Friday, September 17, 2010

Milestones, logs and blogs

We are coming up on a milestone sometime in the next week or so and it probably needs a comment. To be honest, when I started this blog I never really thought about who might read it.. As I think back I mostly did it for a release. Having been quite frustrated with writing over the past few years, a blog looked like a good outlet for random thoughts and once in a while that one good paragraph Hemingway strove for every day, only these would be random paragraphs, a single thought, written well. Anyway those were my thoughts. So in late May this year I finally figured out how to add a counter to the blog wondering how many people actually looked at it. I never expected what I have seen. Sometime in the next week we will reach 1,000 individual hits. One thousand in a little more than three months. Who would have thought? I realize that’s not a Lady Gaga number, but given that I never even told many people the blog exists it is a bit overwhelming.
Since I’ve realized how often or how many (those two could be deceiving) it has put a little pressure on me. When I thought I was just writing for myself I could blither on to my heart’s content. Now I have to think about an audience. An audience? It may be why I haven’t written as much, simply questioning if people would really want to read what random thoughts I might feel like typing onto a blog. Well, today, random thoughts it is.
It pretty much has to be random because I don’t think I have had a coherent continuing thought train since I got off the boat. There’s a reason for that too. It took a while to realize but it has happened before. When you come back from an experience like that it is almost like you are entering an alien society. No one around me these days could conceivably relate to an ocean voyage experience. It is so entirely different from regular life, it almost defies translation. It is almost like I have been on a different planet and returned to join people who have no clue what was experienced and how all-encompassing it was. This same phenomenon has occurred when I returned from other voyages and when I have returned from extended stays in the Bush. I just feel like I can’t relate to the people around me.
So, now couple that with this. I felt crowded on the boat. I have never sailed with 20 people before. The most I ever did an extended voyage with was five including myself. On this trip it was difficult to find the solitude it takes to fully grasp the ocean experience and even when I could grab a moment it seems like someone just had to talk to me. At the time I recalled watches with other people and we never said more than a couple of sentences over the course of a four-hour watch. I realize I haven’t written much about this voyage. I did keep a log for the first part of the trip and I will include it at the end of this item. Part of the reticence to write about it has been that re-entry problem and part of it was the complexity of experiences, some of them not so pleasant, during the voyage.
Then, speaking of crowded, it always amazes me how many people there are in the world. Twenty on a boat, 600,000 in Alaska, but even those numbers are small. Flying out of San Diego I looked down at the sprawl of people all the way north along the coast. It is almost continuous from San Diego to Seattle, at least it seemed so from what I could see from the air. That extent of sprawl is overwhelming, too., especially when you think every one of the people down there has a life, a family, work, play and each goes on without the vast majority of us being aware of each other. The numbers are staggering. It adds to the crowded feeling. It felt good getting back to Alaska but even here it feels crowded.
Ok, here’s a segue. And, what does crowding bring? It brings another slew of those things that chip away at the frontier mystique of Alaska. Another story the other night one of those things that are gentrifying the place -- story about specialty food makers, people who put sardines on truffles. More of that weak stuff.
So with all this and more rumbling around in my head, a fellow at work told me the other night I don’t seem the same since I got back. I can feel it too, though it might be just being quiet. Seems like I heard enough of people (including myself) shooting their mouths off on the boat. There is a bunch self doubt rattling around here too and it all adds up to a bit of introspection that adds to the quiet exterior.
That existential feeling of centered self-sufficiency in an isolated cosmos like a small boat on a big ocean is challenged by the extent of the population when one returns to land. Maybe that’s what I needed to understand.
At any rate, here is the interrupted log I kept during the first part of the trip. After the log we mostly sailed a single course on a port tack for 1,700 miles to San Diego, watch, sleep, eat, read, watch, rinse and repeat.
There is no prize for being the one-thousandth visitor to this blog.

37 34 N. 125 22.05W

6-9 watch. Justin a natural on the helm. Several pods of Dall porpoise, caught an albacore, Chip saw a mystery fish. Calm, glassy, no sail. Alone on the ocean

1900 37 17. 126 45.88

1500-1800 watch: We decided we are the magic watch, saw several pods of Dall porpoises, two of pacific white-sided dolphins, some whales off in the distance we decided were sperm by the angled spout. Also saw several sharks. Chip and Annie won the prize for the first albatross. Still motoring, very calm, mostly glassy sea, we want to SAIL. No sight of another ship.



Very calm night watch. A petrel landed on deck and several more were flying around the lights.
Later in the night one landed in the dinghy and was still there shivering at noon.

Exciting watch. Set all the fore-and-aft sails. Chip held the helm the whole time and did great. The crew gave him three cheers at the end. Crew relaxing and you can see more humor. Nice to hang some laundry finally. Albatross with us most of the morning. Ate some of the albacore for lunch.
Caught another albacore about 14:15. We are thinking of naming our watch the magic watch or albatross watch.

