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.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Hilton Head Island: ungoofy; Otis; five poems


When I see photographs of myself or look in the mirror these days I mostly see a goofy looking old man, so perhaps you will forgive me for publishing the above which is used to promote the SafeHarbor film in which I don’t think I look goofy.  You may think otherwise.

You probably have read or heard that hurricane Otis which has just come ashore at Acapulco as a Category 5 storm underwent in the preceding twelve hours the most rapid intensification ever recorded in the Eastern Pacific Ocean with winds increasing by 115 mph/100 knots during that half day.

This is a cause for considerable concern among those of us who live in hurricane zones.  We absurdly start naming storms when they reach minimum gale force, 34 knots.  That is just moderately unpleasant weather.  We really shouldn’t name storms at all.  We should just label them Blind Force 1, 2, etc. to the end of the season.  But we must now face the fact that we can be in our homes with a tropical storm approaching with an increasing chance the storm will rapidly intensify.

I am sitting on our porch and paused to think about that.  I like it here.  The risk goes with the territory.

I find I have fallen behind in sharing poems which I think at least a few of you will appreciate.  I have felt out of focus this week.  Not ill.  Just not quite myself.  For better or worse I again am myself.  So here are five poems I have recently admired.  

FromTHE POETRY OF ZEN, both by Yuan Mei:


The last, as you would expect, made me think of Carol and because she does not often read this journal, I emailed it to her.

I have a criticism of ‘The Third Body’ and that is of the exclamation mark after ‘death’.  It is too dramatic.  A period is enough.  Death is just another thing that happens.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Hilton Head Island: HAWKE and a hawk and no free will


For decades sailors stopping at Horta in Portugal’s Azores Islands have painted the names of their boats on the walls and stones around the marina.  Carol and I were there in 2001 and I had forgotten that she did too until a reader sent me the top photo a few months ago.  Unfortunately I have also forgotten who sent it.  That happens when you get old.  I have searched my email account without success.  So I thank him and I apologize for forgetting.  I do not apologize for being old.  It was not planned.

The second photo is of a recent visitor who spent most of Wednesday afternoon sitting on the live oak closest to our condo.  He flew off from time to time and once when he returned perched on our deck railing for a while.  My book of Carolina birds shows only three species.  I think he is an adolescent Sharp-shinned Hawk.  I quote:  “The name comes from the sharp keel on the leading edge of its ‘shin,’ though it is actually below rather than above the bird’s ankle on the tarsus bone of the foot.  The tarsus on most birds is round.”

He is the first hawk I have seen here and has not been back.

I am not an expert on birds.  If you are and I am wrong in my identification, please leave a comment correcting me.

Larry sent me a link to an article about Stanford University neurobiologist, Robert Sapolsky, who believes that we do not have free will.  I thanked him but had already read and bookmarked the article intending to mention it here.

Sapolsky is one of a growing number of scientists who doubt the existence of free will.  I come across articles about them from time to time.

I am not a scientist, but from my experience and reading increasingly I have come to suspect that most of who we are and our lives are set at birth and due to chance, a combination of what we were given in the genetic lottery and to whom, where, and when we were born.  

Here is the link if you want to consider this yourself.

Whether you do or not may have been determined at birth.


Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Hilton Head Island: catching squid; climbing faces; two poems; why I am not writing my autobiography; and a revision

Before all that, the above is what I glanced up and saw last evening. 

I had an email from a friend this morning about the violence in Israel and Gaza.  I responded that we are a savage and mostly unintelligent species so I try to find what beauty, peace and serenity I can.  

The marsh is beautiful this morning and was last evening.

I thank Ron for a link to a short video about life on a ship in the Chinese squid fishing fleet.  Rather a different experience of sea than mine.


