Monday, July 31, 2023

Laker Forest: targeted; commit; EGREGIOUS; runes

I think it was Woody Allen who said, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that someone isn’t out to get me.”   I am not paranoid, but two articles I have recently seen online have caused me pause.  The first lists the ten counties in the United States most vulnerable to hurricanes and the second relates that Illinois has had the most tornados of any state this year.  

Here is the list of hurricane vulnerable counties according to one survey.

Hilton Head Island is in Beaufort County, South Carolina, number 6.

And here is a link to the article about tornados.

As you know I mostly live in one and am presently in the other.

I am surprised and skeptical about the list of hurricane vulnerable countries.  Five are in South Carolina and only three in Florida, yet Florida is hit by many more hurricanes than any other state.

In any event I watch weather carefully.

I do not like crowds and rarely go to live events, but a former neighbor of ours was playing in a band at a club last Saturday and Carol and I went.  The club was not crowded early and the band was good.  A quartet:  drummer, guitarist, woman vocalist who also plays electronic keyboard, and our ex-neighbor who plays harmonica and sings.  I suppose they would be classified as blues/jazz.  I most enjoyed how they really got into their music.  They were feeling it.  To my compromised ear they sounded as good as bands that are successful and rich.  None of them are young.  Our neighbor is retired.  I found myself wondering if one of the differences is those who are willing to commit everything to do what they want/were born to do, and those who don’t.  I also was interested to see that our neighbor has 12 different harmonicas.  I asked him during a break and he said each is in a different key.  

I was recently asked for a photo of EGREGIOUS, the engineless 37’ cutter in which I made my first circumnavigation.  There is only one and it is above.  I have none myself and copied it from the dust jacket of STORM PASSAGE.  The photo was taken off San Diego by my long time friends, Susan and Howard, who are now camping across Canada and provided the recent photos of gannets.  If you look carefully you will see that I am not alone.  The other person in the cockpit is Mary, with whom I was living at the time.  

I like cutter rigs.  EGREGIOUS had no jib furling gear which was new and unproven at the time and I couldn’t afford it anyway.  In the photo her larger jib top and larger staysail are set.  For heavy weather, I had a smaller jib with a two foot pennant at the tack to keep it mostly above waves breaking over the bow and a smaller staysail which was strongly built to serve as a storm jib.  In the Southern Ocean I always used the smaller sails and as the wind increased to gale strength lowered the jib and lashed it to the deck and sailed under staysail and reefed main or staysail alone.



Thursday, July 27, 2023

Lake Forest: exit papers; Pelagic update; Steve in Maine and SAIL; bleached


We all live with uncertainty, but last week some of mine was alleviated.  I now know that I am going to die in 2034 at age 93.  Whew.  I am glad that is settled.

I learned this from a financial plan provided by an advisor.  That Webb Chiles should have a financial advisor is a contradiction in terms, but through Carol I do.  I, who have not borrowed money since 1973, also now have through her a credit rating.  I am almost becoming a normal American.

The financial plan for me terminates in 2034.  It is not vague.  The end.  Period.  Carol exits at age 94 eighteen years after I do.  Frankly I did not think I had that much more time.  The down side is that I might have to make a second five year plan. 

I received an email from Mike Scheck of Pelagic.  They have tested the components I returned to them and found that the Motor Drive Box has a failed protection diode, which did its job, but they don’t know why and are sending the unit to another facility for further study.

I am relieved to know that my wiring was not at fault.  I had gone over it carefully several times and did not think it was.  

As some of you may recall when I received the replacement components, I had isolated the problem to the Motor Drive Box which is installed below deck.

I am looking forward to going offshore and giving the Pelagic a thorough test, but that will not happen until the hurricane season ends.

You may recognize Steve Earley’s SPARTINA at anchor in the foreground of the above photo which Steve sent to me.  I thank him for letting me share it.

Steve and SPARTINA are in Maine, a new cruising grounds for them and very different from his past sailing from the Chesapeake to Florida, which is all in the South.

