Category Archives: Life

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Last Night At T.T. the Bear’s Place

On May 19, 2015, The Boston Globe reported that the Cambridge, MA dive bar T.T. the Bear’s Place would be closing its doors for good on July 25th of the same year thanks to a steep rent hike coupled with the fact that the club’s 73-year-old owner Bonney Bouley had already been pondering retirement. According to the article, T.T.’s general […]

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Photo by Alan Hartman

The Nearly Lawless Race To Alaska

The first-ever Race to Alaska is pitting dingy against cruising cat, fur trader against tech genius in a 750-nautical-mile slog from Port Townsend, Wash. to Ketchikan, Alaska. There are 33 entrants, no support boats, no pre-arranged supply drops and a $10,000 stack of Benjamins for the winner, a set of steak knives for second. “No one knows what is going to […]

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Diary Of A Sailmaker’s Apprentice

June 1 Wind greater than 10 knots, and the sails are ready to dance. Not the twerking kind or a drunken flail (one hopes). But the ballroom dancing Nazi kind, or the Aikido sparring kind. In other words, there is an equally opposed connection between a man-made shape and the wild air that achieves grace through a precise blend of […]

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What, me Italian?

It appears that after nearly a half a century of not being Italian in the slightest, I am going to spend the rest of my life as a part Italian person. You might wonder how this happened. DNA is the short answer. A DNA test revealed to me that I am part Italian. How do I explain it? Well, that […]

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Diary Of A Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 15 I loved journalist lingo, especially the sneaky terms that look like words other writers might correct as misspellings. “Lede,” for example, is the word for the lead-in to a story. “TK” stands for “to come” and acts as a placeholder in an article for missing information. I loved the lingo of whitewater kayakers just as much. The word […]

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Photo courtesy of the sail loft

Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

Feb. 24 The first year of my apprenticeship concludes in 10 days. I have assimilated. I have learned the ways. Like Dian Fossey, I extended a hand and “Digit” the gorilla plopped his palm in mine. I’m not saying we are bunch of mountain primates although, like those majestic creatures, we sailmaking women are rare, strong and have a way […]

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Diary Of A Sailmaker’s Apprentice

  December 7 The Boston Pops covers “Sleigh Ride” over the sound system as we cue the Christmas lights and evaluate how many hours we can work before we must have an egg nog latte. It’s December at the sail loft, and my ninth month as an apprentice. Like Santa’s sack growing heavy with gifts, I feel joy to see […]

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Diary Of A Sailmaker’s Apprentice

June 14 One way to protect a line or wire from chafe and exposure is to wrap it in seine twine. The task is called “serving.” Seine twine is thin, plastic line coated in pine tar, which turns the white twine black. In the past, sailors used tarred marline, line made from hemp fibers. Some traditional ships still use the […]

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Photo by Mikiya Sequoia

Diary Of A Sailmaker’s Apprentice

April 8 As sailors, and sailmakers, what may look like odd fashion accessories are really totems of our skill. I hung up my rig knife when I stepped off ships and traded it for a scissor holster and palm when I climbed into the sail loft. Most tall ship sailors have stories behind the knives, marlin spikes and sheaths they […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 25 Pirates of Pendants Yes, tall ship friends, I used the “P” word in the title of this post. But really, most of the so-called pirates that like to tour our decks are mild hazards. I consider it a courtesy, even, that they dress flamboyantly enough to warn us to steer clear of them, especially if we would rather […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 18 A roller-furling Genoa with a foam luff stretched across the loft as I summited the worn wooden staircase. I know what that is now. For those who haven’t been training as a sailmaker’s apprentice for two weeks, or sailing modern boats lately, a Genoa is a large headsail. Headsails are forward of the foremost mast on a boat, […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 13 My chest began to puff a bit as my seams grew straighter with every pass, but then someone asked me to turn a corner. Suddenly, sewing took more than focus, it took strategy. My co-worker suggested I draw dots where I wanted my stitches to go, and then try to hit those with the needle. She drew them […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 11 Last week, my co-workers led me from the sewing machines to the hand-stitching station where I learned even more new words. The sailmakers in our loft are known for high-quality handwork, which is somewhat of a dying art. Many factory sails are completely machine-sewn. We hand-sew hardware and chafe gear onto sails. Above, I affixed a “straight leather” […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

  March 6 I know it may be hard to tell, but in this very photo, I am hunga dunga-ing. See those black thingy-dos on the rolled up part of the fabric? You guessed it: Hunga dungas. I hope you’re saying this word out loud. It’s the best thing since “baggy wrinkle.” OK, I’m sorry about the hype. A hunga […]

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Diary of a Sailmaker’s Apprentice

March 3 One week ago today I was aimless, jobless and homeless. The good people of Port Townsend, Washington, changed that in less than a week. Now I live here and I am a sailmaker’s apprentice. I do not know how to sew. I have never aided nor abetted in the construction of a sail. Still, something happened in the […]

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Hot Tea and Bread Dough

I got my first issue of Taproot magazine this past week. “Living fully, digging deeper” is their tagline, and “food, farm, family and craft” is emblazoned across the back cover. It’s basically about all the things that inspire me the most! It was nice to sit down and open something so full of ideas and possibilities. More than nice, it […]

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How do you balance art and a job?

Like many artists and writers, I’ve usually had two jobs: the job that earns money, and the job that is being an artist. Sometimes the art earned good income and I didn’t need other work, but often it didn’t and I struggled to find the right balance between money and art-making. It’s like the Pushmi-Pullyu of Doctor Doolittle, two minds, […]

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