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.
Amazon.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.
I 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.
This 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.
I 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…
The 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.
Some 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.
Yesterday 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:
As 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!
I 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!
In just a couple of weeks, the December issue of Yachting magazine will be on newsstands. One of the features includes my take on the latest must-have toy for superyachts: the personal submersible. I descended to more than 500 feet below sea level in the $3 million machine shown below. (That’s me in the orange T-shirt, in a seat normally reserved for Smithsonian Institution scientists.)
Seriously—they pay me to do this stuff. Wow!
Yesterday was my fifth annual showing at the Delaware Diamondman Triathlon. I was going to start this race recap at the end, by telling you about the man in the photograph at right—and how he passed me on the last quarter-mile of the run to punctuate my utterly gruesome performance—but instead I’m going to start a few hours before the race began, because it was then, just after 5 a.m., that I should have realized I was in for a long, painful day.
I was in the hotel, getting dressed before sun-up, and I pulled my sports bra out of my suitcase. Yes, I know, the people who make triathlon suits for women claim that they come with built-in bras, but anyone like me who competes in the Athena division and has breasts larger than those of a 14-year-old Taiwanese boy will tell you that a sports bra needs to be worn underneath. The built-in bras are thinner than panty liners, and they’re sewn between two sheets of Spandex. What’s that going to hold up? It’s like claiming that a thong is the equivalent of an adult diaper. To compensate, some Athenas wear two sports bras at once beneath their tri-suits. I go with just one, but as I put it on by moonlight in the wee hours of yesterday morning, I realized the gravity of my situation, both literally and figuratively. One of the straps had somehow torn halfway off the band. Even if I were Betsy Ross, I couldn’t have sewn that thing back together, and certainly not in the 15 minutes before I had to get into the car to check in at race registration.
The only other two options in my suitcase were a Victoria’s Secret bra with skinny straps and a lace back, and a Miraclesuit one-piece that I had planned to wear later that day while relaxing by my parents’ swimming pool. I went for the Miraclesuit, thinking it was the only option of the two that even had a chance of surviving the strain of a triathlon. I pulled it on beneath my tri-suit and hoped for the best while looking across the hotel room with suspicion at my sister, who, as many of you know, is my only true competition in these races. It’s not about the overall field. It’s about family bragging rights. Had she gotten into my suitcase and sabotaged my most important piece of personal gear? I honestly doubt it, but I plan to suggest it at every Thanksgiving from now through the year 2025.
Nobody but my sister and me, of course, knew about my Miraclesuit as I waded into the lake ahead of the start. And I did feel all right in my two-layer, hope-and-prayer getup as I dove in for the half-mile swim. Now, at this point, it’s important for you to know that the race organizers, Piranha Sports, changed the length of the triathlon this year. It used to be a 0.6-mile swim, a 16-mile bike, and a 2-mile run. This year, it became a half-mile swim, a nearly 20-mile bike, and a 3.1-mile (5K) run. While the distance of the swim got slightly shorter, the bike and run distances got significantly longer for amateurs. That’s why my sister and I were among the only amateurs competing yesterday at all (most of the people at our fitness level signed up for shorter races instead of attempting the longer overall distance). It is also why, as I swam my usual slow speed at the back of the pack of women, I found myself forgetting entirely about my funky outfit and focusing entirely on survival. I was swamped just past Turn Buoy One as the first wave of elite male swimmers came upon me from behind. They’d started a few minutes after the female wave, and they’d caught up to me and the other slower female swimmers inside of 10 minutes. I was doing my freestyle the same way I practice at the YMCA, just trying to breathe and swim in a straight line toward the next buoy, when 6-foot-4 guys who looked like a Marine Special Forces platoon started ramming into me with their arms and kicking me with their legs. It wasn’t intentional; I was like a piece of plankton swept up in a sea of breaching whales. There was nothing I could do but tread water and get out of their way for a minute or two, so I swam off to the side and waited for a lane to clear in the lake.
By the time I got out of the water, I was a full six minutes behind my sister. This is significant, but not entirely new; she’s a much faster swimmer than I am, and I spend every race’s bike and run segments trying to catch up and pass her. I got in and out of transition fast, dropping my goggles, slapping on my bike shoes, and beginning the mile-long ride out of the park and onto the road course. I was still huffing and puffing from the swim, and it was only then, after I’d been out of the water for a few minutes, that I realized I was having trouble getting a deep breath.
