Sunday, December 31, 2023

Hilton Head Island: the last lighthouse keeper; a very small boat

The United States last lighthouse keeper retires today.  She is 72 year old Sally Snowman who has been the keeper of Boston Light, the U.S.’s oldest lighthouse, shown above.  Mrs. Snowman has had an almost life long affinity for the lighthouse and was even married there.

I had read of her retirement in brief articles and thank Larry who sent me a link to this most informative piece from THE DAILY MAIL.  I found it interesting and perhaps you will too.

Carol and I lived in Boston for several years and we often sailed past Boston Light as we are in my only magazine cover.  There is a story behind that photo. 

Carol and I met and were married in 1994.  Two years later we formulated what was my second five year plan, this one to go sailing on what was intended to be an open ended voyage.  We completed that plan early in 2001 and were preparing to depart around June 1.  Carol resigned her position as the joint number two in a firm of more than fifty architects, behind only the two founding partners.  We had savings, but the income from my writing was going to be important.

When I completed my first circumnavigation in October of 1976 I had about $2000 left.  I just checked an inflation calculator and that would be about $10,600 now.  So I had some time before starvation and I had completed the book that would become STORM PASSAGE and sent the manuscript to my literary agent in New York.  I also put EGREGIOUS up for sale.  Both book and boat sold at about the same time which pushed starvation beyond the horizon.

I turned two episodes from STORM PASSAGE into magazine articles.  One about the day of the rounding of Cape Horn I sent to YACHTING.  Another about the capsize in cyclone Colin in the Tasman I sent to SAIL.  Both magazines bought the articles, but Patience Wales, the editor of SAIL, included a request that I call her.  I did and so ended up publishing in the United States primarily in SAIL for the next twenty-five years.  However in 2001 when I wanted an agreement from a magazine to buy four articles a year at an agreed upon price, Patience Wales was retiring and her replacement had not been appointed, so no one at SAIL could make that commitment.  I contacted the then editor of CRUISING WORLD, for which I had occasionally written, and when he learned that I was soon to be off sailing the world again, he immediately agreed.

He sent a professional photographer to Boston to get some shots that the magazine would eventually use.  The above is one of them, but not their first choice.

Carol and I sailed as planned around June 1–I don’t remember the exact date.  Our first stop was in the Azores, then on to Lisbon.  I wrote an article about that first passage and it was published in the above issue.  I don’t know that you will be able to read the date on the cover  but it was November 2001 and would have been released a month earlier, and I know you will remember what happened in September 2001.

The photo that had been intended to be on the cover of the November issue showed THE HAWKE OF TUONELA sailing in front of the towers of downtown Boston.  After 9-11 the editors felt it was insensitive to show a skyline, so we have THE HAWKE OF TUONELA off Boston Light.

There are small boats and there are small boats.  Most people think GANNET is small and they are right.  Almost all would think CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE or Steve Earley’s SPARTINA small and they too are right.  But Matt’s John Welsford designed Scamp is decidedly smaller.  Less than 12’ overall.  The New Zealander, John Welsford, who designed the Scamp also designed Steve Earley’s Pathfinder, SPARTINA.

Matt lives in Tasmania.  We have communicated by email for a few years and he sent me a link to a video he made of his circumnavigating Bruny Island.  I enjoyed it and am impressed by some of the speeds he and the tiny boat achieved in part current aided, but still faster than I would have expected.  Well done, Matt, both the sail and the video.

Here’s the link for your possible new year’s enjoyment.  A lovely part of the world.  I have passed and seen Tasmania north and south but never stopped.


Friday, December 29, 2023

Hilton Head Island: too small


Have you ever felt that life has become too small?  I do and am.

I wrote more and have deleted it.

May life again become epic.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Hilton Head Island: iSailor lives; another outboard; a poem for this and all seasons

A few weeks ago I heard a rumor that iSailor, my choice of chartplotting apps, had gone out of business, so I opened the app and tried to reach its chart store without success.  This was a significant disappointment.  The app itself and the charts I already have on my devices—iPad Pro, iPad mini, iPhone—are still useable, but I only learned of iSailor in Durban, South Africa, and so there are parts of the world I might someday sail of which I do not have iSailor charts.  I do have them in iNavX, but iNavX limits you to only two activations and I have used mine.

I considered alternatives and downloaded the C-Map and Navionics apps.  One of those—I think it was C-Map—required me to buy a subscription before even opening the app, and the other, Navionics which apparently now belongs to Garmin, was far from intuitive.

I had pretty much decided to go with what I already have from iSailor and iNavX, buying additional charts from iNavX as necessary.  

iNavX no longer carries Navionics charts, but has gone to its own propriety charts, some of which are very expensive and still can be activated only twice.  One of the advantages of iSailor is that once you buy charts from them you can download the charts as many times as you wish to as many devices as you wish.

Both iSailor and iNavX do everything I want from a chartplotting app and considerably more.  My needs are simple:  position, speed, heading, set waypoints, bearing and distance to waypoints and other objects.

I had intended to write this journal post about the end of iSailor, but yesterday I made one last attempt to reach their chart store and to my pleasant surprise I succeeded.  As a test I tried to buy and download their chart folio of New Zealand to my iPad Pro.  It worked.  I then downloaded that folio to my iPhone and to my iPad mini.  All good.  So I proceeded to buy charts of other areas, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere and Canada where I might possibly someday sail.  It all worked.  I now have the world covered on all three devices.

