Thursday, July 30, 2015

Evanston: revisited

        My copy of THE FAMILY OF MAN arrived.  I leafed through it a few afternoons ago and that evening watched THE SALT OF THE EARTH documentary about Sebastiao Salgado with Carol who was away on a business trip when I viewed it the first time.  
        One of the blurbs on the cover of THE FAMILY OF MAN is “The Whole Story of Mankind” from the PHILADELPHIA ENQUIRER which is not true.  
        THE FAMILY OF MAN is affirmative.  That is the key to its success.  But it is too affirmative to be a complete picture of mankind.   It has been observed that our history is the history of war.  There are two dead soldiers in THE FAMILY OF MAN, one from the Civil War, one from WWII; a famous photo from Korea of one soldier comforting another in his arms; another famous photo taken by an unknown German photographer of Jews being marched out of the burning Warsaw ghetto.  Four photos out of five hundred and three is hardly representative of what members of the human family do to one another.  Though he has also celebrated labor and the primitive world and peoples, Sabastiao Salgado’s photos of famine and genocide are a necessary corrective.
        Having said that, I enjoyed looking through THE FAMILY OF MAN.  Though I’ve not seen them for several decades, I remembered a surprising number of the photographs.
        The exhibit dates from 1955.  The terrible first half of the century, certainly among the worst our species has endured, was just over.  The world was a very different place.  Some of the captions on the photos are of “Belgian Congo” and “Bechuanaland,” which my spellchecker doesn’t even recognize.   
        I was thirteen years old that year and had never been outside the United States.  I studied those photos and wondered about the world and what it means to be man.


        I remembered and added life is the process of turning baby smooth skin into scar tissue to the ‘wit and wisdom’ post.
        Several of you have written offering suggestions, for which I thank you; but mostly they have been things I’ve quoted and believe in, including “Why should I fear death, for when I am, death is not, and when death is, I am not.” But that is Socrates, and the ‘wit and wisdom’ is meant to be only those words I’ve written myself.
        Should you be interested you can find more of what I admire and  believe in the quotes used in front of my books on the lists page.


        Among the authors I most admire is the French aviator/writer, Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  I’ve read all of his books except THE LITTLE PRINCE several times.  Once was enough for the prince.  Not long ago I downloaded the Kindle edition of AIRMAN’S ODYSSEY, containing NIGHT FLIGHT; WIND, SAND AND STARS; and FLIGHT TO ARRAS.
        Yesterday afternoon I reread NIGHT FLIGHT, a short and exceptionally fine novel about the early nights of flying mail in South America.
        Reading Saint-Exupery is cross training for sailing.


        I’ve received some questions about my plans for next year.
        After being in New Zealand September and October this year, I will return in late February/early March of 2016 and sail onward when the cyclone season ends about May 1. 
        I will sail west for Australia, though I’ve not yet decided on my port of entry.  It may again be Cairns.
        Whatever the place of arrival, I’ll go north to Cape York and then west, west, west.  Darwin, Cocos, perhaps Mauritius, South Africa.
        Distances in nautical miles as measured on electronic charts:

            Opua to Cape York:         2300
            Cape York to Cocos:        1800
            Cocos to Mauritius:           3100
            Mauritius to Durban:         1700

        These are rhumb line distances some of which cross land, so obviously I will be sailing farther.
        I expect to reach Durban in September or October and will decide then how soon to press on.


        Steve Earley went sailing on a Drascombe and observed that he was initially disconcerted  by the loose-footed main and mizzen.  
        I once met John Watkinson, the Drascombe designer, and asked him about the loose footed sails.
        He replied:  “I didn’t want to hear the sound of a boom hitting my wife’s head.”
        That is an exact quote.  Not “I didn’t want a boom to hit my wife’s head.”   No.  John didn’t want to hear the sound.
        His wife was present and didn't seem to mind.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Evanston: THE BOUNTY and the Chicago Cubs; a really small boat

