A Visionary’s Playground

Buddy Darby
Buddy Darby aboard the 154-foot Perini Navi sailing yacht Andromeda la Dea, courtesy of Yachting magazine.

The September issue of Yachting magazine is one of my biggest efforts each year. I’m the charter editor, and for this issue I had to select and organize somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 of the world’s most interesting charter yachts while writing 29 pages of columns and features about what’s happening with these boats everywhere from New Zealand to the Florida Keys.

One of my favorite articles in the issue is about the new Christophe Harbour marina development on St. Kitts. It’s the vision of the man at right, Buddy Darby, who is also an owner of the 154-foot Perini Navi sailing yacht Andromeda la Dea, which charters through Churchill Yacht Partners. Suffice it to say that Darby knows a thing or two about all the tiny nuisances that can add up when you bring one of today’s big, modern yachts into marinas built 50 years ago or longer. It was fascinating to interview him and to learn about all the small details he’s tying together at this Caribbean property, which will cater to superyachts that are getting bigger and bigger with every season.

You can read my article about Darby and Christophe Harbour here at the Yachting site, or pick up the September issue on newsstands to see it along with all the other great charter content in the magazine.

Amazing Encounters

Yes, I know, normal people drive a few hours to relax at a beach house for vacation. I simply don’t fit that mold, which is why I just returned from a stay halfway around the world in the Timbavati private reserve section of Kruger National Park in South Africa, near the border with Mozambique. This is deep in “the bush,” animals roaming freely without fences across an area that totals about 7,500 square miles (bigger than Connecticut, smaller than New Jersey). My base camp didn’t even have fences. Monkeys stole bananas at breakfast, and guides walked me to my tent each night in case hyenas or leopards were lurking. It was exhilarating, and I can’t wait to go back. Here’s a look at just a few of the amazing encounters I was privileged to experience. All photographs Copyright 2015, Imagine Media LLC

Into the Wild

The new issue of Yachts International magazine includes my article about the increasing popularity of crewed yacht charter in Raja Ampat, Indonesia. Above is my favorite underwater photo from the trip, and below are two from among many on-land favorites I was able to snap.

Getting to Raja Ampat, by the way, was the longest travel experience I’ve endured in 15 years of covering yachts worldwide. It took five flights from New York (JFK to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Singapore, Singapore to Bali, Bali to Makassar, and Makassar to Sorong) and then, from Sorong, a 16-hour cruise on a boat to reach Raja Ampat. Yacht owners are going there because it is unspoiled territory. Given the distance from everything else, I’m pretty sure that will remain true for quite a few years to come.

I’m most proud of the underwater image above, which I captured during my first time out with a GoPro Hero4 Silver camera attached to my wrist while hovering less than a foot above a reef in a current. It didn’t hurt that the snorkeling site was filled with more fish than I’ve seen anywhere else, including yacht assignments in the Caribbean, Central America, South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Galapagos Islands. Raja Ampat really is an incredible travel destination for anyone interested in untouched nature.

My First Coffee-Table Book

The Stylish Life Yachting by TeNeuesAmazon.com has just made my first coffee-table book available for pre-order. It’s from “The Stylish Life” series by TeNeues, with a focus on yachts.

Though I do often take the photographs that run with my articles in yachting magazines, for this book I contributed the words only. TeNeues selected all the imagery, and I think they did a beautiful job.



Join Me at the 2015 ASJA Writers’ Conference

asja-2015I have been asked to serve as a panelist at the 2015 conference of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. I’ll be alongside ASJA Vice President Sherry Beck Paprocki and authors’ attorney Sallie Randolph for the panel “Business Matters: Proposals, Contracts and More.” My role will be to represent the ASJA Contracts & Conflicts Committee, which I chair, and to explain some common contract terms and options for negotiating them.

Please join us for this panel at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 2. Full conference details are at the 2015 ASJA conference website.

Booking Yachts with Bitcon

bitcoinThis special report for Yachting magazine about the growing use of bitcoin in the yacht marketplace is one of the most interesting topics I’ve had the opportunity to write about in a long time. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed reporting and writing it. Truly fascinating stuff.

The New Me, Better than the Real Me

Kim KavinI have a new dog book coming out at the end of this year, and I’m getting ready to start the advance marketing—which means I had to endure every author’s worst nightmare of sitting for a new book-jacket photo. (There’s a reason we journalists choose a life behind the cameras and notebooks!)