1400 position 36 54.8, 129 27.37

Tuesday 8/17/10

Position @ 10:20 35 52.38 132 04.73

Midnight to 0300. Pretty uneventful watch. We did have a passing with a sailboat bound from Hawaii to San Diego. The petrel flew away. Making almost 8 knots with the sails up plus engine

Wednesday 8/18/10

Noon 35 41.98. 135 13.85
Still almost glassy calm. But yesterday with some wind we put up the square sails. Justin went up in the rigging while I hauled lines on deck. He is becoming the go-to guy for helm during operations. Last night on watch, captain was trying to coordinate course between gps in wheelhouse and deck compass.
He told Chip 262 in wheelhouse and 280 on deck. J said "I know." sure enough he was right on.

Seeing more trash now, about 300 miles from where we expect to find stuff.


There's a captain and sailing master/mate. Mate knows much more about square rigged sailing. Apparently this gives him license to talk loudly, incessantly and condescendingly. He is incredibly knowledgable and what he says is interesting. I wish he would shut up once in awhile. The captain is on my watch though he often sleeps and I serve as watch captain.when he's up he talks incessantly too. Last night I even moved up to the bow for some quiet but eventually found me and kept right on talking. I would say something only I am getting that way too and find myself talking too much. Night watches are for reverie. So much for that.


We are now in our fourth full day out of sight of land. The place in nature aspect of ocean sailing has always appealed to me. Any map you see of the Pacific Ocean it has land around it. That makes it look smaller than it is. Get out of sight of land on a small boat and you realize the immensity. A pencil dot on that map in perspective is bigger than this boat.

Still the boat is huge. It is our cosmos, our whole world while we are on it. But I had an additional existential perspective on a night watch a couple of days ago. When I was reading and writing about Space, it came up that there is no up or down in space. That's a difficult concept to grasp. The only reason north is up and south is down is that the early cartographers and explorers came from the northern hemisphere. So, with that in mind, the other night someone said it is all downhill from here. I thought about that kind of in terms of the old riddle: a bear walks five miles south, five miles east and then five miles north. He ends up right where he started. What color is the bear? It is white because it only happens at the north pole and it has to be a polar bear. But! If lines are drawn differently as they could be on any sphere (discounting polarity) technically it could happen anywhere on Earth. So, if I am standing at this spot (the boat in the big ocean) and there is no up or down relative to space, anywhere is the top of the world from my perspective so I am always standing at the top of the world and it is always downhill from here, at least on the plane of the ocean's surface. Existentially anyway. Long night watches create these thought trains, isn't it fun?

Thursday 8/19/10

21:30. 35 05.47 N 138 41.71 W

A reverie tonight: standing at the helm alone on a sunset watch, I got thinking About how all this started. Two loves, one lasted. My first real girlfriend introduced me to sailing. Her family owned a snipe, a 16-foot sailboat that they sailed on the Niagara River and they took me along several times. Sailing with Niagara falls not too far downstream can be an adventure. At any rate, the realization led to many warm memories of that time and Beatles tunes on Justin's iPod added to that. We fell in love to Beatles music. What finally crossed my mind was I wondered what she would think now 46 years later, here I am standing at the helm of a 150- foot brigantine crossing the North Pacific. Knowing only the memory of her I think she would smile at the idea.

Random notes:
Tonight Chip made a turk's head bracelet, the symbol of a square rigger sailor.

The other day the engineer said something you never hear an engineer say: let's put up some sail and shut the engine down.

Caught the second albacore yesterday.

Sun today but still not much wind. Motor sailing.

Overnight got part of a seine wrapped in the propellor and had to cut it out after daylight.

Seeing more trash, but still not a huge concentration.

Friday 8/20/10
15:10 34 42.67 N 140 18.95 W

We have actually passed our goal, but not finding much trash so far. Kind of like fishing I guess, have to prospect for a while.
Spectacular night watch last night. Mostly overcast when we came up at 3 am. There was a line of clear sky on the horizon and the moon descended into it as it was setting. Brilliant orange reflected off the clouds as it slowly set over the horizon. As the night went on the sky cleared and without the moon, the sky filled with a dazzling array of stars. Annie the young woman on our watch said it was her best night ever. Milky Way was visible and thousands of stars horizon to horizon in any direction. Chip and Annie saw several shooting stars. It was a great ocean sky, one of the reasons you do this. By the time we came up for our next watch it was raining. I had to take a picture of the sorry wet crew before us. But by an hour into our watch the sky cleared and the sun came out. Our rain gear barely got wet and dried out quickly. We are the magic watch!