When you buy charts from iSailor or iNavX you are paying for a subscription that automatically renews after one year when you will again be charged the full original price and be provided with the latest updates.  I routinely go to the app store as soon as I have bought charts and cancel the auto-renewal.  However the folio for my local waters covering the coast from Norfolk, Virginia, to Cape Canaveral, Florida, only costs $4.59 from iSailor.  I want them to stay in business, so I have generously not cancelled the subscription and will pay them $4.59 a year.

The total cost of the charts I bought yesterday came to less than $100 and includes charts of the Indian Ocean, Australia, New Zealand, the entire South Pacific Ocean, Newfoundland and  Nova Scotia.  A bargain.

I noticed that all the charts in the iSailor chart store show an issue date of 10/8/23.  The company was based in Russia.  I have read that it may have relocated elsewhere.  I hope they stay in business, but even if they don’t, I’m set.

I thank Michael for a link to another electric outboard similar to the Remigo mentioned a few days ago.  This one is from France and is more expensive than the Remigo.  Also it seems have limited availability.  I do not know which outboard came first.

I like these designs.

I thought I had posted this poem, which comes from the BEING ALIVE anthology, but in checking past posts don’t see it.  If I have, it is worth reading again.

I wish you and all close to you a happy holiday season and a splendid new year.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Hilton Head Island: apocalypse not; happy people; rivers and oceans

Having seen reports and images of the recent East Coast storm, several friends emailed asking what it was like here.  

Despite fearsome forecasts the storm did not happen here and we weren’t here anyway.  Gale and coastal flood warnings were issued.  The storm passed over Hilton Head Island on Sunday.  The National Weather Service Hilton Head Airport site reported only two gusts above 30 miles per hour.  All other gusts were between 20 and 30 mph/17-26 knots and the average winds were 15 mph/13 knots.  About 3”/76 mm of rain fell.  Not quite the end of the world.

The exaggerated forecast did cause me to change my plans.  I had a reservation to fly to Charlotte, North Carolina, on Sunday, to join Carol who had flown there three days earlier to spend time with her family and then ride back with her on Monday.  Expecting that the weather if anything like the forecast would close Hilton Head’s small airport, I changed my flight and flew up on Saturday.  I need not.  The two incoming and departing flights on Sunday operated on time.

Monday was sunny and cool as Carol drove us south.  We saw no signs of damage or flooding beyond a few puddles of standing water beside the road.

I had a quick flash of pleasure as we left the bridge and were on the island again, no longer a part of the main, and later enjoyed the serenity as I sipped a martini at our bedroom window and watched the setting sun turn the live oaks, Spanish moss, and Skull Creek to gold.

HAPPY PEOPLE is a documentary by Dimitri Vasyukov and narrated by Werner Herzog, one of the most original of filmmakers.  It is subtitled ‘A Year In The Taiga’.  The happy people are the independent and self-sufficient hunters/fishermen/trappers who live in an isolated Siberian village that can only be reached by helicopter or by boat during the few months the rivers are not frozen.  The men do use a few contemporary devices:  outboard motors, snow mobiles, guns; but mostly they make what they need themselves:  boats, skis, traps, huts, and catch their own food.  

Some of you have the skills to live as they do.  I do not.  I can be independent from the world for months, but only by buying what others have made or caught or grown for me.  Perhaps I could have learned those skills if I had to, but I did not.  I greatly admire these men without wishing to emulate them and I very much enjoyed the film, which is available streaming from many sources.  I watched on Amazon Prime Video.

Here is a link to more information about it:

Of happiness, I came across an article by a Harvard professor who teaches a free course on happiness.  I confess that I was surprised to learn that there is such a course, but upon reading the article I agree with her conclusion.  Largely because of my age I was susceptible to what she calls  ‘The Arrival Fallacy’ at the conclusion of my sixth circumnavigation and in time, though I lead a very pleasant life in immediate proximity to beauty, became dissatisfied until at age 80 I made my third five year plan and created a new goal, though subject to being impossible due to age and health.  I have always kept the last line on the lines page of the main site:  Go out, going forward.  And with a goal, even if I never reach it, I am.

Here is a link to the article:

I am reading RIVER HORSE which came to me via BookBub about a crossing of the United States in 1995 by two men in a 22’ power boat about the size of GANNET but with a shallow draft and two 45 horsepower outboard motors named NIKAWA, a combination of Osage Indian words meaning ‘river horse’.

The journey began in New York City and ended in Astoria, Oregon, with minimal portages.  I am now at the point where they have just reached the Mississippi from the Ohio.

I wondered why they left Lake Erie for a portage to a stream that would eventually lead to the Ohio rather than stay on the Great Lakes which they could have left at Chicago and travelled without any portages to the Mississippi to the headwaters of the Missouri where a portage would be necessary across the Continental Divide, but as I read I come to realize that the author, who is from Missouri as am I, is a landsman as I am not, and prefers rivers whose banks can be seen to water where land cannot.  And that he sought the peculiarities of towns and people along the way.

Mostly William Least Heat-Moon, the author, and his companion whom he calls Pilotis tied to docks and ate dinner and slept ashore.  The few times they have slept on board so far they have complained about the cramped space and lack of head room.  They have, of course, my greatest sympathy.

Despite our differences in temperament I am enjoying the book.

Here are a few quotes from it.

