Akaru-Hime: “Lillian”

Some more of the Akaru-Hime story:

I continued my afternoon sailings with Mr Sommers. One Saturday afternoon was of particular note as he told me to meet him at the Noss Shipyard. There at one of the berthing slipways was a beautiful gaff rigged sailing vessel of stripped mahogany about 35 feet in length: “Lillian” she was christened. Of course she was.

“What do you think Nigel?” Mr Sommers said on seeing me.

“Beautiful” was about all I could say.

“Come aboard.” I did…in awe.

Mr Sommers had been working on “Lillian” for some years now.

“Just after the war’s end.” He told me. “My wife Lillian had been killed and my work with the yard and as Dockmaster and Harbourmaster for the Port of Dartmouth was considered essential by our government, thus my exemption from military service. I was too old as well they told me but I didn’t like to think of myself in that way. The activity of the Port, my job and my responsibilities were important to the war effort. Yes, perhaps, but it kept me sane, grief stricken as I was with Lillian’s death. And I had Ruth to take care of.”

“I am sorry sir.” was all I could say for the moment. We went below deck into the main cabin. I followed his lead and took a seat across from him on the port settee. He continued.

“I found this piece of maritime flotsam, as I referred to her, up in the western arm of the Dart, by the Old Mill Boatyard. She was in rough shape, neglected and up on her side on the mud flats in a little bay just to the east of the marine slips on the north side of the arm. Being the Harbourmaster it was my responsibility to ensure that derelicts such as this could not be used by the enemy for nefarious operations against the port. Believe me Nigel there were many spies and Nazi sympathisers in this area, especially given our proximity to the Royal Navy’s presence at Plymouth. Plymouth was strategic and an important target for the German bombers. Nevertheless, I gave whoever may have owned her a chance to recover her. I posted notices up and around the various slipways of the Dart and in the small towns and villages around here and upriver all the way to Totnes. No response.”

“Then what?” I asked, while admiring Lillian’s interior teak.

“I took ownership and had the lead shipwright and naval architect at Noss’ come over and survey her. Turns out she was stable. Her hull was sound. The mast and gaffs were strewn across the mud flats and beach but all of the bits and pieces were still true to form in relatively good order. Her standing rigging was gone however. I felt that with a bit of sweat and a loving touch I could bring her back to life.”

He paused to reflect on something. He looked directly at me.

“On the selfish side of things Nigel I knew that bringing her back to life would provide for me a focus and purpose to continue living without dear, dear Lillian. Sure I had Ruth’s welfare to consider but she wasn’t enough.

“So I had some of Noss’ crew come over and right her, get her floating again and bring her over to the shipyard. There they found a slip for me, and a cradle on the hard which was out of the way of prying eyes. I could use the resources in material and expertise of the yard to draw from in which to restore her. That I did over the years, but on my own time and at my own expense.” He looked forward then aft toward the engine compartment.

“It wasn’t until after the war’s end that I could really focus on her in my spare time, of which I suddenly had lots.”

He looked at me again, grinned, then added. “And that is why those Saturday afternoon sails in “Lilly” were so important to me Nigel. In a selfish way I might add I used you and our time together to placate my own fears and loneliness. It provided a welcome break and respite from my work as Harbourmaster but also a break from my responsibilities in raising Ruth. Furthermore, our afternoon sails reminded me as to why I was so eager in restoring “Lillian.””

“You were not using me Sir.” I responded. “I enjoyed every minute and it got me away from a home life that was becoming unbearable, if only for an afternoon escape.”

Hope you enjoy these snippets.



Another excerpt from a story I am working on. This is in draft form. More work to be done. I am now 95 pages into it. About 25% completed. It is fun and relaxing though. Hope to have it done by summers end.

