Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "Q"

Q - As in "Quarterdeck"

The quarterdeck is a raised deck behind the main mast of a sailing ship. Traditionally it was where the captain commanded his vessel and where the ship's colors were kept. This led to it being used as the main ceremonial and reception area on board, and the word is still used to refer to such an area on a ship or even in naval establishments on land. Many such facilities have areas decorated like shipboard quarterdecks.

Ceremonial use

There are ancient traditions of offering special deference to the quarterdeck. Greek, Roman, and Carthaginian warships all carried shrines which were given special respect. This continued into Christian times, and in medieval British warships, the religious shrine was set up on the quarterdeck. All hands were required to salute it by taking off their hats or caps. This led to the habit of saluting whenever one entered the quarterdeck.

Today, quarterdeck refers not to a specific deck, but to a ceremonial area designated as such by the captain. As in the days of sail, it is a place where the captain has special control and prerogatives.

(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Luckily, I did not use this theme for yesterday's "P" - as in Poop=Deck!
Who knows what image I might have heaved upon you.

Friday, April 18, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "P"

P - as in "PASHA"

No, Pasha is not a boat, nor a harbor. You could say, he's my anchor.

I give you a hint (okay, a big furry hint):

"What's a pasha," I am often asked, and I reply that, just like his name-sake from One-Thousand-and-One-Nights, he sits on silk cushions and surveys his harem which - of course - includes me.

He even has his own blog to which we welcome authors and their animals.
(I wasn't smart enough then to name it after him).

And, yes, he jumped from his cage in our little animal shelter straight into my home and my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "O"

O as in "Offshore Sailing"

(Excerpted from Moments of the Heart,
A Book of Poems and Short Prose)

Offshore Sailing

White Wings on an Ocean
            defying the moon's pull.
The sailor laughs himself
            off the harsh brown land.
His hold crammed for survival,
            he tempts death.

White Wings on an Ocean,
            straining, a billowing team.
The sailor braces against his contrary wheel
            raping the rudder as lines wail taut.
The storm flogs with malice.
White Wings on an Ocean
            screamed into shreds
that bandage the mast. 
            A halyard flails.
Lifelines gone;
            the dinghy torn off.

The sailor weeps for soft green meadows.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "N"

N as in "Not on my Watch!"

Despite our electronic gadgets, including radar, it is always practicing good seamanship to have a man on watch, especially at night. Often, it's a woman--especially when a couple is goes cruising. Then, it becomes paramount - and often the relationship (and sometimes the boat) suffers severely through sleep deprivation.

Here is a brief excerpt from AFTER THE CATACLYSM:

   The last thing Jonathan ever expected to happen to him was to drown on a sailboat anchored in a river. He looked at Sam and Maria, snuggled together, their lips moving. It took him a while to figure out that they were praying. He almost envied them their blind Catholic faith.
   “Not on my watch,” he defied Neptune over the rattling, and the creaking, and the howling. His fist hit the table so hard that it startled the others from their terror-gripped stupor.
   “Nobody’s going to die tonight. Not on my watch.”
   He slid from behind the table and handled himself forward on the well-spaced overhead hand-holds. The wheelhouse, he felt, was the only place for him to prevent them from running afoul of danger. This was where he placed his faith. He checked that everything was secured and tight. Glancing back out into the cockpit, he barely made out the shadow of the mizzen mast. It was still upright.
   Breathing a small sigh of relief, he wondered how bad the inevitable storm surge was going to be. Unable to do anything about it at this point, even Jonathan now retreated back into his half-hidden fear caused by sleep deprivation, mixed with an almost unreasonable hope that they would live to see another day. 
* * *

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A to Z challenge - "M"

M for "Mayday,Mayday."

Researching the purported sightings of the real ghost ship I am fictionalizing in my novel “After the Cataclysm,” I came across an official website that warns mariners of hazards at sea. The dangers that lurk on an apparently empty ocean are as diverse as they seem to be numerous.

Hence, whether you are a sailor or an aviator—or even a radio amateur monitoring those frequencies--these distress signals must instill fear and empathy in your heart especially if the indication is that there is danger of loss of life. You immediately realize that someone, somewhere is in peril. Unless, of course, you are the one sending an SOS out into the ether. Then your fear becomes eclipsed by pure terror.

Most dispatches are banal, devoid of urgency and only those familiar with the way of the sea know what is behind them. Somebody out there is in trouble, and an “assist if possible” and a “sharp lookout” – they always add - may not be sufficient to save someone's life.

These daily messages read something like this:

IN 25-34.73N 078-28.33W.

My heart goes out to those in peril. The sea can be a merciless mistress to those who love her. I may have turned into an armchair sailor, but I still hear the ocean’s siren song. I must follow it; but these days, I do it through my writing.


