Sunday, December 28, 2008

Year-end voyage

The shortest voyages can be the most gratifying.  Today in a December thaw I rowed my 8 ft. plastic dinghy out .48 nm, past Big Tom (a rock)  to  R2 - the nun buoy that marks the entrance to Eastchester Bay.  Outbound is a lot farther than inbound.  Rowing into the sea and the wind, aiming for the bridge, and pulled south on the ebb, you earn the leisurely slide back to the dock, feathering the oars, cutting across the sea, spinning and pulling to put the stern into the swells when a big one rolls in.  When you get to the dock that .48 nm looks far again and you're glad the pump can still put out enough to carry you there on the strength of your arms and your back.

Then check North River 2 at Barron's.  Boat yards are at their best in winter - full of boats.  Looking at the keels, hulls, and spars you can tell how they sail.   The functional shapes and  primary colors look their best against the gray sky.

And then Brian Dempsey's American Ale House.  Vikings 20, Giants 19.  Season not over.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Vendee - 4,000 miles front to back - NZ - to Perth

18 of 26 still racing, Michel Desjoyeaux leads the fleet by 44 miles (after 14,000 nm) as they approach the "gate" east of New Zealand.  Gates are designed to bring the fleet north of the ice zones.  The leaders have 10,000 nm to go - aiming next for Cape Horn. 

Here's the Christmas Day Roundup, and a graphic with the fleet position

Southbound 650 - Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso - a neutral city and site of a key battle in our War of 1812, is the headquarters of the Chilean navy.   Taisy studied there at the Pontifical University - the only Catholic school I ever got her to.  Marilyn, Gary and I visited her there and heard Inti-Illimani in a pub, reminding me of the Allende years, as did the Esmeralda - the white tall ship in the naval base shot.  Prisoners were tortured aboard and Susan was arrested unfurling an anti-junta banner from its deck during an Op-Sail visit to NY when Reagan was blessing the Statue of Liberty or smtg.

We stayed in a Bohemian neighborhood at a hostel across the street from the Lutheran Church (called the German Church there) - and next door to the place where Jesse stayed, a coincidence.  So here are some of Jesse's typically well composed and selected shots of Valparaiso, plus one of a strange sculpture in the desert on the way south from Antofagasta.

Jesse and Andy parted ways in LaPaz.  Next post will (hopefully) be Tierra DelFuego.

For more pictures of desert, sea and highway go to Southbound 650.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The Long River 长江

That's what they call the YangTze 
扬子江 - The Chang Jiang 长江,the Long River - which is in fact the longest river in the world.  What you see here is the river  at Wuhan 武汉, a city of 6 million about 400 miles west of Shanghai.  A coal carrier heads west, a tug pushes a barge loaded with fiber of some kind (while crew on top of the pile directs the pilot), a fisherman and mate - tossing a net by hand.

You'll also see here a couple of dredges, a fish monger selling to people on line for the ferry, two friends Liao Meizhen 廖 美珍, Teng Rui 腾锐 and fellow passengers on the ferry ride. Cruise ships leave from here down river to Shanghai - or west up through the 3 Gorges Dam locks to the Three Gorges 三峡 at the border of Sichuan and Hubei provinces. 

Viking ship Sea Stallion - Dublin to Roskilde, DK

Experimental archeology is what they call a crew of 60 sailing Sea Stallion - a 30 meter replica Viking ship - 1,150 nm from Dublin to Roskilde, Denmark - a 6 week effort from June 29 - August 9, 2008.  The idea is to learn how the Vikings did it - by using identical equipment (like binding the rudder with a fresh sapling, not line; and pumping out tons of Irish Sea water as they plowed windward in 5 meter swells ).  When they couldn't sail they rowed - 30 at a time in 30 minute shifts.

The pictures here show the good weather. For the best pix and a good retelling you'll have to go to Wooden Boat magazine # 206 (Jan/Feb 2009).  But the Viking Musem in Denmark does a pretty good job here.

Iditarod on Foot, Bike, Skis - no dogs allowed

Riders Through the Snow
December 24, 2008
During the Iditarod Trail Invitational, racers brave hundreds of miles of frozen Alaskan wilderness on foot, ski or bicycle.  Maybe it really is a spiritual experience - 350 miles of Alsakan wilderness in the winter.  Here's the video   Wanna sign up for next year? Here's the link to Alaska Ultra Sport.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Guangzhou, Guangdong (Canton) by Sea?

I haven't yet approached China by sea.  When I went to Shanghai for a couple weeks in 2005 I went with British piloting charts, hoping to charter something that would get me out into the East China Sea.  No luck.  There were a couple of power boats across the river from the campus but no way to get my hands on them.

