Category: Water

On your bike!

Some videos of Alex, my son, and others taking a bike tour.

Now I would be the first to admit that the following videos will not be to everyone’s taste.

But there is a strong link to my son and his bike riding, and to my own bike riding. For over 5 years ago Alex persuaded me to get a better cycle than I already had. I chose the Specialized Sirrus and have been delighted with it ever since. I purchased it from the local Don’s Bike Center. There is a photograph of the bike below.

To be honest, riding the bike more or less every other day has been crucial in me staying as fit and healthy as I am.

On to the videos.

I was speaking to Alex recently and he was talking about the tour of the Isle of Wight off the south coast of England that he and friends took. That was Alex and Darren and Claire and their 14-year-old son Tom.

He mentioned the YouTube videos that had been taken and I asked Alex to forward them to me.

I reckoned that a few of you would be interested!

They are a total of 26 minutes spread across the 4 videos

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Enjoy!

Finally, Alex and I still stay connected with our riding courtesy of Strava.

This uses a small GPS, in my case a Garmin EDGE 20, to upload and show the route to the Strava dashboard. We each give each other what is known as Kudos for our respective rides.

The following is my afternoon ride of a little under 13 miles around the local roads, grabbed when the rain ceased for a while. It shows me taking our driveway, a quarter-mile long, to Hugo Rd; about 10 o’clock in the diagram below. I then turned left and two miles later turned right into Three Pines Rd. then a further right into Russell Rd. and down to Pleasant Valley Rd. and back home with a small diversion along Robertson Bridge Rd. and Azalea Dr. and to the bottom of Hugo Rd. Precisely 3 miles up Hugo Rd. and back to our driveway.

That will be shared automatically with Alex when he wakes in the morning.

And this below was Alex’s recent ride; all 83.78 miles!

Technology, eh!

Dogs are not just cuddly companions.

They give us humans extra longevity.

I have long followed Tony and his blog One Regular Guy Writing About Food, Exercise and Living Past 100. Not only because he writes so well but also because he and I are in the same camp age wise (OK, Tony is just a tad older.)

So when this post came along I just had to share it with you because we know about dogs and the great things that they do for us.

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22 Ways Dogs Make Humans Better

By Tony,
As a dog lover and fitness enthusiast, I had to love this poster and share it with you.
Regular readers know that my dog Gabi has been my companion for 14 years. She is my first dog in over 50 years. You can read the peculiar story of how I came to own her in this post: Anatomy of an Act of Kindness.

In case some of these benefits seem nebulous, check out my post What is the Value of Hugging? and also 10 Reasons Why Oxytocin Is The Most Amazing Molecule In The World for some documentation.

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I hope you can read it.

If you have any problems let me know and I will try and find a clearer version.

Meantime, you all stay fit and healthy with your dogs!

Purple Mountains

This is a film that all should watch!

Now again this has nothing to do with dogs and I would be the first person to say that there are still some people out there who are not convinced that global warming is a major result of human activity.. But none other than the Union of Concerned Scientists are persuaded that humans are the major cause. See their website here. (From which the following is taken.)

Every single year since 1977 has been warmer than the 20th century average, with 16 of the 17 warmest years on record occurring since 2001, and 2016 being the warmest year on recorded history. A study from 2016 found that without the emissions from burning coal and oil, there is very little likelihood that 13 out of the 15 warmest years on record would all have happened.

And further on in the article, this:

Scientists agree that today’s warming is primarily caused by humans putting too much carbon in the atmosphere, like when we choose to extract and burn coal, oil, and gas, or cut down and burn forests.

Today’s carbon dioxide levels haven’t been seen in at least the last 800,000 years. Data assembled from Antarctic ice core samples and modern atmospheric observations.

So on to the film.

My son, Alex, sent me the following email on the 7th October.

Hi Dad

This is a really interesting film about climate change in the west coast mountains, USA.  A bit skiing related but a good watch !

Lots of love

Alex

Included in the email was a link to the film available on YouTube.

The film is just under one hour in length and a great film to watch as well as having a clear, fundamental message: All of us must act in whatever ways we can if our children and grandchildren are to have a future. Indeed, do you believe you have another twenty or more years to live? Then include yourself as well.

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About The Film
Professional snowboarder and mountaineer Jeremy Jones has an intimate relationship with the outdoors. It’s his escape, his identity, and his legacy. But over the course of his 45 years in the mountains, he’s seen many things change: more extreme weather, fewer snow days, and economic strain on mountain towns.
Motivated by an urge to protect the places he loves, Jeremy sets out on a physical and philosophical journey to find common ground with fellow outdoor people across diverse political backgrounds. He learns their hopes and fears while walking a mile in their shoes on the mountain and in the snow.
With intimacy and emotion set against breathtaking backdrops, Purple Mountains navigates America’s divide with a refreshing perspective: even though we may disagree about climate policy, our shared values can unite us.

