The Mayflower Has Sailed

Mayflower at Plymouth Harbor wharf

Mayflower at Plymouth Harbor wharf

There is an empty boat slip on the waterfront in Plymouth, MA. One of our national treasures, the Mayflower II, the full-scale reproduction of the tall ship that brought the Pilgrims to Plymouth in 1620, has left.

According to Whit Perry, the director of maritime preservation and operations at Plimoth Plantation, this replica of the original, which was built in Britain and sailed to the US in 1957 as a gift of friendship, needs a massive refit.

The hull is rotting, thanks to beetles having their own Thanksgiving by gorging on the timbers. Half of the ship below the water has to be replaced, and the Mayflower needs major structural frame repair and planking. She has been loved almost to death: an estimated 25 million people have visited the 60 year old ship.

Mayflower being towed through the Cape Cod Canal on her way to the Mystic shipyard

Mayflower being towed through the Cape Cod Canal on her way to the Mystic shipyard

The Mayflower is now in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut, where skilled craftsman will do the overhaul over the next 2 ½ years. She should be back in Plymouth in time for the 400th anniversary festivities marking the Pilgrim’s landing in 2020.  The cost: $7.5 million, well worth the price to allow generations of visitors to explore above and below decks, learning about the doughty people who came to the New World aboard her.

Mayflower in dry dock

Mayflower in dry dock

If you want to watch the refit, a live webcam has been set up to provide 24-hour views of the reconstruction. Stop in at from time to time to watch the work.

In the meantime, there is another project to create a second replica of the Mayflower, the Harwich Mayflower project. A seaworthy replica sister ship is being built in Harwich, England, and will participate in the 400th anniversary celebrations taking place in the US and the UK. Harwich had a large role in British maritime history, building ships in the time of the Spanish Armada and the two World Wars.

The ship, its construction, and its historical interest will serve as a tourist hub for the East of England, drawing visitors from around the world, and apprentice training in shipbuilding and marine engineering will be given during the ship’s build.

Updates on the progress of the Harwich Mayflower’s construction can be found on Facebook:   and you can watch videos at

In an upcoming post, I will tell you what happened to the original Mayflower.


Guest Post by Sue Vincent: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things


Sue Vincent of The Daily Echo blog ( agreed to my request for a guest post on the subject of: These Are a Few of My favorite Things. I know you will enjoy this.


Noelle recently agreed to write a guest post for my blog, and in return, she kindly asked me to reciprocate by sharing a few of my favourite things. This is more difficult than it seems… how do you pick out a handful of favourites from a world full of people and wonders? Leaving people out of the equation entirely seemed the only way forward. I went back to the blog for inspiration and looked at the things that generally make me pick up the pen, because these are the things that always make my heart smile.

sv-1-aniNo surprise then, that the first ‘thing’ to come to mind was Ani, the accidental dog with a repertoire of expressions worthy of Disney. Technically, she is a Setter/Toller cross, but in fact she is simply unique. I grew up surrounded by dogs. My great grandparents kept a family of Irish Setters and there were always dogs in my life. I had been dogless for a while when my son was attacked; Ani was brought home form a canine rescue as a puppy, with the intention of training her to be an assistance dog. It never happened, although we began her training. My son recovered enough to move into a home of his own and I found myself with a dog. She knows how to ‘clean up’ her tennis balls and toys, but these days her idea of helping is to help herself to any unattended food, including, one year, the Christmas turkey. That was bad enough, but she regularly helps herself to what little dignity I possess and writes her own posts on the blog.


Ani, given both her ancestry and inclination, is a bird dog… and that brings me to the second of my favourite things and one that came as something of a surprise. I am not a bird-watcher as such, but I watch a lot of birds. When I was small, my grandfather always decorated the laburnum tree outside the French windows with food for the birds and it was probably then that I started to learn about them. I always seem to have known the names of our garden birds. Then there were the homing pigeons we kept as I was growing up so I learned a lot about their behaviour and habits, just by helping to look after them. It wasn’t until we moved south, though, and into a region where the red kites fly, that I really began to take notice. Now, the wild birds are as much a part of my day as the dog and my camera is always at hand, home or away, in case I can get ‘that’ shot.


