The weather is delightful here in Key Largo today. It is my favourite type of day. It is raining steadily and the temperature is 82°F (27°C). Mind you; I find this type of day more “favourite” in the summer than the winter… at least the rain part. Yes, there is a reason. The reason is air conditioning.
Air conditioning is “wicked” expensive on a boat. There are many more things which can go wrong with a marine air conditioning unit than a land based machine. After all, land based air conditioning units are not subject to jellyfish committing suicide by inserting themselves into the intake tubes of the cooling system. Land based systems do not offer safe high rent residential property for barnacles and other mollusks. Best of all, most land based air conditioner units can live on a much cheaper “diet” than their seagoing relatives. Land based machines can use electricity provided by the power grid… at around 8 cents per kilowatt/hour. Producing electricity on board costs between 30 and 40 cents per kilowatt/hour. Cool dry air on a boat is many, many times more expensive per BTU than ashore. This is especially true when one adds the operating costs of a generator into the equation.
The M/V Margaret Ashton's Cruisaire Duo... appearing now in the Engine Room!
Sure… you could do it with solar power but you’d require a hectare
of solar collectors and a battery bank the size of the ones on WWII
submarines to accomplish the task. There really is no such thing as
a free lunch. Living aboard a boat really teaches one appreciation
Of course we don’t run the air conditioners for our comfort. Jinna and I are much tougher than that. We have the air conditioners for the comfort of the Chihuahuas. The dogs would be absolutely incensed if they were subjected to any sort of discomfort at all. They’ve never lived an uncomfortable day in their lives. They’ve never even been emotionally uncomfortable. When I die I want to be reincarnated as one of our dogs. Heaven wouldn’t hold a candle to that.
Anyway, back to the reason I like these rainy days. The air conditioners get the day off… and so therefore does our emaciated bank account. Next summer we will cruise the The Great Loop… and we’ll be somewhere in the northern Great Lakes of the US during the heat of summer. That, of course, comes at a price too… but at least the Chihuahuas will be comfortable!
The Poe Box
This is a reprint of an article I wrote and was
published in Elvia Magazine; www.elviamagazine.com in the May 2012
I am a multimedia artist. My goal is to arrive at the crematorium having enjoyed as much happiness as I could while avoiding societal and geographic constraints. If there is to be any icing on the cake I would prefer that my demise occur when I am close to the age of 100… at the hands of a jealous husband. It’s never been enough for me to only think outside the box. I can’t be happy unless both my mind and my “skinny ass” are outside the box. It’s fortunate I feel this way because on the few occasions I have been allowed into the box I have been evicted… sometimes rather unceremoniously!
Seriously though, for those of us “tainted” by the
desire and ability to think outside the box, life has been getting
somewhat more challenging in the post industrial world. We’re
beginning to feel like the proverbial Christian Scientist suffering
from appendicitis. Technology which affords us our alleged benefits
also subjects us to restrictions and controls which metastasize
more rapidly than melanoma… with a similar effect. A plethora of
institutions have coalesced into a sticky web… binding and
suffocating everyone. While the vast majority of humanity derives
comfort from mental slavery, free thinkers recognize the dream as
the nightmare it is. Free thinkers everywhere are battling to
retain control of their thoughts and bodies. Conquistadores, as you
know, have eradicated intellectuals since time immemorial. The
first atrocity perpetrated by tyrants is and always has been the
attempted eradication of knowledge.
As recently as 100 years ago it was still relatively
easy to pack up one’s possessions and head out to the frontier.
There, sparse population and lots of lebensraum meant one could
carve out a life for one’s self free from constraints. Now it seems
that for many of us the only frontier left is between our ears… and
mass media and computers are wearing that away as inexorably as
global warming is reducing the mass of the polar ice caps.
Information about our most personal and innermost thoughts is
extrapolated by electronic means and made readily available to any
institution… to be employed for whatever purpose the institution
desires. It’s getting awfully hard to hide, friends.
Freedom is gone… our activities, beliefs and even
thoughts have been laid bare for all manner of potential oppressors
to scrutinize. That Social Security number (or whatever method of
identification is employed by your government) binds you as surely
as the stoutest chain… but wait… there is one last
I titled this article “The Poe Box.” Edgar A. Poe reportedly said the best place to hide something is in plain sight. A rather large box in your parlour inevitably draws less attention than would the contents of said box if they were out in the open. A boat is a Poe Box. A free thinking person can hide in plain sight in a boat. I know… I have lived on a boat for 35 years and I’m still free!
Boats have been around for a long time. They
undoubtedly substantially predate the wheel. In other words a boat
does not require the technical sophistication of the International
Space Station to be effective. A boat does not even require an
engine. Sails will do just fine. Ferdinand Magellan had no idea
what an engine was and would probably have fled screaming if he had
encountered one. A boat could be as sophisticated as you could
imagine but it does not have to be.
A boat is a good place for an artist. A boat embeds an artist squarely in the vortex of nature. An unending cascade of sensory delights (and some sensations not quite so delightful) inundates the boater. Nature begins at the surface of your epidermis. Life on a boat is not like life on the 23rd floor of a downtown condominium. Of course if condos are your “thing” you certainly have the option of running your boat totally on instruments from a sealed interior cabin… we have the technology!
