Writing vs. cruising

By Mike Jastrzebski

I know I’m not the only writer/cruiser that has this problem, but I have a hard time writing and cruising. Most of my books have been written while we were at the dock.

I’ve been working on Stranded Naked Blues now for two years while cruising and working on the boat. I write for a month or so while we sit at anchor somewhere and then I work on the boat a bit and we cruise along for awhile.

Now Mary and I are toying with another idea. We’ve decided to sit at a mooring ball in St. Augustine until I can publish Stranded Naked Blues. I believe this will take about two months to complete.

The thing is I’d like to get another book finished too. I am about half way through the first book of a fantasy series and have some work done on the second book of the series.

So we are seriously considering sitting here for a year so that I can complete those two books. There’s a part of me that is dying to keep heading south to the Bahamas and the Caribbean this year, but I know that if we do that the best case scenario would be for me to finish Stranded Naked Blues and maybe complete a first draft of the first fantasy book. I really want to do more writing this next year.

We were going to go to Titusville to complete Stranded Naked Blues but we’ve found that between bus service and inexpensive taxies we can do without a car in St. Augustine, especially if we get a couple of cheap bikes.

The final decision on how long we stay here will depend on how the next two months go. If I can get seriously into the writing and we enjoy living in St. Augustine we may just spend the next year here.

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Taking care of business


by Christine Kling

I wrote a post Help me pick a new cover and cover artist! a couple of months ago about my search for a new cover artist using the crowd sourcing website 99designs and today I thought I would share the results of that effort. And when I say effort, boy do I mean it. For those who are reading this blog and considering self-publishing, you must take into account that it is a business that requires loads of time, money and effort. Self-publishing authors are certainly author/entreprenueurs. At last, the new book covers are up on Amazon and Nook, and I’m slowly getting them all uploaded to Kobo and iBooks. The new editions of the Seychelle paperbacks have been uploaded to CreateSpace, and they should be available in a week or so on Amazon. And as you can see above, my new Facebook author page has gone live.

This all started when I ran a contest as you can see here on the 99designs site for a new cover for my novel SURFACE TENSION and I got 141 entries. Several of those were slightly varied versions of the same cover, but it was great to see all the creativity. I spent lots of time commenting on all the designs and finally I picked my top 4 designs to go into a poll, and what was interesting to me was that not one of them was American. They were from the Caribbean, Indonesia, Serbia and the Philippines. What 99designs allowed me to do was to access a global marketplace of designers.

My poll got over 200 votes and lots of comments, and in the end, I selected the artist who got the most votes in the poll. I listened to the the crowd. It cost me $499. to get that first cover in 3 versions (ebook, audio book and paperback), but what it really got me was a connection to my graphic designer, R’tor John Maghuyop (rjmaghuyop at gmail) from Cebu City in the Philippines. He was great to work with, and if you are looking for a new cover designer, I highly recommend him. Check out the full paperback cover for Surface Tension.


After that first project, I asked R’tor for a price on three more covers in three versions each, an ebook-only version of the boxed set cover, and a Facebook cover page for the new Facebook Author page I planned. For that I paid $750, and then I wanted to own the rights to the stock photos myself, so I paid another $229 for the photos. R’tor had a subscription to Shutterstock and he had the rights to the photos, but I chose to own those rights myself just to make sure I was complying with copyright law. So my total investment in the project was $1479 for five cover designs and the Facebook cover photo which comes to less than $300 per cover which is a fairly standard price. On all of these projects I was working through 99designs and they took a hefty commission. In the future when I work with R’tor, I will work with him directly and I know I’ll get great work for a very reasonable price.

I am very pleased with the new cover designs. I think my books now have a much more clearly branded look to them as you can see on the Facebook cover page above. I have always identified the Seychelle series of books on Amazon with a sub-title and since I’ve uploaded the new cover art, Thomas & Mercer has now added a series sub-title to my Riley and Cole books. They are now the Shipwreck Adventure series.

It will be more work to maintain a Facebook Author page, but I felt having one was another step down this road of considering my writing as a business. Success is all about visibility, and to that end, you can help me out by going to my new author page here and clicking the LIKE button on the page. Thanks in advance.

And now it’s time to get back to the most important part of this business — actually writing the next book.


Fair winds!


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Do not disturb…

Harmless when left undisturbed. Just wants to be left alone.

The Brown Recluse — Harmless when left undisturbed. Just wants to be left alone.

C.E. Grundler

…I’m disturbed enough already.

