STORMS AND STORIES: Post-Hurricane, a Story from Mexico

Waves crashing on rock
Waves crashing on rock

One of my WIPs begins with a scene taken from my first storm on board Sea Venture. We’d moved the boat from the CA Delta to Marina Bay in Richmond, CA. The wind and waves had direct access through the Golden Gate to our slip. Michael was late returning from work that night when a whopper of a storm raised its furious head. As I lay in my bunk, shuddering along with Sea Venture, I imagined what it might be like for a novice sailor (because if I were scared, how much more would she be?), alone on a boat in a strange country. So I moved my character to La Paz, MX (one of our favorite cruising grounds in the Sea of Cortez), named their boat Mystic, and gave the area a new marina.

Here’s the opening to On a Night Like This:

Chapter One

Waves crested Marina Algare’s finger piers, dousing the dock and anything—or anyone—still roaming abroad that night. The slaps echoed like the beat of bass drum on the uninsulated fiberglass of Mystic’s transom, and Kyra snuggled deeper under the summer-weight blankets. She longed for brick and mortar, for solid ground and the strong foundation she’d left stateside. Instead, mere inches separated her from the banshee’s fury.

Halyards flogged the mast. She should have lashed the lines before the storm hit, but how could she have known they’d be a problem? Preparing the boat had always been Stephen’s job. She winced as something thudded into the hull, once, twice. The wind howled, screeching through the rigging. Kyra flattened a pillow against her ear.

She’d been through plenty of storms in the California Delta where the inland heat sucked wind off the ocean and sent it surging up the rivers. There, tucked behind thick walls and curtained windows, she’d felt safe, immune from violence. When the weatherman warned of high winds, she had only to check the flashlight batteries, make sure Stephen had filled the generator with gas, and then slip into something comfortable before turning on a movie. Or curling up to read. Or going to sleep. Being alone wasn’t a problem in Rio Vista.

But she wasn’t in her California house, was she? Thanks to Stephen, she was on a boat in Mexico, their new home, he’d called it when he’d enticed her here—before abandoning her to face what sounded like a hurricane.

A sob clogged her throat. If he were lying next to her, he’d laugh and rub a hand up her back, his long fingers tickling her slightly before they inched toward her tense muscles. He’d remind her, in his low and soothing voice, that even if the wind piped to sixty, Mystic was a good old girl, well able to handle a storm. Kyra could imagine his chuckle. “Poor Kyra, so nervous. What is there to worry about?” He tell her that they’d head to sea if the wind got to near-hurricane force and heave to. Mystic wouldtake care of them. “And besides,” he’d insist, “The Lord watches over us.”

She leveled a curse at his missing form, though after that last thought, the curse felt dangerous, as if she’d spooked herself and her circumstances. Too bad she didn’t have Stephen’s faith—in either the boat or his God.

Lying in the dark, she had no idea how hard the wind blew, but it was loud and bad and nothing she wanted to be in the middle of, thank you very much. Everything Stephen said made sense when he was here and in charge. But he wasn’t, and she had no idea why not.

When another gust rocked the boat, Kyra started, thinking it might be Stephen’s weight causing the lurch. She listened, but no footfalls moved aft.

What good were promises if he were off gallivanting around Mexico instead of here to keep them? She couldn’t take a forty-five foot boat to sea on her own. She had to stay tethered to the dock and hope that the lines held and the pilings were strong and no other boat got loose to crash into them.

If he’d decided not to drive back from Cabo because of the storm, why hadn’t he called? He had a cell phone, and, surely, Cabo San Lucas had decent service.

She flipped on a light to check the signal strength bars on her phone’s screen. Five. So, it wasn’t a fault in La Paz. It didn’t make sense. Stephen was always so careful with her. Knowing how nervous she got when he didn’t call to say he’d be late, he always phoned. Hitting speed dial for his cell, she waited, then left her second panicky voice mail. “Where are you?!”

For his sake, she tried praying, but it felt as if the noises outside drowned her words—even though she didn’t speak them aloud. The heavens seemed too busy pouring down rain to bother with one lone woman in a dark and very foreign marina. Fine, she and God weren’t on the best of terms, but Stephen kept saying God listened.

It didn’t look like it from here.

Finally, sometime in the night, the storm quieted. But she still lay alone with a phone that didn’t ring.

Alligator River to Little Washington

Heading from Coinjock across the Albemarle Sound and then down the Alligator River took us out of cell phone and Internet range. How foreign that felt when we’d been able to talk or interact from the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and from several miles offshore.  We left the frigid mornings behind and discovered windless days, the sound and rivers a mirror, reflecting a perfect sky. Look at what we experienced at anchor in the Alligator River:

Anchoring on the Alligator River



Mama's enthralled



After a night in Belhaven, NC, we headed to Little Washington. Once in the channel, we joined the fleet. I’ve never seen so many boats, all with the same idea: Go South. We had 17 boats surrounding us–until we turned to starboard and they continued on to Oriental.



From Portsmouth, VA, to Coinjock, NC

After a lovely book event and signing at Studio One, Riverview Galleries in Portsmouth, we headed south.

Leaving Portsmouth, VA
Leaving Portsmouth, VA


We love the ICW, the quiet of the water, the shoreline. What we don’t like are the occasional sport fishers who think slamming past a sailboat at 20 knots and kicking up a big wake is a good way to say hey.