A boat is not rooted to terra firma. You don’t
pay real estate taxes on a boat. If you stay away from developed
nations you don’t pay any penalties on a boat. You may change
locations as frequently (or infrequently) as you like. You can
float around from Vladivostok to Tierra del Fuego if you so choose.
Remember; the surface of our little blue planet is blue for a very
good reason. It is 75% water. There’s more water every day. Global
warming is making sure of that… whether the Republican Party in the
United States believes it or not.
If your struggle for the legal tender is mainly
cerebral you can easily perform it from the comfort (and anonymity)
of the main saloon on your boat. The internet is just as accessible
from your boat as anywhere on earth. I have a Motorola ‘droid cell
phone with an unlimited data plan. I wrote my latest book The
Borealis; A true story about living aboard while restoring a 90
year old wood boat on my laptop computer then I uploaded it to
amazon.com. All it required was a 12volt battery, an inverter, my
old Dell laptop and the phone.
A boat can be totally green. Our boat is
completely “off the grid.” We can catch our own food. We make our
own drinking water with a reverse osmosis water purification
system. Solar panels collect the energy stored in our ship’s
battery bank. We have our own on board sewage processing plant… no
living bacteria are discharged overboard. We have the capability of
making our own biodiesel fuel.
If you are reading this you are probably an
adventurous person at heart. You probably have entertained, and
doubtless still harbour, thoughts of what it would be like to be
“free”. You’ve probably whiled away many hours pursuing daydreams
of heading out to whatever you personally regard as the “frontier”
and carving out a life for yourself with your own wits and hands.
Well there are good tidings. You can still live the life of an
adventuresome rake but maybe not quite like it was in the
As a direct result of the Industrial Revolution there are now
nearly seven billion people on “our” planet. By the time you read
this there will be seven billion of us. Fifteen minutes after that
there will be 3825 more. That’s right, 255 people are born every
minute into this world. I don’t want to make light of this fact but
sometimes I feel as if every one of them is competing for my
audience. I’m trying to be serious, though. Read on.
There are lots of boats for sale now… fallout
from the recession. Like in the old days, you just have to learn to
do a few things for yourself. You can do this even if you totally
screw everything up like I did!
Jinna, I and our crew of eight Chihuahuas live
on our little trawler. The boat is all we have… no house, no
apartment, no rented hotel room… and thanks to the recession… no
401K or retirement plan. We still number ourselves among the
wealthiest people on our abused little planet… even though we have
less than $50 in the bank except when the Social Security cheque
gets deposited. Within minutes after said deposit the funds are
disbursed to their “rightful” owners and we start waiting for next
month’s deposits. You don’t have to be filthy rich to be free…
we’re certainly not!
So my reason for writing this is to present you
with an alternative idea. A way you can not only think outside the
box but a way you can actually live outside the box. I want to show
to show you that you can do this. It is not too late even though it
is somewhat more challenging than it used to be. There is no time
like the present. This is the best time that ever will be. If we
can do this so can you.
Eavesdropping... a conversation between Lonnie and Trevor about books, writing and other things
Lonnie, give us a little information. Where do you live? How did you become a writer?
My name is Lonnie Dee Robertson. I live on my boat so where I’m based is a tough question. In reality I’m a citizen of the Atlantic Ocean. I follow the sun (or to be more exact, the warm weather).
I have always been a writer. Well, actually I tried to be a cop once but I stopped because I didn’t feel safe when people shot at me. I also could never get the hang of telling other people what to do. So I quit the police department and began writing for newspapers. I have also written, and currently write, for magazines and other periodical publications. I also became a working musician at that time. It was the height of the Vietnam War and I knew a lot of protest songs... yeah, I’m an old hippie.
You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
It was sort of decided for me. I have been graced with, shall we say, a full life. My course hasn’t followed the more common paths. I just never could “colour between the lines.” As a result I amassed considerable experience in quite a few interesting, but to most people, unusual areas. This is fortunate for me because even though I don’t have a good imagination I still have much about which to write which won’t bore people rigid. My parents always told me; “Lonnie, don’t make up stories!” so I had to live the tales I tell. The main drawback is that it’s taking a long time to live them all! Not that I’m complaining, of course...
What have you had published to date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Aside from many and varied stories and articles in magazines and newspapers, the story of my schooner, The Borealis, is my first full length book. You see, writing is not the only thing I do. I am still a performing musician, I just don’t do that many protest songs anymore... not that there isn’t reason to...
My most recent article in the magazine market is entitled The Poe Box. It was published in Elvia Magazine http://www.elviamagazine.com in May of 2012. The story is a conspiratorial piece about living outside the box... really outside the box... and escaping societal constraints by living on a boat. Your readers would love Elvia Magazine. Elvia Magazine is the brainchild of Michelle Anderson. It showcases articles by and about people who think outside the box. Michelle is a gracious and very competent person. Some of your readers may be interested in writing for her.
Oh yeah... the other things I’ve had published are those lovely photos in the post office. You know... They have one picture of me looking straight ahead and another one looking to the side. I get to hold this cute little sign with numbers on it! The first word in the caption is “Wanted” followed by “Dead or Alive.” The best part is they were published for free!
Regarding your question about a pseudonym... this one you’ll never believe... but here goes; I write under my real name but I live my life under a pseudonym. My life is pretty much backward in other regards too.