I was curious about how much the world’s population has increased during my lifetime.  In 1940, a year before I was born but close enough, there were 2.3 billion of us.  Now there are just over 8 billion, and that despite our slaughtering maybe 200,000,000 of our fellow men, women, and children.  In trying to learn just how many have died in wars during my lifetime I googled and found this shocking entry in Wikipedia.  I recently wrote that after sex war may be our most common activity, but there have been more wars than I ever imagined.  Here is the link to that page, which is an education.


In 1992 on a nonstop passage from Auckland, New Zealand, to Punta del Este, Uruguay, after rounding Cape Horn we sailed west of the Falklands.  One evening as the sky darkened I was startled to find a loom of lights as though from a major city off to the northeast.  I had my first GPS device on board and thought I knew where we were and there should have been no land to the northeast, but I went below and studied the chart just to be sure.  As we saw the following day the loom came from a vast fishing fleet that stretched horizon to horizon and beyond.

Carol and I saw a similar fleet off West Africa ten years later.

8,000,000,000 is a lot of stomachs to fill.

While I don’t even like heights, I have often thought that my sailing has more in common with some mountain climbing than it does with most sailing.  A visually stunning documentary recently added to Netflix, RACE TO THE SUMMIT, about two Alpinists who became engaged in a competition to climb sheer mountain faces fastest, caused me to see some similarities between myself and the two climbers and some very big differences. Were I a climber I would surely climb free solo as they did.  If you watch it, I advise not reading reviews first.  You will find most say it ends tragically.  I don’t think what happens is tragic, any more that it would have been tragic had I died at sea decades ago.  Here is a link to the trailer:


Two poems from the anthology, BEING ALIVE:

A few have suggested that I write my autobiography.  I have been doing that now for more than fifty years.  It just needs editing.

I have given the idea some thought and decided that I won’t make the attempt for two reasons. 

One because I don’t want to write about my childhood, which I have dealt with in two videos:



And that’s enough.

The second reason is that I don’t know how I could write about the women in my life without compromising their privacy.  

The revision is related to the above.  I have often said that I am a writer more than I am a sailor.  I have decided that is not true.  Writing, sailing, and my relationships with women are all equal.  Subtract any one of them and I am not me.

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Hilton Head Island: hull identification numbers and perhaps issues of more importance

GANNET is still registered in Illinois.  Next year I will no longer have an Illinois mailing address and would like to register her in South Carolina.  However, South Carolina makes this difficult.  The state requires more information than most, including a printed photo or a tracing of the Hull Identification Number.  GANNET is 44 years old.  She has had a half dozen owners and her HIN has been painted over many times, two coats by me.

So I bought a paint remover that is reputed to be safe on fiberglass hulls, and yesterday I biked down, masked the area where the HID is vaguely visible, and painted on the remover.  The canister says it requires several hours to work.  I was concerned that it would work too well and weaken the hull, so I went back after three hours and found it had done little.

I biked down early this morning and applied more.  That I can go back and forth to GANNET in five minutes by bike, ten minutes walking, is one of the great virtues of this condo.

I returned five hours later and found the paint remover had not removed paint.  So I hosed it off and applied sand paper, which is perhaps what I should have done in the first place.  The Hull Identification Number is now visible.  We are due for rain tonight and tomorrow, but when I can I will go down and take the required photograph and GANNET may have a home port, as she has not had in the twelve years I have owned her.

I respect Carol’s desire for privacy.  

You should not be surprised to learn that while I care about those of you who read this regularly, I care more about Carol.

I mention this because I am about to share most of an email I sent to her earlier this evening.  I do so believing that I have not compromised our personal relationship.

I paused because Lester Holt just came on with sensational reports that have no meaning.  NBC may be the least offensive of the network news, but it is still pandering to the mob.

I could write more about that and in fact this recent violence in Israel has caught my attention because it speaks to what we are as a species and that we spin out as some of our species fanatical self-righteous minorities that cause such harm and grief.

Well, there is no solution to that.   Misnamed Homo Sapiens is what it is:   unknowing man.   One can just hope that by chance his or her life is not changed or destroyed by those self-righteous fanatics though hundreds of millions have been.  You and I may have lucked out.

