"There is nothing more pleasant than cruising on a boat with the whole family."
Letter from Empress Catherine the Great

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Dear Witty: Rest In Peace

Witty was the young, orange, male, feline member of our crew. He sailed with us everywhere since the beginning of this blog in the Fall of 2010 (except for daysails and the passage from Norfolk to Tortola). I'm estimating that he spent more than two of his eleven years afloat.
Readers will recall the time he fell into the bay off Cariacou, WI and the several times we thought we may have lost him, in Oriental NC, Coconut Grove FL and Falmouth Mass.
He was born in December 2007. He was a lover, not a fighter. He was not really a "good" cat, by the measurement of obedience. He would steal food off of any open unguarded plate; he especially loved to lick the butter stick. He also awakened us when he wanted to be fed -- very early in the morning, and has knocked things off of counters which broke, to gain attention. But he was a great cat for loving to lie on anyone's lap and be petted and his faults were always forgiven.

We had to put him down today though, after a fight of more than two years with a bowel disease that may have progressed into cancer. He visited vets in Belfast and Rockland Maine as well as City Island, in addition to many visits to his home vet in Greenwich Village.
He was given a special all raw meat diet, appetite stimulants (this for a guy who lived to eat!), antacids, steroids, motility drugs, antidiarrhetics, and doses of subcutaneous IV solution. These doses used to perk him up but the last week it seemed hopeless and he we found him lying on the floor breathing with difficulty this morning. His continued life had no quality, and the vet saw no chance of improvement. He no longer suffers.
His ashes will be cast upon the salt waters of Long Island Sound this summer.
Lene and I and his sister, Alfie, miss him greatly. The little critters worm their way into lasting places in our hearts.

Christie's Mopelia Collection

As a member of the New York Map Society, I was invited to a reception for a display at Christie's Gallery at Rockefeller Center called "Beyond the Horizon: The Mopelia Collection of Fine Atlases and Travel Books." The brochure cover is shown and much of the display was devoted to the art illustrating the books. Someone spent a fortune collecting atlases, mostly Dutch, from the 16th and 17th Centuries
A small portion the collection was on display here, before moving to Paris before the Auction in Paris on June 5. These are objects of art that I never hope to own. I have a genetic condition: I was born without the acquisitive gene. I'm just as happy, more happy really, viewing such treasures in museums, galleries and libraries as compared to keeping them in my home and insuring them, worrying about them and taking some sort of guilty pleasure in excluding others from seeing them. And this is beside the fact that there is no way I could afford to bid on these masterpieces.
But somehow I knew to wear a suit and tie and my name was on the list with the other 50 or 60 well dressed folks.
The exhibition was co-sponsored by another company that Christie's parent company owns: Ponant. I had never heard of Ponant. It calls itself "The World Leader of Luxury Expeditions" and the brochure describes extremely elegant small cruise ships. The  company representative tied the cruises of discovery of Ponant with the charts of the discoverers. He extolled the excellence of the French cuisine and the luxury of small boat voyaging-- less than 200 passengers on a boat. I later gave him my card and told him that my way of cruising was thus even more luxurious with a maximum of only four passengers aboard ILENE and the further luxury of staying in an interesting port for as long as it retained interest as compared to the schedule of a commercial cruise line.
The liveried staff wined me and passed the most beautiful and tasty hors d'oeuvres.
But the highlight of the evening was the display of books of charts, especially of western Atlantic waters, such as the two below.
First is a Dutch view of "Nieu Nederlandt", more specifically the coast from Norfolk through Cape Cod. Interesting to zoom in, which the eye can do more easily than the camera, to find place names that I am familiar with and those whose names have changed.  Also interesting to note the gross discrepancies compared to modern charts such as the size of Long Island as compared to Nantucket and Martha Vineyard.

 The second one I photographed has a smaller portion of the world, showing a bit more of the Virginia coast heading down toward Hatteras but going only as far north as Staten Island. Interestingly, north is to the right instead of the top so that the two huge pages (you can see the grey crease in the middle) could show a greater expanse.
 All of the charts were beautiful. mostly hand colored. They were made for wealthy merchants to impress their friends with, not to be subjected to the hazards of the sea. A very pleasant experience.

