Friday, January 31, 2014

Evanston: THE LIEUTENANT; the beaver; snow; ads

        A year ago I read THE SECRET RIVER, part of a trilogy of novels about Australia’s colonial past.  Mostly set on the Hawkesbury River, just north of Sydney, which I know well as a favorite destination during the various years I’ve had a boat in Sydney—even today you sail north outside The Heads about a dozen miles, west up the river a couple of miles and are in coves unmarked by man.  I enjoyed the book very much and thought I wrote about it, but can’t find the entry.
        I learned that while written first, THE SECRET RIVER has become the second novel of the trilogy, and I just finished THE LIEUTENANT, which goes back thirty years to the arrival of what is known as The First Fleet.
        As a child, Daniel Rooke, the title character, comes to realize that he has rare mathematical ability, which he mostly keeps to himself to avoid ridicule by the less gifted.  However, he attracts the attention of some, including the Astronomer Royal.
        He attends the Royal Naval College, but then because they are less costly to purchase takes a commission in the Marines rather than the Navy.
        Injured in a sea battle during the Revolutionary War, after his recovery he is asked to join the fleet transporting prisoners out to the land ‘discovered’ by Captain Cook and make observations of an expected comet.
        While Kate Grenville is a fine writer, she does not know the sea.
        She provides an interesting description of the daily ritual of winding the chronometer during passage that I assume is historically accurate, but then erroneously states the chronometer’s purpose.  
        She also writes of “the bland wind at sea.”  
        While it is true that wind off and near land has more varied scents, I can’t imagine that any sailor finds sea wind bland.  To the contrary.  I long for a whiff of it as I did during my inland college years.
        Arrived in the Antipodes, Rooke sets up a modest observatory not far from what is now the south end of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, where he, isolated from the main encampment, mets the native peoples on a personal level and develops a friendly relationship with some, including a young girl from whom he begins to learn their language.
        Expected supply ships do not arrive; the soldiers, sailors and prisoners almost stave; and predictable violence breaks out.
        All this is very well told, but the most interesting thing in the book is found in the Author’s Note at the end.  I am not going to reveal what that is and spoil this enjoyable novel for you.
        Upon completing it, I immediately bought the last book in the trilogy, SARAH THORNHILL.


        This morning I learned that there is a beaver in England.  That is news because my ancestors—and maybe yours—killed off the last resident beaver 800 years ago.
        The story from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN is here.
        Why dither?  Find out whether it is male or female and release a mate.  Or a bunch of both sexes.
        Go beaver.

        Today, gratefully, is the last day of the third snowiest month in Chicago since records started being kept in 1884.  33.5”/.85 meter has fallen so far, a number that will be increased before midnight.
        The two snowier months were also Januarys, in 1918 and 1979.
        Snow due to begin later today will continue into tomorrow.  Worse from a purely selfish perspective is another storm due Tuesday that may persist into Wednesday, the day I am scheduled to fly away.  Cancelled flights are routine in Chicago this winter.

        I received an offer to buy advertising space on this site.  I’m flattered, but I declined.  Unlike Ty Warner I know when I have enough. will remain ad free.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Evanston: enough?; music; the full berg

        How much is enough?  Enough time?  Enough money?  Enough stuff?
        Obviously there are no objective answers, only subjective desire.
        I was thinking about this partially because of Ty Warner.  
        Mr. Warner, creator of Beanie Babies and Chicago area resident, is said to be worth $2.6 billion, making him the 209th richest American.
          I find it astounding that you can amass that kind of money selling small fuzzy toys.  I find it even more astounding that Mr. Warner has just been put on two years’ probation after  pleading guilty to tax evasion.  What is astounding is the proportion.  Mr. Warner hid $25 million in a Swiss bank and failed to pay $5.6 million in taxes on earnings from investments in that account.
        $25 million is a lot of money to me.  So is $5.6 million.  It probably is to some of you, too.  But—and I must confess that there are so many zeros after these numbers that I had some difficulty reading them correctly on the screen—$25 million is slightly less than 1% of Mr. Warner’s wealth; and $5.6 million about 1/4 of 1%.  It’s chump change.  Why would he even bother?  $2.6 billion isn’t enough?
        Obviously for Mr. Warner, it wasn’t. 
         Lamentably, as part of his plea agreement, he paid civil penalties of $53.6 million.