Please, please watch the film!

Thank you!

The fate of the world!

Whichever way you look there are substantial challenges.

This post is largely a republication of a recent post from Patrice Ayme. Because when I read it I was profoundly affected. I thought that it needed to be shared with all you good people because if nothing is done then life as we know it is going to come to an end. Period! That includes our gorgeous dogs as well as us humans! So, please, please read it all the way through!

But before Patrice’s post is presented The Economist this last week came out with a special report entitled Business and climate change. I offer a small extract:


For most of the world, this year will be remembered mainly for covid-19. Starting in Asia, then spreading across Europe and America before taking hold in the emerging world, the pandemic has infected millions and killed hundreds of thousands. And it has devastated economies even more severely that did the global financial crisis which erupted in 2008.

But the impact of covid-19 has also given a sense of just how hard it will be to deal with climate change. As economic activity has stalled, energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen sharply. This year the drop will be between 4% and 7%. But to have a decent chance of keeping Earth’s mean temperature less than 2 deg C above pre-industrial levels, net emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases must fall to more or less zero by mid-century. And such a drop needs to be achieved not by halting the world economy in its tracks, but by rewiring it.

The next section in the special report was A grim outlook and it was, indeed, a very grim read.

So onto Patrice’s article.

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Back To The Jurassic In A Hurry: 500 Part Per Million Of Greenhouse Gases

Greenhouse gases (GHG) used to be 280 parts per million. Now they are around 500 ppm (including CH4, Nitrogen oxides, chlorofluorocarbons, etc.). This is more GHG than in at least thirty  million years, when the Earth was much warmer, and it is similar to CO2 densities during the Jurassic.

So we are presently transiting to a Jurassic climate. The transition to the Jurassic climate is happening at a rate many orders of magnitude faster than changes in the past. This implies that most forests of the Earth , desiccating and incapable to adapt fast enough, are going to burn… worldwide. This generalized combustion has a drastic potential consequence: generalized hypoxia.

So we should talk about climate catastrophe rather than climate change, and global heating rather than global warming: recent fires got helped by temperatures dozen of degrees higher than normal, in part from compression of the air due to record breaking winds. This is why parts of the Pacific Northwest which never burn are now burning. This will extend to Canada, Alaska, Siberia and already did in recent years. The catastrophic massive release of frozen methane hydrates could happen any time (it already does, but not as bad as it is going to get). It has up to one hundred times more warming power than CO2 (fires release it by billions of tons).

What is the way out? Well, hydrogen is the solution, in two ways, but has not been deployed as it could be. A decade ago, thermonuclear fusion, on the verge of becoming a solution, was starved for funding, and so was green hydrogen (the then energy secretary, Obama’s Steven Chu, prefered investing in batteries, it was more lucrative for his little greedy self).

Green hydrogen enables to store energy for renewables, avoiding blackouts which cut electricity to pumps to fight fires.

We, Spaceship Earth, went from 275 ppm of GreenHouse Gases (GHG) in 1750 CE to 500 ppm in 2020. That doesn’t mean we double the Greenhouse, because the main GHG gas is… water vapor (H2O). What we can guess the best at this point is the EXCESS radiative forcing since 1750 CE, and that’s already nearly 3 Watts per square meter… Equivalent to a million and a half nuclear reactors at full power…

Climate forcing is a fascinating subject, with vast areas without a high level of scientific understanding (LOSU). However we know enough to realize forceful mitigation has to be engaged in immediately.

Joan Katsareas from Philadelphia, PA wrote back: “Thank you @Patrice Ayme for sharing your knowledge of the causes and extent of the climate crisis. I will be seeking out more information on hydrogen as a solution.”

@Joan Katsareas Thank you for thanking me, that is much appreciated. Hydrogen is indeed the overall solution we need at this point. Actually Australia, in collaboration with Japan, is building a gigantic, 15 Gigawatts, project in north west Australia, AREH, the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, to convert renewables from sun and wind into hydrogen products which will then be shipped to Japan. The same needs to be done all over, it would collapse the price of “green hydrogen” (99% of the US hydrogen is from fossil fuels).

In the case of thermonuclear fusion, the  international thermonuclear experimental reactor (ITER) being built in France was slowed down by ten years, from reduced funding, and uses obsolete magnets (superconducting, but not High Temperature Superconductors, which can now be engineered with more compact and powerful fields). A massive effort would bring a positive energy thermonuclear reactor within 10 years… But that effort has not been made… except in China, the usual suspect, where a project, the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), aims at an energy gain of 12 and a total power equivalent to a fission nuclear reactor. Its detailed engineering has been launched for a while (it’s supposedly symbiotic with the European DEMO project, which will produced as much as a large power station and will be connected to the grid. That too has been delayed, to the 2050s, although it’s feasible now).  The USA needs to launch a similar project, right away.