        I have not sailed much this year, and I won’t much more.  For the eight weeks I will be on GANNET starting in early September I have no ambitions beyond Whangamumu only twenty five miles from GANNET’s mooring.  Almost all of you who own boats will sail more than I in 2015.  But like Cubs fans for more than a century, I hope and wait for next year.  
        Time and chance permitting, GANNET and I will sail at least 9,000 miles in 2016 and maybe 10,000, crossing at least 140º of longitude.
        That I measured our track on electronic charts the other evening is one sign I am getting restless.  I miss being on the water and GANNET, and I miss not settling into the rhythms of a long ocean passage.  
        Another sign of restlessness is that I again watched THE  BOUNTY, the 1984 Mel Gibson, Anthony Hopkins version of the mutiny, just to see the sea.
        I had thought this the third BOUNTY movie, after Charles Laughton and Clark Gable in 1935 and Marlon Brando and Trevor Howard in 1962, but Wikipedia notes two early Australian films, a silent one in 1916, a second starring Errol Flynn in 1932. 
        I’ve seen the three most famous versions and know the story well.  I’ve sailed to French Polynesia seven times and Tahiti six, more than enough to recognize that the 1984 version was filmed with Moorea as a background, not neighboring Tahiti.  I’ve sailed over the spot where the mutiny took place off the Tonga islands of Tofua and Kao three or four times, including last year in GANNET; and past Restoration Island where Bligh and crew reached land off the northern Queensland coast three times in three different boats and expect to again next year in GANNET.
        In the British Museum in London on a raw winter’s day in 1983 I saw a copy of Captain Cook’s Journal open to an entry about Huahine, another of the Society Islands, and I thought about how different the weather and life are there than in London; add the poverty of sailors in England compared to the way they were treated by the Tahitians, particularly the sexual freedom in Tahiti versus the repression in England; add whatever quirks in Fletcher Christian’s character to provide a leader; and I do not wonder that there was mutiny.  Despite Charles Laughton, Capt. Bligh was not a flogging captain by the standards of his time, and he was an outstanding seaman, esteemed by Capt. Cook, and as proven by his sailing the 23’ BOUNTY launch with seventeen other men 4,000 miles from the site of the mutiny to Kupang, on present day Timor, then the nearest European outpost.
        I like THE BOUNTY.  There are some beautifully shot images at sea, and I particularly like the score by Vangelis.  THE BOUNTY can be streamed from Netflix.  I think I’ll watch the Charles Laughton and Marlon Brando films again too, which can be rented from iTunes.  But they won’t be enough.
        Wait till next year!


       Dave Skaife has reached Biloxi, Mississippi, about the half way point of his intended cruise along the Gulf Coast in his 14’ Paradox, and has posted a photo on his site that shows how small the boat is.  The photo is in the entry headed “Biloxi” and dated July 26.  Click on it to make it full size, then lean forward.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Evanston: the wit and wisdom of webb chiles

        This will be a short entry.
        But not as short as the books published of the wit and wisdom of certain past Presidents that consisted entirely of blank pages.
        There is no doubt that of all I have written, the ten words appearing on the official America’s Cup site yesterday are best known.  It is not a site I visit.  I thank Matt for sending me the above screen shot.  I expect that in time they will be all that is left of my life.
        Second best known is the other line on the home page of this site.

        Live passionately, even if it kills you, because something is going to kill you anyway.

        (I had to check to be sure I had it right.)

        To which I might add:

        A military genius is a general of average intelligence whose opponent is retarded.

        The self-righteous are always willing that others suffer for their beliefs.
        Debts are chains.

        The artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports.

        Life is the process of turning baby smooth skin into scar tissue.

        Those of us who go to sea, deliberately leaving society behind, have no right to expect that society to come and rescue us from trouble of our own making.

        There is enough sorrow in life, some inevitable and much unnecessarily man made.  I would rather be on the side of joy and laughter.

        Go out, going forward.

        I told you it would be short.

        If I’ve forgotten anything, let me know.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Evanston: Ulysses as Cyclops (again); a person from Porlock; an Emperor's poem

        My blind right eye is somewhat troubling me, so I have resumed wearing an eye patch, which inexplicably because I have no light perception in that eye, seems to help.  I don’t know that I will wear it constantly; but if you see it in future photos, you now know why.
        One positive result of wearing the patch in public is that people give me more space. 


        Carol and I have been watching the Netflix series, Marco Polo, a reasonably entertaining fabrication, which caused me to look up Coleridge’s poem, “Kubla Khan.”
        Although a fragment, it is longer than I remembered.  And would have been longer still had Coleridge, after an opium influenced sleep, not been interrupted the next morning by a “person from Porlock.”  

