Thursday, October 4, 2018

Novel in Progress: The Lifer, Chapters 1 & 2

This is an excerpt from my new novel, The Lifer, a story about a young sailor who died in a terrible accident aboard the USS Enterprise while the ship was at sea off the coast of Vietnam in January of 1969.  As most old salty dogs know, the spirits of the sailors who die at sea sometimes remains aboard the ship.  In The Lifer, I explore the question; What happens to the ghosts of the dead sailors when the time comes to decommission the ship?



USS Enterprise Decommissioning


The Aircraft Carrier USS Enterprise CVN 65 sits idle, tied to the pier.  Red, white and blue bunting draped along her sides ruffles in the breeze.  A big banner declares, USS Enterprise Decommissioning Ceremony.

Several hundred military personnel and civilians seated in folding chairs in rows facing a dais.  Admirals and politicians in suits seated up there.  A Navy band plays a march.

Beyond the seating area, crammed in along the pier and spilling over, filling a big parking lot are hundreds, no thousands, of former Enterprise crew members.

The Navy band winds down and an admiral steps to the podium.  Before he can speak, someone in the back of the crowd shouts “The Big-E!”  Then everyone starts clapping and cheering.  First way in the back among the rowdy bunches crammed in out there.  Quickly the cheering picks up and every person present is suddenly on their feet clapping and hooting.  Most of these salty old sailors are feeling pin pricks flash over their rough skin.  Some are choked up.  They’ve all crossed oceans, and some have circled the plant aboard this great ship.  The best years of their lives.  Vivid memories burned into their consciousness forever.

The admiral steps back from the podium and claps his hands.  He looks back over his shoulder at the massive wall of steel.  The clapping reaches a thunderous roar and the cheers rise.  Whistling and hooting and screaming.  The Admiral does a crisp about face and raises a salute.  The crowd goes crazy.  The cheering lasts a solid ten minutes.

The admiral gives a speech.  What you’d expect.  The long service of this proud ship.  Historical highlights.  First nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, such and such tons of steel, millions of miles travelled, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, etc., etc.  All stuff you can now read on Wikipedia.

Through the minds of all those who have served aboard, they hear the Admiral but they are flashing back to long days and nights at sea.  Quite moments looking out at the horizon.  Standing watches late at night in the reactor plant, launching jets off the flight deck, cooking food for 5000 in the galleys.

Way at the back of the crowd, there’s a group of old sailors waving signs.  They are protesting the decommissioning of the USS Enterprise.  Several of the old timers are wearing t-shirts with US NAVY FLIGHT DECK VETERANS emblazoned across the front.  Several wear VFW hats, many have medals hanging on the fronts of their jackets.  Though greying and chubby they are a stout and strong bunch.  Some are straight laced and squared away, others are roughnecks.  Several are obviously bikers with long hair and tattoos.  Some wave American flags.  A few are saluting.  Others raise a fist in the air.  A line of police and Navy Master at Arms stand between these hardened Navy veterans and the rest of the crowd.

Up at the front, those seated close to the ship are listening to a politician in a suit give a speech.  There are many sailors and marines in dress uniforms.  There are many Navy and Marine Corps veterans.  Young and old.  Men and women.  Many are wearing USS Enterprise CVN65 ball caps and t-shirts.

It’s a patriotic scene.  Everyone has come to honor this grand old ship and see her decommissioned from active duty in the fleet.

The banner hanging down from the ship’s forward catwalk just below the flight deck reads: “USS Enterprise 50 Years of Proud Service in the Fleet 1912 to 2012.”

High on the ship’s superstructure, way up above the big number 65 painted on the side of the island, a group of sailors are standing and sitting around taking in the scene.

In the midst of this crowd, high up above the pier, Jake is standing there, on the topmost level of the ship’s superstructure.  His back straight, he’s wearing his cracker jacks.  Something is not quite right about this bunch though, some don’t look so good.  A few are wearing nice clean dress uniforms, but others are in tattered and dirty working blue dungarees.  Some stand tall, looking healthy and spry.  Others are run down, like they’ve been working too hard.  Several are obviously sick or injured.  Yet they are all together.  Some standing, others sitting or lying on the deck.  A few are leaning against the steel mast.

Jake is holding binoculars, scanning the scene below.  He can see the flight deck and catwalks are all deserted.  He knows that today there are no workers aboard the ship.  Today, there’s only this group of sailors standing up here with him.

Now Jake is studying the crowd, looking closely at people’s faces and their clothes.  He stops to zoom in on a sailor in uniform holding a young boy.  The boy is holding a small American Flag on a stick.  Next to the sailor, his wife is standing at his side.  Jake pauses, looks closely at the sailor’s hand on his wife’s hip.  He feels his heart break a little, then scans across the crowd, pauses on another family.  He stares at the woman as she turns and hugs her husband, and kisses him on the cheek.

