Post Storm Scribblings


Yes, I have been writing again. That is a good thing and it’s largely due to the efforts of my writing friends (particularly Liz Hein and Noelle Granger) who got me into the A-to-Z challenge. It definitely challenged me to go ahead and put words on the page and pay attention. Once the flow started it continued and I’ve accomplished a great deal, I think, on my new book. As you can see from the above photo, I’m a throw-back to the days of the typewriter (this one is a Smith-Corona Skywriter circa 1951), coffee and fountain pens and I’ve been pounding on the poor thing for a couple of weeks now. I’m down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina doing work on our beach house (mostly done) I’ve also taken the opportunity to do research. Apparently I have a thing for period pieces. Beagle Club is set in the summer of 1936, as you know, but the new one is also period, as it’s set in 1947. The main character Max has come home from the war and settled in a seaside community for a nice quiet life and has purchased an abandoned life saving station house for a song.


The one above is the one that now is just down the road from the house, at Chicamacomico. Yes, you too can pronounce the name, just say ‘Chee-ca’, then ‘ma’, then ‘comic’, then ‘oh’. A lot of the names on this island are old native american names, there Chicamacomico, Kinakeet, and Rodanthe for example. If you want to know exactly where I am, look for Rodanthe. The island is less than a half-mile wide at this point so I can see the inland sounds and the ocean at the same time. Pretty cool. Anyway, wandering around the station and talking to the nice folks here gives me a very good feel for the spaces my main character moves around in. Nothing like being there and smelling the place to make your writing real.

Speaking of real, a tropical storm has just passed me by, thank goodness. It never quite made it to hurricane status because it didn’t hang out around the warm Gulf Stream for very long, so Ana was just a tropical storm. She still brought plenty of rain and wind.


I know the waves don’t look all that high when you look at the left photo, but the winds were very strong and when you look closely at the right photo you can see the beach just sort of fades out in a fog of spray off the water. As a continuing tidbit of nauticalia, when a ship is at sea and the wind is strong enough to atomize the spray into fog it’s called ‘sea smoke’. These were taken in between the large bands of thunderstorms. I tried to get some of those when they came through, but as it was mostly at night with heavy rain, that became problematic. Suffice to say that when the winds hit my house moved around quite a bit. All the houses are elevated on stilts by building code requirements because of the flooding that takes place when the big boy storms like Irene came through. She flooded at the house up to 7 feet and washed the A/C units right off their platform. Quite a mess.

I’ve got to get back to packing, due back home today and there’s still too much to do. Thanks for reading, it’s very much appreciated, more than you know, and I look forward to reading your blogs too.



X is for ‘X marks the spot’

a to z - penelope cruz pirates of the caribbean johnny depp geoffrey rush captain jack sparrow ian mcshane

Arrrrrghhhh! It’s a pirate post fer shur, there mateys, after yer diamonds and doubloons and treasures of all sorts, arrrrrghhhh!

a to z - Robert louis stevensona to z - Treasure_Island-Scribner's-1911a to z - treasure-island-map

What can I say, I was really stuck for an ‘x’. When ‘X marks the spot’ was suggested to me I started thinking (which for me can be a really dangerous thing for a plethora of reasons) ‘where did the phrase come from and when was the first time it was used?’ In general, it would seem that the use of x to mark a spot on a map would have been in use since time immemorial, as a body doesn’t need to be able to read or write. It was, of course Robert Louis Stevenson in Treasure Island who made it popular. Treasure Island had a tremendous influence on our popular concept of pirates. His narrative turned them from the truly despicable creatures they were (modern pirates are not so entertaining when they attack merchant vessels nowadays) into quaint cartoon characters, using such elements as one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders, tropical islands laden with gold and treasure maps marked with ‘x’. These images have been copied and played with over the years in entertainment to great effect, anything from swashbuckling Errol Flynn to Peter Sellers with his inflatable parrot (‘Thar she bloowwws!’) to Johnny Depp’s Captain Sparrow (‘They’re more like guidelines, really’), not to mention the plethora of movies made of Treasure Island. There have been no fewer than eighteen films made of it since 1918 and countless TV adaptations and parodies including Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam’s (check out ‘Buccaneer Bunny’ on Youtube).

No discussion of the warm and fuzzy version of pirates would be complete, of course, without mentioning ‘Talk Like a Pirate Day’, which is September 19th. It all started when two friends were playing racquetball and started talking to each other that way. ‘That be a fine cannonade’ or ‘Now watch as I fire a broadside…’, this according to their website. I’ll let you read it from their own lips, as it were here:

Stolen shamelessly from their website (it’s a pirate thing, after all) are the top ten pirate pick-up lines to be used only on TLAPD:

10 . Avast, me proud beauty! Wanna know why my Roger is so Jolly?