I sailed Maine waters when Carol and I lived in Boston.  From Boston Maine is an overnight sail.  For Steve it was a more than a thousand mile tow from his home near Norfolk.  I told Steve that Maine looks like parts of New Zealand and is beautiful.  I also told him that the harbors are full of mooring buoys and lobster traps, but that with SPARTINA he would be able as I was in crowded harbors in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE to get into places other boats can’t and find room to anchor.  As you can see he has.

There is an excellent article about Steve and SPARTINA in the current SAIL magazine, which I believe is the August/September issue.  I have seen it and recommend you track down a copy.

You probably have read that the water temperature around the Florida Keys is an astounding 101ºF/38.3C.  This is killing the coral.  I have seen bleaching on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.  A desolate white wasteland where once there was color and life.  I read that in the Keys this is happening in only a few weeks.  Once it does it will be decades, if ever, before the reefs recover.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Lake Forest: unicorn; under paid; dispossessed; goodbye to the Gulf Stream

I am no longer a unicorn.  You probably did not know I ever was one, but I was working on it.  A growth on my forehead these past few months was removed yesterday by the beautiful skin cancer doctor.  Now I have a dent instead of a horn.

Yesterday was the first time I have seen the doctor’s face in several years, since the start of COVID.  I am pleased to report that she is as beautiful as I remembered, as well as being an excellent doctor.

I worked as a life guard in college, at an indoor YMCA pool in the winters, at a big outdoor pool in a St. Louis suburb in the summers.  I was paid the then minimum wage of $1.25 per hour.  In the summers the pool was open six days a week and we usually worked more than forty hours and got time and a half for those beyond forty.  During the week there were three of us and we worked an hour on, a half hour off.  On weekends the pool hired a fourth guard and we worked a half hour on, a half hour off.  Over three summers on my breaks I completed correspondence courses for my second year of French from the University of Wisconsin and two philosophy courses—Aesthetics and Comparative Religion—from the University of California.  And I got married just before Christmas of my senior year on the money I saved from my enormous wages.

Seeing life guards on the beach here at Lake Forest caused me to wonder what life guards get paid now.  I googled and find the range is $15-$18 an hour.  I then went to an online inflation calculator to learn what $1.25 an hour in 1960 would be worth today.  The answer:  $12.88.  I was underpaid!  Thank goodness for those big $1.87 overtime hours.  The cumulative rate of inflation from 1960 to 2023 is 930.8%.

I came across a reference to Dostoyevsky’s novel, THE POSSESSED, and decided to read it.  I have his collected works in a Kindle edition.  So I started and when after 150 pages nothing had happened I quit.  I think there were about 600 more pages to go.  I am too old to waste that much time.  I started rereading Conrad’s UNDER WESTERN EYES instead.  Much better.

I came across multiple references this morning to a recent study that predicts that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation system will collapse this century, perhaps as soon as 2025.  Another reason to be glad not to be young.

Friday, July 21, 2023

Lake Forest: intesify; turbulence; a bad career path; two poems

NOAA’s Earth Observatory site, which is on the list I visit each morning, has an interesting post today about watching a hurricane intensify via new milk carton size satellites.

Of weather, Kent, who is a pilot with a major airline, wrote to me today:

 I can tell you from 37 years of flying that the air mass has changed, we are finding more pockets of disturbed air, storms build quicker and they are of higher intensity. That increases our challenge of finding smooth air. When I first started flying it was the winter weather that kept me on high alert, but now I can say that I will not miss dealing with summer storms. I bid trips to fly early before the afternoon cumulo granite builds, but nowadays we are avoiding severe convective weather earlier in the day.

I thank him for permitting me to share his observations with you.

I don’t write much for publication any more, but I sold an article yesterday to a magazine for less than half of what that magazine paid me for articles forty years ago.  The editor pleaded poverty caused by competition from the Internet.  That probably is true.  But factoring in inflation, I am being paid a tenth of what I was forty years ago.  This is not usually considered a good career path.  The money does matter now, but it did forty years ago, and if there were a young Webb Chiles out there now, which of course there isn’t, he could not support himself as I did from my thirties to my fifties and three and a half circumnavigations by writing.  I am glad I am not young now.

The oddly named SEASHELL ANTHOLOGY OF GREAT POETRY is divided into sections.  I have mentioned ‘Arms and the Boy’.  Others have been about love, loss of love, nature, death.  I confess to skimming one about the relationship of parents and their children.  I have no knowledge of that experience from one side and do not like to dwell upon it from the other, but the next section ‘Wanderer’s Song’ is meant for me.

