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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Why Mary?

By Mike Jastrzebski


There are really two questions here. The first is why is Mary the official prop scraper on Rough Draft? The second is why is Mary the best sailing and cruising partner a man could ask for?

As we were heading out of our anchorage in Deltaville this week it became obvious that the prop was in need of scraping, so Mary put on her wet suit and took to the water. Since we began cruising this has been Mary’s job and I’ve been asked on more than one occasion why I don’t do that job.

The truth of the matter is that when we first started out Mary already had a mask, fins, and a wet suit and I didn’t. On top of that, Mary handles cold water way better than I do. In fact, even in the winter Mary will go swimming when she can. It’s as simple as that.

As for why is Mary the best cruising partner? Isn’t it obvious? She scrapes the prop when it needs it, what else could a man ask for? And least I forget, it was Mary who taught me to sail. Mary who said let’s buy a boat and go live on it where there are palm trees. Mary who suggested that I quit my job and spend the summers getting the boat ready to cruise and winters writing books.

All I can say is, what a cruising parter I have in Mary.

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New rhythms

Barney on bow watch in Majuro

Barney on bow watch in Majuro

by Christine Kling

Life on board a cruising boat has entirely different rhythms than a land-based life. It’s difficult to believe that we have been back aboard the boat for a full month already. It sometimes feels as though we have been transported into a world where time operates differently. Here, we are moved more by the weather, the phases of the moon, the projects underway, and the quality of the local wifi.

So it was that the good ship Learnativity took off several days ago leaving the anchorage off the main town in Majuro and traveling the few miles to Eneko, a little island on another side of the lagoon, so we could exercise the engine and change our scenery for a bit. The engine performed flawlessly with the new water pump and new Marelon valve on the thru-hull, and the batteries got a good extra charge.

When we arrived and got the anchor down, we found they even had turned on the wifi at the little “resort” on shore. I use that term quite loosely as you have to port in your own food if you want to stay out there. It is the off-season here though. There are very few boats and few visitors in Majuro as the windless summer season winds down. The days are too hot for most visitors and everyone has started to talk about how nice it will be when the trade winds return and they bring with them new boats and new faces.

All was well in my world as I finally got fully moved into my little forward cabin office and I was humming along learning more about the Knights of Malta — until the clouds rolled in. It turns out the island only has enough power to run the wifi when the sun is out producing enough amps via their solar panels. No sunlight means no wifi. Suddenly, our idyllic island became a place where I couldn’t post my blog. So here I am late again.

Click the map for more info at

Click the map for more info at

We are strongly considering staying here in the Marshall Islands for the next five months. The choice is to sail back down to Fiji which would require a 2-3 week passage and would mean spending the cyclone season in inside the cyclone belt. But the plus side is that I really want to see those Fijian islands again, and there is cellular wifi available almost everywhere in the islands. Or, we stay here in the Marshalls where we are outside the cyclone belt (except for the extremely odd case), but where we will not have Internet if we choose to leave the main island of Majuro.

The question becomes whether or not I can write my research-intensive book while off in another atoll cut off from the web. I’m starting to think it might be possible, but we haven’t decided one way or the other for certain yet. In the meantime, I keep looking at the chart of all the islands here in the Marshalls, and I’m itching to get out and do a little sailing.

So, if no blog by me appears at all one of these weeks, just chalk it up to the rhythm of boat life and the fact that the trade winds have returned.


Fair winds!


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Two weeks…


C.E. Grundler

That’s how long it’ll take to do just about anything. The decks? Two weeks. The engine? Two weeks. Stay on Mars? Two weeks. Repainting rooms? Rebuild an entire Money Pit? That’s easy. Two weeks. Two weeks. Setting up for a garage sale so I can unload as much as possible that I wouldn ‘t want to load on the boat (closing in on that ‘move on the boat’ part.) Yeah, two weeks should work. Should we continue?

First off, NOTHING ever takes two weeks… unless, that is, it should have taken two days. I suspect if you measured time you’d find even two weeks take more than two weeks to pass.  It has something to do with time bending, string theory, and a whole bunch of science stuff I don’t get. It has to. How else could those ‘two week’ tasks span months? EVERYTHING takes more time to get done. Way more. Waaaaay waaaaaaaay more. And even if each task took only took two weeks, if that list of to-dos has twenty or so tasks, you’re pushing into a year, once you account for holidays, illness, weather, budget, and all those other little issues life likes to toss on the tracks. Now, throw ‘Finish next book’ onto the pile, drop one large tree right in the middle, and here we are today. The bottom line is everything takes longer than expected, setbacks happen, shit happens, and we can either deal or curl up and hide.

But for anyone who knows me well also knows determination is one of my strongest personality traits/flaws. I don’t give up. Period. I guess that’s where Otto Hammon got it from. Then again, Hammon is out of his mind, so what’s that tell you? Setbacks only make me more determined, and the more I felt like I was falling behind, the more determined I became to figure out how to use my time as efficiently as possible. There are only so many hours in the day and so many weeks in the year. Other writers manage to write while working, raising families, and so on, and some are quite prolific. What was their secret? How did they manage their time so they could produce a book or more a year?

