.  We have done this at least once a week since I flew back at the beginning of July.  Last evening was perfect.  81F/27C.  A slight breeze.  The lake almost flat.  Lovely.

Great days for soccer.  All four of the women’s World Cup quarter finals were close.  Three matches ended 2-1 and Australia went through over France in a penalty shootout that went to the ninth round.  I think any of the four remaining teams could lift the cup, but with New Zealand out, I am hoping Australia does.

And the men’s European leagues are starting their new seasons this weekend.  

I am unstitched and no longer look like a member of the Addams Family.  Well, perhaps I still do, but at least there are no plastic sutures sticking out of my head.  This scar is my biggest.  So far.  I am very proud.  For some reason I thought it would be horizontal, but it is vertical and slightly diagonal.  Having no hair to part, I now part my skull in the middle.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

Lake Forest: Whistler: Socrates and Dylan Thomas; not the monastery

Not long after Carol and I moved from Boston to Evanston in 2006 I said one evening, “We are going to have to buy more bookshelves.”  We had then as now two standing bookshelves each six feet high and two and a half feet wide.  That is thirty feet of books, but I am a reader and they were full.  However shortly thereafter I discovered ebooks and have seldom bought a paper book since.  Only when there is something I really want to read that is not in a Kindle edition.  I have owned several Kindles, but my present ereader of choice is my iPad mini.  It has a color screen and can do more than a Kindle, including serve as a chartplotter.  I have at least five hundred books in it and it takes up less space than one.

I think Carol and I are in agreement that when she retires and we move full time to Hilton Head almost everything in this apartment is going to be disposed of, one way or the other.  So I went over the bookshelves a few days ago to see if there is anything here I want to read again before then and came up with a few books:  BY A SLOW RIVER by Phillips Claudel; BIRDSONG by Sebastian Faulks; WARTIME WRITINGS by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and I, JAMES McNEILL WHISTLER by Lawrence Williams.

I just finished reading WHISTLER, which is a novel written as though Whistler were writing his own autobiography.  Whistler was a very witty man and the book is very entertaining.  I googled afterwards and find that as I remembered it is mostly factually true to his life.

Two quotes from the book I particularly like:

‘And I, myself, made the statement, under oath in an English court of law, that I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, an agreeable lie, no more.  All the really matters is that I was also born an artist.  I later became a painter because, after all, an artist must do something.’

That was presumably made up by Mr. Williams, but this is from the transcript of Whistler’s libel suit against John Ruskin for libel after Ruskin’s comments about Whistler’s painting, ‘Nocturne in Black and Gold’, depicting fireworks over the Thames.  The Attorney-General was Ruskin’s lead lawyer acting in a private capacity.

Attorney-General:  Now, Mr. Whistler.  Can you tell me how long it took you to knock off this nocturne?

Whistler:  Well…to ‘knock off’ that nocturne…as I remember it, about a day.

Attorney-General:  Only a day?

Whistler:  Well, I won’t be positive.  I may have still put a few more touches to it the next day if the painting were not dry.  I had better say then that I was two days work on it.

Attorney-General:  Oh, two days!   The labor of two days, then, is that for which you ask two hundred guineas!

Whistler:  No.  I ask it for the knowledge of a lifetime.


Whistler won his case.  He was asking damages of £1,000.  He was awarded one farthing.  A farthing was one-quarter of a penny.  The legal costs of the case bankrupted Whistler, and Ruskin, though insane, had great influence and no one bought Whistler’s paintings for many years.

This morning I came across Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night’ in THE SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY.

Somewhere long ago—perhaps in STORM PASSAGE, but I am not sure—I wrote of the two antithetical attitudes toward death of Socrates, who said, ‘Why should I fear death because when I am, death is not, and when death is, I am not.’  And Dylan Thomas’ words to his father, ‘Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.’

I in my old age am probably closer to Socrates than Thomas, or would like to be.  I have said that I expect oblivion with equanimity though I am apprehensive about the probable pain in the process.  However I doubt the animal in me, which has kept me alive many times when I could easily have died, is going to go quietly.

