Winding Down on Thanksgiving…

C.E. Grundler

I’m getting a late start this morning, and a rather sore one, but an extraordinarily content one. It’s snowing right now, which, in my eyes, means it’s officially winter, and it won’t be spring until the first crocuses break the ground. But I’m okay with that.

To say the weather has been throwing a whole lot more variety into the mix would be an understatement. Buffalo will be digging out for some time to come, while here on my corner of the Hudson it hit 71 degrees on Monday.

I’d been watching weather patterns for the last few weeks, preparing every possible stage of finally hopefully just maybe glassing Annabel Lee’s decks. Truth be told, I was starting to get a bit unhinged. This is a job that blindsided us, and between a series of alternating health issues, the entire spring, summer, and 99.9% of fall had slipped through our fingers. Yes, I’ve thrown all the time I couldn’t work on the boat into the pages of my writing, but that didn’t put the boat any closer to ever escaping that shed that was starting to feel like a prison. Did I say I was getting a bit unhinged? The colder it got, the worse it was on my husband’s hands, and as for me, I’m learning I can’t work the way I used to. One day I bribed my daughter’s boyfriend Alex to lend me a hand at the boat — I had to do some work — ANY work — or I think I was going to snap. Truth be told, my daughter doesn’t understand my obsession (let’s call it for what it is,) though she does understand dreams. I wasn’t sure what Alex would think of this madness, but when he came aboard he was fascinated with every aspect of the boat. But he didn’t mind when the train came by and the boat shook, in fact he found it entertaining, and was more than happy to pick up power tools and jump right in. I couldn’t believe how quickly or smoothly things began coming together. But the best surprise came the next day, when my daughter dropped by to tell me Alex had as good a day as me. He had a great time working with his hands and loved being around the boatyard. He wanted to work with me to finish the boat.

Things were moving along again, and it felt great. But seriously, it was nearly the end of November…Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and the odds of any workable days once we hit December… I didn’t even want to consider going yet another winter with decks apart. It was cold over the weekend, but temperatures were set to hit 71 on Monday, and we were all set. But Monday came in the form of a fog bank that didn’t burn off until after two, and the boat, cold from the weekend, was sweating condensation like a cold beer in July. We heated the cabin, wiped her down, but it was a losing battle, and we threw in the now soggy towels. We still had Tuesday; it wouldn’t be as warm but 57 was still warm enough. Wednesday it was going to snow. Seriously. And then it was Thanksgiving, and then it was December. So it was Tuesday or it was April, and it was going to be a long winter.

You’ll forgive the lack of photos, but I’ll just say it was as sticky, unpleasant, hellish, awful and a whole lot of other words job, but it is DONE. I repeat, DONE. The decks are sealed. Yes, there will be a whole lot of finish work, but at this moment it is in fact Thanksgiving, it is snowing, and I’m aching all over in a satisfied way. The decks are sealed. Everything else from this point forward is small stuff in comparison.

My daughter and Alex will be dropping by later. The turkey is about to go in the oven. I’m looking forward to a relaxing day of good food, good company, and a nice optimistic feeling that this is going to be a good winter. Time to get cooking  — Everyone have a wonderful, safe and happy Thanksgiving!

<I think they’re waterproof.>

 

 

2014-11-27 09.20.19

 

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Boating, Golf, & Ethanol

By John Urban

As a general rule, boating and golf do not mix. This is not a absolute and I have known a few brave souls who participate in both activities. There are, however, several factors that work against taking-up both pastimes, namely: limited available leisure time, financial restrictions, and a desire for retaining one’s sanity.

Golf’s test of sanity is well known as most everyone has taken to swinging a golf club at one time or another, even if it was at a putt-putt course on a childhood summer vacation. And most of us have seen a snippet of an elite professional golfer stepping up to the tee only to shank one into the woods.

Only the strongest of souls would be able to tolerate the mental abuse inflicted by golf and the stressors of boating.

