Monday, December 22, 2008

I Love Google!

Yesterday I talked at another blog about Googling myself, and mentioned that I have Google set up to give me a daily digest of mentions of my books. Today's digest included a listing from a library in Estonia showing the circulation record for Salakaubavedaja pruut, aka Smuggler's Bride.

I don't get nearly enough email from fans in Estonia, but it's good to see they're reading my books.
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Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Manuscript of Image via WikipediaJenny Graman Meyer Bookwormed me, so I'll play along--to a point. I'm afraid I'm not going to pass this meme along to five other people because friends have gently told me in the past they wish they wouldn't get these little nudges. However, if you're reading this and you want to play along, feel free to copy the rules and credit me.

The Rules are:

1) Open the closest book- not a favorite or most intellectual book- but the book closest at the moment, to page 56
2) Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following
3) tag five innocents [or more]
4) do the same for your manuscript

I'm going to go first to my manuscript, Sea Change. Here's what's on page 56:

"He’s a bright fellow and enough time with us may change his loyalties.”
“You know best, Captain. As I said, it’s good for the men to have a surgeon aboard. Knowing he saved Henry’s life will help the men accept him as part of the crew.”
David too had heard the men chatting this morning at their tasks, discussing what ailments they wanted the young doctor to treat while he was aboard.
Bryant hesitated, then spoke again.
“Will Mr. Fletcher be returning to duty?”
“The doctor thinks so. Or perhaps he’s saying that to help Henry recover. Regardless, I want to continue this voyage as long as Henry is recovering, and when we return to Baltimore he can decide for himself.”

OK, now the nearest book at hand--It's Bleed, Blister and Purge--A History of Medicine on the American Frontier by Volney Steele, M.D. Page 56, five lines down:

"Even if the sergeant had been in a metropolis rather than the wilderness, he undoubtedly would have died, as appendectomy was an unknown surgical procedure at the time.

The Corps arrived in the Mandan villages, on the Missouri River in what is now North Dakota, in October 1804. There the men constructed a small circular fort of timber covered with sod and twigs. It was a remarkably dry and warm enclosure in which the expedition passed a comfortable winter."
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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Why Writing Is Good For You, Body and Soul

I've mentioned elsewhere that my treadmill finally broke down after 20+ years of excellent service. I'm anxious to get another, but haven't found a model I like that will fit through the doorways of my house. Seriously. So in the meantime, I do it the old fashioned way. I take a two mile brisk walk around out neighborhood each day.

I carry weights while I'm walking, to increase the benefit, burn more calories and help tone and strengthen my arms. I started with 2.5 lb. wrist weights, then increased to carrying a five pound weight one mile with a 2.5 lb. weight on the other hand, then switching off at the one mile mark.

I also carry a small notebook and a pen because as I mentioned in a previous post, rhythmic walking frees up my imagination. Today I was so caught up in thinking about my WIP, working title Castaway Dreams, that I was within sight of my house before I realized I was still carrying the heavy weight in my right hand. I'd never switched off at the one mile mark.

Now I know I can increase the weight I'm carrying, which will give me a more effective workout. And all because I was thinking about my writing. As I said, good for body and soul.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Illustration of a scribe writingImage via Wikipedia10 Practical Writing Tips

I did a talk last week to a group of high school students on the joys of writing. Given that most days I feel like my writing would best be accomplished by banging my head on the keyboard until blood flows onto the page, I wasn't sure I was the best person for the job. But I like to think I managed to say a couple things they could use.

To make it easy on myself and on them, I said I'd give them 10 completely practical tips they could use to become better writers, and I'll share them here as well:

1. Always remember my favorite quote: "You can fix anything but a blank page." Write something. Write anything. You can fix it later, but if you don't write it, you can't fix it.

2. Shower often. Good advice for high school boys under almost any circumstances (I know, I raised two of them), but in this case it was about writing breakthroughs. I know quite a few writers who say they get their best ideas while showering. I think it's because you're in a small space with featureless walls, going through repetitive motions.