You see, as a writer I can write any time I feel the urge (or the pressure of a deadline). But my “other” occupation is more constricting and it is backwards to normal people. Most people work from 9 to 5. Musicians work from 5 to 9. Most people work so they can play. Musicians play for work. Most professionals “practise”... musicians actually have to do the job; they practise to get the ability to work. Most people retire after a career... musicians starve to death. Sorry, we’re talking about writing here.
You’re self-published… how did you decide go your own way?
Going my own way? Hmmm... Being asked to leave... Unending rejection... being shunned by my fellow man (and most disturbingly; woman)... no, just kidding, actually I decided to self-publish because of my work experience.
I have a solid background in print, copywriting, layout and design. More importantly than that, however, was the circumstance of my birth. I was born at night... but not last night.
My four decades of experience in the music business has taught me what rejection is. Staying alive as a performer gave me a clear grasp of who gets the gigs and why they get them. Looking at publishing through that lens assured me I would be over six hundred years old before I would ever get a main stream publisher to accept my manuscript... unless I could figure out which palms had to be greased with “silver.” Even then I would have had to amass the required “silver;” ensuring beyond a doubt that I wouldn’t make a cent until at least my sixth book.
Are your books available as eBooks? Do you read eBooks do you like paper better?
I don’t want to imply I’m obsessed by success (or terror of starvation) but my books are available in all formats, even PDF. I’ll happily supply hand written copies (by special order) penned by authentic Egyptian scribes. I’m so eager to please my customers that if they wish I’ll personally visit them, recite the bloody book aloud and even throw in a few sea chanties! If they are good enough customers I might even throw in my Michael Jackson impression completely gratis. After all I’m already, in effect, writing pro bono; aren’t I?
As to eBooks; I personally love eBooks. I live on a boat. Not only do I lack sufficient space for a traditional library but any book stored on a boat is absolutely certain to be ruined by a thorough soaking in sea water. And don’t delude yourself; the salt content of the water will not prevent mold! I do have some books on the M/V Margaret Ashton but they can no longer be opened. The ocean has transformed them into something more like bricks than books. They do, however, grow some truly fascinating mold cultures! As they say across the channel “la mer ne pardon pas”
For a brief moment of seriousness, though, I believe for reasons green and otherwise that eBooks are the future of publishing. I like the way hyperlinks, beautiful colour photos and even audio and video files can be easily... and more importantly CHEAPLY included in eBooks. It’s the way to go, man!
Do you make up your own titles? Do you design and make your own book covers? How important do you think titles and covers are important? Do you make the decisions on these things or do you rely on outside advice?
I make all the decisions... for example; I decided to obey my wife. Unfortunately almost all of my other decisions have been... well... wrong. I do everything where production is concerned. I am a photographer and also a competent fine artist. So cover design is easily accessible to me. That, however, creates its own problem; what I personally find attractive is evidently not what sells best.
I think the title and cover are supremely important. In the case of my latest offering I prostrated myself before the altar of commerce so to speak and followed what I perceived to be the latest and best advice from the “moguls of marketing.” Thus the title to “The Borealis” is the closest I could come to a description of the content of the book whilst incorporating what Google claims are the best “key words.” I personally hate the title... it is longer than the bloody book... Thank God for “control-c” on the keyboard.
As to the cover; I guess I am a bit of a slacker there. I couldn’t help it. I was knackered just writing the bloody title. I decided to use a picture of the decrepit old tub the way she was when we began the crusade of rebuilding her. The Gods at Google would doubtless have advised a steamy graphic of a hot bird being ravished by the most modern incarnation of Errol Flynn but I decided to risk literary hara kiri by using a photo of the old albatross instead. What’s the difference... it’s going to be a failure anyway!
Heck... I’m already a failure. My acquaintances call me Habib the Failure. My really close acquaintances call me ‘Ol Chumbucket. I don’t actually have any friends so I can’t speculate what they would call me. It definitely wouldn’t be complementary...
What are you working on at the moment?
At this exact moment I’m doing my level best to be as entertaining as possible in this interview. If this goes like the rest of my life I should probably make the appropriate apologies now... but I’ll keep going anyway:
The book you and I are discussing today is the first part of the story of my involvement with The Borey. I am working on the second and final book in the pair. It is even more bizarre than the book we are discussing. The first book consumed around 460 pages... a real bloody hog. So I thought I had better break the story in half to keep it from becoming any more unwieldy. So the short answer is I’m working on the end of the story; Or... as Paul Harvey would say (if he were still among the quick)... “And now my friends... the rest of the story!”
The long answer (I’m good at long answers... I’d make a great MP) is that I spend between eight and ten hours per day marketing the book. I am trying to reach everyone in what I perceive as my market with my homemade Rube Goldberg advertising campaign.
Through my marketing I am trying to create a persona, or brand, in the social marketing circles... to cultivate a customer base.
This is something else I learned in the music business. I spent my career performing other peoples’ compositions. Wait... before you condemn me... let me say that not writing original music is not a crime. Lots of really great musicians have never written a single note; for two examples people like Vladimir Horowitz (he plunked about on the piano) and Christopher Parkening (he strums a bit on the guitar) are certainly no slouches where music is concerned.
I say this to illustrate that I feel it is very important to have readers (or listeners) follow me as a person. Writing and performing have much in common. The same people who read will also enjoy music. If I just promote this book I will have to repeat the entire process with every other book. However, if I promote me maybe my supporters (all three of ‘em) will be interested in the other entertainment I can provide for them. I anticipate it will take two years or more of hard work to even begin to reach my market potential. Then I will be able to see some return. In addition to those two things I’m doing now; TropiCelts! maintains a full performance schedule... we have to work for those simoleans! (Well, OK quarters...)
Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
I do write every day. I maintain my blog... Through the Porthole... and also work on the second book. I never suffer from “writers block” because I’m reciting the story of what actually happened in my life. I just try to communicate it in a way which produces laughter in my custome... excuse me... I mean readers.
Oh, yeah, there’s something else I write every day. Since I was twelve years old (back when we scribes were still using clay tablets and a cuneiform stylus) I have kept a very meticulous daily journal. Sometimes obsessive compulsive disorder can be used to one’s advantage. These journals together approach the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannica... remember those? If I ever wanted to commit a truly heinous crime I would publish the journals. That would be the literary equivalent of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I’m not that mean though.
Oh, damn it Trevor... I can’t lie. I’ve been trying to sound soooo cynical, tough and professional but I do suffer writers block. I suffered it this very morning. The proprietor of the marina wherein my boat is berthed knocked on my hull and asked for his rent cheque... again... Even though I’m ambidextrous, Trevor, no matter how desperately I tried I could not get either one of my hands to grip my writing utensil. There... It’s off my chest.
Do you do a lot of editing or do you pretty much get it down in the first draft?
I don’t find myself doing a lot of editing. This really is the way I talk. I’m naturally self-deprecating, sarcastic and snide. Not only that but I’m unforgivably cynical, misanthropic and I have gallows humour! I do have one saving grace; I’m not rude. Editing this stuff would only make it more disgusting than it already is. For instance; this interview was pretty nice before I went back over it... and now look what’s happened!
Do you have to do much research?
I probably should... but where would I look? Sometimes I have to scramble to remember exact dates but again I am writing a chronicle of what really happened. While the occurrences I impart were normal in my life they still left an indelible impression on what still passes for my cerebral cortex! Besides, what’s not in my memory I can look up in my diaries.
Do you have stuff you think will never see light of day?
Trevor, I’ll be shocked apoplectic if anything I write ever sees the light of day. Well, I suppose I should be accurate... it may see the light of day but I have an unshakable belief that no one but me will ever actually read it!
Do you pitch your articles and books or are you commissioned to write?
I was commissioned to write back in the newspaper and magazine days. Now I’m speculating like everybody else. I make more pitches than those “guys on the mound” in professional baseball... more pitches than you see in the longest cricket match, even more pitch than it took to fill the seams in all the ships of the line under the command of Lord Nelson. I’m so used to it that I can’t even stop myself. I’m a little like the kleptomaniac who helps himself because he can’t help himself. Trevor; Please buy my book... it took me years to write it won’t you take a look?... it’s based on a novel by a man named Lear... I need a break and I wanna be a pa... oh, sorry.
Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Trevor! How could you possibly ask me that? REJECTIONS the man says... My mother put me up for adoption on the very day I tumbled wet and bloody from the womb... and we had been so close all the time she was pregnant. It all started then and went downhill from there. Musicians LIVE on rejection. Why do you think my biggest goal in life is to be able to afford a pizza with everything? You’ve certainly decided by now to reject this interview. If you haven’t you must be doing some kind of penance.
How do I deal with rejection? I have had a modicum of success with crawling up into the chain locker in the bow of the M/V Margaret Ashton, laying in the dark on the pile of salt, mud and crustacean encrusted anchor chain and whimpering.
Do you enter any non-fiction competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
I never enter competitions. Competitions have to be judged. Who are the judges? Are they being paid off like everybody else from preachers to politicians? (Wait a minute..., that’s the same thing isn’t it?)
I can see writing being judged on the basis of grammar. I can see writing being judged on the basis of spelling and punctuation. One may be judged on mechanics... but certainly not on content. How can anyone be qualified to judge what happened when I spent three years living under a live oak tree in the Florida Everglades... with no electricity... no running water... and no toilette? The alleged judge would have had to have lived an almost identical story to have the qualifications to pronounce “judgement.” Even then it would be subjective... there is simply no way to be objective about it. In the end it boils down to whether the reader likes the story. If there is any competition it exists only with each and every individual reader. Heck, I don’t play the lottery either... losing is guaranteed. One has a greater chance of being struck by lightning that winning the lottery... and I have a snowball’s chance in Hades of winning a writing contest.
Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Here we see another crossover in the arts. I don’t use agents for my writing. Nor do I use them in the music business. I am very covetous of writers and entertainers who have agents. Agents have business sense. A competent agent would be the best thing that could happen to me. Unfortunately though, agents have to make a living (unless they are on the dole). Therefore they must necessarily be disposed to representing writers who have a proven sales record. If I were an agent I would like to have GRR Martin or even Danielle Steele as my client. I could not afford to spend time spinning my wheels in a fruitless attempt to sell Lonnie Dee Robertson! The best I could do would be to place Lonnie’s latest tome on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble... Well, hell! I can do that myself and pay no commission. I don’t even expect my wife Jinna to do any marketing for me. If by some miracle I did achieve some tiny modicum of success I would be better served by a lawyer. If I got really successful maybe I could avail myself of the services of a lawyer and a tax advisor. You know; someone to handle the intricacies of contract negotiations and hiding income in the Cayman Islands or something.