The result of last week’s photo session is at right. I like it well enough, but it also leaves me uneasy. That is, indeed, my 42-year-old face almost completely airbrushed of freckles, wrinkles and sunspots. Apparently, this is the new normal in the taking of author photographs. I feel like a character in an augmented-reality experience.

I’m pretty sure my skin didn’t even look that good back when I was 3 years old. Also note the brightened whites of my eyes and the sparkling choppers between my lips, all of which now appear never to have encountered a single glass of iced tea or a few too many glasses of red wine. Apparently, a woman of my vintage with a full-time job, a house to take care of and a face that shows hints of hard-earned wisdom needs some Photoshop-style help simply to look perky enough for prime time.

It’s amazing what these photo software programs can do nowadays. It all makes me wonder whether anything at all in photographs is real anymore. Maybe by the time my next book comes out in two or three more years, they’ll have me looking like Brazilian fashion model Gisele Bundchen. Hey, an author can dream…

Pretty Much Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Charter Yachts

yachting-coverThe September issue of Yachting magazine is on newsstands now. It’s the annual “winter charter” issue, and as the charter editor, I was responsible for the 21-page special editorial section in the features well along with bonus coverage online. The print edition includes features about chartering in Myanmar, a recent trend in superyachts being refit for charter, interviews with yacht owners wanting to change the way charter business is done, and a roundup of everything from family-style sailing catamarans to luxury megayachts that are available for bookings this winter.

Our whole team at Yachting is very proud of our work in this issue, which featured about 40 boats in print along with another 25 online that are available for charter this winter everywhere from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia. Special thanks to Yachting’s art director, Eric Powell, who did a bang-up job not only on the charter section, but also on a cover that captures the feeling of arriving at a yacht charter by helicopter or seaplane. Beautiful!

I can’t remember ever producing a single month’s coverage highlighting so many yachts since I began covering charter for America’s top boating magazines back in 2000. This was a major undertaking, and I hope readers enjoy it as much as we all reveled in the challenge of putting it together.


“Little Boy Blue” Earns 100th Customer Review

Little Boy Blue coverSome writers obsess about their books’ customer reviews on Amazon.com. I’m not willing to put myself in that category, but I will admit to being excited about Little Boy Blue receiving its 100th customer review recently on the site. There’s just something about the number 100 that makes the whole process feel meaningful in terms of sample size. And it was yet another five-star recommendation, which also made me smile.

As of today, the book has 103 customer reviews on Amazon. A solid 94 percent of them are either four or five stars. Boy is that nice to see!

My heartfelt thanks to every reader who has taken the time to write a review—and especially to the readers who say the book inspired them to adopt a homeless dog. Those are the best reviews of all.

If you’d like to keep up with Blue and his happy life (he’s now 4 1/2 years old), please follow Little Boy Blue on Facebook. Most recently, he has been taking long trail walks with his adopted mutt sister, Ginger, and the two of them have been enjoying backyard playtime with a 14-week-old foster puppy. He has a five-star life, for sure.

That One Hurt

independence-triathlonYesterday was my first triathlon of the season, the Independence Triathlon put on by Piranha Sports. I was particularly psyched to do well because I’d endured such a disastrous end to my 2013 season, when, you may recall, my sports bra broke and I had to wear a MiracleSuit during the Delaware Diamondman Triathlon this past September. That event ended with me undressing in a cornfield to make adjustments before a senior citizen jogged past me to the finish. Unpleasant, to say the least!

I’m happy to say that all my undergarments (and other equipment) functioned correctly yesterday–so much so that, for the first time in quite a few races, I was within easy striking distance of my younger sister. She’s a great swimmer and is always out of the water first, and I spend every triathlon playing catchup during the bike and run segments. Yesterday, I had nearly caught up to her about halfway through the 10-mile bicycle leg of the course. As I headed for the turn, pumping my legs to ride up the steep hills surrounding Pennsylvania’s Nockamixon State Park, I knew that (based on our previous race times) I had only to continue biking and then run at my usual pace. I didn’t even have to hit the afterburners. It was a mathematical certainty that I’d beat her.

