I just need to get away from it all . . .

You know things are getting crowded when this anchors behind you

You know things are getting crowded when this anchors behind you

by Christine Kling

Okay, stop with the eye roll, okay. Yes, I know, I am living on a sailboat located in the Marshall Islands smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but hey, everything is relative, right?

Writing is difficult enough, but trying to concentrate here on our mooring off the town of Majuro is getting more and more difficult. This place has become crazy crowded compared to what it was like a couple of months ago when we returned from our big trip abroad. The moment when I knew I just had to get away came on Tuesday when I saw an unusual-looking white boat far out in the lagoon. We’re used to all the dozens of the big purse seiners here, but this one looked more like a yacht. I grabbed the binoculars and sure enough, it was a pretty big looking motor yacht. When she pulled in and anchored a few hundred yards off our boat, we could make out her flag (Cayman Islands) but not the name. But soon our friend Philip sailed by her on his Outremer Catamaran on his way back from Eneko, and he emailed Wayne that the yacht (as seen in the photo above) was called Senses and she belonged to none other that Google founder Larry Page.

The lagoon is filling up

The lagoon is filling up

Since we arrived here we have also seen the arrival of four cruising sailboats. The Marshall Islands are a refuge at this time of year. Many boats love to sail the islands of the South Pacific: French Polynesia, the Cook Islands, Tonga, Fiji, etc. but just like off the tropical coasts of North America, the South Pacific spawns cyclones — or hurricanes as they are called in North America. The South Pacific season is the opposite of the North American season, so while friends of mine are getting ready to leave Trinidad and Grenada, here in Majuro, the place is starting to fill up. Statistically speaking, the areas found ten degrees to the north and south of the equator have few enough cyclonic storms to be considered “safe zones,” so that is why folks head south to Trinidad or north to the Marshall Islands out here. The other choice is to head to higher latitudes like New Zealand, but just like heading north up the east coast, it puts the boats having to cross lots of open water on the shoulder season between cyclones and winter storms.

While the Marshall Islands are part of Micronesia, they are not so far west as to be in the cyclone areas of the Northeast Pacific like some of the other Micronesian islands further west of us. I don’t really understand the various seasons there yet. In the Philippines, for example, there is never a time when it’s not a cyclone season in some part of that huge island country. Two of the boats that arrived here recently came from the west of us in Micronesia. Both boats have families on board, but we don’t see much of them nor so they take part in the morning cruiser’s net on the radio. Apparently, they are Jehovah’s Witnesses and they are missionary boats. We do see lots of different folks out here cruising.

net boatPart of the reason why it is so noisy here is because we are moored directly off the docking areas for all the small shore boats. For the big tuna fleet, Uliga Dock is the place where the fishing officials have their offices and they have to go out to greet and inspect all the boats that come in. The pilot boat is there, too. Then once the tuna boats are cleared, they often anchor before they unload and they use their big net boats with 1200 HP air-cooled engines to ferry crew and provisions back and forth out to the boats. Then there are the dinghies from the yachts and the outboard fishing boats owned by the Marshallese. Sometimes it feels like over a hundred boats zip around us every day and if they get within about 100 feet of Learnativity, they set off the canine alarm system.

The canine alarm system ready to go off next to Philip's ear

The canine alarm system ready to go off next to Philip’s ear

This alarm system is usually sleeping on the top of the coaming about 12 inches away from our ears when we are working in the cockpit where it is coolest. This is the most enthusiastic alarm system you have ever seen. The two of them are never happier than when some high-pitched outboard comes screaming into earshot. Sometimes Barney gets so excited he runs to the bow and just keeps running in circles barking in pure canine bliss.  I don’t know which is worse, the noise from the boats or the canine alarm system.

EnekoSo, we are planning to leave this afternoon and make our way back out to Eneko, the lovely little island you can see on the chart above. It’s quiet and the canine security system goes silent, too, barking only when somebody says the word “beach.” Eneko is on the north side where the little hump is and in this view it shows 66.4 and 181 foot depths offshore. The local yacht club put down moorings off the island so we swing between 45 and 100 feet there depending on the wind direction. As you can see from the soundings, most of the lagoon is too deep for yachts like us to anchor. It’s not a problem for the tuna boats or Google, though. On the chart you can also see the well-marked pass into this atoll. That’s another thing that makes this place such a draw for boats of all kinds. It’s easy to enter, provides shelter and there is a lively town ashore with supermarkets, restaurants and hardware stores.