        Many of you are musicians, and I appreciate that you treat me kindly, for, as I wrote some years ago, I am not.  Some one has to be the audience.  In music, that’s me.
        Many of the women in my life were musicians.  Probably still are.  A violist.  A pianist.  A guitarist.  A flautist.
        And although it is off the subject, I have realized that I, famously or notoriously, an only child, have never had a significant relationship with a woman who was an only child.  Unless I’m forgetting someone.  Always possible.  No conclusion; just the observation.
        After writing about Vaughan Williams, I heard from several readers suggesting other works of his I might enjoy.
        One, James, included an amusing and vivid quote from Ralph Vaughan Williams about the harpsichord, “sounds like two skeletons making love on a tin roof.”  
        I like it, even though I also like the harpsichord.


        I thank Fred, my father-in-law, for the above rare view of an ice berg above and below water.  
        The berg was drifting toward an oil rig off Newfoundland and had to be towed away.  Estimated weight:  300,000,000 tons.
        Probably almost as big as Mr. Warner’s fortune.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Evanston: man of the future; the good head; grounded

        From Larry on the west coast came:  A List Of Ten Things That Will Disappear In Our Life Times:  More scary than humorous, for which I thank him.
        The ten are:  the Post Office; cheques; printed newspapers; printed books; land line telephones; music; television; the ‘things’ you own; joined handwriting; privacy.
        None of these present the least problem to me.
        The Post Office brings nothing much except catalogs.  I’ll be sorry for the workers who lose their jobs, but that’s it.  The Internet, UPS and FedEx suffice.
        I almost never write or receive checks (from ‘cheques’ the list was compiled by someone in the Commonwealth).  Earnings are directly deposited; marina fees are directly taken from my account, as are a few other recurring charges; and I pay for everything else with debit cards or cash.
        I don’t recall the last time I read a printed newspaper; and I much prefer to read books on my iPad mini and Kindle.  Of my own books, the Kindle royalties are greater than those from paper.   I would not care in the least if the remaining two went out of print.  
        There will be, by the way, audio versions of some of my books, hopefully before the end of this year.  I received the contracts by email; printed them; signed; scanned; and emailed them back.  Sorry, Post Office.
        I have never liked telephones.  When on GANNET, I do use my cell phone.  At the condo we only keep the landline because the front door intercom in our building is linked to it.
        Music.  This really is about the music business, which may be self-destructing.  I already have more music than I can listen to; and I am certain that true musicians will continue to make music, whether they get paid or not, because they love to do so.
        Television.  I watch little, mostly sports and movies, and when on GANNET none at all without any sense of loss.
        The ‘things’ you own.  I don’t own that much and could easily fit everything that I want, except Carol, in GANNET.  This, however, is really about ‘things’ such as software and services being in The Cloud and available only through subscription fees.  
        I’ve already been confronted with this in that I don’t really own the $400 of electronic charts I bought to run in iNavX.  However, I do have them downloaded to my iPad and iPad mini.
        Until high-speed Internet connections are inexpensive and ubiquitous, it will have to be possible to function offline.  
        Joined handwriting.  As anyone who has had the misfortune to see it knows, my handwriting has always been terrible.  Now, on those rare occasions when I put pen or pencil to paper, I print.
        Privacy.  That we live in a surveillance state with unfortunate tendencies—I considered a much stronger word than ‘unfortunate’— is fact.  However, there is still enough privacy for me in mid-ocean.
        Thus, I find that I am the man of the future.
        I emailed this surprising conclusion to Larry, who emailed back:  Yes.  You may uniquely be both a man of the future - and past.
        From time to time people do tell me that I was born a hundred—or more—years too late.
        I must be doing something wrong, because I aim to live in the present.


        I read of a proposed regulation that anyone who ties a dinghy to the public dock in Key West must show a receipt that the holding tank on the dinghy’s mother ship has been pumped within the preceding two weeks.  
        That there is a report stating that if all pleasure craft pumped their heads at the same instant in tidal waters, the result would not only be insignificant, it would be immeasurable, is irrelevant in a country where a third of the citizens don’t accept the theory of evolution.  And before you ask, I can’t provide a reference to the report, which I have seen quoted over the years.
        However, the writer wondered how those with composting heads could meet this requirement, as I do how could those such as GANNET with Porta Potties.
        I remembered that I know a sailor who installed a composting head on his boat a year or so ago and emailed asking about his experience.  Roger replied that he likes the AirHead fine.
        He continued that there is a small fan that must be continuously on, but it is very quiet and draws negligible current.  On the AirHead site, a replacement fan costs only $25.
        He also notes that the AirHead is larger than standard marine heads and might not fit on some boats.  GANNET I’m sure among them.
        Other negatives might be cost and a little more involvement with the process than required by standard heads, but I agree with Roger that not having a holding tank or pump-outs outweigh these.
        I wrote back, “I wasn’t considering one for GANNET, but your report makes me wish it were possible.  Seems the best way to go.”  Not realizing the pun until I typed it.
        Thanks, Roger, for permission to share your information.