I couldn’t stop myself from hearing the words of Manuel Lisa, the early Missouri fur trader:  “I go a great distance while some are considering whether they will start today or tomorrow.

Why hadn’t I listened to that old riverman Mark Twain:  “Traveling by boat is the best way to travel, unless one can stay at home.”

And most significantly this:

I disagree most fundamentally.  Least Half-Moon makes the mistake of postulating his own limitations as universal truths.  Just because the ocean is too overwhelming for him to comprehend does not mean that there are not others who are not overwhelmed, who even wish the ocean were greater.  And that ‘nothing else is so susceptible to personification and so much at the heart of our notions about life and death’ (than a river)  is nonsense, though you probably know what I think of personification of any natural element or force.

The photo has nothing to do with any of this.  I came across it while looking for something else and did not remember it.  I like it.  It is dated twelve years ago and so must have been taken in our Evanston condo.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Hilton Head Island: a bad decision; wingsuiting Ball’s Pyramid; frozen in time


I thank Ron for the above photo which he sent with the caption ‘wind’.  I suggested it was the result of a bad decision, but then it might have been a nice day with a good forecast when they left the dock.  Unlikely, but possible.  Micro-bursts do happen.  Ron experienced one himself on the Chesapeake and has the dubious distinction of having been on two different boats when they were struck by lightning.  I have never been on one and would like to keep it that way.

From Nathan comes a link to a short spectacular video of a young man wingsuiting Ball’s Pyramid, which is near Lord Howe Island mentioned in the journal a few weeks ago:

Nathan suggested that I don’t often watch such videos and he is correct, but he is also correct that I enjoyed this one and perhaps you will too.  I thank him.

You will not have noticed that the journal header has been changed, but you may notice that the header for this journal does not recognize paragraphs.

I have not been able to upload to the main site for months.  I spent an aggravating and frustrating morning making new futile attempts.  So the main site is frozen in time.  There is more than enough Webb Chiles there to keep my future biographers and anyone else who has interest busy for years.  

I particularly regret not being able to change the unreliable contact email given in the main site and apologize for whatever confusion that may cause.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Hilton Head Island: another non-gale; an original electric outboard; five Mad World poems

 A sunny and relatively cool day in the marsh after a front went through last night with some wind and rain, but as almost always less than forecast.  We were under a gale warning, but it didn’t happen.

I walked down to GANNET this morning to reposition the fenders which I had swung onto the deck when I repainted the port side rub rail.  You may recall that I have a float around the piling to one side of the slip to which I run a line so the little boat is secured at all four corners and held away from the dock with or without fenders.  53F/11.6C.  With a jacket and Levis I was quite comfortable, although I did resort to wearing socks.

Lots of people claim to have re-invented something, but most haven’t.  I thank Robert for informing me about some Slovenians who have.  Above you have the Remigo electric outboard.  That’s it.  The whole thing.  The battery is sealed in the shaft.  It is available in Europe.  I don’t know that it is at present for sale elsewhere.

The specs are similar to the Torqeedo and the ePropulsion Spirit Evo.  They all are equivalent 3 horsepower motors.  All weigh about the same.  All cost about the same.  

As you probably know I own a Torqeedo and an ePropulsion, both of which are satisfactory.  The ePropulsion is better finished than the Torqeedo and even quieter.  I bought it in the hope of greater range.  The negatives of electric outboards are expense and range.  The positives are not having to carry and smell gasoline and oil or listen to noise and they start at the press of a button, not having to pull and pull and pull a cord.  The ePropulsion’s battery is bigger than the Torqeedo’s and there was the promise of hydrogeneration with the spinning propeller when left in the water charging the battery when sailing at 4 or more knots.  In the real world I have not found the ePropulsion to have perceptibly greater range than the Torqeedo and the hydrogeneration to be very slow, usually increasing the battery charge by only 1% per hour, so I have increased GANNET’s range under power by buying a second battery.  I have never tried to swap batteries underway, but believe it can be done, even if requiring drifting briefly.

I think the Remigo would be much the easiest of all three to fit on the transom and to stow below and I like its simplicity.  Whether it will be reliable over time I have no way of knowing.

One serious drawback to the Remigo is that you change from forward to reverse by pressing two buttons on the top of the shaft.  For a single handed sailor, reaching back over the stern to do this would be difficult and perhaps dangerous.  If one were using the outboard on a dinghy the reach would not be great, but I have never had an outboard on a dinghy and can’t imagine I ever will.  When I am too old to row ashore, I will be too old and give up the sea.  If one is sailing with crew, one of them could press the buttons.  But the wireless remote offered as an accessory would be essential I think for a solo sailor.

In any event it is an interesting and original design.

Here is a link to Remigo’s site where you can learn more if you care to.

And here is a link to a review of the motor by YACHTING MONTHLY.

The two anthologies of poetry I am now reading every day are MOUNTAIN HOME:  THE WILDERNESS POETRY OF ANCIENT CHINA and BEING ALIVE.  BEING ALIVE is divided into ten sections.  I am now in section 9, Mad World.  You may have noticed that it is.  Here is proof in five poems.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Hilton Head Island: dark energy and Aristarchus of Samos; running against the wind and the man in the arena

Among the magazines I peruse in Apple News+ is SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN.  I read a surprising article there recently about the discovery of dark energy, which the magazine calls ‘the most shocking discovery in astrophysics.’  I like to believe that I even understood some of it.

Several parts of the article particularly impressed me.