In about a week’s time I was pulled out of school by the Kingswear council authorities and child welfare department. Our house on Church Hill was cleaned out, deloused and vacated as it was not family owned. My few belongings were passed to me in an old suitcase and carrying bag. Before I knew it and without any prior knowledge I was placed in the charge of the Royal Navy as a Boy Seaman, 3rd rate, under the auspices and guidance of the Royal Navy’s disciplinary regimen at HMS Britannia, Dartmouth. Being only 13 years young, soon to be 14, this was to be my lot in life until such time as I could join the Royal Navy as a formal recruit at eighteen years of age, if I wanted to, or as an Officer Cadet, if I was so inclined scholastically and again if I wanted to. Signing on at eighteen would be a twelve year commitment. I was not sure if I wanted that. How can a thirteen year old be sure of anything? But I had to survive.

Ruth went off to St Dunstan’s School for Girls, a private or public school in Plymouth. We would see each other from time to time over the next few years but only as her term breaks and my brief respites from my study and duties at Dartmouth would allow. Mr. Sommers continued his Saturday afternoon sails of which I accompanied him as my responsibilities would permit. Normally I had Saturday afternoons off, just after cleaning stations and Captain’s rounds. Unbeknownst to me at the time it was Mr. Sommers who contacted the local council and child services department in Kingswear and Plymouth about my personal station in life after my father passed.

How I loved those Saturday afternoons with Mr. Sommers and with Ruth. No longer an object of neglect but with three squares under my belt I was beginning to form out physically into an adolescent – a fine young man they said. Life at Dartmouth for a young lad such as myself was stark and harsh but I grew to enjoy it for it was secure and structured. Discipline could be severe but it was needed. Not physically abusive as one would think of an institution that was hundreds of years old. Never, ever were we brought before the mast with a lashing from a “cat o nine” tail. That was a maritime myth. But mentally? That was a different matter. Looking back on those years I can understand why. There were other boys like myself there with backgrounds as disturbing and as varied as the colour and sight lines of the many sailing craft on the Dart. There were “ner do wells,” the delinquents, the orphans, the physically abused, the homeless…well…just about every conceivable personality trait that covered the entire gauntlet of all of the social discords and ills of post war England. It was here and under these circumstances that I began my life’s journey into the maritime environment.

Over the next few years I learned a great deal. It turned out that I possessed an acuity and aptitude for mathematics and the sciences. I excelled at navigation, relative velocity and engineering. Seamanship came naturally for me, perhaps as a result of the many Saturday afternoons spent sailing with Mr. Sommers. My seamanship skills were quite advanced for my age. So much so that in my spare time I could be found scurrying about HMS HINDOSTAN, which was a decommissioned Royal Naval vessel, permanently moored at Sandquay, exactly 187 steps down from the Royal Naval School, HMS DARTMOUTH. The HINDOSTAN employed a Chief Boatswain Mate, or Bos’n, who was a senior plebe of the school assigned to the HINDOSTAN on a three month rotational basis. Given my age I was not yet qualified as an Officer Cadet or a Rating thus my presence there turned out to be the seamanship continuity on that ship. I got to know everyone from the college and they got to know me. Not always a pleasant experience as I was often times belittled and bullied by the Cadets who were of a class much higher and broader than mine. Amongst my own peer group of ner’do’wells etc…well we were all lower class in the eyes of the Cadets and not worthy of coexistence in their midst. One instance became ingrained in my mind and was directly responsible for one of my life decisions.

“You…you there…” someone yelled. I turned in the direction of the voice. It was a senior Officer Cadet, standing aft on the quarterdeck. I made a pointing gesture to myself without saying a word.

“Yes you…come here…NOW.” he had a number of fellow cadets with him. They were standing behind him, all snickering at my presence.

“Sir” I answered, for he was an Officer candidate if even under training.

“What is your name…turd.”

Confused at this turn, I answered. “Nigel.”

“Nigel what.” he came back.

“Nigel Filtness.”

“What? WHAT?” he screamed.

Oh…yes, I thought to myself: “Nigel Filtness…SIR” At attention now.

“Well Nigel Filtness Sir. Looking at your working dress I would say you were what, a Boy Seaman Third Class. Hmmm?” He looked me straight in the eye, sideways, with his left eyebrow raised.

“Yes Sir.” I answered meekly, without confidence.

“What?” he screamed.

“YES SIR” I bellowed.