For decades Donald Westlake turned out multiple books a year under multiple names, top quaility books that are still a delight to read. And he’s just one of many. It can be done. So I took a long, hard look at the way I approach writing, seeing where I was on the right track and where I was spinning my wheels. I started observing myself and the steps I was taking, while reading interviews with some very prolific and successful authors, and some patterns emerged. Of course there’s the standard stuff we all know. Block distractions. Shut the interwebs. Write early. Write late. Write whenever. And that’s all well and good, but to really maximize my writing time I’ve learned a little more, which has done much to improve my output, both in volume and quality.

Here’s a summary:

2.) Know what you’re going to write.

Okay, that seems obvious, but not just the general stuff. I had my outlines, but they were general and broad. It’s a good starting point, but until all the details were cohesive, it wasn’t time to start just yet.

3.) I’ll say it again. KNOW WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO WRITE.

Write out the whole outline, expand. Something isn’t fitting quite right? Fix it NOW. Before moving on to writing.


Map it out. Timeline it. Put it this way. You don’t start writing (fiddle with the varnish) if your boat/story is full of holes and won’t float. Period. You don’t even cut the first plank (or strip of cloth) without first planning the hull.

5.) Got it all outlined and broken down from start to finish? You know what you’re going to write? Good. Almost there. Look at whatever you’re tackling that day and rough out what you’ll be writing, using a bunch of pronouns and abbreviations. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It’s just a warm up, mentally and physically. It doesn’t matter if no one else can read it. If I can, I’m good. Just basic facts, focusing on the events, what goes wrong, who reacts how. Just ten minutes or so, and now the ol’ brain is primed for that world. And finally….

6.) Go for it! All they heavy lifting is over. Let the characters do their stuff, and keep those fingers typing. I’ve gone from 1,000 word days to 1,000 word HOURS. Now, here’s a fun thing I discovered, and the few rounds I’ve given it have proven exceptionally productive. Check out, by Doctor Evil.  Very funny, warped, and brilliant, as well as oh-so-effective.

Oh, wait. I skipped Number 1, right? That’s the most important step. OBLIGATE YOURSELF TO YOUR DREAMS. MAKE TIME TO WRITE. Actually, rule number one applies to anything important. We often find ourselves handling everything else first, then writing in what time remains. But if something truly matters, it should be a priority and treated with the proper respect. Writing time is non-negotiable, and so are dreams.

On a closing note, I present the latest edition of Engine Room Porn. Definitely my favorite spot on the boat at the moment.




Yes, I know I didn’t NEED to highlight the lettering on the manifold but I had a few rare spare minutes and some silver paint, and it makes me smile. (Hey, I like my engine super pretty.) We’re down to a few final wires, hoses, and we’re gonna crank all that shiny over. :-)

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Critique Groups

With the revolutionary changes in the publishing world today, presenting a clean manuscript to an agent or publisher is important.
A critique group is one of the easiest ways to get eyes on your manuscript for free, before sending it out. My experience in the small critique group I attend works well for me.
The five of us are published authors, we meet once a week and can read up to ten pages. We must have copies for the other participants to read along and to write comments on as each of us reads our pages aloud. This can be time consuming, but is helpful. Then we take turns critiquing what has been read. At the end of the critique, the pages with notes go back to the writer.
I find each part of this process important. It helps encourage me to write so I can produce the ten pages, an easy task since I’ve finished writing long before reading the last chapter at the critique group.
Reading aloud lets me discover awkward phrasing or mixture of words that look good on paper but sound horrible when read out loud. One of the members has an editor complex and enjoys marking up my pages from an editor’s viewpoint. People pay for this, I get it free.
As happens, sometimes I’m told my pages move the story along and as often as not, I’m told they make no sense in moving the story forward. Usually, the comments fall in-between. On occasion all four participants agree and it’s usually that what I wrote doesn’t advance the story. When that happens, I pay attention, go home, read the notes on the pages returned to me and see what I can do to correct the problem. I wouldn’t have seen the problem if it weren’t for the critique.
The critique process works in different ways for different people. I attended the local ‘writers guild’ session and found it too big, too unorganized and more of a social gathering than a critique session.
A critique group has to be honest. Sometimes that honesty hurts, but if it is helpful, it’s priceless. Writers have to have a thick skin and my critique group has helped prepare me for reviewers!
A good critique group’s honesty should cut both ways, pointing out why your selection doesn’t work and/or why it does work. A writer should walk away not bleeding but curious as to why things where said and what he/she can do to fix it. If it’s praise, the writer needs to see what he/she did that brought on the praise and try to repeat that style of writing, just as he/she should not want to repeat what caused the confusion with bad pages.
I wanted a critique group that had mystery writers/readers. For me, having to explain over-and-over why you did something in the story to someone who doesn’t read my genre is a waste of time, especially since it takes away from others who may have a better understanding of the story line.
What I didn’t want in a critique session is someone saying, “If I was writing this . . .” I am not interested in anyone else style, just mine. I want to know what’s confusing, what slows the pace or what makes no sense.
While it’s always self-rewarding to show your writing to family and friends, unless that includes Stuart Neville, Ken Bruen, Louise Phillips, Declan Burke, Tana French and the like, family and friends don’t constitute a critique group. Enjoy their comments and then go look for a critique group that will tell you the truth.
The more colleagues’ eyes you can get onto your pages, the better the book will be in the end. You must be as giving and honest as you want the others to be. Sometimes that’s not easy.
I wouldn’t admit this in my group, but more often than not, the critique group’s questioning something I’ve written has been more helpful than their praise. My ego is stroked with the praise, but my book becomes better with the questions, even when I bleed a little from it, and I become a better writer too.
One size doesn’t fit all. Check out more than one critique group to see if you are comfortable with the other participants. If not, move on. If all else fails, you are probably not alone, so why not form your own critique group of fellow writers/readers. In case you do that, remember what turned you off on the other critique groups and avoid those mistakes.