I was born in Yorkshire, in the north of England, but I have moved around quite a lot over the years. Yorkshire and the moors of the north, though, have a very special place in my heart. I think the link with the land goes even deeper than emotion, though. I think it has something to do with resonance and the geology of the place you were born, or came into awareness of your surroundings. Then there are the memories that add their own richness to the mix and for me the most cherished memories of my childhood are the long tramps through the heather with my mother or grandfather, listening to the old tales and legends and learning to read the mysteries in the stones. Such places sing to the soul.


The ancient stones that march across our land were set there by our ancestors around five thousand years ago. There are thousands of circles, standing stones, barrows and cairns…many of them decorated with enigmatic petroglyphs whose meaning we do not know. A lifetime is not long enough to spend amongst them, unravelling their mysteries… and yet, we try. It is the trying, I think, that matters and it is that quest for understanding that forms the backbone of many of the books written with Stuart France.


Books have always been a passion. I cannot remember a time when they were not part of my life. Even before I could read, books were read to me. Stories of ancient myths and legends, stories written by my mother and grandfather, stories of far off times and places. Little wonder then that history has always had a fascination for me and particularly the history of the human search for meaning to ‘life, the universe and everything’. It was from these early tales, I suppose, that my own quest for understanding was born and it has taken me down some strange and wonderful pathways over the years. I remember that one of the first things I learned, very young, was that the butterfly was a symbol of the soul and its journey. These days, that journey occupies most of my time and all of my being as I work with the other directors of the Silent Eye to shape a place where seekers can find companionship on that quest.


But today, it is Ani that has my attention, playing with another of my favourite thing… snowflakes. We are both watching the heavy-laden sky and hoping that the few meandering flakes will fall and settle, then we can go out to play. Thank you, Noelle, for asking me over. It is good to take a moment to appreciate the richness of the world around us and realise just how many ‘favourite things’ we have in our lives.


About the author:   Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire born writer, painter and award winning poet. She is also one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. Sue lives in Buckinghamshire, England, having been stranded there due to an unfortunate incident with a pin, a map and a blindfold; a temporary glitch of some twenty years duration. She has a lasting love-affair with the landscape of Albion; that hidden country of the heart that is the backdrop for many of her books, particularly those co-authored with Stuart France.  She is currently owned by a small dog who also blogs and who gets all the fan mail.


Daily Echo Blog:





Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

How I Make My Covers – Death by Pumpkin


I got the idea for my third book, Death by Pumpkin, watching a You Tube video of the pumpkin drop at the Damariscotta Pumpkin Fest, held every year in Maine (add link). Since the book opens with this event, but this time in my town of Pequod, I decided this event had to be the cover.

Since the car on which the pumpkin is dropped is crushed, I called around and found Raleigh Metal Recycling, where they kindly agreed to let us use a crushed car for the photo-shoot.

Recycling yard

Recycling yard

The day of the shoot was again bitterly cold – and since my daughter was once again posing, the usual complaints filled the car on the way over, along with the several pumpkins we bought to smash.

When we got there, they had to find a car that was crushed, but not so badly that we couldn’t get Cameron into the passenger seat.

Car we chose

Car we chose

Once they’d hauled it up, we smashed the pumpkins all over the car using a hammer, then squeezed her in and closed the door.



As you can see from these photos, the pumpkins didn’t quite create the image I wanted to portray. img_5602img_5613

This last one was the closest.However, my clever daughter found a place in LA (99 Designs) that for a reasonable price put several of their artists to work enhancing the basic photo.


Last spring I let you followers pick from the two final designs, and this is the cover I ended up with:


What am I going to do for my next book (Death in a Mudflat), you might ask? Stay tuned. I’ll have a cover choice sometime toward summer.

All That Genetic Stuff: DNA


It seems like you can’t read a newspaper or online news about anything related to medicine (not to mention some novels) without running into terms such as DNA, RNA and protein, all sorts. I thought maybe I could provide a primer, in bite-sized bits, which you could use to follow along. The information I will begin with DNA.