I’m finally rounding the last turn on the long rumoured third book, Evacuation Route, and it hasn’t been an easy process. And while life has thrown a number of obstatcles on the tracks, I’ve pushed on to reach this point. What’s the saying? If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. And while I’m not happy with how long this book took, I’m thrilled with how it’s turning out, and I’m taking the lost time as a learning experience on multiple levels. But enough of that. Dwelling on the past doesn’t change it, though learning from mis-steps and mistakes is one way to theoretically avoid them in the future.

At this point, I’m reaching a point where a nice stretch of time with as little interuptions from fellow humans or life in general would be ideal. More than just ideal. Yeah, basically I want to just lock myself in a room, hunker down over the laptop, and edit until my fingers bleed. Any intrusions from the outside world would at best be regarded as an unwelcome distraction and met with a less than civilized response. (See photo above.) I need to bug (arachnid?) out and go Walden on the world. But going away to do this would be more work than it’s worth, so I’m taking the opposite tack — I’m locking the doors, closing the blinds, shutting the phone, and basically retreating until this process is over. Sounds like a plan, right?  My goal is to go full-blown crazy shut-in writer/recluse/hermit, breaking only to eat/sleep/bathe when absolutely neccesary and NOT to re-emerge until this round of work is over. That should probably keep fellow humans at a reasonable distance until I’m once again safe to approach.

As with any journey, (even when you’re not going anywhere whatsoever,) proper preparation is key. So let’s see what I have:

Somewhat flaky Writer – Check
No longer flaky Laptop – Check
One big messy draft in need of a good beating into shape – Double Check
Ass – Double-wide — I mean Double-check.
Chair – Check (Place ass on chair and get to work.)
Large supply of High-caffiene tea — Check, but no longer permitted. *sigh*
Decaf Tea — Check, but it just ain’t the same.

And here’s what I need:
To be left alone. Approach at your own risk. I’m serious.
Assorted snacks and meals that can be prepared and consumed with minimal effort.

The plan is short of fire, flood, or falling trees (it’s that time of year again,) to lock the door and not reimerge until this storm has passed. To literally not venture out, aside from walking dogs, checking the mail, and taking out trash, until I’m done. So, fellow writers, tell me. What provisions do you like to have on hand for this sort of single-hand passage?




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The Green Flash


Late last week I spent some time on the Florida Gulf Coast watching beautiful blue sky days end with magnificent sunsets. No luck, though, in terms of seeing the Green Flash.

Not long ago, I questioned the existence of the Green Flash. Not now. Too many beer-toting beachgoers swear by it and too many barstool conversations have confirmed it. Besides, Wikipedia says it’s true. In fact, Wikipedia explains that it’s an optical phenomenon resulting from light from the sun separating into different colors under certain atmospheric conditions. So there I stood, a believer, waiting for the Green Flash – a bright momentary burst of green that appears just over the top rim of the sun as it sets.

Back home in New England, I’ve had more luck spotting nature’s light shows on the water. One of the more interesting sights is a mirage that creates a mirrored image on the horizon. From our house in Rhode Island, we look out at Cuttyhunk and Martha’s Vineyard in the far distance. On a rare occasion, a light play duplicates this distant image, one on top of the other. I’ve seen this at night, too, when the beam of the Gay Head light at the tip of the Vineyard is doubled, flashing out two beams, one above the other (no comments on evening consumption, please). If you haven’t seen this phenomenon yourself, you’ll have to trust me and wait, just as I do with the Green Flash.

Internet images and You Tube videos give us a sense of the Green Flash or mirages on the horizon. Descriptions of these events also find their way into fiction. Yet, these gifts are best consumed outside and in-person. Best of all, nature’s various light shows are available to all. You just have to watch.

I’ll be there with you.

By John M. Urban

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Traveling again

By Mike Jastrzebski

We’re leaving Charleston Saturday the 11th and do not expect to reach St. Augustine until late afternoon on Monday the 13th so I will not be posting much of a blog this week.

It’s been hectic since we arrived in Charleston. Caught up on sleep, did the laundry, worked on the roller furling. The jib is back up on the furling but now the furler is jammed with the sail rolled in. Probably better than having the sail tied to the stanchions but it means that we’ll be sailing with only the main. Since the weather calls for light winds that probably means motor sailing.

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Boat dogs — plural


Barney poking his head out of our friend's dinghy

Barney poking his head out of our friend’s dinghy

by Christine Kling

And then there were two. Dogs I mean.

