Thursday, September 3, 2015

Sailing Polywog for the First Time

Polywog is a 17-foot, swing-keel trailerable daysailer with a little cuddy and bunks which puts it into the class of small sailboats called “Pocket Cruisers”. Which means something like boats capable of poking around coastal waters and nipping into cozy coves for the night. She arrived in our driveway within about 24 hours of a brain explosion in early August on the order of, "Goddamit, I'm turning 75 and if I'm going to realize the dream of a real sailboat, so if not now when, ask me - huh?!! And anyhow, it's my birthday, so ..."  I was very fortunate in that a Holder 17 was among the two or three boats on Craigs List as I feverishly perused it one night in bed with the laptop. it turns out they are well-made and well-respected boats, with a good online following.

When I went to see it the next day I was surprised at how roomy and comfortable-looking the cockpit was. The boat was in immaculate condition - not a project boat as most that old (built by Hobie in the early 1980's) could most likely be. The owner had purchased her earlier this year with the idea of teaching himself to sail and then going around the world. But he'd recently inherited two other boats, and storage was becoming an issue, thus the Craigs List ad. But in the short time he had her he had polished the decades of oxidation from the nearly immaculate hull, bought a new 6-horse outboard (4-cylcle, reverse gear, and capable of charging an on-board batttery), and made other improvements. I knew she was perfect. I handed him 25 hundred dollar bills and pulled her home that day. She became "Polywog" based on her short and fat build, and as a remembrance of the fun my wife, Hilda, and I have had this spring and summer raising a bevy of polywogs in our fountain.

The first sailing of "Polywog" was a complete success, despite some previous misgivings. Although I had raised the mast and fully rigged the boat once on the driveway, I had concerns about whether I would have the strength and energy to get it rigged and carry out all the other launching chores, and still have something left to enjoy the sail. 

Mostly I was hopeful that my wiffe would enjoy the day. To say she was less than fully "on board" with my sudden purchase would be an undersatement. Although I had involved her with things done over the last weeks to improve the boat, and she had shown moments of positive interest, there was an explosion last week on the order of, "You are spending all your time on that boat and taking time away from help I need with things I want to do". So i was kinda sweating out how the day would go, and determined to stay calm, happy, and uncranky as I sorted out the rigging and launching.

We'd planned to leave 11-ish for Lake Englebright, a reservoir built to capture sediment back in the hydraulic gold mining days, now managed by the Corps of Engineers as a recreation lake, and kept brim full year round. We were fortunate with the weather, which has been cooling from the near 100's to the mere mid- to upper-80's. This helped to drop the anxiety meter one notch.

Despite long to-do lists fully checked off, our outings always require time-consuming chores at the last minute, chores which often could have been done earlier, but somehow not thought of until the final throes of preparation. This time it was gassing up the truck, getting some deli sandwiches, icing the ice chest, and hooking up. We left about noon.

You can click on this and the other images to bigify them.
It's about an hour and a half to Lake Englebright, on the map about 7 miles NW of Grass Valley. Despite its nearness, somehow we had never explored it, and the turn to the launch ramp, after a long twisty road, came suddenly. Rigging took nearly two hours in the hot afternoon sun, and I was beginning to wonder if it was worth it. And Hilda had apparently disappeared into the truck after at first seeming interested in helping. Uh-oh - I assumed she was sitting there fuming. But it turned out she had spent a long time chasing down a handful of pills which had left her little pillbox, and were making there colorful way rolling and bouncing happily down the ramp toward the lake. Once they were corralled she had to chase down our day-use ticket which had blown from the dashboard in the gusty winds and of course ending up beneath the truck.

Finally we backed her into the water, Hilda following along the pier clinging to a mooring line. We were both excited to see Polywog afloat after her interminable stay on the driveway while we had waited on a window in the calendar between doctor, dentist, personal maintenance, and work issues. Hilda parked the trailer, hit the restroom, and made her way down some steep steps and the ramp while I arranged the boat on the dock for our getaway. There was a moment of panic as I worked her around the dock to a better position when the winds caught her, I made a grab for the deck, and feeling the force of the wind and momentum thought for a moment that I would be stretched further and further between boat and dock, leading to an inevitable dunking. 