9. Have ya ever met a man with a real yardarm?

8. Come on up and see me urchins.

7. Yes, that is a hornpipe in my pocket and I am happy to see you.

6. I’d love to drop anchor in your lagoon.

5. Pardon me, but would ya mind if I fired me cannon through your porthole?

4. How’d you like to scrape the barnacles off of me rudder?

3. Ya know, darlin’, I’m 97 percent chum free.

2. Well blow me down?

And the number one pickup line for use on International Talk Like a Pirate Day is …

  1. Prepare to be boarded.

Now those pickup lines were for guys. Some of the best pirates there every be were ladies, so the top ten pickup lines for ladies be:

10. What are YOU doing here?

9. Is that a belayin’ pin in yer britches, or are ye … (this one is never completed)

8. Come show me how ye bury yer treasure, lad!

7. So, tell me, why do they call ye, “Cap’n Feathersword?”

6. That’s quite a cutlass ye got thar, what ye need is a good scabbard!

5. Aye, I guarantee ye, I’ve had a twenty percent decrease in me “lice ratio!”

4. I’ve crushed seventeen men’s skulls between me thighs!

3. C’mon, lad, shiver me timbers!


…and the number one Female Pirate Pick-up Line:

  1. You. Pants Off. Now!


And just for a little more fun:

What’s a pirate’s favorite socks? Arrrrgyle.

What’s a pirate’s favorite pet? An arrrrrdvarrrrrk.

What does a pirate think happens at the end of time? Arrrrmageddon.

What’s a pirate’s favorite food? Arrrrrtichokes.

What’s a pirate’s philosophy? I think therefore I arrrrrrrr.

Why does a pirate fear getting older? He could have arrrrthritus.

What’s a pirate’s favorite state? Arrrrkansas

It occurrrrrs to be I’m now being entirrrrrrely too silly now that I’ve got me belaying pin between my teeth, so I’ll just wish you all a good day and walk the plank.


B is for Boat

What is a boat? There is an old joke that a boat is a hole in the water into which you pour money. As an individual who has owned boats for a number of years now (small ones) I can tell you that this old joke has a lot of truth to it, particularly if the boat has an engine. Perhaps I’d best begin by saying what the difference is between a boat and a ship. Basically you can carry a boat on a ship, but you cannot carry a ship on a boat. A little thought on that will reveal that there is a lot of leeway wiggle room for the definition, but that will do for now. Boats have been made by humans ever since somebody somewhere in the mists of time wanted to get across a body of water that might have been too wide to swim. The first ‘boats’ were probably handy logs, then the logs were tied together to make rafts, or rafts of reeds in the case of ancient Egyptians. The traditional Brazilian Jangada is in the line of these boats.

brazil boat

Other very early boats were animal skins sewed up shut, sealed with wax or tar and inflated. Other boats were made by making baskets and covering the outside with animal skins (the origin of the coracle and the Irish Curragh.)


The coracle was/is pretty much a single person boat, but the Curragh can be built much larger as evidenced by Tim Severin’s Brendan, where he re-enacted a voyage described in the writings of an Irish monk, Saint Brendan. The Brendan is made of a latticework of wood covered by oxhides to duplicate the curragh of the times.

Early boat development went from rafts, to shaped rafts, to boards mounted edge to edge with mortise and tenon joints or boards sewn together (as in the case of the Egyptian boats of the pyramids). Vikings built the most beautiful wooden vessels ever made (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) by fastening their planks together with rivets.

gokstad ship

And bear in mind that the Gokstad boat was built entirely without plans, just a shipbuilder with a vision in his mind and a sharp axe in his hand. Exceptional what a person can do with a bit of practice.

Now all of those designs were basically European, Native Americans built canoes from willow and birchbark (literally bark peeled from birch trees and sewn together and sealed with pitch) which were very serviceable for the waters around them.

canoe - birchbark

The Egyptians (inventive people that they were) made very serviceable boats from bundles of reeds. If that seems odd to you, do an internet search for Thor Heyerdahl’s ‘Ra’ expeditions. And speaking of Heyerdahl, if you’ve never read ‘Kon-Tiki’, I highly recommend you do so for it illustrates the capabilities of primitive peoples to build ocean going craft, for Heyerdahl and his cronies built a raft of balsa logs and sailed it from Peru to the South Pacific.


Heyerdahl made a documentary of the subject and won an Oscar for it. As recently as 2012 a re-enactment of the Kon-Tiki voyage was made by none other than Heyerdahl’s grandson called the Tangaroa expedition.

Why do folks do all these things? What is it that makes humans want to build boats and float upon the water? There are all kinds of theories about us humans returning to our ancient roots before we crawled out of the primordial ooze. I can but offer one reason, gained by personal experience.

It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

A to Z challenge

WATER2Writers write for people to read. Unfortunately the response to our work, in this world of immediate feedback, is usually slow. It’s not like the world of the stage actor who knows they’ve done well or screwed up royally by listening to the applause or boos. So sometimes we need a little encouragement or failing that, some definite task to accomplish, a specific goal. To that end, my blogging friends Noelle Granger at SaylingAway and Elizabeth Hein at Scribbling In The Storage Room have been the good friends they are and encouraged me to sign up for the A to Z blogging challenge. The game is to post something every day except Sundays, going through the alphabet from a to z (see how this works) with a different subject every day that begins with the letter of the day. I have chosen the hard way to do this (of course, why wouldn’t I?) to use an overall theme under which the different subjects live. My theme will be Things Nautical, a general theme of things waterborne because it is close to my heart. I love the water, I love to sail (though I don’t make nearly enough time to do it). I’m also lazy, I suppose. Since things nautical are near to my heart I’ll have automatic enthusiasm for writing about it. The shindig kicks off on April 1st (a date I’m suspicious was selected on purpose as a sidelong glance of a comment) and continues until I and the others who are participating finish the alphabet 26 working day later. I hope you’ll tune in and hope you’ll enjoy. Thanks..

woodstock typewriter