Trip Reports

Get It While You Can (29-Aug-2002-11-00):
11:00 AM local time, Thursday, August 29 (0900 August 29 UTC) 39 08 N 008 18 E. Temp. 79, Humidity 65%, Cloud Cover 80%. At anchor in the harbour of Carloforte on Isola di San Pietro (The Island of St. Peter), Italy.

Greetings from the crew of Maverick

“In a world where,” according to Howard Tate, “people are fighting with each other, and there’s nobody to count on, not even your own brother,” there are some who think the Captain is part of the problem, not part of the solution. There was an outpouring of comments on your correspondent’s recent missives, to the effect that his invidious remarks may have been the cause of needless pain in the hearts of his more sensitive Italian, French, Egyptian, and hedonistic readers. At least the first three spoke up, decrying the Captain’s remarks as vicious calumnies; but as no disciplined hedonist would ever search for pleasure in the pages of these dispatches, his asperity in reference to that estimable group went unchallenged. It is true, there have been unanticipated developments as a result of his declarations. Having been briefed on them, Lloyd’s sent a young man to re-appraise the holdings of the Louvre, and he found that the value of the entire collection could not exceed 359 Euros, primarily in office supplies; so it appears the Captain had overestimated even the contributions of France’s past glory. In Cairo, cabdrivers were very depressed and wouldn’t haggle for fares, and now felt too guilty to take tourists for “hospitality” to their uncle’s papyrus factory. And Italy was turned so topsy-turvy that middle-aged men were responding with derisive laughter upon hearing the two-syllable word, “mama.”

Be that as it may. If this is the price of truth, it is not purchased too dear, particularly as the Captain himself suffered nothing at all. But there was one interesting vacuum in the flood of mail, sometimes threatening, that we received, and that was in regard to poor Mr. Tolmie. Speaking up for nations of millions of people is one thing, as they occur to the mind as an abstraction. But here is a living, breathing soul, with no one to utter a word in his defense. Everyone needs love, dear readers, and it is one of the ironic tragedies of the sorrowful lives we live in this vale of tears, that people generally need it in inverse proportion to the likelihood of their attracting it. On that latter scale, I’m afraid, we will find Mr. Tolmie, to be liberal, not in the top fiftieth percentile. The depredations of time, that work their sad magic even on the beautiful and charming, reduce those blessed at birth with less of nature’s bounty to a degree which, in Mr. Tolmie’s case for example, decency requires us to leave undescribed. Temperance may well be the ancient Greek virtue recommended to the Captain in regard to his writings, but the reader will search the Platonic corpus in vain to find an endorsement of Hope, Faith, and Charity, those Pauline virtues that will be required of the acquaintances--may we call them friends?--of Mr. Tolmie, in his declining years. When you see Dave next time, give him a big hug. Tell him the chastened and kinder, gentler Captain has sent you.

The night before our early morning departure from Cagliari, enroute to the Balearics, we checked weather on the internet, and did so again shortly after getting underway through our morning high-frequency report. All was benign. We left with a very nice southeasterly right behind us, and were going fast. We were SAILING, a very unusual experience of late. Six hours later we heard a report on VHF from Italian weather personnel who weren’t on vacation that in our area there was an “unstable air mass” flanked by a low to the west and a high to the east. “Unstable air mass” is a phrase a sailor would just as soon not hear. They also called for gale-force winds at our destination, Menorca. We decided that, since we were not yet clear of the vicinity of Sardinia, it would be a good idea to look to see if we could find a safe harbor to wait out the blow. Mind you, the force six they predicted in the area where we were now wouldn’t be bad, as it would be behind us, but we didn’t relish the idea of arriving at a strange port during a gale, particularly since with the extra wind we’d be going faster than anticipated and therefore arriving in the middle of the night. After a little chart study, several harbors became candidates, two of which could be reached before dark, and these were on islands near the southwestern coast of Sardinia. We chose Casaletta on Isola di Sant’ Antioco, which appeared to offer the best protection from southeasterlies, the predicted direction of strong winds. No, I won’t explain a squash zone again. We arrived there in the late afternoon and got a spot on the quay for 25 Euros a night, which is a bit expensive for us (the Euro is worth almost a dollar), but it did turn out to give is perfect protection. The following evening the wind gusted into the forties and that night there was a ferocious thunderstorm, with flashes of lightening firing off like strobe lights, ten a second or so, for an hour. I feared for our newly refurbished wind instruments at the masthead, but all appears to be fine. The next morning we made the shortest passage of our voyage, three nautical miles, to a harbor on the neighboring Isola di San Pietro (St. Peter was shipwrecked here according to the locals, but not according to the Captain’s reading of Acts) where we can anchor for free. Before we even got our anchor set, two dinghies buzzed over to greet us, and we were very surprised and pleased to recognize the crews of the Canadian Cal-39 Delphis and the steel Spanish boat Vulcano, neither of which had we seen since the Red Sea. They gave us news of some of our other friends from that passage, like those on the California boats Voyager, who are in San Tropez, and Warrior, who are going to be wintering in Italy.

