Monday, February 27, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Amundsen and me; a yellow haze; a modest plan

I started writing this last evening with seven topics.  I am now down to three.

Two nights ago I watched a movie on Amazon Prime, AMUNDSEN:  THE GREATEST EXPEDITION.  Despite the hyperbole in the title, I enjoyed it.

In 1966-67 I lived in Oakland,California.  I bought my first boat then and taught myself to sail on San Francisco Bay.  The woman then in my life and I often drove across the bridge and rented bicycles and rode through Golden Gate Park.  There were live bison in a fenced field in the park and you could feed them slices of bread.  They were quite gentle and had thick black pebbly tongues.

At the west end of the park, just before it ends near the Pacific Ocean, there were incongruously a windmill and a large wood boat sitting in a patch of sand.  She was about 60’-70’.  I wondered about the boat.  Most people I asked had no idea.  Finally I learned that it was the GJOA, the boat in which Amundsen and five companions made the first transit of the Northwest Passage in 1903-06.  He left GJOA in San Francisco, where she sat forgotten, until sometime after I saw her she was returned to Norway.

That voyage made Amundsen famous.  He became even more so by subsequently becoming the first to reach the South Pole.

He died at age 55 trying to rescue another polar explorer.

AMUNDSEN:  THE GREATEST EXPEDITION is not a documentary.  I hope it is historically accurate.

While watching I noted the following dialogue:

Amundsen was preparing an expedition to reach the North Pole, but after learning that Richard Perry had already done so says, “The newspapers will no longer be interested.  No one will finance our expedition.”

Is the interest of newspapers, or now the media, the true test of whether an action is worthwhile?  And is outside finance, sponsorship, essential to greatness?  I know of a sailor who completed a solo circumnavigation and knew he had set a world record and never held a press conference or contacted Guinness.  To him it was enough that he knew, that he had proven himself to himself.  Guinness ultimately contacted him.  Who in this age when masses seek instant attention online:  Look at me.  Look at me.  Please look at me.  would understand that?

Another quote from the film:  I planned the South Pole so well, I made it look easy.  That was my biggest mistake.

Some of you may recall that I have quoted Amundsen as saying, Adventures are the result of bad planning.  I read that long after I had reached the same conclusion and wrote:  Amateurs seek adventures; professionals seek to avoid them.

And of a friend to Amundsen:  Most people give up on their dreams, but you don’t, and you dream bigger than anyone.

I know a sailor who in old age said, I may or may not have lived an epic life, but I had the nerve to dream big.

And in the movie Amundsen quotes Fridtjof Nansen who upon starting what became the first successful crossing of Greenland as saying:  The west coast of Greenland or death.

Some of you know that the second part of STORM PASSAGE begins:  Victory or death.

I would not now say ‘victory’.  I know we don’t conquer oceans or mountains or deserts or ice, we merely transit them.  So now, if I said anything at all, it would be merely ‘Completion or death.’  But the commitment would be the same.  

Hilton Head is covered in an ever renewing film of yellow dust.  Wipe it off a surface and an hour layer it is covered again.  It is pollen.  I have not lived here long so I wondered pollen from what and googled and discovered it is from pine trees.  There are no pines in the immediate vicinity of our condo, only live oaks and a few small palmetto palms, but there are many tall pine trees on this island and on Pickney Island on the other side of Skull Creek.  I searched further and learned that pine trees produce both male and female cones.  The males secrete pollen to be carried by the wind to fertilize female cones.  Perhaps you knew that, but I did not.  

GANNET is almost ready to go for a sail.  When I was circumnavigating and spending most of my time living on board, I knew that everything necessary to go to sea was there and needed only to top up on water and provisions.  Now I am finding that some equipment is in the dock box, some in the condo.  I have been biking regularly to supermarkets and nearby liquor stores and my preparations are almost complete.  I still have some things to carry down to GANNET.  I am presently charging the Yellowbrick and a GoPro here in the condo.  

Earlier today I replaced the spinnaker pole topping lift.  This might seem odd considering that I have not set a spinnaker pole for decades, but GANNET’s new mast came with one and I have thought it might be useful as jurying rigging if the rig sustains damage.  The cover on the old topping lift had frayed.  Replacing it with a piece of high-tech line I already had was easy.

 I don’t know when I will leave.  I only began looking at long term weather this morning.  I have no destination.  The plan is simply to go offshore and put the wind on or aft of the beam and hopefully enjoy good sailing for several days, maybe longer, and then work my way back.  I would like to enter the monastery of the sea.  I don’t know that will happen.

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