First, that the discovery of dark energy was made only twenty-five years ago.

Not long ago I mentioned that it was only one hundred years ago that Edwin Hubble saw proof that our galaxy is not the entire universe.

Now I learn that until twenty-five years ago, we were unaware of 95.1% of the universe.  The article states that 4.9% of the universe is composed of the stuff of us, 26.6% is dark matter, and 68.5% is dark energy.

Also of interest is that dark energy was discovered by two independent teams competing to determine how quickly the universe is contracting.  To the surprise of both they found that the universe is expanding, not contracting, and at an ever increasing speed.

The age of science is brief and that we still know so little is to be expected, yet people want, even demand certainty.

I thought back to Copernicus, who moved the center of the universe from our planet to the sun, and of whom I have written a poem, and I goggled to find the exact dates he lived.

He lived from 1473 to 1543.  Only five hundred years ago.

But in googling Copernicus I learned of Aristarchus of Samos who amazingly had the same idea eighteen centuries earlier.

To be eighteen centuries ahead of everyone else is surely genius.  Perhaps I wrote the poem to the wrong man.

The first film that Carol and I saw together was FOREST GUMP.  We saw it in Key West.  We were also married in Key West.

I thought of the film last evening when by chance I came across this video of Bob Seger singing and Forest Gump/Tom Hanks running to ‘Against the Wind’.

I remember reading long ago a biography of Robert Lewis Stevenson, who suffered from poor health all his life, with the title AGAINST THE WIND.  

I expect that running against the wind, or feeling that you are, is a common human experience.

In the video Forest runs to land’s end and has to turn and run back and forth from coast to coast.

I have been fortunate in the ocean is endless.  I wonder if I am the only one who sometimes wishes this planet were bigger and more difficult to sail around, which is related to a reply I recently made to a comment on the SafeHarbor film in which I made reference to Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena’ speech.  I know I have posted this before, but it is worth viewing and hearing again.

Monday, November 27, 2023

Hilton Head Island: The Year Earth Changed; Ted Lasso and taking responsibility for your own life; taxed

We are in the middle of a three month free trial to Apple TV+.  I do not know if I will pay for it after the trial ends.  When you are in the oldest 1% of the human population you cannot expect that any business that lives and dies by mass numbers is going to target you, and most of Apple TV+ content is appropriately aimed at those several generations younger than I and with different interests and standards.  I would like to see the Apple films of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON, which I read, and NAPOLEON, but they will not be streamed for a while.

In the meantime, we were impressed with the documentary, THE YEAR EARTH CHANGED.  That was the year of COVID lock down during which our species mostly stayed inside at home, resulting in quick and great changes in the rest of the world.  Within a few days air pollution decreased so that the Himalayas were seen at never before in recent times distances, whales in the Gulf of Alaska were able to communicate better in the absence of the noise of cruise ship propellers, penguins in South Africa were able to make more trips to and from the ocean to feed their young in the absence of crowds of us on the beaches, and, as they say, more.  Much more.

Unfortunately in the U.S. the film seems to be only on Apple TV+.  If you can see it, I strongly recommend you do.

We have also now watched all three seasons of Ted Lasso, of which we had heard much.

The series is very uneven.  Some of it is funny and clever.  Some of it is not.  Characters don’t remain in character.  Ted displays greater ignorance of English football—soccer to Americans—than even that of a casual fan.  And one episode in the second season, a drunken night crawl by an assistant coach, is so bad and so inconsistent with the rest of the series that I told Carol, one more like that and I am through.  The writers and director seemingly recognized their mistake and there was not another like it.  I think the problem is that with its success, there became too much time to fill.  The first season has ten episodes, each about a half hour long.  The second and third seasons run twelve episodes each, with those in the third season running about an hour long.  To fill them the series went off on many irrelevant tangents.

Having said all that, we did watch to the end.  Not in my opinion one of the all time great comedy series, and not in itself a reason to subscribe to Apple TV+, but entertaining and in the penultimate episode, briefly profound.

In that episode one character recites without attribution what is obviously a poem.  Carol immediately commented, “That’s your philosophy.”  And in part it is.

I googled and learned that the poem is “This Be The Verse” by an Englishman, Philip Larkin, who is famous in England, but of whom I had not known.  Here it is:

The last two lines certainly apply to me.  I got out as soon as I could—I just realized that 2023 marks fifty years debt free; and next year will mark fifty years since I last worked for anyone else—and I deliberately never had children, not because I feared ‘fucking them up’, to quote Mr. Larkin, but because I knew negatively from my own childhood that if you have children you owe them a lot for a long time and I did not believe I could be a good parent and live the life I wanted to and have.

I believe the greatest strength is absorbing the evil done to you and not pass it on.  This is a Christian virtue not much practiced by those who call themselves Christian, now or ever.  Most Christians have always preferred to stick with the Old Testament and seek revenge.

I do not know that I have lived up to that, but I have tried and like to believe that I have learned and am doing better than I did when younger.

You have never read or heard me blame my parents, natural or step.  I have related some facts such as that my parents separated before I was born and I only saw my father for perhaps twenty minutes, and I was not close to my mother or stepfather.  This in part I knew as a child because I reminded my mother of my father, whether justly or not I had and have no way of knowing.

I have said that I have lived the life I wanted to live and I have understood it as I have done so.  I can point to the minute my life moved from the part I call Longing to the part I call Being.  11 AM, Saturday, November 2, 1974, when I pushed the engineless EGREGIOUS away from the dock in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn.