A politician at the podium continues his speech.  Jake can hear him.  He’s saying: “Today our Navy family is retiring a dear loved one, for the USS Enterprise has been more than just a ship, she has been a shipmate for fifty years.  Many proud sailors have called her home while travelling countless miles around the world.  So, we call this great ship our home, our Navy home, our trusted shipmate, a classic old vessel.”

Jake pauses over the big banner and reads it 50 YEARS OF SERVICE 1961 to 2012.  USS ENTERPRISE DECOMMISSIONING CEREMONY.

Jake says, “What are we going to do now?”

The roughneck standing beside Jake says, “You’re damn right, Jake.  Once they start cutting up this old tub, what will happen to us?”

“Where are we going to go?” Jake says.

“Davy Jones’ locker.”  Roughneck says as he scans the crowd with binoculars too.  “Golly, there are so many good looking girls out there?  Last time I saw this many pretty ladies in one place, I was alive and I was a civilian.”

Another sailor, Henderson, walks over to Roughneck.

Henderson says, “Quit hogging up the binoc’s, let me get a look.”  Henderson takes the binoculars from Roughneck and starts scanning the crowd on the pier.  “Dang, you weren’t kidding.  It’s wall-to-wall poontang down there.”

Jake pauses scanning the crowd to look at another sailor and his wife, both sitting side by side in chairs only a few rows back from the Navy band.  The wife is holding a baby in her arms.

Jake whispers, “That is never going to happen for any of us.”  He looks way back at the edge of the parking lot, and there he sees a sign “ENTERPRISE MUSEUM” another says “MEMORIALIZE THE BIG E” and another shouts, “PRESERVE OUR GREAT NAVAL TRADITION.”

“That would solve our problem,” Jake says.

“What would solve our problem?” Roughneck asks.

Jake says, “If they turn the ship into a museum.”

“Is that an actual thing?” Henderson asks.  “Could they really turn her into a museum ship?”

“Why not?  They turned the Midway into a museum and now she’s permanently moored in New York City.”

The politician wraps up his speech and the Navy band plays another march.  A boatswain mate blows a whistles and there’s a 21-gun salute by a platoon of US Marines.

The Navy band plays as the crowd begins to disperse.  The protesters are handing out leaflets that call for the Enterprise to be saved and converted into a museum ship.  They are soliciting donations.  Police move in and try to disperse the protesters.  A minor scuffle occurs between the old veterans and the cops, but the big crowd flushes everyone out through the gates and onto the street.

High above the dwindling crowd, Jake and his friends are still standing around scanning with binoculars.  Jake has not moved.  He does not blink.  The wind blows, flapping the colorful signal flags strung up on the Enterprise’s masts above them.  The wind is gusting hard at this height, almost two-hundred feet above the pier.  The black neckerchief on the front of Jake’s uniform does not move, though.  The wind is blasting but does not affect him.

A tear runs down Jake’s cheek.

After a while, there’s only a crew of guys packing up the chairs, taking down the bunting.  Two workers are putting the podium into the back of a van.  They lower the gigantic American flag and begin to fold it up.

High above it all, Jake is still standing atop the superstructure, holding his salute.  He’s frozen in time.



Days are going by.  Each morning trucks and vans pull up on the pier.  Work crews, welders, engineers, technicians and mechanics arrive.  They climb the gangway up to the Quarterdeck of the Enterprise.  They carry tools and small coolers containing their lunches.

There are several cranes along the pier.  They lift construction trailers and rollaway dumpsters up onto the flight deck.

All day workers are crawling all over the ship, going in and out of her many doors, on her weather decks.

There’s a work crew gathered around a foreman on the flight deck.

“Peterson,” the foreman says, “your crew is pulling cable and duct work out of the forward ladders.  Any questions?

“No boss,” Peterson says.  We’re in good shape.”  Then to his crew, “Okay let’s get to work and be safe about it.”

The crew starts walking forward.  Lagging behind, following along, Jake is there.  He’s wearing old style Navy bellbottom dungaree pants, black boondocker boots and a blue shirt.  A white Dixie cup hat crimped on his head.  Jake looks out of place among the workers who are all civilian, with scruffy beards, hard hats, Carharts, work gloves.  Jake is younger than the workers who are all late twenties, thirties and forties.  Jake is only 19 or so, with a clean shaved chin.  Sometimes, light seems to shine through him as if he’s transparent.  People and objects pass through him as if he’s not really there.