Here is a poem I did not know which gives the section its name by Arthur Symons and also the end of Tennyson’s wonderful ‘Ulysses’. As I believe I have mentioned here before Tennyson was only twenty-two or twenty-three when ‘Ulysses’ was first published yet he so well imagined epic old age.  Perhaps at eighty-one it is understandable that I particularly admire, 

        Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.

        Death closes all; but something ere the end,

        Some work of noble note, may yet be done.


        We are not now that strength which in old days

        Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;

        One equal temper of heroic hearts,

        Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

        To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Lake Forest: What?; Le Tour: steps and dinner

You have probably read of the Australian and his dog who were ‘rescued’ after drifting for some months in the Pacific Ocean off Mexico.  

I had seen the headings on articles reporting this and glanced at them.  They caused me to wonder, but after seeing the above photo of the boat at the time of the ‘rescue’ sent to me by Tim for which I thank him, I wonder no more.

I see a standing mast.  I see a sail attached to it.  I see a standing fore or head stay and a sail attached to it.  I see a rudder.  I see a monstrosity of a boat on which I would never have set foot, but I also see that it is still afloat with no evidence of hull damage.  I will not speculate on the mental state of the Australian, but I will state unequivocally that no competent sailor would have required rescue from that boat.  The key word is competent.

I have been watching Le Tour de France which has been dominated in the past three runnings by two young men, Jonas Vingegaard, a Dane, and Tadej Pogacar, a Serb.  Pogacar won the race twice, Vingegaard won last year.  Neither has ever finished lower than second.  Through the first fifteen of the twenty-one stages this year they were separated by ten seconds.  This after more than fifty-five hours of cycling.  No one else was in contention.

Yesterday saw one of the most remarkable individual performances I have seen in sport.  The stage was a time trial with riders starting at two minute intervals in reverse order of their standing, the lowest starting first.  There were still more than one hundred riders in the race.

Pogacar started second to last and he blew away the field, besting the next best time by 1 minutes and 13 seconds.  A huge margin.  And then Vingegaard who started last blew away Pogacar, beating his time by 1 minute and 38 seconds.  Everyone, including the commentators, was stunned.

The last time I saw such a performance was when Floyd Landis made his solo breakaway on a stage of the Tour in 2006.  I was watching on television and was elated by his daring and ability.  Until we all learned that he was using drugs, and that he was not the only one.  

As I have mentioned here before, this caused me to ignore the race for many years, until friends who know more about cycling than I told me the sport is now clean.  I hope it is.  If so, they are extraordinary, almost super-human athletes and deserving of the highest admiration.  If not—well, I won’t think about that unless I have to.

I went for a somewhat more modest bike ride myself this morning.

Last evening Carol again drove us down to the lake front for drinks and dinner.  Before eating we again climbed the 120 stairs up to the top of the bluff.  Carol’s apartment is on the second floor, our condo in Hilton Head on the third, both the top floors of their buildings, so I don’t climb stairs that often anymore.  I bought a stair stepper, but found using it too artificial and boring.  This was the third time we’ve climbed those stairs in the past eight days and it has become easy. 

 Afterwards we placed our camping chairs near the water’s edge where three inch high ripples form and break with the pleasant sound of real surf.  Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the beach, except for wine bought from one building there.  We drank from insulated containers on which was printed ‘coffee’.  I will say only that they did not contain coffee.  We shared a smoked turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich, spinach empanadas, and chicken egg rolls, all bought by me at Fresh Market, which is for those of you living in other countries a high end grocery chain.  While much of the world is roasting, Chicago has, except for the stray tornado, remained comfortable.  The temperature was 72F/22F when we went down at 5:30.  A pleasant evening for an old landlocked sailor and an architect.

Friday, July 14, 2023

Lake Forest: tornados

Carol’s apartment is a block from the Lake Forest City Hall where a siren is sounded briefly each noon.  At around 5:45 P.M. Tuesday it sounded and kept sounding.  That this was for real we already knew because Carol had been watching the national evening news on television and the local station had broken in a few minutes earlier to announce a tornado warning.  Tornados had been observed west of Chicago on radar and visually.  

