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.