        Going aground on a ship is not usually to be desired; but this morning I came across a dramatic two minute video of a ship being deliberately run on shore in order to be scrapped.  The helmsman was right on.  What an odd sensation that must have been.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Evanston: beyond 'La Mer'; wreck

        Perhaps because of my recently writing about the Chasing Shackleton series, which completed showing here this week—Ron in Australia, where the series had already been telecast, wrote to warn me after the first episode that it would get worse, and if you watched you know it did—Tim recommended Ralph Vaughan Williams’s SINFONIA ANTARTICA.  I found and downloaded it from Amazon and like it very much.
        From Wikipedia I learned that until a few days before its first performance, the composer was considering the title, SINFONIA ANTARCTICA, but finally decided to be consistently Italian and drop the C.
        The symphony was based on a film score Vaughan Williams wrote for SCOTT OF THE ANTARCTIC,  and includes spoken quotes before each of the five movements, the last from the dying Scott himself: 
        I do not regret this journey; we took risks, we knew we took them, things have come out against us, therefore we have no cause for complaint. 
        In searching for SINFONIA ANTARTICA, which is Ralph Vaughan Williams’s seventh symphony, I saw that his first is called “A Sea Symphony.”  I couldn’t resist and downloaded it, too.
        Having listened to both twice, I like both but prefer ANTARTICA.
        Both contain choral elements are are loud, essential today when the wind howls at gale force around our building.   Nocturnes would be lost.
        And both, along with Heggie’s opera, MOBY DICK, will be perfect to play at full volume aboard GANNET in mid-ocean.


        I had never heard of Andrew Cockburn before a review of his posthumously published A COLOSSAL WRECK appeared in the NY TIMES, a newspaper he held in some contempt as being a pillar of the established order.  But that’s all right, I’m sure he had never heard of me.
        Cockburn, born in Scotland, raised in Ireland, came from a journalist family, started his career in England and moved to the United States in the early 70s to write for THE VILLAGE VOICE.  Eventually he became a U.S. citizen, and has been described as the foremost radical journalist of his generation, which is my generation, for he was born five months earlier than I.  He died of cancer in 2012.
        I am not going to repeat what can be found in the NY TIMES which you can read here.
        The book is subtitled “A road trip though political scandal, corruption, and American culture.”  The colossal wreck is us; and the Oxfam report a few days ago that the 85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest would surely have elicited comment from Andrew Cockburn.
        Cockburn did not write just about politics, and had an engaging and entertaining style.  With the exception of a too long piece in which he portrays one of his enemies seeking admission to heaven, the book is full of energy and does not drag.
        Although he was diagnosed with cancer two years before his death, and for the last three months of his life wrote from a medical facility, he kept this from his readers and most of his friends.  There is not in the book the least indication that he is ill.  His last entry is as vital as the first.  The reader only learns what happened from an afterward written by his daughter.
        Remarkable and admirable.


        I noticed at the bottom of an email from Sid the intriguing quote:  On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of those who on the dawn of victory sat down to rest.
        Seeking the source, I found more:  On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who on the dawn of victory, sat down to rest, and resting died.
        ‘Wait’ and ‘waiting’ are sometimes substituted for ‘rest’ and ‘resting’, and the quote is variously attributed to Adlai Stevenson and George W. Cecil.  It would appear Cecil was first by thirty years.

        From John came four lines from Edna St. Vincent Millay, for which I thank him.
                "My candle burns at both ends
                    It will not last the night;
                But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends -
                It gives a lovely light"


        The wind at the nearest NOAA buoy is 39 knots.  The air temperature 14°F/-10°C.   
        I’m going to light the fireplace.  
        And, after I workout, maybe pour myself an early glass of Laphroaig.

        The photo is of Bora-Bora.  I’m tired of looking at snow.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Evanston: War Letters

        Most of television is drivel, but on rare occasions television is sublime.  
        The American Experience “War Letters”, which aired here two nights, ago is as profoundly moving as anything I have seen, read or heard lately.
        This is not just American experience, but the human experience.
        If you missed “War Letters”, you can view it online here for a while. 


        Suffering from both acute and chronic condo fever, I bundled up and walked down in 8°F/-13.3°C to see how far out the lake is frozen.  
        I wore my Omni-Heat reflective fleece and pants under a parka and over Levis and corduroy shirt and was, except for my exposed face, comfortable.   At sea, less the parka but adding foul weather gear and I’ll be good.
        I have a ski cap here.  I’m not sure if I have a watch cap on GANNET and will check.

