Dear Friends, I hope you are well and coping with modern life. Whether you are among family or not I hope you are not too lonely. I have heard that some of my Christmas cards haven’t made it to their destinations–the world’s post offices are under more pressure than usual. Somehow these things surprise me even though they shouldn’t. I nurture my innocence.

Here is a Christmas poem I felt I should get out; it will have a short shelf life.

Best wishes for 2021. May the New Year see you safely to the other side of this crisis.

Best Gift of 2020

Mom says this December won’t go as planned,

What with contagion rolling over the land,

How I’d like to believe that everything is just fine,

Dad’s got a Christmas tree and he’s mulling red wine.

But my friend Sammy who has texted through lockdown,

Says Santa’s health may not be too sound,

He can’t ho-ho-ho; he’s not at his best,

Sam says the jolly fat man’s had a covid test.

So now what to think? What could be worse?

Will the reindeer be dragging a holiday hearse?

I hope St. Nick gets better, he has to because,

I want a PlayStation Five from Santa Claus.

My sister Sarah sits watching Fox News,

Where four angry people are shouting their views,

One lady cries out: “Your Santa’s all done!

Long ago I predicted this Christmas wouldn’t come!”

I shudder and ask: “Could this be true?

Could Santa’s Noel flights really be through?

Where will we get presents for under the tree?

Who will take care of little kids like me?”

Sarah says: “Tut-tut, don’t be naïve,

Stories on this channel often deceive.

I learn most things that I need to know,

From National Public Radio.”

“Alexa,” I say, “Alexa tune in!

I need to hear news without any spin!”

Will old Kris Kringle be in condition,

To fly out the reindeer on his holiday mission?”

I sit by the set while I wait for Santa’s story,

And I text all my friends while I fidget with worry,

I picture St. Nick feverish, shivering with cold,

Wondering what brought him to live at the North Pole.

Or is he surrounded by a bunch of groveling elves,

Sitting amid long rows of over-packed shelves,

All stacked to the rafters with toy trucks and dolls,

And iPads and iPhones for making fancy calls.

Perhaps there are skates and bikes, like you’ve never seen,

And great bins of candy canes, striped red, white and green,

Christmas cheer on standby, ready to go,

But we’ll all get zip if Santa doesn’t show.

Hark! The radio begins to sing,

The story of Santa on a downswing,

A lady interprets from a Russian translator,

The rumor that St. Nick is on a ventilator.

Next she brings on two other journalists,

For something she calls news analysis.

One says: “It’s high time that the whole world moved on,

Santa’s long been outdone by Amazon.”

The next says: “Government should save the situation,

By spending tax money on gifts and education,

And tapping into the wealth of our treasury,

To ensure the future of Christmas equity.”

My father walks in and begins to scoff,

“Alexa,” he says, “Alexa turn it off!”

To me he says: “Don’t listen during the day,

Experts flap their lips but have nothing to say.”

My confusion runs on, all the way to Christmas Eve,

And I go to bed not knowing what to believe,

Covid has changed life in every way I can name,

But somehow I thought that Christmas would stay the same.

It won’t be much fun to look at the Christmas hoard,

If it has been all drop-shipped, wrapped up in cardboard,

And who wants the same gifts, all across the nation,

As everyone else at any level of taxation?

What can I expect? Whom can I trust?

Will this be the first time that Christmas goes bust?

I lay awake and think about all the opinions,

Some sweet, some stinky, like a mixed bag of onions.

I nod off then awake to some sound on the roof,

A tap-tapping of feet and the clump of a hoof,

What I see out my dormer gives me a start:

Eight reindeer in line, harnessed six feet apart.

I wonder if this could be the very first instance,

Of reindeer flying while observing social distance.

And then from downstairs there comes a muffled thump,

Maybe I’ll see Santa! Out of bed I jump.

I creep down the steps and what do I see?

Jolly St. Nicholas next to the tree,

Tucking in gifts as quick as can be,

Wearing a white mask and other P.P.E.

