Red over Red

Red over Red

Thursday, September 19, 2013

One Long Two Short...

Sailing Vessel Making Way in the Fog...

Okay, here we go for Post II of...

When last we saw our unlikely hero (that would be me) he was living aboard a Newport 27 (sailboat) in Marina Del Rey, sick of the Los Angeles scene but unsure what to do next. Then, one fateful morning, he read about the imminent arrival of the replica Golden Hinde II.

Golden Hinde II

Reading about this sailing ship, I realized that this is what I had always wanted to do (notice the subtle transition from third to first person? Writer's Tip #2: Don't do that, it's actually pretty awkward.)

Which leads to Writer's Tip #3: Don't try writing, as I am doing, before your first cup of coffee.

Where the hell was I?

Oh, yeah. So the day the ship comes in I took a long lunch from the TV production company I was working at and went down to see her arrive. Magnificent. What a beautiful ship, coming in with those big topsails set, guns firing. Then I look down on the dock, and there is this beautiful woman dressed in 16th Century sailor garb, her great mop of hair done up in a bandanna, pistol in her belt. (For more on women going to sea - in the bad old days - see Linda Collison's terrific article on her blog) For some reason it had not occurred to me there would be women on the crew. This lovely creature had come in on the support vessel and was standing by to catch dock lines.

Support Ship Sea Surveyor - we loved her as much as we loved the Hinde

Wow! thinks I. And even as I write this, that lovely woman, Lisa, is now making lunch for our four kids on the other side of the house and getting them ready for school. So girls, let this be a lesson to you. Not sure what the lesson is, but let it be a lesson...

Beautiful women, beautiful ship, what's not to like? I didn't even know where the ship was going, but I talked with the owner and he said to come by the next day for an interview. Next morning, early and as bright as I get, I stepped into the office aboard the support ship Sea Surveyor and saw a schedule board on the wall with "Los Angeles" blocked out for a few weeks, then "San Diego" for a month and then "Panama Canal Trip" for two months and I thought Yesssssss!!!

The Hinde was (is) a beautiful ship. She was built by traditional shipwrights in Appledore, England and launched on April 5, 1973 (my eleventh birthday. Coincidence? I think not) She was sailed to San Francisco for the 400th anniversary of Drake's having landed in that area and then no one knew what to do with her. She hung around the Bay Area for a while and then in 1979 she sailed across the Pacific to appear in the TV miniseries Shogun  (you date yourself if you admit to remembering that one). Then she returned to England where she festered in a marina for years until the marina owner, Roddy Coleman, bought her and took her back to the US for a five year tour. That's when I joined her, under the ownership of the notorious Roddy.

Under the heading of "Youth is wasted on the young" I was way to inexperienced to appreciate what a great ship she was, so authentic in every detail. She even smelled the part with copious amounts of pine tar. Despite my lack of square rig experience I was made boatswain a few months after joining. Lisa wanted the job, but I got it. That's when she swore she would marry me and make me pay for the rest of my life.

We sailed from San Diego in October of 1988 and transited the canal. Beautiful as the ship was, she was the slowest vessel and the poorest sailor, with the most unkindly motion at sea of any vessel I have been on. I recall being passed by a massive oil tanker on the approaches to Panama. They radioed over and informed us they were nine days out of Alaska. We told them we were twenty-eight day out of San Diego. Slow boat.

The Hinde in heavy weather in the Gulf of Tehuantepec in Mexico
Finally got into Brownsville, Texas, in December, 1989. My intention had been to sail with the Golden Hinde for six months, get the whole sailing thing out of my blood, and go back to resume my career in Hollywood. Instead, I was gone for a year, and when I did finally return to Los Angeles it was to sell everything I owned, pack up the motorcycle and head off to the next ship.
Me and Lisa aboard the Hinde. She's wearing my shirt. I've know the girl
for a month and a half and already she's stealing my clothes.
The sailing bug was far from cured.
Next post (when I get back from a quick trip to New York): :Lady Washington

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

One Long Blast - Vessel Getting Underway!

Okay, the Nautical Blog Hop is underway and I'm just 12 hours behind! I've been agonizing over what to write, have thought of and rejected a few ideas, in other words I have, as usual, been way over thinking this whole damned thing!

My latest book is Fin Gall about Vikings in early medieval Ireland.

It would make a lot of sense for me to write a blog about Vikings in early medieval Ireland. That way you, dear reader, would be tempted to click over and buy a copy of Fin Gall. Which is my latest book. But I decided not to do that. Instead, I will give away a signed copy of Fin Gall (latest book - did I mention that?) to a randomly selected person who posts a comment on this blog.

