Monday, May 19, 2014

San Diego: this is so great

        I planned for today to be leisurely—a brief trip to a supermarket; find the bilge pump; scrub the deck; a bike ride in the afternoon; music and a drink on deck, watching silhouetted birds at sunset; and so it is proving to be, after a brief alarm when I noticed that my solar panel regulator was not working.  I concluded that I had loosened a connection while stowing; and so I had.  Loose wire found, recrimped, panel again functioning.

        I stood in the companionway last evening in the quiet darkness after sunset, sipping Laphroaig, surrounded by reflections on water, a cool breeze against my skin, and thought:  this is so great:  I am about to go to sea again.
        Being here in this basin and nearby Mission Beach where much of my shore life has been centered going back almost sixty years has been a grace.  But voyagers voyage.
        The water tanks are filled.  The duffles on the v-berth tied in place.  The Torqeedo is on the outboard bracket.  Different sources give different opinions about the wind.  The worst of these is not severe, only inconvenient.  I’ll adapt to whatever I find out there.
        The Yellowbrick has been set to update positions every six hours.  The tracking page is:  You should see movement by 1800 UCT tomorrow.
        I expect the passage to Hilo to take seventeen days, plus or minus two.
        The next entry should come from 2,000 nautical miles west.
        I wish you joy.


        Below is a release, including two photos, to be dated May 20 I’ve sent to CRUISING WORLD, LATITUDE 38, SAIL and SAILING ANARCHY.  If you wish to send it elsewhere, you are authorized to do so.  Photo credit should be given to Steve Earley:

Webb Chiles, 72, five time circumnavigator and the first American to round Cape Horn alone, sailed from San Diego, California, this morning on his 24’ sloop, GANNET, beginning what will, time and chance permitting, become his sixth voyage around the world.

GANNET is a Moore 24, the first ultra-light displacement class built in the United States.  Moore 24s have often been successfully raced from California to Hawaii, but no one has ever before attempted to circumnavigate in one.

Chiles will sail first to Hilo, Hawaii; then make his way across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand where he will decide whether to continue west or turn east for Cape Horn in 2015.

You can follow GANNET’s track at; and learn more at

Saturday, May 17, 2014

San Diego: of hacksaws and shampoo; tracking page; departure date; an open boat in the Bay of Islands

        San Diego’s heat wave having ended and GANNET’s cabin again endurable, I worked hard yesterday, unpacking, repacking, organizing and stowing.  
        My two clothes bags I moved to the cockpit to sort through.  They are on the right hand side of the above photograph.  Passage clothes and foul weather gear in the red bag on top; harbor clothes in the blue bag on the bottom.  Except for the two sets of foul weather gear and a pair of sea boots, the contents of each are inside tied trash bags.  Being leakless is not my natural state, and I prepare on the premise that everything inside GANNET could get wet.
        Restowing required considerable lifting, all done against best practice.  No legs.  All arms and contorted back, which clearly indicated its displeasure as the afternoon wore on.  
        Among other things, I had realized the day before that I had stowed my hacksaw beneath the v-berth where I could not get to it quickly in case the mast went over the side.  I told a friend that it might be easier to buy a new one than try to retrieve that one; but yesterday I tunneled down to it and placed it inside a big ziplock bag under the aft edge of the v-berth cushion within easy reach.
        I also dug out GANNET’s never used solar shower  bag.
        At sea I bathe in salt water.  Sometimes directly from the ocean; sometimes solar heated.  No fresh water rinse.  I have found that toweling off satisfactorily removes the salt.  
        Also no special salt water soap.  Most shampoos and dish washing liquids lather in salt water.  But last evening I remembered that in my follicly challenged state, I no longer use shampoo and don’t have much dish liquid on board.  Shampoo has been added to my shopping list.  I hope the sales clerk doesn’t ask questions. 
        The photo was taken with a wide angle lens and is somewhat distorted.
        You may recall that I installed pad eyes on the main and partial forward bulkheads and that there is a line running between them to which I will tie the bags on each side so that everything doesn’t slide to leeward when GANNET heels.  I will also tie each end of the black bag in the foreground, which contains freeze dry meals and other consumables, to the pad eyes, which I hope will prevent everything from falling into the Great Cabin. 
        In the very bow you can see a blue bag containing the Avon RedStart dinghy and to the left of it the white tarp I may use as a boom awning.
        Coming aft is the top of a five gallon water jerry can, then a blue bag containing towels, Kleenex, toilet paper, toothpaste, etc.  All in either zip-lock or trash bags.
        The two shiny red bags in center and to port contain sextant and various waterproof boxes with iPad, handheld Garmin eTrex GPS, cables, the second Torqeedo battery.
        The blue bag on top of the grey Sportaseat holds the asymmetrical spinnaker and its gennaker furling gear.  It will probably be moved to the port pipe berth once we are underway.
        The two white floatation cushions will be wedged around me to protect from hard edges when sitting at Central in the Great Cabin.
        Just below them is the corner of a second water jerry can, which will be tied to the invisible but adjacent padeye.
        The other jetty can has to be forward because of the electrical panel on the starboard side of the main bulkhead.
        Two other five gallon jerry cans of water will reside inside the lee cloth on the port pipe berth.
        With a rule of half a gallon of fresh water per person per day that is more water than I need.  However, things can go wrong; and I have suffered desperate thirst twice:  once when adrift after CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE pitch-poled and again during the twenty-six hour swim after I sank RESURGAM.  Thirst is terrible.  I don’t want to experience it again.