We face ecological constraints incomparably more severe than those of the Roman state. Rome did not solve its paltry problems, and let them fester: they had to do mostly with a dearth of metals, and the Franks solved them readily. This hindered the Roman economy. The situation we are facing, the threat of a runaway greenhouse is a terminal existential threat.

Look at Venus, we can look at our sparkling neighbor when the forests have finished burning, and the smoke dissipates (we were told it could be months). Once Venus probably had a vast ocean, and probably, life. But it died from a brutal greenhouse generated by Large Igneous Provinces (LIP). The same happened on Earth, on a smaller scale, more than once, in particular with the Permian Triassic mass extinction, which destroyed 95% of known species..

Now the rumor has it that indeed some life may have survived in the atmosphere.  This is not a joke. Consider: Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds. The detection of a gas in the planet’s atmosphere could turn scientists’ gaze to a planet long overlooked in the search for extraterrestrial life.

Life on Venus? Ah, science, all those possibilities… We never imagined we would ever think possible.

Patrice Ayme

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P/S: I argued in the past, before anybody else, that the dinosaur-pterosaurs-plesiosaurs extinction, and extinction of anything bigger than 20 kilograms was due to volcanism (I was at UC Berkeley when the two Alvarez were, and they seemed too full of themselves with the iridium layer, and I like to contradict certainties…)

How would LIP volcanism set forests on fire? Well, by the same exact mechanism as now: through a massive CO2 driven greenhouse, what may have terminated the Venusians…

In this perspective climate cooling, for millions of years, visible in the graph above, would have disrupted those species which were not equipped to generate enough heat, and then the LIP accelerated into a vast holocaust…

The end with general burning and acidic oceans is hard to duplicate with a bolide, so the impactophiles have argued that the bolide magically impacted the most CO2 generating rock imaginable… Maybe. But an enormous LIP does all that CO2 production/destruction of the oceans, effortlessly… A friend of mine who is the biggest of the big in this academic domain, he decides who publishes, replied to me that the 66 million year old Dekkan LIP is too small… To which I replied that we don’t know what lays below the ocean…

This is very beautiful.

I probably wanted to say “This is very beautiful in a profound and spiritual way.

One of the many things that make this funny world of blogging so delightful is the connections that are made.

Recently Learning from Dogs got a follow from a person who herself was a blogger. This is what she wrote on her About page.

Endurance athlete, artist, and fourth generation Oregonian. I grew up on the central Oregon coast and lived in the Willamette Valley most of my adult life. My endurance work is an intersection of spiritual, personal and creative practices. I fall in love with places, like people, and dream of them often. I am not a travel writer, bucket lister, photographer, peak bagger or a competitive athlete. I seek only passage.

I was intrigued. No, more than that, I was curious about her. I wanted to know more.

When I left a message of thanks over on her blog this is what I said:

Oh my goodness. I came here ostensibly to leave a fairly standard thank you for your decision to follow Learning from Dogs. But then I saw what you had written and, also, the beautiful photographs you have taken. I was just bowled over!

Do you have a dog or two? Because if you do I would love you to write a guest post over at my place. Or give me permission to republish one of your posts? But I would prefer the former.

My dear wife, Jean, and me are both British. We met in Mexico in 2007 and I moved out permanently in late 2008 with my GSD Pharaoh. We came up to the USA in 2010 and were married and then came to Southern Oregon in 2012. We live close to Merlin, Josephine County and just love it to pieces. Originally we had 16 dogs but are now down to 6!

Regrettably she is allergic to dogs but she quickly gave me permission to republish a post of hers.

This is it. It is remarkable!

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Into the fold: Basin and Range

May 26th, 2020

I guess I should have expected the snow, above 6000’ in the springtime. Flurries swirled around my car as I removed my leggings in the backseat and began cleaning my wounds. I was bleeding in four places, the largest of which was a grapefruit sized ooze of blood on my knee. What was supposed to be a quick, 3 mile warm up hike turned into an assorted practice of skills I’ve acquired over the last ten years in the woods.

How to navigate trailless canyons full of thorny brush.

How to step when gaining upon steep fields of melting snow.

How to traverses loose, snow covered boulder fields.

How to field dress a wound.

How to know when to turn around.

How to navigate by sight and evaluate terrain.

How to avoid getting your ankle crushed by a dislodged boulder.

How to stay calm when things get intense.

How to get your head back in the game.

How to self evacuate.

How to accept failure.

How to relish in it.

Just enough snow to mess things up.