How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
I devote between eight and ten hours per day every day to beating the bushes. I follow up all leads and personally have answered both people who contacted me... yes, Trevor, you’re the second... you would have been first ‘cept for Mom.
I actively pursue every avenue and lead I can find in the nautical
field. Anyone interested in boats is a potential satisfied
customer. I know I have to sell each and every one of them
individually. I schedule book presentations at any forum that will
have me which serves the boating world. Because I am an experienced
performer I feel totally comfortable in front of an audience. I try
to make my listeners laugh but at the same time I impart technical
and useful knowledge to them... something they can take home and
use on their own boats... and lots of other places. But I always
leave ‘em laughin’ even if I use myself as the butt of the
What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
My favourite part of writing is the excitement I feel in the process of writing. I get giddy about what I’m saying and how I’m saying it. When I go back and read my books and articles I enjoy them. I like reading what I wrote. I don’t really care if anyone else likes it. I deeply care about whether they will buy it! But Trevor, if I don’t like it how can I expect the reader to like it?
The aspect of writing I like least is not really writing at all. It’s the endless marketing. Man, I’d rather take my little boat and go to the beach or just ride around. I live in the Florida Keys. It is one of the most beautiful and comfortable places on our little blue planet... well... to me it is. If I’m going to be a success at selling this stuff I have work tirelessly to sell it. Slacking off isn’t going to “Git ‘er done” as the rednecks around here so eloquently put it. So I never take a day off.
Has anything surprised me? Yeah, I’m shocked speechless you let me do this interview!
What advice would you give aspiring writers?
If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Well, Trevor, let’s get this confession out of the way: I don’t know how to cook. As I would put it at a Takeaway Addicts Anonymous meeting; “Hello everyone... I’m Lonnie Robertson and I’m a tin opener.” So it’s the take away containers for me.
Now as to whom I would invite and from what era; Jeez...that’s a tough one, Trevor. I guess first of all I’d like to invite someone deeply involved in tracking sales in the “book biz.” The era? Let’s say 2018... March 26th... yes... March 26th 2018 would be good. This unnamed balding bean counter, from the world’s most accurate book sales tracking site will be able to, over lukewarm containers of Moo Goo Gai Pan and General Jor’s Chicken, be able to confirm that the five copies of my book purchased from CreateSpace six years ago are still in that dusty warehouse in the empire of Amazon Dot Com.
The second person I would invite would be Kurt Vonnegut. I would invite Kurt in the present. I wouldn’t invite him to the same party as the bean counter though. I couldn’t bear the embarrassment. I would serve Jamaican Jerk Chicken because the Pissant Hilton was in the Caribbean. You know... Jerk Chicken... you’re a jerk if you eat it and a chicken if you don’t. The Jamaicans immolate the chicken whole (and in some cases... unplucked), smear the remains with Habanero peppers (unless they can find something hotter). Then they chop it into bits with a rusty, dirty machete. I would, however, invite Kurt for the same reason I invited the aforementioned bean counter. You see, on Tralfamador, a planet in one of Kurts novels, time occurred all at once. It was not linear like it is for us. Time was sort of an all inclusive temporal painting... like da Vinci’s Last Supper... except instead of a “discipular panorama” you would see all of time at once. Sort of like you can see all the disciples at once in the Last Supper. So on Tralfamador nothing was forever... not even failure like mine! Only forever was forever! Kurt and I could communicate by breaking wind and tap dancing like true Tralfamadorians. He could tell me how to write a decent book. I would take his advice... then I could say; “Well, at least I’m not a failure anymore.”
The third person I would invite would be my biological mother... whatever her name was. I would serve crow. Crow wing appetizers with hot sauce. Crow chowder. Roast stuffed crow for the main course. For dessert... yup... crow a-la-mode. Crow T. Robot. I would invite her on the evening of July 13 1947. I would thereby interrupt her plans for that evening. This would metamorphose to the Latin phrase; coitus interruptus. The result would be that she would not be burdened with lugging around a concealed weapon... me... for nine excruciatingly uncomfortable months. I would be absolved of the burden of trying to market this bloody book... and a whole lot of other unpleasantness as well!
Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
I can’t think of a more lovely sound than a knock on the side of the boat followed by a cheerful and lusty: “Domino’s Pizza Delivery!
Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Let’s see... I forged a medical certificate so we could get our job performing on the QEII... or was it the Regent Star? Then there was that letter to the draft board during the Viet Nam War... I know there were a number of other sordid things but memory at my age...
What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks?
TropiCelts! performs frequently (as frequently as we can... bills, you know). Speaking of bills; my bills make me feel like a Pelican. No matter which way I turn there’s a huge bill in front of me!
Of course the boat takes a good bit of maintenance. We actually rebuilt it ourselves... with our own grubby little hands. We purchased the vessel with two seized engines and a seized generator. The boat also had no interior. Hey, when you’re a writer/musician you have to take what you can get.
It took us nearly a year to build the interior. At the time we had a very complete wood shop. When we purchased the wood for the boat it still had leaves, limbs and bark on it. The only thing we didn’t have to do was cut the trees down ourselves. We did all the milling ourselves. Then we constructed the complete interior and even built an enclosed wheelhouse on the flying bridge. She is the second boat we have built from a total wreck. The Borealis, featured in my book, was the first boat. We eventually sold the Borey to another victim and purchased the trawler upon which we now live. I have hand carved all the cabinet doors out of solid tropical hardwoods. My connections in Central America and West Africa really come in handy when it comes to exotic wood.
Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
I participate a lot in Linkedin. There are many people on Linkedin in the same boat as I’m in. We’re all trying to figure out how to make a decent living as artists. Linkedin also provides me direct access to potential markets for my products and services. With Linkedin I can bypass the gatekeepers and stroll right into the president’s office. You can’t be a blatant spammer but with a little politeness you can reach the real decision makers. The people I contact are very understanding. They are businessmen too and have problems and challenges similar to the ones I face. If you have a product for a niche market Linkedin can efficiently steer you to knowledge and customers in that market. I have not accumulated enough experience yet to have truly mastered the intricacies... but I can clearly recognize the potential. Plus... Linkedin has discussion groups who deal with how to use Linkedin. Linkedin had doubled its size in the last year. That is very bloody impressive. I highly recommend any writer in any genre to join Linkedin.
I also maintain a presence on Facebook. I do not have the same enthusiasm for Facebook I do with Linkedin, Twitter or Google+. I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense at all but the best way I can describe it is Facebook is... well... blue collar. That is the feeling I get from it. I maintain my page there and communicate without fail with those who “like” me... and I very much appreciate them. But I always come away from a Facebook session feeling as if I have been speaking a foreign tongue incompetently.
What do you think the future holds for writers?
Well that depends on who the writer is. The future looks decidedly bleak for me; but I’d say it’s pretty rosy for J.K. Rowling and G.R.R. Martin.
Seriously though I think because of the Internet and its unlimited opportunities for distribution and sales, the future has never been brighter for writers. The question is not; will the writing sell? The real question is how does one learn to use the available technology to identify and serve the micro-market with which one is endeavouring to connect. The Internet is without question almost as big an event in history as the invention of the mouldboard plow. It has completely revolutionized the way we “human beans” communicate with one another. Rather than the major corporations, churches and governments deciding what we consumers will be fed we now have the chance to decide for ourselves. WE MUST JEALOUSLY GUARD THIS OPPORTUNITY.
Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Probably the United States Department of Corrections... or do they still call it The Bureau of Prisons. No, that’s not it. The best way would probably be Twitter, Linkedin, My Facebook page but especially Jinna’s and my website. Another place to look would be homeless shelters, refugee camps... and possibly the Salvation Army Soup Kitchen.
Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Well... y-y-yes... Its 1945 and I’ve been working on this since 0930... could I go to the bathroom, please?
We’re still in Key Largo. Key Largo is almost in the tropical zone
and that fact becomes more and more evident with every passing day.
Today is the midpoint in May… May 15th. That is pretty obvious
because the climate has metamorphosed to the summer pattern. In
other words it’s hot. Il fait (to use the French phrase) over
ninety degrees and the relative humidity is
running neck and neck with the temperature. We’re still not running
the air conditioners during the day though.
Sales haven’t been good in the music business… not for a couple of years. We don’t have the testicular fortitude to discuss sales in the book biz. No matter how hard we market we can’t seem to book any more than one or two jobs every month. That affects how we think of our air conditioners. Mechanical devices only last so long…, and then they break down. They have to be fixed or replaced. That would require the money from the jobs we don’t have. One of our air conditioners is already in extremis. Therefore we are only running one of our air conditioner units and then only at night. Fortunately it is the one in our cabin… the aft cabin. As most of you know it is a lot easier to sleep when one is surrounded by cool, dry air… especially when three or four dogs are assigned to each of us.
Social distance is different for dogs. You know… social distance. It’s the distance you maintain between yourself and the acquaintance, stranger, friend or family member to whom you are speaking. For example; if you are speaking to a friend who is a member of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if you are so inclined… it’s the same thing) you may be inclined (pun intended) to reduce the distance betwixt you. If, on the other hand, it is a family member with whom you are endeavouring to interact, you may be trying to resist the overwhelming temptation to run shrieking away. Mostly humans seem to stand approximately three feet away from each other. Three feet of elbow room feels about right to the average descendant of Lucy.
Like I said; social distance is different for dogs. To a dog, if he is your friend, social distance is nonexistent. The dog will be happiest if his entire body is pasted to your face. After all you’re pack mates. Eight dogs live with us… well actually now it’s only seven… The Wah succumbed to his congenital heart problem last July but I still think of him as being here. It’s hard to tactilely perceive the difference between seven dogs and eight. Each of our dogs shares the same idea where social distance is concerned.
This brings us back to Key Largo in the summer… and air conditioners. The dogs’ dedication to their perception of social distance is unshakable. They prefer all of us to sleep in direct contact with each other… including Jinna and I… obviously we are pack members too. Truth be known they prefer this state of propinquity sleeping of not… 24/7.
Dogs perceive discomfort differently than humans. Dogs operate under a different system of values too. Your average dog will put up with a huge amount of discomfort in order to maintain his preferred social distance. This reveals another interesting fact about dogs; to be specific; dog metabolism. Dogs’ normal temperature is one degree higher than the normal temperature of a human. While this does not seem like a lot it can be quite noticeable at 0300 in the close confines of a trawler cabin when three to four dogs are so close to you that you couldn’t slip a razor blade between you. At least dogs don’t sweat like humans and horses. A pack of Chihuahuas can put out a shocking number of BTUs… especially if they are pasted to you.