Monday, April 14, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "L"

L as in "Lyubov Orlova"
(A Ghost Ship)

Headlines from the Daily Mirror (London) - January 24, 2014

We must stay vigilant":
Ghost ship adrift for a year and crewed by CANNIBAL rats 'heading for Britain'

The hulk of cruise ship Lyubov Orlova
has been adrift in the North Atlantic since 2012
with nothing on board but hungry vermin

The hulk of cruise ship Lyubov Orlova has been adrift in the North Atlantic for the past year after being cut loose off the coast of Canada. But now coastguards are reportedly worried the recent storms may have driven her thousands of miles towards our own coastline.
The 300 ft vessel, built 40 years ago in the Soviet Union, has nothing aboard but packs of disease-ridden rodents who are forced to prey on one another to survive. Her current position is unknown despite several high-level searches. Last year satellites picked up an unidentified blip off Scotland large enough to be the ship — but search planes found nothing.
As well as the authorities, salvage hunters — after the 4,250-ton vessel's £600,000 value as scrap — are scouring the seas for any trace of her. They believe the liner is still afloat because its life-raft transmitters have not been activated. If the ship makes landfall it is likely to be on the west coast of Ireland, Scotland or the far southern tip of England.
One searcher, Belgian Pim de Rhoodes, told The Sun: "She is floating around out there somewhere.
"There will be a lot of rats and they eat each other.
"If I get aboard I'll have to lace everywhere with poison."

Named after a Russian actress, the Lyubov Orlova carried up to 110 passengers to destinations across the globe, including the polar regions. However, in 2010 she was impounded in Newfoundland, Canada in a row over debts and deserted by her unpaid crew.
After two years tied up in port, the decision was taken to tow her to the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean where she would be scrapped. But in heavy seas, the tow-line to a tug broke, prompting the Canadian government to send out another ship to drag her far out to sea and release her.
"There have been huge storms in recent months but it takes a lot to sink a vessel as big as that," said Irish coastguard chief Chris Reynolds.
"We must stay vigilant." 

* * *

Unbeknownst to me that this "drama" would hit the news, I was putting on the finishing touches to Book 3 of my "Legends of the Winged Scarab." 

I needed a ship, and - somehow - had found this supposed Ghost Ship months earlier when nobody was paying any attention to her.

I gave her a new name, a new homeport, and a new purpose (not all good),
with a new crew:
"Rats" with two legs, if you will.

Too bad my book launch was only two months later.
I would have enjoyed capitalizing on the brief hype for
"After the Cataclysm."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "K"

K - as in "KHAMSIN"

Can't let this little self-promo opportunity slip by without showing off 
Book 1 of my "Legends of the Winged Scarab" series...

after all, the Khamsin (or Khamseen these days) is a devilish wind that plagues eastern Africa, from its deserts to its shores.


I was  pleased indeed when this Historical Fiction saga was selected an

Editor's Choice at Historical Novels Review, Quarterly Issue, August 2012

If any of you would like to read (and review) this novel (450 pages),
I'd be more than happy to send you a free mobi-file,
or e-pub if you prefer.
Just let me know on my contact page.

Here - to wet your whistle - is the Prologue:

Rih al-Khamsin!”
It was an eerie howl rather than a cry. It multiplied, and it traveled fast. The urgency of the warning sent the inhabitants of the far-flung settlements scurrying. In great haste, children were collected, drinking wells covered, and home sites secured. All against the onslaught of the feared wind whose turbulent airs had gathered strength from far away.
Its father, the Sirocco, was spawned over the hot desert. Before it abandoned its cyclonic origins to reach across the vast stretches of the Great Green Sea, clawing young islands along the way, racing toward the densely forested virgin coast of the primitive Northern Continent, it gave birth to its unbridled son Khamsin, the Devil Wind of the Nile.
This new turbulence then grew into adolescence over the desolate sandy expanses of the great desert, gathering strength and hot dust, reaching merciless maturity as it slammed into the broad Valley of the Nile. With the Khamsin’s arrival, the populace knew to expect accompanying sand storms; and swarms of vermin covered the ground bringing widespread devastation to the already parched land.
Only when the Great Wind’s hot fury was spent, did its evil spirits seem appeased, and the land and its people could breathe anew, and anticipate the life-giving flooding of their river once again.
Just as once again, the principles of Ma’at would be adhered to. It was their cornerstone of all life, of all culture. Its teachings were to suppress all chaos stemming from ones emotions, feelings and reactions. To keep life in absolute order. No deviation was permitted. Those who offended its strict laws were severely punished—often by a cruel death.
But during those enervating days when the incessant wind raged, Ma’at was often breached; usually calm tempers flared; violent crimes were committed. And it was said, that people vanished without a trace.
* * *

Also available in Print (from Amazon)
And in this novel are plenty of boats, from the falucca to temple boats,
to the royal bark;
supply and war barges were rowed up and down the Nile, even in 3080 B.C.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Friday, April 11, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "J"

J - as in "Jamaica"

When I was still young, wholesomely round and adventurous, I flew to Jamaica (shortly after that country's independence; things were a bit dicey for tourists). Staying at a small Jamaican run hotel in Montego Bay, I signed up for a bus tour.