        GANNET’s Yellowbrick has been in operation for the past few days.  The tracking page is:
        At present it is sending up positions at twelve hour intervals at 0000 and 1200 UTC.  I may change that to six hour intervals.  And I may bring the unit in to top up the charge before I leave.


        At sea I have no outside weather information and rely on observation of sea and sky and a barometer.  But I do consult weather sites and apps before departure.  Some of those still show south winds next week, but others, such as the WeatherMap+ and WeatherTrack apps, do not.  WeatherTrack is an amazingly easy way to obtain and view GRIBs.
        I’ll continue to watch; but unless something unexpected happens or appears, I sail Tuesday. 


        From Richard in New Zealand came a friendly email and a link to a very enjoyable video of him sailing his home built Pathfinder sloop, CATORI, in the Bay of Islands.  Some of you will recognize this as, except for the rig, a sister ship to Steve Earley’s SPARTINA, which he occasionally mentions when he isn’t writing about food.  They are certainly pretty boats.  And Richard’s video made me very happy that I’m sailing again for the Bay of Islands.
       Thanks, Richard.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

San Diego: 102° in the shade; ready, set, wait

        Both yesterday and the day before I lunched ashore with friends.  
        Southern California is experiencing a Santa Ana with winds blowing east from the desert causing record temperatures.  Yesterday and today mild San Diego hit all times highs for these dates and for the highest temperatures ever recorded in May.  Yesterday’s high of 93°F/34°C broke the previous record by 6°F.
        I left the forward hatch cracked when I went ashore for the lunches.  When I came back on Tuesday the cabin was 102°F/39°C.  Yesterday a mere 101°.  At present 96°F.  
        I have a small battery operated fan pointed at my head which helps.  But it is too hot to put away the laundry I did this morning or do anything more strenuous than listen to music, read, or type.  
        The worst of the heat will pass in a couple of hours, and tomorrow should see a return to something resembling normalcy.


        I had a rental car for two days and completed my shopping.  
        From WEST Marine came two new dock lines to replace two chewed by dock cleats and a new line to tie down the tiller.  The old one was sun faded and I wanted a prettier one.  I found something in a nice grey and white tweed. 
        From a liquor store I bought various items, including two bottles of indispensable Laphroaig, though it is far too warm for Scotch.
        At two supermarkets I bought oatmeal, trail mix, canned tuna, salmon, chicken, crackers, boxes of orange juice, instant coffee, nuts, chocolate, paper towels, Kleenex, powered milk, toothpaste, and a box of Cheese-Its—one of my weaknesses.
        I already had ample supplies of many other items on board.
        This all filled the cockpit again, but I managed to stow it away in the cool of last evening.
        I also drove to a laundromat and did my laundry.  The machines at the marina are being serviced.
        I still have some repacking and rearranging; but other than a final close to departure trip to a supermarket for fresh fruit and baked goods, and filling the four five gallon jerry cans with water, GANNET is ready to go.
        This, despite the heat, is exactly as I planned.
        Those of you who have been reading this journal for a while know that I like to be ready a few days in advance and sit and look around the boat and consider her, my preparations, and the upcoming voyage.  And sometimes the national debt.
        So I have been aiming at departure next Monday or Tuesday.  
        However, while the Santa Ana is due to end, atypical winds are not.
        The overwhelmingly predominant wind along the Southern California coast is from the northwest, perfect for me wanting to sail southwest.  The current forecast is for winds from the south and southwest until Thursday of next week.  
        I don’t have much confidence in more than forty-eight hour forecasts, and it may be possible to break through the southwest aberration to better wind father offshore.  
        We will see as time nears.  And if the forecast does not change, if prudence prevails over impatience.