This time, going to Guangdong (Canton) I imagined coming up the Pearl River to Guangzhou, under sail, passing by the Portuguese outpost of Macao and the Brits in Hong Kong, landing in Guangzhou. But all I have is this photo of the Spirit of Baltimore 2  tied up by White Swan Hotel, not far from the stadium , of which I got a misty shot from the bridge over the Pearl River.  Here's a link to Spirit 2's log of their 1998 voyage to East Asia.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

On The Street: Santa Con 2008 - 5,000 Santas in New York. Is China next?

Taisy was there - on the steps of the General Post office and all around mid-town.  With 5,000 other Santas, red, green, and all celebrating what the Chinese call 圣诞节Shengdan Jie.  In fact, since every waitress and grocery clerk in China sports a Santa cap like at this IGA in Wuhan, I think this silly celebration will soon flourish in China - where they can REALLY put together a crowd

Bill Cunningham was there too in Manhattan - with his usual wonderful photography.  So here it is- Bill Cunningham's audio slide show: SantaCon(vention) in New York.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Southbound 650 - Macchu Picchu - Cusco

It's irresistible to be light-heartedly cynical "why ride that far on a motorcycle for chrissakes to see a goat and some old ruins".  But mountains do inspire.  I remember babbling in the shadow of Denali as it loomed like a diamond ring in the distance while fishing the Lake Creek River in Alaska.

Pablo Neruda too, a far better babbler, got carried away in Canto XII from The Heights of Macchu Picchu:
Look at me from the depths of the earth,
tiller of fields, weaver, reticent shepherd,
groom of totemic guanacos,
mason high on your treacherous scaffolding,
iceman of Andean tears,
jeweler with crushed fingers,
farmer anxious among his seedlings,
potter wasted among his clays--
bring to the cup of this new life
your ancient buried sorrows.

For more great shots go to Southbound 650
and p.s - Pascale reports the latest ultrasound shows the nascent rider is doing well. 
- gwc
p.p.s. - it has been pointed out to me that the quadriped is a llama.  Well, you know what they say about ducks. - gwc

The Furious Fifties - boat breaking seas and storms

The thrill of 400 nm plus days isn't an answer to why you would risk or endure 50 knot winds, confused 7 meter seas, icebergs too big to be called "growlers", and condensation dripping from every surface.

The cruel boat-breaking seas of the southern ocean have wreaked havoc 36 days out. 19/26 starteers are still racing.  Recent retirees: Dominique Wavre (keel swinging free under the boat taking shelter (3,300 miles south of Capetown)at  Kerguelen (Desolation) Island, Bernard Stamm (aground in 50 kts. in the same miserable cove where he stopped for rudder repairs), Mike Golding (race leader dismasted 950 miles SW of Perth).   And Michel Desjoyeaux surges into the lead with 20 kts boat speed.

The tales are amazing.  Check out:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Ushuaia on the rocks

South - still dangerous.  I know enough to know that Antarctic tourists don't know what they don't know.  I know because I've capsized in a 60 mph summer squall off Kings Point.  I know that I can't imagine a 103 kt. hurricane in the waters of Wilhelmina Bay on the outer end of the Antarctica Peninsula.  And I know from hard grounding a chartered J-24 25 years ago that even in  the Penobscot Bay not every rock is on the chart.  

The 80 passengers on the cruise ship Ushuaia, on the rocks there, waiting for rescue by the Chilean Navy, know about the 103 kt. storm now as their ship lies impaled on the rocks with a hole in the hull, as this blog post explains.

I want to take photographs too with the steely grays of Frank Hurley, two of whose images -  from original negatives - are on my wall, relics of Ernest Shackleton's doomed Endurance.  I want to tie up to an ice floe like National Geographic Explorer's Endeavor does there regularly.

But I have come to the conclusion that we should not do Antarctic tourism - not unless you are really ready to take your chances in a lifeboat, or have what you need to spend a week on an ice floe, or camp out on an iceberg or an icy rocky shore without shelter beyond what you have on your back or your raft.  

Chris Matthews for U.S.Senate

Chris Matthews for U.S. Senate - challenging Arlen Specter?  I'm for it.  Here's my take on my HC classmate, posted on in the Agenda feature:

George Conk (guest), law teacher/lawyer, NY:

I have known Chris since freshman year at Holy Cross when his voice, in the next room, rose loud over all others, after mandatory 11 PM lights out in our monastic dorms. And it was politics that he breathed. He knows how the Congress works. He was spokesman for Tip O'Neill when everyone else was prostrate before Gramm-Rudman and the Reagan Juggernaut. With a solid Democratic majority and a presidency beginning with an iconic sheen Chris's iconoclasm and humor is needed - in a place where every other member looks in the mirror and sees a president. Chris knows he's not going THAT far.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bombay Burning

After  graduation [from Holy Cross (me) and Bucknell (Margo)] we got married during Peace Corps training and headed off for two years in Maharashtra - 1967-1969. We lived in Vasai (Bassein) 50 km from downtown Bombay.  An old Portuguese fort now in ruins once housed a Jesuit Colegio, and in its shadow was Sao Pedru Church, which served the Catholic fishermen with whom I worked the first year.