“Well you know Boy Seaman Nigel Filtness Sir.” as he walked slowly around me, poking me with his “pace” stick. “You are the lowest of the low. The surface layered blackened scum of the bilge. To be expunged. You are not a seaman, you are certainly not a cadet, nor will you ever be an…Officer. So what are you Filtness? Hmmm? Hmmm?

“Whatever you want me to be…SIR.”

“Well Nigel Stillness…you are shyte as far as I…we…are concerned,,,Nigel.” he looked at me tauntingly but smugingly at his cohort. “Shyte of the lowest order of shyte, and that is low.”

“Yes Sir…”. I responded.

He looked at me for a while but wasn’t sure of what to say to me next. He was lost for words, as only bullies could be. He grunted, turned and with his colleagues crossed the brow, arrogantly, and left the ship to return up the 187 steps to the college. I stood still, remained at attention, humiliated and ashamed at my dressing down and my lack of resolve and ability to respond. But I couldn’t respond for fear of a major reprisal and punishment. Banishment from the college if I ever dared to challenge a pretend Officer, an Officer in waiting. No matter what the cause or occurrence. Being right did not always matter in the Royal Navy, especially when it came to the chain of command. That was the emotional discipline that we had to put up with. But it was nothing compared to the abuse I received all of my life at home.

“Pay no heed to them.” Petty Officer Brand offered in my defence.

It sure would have been nice to have had you there when this was going on. I thought to myself. Cowards, the lot of them. I looked up to PO Brand but for now I just shook my head and continued on with my chores. Inside I was fuming.

Other than the bullshyte abuse from some of the Cadets, life at the college was good. It gave me disciplined structure. My senior ratings were fair and treated me with some respect, probably due to my seamanship ability, aptitude for Celestial Navigation and common sense. My instructors, supervisors, all Naval Officers and Senior Ratings, were veterans of the war. They were extremely tough but fair minded. Our practical sessions were aboard some of the college’s sailing vessels, one of which was a 40 foot ketch. I excelled at sailing thus was given free hand at 16 years of age to assume charge of “Mercury” but under the watchful eye of Petty Officer Brand. We often sailed out into the channel for coastal navigational training and celestial practice when we had a clear and unobstructed horizon and clear skies. It was great fun.

It was now 1955. I was sixteen years on.

Great song.




Sailing On Akaru-Hime…Part 3

From my new book, currently being written. Hope to have it completed by next summer. It is in rough draft. It has not been edited as yet.

Writing like this gives me a nice and welcome respite from the Covid 19 madness. I can escape to my own world of past adventures and excitement without a care in the world.

Her decks were wide enough to manoeuvre, to work the sails. Painted a sun bleached dull yellow with a non skid of flecked shells, hard on bare soles but stiff and skiff free to provide non slip protection when operating forward and outside the combed protection of the cockpit. Up in the bow, in the confines of the pulpit, were a few sail bags secured to the forestay, ready to go, to hoist as they say with only their hanks showing in a step like fashion. Lines emerged out of those bags leading aft outside of all the standing rigging like sinewy snakes meandering in unison back toward the winches. Of course I can say this now, describe “Akaru-Hime” as I am looking back on this, but at the time I didn’t have a clue, or a withering breadth of knowledge of the nautical world.

No sign of life, The cockpit was very large for a sailboat of this size. Deep and narrow with combed benches port and starboard. The engine controls were abutted up against the stbd side combing in the after section of the cockpit while a manually operated “gusher” pump was situated on its forward bulkhead. Turns out that this gusher pump had an attached steel handle topped with what resembled an eight ball. For leverage I guess. I would become very familiar with this piece of kit in due course.

The cockpit went as far back as it footprint would allow ending at a narrow covered transom. The transom, or stern section, had a protective white railing attached, not robust enough to save one from hurling overboard but more for utility and functionality as cordage, various sized red and black “Scotsmen” floats were attached. Some 5 gallon buckets, whisker poles, fishing poles were also in situ as if this part of Akaru-Hime was a catch-all for the rest of the boat. “Akaru-Hime” was squared off at the rear by a stern that dropped to the vertical for about a foot then angled itself forward at about a forty five degree angle toward the waterline. The stern’s aspect gave “Akaru-Hime” an air of sleekness, fine lines and speed. An illusion as it would turn out. Of course it was impossible to see how the bottom faired as the deep bluish green shades of surface water obscured visibility other than a few inches below the boot topping. The boot topping, that narrow four inch wide black painted strip that followed the waterline of “Akaru-Hime” from bow to stern and separated her from the living and the dead. It provided an aspect that seemed to frame “Akaru-Hime” synergistically.