The weather in our area and in the Balearics has remained unsettled (it’s blowing thirty as I write this), with almost daily gale warnings from different quadrants. We can stay here in Carloforte until things improve, and it’s a very pleasant town. When it blows, though, even in a protected anchorage, things can happen. Today a French boat anchored upwind began to drag down on us. They were quickly on top of it (as was I!) but they motored up and ran right over the float for our anchor trip line, which we used because of evidence the bottom was foul. I thought for sure they would get the trip line in their prop, which would have been a doozy. They would have simultaneously pulled out our anchor, which would now be hanging from their boat, and fouled their prop. Two boats, linked by chain, would have started to drift towards several more boats at anchor, in thirty knots, with only one capable of using its motor, and that at the risk of fouling it’s prop on the chain. The carnage that would have resulted is terrible to contemplate. I took a deep breath when I saw the fender we used as a float bob up on the other side of their boat.

I took a bus yesterday to the opposite, windward, side of the island, a fifteen-minute ride, to have a look at the Mistral that was blowing. They have lots of names for winds in the Mediterranean, and among them in addition to Mistral are not Mariah but Meltemi, Lips, Zephyr, Bora, Sirocco, Firtina, Levanter, Vendeval, and a couple of dozen more. Why, by the way, do San Franciscans have no name for their summer westerlies or the warm offshore breeze we sometimes get in September and October? At least those Southern Californians have the poetry to name a wind a “Santa Anna.” For the modern mariner, who associates wind with highs, lows, isobars, Boyle’s Law, and dry and wet adiabatic rates, these names seem quaint and imprecise; but of course our methods, although scientifically based, have, I’m sorry to report, made little improvement on the prediction of actual weather in the Med.

When the bus dropped me at Capo Sandalo on the western shore, the mistral was not particularly fierce, but as the day wore on, whitecaps appeared and soon the sea did not look very inviting. I observed a mighty Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), the fastest animal in existence, riding the updrafts that result where the mistral meets the beetling cliffs of the Cape. I watched him swoop and dive for a long time, there being no human traffic to distract me, until, reading my thoughts, he flew away and, without a backward glance, disappeared into the sky.


Okiva had their dinghy ripped off. With the motor, replacement cost will be at least $5000. (World cruisers insurance, although very expensive, normally has a deductible of at least $15,000, so unless the boat sinks it doesn’t help much, as the crew of Maverick has discovered.) Even worse, they hit some heavy weather and apparently Francis either was hit by something or fell, but at any rate his head required 25 stitches. I knew he shouldn’t have cut off the dreadlocks. This is second hand information, so we’ll try to catch them and get the whole story. They’re headed for Barcelona, where the folks probably make boots of Spanish leather.

A rather terrible fate has befallen the Captain, who has endured storms at sea without whining. OK, that’s a lie, but hear me out. The real live Howard Tate, not the hairdresser but the singer, whose biggest hit was “Get It While You Can,” but who, like Garnet Mimms, also cut “Been Such A Long Way Home” under the direction of Jerry Ragavoy, is going to be performing at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley. Mr. Austin deLone, keyboardist to the stars (David Crosby, Elvis Costello, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, etc.), one of the Captain’s longtime musical associates, has been named musical director for Mr. Tate’s appearance. Ordinarily, this would mean that your correspondent would occupy the drum chair of Mr. deLone’s handpicked band, as it has been his honor to do so many times in the past. Given his current responsibilities as Captain of a sailing ship, however, the he will not only miss the show, he’ll miss the gig, and the opportunity of a lifetime to back a great and, of late, seldom heard artist. No doubt as distraught as your correspondent over his unavailability, Mr. deLone has done the next best thing and hired a replacement, some guy from LA, ah, what’s his name? Oh, yeah, Jim Keltner. Ry Cooder will most likely also be in the band.

Go A’s.

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