Douglas Arvidson is a past winner of the WICE/Paris Transcontinental International Short Story competition. His short fiction has been published in Paris, Prague, and in literary magazines in the United States and he was recently invited to be a staff writer for the Prague Revue, a cutting-edge, online literary journal ( The novels in his fantasy series, The Eye of the Eye of Stallion, include The Face in Amber, The Mirrors of Castaway Time, and A Drop of Wizard's Blood. His new novel, Brothers of the Fire Star, was selected as a finalist in the ForeWord Reviews 2012 Book of the Year national awards and as a finalist in three categories in the 2013 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards: Action Adventure Fiction, Historical Fiction, and Young Adult Fiction. It has become part of the pantheon of Pacific literature and is now included in school literature programs. Brothers of the Fire Star is an adventure story set in the Pacific during World War II and concerns two boys of different races and cultures who escape the island of Guam in a small sailboat when the Japanese army invades. They must then struggle to survive as they master the secrets of the ancient Pacific navigators. Appropriate for young adults as well as adult readers, Brothers of the Fire Star is available on Barnes & Noble, ( and Visit the author's website:

Friday, May 29, 2009

Rain, Rain, Rain, Fog, Fog, Fog: The Good News? My Son, Eli, Joined Us

Eli Arrives
We're still on hold up here, on the boat on Long Island. The big, slow weather system that is plaguing us East Coast sailors with fog and wind and rain is hanging over the boat like a personal grudge.

The great news, though, was that yesterday, my son Eli, a yacht captain out in San Diego, showed up on the dock here--complete surprise. Hadn't seen him since last November when I sailed to Mexico with him on his boat. Wonderful stuff.

This morning we got up at 5:00, had our coffee and breakfast, got our foul weather gear on and went out to finish up the final chores. Then it really started raining (cats and dogs, dogs and cats) and we came back down below, took off our foulies, and are now sitting here waiting for the promised fair-weather change that should arrive this afternoon. Johnny finished setting up the GPS for our first leg, and Eli got on the weather radar, and I'm writing this--in short, killing some time.

We're scoping out the forecast and hoping (against hope), that this muck breaks up and blows away. We do plan on getting underway this afternoon for the first anchorage near Orient Point on the tip of the north fork of Long Island.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Voyage South: The Boat is Great and We're About Ready

Here he is, me, himself, relaxing in the cockpit of the Alberg 30, Seawind. We're out on the end of Long Island, NY getting the boat and ourselves (my brother, John and I) ready for the sail from there to home--the Chesapeake Bay. Preparing for a voyage is all about details and we've been working at getting the truck offloaded and the stuff carried to the boat and onloaded and--worst job of all--stowed away in some reasonably neat and logical fashion (Now where the hell did I put the flashlight batteries? And the first aid kit? How about the tool box? It's crazy. I just had the damned thing in my hand).

But look here below and you'll see we're making progress. The dock is still loaded with gear, but the dodger and bimini are on, as are the sails. I finished schlepping the gear from the truck and John did a magnificent job wiring in the big, new GPS. At the moment I write this, he's standing here trying to sort out how you actually operate it. We'll keep the paper charts handy.

Plan now is to finish stowing/provisioning tomorrow, sea trials Wednesday, return rental truck Thursday, and get out of here in the afternoon (we can't leave on Friday--superstition prevents that. Not my superstition--my wife, Terry's and the superstition of thousands of old salts before her--the belief that it's bad luck to set off on a voyage on that particular day. I favor setting sail when the boat and crew are ready and the weather forecast supports at least a couple of days fair breezes. This Verizon wireless connection is slow but it seems to work. Watch this space.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The News Pundits are Killing Me: Let's Go Sailing and Fuggedaboudit.