Stressors of boating, you may ask? No, I am not talking the challenges of docking against a cross current at a well populated outdoor restaurant, or the trials of remembering “the rabbit goes around the tree and through the hole” mnemonic when tying a bowline. No, I am keying-in on a much more sinister boating stressor – keeping the engine running.

Somehow, Detroit has figured out how to improve our automobiles so that they start and run properly for well over a hundred thousand miles, and airline mechanics have developed maintenance schedules that keep aircraft aloft with the highest levels of reliability. Boat engines? Not so much. Is this a failure of engineering or the dereliction of marine mechanics? No, it is not. The culprit lies in….Washington, DC. That’s right, the transgressor is none other than Congress.

In 2005, Congress saw the opportunity to blend a mix of 10 to 15 percent ethanol into gasoline as a way to reduce our dependence of foreign oil. Corn farmers and others who produce ethanol liked the outcome. At the time, I did, too. However, boat owners soon learned that ethanol is nothing but trouble in a marine environment. Engines that were designed to run on straight petroleum run poorly and fiberglass tanks can be degraded when encountering the ethanol mix.

So imagine my glee when I pulled our little Boston Whaler up to the gas dock and found that ethanol-free fuel was available. Oh, the chance to rid myself of that unwelcome additive, the opportunity to return our 75 HP Yamaha to the fuel it was designed to consume. It was a glorious moment. Yet, it was only a moment. I was recently told one more factoid about ethanol – you shouldn’t mix non-ethanol with ethanol fuel. Important news. Too bad it was received after the fact.

If you are a boater, you know the conundrum – regardless of whether or not this fuel mixture is a significant problem, you will spend every moment at the wheel anticipating an engine failure. And the reason you anticipate this outcome is the knowledge that it will occur.

So there I go back to the mechanic. And as I drive by a golf course I think of those who are capable of chasing that ball down the fairway and those select few who do that and boat. Damn fools, I say. The whole lot of us. Damn fools.

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Thank you Barney

Barneytransom

by Christine Kling

Majuro, November 23, 2014 – which means it is November 22 in Florida right now.

Exactly one year ago today I was sitting in the main salon of my boat Talespinner at Harbortown Marina in Merritt Island, Florida. I was working on the edits for Dragon’s Triangle. I knew I had to write a blog, and I didn’t want to spend any time away from my manuscript. Generally, I write all my blogs, but that night I decided to change my modus operandi. And I learned once more that being open to change can help one reap vast rewards.

See, I remembered this app I’d recently downloaded called My Talking Pet. So, I grabbed my iPad, took several photos of Barney, recorded a silly message off the top of my head, and I posted the video to the blog entitled, This message is brought to you by the Yorkshire Terror.

This week C.E. blogged about what to do when the characters in your story suddenly veer off in an unexpected direction. I enjoyed her line, “outline be damned,” and it made me think about how her philosophy applies to writing, sailing and life. There are many sailors who claim the most dangerous thing on a sailboat is a schedule.

When I woke up the next morning aboard Talespinner, I had something of an outline for my life. I was going to continue sailing singlehanded and writing my books. That was me — it was who I was: a loner – just me and my dog. I hoped to move up to a slightly larger boat that would have a real office for me to work in, and I wanted to spend several years cruising the Eastern Caribbean before heading across the Atlantic to the Med. That was the plan.

But that morning, there was a comment on my blog. It looked like this:

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Hmmmm, I thought, i-n-t-e-r-e-s-t-i-n-g. Then I noticed that he had posted the same comment as a Facebook message. That was an easier way to reply, so I wrote back and told him how I’d made the video with the app. He wrote back, and thanked me, so I wrote back. During the next weeks, instead of deciding that I had to fit my story into that outline I’d so carefully prepared, I let my story go waaaaay off track.