I am sipping my second and last martini and contemplating dessert.  I have two different cookies and ice cream.  An abundance of choices that the vast proportion of those alive on this planet at this minute would envy.   I think the cookies will win out.

Almost all societies drink wine and spirits in some form.  Almost all have their favorite toasts.  Many translate “to your health’, which is certainly good, but my favorite is the Jewish


I happened today to be reading a book, 1945, which relates the events of that year by newspaper reports and speeches of the time.  I  just read of the unexpectedly quick collapse of Germany in April of 1945 and of the first Allied troops discovering and entering the concentration camps.  Even I who have read history extensively was shocked by what those troops saw and what the Nazis did in the very last days, butchering thousands at the final moment, often extremely brutally. 


L’Chaim can be translated:  to life.

Perhaps the most fundamental theme of my life has been trying to understand what is going on.  In that I have failed.

All I believe I am certain is that consciousness resists unconsciousness and that DNA seems to impose an imperative that it be blindly projected into the future.

There is no conclusion here.  Our lives are beyond understanding.  Act honorably.  Try to do as little harm to others as possible.  Find what joy you can.  

I have found much joy with you, and I know I will find more.




Friday, October 6, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Edwin Hubble discovers the universe; solved; two Japanese death poems


One of the sites I view each morning is NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day.  The blurry image above dates back one hundred years today and is epoch making.  Actually the image is slightly older than that but Edwin Hubble realized the dot represented proof that our galaxy is not the entire universe and he wrote the red VAR on it on October 6, 1923.

A better explanation is found at:


It is amazing to realize how little we knew of the universe until not much more than my lifetime ago and how greatly our knowledge has expanded so quickly.  Instead of our Milky Way Galaxy being the universe, it is now thought the universe is at least 28 billion light years in diameter.  A size beyond imagination.  And it is getting bigger.

You can happily live your life ignoring that fact or you could consider what it means to the religious stories our species tells itself.

A few years ago I wrote a poem:

I solved a problem in one of the most satisfying ways possible.  I eliminated it.

As regular readers know, all five or six of you, earlier this year the two sail tie bags I have been using for stowage in GANNET’s Great Cabin came unstuck from the inside of the hull.  This is strange because they had been up there for a dozen years and more than 30,000 miles.

GANNET’s hull is unlined.  What you see on the inside is bare fiberglass into which nothing can be screwed, so I used Gorilla Construction Adhesive to secure two strips of wood on each side of the Great Cabin into which I could screw the hooks to hold the bags top and bottom.  The top strips of wood came unstuck.  The bottom ones remained in place.

I have tried various adhesives and glues to get the top strips of wood back in place.  Super Glue.  West G-Flex epoxy,  3M’s 5200.  All without success.  Just before I flew to Chicago at the beginning of July I used 5200.  The strips of wood remained in place and I reattached the sail tie bags.  When I returned to Hilton Head at the beginning of September and went down to the little boat, I found they had again fallen onto the pipe berths.

Most of September was too hot to work below deck.  I did go down from time to time to consider the problem.  Last week I had the Eureka moment:  eliminate it.  Don’t keep trying to get pieces of wood to stick to the hull.  Get rid of the bags and stow their not extensive contents elsewhere.  So I have.  Yesterday I removed the lower strips of wood, sanded the areas where the wood had been, wiped it down with acetone.  I came back to the condo and ordered another waterproof bag from Amazon, as well as new plastic tumblers—the old ones have seen too much use.  This morning I biked back down and painted the areas where the sail tie bags had been.  This was only a few square feet on each side and took only a few minutes.  I was painting white over white and I don’t think it will need a second coat.

Amazon just delivered the waterproof bag and tumblers, which in their pristine state are quite attractive.  They are made from a material called Tritan, of which I had not heard.

Maybe tomorrow, but with soccer matches and baseball games demanding my attention, probably not until Monday, I will go down and restow gear in GANNET’s now vastly more spacious Great Cabin.