3. Carry a notepad. OK, maybe not in the shower, but everywhere else you need to have some way to write or record your thoughts. Either store text in your phone/pda or do it the old fashioned way with a pen and pad. My notes for this speech, and I showed them the card, were written on a tiny Levenger's Circa pad I always have with me.

4. Take walks. Walking clears your head and again, is like the shower in that the rhythm of the walking can free up your mind to think creatively. I do recommend against taking a music device or talking on the phone while taking these walks, so that your mind is free to wander.

5. Find your writing music. Not everybody likes to write to music. Not everybody likes to write to the same kind of music. But when I turn on epic movie soundtracks while I'm sitting at my keyboard, it's a message to my brain that if we're listening to "Gladiator" or "Braveheart", it's time to write.

6. Read your work aloud. One of the best ways to catch typos, errors and sentence fragments. Too often your brain fills in what your eye thinks it sees. Reading aloud helps you catch mistakes, and gives you a feel for whether your dialog is working.

7. Change the font. This goes along with "read aloud". If you're used to always typing in Times Roman, change the font on your last read-through to Courier or, my favorite for this task, Comic San Serif. Typos you missed on the 20 other passes jump out at you.

8. Keep your mind open. I like to think that for a writer, all experiences are grist for the mill. A traffic stop, an overheard snippet of conversation, a drive through the country, all these things can be used to add color to your writing.

9. Try to make your own writing space. Not always easy to do, but when you have your own space for studying or writing, it can help you be more focused. But you shouldn't not write just because you don't have a cozy little office of your own. It just makes it easier when you can write undisturbed.

10. Avoid toxic people. People who say "Why do you write that kind of trash? When are you going to write a real book? I could write that crap! Aren't all those books the same?" That's when you go to your happy place and just listen to the waves lapping at the shore. I recommend not telling people you're writing a book until the book is finished. Far too many people share that they're writing a novel and only end up getting dumped on, or made so nervous they never finish.

I don't know if this helped these teens, but I felt I'd offered what I could. I recommended a couple of books, Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird and Stephen King's On Writing, to inspire them. I also recommended they consider getting a good thesaurus, The Elements of Style and The Deluxe Transitive Vampire as basic tools to help one be a more successful writer.

My dream is that years from now I see an author interview where someone says, "Yeah, this romance writer named Marshall spoke at our school one year and gave me advice that's stuck with me."

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Cover of Cover via AmazonI am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television. I am fascinated by the history of modern medicine. My most recent manuscript, Sea Change, featured a surgeon aboard an American privateer. My WIP (work in progress) features a secondary character from Sea Change, Dr. Alexander Murray. Dr. Murray is a phlegmatic (at least until he meets the heroine) scientist, a surgeon in the Royal Navy who's devoted his life to trying to keep people alive under the most trying of circumstances. Researching this new book has reminded me all over again why I find this study fascinating.

For example, I needed to know when the stethoscope was invented, and serendipitously, it's credited to Dr. Rene Laennec in 1816, putting it right into my era. I was also researching in the book Medical Firsts by Robert E. Adler and found this passage on the germ theory of disease:

"Germs cause disease. This simple idea is so much a part of our thinking that it seems as self-evident as gravity...the humdrum basics of medicine--...a quick swipe with an alcohol-soaked wad of cotton before an injection--can seem more like rituals than the lifesaving offspring of a profound concept."

He's right. There's so much we do now that we take for granted, it's good to refresh our memories as to why these "rituals" are important and why they made such a difference in our world.
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Kindle Editions

All three of my books in print, Captain Sinister's Lady, Pirate's Price and Smuggler's Bride, are now available in Kindle editions from Amazon.

And they're still available from Fictionwise and via my publisher, Amber Quill Press. So if this is the year Santa brings you an e-reader, you've got some great options for leisure reading available to you.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

October 27: St. Augustine.Image via WikipediaHappy Thanksgiving!