Later, with my knee buzzing slightly from the pain, I make my way into a canyon on the western flank of the mountain. I know this canyon well. There is a safe place to hide from the rain, to collect drinking water, and I don’t have to worry about the roads turning to mud if the storms linger through the night. While my water filter drips, I follow the creek upstream. Wind swirls, aspens chatter, clouds are ripping across the sky. House sized, red violet boulders protrude from the hillside, they look like ships caught in the crest of a giant wave.

The sun is setting, the pain in my leg forgotten. I take my full water jugs and find a place to camp along the rocky beach of an alkaline lake. These lakes are the remnants of massive, Pleistocene era inland seas. Their waves are black. In the coldest parts of winter they freeze into a slurry of ice and the motion of the waves seems to slow. Like watching an inky black slurpee ocean crash against the rocky shore.

I eat instant noodles, drink tea, and think about the “real” ocean, where I was born.

To me, the desert and the ocean are like two sides of the same coin. I can watch the light change over the hills for hours, just like I can watch the waves break along the coast. Both are fascinating. The ocean always seems impassable, uncrossable, infinite, unforgiving. The desert is too, if you know the dangers well enough. I think about my close call on the mountain earlier. It’s like an old timer told me once, “…but only a fool tries to cross the desert”.

“Okay”, I said.

When the sun rises, I am already awake, shoving things around, getting ready to ride out to the canyons on the furthest side of the mountain. The dawn strikes a distant rim and is bright pink across the craggy face. I haven’t climbed that peak yet, either. I smile to myself as I toss my pack into the passenger seat, turn up the radio, and turn the ignition. I’m thankful for the warmth in my car this morning. Thankful for a shelter from the wind before my work in the canyon begins.

I found the place, but it took me a while.

After nearly 50 miles on gravel and dirt, weaving around the backsides of sprawling, ethereal lakes, several wrong turns, and a quite sporting, rugged road granting passage across the valley floor, I had finally reached the gates of this remote, unsociable place. Rimrock lined the canyon walls, massive boulders littered the valley floor, scattered throughout the mostly dry river channel. Each possessed its own creepy, brackish pond at its base, resplendent with robust algae colonies.

Some terrain cannot be run, and this was one of those places. I settled in to a comfortable, brisk hiking pace and made my way up the canyon; sometimes following the riverbed channel, other times taking the game trails through winding thickets of sagebrush and thorns. I never saw the animals, but I could feel myself being watched a few times. I do not mind; I always remember that I am their guest.

The otherworldly feeling of the canyon persisted, even as the landscape changed, flattened, rounded itself out. I took the old farm road out of the depths and up onto the flats again. The road leveled out as it wound it’s way around the mouth of the canyon, now obscured by the sagebrush sea spread out before me. You can see everything that is far away and nothing up close. The terrain is flat and easy here. I break into a run.

I love running downhill.

It’s all gravy until the weather blows in. I watch it coming across the valley. The first raindrops are warm and fat. A rainbow spreads across the horizon, snow clouds form on the rim of the mountain, and the wind really starts to rip. I resist the urge to increase my pace. My body is already sore; I’ve been out here nearly a week now. As the rain turns to sleet and then hail, it’s time to practice the things you’ve learned once more.

How to layer for various types of rain.

How to guard your face from the wind.

How to bundle your hands in your sleeves so they don’t go numb.

How to take your backpack off, open it and retrieve a snack without stopping.

How to run.

How to run when your feet hurt and you want to quit.

How to run when the rain turns to hail and catches you out on the flats with not even a rock to hide behind.

How to run when you are crying and you don’t know why.

Where do you go inside yourself when fatigue and boredom set it?

How do you stay present in all of it?

Everything is practice.

When I finally return to my car, the storm has passed, for now. The mountains beyond the valley are fully obscured by clouds. If I stay here, the road maybe be impassable by morning. I want to stay, but I decide the best course of action is to return the way I came. Also, the hot springs are over there, and my tired legs say, YES PLEASE. I hang my wet clothes up to dry along the windows of my car, crank the heat to 85, and hope my puffy dries out by morning. I rally back across the bumpy valley, behind the lakes, across the basin, up the face of the mountain all over again.

The hot springs are mercifully empty. I take off my clothes and stand naked in the cold air for a while, staring at the mountain. When I slip into the water, I feel like home. I feel like I belong. I am right where I want to be. Everything is just right.

But I don’t stay long.

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I subsequently asked where she had gone:

These photos are all from the SE corner of Oregon, reaching down into Northern Nevada. Hart Mountain, the Northern Warner Mountains, Abert Rim, Rabbit Hills, Summer Lake, and the formidable Catlow Valley.

Now you know!

But that doesn’t change my opinion that this is one unusual person who has the spirit of adventure truly in her bones!