DNA is deoxyribonucleic acid, the material that makes up our genes, and it is composed of nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate group (phosphorus and oxygen), a sugar group and a nitrogen base. The four types of nitrogen bases are adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G) and cytosine (C). They pair up with each other to make a single strand of nucleotides into double stranded DNA: cytosine with guanine, adenine with thymine.


Our DNA contains the genetic instructions for the development and function of all living things. Even some viruses contain DNA. So the main of the DNA in any living thing is the long-term storage of information about what makes that life form what it is, and it is passed down from generation to generation.

A chromosome is the double stranded DNA is encoded with genes. In most cells, humans have 22 pairs of these autosomal chromosomes plus the two sex chromosomes (XX in females and XY in males) for a total of 46.

A gene is a unit of heredity transferred from a parent to offspring, which determines some characteristic of the offspring. Technically, a gene is a distinct sequence of nucleotides forming part of a chromosome.

Two personal notes here: the molecular structure of DNA was identified by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953; their model-building efforts would not have succeeded without the X ray diffraction studs of Rosalind Franklin. I met James Watson in 1962 when he visited Mount Holyoke College in 1962, the year he and Crick won the Nobel Prize in Medicine.  Rosalind Franklin was not included because she had died a few years earlier and the Nobel is never awarded posthumously.  I think this is a shame. You can read about Franklin and her life in two books: Rosalind Franklin and DNA and Rosalind Franklin, the Dar Lady of DNA.

There are four types of DNA examined in determining genealogy, which is a currently popular endeavor. I have had my DNA genealogy done twice, one by Ancestry DNA and once by 23 and Me. Both yielded the same results although 23 and Me was a little more specific.

The four types of DNA that are examined are: Y chromosome DNA, mitochondrial DNA, autosomal DNA and X chromosome DNA.

  • Y chromosome DNA is passed from father to son, so the women are excluded here. However, there is also mitochondria DNA (the mitochondria is a cell organelle that has its own DNA).

  • Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mothers to both genders of her children, but only passed on by females.  Males carry their mother’s mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) but they don’t pass it on.

  • Autosomal DNA is the DNA on all the other chromosomes (excluding the Y chromosome in males and mitochondrial DNA). This is a combination of genetic material we get from both our fathers and our mothers.

  • X chromosome DNA. The X chromosome is a part of the 23 sets used for autosomal testing, but the inheritance is different for males and females. Males only inherit an X chromosome from their mother (and a Y from their father which makes them male), but women inherit an X from both of their parents. The X chromosome has some special characteristics that can be analyzed separately from the other autosomes.

As for my results, I learned that in addition to being of eastern and western European stock (my grandparents were French and Polish) as well as English stock (other grandparents), I am 13% Irish. I never knew that!

There are also companies that will test your maternal lineage and your personal evolutionary history, if you want to delve into your ancient maternal lineage and discover your origins from thousands of years ago. I might try this!

My next ‘genetics’ post will be on RNA.

For My Husband on Valentine’s Day – an Old Song


An old song by Tom T. Hall for Hubs and all of you out there: Here’s a link to a duet by Tom Hall and Tammy Wynette. What more could you ask for?


I love little baby ducks, old pick-up trucks, slow-moving trains, and rain
I love little country streams, sleep without dreams, Sunday school in May,

And hay

And I love you too

I love leaves in the wind, pictures of my friends, birds in the world, and squirrels
I love coffee in a cup, little fuzzy pups, bourbon in a glass,

And grass

And I love you too

I love honest open smiles, kisses from a child, tomatoes on the vine,

And onions

I love winners when they cry, losers when they try, music when it’s good, and life

And I love you too

                                  HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY

Book Review: Irex by Carl Rackman (@carlrackman) #rbrt #Victorian historical mystery #psychological thriller #seafaring tale


irexIrex is Carl Rackman’s debut novel, and in terms of creating a feeling of doom and tension in totally bleak surroundings, this author succeeds too well!

