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

Monday, March 25, 2019

March 12 - 24 -- A Western Land Adventure, But Studded With A Star

Yeah, the trip included Tuscon Arizona, San Diego, California and Portland, Oregon with lots of family and friends. A good time but such subjects are not grist for this blog.

The Star of the show was the Star of india, the centerpiece of the Maritime Museum of San Diego, which includes a total of about eight boats. I detached from the rest of the folks and visited for about three hours on a warm sunny typical San Diego day. The other boats include the ship built to replicate the HMS Rose (or Surprise), which was used in the film Master And Commander,  a Spanish galleon, several pacific designed racing boats, two submarines, one Soviet and one of ours and a former ferry whose main deck provides lots of exhibition space.

I checked out the HMS Rose, a replica of a British Frigate. On her port  bow, looking out over the Bay was a sail broad reaching; it made me long to be underway again. Below decks were her guns, well actually guns that were too large for her to have used, and a description of the gunnery drill.

But I spent most of my time with the Star of the show, the best renovated and maintained and probably the largest.

She was built in 1863 on the Isle of Mann, between England and Ireland and originally named Euterpe which means Delight in Greek and is the name of the Muse of Music. Her LWL is 205 feet, 278 with spars, her beam 35, her draft 22 feet fully loaded and her highest mast towers 124 feet above the water.

She led four consecutive highly productive and profitable lives before becoming a museum. First she hauled freight between England and India. Then she changed careers to carrying paid passengers (settlers) from England to New Zealand. Her third life was carrying lumber from Alaska to San Diego, which at the time was rather treeless. Large rectangular holes were cut into her aft hull (which could be covered by heavy steel plates dogged down tightly) through which tree trunks could be loaded into her hold. Finally, starting in 1901, she was sold again, to the Alaska Packers Association, and worked carrying canned salmon from the Bering Sea to Oakland, California with her name changed to Star of India in 1906.  Along the way her aft mast was converted from square rigged to fore and aft, which made her a barque.

Her hull was iron and she escaped several near disasters, dismastings and other damage, only to be repaired and live on during her 21 circumnavigations and many other passages. While this fact was not mentioned, she obviously made a ton of money for her owners during her 63 years as a workhorse, until 1926 when she was sold to the San Diego Zoo to become a museum.

 But the depression and other factors intervened and it was not until 1957 that restoration began and not til 1976 that she put to sea again, with tourists, not settlers. Here is the stern deck and one can see the effort that went into the brightwork on which settlers could sit on good days.
The Maritime Museum calls her "the oldest ship still regularly sailing" and "the oldest iron hulled merchant ship still afloat." I thought, "What about Old Ironsides in Boston Harbor". On the day of my visit there were zero docents so I was not able to ask. I think there may be disputes about the meaning of the word "regularly". I did notice that some sails were bent onto the spars and two of them were set, in the light winds that day. My thought was that such sails are expensive and should be protected by sail covers from the strong steady San Diego sun.

Below decks were many exhibits of various aspects of nautical information. A lot of space was devoted to the lives of some of the men who sailed her and the men and women who were passengers, including typical bunks for those not in steerage. One section said that ships were the first and in the early days, the only vehicles that connected the world. This was certainly true of the two hemispheres, but land caravans had connected Europe and the far east before that. Her bow hold was open, below decks. and looked huge, though not compared to today's super ships. One part was an art gallery for photos of racing on San Diego Bay.

There is much more to see in the museum -- for my next trip.

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!