swimming (23)

Southeast Asian Islanders Freedive Over 200 Feet

Photo: Melissa Hardo

Before diving as deep as 230 feet under the sea, the Bajau people put on a pair of wooden goggles. They pick up a set of weights. Then, they take one very big breath.

And they hold it for five minutes or longer.

Commonly called Sea Nomads, the indigenous Bajau people have lived for thousands of years off the coast of Southeast Asia, near Malaysia and the Indonesia archipelago. They commonly live in houseboats, spending hours each day hunting fish or other sea creatures underwater. For centuries, these extraordinary free-diving abilities mystified scientists, as the source of the Sea Nomads’ intuitive breath-holding talents remained unknown.…

A longer article in the New York Times Science section.

From Chime Serra

Post a comment

Canyon Pool in Big Sur

I’m going through all my 85,000 or so digital photos in preparation for my book The Half-Acre Homestead, picking out those on the garden, home, kitchen, and tooIs, etc, and running across some long-forgotten shots, like this one.

I built a house in Big Sur in 1967, on land owned by Boris and Filippa Veren, who ran the Craft & Hobby Book Service. I was their caretaker and they let me build my house on their 40 acres. This was their pool in the canyon, Burns Creek, about two miles north of Esalen. Creek water flowed from a pipe into the pool so no need for chlorine.

I built the house out of mostly used lumber and shakes I got from old redwood stumps or short pieces left by loggers in the woods.

Each night after I finished work in the spring and summer, I’d go down to swim. I’d bow to the nearby family of redwoods, then bow in each of the four directions before jumping in.

Post a comment

3-Day Trip North Along Rainy Coast to Hang Out with Louie

I get inspired the minute I hit the road. The moving through space, the different places, different people. This time I’m driving my 19-year-old Mercedes 320E, a most unbelievably comfortable car that I bought for $3500, fixed it up, and am continually surprised and pleased by its features. I mean, I am not a Mercedes kind of guy, but mama mia, is this car great. I was on the verge of buying a Subaru Crosstrek, but have now decided to stick with the Mercedes until it dies. Luxury!

Hidden in the bushes along the coast

A friend who has a home at Sea Ranch gave me a pass so I’m legal there. I swam in the pool yesterday. It’s one of the good designs at Sea Ranch. Architecture can be so fine when done right. The pool is surrounded by a grassy berm, and water heated with solar panels (with backup propane). Dressing rooms wittily designed. No chlorine. No one else there on rainy day. Afterwards I skated for a while. I’m a bit creaky on the skateboard, still getting my chops back after a broken arm, then shoulder operation.

Titch’s greenhouse at sunset

Post a comment

Monday Morning Fish Fry

On the Beach Reincarnation of the Whalebone Saloon, built a few years ago by Sean Hellfritsch and friends on a remote beach. It’s at the base of a free-flowing creek that empties on to the beach, and has prolific watercress. 
Yesterday was a beautiful beach day, the calm before a week (hallelujah!) of storms and rains. I lay in the sun, ran a bit, jumped in the water, right back out — brrr! Very few people on beach, one guy had a beautiful black piece of whale baleen he’d found. Later I came across what must have been a 25′-long whale rib, awesome to ponder the size of a creature with a rib of this size. This one, that had washed ashore in May, was a 79′ blue whale.


Friday Morning Fish Fry
Got up at 6, navigated the road work on Highway One (monstrous project), got latte and cinnamon roll at Equator Coffee in Mill Valley (I’m kinda devastated that Cafe Roma is closed (after 29 years in North Beach), am looking for another good coffee shop in SFO where I can work on my computer early in the morning — suggestions welcome…Got to the cove at Aquatic Park about 9, swam about 10 minutes, water was 51 degrees (another swimmer told me). It always encouraging to see other swimmers there from the South End Rowing Club and The Dolphins Club, no stinkin wetsuits, a hat being the only acceptable cold water wear; it’s painful for me the first minute or 2, but at about 3 minutes, the body adjusts and by the time I’ve been in 6 minutes, I’m not feeling bad. Got to get out before 20 minutes or so, I’ve found,  or hypothermia will begin. But the rush you get once out is worth the little bit of pain. Then over to the Buena Vista Cafe for an Irish Coffee; what a way to start the day!
The Next Book
Since I decided to put my book on the ’60s online, instead of as a regular book, I’ve been working on my Half Acre Homestead book. It’s like time travel, going back to 1973 or so, documenting the building of the house and outbuildings, developing the garden, dealing with chickens, bees and goats, the tools we’ve settled on. As I work on it, listing tools, techniques, things that have worked, those that haven’t. I’ll publish an outline of the book in the next post or two.

Interior of above driftwood shack
(Click on these photos for larger size.)
Post a comment

Jack O'Neill, 1923-2017

Photo by Dave McGuire: Martinis at Jack O’Neill’s cliffside home in Santa Cruz in 2013. L-R, Betty Van Dyke, Richard Novak, Jack, Lloyd

I graduated from high school in San Francisco in 1952. I had to make up some grades in order to get admitted to Stanford, so I took some morning classes at a private high school and worked as an office boy at an insurance company in the afternoons. Each day I had a couple of hours off, so I started going to the beach.

Kelly’s Cove is the beach right next to the Cliff House at Ocean Beach, and I met a bunch of guys who were starting to bodysurf there. Cliff Kamaka, a Hawaiian who was a lifeguard at the nearby Fleishacker Pool* had taught the boys the art of bodysurfing. Charley Grimm, Rod Lundquist, John Stonum, Jim Fisher, Bill Hickey — and Jack O’Neill — were some of the gang.

The water averaged in the low ’50s, so you had to really be motivated to endure the cold. They’d build a big fire on the beach to warm up after getting out of the water, and had constructed driftwood windbreaks that you could get inside to lay in the sun.

Jack was working for a company that sold firefighting equipment. He and his wife Marge and their 6 kids lived in an apartment on Sloat Blvd., across from the zoo, a few blocks from the beach. His first attempt at staying warm was a “dry suit,” as used by divers. It was thin rubber. Jack bought one He showed it to me and he was wearing long woolen underwear underneath it. Where it might have worked for diving in calm water, it didn’t work at all in the turbulent ocean. Water would come in at the sleeves, legs, and neck.

Jack didn’t invent the wetsuit. According to Wikipedia, “Hugh Bradner, a University of California, Berkeley physicist invented the modern wetsuit in 1952…” The US Navy then developed wetsuits for their divers and the first ones were being sold in stores. The wetsuit was neoprene and allowed the water to get next to your body, but kept it warm. Before they started lining them with nylon (maybe Jack’s invention), they were difficult to get on, so we had to coat our skin with corn starch so they would slide on.

I may be the only person in the world who knows this, but one day Jack went to Roos Brothers, the big department store on Market at Powell in San Francisco, and bought a wetsuit in their sporting goods department. He took it home, took the measurements off it, and returned it the next day. Voilá, he had the pattern for his first wetsuit. I know this because I stopped by to see him the day he brought it home. Like Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, but perfected it and made it available to millions, so it was with Jack and wetsuits.

Read More …

Post a comment (1 comment)