From what I read Dylan Thomas was a most disagreeable man, but he was a fine poet.

From Larry comes this link to what I called a re-imagining of the monastery of the sea.  A ship for those who want to go to sea with 7,000 of their closest friends without ever having to see the sea or even know they are on it, a ship so huge it would make the TITANIC look like a tug boat.  I know we are herd animals, but this is absurd.  It even looks absurd.

Larry replied, ‘The monstrosity of the sea’.  



Monday, August 7, 2023

Lake Forest: STORM PASSAGE revisited


Saturday morning I had the unexpected pleasure of an email from a man who asks that his name not be used, so I refer to him as ‘D’.  I have thought about that email now for two days and how much of it to share with you.  I have decided at the risk of immodesty to share most of it, trusting that I will be forgiven for taking satisfaction that a few are still reading and appreciating words I wrote now almost a half century ago.  We all can occasionally use some encouragement, even me. 

As I have said before, STORM PASSAGE is the book I have been most tempted to revise.  I was more brash then, but I was unproven then, to everyone, and most of all to myself.  The voyage in EGREGIOUS was the test.  Ultimately I passed it to my satisfaction and perhaps to others.   

I have not made revisions because I believe STORM PASSAGE is true to the man I then was.  Fifty years later I am still the same man, but I have revised myself.

For those who don’t know, my first two attempts at Cape Horn failed because of rigging damage.  My third succeeded despite EGREGIOUS having a cracked hull for almost all the five month passage from San Diego around the Horn finally ending in Auckland, New Zealand, because the sails were shredded almost beyond use and the boat was sinking out from under me.  Toward the end I was bailing seven tons of water every twenty-four hours out of the cabin with a bucket.  I went on to complete a two stop circumnavigation in what was then world record time for a solo circumnavigation in a monohull and during which I became the first American to round Cape Horn alone.

In the selections below, those through page 140 were written during the first two failed attempts.  Those after, during the successful circumnavigation.

I find it interesting to see what words D chose to select and which he didn’t.

I have not reread STORM PASSAGE myself for many years and had forgotten some of the selections, but I have also remembered many, including the imaginary sailor on the third planet around Antares, and Carol and I were talking a few evenings ago about the huge pod of what I believe were pilot whales.


Hi Webb, 

I catch up on your blog every week or so. It's an exercise in contrast that gives me an excellent feeling. I think the good feeling comes from a contrast of time and eternity (cultural eternity, you know, which is as good as it gets). Daily contrasted with centuries, say. 

There's the cultural permanence of your life and books. Not many people have done that. Have made their worthwhile and benevolent mark, that will always be there for anyone to happen upon or seek out. Maybe we all look to various people who have done that, in order to enjoy the "long" perspective on existence. (Probably even those who have actually accomplished it.) 

Then there's you right there in your blog. Daily life. Everyone has a daily life, and it's also a lovely thing. The first lovely thing, from which some people can make the other -- something culturally permanent. There's Webb Chiles -- same man, same life. But the books and the blog offer contrasting perspectives that feel very good, viewed side by side.

I say all that by way of making sense of, I hope, forwarding you my copybook of Storm Passage. (Kindle books make this a no-labor process as I'm reading a book, and I'm glad of that.) 

It's a strange thing to do ... to quote a man's best paragraphs, back to him. But Storm Passage is so enjoyable and strengthening, it's a favor to the world to promote it from time to time. Here are my favorite passages, if you think it useful or appropriate to share them in your blog.

Otherwise, just take them as a 'thank you' and a wave. 


Webb Chiles’ Storm Passage: 

Some people who have known me relatively well have seen my

desire to sail around the world alone as an obsession. They have

been partially right, but the obsession has been with greatness,

with the heroic, of which the voyage is one possible


-Page 17

I have rung for the cabin boy to come and sluice down the

deck, but regret I must report that this ship is run by nepotism.

The cabin boy bears a striking resemblance to the captain.

