Between the Devil and the Deep is an old sailor's saying indicating the space between the bulwork and outswide of the hull. One had to hang over to tar and caulk it. Today its like being between a rock and a hard place.

Between the Devil and the Deep...: Memoirs of a Maverick Priest is my new book which now out. You buy it at amazon.com, barnsandnobel.com or by sending me a check for $18.00 plus $3.50 US and I'll send you a signed copy. address is 41 Whitman Dr., Granby, CT, 06035.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Chapter from Between the Devil and the Deep...


The boat lifts to the ten-foot wave, hesitates at the top with a flap of the mainsail, then dips as it slides down its back side into the trough. A shudder...water washing down the lee side from the foredeck, and then she lifts again. The movement is hypnotizing. I lie back and watch the stars swirl through the clouds in the night sky. Fifteen knots of wind from the southwest is on our starboard quarter. Things are going great. The Gulf Stream is just ahead and it looks as if we will have a gentle trip across this fickle river of water that lies off the East coast.

Just a few hours ago we were in the safety of the bay at Beaufort, North Carolina. Close to a hundred boats lay at anchor with us, all cruisers preparing for their voyages to the Virgins, Bermuda, Antigua, and all points south to escape the cold of winter. We had joined them in late October after traveling down the Chesapeake and the Intercoastal Waterway. The major topic of discussion among the captains on the docks was the weather.

“What do you think?” asks one.

“Dunno. The wind's to the north,” suggests another. “Might change soon,” hopes a third.

Our problems centered around crossing the Gulf Stream. It can kick up a mighty fuss if the wind blows hard from the north. None of us wanted to face a “fuss” so early in our cruise.

“I think Sunday will be a good day,” one skipper forecasts.

“Dunno, Monday might be better. Give the stream time to die down.”

“I've made this trip 18 times,” said another. “It's always bad and you're always on a port tack.”

“Maybe Monday,” I mentioned tentatively to Judy to see what her reaction would be. “Any time you think is good.”

That was not very helpful, because I did not know what would be a good time. What I really wanted was to have someone, a “Wizard,” tell me to go on such a date at such a time and to guarantee me a calm and safe voyage.

There were some who paid for such a wizard. They contracted a private weather service. We would gather around to look over their shoulders and ask them what the situation was. Waving their fax, they would say that today is definitely not a good day. We would all heave a sigh of relief

“What does it say about Monday?” I asked.

“Monday looks OK, but they recommend Sunday.” I felt disheartened because we could not leave on Sunday. We had yet to provision, so Monday would have to be the day.

The motion of the boat makes me drowsy and my head keeps dropping to my chest. The auto pilot is doing all the work. My mind drifts in rhythm with the motion of the boat.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Another new book in progress

I am writing a book about my prison experiences. The working title is Voices from Prison.It will be about the inmates’ voices. What they say, who they are, and to lesser extent my involvement with them. In the book you will meet such characters as Red, The Scrounger, The Missing Choir, The Preacher, The Hostage, The Riot and The Saint. I do not know when the book will be finished, but I am about half way through. I’ll give you some samples soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010


I have just finished a new song book, Cruising Definition, which contains songs written mostly by Judy, some by both of us. Some of the music was composed by William Heuer. They are songs about our experiences cruising in the U.S. and the Caribbean. (See also Down Island now being published on my other blog site Swartsfager-books.blogspot.com or click on Down Island on right.) These songs were sung by the “Bitter End,” our sea chantey group all over the U.S. and the Caribbean. Some of the titles are The Ditch (ICW), Walking tour of Hardware Stores, Handsome Sailor, and A'roaming. Included is the music, words, information and some of my doodles. Any one with a guitar can play these songs, and to help them we will be offering a CD.