Is holding a man down, stuffing a rag in his mouth and pouring water over his face until he can't breath torture? No? Really? Will closing Gitmo Prison make America less safe? It will? Really? Will putting terrorists in max security prisons on U.S. soil put our women and children in harms way? It will? But, wait a minute....On second thought, bugger it all. I'm going for a lazy sail down the East Coast.
To that end, here she is again, the sailing vessel Seawind on the hard (as yachties say), up on the very end of Long Island last fall when we bought her. Word from the shipyard is that all the work has been done and she is back in the water, safely in her slip, waiting for me.
Here's the plan: My brother, John, will be my crew. Among other things, he's a professional yacht delivery captain. I'm flying him up from his home in the Florida Keys tomorrow, Friday. Saturday, we'll pick up our rental truck, load it up with provisions and equipment and, Sunday, leave for Cutchogue, Long Island--about a 7-hour trip.
Sunday night we'll try to find the boat--I know the marina, but not the slip it's in--and maybe sleep aboard--if we can get aboard. I hope its locked. If not, we sleep in the truck, or get hotel room (it's Memorial Day, so maybe there's no room in the inns). It will take 2, maybe 3 days to get her loaded and ready and do a couple of shakedown sails. Then, we're off.
The plan is to head down Long Island Sound (2 days?) and then into the East River and right through the heart of New York City (great photo ops). Then out into New York harbor. I'd love to stop at Ellis Island and see where the Grand 'Rents came ashore early in the last century, all four of them from Norway or Sweden.
So, that's 3 or 4 days, if all goes well and weather is with us. Then, around Sandy Hook and out of New York harbor and on down the lovely, sandy coast of New Jersey all the way to Cape May with maybe an all-night sail thrown in there (2 days?).
A short rest in Cape May in that nice harbor and then through the Cape May canal into Delaware Bay and 51 miles up to the Delaware River to the Chesapeake-Delaware Canal (two days?). On through the canal (15 miles?) and into the top of the Chesapeake Bay where, we hope, Terry-the-Wife-and-Great-Sailor will join us for the beat down the Bay to the Onancock River (3 days?).
That's it. 7 hours up by truck, 10 days back by boat. Trucks go 60 mph, this boat goes 7 mph, max. As the Zen sage said, "Smile, breath, move slowly."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Planning a Voyage, Writing a Book: Do I Still Have to Mow the Damned Lawn?

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard....
.....not to mention new little red lawn mower.
I bought a lawn mower today. What's this all about? I haven't had to mow a lawn since we moved aboard our boat 12 years ago. I was free of all that, I tell you, I was free.

On the other hand, you can get really cheap lawn mowers nowadays. I have a really small lawn. I could probably mow my yard with a good set of hand clippers, but this shiny, red machine, folded up in a cardboard box, was clean and new and would keep me off my hands a knees. $150 at Lowes. Can't beat that.

Everything I needed to know in life I learned from reading short stories and one thing a lot of short stories pointed out was that white, clap-board houses with little green lawns and white pickett fences were sure signs of the death-by-being-average, intellectual/emotion degeneracy and moral bankruptcy of their owners. I have a nagging, looking-over-my-shoulder feeling that I've sold out. After a lifetime of traveling around the world living in apartments and rented houses, hotels and sailboats, and mocking the settled-in classes, I've gone and done it myself. According to the morals in those stories, I'm shallow, soft, pasty, helpless, feckless, moribund, confused, envious, covetous, conflicted, alcoholic, tawdry, desperate, unfaithful, hypocritical, and filled with self-loathing. Now add to that list guilt at the size of the carbon footprint my little mower will leave behind.

I love literature, but maybe I take it too seriously. John Updike is dead and his suburban-dwelling, cocktail-drinking, neighbor's-wife-coveting protagonists like Rabbit Angstrom are, too. I've written 147 pages on the next book and next week, I get to go out to sea for a couple of weeks in my own boat. Out there you're on your own. No shopping malls, no hedge trimmers, no barking dogs, and once again there will be no lawn to mow, no T.V. to watch, no pickett fence to paint, and no neighbors to envy. But after that, I'll be back. And I suspect I'll be happy to be here--or any where.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Lizards Invading Florida, Boat to be Launched Today, Too Distracted to Write

Welcome to the New Florida Keys! Bring your exotic pets and let them go! Give them their well-deserved freedom! Others have--many others--and here is the result: Dead iguanas on the road, and huge snakes
slithering across suburban lawns.

Turtle, birds, fish, snakes, lizards--if it's tropical and exotic, chances are it has invaded the Sunshine State. In fact, according to an article in The New Yorker, there are now so many exotic animal in Florida that the state has started to export them. The Burmese python, a snake that can grow up to twenty magnificent feet in length and weigh upwards of two hundred writhing, slithering pounds, has become a major problem in the Everglades as well as the Keys. What do these monster reptiles eat? Oh, alligators and such--and deer and kitties and doggies and rare birds, too. So far, no human has been crushed and swallowed whole, but, who knows? I suppose then the government would sit up and pay attention.