-Page 20

As I stand on the companionway steps, my head and shoulders

above deck, the bow seems always to be pointing downward; as

though we sail down the face of a gradually rising wave, miles

down a gigantic crest, sailing not upon—but into—the sea.

-Page 25

I write to several possible audiences. I write to myself. I write

to those I love and to my personal friends. I write to an unknown

boy who lives in a crowded city far from the sea. I write to those

who love solitude and sailing and the sea. And I write perhaps

most of all to a being who may exist only in my perhaps-too-vivid


One night more than a year ago, a few months after Egregious

had been built, I sat looking up at the stars from her deck. In the

southern sky was the constellation we know as Scorpio, with its

brightest star, Antares. I had been wondering how many other

planets have oceans and beings who love to sail upon them; and

as I gazed toward Antares, I became convinced that at that

moment someone on the third planet of Antares was preparing

to sail across its seas, just as I was ours, and that he was thinking

of me, as I of him, and that across space we both knew and

understood. So I write this also to my friend on Antares.

A fanciful, childish thought? But I don't wish to grow any


-Page 24

 I feel as though I have struggled for twenty years for nothing, that I have always deluded myself that I am an exceptional man. I am thirty-three. By that age men have conquered empires, written masterpieces. I have done nothing but scribble away on my worthless autobiography. An autobiography of failure. The only arts I have mastered are those of suffering and self-pity. That I so wanted this to be a good time in my life, that I fear I will always fail at that which is most important to me, or spend years trying to accomplish what others have done more easily. Living not on the edge of human experience, but failing in its backwash. This dream of mine—this great glorious chimerical dream—has cost too much.

I try to step aside and view myself objectively. I try to tell myself that I must fight against this mood, and for a few moments—sometimes even a few hours—I succeed. Yet always it returns and often with increased strength, feeding upon itself; for there is nothing else for me to think about while we roll on to Tahiti, still more than 1,400 miles distant. I try hard to suspend thought about the future, but I am not by nature passive enough to live in suspended animation for two weeks. I had thought I might exorcise my pain by writing, but I do not know if I have not made it worse instead. I hope that your voyage is going better for you, my friend near Antares, than mine is here. I am going to force myself to read and occupy my mind with something else.

-Page 28

One might scoff that Euripedes' characters are only myths. Yes, and so am I.

-Page 51

It has been said that we do not live in a heroic age, but that is

not true. During my lifetime, epics have been enacted time and

again. But they have always been epics of evil and the only men

of heroic scale have been monsters.

Precisely against such men and such an age, I affirm my belief

in the importance of my private dream; in the value of any

dream to which an individual devotes his life and which harms

no one else. My dream of simple pleasure has become only a

more complex pain. I will live with that pain. I will try to keep it

in perspective. But I will not lose it or myself in the statistics of

mass horror or in the trivial concerns of the sybaritic shadows

that in this age pass as men.

-Page 60

I have sat today inside the cabin, as remote from the land as if I

were back at sea, reading Ludwig's biography of Napoleon, who

at my age was made First Counsel of France for life. When I was

a child, I used to read the biographies of great men to learn how

they became great; only to find that the biographers quickly

passed over the process by which the great man elevated himself

—or was elevated—from obscurity. Now I know that what is called 

genius stems only from an inexplicable innate belief in

oneself, which in turn creates a perseverance in one's efforts that

is unfailing. One cannot help but to continue to believe in oneself,

 so one cannot help but persevere and endure. Once I took those virtues lightly,

 but they are everything. Everything but luck.

-Page 81

Almost certainly I was seen from the island. Few boats pass this

way, so I imagine that many Raivavaens are speculating this

evening on who I am, where I came from, and where I am going.

They are all good questions. I often speculate about them


-Page 91

There is nothing ugly out here but me; and at this moment

when I want for nothing, when I am no longer striving, when I

am not in a process of becoming but of being, when I am whole,

complete, one, transcendent, I am also transcended and do not

exist, except as an essential part of the beauty around me. How

incredible that this should happen here as I enter the Forties.

How incredible that it should happen anywhere.