(That kind of business thinking, by the way, is the reason that I am in the financial state that I currently am in, and why I must now get up and wash the dinner dishes, rather than simply instructing my French maid to do them.)

Here's how it will work (the give-away, that is). I'll number the comments #1 to whatever, write those numbers on a piece of paper and have my scrupulously honest wife choose one from a hat. Then I'll give a free book to whoever said the most flattering things about me in their comment.

Just kidding. As far as you know.

So I've been agonizing on what to write. I thought about writing an article on the famous naval battle of the War of 1812 between the USS Enterprise and the HMS Boxer, the most significant naval action to take place off the coast of Maine (it ain't much but it's all we got). And the more I thought about it, the more I thought, Boy, does that sound boring!

And kids, here's an important tip for writers - if you think its boring, it's a good bet your readers will, too. Trust me on this, I'm a professional.

Boxer and Enterprise: Not as interesting as you might think...
Actually, the story of Boxer and Enterprise is fascinating, but being the 200th anniversary of the event, I have been talking about it nonstop and I don't think I can muster the energy for more.
And then I thought, why not write about my favorite subject - me!?
Okay I'm not really that egotistical, or at least I would not admit to it. But seeing as this is a Nautical Blog Hop and I've had the good fortune to do some nautical stuff, I thought I would write about some of the ships on which I have sailed.
A little backstory (that's what we writers call all the stuff that happened back before the story started)...
As a kid I always loved ships. Where other kids were into dinosaurs, for me it was always ships. I would spend recesses looking at pictures of ships. In middle school I built a 12 foot skipjack, my first boat.
Me, pre-beard, with my skipjack
Then, in high school, I discovered a) beer and b) girls and that was about it for any other interests. I ended up going to UCLA Film School to be a Big Time Movie Director. One day I was walking across campus where the sailing club had a 12' dingy set up and they were handing out fliers for sailing lessons. I looked at that boat, and it was like the moment in the movies when the clouds open up and a stream of light comes down on the protagonist and heavenly voices sing and you just know a piano is about to drop on his head.
I started sailing with the UCLA Yacht Club and all that passion for the sea awoke from its slumber and I developed a serious sailing habit (should have got into drugs - it would have been cheaper and healthier in the long run) Once I graduated and was making (for me) good money I bought a 27' boat and was living aboard it in Marina Del Rey. Then one day I read an article saying that the Golden Hinde, a replica of Sir Francis Drake's ship from 1577, was sailing in and they were looking for crew. And I thought, Hey, that's what I've always wanted to do!
And my life swirled off in yet another unexpected direction.
The Golden Hinde II - Who could resist?
Coming Next - Adventures on the Golden Hinde II 
Hopefully I have not killed your interest in the nautical Blog Hop, because there are a number of other blogs which actually have real, informative content! Check them out on the right hand side panel of this blog!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Coming Soon to a Blog Near You...

So, I'm taking part in what is apparently called a "Blog Hop", one more aspect of the blogosphere which I only vaguely understand, but yet feel compelled to do. Actually, it sounds like fun. My friend and fellow historical novelist Helen Hollick has organized this deal where a bunch of us who write this kind of stuff (maritime themed fiction) all post some original essay on our blogs, then we all link to one another.

Actually sounds kind of kinky when I put it that way...

In any event, the idea is you can cruise around the various blogs and check out what other writers are up to. Some folks are doing a give-away, which I might as well, though I'm pretty damned cheap.

I'll be posting an essay tomorrow, and hope to do another by the end of the week. I'll also be posting the links to the other authors, who you should check out.

Here's the logo for the blog hop. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 2, 2013

All Boxer and Enterprise (all the time)

This week marks the 200th Anniversary of the battle between the H.M.S. Boxer and the U.S.S. Enterprise off the Coast of Maine. It was another in the series of ship-to ship (in this case brig-to-brig) actions in which the Yankees wiped up the floor with the vaunted British navy. And in this case they Brits couldn't complain that the American vessel was significantly more powerful (though they did). It is also the most significant War of 1812 event to take place in Maine (we were and are still sort of off the beaten track).

Enterprise crosses Boxer's bow near the end of the battle

I'm taking part in two great events commemorating the battle. The first is September 4th at the Maine Historical Society where I'll be part of a panel discussion with three other distinguished authors (or should I say, there will be three distinguished authors and me). That will be 6:00 - 8:00.

Next is a commemoration on the actual anniversary of the battle, September 5, at Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. Along with my talk, there will be music by Castlebay, poetry, remembrances from eye witnesses and a blessing. Program starts at 3:00. Should be a good time, so please come by if you can!