P.S.:  Newyorkmapsociety.org is a 501(c)(3) organization that is open to anyone with an interest in maps or charts. Some of our members are experts, others collectors (which can be a rather pricey addiction) but others, like me, are mere users and lovers of maps and charts. We are not at all exclusive and annual dues are only $30. We hold about ten meetings a year at which aspects of maps and charts are discussed. If you are in the NYC area, you might want to look up a meeting and give it a try.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

STYX, the Movie

Quite a good sailing movie about a German physician who sets out on her sloop, the Asa Grey, probably a Beneteau (which she tells the Coast Guard is ten metres), from Gibraltar for Assension, a suburb of St. Helena in the Eastern Atlantic.
The sailing is more realistic, than in Robert Redford's All Is Lost. Well not perfect: she failed to scribe a line on her chart along which to mark off the mileage with her dividers. But the storm, the calm, the very limited dialogue. She has an EPIRB and both VHF and SSB and uses them all well.
This is also a film of ideas and ethics, but without preaching. The title comes from classical mythology:  the River Styx is the water passage between this world and the underworld, which her voyage turns into, becoming a suspense thriller.
Her objective, as shown by her leafing through picture table books of flora, was to study the lush tropical botany at her destination, a place associated with Charles Darwin. And her boat's name is a homonym for Asa Gray, the most famous American botanist of the 19th Century and a frequent correspondent with Darwin. The internet led me to that nugget while I was trying to get it to tell me what make the boat was.
The ethical and moral choices come later and I won't spoil the movie for you by describing them.
The film has been rather favorably reviewed by the professional reviewers and is continuing at the Film Forum on Houston St., half a block west of Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan, but only until March 12. After that it may appear in art film houses and streaming.
Sailors will both enjoy and be moved by this movie.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

February 15 - March 1 -- Only Four Hours of Work but An Open House and the Merchant Marine Museum Tour

Two days of work on the boat averaging only two hours each, have resulted in the fuel tank being back up in its place, the fuel gage in place with its gasketed hole secured, the four hoses, heat gunned,  reattached and clamped and two of the four wedge blocks back in place with new stainless screws from Buddy's Hardware Store. I also the pumped the bilge after it defrosted, Electronic charts were checked and the good news is that the chip we have includes Eleuthera, the furthest place in the Bahamas we plan to visit next winter. cent reports of rampant crime in that nation were on Fox so I have discounted them pending verification from an honest news source. I also inventoried out paper charts and have all we need except the set for Central Bahamas. We hay need ones for the iNaxX on iPad. I took the dimensions of the fittings at the gooseneck and looked them up in the catalog of Charleston Spars, for replacement. And I contacted Pantaenius to get the current temporal and geographic limits of our navigation. we are set for as far as S.Car.
There was a lovely Open House at the Club to attract new members. I met and chatted up some nice people, some of whom may soon be members and partook of the wine and buffet. Half of the new, more sturdy and beautiful doors from the dining room to the deck are in place.
Finally the Eighth Annualish Winter Land Cruise, having been adjourned due to a blizzard, came off on March 1. Fifteen souls came to the US Merchant Marine Museum on the grounds of the USMM Academy at Kings Point, New York. We were greeted by the curator and turned over to an excellent volunteer docent. A few of the folks actually had more fun just chatting with each other than viewing the history of our merchant marine, but that is OK; one of the purposes of such outings. I did a good job of underselling the ambiance of the Seafarer Lounge, the basement level cafeteria where we dined, and no one complained about the inexpensive wholesome food. And I've sent my check to the Club, representing the $10 I collected from each attendee, so this was a fundraiser as well.  I will have to find someone else to run the 2020 event while we will be in the Bahamas. Spring is almost here!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Feb 5 - 14 -- Seven Interesting "Off Boat" Nautical Related Experiences