I also know when I took full responsibility for my life, though not as precisely.  It was when I was thirteen.  I had a minor accomplishment that year.  The details do not matter.  But I observed that my mother took all the credit and I realized that if I blamed my parents for what was wrong with me, they also had the right to claim what was good about me, and I did not believe they deserved to or want to share that, so I decided Webb Chiles is responsible for Webb Chiles.  Period.  No excuses.  No blaming others.  It has worked out pretty well.

I hardly had the South Carolina registration numbers on the bow before I got a tax bill for GANNET from Beaufort County.  Carol and I got the numbers on the port bow Tuesday.  The tax bill arrived Friday.  It is for $66.46 for the year.  I can handle that.  One of the many virtues of owning a small, old, great boat.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Hilton Head Island: anchored upon; hot; AI weather forecasting and ‘rogue’ waves

Carol and I went for a brief sail Sunday afternoon. 

The wind was gusty from the northeast, sometimes heading us as we went out Skull Creek, so at times we sailed under mainsail alone, at times motorsailed with the Evo engaged.  As we entered Port Royal Sound the wind increased to 20 knots, which on or aft the beam would have made for good sailing in the open ocean, but was a handful, literally, in close quarters and roughed up the sound beyond anchoring except in an emergency.  So we turned around and sailed back up Skull Creek and anchored a half hour before sunset in 15’ of smooth water a couple of hundred yards northwest of the marina.

Between the marina and the Port Royal Sound are almost a mile of sand patches barely above the surface at high tide.  The Intracoastal curves west of those islets, but there is also water to the east which in theory is deep enough for GANNET to pass on that side.  Some boats do.  Mostly small power boats and multihulls.  I have always followed the Intracoastal.  A multihull, about 45’, was anchored a half mile away from us on that shallow waterway.

Carol and I were sitting on deck sipping margaritas I had made at the condo when we saw a mast approaching.  As it came nearer and passed the anchored multihull it was revealed to be another about 45’ catamaran being towed by a small red hulled TowBoat US, heading directly for us.  The sun was setting, but it was still full daylight.  Carol said, “He is going to come over and anchor on top of us.”  And that’s just what he did.  We watched the tow boat slow and drift back beside the catamaran for consultation, then go forward and take the strain again and with a clear half mile of empty water in all directions bring the catamaran to within a few boat lengths of GANNET where the cat, whose crew of a man and a woman, dropped anchor.  Sigh.

The man, who was at the helm, which on that boat was at least fifteen feet above the water, shouted to us, “Are you staying the night?”

Carol hears better than I and relayed the message.  I shouted back, ‘Yes.”

“Then I guess I’ll have to move.”

I did not reply but thought, I guess you will.

He shouted again, “We lost a rudder and an engine.”

I am not aware of any severe weather around here recently and have never sailed on such a boat so do not know how they handle, yet I wonder if one rudder and one engine are not enough.  They are all I have ever had, if I’ve had an engine at all.

So they raised anchor, which of course only required pushing a button, and the tow boat hauled them a quarter mile back from where they had approached and they anchored again.  Why they didn’t stop there the first time I do not know.

We finished our margaritas and went below to share a good bottle of red wine and excellent chicken breast sandwiches Carol had made ashore, followed by half a brownie each, and a good night’s sleep.

You may have heard of Brazil’s current extreme heat wave because a fan died at a Taylor Swift concert there.  However the heat is startling as well as deadly.

The heat index in Rio set a record a few days ago of 58.5C/137F.  And this is Rio de Janeiro, not Death Valley.  Or wasn’t.  I know from personal experience in Hilton Head summers that a heat index of 105F/40.5C is dangerous.  At least for this old man.

No conclusion here, just observation.

Of weather and waves I have recently come across two articles of interest about AI.

As you know during hurricane season I download both the US and European GRIBs daily.  The European, ECMWF, has the reputation of being the more accurate.  Now there is a study that shows that an AI model named GraphCast has outperformed ECMWF in 90% of 1,380 metrics.  This is very good news for better weather forecasting in the future.  Whether it is good or bad news that AI may make our species obsolete is a matter of opinion.

I thank Mark for the other AI article, this one about the much greater frequency of ‘rogue’ waves than had been believed.

I put ‘rogue’ in quotes because that is an example of the pathetic fallacy, humans applying human characteristics to insentient forces, and I note a shift in the rather modest definition of such waves as being “at least twice the height of a formation’s ’significant wave height’ or the mean of the largest one-third of a wave pattern.’  That doesn’t seem very unusual to me and such waves are not likely ‘monsters’.

In nine or ten years at sea I have never seen a huge wave.  I do not doubt they exist, but the biggest waves I have seen were I judge about 30’ high, which is big enough.

However I have often seen waves that meet the above definition.

Some of you may remember that the most dangerous moments of GANNET’s circumnavigation did not come in her two 55 knot gales, but on a sunny, moderate wind day in the South Pacific on the passage between Honolulu and Apia, Samoa, when suddenly two 10’/3 meter waves appeared at right angles to the prevalent 3’/1 meter wave pattern, knocked GANNET onto her beam and held her there for long moments with the ocean almost reaching the opened companionway.  Had it done so we would have gone down.

Those waves were three times the significant wave height and meet the ‘rogue’ definition.  They were dangerous, but they were not the 80’ walls of water of the article writer’s imagination.  