They climb below into the catwalk and enter the ship through a door in the side of the hull.  There are workers up on ladders using torches to cut ventilation ducts and wire brackets from the overhead steel ceiling.  Sparks are flying all over the place.  Workers are shouting to each other as brackets break away and bundles of wires and metal ventilation ducts come crashing down to the deck.  Other workers are cutting up the ventilation ducts with powerful hydraulic snipers, tossing cut-up metal into hand trucks on wheels that are being rolled away.

Jake is there lurking about, watching the workers.  A sad expression on his face.

Several times Jake steps up close to a worker and as he reaches for a tool, Jake pushes the tool away and causes the worker to fumble after it.

Later Jake is deep below in a passageway.  His eyes are wide open and his jaw drops in total disbelief.  Workers are taking down a large wooden plaque with the Enterprise logo and “The Big E” emblazoned across it.  One of the workers leans toward his toolbox reaching for a pair of pliers, one hand holding the plaque, still attached to the bulkhead.  Jake slams the toolbox lid on the workers hand.  The worker lets go of the plaque, and his coworker can’t hold the weight, so the coworker lets the plaque go.  It crashes to the deck, shattering.  Jake is already walking away down the passageway.

In an open area, forklifts are moving huge wooden crates full of scrap metal torn from the ship’s ventilation system.  The forklifts are filling an industrial elevator with crates.  Every few minutes a worker shuts the gate on the elevator and it goes up to the deck above, returning empty several minutes later.

Jake stands next to one of the forklifts.  The driver has a crate loaded up.  He’s waiting for the elevator door to open.  Jake reaches over and hits the gear shifter and the machine jumps forward.  The operator is totally unprepared for this and fumbles at the controls as the forklift crashes into the still-shut elevator gate, bending it and sending the crate full of scrap metal crashing all over the deck.

*     *     *

Inside one of the construction trailers, the foreman is addressing a crew of supervisors.  He holds a stack of papers in one hand and points to a drawing of the USS Enterprise that shows in cut-away, the inside compartments and passageways.

“Six accidents in four days!” the foreman says.  He slams the packet of papers on the desk.  “This is unacceptable!  The Navy is going to shut this jobsite down if we have another accident!  So, to prevent this, you supervisors are going to lead a four-hour safety stand down tomorrow morning and review safety best practices and policies with every worker on this project, is that understood?”

In the middle of the crowd of grim-faced supervisors, Jake stands with his arms crossed on his chest, a satisfied smile spread across his face.  He gives two thumbs up.

*     *     *

The next morning on the pier, a large crowd of workers are walking down the gangway off the USS Enterprise.  Two workers are walking side-by-side, carrying safety gear and tool boxes.

One of the workers says, “They need to do more than a safety stand down tomorrow, I’ll tell you that much.

“I’ve never seen so many stupid accidents,” the other worker says.  “It doesn’t make any sense.  No sense at all.”

Droves of workers are walking across the pier toward their cars and trucks.  It’s the lot where thousands of active duty and retired sailors and their families stood while attending the ship’s decommissioning.

“There’s no way a forklift slips into gear.”

“Another freak accident.  We’re lucky nobody died.”

“Freak accident, my ass!  This ship is haunted.”

“Haunted?  Now I’ve heard it all.”

“Yeah, well, just when you thought you’d heard it all, that’s when you find out how little you really know.  I’m telling you this ship is haunted.  Not the first time I’ve seen this happen.”

*     *     *

Workers are cutting through a steel bracket with a torch.  One worker shuts off the torch and sets it aside to bend what's left of the bracket out of his way.  He’s wearing goggles and gloves.  He reaches back to grab the torch, but it’s not where he left it. 

Another worker sees him feeling around and suddenly his jaw drops in surprise at the sight of the torch floating in mid-air.  The hose from the torch to the acetylene tanks looks like a poisonous snake rising from a basket as an Indian Swami plays a flute.  The tip of the torch is still red hot.  He shouts, “Hey, watch out!”

The worker looks up just as the hot tip of the torch touches his exposed arm.  “Ouch!  Dam it!” he shouts and jumps up, letting go of the bracket.  It swings and hits another worker in the head, knocking his goggles and hardhat off.  Blood gushes from a gash on his forehead.

*     *     *

The foreman is yelling at a supervisor.

*     *     *

Several workers are walking off the gangway.

“You can’t pay me enough to work on this old tub.  She’s haunted.”

“There’s clearly a ghost of an old sailor, maybe more than one, on this ship.”

“Hundreds of guys have died while aboard this ship.”

“That’s crazy.  I never heard anything like it!”

“What could a ghost possibly want?”

“I’ll tell you what he doesn’t want, he doesn’t want his ship being torn apart, that’s what.”

*     *     *

The next day a sign on the locked gate states:  JOB SITE CLOSED UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.