Dogs can be very persuasive.

This is a lovely story courtesy of The Dodo.

It is about Mia, a dog who has ideas of her own when it comes to choosing a destination.

To be honest, I wasn’t going to post anything for today but then I saw this story on The Dodo and wondered if it could be put together fairly rapidly.

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Dog Tries To Pull Her Mom To The Beach Every Time They Go On A Walk

“She reacts this way EVERY DAY” 😂

By Caitlin Jill Anders
Published on 9/3/2020

The first time Mia went to the beach when she was around 5 months old, she fell in love. She loves swimming, digging in the sand and chasing her ball around, and it quickly became one of her favorite outings.

Mia and her mom go to the beach about once a week in the summertime — but for Mia, it’s never enough. Their house isn’t far from the beach, so whenever Mia is out on a walk and they pass the way that would take them to the beach, she immediately stops walking and stands her ground.

“She knows the way by heart,” Yoshi Lok, Mia’s mom, told The Dodo. “She also knows that if she keeps heading north, she will eventually get to the beach which is why she always stops in her tracks and pulls me when we are heading in the opposite direction of the beach!”

Mia can be incredibly stubborn and has no problem engaging in a standoff with her mom. Every time, her mom pleads with her to keep walking, trying to explain that they don’t have time to go to the beach that day, but Mia always tries to wait a little bit longer. She hopes that the longer she stands there, the more likely it is that her mom will cave in and take her to the beach after all.

“She isn’t very happy when we don’t go, she does try more than once on our walks to go to the beach,” Lok said. “Sometimes I have to bribe her with treats to keep walking.”

YOSHI LOK

Even though Mia gets to go to the beach more than most dogs do, she would definitely prefer to go every day, and has made her stance on that perfectly clear.

YOSHI LOK

“She reacts this way EVERY DAY,” Lok said. “Ever since we walked to the beach three years ago (when we moved to this area in Vancouver — Kitsilano), she remembered the way and never forgot.”

YOSHI LOK

On the days when Mia finally does get to go to the beach, she’s so happy. As soon as she and her mom start walking in the direction of the beach, she gets so excited and practically runs all the way there. She swims, digs and runs as much as she possibly can until it’s time to go home — and then starts her campaign to go back to the beach all over again the next day.

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I think that Yoshi wouldn’t have quite the problem with Mia, if indeed it is seen as a problem, if Mia had a doggie companion. While a single dog is very common having two dogs doesn’t really increase the workload that much and the rewards in terms of the two dogs playing together is immeasurable.

Just my thought!

A sailing memory, part two.

Again, this is for Pendantry.

I left yesterday’s post with the statement: “However, getting to Gibraltar was not without its challenge for we suffered a knockdown and this scared us both to the core.

This is the account of that knockdown.

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The knockdown

So this was it, the end of life. This is what that end felt like. A lifetime of experiences reduced to this stilled moment; all my hopes, dreams, pleasures, memories, everything shrunk to this tiny moment of now.

I knew, in some trance-like way, that if just one of those foaming, giant waves swept across us, so utterly over-whelmed as we were on our side, it would flood the cabin, and down Dave and I and the yacht would go.

Other sensations came to me. Feelings of quiet, of calm, even of peace. My world now reduced to close, intimate dimensions. To the yacht’s wheel, to which I so grimly hung. To the front edge of the port cockpit seat, now underneath me, against which I braced my feet. To the starboard guardrail, bizarrely above my head, and to those raging seas so very close that seemed to beckon, ‘Give up, give up now and slip away.’

Me and Dave, alone in this Mediterranean storm 10 days West of Cyprus, are going to drown, founder without trace in these vast waves and probably end up not being missed for many days. Our dream of sailing across the Atlantic snuffed out as easily as Songbird of Kent would sink the 5,000 feet down to the seabed. The futility of it all.

It was a strange, detached perspective that hardly registered the gusts coming at us like great padded hammers. This unimaginable gale that had Songbird of Kent, my floating home for the last 5 years, totally pressed down on her port side, even though the yacht offered nothing more to the winds than her bare mast and rigging.

From within the cabin, Dave could do no more than simply watch. Hunkered down outside, I could do no more than simply hang-on. Both of us transfixed in this stillness of life’s imminent ending. Dave would later say no words would ever properly describe what his eyes had seen.

My past life, rather ominously, started running before me. How one year, in the early 1950s, when I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents had rented a holiday villa in the French Atlantic coastal town of Arcachon. What a glorious summer holiday that had been.

Arcachon’s beautifully sheltered bay had enabled me to learn to swim. The buoyant sea-water helping me increase the number of strokes each day, until one afternoon I had swum out to a yacht anchored well off the beach. As I hung on to the anchor chain, panting hard, the owner looked over the guardrail. Next, me being rowed back to the beach in a dinghy and then everyone getting to know Englishman John Calvert, a solo sailor living aboard his yacht, Garrawog.