The Chicago metropolitan area is huge, one of the biggest in the world, stretching from northern Indiana to southern Wisconsin and tens of miles west and south of Lake Michigan.  Ten million people live here, slightly less than a quarter of them in the city of Chicago itself.

The National Weather Service now states that eleven tornados touched down in the Chicago area Tuesday evening, one at O’Hare Airport,  Three were class 1 storms, with winds up to 110 mph, the other eight were class 0 on a scale of 0 to 5, with winds from 65 to 85 mph.  These are considered weak tornados and caused no reported human injuries or fatalities.  They did rip roofs and sidings from buildings and toppled numerous large trees.  More than I would have expected.

None of the tornados came close to Lake Forest.  Here we only had a brief episode of heavy rain and wind which whipped the branches of the maple trees outside Carol’s windows as storms do the live oaks outside our condo in Hilton Head.

We had a tornado alert last evening, but as far as I know none developed.  An alert is that tornados are possible.  A warning that one or more has been seen and its approach is imminent.

You may recall that I experienced a tornado warning in Hilton Head a few weeks ago.  On radar that one was heading directly for the marina and our building, but dissipated over the mainland.

Vermont is flooded.  The southwest and south are experiencing prolonged dangerous heat.  So is Hilton Head, but that is normal for the island in July and August.

This country has a severe climate which seems likely to get worse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Lake Forest: a company, a newspaper syndicate of, a plunging, a gannetry; and three poems


The photos come from my long time friends, Susan and Howard, who are camping across Canada.  They were taken at the gannet colony at Cape St. Mary’s, Newfoundland.

There are three species of gannets.  One resides mostly in the British Isles and has as you can see spread across the Atlantic to Canada.  They sometimes venture south along the Atlantic coast.  A friend has seen them off Cape Hatteras.  I may have seen one off Hilton Head, but the sighting was so brief I am not certain.  A second species is found in South Africa.  And the one after which I named GANNET in Australia and New Zealand.  Those hatched in New Zealand fly across the Tasman during their first year, returning to their birth colony two years later.  Birds make incredible and thus far inexplicable flights.

I found myself wondering what the collective noun is for gannets and found there are four as listed in the title of this entry.  I have no idea the origin of ‘a newspaper syndicate of’ other than that the largest newspaper syndicate in the U.S. is owned by the Gannett (sic) Corporation.  I like ‘a plunging’ best.  By whatever name they are beautiful birds who are called ‘masters of the wind’.  I like that too.

I thank Susan and Howard for permission to share their photos with you.  Cape St. Mary’s is intriguing.

Three poems, actually maybe more because one has four parts.  You may notice that part four of ‘Waves Shifting Sand’ is not included.  It was not in CLASSICAL CHINESE POETRY.  

The first two were written by Meng Chiao, who lived 751-814 A.D.  The last is a somewhat atypical poem by Robert Frost, who I am surprised to learn was born in San Francisco in 1874.  He died in Boston in 1963.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

Lake Forest: tides; books read January-June; MODERN TIMES

At 5:00 PM last Friday Carol drove us the mile to the lake front where we set up camp chairs and sipped and ate sliders—one ham and brie and one sirloin each from a local shop—a few inches from water’s edge.  Before we did, we climbed the 120 stairs up to the top of the bluff.  

Several groins of huge boulders divide the Lake Forest beach into separate sections.  In late afternoon the beach was not crowded and we found an area mostly to ourselves and a few sea gulls.  We and the gulls watched a sailboat under sail for a while in light winds before the crew lowered the sails and turned on the engine to reach their destination before sunset.  A few powerboats.  A barge far out carrying a crane.  And a kayak that came into the beach and landed.  Air temperature of 72F/22C.  

We were close enough to the water that Carol jokingly said she hoped it was high tide.  I know the Mediterranean Sea does not have tides, but had not thought about the Great Lakes.  I googled and in fact the Med and the Great Lakes do have tides, but so small—less than 2”/5 centimeters at spring high tides, that they are considered non-tidal.

A pleasant evening which we will repeat.