-Page 98

My response to the most recent breakage surprises me. I find

that I do not care. I think I will go back to San Diego and return

to work and live a quiet, normal life. I long for the fragile beauty

of flowers in bloom and green fields and thickly wooded hillsides

and for the soft caress of a woman I love. That my twenty-year

dream should die overnight does not seem possible. Yet it seems

to be true. And I have no regrets.

DAY 56 · January 13

THE storm has passed, leaving swells from the north and a light

wind from the south, before which we wallow northeast at 2

knots. The sails collapse and refill an average of fourteen times a


THE numb indifference which protected me yesterday is gone. I

feel acutely the pain of failure, but with that pain has come the

knowledge that I will again attempt to sail around the world

alone. I do not know if I will be able to try again this coming

November, or if I will try again in this boat. My own words

sustain me: If I truly believe in myself, I have no choice but to


-Page 106-107

DURING all too much of my life I have played the role of the

extraordinary man who would be a hero in a decadent age, the

original individual who could find fulfillment only at sea.

Yet I have known and said that I am not only a sailor, but also a

writer and a voluptuary and an ascetic. This voyage has brought

me some fulfillment, and, if successful, certainly would have

brought me more. But it has also brought the understanding

that I will not find complete fulfillment at sea anymore than I

have found it in women or solitude or writing. I have said that I

am a child, but to have thought as I did that my life would be a

success after the completion of this voyage, was being too much

of a child.

Nothing seems important tonight. Everything has failed.

-Page 108

LAST night I deliberately turned Egregious back toward Cape

Horn. It is not an act of which I am proud. I had just reread my

brave boasts of the past, and they overcame all logic and reason.

Unfortunately, they do not make the rig stronger and they will

not keep the mast up in a gale. After lying sleepless in my bunk

for three hours, I went on deck and changed course to the


-Page 109

AN eerie night. There is no moon, and the stars are obscured by

clouds. We sail through absolute blackness. No phosphorescence

outlines wave or wake. Always there has been some light,

but tonight not the least glimmer. The light and dark of space

have become one and none, as though primordial currents were

again flowing blindly toward another unknowing genesis. I peer

about, futilely seeking any variation in shade or form, but the

cutter ghosts from nothing into nothingness, until I add to the

depths of obscurity by falling asleep.

-Page 110

IN the early evening I read until 8:30, when I went on deck to

watch the gibbous moon appear and disappear behind scattered

clouds and the moonlight sparking on the water and the pale

sails against the night sky.

-Page 114

A moonless night. Cold rain. Breaking waves. At 10:00 P.M. I

undress and go naked onto the deck, deliberately leaving my

safety harness below. Mostly there is the terrible cold and the

fear that I will slip—I have been afraid twice before on the

voyage: in Papeete Pass and the very first instant I thought there

was a crack in the hull—but I know what I am doing and make

my way forward, past the mast, past the storm jib, then the final

few feet until I stand in the very bow, fingers clutching the

headstay. Freezing water beats down from the sky and up from

the sea against my flesh. I lean forward beyond the bow, far

beyond where the guardrail and lifelines would be, and look

back at Egregious roaring through the wild sea. For perhaps a

full minute I hang there until I feel my numb fingers begin to

shake uncontrollably. There is a moment when the headstay is

slipping from my grasp, I am about to fall into darkness, and

time stops. The white panthers of the sea. An ordeal of grandeur.

Mary. The broken tangs. The transcendent hours at

39°South. Porpoises. Raivavae disappearing behind us. The

groaning rudder. The overflowing bilge. The spectral sea of

Albert Ryder. Bach in the Roaring Forties. The grinding mast.

The surge of speed to 11 knots. The white heron. I want the sea

for my unmarked grave. Sailing beneath the full moon. Winds

and waves of torment cease. Papeete Pass and the palms clustered

on the point south of Paea. The voyage has not been the

vision I had, but I have lived as intensely as I had hoped. To

speak would be unthinkable, and the only possible words unnecessary:

I am. My hands drop helplessly open. I twist as I fall

and manage to land on the steeply inclining deck, across which I

slide until I stop myself with my arms wedged against the deck

coaming. I do not believe I have ever been so cold. Each wave

washes away more of my meager remaining strength as I crawl

slowly aft until at last I fall through the companionway.

