HMS Bounty Sinks

Hurricane Sandy, and the nor’easter accompanying her, are smashing into the eastern U.S. coast as I write this – my daughter Holly is barricaded in her apartment in Philadelphia, where her backyard wall just blew away.  And my mother and aunt are stranded in Alexandria, Virginia.  My other aunt is even closer to the storm, in northern New Jersey, and my uncle is riding it out in Manhattan.  So basically I have family all around the periphery (right now it’s just high winds here in southwest Ohio).  I’m confident that all of my family will be safe.  But thousands of people have had to evacuate, power is down everywhere… and, unfortunately, lives have been lost.

One of the victims was a crewmember of the tall ship HMS Bounty: deckhand Claudine Christian.  Her body was found this evening.  The Bounty’s longtime captain, Robin Walbridge, is still missing.  The other 14 crewmembers made it safely into rafts.  The Bounty herself has joined thousands of other ships in the Graveyard of the Atlantic, off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

The Bounty is a 180-foot three-masted ship that was built for the 1962 film “Mutiny on the Bounty,” starring Marlon Brando, and it was also used in one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.  It is a replica of the original British vessel that, on April 28, 1789, experienced the most famous sea mutiny in history.  First mate Fletcher Christian (could Claudine possibly be related?) and other mutineers overtook tyrannical Captain William Bligh, then forced him and his supporters into an open boat in the middle of the South Pacific.  Christian sailed to Tahiti, and eventually to obscure Pitcairn Island, where he lived out a short and troubled life.  Bligh unbelievably navigated his boat and crew over 3,000 miles to safety – the greatest open boat journey in history.

The true reasons for Christian’s mutiny are unclear.  Bligh was certainly domineering, possibly brutal, but he wasn’t unlike many other ships’ captains of the time, who were essentially dictators on their vessels.  There is evidence that the mutineers were hypnotized by the utopian, sexually uninhibited society on Tahiti, and thus wanted to return.  But could this have been enough reason for Christian to send half the ship’s company to almost-certain death in a longboat, and to commit himself to the wrath of the exalted Royal English Navy, as well as permanent ostracism from his homeland?  Was it pride, lust, impetuousness, or a combination of all?  We’ll never know.

POSTSCRIPT: According to the ChronicleHerald of Nova Scotia, which recently interviewed her, Claudene Christian was 42 years old and the 5th great-granddaughter of Fletcher Christian.   Our hearts go out to her family.


Making Amish

Two weeks ago my wife and I visited the Guggisberg Swiss Inn in Holmes County, Ohio, USA.  For those who don’t know about Holmes County, it has one of the largest populations of Amish in the USA – roughly 36,000 total.  Holmes County is not only a beautiful place to visit, with its rolling hills and winding roads (and splendid fall colors), but it’s also a step back into time.  The Amish are not only very strict in regards to religion, but their rural lifestyle and clothing have changed very little since the 19th century.

The town of Berlin is perhaps the most popular Amish locale for non-Amish (non-Amish are called “English” by the Amish.  So if you’re Hispanic, Asian, African American, whatever…you’re still “English”!).  Berlin, with its world-famous Amish furniture, quaint shops, and home-style restaurants has become a bit of a tourist trap.  But the smaller town of Charm is a little different.  The “Charm Days” festival was going on the weekend we visited, the centerpiece of which was a large auction.  Not only did we get to hear some expert auctioneers at work, but we actually got to feel like “guests” rather than tourists – the Amish comprised about 90 percent of the crowd, whereas we “English” were the distinct minority!

The Inn also offered the opportunity to eat supper at an Amish home.  Lynn and I dined with two other couples at the home of Wayne and Iva Miller (one couple was from Cleveland, and the other couple were two ladies from Germany and Belgium).  Although Wayne was out bowhunting “whitetail,” Iva and her six children proved to be fantastic hosts.  We ate in the Millers’ unfinished walk-in basement, which was very sparse but also very clean.  We had coleslaw for an appetizer; fresh baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, noodles, Canadian bacon, green beans, and bread with fresh strawberry preserves for the main course; and angelfood cake for dessert.  Iva and the kids had their own meal on the other side of the room.  After dessert, the four Miller girls entertained us by singing a couple harmonies they’d learned in church.

Overall it was a fun, peaceful, memorable weekend.  We’re thinking of going back again next year – but I may have to diet for several weeks ahead of time!


Welcome to longitudes!

I started this blog because I wrote a book and wanted to advertise it, but I discovered I have a compulsion to share my obsessions and flights of fancy, so it’s grown into an editorial monster I can no longer control.  I’m a baby boomer, so a lot of my blatherings are related to boomerism. (Is “boomerism” a word?)  Here, I discuss everything from my juvenile delinquency, to my left-leaning politics, to my favorite musicians, to the TV show Petticoat Junction.  One day soon I hope to discuss Natalie Wood’s big, beautiful, brown eyes.

I have some additional pages you may want to check out, located in the menu above.   If you’d like to know about my biography, click the ABOUT ME page (also known as the “Den of Narcissism”).

If you’d like to learn about my freelance writing, click MY WRITING.  Here, I have information and links on my history book, Bluejackets in the Blubber Room: A Biography of the “William Badger,” 1828-1865 (University of Alabama Press); my memoir, Evergreen Dreaming: Trail Tales of an Aging Hiker (Longitudes Press); and my latest book and first novel, Black Jackknife: A Nick Montaigne Mystery (Longitudes Press).  At this rate, my next project should be a comic book.

Make yourself comfortable, and thanks for visiting!