        I have been reading A TIME OF GIFTS, a famous, but uneven, book by Patrick Leigh Fermor, who audaciously set out in December 1933 at age eighteen to travel from London to Constantinople mostly on foot.
        In it I just came across a poem allegedly inscribed in chalk in a castle cellar by Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian  I: 

                Live, don’t know how long,
                And die, don’t know when;
                Must go, don’t know where;
                I am astonished I am so cheerful.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Evanston: Coriolanus and the Internet validation of the mob; impressed; beautiful

        Done well, I enjoy adaptions of Shakespeare in modern settings, and CORIOLANUS, the 2011 film produced, directed and starred in by Ralph Fiennes is very well done indeed.
        Caius Martinus, the title character—‘Coriolanus’ is an honorific given him after a military victory—disdains, and perhaps hates the mob.  As well he should.  They hate him, love him, hate him, love him, and then hate him again, manipulated to call for his death at the beginning and the end of the play.
        Caius is a proud man, considered arrogant by some because he will not pander to the mob.  He refuses to follow the tradition upon being elected counsel to display the scars of wounds he has received in defending Rome, of which there are more than two dozen, believing it enough that he has sustained them.  He also leaves the Senate chamber when he does not want to hear a speech praising himself.
        This is a powerful movie.  Powerfully acted, particularly by Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave, who plays his mother and reminded me both of Lady MacBeth and my own mother, of whom I once said that her greatest ambition was that I receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Posthumously. 
        And powerfully filmed, which is not surprising considering that the cinematographer is Barry Ackroyd, who also shot THE HURT LOCKER.
        CORIOLANUS was one of a handful of Shakespeare plays I had not read.  After viewing the film a few evenings ago on Netflix, I did.  The film is true to the spirit of the play.
        I also relistened to Beethoven’s ‘Coriolan Overture.’  Not his best work.
        Both the NY TIMES and The GUARDIAN have useful reviews.
        In our own time the mob receives renewed validation from the Internet.  There is, as always, money and power in manipulating the mob.  Success is defined in numbers, such as when it was widely and admiringly reported that the person Jenner reached a million Twitter followers faster than anyone in history, which of course does not go back far, breaking the record of Barak Obama.   All this proves is that there are a million quick fingered fools.


        When there are millions of dollars involved in sailing, I usually tune out.  I just don’t care.  I am far more interested in what can be done with little.   But, as some of you already know, the poetically named 105’/32 meter trimaran, LENDING CLUB 2,  just sailed from Los Angeles to Honolulu, a distance of 2,250 nautical miles, in 3 days and 18 hours.  That is an average speed of 25 knots.  But their track shows that they sailed far more than the rhumb line distance and so sailed even faster.
        I am impressed.

         The beautiful image is a photograph of the Bahamas taken by astronaut Scott Kelly from the International Space Station.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Evanston: early; "a terrible animal with an infinite capacity to hate"; cracked; winded

        I was up at 4:00 a.m. this morning.  Carol had an early business flight to Boston.  After she had gone and I had a couple of cups of coffee, I decided to walk down to the lake.
        At 5:15 no one else was on the sidewalk and only a few cars passed.
        I reached the lakefront just as the sun was rising.  The photos are in sequence.
        At about 5:30 the world began to come awake.  A man jogged along the beach.  Two more jogged past on the path behind me.  A woman came out of an apartment building across the street to walk her dog.


        When I was young THE FAMILY OF MAN which is still called the greatest photographic exhibit ever was presented by Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art.  I don’t recall how I heard of it, but I owned a paperback copy of the exhibit whose photos I studied time and again.  The theme is that people are alike all over the world, and that pretty much has been my experience.
        Some of the work of the Brazilian photographer, Sebastiao Salgado, the subject of a current documentary, THE SALT OF THE EARTH, is an Anti-Family of Man.  Not because he does not care about people, but because he cares and has witnessed too much man made suffering and death:  genocides in Africa and the former Yugoslavia; famines caused by governments withholding food from their own people.  I’m not sure I have the above quote word for word, but it is true to what Sebastiao Salgado says he felt about our species at one time.  He found redemption in restoring the rain forest on his family land and in a several year project of photographing the parts of the worlds and the people least affected by what poses as civilization, which resulted in a book, GENESIS, about which I have written here before.
        Sebastiao Salgado is an original.  Once seen his photographs, some beautiful, some terrible, remain indelibly in the mind.
        I rented THE SALT OF THE EARTH from iTunes, but as soon as I finished watching, I bought the film because  I know I will want to watch it often again.
        Having made the connection to THE FAMILY OF MAN, I checked and found that it can still be bought through Amazon.  Many of those photos, too, have remained in my mind.  I’d like to see them again and ordered a copy.

