Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rack railway to Montserrat Benedictine Monastary (Spain)

A sea of cloud rolls in.

The Mountains at Montserrat in Spain is well known as the site of the Benedictine abbey, Santa Maria de Montserrat, which hosts the Virgin of Montserrat sanctuary and which is identified by some with the location of the Holy Grail in Arthurian myth.

The Abbey can be reached by road, by the Aeri de Montserrat cable car, or by the Montserrat Rack Railway. The lower stations of both the rack railway and the cable car can be reached from Barcelona's Plaça d'Espanya station. From the abbey, the Funicular de Sant Joan funicular railway goes up to the top of the mountain, where there are various abandoned hovels in the cliff faces that were previously the abodes of reclusive monks, whilst the Funicular de Santa Cova descends to a shrine.

The Montserrat Rack Railway - Catalan: Cremallera de Montserrat, IPA: is a mountain railway line north of Barcelona in Catalonia, Spain. The line runs from Monistrol de Montserrat to the mountain-top monastery of Montserrat.

The line is 5 km (3.1 mi) long and has a rail gauge of 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 3⁄8 in). The first 1 km (0.6 mi) of the line, between Monistrol and the only intermediate station at Monistrol Vila, is operated by conventional adhesion. The remainder of the line is operated as a rack railway using the Abt system, overcoming a height difference of 550 m (1,804 ft) with a maximum gradient of 15.6%. The line is electrified with an overhead supply at 1500 V DC.
The line is operated by the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya (FGC).[1]

While the pics are my originals (Oct, 2012) the detailed information is coutesy of Wikipedia.

BOOK PROMOTION MYTHS DEBUNKED – for self-published authors

There is so much written about the importance of promotion, publicity and marketing with a new book that new authors often get caught up in it and forget that they are writers.
Here are my conclusions following the recent release of my latest novel.

I did no pre-publication promotion. I did not send out media releases or media packages. I did not have a book launch. I did not do any subsequent book signings. I did not ask friends to buy my book. I have done no marketing.
Currently, I have NIL Reviews or Stars and only 1 ‘like’ registered on the Amazon book page – yet, after less than 2 weeks, my e-book is selling 6-10 copies a day on Amazon and, yesterday reached No 9 on Amazon’s eBook Fiction>Sea Stories list.
So why is my new book selling? And in a genre which is difficult to compete in (particularly for a female writer)?

I finished my final edits to my manuscript on Thursday morning, 15th November (two weeks ago today). On the same afternoon, I published it as a paperback with
I ordered a single copy for myself and that night sat at home, opened a bottle of champagne and drank half (on my own) after toasting my achievement.
The same evening I sent the MSS to Custom-Book-Tique to be formatted for Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).
Three days later – the book was published as an e-book on the Amazon Kindle website.
I created a page on Facebook dedicated to this new novel, I posted my release onto Facebook (twice) and on my blog. Then I sat back and within days was amazed.

The e-Book started to attract orders – 1,2,4,6 a day (90 books so far – not huge, but not bad in 2 weeks!
Remember – No pre-promotion. No who-ha. No costly mailings to libraries or news media. No printed promotional postcards or flyers. NO phone calls. (Yes, I have done it all in the past).
I did send out 6 review copies of the paperback to appropriate places, but so far have had no replies.

So, WHAT IS THE ANSWER? Why are people buying my book?
Firstly, and most importantly – sales are the result of Amazon’s unsolicited promotional tactic of adding the few short words on the book's page, namely “…Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
I understand this statement has a viral effect and I believe that sales grow exponentially from it.
Secondly, that this book was a sequel to an earlier book (also self-published as an e-book).
Other facts which are important but are not as significant here:
This is my sixth published novel, I am told I write well, and the book was professionally formatted (the sort of thing potential readers ‘look inside’ for when purchasing from Amazon).
In the past, I have spent hours on promotion and marketing on previous books and achieved very, very little. I have spent oodles of money on promotional material – in fact, in some cases, more than I ever received in Royalties from those early books from the traditional publisher.