I rode into the transition area, stripped off my bike gear and put on my running shoes, and tossed my biking helmet like a piece of trash as I zipped out to start the run. I couldn’t see my sister, but I knew she couldn’t be far ahead. I ran and ran along the lake trail, looking ahead around every turn, and I didn’t catch sight of her until there was about a mile to go. She was maybe a quarter-mile ahead of me, max. I can run a mile two or three minutes faster than she does, so with one mile to go, it was going to be an easy victory.

At the water station, I paused for a few seconds to take a drink, walking maybe 10 paces while swallowing. Then I started to run again–and my left calf wouldn’t cooperate. I walked a few more paces and then tried again to resume jogging, but my leg seized from my knee straight down to my ankle. It was a Charley horse, a vicious muscle spasm. It felt like a bear trap had clamped  through my skin.

Walking it off didn’t work, so I tried to jog through the pain. I’m guessing I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, half-trudging and half-limping the last mile of the trail. Every eighth of a mile or so I’d try again to walk it off, but the pain only increased.

Meanwhile, my sister had launched into speeds she hasn’t run in several years, believing I was right on her tailwind when I was, in fact, near falling over altogether. By the time I crossed the finish line, she’d been done for a good five minutes. My left leg wouldn’t straighten at all, and every one of my toes had gone numb.

And so, I am once again the loser–though proud to have finished and “played through the pain.” Hey, I have to take my victories where I can get them in these races. Sometimes just finishing makes a person a real winner.

Yesterday’s race, by the numbers:

  • Quarter-mile swim, 10-mile bike, 2-mile run
  • Number of lake weeds I accidentally swallowed during the swim: 1 (yes, it was gross)
  • Number of tries it took me to mount the bicycle and clip into my shoes: 1 (a major victory on this uphill start; last year it took me three tries and I ended up bleeding)
  • Fastest speed I hit on the bike going downhill: 29 mph
  • Slowest speed I endured on the bike going uphill: 4.5 mph
  • My finish in the Athena division: 9 of 12, and within about 5 minutes of the two Athenas who immediately preceded me. If not for the Charley horse, I’d have been middle of the pack in my division.
  • My overall finish: 272 of 282. Even with the leg pain, I wasn’t dead last!

Join Me at the 2014 ASJA Writers Conference

asja-2014As the head of the Contracts & Conflicts Committee for the American Society of Journalists and Authors, I’ve been asked to give a seminar at the 2014 ASJA Writers Conference in Manhattan My presentation will be bright and early, at 9 a.m. on Friday, April 25. It’s called “Contract Zingers and Traps: How to Protect Yourself.”

Our committee helps ASJA members review publishing contracts before signing them. A handful of worrisome contract clauses tend to pop up repeatedly, and those are the ones this presentation will feature. The talk will be geared toward new writers trying to make sense of jargon they’ll need to master in order to protect themselves legally and financially when accepting assignments. Specifically, I’ll be talking about things like waiving of moral rights, indemnity protections, defamation guarantees, copyright guarantees, privacy guarantees, pay on acceptance vs. pay on publication, and work made for hire vs. serial rights. Attendees will learn how to spot these topics in legal documents and amend the clauses so they’re fair to both parties.

You don’t have to be an ASJA member to attend on Friday. Everyone is welcome. If you’d like to register, this is the sign-up page.

And if you choose to become a member of ASJA before April, then you can also attend members-only day on Thursday, April 24, when my colleague Milton Toby from our committee will be giving a talk on mastering the art of negotiating contracts. He’s a great writer as well as a lawyer, and I’m looking forward to his presentation as well.

Hope to see you there!

Op-Ed Nominated for National Award

boston-globe-op-edI was thrilled to learn today that the Dog Writers Association of America has named my May op-ed in Boston Globe Magazine  one of three finalists for best opinion piece/editorial.

My piece is titled “The Good, the Bad, and the Biters.” It’s about new rules the state of Massachusetts was seeking to impose on rescue groups bringing in adoptable dogs from out of state. The idea was to ensure that each dog received some sort of temperament testing, and to ensure that adopters were made aware of the dogs’ temperaments before bringing them home.

The other two finalists for the DWAA award are “Bald-Faced Love” by Noah Charney in AKC Family Dog, and “My Brilliant Brat” by Elizabeth Jarrell in the Aussie Times.

Winners will be announced Sunday, February 9. Congratulations to my fellow nominees!