Friday, December 28, 2018


USNS Laramie in the Mediterranean, Dec 2018
This is my ship, USNS Laramie (T-AO 203). She is my job, my office and my home for up to ten months a year, operating in home waters off the coast of Virginia, ranging north and south along the east coast of the United States, or deploying around the world to the Indian Ocean or Mediterranean Sea. I have many friends amongst her crew, people I admire and respect, and for the most part I find the experience of sailing and serving in this naval auxiliary to be rewarding and enjoyable.

She's far from my first ship, but after two years aboard I think I can safely say that she's a 'keeper'. I'm planning to stay with this particular "River Boat" (so-called because most Navy Oilers are named for rivers in the United States) for as long as I can. It seems to be a good match so far!

I usually see her from the inside; it's nice to come across a beautiful photograph from the perspective of another ship making her approach to receive fuel and cargo. This image was taken by an officer aboard the Spanish Frigate Reina Sofia; I think it captures my current nautical girlfriend very nicely.

It's also cool to know that one of those dots on the bridge wing (directly above the orange-topped lifeboats) is yours-truly!

Monday, December 24, 2018


"Earthrise", photographed by William Anders aboard Apollo 8, 24Dec1968
William Anders:
We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.
And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

James Lovell:
And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Frank Borman:
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.

And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas – and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

f-stop: Seven Sisters

A little photographic experimentation. I set-up my Canon SX-50 (a few years old but still rocking) on the bridge-wing railing with my knit-cap as cushioning and vibration-suppression, sighted-in VERY carefully and with a little trial-and-error managed a not-too-bad 1-sec exposure of M45 (the Pleiades in Taurus) at 6400 ISO with the telephoto lens zoomed-out to approximately 50x. You can see that the star images are slightly elongated; this is the effect of the Earth's rotation.

I enjoy challenging my equipment and myself; being an amateur astronomer @ sea means that quite a few of the "rules" and techniques for star-gazing and astrophotography either don't apply or require extensive modification before they can be applied aboard ship. In this case I'm rather pleased with the result.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Writer's Block

It amazes me how a good, productive day can be utterly ruined by one cretin with a well-timed and pointless interruption. Case in point: I was rounding-out a successful Sunday of writing--feeling really good about what I'd accomplished on an essay that'd been on the burner for weeks--when the phone rang. It was a stupid person with a stupid problem and I had to walk him--slowly--through the solution. By the time I'd hung-up the phone my writing mojo had gone to Tahiti for an unscheduled rest-cure and I was left staring helplessly at the screen, trying to remember where the hell I was going with that particular paragraph. Not only is the rhythm of the essay broken but I'm left unsure of what exactly I was doing with it. Day destroyed.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


Mount Etna looms on the horizon as we begin the approach to Augusta Bay, welcoming me back to the Island almost exactly 17 years since I was mobilized here after 9-11--and nearly 40 years since my first visit in 1982.

Time after time, cruise after cruise, I have known the spell of this place. I even lived here for nearly two years (tho' I'm embarrassed at how little Sicilian I picked-up in that time). Even without a linguistic edge I have had so very many adventures here, both alone and with my darling Lucilla. From Siracusa to Messina, Catania to Palermo, Erice to the ancient cities of Segesta and Selinunte...from the ruins of Agrigento to the estate of Horatio Nelson at Bronte. What a wonderful place!

I have a hundred stories, a thousand memories...can this island have been SUCH an important part of my life for SO long?

Oh yes.