Finish your novel – and if you are confident your work is polished and saleable, self-publish in paper and e-book.
Then ignore all the advice you get about promotion and marketing and START WRITING YOUR NEXT NOVEL.
The novel referred to here is THE TAINTED PRIZE by M.C. Muir

HMS Victory – CAPSTAN turned by 140 men

The Jeer Capstan “was used for hoisting stores, guns, boats, raising topmasts, yards and hoisting lower yards on their jeer tackle.
The upper part called the drumhead, worked in unison with its counterpart on the deck below, and was operated with 140 men manning the 14 capstan bars.

All of the iron stanchions surrounding the capstan were removed before operation. Ladders, wooden pillars and guns in close proximity were also removed.
This Capstan, which is still able to be turned in its original bearings, is the only surviving example of a late 18th century capstan.”

Pics taken by author and information provided on HMS Victory at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From Garbage to amazing animal sculptures

Sayaka Ganz uses reclaimed plastic household objects as her materials. Her recent sculptures depict animals in motion with rich colors and energy. She was born in Yokohama, Japan and grew up living in Japan, Brazil, and Hong Kong. Currently she teaches design and drawing courses at Indiana University–Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW).
Lalé Welsh wrote on FB: “Too bad the very garbage it was made with is what will keep the real things from soaring...”


Nelson was not the only senior officer to return to England in a barrel.
“The large barrel standing at the ship’s side represents the original water leaguer in which Nelson’s body was contained for its journey back to England for burial.
To preserve the body, Surgeon Beatty had the leaguer filled with brandy. Although carried in the ship as an alcoholic drink, brandy was the best available spirituous solution suitable for this purpose.
Under tow by the 98 gun ship ‘Neptune’, the ‘Victory’ finally anchored at Gibraltar one week after the battle.
Beatty used this opportunity to dilute the brandy with preservation fluids comprising spirits of wine and myrrh. The leaguer was then placed in the steerage and lashed secure to the mizzen mast.
The ‘Victory' sailed home Monday 4th November and anchored off Portsmouth Thursday 5 December. Arriving off Sheerness 18 days later, Nelson’s body was transferred into its coffin and taken up river in the Chatham yacht to Greenwich where Beatty found the body in a good state of preservation.
The idea of preserving a body in a cask of brandy was not just done for Nelson but was the accepted common practice for preserving senior naval officers who dies at sea.”

HMS Victory - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


It was only released last week and this message came through to me today:
I am half way through your newest book "The Tainted Prize" and finding it hard to put down. Besides knowing your maritime history and tall ship sailing, I love that you don't cookie cutter the plot and your characters are so well developed and believable. In every scene you set up, I feel I am actually there through the characters eyes , thoughts, and impressions.
(Lisa Goodwin - USA)
THE TAINTED PRIZE is a nautical fiction adventure set during the age-of-sail.
It is the sequel to FLOATING GOLD.

Shipwreck painting - do you know the artist?

This painting was posted on facebook with no acknowledgement of the artist. I would dearly like to find out who painted this picture, where it is now and who owns the copyright.
For the present I have shared it on my timeline page and wish to acknowledge the unknown artist.
Please leave a comment if you can help at all.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gibraltar's permanent residents - Barbary Apes

Who’s the cheeky monkey then?
On The Rock at Gibraltar – this was as close as I wanted to get to one of the Barbary Apes (macaque monkeys). Walking up the hill, one leapt up and grabbed my hat but was disappointed when he discovered it was pinned to my shirt – (old sailing habit).
Across the bay is the old Spanish town of Algiceras whose history stretches back to Phoenician, Roman and Moorish times.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Remembering the PILGRIM FATHERS - Happy Thanksgiving