Next year we had holidayed again in Arcachon and found Garrawog moored in the small yacht harbour. I recalled fond memories of sitting in the cabin with my father and John Calvert, drinking lemonade, eating cream crackers and loving the cosiness of it all.

Then the amazing coincidence when the following year we had holidayed at the French Mediterranean town of Menton and Garrawog had sailed into the harbour. That had led to John taking us sailing along the coast, memories so vivid, all these years later, of helping to haul sails, steer Garrawog, even remembering the gentle nudge of the yacht into the waves.

I was clear how those memories had fuelled my romantic obsession with sailing. How as a young teenager growing up in London I had joined the Welsh Harp sailing club, based at a large lake, well a reservoir, just three miles from home, and learnt to sail a dinghy. All fuelling this fascination with the sea. Yet that romantic obsession didn’t revolve around idyllic meanderings along the Mediterranean coastline. No, my dreams involved ocean sailing. Not even as part of a crew, but sailing, single-handed, across the oceans.

I had devoured every book written by those sailors who, totally alone, had journeyed the vast oceans in a small yacht. Joshua Slocum, who wrote of his solo trip around the world in his yacht, Spray, way back in 1895. Master English navigator, Francis Chichester, who conceived the idea of a single-handed yacht race across the Atlantic ocean, later completing a round-the-world solo circumnavigation in his yacht, Gipsy Moth IV. Eric Tabarly, Chay Blyth, Robin Knox-Johnston and many more.

I reflected how that dream had remained with me for years. All through nearly 20 years as a salesman and entrepreneur to the point when, quite suddenly, on a Monday in the Spring of 1986, uncharacteristically I had nothing in my diary for that day, or for many days ahead. I had just sold my thriving company in Colchester and there was no longer a job to go to!

Then not so long after I had taken a holiday in Larnaca and in wandering around the marina I had seen Songbird of Kent for sale, and had bought it! I had previously read about Tradewind yachts and knew how many had made world circumnavigations. Thus by the end of 1986, my new address had become: Yacht ‘Songbird of Kent’, Larnaca Marina, Cyprus.

A shout from Dave jerked me back to the real world.

Hey, is it my imagination or is that wind easing?

I lifted my head and turned my face into the weather coming full at us. The seas were just as terrible but, yes, something was different, some subtle lowering of the tone of the wind.

Dave, you’re right, it has eased back a bit. We’re not so pressed down, are we?

Don’t think so. What do you reckon?

Not sure what to do, frankly these conditions scare the shit out of me!

In the subtlest way imaginable, Songbird provided the answer. The yacht now showed some response to the waves rather than previously being so overwhelmed. A tiny thought entered my mind, something I hardly dared acknowledge: Songbird is not going to founder.

Those 3 tons of lead at the bottom of Songbird’s keel were, at last, overcoming the wind pressure on her topsides and with seawater cascading down from the mast and rigging, the yacht slowly righted and bestowed on me and Dave the continuation of our lives. A miracle of miracles!

I quickly helmed the bow round to point us downwind, putting the full force of the gale directly aft. Within moments, a wave slowly started to overtake us but I couldn’t do anything other than keep my eyes on the mast-head wind-vane that, against all odds, had stayed intact during the knock-down. Watching the arrow head that absolutely had to keep pointing directly into the wind. We may be upright but one slip of steering, one moment’s loss of concentration and I knew we would slew broadsides to the seas and go over again.

I couldn’t believe the size of this wave that lifted us up and up, as if we were in giant, invisible hands. Up to the foaming crest from which was revealed, all around us, wild, angry, jagged waves, huge crests covered in white foam, an Alpine-like scene of raging hell as far as the eye can see. A vista of utter desolation.

Then the foaming crest moved ahead of us and Songbird slid down that vast lee of the wave, down towards the trough that lay behind us. Our bowsprit pointed directly into the dark green water ahead, water streaked with spume, as down and down we went until the inevitable arrival of the next wave started us up to another foaming crest.

We had survived what we could never have imagined. Hardly believing it, we intuitively knew that surviving that first wave increased the odds of us surviving the next few. Then the next few, and the next few until, against all expectations, we knew we stood a chance of living through it all.

I spotted something in the water and shouted, “Dave, look, look there in the water, just to our left. That bit of sail, surely not from our mainsail?

As we ran before the weather, a scrap of white sail had surged past our side, a piece of sail bearing the number 33 and two palm trees, the symbol of a Tradewind 33 yacht.

Dave laughed, “I can’t believe that, Paul. It’s from the mainsail that blew out when the gale first struck. How amazing! It must be from us, can’t be too many other Tradewind 33s out here!“.