Set in the late Victorian era, the story alternates between the maiden voyage of the steel hulled, tall ship Irex, and the investigation into the causes of its wreck and the fate of the survivors amongst her passengers. The settings: The Firth of Clyde, the North Atlantic and the Isle of Wight – all in late winter with unceasing rain, snow and sleet.

Will Hutton, a good and decent married man, has been chose to captain Irex on this voyage, the ship carrying a cargo of three thousand tons of pig iron to Rio Di Janero. Hutton has decades of sailing experience, having served on such ships since he was a boy. In addition to the cargo, there are three passengers on Irex: Salvation Army missionaries George and Elizabeth Barstow and a mysterious man of means, Edward Clarence. Captain Hutton’s developing relationships with each of these passengers is a complex subplot, more so when he discovers that one of them hides a horrifying past and none of them are who they seem. The unending storms preventing Irex from making headway on her journey and an early death of a crew member foretells an ill-fated voyage. Lack of sleep, his physical attraction to Mrs. Barstow, challenges to his authority and blackmail all threaten Hutton’s ability to save his ship and challenge his sanity.

Irex wrecks off the Isle of Wight six weeks after sailing from Scotland, and a county coroner, Frederick Blake, is sent to the island to hold an inquiry into the cause. The inquiry is compromised from the start by the existence of a mole within the procedure, and with a disturbing lack of information and witnesses, Blake finds he himself must unravel the events dooming the ship, as well as the character of the crew and its passengers, to reach a finding. When he discovers that powerful forces within the British aristocracy are working to impede his investigation, he is more determined than ever to find out what actually occurred aboard Irex.

The atmosphere of this mystery is exceptional and the author’s attention to detail, especially in the chapters dealing with the voyage and the sailing of such a large ship, show an incredible depth of research. The ship, its crew, and their responsibilities are finely delineated – as a sailor myself, I appreciated the descriptions.

The author has created a rich Victorian world and spun the tail with colorful, unforgettable characters, weaving in intrigue and mystery. When the truth about Clarence is revealed, the plot unveils a deeper depravity – for me a light bulb moment.

My only complaint is the slow pace at which the plot unfolds. The book is dense, very dense, and there were stretches that could have been shortened significantly without affecting the content.  I truly wanted to digest it all but wanted more to get to the resolution!

Mr. Rackman is an exceptional writer and this is a superb first outing – a psychological thriller, a seafaring adventure, and first rate murder mystery. I look forward to his next book.

About the author

carl-rackmanCarl Rackman is a former airline pilot with interests in seafaring and mysteries. His reading is multi-genre – historical, sci-fi, fantasy and techno – but psychological thrillers are prime.  He started writing in 2016 and Irex is his first novel. He lives in Surrey, UK.

You can reach him

on facebook:

and twitter:  @carlrackman





Book Review: Echoes of Time (The Guernsey Novels – Book 5) by Anne Allen (@AnneAllen21) #rbrt #historical fiction


echoes-fo-timeI chose to review Echoes of Time as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team and purchased it to read.

I fell in love with books about the Guernsey Isles when I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows. Until then I had known nothing of the Channel Islands and what their inhabitants had endured during WWII. This book returned me there and had the added attraction of being a time slip novel, alternating between the present time and the time during that war.

In 1940, Olive Falla, a fairly independent young woman, who works as a farmhand on her father’s far, married Bill Falla. Falla owns his own farm, and Olive thinks this is the best future for her. She soon discovers she’s made a horrible mistake – Falla is a harsh, unloving, and demanding husband, who sees his wife as a slave to work the farm, take care of him, and give him children. Soon he finds any excuse to beat her. By chance, when collecting sticks for scarce firewood on an estate taken over by the German occupation, Olive meets Major Wolfgang Brecht, a veterinarian. She falls in love with the gentle and caring Wolfgang, who makes excuses to visit the farm to inspect the cows.