He spots me and laughs; he’s such a jolly fellow!

And his belly shakes like a big bowl of Jell-O,

With his twinkling eye he gives me a wink,

And rises up the chimney before I can think.

I open the window to watch the reindeer take flight,

Hauling Santa’s sleigh in a blue bath of moonlight,

And then carried to me over the cold, crisp air,

I hear: “Good night and Merry Christmas back there.”

And so now alone my mind quickly switches,

To the presents inside and my Christmas wishes,

I know if I open gifts Mom and Dad will freak,

I won’t go all the way; I’ll just sneak a peek.

So what do I find? Boxes of N-ninety-five masks,

Gloves and hand sanitizer in self pumping casks.

It’s not what I expected, but that’s fine because,

At least now I can believe in Santa Claus.                                                                                                                                                              


I don’t usually comment on current events, but the cold blooded killing of George Floyd I have found disturbing enough to do so. There is more than one horrific aspect to this incident when you consider the thoughts and experiences of the people involved. To see the life being slowly squeezed out of a man is truly awful. I could hear bystanders in the video footage asking: “Are they killing him?” Some others tried to reason with the police, saying that Floyd had had enough. It makes me wonder how can anyone intervene in a situation that is so monstrously wrong? How do you stop bad police, who are armed, possibly hostile, and have their office on their side? We’re conditioned to obey police, it seems even when they are killing somebody. A tactical person might have attacked the police cruisers and spread the cops out, but that is beyond what most people would consider.

What if there was a way to bring speedy attention to this sort of abuse of power? What if those bystanders recording in Minneapolis could have quickly broadcast their footage to police headquarters, or someone with the authority to call off Derek Chauvin and his cohorts? I don’t know anything about code or the inner workings of phones, but how about a number you could punch, say *66, that would work nationwide to instantly deliver footage of a bad situation and give the location? Perhaps it could be part of the 911 network.

Law enforcement is difficult, most cops are alright, and I don’t relish more surveillance. I’m certain my suggestion would bring new problems, but it looks like a mechanism is needed to bring out of control cops back into line when their blood is up. Some concrete action is required here. Maybe at the very least, kneeling on someone’s neck could be banned as a tactic. That would be a start.

Second Efforts

Lately I have had my head down replacing rusted steel in the bottom of my boat. Twenty-five years ago I first made this sort of effort on the boat, and as I completed work I said to myself “this should last twenty years–easy”–like that day in the twentieth year would never come. Happily, I’ve just completed round two of bottom work, and can at last spend more time churning out words for my second novel. Getting back to the keyboard is like a return to the gym at first, but less traumatic than welding steel plate. I hope I’ll write a third novel, and a fourth–welding steel, however, I’m pretty sure I’ve done for the last time.

I’m pleased to have had A Dream of Steam reviewed in Publishers Weekly this week. You can see the review at:

New Steel


20190907_221523 (1)

Last night I met up with old shipmates from my earliest days of sailing, most of whom I haven’t seen in thirty years. Recognizing each other was a bit comical since some of us have changed considerably while others haven’t so much. After a short time some sort of acceptance set in and the familiar characteristics of old friends wiped away what the years had made of us all. It was a fantastic night, catching up and also reliving some of the crazy adventures and dilemmas of our formative years. We talked and sang late into the night, but at last I had to go home. After leaving I reflected that these were people I had really known, certainly among the best friends I’ve ever had. I don’t know why I haven’t seen them in so many years.

The Falls of Clyde’s Layered History

falls-of-clyde-rusty bottom


To a writer, looking for fresh inspiration when creating historical fiction is an ongoing job. At times one can just trip over a great tale, but most often a story requires digging.


For me, weather-beaten objects can provide a good starting point. Last winter, while traveling through the hurricane-racked Caribbean, I was surrounded by the evidence of disaster. Each boat I saw, abandoned by wind and sea in some unlikely place, offered up a set of speculations: Where was this wrested from? At what point in the storm did it break free? How exactly did it land here? And then further back: Where did it come from? Who owned it? What were their hopes? Where are they now?