-Page 133 to 134

Point Loma has become visible and is now a silhouette 1/2 mile

to the west. Within that dark shape, darker hollows more sensed

than seen are filled with the cries of gulls, whose restless forms

fall through the somber sky above the cliffs.

POINT Loma cleared at 5:14 P.M.

Ahead the lights of the city come on as I sail up the bay.

Egregious man, boat, voyage, life. Smile, fool, and sail on.

-Page 140

I often think that those men who compromise

or abandon their dreams do so from a pathetic inability to

imagine their own deaths. They live as though death were optional.

I know that I could not contentedly face my death after a

life in which I was no more than a lover of women

-Page 197

I have often gazed up into the night sky and known that if Egregious

were able to rise from the sea and I voyage alone through space

never to return to earth, I would set my course that instant not

for the nearest but the farthest star.

-Page 198

I deliberately resist the role of the great loner, but people

cannot be alone for as long as I have and not be affected by that

austere solitude. Last year I defined myself as a sailor, writer,

voluptuary, ascetic. Two hundred eighteen days alone have

made me more adventurer and ascetic than lover. The most

passionate of men is also the most celibate. Presumably, when I

return to shore, I will become gregarious again; but at the

moment it seems as though what I will gain in gratification of one

pleasure will be lost in the denial of another.

-Page 198

I have been rereading Samuel Eliot Morison's great biography

of Columbus. He had firm religious faith to sustain him.

Even in moments of contentment, sea life is hard. For me there is

only the image of myself I must try to live up to.

-Page 200

AT the sound of something breaking the surface of the water for

the first time in 10,000 miles, I glanced aft to see an apparently

endless procession of dolphins and what looked like small whales

gamboling toward us. They all swam together in one great pod.

The dolphins were about 3 feet long, with grey backs and tan

bellies. The other species—much the more numerous—

averaged 8 to 10 feet in length, although some were more than

14. They had high-domed foreheads, a white stripe near the eye

and a white patch aft of their dorsal fin. Hundreds of them swam

very near, seeming to pass to windward by choice, and when a

series of breaking waves approached, a dozen or so hurried over

to surf down the crests. It took more than forty minutes before

the procession was gone and I again had the ocean to myself. I

could not help but wonder what they feed upon. Whatever it is,

the amount necessary to sustain so many creatures living together

must be enormous, and their effect, as they pass, devastating.

-Page 200

Briefly I consider the future and wonder what an obsessed

man does when he has fulfilled his obsession.

When he was a young man, St. Augustine prayed, "God, make

me pure—but not yet." There will be other commitments and

other voyages for me, including another solo rounding of Cape

Horn—after all, who, having visited hell, would not, given the

opportunity, return to see if it really was as bad as he remembered.

But, like St. Augustine, I say "Not yet." For the moment, I

have no ambition beyond lying in the sun like a lizard and

swimming tomorrow in the warm sea off Maeva Beach. I know I

will tire of indolence, that having lived on the edge of life, I can

never return for long to something less. The intensity is too

intoxicating. But not yet.

-Page 246

In Auckland, Suzanne and I attended an exhibit of Chinese

art. One of the objects was a figure holding aloft thirty-two

concentric spheres, only the outer half dozen of which were

visible, all carved from a single piece of ivory. The satisfaction of

the artist upon completing carving all thirty-two spheres and

knowing that each—even the innermost which would never be

seen—was perfect, is the same as that of a man who completes a

solo circumnavigation, who fulfills any dream, even though no

one else knows.

I smile to myself as Egregious sails slowly across the dusky

harbor; and behind the sea-etched face of the man, a small boy

grins because he has made his dream come true.

Egregious man, boat, voyage, life.

The fool smiles and sails on.

-Page 248, end