Imagine that, Dave, after all that we have been through these past few hours, we’ve just sailed by a bit of our mainsail, close enough to have grabbed it.

That triggered my mind as to when this terrible experience started. How long ago was that? I didn’t have a clue, though surely it couldn’t have been much more than an hour or so ago. Indeed, I struggled to think what day it was, then realised it was Thursday, October 8th, 1992. Just 24 hours since we had left the dirty, commercial port of Algiers for the last leg of our trip from Larnaca in Cyprus to Gibraltar.

Dave, hand me the log, it’s at the back of the chart table.

I read,

Thursday, 8th October, 1992.

08:20 Sea state terrible.

I recalled how the dawn had revealed banks of low angry clouds, skidding across the tops of a nasty swell, made even worse by a vicious cross-swell. The next entry after that read,

09:00 Sky extremely threatening. Wind NE F4. Just 16 miles east of Greenwich meridian.

Then we had approximately 3 hours of sailing to go before we crossed Greenwich. On to the last entry,

12:00 Sea extremely ugly, Wind NNE F5. Longitude 2 minutes East of Greenwich.

Just 15 minutes from crossing that historical navigational line. I recalled how we had chatted about sharing a glass of something to celebrate ‘crossing the line’! Then how my words had been torn away when, in a seeming instant of time, this huge squall had come out of the North, heralding this vast, cauldron of a storm. The mainsail, even tripled-reefed, was way too much sail. But it was far too dangerous to leave the cockpit to drop the sail, too much to do anything other than hang on.

The mainsail failed, ripped into shreds as it tore away from the mast-track and disappeared into the storm. The sounds of the event obliterated by the screaming noise of a wind that I had guessed was now more than 50 knots. The rain and spray had stung my face so hard that I needed to turn my head away just to breathe. Clearly something had to give; I expected the mast to fail.

But it didn’t! Instead, as the wind force grew and grew, it steadily pressed us further and further over until Songbird ended up fully horizontal to the sea. It seemed a lifetime ago.

I looked at my watch: 5.30pm. To hell and back in so few hours!

Dave, what’s our position?

Dave ducked out of sight to read the GPS, came back out with a slip of paper on which he had written our position: Eight minutes of longitude west of the Greenwich meridian. We were now in the Western hemisphere!

Come on, Dave, you take the wheel. I’m going to fetch a couple of beers.

I reckon a double celebration, Paul, crossing the Meridian and living to tell the tale!

We drank our beers, chit-chatted about nothing much, both aware that we had literally stared into the abyss of a dark watery grave, and sailed on.

Just before 13:00 on Saturday, October 10th, Songbird rounded Gibraltar’s breakwater, briefly rolled in the cross-swell, and slipped into the calm waters of the inner harbour.

Soon we were safe and secure in a marina berth, a few minutes walk from good food and friendly bars. Our experiences rapidly migrated into the private worlds of our minds, as if discussing it openly might replay it all with a different, more tragic, outcome.

I struggled through those first nights of sleep. Again and again I awoke, panic across my chest, clinging to the sides of my bunk, trying to lay all the nightmares to rest. Slowly, those October days resting up in Gibraltar shone a light on this sailing obsession. How, with the sudden death of my father in 1956, those memories of idyllic times in and around Garrawog had buried themselves deep into my hidden emotional world. How dreams of sailing had more to do with keeping the memory of my father alive than with anything else.

That gale expunged the obsession. I never sailed on Songbird again or, for that matter, on any other sailing vessel. Paid crew eventually returned Songbird to England, where she was subsequently sold.

I would never forget the stillness I had experienced in the midst of all that chaos, but one knock-down in a lifetime was more than enough.

ooOOoo

This is absolutely a true account of what happened. Yes, an intimate, personal account of what happened but accurate down to the last detail.

I am so pleased I kept a written account of the knockdown all those years ago for if I was to recall it today then much of the detail would have been lost. Maybe lost as a result of old age or lost as a consequence of not wanting it in one’s mind. Who knows.

Finally, there are no photographs because we just had more important things to look after – keeping ourselves alive!

A sailing memory, part one.

This is for Pendantry!

There was a remark left on my post on Tuesday by Pendantry. This is what he said, “Still waiting to hear the story of that dangerous trip you took (once?) that you dropped a teaser about years ago….

Well not only am I including the excerpt from the book Letter to a Grandson, as yet unpublished, but I am extending it to two posts, simply because I think it’s too long for one.

So this is part one.

Tradewind 33 – Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

 

ooOOoo

Songbird Of Kent

I decided to sell Dataview and worry about the taxation later. Now it is easy to write that all these years later knowing how it turned out; I never paid the tax!
For that same year, 1986, I went to Cyprus on holiday. Or rather I should say I went to the Greek half of Cyprus, to Larnaca, for a well-deserved holiday.