At Eneko, they do have a hot spot for the local Internet, but what they don’t have is power. For a while their generator had broken down. That was what prevented me from posting a blog last week. However, we’ve learned they have bought a solar panel and Wayne has volunteered to donate an old solar controller as well as his labor to mount and connect the panel. If we can get Internet at Eneko all the time, we might not come back to town until the fridge or the wine locker is empty, whichever comes first. We’ll revel in the peace and quiet and hopefully, my writing output will improve.

Just so long as nobody says the word “beach.”

Fair winds!


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Staying Focused…

C.E. Grundler

The challenge with having too many things going on in your life simultaneously is staying focused on any one single task. To sell this house I’ve got to straighten it up. But as I work on that, my mind’s on my writing. That’s the best part of writing, and its downside as well — you’re always thinking about it whether you’re writing or not. But everywhere I turn I see yet another thing on the house to-do list, which needs to be done if I’m every going to move onto the boat — oh, wait, another to-do list as well. It seems these days no matter which way I turn, something is clamoring for my attention. Which, I suppose explains the screaming headache I woke with and haven’t been able to shake, which makes focusing all the more difficult. Which in turn explains the briefness of this post.

Livin’ the dream(?) can be hard work sometimes.

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Zeke Emanuel, Creativity & Aging

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel succeeded in starting a discussion. His article in The Atlantic “Why I Hope to Die at 75” is intended to startle the reader, and it does.

As head of the Department of Medical Ethics & Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Emanuel speaks with authority. As the older brother of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel (who inspired the character Ari Gold on the HBO series Entourage), the man also possesses first rate genes for attention getting.

The title of the article is, however, a bit misleading in that Emanuel’s main premise is: “Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either.”

Aside from the merits of his arguments or speculation on whether or not he will change his views as he ages, it was Emanuel’s ascent into the realm of creativity that caught my attention.

He writes: “(B)y 75, creativity, originality, and productivity are pretty much gone for the vast, vast majority of us.” Emanuel goes on to cite research that supports this assertion and adds a quote from Einstein: “A person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so.”

I might be sympathetic to Emanuel’s underlying belief that we are overly focused on extending life, and I am open to research that provides statistical analysis to help us better understand outcomes, but I am slow to get on board with his generalizations about creativity.

As someone involved in fiction writing, I am often asked where I get my ideas. I wish I knew, but I am comfortable in knowing that I have yet to meet a fellow-writer who possesses a good answer to this question. The fact is, we don’t understand much of anything about the origins of creative writing, not to mention identifying the sweet-spot in life for penning good works. Authors such as Raymond Chandler and Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t start until their mid-40s, and I know from having attended writers’ conferences that many older writers exhibit vibrant careers, some just getting into writing in their retirement years.

I am tempted to take exception to Emmanuel’s statement on creativity, but I don’t really feel the need for one simple reason: writers will write – that’s what they do and they won’t stop because a researcher presents an opinion concerning the bell curve of creative output.

If I live another twenty years and turn 75, I may well still be writing. And even if Emanuel is right about an expiration of creativity, I might happen to be a bit wiser, a bit more advanced in my understanding.

Stephen King is known for saying “Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.” Perhaps the wisdom of age will get me closer to those truths and, in turn, produce good fiction. Either way, I hope I’m still going, regardless of what Emanuel or anyone else says. But that’s all in the future. Until then, I hope to wake up tomorrow, look around, take in life, and maybe, just maybe, get a few creative words on paper. With any luck, maybe even capture some truth.

by John M. Urban

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St. Augustine

By Mike Jastrzebski

We’ve been in St. Augustine for nearly two weeks now and I have to admit that it’s a pleasant place. As much as we would like to head south, we’ve decided to stay here for awhile.

The bus service has been great for getting around and for seniors the cost is only .50 cents. There are also a lot of taxies here and they are reasonable. We took a taxi to the endodontist and it was only ten bucks.

That’s right, an endodontist. I needed to get a root canal and I need a new bridge so I really need to get a couple of books done to feed the cruising kitty. With that in mind Mary took a part time job working at the Panama Hat shop here in town.

Her working will get her off the boat a couple of days a week and allow me to write without distraction. If you’ve ever tried writing with someone moving around in a small space you know what I mean.

It’s almost nine and time for the St. Augustine cruisers’ net, then I have to fire up the computer and start writing, so it’s time to wrap this up.

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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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