40 years ago we may have spent Thanksgiving  weekend (as we did many) at the Salvation Army Red Shield hostel down the block from the Taj (now seen in flames).  Got suits tailor-made  there that I quickly “outgrew” on return to American diet.  Took  the electric train from Bassein Rd. to VT (Victoria Terminus) - now the scene of gunmen with AK 47's randomly shooting down passengers, vehicles burning out front.

What  went wrong?

As Margo reminded me in an email the other night - when we were there the partition bloodshed was 20 years in the past.  The U.S., with urban riots, the ML King and RF Kennedy assassinations, was a cauldron.  And the Vietnam War of comfortably hazy memory ground on through the heavy killing years that  yielded Khe Sanh, carpet bombing,  My Lai, Tet, and Hue.

Attention now will go to the Muslim gunmen who targeted civilians - India’s 9/11.  This may have been the outgrowth of Kashmiri Muslim nationalism as it appears.  But the consequences may be gravest for India’s Muslims - an often persecuted minority.  

The “communal disturbances” - coverage of which is banned in the Indian press - usually take the form of Hindu nationalist  pogroms.  I remember a village about 20 miles from us where a Hindu mob surrounded the Muslim section and tossed torches onto the thatched roofs, burning out an entire neighborhood and trapping an unknown number in their flaming huts.

Such pogroms are not ancient history. There was a systematic assault in 2000 in Surat, Gujarat about 40 miles north of us.  Here is a report.  

The Shiv Sena - the Maratha nationalist party - was in its early stages - inveighing against South Indians who thrived in the Bombay financial district now assaulted.  They broadened their base by moving from Maratha nationalism to Hindu nationalism.

For the first time I am really worried about the future of India.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Krugman - what do you mean by "we"

Paul Krugman
"The story of how we failed to see this coming has a clear policy implication — that financial market reform should be pressed quickly, and that it should not wait until the crisis is resolved"
More than any other prominent commentator, Krugman, who will soon accept the Nobel Prize for Economics, has the right to say he saw it coming and that it would be a deep crisis when the housing bubble burst.  In today's column he finally says `I told you so': "what do you mean when you say `we', whiteman?" he said a few months back to a room full of  economists, etc.  Here it is.
When the Nobel Committee announced the award back in October I posted kudos on the site - HERE.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

50 knots - under sail

Published: November 27, 2008 - New York Times
The World Sailing Speed Record Council belatedly decided to dismiss the mark set by Sebastian Cattelan in Namibia because he broke the 50-knot barrier on a kiteboard.  Here's the video.  The headline above gives you the NY Times story.

The Gates Pick

In a TPM post on the Gates pick.  I support it.  He was plucked from the Iraq Study Group, which called it straight - as this NY Times  archive piece shows.

Late to the party

I was late to the Obama party.  I feared a weak candidate - thin resume, the Rev. Wright problems, feared the war hero's appeal, etc.  So I didn't exult in the big crowds, the youthful followings, etc. that were the first stirrings since 1968 that felt and looked like a genuine popular mass movement.  
The Boston Globe has put together a photo essay that cures that problem.  It is photo-hagiography at its best.  Huge crowds, closeups of the candidate, private moments, casual moments, joyful, hopeful, adulatory faces, a youthful candidate in full stride on the basketball court (didn't do John Kerry any good to scrimmage on the ice with the Bruins. Oh well.  Spilt milk, etc.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How to dress in New York - Bill Cunningham `On the Street'

Bill Cunningham has a great eye: the classic way to dress in New York - in Manhattan that is when the good, cold weather arrives, is a jacket, scarf, and gloves.  And for me, of course, a hat.  Bill Cunningham sees it On The Street.  

Southbound 650 reaches Peru

Pascale, Jesse's embarazada girlfriend, met Jesse and Andy in Colombia.  They headed out on the 650 for Quito.  Fortunately after more than 40 miles of bad road she hopped a glorious looking bus.  They did get to Quito without mishap - despite passing through the tail end of a Columbian riot and other hazards.

And Jesse and Andy, after Pascale flew back to N.H., headed south to Peru where this latest post was made.  Still southbound - and maybe splitting up - Andy to Bolivia, Jesse to Patagonia via Chile.  Here's the rest of a spectacular array of shots.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Diving 1,200 feet under the earth - The Rondout Tunnel

The Rondout branch tunnel which carries most of New York City's water from the Catskills, is now leaking 36 million gallons/day - and flooding a lot of people's homes, too.  The New York Times describes the lives and work of the men who are living in a diving bell - in a helium and 2% oxygen atmospere, so that they cann work in the tunnel, 1,200 fee below ground. Here it is.  
The photos depict the Delaware Aqueduct tunnel under constructoin in 1937, and the diving bell in which the men live full-time - except when they are diving in the tunnel.