In wandering around the marina one day I saw a boat for sale. It was a Tradewind 33, a heavy-displacement cutter, called Songbird of Kent. The owners, Michael and Betty Hughes, were selling after many years of living on board and they returning to their native Wales. It had been extensively cruised in the Mediterranean with the base being Larnaca Marina.

 

It was a lovely boat and I could afford it. Plus, it offered an answer to my prayers. If I bought Songbird of Kent and left the UK before April 15th 1987 and stayed away for four tax years there would be no tax to pay. Nothing; Nada!
So that’s exactly what I did!

 

I bought Songbird, flew back to Devon and made preparations for leaving the United Kingdom for good. It was a busy period. One that had me saying cheerio to my son and daughter, but insisting that, so long as they came out to see me, it would not be four or five years before I saw them again. Plus loads of packing up, disposing of my house and eventually boarding that aircraft with a one-way ticket: London Stansted to Larnaca, Cyprus.

 

I settled in to living on board Songbird of Kent. I bought myself a small motorbike and in time, believe it or not, discovered there was a gliding club on the Island, at Kingsfield just to the East of Larnaca. The airfield was built for the Army Air Corps, possibly around 1960, but I can’t remember whether or not it was still in military hands. I don’t think it was!

But, I am able to look up my flying log and see that I flew a T21 from Kingsfield on the 28th October, 1990. It became a regular habit; quite quickly, as on the 17th November, 1990, I completed my instructor flight test and was signed off to instruct.
I also took an Advanced Open Water Diver course run by instructor Ian Murray. Ian was a PADI diving instructor. PADI stood for Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

My life was pretty good.

 

Each summer I would sail solo to Turkey, usually West along the South coast, the Greek side of Cyprus, then turn North and make it to Alanya or Antalya. There I would wait for guests to come from England including, most importantly, for Maija and Alex to visit.
Then we would gently cruise from harbour to harbour westwards, sometimes entering Greece much further West.

One day in Larnaca Marina a boat came quietly in and moored in the vacant berth next to me. I hopped off Songbird and went to help the sailor on board. It looked as though he was sailing solo.
After he had been securely moored, I asked him where he had come from. He was English; his name was Les Powells. He unassumingly said he was on his way home after a solo circumnavigation. Indeed, I later learned that it was his third solo circumnavigation!

The mind absolutely boggles! I mean I have just an idea, from reading books written by Francis Chichester and others, what a single solo circumnavigation would be like. But three!!
Over the coming days, we chatted about a whole range of stuff. When the subject of glider flying came up, Les said that was something he had always wanted to do.

I immediately offered to teach him to fly gliders. For a few weeks thereafter, we drove across to Kingsfield, when the Club was operating, and I taught Les up to the point where he went solo.
In the time we spent together, Les inspired me to undertake more longer sailing trips than just going across at the start of the season from Cyprus to Turkey and, of course, returning at the end of the season. Maybe, even try a transatlantic.

The idea of crossing the Atlantic kept nudging away at me. Especially since Dave Lisson, a Canadian friend from Larnaca Marina, was very much in favour of coming with me. Dave and I chatted about it and we agreed; we would give it a go! It was 1992 and a little late in the year to be starting off but we reckoned on it being alright. We left Larnaca Marina on the 10th September, 1992.

 

The idea was to head for Malta bypassing Crete. The weather soon became less than idyllic and by late on 13th September I made an entry in the sailing log: Conditions deteriorating. Then a further entry in the log at 11:00 on the 14th: Giant seas 3-4 metres.

Eventually on the 20th September we entered Valletta Harbour. We set off again on the 24th September. Our next port of call was Sidi Bou Said marina in Tunisia, which we entered on the 26th September.

The plan was to sail directly from Sidi Bou Said to Gibraltar but, once again, the weather got in the way. Thus on the 3rd October we entered Algiers harbour to take on fuel and to have a rest from the inclement conditions. We left Algiers on the 7th October heading for Gibraltar.

 

I must say that sailing in a smallish yacht had an almost unreal quality to it. The routine of sailing soon enveloped us. We slept frequently but lightly. At night, every twenty minutes or so, the one on watch would come on deck to take a look round. There was a simplicity in sailing, using a self-steering gear to helm the boat, and I remember one night coming on deck, there wasn’t a moon, and all around me, literally 360 degrees of vision, the stars came right down to the horizon. I was transfixed. We were far enough from land not to have any light pollution. It was magical. Indeed, it was a memory that has never left me.

 

However, getting to Gibraltar was not without its challenge for we suffered a knockdown and this scared us both to the core.

ooOOoo

Part Two tomorrow.