This PILGRIM FATHERS MEMORIAL is in Southampton, England.
The plaque read: The Separatist congregation from Babworth, Nottinghamshire (1586-1604), which moved to Scrooby in 1606, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1608, and to Leyden in 1609, sailed from Delft Haven in the SPEEDWELL, ON August 1, 1620, to join the MAYFLOWER with its London colonists, here. Both ships sailed on August 15, 1620, for the New World. After turning back to Dartmouth, and a second time to Plymouth for repairs, the SPEEDWELL was abandoned and on September 16, the MAYFLOWER alone sailed to Plymouth, New England with 102 passengers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

THE CONDOR'S FEATHER - Free on Kindle for 3 days

FREE for 3 days - THE CONDOR'S FEATHER -22 to 24 November 2012
It's different and doesn't slot into any genre category easily. It's set mainly in Patagonia. It's Historical - set in the 1880s before this wild South American country was tamed. It's Travel. It's Action and Adventure. And it's Equestrian all rolled dinto one, but it's not a romance per se, which is possibly why it does not attract reviews. Here's hoping that will change. Here is the UK link:

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation Sword

Lloyd's Patriotic Fund presentation Sword

Ornate gold engraved swords were presented to naval men for outstanding duty during the Napoleonic War era.
This particular gold sword is housed in the British Maritime Museum at Greenwich.
It was presented by the Lloyd's Patriotic Fund to Charles Mansfield, Captain of HMS Minataur for contributing to the victory over the combined fleets of France and Spain off Cape Trafalgar, Oct 1805

HMS Warrior - staying clean on an 1860 fighting ship

HMS Warrior equipped with washing machines!

At over 400ft long and 58ft beam and displacement of over 9000 tons, she was the biggest war ship of her time (1860). Her 5267 hp steam engine was fired by 10 boilers and 40 furnaces for which she carried 850 ton of coal.
But in grand British tradition, the Warrior’s stokers (the men shovelling the coal for the furnaces) had white uniforms!

Hence the necessity for washing facilities for both men and uniforms.

For the men and boys who worked in the boiler and engine rooms, baths were provided.
However, for the rest of the crew - each mess of 18 men had two buckets of cold water twice a week to wash in!

But rather than hand washing their white uniforms, HMS Warrior was the first ship to have washing machines.
The washing machines were filled with hot water. The clothes were put in, along with scrapings of soap. Turning the handles worked all the machines at the same time.
Clothes were then put through the wooden mangles to squeeze out the excess water.
(From HMS Warrior – Points of Interest – 1860)
HMS Warrior is a museum ship and a major exhibit of Portsmouth Historica Dockyard.

Cooking on wooden sailing ships in the 1700s and 1800s

Feeding the sailors in the 18th and 19th century sailing ships - especially during voyages of discovery or times of fighting such as the Napoleonic Wars - was on eof the most important jobs ob board ship.
But what were the cooking stoves like? Ad was the fire a danger on a wooden ship?

On HM Bark Endeavour (c1770)
The fire for cooking was contained in the fire hearth and the smoke went up the chimney through a funnel to the weatherdeck. Cooking could be done in the oven but the pork and beef was boiled in large round pots which sat in large round holes on the top - next to the hanging net bags into which each mess-table put its 6 pieces of meat and each bag was labled with the table’s name. To prevent heat descending to the wooden deck, beneath the fire hearth was a layer of sand with bricks, slate or stone slabs.
Kevin Boatman Foster offered this description of the firehearth: The fire was contained in a sheet-iron patent galley stove. The stove usually had a hot water tank, several ovens with sheet or cast iron doors, heating surfaces for pans and kettles surrounded by iron pipe railings, and an iron and copper smoke pipe equipped with a damper. It rested in an open-topped sandbox capped with bricks. The galley stove was one of the most complicated machines on board a sailing ship. Small vessels had smaller sheet-iron stoves, capable of baking inside and cooking on top. The simplest version of galley on a sailing ship was an open topped sand box atop bricks for an open fire to heat cook pots. Those were found on larger dhows and other vessels in the Indian ocean as recently as the last hundred years.

The Galley - HMS Warrior 1850 - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – here the galley had to cater for hundreds of men every day.