It was cold when we left and cold during the day, so we paused for the night at Atlantic Yacht Basin in Great Bridge, VA. Friendly and helpful folk, and one of the best deals in dockage and fuel on the entire trip. Here’s the view out the companionway. (And yes, I had to sweep the deck of pine needles this morning, but it was worth it.)

view out companionway
view out companionway

We only had two unhappy boaters to contend with today, the bridge and lock tenders were courteous, and certainly all the sailboats heading south were manned by folk who were friendly and happy to be out there.

There’s something about people who travel by a slow sailboat: the whole point is the journey. And isn’t that how we ought to live every day — instead of blowing past at high speed?

Early this morning. Love the mist.
Early this morning. Love the mist.
Mist along the ICW
Mist along the ICW
First signs of fall
First signs of fall













The froth on the water is from one of those not-nice captains (a female, this time) whose impatience made her a menace.



Waiting for the half-hour and the last bridge on this part of the ICW
Waiting for the half-hour and the last bridge on this part of the ICW



And she still had to wait for the opening of the North Landing Bridge along with the rest of us.  It must have killed her, all that effort to put the fleet off her stern, only to be stopped at the bridge like all the lesser folk.







We’re now back in Coinjock, NC, at Midway Marina. And tonight? Dinner at Crabbies!






New York City: Babies, Boats, and Books

I know you’ll forgive me for the blog silence when I explain that I’ve been just a little busy. Some of you will have seen the Facebook pictures of my time in the city, but here are a few to remind me and you of the important things in life.


Little Ella talks to her daddy
Little Ella talks to her daddy
And chats with her giraffe


The baby whisperer
The baby whisperer


My son-in-law calls me the Baby Whisperer because I could soothe our sweet little darling and give her parents a break. This was taken on my last day with her–and she did as much to soothe my spirit as I did for hers.

I did have the privilege of meeting my publicist face-to-face.  River Laker of Silver Seas PR came to town to help me at a book event in one of the top NYC book stores. Here I am, reading an excerpt from Becalmed.

Reading from Becalmed
Reading at Bluestockings


We loved our time at Liberty Landing Marina.

Just after dawn
Just after dawn
Lights come on in Manhattan as seen from SV's deck
Lights come on in Manhattan as seen from SV’s deck
View as we dined at Liberty House Restaurant
View as we dined at Liberty House Restaurant


Sea Venture is slowly wending her way south. First real stop, Chesapeake City, MD, and then it’s on to Baltimore and more book signing parties!

If you’re anywhere along our route south (Chesapeake Bay and ICW) please give us a shout out.  I’d love to meet you hither, thither, or yon.









Pictures from Sea Venture’s Trip North to NYC

As seen on my Facebook Author Page, including Chesapeake City Book Signing:

Prelude to Virtual Launch 7

Prelude to VIRTUAL LAUNCH: Day 7

Here we are at Day 7 of the prelude for the Becalmed’s Facebook launch Party on July 1. We’ve met James, Elvie Mae, and Rita Whitlock, along with Isa Wellington and Matt and Hannah Morgan and Matt’s brother Alex. (Oh, and Bethanne.) Today we meet Will Merritt.

 Share This Blog Post to Win

FIRST WINNER CHOSEN! Congratulations to Katie Clark!

For every unique share of this blog post on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or other media outlets, I’ll enter your name into the weekly drawing for a combination paperback and e-book of Becalmed.

We’re also having fun with ideas for actors to play the various parts. Come take a look at the Pinterest Board for Becalmed‘s Characters and let me know if you’d like to add a suggestion. I don’t see my characters this way, which is why I like faceless covers, but one of my readers, John Pelkey, sent in his offerings.


Seventh up: Will Merritt

Will had it all. A beautiful, loving, and perfect wife named Nancy, who dreamed of sailing with him and their daughter Jilly. Work he loved as a mechanical engineer. And that precious child, their first-born.

And then his world collapsed when a drunk driver killed the love of his life. It’s been almost two years now, but he misses her more with each passing day, especially when Jilly does or says something that is so reminiscent of her mother. He sees Nancy in the toss of Jilly’s hair, in her “that would be lovely”—words Nancy used for so many things, always accompanied by that turn-his-insides-to-slush smile.

How on earth is he supposed to do this?

But he’s got to. He and Jilly are following the dream. They’re living on the Nancy Grace, and they’re traveling. Coping. Sometimes more than coping.

And he’ll allow no one, absolutely no one, to encroach on the world they’ve made for themselves.


Share this on your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or wherever.

For each unique link to this post, I’ll enter you in a drawing to win a paperback copy of Becalmed along with an e-version! I have ten characters to introduce. After each five, I’ll pull a winner’s name from the hat.

Read more about BECALMED on the PRESS KIT

BUY Becalmed on Amazon

Save the Date: July 1


Watch for the virtual launch on Facebook, July 1

Giving away books at Becalmed’s Facebook Launch Party from authors Lorrie Thomson, Roseanna White, C Hope Clark, Kathryn Craft, Barbara Claypole White, and Robin Patchen.


(PS. In case the Internet thingies that are supposed to tell me of shares decides to fail us, will you also leave a comment and tell me where you shared this so you don’t get left out of the drawing?)