That is why the air conditioner is so essential. It is important because, surprisingly, Chihuahuas are excellent howlers. You think hounds bay? You’ve never heard a pack of Chihuahuas. Another attribute of Chihuahuas is that they never give up. Any Chihuahua… or group of Chihuahuas will yip and howl nonstop until (s)he gets what (s)he wants. Chihuahuas exhibit more dedication than Bulldogs. None of the Chihuahuas will tolerate expulsion from the cabin. When they all achieve full song it is more impressive than the Mormon Tubercular Choir. It is the hounds of the Baskervilles on steroids.
We are dedicated to keeping our air conditioner in working order. Prolonged lack of sleep could result in psychosis. We are already certifiably insane. Donations to the air conditioner maintenance fund will be graciously accepted.
After several months of hard work Jinna's new book; Living Aboard With Eight Chihuahuas, is now available here on the website and also at Amazon.com. It's Jinna's first foray into writing a full length book. The book supplies readers with a lot of very useful information about the day to day challenges of coexisting with dogs on a small boat. She also goes into considerable detail about the history of the Chihuahua breed. Also of interest are several anecdotal vignettes of other dogs in other situations. Some of these are quite fascinating. It is truly amazing what mans' best friend is capable of.
Jinna decided to make the book available in eBook format because of the high content of images. Colour images in a print book would make the volume prohibitively expensive and Jinna felt that the proliferation of eReaders like Nook, Kindle, Sony Readers and iPads... not to mention the ease with which readers can view the book on their PCs and Macs made the eBook a more viable choice. As an eBook we can afford to offer it at less than the price of a pint of Guinness at the local pub! As a matter of fact you can even read an eBook on your smart phone. Better still you can go to the pub, drag your smartphone out of your pocket or purse, order a pint and read the book while you sip your stout! Folks, it doesnt get any better than that!
Part of the book is written as if the dogs themselves are writing it. Actually, I'm a bit apprehensive that the dogs may be better at written communication than I am. Be sure to get your copy soon and see how boating appears from the canine point of view. I am not going to go into any greater depth because I don't want to ruin the story... but you're gonna love it!
My grandfather was a
I know that sounds
like a line purloined from the song James Taylor entitled
“Millworker” but in my case it is true… my father’s father was a
sailor. I’m certain James Taylor would not have written “my
father’s father was a sailor” in the song if only because it would
not have fit the rhyme scheme. It would have had to have been a
totally different song! I am also reasonably confident James will
forgive me and not take umbrage at my “borrowing” the phrase he
copyrighted in Millworker.
My grandfather, (whom
I know owned a Bible because I inherited it) immigrated to the
United States from the area around Bergen, Norway back in the late
1800’s. This wasn’t a particularly novel idea for a Norseman…
Norsemen had, after all, been frequenting the North American coast
since around 900 AD. From your school days you no doubt recall
intrepid sailors and explorers like Eric the Red and Leif Ericsson.
Do you remember learning about the ruins of the Viking settlements
in Greenland and on the rocky shores of Newfoundland? My family
doesn’t go back quite that far but they do go back to around 1604.
Some of them started “messing about in boats” back
Being a “Norwegian
Squarehead Sailor” my grandfather had more than a casual
familiarity with, and an affinity for, the sea. He made his meager
living (a condition he and I endure in common) after coming to the
new world by working as a seaman on the lumber and fishing
schooners that plied the waters off New England and the Canadian
maritime provinces. The tall ships he worked on hauled lumber from
Maine and fished the Georges Bank and the Grand Banks of
Newfoundland. He was, as circumstances happened and as you will
learn, one of the first of his family who would part company with
the sea. The family hiatus from the sea was short because a mere
two generations later I became the first one to return to the sea.
I sincerely tried to live ashore but a fellow just can’t seem to
get away from the sea.
Long ago in those
days before the very early twentieth century not too many people
messed about in boats just for fun. It was the very beginning of
the Industrial Revolution and the idea of leisure time for any but
the uppermost members of the upper classes was undreamt of. The
workers could bloody well sleep when they were dead! They would get
their reward in Heaven! Members of the upper classes apparently get
there reward both here and in Heaven! Boats in those days provided
a way to make a living… albeit a very hard won living… for many
people in the earlier days of the USA.
America had the
largest whaling fleet in the world long ago in those times. As hard
as it is to believe today there were no ships registered in
Liberia, Panama or the Bahamas. The seven seas of the Earth were
chock-a-block with ships from Nantucket, Gloucester and New
Bedford. Whale oil produced in the try works on those ships
provided light and lubrication for the blossoming industrial
revolution. Baleen from brutally murdered leviathans served as the
“plastic” of the day… everything from combs to skirt hoops was made
It is a good thing
oil was discovered in Pennsylvania at the time it was because most
of the great whales were dead by that time. As the legacy of that
carnage, to this day there is uncertainty whether the great whales
can somehow claw their way back from the precipice overlooking the
abyss of extinction. So by the beginning of the twentieth century
whale oil had “peaked” to use the currently popular expression.
Today the corporations spawned in the filthy ponds of waste
generated by the Industrial Revolution rule all of our lives on
this planet. Ain’t greed wonderful?
I guess I got a little carried away… sorry… let’s get back to grandfather.