Well, make that four really. Two humans and two dogs. That’s my new family.

Ten months ago I flew down to Fiji to meet this singlehanded sailor guy I’d been writing to and Skyping with. Only he wasn’t really a singlehander any more than I was at that time. We both lived alone on our boats with our dogs.

Since I had no idea whether or not I was going to get along with him or take one look and turn around and book a flight home, I decided to leave my little dog Barney at home in the care of my son. Wayne’s dog Ruby (a Spoodle – cocker spaniel poodle mix) really wowed me with her sailing skills on the passage to the Marshall Islands (she was never tethered and she knew when it was safe to get out of the cockpit) and I learned why everyone calls her Ruby, the Wonder Dog. I fell in love with her — and him.

So, Wayne, Ruby and I flew back to Florida last February from the Marshall Islands en route to a research trip to Europe. Ruby went off to stay with friends on their boat in the Caribbean and Barney stayed in Lauderdale.

By the time we got back, Barney had been living with Tim for about 6 months. We yanked him out of that environment he’d come to know as home, and we introduced him to Ruby. And in the first day or two at the house where we were staying, Barney fell into the pool and peed on the bath mat. Wayne quickly learned why he is called Barney the Yorkshire Terror.

You see, Barney is special. He’s not like most dogs. He’s something of a cross between the Cowardly Lion and the Scarecrow in need of a brain.

cardogsWe took off then on a month-long trip up Pacific Coast Highway to British Columbia and the two dogs had plenty of time to get to know each other in the car — and to fight over my lap.

Okay, so it’s probably true that we humans have no idea what dogs are thinking, but I swear I can see Ruby rolling her big brown eyes and looking at me saying, “Really? He was the best you could do?” I’m not sure, but I think she views him as her idiot little brother who she might grudgingly admit is okay to have around sometimes as long as he recognizes who’s boss on this boat. The two of them rarely sleep cuddled together, but we only have one set of dog food bowls, and Ruby patiently waits watching Barney eat half the bowl, and only then will she eat after him.

See what I mean? Wonder Dog.

Barney is a little guy with short little legs, and he can’t climb up the ladder to get outside like long-legged Ruby can. Personally, I think this is a good thing. It means when we leave and go ashore, we can put him below and he is safe. More or less. Unless he gets into the engine room and chews through a fuel line (He was visiting our friend Philip and he wanted to play in the water in Philip’s dinghy in davits. Every thought, ‘How cute!’ The next time Philip went ashore he discovered Barney had chewed a hole in his outboard hose. Not so cute.)

But Barney thinks he is Deck Dog Extraordinaire. He struts around the deck with his little bow-legged stride, and when one of these huge tuna net boats gets too close while bringing crew members to shore, he runs up and down the deck barking ferociously (well, his version of that) and most times Ruby will join in. Ruby always quits first and goes to find her piece of shade, but Barney works himself into a lather just so pleased with himself and he continues barking at the rigging or the sky — or something that only our special dog can see.

For our first month back on the boat, as he has been getting used to this much bigger boat, we’ve always left him below when we’ve gone ashore. But Wayne (who sometimes thinks Ruby is the standard of normal for dogs) suggested we try leaving him on deck. It worked fine at first. He would get super excited when he heard the outboard returning and he would race up and down the deck. It didn’t matter if we’d been gone 5 minutes or 2 hours. But a couple of days ago as we were coming back to the boat in the pouring rain with a big box with our new inflatable kayak in the dinghy, I heard Wayne shout, “Barney’s in the water!”

kayakHe was up against the side of the hull pawing at the boat. This put his body straight up and down and he was going under. He only floats if he’s horizontal and swimming forward. Wayne got to him and plucked him out by the harness. I hugged him to me. We hoped that he had just fallen in, but neither of us saw it happen. It was raining, the deck was slippery, and we guessed he ran to the bow and just kept on going. It wouldn’t be the first time for Barney.

So, a day later, we assembled the new kayak and when we went to pull it up on the deck for the night, Barney got caught between the lifelines and the kayak. He needed to turn around to get out. He turned face toward the kayak, but there wasn’t enough room for his little body. He stepped back over the toe rail, and whoops! once again the Terror was in the water pawing at the side of the hull and going down. I literally saw his face underwater, eyes wide open. I jumped into Philip’s dinghy and pulled him out.

An hour later he was racing up and down the deck barking at the net boats.

The Nubian Poodle Princess was watching him, and when she turned to look at me, I swear I heard her say, “Seriously?”