        My face cracked and fell off.
        The new skin is not baby smooth.
        Carol says I look ten years younger.  She is being facetious.  I do not look ten days younger.  Nor do I want to.
        I am a little less spotty.
        That people go through something like this purely for cosmetic reasons would be unbelievable if we did not have Donald Trump’s presidential campaign to provide perspective on human intelligence.


        I’ve ordered several things in the past few days to take back to GANNET:  new jib sheets of New England Ropes salsa line which I have been using as the main sheet and like very much because it does not kink and is easy on hands; two new Blue Performance sheet bags; sailmaker needles and thread; and a Raymarine Tacktick wireless wind system.  
        The last probably should be filled under “Hope springs eternal.”
        Some readers may recall that I had a Tacktick system on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA and that I went through three masthead wind units.  This was before the company was bought by Raymarine which makes such reliable tiller pilots.
        Both masthead unit and display are solar powered and, with no wires in the mast, easily installed.  Even easier when I pay Northland Riggers to go up the mast.  One of the advantages of being an old man is that you can pay young men to do things you don’t want to.
        Obviously I don’t need an electronic readout of wind speed and angle; but it will be nice to have—if it works.
       At least I’ve learned to keep my proof of purchase for warranty claims.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Evanston: "Speak and die."; booked

        Early last year I reread Albert Camus’ THE STRANGER for the first time since college, and because of a recent Algerian novel by Kamel Daoud, THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION, I just reread it again.
        Reviews of MEURSAULT in the NY TIMES and THE GUARDIAN caused me to buy a Kindle edition.  Both reviews are justly favorable, though the first sentence in THE GUARDIAN is simply, and simple mindedly, wrong.
        I don’t know that THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION is an instant classic; but it is an interesting, and brave, retelling of the killing of a Arab on an Algerian beach from the perspective of that no longer nameless man’s family. 
        Both THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION and THE STRANGER are short.  You could read both in one day.  Two is probably better.  
        There is something to be said for reading them in that order, MEURSAULT first, then THE STRANGER to see what Kamel Daoud was reacting to. 
        THE MEURSAULT INVESTIGATION is a brave book because the author has been accused of blasphemy by some Muslims and risks assassination.
        Another Algerian writer, who was killed, said, “If you speak, you die.  If you do not speak, you die.  Speak and die.”

        I have booked my flight to New Zealand, leaving September 8, arriving the 9th, and returning to the U.S. on November 5.
        My main task will be to relocate the mainsheet traveler to the cockpit floor and remove the bridge.
        I may also haul out and antifoul, even though GANNET will be sitting unattended on her mooring for several more months, so there is one less thing to do before I sail on next year.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Evanston: bow wave; 2.5 alligators; safe race; Kill Devil explained; sea snake

        Many of us have observed bow waves, but not like this one.
        “Like a ship plowing through cosmic seas, runaway star Zeta Ophiuchi produces (an) arcing interstellar bow wave.”  Rather poetic and good for a science site.  It is theorized that Zeta Ophiuchi was flung on its solitary voyage when a companion star exploded into a super nova.


        One of the most remarkable cruises presently underway is that of Dave Skaife along the Gulf Coast in his home built 14’ Paradox, starting in Texas to which he trailered his boat after shipping her from his home in Hawaii to San Diego, and heading for Florida.
        I have mentioned Dave before and may again.  I don’t think people who have not seen a Paradox understand just how small his boat is.  Dave is sailing and living aboard a hull only slightly more than half the size of GANNET.  I am interested and impressed.
        I wrote to Dave suggesting that he post scale photos, showing him on or in the boat or her moored near another boat 20’-25’ long.
        Dave emailed back:  “The Paradox is 2.5 alligators long at my current anchorage.  Not even going to try for that picture.  I get nervous just pulling up the anchor these days.”
        I wish him alligator free anchors and a fine cruise.


        Tomorrow is the start of the Mackinac Race.  I know several participants.  I’ll be following online.
        I wish them fine and safe sailing.