The hatch to the gangway was locked so I couldn’t go below. This was taboo of course without prior permission, no matter that I was deemed crew. If you want to get off on the wrong foot with any skipper or make a poor first impression just climb aboard without permission to come aboard. This I knew.

I threw my kitbag into the cockpit and left it there. I wasn’t worried about somebody stealing it for there was nothing of value in there except for a 35mm camera, which I had with me, on me. No, if someone wanted my stinky stuff they were welcomed to it. I then proceeded to explore my surroundings. “G” dock, “Akaru-Hime’s” main street was very long with finger floats abutting both sides of the main dock. Probably up to 100 boats on this dock alone. And “G” was followed by “H” and “J”, no “I” apparently, preceded by “A” through “F”. Unbelievable!  An entirely different world than what I had been used to or even imagined: somewhat of a parallel universe to the tourist district and peons of the Waikiki district of Oahu.

The Ala Wai harbour, accompanying marina and Ala Moana Yacht Club were huge. Hundreds of yachts, of various sizes and shapes: Sloops, Cutters, Ketches and Yawls. Double Enders, where the bow and stern have the same pointed aspect, Tahiti Ketches, Catamarans, and Trimarans. They were all here. No power boats. They were all berthed separately across the main channel near the Ala Moana Park. I guess they wanted to keep the stink-potters separated from the true believers.

I left G dock, walked a way over through a parking lot that abutted a park area, then a small landlocked lagoon. Not really a lagoon as it was landlocked but it was known as the Ilikai Lagoon, part and parcel of the Ilikai hotel – a local landmark as it turned out and I do recall its centrally located exterior elevator that took one from the hotel’s lobby to the top of the “I”, all the while allowing one to see the calming beauty and blue turquoise pastels are dark inshore fluid shadows or reefs of the Pacific Ocean, the Ala Wai, harbour the Ala Moana Yacht club and the like. This exterior run was also made famous by the Jack Lord version of Hawaii “book-em-Danel” 5 Oh.

The Ilikai was just many of a long line of Waikiki luxurious beachfront hotels that stretched from the Ala Moana Yacht club, skirting their way as fringes of the beach only stopping its progression by the iconic Diamond Head volcanic caldera. Luckily, not active but extinct, the sides of which was covered from its base about a third of its elevation in tropical green hues of a lush carpet like vegetation blanket, like moss, then abruptly transitions to that easily recognizable dark brown blackish coloured and bare volcanic rock that permeate the many volcanic islands of the South Pacific. The rock sides were not smooth but interspersed it seemed with symmetrical lines or cracks, seams and what appeared to be vertically oriented valleys that all too apparent on many of the mountain ranges and rock formations on these volcanic Hawaiian Islands and those other mountainous gems of the South Pacific. It appeared as if those seams were hardened rivers and streams of lava slides or floes of long ago.  On its crown you could just make out the diamond like cluster of rock cuts at the leading edge of this ancient rock.


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Sailing On Akura-Hime…Part 1

From my new book, currently being written. Hope to have it completed by next summer. It is in rough draft. It has not been edited as yet.

Writing like this gives me a nice and welcome respite from the Covid 19 madness. I can escape to my own world of past adventures and excitement without a care in the world.

Chapter One

21.30485° N, -157.85776° E

Ala Moana Yacht Club, Ala Moana District, Waikiki

I arrived in Honolulu early afternoon, after a 10 hour flight from Chicago. Clearing immigration and customs I ventured out to the arrival promenade. It was a broad and wide boulevard that was sheltered by a translucent canopy of tropical plants and banyan -like ferns that dropped away from the hot and high noon tropical sun. Immediately I sensed from my surroundings that I was awash in the tropical greens, blues and turquoise hues of this tropical isle. The air smelled of a sweet scented and natural perfume and nectar while a warm tropical breeze seemed to embrace the psyche. You could almost feel the tension of a hard northern winter ease itself out of every pore of your body.