        A wall of ice about 5’/1.5 meters high and growing with spray from each wave rises from South Beach.  Beyond it the water is open, until on the horizon there is another white line of ice.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Evanston: freeze (and dried)

        The freeze is outside our windows where low temperatures are expected to be below 0°F/-17.8C for the next several nights.  In an act of faith I just ordered two pairs of shorts from LL Bean.  Spring is only two weeks and a day away—for me.
        This entry is not about that freeze, but freeze dried food, one of my many culinary specialties, along with uncooked oatmeal and eating nuts.  I received an email yesterday from a sailor in the NW who is planning a summer cruise around Vancouver Island.  Knowing my freeze dried expertise, he asked for some recommendations, which I decided to share with you.
        While there are many possible sources, in the United States I buy from Campmor.  They give a 10% discount on orders of twenty or more; 15% on forty or more food items; and ship quickly.
        In New Zealand I put in an order with the Opua General Store for New Zealand’s own Backcountry Cuisine, which is my favorite brand, but available only in New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
        For me freeze dry meals have many advantages:  light weight; simple preparation; easy clean-up; straightforward planning and provisioning.
        The clean-up advantages are often forgotten.  This can take more time, effort and water than cooking itself.  At sea I have only to rinse a big plastic measuring cup and a spoon.  In port, where I pour the boiling water into the pouch—too chancy at sea—only a spoon.  Some of you will recall that I have learned that a spoon is easier to clean than a fork, where food can stick between the prongs.
        It is important to test meals before you provision for a sail.  Some are terrible; some too spicy for a boat with limited fresh water; a few require preparation more complicated than boiling water; some will actually feed two, while many that claim to won’t.
        Before a long passage I try to find about fourteen different meals that meet my requirements and then buy six month’s worth.  The “about” is because one of my favorites noted below, Backpacker Pantry’s Santa Fe Chicken does serve two and I divide the pouch’s contents and save the other half in a zip lock bag; and I buy a few more of some I particularly like, and a few of some others, such as chicken vindaloo, which is really too spicy, to provide a little variety.  A lot of freeze dry meals taste a lot like a lot of other freeze dry meals.
        Before sailing I put two of each of the meals into a big trash bag—I don’t want to reach in and find the same thing night after night.  One sealed bag equals four week’s dinners.
        I’ve been testing for the past couple of years and around the beginning of May I’ll be ordering from the following list.   It should be remembered that these are only personal choices and that I am not a big eater.

        AA =  Alpine Aire
        BC =   Backpacker Country
        MH =  Mountain House
        NH  =  Natural High

        AA Leonardo da Fettuccine
        AA Dijon chicken 
        AA Chicken gumbo
        BP Cajon style rice and chicken
        BP Chicken salad wrap  (wrap is not supplied.  It can be     
                            eaten without)
        BP Louisiana red beans and rice
        BP Fettuccine Alfredo with chicken
        BP Santa Fe chicken
        BP Chicken vindaloo (sparingly)
        BP Pad Thai
        BP Shepherd’s potato stew with beef
        BP Beef and broccoli sir fry  
        MH Chicken fajita wrap filling (as above)
        MH Rice and chicken
        MH Noodles and chicken
        MH Sweet and sour pork with rice
        MH Beef stew
        MH New Orleans rice with shrimp and ham
        MH Spaghetti with meat sauce 
        NH Thai chicken
        NH Stroganoff and beef

        I wish Sid and his friends a fine cruise.
        And for the next fifteen days to pass.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Evanston: dirty snow and three things on the Internet

        An inch or two of snow fell Saturday and a little more is due for the new few days, so our snow is presently pristine.
        Cities, as I have written before, are best seen through veils that hide blemishes and defects:  fresh snow, fog, night, distance.  But city snow does not remain pristine long.  All that grime from cars and trucks and trains and planes and us must be there all the time, but remains mostly invisible until a sheet of white absorbs and reveals it.
        There is in modern urban life an incessant assault of ugliness, visual and audible, of abrasions, from people pushing you on the train to sneezing on you while standing in line at a drug store, to the self-serving distortions of advertising to the self-serving lies of politicians.  While most of us do not dwell on them, do not usually even notice them unless they are especially egregious, they must take their toll on our energy and our spirits.
        I thought of Dr. Johnson’s famous quote:
“Why, Sir, you will find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.  No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
        This is a failure of imagination by an insularly urban man who must have been, as has been said in our time of Woody Allen, at two with nature.
        I can think of many aspects of life that cities do not afford, including silence and endless horizons.
        I have always said that I go to sea for the simplicity and beauty of life there.  I’m sure that others find those qualities in the mountains and forests and deserts.  But I’ve just realized that I might as well say that I go to sea to escape dirty snow.


