Books, Velkommen

The Hunley: submarines, sacrifice & success in the Civil War

No Comments 16 March 2012

I’m beginning to become interested in Civil War history.  The Hunley has been the catalyst.

I often think of history as  boring and dull.  A musty collection of dry facts and figures that have little relevance to the 21st century.  Who cares?  Well, now I know.  Mark K. Ragan cares.  The Hunley is fanatically well researched but assembled so it is interesting and easy to read.  The Confederate story comes alive with a new invention out of Mobile, Alabama.  Submarine warfare is born.  Charleston, South Carolina is the proving ground.

The sea trials were a little rough.  She sank twice before completing her one successful mission, sinking the USS Housatonic, on February 14, 1864.  And then she vanished for 131 years.

Her story is absolutely fascinating, as are the many old photographs and copies of documents found in naval archives and elsewhere.  I would never have believed that so much information could be pieced together after all that time.  The story and the glory of the Hunley are exhaustively researched and well told.

The discovery, salvage and preservation of the Hunley occupy only a small segment of this book. For the ongoing story of the Hunley in the 21st century, a bit of personal research is in order.   She now rests in a museum.  She has a fabulous website and a high profile list of friends.  Please, do surf the Hunley website, since you are already on the web.  It is well done, interactive and so worthwhile.  Should I ever get to Charleston, S.C. a visit to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the Old Navy Base is a top priority.  Should you have even a faint flicker of interest in submarines or Civil War history…..this book is the definitve statement.

Google has an image gallery, that gives a visual taste of the fascinating world of marine archeology and forensics applied to the Hunley.  Don’t miss it.  The paperback edition this book is inexpensive and would make for a whale of a read on a rainy blustery night at anchor.

Books, Velkommen

More Faster Backwards: rebuilding David B

No Comments 07 March 2012

It is great fun to read books with a local flair.  So much of the scene is already created, it’s easy to form mental images of the places and events.  Restoring an old wooden boat is a romantic undertaking, probably foolish from an accountants viewpoint, probably inevitable from a dreamers window.  The David B began life as a bowpacker, built to haul fish.  Now she is hauling passengers and the dreams of Jeffrey and Christine Smith.  The David B is a relic of the last century and she will be forever trying to slide back in time, return to her roots, no matter how much hard work and money is expended on her.  She is a callous-producing, sliver-inducing constant reminder that all things are temporary.  She thrives on love but can fade in the space between heartbeats.

What do you say to a young couple intent on rebuilding an 80+ year old boat?  You give ‘em all the encouragement you can.  And a big smile, because they are following their dream.  Do you think dreams run More Faster Backwards?

Good book.  Fun read.  Best if you are a Northwest type.  Severely in need of an editor.  Christine throws in an awkward F-bomb occasionally.  I talked to her about it at the 2012 Seattle Boat Show.  She bristled and said she was trying to be authentic.  I call BS.  Authentic dock language is much stronger than her writing.  That’s why I take exception to this detail.  She is trying to sell a book and promote a fledgeling cruise buisness.  No need for gratuitous language.  No need to alienate potential customers.  Polish the brightwork, pump the bilges over the side.

A romantic’s words:  “I want to be authentic.”  Quite lovely, often bittersweet.  The David B needs constant maintenance, the cruise buisness is crowded and competive, the economy is soggy, the weather more soggy.  Following a dream in a niche market.  AHOY.  I wish you luck and a sharp eye.  Long live your love.  Long live the David B.

Web sites for the David B or


Books, Velkommen

Dead Men Tapping – the end of the Heather Lynne II

No Comments 04 March 2012

Dang! this is one seriously fine book: a tradgedy that will leave your soul weeping.  Weeping for lost fishermen, but Dead Men Tapping is so much bigger than the story it tells….weeping for the human condition. Innocence that does not see the larger picture until hindsight reframes and contorts the recollected scene into a raw and ghastly house of horors.  Poingant, gripping, compelling.  Events are seen with a zoom lens that focuses on the individual fisherman and Coast Guard personnel that are part of the accident scene, then zooms out for a larger scale and new perspective.  If the available resources could have been rallied, the outcome could have been different, but everyone was so focused on the little piece of reality they assumed belonged to them. There is a slice of blame for everyone:  the Coast Guard, the fishermen, the tug captain, the salvor.  No one gets spared.  The resources were there; the urgency was there, just no one to knit them together.   Kate Yeomans had to live this book to write it; grow up on the water, be part of the close knit fishing community.

The 45′ fishing boat Heather Lynne II was run down by a 272′ barge under tow  just 10 miles off Cape Ann Massachusetts just before dawn in September of 1996.  She capsized but remained afloat with the crew trapped inside.  Tapping…..pounding, clawing on the inside of the hull.  Dead men tapping.

The courtroom struggles are an oversized chess game with strategies unfolding as  both sides vie for position. Intensely dramatic, blow by blow testimony.  At the end of t he day everyone gets up and goes home.  Not so for the crew of the Heather Lynne II.

Big thanks to Ray Robinson for the loan of this book.

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