But all went well, Hilda stepped easily aboard, and we were soon motoring out of the marina past a shanty town of a variety of houseboats. With the wind behind us we shut down the motor, raised the main, and soon the joy of the boat began to come over us. Sitting on the comfy bench cushions we poured iced tea and snacked while we slipped past a foothill shoreline of lovely oaks and gray pines. The long, narrow lake has about 200 boat-in only campsites along the shore and tucked away in little coves. At some point we worked out the timing, and realized that if we turned around then we wouldn't be home until 8 pm. And then we kept going, grinning the while. Finally the cliffs closed in and we set the jib, headed back to the marina, and began to learn how to work Polywog to windward. The motor was a huge drag, nearly stalling us on comeabouts, and it took me awhile to figure out how to raise is to catch the notch which would hold it out of the water. Finally It caught, and we sailed on, delaying starting the motor despite the dying breeze, both enjoying the peace of quietly slipping through the water as the sun slipped behind the hills. 

Time for some iced tea and snacks
Finally the wind died completely and we slowly motored into the marina, drifting up to the pier for a perfect landing, cranked up the keel (some 200 turns on the windlass), got the boat onto the trailer on the second try (the keel needs to slip into a narrow "U" channel). Happy and relaxed, we spent an hour unrigging, watching deer, and noticing the brilliant stars and the milky way. Thank goodness for the launch area lights. We were home and in bed about midnight, happily chatting about the fun day. Now we are looking forward to other outings, Tahoe most likely, and even perhaps the Bay once we learn and get used to Polywogs wiles. And mostly looking forward to sharing her roomy cockpit with kids and grandkids. 

On the relaxing downwind leg
Hilda searches for the best jib setting as we learn to work Polywog to windward

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Glade of Compiègne

The little stereoptican card that inspired a
little mystery fun and opened the door to
some historical research.
Thanks to input from Typospherian friends, the big picture of "who, what, when and where" related to the Glade of Compiègne has emerged from this little photograph. Robert G suggested the "when", and Miguel provided some translation and a hint at the "what". Richard P crawled from the trenches of the Typewriter Insurgency long enough to identify the source of the image and a bit more of the circumstance, and finally Robert Messenger topped it all off (as usual) by identifying William F. Shirer as the war correspondent pictured facing the camera. That was enough to get me started on some enjoyable research into the story of the Glade of Compiègne

General Foch in 1921.  

The Short Story

In short, the glade is located where railroad tracks once met deep in a forest near the town of Compiègne, about 50 miles northeast of Paris. The site became memorialized by the French after WWI as the location of the signing of the armistice ending the war in November 1918. French General Ferdinand Foch is credited with the military defeat leading to the German request for the armistice. The signing took place in Foch's private railway carriage, which eventually became part of the memorial, housed in the building shown behind Shirer in the photo in my previous post

Twenty two years later the German army raced across France essentially unopposed and occupied Paris. It was France's turn to ask for an armistice, and Hitler took dramatic satisfaction in demolishing a wall of the memorial building, moving the car a few yards to the same location it had occupied in 1918, then sitting in the same seat that Foch had used as the terms of the armistice were read to the demoralized French representatives. Shirer observed the proceedings and made a dramatic radio broadcast, somehow not only scooping the other news services by several hours, but the German broadcast of the event as well, to the fury of the German high command.
November 11, 1918 - German representatives arrive in Marshal Foch's private railway carriage parked deep in the forest of Compiègne to accept the terms of the armistice ending WWI

The Rest of the Story

Amistice of 11 November, 1918

Marshal Foch stands withother French officers and representatives
in front of his private railway carriage just prior to the
signing of the armistice ending the hostilities of WWI
Despite the ravages to families here in the USA as our soldiers return damaged in one way or another from the wars in the Middle East, it can be difficult for us to imagine the strong feelings of those who have experienced war within their own country's boundaries. So high were the feelings of the French as a result of WWI, that French Marshal Ferdinand Foch had his private train, which was to be used for the signing of the armistice ending the war, placed in a secret and secluded glade within the Forest of Compiegne, lest locals attack the German representatives to the signing. Foch's train wold be met there by another French train bringing the German representatives to the signing site.