        Three things I found of interest on the Internet today.

        Oxfam is hardly nonpartisan, but if their numbers are even close to being accurate, the fact and the trend are obscene.

        Among the many things I don’t understand is how the inanimate became animate.  Others are how the unconscious become conscious and then the conscious became self-conscious.  I am, of course, not the only one who doesn’t understand these things.

        A brief article at Ars Technica sheds some light on the first.  I can follow this only sketchily, but perhaps enough to sense my inability to imagine three or four billion years and what chance can do with the simplest building blocks over such a span.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Evanston: not exist; not at sea; on dying

        I do not exist.  But then we already knew that.  I am clearly a figment of my own imagination.  As, probably, are we all.
        Most particularly, I do not have a credit rating.  That’s what happens when you pay cash and use debit cards for forty years.  
        Usually this does not matter.  I don’t want credit.  But now that the airlines have turned us not only into non-paid employees, who print our own boarding passes, check ourselves in, and handle our luggage, but have also made us adversarial competitors with all other passengers, I did finally respond to the endless offers United Airlines sends me and applied for one of their credit cards whose benefits include priority boarding.  They turned me down because I don’t exist.
        Carol exists.  
        I could probably get her to sign for me, which has a certain whimsical quality, such as having your parents do so when you are an adolescent.  But I won’t.  That is making life entirely too symmetrical.  Instead I’ll pay United the extra $39 or so for priority boarding on each flight and carry a purse.  Actually it is called a laptop messenger bag, which I recently bought in the never ending struggle to reduce my carry on baggage.  But it looks to me like a purse.
        I’ve also downsized from a 15” MacBook Pro to a 13” MacBook Air; an iPad to an iPad mini; and Bose noise canceling headphones to Bose noise canceling earplugs.
        Smaller and lighter is definitely better.  For GANNET, too.

        Not only do I not exist, but I am also not a threat.
        I applied for Global Entry and had my interview a week ago.  I’ve been investigated, photographed, finger-printed, and approved.  Anything that enables me to avoid a line is worth a hundred bucks.


        In an email to a friend this morning I wrote,
“Even though everything is on schedule, when I look out our windows at a pre-dawn sky from which snow is due to fall, it is difficult to believe that I will be at sea in a few months.“
        He wrote back, “When was it that you were really at sea, something more than a few days out and back?”
        The answer is October 2009 when I completed my fifth circumnavigation with the passage from Bora-Bora to Opua.
        I must admit that doing housework has lost its zest.  When I dusted and vacuumed yesterday, I just didn’t feel the usual thrill.
        It’s definitely time to go sailing again.


        Last night on what poses as the evening news on television, a doctor who was talking about end of life decisions asked her elderly father why he thought people don’t talk about death, and he reasonably replied, “Because they fear the unknown.” 
        I thought about writing an entry ‘on dying’ until I realized that it’s already written.  You just have to look around this site and piece it together.  I’m not going to do all the work.  A few poems.  Quotes used in front of books.  Some of this journal.
        ‘Almost dying is a hard way to make a living,’ I’ve written.  And the pieces where I almost died are the best known and were reprinted in the most countries.
        I don’t mind the unknown.
        Having carefully prepared, I like that GANNET’s voyage will be something new to me and that sailing such a boat as far as I plan an unknown.
        Of death, I don’t expect the unknown.  I expect oblivion, which is not troubling.  
        I am apprehensive about suffering at the end.  It must have hurt getting in here; and it will probably hurt getting out.
        What has changed over the years is my being with Carol.
        When a woman marries a man her own age, she can expect to be a widow.  When she marries a man almost a generation older, it is a near certainty.
        My life has not gone as I expected.  I could have done more.  But upon reflection I would not have changed places with anyone else who has ever lived.  My regret will be in leaving Carol alone.
        On the other hand, I recently had an annual physical.  My blood pressure is 120/70.  My pulse 47.  I am disgustingly healthy.  Still a force of nature.  I may outlive you all.
        Now, if you will excuse me.  I have hardwood floors to polish.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Evanston: black and white