This book is comming off the presses as we speak. We are very excited about the way it looks and its ease of use.  It contains the full melody, chords, words, and even a CD, by the Bitter End, of eleven sea songs.  If you would like to see more click the link.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I have been working very hard at home writing, sketching, composing, and doing a lot of church related stuff lately. I write on my latest book “Voices from Prison” for two to three hours in the wee dawn hours each day (except Wednesdays when I attend or have the 7:00 a.m. service), then after breakfast I work on compiling and writing a songbook of Judy’s songs about cruising. After lunch I spend some time either composing (I have composed part five of a Cantata for Pentecost which will be premiered in May), sketching (mostly for the song book), and working on scale model boats. Judy thinks it is because I am drinking so much coffee in the morning. I think she’s right.

Monday, March 15, 2010

It’s Hard to Say Goodbye

It is indeed hard to say goodbye when someone dies. It is especially hard to say goodbye to one’s father, even though he is aged and has not been doing well for the last two years. Judy’s father, Lester A. Thrasher, and Episcopal Priest, died in his sleep last Sunday. He was 99 years and 10 months old. For the last two years he had been going down hill. As he put it, “I’m in God’s waiting room.” He was ready to die and transit to a new life. His last words to us, a blessing, were “Go and have fun.” We, Judy and I, are happy that he finally made it, but we will sadly miss his presence in the world we know. Although he was mostly deaf, he had a welcome and sweet smile for everyone he saw. He ministered to the other patients and the staff daily. At 10 a.m. you would find him going around seeing everyone in his wheel chair. He would take their hands, with a great smile, and ask them how they were doing. The staff at St. James House, Baytown, Texas, looked forward to seeing him make his rounds. The last few weeks he would tell the nurse who checked him at night that he would not be there in the morning. Sunday it was true — he had gone. Sunday morning, after we had discovered he had died, we turned on the radio as we sadly fixed breakfast. The first thing we heard was a cello solo — Lester was an avid Cello player. This was followed by a marimba solo — Judy is a percussionist and loved to play the marimba. Believe it or not the next thing we heard was a harpsichord and flute piece and Jane, deceased, played these instruments. Judy and I started laughing. Lester was sending us a message.

Monday, February 15, 2010


I am going to write the blog for this week. My pet Ames is being lazy and he asked me to contribute a few thoughts. First you ought to know I’m a five year old (42 year old in dog years) English Cocker Spaniel. I have moved around a lot, but when I was two, I moved from Alaska to Ames and Judy’s house. At first I wondered what kind of humans these were. They lived on a boat in a dismal climate in Washington. We moved to CT and life became much more fun. I like to play in the snow and go visit my friends in the dog park. Here is a list of some of my friends – I can’t pronounce their human names so I name them by their breeds. The biggest one in a Great Dane puppy (He’s huge for a puppy. I can walk under him. Then there are two beautiful collies (They are a bit standoffish.) Also included are an African Ridgeback, Rottweiler (Did you know there is no such thing as safe sex with a Rottweiler?), and lots of other dogs big and small. We play tag a lot. I also have fun when the “Grandpuppies” come to visit. Their names are Rachael and Austin. They like to play and walk with me. Well, I think I have shared enough about my life. Maybe you could share some about your life in the “Comment” section.

I like to listen to music also. This photo was taken while I was listening to my humans playing sea chanties with their friends the Stephensons in Maine

Monday, February 8, 2010

I hope everyone is doing well this week.

I was delighted to hear a few good comments on my book, BETWEEN THE DEVIL AND THE DEEP, last Sunday. Sometimes one writes a book and then wonders if anyone reads it. If you have read it please send me a note at ames111111@aol.com or add a comment positive or negative to this blog sight. I am always ready to do a book signing or talk, just let me know. Here are some other pictures from our trip to Singapore. The labels on the photo to the left refer to my short story, The Tiger Lady. One night we were anchored below these cliffs and I told my grandchildren, Austin and Rachael, the story, You will have to wait to read it. It will appear soon on my Author's Den page. Click on "More information about me..." on left on this page.