A Week in Victorian America While Aboard a 2000s Boat

So I’ve finished Empire of the Summer Moon (great! and dovetails so well with all my Wild West reading and traveling this year). Now I’ve moved on to an academic treatment of the life of Libbie Custer (Elizabeth Bacon Custer and the Making of a Myth by Shirley A. Leckie). At this point in the book, I’m through Libbie’s childhood in Michigan (yay! Michigan!), through the Civil War, and onto Libbie and George Armstrong’s early post-bellum days in Texas. (This story of Mrs. Custer and Empire of the Summer Moon also make nice “sequels” to Blood of Heroes by James Donovan, which covers early Anglo settlement in Texas and goes into the fall of the Alamo).

Meanwhile, this week, the Bosun wrapped up Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, an account of young Dana’s adventures as a common seaman in the 1830s sailing from Boston to California and back on a merchant ship. As I’ve traveled by horseback and wagon across sunbaked stretches of post-Civil War Texas with soldiers initially unhappy with George Armstrong Custer’s leadership, the Bosun has been sailing around Cape Horn some thirty years before “my” journeys. I’ve read Two Years multiple times (good stuff, and essential reading for sailors), and in the last couple days, the Bosun and I have enjoyed discussing his book’s era paving the way for my book’s tale.

Basically, then, what little free time I’ve had this week has taken me back to Victorian-era America: to Michigan, to Washington, D.C., to the frontier.... And on a boat, I think, it’s just a hair easier to feel close to what generations past experienced. The world seems a little closer to the elements, perhaps just slightly less convenient. Oh, don’t get me wrong, it’s plenty modern and convenient. But there’s a sense of the breadth of the primal world, even when the boat’s just parked in the slip.

Aside from these bookish connections to bygone days, however, this week has been far from primal, adventurous, or even inconvenient. It’s simply been work. I’ve been behind the laptop a lot. The week has yielded some excitement, though, as I’ve prepared for The Venturi Effect’s November and December blog tour. The Venturi Effect is my second novel (forthcoming November 15). It’ll take readers into federal courtrooms and on a sailing adventure to St. Kitts, and into a web of relationships that may need more than time to untangle.

Plus I’ve gotten to play with some neat nesting pots (by Magma) that the Bosun got me. They provide great service in a marvelously compact package for a boat galley. Also in the galley: the Bosun found himself bored and fixed the little pump that pumps water out of the reefer (like when the reefer defrosts). It took him perhaps five whole minutes to fix. Pretty impressive to me. I’m taking work calls and glance up to see him start and finish the repair in the time it takes me to make a couple notes.

Had it not been so cold and rainy earlier this evening, we’d have headed out to anchor tonight. (It ended up clearing and providing great walking weather, but by then, we had decided to stay in the slip for the night.)

If the weather clears, we’ll go tomorrow. Another thing about a boat: that blissful sense that there’s always tomorrow.

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