La Riposte

Published Works

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Importance of Eccentricities

When a fellow adopts the life piratical or has notched up a sufficient accumulation of years, it’s quite proper to adopt a few eccentricities – not doing so is, one supposes, a rather outré breach of noblesse oblige, and one is further obliged to note that merely rambling on in the third person is probably not enough to satisfy the expectations of polite society.

Thus, I am resolved, for the nonce, to pay my accounts in gold coins, which those clever souls at the US Mint have decided to stamp out in mass quantities, and to increase my consumption of dark rums…

A small start, I reckon, but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Before you know it, I’ll be spouting witty aphorisms a’la Captain Jack.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Electric Boat Project, Part I

Gypsy's "Little Sister"
 Those of you who have followed my progress through “A Round of Words in 80 Days” over on Read-Write-Listen (my author’s blog) have heard of my plan to reduce my carbon footprint between now and December.

One of my ideas for doing this was to start commuting to work from my floating home at Lady’s Island Marina to work using a little solar-powered electric boat. I’d originally imagined a kayak, using a small electric motor combined with the sweat of my brow to get the job down.  I couldn’t find the kayak I wanted (although I’m still looking) but in the meantime found a cute little 8-foot dinghy, that came with oars and a sail.

 I picked it up, sent off to Amazon for a trolling motor, and bought a deep-cycle Marine battery from Walmart. Put all the pieces together yesterday, and took her for a test run up the Beaufort River…

An excuse to use power tools!
She made about 3 knots of speed, and after a trip of 2.3 nautical miles, the battery had only dropped down to 89 percent. That means there’s plenty of juice for a trip all the way to the pier at the Marine Corps Air Station where I work, which is 4.14 nautical miles from my home port. My little boat handled the waves generated by passing large boats, although not without a little trepidation on the part of her Captain, so the only problem is the speed / distance.

At these speeds, it would take 1.5 hours to get to work, and another 1.5 to get back. I could probably speed that up somewhat by rowing or paddling, or I could commit to using that time to read, write, practice language, possibly write or record spoken notes for transcription, eat breakfast, shave with an electric razor, etc…

Navigation? There's an app for that!
So, will give it some more thought, and probably do a full test-run sometime this week. Stay tuned for the next chapter in this little story! If nothing else, though, I now have the perfect little boat for fishing, sightseeing around Factory Creek, (where I am docked) and even running over to the city of Beaufort for dinner or a drink.

More adventures to follow!


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Wind from the North...

A hot bowl of curry is just
 the thing on a cold night!
Ahhh, Winter is here!

 A stiff wind from the North, 25 miles an hour with gusts to 35 whistles through the tall masts of the sailing vessels that surround my little ship in her snug harbor...

All my lines are tight, my little dinghy is secured to the stern, and I'm enjoying the rocking of the waves and the sound of the wind.

 Inside, I'm snug as a bug, sitting on a Persian rug, with a pot of Thai green curry filled with chicken, onions, mushrooms and garlic simmering away...

Presently I'll toss a handful of thinly-sliced vegetables and noodles in, let them soften just enough, and then enjoy a healthy and delicious feast before bedtime...

Just a very short post tonight, I hope this finds all of you safe and sound and surrounded by loved ones, friends, good books, good wine, or some combination thereof.

À bientôt,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Small Is Beautiful

So, I feel a little like I’m behind on my Gypsy Danger posts, which is probably because I am… Work has been crazy-busy lately, and between that, my other writing projects, dipping a toe back in the waters of the dating pool, and assorted other little projects, I hardly ever spend any time aboard my boat which doesn’t involve sleeping.

But perhaps you’re thinking that’s just as well, for isn’t a boat a very small space in which to live?

Perhaps, but you must understand a couple of things – I’ve just come from spending six months living in a tiny little room in Afghanistan, and before that, in a little carriage house over the garage of a larger property which I own in Beaufort.

Floorplan and Lines
The accompanying picture shows Gyspy Danger’s floorplan – she has a vee-shaped forward cabin, which is basically one big bed, with a little closet and a plethora of nooks and cupboard for storing things; a compact but fully-functional kitchen, a bathroom complete with a sink, shower, and toilet, and a pair of little wooden steps that lead up into the salon, which is the equivalent of a living room / dining room.

I currently have it outfitted with tatami mats and a Persian rug and pillow set; still working out the final floor-covering plan, but this should do for a start…

The Salon
From the salon, you can go down a narrow set of stairs to the aft cabin, which features a pair of twin-sized beds and another bathroom, or you can go up the stairs and out to the aft deck, which is quite big enough to lounge around and sunbathe on, or set up a grill, a small patio table, etc. From there, you can mount another set of stairs to the cockpit – currently exposed, but which I could enclose in the fashion of a sun deck to have another spot for entertaining small parties.
The Kitchen

Down and around on the front of the boat, there’s plenty more room for laying out, doing yoga, or just sitting and pondering life’s mysteries…

All-in all, though, there’s only about 200 square feet of inside space, and another 150 square feet of outside space – not a terribly great deal of real estate, but absolutely perfect for me.

Well, I believe that’s enough for the nonce – but hopefully I've succeeded in giving you a little taste of what my cozy little ship looks like, and I shall now turn my pen to other writing tasks.

Ciao for now!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hoist High the Colors!

A Questionable Standard
In days of yore, it was often necessary for the seagoing scoundrel to be prepared to repel boarders, but today one is more likely to be obliged to welcome them...