There tied to the lonely pier, floats the hulk of the USS Enterprise. 

Check back for new chapters every week!

These two sea stories are always free on all eReaders:

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Sea Story Summer Reading Wrap-up

Throughout August, I gave away all of my sea stories for free on Amazon.  Each week a different book was free.  I promoted this on Facebook and Google+.  As a result many readers downloaded my sea stories.  Some folks bought a few books, but the best part is that I received several friend requests from sea story fans around the world, and numerous people posted reviews on Amazon.

A sample of the reviews posted:

"I read the story after it was offered for Free on Kindle and didn’t know what to expect. I do know it was 100% engaging and a real page-turner, and though the genre warped and weaved about, I found it impossible to put down. ... The concept of the invisible ship was intriguing – as for the disappearing corpses…I was left scratching my head.  Possibly the strangest story I have ever read.  This author’s imagination must have been on steroids when he wrote it as his ideas bounced in several directions. For me the ending was a little abrupt as I wanted the story to keep going.In all, a very well written and edited book. It certainly held my interest."  4-Star Review for Sailors Take Warning
"Mostly believable story about sailors goings on in Olongapo City.  A couple of small literary license items but that just makes the story more interesting.  All in all, a good short story."  4-Star Review for Back to the Philippines
"Well written and realistic short story about an aircraft incident aboard an aircraft carrier. Excellent descriptions of the people, the situation, and the equipment."  5-Star Review for Sixty-Four Days
"As a former sailor on an attack carrier (CVA-64) serving on Yankee Station in the Tonkin Gulf I enjoyed the book...brought back the memories of how hazardous our duty was back in the day." 5-Star Review for Sixty-Four Days
"Well written and realistic short story about an aircraft incident aboard an aircraft carrier. Excellent descriptions of the people, the situation, and the equipment."  5-Star Review for Sixty-Four Days
"While the life of a seaman serving on a massive USS aircraft may seems exciting, cruising the seas and occasionally stopping at exotic ports around the world, the fact that many US servicemen spend most, if not all of their time working below deck not seeing the light for day for weeks or even months, is unbelievable. They are not only deprived of sunlight but also female company hence when they enter port many of the sailors have only one thing on their mind.  From excited not-a-care-in-the-world teenagers with their life ahead of them, the Navy (in this account anyway) turns these boys into sex-starved smoke and drink addicts.  While written as a fiction story, SAILOR'S DELIGHT reads like the autobiography of one sailor whose sense and sensibility has been screwed by the work he does, the dangers he faces and the tragic loss of a mate’s life that is literally torn to pieces in front of him.  Battling his demons, Chris Marlow is weighed down with recurring thoughts that he self-medicates with alcohol, gluttony and false bravado. As a result he suffers physical complaints that deliver him to a hospital facility off the ship.  Two weeks of investigations and R&R return the young man to the semblance of what he should be."  4-Star Review for Sailors Delight

Books downloaded for Free from Amazon During August-1018: 522

Books sold on Amazon During August-2018: 87

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read During August-2018: 1624

These two sea stories are always free on all eReaders:

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Thursday, August 9, 2018



From August 13 to 17

The aircraft carrier Nimitz steams toward the equator where her crew of 5,000 women and men will hold an ancient hazing ritual, but something is wrong aboard the ship.

Bodies have turned up missing from the morgue and several jets have been sabotaged on the flight deck. 

Can first-responder Kate Conrad and deckhand Terrance McDaniels figure out what's wrong before the ship crosses the Golden Line? And if they do, will their superior officers listen to them and prevent a disaster at sea?

 Grab a Copy of Sailors Take Warning Free on Amazon 

Free on Amazon from Aug 13 to 17

These two sea stories are always free on all eReaders:

Malcolm Torres is the author of original Sea Stories and Nautical Novels.

Monday, August 6, 2018

August 2018 is Sea Story Summer Reading Month

 Back to the Philippines is free on Amazon Kindle from August 6 to 10

Grab your free copy here.

A Sea Story
By Malcolm Torres

After ten weeks of strenuous labor under a blazing tropical sun, Pat’s skin was tanned, his muscled toned.  He kept pace with a stampede of sailors crossing Shit River Bridge.  Pat glanced aside and saw the Filipino children standing in wooden canoes, begging for pesos and US coins.  He flipped a quarter and watched as several brown bodies plunged into the sewage after it.  Rumor had it that you’d be quarantined to the medical department and given 26 injections before they let you leave the country, including the dreaded square needle in the left nut, if you fell in Shit River.

If you want to read the rest . . . 

Click here and download your free copy for Amazon Kindle.