        When I had a new rudder made for THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, the warranty stated that it would be voided if I applied dark antifouling paint because the builder had conducted tests that demonstrated bright sunlight on dark antifouling could cause a dangerous rise in temperature in the foam core resulting in expansion and delamination.  I did not know that and am not certain it is significant.  But with a preference for dark topsides, I have generally used white or nearly white antifouling for contrast anyway.      
        However, I just made a reservation to haul GANNET from the water on Feb. 21 and I’m going to paint her bottom black.
        Driscoll’s will allow me to do my own work.  An increasing number of boat yards won’t.  But there are rules, one of which is that I buy my anti-fouling paint from them.  While they can obtain other paint, including Petit’s VIVID, the yard paint is International’s Ultra, a good hard antifouling that comes only in red, blue, green and black.
        Luis, the diver who has been cleaning GANNET’s bottom, tells me that the two coats of white VIVID I applied in May of 2012 are gone and the bottom is essentially down to the barrier coat again, except perhaps for the four vestigial diamonds of VC17.  
        Putting a couple of coats of hard antifouling in a contrasting color as a base for subsequent ablative paint is a good idea.  I’ve checked compatibility and both Pettit’s VIVID and International’s Micron can be applied directly over Ultra.  I think I can get both in New Zealand, and with white over black, if GANNET becomes a pinto below the waterline, I’ll know the ablative has worn away.
        Of the four choices, I think black will go best with GANNET’s platinum and white.  Who knows I might even like it and continue to take the chance and use Ultra.  A lot of boats have been using dark antifouling for a long time.        
        One of the major advantages of hard antifouling is that it can be scrubbed vigorously. 
        One of the major disadvantages of hard antifouling is build up.  Eventually all those coats will have to be removed, a brutal task as I know from my VC17 ordeal.
        One of the major advantages of being old is that even if I continue to use Ultra, it won’t build up that much in my lifetime.

        I fly west three weeks from today.

        At the moment San Diego is 82°F.  Evanston is 22°F.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Evanston: Chasing Shackleton

        If you can get past the script, the three part series, “Chasing Shackleton,” presently airing on Wednesday nights on PBS in the United States, is worth watching.  
        I had a very hard time getting past the contemptible hyperbole of the script read in, of course, the most solemn of tones.  So much so that I went back and viewed the first episode a second time to be certain my impression was correct.  It was.  Within the first five minutes, the phrase “the roughest ocean on the planet” was used four times.  “Deadly” and “death defying” were used so often that by the nineteenth minute I lost count.  Everything was “est”.
        My criticism does not refer to Sir Ernest Shackleton, for whom I have admiration and respect, but to the expedition to “faithfully” recreate his small boat voyage from Elephant Island off Antarctica to South Georgia Island 800 miles away, “across the roughest ocean on the planet,” in case you didn’t know, after his ship, ENDURANCE, was trapped in the ice almost a hundred years ago.
        I’m not sure why people resort to hyperbole when reality is enough.  Perhaps because it has become the norm and is not only accepted but expected.  I have always held hyperbole in disdain and shunned it.  Hyperbole debases truth, and, in a variation on Gresham’s Law where the bad drives the good out of circulation, in a world of strident self promotion, the true is lost.
        Thus far only the first episode has aired, and the redeeming part of it is the photography. 
        The six men who sailed aboard the replica of Shackleton’s JAMES CAIRD underwent discomfort and ate bad food, but they by no means recreated Shackleton’s voyage.  Chase Shackleton?  Perhaps.  But they didn’t come close to catching him.
        Twice in the course of the first episode, which is the only one to have broadcast yet in the US, it is said that the attempted recreation is being “shadowed as required by Antarctic governing bodies.”  And the first episode comes to a triumphant conclusion when the crew aboard the replica manage to get the radio and AIS ship tracking device working again so they can be observed after dark by the 72’ escort vessel that is during the day within sight.  Somehow I doubt that Shackleton had a radio, AIS, or an escort vessel.  And that makes all the difference.  These men were not in real danger.  If it all got too bad, rescue was less than a half mile away.  For Shackleton it wasn’t.
        I also don’t know who these “Antarctic governing bodies” are.  There didn’t seem to be any inspectors in sight at Elephant Island unless they were disguised as penguins; and if there had been, any crew who really wanted to do it the way Shackleton did would have send the  escort vessel away as soon as they were over the horizon.
        Some of you are aware that, except when Carol sailed with me, I have always gone to sea as Shackleton did, with no way to call for outside help.  With the Yellowbrick on GANNET, this will no longer be the case, which troubles me.  I like to believe that if it is only a matter of survival, I will save myself, or not, as I always have.  But if something happens which results in persistent intolerable pain, well, I’m weak, and I might set off an alert.  Not that I would likely be where help could even reach me.  Hopefully such a circumstance will not arise.  And I expect that only a few would even consider there to be an ethical issue.
        To me the worst aspect of the expedition would have been being on that small boat with five other people.  I’ve thought that of Captain Bligh’s open boat voyage as well.  To sail the voyage is one thing; to do so with others in such a restricted space intolerable.
        Oddly, not all the six men on the replica were sailors, including the expedition leader.
        And curiously, the boat was steered with two lines led forward from the rudder rather than a tiller.  I surmise that this was done to give the helmsman some protection from the elements; but it certainly gave him less control.  I think I would have mounted a tiller.
        You can still view the first episode online here.
        The second is due to broadcast on PBS Wednesday, January 15.  
        Despite the script and false claims of authenticity, I’ll be watching.  I thank James of the Adirondacks for bringing the series to my attention.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Evanston: unvortexed; Yellobricked and screwdrivered; article added; the only place