But enough of Florida. I'm back home now and find I'm too distracted to write--except for this stream-of-conscious blog. My poor fragile attention span has been shattered by recurring thoughts of sailing our new boat, Seawind, down from Long Island, a voyage that could take up to three weeks. I just called the ship yard that is doing prep work on her. She's ready and will be launched today. Am I ready? I'll say yes until the last minute and then I'll find ten things I should have thought of before.

My brother, a part-time delivery captain, is going to crew for me. Should be an fair and fine adventure. We're driving up Sunday, next.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Last Day With the Dolphins: Some Ruminations

A rumination: The Florida Keys are beautiful--wonderful blue/aqua water, a sense of wilderness and hot, romantic, tropical, rotting history. But too, too many people. Lots of skittish folks who look strung out and down and out. And that negative energy is mixed up in a strange way with the happy clutter of tourists. I was here before, for two years, working as news reporter. That was 28 years ago and had the same observations. Nothing has changed. Where do all the bleeding, desperate people come from? I wish them well as they seek to sort things out, but experience tells me not to be optimistic. I covered the Key West police blotter too often for optimism.

I took a final, lone walk around the DRC tonight. It was sunset and it suddenly felt very fine being alone. My charges seemed at ease, resting after a day entertaining tourists. They do seem happy despite animal rights activists views to the contrary. Floating heads up in the dark water, they watched me with one eye and then the other. They squeaked and chortled. One played with a hula hoop, dragging it around with him--or her.

Are dolphins hyper intelligent as the common wisdom tells us? After all, this place is the home of the original Flipper, the super dolphin (he/she is buried here). They're stunning creatures, powerful and lithe, and much better at being dolphins then we smart humans. But no, I suspect the researchers are right--on the perhaps unfair human scale of problem solving/linguistic abilities, they come in somewhere between a dog and a chimpanzee. One thing, though, I feel is true: They have a special, positive energy I haven't sensed in any other animal, and they send it out to the humans around them. This place has great karma.

Tomorrow I've got to get to the airport in Key West (now there's a town) by 3:00 PM for my 5:00 PM flight to Norfolk. I'll get back home to the Eastern Shore by Midnight, I would think. It's been great being here and though it might have been better if I'd had some company, I've discovered that being alone is an adventure in itself.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Green Flash, Writing in Solitude, Reading Herman Wouk

It took this from the balcony of the penthouse at the Dolphin Research Center where I'm staying this week as substitute (voluntary) night-time "caretaker." It is a picture of the illusive, legendary green flash--and I will admit, it doesn't look green. It was green when I took it, it looks green when I enlarge it (I tried to blow it up for this blog, but I couldn't manage to transfer the blown-up image)--but for some reason it isn't green here. I've seen many green flashes during my years sailing in the tropics (I've heard you can see them on a prairie, too), and got a real good greenie on a video once. Ah, well, so be it.

I can attest to the flash being green and I can attest to the ambiguous joys of living alone and writing in solitude (except for the barking of Kilo, the sea lion, who often loudly expresses his affection for the lady sea lions next door). The days go by quickly enough--there is almost no boredom. I can do whatever I want to do.

I'm up by 7:00, shower, and boil my water for tea (green tea, decaffeinated--would I prefer strong, black coffee? You betcha', but the body no longer tolerates high test Colombian). I eat a decent breakfast and then--and here's the hardest part of the day--fight the urge to get on the Internet and check my mail, do a Twitter entry, post a blog, or write an article for the on-line rag, It takes discipline to delay those gratifications until the real work of the day is done, especially when there is no one around to keep an eye on me.

Yesterday I gave in to those urges and didn't start working on the book until the afternoon. This never feels good. I feel guilty about it and by the time I get down to writing serious prose, I'm already tired, my body from sitting so long, my brain from concentrating too hard.

Today, though, is different. I got to it quickly, while I was eating breakfast. I went straight to the book's icon on the desktop and clicked it open. I re-read what I'd written yesterday, did some editing, and then started to break new ground. Once I get going, I love it, though the blank computer screen can be as intimidating as the blank piece of paper was when I used to write on a typewriter (did we really used to do that? How quaint).