Fireheath - HMS Victory (c1770) - replica - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Medieval Boat Building c. 1450

Boat building from the Medieval era – found at Southampton’s West Quay c.1450.

This reproduction shows the early stages of construction – first keel, stem and sternposts in position, then the strakes (planks) to form the bottom of the boat. The Frames were fixed to these then the planking. This was the method in northern Europe. In the Mediterranean they built the hull first and fitted the frames in later.

Replica Medieval cargo vessel (Southampton’s West Quay)
This type of boat was used in the 14th century to export wool (from Britain) and import wine and other goods.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Church of the Sailors - Southampton

While in Southampton, I noticed this anchor in the ruins of an old church. The plaque behind it read:
“The Church of Holyrood erected on this site in 1320 was damaged by enemy action on 30 Nov 1940. Known for centuries as the Church of the Sailors, the ruins have been preserved by the people of Southampton as a memorial and Garden of Rest, dedicated to those who served in the merchant-navy and lost their lives at sea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


I’ve had a blog for years
I don’t post about me (boring!) or on writing per se. I don’t post long blogs, but I do blog briefly about anything and everything of interest to me.
I have no Followers and I have no blog Counter, so I was amazed when I discovered my Blogspot Stats.
Page views today – 77
Page views last month – 1489
Page views all time – 39,863
I would have to argue that blogging works.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Portsmouth Sally Port

I found three portals/doorways/sally ports within 50 yards of each other in the old Portsmouth fortification wall sea-wall. They plaques (detailed below are immediately are adjacent to the Square Tower. All three cut through to the beach from which many naval heros left England's shore.

Here are a couple of the plaques:

Apart from this place marking NELSON's departure for the Battle of Trafalgar, the plaques mark the departure of the FIRST FLEET to Australia, also MATTHEW FLINDERS departure south in 1802, plus Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition across the Atlantic to establish ROANOKE in Virginia. This is also the spot where CATHERINE OF BRAGANZA landed in 1662 for her marriage to Charles 11.
If you we could only see the ghosts of those who passed through this very special place. But we can imagine.

The ROANOKE VOYAGES to VIRGINIA (now N. Carolina 1584 and 1587)
The plaque on the wall at the Portsmouth sally point remembers Sir Walter Raleigh’s second expedition which left this place April 1587, 91 men, 17 women and 9 children to establish on ROANOKE Island - THE CITTIE OF RALEIGH – the first English village in America. The colony disappeared between 1587 and 1590.
For the author on the HNS site who plans to write this story.

THE TAINTED PRIZE - launched today

Nautical fiction adventure set during the age-of-sail.
The year is 1803 and aboard HM Frigate, 'Perpetual', Captain Quintrell heads south to the Southern Ocean. His orders are to find a missing ship even if it means sailing all the way to Peru. But in order to complete his mission, he must face the challenges of the Horn, an unnerving discovery, French privateers, political intrigue and even deception and unrest amongst his own crew. THE TAINTED PRIZE is a classic age-of-sail nautical fiction adventure and the second in the series following FLOATING GOLD.

Available from US and UK as a Kindle e-book ($2.99) and from as a paperback ($16.00)

Friday, November 16, 2012

An (embroidery) Stitch in (Tudor) Time.

On wandering through the back door of Hampton Court Palace one finds a display of work by the ROYAL SCHOOL OF NEEDLEWORK. It is here, in one of the Palace apartments that EMBROIDERY CLASSES are conducted. You can learn Jacobean crewelwork, silk shading, basic goldwork (magnificent) and either canvas work or blackwork. Each module takes 8 days of tuition. There are over 70 course offered from 1 day (71 GBP) to Certificate, Diploma and 3 years in TRADITIONAL exquisite hand embroidery skills as such that decorated the garments of Tudor kings and Queens.
The RSN is the only organisation in the world to teach western embroidery at this level.
To learn more go to or you can visit them on Facebook.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Henry V111's Mary Rose - past, present and future

When Henry V111's ship, MARY ROSE was receovered from The Solent in 1982, the bodies of numerous sailors (and a dog) were recovered from the wreck. Many of these have been preserved and/or been subjected to forensic tests to ascertain more about life in the 16th century.
The remains of one sailor however was interred at Portsmouth Cathedral - about a mile from the dockyard an quite close to the Sally Port and Portsea Beach from which Henry V111 watched his flag ship go down in 1545.
It seem fitting that there is a grave to one of the men who lost their lives on that fateful day so long ago.