Only one 3.5 hour work day (on ILENE's forward diesel fuel tank) during this period.
 * A meeting of the New York Map Society. The speaker was a professor of History from the U of Va. He had developed some compelling dynamic computer tricks for zooming in on details of historical maps. His topic was the twenty years ending in 1776 and how the British, after winning the French and Indian War (in which George Washington first distinguished himself as a capable military commander, working with the British against the French and the Indians) set up a line running down the backbone of the Appalachians, with the intent of limiting white settler expansion to area from that line to the Atlantic. The line was not well surveyed or obeyed and the American settlers resented the British effort to constrain their expansion, leading to our revolution in 1776. The best part of the show, and I had no expectation of its content, was slide show was the charts of Atlantic and Caribbean waters, from Nova Scotia to Domenica -- all of which I have sailed. When views came up of the Maine coast, for example, before they even clarified, I recognized my sailing areas. I learned that Maine, located between New England and New Scotland i.e. Nova Scotia, was originally called New Ireland by the Brits.
* Dinner and theater with Bennett and Harriet.
* Dinner with Sheila who has been an repeat overnight guest on ILENE, at her house. Good food but the purpose was to cut her cat's claws. I wore full heavy winter coat, heavy gloves and glasses to protect myself against scratching and biting while I held Pip for Lene to do the cutting. But little Pip was too strong for me and sprang, twisting out of my arms, biting through the tip of the glove, fortunately not the finger. Its not often that I abandon a mission but this was one of them.
 * Lene and I and nephew Mendy had dinner with John, who had come up from Maryland's Eastern Shore and was staying with Don and Christine up in Washington Heights. Both former Harlemites and good sailors. Both guys have helped me a lot. I invited them to be among ILENE's crew this fall when we sail her to Tortola. There: I've said it; now it is a "mission" with a lot to get done between now and then. Did I mention, I don't like to abandon missions.
*Another theater date with Bennett and Harriett. Bennett is another Harlemite crew invitee. The reason for the theater dates being so close is adjournments while Lene was healing from her broken bones. The show is a new musical, "Superhero", at the Second Stage Theater. We go to a lot of theater and think this show is great. It was still in previews but I think it will be around for a long time. The star plays a student who is working on his own comic book, staring a superhero he named "Sea Mariner". How can it be bad?
* Another Harlemite, Roy, invited me to a dinner at the New York Yacht Club. This is a very upscale club with a long history of winning America's Cup races and with its clubhouses in Newport, Rhode Island and in midtown Manhattan. Ties required. I rubbed shoulders with some powerful people. The food and wine was exquisite. The speakers were a bit over my head, though I did get the jist of their presentation. As I see it, they have done for sailboat racing what Billy Beane did for baseball as described in the book and movie "Moneyball." In the baseball story, the hero used his mind and some computer skills on behalf of the KC Royals to overcome the vast financial advantage that the big, well bankrolled teams had in buying superior players by discovering new types of statistics to assess the strengths of baseball players overlooked by the others. Not just hits and homers, but more unique statistics such as slugging percentage and on base percentage.
The sailing analogy I make does not involve overcoming a financial deficit because none of the contenders in that game lack vast wealth. The speakers fed both historical weather reports and near term weather forecasts published by our government into computers to optimize the best route for a racing sailboat -- and won, taking significant time off the record for the cross Atlantic passage.
Interesting, but not really the kind of sailing we do.
*A documentary movie was shown a quarter mile from out house called "One Million American Dreams." If you want to see it in a theater you better rush because documentaries generally do not have long runs and this one does not have a lot of popular "feel good" appeal. It is the story of Hart Island, next to City Island, and particularly its use as a mustering center for Black Union soldiers in our Civil War and, since 1869 as New York's Potters Field, the burial place of one million, and counting, New Yorkers whose families did not claim them for burial. Lene and I were the only people in the theater until about a half a dozen others showed up as a group. I talk with everyone and would have said that we sail around the island often. I asked "Why have you chosen to see this particular movie?" "Because I'm in it!" was the reply of Herbert Sweat, Jr., an activist among Black Viet Nam Veterans. While he was over there, his infant child, born to his 17 year old wife, died. Due to the indifference to the unfortunate and bureaucratic foul-ups which were at the heart of the movie, his child was buried there. He has visited the Island five times by ferry, now that family members were recently permitted to visit, but has never sailed around it; that will be remedied this summer. A mission!
So a rich variety of nautically related experiences during the last ten days.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Jan 23 - Feb 4 -- Two Work Days Surrounding a Lot of Fun Days

