The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: storms

“I was Screaming Sea Shanteys and Shoutin’ at the Gods!” A Glimpse Inside John Lennon’s Sailing Diary.

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John Lennon. Bermuda Bound. Photo Source: Unknown. 

When I was a kid, I was a Beatles fanatic. I was turned onto the band, by my mom of all people, who for some reason gave me the album Magical Mystery Tour when I was maybe nine years old. For some reason too deep for my young mind to fathom, I literally wore out the vinyl grooves pondering its dense layers of sound and meaning. Yellow Submarine and Revolver would have the same effect. The band’s legend was always writ a little more large for me because my aunt lived in a building called the Oliver Cromwell, right across the street from the Dakota, which was home to John Lennon and Yoko Ono. She caught occasional glimpses of the pair ducking in and out of their home right there in front of Central Park. I always craned my neck when we walked by the Dakota, but never got my own glimpse. When Lennon was shot, 35 years ago yesterday, I remember my aunt telling me how for days it was nearly impossible to leave her building for of all the mourners. Even though I was only in eighth grade, I wished I could have been among them.

Today, Scuttlefish commodore Brian Lam hipped me to something I didn’t know about Lennon. He actually became a pretty hardcore sailor late in life. In fact, he credits a hairball journey in June, 1980 from Rhode Island to Bermuda with curing a debilitating bout of writer’s block. It was a voyage that inspired “Watching the Wheels,” “I’m Losing You,” and an early version of “Woman.”

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John Lennon and his son Sean. Photo source: Unknown. 

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40 Years Ago Today, The Edmund Fitzgerald Sank with 29 Crew Aboard “When the Gales of November Came Early”

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Photo: AP/News Tribune files.

The Edmund Fitzgerald, a 729-foot iron ore carrier broke up and sank with all 29 crew aboard in 80 mph winds and 25 foot seas approximately 17 miles off Whitefish Point, Michigan in Lake Superior forty years ago today.

Watch an early news report on the tragedy followed by Gordon Lightfoot’s 1976 ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which he wrote two weeks later after he felt that the ship and her crew had been dishonored by an NPR piece which misprinted the the vessel’s name:

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Wish You Were Here: In Sydney, Australia – Watching the Tsunami Clouds Roll In

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Clouds loom over the beautiful city of Sydney, Australia. Photo: Richard “Hirst” Hirsty.

Last week, a series of violent storms swept through eastern Australia. Australian photographer Richard Hirst was in position to capture this ‘cloud tsunami’ as it rolled in.

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Life In Salt. Talking Story with Barbarian Days Author William Finnegan, Part I. Joaquin and the Indefensible Lust for Hurricane Surf.

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William Finnegan. Portrait of the author as a young man. Photo from Barbarian Days, courtesy: William Finnegan.

Editor’s Note. Last week, I fired up Skype for a chat with author and longtime New Yorker reporter William Finnegan. Finnegan, 62, is a personal hero. He’s a Manhattan-based, hard-nosed, badass, no-bullshit, journalist’s journalist, and surfing’s most accomplished wordsmith. In his recently released New York Times bestselling memoir Barbarian Days, A Surfing Life, Finnegan has written a sweeping, engrossing narrative that literally took six decades to write.

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Barbarian Days. Well worth 1926 pennies.

Finnegan and I planned to spend fifteen, maybe twenty minutes talking about the book. But by the time we wrapped it up, we’d had a two hour long discussion on the the state of the world, climate armageddon, fatherhood, surfing, relationships, youthful selfishness, growing older and hopefully wiser, and, oh yeah, the book.

Over the next several days, I’ll run excerpts from our talk in installments. First, the glory, frustration and indefensible immorality of lusting after, and chasing hurricane waves.

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On the Road to Meet the Andaman Sea Gypsies. Part I: Yangon (Rangoon) and Dala, Myanmar (Burma). A Tale of Two Cities.

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Yangon (Rangoon), seen from Dala (Dalla). Photo: Owen James Burke.