        The Arctic Vortex has returned to the Arctic.  
        We reached 0°F at noon on Tuesday.  14F yesterday.  The 20s today.  And above freezing tomorrow.
        After I wrote about our weather in the last entry, I thought of my Canadian readers who might well wonder what we were complaining about.  I checked and indeed the temperature in one reader’s home town was -28°F/-33°C, and I doubt that is the lowest they have seen this winter.
        I heard on television a school principal in Fairbanks, Alaska, say that he lets the students go outside for recess until it gets to -20F.  
        Canadians and Alaskans were gracious not to point out what real cold is to us Southerners.


        The Yellowbrick arrived several days ago, and I’ve been working with it.  So far I’m impressed with the quality of the build, its performance, and Yellowbrick support.  I sent a couple of emails with questions and received prompt and useful replies even over the holidays.
        I’ve successfully paired it with my iPad mini, sent and received emails, and had the unit transmit positions to my map page, all with it sitting on the end table beside me, six inches from a window and a limited view of the sky.  Mounted on GANNET’s stern rail it should perform even better.
        With Bluetooth off, battery drain is negligible.  I will test this further next month in San Diego, but I expect a fully charged battery will last for all but the longest of passages.
        Here is the link to the map:  

        You won’t find anything there now except a world map.  
        Because I’ll be moving through time zones, I’ve set the time to UTC.  On passages I expect I’ll have the Yellowbrick send our position at twelve hour intervals.  This can be set on the Yellowbrick to continuous or intervals of five minutes to twelve hours.
        I also bought a MegaPro ratcheting screwdriver which ought to save some space and duplication.  I first read of this at The Wirecutter site, home of a wide range of useful product reviews. 
        And I found Spade anchors on sale and placed an order for a 10 pound aluminum one to be sent next month to San Diego.  The sale price reduction isn’t great, but enough to cover shipping.  
        The 10 pound Spade will cost four times what I paid for a 15 pound Delta.  I think Spades are better than Deltas, but not four times better.  Still I needed another anchor, and the Spade on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was the only anchor I set in the last decade and circumnavigation and a half I owned her, and it never failed me.
        Of anchors and anchoring, my boats have always been of moderate to light displacement and low windage and therefore easy on anchors.  With the exception of CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, flush decked, maximum 24” freeboard, ultra light GANNET should be the easiest.


        “The Cure”, has been added to the Articles page.
        A drastically shortened version appears in the January CRUISING WORLD.  Glancing at the issue’s Contents page, I didn’t even know it was there until, skimming through, I saw familiar photos.
        The version on this site is the way I originally wrote the piece.
        I do not know how much more I will write for sailing magazines.  Limitations on words and space have become so severe that I’m not sure I can squeeze my life into them.  Or want to.

        If you want to follow GANNET’s voyage, the only place really to do so is here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Evanston: ghost town; Catalina; windiest

        Normally I look down from our windows onto sidewalks full of people walking dogs or heading to or from nearby South Station, and streets filled with cars.  Not today.  Snow, blown horizontally by gale force winds, ended last evening, and today is sunny and clear and brutally cold.  I don’t know the official snow fall, but there are more than 2’ drifts.
        Chicago set a new record low for the date of -15°F/-26°C a few hours ago, and the wind chill is -40 something F, which conveniently is also -40°C.  Carol is working from home via computer and conference calls.  I don’t know what the poor dogs are doing.  
        I went to college 180 miles west of here and remember being even colder.   To check, I googled the weather for Dubuque, Iowa in 1963 and found that the lowest temperature in January was indeed -23F/-30.5C, and that we went weeks instead of days without reaching 0°F.  I had to walk only a couple of blocks to get to classes, fortified with the knowledge that in a few months I would be on my way to California.  We started driving west the day after graduation.
        Today I don’t even have to go out until Wednesday, by which time we will have warmed to 8F or even 10F.  And I am fortified with the knowledge that a month from yesterday, assuming planes are flying, I’ll be in San Diego.


