Lessons Right On The Water

Saturday of Labor Day Weekend. Winds blowing from the south at 10 to 15 knots, blue skies from the tip of the Vineyard to Aquidneck Island. Seas at the edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound a modest 2 to 3 feet. A perfect day and a perfect sail.

(Sally enjoying time the helm)

Time on the water. I wish I had more of it.

I am thinking, too, of something I recently read about a Native-American belief that important decisions should be made in consideration of the impact created on seven generations. Imagine that, the consideration of seven generations – 120 years. Imagine if we were to apply a test of the impact of just two generations. Heck, imagine if the test were but the consideration of how our important decisions impact a significant portion of those who share our planet.

Even a simple wooden boat guy would have problems applying this test. Sure, wind power is renewable energy, wood is more environmentally friendly than fiberglass, and through my labor I minimize the taking of new resources by keeping a 69 year-old boat going year-in and year-out. But before anyone tries to raise an environmentally friendly flag from the halyard of our old wooden boat, know that bottom paint – at least the type that works – leaches, my old cans of paint and vanish end up in the trash, and the 27 HP Yanmar auxiliary coughs out fumes when she’s running.

But on this perfect day my carbon imprint on this planet is very small. And along the way Sally and I have the treat of spotting a large beautiful fish running just below the surface. Then, not much later, a dolphin leaps through the air and descends back into the deep blue water – a sight that’s fairly unusual up here along the lines of 41 degrees North. Perhaps it’s the fish and dolphin that have me thinking about my environmental impact and the seven generation consideration of important decisions.

(Back at the F.L. Tripp & Sons boatyard in Westport, MA)

As much as I love being on the water – and I do – boating sometimes seems like an act of selfish leisure. Maybe not, though. Maybe the lessons waiting for us out there are about anything but being selfish.

By John M. Urban

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Ah that smell!

By Mike Jastrzebski

I have to admit that on occasion I miss the smell of paper books. Don’t get me wrong, I do all of my reading on my Kindle. In fact I’ve had a Kindle since the Kindle 1 came out, and I never read paper books anymore. I was one of those people who had to wait for that first Kindle to be delivered because Amazon did not have enough Kindles in stock to meet the demand when they first came out.

But the other day I picked up Mary’s dictionary and when I opened it a little whiff took me back to the past.

For most of my life, until I moved onto our sailboat, I was a book collector. When I was young it was the Hardy Boys, The Black Stallion, Tom Sawyer and Treasure Island.

In my twenties I opened a used book store in Detroit called The Hidden Nook Bookstore. I sold any and all types of used books but I specialized in science fiction and comic books. At one time I put together a nice collection of Edger Rice Burroughs first editions along with various other first editions. The biggest problem I had with owning a used book store was that I had a hard time letting go of the best books I bought for the store.

Later in life, when I got serious about writing, I collected first edition mysteries by writers that I met at conferences and book signings. So you can see that I’ve always had an affinity for paper books.

But alas, once we began living on a boat the books were boxed up and stored for years before I bought my first Kindle. When I discovered that I could keep thousands of books on the Kindle I stopped buying paper books. I got rid of all of my paper books a couple of years ago. I still read as much as I used to, maybe more, but always on my Kindle.

I don’t really have any regrets about exchanging paper books for electronic books, but every once in awhile I get my hand on a paper book and when no one is watching I open it up and take a sniff for old times sake.

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Home at last!

You've heard of a container ship, well this is a "container dinghy"!

You’ve heard of a container ship, well this is a “container dinghy”!

by Christine Kling

We’re back! I’m sitting here once again at the Tide Table Restaurant in Majuro watching a tropical rain shower beat against the windows. This is home.