I am due to have the stitches from my most recent chopping removed Monday afternoon.  A diver is supposed to clean GANNET’s bottom today or early next week.  I might then do something radical and go sailing.  

I am almost finished rereading the anthology JAPANESE DEATH POEMS.

Here are two:

Raizan died in 1716 at the age of sixty-three.

Onitsura died in 1738 at the age of seventy-eight.  I might have posted this one here before.


Monday, October 2, 2023

Hilton Head Island: Steve Earley and the MONITOR; a gift from Canada; discarded; resumed

I have been remiss.  Not for the first time and surely not for the last.  But I failed to mention that Steve Earley is on his fall cruise.  A possible excuse is that he began a week ago when I was distracted by being chopped.  A more likely reason is that I am old and getting forgetful.   A third is that with his summer cruise this year in Maine and his recent winter cruises in southern waters, added to his long time spring and fall cruises, are all melding together and Steve is almost on a continuous cruise.  A very good way to live.

Here is the link to his tracking page:


And here is the link to his site:


The above photo is one Steve just posted there.

But Steve also has the good taste to read my journal and the entry about the MONITOR caused him to write:

I am enjoying the morning. Sitting under the boom tent during a light rain at Solomons Island.  I decided to wait out today’s wind and rain with a better forecast for tomorrow.  Weather says something call the “sun” may make an appearance tomorrow.  I wonder if I will know it when I see it. 

Reading your most recent journal entry brought back memories of recovering the turret of the USS Monitor.  It was an honor, as the son of a Naval officer, to see it raised.  The first person to touch the turret once on the barge deck was a historian, the second was me.  

And he provided a link to a piece he wrote about this a dozen years ago that I find of interest:


Paradise has been re-established, though that might be a contradiction in terms.  Paradise should just be paradise.  But as I have noted here before, paradise is usually somewhere else.

This condo looks out on and is in immediate proximity to beauty, but is dangerously hot in the summer.  That that beauty is different from any I have known is one of its attractions.  Live oaks.  Spanish moss.  Palmetto palms.  Spartina.  Skull Creek.

Summer is over.  Temperatures have moderated.  I can go outside in the middle of the day without risking heat stroke, and I have breakfast on the screened porch and drinks in the evening there or on the deck.  

For several days the weather has been perfect.  Sunny.  Blue sky.  Some breeze.  But a few hours ago when I went onto the porch with a gin and tonic, the sky had hazed over, turning Skull Creek silver.  From the Savannah evening news I learned that the haze is smoke from a wildfire in Ontario, carried out to sea and south to here.  That’s a long way.  Canada is big and mostly empty and burning down.

Last week I watched THE PACIFIC on Netflix.  THE PACIFIC is a spin off of THE BAND OF BROTHERS, following a squad of Marines as they fight from island to island in that ocean, as THE BAND OF BROTHERS follows paratroopers fighting in Europe.  Both series are well done.

I found myself thinking about how much I and we read and watch about war, which after sex may be the most fundamental human activity.  

It has been a long time since we have had a major war.  Since I was a very young child.  I see no evidence whatsoever that we have gained in wisdom.  Is it possible that we will get through this century without another cataclysmic great war?

In one of the final episodes of THE PACIFIC there is an amusing almost unnoticeable scene.  

At a camp on one of the Pacific islands a marine walks past carrying a book which he tosses into a trash barrel.  Another marine who has seen him wonders what he has thrown away and goes over to the barrel, reaches down, pulls out the book.  We only see a title:  WAR STORIES, and the author’s last name:   Hemingway.  The second marine drops the book back in the trash barrel.

My interpretation of this is that the marines who have lived the brutal reality of war are disgusted with Hemingway’s romanticism of it.  And the scrip writers who agree indulge themselves with this transitory dig.

I resumed workouts today.  The knee bends put a little stress on my incision, so I did not go down quite as far as I usually do.  I don’t really like to workout; but my aged body doesn’t like it when I can’t.