1100 34 44.44 N. 142 33.91 W
1840 34 36.23 N. 143 21.48 W

Sunny clear and light winds all day. Picked up quite a bit of trash but still not the concentration we are looking for. Biggest thing today was, I finally went up in the rigging. Since the trip began I have been facing this. Watched everyone else climb some cautiously, some like they live up there, while my feet have remained firmly planted on deck. Since the sun came out a couple of days ago I have been challenging myself and finally this afternoon I decided it was time. So I told Annie and Chip to get the camera ready, hollered "laying aloft" and climbed the ratlines on the mainmast. I did tell Drew on the helm to get ready to pull my skinny white ass out of the water and up I went. I made it all the way to the first platform but stopped when I figured out I would be upside down for a moment. Baby steps. But at least now I can say I went up, and I will go up again, a little farther each time.

Sunday 8/22/10

12:40. 34 51.36. 145 21.9

Started doing transects trying to quantify garbage. Saturday night party last night. The kids got into their grog a little. Around midnight they pulled in a mahi mahi. They got it aboard and subdued, but then there ensued an argument over whether it was dead or not. Kelsy kept saying it wasn't and kept trying to close its eyes. The guys argued it was and then the fish would flop. One told her to feel its heart. They figured they had killed it half a dozen times, but it didn't look like Kelsy was ever convinced.

Then George fell asleep in the netting under the bowsprit. Got pictures of that.

Today I got to run around in the inflatable picking up some of the trash.

Monday 8/23/10

10:30. 33 49.1384 N 146 42.2 W

Wore ship onto a port tack -- changed sides the wind hits the sails. Another sunny day with light winds. This is a simple jibe on the boats I've sailed. On this boat it took 10 guys about 20 minutes to accomplish the whole process.

On watch 3-6 had an interesting conversation with Annie about the spirituality experienced on the ocean and creative process. Even lost track of time and talked for more than an hour.

Just for perspective, later in the day I was playing some music and she asked me what it was. Doobie Brothers Black Water. She says oh I just went to a Doobie Brothers concert. Took her dad for his birthday. Nuff said.

We jokingly left a huge black squall cloud for the oncoming watch, even told them we slowed down so we wouldn't get hit by it. No big deal.

Had mahi mahi for dinner last night. One guy saved the stomach to dissect to see what the fish might have ingested in the way of plastic. More to come on that.

Right now we have come 1,085 miles and it is only 903 miles to Hawaii. Just saying.

Tuesday 8/24/10

32 58.69 N 144 43.26 W

After a bit of drama last night we are now headed for San Diego at all possible speed. The chief engineer has taken sick with pneumonia-like symptoms and needs treatment, so far today resting comfortably, but not well.
Saw a huge school of tuna pass by, even jumping out of the water.
We pulled up quite a bit of garbage yesterday including some large messes of net, called ghost net. One had a couple of fish caught in a small-mesh gill net. But now here we are steaming and not stopping for garbage, though apparently on an early watch today the boat passed two large masses, noted positions but did not stop. First was at 11:37 32 58.31 N, 144 43.182 W and second was at 1217 32 54.1 N 144 41.45 W.
I was able to make the locations waypoints on my navigator map and will try to post the map along with pictures.

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Interesting quotations

· " “Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” — Ernest Hemingway

When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth. Kurt Vonnegut

“If you wrote something for which someone sent you a cheque, if you cashed the cheque and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.” Stephen King

The thing about ignornance is, you don't have to remain ignorant. — me again"

Never debate with someone who gets ink by the barrel" — George Hayes, former Alaska Attorney General who died recently

My dear Mr. Frost: two roads never diverge in a yellow wood. Three roads meet there. — @Shakespeareon Twitter

"The mark of a great shiphandler is never getting into situations that require great shiphandling," Adm. Ernest King, USN

Me: Does the restaurant have cute waitresses?

My friend Gail: All waitresses are cute when you're hungry.

I'm not a writer, but sometimes I push around words to see what happens. – Scott Berry

“The rivers of Alaska are strewn with the bones of men who made but one mistake” - Fred McGarry, a Nushagak Trapper

Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stared at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing. – Meg Chittenden

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity. – Franz Kafka

We are all immortal until the one day we are not. – me again

If the muse is late, start without her – Peter S. Beagle

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. ~Mark Twain Actually you could do the same thing with the word "really" as in "really cold."