Logo of Compagnie Internationale
des Wagons-Lits
Foch's private railway carriage, later to be known as the "Compiègne Wagon", had been a dining car operated by the Compagnie internationale des wagons-lits, the historical operator of the Orient Express. It had been converted into an office for his use between October 1918 and September 1919, when it was put back into regular service. However it was soon donated as a museum piece, and was eventually housed within a building, the Clairiere de l'Armistice, adjacent to the location of the armistice signing at Compiègne

The site became a memorial to the defeat of Germany, and included a statue of Foch, the building housing the railway carriage, the Alsace-Lorraine Memorial, and a granite block in the center of a circular concrete slab marking the actual location of and commemorating the signing of the WWI armistice.

German representatives to the signing were carried overnight on a French train, which arrived at dawn at the glade. One can imagine the crunch of boots in the snow and the icy breaths as the German officers with spiked helmets walked to Foch's carriage in the adjacent train, while the steam engines hissed and chuffed.

The final treaty drawn up, known as the Treaty of Versailles, was a disappointment to Foch. Because Germany was allowed to remain a united country, Foch declared, "This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years". The second world war began 20 years and 65 days later.

Armistice of June 22, 1940  

William L. Shirer (left center) and other war correspondents on
June 19, 1940, in the memorial glade in Compiègne. The
building in the background houses the railcar used
for the signing of the 1918 armistice, which is
about to be pulled by Hitler's troops for use in
signing the June 1940 armistice.
William L. Shirer, a war correspondent for CBS radio, arrived in Paris on June 17, 1940. In his book, Berlin Diary, Shirer describes a city deserted on the otherwise lovely June day, "which, if there had been peace, would have been spent by the people going to the races at Lonchamp or the tennis at Roland Garros, or idling along the boulevards under the trees, or on the cool terraces of a cafe". But the Germans had entered the city a few days before, after sweeping nearly unopposed across France, and it was "utterly deserted, the stores closed, the shutters down tight over all the windows." Parisians had fled in panic at the approach of the Germans, choking the roads leading from the city. A huge swastika floated from he Eiffel Tower.

The Compiègne Wagon being removed from theClairiere de l'Armistice on June 19, 1940.

But the arriving German soldiers turned out to be not rapists, but generally polite, acting as tourists with cameras around their necks, and even taking off their caps at the tomb of the unknown soldier. Germany encouraged and assisted foreign war correspondents, eager that their exploits be reported to the world. So on June 19, Shirer and other correspondents were taken to Compiègne - an armistice between France and Germany was to be signed in the same place as the signing of the 1918 armistice. 

My view of the timing of events is a bit murky, based on comparing Shirer's book to the photograph. He says that when he arrived at Compiègne at 6:00 PM on June 19, "German army engineers were feverishly engaged in tearing out the wall of the museum where Foch's private car in which the 1918 sarmistice was signed had been preserved ... before we left, the engineers, working with pneumatec drills had demolshed the wall and hauled the car out of its shelter". And yet the photograph of him typing does not show the wall as having been demolished. On the other hand, there are differences in the appearance of the building from the photo showing the car emerging. Perhaps we are looking at different ends of the same structure. Shirer also puts the date of the signing at June 21, whereas all other sources use June 22, 1940.