Two work days but only a total of 6.5 hours. It was raining the first time and I got as much done as I could. Big block of ice in the bilge but the recent rain, on top of it, got pumped out. It comes in around the mast boot in driving rain.  I tried to charge the batteries on ILENE and on Ohana. As far as ILENE goes, no juice flowed into the boat. Maybe the rain and or cold? If it was not better the next time I would have the yard people check their source. As a consequence, there was also no heat and the strong light I brought from home did not work. But the electricity did flow the second day.
I sanded the grab handle at the starboard side of the companionway ladder and the wood at the top edge of the galley sink which were looking a bit ratty. This in preparation for re-polyeurethaning these areas when it gets warmer. The second day I taped them but did not have a can for cleaning brushes.
The biggest accomplishment, partial, so far, related to removal of the water I put into the forward fuel tank in Maine last summer. First step was removal of almost the entire cabin sole. The boards are screwed on and some of the screws are stripped. Once off, it makes moving about in the cabin a tricky business but is needed to gain access to the two fuel gauges that are each fitted into a viewing port about 1.5 inches in diameter  cut in the top of each tank and fastened with six sheet metal screws and a big rubber gasket and three wires to take the readings from the gauges to the indicators in the cockpit. Then it was a matter of using a hand pump to get the fuel, one gallon at a time, from the contaminated tank into a clear plastic bottle. After letting it sit for a few minutes I saw no clear white water at the bottom below the pink diesel fuel and poured the gallon through a separating Baja funnel (designed to filter out any water) into the "good", i.e., water free fuel tank. About forty such one gallon transfers and the bad tank will be nearly empty and much lighter. So far I have done eighteen. Then comes the removal of four hoses from the tank: one to pour fuel in from the deck, one leading to the engine's fuel filter and pump, one leading back from the engine to the tank and the last to a vent in case the tank gets overfilled. Once this is done, four "L" shaped wooden blocks must be removed which hold the tank down and stop it from moving from side to side. Then nephew Mendy will be called to lift the much lighter but still heavy and awkward tank out of the boat whereupon any remaining fluids will be dumped out and it will be left to thoroughly dry, before reinstallation. Progress comes slowly but at least the concept works and this WILL be done by spring!

The rest of the time was fun "Other" days. Two four hour shifts working at the Harlem's booth at the New York Boat Show in the Javits Center. The first time it was 4:30 to 9, business was slow and I was the only Harlemite working the booth. Next day, from noon to 4:30 there were 3.5 of us, making it more social and giving time for me to spend money at other booths, though the Admiral did not approve, yet, by phone, the purchase of a $1300 fold-up bicycle. I did get some small tools, a light and some cleaning supplies.

After the Boat Show i joined Lene and Jamie and Laurie, for dinner at a restaurant on the upper west side. We met them in Jewell Island Maine and again in Manchester by the Sea, Mass. last summer. They come in from their home in Boston for the ballet, to which they subscribe, so it is likely that we will be able to reprise the event.

Two days of non water related travel by Ken's car going and air returning, to visit Lene's Brother's new wife up in Niagara Falls, Canada for two days. We were the first of the family to meet and welcome Sabrina. Ken and Sabrina are between us in this picture.
Sabrina is very pretty, short, young, intelligent, sweet, friendly and entrepreneurial.

I realized that Niagara Falls is adjacent to St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, where ILENE was born and we persuaded Ken to take the four of us on a quest for the site of her birth. We had an address but it is now a sail loft and not waterside. The company went bankrupt about twelve years ago and we failed to locate the ways under all that snow and ice. I had fun trying but no luck.