MyofficeWayne refers to living like this as living by the “No-plan-plan.” I like that, but I also think planning is okay — I still outline my books, and I like to dream about what new adventures might happen tomorrow. Sometimes, life has a way of taking you to the place you wanted to be in the first place. You see, Talespinner has been sold, and now I live out here in Majuro aboard the much bigger boat Learnativity. Wayne and I have also set the date. We’ll be getting married next March 21 on a boat in San Diego harbor. And this is a photo of my on board office. Yeah, outline be damned.

Thank you Barney!

Fair winds!

Christine

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Finding Meyer…

 

C.E. Grundler

Although Travis McGee will always be my hero and mentor, in John D. MacDonald’s T.McGee series, Meyer is my favorite character, hands down. His gentle wisdom offered a break from the harder aspects of the events playing out, and his insights often explored the perplexing moral and ethical issues Travis tackled.  Though Meyer saw the world for what it was and his outlook could turn sour at times, he wasn’t as grim as Travis and managed to keep things in perspective. I’d always wondered why he hadn’t been introduced sooner, and it wasn’t until I began writing myself that I realized one possible answer. I don’t think John D. MacDonald created Meyer. When the time was right, Meyer created Meyer.

As an author, it’s fascinating when a character takes over; one minute you’re writing away, with a general or even very specific, neatly outlined plan for where the scene is going, and suddenly some minor character says or does something you didn’t see coming. You can either stall, back up, and spend the rest of the day herding characters back on course. Or you can keep rolling. Go with it until you run out of fuel. What’s the worst that’ll happen? You delete it? Or a thousand words later you’ stop, read back, and realize this is exactly what should have happened. Your character knew it, outline be damned.

The thing is, you can never predict which characters will create themselves or what roll they’ll play. I had a secondary character with one minor part, but once the scene began, things did a one-eighty. A simple conversation became something far more relevant, and Hazel found herself faced with a character she hadn’t bargained for. And I’ve found a character who won’t be going away any time soon.

The challenge is to be open to these happy accidents. They appear without warning, and unchecked inner editors can stop them in their tracks. Our brains love to pick things apart and decide why they won’t work before they’re ever given a chance. The trick, I’m finding, it to tell that voice of doubt to just STFU, and to just keep typing.

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Almost lost our mooring ball!

By Mike Jastrzebski

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Not as in the dangerous, we could have lost our boat way, but more like a I should have thought things out and planned accordingly way.

As of today we have been in St. Augustine for a full month. I have been working on the rewrite of Stranded Naked Blues, and Mary is working part time in town. We’ve been paying for our mooring ball monthly and I planned to go down to the office when I took Mary to work. As an afterthought, I called the marina to let them know that we were going to stay another month. That’s when they informed me that I had to be off our ball by eleven since I was set up to leave today and they had reservations for all of the mooring balls. They would have one available tomorrow but we would have to move to an anchorage or a slip for the night.

The biggest problem with this scenario was that Mary had to go to work and I would have to move the boat myself. Not a real big problem except that when I went to start the engine a few days ago it wouldn’t start.

I did’t see this as a big problem, the engine turned over fine, it just didn’t seem to be getting fuel. I figure I probaly need to change the fuel filter and I planned on doing that this week when Mary was home. I didn’t want to give up my writing time to work on the boat.

Fortunately, as I dug out my work light and prepared to change the fuel filter, the phone rang. It was the marina informing me that one of the boats that had a reservation for a mooring ball had just called and changed their reservation to a slip.

I breathed a hugh sigh of relief, closed the engine compartment, and took Mary in to the dock so she could shower before work. At that time I went to the office to pay our mooring fee and while I was in there another boat called looking for a mooring ball. No doubt about it, I lucked out and I sure as hell am glad I thought to call the office this morning.

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Doggie doors

Barney and Ruby are now best buds

Barney and Ruby are now best buds

by Christine Kling

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the best reasons for having a dog is that they open doors. I don’t mean REAL doggy doors. No, our dogs open the door for us to interact with local people everywhere we go. It matters little whether you’re in the Bahamas, Fort Lauderdale or the Marshall Islands, when we bring the puppies ashore we meet lots of new people.