People think when I call him the Yorkshire Terror it’s because he gets into so much trouble. Truth be told, it’s really about the terror I have of losing him one day. He is a handful, he’s a character, but I adore him and he’s become a beloved member of our little family.

Right Ruby?


Fair winds!




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Bedtime shorts

By Mike Jastrzebski

Just arrived in Charleston, S.C. from Beaufort, N.C. (1:00 PM Monday)

No internet for 7 days.

Sailed through 20-25 knot winds and rain.

Slept 2 nights in the cockpit sitting on cockpit chairs while waves and rain soaked us.

The roller furling jammed while the 150 jib was out.

Got a little sick, got a little wet, got a little cold.

Made it safely to Charleston a little bruised and tired as hell.

Going to bed–this is the end of our tale for now.

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Rainy days

View off the stern of Learnativity looking towards the entrance pass.

View off the stern of Learnativity looking towards the entrance pass.

by Christine Kling

Weather is an issue that is continuously on a sailor’s mind, especially when there are dark clouds on the horizon. Lately, here at Majuro atoll, we’ve have lots and lots of dark rainy days. You have to close all the hatches and we drop the side curtains around the big outside center cockpit and the result is a damp humid sweltering boat. And while we are inside a lagoon, the lagoon is quite large. The mooring we are on off town is only about 1500 feet from shore but it is in about 125-feet of water. The wind usually blows from the shore side which is east, so we have quite good protection.  But when the wind switches around from the usual easterlies to westerlies, we do suddenly have the twenty-plus mile fetch of the entire lagoon and that can make for a very bumpy ride.

A few weeks ago when we had a big nasty storm blow through that switched the winds around to the west, a boat’s mooring broke in the south mooring field. We didn’t have our VHF radio on at the time so we missed all the excitement. We just tossed and turned all night as Learnativity hobby-horsed in the swells. The boat that broke loose had his mooring line break well below the surface. He realized he was adrift, started the engine, put it in gear and the trailing mooring line promptly wrapped around his prop, and he drifted onto the coral rocky shore. A yachtie who runs local fishing charters with a small powerboat tried to pull him off and his boat too got a line wrapped around the prop. Eventually, one of the big net boats off one of the tuna fleet responded to a call for help and the boat was pulled off rocks. Being an older Morgan OI-41, she got off with no hull damage other than scratches, but the owner will have to replace his rudder.

The folks who have been here in Majuro for years are saying that they have not seen weather like this. The wind normally doesn’t switch to the west this much. Who knows if that’s really true, because people tend to think the weather is unique and different when they are tired of it. We humans have short memories when it comes to discomfort. The thing is, I want access to better weather information.

Today we are back out at Eneko on one of the yacht club moorings off the pretty beach, trying again to find a quiet spot with beautiful water. They don’t have the Internet turned on here today, and as I watch the dark clouds gathering, I wish I could get online and check the weather. Also, I don’t know how I will send this blog off to post. I would love to find a connectivity solution that would permit us to get out to the remote locations we love, but allow me to check the weather and to communicate at least via email.

To that end, I’ve been looking closely at the new Iridium GO! satellite device. Because of our location out here in the western Pacific, and our desire to cruise SE Asia in the coming years, the Iridium satellite network is the only one with adequate worldwide coverage for us. Wayne has an Iridium satellite phone that he can connect to his computer to send and receive data allowing him to send emails, and it can pull in some GRIB charts for weather, but last January on our trip down from Fiji, we had lots of difficulty getting connected. We burned through loads of minutes of satellite time just trying to get connected. The big difference with the Iridium GO! is that it offers an unlimited data plan for $125/month (which includes unlimited SMS messages but not phone minutes), and it does not require a contract. You can connect and disconnect your account, but you will pay a $50 reconnect fee each time you restart your account. Since in the future we expect to often make a passage and then stay in a single location during a cyclone season, or to fly back to North America to visit family, it would be nice to be able to stop the monthly fee by suspending the account for a few months.