So, today I wrote from about 8:00 AM until Noon with a short break for a telephone call from my wife (it's Mother's Day--it's all right. Later I'll call my mother, too). Now it's 1:00 PM and I've had my lunch and I'm writing this (and listening to Kilo barking). I had my lunch on the balcony overlooking the Dolphin Research Center and on out across the Gulf of Mexico. The water is flat and calm today and meets a flat, clear, sharp-edged horizon that is a slightly different shade of blue.

I think I'll read now. I'm finally getting around to Herman Wouk's Don't Stop the Carnival. It was published in 1965, the year I graduated from high school. It's interesting how dated some of it is. An geek is a "square," (remember that term?), taxi fare in New York City is just a buck, the hotels in the tropics are not air conditioned, and you can put a down payment on a major resort in the Caribbean for $5000. The only thing that is constant is the human behavior Wouk describes--shameful, pitiful, and silly, as usual. And they wrote books on typewriters, in those days, too. And old portable Smith-Corona used to be just the thing. I wonder what I did with mine.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dating Dolphins: What is Acceptable Behavior?

What started out as a water fight (she was just flirting, I guess), ended up with a joyride and a kiss.

I came down to the Florida Keys to help out my brother and his companion who live/work at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. They had to leave town for a couple of weeks and they needed someone to take over as "caretaker" while they were gone. My duties are minimal: be here at night in case something happens; just sort of keep an eye on things after the staff has gone for the day. That being the case, my plan was to write and read--and I have been doing just that (I'm 144 pages into the next novel, really). But when one gets invited to socialize (a closely supervised date, rest assured) with a couple of pretty lady dolphins, who would say no?

I must have charming water-fighting skills because I was invited to go for a ride. I don't know how it was for them, but it felt finny to me.

After a hot afternoon with the girls, we came to that always-awkward moment: do you try to kiss her goodbye? And which one do you kiss? I think I chose the prettiest one although I couldn't tell them apart. A small peck on the cheek could be the start of something big (Notice her eyes are closed--always a good sign that things went well. In fact, she seems to be a state of ecstacy. Really! Just look at her. She doesn't know I'm 62 and take blood pressure medication).

I'll be here until Tuesday the 12th when I fly back to home and hearth and waiting/working wife. Then it will be time to finally drive up to Long Island to get our new sailboat in the water and start the long sail home to the Chesapeake. And the next novel, Book II in The Eye of the Stallion trilogy (The Mirrors of Castaway Time) should come out this summer. As far as my new friends are concerned, I'm not taking the relationship too seriously. Today I saw them cavorting with other men. Have they no shame?

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Retired Man, Floating

Here's a portrait. Let's call it Man, Retired. The bottom has fallen out, the top is nowhere in sight, the edges are a blur. Our hero, floating in the placenta of his labor-ess life, is but a silhouette, a one dimensional avatar of his old self. The only thing he has to worry about is how soon he'll die. Such is the nature of freedom from work.

Still, in those moments when he is immortal, he is joyous. He can sleep in. He can read his magazines. He can drink is de-caf green tea, cup after cup. He can pluck the weeds from his lawn. He can go for long walks, by himself, along the country back roads near the Chesapeake Bay where the land is soggy and the water shallow. He can become a birder, wondering at the mockingbird's many songs sung from atop a telephone pole. He can trust that the robins will raise well-adjusted chicks and know that if they don't it is no longer any of his business. It is all about letting go.

Just this morning, tea in its cup before him, he sat on the back deck with pleasant morning breeze tickling his skin through his t-shirt, and watched his cat playing in the grass with a tiny mouse. While the mourning doves coo-coo-cooed, the cat, his instincts aroused, slowly killed its toy, finishing it off near the lawn sprinkler. A decade ago, he would have shooed kitty away and given the mouse its freedom. Now, on this impeccable spring morning, he was being mindful and could not bring himself to move.

He trusts he will eventually master the real estate of the pasture he has been put out into. After a long winter of retirement-related ailments, the spring is warm and things are healing. He knows where to get fresh croissants on a Saturday morning. Right around the corner, from the tired-looking baker who has been up since 3:00 mixing and rolling dough. When he leaves the shop, bag in hand leaking fresh-baked wafts, he considers the quiet village and trundles homeward.