Flash forward to 2010, when Natalie Ogier returns to her homeland of Guernsey to escape her stalker, a man with whom she had a relationship but who turned abusive. She buys a beautiful cottage, built on the site of a secluded and burned out farmhouse. Her immediate neighbor is Stuart, the grandson of the original owners, Olive and Bill. His mother, their child, has lived off the island since she was old enough to be on her own, leaving her mother and her life there behind.  Stuart knows nothing of his grandparents because his mother is silent on her past.  When strange and eerie things begin to happen in the cottage, accompanied by a threatening voice, Natalie initially tries to tough it out on her own. Eventually she confides in Stuart and her parents.

Natalie wonders whose spirit is inhabiting her cottage, and after meeting Stuart’s mother, she becomes convinced that it has something to do with his grandparents. What happened to Olive, Bill and Wolfgang? What spirit inhabits Natalie’s cottage? Is it malevolent and how can it be banished? What links Stuart and his mother to that place? You’ll have to read the book to find out!

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It has several compelling threads and the jumps back and forth in time left me hanging and wanting to read on. The only problem was the prolonged diversion to France, where Natalie is invited to attend Stuart’s mother’s marriage to a gentle and understanding man. It went on far too long, and added virtually nothing to the progress of the story, so I skipped through it. I think it could have been omitted or vastly shortened.

Other than that, the author has created believable characters, lovely descriptions of Guernsey, and lots of tension, along with a healthy dose of history.  It is clear why she is a popular author. Well worth the read!

anne-allenAbout the author (from Amazon):

Anne Allen was born to a Welsh father and an English mother, spending many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learning to love the sea.  She now lives in Devon near her daughter and two grandchildren. Her restless spirit resulted in a number of moves during her life, the longest stay being in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. By profession, she is a psychotherapist with a longtime desire to write. Her first novel, Dangerous Waters, was awarded Silver (Adult Fiction) in the 2012 Wishing Shelf Awards in 2012, while her second, Finding Mother, was runner-up in Family Sagas in the 2013 SpaSpa Awards.

To find out more about Anne visit her website
On twitter – @AnneAllen21
and on Facebook –



How I Created One of My Book Covers


My daughter is the featured person or body part on each of my book covers, and we had so much fun doing them that I thought I’d share some of those photoshoots with you.

For the cover for the second book, Death in a Dacron Sail, I needed a background that could be the coast of Maine. Hubs – my photographer, my daughter and drove south to Jordan Lake and I looked for a good setting. I also took the jib sail from my sailboat.

Related image

Image result for Pictures of Jordan Lake, NCWe found the right spot almost immediately, but my daughter who had been exposed to freezing December temperatures for the photography of Death in a Red Canvas Chair, was complaining before we were out of the car. Again, it was December and the air was cold.

Knowing she would be unhappy, I’d brought along a warm blanket which I dragged down to the shoreline along with the sail, wrapping her up in it before having her get into the sail. Then the only thing left to do was remove the sock and shoe on one foot.



This time she was warm and happy in her sail and blanket cocoon!


Hubs took pictures from all different angles, and one of them became the cover.


When I can find the photos we took for the other two covers – one done on a soccer field at the university and the other in a metal scrap yard in Raleigh, I’ll post them. They are hidden in the depths of one of my husband’s computers.

Wise Jewel #Blogger’s Bash #Connections


This is my entry for the Blogger’s Bash in London in June. The topic for the short story is CONNECTIONS.


I flew to Chicago alone to pick up our second child, a Korean adoption. All I knew of her was from a postage stamp-sized photograph of her tiny round face surrounded by a bowl of black hair. And her Korean name, Kim Hyung Ju. I had asked someone who spoke Korean what that meant, and he replied, “Wise Jewel.”

I had managed to stay calm during the flight from Raleigh-Durham, but when I was met by an old friend at the airport to spend the time between my arrival and Hyung Ju’s, nervousness and excitement started to mount. The feelings left me unable to eat much of the lunch my friend bought me to celebrate.

“How are you feeling?” she asked.