These two sea stories are always free on all eReaders:

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Reading Sea Adventure

Free Sea Story on Amazon Kindle Every Week in August

August is Sea Story Summer reading month.  Check my Amazon author page every week in August for a free sea story.  All I'm asking in return is for you to post an honest review on each story you read.  Reviews can be as short and simple as a few word of praise.  All the stories in the Sea Adventure Collection are free, and so are my novels, Sailors Take Warning, The Pirate and Sailors Delight.  Smooth sailing and happy reading, shipmates.

From July 30th to Aug 3rd SHARK TOOTH ROSARY is free on Amazon. 

Description:  Christopher Marlow spends his free time in the ship's library flipping through a book entitled The Geography of the Philippines. The glossy pictures of tropical beaches, rice paddies and erupting volcanoes makes him daydream about taking a grand adventure when his ship reaches it's next port of call, Subic Bay, in the Republic of the Philippines. When the ship finally drops anchor, he heads for the bus station, determined to discover the mysteries of the Orient for himself. There's only one small problem . . . in order to get to the bus station, he has to walk past a mile-long strip of bars and cathouses.

Please post an honest review.

Shark Tooth Rosary
Free on Amazon From July 30 to August 3

From August 6th to the 10th BACK TO THE PHILIPPINES is free on Amazon. 

Description:  Pat arrives in Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines, after ten weeks at sea. Rather than head to the bars with his shipmates, Pat has a plan, one that will earn him thousands of dollars.

Please post an honest review.

Back to the Philippines
Free on Amazon from August 6 to 10

As always, these two are always free on all eReaders:

Check Back for More Tales of Adventures, Romance, Disaster and Crime 
Set Aboard Ships at Sea and in Ports of Call Around the World

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Baychimo, A Nautical Mystery

Could a ship drift at sea for 38 years without a crew?

Abandoned by her captain and crew after being damaged in a storm, the Baychimo drifted off when the ice flows broke apart.  Many claim to have spotted her over almost 40-years.  During that time, she was boarded and found to be deserted.  For decades sailor and Eskimos claimed to have sighted her.  Is it possible?  It's interesting to wonder about how this could happen.  The odds are certainly against it.  Every sailor knows that the Baychimo's engines and bilge pumps would fail, waves would swamp her and she'd sink within weeks, months at the most.  Watch this video and decide for yourself.

As for me, I believe the Baychimo was damaged beyond repair and left frozen in the ice by her captain and crew.  I believe she broke free from the ice and drifted for months, perhaps even a year or two before she was frozen in the ice again.  When the ice melted for a second time, she drifted for a while longer.  Eventually, she sank but the tale of the Baychimo drifting at sea with no crew became a sea story (an urban legend).  The story was passed from sailor to sailor and ship to ship over the years.  As a result of the stories being told over and over, the Baychimo became nautical mystery, a legend among sailors and ship's passengers.  As the years went by, whenever a darkened ship was sighted out on the open sea and it couldn't be identified, those on watch who had sighted it called it the Baychimo with a wink and a nod.  As years went by and the stories continued to be passed around, more and more sailors were in on the joke.  Gradually the story was passed over into popular culture where today it's exploited as a nautical mystery.

If you enjoy a good sea story, try these two free on all eReaders:

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

SCUBA Diving on Sunken Barges in Subic Bay, Philippines

"In front of Grande Island, close to the beach is one of the best dive sites in Subic Bay. The barges dive site is loved by divers of all skill and experience levels."  Johan's Dive Resort, Subic Bay, Philippines

Learning to SCUBA dive at 19 opened my mind to the wonders of the ocean.  It was 1982 and I was a sailor in the US Navy.  I'd sailed over thousands of miles of the ocean, but had only dove in at a few beaches on the Pacific and Indian Ocean.  My ship, the USS Enterprise, was visiting Subic Bay, Republic of the Philippines.  I'd spent several prior visits to the Philippines partying all night, nursing hangovers most days.  Sure, that was fun, but after barhopping my way through Honolulu four times, the Philippines twice, Hong Kong, Singapore, Mombasa and Perth, drinking booze had gotten old.  My chief told me I should try SCUBA diving,  and my chief had never steered my wrong.  So, I took his advice and signed up for the PADI open water certification class offered to sailors at Subic Bay Naval Station.

Picture Credit to Anders Poulsen:

The class lasted several days.  Our instructor was a tall Filipino man named Afram.  He knew everything about SCUBA, all the gear, dive tables, hand-signals, wrecks, coral, fish, deep diving, sharks, etc.  Afram knew it all.  It was a completely rewarding experience to go to class every day and learn the science and art of SCUBA diving.  It was exciting and adventurous, especially when we progressed from diving in the recreation center pool to diving in Subic Bay.