This happened this past week out at Eneko Island. It was a Monday, so we were surprised when around noon the first boatload of kids showed up and dumped about 25 people on the beach. It was mostly kids with a few adults. Two more boatloads later and our quiet little beach had become quite busy. The little rustic resort has two kayaks for people’s use and soon groups of kids and adults were paddling out to check out the boat and setting off the Canine Alarm System. Any savvy burglar would surely notice that a prominent component of our Canine Alarm system is wagging tails and doggy smiles. Smiling Marshalese people were paddling out all through the early afternoon to see the boats up close. We’d hear “Cute dogs!” or “Nice boat!”

What we tend to forget living here is that most of the people who live here in Majuro don’t have access to boats. They don’t come out into the lagoon to see the boats — not because they aren’t interested, but because they don’t have a means.

Ruby and guysAfter some work on the book (of course, I feel it’s never enough, but I did do some!) we took our dogs in the inflatable kayak and headed for shore to find out what the story was behind the beach day. It turned out that an American man was visiting in advance of a visit by a group of Muslim doctors. There is a small mosque in Majuro with a Muslim community of about 300 people. The visitor was the brother of one of the doctors and he is a member of Muslims for Peace. He had, out of his own pocket, hired the boat to ferry the kids out to the beach since that Monday was a half day for students. Wayne stopped to talk to a group of men and several of them wanted to have their picture taken with Ruby. As usual, the dogs were the doorway to getting to know these kind people. They had a picnic spread on the tables and they offered us their food with big smiles.

Barney and boysI took off down to the water with Barney and he was a real hit with the little kids. Let’s face it — he looks like a toy and when the kids discovered he wouldn’t bite, they started lifting him up and hauling him around by his midsection. He looked pretty miserable, but he was patient with them.Everyone wanted to hold him. I finally put him on a plastic kayak with a group of boys and they had a grand time — as did Barney since the seat on the kayak was filled with water and there’s nothing he likes more than having his own little pool.

When it became clear that the dogs were tiring of the attention of a crowd of kids, we got our inflatable kayak and carried it down to the water. Immediately, a half dozen kids piled on. There was no room for us or the dogs. Then one boy stood up, gave a little shriek and leaped into the water. Well, that started what seemed to be the most fun game on the beach. With the kayak filled with sandy kids and dogs, they’d stand up and jump into the waist deep water.

Wayne finally said, “Okay, one more time.” Of course, each kid took up that refrain and as they climbed back into the kayak for the fifth and sixth time, they kept pleading, “One more time!” We finally got ourselves and the dogs into the boat, and as we paddled away from the beach, we could still hear little pleading voices calling out, “One more time!” Wayne and I looked at each other smiling, both knowing what the other was thinking. Kids all over the world aren’t all that different.

Yes, our dogs can be noisy and messy, and yes, sometimes they drive us crazy, but they certainly earn their keep with all they bring through being our doggie doors to new friends.

Fair winds!

Christine

 

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You don’t say…

C.E. Grundler

Okay, we’ll start this thing off by saying ‘Writer’ is my immediate response when asked what I do, and yes, I am quite proud of that fact. Most people who meet me, however, have no idea. I don’t tell them, and most time they never get around to asking. And that’s the way I like it.

I know, we’re supposed to go around announcing to the world that YES! we are indeed writers. We should wear shirts emblazoned with ‘Writer’ or maybe even get a tattoo.  Early in the game that didn’t exactly come natural for me, and as I came to see that is, indeed, who I am, I still kept that ace up my sleeve.

That might seem counterproductive, as writers we’re supposed to stand proud and own the fact that we spend our days weaving words into (with any luck and a whole lot of editing) amazing, terrifying, wonderful worlds. Writers are magical, mystical beings, and the general non-writer population holds us and the ‘author’ dream in awe. I’ll admit that part is cool, it’s a great ego boost to watch how people react even if those awestruck individuals can’t imagine the reality of how really hard writing truly is. But its still something I rarely reveal. Why?