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Heading home

By Mike Jastrzebski

Just a short post this week. We’ve been busy getting the boat ready to head back down south. We say we’re heading home but the truth is we don’t have a real home right now. We consider Florida home because our home address is in Green Cove Springs, Florida, but we’ve never been there.

We no longer have a regular marina that we return to every year, and we sold our car and emptied our storage locker before we headed up to the Chesapeake so we don’t even have a need to stop in any particular town on this journey.

I guess our home is our boat and wherever we drop our anchor.

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The D word

by Christine Kling

If you are a writer, you know the word I’m talking about. Distraction. That word that whispers alluring messages in my ears when I am supposed to be working on the new book. That word against which I am sometimes so poorly armed. That word that, uh, just a minute, my computer just dinged receipt of a new email….I’ll be right back.

For my new book I am attempting to write a storyline that takes place in 1942 and another that takes place in 1798 when Napoleon invaded Malta. What do I know about the Napoleonic era in Malta? I am learning plenty, but the point is I need Internet access all the time as I do the research into how people lived at that time. But with that Internet comes this pipeline of news and ideas that is so hard to ignore.

This week has been a particularly difficult one for me so rather than let my distractions be all for naught, I’ve decided to blog about them. He he he. Very clever of me, I think.

Geek that I am, of course, I was up early the day of Apple’s recent big event and their introduction of the iPhone 6 and the Apple Watch. Bandwidth here doesn’t allow me to watch the keynote like I usually would, so I distracted myself with searching the web for reports and reviews. Last year when I returned from the Bahamas with a drowned iPhone, I considered upgrading to the iPhone 5s, but instead I told myself to wait for the newer model. I had no idea then that when the time came I would be living in Majuro. The telecommunication company (NTA) here in Majuro simply doesn’t offer cellular data, so I’ve been trying to talk myself out of the huge expenditure that an unlocked iPhone would be. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t spent many an hour distracted and dreaming of playing with the better camera and the new method of purchasing called Apple Pay.

The most important part of the Apple announcement for writers has to do with the new operating system for i-devices called iOS8. Up until now, if users wanted to buy books from iBooks, they had to download the app onto their iPads or iPhones. For the first time in iOS8, iBooks will be a permanent app on the front page of devices. According to this article in Digital Book World, “some 150 million Apple mobile devices have iBooks installed as of June 2013, the latest figures available. As of June 2014, the company had 800 million iOS devices in circulation . . .” They go on to point out that even if only a small percentage of those 650 million devices (a number growing daily) upgrades to the new iOS, it will means millions more devices potentially in the ebook market. The article goes on to say that Apple is going to promote iBooks by offering a selection of 54 titles from 39 publishers in 30 countries and nine languages free to users. They are top notch best sellers, so if you have an i-device and you are upgrading, check out the iBooks offer.

The second most important part of iOS8 for writers is the new feature called Family Sharing. According to this article on digital sharing in the New York Times, Amazon is also offering a similar program. The Apple plan “lets you share books, movies, music and apps that you’ve bought at iTunes, iBooks and the App Store with up to six members of your family who are logged in using their own iTunes accounts.” Lots of people have seen the inability to share digital content as a roadblock to adopting ebooks. I believe these sharing features will be one more nudge to push people towards ebooks.

Then when it comes to distractions, there is hardly anything better than the ongoing Amazon Hachette dispute and the ridiculous posts that are flying around on both sides such as Authors United’s recent missive to the Amazon board where their thousand some authors managed to miss the typo in the first sentence and to dis all non-American authors — and Joe Konrath’s hilarious response titled Nonsense United.

And finally, the Steven Pressfield blog piece titled When not earning out is a good thing, is a fascinating look at the how the top earning authors are really paid and how publishers calculate what to offer them.

Even with all these interesting distractions, I managed to make some breakthroughs this week on the new book. And now, it’s time to get back to it.


Fair winds!


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