Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Why Gannet 2

I can confidently state after a lifetime driving all kinds of machines I have never given a vehicle a name. I have unfortunately a severely practical state of mind, I attribute that to my Aspergers though it may just be because I am lazy or something. The Golden Van broke the rule and therein I suppose lies a story. I call it the Golden Van with a slight tip of the hat to my ironic self after Custom Coach Creations said this was the second such van they had ever converted. Most customers go for standard white as delivery is instantaneous whereas a special color ( I wanted maroon, nixed by my wife) takes up to four months to deliver. We were in no hurry.
A motorcycle rider I met years ago blogs frequently (in English) from her home in Germany whence she returned after years of living in Canada, where she rode and named her motorcycles. Sonja asked why then did I choose to name the Golden Van? She and her husband now spend their free time wandering Europe in their Volkswagen van from their home base in Southern Germany. Oddly enough we follow similar paths... 
So why did I break the habit of a lifetime and give the van a name? It goes back to sailing. When I came out of the hospital determined, now that I could walk again, to have one last adventure before the Big Sleep my wife and I pondered our options. We could always go back to sailing we thought, until we discovered Rusty hates the water; the poor dog isn't perfect after all. So he gave us the excuse to think outside the proverbial box. Besides we had a hankering for something different. With a van we thought we could see more stuff, go inland, park in the middle of places we wanted to see, tour the parts that could not be reached by boat. We are not Webb Chiles, clearly.
"Go to the edge of human experience and send back reports." That phrase set this thing in motion. I came across Webb Chiles as a young man, an aspiring sailor who read avidly as one does when one's young head is full of dreams. I never had Webb Chiles' drive to sail off into what he is famous as describing as "...the monastery of the sea."  But his books were compelling and his experiences extraordinary. The first American to sail alone around Cape Horn is the record that gets me especially as his boat was not suitable and conditions were dreadful but he bested that record in his own estimation by sailing almost the entire way around the world in an open boat. He wrote memorable magazine articles about living under snow in Boston winters and i followed along from my safe berth in the Santa Cruz small craft harbor in California.
So when he sailed to the Keys a few years ago I offered my dock to look after his boat. That offer did not work out but we met anyway and so it went. His boat for the sixth sail around the world was as usual totally unsuitable, except of course it wasn't as Webb Chiles was sailing it. The Moore 24 is designed for sailing downwind on California's coast and winning races in what is known to sailors as the "ultralight" class of racing sailboats. That they were nurtured in my former hometown of Santa Cruz is a coincidence. Gannet is 24 feet long, flush decked and yes, I repeat, it is called Gannet...
Hmm. Could that be why my Golden Van is named Gannet 2? Why yes it could, that could be the exact reason. If that satisfies your curiosity read no further.
I would never have dared to name my lumbering home on wheels after Webb's lithe fast torpedo of a world girdling boat, and the idea never entered my head. It was Webb who suggested it after I told him of our plans. I want to drive Gannet 2 a long way before we come back to Key West and while I hesitate to mention plans I talked with Webb of them and as usual he was entirely supportive and enthusiastic. He after all has gone far too far in boats that should never have made it in the opinion of armchair critics and the peanut gallery, so when I talked  airily of long distance travels his only comment was "You'll love South Africa, fascinating country." Ok then, now I have some commitments to live up to. And send back reports from those edges of human experience.
My wife chose the design, Tomasz at Key West Signs made them reality and Webb endorsed the job. I and my trepidations stood aside. Now he says to be done properly Gannet 2 has to take on a proper nautical identity and gain a gender. The Golden Van becomes a "she." That will take me a while to master but I shall do my best.
In sailing tradition one names a boat then adds a so called "hailing port" as well. The idea was two ships crossing paths would call out essential information, hailing each other across the water in the era before radios existed. "Gannet 2 out of Key West bound for Anchorage" for example. So we added a hailing port to the name as well.
Webb lives a spartan life at sea, one of which I approve as he spends very little time maintaining systems even though he has the essentials covered in the most modern way, electronics, music and a place to sit and manage the boat, He even makes videos and you can get the best idea of what sailing an ocean is like by watching them.  I love minimalism as I hate fixing things. 
I travel with a wife and dog and blame my level of luxurious frippery on their presence. I am a hardened outdoorsman you understand and would be just as happy sleeping on a  square of canvas suffering the miseries of heat cold and mosquitoes with nary a complaint. Which may or may not be true about me...Fortunately we will never know as my wife is in charge of living arrangements and I do as I am told. So we travel with mood lighting surround sound and a television, not to mention convection oven, insta pot and electric burners all powered by solar panels and a complicated inverter to create household electricity also generated by two alternators in the engine...phew! Apollo 11 had nothing on us!
That's the story of the naming. My Promaster Van is named after a 24 foot boat that has sailed around the world and could even do it again if her owner chose to do so. My Promaster Van has a lot to live up to, as do I. And let's not forget my long suffering wife. And dog; don't forget the chief security officer. I suppose we had better get on with it. Retirement in two years will put us to the test.
We travel not for trade alone,
By hotter winds our hearts are fanned
For lust of knowing what should not be known 
We take the golden road to Samarkand.
James Flecker