Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Scimitar Moon Award Finalist!!

I reported last May that Chris' book Scimitar Moon, published by Dragon Moon Press, won the gold medal in the ForeWord Magazine 2010 Book of the Year Award in the Science Fiction/Fantasy category.  Well, just this morning (Tuesday, October 26) we learned that Scimitar Moon was a finalist for the USA Book News Best Books 2010 Award in Science Fiction/Fantasy!  Once again, we've very excited!  You can see the listing at http://www.usabooknews.com/bestbooks2010.html , under the category Fiction & Literature: Fantasy/Sci-Fi.
Woo hoo!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Chris Did While Anne Was On The NOAA Cruise

While Anne was being well-fed well on the Delaware II, enjoying the fruits of the crew’s labor while they operated the ship, Chris was single-handing Mr Mac from Rhode Island to North Carolina.  He enjoyed a fine offshore passage from Block Island to Cape May (34 hours from anchor up to anchor down), then did mostly day trips.  He stopped off in Annapolis to get groceries and do some repairs, then headed to the Rhode River to hook up with our friends Steve and Lynn on Celebration and attend the SSCA gam there.  Post-gam, he made his way down Chesapeake Bay and into the ICW at Norfolk, VA, stopping for the night (and some mean Mexican food and a margarita) at Great Bridge, VA.  It was here that the deluge of rain that was traveling up the east coast caught up with him.  To those of you who know the free city tie-up between the lock and the bridge, only the pilings were visible; the top of the wall and the adjacent lawn were submerged.  The flooding closed a bridge south in the Virginia Cut, so Chris back-tracked a few miles and headed south through the Dismal Swamp.  Even there he encountered some back-ups, waiting for the Corps of Engineer guys (his grateful thanks to them!) to cut up some trees that blocked the channel.  He spent a night at the free dock in Elizabeth City, then anchored in Pungo Creek, and finally made his way to New Bern, NC.  Along the way he had some great sails.  This was his first time single-handing Mr Mac (he had gone solo on Nereid on several occasions) such a long distance, and he worked out some good techniques.  He also noticed that his vigilance was heightened because he knew he had only himself to rely on.  He had a good time, as Anne had a good time on her research cruise, but it was nice to get back together in New Bern.

Working on a NOAA Ship

Anne by the Delaware II at dock in Woods Hole
Galley on the Delaware II
Being a marine biologist can be more like fun than work sometimes, so Anne jumped at the chance to volunteer on a research survey cruise for NOAA/NMFS.  Most of my research has been in near- and inshore waters, so the chance to do ocean work on a ship was a draw.  The purpose of the cruise was to use acoustics (fish finders) to survey herring populations on Georges Bank, then sample the fish schools to obtain biological data on the fish).  The cruise was on the Delaware II, a 155’ ship that berths in Woods Hole.  You may have read about the Delaware II recently with regard to their oil spill-related work in the Gulf of Mexico.  How different it was from research on my 23’ workboat in Florida!  The crew consisted of 18 men and women who worked on the bridge, in engineering, or as fishermen (two full complements of each, their schedules ran noon to midnight or vice versa).  They were all terrifically nice people; I guess you’ve got to be in those close quarters for extended periods.  There were nine scientists: three bird watchers, and six working on the herring survey.  I was one of three on the 6PM to 6AM shift, a bit of an adjustment at first, since I’m a morning person, but I have the gift of being able to sleep anytime, anywhere.  During our shift, the survey leader would look for concentrations of fish using acoustics, the fishermen would deploy and haul back the trawl, and the scientists would work the catch.  This included separating the different species, weighing them, and measuring fish lengths.  We would measure each of the herring in our sample (or subsample, if we caught a large number), and collect weight, sex, gonad stage and weight, and stomach contents data on a subset of certain-sized fish.  Data collection and entry was terrific!  You lay the fish on a measuring board and place a magnetic bar at the fork width and—Bing!—the data is automatically entered into the computer.   Put the fish on the scale, press a button, and—Bing!—the data is automatically entered into the computer.  Then someone opens the fish to check the gonads and stomach contents, and their partner enters the data on a touch-screen, and prints out a detailed specimen label.  This is soooo much quicker and more efficient, as well as accurate, than the way we collected our crab data in Florida, which was all by hand: take the measurements, write them down, enter the data into the computer, then print, proof, and correct the data.  I’m sure the system’s not perfect, but it’s certainly an improvement when you’ve got lots of data to process.  Some highlights of the trip?  Great people.  Beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  Great food; did I mention that there were two stewards who cooked terrific meals with a wide variety of seafood (scallops, swordfish, haddock, cod, ahi tuna) and meat (lamb chops and leg of lamb, stuffed pork chops, roast turkey, duck breast, pot roast, and more), as well as lots of salads and veggies and fruits, and something baked (brownies, coffee cake, muffins, banana bread) for an afternoon snack.  Seeing a Mola mola (ocean sunfish) floating on the surface, and whales spouting in the distance.  Not getting sick on Georges Bank in 30+knot winds (I was taking Bonine, which worked great and gave me no side effects).
Fishermen hauling in the net