We left Ontario, California on Tuesday at noon, and with layovers, stops in San Francisco and crossing the International Dateline, we arrived in Majuro at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday. The boat was in great shape – just that fine film of dusty mold on everything – not bad after more than six months away. The outboard wouldn’t start though, so, after we visited the Post Office, the captain had to row the “container dinghy” back to the boat with 10 boxes weighing close to 900 pounds. Yesterday, we were unpacking all day and we’re both a bit overwhelmed by merging the contents of my boat onto Learnativity. But hey, what other woman moves aboard and brings her grinder, heat gun, Rule bilge pump complete with float switch, voltage regulator, two VHF radios, a complete set of lock picks, Sailrite sewing machine, etc?

And believe it or not we have more packages on the way! We bought an inflatable kayak and shipped it just before we left CA, and of course, as things would have it, we shipped the new spark plugs in a package at the same time and we completely forgot to order the carburator rebuild kit that was on the list.

Slowly, we are sorting through all the stuff, and I am settling in. I have been living out of a suitcase since I flew off to Fiji last December. It is wonderful to unpack at last. Wayne’s to do list is growing daily and once I finish cleaning and unpacking, I’ll start to organize the office. My goal is to be writing in two more days.

The sunset last night was spectacular, as if the tropics were welcoming us back.  Wayne and I sat on the coaming, sipped our glasses of red wine, and watched Barney and Ruby playing together on the foredeck. The whole family is glad to be home.

Fair winds!


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C.E. Grundler

It’s not on the list of words used to describe my boat’s current condition, at least not until the other day. But I think I’m going to start a new list, for the new words I’m hearing. Such as:

- Pretty

- Really solid

- Even

- Damn!

- Wow!

I like that last one the best, and I’ve heard it a few times over the last week. The collection of engine parts is shrinking, while the engine room is really starting to take shape. Alternately, I’ve been fairing the now rebuilt deck rails, which needed much new structure. In many places nothing of the original contours remained. I created a template of the mostly correct dimensions, and it amuses me that I built it from mixing sticks, a ruler, and some popsicle sticks. I say mostly because I’ve discovered something about a ‘one-off’ boat. *Everything* is off. It’s subtle, but unlike a mold-built boat, dimensions and angles vary from one side to the other. My choice was to either duplicate the original (slightly off) measurements, or figure out an average and adjust accordingly. Which approach do you all think I took? :-)

For longer than I’d care to admit I’ve heard people telling me, not always that convincingly, that my little boat will be ‘beautiful when she’s done.’ I’m not nearly done yet, but the beauty I’ve never questioned is starting to finally shine through bright enough that others can see it too.

Yeah, boat restoration really is like writing a novel. It’s not always readily apparent what you’re doing, where you’re headed, or why, and most sane people (rightly) figure you’re out of your mind, walking around mumbling to voices in your head. It’s lonely work, but if you truly believe in what you’re doing, (and keep doing, because without persistence dreams rarely float,) eventually you can launch that dream and show the world what you alone knew was there.

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The Great Phenomenon

Michael Haskins – www.michaelhaskins.net

As I said recently, my new book, NOBODY WINS, has been published. A relief? Well, yeah, kind of. The past few weeks I put aside the writer’s life and became the ad exec and PR guy! The end of writing leads to the beginning of a whole other world. Time consuming. Also, you don’t know if you’re getting results. When I write each day, I see the pages, count the words, finish a chapter. Never mind, I’m just about done and while I know I will have to tweak the PR and ads every once-in-a-while, it’s mostly behind me.

And that brings me to the Great Phenomenon! I’m bored! Don’t get me wrong, I have things to do, like catch up on my reading, organize my writing room (wife’s suggestion), catch up on my reading (I know, I already said that, but it’s important if you write, you gotta read). Read as much as your write.

I live in a stilt house and underneath is like an extra room. It’s mostly enclosed with trellis with colorful vines and plants, orchids, also ceiling fans, and a TV. A great area for entertaining or just reading. As uncharacteristically hot as it has been in Key West, under the house is still cool. I’ve read most every day sitting down there with my Guinness and pets.