Calling a cab I travelled down the Nimitz Highway. Only in America – an eight lane highway in the middle of paradise, through Honolulu, the waterfront, harbour, Aloha Tower, Ala Moana district with its large seaside park and huge but modern outdoor mall then into the concrete canyons of the Waikiki tourist district with its wide Kalakauwa Boulevard, Sky-scraping hotels, vistas, gaudy bars, tacky shops, pizza joints and squawker’s dens with Diamond Head in the far background maintaining its everlasting watch over Waikiki. It was all too surreal for someone like me who had just arrived from the cold arctic wasteland of the Great White North in a way among the towering palms, lagoon and sand of Waikiki.

Turning suddenly into a parking lot adjacent to the Ilikai hotel we came to a stop. This was it. I paid the fare, got out and surveyed my surroundings. A yacht harbour, the Ala Wai, with its accompanying Ala Moana Yacht Club.

“Akaru-Hime” lay at berth G35 at the Ala Moana Yacht Club, Waikiki, Honolulu Hawaii in the Ala Wai Harbour. She seemed somewhat tired looking from her long and laborious 19 day jaunt from Vancouver to Oaha. Her 35 foot wooden frame and lines of stripped mahogany clinkered planks, painted white, seemed worn and somewhat riddled through with expansion cracks, flaking paint, opened joints and waterlogged seams. She seemed to me to lay there at G35 in a forlorn, abandoned, and unpretentious state, in somewhat of a sad and lonely profile, feeling out of place among the 40, 50, and 60 foot sailing yachts of the Ala Wei Harbour and Yacht Club. Those sleek, modern and expensive yachts seemed to overpower and intimidate “Akaru-Hime” as she lay there unattended in her 35 foot berth.  It was as if that 1900 nautical mile sail from Vancouver had been but a bad dream robbing her and draining her of all of her energy and power. She looked tired, forlorn and beat.


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PS: There is no scientific evidence out there that masks prevent the spread of Covid 19. It is all speculative and anecdotal brought on by our so called experts because they have to be seen as doing something. We have been all wearing masks for some time now yet the incidences are still going up. Why?


What would happen if we all just stopped wearing a mask? Period.


I Don’t Have A Title Yet…Part 5

If ya have a good name for this let me know.

“So Sid ‘s fucked off and left me with this pile of dung.”

Krofune? Dung? He always anglicized Sadao to Sid.

Looks fine to me I said. A bit weathered perhaps but it must be in fine shape.


“What’s that?”

“She. A sailboat, no, all vessels on the water are she’s, not it’s, for fuck sakes. Jesus H Christ. What the fuck have I gotton myself into” he proffered to no one, not to me, to the gulls perhaps. They cawed in comical response!

He kind of looked at me with a grinning disdain. This was not going well. I felt intimidated by him to some degree.

“Sorry, she. She doesn’t look too bad, I mean to me”

Nigel grunted, took a couple more long slugs, crushed the can and grabbed another.

“So John. What do you expect here? From me? Why are you here anyway?”

What could I say. “Pat and Sadao asked me to come and help out. Sail to Japan. Help you in doing it.  I jumped at the chance. Great opportunity I thought. Looking forward to it.

Saying nothing Nigel looked at me with contempt. What is his problem I thought to myself?

Nigel was about 33 years old. A professional sailor as he claims to be. Hired by Sadao to help him sail and deliver Krofuni to Japan. He and Sadao met each other in and around the maritime bazaars and marinas of Vancouver Harbour. My sister Pat did not take too well to Nigel and I think the feelings were mutual. Nevertheless Nigel offered to help Sadao fulfill his dream and for a modest sum would help him in his quest. Off they went. Sadao had to give up on his dream but had asked Nigel to carry on.  He agreed. Adventure I guess. And that’s where I came in.  Crew to Nigel’s skipper.