Now, for those of you who have never owned a Miraclesuit, their claim to fame is that they make you look a size smaller than you really are. This is achieved through the clever placement of fabric panels. They squeeze and tuck things like your abdomen section, and while they do hoist the boobs, they really aren’t meant to support them during strenuous activity. My Miraclesuit, at that point in yesterday’s race, was doing a great job of holding my abdomen and stomach areas in. I’m sure I looked quite svelte, and that my breasts looked nicely shaped underneath my tri-suit, as I gasped for oxygen and prayed for the brand-new suit to tear in half so that I could breathe correctly.
And yet, despite having the feeling that a boa constrictor was trying to kill me, I actually rode at one of my best-ever paces, an average of 14.3 mph. It wasn’t easy, though, and not just because of the constricted breathing. A bathing suit is not what you want in between your inner thighs and a hard, skinny racing bike seat. The seams around each of my legs might as well have been Fraggle-sized bulldozers digging flesh canyons. Chafing doesn’t even begin to describe it. When a hearse passed me on the road at mile 11.8, with the driver honking and waving, I seriously thought for a moment that the pain meant my maker was calling me home. And by mile 18 or so, I was standing more than I was sitting as I rode, trying to ease the throbbing. It wasn’t just my legs, either; the lack of upper-chest support was pulling my whole torso down if I sat and leaned forward toward the handlebars, in proper biking position. My neck and upper back ached from the weight of my chest pulling me toward the ground as I rode.
So I pedaled for as long as I could while standing up, and by the time I got back to transition to put on my sneakers for the run, I realized that I couldn’t feel my toes in either of my feet. (Fabulous!) I’m not sure if the bathing suit was pinching important leg nerves or if my feet just weren’t used to all of that pressure inside of hard-sided, clip-in bike shoes, but either way, as I set out on the 5K run, I was literally tripping over myself. And my boobs, well, they weren’t feeling so great, either. Between the bouncing and the shifting, I might as well have been jogging with mayonnaise-slathered water balloons inside of my shirt.
I had to stop and walk a few times as I trudged through the wooded trails and fields of the park, and a few times, when I hope nobody was looking, I just unzipped my whole getup and rearranged things. The Miraclesuit, for some reason, kept pulling everything to the left. My right boob, at one point, was in the middle of my torso. (How is that even possible?) To the spectators, it probably looked like I had a unibrow for a chest.
The reality of this ridiculousness is that I ended up being a ton of time slower on the run than my training times. I had no way of knowing it out on the course, but I’d made up a huge amount of ground on my sister during the bike, and I was only two minutes behind her going into the run. I should have overtaken her and won the race with ease, but instead, she crossed the finish line a full six minutes ahead of me. I simply spent far too much time, well, fondling myself back into position while crouching in cornfields.
And truth be told, I was so frustrated and mentally broken by the last quarter-mile that I was barely even trying anymore. That’s when the man in the photograph above came up from behind and overtook me, sprinting for the end. The last thing I saw before I trudged across the finish line was his 59-year-old tuches sashaying past me in the woods and vanishing into the distance ahead. His red, skort-like getup was hilarious-looking, but hey, it was at least holding all of his important parts in place.
At the end of the day, I finished third from last in the whole event this year. No. 152 out of 154. I was No. 5 among the six women in my Athena division, and my sister was No. 4, beating me by just one position overall at No. 151.
It was one of my worst finishes ever—but even still, I survived in a field of far superior competitors and made it to the finish line of the longest distance I’ve ever attempted. That counts for something.
The day also taught me an important life lesson that I think all women in my over-40 age range will appreciate: Sometimes, even when they’re well past their prime, your boobs can still make all the difference.
Yesterday’s race, by the numbers:
Total distance: half-mile swim, 19.5-mile bike, 3.1-mile run (by far my longest race ever)
My rank among the 154 swimmers: 146 (I actually shouted, “I’m not dead last!” as I emerged from the lake)
My rank among the 154 bikers: 150 (even though I had one of my personal-best bike speeds)
My rank among the 154 runners: 152 (if you can even call what I did “running”)
Retail price of my Miraclesuit: $150 (the cost of three good sports bras that I will forever keep in the trunk of my car as backups for future triathlons)
Number of times I’ve told myself that I’m a winner just for surviving this particular race: at least a dozen (now that I can breathe again and at least mutter to myself)
Number of days until I have another chance to reclaim the family title with proper supportive gear: 364 (and I’m more motivated than ever to win in 2014!)