Picture Credit to Anders Poulsen

We entered the water from the sandy beach on Grande Island, walking backwards with fins on our feet and air tanks strapped to our backs.  Masks elastic strapped over our faces, regulators that provided air stuffed into our mouths.  Weight belts around out waists.  Afram had told us there were barges sunk in Subic Bay after the Vietnam war.  He explained that the barges formed reefs where fish lived and coral had grown for years.  I had no idea what SCUBA was all about, until we went under the surface of the water and saw the rich diversity of life and color.  I have an overactive imagination to begin with, but this!  This!  This was an experience beyond my wildest ideas.  I truly felt I had entered a realm of science fiction with the most dazzling elements of biology and physics, all swimming and growing around me.  Words fell short, unable to fully describe the amazing experience of floating deep beneath the water's surface, able to breath, in this alien environment.

Photo Credit to Johan's Diver Resort, Subic Bay, Philippines:  

I'll never forget the schools of fish, giant clams, vibrant green plants and brilliant coloured corals.  That was the first time I'd been under water (30 feet down) for a sustained period of time.  We swam all over the barges checking out the fish and the corals.  After that I went on to SCUBA dive in Hawaii, California, North Carolina, Florida and Greece.  If you have tried SCUBA you know, but if you haven't tried SCUBA . . . well, all I can say is you should try it.  SCUBA, especially in warm, clear ocean water is amazing.

Here are links to charter companies who can take you diving on the barges in Subic Bay:

If you enjoy a good sea story, try these two free on all eReaders:

For more sea stories visit

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Sunken Treasure Discovered on YouTube

"As a kid you want to discover new things and tell people about them.  That was the driving force.  I dreamed of spending the rest of my life exploring the oceans."  SS Amour

When I'm not exploring the oceans, I'm roving YouTube using key words such as Sea Story, Shipwreck, Sunken Treasure, Sea Monster or Sailing Adventure.  It's like hauling a fishing net up from the depths.  Sometimes you catch an old boot, sometimes you dredge up something interesting.  Today I searched YouTube for Sea Stories and set the filters to show new videos, sorted by most viewed.  To my pleasant surprise, I found:

Exploring the Deep Sea for Shipwrecks and Sunken Planes

This video features Steven Saint Amour, a subsea explorer and COO of The Eclipse Group based in Annapolis, Maryland who has been searching for shipwrecks for over 30 years.

Eclipse Services:

• Marine services • Vessel operations and management • Subsea services - ROV operations - Diving operations • Government services • Civil and military air crash investigation • Construction and infrastructure - Survey - Cable and pipeline

Eclipse Accomplishments:

  • 1999 Discovery of the Israeli Submarine INS DAKAR Depth 3,000 meters 
  • 2000 Search and Recovery of H-2 Rocket Depth 3,400 meters 
  • 2000 Search and Recovery of a IAF F-16 Depth 1,400 meters 
  • 2000 Recovery of the INS/DAKAR Coning tower Depth 3,000 meters 
  • 2000 RMS Titanic Inspection Depth 3,700 meters 
  • 2003 Search and Recovery USN SH-60 Helicopter Depth 2,900 meters 
  • 2003 Search and Recovery USN F-14 Tomcat Depth 3,200 meters 
  • 2005 Search and Recovery Tunic ATR-72 Depth 1,450 meters 
  • 2007 Search and Recovery Adam Air, Boeing 737 Depth 1,400 meters 
  • 2009 Search and Recovery Yemeni Air Airbus 310 Depth 1,200 meters 
  • 2010 Search and Inspection AHS CENTUAR Depth 1,200 meters 
  • 2011 Recovery of Air France Flight 447 Depth 3,900 meters 

Find out more on their website:

If you enjoy a good sea story, tries these two free on all eReaders:

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Summer Reading Sea Story: The North Water


I highly recommend that you add this sea story, THE NORTH WATER, to your 2018 Summer Reading list.  I read this book last summer, and reviewed it here.  But don't take my word for it, here's a YouTube Video Book Review by Jake Iannarino, who enjoyed The North Water by Ian McGuire as much as I did.

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Amazon Kindle,  Apple iBooks,  Barnes & Noble Nook,  Smashwords

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Opportunity to Tell a Great Sea Story Squandered

The author's experience "bears no resemblance to that of the millions of sailors who have gone to sea in big gray ships." LA Times

Why didn't I buy, read and review Geoff Dyer's book, Another Great Day at Sea, when I first saw it on the new nonfiction display at Powell's books in Portland, Oregon, back in 2014?  Considering that I am a total nut for sea stories, it would make perfect sense that I would have picked it up, walked straight to the cashier and paid for it.  I should have read it and posted a review within a week.  It makes no sense at all.  The sub-title is "Life Aboard The USS George H.W. Bush."  There's a picture of an F18 Hornet chained down on the flight deck on the cover.  There's a deckhand wearing a cranial helmet and float coat silhouetted against the haze grey sea.  This is exactly what I love to read.  It's exactly what I search bookstores for all the time.  If there was ever a book targeted at me, it is absolutely positively this book.  So, why did I not buy it and read it?