I flew to Myanmar (Burma) to meet a group of seminomadic sea-dwelling peoples around the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea collectively known as “sea gypsies”. But that didn’t get off to a great start. First, I was hung up in Yangon, and what I encountered there was a far grimmer, more harrowing reality than the one I’d set out to find.

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The ferry terminal in Yangon. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I landed in Yangon (as the capital city of Rangoon is now known to modern-day, militarized “Myanmar”), during a monsoon where people were sitting in plastic chairs along the sidewalk dining in a river of mud and street grit, and despite recent large-scale urban development, the streets—even in the town center—were dismally dark by any city’s standard.

I must have spent three hours in a taxi on the way home from the airport, otherwise a 25 minute jaunt across the city.

After finding a hotel, I dried off and began to wander the streets, ankle deep in mud, runoff and grit. Taking each step, I felt as good as blind. High-rise buildings may have been going up, but it seemed like the sidewalks hadn’t changed since Orwell was sipping and spilling gin and tonics on them.

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The Long Rain. Joaquin’s Filthy Barrels, Epic Devastation and Rising Tide. A Photo Diary from Charleston.

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Griffin Jackson. Folly Beach. Photo: Justin Morris/Follyhood.

THE rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men’s hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped. — Ray Bradbury.


Here in South Carolina, the past two weeks have been best of times for surfers, and the worst of times for everyone else. I’m not really sure how to otherwise describe the last two weeks of life here. As everyone knows, Hurricane Joaquin and the Almighty conspired just over a week ago, to unleash an apocalyptic fire hose of precipitation and surf on the Palmetto State. Rainfall in some places near my home in Charleston was along the lines of 25 inches over the course of three days. That’s half of the average annual rainfall for many parts of the state – over the course of 72 hours. If you’ve ever seen a “Pineapple Express” hit southern California – it was sort of like that, only much, much worse.

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A couple of days before Joaquin. Photo: Chris Dixon

In the days and hours leading up to the first drops of rain, while hapless Bahamians and the crew of the container ship El Faro were being mercilessly hammered, our coast was blessed with a stretch of heavenly weather and perfect waves. That’s always been the Faustian, nerve-wracking, and immoral bargain Gulf and East Coast surfers make with hurricanes. Someone is being slammed. Someone else is feasting on tropically sourced waves – and that someone may soon be under the gun too. And we would indeed be under the gun.

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The first line of storms just offshore from Folly Beach. Photo: Chris Dixon

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Wish You Were Here – A Morning of Perfect Autumn Surf in Folly Beach, Courtesy of Hurricane Joaquin.

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Empty Wednesday morning peeler. Photo: Chris Dixon

It wasn’t huge, but it sure was pretty. Water temperature, around 78. Air, around 81. East and Southeast swell, five or so feet at 11 seconds. Wind, very light offshore. That’s the recipe for perfectly shaped a-frames up and down the sandbars of Folly Beach, South Carolina. All in all, a dreamy morning of surf. For us, the waves will only get bigger and better as Joaquin strengthens and a north wind blows. But as with every tropical storm that develops nearshore our relationshipo with this spinning low is complicated. Our bounty could well turn into sheer Joaquin-induced disaster for the Bahamas, Virginia or the Northeast. — CD

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The all over the place tracks for Joaquin from Weather Underground. 

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On the Shoulders of Giants. Honoring Sean Collins, Larry “Flame” Moore and the Greatest Big Wave Discovery of the 21st Century; Cortes Bank

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A couple of months ago, Surfline’s editorial director Dave Gilovich reached out and asked if I’d be interested in helping put together a big feature that honored our friends Sean Collins, the late, great founder of Surfline.com, and Larry “Flame” Moore, the late, great photo editor of Surfing Magazine. The idea was to create a narrative web and film-based feature on Sean and Flame’s proudest moment – the first successful big wave expedition to surf of the titanic waves of the Cortes Bank. The mission dropped the collective jaws of the surfing world, led to the first of Mike Parsons’ two world records, and left surfers wondering what the hell else is out there over the horizon?

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