"You are lucky. You the only one today," said the native driver as he honked the horn of his small car. Too embarrassed to say 'no,' I got in. Off we went, chicken and children fleeing in panic across the road.

"Do you mind if we drive into the hills? I need to visit my old school for a certificate." What does one say? These hills, by the way, were called "You no come, me no see." I was a little apprehensive, I grant you that.

After an hour's drive, an open air structure appeared around a bend -- fifty little children stopped their recital of the alphabet. When I sat down among them, we all giggled and recited our tables together (it wasn't easy - I only know them by rode in German).
They 'did see' and 'I did come back.'

It was a most delightful day that included hiking way up into the waterfalls of Ocho Rios, stopping by a family road stand and other sites that I would have never seen on a bus. Things back then were still fairly undeveloped and all there was on Negril Beach was an old lighthouse.

What - no boat story?

That evening, treating myself to a nice dinner out, I met the captain with his executive officers from the aircraft carrier Independence. 

And, yes, one of them was a handsome Top Gun pilot. So there! A most delightful evening.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "I"

I - As in "Interludes"

Sometimes, my curiosity gets the better of me and I reach for stories that are usually out of my comfort zone. True - but, oh so funny and (again) so true.

These are short satires about love, lust and life told with humor - but do they hit home (been there, done that).

There are several other titles, all of which depict the sadly funny side of romance.

I am glad I found this author - who incidentally is also from Austria (which made me curious in the first place) - even though she writes in such a different style than I do; as well as on different topics, to say the least.

I am still grinning - forgetting all about boats (besides, the "I" post I had planned was REALLY boring--unless you were an ocean racer - which I am not).

PS: I stumbled upon this author on Goodreads - but here is the Amazon link to the author page:

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A to Z Challenge - "H"

H - as in "Hurricane"

One "devil wind" I never want to have to face - neither on land nor at sea - is a hurricane. After friends lost their beautiful sailboat (yes, a Valiant-40; the one I used in SIROCCO) during Hugo, I wrote a short story what it must have been like for the two, alone at sea, in a hurricane.

Hugo, the Atlantic’s Misbegotten Child
Excerpt from Moments of the Heart, A Book of Poems and Short Prose
Sometimes, I did wonder where and how I would die. This night, it seemed, held the answer, my murderess not the Atlantic but her misbegotten child Hugo, screeching its dirge over our pristine cutter, ripping our topsides bare. We were sailing miles offshore, likely beyond the saving reach of the Coast Guard.
A dripping figure swathed in stiff foul-weather gear slithered down the companionway, bringing with it the deluge of a following sea.
“Pouch! GPS! Water! Flares!” the bug-eyed monster screamed into my ear.
“Move, Move, Move!” the yellow apparition shouted and shook the diving goggles from his head. Wham! The boat’s death-shudder ripped away another strand of my badly frayed nerves.
Suddenly, it seemed that the noisy freight-train had pushed past us, leaving behind a sudden eerie calm. At least, we were still afloat. Oily water sloshed over my ankles and I shivered with cold. I could not move. My teeth hurt from uncontrolled chattering. There was a searing pain in my right temple. I watched Richard dig for something under the splintered chart table. The stove had wedged itself on top of it, its oven door hanging open like a village idiot’s uncomprehending mouth.
“Christ!” Richard said and laid his gloved hand against my face. “Did the stove hit you?”
“I don’t remember.” I began to dry-heave.
“Hang in there, baby,” he said softly. “Can you help me?”
Help him? How? I couldn’t even move. I wanted to lay my head on his chest and cry my heart out; for me, for him, for our surely doomed Artemesia, our Nevada Tumbleweed, that had helped us forget our desert origins and carried us over thousands of miles of benevolent seas; until this awful night.
“Are we a-b-b-b-abandoning?” My teeth still chattered violently.
“Not yet. We’ll wait,” the lover I had followed into his dream said gently while hurriedly stuffing things into plastic bags.
“Wait for what?” I whispered again.
“We can’t launch the life-raft until after,” Richard said and pulled a foul-weather jacket over my head, careful not to scrape against my blood-encrusted temple.
“Until after what? The water is getting higher in here. Why not now?”
The man I knew to be such a capable sailor didn’t look at me. He smiled with lips that formed a crooked apology. “We are in the eye of the hurricane.”
All of a sudden, I felt myself propelled forward. Pouch! GPS! Water! Flares! I grabbed the long flashlight from under the companionway stairs and practiced:
"Dit-Dit-Dit -- Da-Da-Da -- Dit-Dit-Dit."
Three Short, Three Long, Three Short. S.O.S.
* * *