Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Sea Wolf, a review of the 1904 novel by Jack London

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The Sea WolfThe Sea Wolf by Jack London
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Action drama from the beginning of last century doesn't sound particularly relevant or credible, but this was certainly a thought provoking read from a writer of considerable fame.

London has arranged a salty tale of challenge and misadventure as the backdrop for some weighty moral issues which are given voice in two main characters. If you enjoy a salty yarn set on the high seas with plenty of sailor-speak and lots of rigging and navigation issues, then this will do you. If you want some fine literary references and some energetic tossing around of the biggest of big questions, this will also do you. The book has considerable relevance still with regard to the issue of whether 'might is right'.

The author probably takes us a turn too far when he introduces romance into what is almost a Robinson Crusoe moment in the last part of the book, but that is pleasant enough too.

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 There are many editions of this old classic. Here is the Goodreads Blurb about the book;

The Sea Wolf

 4.02  ·   Rating details ·  20,702 Ratings  ·  1,068 Reviews
The novel begins when Van Weyden is swept overboard into San Francisco Bay, and plucked from the sea by Larsen's seal-hunting vessel, the Ghost. This ship's evil captain, Wolf Larsen - The Sea-Wolf - is a murderous tyrant who uses his superhuman strength to torture and destroy, his brilliant mind to invent sick games, and his relentless will to control his mutinous crew. Pressed into service as a cabin boy by the ruthless captain, Van Weyden becomes an unwilling participant in a brutal shipboard drama. Larsen's increasingly violent abuse of the crew fuels a mounting tension that ultimately boils into mutiny, shipwreck, and a desperate confrontation. 

Sunday, April 22, 2018

black and white Beachcomber

Participating in  classic rallies brings the benefit of having people with cameras shooting at your boat while you are busy having fun. While we are always aware of happy snappers when we sail this boat, we seldom see the photographs, except when photographers are generous on Facebook.

I know the previous owner has some old pictures of Beachcomber, but these below are all I have in my possession of her in former times. She was known for a long time as Alfreda apparently. The photo on the slipway shows her planking quite clearly,  the same as she is now bar the top plank which is detailed slightly differently- it was replaced in the 1990's, as was the rudder. This is Beachcomber at her most ungainly I think. She had a big old motor and a pretty pokey cabin and she carried very little sail. The date is likely to be in the 1930's, and she would have been an old boat by then- sixty-something...pushing seventy maybe.
 This photo below is also undated, and it is probably earlier than the first pic. It is my belief that she had the cabin added by her last owners before she spent some years at the bottom of the Mitchell river, waiting to be rescued. Below she still has most of her rig and a more sensible engine box, rather like the one she carries now. This may be the period in which she was used as a farm utility, transporting livestock between islands.

Below I include a bit of conjecture, guesswork even. I have looked at hundreds of photos of old sail boats from this district and this is the only one I have seen which could be Beachcomber. The stem looks right, and there may be a hint of counter stern in it, and the balanced lug was common in Paynesville. Whether this is of Beachcomber, or Alfreda or another boat entirely it is likely to be a hundred and ten or twenty (or more) years ago that this was taken. Even then she would be a thirty or forty year old boat at the time.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Go Set a Watchman, a review of Harper Lee's Novel

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Put aside the wild and varied discussions this book created when published. I couldn't bring myself to read it at the time, and I'm grateful for the distance I had in reading it now. However and whenever this was written, and for whatever purpose it was published, it is simply beautiful.

Lee brings us into the home in this one, people of decency and culture and fine intellect are placed under the urgent microscope of a gorgeous outsider, an idealistic misfit born of the most respected man in town. We are left with a wonderful portrait of the South, the baggage that comes from deep history there, and some of the ways that people of good will tried to make sense of race and all the complications of a riven society.

The prose is delicious with many subtle literary references. The last half of the book will make you want to dog-ear many pages with passages to come back to. This one will stay a while in my mind.

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The blurb on Goodreads says:

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic. 

Hardcover278 pages
Published July 14th 2015 by HarperCollins
Original Title
Go Set a Watchman
0062409859 (ISBN13: 9780062409850)
Edition Language
Maycomb, Alabama (United States) 

Friday, April 6, 2018

The Picture She Took- a review of the novel

The Picture She TookThe Picture She Took by Fiona Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very satisfying read, interesting for the obscure insights into the 'Troubles' in Ireland, and the tensions in the lives of two characters brought together by chance. The author sets us for a quest and a potential romance, but is skilful in avoiding a sentimental, easy route. Ethics and behaviour are set against each other and the things permissible in war are tested through the lens of peace.