Trying on my survival suit during the safely drill

Beautiful sunset off the back deck

Awesome sunrise from the flying bridge
Isn't this the cutest little ugly face you've ever seen?  A juvenile monkfish

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hammond Castle

If you’re ever in the Gloucester region, make a point to visit Hammond Castle.  It was a private residence built by the developer of Hammond organs (hence the familiar name), who also developed the system for stereophonic sound, as well as many other things related to the use of acoustics in war activities.  It’s a couple of miles from Gloucester center – a nice walk.  The castle is built on the rocky shore overlooking Norman’s Woe (read the poem The Wreak of the Hesperus, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), in several styles: generally medieval castle, but with touches of French country chateau and gothic church.  The glass-covered courtyard, which the bedrooms overlook, was designed to resemble the ruins of an ancient Roman bath around which an old European-style town has been built.  The courtyard was equipped with overhead sprinklers to water the foliage, but Hammond would sometimes turn on them on during parties to surprise guests (surprise, your dress is ruined!).  The castle is full of items showcasing Hammond’s eclectic tastes, such as religious icons (though he wasn’t particularly religious himself), weapons and armor, beautiful stonework and funky architecture, as well as this gruesome little turret scene below of a skeletal prisoner with ball and chain.  Of course, the ocean views were incredible.  The $10 entry fee was well worth the price, as we wandered around the castle and grounds for about four hours, and still didn’t see everything close up.

Gloucester, Massachusetts; A Real Working Waterfront

Mr Mac anchored in Gloucester Harbor
 During August we spent a couple of days in Gloucester, on the south side of Cape Ann, MA.  A very cruiser-friendly town.  We had anchored way out in the harbor, and called the harbormaster’s office to see if they had a dinghy dock.  Well, they told us about their free anchorage in the inner harbor (without pressuring us to rent a mooring), directed us to the free dinghy dock, and came to the boat with a Welcome package that included maps of town, lists of things to do in town, and locations for those oh-so-important places to cruisers, such as the market, laundry, marine stores and restaurants.  There was also a terrific used-bookstore in town, a small movie theater that you can walk or dinghy to, shops for browsing, and a local microbrewery with tasty beers.  The pretty waterfront south of the docks is the location of the familiar Fishermen’s Memorial, as well as the less-familiar (but just as important) Fishermen’s Wive’s Memorial.  The fishing industry is still very much alive in Gloucester, and the inner harbor was always bustling with fishing boats.  Next to the harbormaster’s office was the Gloucester Maritime Heritage Center, which chronicles the development of the fishing industry here, covering everything from the sailing vessels that used to fish these waters, to merchandizing fish products (see the picture of the great advertising for Gorton’s Strained Codfish for Babies – appetizing, no?), to the geology and ecology of the nearby Georges and Stellwagan Banks, and more.  On the shore across from our anchorage was the old building pictured below – the first manufactory (that’s how it’s written on the building) in the U.S. to make copper paint for boat bottoms, a subject near and dear to cruisers.
Fishermen's Memorial

Fishermen's Wive's Memorial
Old copper-paint factory  Gloucester Harbor