This device doesn’t make a satellite connection any faster than any other sat phone, and it won’t allow me to go browsing on the Internet looking at web pages. There is a hope in the future for that, though, since Iridium is launching their NEXT satellite in 2015-2017, and when available the Iridium GO! will support 3G data speeds of that new network. However, the GO does create a wifi cloud on your boat allowing one to connect up to five computers or tablets or phones wirelessly. Iridium has two app available for IOS and Android that allow one to send emails, SMS, make phone calls, send messages directly to Facebook and Twitter, etc. directly from a smart phone. As well, they have released a developers’ kit so more apps will be coming. This reviewer on Explorersweb got his hands on a unit, and he had some very positive comments as well as a screen shot of the app interface. Some existing apps on the tablets use data more sparingly and will work on the slow data network the GO provides, and their developers are working to integrate them. For example the app Predict Wind advertises that their website:


The Iridium GO! Integrates with the PredictWind Offshore App

Certified by Iridium

Download and View GRIB files

Run PredictWind Weather Routing

Receive GMDSS forecasts

View Satellite Imagery

Predict Wind also offers a pretty good price package on a unit, and I am interested in their weather subscription services. It’s not cheap, but having access to better weather information is like good anchor gear — I consider it cheap insurance.

Geek that I am I can’t wait to get an Iridium GO! and try it out. I’ll keep you posted when I do. Meanwhile, I’ll go back to glaring at the gray clouds outside and hope that the island turns on the wifi so I can post this blog.


Fair winds!


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Linear Duck Arrangement? There’s an app for that.

C.E. Grundler

Downsizing can be downright overwhelming, and I’m coming to realize that this is going to go down in phases. Right now I’m getting rid of anything we haven’t used or no longer need — the easy, big stuff like the dining room furniture, knick-knacks, and random inheritances I’ve been gifted with. You know, those things that ‘go way back’ but no one else wants. Somewhere along the line I wound up housing these treasures, but it’s time they got a new home. Still, until the boat is liveable and the house is vacant, I’ll need to keep some furniture and such.  Then there’s the boat to-dos. Sell-the-house preps, paperwork, daily life….and last but certainly not least, writing. The only way I’ve found to keep it all straight right now is with lists. I had lists in my phone, in Evernote, in Scrivener, on index cards and Post-its, both real and digital, everywhere. It was working, but bordering on unmanageable. If I was ever going to get my ducks in a row and finish the next book, get the boat done and clear out this house, I had to clear out my head first.

And then, by random chance I discovered Workflowy. 

The beauty of this lovely little program is its simplicity — at first glance it seems almost too simple — but that’s what makes it such a pleasure. It organizes the brain clutter. Workflowy is quick, clean, and minimal, yet virtually limitless when it comes to tracking anything and everything you’d want to keep tabs on. It creates nested lists, which sounds as simple on the surface as the program is to use. The true brilliance lies in the infinite, unconstrained possibilities that those list offer. Evernote has grown to become my file cabinet for vast amounts of information — actually a bit too vast. I’ve stored volumes of information there, and while Evernote still remains my most used app, essentially my phone’s extension of my computer — for simple lists and outlines, Workflowy has become my go-to app.

As with Evernote, there’s a free version as well an upgrade to a Pro version, with a few more features, cloud backup and more storage. The free version comes with a decent amount of space, but suspect I’ll need more before long. It’s web and mobile application, which works perfectly for me, and it syncs seamlessly between my macbook and Andriod phone. I have much to do and only so much time to work with, and even less patience for anything that takes too much time to learn or use. This program respects users by not wasting that valuable time. The tutorial videos are easily accessible, straightforward and informative, and the program is so intuitive you can be off to a running start in minutes. You can tag or star anything you’d like, making organizing information absurdly fast and easy, and their blog provides yet more ideas, tricks, and shortcuts.

This responsive little application has become my go-to, not just for the house and boat, but for all chapter outlines, not to mention the next book, which is taking shape as I wrap this one up.  Workflowy’s blog promises new features on the horizon that will only increase it’s usefulness. But if you’re a list junkie like me, this minimal yet infinite app might be just what the doctor ordered. Give Workflowy a try — it’s free, (and you’ll get twice the space because I referred you.) 

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Not Giving Up Yet

The other day I headed to Home Depot to pick-up a few items, and I was greeted by an unwelcome reminder that summer is officially over.


Fortunately, this weekend’s summer-like weather was an affirmation that we are not ready to give-up on this year’s boating season. With that in mind, today’s blog is a photo depiction of the beautiful weather we’ve enjoyed this year, and especially so this past weekend.







Soon, it will be time to hand the boating and beaching baton to Mike as he and Mary head to the Bahamas, Michael as he reports from Key West, and Christine as she and Wayne sail the South Pacific. And many of us will also turn to web cams, novels, and memories to get us through the winter. But we’re not giving up yet. There will be more barefoot walks on the beach and more time on the water before the 2014 season ends. Just all a bit more precious.


by John Urban

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