It makes no sense.  I'm sure I read the description of the story inside the dust jacket.  I'm reading it now, and it's got all the great stuff I love to read and write about:

Another Great Day at Sea chronicles Dyer’s experiences on the USS George H.W. Bush as he navigates the routines and protocols of “carrier-world,” from the elaborate choreography of the flight deck through miles of walkways and hatches to kitchens serving meals for a crew of five thousand to the deafening complexity of catapult and arresting gear. Meeting the Captain, the F-18 pilots and the dentists, experiencing everything from a man-overboard alert to the Steel Beach Party, Dyer guides us through the most AIE (acronym intensive environment) imaginable.

All my stories and novels are set in this environment, populated with these characters, wrapped tightly around these plots and themes.  It defies the laws of reason as to why I did not snap up this book the instant I saw it.  I am constantly on the prowl for books about ships and sailors.  The simple fact is, I am constantly on the prowl for this exact book, and yet the day I found it, I set it back on the shelf and walked away, deciding not to read it.  And my question is, why?

USS George H.W. Bush

Today, 4 years later, after I did pick this book out of the bin in the dollar store and read it (in one afternoon), I can say that I should have listened to whatever told me to not to read it in the first place.

It's not that the writing is bad.  The man is a good writer.  Descriptions are clear, the language is colourful and accurate.  In ever scene you know exactly where you are, and that is no small feat when describing flight deck operations, the ship's bridge, the galley, the living compartments, sick bay, and store rooms.  The author provides detailed accounts on how massive quantities of food are brought on board, stored, prepared and served.  He describes the catapults used to launch aircraft and the arresting gear used to land them with descriptive flair.  And he peoples the story with intimate encounters with everyone from the captain to the cook, from the chaplain to the mechanic.  But the author doesn't stop there, he doesn't simply describe the spaces and the people, he actually takes you into the lives and into the hearts of the crew.  In chapter after chapter, there are accounts of one-on-one interviews with many of the key people who make the ship and it's crew go.  And each and every one of these situations, it's clear that the author has the ability to put people at ease and get them to open up and tell their story.  And the author, this guy Geoff Dyer, clearly has the writing skills to put you as the reader right into every single scene where you really get to know the men and women he is interviewing.  We hear and deeply feel their lives, including the personal relationships, hardships, professional achievements and shortcomings of each and every person we meet.  And that is where this story is ruined.  Absolutely ruined.

You see, what the author does, and he does it really well, is he takes you aboard the ship (which is a massively difficult thing for a writer to do because it's a completely alien environment).  And he explains all the mechanical systems (which is difficult to do because everything is large and complicated and unlike anything on land in the civilian world).  He's fascinated by it all (along with the reader - because the author has a great gift in his ability to take you aboard a super-carrier with words).  Of course he uses a bit of humor here and there as all sailors do.  And he even drops in a little sarcasm, which is extremely refreshing at first, because you get the sense that this book isn't going to be a politically correct Navy press release.  At first, the author's sarcasm and complaints are subtle.  It makes sense that someone would complain about the noise, the cramped spaces, the food, the announcements blasting at all hours through speakers in ever space, all the acronyms.  But the author's chronic whining doesn't level off.  It's not a snarky remark here and there.  The author's chronic whining takes over the story and begins to color every interaction, begins to fill every page. 
Inconsistent Reviews on Amazon

Page by page, the author's complaints, his whiny attitude, his criticism of each and ever member of the crew (who open up and share their inner lives with him) begins to overshadow the entire story.  It's like a slap in the face to the reader.  We are brought aboard the ship, taken down below decks, shown all this gigantic and amazing mechanical, aeronautical shipboard machinery.  We meet the actual people who are working hard, serving their country, spending months at sea away from their loved ones.  The author puts them at ease and they open up to us about their professional and personal lives.  As they open up to us, it's all described so well, but in every situation the author drops in his constant snide and crude and cranky remarks.