“You’d think I’d have this down by now,” I replied, pushing my food around on my plate. “I just wish Gene were here.” My husband had decided to stay at home with our three-year-old son, thinking it would be easier for our daughter to transition to one person at a time. She had lived with her birth parents for two months before being placed with foster parents by the adoption agency in Seoul. After having her for four months, this couple had wanted to keep her. When I learned that, I could only imagine their pain when she was taken away. Along with eleven other infant adoptees, she’d been cared for by another other couple during the flight from Seoul to Seattle, and yet another from Seattle to Chicago. I knew my daughter was old enough to be confused and frightened by the constantly changing faces.

Other parents gathered at the arrival gate to meet their new children, but first the passengers had to leave the plane. Finally, just a cluster of remained, many whispering excitedly. When my name was called, I walked down the gangway to the plane and entered coach class. “Mrs. Granger? This is your daughter.” A young woman motioned to one of the babies in the first row.

And there she was!  Her foster parents had provided a traditional Korean dress with little rubber shoes and her hair was pulled into a tuft on the top of her head. She was adorable. I gathered her up and took her back to the gate, where I held her on my lap and talked to her. She looked in my eyes… and started screaming.

I held her and rocked her, but the screaming continued. I changed her clothes into ones I had brought, soft and comfortable. She screamed. I changed her diaper. More screaming. I offered her a bottle. She took a sip, rejected it and continued screaming. I walked her around and around in the stroller I’d brought and then went to the gate for the flight back to Raleigh. With her still crying at the top of her lungs, we boarded our flight.

Once we were seated, I held her in my lap facing me. “Cameron (the name we had chosen for her),” I said in a soft voice, “you need to quiet down now. I’m your mother, your only mother. You’re home.”

She suddenly stopped crying. She put her little hands on either side of my face and looked deeply into my eyes for a long moment. There was something there, a moment of recognition, an acceptance. She leaned into my chest and closed her eyes. We’d made the connection.


A long time ago…

Dying For Your Faith #writephoto


Here is the photo prompt from Sue Vincent this week for her #writephoto series:


Lady Rowen carefully descended the stone stairs, carrying her shoes so no one would hear her. Her long woolen dress and the hem of her cape rustled on the steps, and the large clock at the bottom whirred and clanked: 4 AM. Today was the day. She had overheard her parents whispering about the soldiers of Henry VIII, led by the snake Cromwell, coming to take their house and lands. She knew why they were coming – she knew every Sunday when the family celebrated Mass in the hidden room behind the library. She also heard their decision to send her to the Cistercian convent of St Mary at Syningthwaite, but she knew the nunnery would not survive the Dissolution ordered by Henry.  Although she was but sixteen, she had decided to leave, hoping to reach her aunt in Ireland. Why don’t my parents leave? Why are they so stubborn about their faith?

The groom had, for a piece of silver, saddled and provisioned a horse for her, and it stood ready when she entered the stables. The groom had probably already run. After one last look around, she turned the head of her horse and galloped out of the gates.

The sun rose bright and the rime on the grass sparkled in its light as she trotted down the road leading north. She had left the road and hidden behind bushes twice already to avoid riders she saw in the distance. Now she saw a cloud of dust approaching and once again left the road, this time going well into a copse to hide herself. Henry’s soldiers galloped by, and she breathed a sigh of relief to see their backs.  She didn’t hear the soldier come up behind her; he whipped a rope around her neck, dragging her choking from her horse. “Filthy Catholic! Thought you would get away, did yer?” he yelled.  He got down, tied her hands, and taking the reins of the horse, dragged her behind him back to her home. There her parents lay sprawled in the courtyard and soldiers carried their belongings from the house and loaded it into wagons.

The house stood empty for many years. It was not a manor any lord would covet, and others were afraid for the association with Catholics. It wasn’t until the rule of Good Queen Bess that a family was given the estate and the house. Two hundred years later, their descendants decided to reconstruct the interior, and the walls of the old library were taken down. The workers reported to the owner that they’d found a door nailed shut. Everyone gathered around as the door was opened. Inside was an altar, and slumped over the prie deux, the skeleton of a woman in a disintegrated dress, the bones of one hand clutching a rosary.