        I’m going to see if it is cooler on deck

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

San Diego: fire; amazing bargain; three things about climate

        Clark, whose boat is on the next dock east of GANNET, was aboard when the fire broke out a few weeks ago and took the above photo for which I thank him.  That’s GANNET on the lower right hand side of the photo.
        The fire was intense and quick.  
The power boat has some blisters and windows cracked by the heat.  The wind was from the prevailing northwest.  Had it been from the south, the damage probably would have been much greater.  A classic Kettenburg 50 sailboat is tied there with an expansive canvas cover that would have easily ignited.
        As far as I know the cause of the fire has not been established, but is presumed electrical.


        When I was out here earlier this year I met Dan, a young Australian who recently completed 4 ½ years as a submariner in the Australian Navy.  He had just bought what was my first dream boat, a 33’ Le Comte Medalist, and commented that I was one of the few he had met who had ever heard of Medalists.

        My memory was faulty in that I thought I had desired a Medalist when I was studying ads in YACHTING magazine while I was in high school; but the boats weren’t built until 1961, so I was in college.
        Dan paused while dinghying past GANNET last week and offered to come back and go up the mast to replace an unravelling piece of tape on the end of the starboard spreader.   He did and I am very appreciative.   He also invited me over to see his boat, which is at Seaforth Marina on the other side of Quivira Basin.
        Forgive any mess in these photos.  I walked over unannounced while Dan was working.
        Le Comte vessels were aimed at the upper end of the market and have a reputation for being very well built.  Designed by Bill Tripp, I thought they were pretty boats fifty years ago, and I think they are pretty boats now.
        Dan says the engine and electronics are in good shape, and caring for such things is what he did in the Navy, so he knows. 
        He has replaced the standing rigging and a chainplate, and is making some other refinements, but as you can see basically COYOTE is in fine condition.
        Dan gave me permission to disclose that he paid $6,000 for the boat, which makes it the most amazing bargain I’ve come across in fifty years.
        I wish him a fine voyage.


        Three articles about climate caught my attention this morning.

        The winds in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica are at a thousand year high.  I don’t know what to make of this.  Possibly the winds in the 40s and 50s are less.
        Sailors are the wave of the future.

Monday, May 12, 2014

San Diego: cleaning out the garage; moved; the self-simplyfing boat; cute; leafless

        Yesterday I cleaned out the garage, otherwise known as the dock box, repository of power tools, cans of paint, Deks Olje, Acetone, an electrical extension cord, sandpaper, a never used electric heater, various cleaning supplies, etc.
        I moved a little of this aboard and stowed it under the v-berth; some I gave away; some I threw away.
        Then I moved the two clothes duffle bags—one with port clothes, one with passage clothes and foul weather gear—off the starboard pipe berth and moved my sleeping bag and pillow there, where I will sleep from now on.  This is GANNET’s passage mode.
        Finally I took everything loose and put it in the duffle bags I had shipped from Campmor with the freeze dry food, and placed them on the v-berth.
        This is by no means a permanent arrangement.   What I need at hand at sea varies significantly from what I need in port.  I described CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE as a self-simplifying boat.  Thanks in part to a knockdown about two weeks out, she had much less on her when she reached Nuku Hiva at the end of her first passage than she did when we left San Diego.  And progressively less as we continued on.  I am certain GANNET will be the same.


        I have not been cute for a long time.  Not as those of you who have read THE OPEN BOAT know—and if you haven’t, it is inexplicable why someone with your intelligence and discernment has denied him or herself that pleasure—since I owned CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE.  But I am again; at least by association.  I was sitting in the Great Cabin Saturday morning when I heard a woman say, “What a cute little sailboat.”  There can be no doubt to which fine vessel she was referring.
        Cute at 72:  a crowning, or clowning, achievement.


       After applying a coat of Deks Olje to GANNET’s interior wood—the only exterior wood is the tiller which already has well over a dozen coats—I mustered the courage to test the rebedded forward hatch for leaks.  I hosed it down thoroughly, concentrating on the trailing edge.  When I went down below:  no drips.  