Here are excerpt from two 2-star reviews on Amazon that summarise my critique of this book:

Dyer presumably spent 2 weeks embedded on a US aircraft carrier. He never got mastery of his material. Reading in stretches like the tantrums of a precocious and spoiled child, his report is little more than a series of high-handed put-downs and cynical gags groping for an organizing metaphor, which never emerges.  From a two-star review on Amazon

Compared to Dyer's previous books, this is pathetic. "Great Day" is at least half about Dyer himself- his preferences in food and movies, his ageing body, his health and diet, even his bowel movements. He put zero effort into reflecting on his material; there's nothing of his dazzling connections of disparate findings, his evocation of a deep background that sets his observations in a more profound context. Only twice does he even wonder about what he's observing, and both excursions are commonplace trivialities. And actually, he doesn't even observe very much. His previous works feature references to an extensive literature, but "Great Day" references mostly movies, and contemporary American movies at that. Probably worst of all is his effort to be humorous, tongue-in-cheek funny. It's not funny at all; it's pathetic. This book is the work of a self-absorbed SoCal fluffhead.  From a 2-star review on Amazon

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Amazon Kindle,  Apple iBooks,  Barnes & Noble Nook,  Smashwords

Malcolm Torres is the author of many original Sea Stories.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Tile Artwork Tells Sea Stories of Pacific War Dead


I went on vacation to Oahu, Hawaii a few months ago. I had not been there in over 30 years, since the early 1980s when my ship stopped at Pearl Harbor. This time around I didn't spend all my time laying in the sun at the beach or running around to bars at night.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu,
on the island of Oahu in Hawaii

I made it a point to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as Punchbowl Crater Cemetery. I was very impressed with the memorials, especially the maps and the tile artwork. At the top of the big memorial, there is a series of maps (all made with brilliant color tile mosaics) depicting the major Pacific battles of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Looking up the Memorial steps, along both sides are granite columns with the names of those who died but did not return.  Up at the top, all along on the right and left side there are shady alcoves where the tile mosaic maps are located.  The maps illustrate many of the battles that took place across the Pacific during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Looking back down the steps and across the center of the crater.

What I found fascinating was to walk slowly along, pausing and reading the stories of the battles in the Pacific during WWII. What really caught my attention was the small nautical pictures along the borders of the maps. To those who enjoy a good sea story, the colorful bits along the margin are sometimes the best parts of the tale.

There are many of these maps at the top of the Memorial.  It was interesting to walk slowly along and read them one by one.  The history of violent warfare between the US and Japan, Korea and Vietnam really comes to life.  The realization that we are at peace and have positive relationships with Japan and Vietnam today is profound.  Today (5/27/18) there is a  possibility of making peace with North Korea.

All along the borders of the big maps that illustrate the major battles, you can see these little pictures of ships, sailors and sea creatures.  They reminded me of the gallery of maps in the Vatican.

At the Battle of Midway forces from Japan and the US collided in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.  Like most people, I want to see a map with the dates and the names of the places spelled out.  I want to see the battle lines and the precise locations where the conflicts took place.  But I want something else too, I want the human side of the story.

The day before going to Punchbowl, we went snorkeling and saw so many colorful fish.  This tile artwork made me think about how amazing the sea-life must have been back in the 1940s.  I knew that Marines and sailors had downtime on those tiny atolls.  I wondered if they went snorkeling, even though there was a war going on.  I'm sure they did. 

I thought it was cool that someone had the vision to take the time and raise the money to commission this artwork.  It just seemed perfect somehow.  It's one thing to pay tribute to the dead with stark granite and marble columns, but it's another to memorialize them by telling their stories with these amazing tile mosaics.

These little bits of art made me remember when I took the PADI scuba diving certification class in Subic Bay in the Philippines back in the 80s when I was there on shore leave.  We dove on Japanese barges that were sunk by the Americans when they took back the Philippines.  It made me think of how tough those UDT Seals were back in WWII, with their primitive diving equipment.  They must have been brave to go on those underwater attack missions against Japanese positions.

As you walk along and study the maps there's a peacefulness to it.  You are reading the stories of these violent battles.  You can imagine the explosions, the men dying.  Yet you are in one of the calmest place in the world - you are inside the crater of an extinct volcano.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  And then you see this Octopus with big eyes, and he's tangled up in a ship's wheel.  Somehow it makes you realize that all those men and women who died, they were people.  Smart, funny, handsome, young people.  Tough, yet loving people who were probably nervous and joking around with each other shortly before they died serving their country.

Storming the beaches.  There's only green fatigues and air between your skin and Japanese bullets.

They fought and died together, and now they sleep side by side.

If you have never been to the Island of Oahu, Hawaii, you should add it to your bucket list.  It's worth the trip.  There are sunny beaches, great restaurants, beautiful people and war memorials.  This particular memorial, Punchbowl Crater, is worth an afternoon walking around and reflecting on history.  Be thankful for the sacrifice made by the brave soldiers, airman and sailors across the Pacific during WWI, the Korean War, and Vietnam.  We owe them our freedom.

Malcolm Torres - Memorial Day, May 28, 2018

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original Sea Stories and Nautical Novels.