I have the next book outlined in my head and somewhat down in my notebook. It opens in Key West, as Mick Murphy Key West Mysteries usually do, but it takes Murphy to the Panhandle and New Orleans. I’ve figured I’d better make those research trips before I start and since the story begins, probably, around late October, I wanted to travel at that time.

I’ve no short story to work on, nothing to edit and nothing to write. I find myself wandering the house, working in the garden, talking to the two dogs, cat and rabbit (no they don’t answer me back, that’s why I talk to them, no interruptions, whereas my wife . . .).

By late afternoon, the nervous energy has built up and I want to do something. It’s so easy to head to Old Town and the Smokin’ Tuna, Hog’s Breath, Schooner Wharf Bar – hell, why stop there? Green Parrot, Half Shell Raw Bar, Harpoon Harry’s – ok, time to stop so I don’t bore you!

I think what I’ve learned from this phenomenon, other than my drinking tolerance has dwindled, is that I am programmed to write. This free time, time to myself, time to reflect, is all BS. My good time is my writing time. It sets me free. It relaxes me. I need those afternoons with the laptop under the house, stuck on a chapter and having a wee drop of Jameson’s and a cigar while I talk to myself, or the animals, looking for a solution. I need that inner-fight to be who I am.

When I finish writing a book, it is both exciting and frightening. Hemingway called the in-between time his “black ass” period. I am beginning to understand what he meant. When a writer is all you are, all you can hope to be, you gotta write. Yeah, I need a break occasionally. A dinner in Old Town, a ride to the mainland, my weekly trip to the Big Coppitt Gun Club to shoot. But when my feet hit the tile floor in the morning, I turn on the laptop, make my café con leche and go to work. It makes me happy. Keeps me straight, keeps me sane. And it beats hell out of being bored.

If you find yourself in Key West on Sept. 13, my book release party is at the Smokin’ Tuna Saloon, 2-4 pm, stop by. If you are near Cranford, NJ on Sept. 20th, I will be at the Kilkenny House Irish Pub late afternoon. Stop in, buy me a pint and buy a book. At least a book!



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Sittin’ and contemplatin’

By Mike Jastrzebski


It’s a beautiful morning here in Deltaville. 75 degrees, partly sunny, a little breeze and the boat’s gently rocking, and I’m just sitting in the cockpit, drinking coffee, and contemplating about what to write.

I’m not talking about my book. The rewrite on Stranded Naked Blues is coming along just fine. In fact, I should be done with the second draft by the end of this week and Mary has started on the editing. No, I’m talking about the blog.

You see nothing’s really happening right now. No major projects on the boat, we’re sitting in one place, and I’m having a hell of a time coming up with new topics to write about.

It’s tough sometimes writing a weekly blog. I want to write about something adventurous, or slightly humorous, or even something dangerous. Anything to grab the attention and interest of our readers here at Write on the Water, but this week nothing is really happening. So what do I do?

I guess I’ll just sit here in the cockpit, stare out over the waters of the Chesapeake, let the breeze caress me, and contemplate.

Wish you could be here to contemplate with me.

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Help me pick a new cover and cover artist!


by Christine Kling

I’ve decided it’s time to refresh the covers of the four books in my Seychelle series, and given that I am not a graphic artist myself, but I am a geeky, techie sort, I decided to try something new. It’s called 99designs. There are over 322,000 designers on the site, and you can see their portfolios and connect with them for 1 to 1 jobs where you simply hire them for a project — or, like me, you can run a contest.

From the sharing economy (like AirB2B or Uber) to crowd funding, I like the new ways that the world of business is now working. It used to be that graphic designers needed to get a job at a big fancy marketing firm in order to work. But today, just like the digital age has made it possible for me to self-publish these Seychelle novels, graphic artists can find work through sites like 99designs. Any of them can have a chance to compete, and they will be judged on the quality of their work, not who they know who can help them get a job. This is much the same way that readers can now decide what books they like instead of the gate keepers in the high rises in Manhattan.