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The blurb on Goodreads about this book:

Set in England after the Great War, and Ireland after the Black and Tan War, The Picture She Took is a detective story. It interweaves the lives of an impatient and frustrated young woman whose life came alive in a bombed-out village during the First World War and a haunted young man whose memory returns again and again to the traumatic events of a day on a road in Ireland. This searching, beautiful novel is about the wars we wage against others and against ourselves; it is a powerful story of memory, flight and desire.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - a review of the book

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineEleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This wonderful book is dark and light in shifting measures. It is at once amusing, thoughtful, utterly disturbing, outrageously down to earth, intellectually piercing, socially banal, awkward and uplifting. All of that unfolds beautifully to develop the main character, permitting us to be with her as she manages the pivotal moments that release her from a dreadful inner turmoil.

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The blurb on Goodreads says:

No one's ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine. 

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond's big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. 

Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes, The only way to survive is to open your heart...

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Portraits of a very old girl- Beachcomber 2018

After new topside paint late last year and new standing and running riggings, some new soles and internal paint in the previous year, Beachcomber was better than I'd ever seen her when she turned out for the Paynesville Classic. She sails beautifully and with very good manners, although in light airs I really must remember to loosen the topping lift a bit, so as not to interfere with the main sail shape. When the wind stiffens it is no longer a problem, and in light airs I always feel so relaxed I spend more time listening to the bow wave noises and basking in the feeling of it all that I loose interest in the finer points of trim.

These first four pics are in very high resolution and were taken by a professional photographer, Andrew Franks. The others are by other photographers who shared on Facebook. She scrubs up quite well for a lady with an age over 160, I think.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

2018 Paynesville Classic -another collection of photos

Again, pics from a variety of photographers, shared with thanks. I'm hoping more still will turn up from the parade of sail which was a stunning event to be involved in.

speed boat struggling to outpace Beachcomber the gaffer at mach 2

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Paynesville Classic Boat Rally 2018 Day One

Paynesville Classic Boat Rally 2018 - Andrew Franks Photography from Andrew Franks on Vimeo.

The Paynesville Classic attracted more than 250 boats of many types and was attended by a huge, hungry and very appreciative crowd. We had static displays on the hard, exhibition tents, the Lady Nelson tall ship, fleets off classic cruisers steeped in local tourist history, and a wonderful fleet of Gippsland type fishing boats, many with multi-generational family histories here. Historic sailing craft, small dinghies, speed boats and work boats- a feast for the eyes. There was also a classic fishing boat race event and a scratch-build boat from plywood competition.

The video above does a great job of summarising (very quickly) the range of craft on display and in the water on the first day. This first day included a sail past by all water-borne entries. The grand parade of sail happened on the second day and I hope to have some good pics to share of that soon.

The event grew out of the very hard work by Peter Medling in the first instance. He has driven the now world-wide interest in the event through his energy and unfailing enthusiasm. It has been truly remarkable work. The huge team of volunteers were again outstanding in their cheer and helpfulness. As a participator with a long bowsprit we certainly relaxed in the comfort of knowing that managing a docking in a busy crowd would always be managed calmly and without fuss by one of the helpers who so magically appeared when needed. This warmth and cheer reflects so well on the local community.

Most of these pics have been freely shared on Facebook, and I include shots by various photographers with thanks.

even the dolphins joined in

the Tin Shed - a local floating institution provided a movable stage for music and commentary

Friday, March 2, 2018

pottering to Paynesville for a classic boat rally.

Lake King can be lazy and languid, horizons can forget to turn up to the scene and despite the put-put of the diesel it's hard not to absorb some of the calm.

Over the next few days we will be just one of more than 200 boats from all over and it will be hectic. But for now, this is nice.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

a tall ship in the lakes

One of the highlights of my coming week will be the Paynesville Classic Boat Rally, and the biggest entrant is Lady Nelson, a replica of the first boat to chart Bass Strait. She has come from Hobart, her home port. A history of the original boat (in brief) and other interesting background can be found by following this link

Docked at Metung for a well-earned break

photo Sallyanne Barclay. The water at the bar.

coming over the bar and into the channel under motor

The night before the entrance, marking time and waiting for permission to enter. The course was then into the Lake system and up to Metung

Raising sail on the way from Metung to Paynesville