Saturday, November 18, 2023

Hilton Head Island: half legal; 1986; breakfast on EGREGIOUS


The South Carolina registration and home port decals arrived yesterday, but first I had to remove the Illinois numbers from the bow.  I bought a spray bottle of decal remover from Amazon.  I read and followed the instructions.  I applied it repeatedly.  It did nothing.  On leaving the marina I threw the still almost full bottle in the trash.  On returning to the condo I did more research and bought from Amazon a 3M eraser wheel, something of which I had not previously known exists.  It is an attachment for a hand drill.  I dutifully attached it to my DeWalt battery hand drill and it removed the Illinois numbers from the starboard bow quickly and easily.  I am quite pleased.

Today Carol and I went down and as you can see applied the South Carolina numbers to the starboard bow and home port to the transom.  We have done this before and it all went as it should.

GANNET has never had a home port.  For those who live elsewhere, in the U.S. vessels documented by the U.S. government must display a home port.  Vessels registered with a state may, but are not required to do so.  Of my vessels, only EGREGIOUS—San Diego; THE HAWKE OF TUONELA —Boston; and now GANNET have had home ports on their hulls.  I have said that my home port is the world, but I expect Hilton Head to be my last land home and am pleased that GANNET now has a home too.

At present the little boat has South Carolina numbers on her starboard bow and Illinois numbers on her port bow.

Carol and I are going sailing tomorrow and will anchor somewhere for the night.  When we return I will go into the slip bow first which will put the port bow to the dock and this coming week I will replace the Illinois numbers with the South Carolina ones and end small boat schizophrenia.

You can clearly see the difference in color between areas I have recently touched up and the faded coats I applied eleven years ago.  I will polish the hull to see if I can make them blend together.  If not the little boat will be repainted next year and we will have to apply decals again.

I had the pleasant surprise this morning of receiving these two photos from Graham in Australia along with this email:

My friends, Rex Byrne and his partner, Louise Wilson, met you on Lord Howe Island in 1986 and just sent me the photos below. They were in their early 20s in 1986. Clive Wilson (still alive) is Louise's uncle. Rex was  a young singlehander who fell in love with Louise when passing through in 82. They did not have a boat in 1986 but have since done a couple of circumnavigations and are still cruising.

I thanked Graham and replied:

Lord Howe is as beautiful an island as I have ever seen and not much known outside of Australia and New Zealand, which may be to its advantage.

Almost forty years ago.  Hard to believe.

Give my regards to Rex and Louise when you can.

I have sailed to Lord Howe twice.  It is located 420 nautical miles ENE of Sydney, Australia.  It is a small island only 6 miles/10 kilometers long.  The regulations may have changed, but when I was there the number of permanent residents was limited to 400 and the number of visitors on the island at any one time was also limited to 400 in a noble effort to preserve its great natural beauty.

In the photos the blond is Jill.  The funny looking fellow with the mustache is me.  And RESURGAM’s hull was a deep burgundy, not the brick red the photo has become with age.

Carol and I biked to a supermarket yesterday.  When together, I push the shopping cart while she forages.  I was standing obediently in place in an aisle and looked at the nearby shelves and found an old friend:

Almost everything changes in fifty years.  I certainly have.  But Clabber Girl Baking Powder has not.  I recognized it instantly and turned a can around to see if the same biscuit recipe is on the back.  It is and on the EGREGIOUS circumnavigation those biscuits were my breakfast every morning at sea when I could light the stove, which on EGREGIOUS was a two-burner kerosene Origo.  I first read of such stoves in a British magazine that said they run on paraffin.  As an American I wondered how they got the wax into them until I learned that the British call kerosene paraffin.  Another of their endearing eccentricities.

I had no oven and baked on the stove top on a low rack in a frying pan with lid.  The biscuits were very good.  I ate them with jam or honey.

This was long before I learned the virtues of uncooked oatmeal.  

I cooked more on EGREGIOUS than I ever have again.  One trend in my life has been toward simplicity.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Hilton Head Island: unwanted; two poems; a quote for the 20th Century

Carol wanted to go to Harbor Town at the other end of the island and spend a couple of nights in the marina there.  I was willing to oblige, although Harbor Town is touristy with the circular marina lined with shops and restaurants and short term rentals.  I thought we might sail the eight miles there this Saturday and come back Monday.  However when I went to their site this morning I got a shock.  The last time I checked their rates was several months, maybe a year ago.  Then the transit rate was $3 a foot per night with a 30’ minimum.  $90 a night to dock GANNET is high, but we were prepared to pay it.  This morning I find the rate has been raised to $4 a foot per night with a 50’ minimum.  $200 a night for a 24’ boat is outrageous.  We have paid that much for a hotel room, but to dock GANNET?  No.  Somehow I sense that they don’t want small boats and I have no desire to go where I am not wanted.  Their loss.  Had GANNET been in that marina she would have graced it and, among all the big multimillion dollar yachts, almost certainly been the one who had sailed most, and I would have sailed more than all the other owners combined.  Probably several times over.  But as a comment on my last entry correctly observed:  People have sailboats for many different reasons.  Sailing is far down that list.  I believe the anonymous who wrote that was attempting to justify not sailing.  Fine.  Just don’t claim to be a sailor and admit that your boat, sail or power, is a toy and a status symbol for those who are impressed by cost and not skill and achievement.

We may go sailing and anchor in Port Royal Sound.  As far as I know that is still free and the company is better.