I started my contest a week ago. I paid $499 and I was surprised to learn that only $290 goes to the designer, so 99designs takes a good bit for their work of maintaining the website and for their tech support. To be fair, I called them with a question on a Saturday and I got an easily understood human right away, and we all know in today’s world, that’s saying something. And as a result of that call, they offered to promote my contest to their designers for free.

I wrote up a brief describing what I was looking for, and I explained that the designer who wins will then get the additional work of designing the covers for at least three more books. I will need covers for the ebooks, paperbacks, and the audiobooks for all the books in the series and I will need a new boxed set cover. I will also be looking to get a cover photo done for a Facebook author page.

I ended up with 134 entries from 34 designers from all over the world. Throughout the week, I rated the designs and gave comments s to what I liked and what I didn’t like. Often, the designers went back and tweaked their designs or submitted a wholly new design based on my feedback. Yesterday, that first phase of the contest ended and I selected five finalists, some of whom are from Malaysia, Serbia and the Caribbean.

Now comes the crowd sourcing part of my plan. I’ve created a poll, and I am asking all of you, my friends and readers, to go to the site and vote for the cover you like best. Help me find the best graphic designer to give my books a fresh new look.


Fair winds!



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Classics, Plastic, and Boats that Endure…

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.30.15 AM

So. Much. Varnish.

C.E. Grundler

The other night, my other half and I ventured onto the interwebs in an exhaustive Google search for exhaust configuration inspiration. Annabel Lee’s heavy old cast iron arrangement left something to be desired, and as the engine room comes together, there’s plenty of literal and figurative room for improvement. So we’ve been online, intently studying engine rooms aboard other old diesels, searching the specs by ‘image’ results.

Hey! I can see my engine from here!

Hey! I can see my engine from here!

I’m continuously amazed by the images that do come up. Search ‘Lehman Diesel’ and the page fills with thumbnails of little red engines. And I’ve discovered that like a mama penguin returning to the nesting grounds, I can spot the pictures of my baby, or even just a small portion of my baby, amidst the mob of seemingly identical machinery. In these searches I’ve seen engine rooms that make me cringe and engine rooms that make me drool, along with the boats housing them. Some of the most beautiful boats are the oldest, and the love and care they’ve recieved is apparent.

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.32.59 AM

Around here, we call this surfing the ‘Boat Porn.’

Like everything else, the more boats age, the more care and consideration they require, which is why I can’t help but admire well-maintained or restored boats in their golden years. A late friend and original owner of a lovely Pacemaker sedan often told me that most of the old boats we see around were never meant to last as long as they have. A decade or two, he said, before the dominos start falling and you spend more time on upkeep than use. Not all boats, but many of the ‘production’ wooden boats of their day, built as quickly and economically as possible. What we see as classics were simply the everyday boats of their day. And it’s true the ones that remain are the exceptions, but they have survived, either by virtue of superb craftsmanship and/or diligent maintenance by owners who went above and beyond through the decades.

No snot here. Just a whole lot of maintenance. But it's pretty to look at.

No snot here. Just a whole lot of maintenance. But it’s pretty to look at, and has stood the test of time.

L. Francis Herreshoff compared fiberglass to “frozen snot,” and I’d have to agree, but as Don Casey pointed out, while wooden boats regularly die early deaths of natural causes, fiberglass boats must be assassinated. Fiberglass grew in popularity as a building material during the sixties to become the standard through the seventies, though boats built of resin and glass date back into the early forties. What defines a ‘classic’ boat is no longer limited to wood alone.  Many antique groups and associations now include funky fifties fiberglastics, as they’re known, early glass Hinckleys, Bertrams, and countless others. Several vintage boat groups I’ve seen drew the line between antique and classic boats and modern, contemporary boats somewhere around 1976. One more year and Annabel Lee will qualify for ‘classic’ status!

