Cod – a biography of the fish that changed the world

No Comments 31 March 2011

What a great book!  Big thanks to Ray Robinson for lending me his copy. 

I will admit that I began as a skeptic.  Just how good can a book be with the unusual title of Cod…..a fish that changed the world? Indeed.  The back cover tries to set the hook with, “Wars have been fought over it, revolutions have been spurred by it, national debts have been based on it, economies have depended on it, and the settlement of North America was driven by it.  Cod, it turns out, is the reason Europeans set sail across the Atlantic, and it is the only reason they could.”  Oh really?  I don’t recall my history books mentioning anything of the sort.  Still, it was rated one of the 25 best books of the year (1997), and a James Beard Award winner, too. What’s that all about?  Who is Mark Kurlansky?

What I found was the chronicle of cod.  1000 plus years of it stuffed into less than 300 pages.  And it was absolutely fascinating.  Beginning in the tenth century Norsemen were following cod from Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Maine.  Really, what else could they do?  Adventure, pillage and plunder was their heritage (especially after a bit of mead) but it got them expelled from more polite neighborhoods, but they had to eat to fuel Viking furnaces.  As I learned, cod has been an important source of food and oil for hundreds of years.  It became a major component of early international trade.  It drove the technology of the day.  Especially enlightening was the large part that the codfish trade had in the U.S. Civil War.  It is astounding what I didn’t learn in school.

Another part of the codfish story is the near extinction of the stock.  Once thought impossible by prominent thinkers like Thomas Huxley.  The idea of limitless bounty dies hard.  It’s tough to accept an idea that will devastate families and communities and put entire economies at risk.  No fish, no income.  Then come treaties, quotas and international agreements, not to mention the clever ways of avoiding them.  Some things are changing with technology and some things never change.   Well, take your spare change to the bookstore and buy Cod.  Then have some fish and chips and settle in for an interesting and informative read.  It’s definitely a book you will want to pass around….and I didn’t even mention the recipies.

B Dock, Velkommen

Starboard Water Tank Update

No Comments 22 March 2011

All images enlarge with a click.

I admit it has taken some time, but then I don’t do water tanks for a living…..and if I did, it would be a wicked way to diet!   The image shows the inboard side of the starboard pair of tanks.  Made in the U.S.A. by Ronco Plastics, 30 gallons each: #B-189  Everything is solid; all nuts and bolts are stainless.  Next,  the platform gets mounted on the outboard stringer and ribs, just 1/2 inch away from the muffler.  Then the tanks get plumbed together and hooked up to the pump.  Half of the fittings will get capped off.  When I ordered the tanks, I thought it might be better to have too many rather than too few.
Starboard water tanks - forward Starboard water tanks - aft Starboard water tanks - outboard

The platform for the port side just needs a few more coats of paint.  The floor of the lazarette is getting the same light gray treatment.  Three coats of primer and three coats of gloss.  Kirby’s Light Gray #25.  A web search pointed me to Kirby’s by way of the Woodenboat Forum and Rejuvenation Woodworks.  I called the Massachusetts facility to get their input on my project, since I’m applying it to both wood and fiberglass.   I like the non-technical application.  Thin the gray-tinted primer with a little mineral spirits and apply to a clean surface with a brush or a roller or whatever you have.  The same goes for the gloss coat except penetrol is used instead of mineral spirits.  I goes on easy and dries hard; just right for a 1st timer like me.  Easy is good.  Progress is good.


Civilization and the Limpet

No Comments 17 March 2011


This is it!  The best I have read and reviewed, since I have been piloting this blog.  Civilization and the Limpet is captivating, well written and thought provoking; a zoom lens on civilization, marine biology and cephalopods.  Zoom in for intricate details and zoom out for multiple-era overview.  The buttons on the vest of Herbert George (H. G.) Wells should be popping with pride at how well his son, Martin Wells, walks in his footsteps.  But this is not science fiction that reads like fact, this is fact that reads like science fiction. 

And the read is absolutely delicious.  This is about as precise and as playful as I can remember the English language having been used.  Martin Wells dishes out paragraphs as fast as you can ingest them.  The richness of the images framed with highly polished punctuation are an absolute joy. As is his succinct logic on such diverse subjects as vegitarianism and animal rights.

Need an example?  Sure, limpets are cool, but sex is what sells…..

“Pity the limpet…..likely to suffer severe identity crises, brought about by its sex lives.  Lives, not life.  For the fact of the matter is that limpets nearly all change sex as they get older.  Most set up as males as soon as they are old enough to be troubled by maturity.  This is no big deal. A sexually mature limpet sits, as is the way of limpets, and does nothing, most of the time. Not for him the pursuit of nubile lady limpets. No panting scramble across the rocks, no tiny molluscan feet touching as if by magic. A limpet has nothing, or next to nothing, to fantasize about. It develops sperm at an appropriate time of year, triggered perhaps by rising temperatures and high tides, it tosses the lot off into the sea and lets the little beggars get on with it, no doubt heaving a sigh of relief that it is now all over for another year, so it can settle down to serious matters such as feeding and digestion–a vintage year for algae one can always hope–and growth.”

While I was bouncing around the web looking for more Martin Wells information I found a February 26, 2009 post on Deep-Sea News:

I received the sad news today that Martin Wells, imminent biologist, one of the founders of Churchill College at the University of Cambridge and, a great friend of the cephalopods and all marine invertebrates, has passed away at the age of 80. Son of H.G. Wells, Martin was a highly accomplished biologist who was especially inspired by cephalopods and other marine invertebrates. His wonderful book Civilization and the Limpet portrays his love marine life. While aimed at the general audience, it should be, in my opinion, required reading for any future (or current) marine or invertebrate biologist, indeed it would be good for anyone with any interest in biology. The first time I sat down with it, I read it in one evening, it is that readable and good.”

Don’t miss this book.  Your wonder, your insight, your joy will be so magnified.  August 24, 1928  —   January 1, 2009  “Those whom the gods love die young.”  Yes, he was 80, and we would all do well to be so young at 80.  R.I.P.

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