This was the case a few days ago when I had the good fortune to bring aboard my first guests - my sister-in-law Anya and her mother, who was visiting from Ukraine.
To prepare for their visit, I spent the better part of the day engaged in running up the Jolly Roger, scrubbing the Gypsy Danger 'til she shined (or was at least presentable) installing a pair of tatami mats from Japan and a nice set of Persian rugs and pillows from Bahrain, obtaining the necessary victuals – rum, vodka, assorted mixers, strawberries, bananas, and a lovely pumpkin roll... The piratical ensign was a souvenir from the birthday cruise to the Bahamas, and a salute to my lovely guests' purpose in visiting my nautical abode enroute to a Pirate Festival on Tybee Island.
The visit was quite fabulous, and over all too quickly, but I do hope to entertain many more guests in the days to come, so if you're headed for the Lowcountry, be sure to drop me a line. On Sunday, as I sat finishing up a post for my general-purpose writing blog, I heard a tapping, gently rapping a'la Poe's Raven upon the side of my vessel. It was my new neighbor, Bill Kelly, a retired Coast Guardsman on his way South to the Bahamas inviting me over for drinks and conversation on the Sea Chantey, a 36-foot Sea Trader which he, his wife Tamara, and their son are sailing along the Great Loop.
During our conversation, I asked if it was considered bad form to fly a skull and crossbones on your vessel, and was informed that some folks did indeed consider it to be a bit outre; delving a little deeper into the subject, I discovered that there was indeed a range of thought on the matter – one digest of flag etiquette began its discourse with “Rule No. 1—There are no real rules. Customs observed in various foreign waters differ from each other...” In another forum, a fellow asking "Where would I fly a pirate flag if I wanted to do so with proper flag etiquette?" received answers ranging from “You wouldn't. Any member of a civilized society would have opened fire on a pirate ship and sunk it on sight.” to “I was always under the impression that pirates didn't pay much attention to etiquette of any sort...”
I'm rather leaning toward the latter sentiment, myself, and may perhaps compromise by flying the flag of the Swedish Pirate Party, as I am rather fond of Swedes, pirates, and parties in general - but it does raise an interesting subject about which I promise to wax philosophic in some greater detail at a later date. Piracy – is it a bad thing, or could it really be, in net terms, a good thing? Before you answer, consider that The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has grossed about 3.72 billion dollars to date, and that without historic piracy, not a penny of that would have been realized.
A military mna with piratical sympathies - shocking, no doubt, but there is a historical precedent - Major Stede Bonnet, "The Gentleman Pirate" was an unlikely, unlucky, and not entirely unsuccessful pirate... A one-time confederate of Edward Teach, the notorious Blackbeard, Bonnet was hoodwinked by the cannier, more ruthless Blackbeard and, having broken his pardon and returned to piracy, was captured after a hard-fought battle on the Cape Fear river, taken to Charleston in chains and eventually hanged.
Well, I shall look forward to a happier end than a long drop on a short rope, but back to the question at hand - is modern piracy (a term applied with equal opprobrium to nautical raids on merchant ships and downloads of electronic media) a global good, or a global ill?
It's estimated that modern piracy around the Horn of Africa cost 6 billion dollars in 2012 – but the majority of those “costs” were in fact payments to working folks in the security industry and extra pay for sailors traversing dangerous waters – thus, pirates are contributing to jobs and higher wages for blue-collar workers, which is a goal to which many of the world's governments might well aspire to!
But I'm all verklempt – discuss among yourselves!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Le Premiere Poste!

The Gypsy Danger in her old berth near Folly Beach, SC
Greetings and salutations!

Welcome to my latest literary project, a journal of a year spent living aboard my latest acquisition and project, a 32-foot motor yacht!

I found this little diamond in the rough on while I was still over in Afghanistan, and made an offer on her when I returned to the U.S. in mid-July...

It took a while to get everything sorted out, but I finally took her on a maiden voyage last weekend from her old berth near Charleston to our new home at the Lady's Island Marina in Beaufort, SC. This was a 66-mile cruise through the Intra-Coastal Waterway, which proved at times peaceful and relaxing (cruising with both engines) to worrying (losing an engine) to white-knuckle terrifying (docking for the first time at night in tight quarters with one engine and the horrifying prospect of crashing your floating home into someone else's!)

All's well that ends well, as the Bard said, and now we're happily ensconced in a cosy berth walking distance from a great restaurant, a couple of dive bars, and a yoga studio. Downtown Beaufort is just over a tall bridge, a long walk or a short bike ride away, and work is a 15-minute drive with no traffic to speak of... All in all, it's a pretty great spot, and rent, when you're living on the water, is quite inexpensive - I'll probably pay less than $400 a month, including WiFi and electricity.

This whole week I left and returned in the dark each day, and wasn't able to do much besides sleep and fix lunch - work has been terribly busy of late and shows little sign of abating. So, this morning it was quite nice to sleep until I felt like waking up, spend the morning cleaning out the salon, going to a yoga class, and then sunbathing on the forward deck with a good book.

During the afternoon I got a haircut and signed some papers for a real estate transaction, and then enjoyed a light supper, poured a glass of Apothic Red (a rather delicious vintage, to which I was recently introduced by my lovely sister Kaiti) and got cracking on putting up this blog.

I spent a good bit of time putting together the art for the header, and a few more minutes before bedtime in scribbling out this little post. Tomorrow I'm making a run up to Charleston to say hi to the nephews and my lovely sister-in-law, and to catch a matinee with my brother Joe, pick up some stuff I had mailed to their house, and come on back down to (hopefully) do a bit of writing before bedtime.

I'll be updating this blog weekly, putting together the material for another future book, perhaps...

Wishing everyone a wonderful weekend!