I want to wish all my friends a very happy Thanksgiving holiday. I'm thankful for my family, my health, and the joy I experience when people say my stories entertained them. Thank you all very much.

And I don't care what those Yankees claim, the first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1565, in St. Augustine, Florida. You can read more about it here.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

New German Edition

My latest German edition, Im Aufruhr der Gefühle (Smuggler's Bride) is now on sale at and other German bookstores.

The title, according to Google, translates as "In the Turmoil of Emotions" and boy howdy, you sure do get a lot of that in Rand and Julia's story!

There's already one five star review, and I'm hoping this tale of treachery and romance will show up under a lot of trees in Germany this Christmas.
Pirate flag of Blackbeard (Edward Teach)Image via WikipediaPiracy is in the news these days, as shipping off the Horn of Africa falls prey not to sailing ships flying the Jolly Roger, but rather to small speedboats harassing much larger ships. The Indian Navy scored a victory against one pirate crew yesterday, and shipowners are taking steps to protect themselves.

Of course, this is nothing new. Even in the 21st Century we have pirates because the ocean is vast, ships are small, and the world's navies and coast guards can't be everywhere. In addition, local economies support the pirates because they bring in money to buy supplies (and rum or its equivalent) and the profit motive is a strong inducement not to turn the pirates away. That helped to make Fernandina, New Orleans and Key West rich cities in their time, and Port Royal in Jamaica a haven for pirates and the merchants who depended upon them.

Science fiction fans have long been regaled with tales of "space pirates", and I predict that as shipping branches out from our solar system (and I do believe that will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, but some day), we'll have more pirate tales to marvel over.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cover of sheet music for Image via WikipediaThank You.

I wanted to take a moment today to say thank you to the veterans. It is because of their service in the armed forces that I get to live in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Have a meaningful Veterans Day.
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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Elements of Style, 2000 editionImage via WikipediaAn Occupational Hazard

You know you've been a writer too long when you see a newspaper article lead that says "...autumn brings a bevy of new style guides" and your first thought is, "Wow! Someone's giving CMS and Strunk and White a run for the money?"

You know you're a writer and the caffeine hasn't kicked in yet when your eye scans down the article and you wonder what Lucky magazine's "The Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style" and Isaac Mizrahi have to do with writing. Does Isaac favor serial commas? Is Lucky a fan of the possessive "s" with an apostrophe at the end, or an apostrophe "s"?

I didn't find this article on style guides helpful at all. I'm sticking with Strunk and White and the Complete Transitive Vampire.
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Thursday, October 09, 2008

The flag of 18th century pirate Calico Jack.Image via WikipediaDarlene Down Under

I was featured in an article on pirates in the Australian Romance Reader. You can find out more at the link, here.
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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Why is it on some days I catch oodles of typos, while on others they just zip by below my radar? It is a mystery to me.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Rig of topsail schooner Shenandoah without sails.Image via WikipediaOne of my beta readers left a message on my phone this morning saying she's "flying through" A Sea Change and enjoying it very much.

Woo woo! That's what I love to hear!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What do you do after you write "The End"?

I like to clean off my desk. It's an attractive antique table, but once I start in on a book, I don't see it again until I finish the manuscript. Here's what my desk looked like during revisions of A Sea Change:

I started the clean up by putting my books away. Some of the reference books hadn't gone back on the shelf in a year, so it was good to say goodbye to them, even if they were only moving a few feet away. I took the opportunity to dust my office bookshelves, even giving Pirate Barbie and Ken a swipe of the duster. You can see them in this shot. Notice that in my universe, Barbie wears the captain's hat:

My desk is a leather topped antique, so I wiped the top down with Neet's Foot oil, giving it a chance to really soak in and rehydrate the

My muse was on hand, sending theta waves of cleanliness and creativity in my direction as she supervised.

Finally, it was done. I polished the wood with pine oil soap, rubbed the Neet's Foot oil into the top and buffed it, cleaned my fountain pens, gave my lucky bamboo a drink so it would continue to be lucky, and wiped down the pirate chest of chocolate coins I take to book signings.

