Friday 11 July: West Longitude

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Fri 11 Jul 2014 22:47
Position: 52 13.4 N 179 38.3 W
Course: East. Speed: 5 knots
Wind: West nor' west, F4 moderate breeze
Sea: moderate. Swell: north west 2 m
Weather: overcast, patches of fog, cold
Days run: 110 nm

We continue to make steady progress with favourable winds. As you can see
if you look at our position my second thoughts about passing south of
Semisopochnoi Island won out. I think it was the right decision as the
breeze picked up later in the afternoon and with the extra bit of pressure
in the sails the slatting ceased, however not before the main clew outhaul had
chafed through. Fortunately it is not difficult to repair, just a matter of
tensioning the first reefline, bringing the boom inboard and replacing a
rope pennant between the outhaul tackle and the mainsail clew, so it was
soon fixed. I am contemplating replacing that section of the outhaul where
it exits the end of the boom with a wire pennant. The only problem with
this solution is that the wire will then chafe through the boom, rather than
the boom chafing through the outhaul. Chafe – one of the sailor's big
enemies. (I know this is Dutch to many, but the sailors will know what I am
talking about.)

Just after nine this morning we crossed one of humankind's imaginary lines
that we use to impose order on our world, namely the 180th meridian of
longitude, moving from the eastern to the western hemisphere of the planet.

I am dipping into a few of books at the moment, I wouldn't go quite so far
as to say actively reading them. One is by the literary critic Northrop
Frye called “A Fearful Symmetry: A Study of William Blake.” The other is
Captain James Cook's journal of his first voyage of discovery. Blake and
Cook were both geniuses in their fields of endeavour and roughly from the
same period, but I do not think it would be possible to get two such
entirely different perspectives on the world. Blake's mythopoeic
perspective of the world has its place, but not when navigating at sea. I
think that the tension that exists between the two perspectives continues
today. The mythopoeic attempts to provide meaning to life, whereas the
empirical perspective provides facts which can lead to material improvements
but ultimately can provide no meaning or purpose to life. I suspect that at
heart both Cook and Blake were motivated by the same myth, that of Albion
and 'Pax Britannica'.

I am also dipping back into Ovid's “Metamorphoses”, Virgil's “Aeneid”, and
Gibbon's “History of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Again, Ovid
and Virgil provide very different perspectives from the Roman Augustan
period. While Virgil is supposed to be one of the great poets from the
classical period, I find the Aeneid hard to take seriously. I think to
modern sensibilities it comes across as a piece of brazen Augustan
sycophantic propaganda, but, to be more charitable, I do think Virgil had a
vision of Rome being a civilising influence on the world and in creating his
Aeneid myth he perhaps helped to constrain some of the more barbarous
aspects of Roman rule.

Oh well, it keeps the mind occupied in between transcribing my position from
that magical product of empiricism, the Global Positioning System, onto the
rather quaint archaic navigational tool that Cook would have been more
familiar with, the paper chart.

All is well.