Simple. The moment the “I’m a writer,” cat is out of the bag, people stop talking about themselves and start asking about me. What do I write, how many books, what kind…and so on.  Neato for the ego, but I’ve gone from potentially learning who-knows-what about this individual to talking about me — and that’s stuff I already know. When I meet someone new, I’d like to learn about them. People naturally love to talk about themselves and share their expertise but so rarely encounter people who take the time to really listen. I’d much rather learn about them than talk about me, and I’m ever amazed just how much people will open up to a sympathetic ear. Bartenders and cabbies, hairdresses and stripppers, I’m sure they’ll agree, and I’m sure that’s reflected in their tips. As writers, we don’t get tips, but these conversations are tips in themselves. I’ve crossed paths with retired cops, (“What was the worst case you can recall?” = some truly horrifying tales,) arson investigators, (“What was the most difficult case you ever handled?” = learning clever ways one might try to stump the arson squad,) insurance and fraud investigators, (“What’s the most audacious scam you encountered after Sandy” = oodles for the next book.) The more you pay attention, the more some people will unload, and most people are brimming with fascinating information if you just give them the green light to talk. Bottom line: just LISTEN. You never know what you might learn, what ideas it might launch or what connections you could ultimately make.

Oh, and when they run out of things to tell me or ask why I’m so curious, that’s when I mention that I’m a writer.

But really, that’s not all that interesting compared to…

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Red Right Returning

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Red right returning, a basic element of the boating rules of the road that nearly everyone remembers. At least until they get on the water.

Up here in New England, this year’s recreational boating season has concluded. A cold front linked to a storm off Alaska will soon bring in frigid air, and the days are growing shorter. This all makes for an ideal time for boaters to freshen-up on the navigational rules of the road. Twenty minutes each night with the 67th edition of Chapman Piloting and Seamanship and we’ll all be navigational wizards by Spring. In theory, that is.

The fundamental problem with boating rules of the road is that they require a key element often missing – reciprocity. On land, reciprocity comes in the form of one car staying to the right side of the road, while the oncoming car does the same. In a world of reciprocity on the water, you would keep the red buoy to your right as you return to port while an outgoing boat stays to the side of the channel marked by a green buoy. Unfortunately, several factors undermine this ideal state. Let’s face it, some boaters find it just too hard to identify buoys of any color when their five kids are sitting in the front of the boat with their feet hanging over the bow. Others are overcome by distractions – sunscreen that needs to be applied, fishing rods that require rigging, beer coolers that need tending. And sometimes, as when life jackets that need to be stowed in inaccesible lockers, it’s just too hard to stay at the wheel while the boat is underway. And that’s before we’ve even begun to discuss electronics.

Yet before I take you on a rant about other boaters, let me be the first to acknowledge that I need the offseason brush-up as much as anyone. For example, recently I spotted the below depiction of inland markers used in Maine and noticed the yellow marker at the bottom that indicates the presence of Milfoil.

navigation-aid-chart-1

In the quiet of the off-season, I can Google Milfoil, learn that it’s vegetation and know that I will retain this factoid for an annoyingly long period of time (while I forget the really important stuff that will save me from landing on the rocks as I approach Newport on a foggy night).

In my heart of hearts I also know that my need for off-season tutelage isn’t limited to some obscure inland channel buoys. Every once in a while I need to remember that when it comes to running lights, that line about red and right doesn’t fit – the red bow light is on the left side – the port side. Port wine is red is one memory tool that can help you out. And when I am down in Florida on the Intracoastal, the green markers will be on the Gulf side of the channel – green on Gulf being the memory tool for that one.

DisplayofNavigationLights

So here I sit, ready to sharpen my knowledge, hastened by the fact all skippers have had their navigational skills tested while at sea. Study I will over the next months, remembering that the even saltiest of captains have run afoul, in some instances on trips as short as a Three Hour Tour.

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by John Urban

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It’s writing time again.