Our hotel room had a spectacular view of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

And brunch with Bennett and Harriett, whose "Ohana" is wintering near ILENE, so I'm plugging her in for battery charging when I do this for my boat.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January 1 - 22 --- Not Much Going On in the Cold

The first day of the new year was a brunch at the Huguenot YC. We went with Bennett and Harriet, who are also keeping their boat, Ohana, at that club this winter. The Huguenot has imposed a new requirement for "winter members" like us: $100 of chits that we have paid for, to be used for food at the club. So with this brunch costing $45 per person, it was an opportunity to get most of  our chits eaten up. Not so fast! The "special event" brunch, we learned after the fact, cannot be paid for with the chits. How can they be used? The restaurant is open for two hours on most Fridays and Sundays during the winter, but they serve only soup. It would take a lot of soup to eat up $100. The solution: take out from a specific approved local italian restaurant to be delivered to and eaten in the Club House during the restaurant's "open" hours. Complicated, and I'm not sure how the Huguenot benefits from imposing this requirement.

But I have invited, subject to their Commodore's approval, the Huguenots to join with us Harlemites in our "Eighth Annualish Winter Excursion" which this year will be to the American Merchant Marine Museum on the campus of the US Merchant Marine Academy on Kings Point, Great Neck -- Wednesday, February 20, less than a month away.

Only one work day during this period, for four hours, on small chores while ILENE's batteries got a drink of rejuvenating juice. The seven of them cost about a thousand bucks when obtained in Grenada in the fall of 2011 and have been giving good service since then, knock on wood. But the electrical space heater did not work: the fan whirred but the heating coils did not turn orange--no heat! I took it home and it worked fine there so I'll try again with more indoor boat chores next decent available day. The cockpit table and companionway trim, that were re-polyurethaned at home, have been reinstalled along with the door to the aft head, with larger screws.

 I looked up the Ritchie Compasses site and ordered a new light plastic protective cover to replace the existing one which was ratty and did not hold on well. The compass itself has worked flawlessly for 20 years. I had less success in getting them to tell me what paint to use to repaint the cylinder in which the compass sits, from which the white enamel paint has come off. This pic shows the work needed, after I temporarily removed the cup holder from the forward side of the binacle.
Ritchie said their paint formula is  "proprietary" and actually did not even tell me the metal from which the tube in question was made. They want me to detach the unit from the boat and mail it to them! Yeah, right! Not very good customer service.
And I took home, scraped and sanded off the old glue and reglued part of a strip of clouded plexiglass to repair the top half of the companionway hatch boards. There is always something to do.

And five non-work days (I call them "Other" days but could just as well call them "Play" days) that related to the sea. I immersed myself in Frankenstein, the book club's selection for January. I had never read it before nor seen any of the movies. The book greatly exceeded my low expectations. The sea link is that it begins and ends on a wooden ship in the 1790's engaged in a voyage of discovery, north from Russia, searching for the North Pole. That part of the novel frames the heart of the story -- man creates monster -- and the frame is the first thing left out when the story is staged or screenwritten. I very much enjoyed an excellent musical version of the novel with book music and lyrics by Eric B. Sirota, staged at the Saint Luke's Theater on West 46th St. But no sea story. Similarly, I enjoyed a major exhibition about the creation, existence and sequelae of the novel at the Morgan Library, on Madison Avenue at 36th St., but again, the nautical aspect was downplayed. And good food and discussion at the boog group's meeting.

The Harlem's annual "International Night" party (an organized pot luck with ethnic foods) was cancelled due to forecast snow and sleet, but not before my linzertorte was in the oven. So by now, half of it has been eaten, and the other half frozen for a future occasion.

I also visited the Salmagundi Club, an old club in a brownstone mansion on Fifth Avenue, about three blocks form our house. This is a club of and for artists. They present frequent free shows of art by members and others. I had no expectation of a watery connection, but I admired two different  black and white photos by different photographers in different parts of the room of two different New England lighthouses. The first is of the interior spiral staircase of the light at the NE corner of Nantucket which we sailed past on our way to Nova Scotia in 2017. The second is of the light at Port Clyde, Maine where we were last summer, and I have included my own photo, which is considerably less artsy.