If you are looking for an experience that will temper your vanity, this is it. There's no one to impress when you're alone on the trap line. – Michael Carey quoting his father's journal

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. – Benjamin Franklin

It’s nervous work. The state you need to write in is the state that others are paying large sums of money to get rid of. – Shirley Hazzard

So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence -- Bertrand Russell

You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper.—Jackie Faber, “The Wake of the Lorelei Lee”

If you attack the arguer instead of the argument, you lose both

If an insurance company won’t pay for damages caused by an “act of God,” shouldn’t it then have to prove the existence of God? – I said that

I used to think getting old was about vanity—but actually it’s about losing people you love. Getting wrinkles is trivial. – Eugene O’Neill

German General to Swiss General: “You have only 500,000 men in your army; what would you do if I invaded with 1 million men?”

Swiss General: “Well, I suppose every one of my soldiers would need to fire twice.”

Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don’t feel I should be doing something else.—Gloria Steinem

Exceed your bandwidth—sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center

One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done.—Patricia Monaghan

Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world.—Brett Arends

It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way.—Andrew Jackson

3:30 is too late or too early to do anything—Rene Descartes

Everything is okay when it’s 50-below as long as everything is okay. – an Alaskan in Tom Walker’s “The Seventymile Kid”

You can have your own opinion but you can’t have your own science.—commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming

He looks at three ex wives as a good start—TV police drama

Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem.—a handmade bumper sticker

“You’re either into the wall or into the show”—Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500

Makeup is not for the faint of heart—the makeup guerrilla

“I’m going to relax in a very adult manner.”—Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti

“Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet.”—a roundtable participant on Fox of all places

As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her.—me again

Hunting is a “critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison.”—a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting

Each day do something that won’t compute – anon

I can’t belive I still have to protest this shit – a sign carriend by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration

Life should be a little nuts or else it’s just a bunch of Thursdays strung together—Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in “Rumor has it”

You’re just a wanker whipping up fear —Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer

Being president doesn’t change who you are; it reveals who you are—Michelle Obama

Things sports announcers say

"… there's a fearlessment about him …"

"He's got to have the lead if he's going to win this race."

"Kansas has always had the ability to score with the basketball."

"NFL to put computer chips in balls." Oh, that's gotta hurt.

"Now that you're in the finals you have to run the race that's going to get you on the podium."

"It's very important for both sides that they stay on their feet."

This is why you get to hate sportscasters. Kansas beats Texas for the first time since 1938. So the pundits open their segment with the question "let's talk about what went wrong." Wrong? Kansas WON a football game! That's what went RIGHT!

"I brought out the thermostat to show you how cold it is here." Points to a thermometer reading zero in Minneapolis.

"It's tough to win on the road when you turn the ball over." Oh, really? Like you can do all right if you turn the ball over playing at home?

Cliches so imbedded in sportscasters' minds they can't help themselves: "Minnesota fell from the ranks of the undefeated today." What ranks? They were the only undefeated team left.

A good one: A 5'10" player went up and caught a pass off a defensive back over six feet tall. The quote? "He's got some hops."

Best homonym of the day so far: "It's all tied. Alabama 34, Kentucky 3." Oh, Tide.

"Steve Hooker commentates on his Olympic pole vault gold medal." When "comments" just won't do.

"He's certainly capable of the top ten, maybe even higher than that."

"Atlanta is capable of doing what they're doing."

"Biyombo, one of seven kids from the Republic of Congo." In the NBA? In America? In his whole country?

"You can't come out and be aggressive but you can't come out and be unaggressive."

"They're gonna be in every game they play!"

"First you have to get two strikes on the hitter before you get the strikeout."

"The game ended in the final seconds." You have to wonder when the others ended or are they still going on?

How is a team down by one touchdown before the half "totally demoralized?"

"If they score runs they will win."

"I think the matchup is what it is"

After a play a Houston defender was on his knees, his head on the ground and his hand underneath him appeared to clutch a very sensitive part of the male anatomy. He rolled onto his back and quickly removed his hand. (Remember the old Cosby routine "you cannot touch certain parts of your body?") Finally they helped the guy to the sideline and then the replay was shown. In it the guy clearly took a hard knee between his thighs. As this was being shown, one of the announcers says, "It looks like he hurt his shoulder." The other agrees and then they both talk about how serious a shoulder injury can be. Were we watching the same game?

"Somebody is going to be the quarterback or we're going to see a new quarterback."

"If you're gonna play running back in the SEC you're gonna take hits."

"That was a playmaker making a play."

Best headlines ever

Sister hits moose on way to visit sister who hit moose.

Man loses his testicles after attempting to smoke weed through a SCUBA tank

Church Mutual Insurance won't cover Church's flood damage because it's 'an act of God'

Homicide victims rarely talk to police

Meerkat Expert Attacked Monkey Handler Over Love Affair With Llama Keeper

GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality

Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy

Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high

Give me all your money or my penguin will explode

How zombie worms have sex in whale bones

Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower

Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles

Nude beach blowjob jet ski fight leads to wife's death

Woman stabs husband with squirrel for not buying beer Christmas Eve