This is the new Mary Rose Museum building which will be opening in 2013. I was pleased that I saw the ship undergoing its restoration process a few years ago.
Situated in the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, I was standing close to HMS Victory.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

HMS VICTORY - Sailors' superstitions and a lucky horseshoe

Sailors, during the age-of-sail, were very superstitious – of such things as The Flying Dutchman. That superstition continues today in many parts.

In order to combat the evil spirits, a horseshoe was nailed to the foremast and could be seen on most ships of the day.

This section of Victory’s foremast (?) is displayed within the ship at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard in Portsmouth..

A cross section of a mast from HMS Victory also reveals the composition of the mast – obviously not hewn from a single tree.

This link from Google books mentions Herman Melville and HMS Victory, Lord Nelson and the horseshoe pinned to the foremast.

On the old superstition: 

"In the month of September, 1825, lightning struck a brigantine which lay at anchor in the Bay of Armiso, in the Adriatic. A sailor was killed by the bolt, and tradition says that on one of his hips was seen the perfect representation of a horse-shoe, a counterpart of one nailed to the vessel's foremast in accordance with the custom in vogue on the Mediterranean.

"In a German work, entitled "Seespuk," by P. G. Heims,  the writer remarks that, among seafaring people, the old pagan emblem, the horse-shoe, whose talismanic origin is so closely associated with horse-sacrifice and the use of horse-flesh as food among the heathen nations of the North, is even now the most powerful safeguard aboard ship against lightning and the powers of evil.

"There are comparatively few small vessels laden with wood, fruit, vegetables, or other merchandise, sailing between Baltic Sea ports, upon whose foremast, or elsewhere upon deck, horse-shoes are not nailed."

Taken from The Lucky Horseshoe

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Gibraltar tunnels and guns

Gibraltar - where The Rock inself hides an intricate network of tunnels dug deep inside it for guns dating back to the Napoleonic period plus later eras.
This gun - near the top of The Rock has no marks on the trunnion.
Note: behind the gun on the rock face are what appear to be caves - these are embrasures for the cannon.

The Windsor Gallery was the first tunnel dug into The Rock of Gibraltar. It was constructed by the Corps of Engineers in 1783 after having taken a year to dig. The heavy guns which stood at the embrasures were all hauled up the mountain by hand. The zigzag road up the side of the hill has a series of iron rings in the rock face which were used for hauling.

Downtown Gibraltar - The plaque reads: These four Russian guns were captured in the Crimea 1854-58 were presented to Gibraltar by the British Government in 1858.
Not exactly Rotherham cannons but may be of interest.

Gibraltar - half way up the Rock looking north to the narrow border with Spain (hidden by cloud) only a mile away. WW2 guns point across Algiceras Bay to the coast of Spain.

Lord Nelson gazing towards Trafalgar

This bronze statue of Admiral Lord Nelson stands in Portsmouth. It depicts him in an informal pose wearing the undress uniform which he died in at the Battle of Trafalgar. It faces the place on the beach where he embarked for HMS Victory.

The George - Portsmouth

THE GEORGE HOTEL - When I visited Portsmouth a few weeks ago (from Australia), I made a special point of booking into The George Hotel – mentioned by Nelson in his letters and POB in his books. Located only a stone’s throw from the entrance to the Portsmouth Dockyard, I was disappointed to find this 18th century building was not the lodging house in question.
The original George Hotel, where on Se
pt 14, 1805, Nelson spent his last hours in England, fell victim to the WW11 bombings of Portsmouth. The inn, from which the Royal Mail and ‘Regulator’ left daily for London, was situated on High Street and backed onto Penny Lane. It was a stone’s throw from the Cathedral and only a few hundred yards from the Sally Port and Saluting Platform.
Today it is the site for a small block of flats but a plaque on the pavement and two gas lamps mark the entrance to the old George which was so popular with senior naval officers.