Friday, May 9, 2014

San Diego: order; a three bandaid day; time to leave

        Were I given to the obvious, the above colorful collection could be titled, ‘Dinner on deck’, but I’m not and it isn’t.
        What it is is enough packages of freeze dry meals to feed me for 156 nights.  The total was only supposed to be 152, so maybe I miscounted.  I certainly did not check each item against either my original order or the shipping list.
        There is order to the seeming chaos.  As I unpacked the boxes from Campmor I stacked identical meals together.  This was easier to do on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA where I could spread them out on the cabin sole.  In GANNET’s cockpit they tended to meld together.  I then took one from each stack and tossed it into a trash bag, reversing direction when I reached the end of the cockpit, until I reached thirty, changing starting ends with each successive bag.  For whatever reason the last bag ended up with 36 meals.  It is not important that each bag be identical, only that each contains a variety of possibilities to temp my demanding palate.  

        Unfortunately that was not the end.
        As I opened the box of trash bags I discovered that they were perfumed.  No where did it say this on the box.  Perfumed trash bags are perhaps the worst marketing gimmick ever devised by desperate careerists.  Stored for months in GANNET’s small interior they would become deadly.  So the next day I biked out again and bought a different, fortunately unperformed brand of bags, and made the transfer.
        Each month of meals is double bagged.  They don’t need to be kept dry, but have sharp edges that can slice through a single bag.
        After bagging, they continued to live in the cockpit for another day until I installed the gudgeons for the emergency rudder, which was delivered late Tuesday afternoon.
        I did that yesterday.  What should have been a simple task of drilling six holes and tightening six bolts, wasn’t.  On the very first bolt the lock nut seized.  For a long unpleasant time, during which I slithered aft on the pipe berth, then slithered back and sat on the dock, I could neither tighten or loosen.  Ultimately loose won; and I biked out and bought different bolts and conventional nuts, which I secured with Locktite.  

        I also had to drill new holes in one of the supplied backing plates because of obstructions inside GANNET’s stern.
        Drilling through the transom I found it to be as thin as I expected.
        I also installed the two stainless steel plates to protect against the massive Jordan drogue bridle shackles.  That was after the above photo was taken.
        I hope never to use the emergency rudder or the drogue, but I’m ready if necessary.
        My plan was to stow the rudder and tiller  in the evil space inside GANNET’s stern, then stow the monthly food bags on top of them.  So more slithering, now holding awkward, heavy objects.  However everything fit as I had envisioned.  The rudder resting on top of two life jackets.
        Slithering has its dangers.  I have long known of various sharp edges and corners, yet cannot always avoid them.  In the end it was a successful, but three bandaid day, concluding with an unpleasant eviction.
        Several months ago I was asked how one knows when it is time to leave.  This is so subjective that I doubt my response was useful.  Upon my return to GANNET on Tuesday, though, I discovered one certain sign:  when birds build a nest in your mainsail, it is time to sail.  Or sell your boat.
        GANNET needs her mainsail, so with regret this little fellow had to go.

        This morning, following the advice of Prentis, a boat building reader, for which I thank him, I removed all eight bolts along the trailing edge of the forward hatch, spread sealant carefully down ½” of thread, and resecured them.
        Another boat builder friend, now retired, said flatly that I need to remove the hatch completely and reinstall it.  This, however, seems to me fraught with ending up with new leaks, and I prefer my old ones.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

San Diego: flat, then not; dry and empty; hard

        I felt the land as I wanted to, rumbling west for almost two days, and found it flat until we reached northern New Mexico where it became non-flat; but everywhere the land was dry and mostly empty.

        The Southwest Chief passes through only two cities of any size in its 2260 mile run between Chicago and Los Angeles:  Kansas City when we were asleep the first night; and Albuquerque late the second afternoon.  In the Midwest there are farms; but in New Mexico you see people living inexplicably in the middle of nothing, no farm, no live stock, often surrounded by the shells of broken cars and trucks.
        We crossed the Mississippi just at sunset the first evening.  On the west bank was a marina, empty but for a single 26’ sailboat.
        Perhaps the most beautiful sight was two young horses running side by side across the plain in eastern Colorado, seemingly just for the joy of running.