And from BISMARK’S WAR which is about the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, a question from a child.

Monday, November 13, 2023

Hilton Head Island: snowbird season

Snowbirds—those moving their boats south for the winter—pass every day at this time of year.  Three so far this morning,  And not one of them has a scrap of sail set.  This is odd because for the past several days the wind has been ten or twelve knots from the north which is behind them and would have made for fine sailing mostly on a broad reach.

I checked as I probably do each year and the distance from Norfolk, Virginia, to Miami, Florida, on the Intracoastal is 1,090 miles.  Skull Creek is beautiful and I expect other parts of the Intracoastal are too, but that is a lot of powering.  More than I have done total in my six circumnavigations.

I have gone up and down the East Coast several times, always on the outside and sailing.  I have stopped in Beaufort, North Carolina, twice, other times I went non-stop from Florida to New England or vice versa.

That no sail is set on these boats can only be due to there being no sailors on them.  Just owning a boat with a mast does not make one a sailor, though I expect these people call themselves sailors and regale their acquaintances with stories of their ‘adventures’.  As I have observed you are what you actually do not what you talk about doing, and sailors sail.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Hilton Head Island: another pushup


I gave a talk at a local yacht club a couple of weeks ago and I began it with a variation on my CCA acceptance speech from five years ago.

Back then I said:  Age 76 and the year 2018 are numbers from science fiction.   So how much more are age 82 and the year 2023.  It is in some ways amusing to be in the oldest 1% of our species, but this is becoming absurd.  As you can see from the above photo taken on the last passage of GANNET’s circumnavigation, I am fading.

I also now have to do another push-up.

I have told this story before, but in early 1993 I gave a lecture series on the east coast, starting in Boston and ending in Miami.  Steve Earley and his father attended in Norfolk, but I did not know him then.  He says I am one of the influences that led to his becoming the most experienced coastal open boat sailor, so I have done some good.

In Annapolis I was asked how I stay in condition.  I related my workouts, including doing my age in pushups.  I was a mere 51 then and added, “Just think what great shape I’ll be in when I’m 100.”  Everyone laughed as I intended them too.  But, my word, I’m getting there.

If you know anything about me, you know I plan and I prepare, so I have already been doing 82 push-ups and crunches in the first set of my standard workout for the past three weeks.  I’m good for another year.


Thursday, November 9, 2023

Hilton Head Island: a new Southerner; tall ships; fifth highest; from SOLO FACES

 GANNET is now officially a Southerner.

A month ago I mailed the paperwork to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to retitle and reregister GANNET from Illinois to South Carolina, and then nothing happened.  This began to worry me because I had to send GANNET’s Illinois title and registration with my application and without them I would have major problems.  Day after day passed without my check for the modest $20 fee being cashed.  Because GANNET’s electric outboard is the equivalent of only 3 horsepower, I did not have to register it.  Outboards 5 horsepower and greater must be registered in South Carolina for another $20.

Finally yesterday morning I found that my check had been cashed and yesterday afternoon I received the South Carolina title in the mail.  I have not yet received the new registration, but I  know GANNET’s new South Carolina registration number and expect the document will eventually appear.

I am pleased and relieved.

Of my boats only THE HAWKE OF TUONELA had a home port on her stern—Boston.  She was a documented vessel and that was required.  For much of my sailing life, my home port has been The World.

GANNET is not documented, but this is her and my home and in the not too distant future Hilton Head Island will appear on her transom.

I thank Andy for the photograph above of a replica of the NAO TRINIDAD, Magellan’s flag ship, which recently docked at Crisfield, Maryland.

I do not share nostalgia about tall ships and the old days of sail, but she is unusual looking.  I always wonder how with such freeboard, particularly aft, such vessels did not capsize in the slightest breeze.

The TRINIDAD was not the first ship to circumnavigate.  Of the five ships that left Seville, Spain, in 1519, only one, NAO VICTORIA, returned in 1522.  Magellan himself was killed in what are now the Philippines.

At the end of the first year of my open boat voyage, I left CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in the backyard of a British ex-pat who lived in Suva, Fiji, and Suzanne and I sailed as crew to New Zealand on a Swan 48.  While we were in Auckland there was a Tall Ships Parade.  The only requirement to be a tall ship was that the vessel have two masts.  I regretted not having sailed CHIDIOCK to New Zealand where she could have participated as the smallest Tall Ship.

I thank Larry for this link to an article stating the highest recorded gust of Hurricane Otis of 205 mph/178 knots is the fifth highest ever recorded over land.  That the wind increased from only tropical storm strength in twelve hours is beyond understanding.

I am rereading and enjoying James Salter’snovel about a mountain climber, SOLO FACES.  I just came across this:

What he had done, what he would do, he did not want explained.  Something was lost that way.  The things that were of greatest value, that he had paid so much for were his alone.


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Hilton Head Island: The Admiral in her gig; what the weather can be; horror and more Shostakovich


Above is Audrey, Admiral of Audrey’s and Kent’s Armada of small boats, which numbers around twenty, sitting in their latest addition, HENNING, a 12’ Bahamas dinghy, built between 1937 and 1941, which makes it older than I am which as we know is really old.  Kent’s part in the Armada is self-described as ‘moveable ballast’, but he does a bit more than that, including being Fleet Photographer.