Friday, November 09, 2012

HMS Victory - flexible sponge and rammer

A sponge on a rope - why? - HMS Victory.
While sponges for dowsing a flaming barrel were ususally fixed on long wooden handles, I asked why some were on malleable lengths of heavy rope.
The answer was that if a cannon could not be hauled back into the ship, the member of the gun crew responsible still had to lean out of the port and sponge it out, but to do so with a long (approx 6ft pole) would have been impossible. With the sponge on a rope, he merely reached out and stuck it into the muzzle and pushed the cable in behind it.
the same applied to the rammer - also in the picture.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

HMS Victory’s ballast – pig Iron and shingle

To counteract the weight of 100 cannon on her gun decks, 257 ton (259 tonnes) of pig iron ballast was laid in the bottom of Victory's hold. This was overlaid with loose shingle which formed the base for storage of water butts and leaguers. When fully provisioned for a 6 month voyage she carried 300 tons of water.
While Victory now rests in dry dock, only a facsimile of the layer of pig iron can be shown, however, two real pig iron ballast blocks, bearing the mark of an arrow, are presented.

The pig-iron ballast also played an important role in Cook's ship.
Apart from forfeiting the guns, it was blocks of pig-iron ballast which were thrown overboard on the Great Barrier reef from Captain Cook's Bark Endeavour.
This allowed the vessel to float free of the coral and sail to Batavia for repairs. A piece of the original pig iron, recovered from the sea at Endeavour Reef in recent years, is now a permanent exhibit on HMB Endeavour.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

HMS Victory's guns

During my recent visit to HMS Victory in Portsmouth, I was disappointed to learn that of the near 100 gun on board, most are made of wood or fibreglass and there are only about 5 or 6 cast iron cannon in the ship.
Because the replicas look so good the only way to distinguish the fakes is to knock on them.
The reason the ship cannot house the originals, is weight. The ageing vessel's decks could not support 100 x 2-3 ton guns.

Traitor's Gate - entrance to the Tower of London

Sailing down the Thames as part of a recent Historical Novel Society Tour, the commentator described the Traitor's Gate (visible at the waterline heading into the bowels of the Tower) as 'the first one-way thoroughfare in London!' Many went in - but few ever came out.

Portsmouth - the Golden Barque

This beautiful Golden Barque weather vane ‘sailed’ on the cupola of the Portsmouth Cathedral from 1710 till it blew down in 1954. Lovingly restored, it now stands in the Cathedral while a golden replica adorns the tower.
Portsmouth Cathedral grew from a chapel built in 1185 dedicated to Thomas Becket (murdered 1170). During its 800 year history it suffered from French incendiary attacks during the 100 Years War (1337), Cromwellian cannon fire in the English Civil War (1642) and while the houses opposite were flattened in the WW11 bombing of Portsmouth, the Cathedral survived and was recently extended.
A gravestone within the Cathedral is the burial place for the remains of one of the sailors recovered from the Mary Rose – Henry V111’s ship which sank in 1545 in the Solent and was brought to the surface in 1984.

A tribute to the Portugese Maritime Discoveries

Lisbon - The DISCOVERIES MONUMENT was erected in 1960 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the death of Prince Henry the Navigator.

Built on the banks of the Tagus River in Lisbon, Portugal, the monument is in the shape of a three sailed ship.

The only female is queen Felipa of Lancaster, Henry’s mother.

The beautifully sculpted historical figures which appear on both sides of the monument include Vasco da Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Cabral, and several other notable Portuguese explorers, crusaders, monks, cartographers, and cosmographers.

They are led by Prince Henry the Navigator at the prow holding a small vessel.