        From Jim, a permanent resident of the Outer Banks and small boat sailor, comes this clarification of town names and rum.
        I thank him.


       I am molting.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kill Devil Hill: first flight; Evanston: cooked

        The condo we rented in Kill Devil Hills was in a building named ‘First Flight’, about a mile from where the Wright Brothers made that flight on the cold morning of December 17, 1903.
        ‘Wright Brothers’ and ‘Kitty Hawk’ are forever linked, but the location of the flight and of the Wright Brothers National Memorial is in Kill Devil Hills which didn’t exist until 1953.  Kitty Hawk is the next town to the north.  Nags Head to the south.  
        A park ranger explained the names as follows:
        The few early residents of the area were, among other things, wreckers, looting ships that went aground on the shoals and barrier islands.  To increase business, they, as did wreckers on other coasts,  tried to lure ships to destruction.  At what is now Nags Head at night they tied a lantern to a horse’s neck and then rode him over the dunes, hoping that the bobbing light would be mistaken for a ship.  Thus, Nags Head.
        When successful, the plunder from wrecks often included rum, which they drank on the highest dunes.  It was said to be strong enough ‘to kill the Devil’.  Thus, Kill Devil Hills.
        I’m not sure I believe this and am only reporting what we were told.

        The marker to the left is the point at which the first flight became airborne.  That to the right where it ended.

        A full size replica of the plane.  The front is to the right.
        A full size replica of the Wright Brothers’ wind tunnel.
        Part of a sculpture.

        Sailor pretending.
        Carol relaxing.


        I have been cooked.
        My face looks like the worst sunburn in the history of the world.
        Yesterday I went for photodynamic therapy to remove cells that might become cancerous.  Also known as blue light therapy, but I think the light was white.
        The process began with a nurse painting my face with a liquid.
        I then had to sit for three hours while the liquid was absorbed into my skin.  I had my iPhone with me and read some of THE IONIAN MISSION, number 8 in the Aubrey/Maturin series.
        At the end of three hours I was given small metal goggles to protect my eyes, an electric fan to hold in my lap pointing upward, and my face was encased in an array I could, goggles already in place, not see.  The nurse asked if I was ready.  I said I was.  But I was wrong.  She flipped a switch and instantly my face felt as though it were on fire and being pierced by a million needles.  The nurse asked if I was all right.  I lied and said I was.  
        I was cooked for precisely 16 minutes and 40 seconds.  It didn’t get any better.  Fortunately it didn’t get much worse.
        I cannot go outside for two days.  I don’t want to.     I am too frightening.
        I’m supposed to try to avoid direct sunlight for a week.
        I am also being prescribed cream to rub on my arms daily for four weeks.  “Six if you can stand it,” said the doctor.  That does not sound encouraging.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Kill Devil Hills: six views from the balcony

         I am in fact writing from Evanston, where there is also a balcony—actually two counting the juliet—but  lessor views.  The photos above and below were taken from a ocean front condo we rented for week in Kill Devil Hills on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  It was wonderful to be on, and despite the shark attacks which were moving closer, even briefly in the ocean again, even though I learned that I can only sort of swim with my damaged flipper.
         Naturally we spent a lot of time on that balcony, breakfasting there, eating dinner when we didn’t dine out, and every night sharing a bottle of wine, to the sound of low surf.
         We were on the first  residential floor of a four story building, the lowest level of which is parking.
Dunes have been built up along the Outer Banks to protect against inevitable hurricanes.  The ones directly in front of us were low.  I estimate that we were about forty yards/meters from the ocean and about twenty feet/six meters above, depending on tides.  A higher floor would be better; but the weather was mild and winds light while we were there.
         I’ve sailed just beyond that view four times.  North and south in 1989 in RESURGAM.  South in 1993 and north in 1995 in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.
           I found myself wondering what lay on the other side of the ocean.  My guess of southern Portugal or Spain was not far off.  We were at about 36º North.  Sailing due east a vessel would pass just south of Tarifa, Spain, where I was once almost killed in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, and enter the Strait of Gibraltar.
This is, of course, the height of the season and the Outer Banks were crowded.  I read that 6,000,000 visitors go there every year, almost all during the three summer months.  The permanent population is tiny.  Fewer than 60,000 people make the two hundred mile stretch of barrier islands their permanent home. 

          We enjoyed ourselves so much that we may return this winter.  I’d like to see the ocean wilder.