Books Read January-June 2023


                THE SLOWWORM’s SONG   Andrew Miller

       TRAFALGAR   Nicholas Best





Benjamin Labatut



HOJOKI:  A Hermit’s Hut As Metaphor   Kano no Chomei  



DOM CASMURRO  Machado de Assis

THE VIVISECTOR   Patrick White



BARROW’S BOYS   Fergus Fleming

THE RED PONY   John Steinbeck

THE ICE BALOON   Alec Wilkinson




OF MICE AND MEN   John Steinbeck

IDYLLS OF THE KING   Alfred Tennyson

TWAIN AND GRANT   Mark Perrybn




THE WAGER   David Grann

BY SORROW’S RIVER   Larry McMurtry

CORELLI’S MANDOLIN   Louis De Bernieres



THE SPY   Paulo Coelho


LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA   Gabriel Garcia Marquez


THE MOON IS DOWN   John Steinbeck

SOCRATES   Paul Johnson

THE SHADOW LINE   Joseph Conrad

Several of these are classics which I was reading for the second or third time and obviously enjoy.  One classic which I had not read before and found an exceptional surprise and pleasure is Tennyson’s IDYLLS OF THE KING.  Of the others, I particularly recommend SIX FRIGATES, about the founding the the U.S. Navy; THE VIVISECTOR, by the Australian Patrick White, one of my favorite novels about an artist; THE CELLIST OF SARAJEVO, a novel based on true events when during the siege of Sarajevo a cellist played each afternoon in a public square exposed to Serbian fire; TWAIN AND GRANT, the friendship of the two men in the last year of Grant’s life;  CORELLI’S MANDOLIN, a partial love story set on a Greek Island during the Nazi occupation, revealing at the end the slaughter by Nazi troops of their former Italian allies after Italy’s surrender;  THE GATES OF RICHMOND, non-fiction about McClellan’s failed campaign to take the Confederate capital in 1862 which revealed some Civil War history I did not know.

Although I read most of it at the end of June, not included in the above list is MODERN TIMES:  THE WORLD FROM THE TWENTIES TO THE NINETIES  by Paul Johnson because I finished it’s 1140 pages on July 7.  Johnson is a conservative who believes in small government and free markets and is willing to ignore the torture of their opposition by some such as Portugal’s Salazar and Spain’s Franco.

Obviously I do not share all his opinions, but I am pleased to see him quote several historians who call what are now known as the First and Second World Wars, the Second Thirty Years’ War—the First Thirty Years’ War was 1618-1648.  I have long thought that given enough time, the wars will be seen to be one war interrupted by a 21 year cease fire while the exhausted and bleed dry countries waited for another generation to come of age to be cannon fodder.

I also like that of American Presidents he admires Harry Truman and considers John Kennedy image without substance.  I do, too.

I have already included the astounding quote in the book from Adolf Hitler.  Here is another interesting quote:  ‘Germans are Belgians with megalomania’.  Less you think I am anti-German, that comes from a German, Konrad Adenauer, the Chancellor of West Germany from 1949-1963.

Writing about the atrocities performed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Johnson says, They epitomized the great destructive force of the Twentieth Century:  the religious fanatic reincarnated as professional politician.  The self-righteous seeking to impose their beliefs on others are still active among us.

What is of particular interest to me is what is not in the book, how much that seems of importance in our world has happened in the past thirty years since it was published.  There is no Internet.  No iPhones.  No social media.  No 9-11.  No American Afghanistan War.  No rise of China to become the world’s second biggest economy.  Bare mention of the break-up of the Soviet Union and the end of apartheid in South Africa.

Of the Soviet Afghanistan War, Johnson writes:  The war lasted a decade, and at no point were the Russians and their allies able to control much more than the main towns and the strategic roads.  That sounds familiar.

I could wonder how with the example of Russian failure the United States a few years later embarked on another futile Afghanistan war, except the answer is obviously hubris, some in our government thought that we being superior could succeed when the Russians could not, and it took us twice as long as they to learn our lesson and at a terrible cost.

Unfortunately Johnson observes, and I believe correctly, A prime discovery of modern times is that reason plays but little part in our affairs.

Homo insipiens, not homo sapiens.

So you must find your own way through the labyrinth.