At any rate, by June 22, 1940, the famous railway carriage, now to become even more renowned, had been removed from its museum and placed on the spot where the WWI armistice had been signed in 1918. Hitler arrived in the afternoon with others of the high command to stomp around, looking with scorn at the various monuments and memorials. The scene was reported by radio by Shirer that evening, and a transcript may be found at Shirer's dramatic radio broadcast somehow not only scooped the other news services by several hours, but the German broadcast of the event as well, to the fury of the German high command. Following the signing the railroad car was moved to Berlin where it was eventually destroyed. Hitler also had all the monuments and memorials at the glade destroyed, with the exception of the statue of Foch.

Left to right: Joachim von RibbentropWalther von Brauchitsch,Hermann GöringRudolf HessAdolf Hitler, and Walther von Brauchitsch in front of the Armistice carriage
Hitler at the Wagen von Compiègne
Hitler (hand on hip) looking at the statue of Foch before signing the armistice at Compiègne, France (22 June 1940)

After WWII

The glade of the Compiègne memorial was eventually restored by France after the end of WWII. An identical Compagnie des Wagon-Lits carriage, no. 2439, built in 1913 in the same batch as the original and present in 1918, was renumbered no. 2419D (the number of Foch's original railway carriage), and installed in a new Clairiere de l'Armistice.

Marshal Foch statue

A granite memorial marks the exact location of both armistice signings.
The building in the background is a museum housing a replica of the original railcar.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Mystery of the Tiny Typewriter Photo

I need a little help. My usual eBay search - "typewriter" - recently turned up this small stereoptican card. Besides the fact that it shows two men typing, what is going on here that inspired documentation of the scene?

The images are maybe two inches square. but an enlargement shows quite a bit of detail...

The back of the card probably also provides some detail - as long as you are not language-challenged as I am ...


I'm hoping there are typospherians that will take a shot at identifying the typewriters, and also some sleuths who might help me with the where, when, and what of the photo.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On the "Selfie"

It's been around for a while. 

Holding the camera out at arm's length and clicking is fun and quick. But with a bit more effort the self portrait can be taken up a notch ...


Galen Rowell's work was always on an impressively high level (so to speak). For more, see

To bring us down to earth, here's the author enjoying a few favorite pursuits (cool-weather hiking, photography, and eating), all caught in one shot:


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Trio of Teutonic Typers - Part III

Torpedo 18B Typewriter

We come to the third and last of the results of my September typewriter acquisition binge. And possibly the best one. ZetiX was spot on with his x-ray vision identifying the contents of that gray case on the left being a Torpedo Model 18B. Robert Messenger provides an excellent presentation of the evolution of the brand, which originated from a typewriter factory near Frankfurt in 1907. Mr.Messenger refers to the Model 18 as "Magnificent" and "Of all the interesting typewriters I own, the Torpedo 18 is my favorite writing machine for its light and precise action".

Well, I would agree, and at least in part because it is so similar to my venerable high school Olympia SM-3, as I explain below.

1961 Torpedo Model 18B
Isn't that a lovely thing? It took me longer than it ought to type out the following, as I would stop so frequently to pet it or just stare and admire.

The font is similar to, if not the same as Olympia Script No. 75 as shown in the 1964 NOMDA Blue Book on Ted Monk's page.

Of course it has that paper support that extends to double as an end-of-page gauge. And basket shift and the numeral "1"!

Shiny precision
This one lives in the office as a daily user. I think if I continue collecting in this direction, there may be a typewriter traffic condition here.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Paddling the Rivers of the Mendocino Coast

Three fine paddling destinations enter the Pacific Ocean along the Mendocino Coast. Thanks to Sierra Club trip leaders Larry and Shelly, who organized this outing, a small group of us were able to enjoy them all during a well-organized outing in November, 2014.

Strictly, these rivers, the Noyo, Big, and Albion, are semi-mature, tide dominated, drowned valley estuaries. Meaning that their winding meanders originally formed as they flowed across a level coastal plain, since uplifted to form the mountains and seacoast terraces that characterize the present day Mendocino Coast.

Russian Gulch

Russian Gulch
Russian Gulch State park contains the essence of the Mendocino Coast within its boundaries that stretch from bluffs with views of a huge sink hole, rock arches, and booming Pacific rollers, to a narrow canyon filled with overhanging redwoods, quiet birdsong, ferns, and a delicate waterfall.