Let me turn now to the Falls of Clyde, an historic sailing ship lying in Honolulu Harbor. This once great square rigger has fallen on hard times. She is nearly one hundred and forty years old, and, despite the valiant efforts of local volunteers, has been in danger of being scrapped, or swallowed by the sea. I’ve walked her decks several times over twenty-five years, and each visit has lit up the imagination. Early on when the vessel was mostly intact, I could see her in her youth, her long, lean hull carving through the sea under a grand press of canvas. On later trips I took note of greater decay, and the individual efforts being made to paint bulwarks, or keep tar on the rigging. I wondered who was making the attempt to hold on. On my last visit the rigging had been taken down, and water was collecting below from leaks in the upper deck. My imagination ran down dark tunnels at that point; I began to speculate about what would happen should the volunteers stop attending the pumps. How long could this ship continue? What would be the final misfortune that would end her time?

Falls of Clyde-(NPS)

Happily, it is time for a new set of speculations. An organization named Falls of Clyde International has emerged with a plan to repatriate this storied ship to Scotland. They have secured a great deal, to have the Falls of Clyde transported on a huge dry-dock ship across the Pacific, through Panama and across the Atlantic starting in February. Once home, plans are in place to begin a full restoration. If you would like to help, you can find out more at:; e-mail directly to, or donate to their Indiegogo crowd sourcing campaign.

Falls of Clyde is a rare survivor of long sea travel, typhoons, and the ravages of salt and time. With broad-based support, future generations will be able to wonder about her long life and ask themselves: Who were the people who saved her?

Rhode Island Red

That awkward looking chicken in red below is none other than the author of this post, come north now that the weather has warmed up. I’m not ashamed to admit that I try to hide from the cold. In this shot I’m splicing some new wire for the Oliver Hazard Perry, Rhode Island’s sailing school vessel.20180617_140438.

Here also is my friend Boyd, serving up the topmast stays (a process of wrapping the wire in twine). This protects the wire from sea water and is a foundation for the seizings that form the terminal eyes.

Boyd swinging the serving mallet

After a few weeks of refurbishment, while we replaced the top section of the main mast OHP is ready to sail again.


If you get a chance, have a look at my stories page; I have written a couple of new shorts  while I’ve been preparing my first novel for print. A Dream of Steamcoming soon.

Bad at Blogging

Growing Your Own Foremast.
A couple of months ago I posted that it was enchanting to watch the first snow fall. It is easier to feel that way if you know you won’t be shoveling in February, and just a few minutes ago, as I was waiting in line at the bank watching snow fall on television, I felt happy to be away. I’m in Antigua; my wife and I sail an old steel sailboat when we can get away so this winter we will be traveling northwest to Florida.

I’ve happened into blogging without much of a plan. It was suggested to me that this was a good idea for self promotion –and I can see it– but reading about somebody trying to write or get published seems like watching one of those news shows that tell you how they produce the news. I care about writing, but it’s only so newsworthy. I care about other things as well and so  while we are under way, en route to Florida, I think I will post about some of the places we stop, what the hurricanes have done, dark skies, dolphins and sea turtles. Hopefully I’ll get a few good pictures along the way.

Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua

First Snowfall

Today I have been rewriting the first draft of a new short story. This is probably my favorite part of writing; I feel the excitement of forming something new whereas dreaming up the first draft feels like a trip to the gym after you haven’t been in a while. Pleasant as the writing was, I had to take a break to enjoy the freshly fallen snow. The first snowfall of the season can be magical; I have had huskies in the past and they always greeted the snow by digging their noses into it and throwing it up over their backs. Then they would enjoy a good rub down in the stuff, lying on the ground and kicking forward with their hind legs. Alas, one day it will all turn to slush and I’ll be back to writing query letters, but today is all for enthusiasm.