Here's my desk now, cleared for action and ready for me to begin my next historical!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

What? It's October already? Seems like September just got here!

Oh well, at least I'm almost done with these edits.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

NatureImage by via FlickrIt's officially autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. For North Central Florida, that means our days have a nip in the air--temps are in the 80sF instead of 90s.

I'll know it's winter because we can turn off the air conditioning.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Swashbuckler (film)Image via WikipediaAhoy, mateys!

Yes, once again it's International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Do not neglect to embrace your inner swashbuckler, and here's a helpful instructional video to get you going.
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International Talk Like a Pirate DayImage via WikipediaInternational Talk Like a Pirate Day is September 19. In honor of this special day and because it's international and because Darlene Marshall's pirate novels are international, here is a link to ITLAP Day for German speakers. Even though I'm the author of Rache & Rosen and Samt & Sabel, I credit my wonderful translator, Barbara Schnell, for any glorious piratical lingo that comes through in German.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Pride of Baltimore at OpSail 2000Image via Wikipedia IT'S FINISHED!

I typed "The End" today on the first draft of A Sea Change. Now the fun begins as I whip the manuscript into shape, but dang, it feels good to know how the story ends!

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Monday, September 01, 2008

Green domes of the Fyodorovskaya Church in Yar...Image via Wikipedia I have to admit, when it comes to books I can be a complete snob. When I find people who don't read, and I mean quite literate adults who choose not to read, I have to wonder what I have in common with them, if anything.

But today I want to praise an area of literature that I believe too many adults overlook as not worth their time, YA novels. "YA" is shorthand in bookstores and libraries for "Young Adult" and covers the novels written to appeal to a teen audience. So many of them are outstanding, and adults who don't seek them out are doing themselves a disservice.

Today I read A Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson, and I adored it. I laughed, I cried, I was totally enraptured by the characters and their tale. Russian emigre Anna, with her commitment to being an excellent housemaid at an English estate, was a heroine in the mold of Cluny Brown, another favorite of mine. Despite the loss of almost everything in her short life, Anna never loses her core of sweetness. But she's not a dishrag of a heroine, far from it! When she sees wrongs perpetrated against those who are even weaker, she's quick to rise to their defense and take a stand. It's also a great love story, with a WWI airman hero trying to save his family's home, who has to choose between love and duty.

A Countess Below Stairs was poignant and delightful and I highly recommend it for readers of any age. Other YA authors I enjoy are Sharon Shinn, Robin McKinley and Patricia McKillip, and I encourage adult readers to look for their books as well.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Some muscadines in a bowl; the green ones are ...Image via Wikipedia I was at the Farmers Market yesterday and the air was winey with the scent of scuppernong and muscadine grapes. I bought a few pints, the deep purple and rich green of the two varieties blending together in my berry bowl for a classic summer treat. I keep the grapes on the counter and grab a few as I walk by (they're each the size of small apricots), remembering I need to dispose of the seeds along the way.

There's a great deal to be said for eating local produce. I knew the grapes were coming into season in North Florida, and it was something to anticipate. Late summer brings the grapes, along with lots of squashes, tomatoes, eggplant and melons. Soon the season will turn again and we'll get the new crop of pecans, persimmons, and when it's nice and cool, salad greens.

Getting into the rhythm of your local seasons puts an entirely new twist on how you cook, and how you eat. I'm just glad our Farmers Market (Downtown on the Plaza, Wednesdays, 4-7 p.m.) gives me such wonderful options for getting the very best of the area farms.
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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Rain, Rain, and More RainImage by Old Shoe Woman via Flickr Tropical Storm Fay, the aftermath

All things considered, we got off easy. Lots and lots and lots of rain, but I was really glad the roofers were able to come out a couple weeks ago to do their repairs. If there was ever a test of the new skylight's seal, this was it. And it seemed to do just fine.