During time off from paddling, I lingered with our little motor home on the bluffs here. I walked, read, and hibernated through one restorative drizzly day. Later in the week when the sky was clear I photographed the magic hours in the morning and evening. 

The waterfall at Russian Gulch SP


The "Magic Hour"
The best light happens when other people are eating - Galen Rowel
Backlight on waves and early morning mist
Its best to watch your feet when walking the bluff-edge paths; both to avoid a stumble as well as to see the beauty underfoot.
Early morning light at Russian Gulch
“Twice each day the cool, blue light of night interacts with the warm tones of daylight. Luckily for color photographers, these events, though predictable, are not consistent. For a full hour at either end of the day colors of light mix together in endless combinations, as if someone in the sky were shaking a kaleidoscope.”---- Galen Rowell (1940-2002)

The Rivers

These rivers once provided pathways for moving harvested redwoods from their primeval forests to the seacoast where they were loaded onto sailing vessels. Towns grew up at the river mouths, which exist now as destinations for those that come to enjoy this lovely area. The old pilings in the rivers, once used as wharves during the lumber trade, are now rotting, and serve as perches for the great blue herons, kingfishers, and egrets. Curious seals poke their heads from the water, and river otters enjoy their meals seemingly unconcerned as paddlers drift by.

The tides flow in, and the tides flow out. And if you can catch them just right, as we did for three days in a row on the Noyo, Big, and Albion Rivers, paddling through these lovely canyons and enjoying their wildlife is all that more fun.

Big River

Aptly named, this estuary can be paddled for at least seven miles inland from where it enters the ocean just south of the town of Mendocino. I always like to check in with the folks at Catch-A-Canoe, where colorful watercraft that can be rented for paddling and even sailing the river line the pier below the humble but cozy building that clings to the cliffs at the river mouth. If I've forgotten anything from a windbreaker to paddles they can provide them. But usually I just quiz them on the tide schedule. It is surprising how even a small current flowing against you can make it feel as if your canoe or kayak is dragging an anchor, or how delightful and encouraging a little helpful push can be when returning, tired and paddling against the wind that always comes in from the ocean later in the day.

The launching point is on the opposite, north shore, where a road from the north end of the Highway 1 bridge leads across a bar to a gently sloping ramp. The tide was coming in quickly and rising fast - we had to continually pull our boats up as folks were getting sorted out, to keep them from drifting away.

The put-in at Big River is one of my happy places. I first paddled here with my sons in the late 1970's. My wife and I have paddled its length in a Coleman, and later in our pretty red We-No-Nah several times, always coming back from the adventure in that mellow and refreshed mood that follows a bit of an outdoor workout.
Great blue heron at ease
Always fun to sneak around the obstacles on the river's edge. As you can see, the tide was quite high. We caught the tides perfectly on all three days - going upstream with the rise and out with the ebb.
Happiness on the water
Heading back down river. We were fortunate not only to have the tide with us, but only light winds from the west as well.
Big River road was probably originally put in as a logging road.
A river otter looked up from a snack - then continued with his meal.
A curious river otter

The Albion River

The launching point is from the Schooner's Landing Marina at the end of Albion River North Side Road. There is a $5 fee. 

Floating weekend cottages on the Albion River

Afternoon light on the Albion

Lunch stop on the Albion

We chatted up the owner of this floating home. He built it and has lived there since the 1970's. A mellow fellow, says he likes watching the light and the critters.

The Noyo River

The smallest of the estuaries we paddled, the mouth of the Noyo forms the areas largest harbor, with hundreds of fishing and pleasure boats moored in it. We launched from a public ramp along South River Road.
As a long-time fishing harbor, the upper reaches of the marina house some picturesque hulks.

Launching was observed by a lone swan

Happy paddlers. Author in blue life jacket.

Paddling the Noyo. the high tide allowed us to paddle further than any of us had been able to go before.