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By Mike Jastrzebski

We’ve been in the mooring field here in St. Augustine for a little over three weeks and we’ve fallen into a routine that allows me to write on the days Mary works (3 days a week), and the day she does laundry. So far, I have finished about a third of the third draft of Stranded Naked Blues.

The other three days are spent shopping, doing regular maintenance on the boat, and taking care of my dental appointments. We’ve also managed to go to the cruiser’s net gatherings and do a little sightseeing on our own.

I think that with this four day writing schedule I should be able to complete the book by the first of the year. All of my books have gone through five to seven drafts before I published the books and I expect this book to follow that pattern.

After I finish this draft I will read the book out loud and revise as I read. After that Mary will do a line edit and if she finds any discrepancies or areas that don’t quite work for her I will fix the problems and then hopefully the book will be ready to publish.

Wish me luck.

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Flotsam & jetsam

Eneko

by Christine Kling

I’ve been sitting here for the better part of the morning trying to focus on writing my blog. We are back off the town of Majuro and back into the noise and chaos of the town. I try one blog idea, and it peters out. So, rather than spend the rest of the day here, I’m going to do one of my flotsam & jetsam blogs which will always be a compendium of the things on my mind, recommendations for great reads, rants or whatever.

First up, I’d like to give kudos to my husband-to-be Wayne for something he accomplished this past week. I really think it’s great when cruisers can give something back to the community ashore. And it’s better yet when helping them also helps us. We love to hang out at Eneko Island which has a little very rustic resort called Eneko Island Get Away that is owned by the Robert Reimers Hotel back in Majuro. We learned that the folks out there had a solar panel and four 8D gel batteries donated to them that they wanted to get hooked up to run their Internet hot spot. They didn’t have a solar controller, though, and they wanted to set up the panel and batteries on one building while the hot spot equipment was on another building. Missing parts and lacking know-how, nothing was happening. Enter Wayne — who donated a used controller he had kept as a back-up when he upgraded the boat, and then he spent three days ashore with his tool bag (and the heat and mosquitos) getting the whole thing working. He even relocated the wifi sending and receiving equipment. Now, the residents there don’t have to run the generator to get internet for themselves or their guests, and we get to have wifi as well out on our boat. Win-win.

Second, I have been growing more and more interested in weather and trying to learn how the wind patterns and cyclone seasons work out here in the Pacific. Our friend Philip on the yacht Blue Bie shares lots of weather links with us and this one is absolutely beautiful. Check out this animated rendering of the GFS prediction model of the world’s winds. You can click and move around the world. It’s great fun. Play with it!

Third, I’d like to help get the word out about a great deal on a Kindle bundle of books for any self-publishing writers. Called The Indie Author Power Pack, it is a fantastic deal – only 99c – and contains three top rated writer’s guides. I already owned two of the books, but I bought the set anyway just to get Joanna Penn’s book on marketing. Any one of the three is a great deal and it’s available on Amazon, Apple, B&N, and Kobo. The three books are:

Write. Publish. Repeat. by Sean Platt & Johnny B. Truant

Let’s Get Digital (2nd ed.) by David Gaughran

How To Market a Book (2nd ed.) by Joanna Penn

If you would like more information about this bundle, and or direct links to all the vendor’s sites, check out David’s blog here.

For my last bit of cool stuff, I have another book. As one who subscribes to Lin Pardey’s newsletter, I learned that Lin is bringing one of my favorite sea story books back into print. It’s called Blown Away by Herb Payson. Herb and his wife were sailing in the South Pacific at the same time Jim and I were back in the 1970’s, and so I had to buy the original book when it first came out. This book is laugh out loud funny, and anyone who has cruised will identify with the fixes cruisers can find themselves in. Lin and Larry Pardey are bringing out a 30th anniversary edition of the book (including an ebook) that will be available on Dec. 15. I recommend you all put it on your TBR lists or on your Christmas gift lists.

Time to get back to writing my book!

 

Fair winds!

Christine

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