We lost power for about an hour Friday afternoon, then again for 30 minutes later in the day, but it wasn't bad at all. I put my houseplants out for a good soaking and it seemed to cheer them up. The dog was unhappy 'cause there were no "walkies", but I see the sun poking through this morning.

So all is well in North Central Florida once again.
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Monday, August 18, 2008

GOES IR 20080816 1745UTCImage by sandrino via Flickr Tropical Storm Fay

I've done my hurricane prep, like a good li'l Floridian, so at this point I'm just keeping an eye on the storm. Landfall could be around Cedar Key, north of Tampa Bay, which would put the storm 60 miles west of me. That means we could still get high winds, heavy rain and the possibility of tornadoes.

I'm feeling pretty calm though, 'cause I just had my roof and skylight repaired, so barring a tree crashing into it (which happened during the hurricanes in '04), we should be in good shape. And I have my blue tarp, just in case.

The water, batteries, spare meds, gas grill, camp stove, land-line telephone, etc. are on hand. I have bread, canned goods and peanut butter. The upright freezer is packed with ice bags, so if we lose power everything should stay frozen for at least 48 hours. I have empty bleach bottles I can fill with tap water for washing. The one thing I didn't have last time which I swore I wouldn't do without again was coffee--I have a French press, but I grind fresh beans every morning. This time I'll have some ground coffee on hand. It's survival rations.

So we're not quite at the "hunker down" stage, but I feel ready.
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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Squee! I just got my first fan email from Estonia! I was wondering who was reading my Estonian editions, now I know at least one reader.

Thanks, Kristin, for taking the time to write!
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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Illustration of a scribe writingImage via Wikipedia Tips for New Writers

Tara asked me to share some of what we discussed at Worldcon. I wish I'd taken notes, but when I'm on the panel and interacting I'm so caught up with what's going on it's hard to keep track.

Here though are some of the things we discussed. Much of it you've heard before, but it bears repeating:

Keep writing. Keep your butt in the chair. Develop disciplined habits. Study the work of successful authors in your field. Keep telling yourself "I did this once, I can do it again." Don't take rejection personally--editors are critiquing your work, not you. Be nice to everyone you meet--they're all potential readers. Do self promotion, but don't get so caught up in it it keeps you from writing. Develop regular writing times.

I learned other authors also suffer from the "2/3 curse" where you're 2/3 of the way through your work in progress and you don't want to do it anymore and you're ready to move on to your next book or story. Don't get sucked into this black hole. Get beyond your 2/3 wall and keep writing.

Like I said, most of this is common sense, but I found it re-charged my batteries to hear some of my problems and concerns echoed by others.
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Worldcon (Denvention3) was fantastic. I arrived Wednesday in plenty of time for my 4:00 panel, Survival Tips for New Writers. The other panelists were David Coe and this year's Campbell Award winner, Mary Robinette Kowal, and along with the audience I picked up tips from them on how to improve my work habits.

On Thursday I had a full day of panels. How do Ebooks Change Writing--an Ebook Writing Primer was intriguing, and moderator Dave Howell worked hard to keep us focused on the topic and not wandering off into weird ebook stories. We talked about interactive ebooks with hyperlinks, but also about how many readers seem content with ebooks simply being an exact copy of a print book delivered through different media.

Aaaargh! The Pirate Panel was just what you might expect from the title, an exploration of why we like pirates so much, and where pirate history and mythology collide. The other panelists--David Riley, MistyMassey and Linda Donohue all had piratical connectiThe flag of 18th century pirate Calico Jack.ons to their fantasy and sf stories, but I was the only one working strictly in the real-world universe of historical romance rather than speculative fiction. It made for some lively discussion, and the audience seemed to like it.

I wasn't thrilled to have another similar panel three hours later, but I understand the difficulties of juggling program schedules, so when we had Swashbucklers in Space later that day I just rolled with it. I ended up as moderator on that one since a couple of our people dropped off the panel prior to the convention, but Chris Roberson, S M Stirling and I held down the fort, and based on audience questions and participation, we did OK. This was a fun panel as we explored the "swashbuckler" in movie and literature, moving on to the modern day SF icons--Dominic Flandry and Han Solo being two notable examples.