        California and South Africa have much in common.  
        Both are among the most beautiful places on Earth.  Both have spectacular deserts, mountains, and coasts.  Beautiful wine country.  And both have few natural all weather harbors.  Cape Town and Los Angeles/Long Beach are made such only by massive breakwaters.  California does have San Diego and San Francisco Bays, and South Africa Saldanha Bay.  I haven’t forgotten Durban, which is fine once you get inside, but can be closed to all shipping due to waves breaking across the entrance, as it once was when I approached in a storm.
        So I was surprised to read in the Civil War Today app on January 2, that 150 years earlier, “Federal Troops Seize Santa Catalina.  Authorities were concerned that enemies might seize…one of the finest harbors on the California coast.” 
        I haven’t sailed to Catalina for forty years, so I just checked the electronic chart, and I still don’t know what they are talking about.  The main anchorage at Avalon is more of a roadstead than a harbor, wide open to the east.  Catalina Harbor on the other side of the island is protected from all but the south which is the very direction from which winter storms often blow, but is small and narrow and a death trap for any ship caught inside.
        Following the Union conquest, the Federal government ordered everyone—mostly miners futilely seeking gold—off the island and stationed troops there for nine months.  I expect some of the soldiers were bored, though I think it could have been wonderful.  Certainly it was among the safer places to be stationed in 1864.


        At present, as it has been for several days, the windiest place among my Windfinder favorites is Evanston.  26 knots here.  21 at Cape Horn.  20 Mount Pleasant Airport in the Falklands.   None of these approach the 59.9 knots Adrian reports from Chichester Harbor in England over the weekend.  As I wrote Adrian, “We should all move to the Southern Hemisphere—but then I’ve thought that for a long time.”
        I received an email yesterday from Thies in the Falklands.  Thies and Kicki are the present owners of the Hiscocks’ WANDERER III.  I have never met them, but Beth Leonard forwarded a request about the Falklands to them.
        One possibility I am considering, in fact as you may suspect the one toward which I am most inclined, is to sail from New Zealand toward the end of next year around Cape Horn to South Africa with a pitstop along the way.  Chile would be interesting, but diverts from the direct track and puts a boat on a lee shore for perhaps a thousand miles.  The Falklands are right along the way; but I am concerned about GANNET, who cannot carry the weight of proper ground tackle, being at anchor in Stanley in a not-uncommon fifty knots of wind.  Beth told me that there were a couple of places which did not have room for their 47’ HAWK, but could always squeeze in GANNET.  Thies confirms this.
        Those of you in the U.S. will have been exposed to television ads by AT&T that “Bigger is Better.”  
        It isn’t.

        Of the Falklands and the Hiscocks:
        When Jill and I sailed RESURGAM from New Zealand around the Horn to Punta del Este, Uruguay in 1992, we passed the Falklands without seeing them.  However one evening we were troubled by the loom of lights of a seemingly large city to the east where there should have been nothing, until we realized that it came from a vast fishing fleet.

        Eric and Susan Hiscock and I entered Neiafu, Tonga at the same time in August 1979; they in WANDERER IV, I in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  Later they told me they didn’t understand why I was clearing in from what they thought must have been a daysail.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Evanston: immoderate; books read; a good quote

                Heavy snow is blowing diagonally past our windows.  It has been snowing here for so long, with only brief breaks, that I don’t recall when it began.  Perhaps New Year’s Eve.  And more snow is predicted for six of the next seven days.
Since Carol and I moved here eight years ago, winters in Chicago have been relatively moderate.  This one is not.  Severe cold came early, as has heavy snow fall.  Already this winter is immoderate with aspirations to become severe.
Nevertheless I bundled up and took a walk this morning.  The bundling was necessary just to empty the trash, which hadn’t been done for two days, and once bundled I kept on going and trudged down to the lake.
The above photo is in color.
While playing with adjustments in Apple’s Aperture program, I chanced upon this, which is totally unrealistic, but I find rather fetching.


Books read July-December 2013

EVA LUNA   Isabel Allende
THE CORPSE READER   Antonio Garrido
AHAB’S WIFE   Sena Jeter Nausland
THE LADY IN GOLD   Anne-Marie O’Connor
DON QUIXOTE   Miguel de Cervantes
1356   Bernard Cornwell
STRUMPET CITY   James Plunkett
ARCHANGEL   Andrea Barrett
NO LONGER AT EASE   Chinua Achebe
IMMORTAL POETS   Christopher Burns
ARROW OF GOD   Chinua Achebe
STONER   John Williams
TALES OF HEARSAY   Joseph Conrad
MANFRED   Lord Byron


From John in New Zealand comes an excellent  quote from Winston Churchill, for which I thank him:

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.