You can read more at:

I thank John for sending me an image of the above painting which he tells me hangs in the San Francisco Yacht Club and is titled, What the Weather Can Be.  I like it.  I’ve not been to the yacht club.  I have been in that weather more times than I can remember.

I finished reading LENINGRAD:  SIEGE AND SYMPHONY yesterday and I also completed listening to Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony movement by movement.  I will now set aside an hour and twenty minutes and listen to it all the way through again.

However in the last pages of the book I read of the most horrible act I have ever known one of our species to perform.  I accept that it was performed by a woman who had been driven insane by the terror and deprivations of the siege.  Still she did something that I would not have thought possible for a human to do and that one did has expanded my understanding of our species.  I am not going to give details and I suppose I am only writing this because it is still troubling me and too close to the surface of my mind.

Other than that incident, I recommend the book, particularly if you have any interest in music, although it is about the siege as much as the symphony.

After finishing LENINGRAD, I read more in Wikipedia about siege and symphony and Shostakovich.

The almost three year siege is described as the greatest destruction and loss of life in any modern city.  The number of deaths is estimated at more than 1,500,000.

While part of the first movement of Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony is generally considered ‘The Invasion Theme’ and to be about the German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, there is evidence that Shostakovich wrote it before the invasion and that it was about the Stalin Terror in the 30s.  Shostakovich was twice denounced by the Party.  In the 30s and again after the war.  The second time he slept on the landing near the elevator outside his apartment so that when they came to arrest him his family would not be disturbed.  He never was arrested and in fact was compelled later to join the party, but he lived with the fear, as did everyone in the Soviet Union, from the mid-1930s until Stalin’s death in 1953, of being taken at any moment, tortured and shot.

Fortunately due to chance of birth, you and I do not.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Hilton Head Island: a great leap backward; a night on GANNET


I thank—I think—Larry for the above photo of damage caused in Acapulco by Otis.  It could happen here, though as Larry correctly observes our condo and the marina are on the land not the ocean side of the island and thus somewhat protected.  Yet I am told Skull Creek Marina has been damaged twice in the past forty years by hurricanes, most recently by Matthew which took out the north end of the marina the year before we bought this condo.  That damage has not been repaired. 

I have never seen what I would call a real wave on Skull Creek.  However there is an almost two mile fetch up the creek from the south and several miles all the way across Port Royal Sound to the north.  The entrance from Skull Creek into Port Royal Sound is bordered by sand spits that are barely above water in normal high tides and would disappear completely in any significant storm surge.

Because of her age insurance companies will only insure GANNET for a fraction of her replacement cost.

Before I was born hurricanes came ashore mostly without warning.  There was no radar and few airplanes.  Reports came only from ships at sea.  I am sure that some experienced seamen and others whose lives were lived with the elements would have been able to read the sky and the sea and the barometer, just as I do at sea now, and have known that something was coming, but not when or where.  Otis has taken us back to those days.

Now we have radar and satellites and ships and airplanes and can track storms, but that becomes of little use when a tropical storm intensifies into a Category 5 in the last twelve hours before landfall.  Few would evacuate for a tropical storm.  Few would not evacuate for a Category 5.  And twelve hours is not enough time for masses of people to evacuate.  There is one bridge off Hilton Head Island.  There is one road out of the Florida Keys.

So abruptly we are faced with making decisions beyond science.  The safest action would be to evacuate every time a tropical storm was within twenty-four hours of your location, but this would result in such disruption, expense and wasted time that soon no one would do it.

I have no conclusion.  

That a hurricane is going to come ashore at Hilton Head Island is certain.  Probably in my lifetime.  Almost certainly in Carol’s.

I hope it is not a Category 5.  And I don’t like making decisions on hope.

Weather in the marsh continues perfect and so yesterday afternoon I walked down to spend the night on GANNET, something I have not done for too long a time.

I intended to touch up the paint on the transom where I had sanded to expose the Hull Identification Number, but to my surprise found that I don’t have any hull paint.

I also found as is to be expected that batteries had died on flashlights and a thermometer in the cabin, and that the solar powered wind instrument was dead.  Fortunately two of the three solar cabin lights were still working.

The can of OFF had no pressure and the can of flying insect spray only a little.  This was important because while I was scrubbing bird droppings from the deck, no-seeums ate me alive.  I carried two martinis in an insulated bottle and a Zip-Lock bag of ice from the condo with me and expected to have my evening drinks while listening to music on deck.  Without OFF it would have been torture, so I sipped and listened at Central in the Great Cabin with screens in place.

I listened to Shostakovich’s Seventh Symphony because I am currently reading an excellent book, LENINGRAD:  SIEGE AND SYMPHONY by Brian Moynahan about the almost three year long siege of the city by the Germans during World War 2 and the symphony Shostakovich wrote which is called ‘The Leningrad Symphony’.  This was the first time I had heard it.  It is eighty minutes long and my mind wandered as perhaps music is intended to cause it to.  I will listen many more times.  It is a very great creation.

The book confirms my long held opinion that Stalin was more evil than Hitler, if that is possible.

I ate freeze dry Three Cheese Pasta for dinner.  Quite good.  And slept with the hatches open.  Screens of course in place.  I was comfortable in a light sleeping bag.  The night was completely still.

I woke at first light, got dressed, and was walking back to the condo as the sun rose at 7:38.

I will go sailing soon.  Perhaps when Carol is here in a couple of weeks or in early December or January when she isn’t, but it was good to spend more than a few minutes on the little boat again.