My last panel was Friday morning, and I was again the moderator on SF Fans who Write in Other Genres with Christine Merrill, Kat Richardson, Nancy Atherton and Susan Krinard. This was the classic "herding cats" situation for me as moderator, with all of us panelists being lively and talkative, and an audience that was ready to leap in with their own points. We had a lot of fun and I really enjoyed the interaction with the other authors.

I was on the program, but I also worked in Program Operations and the Hugo Ceremonies at Worldcon. Program Operations handles the scheduling conflicts and issues at the convention, and it's a job I've done before. One of the best things about being involved in Worldcon as a volunteer is meeting people and knowing who you want to work with in the future. Worldcon is all staffed by volunteers, so getting involved is vital and in my opinion, the best way to meet people and enjoy the convention.

I was also tapped to be the "Voice of Ghod" at the Hugo Awards. The "Voice of Ghod" is the person who does the opening and closing announcements, says if an acceptator is taking the award, that sort of thing. It was my first year at this, and I realized I was the first woman to be Ghod, so I enjoyed writing my own footnote to fannish feminist lore.

The Hugo Ceremonies went well, and while I was backstage being Ghod and didn't get to see it, I caught glimpses on the director's video monitor. And naturally, I had a script. This was the first time ever I knew who the Hugo winners were in advance, and it was a strange feeling but an exciting one too. Afterwards I got to enjoy the Hugo Nominees party sponsored by Anticipation, the 2009 Montreal Worldcon.

I didn't get to see much of Denver, but what I did see downtown I liked. It struck me as a vibrant city center with a community making a concentrated effort towards recycling and conservation, and I enjoyed my visit. Even if I was constantly slathering on lip moisturizer and hydrating myself. Coming from Florida's moist sea-level climate was a bit of an adjustment, and I'm glad I was warned about the intensified effects of alcohol at that altitude. Talk about more bang for the buck!

We ate in some fantastic restaurants, partied and chatted with friends old and new, and overall had a wonderful Worldcon experience. As always, it was a great way to spend my vacation and I'm looking forward to next year in Montreal.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Four cannons overlook the walls of Castillo de...Image via WikipediaWhy I love my job

I spent the day sailing, all in the name of research. Work, work, work! Does this grind never end?

Seriously, it was delightful. I joined Captain Vic and First Mate Ellen aboard their 33 ft. boat Liberty in St. Augustine. I was well prepared with enough sunscreen to shield a vampire, my guaranteed-not-to-fly-off hat and my notepad. Oh, and ginger candy just in case.

But everything was perfect. We had to cut our outing a bit short because of the typical Florida afternoon thunderstorms. We wouldn't have minded the rain, but the lightning's another story.

I was given a tour of the boat, an explanation of the lines and rigging, a crash course on how to use the radio for emergency calls, and we were underway. Captain Vic really is a licensed captain and a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, so I knew I was in good hands.

Modern sailboats come equipped with small motors, which made it easier to get in and out of the marina, but once we were out on the water, the wind took over and off we went, out of the inlet and over the bar that's protected St. Augustine from raiders for centuries, but also kept it from becoming a shipping center. We sailed out into the Atlantic and I got to haul on lines, take the helm and learn a little about reading the compass and navigating out of the inlet and past the city.

We saw a number of Homeland Security boats out on the water, and it looked like they were doing exercises.

The weather was perfect in the morning--light, steady wind, small chop, and nothing ahead but nautical miles of ocean. I also learned there was a sulfur spring off of Crescent Beach that I would have loved to visit, but we didn't have time on this trip due to the afternoon storms.

When we brought the Liberty about and came back in to the city I saw the Castillo de San Marcos from the waterside, just as pirates, privateers, rum-runners and other nautical riff-raff have seen it for hundreds of years.

It was an absolutely splendid day out on the water, and I hope to do it again soon!
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