The main reason my
grandfather bailed out of “boating” was to preserve his health. To
put it another way; he wanted to stay alive. At the time of his
departure from the maritime trade he was working as a seaman on a
top’s’l schooner which hauled lumber. On what would become his last
voyage his ship had loaded a cargo of lumber and was headed “Down
Maine” to deliver the merchandise to New York.
The way my
grandfather told the story it was late one night during the 0000 to
0400 watch when the ship struck something unseen below the surface
of the water. As a result of the collision she stove in her
starboard side immediately abaft of the bow. Although they tried to
cover the resultant gaping wound with a patch made from pitch,
planks, matting and sailcloth, they were only marginally successful
in slowing the leak and the rising water within the ship even
though they pumped like madmen.
Back in those days
ships were carvel planked. That means the planks were laid edge to
edge and fastened with iron nails to sawn or steam bent frames. The
seams between the planks were caulked with cotton batting pounded
into the seam then sealed, or payed, with pine pitch or coal tar.
(This is why sailors are sometimes referred to as “Jack Tar”) A
collision would not only hole the ship but could also cause
separation between the planks for a substantial distance radiating
from the site of the collision. All of these separations, or sprung
planks, would leak like the commonplace sieve.
Ships in those days
did not have powered bilge pumps… well, I guess you could say they
were powered… by “Armstrong”. Two or more men would operate a
rocker pump manually to eject the water. The pumps looked like
those fire brigade pumps you see in old movies or cartoons. The
amount of water they could move was in direct proportion to two
factors. First; the pumpers’ level of abject terror of drowning.
Second the amount of fear instilled in them by the captain through
the person of the bos’n. Like they used to say; “Floggings will
continue daily until morale improves!”
I recounted earlier that the ship was hauling lumber on my grandfather’s last cruise. As you may or may not be aware logging is best accomplished in the winter. This is because the “sap is down” in the trees. This means that the lumber is easier to mill because the saws do not get clogged with a mixture of sap and sawdust. The resulting glue like substance seriously slows down the milling process and requires frequent cleaning of the equipment. In addition to that, lumber milled while the “sap is up” also is harder to work when it reaches its end user. This is particularly true where lumber from coniferous trees is concerned. A lot of the wood they hauled was white cedar and it is particularly “sappy.” About the only thing sappy wood is good for is making pitch and turpentine. Jack Tar. Ask any old duffer from Georgia or north Florida! Even in that early time industrialists had adopted the axiom that time is money so they were interested in raw material that could be machined quickly. Stopping frequently to clean out the machinery was counterproductive and reflected badly in the bottom line.
The bad news
precipitating from this situation with the sap was that, as a
result, a lot of the shipping was done in the winter time. The
waters off America’s northeast coast are not particularly warm in
the summer time. In the winter a dip in the sea would be, shall we
say, extremely uncomfortable to put it mildly. Let’s just say you
were forced overboard in, for instance, a strong nor’easter… I
think you get the gist. One of the lessons learned as a little
bonus from the sinking of the Titanic was that folks don’t live
very long in frigid water… no matter how calm it is.
Now once again, we return to dear old grand dad. The crew had done their level best to stanch the flow of icy seawater into the ship. Unfortunately as hard as they worked and as feverishly as they pumped they were not able to quite keep up with the inflow. There was a lot of “head” on that hole and a net gain in the volume of undesirable water in the ship. By the time the ship had settled to main deck level it was definitely deemed prudent to come up with a better plan.
Fortunately for them
their course led them along the coast… so after the ship went down
the journey to shore was not too long… extremely damp and not
really comfortable… but it was not as bad as the trip to shore
from, for example, the Whaler “Essex” out of Nantucket. Remember
the Essex? If you don’t, suffice it to say that if you ever want to
read a really chilling tale you’ll love the Essex. The whale’s
gotta win sometime, right?
Unlike the crew of the Essex, the whole ship’s company from my grandfather’s schooner made it ashore in several small boats. They staggered up the beach somewhere near Portsmouth New Hampshire. When the soles of my grandfather’s sea boots made contact with the snow covered New Hampshire soil he laid in a new course for himself. He and his shipmate, who had signed on as ship’s cook, decided that a change of occupation would be just the thing. It was not the first disastrous calamity at sea for either one of them. Unfortunately this plan for early retirement conflicted with the views of not only the ship’s captain but of the company for whom the captain worked. Their position was that employees should preferably work until they died. Failing that they should at least work until the end of their contract. In the opinion of my grandfather and his friend the cook, they had honored that requirement closely enough. So they hid in a haystack for three days until the heat died down.
Upon emerging from
the haystack my Grandfather and the cook brushed themselves off,
wished each other well and thereupon parted forever.
Figuratively speaking my grandfather began walking west with an anchor over his shoulder. He walked until someone asked him what it was… and settled there. He became a dirt farmer in Illinois and never went to sea again. As I said I am the first of his descendants to be adventuresome (crazy) enough to go back to the sea as a way of life.
This, however, is not
a story about my grandfather. It is a story about the Borealis…
designed by John Alden (John ‘O Boston) and built by George Lawley
& Sons in Neponset Massachusetts. She was hull #202 and
launched long ago in 1923. By then my grandfather had married a
German immigrant’s daughter and was raising six children working
his ass off as a sharecropper on an 80 acre dirt farm out in
Illinois. A couple of years later he would become an even more
permanent part of the great Midwest when he was buried in that
Illinois topsoil… a youthful victim of pneumonia.