        I have scrubbed GANNET. She wasn’t very dirty.  Soot from the fire on B dock did not reach her.  And have been stowing some of the stuff I brought with me, and rearranging things that were already here.
        Three boxes were delivered today from Campmor.  The one containing duffle bags has been unpacked.  The other two are in the cockpit.  
        A box of 24 canisters of JetBoil fuel also arrived and the canisters have been transferred to one of the new duffle bags.  I need to buy bubble wrap to keep them from rattling.
        The emergency rudder is allegedly on a FedEx truck for delivery, but has not yet arrived and the office is about to close.  That’s all right.  GANNET is cluttered enough for the moment.


        Carol and I stayed ashore in a nearby hotel last evening where we have not stayed before.  Walking past the marina behind it, I found a Drascombe.  I think it is a Longboat which is three or four feet longer than a Lugger.

        Saying goodbye this morning as Carol caught the shuttle to the airport for her flight back to Evanston was hard.  I will miss her and believe she will miss me.  I regret that she will be coming home from work to an empty condo.  I looked forward to when I heard her at the door each evening.
        That some of us have incompatible desires is not news.  I try to find a balance.  But there are sacrifices to be made.  And I am grateful for those Carol makes for me.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Evanston: corrections

        I rarely comment on things written about me, but an interview just published in the May issue of LATITUDE 38 contains some errors.  Both the interviewer, Ronnie Simpson, and the magazine have been kind to me and no criticism of them is intended.
        Carol is my fifth wife, not sixth.  
        On her shakedown sail after the new mast was installed GANNET made while beam reaching more than 8 knots measured by GPS in 10-12 knots of wind with only her 110% furling jib and fully battened mainsail set, not her asymmetrical spinnaker.
        I do not intend to spend long periods hand steering GANNET, though I will if I must.
        My backup for the tiller pilots is not me, but sheet to tiller self-steering.

        I’ve finished my housework, packed, ordered a taxi for 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, and have the final check list centered on my desk.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Evanston: soot; Climate Earth 3D; losing a step; training

        After the last entry, Dick sent me a link to video of the boat fire at Driscoll’s, for which I thank him. 
        There can be no doubt that everything that happens in public—and perhaps private— is now recorded.  Be warned. 
        As he noted, the boat does not seem to have a mast.
        I have no recollection of her and may never have walked to the end of B dock.
        All that smoke is blowing directly toward GANNET.
        There may be a lot of scrubbing in my future.

        I thank James of the eastern mountains for the Climate Earth 3D app for iPad and iPhone. 
        This is the World Wind Map in app form.  I don’t see that it does much more than the free site, beyond being a little easier to switch from wind to ocean current view.  But I think the developer deserves to be supported for creating a most interesting and useful visualization, and hope others with Apple devices will buy the app for a very modest $1.99.  


        Last evening we rewatched BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, which was as excellent as the first time, maybe even better for I noticed and appreciated camera angles and other directorial details that I had not before; and the night before rewatched SKYFALL, the latest and one of the best James Bond films.  
        The pattern here is obvious.  I am rewatching and rereading because my mind is too preoccupied with preparing to be away for six months to deal with anything new.
        If you’ve seen SKYFALL you will recall that Bond is shot unintentionally by another British agent, and later told that perhaps it is time that he give up field work which is a young man’s game, and that there is nothing to be ashamed of in ‘losing a step.’
        Although I feel strong and, other than turning into a cyclops, have kept my health, being almost thirty years older than the current James Bond, I’ve certainly lost more than a step.
        I couldn’t survive some of the situations I have in the past.
        I couldn’t bail seven tons of water out of GANNET every day for months.  But then considerably less than seven tons of water would sink the little sloop and I wouldn’t have to.
        Without doubt I couldn’t swim for twenty-six hours as I did after I sank RESURGAM.
        Being adrift for a couple of weeks as I was when CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE pitch-poled west of Fiji, starving and living on six sips of water a day, doesn’t require much more than lying down and suffering and I can probably still do that, counting on adrenaline to row the last few miles to land as I did before.
        There is no conclusion here, only elderly musing.  
        I truly hope not to be put to the test, while yet wondering how at my age I would fare.
        My experience of life is that consciousness resists unconsciousness, which is perhaps odd for unconsciousness is peaceful and consciousness fraught with the possibility of pain.
        What I have called the animal always wants to live.  My animal is strong.  It is all that has kept me alive at times.  And I don’t believe that it weakens with age, until perhaps the very end.
        That is what is great about a voyage:  it is real, as so much of modern urban life is not, and filled with the simple, fundamental, beautiful, and true.

        I do not expect to write again before we board the Southwest Chief Saturday afternoon.  Homing again to the sea.
       Thanks to Bill for that line written during WWI.