This is not to say that all fiberglass boats will stand the test of time, a fact that is evident around the fringes of any dirt-road boatyard. The hull may endure, but everything within it is subject to the ravages of time. Anyone following my progress aboard Annabel Lee should know that by now. And we all know not all fiberglass boats are built alike, and in the years to come, I’m willing to venture many seventies boats will outlast ones built today. (Certainly on styling as well.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 10.41.12 AM

Oops! These are not boats. But the confusion is understandable if you’re searching by image.

Can you envision these boats (note the styling cues) at the fifty and hundred year mark?

Can you envision these boats (note the styling cues) at the fifty and hundred year mark?

No one truly knows how long fiberglass will last. There are wooden boats two centuries old and still going strong.  They’ve outlasted generations of sailors who all played a part in their collective histories. It’s conceivable to imagine a boat show fifty years from now with graceful plastic sloops, sporty runabouts and sportfishers… and maybe even an ancient trawler or two.

On my end of the boatyard, word seems to be spreading that Annabel Lee might actually be afloat in the still undetermined (I’m not committing to anything at this point) but approaching future. I’ll be honest, there were many times even I had my doubts, so I can’t blame innocent bystanders for their skepticism. But these days her condition is no longer frightening unwary boat owners who unsuspectingly wander into the shed; in fact I’ve had an increasing number of friendly interruptions by curious onlookers, fascinated by the transformation taking place. And as I head out for another day of boat work, I do it with a mind towards the future…and the past.

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Beach Day

Beach 2

Today is a beach day. Not a writing day, not a work day, not even a boating day. Just the beach.

From my angled-back canvas chair I watch parades of boats crossing the edge of Buzzards Bay and Rhode Island Sound. A dragger heads to Georges Bank to scrape the bottom for scallops that go back to New Bedford to be shucked, processed, and shipped around the globe. A series of 100-plus foot motor yachts power from Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to Newport, a few, perhaps, carrying their owners, some likely ferrying charter clients, and many, I know, holding only their crew. I watch, too, as a middle-aged man launches a small red kayak from the beach, a fishing rod in his hand, setting off in search of a striped bass that might offer a down-sized version of a Nantucket sleigh ride. And sailboats, large and small, head westward, beating against the wind, others set with a spinnaker, enjoy the easier path east.

Beach 1

It’s easy to imagine the stories unfolding ahead of me on the ocean. More so when I consider the many ships that passed this point of land in years past. Vikings, some say. Explorers for sure, Bartholomew Gosnold’s trip in the early 1600s being well-documented. And whaling ships by the many. Slavers, too, as well as packet cruisers that sailed into the 1900s.

These boats, current and past, hold many stories. But on this day, it is all about the beach. No story arc, no plot advancement, no character development. Just a simple beach day.

by John Urban

Beach 3

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Up a creek and loving it

By Mike Jastrzebski


Right now we’re anchored on Jackson Creek across from the Deltaville Marina in Deltaville, VA. It’s a quiet anchorage, especially during the week, and is very well protected on three sides. But it gets a bit lumpy if the wind is blowing from the SE.

We’ve decided to stay here for a month so that I can work on the rewrite of Stranded Naked Blues. I believe I can get the second draft of the book done in that time and Mary is starting on the editing.

The nice thing about the marina here is that you can pay to use all of the marina services. This includes internet, the lounge, the laundry, the pool, bicycles, and even the courtesy car. The cost to use the facilities for a month is very reasonable, only $138.00. The daily rate however is a bit steep at $11.00 per person per day, but that does still include use of the car.

Typically I split my day up between writing in the mornings and doing boat chores in the afternoons. We don’t have any major projects to work on right now, but we do have to make water a couple of times a week and as anyone who lives on a boat knows there’s always something that needs to be done. Many of these projects could be put off for a couple of weeks which would allow me more time to write, but I really don’t want to have a slew of things to do before we take off at the end of our month.

If all goes well, we plan to leave here around the 9th of September and head over to the Potomac River and up to DC. We hope to spend a couple of weeks in DC taking in the museums but we have no definite plans beyond that.

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