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The Fjord Queen on the Rocks

On Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 4:00 hours, the captain of the F/V Fjord Queen was ordered to leave her trapped on the rocks at Ross’ Cove.  He’d gone aground at 2:30, and  after a ninety minute struggle to right the ship, was taking on water.  The Coast Guard and other emergency responders were there to assist.

Barry called to say he’d be swimming from the reef to the shore, but didn’t say exactly where he was.  The cell phone went dead.

I drove a pre-dawn stretch of Highway 1 north of the hail port a few times before heading to the harbor master’s office for specifics.  As expected, the place was deserted. A sheriff’s deputy came by on shift change and filled me in.  Barry was coming back from the fishing grounds when he fell asleep.

Fatigue, no exhaustion, is common among fishermen. They hate to miss a good fishing day; they see the season as a window of limited opportunity.  Barry was trying to squeeze in one more tuna trip – to sell fresh albacore off the boat during Pumpkin Festival weekend.

The cove where the Queen is waiting to break, is below Pillar Point Air Station; the reef break beyond is the famous Maverick’s big wave surf spot. There will be a volunteer beach clean-up day very soon – we are expecting gale force winds this weekend.

Barry said the worst part of the incident was telling the old fisherman who’d built the boat that he’d put her on the rocks.  He removed the captain’s wheel and presented it to Arnie with his very deep felt regret.  The octogenarian smiled and told Barry he was more worried about him.  And then when he was leaving suggested that Barry form a quartet – with others that have run aground – called the Beached Boys.

To follow the story of a fisherman getting back on his feet, see

One Year Later

A year after its publication, a reviewer in Canada wrote this about “Wax.”  Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a sequel!

WAX, by Therese Ambrosi Smith, is a story inspired by Rosie the Riveter and the women who stepped up, and into the industrial void that was left when practically an entire generation of American men went away to war. They became silent partners in the war effort, the cogs and the gears of the American war machine, and without their efforts the solid foundation, upon which the war was being fought, would have crumbled.

Waitresses, sales girls, and homemakers, these women braved the unknown to be a part of something bigger than themselves, and end up learning that they were never small to begin with.

By setting the novel during a time in American history when women were encouraged to step out of the kitchen, literally and metaphorically, and into roles that they would never have been allowed to pursue during peacetime, Smith challenges her characters, and readers, to question the very nature of gender limitations, and expectation.

The war effort itself could easily have become a major character in this novel but, instead, Smith does a magnificent job of simply placing the story, and its characters, in an historically, and emotionally, relevant context. She recognizes how much potential there is for character growth in her chosen setting and uses that as a vehicle to take her characters places they normally wouldn’t have gone; making them see things in themselves that would have otherwise stayed hidden beneath their mother’s hand-me-down aprons.

And then, just as the characters adjust to their new realities as welders, painters, and dozens of other normally male-dominated professions, with financial and emotional independence, the war ends and these women are expected to somehow fit themselves back into their old lives and expectations.  That is where the novel really spreads its wings and starts to fly.

The relationships these characters have with each other, and with themselves, are so real and honest that they jump from the page, and make you care about them as though they were long-cherished friends. I found myself in every character in this book, their fears and their joys, their ambitions and their self-doubt―these characters cry and breathe and laugh, and hold a mirror up to our own era, with its lingering biases and  judgements.

While this time in American history is, undoubtedly, significant in a thousand ways, I probably would not pick up a textbook to read about it. I want to read about people. The stories and characters within historical fiction often seem provided simply as a pretext for teaching people about the chosen historical era.  What delighted me about WAX is that Therese Ambrosi Smith uses the era to the teach the characters and the reader about themselves.

Touching and funny, with good pacing, and amazing characters, WAX is a novel that only disappoints in that it ends too soon, and doesn’t have a sequel waiting in the wings.

J.P. Layberry Allbooks Review Int.

Therese Ambrosi Smith
Aug. 2012

The cat’s name is Loofie.

NavicatI met Alice “Loofie” Aloof in 1995 at the Juneau pound.  Eagles thin the stray cat population in Alaska; there were only four felines awaiting adoption.  Loofie stood out because she had no interest in us.  She was trying to figure out how to unlatch the cage.  While other cats napped, she was planning an escape.

She was a young adult cat when she moved in and took over. The only history the shelter could share came from the property manager who’d brought her in after a tenant had left her behind.  He guessed she’d been in the apartment alone for four days.

Perhaps it’s because she was abandoned, but she likes to come on trips. She attracts lots of attention at rest areas, walking around on leash.  Pet friendly Motel 6 is her accommodation of choice.

Cat of the RoadRecently Loofie joined me at a Bob’s Beach Books event in Lincoln City Oregon.  I was there to sign books, but Loofie got all the attention.  Everyone who visited opened the conversation with “What’s your cat’s name?”

She’s a senior citizen now, but  still a charmer –  tolerant of  excessive petting from children (and adults too).  I heard  sad tales from cat aficionados  who’d recently lost beloved pets. They came to see Loofie for their “kitty fix”. She did not disappoint.

Utopian Experiment

Potrero Nuevo Farm is located just south of Half Moon Bay,  about a mile east of the Coast Highway.  I pick vegetables, berries, herbs and flowers there on Monday afternoons as a member of the UPick Club. I like to joke that the farm is a utopian experiment – a successful one.

I became acquainted with PNF when one of it’s owners, Bill Laven, contacted me to ask if I knew about its history.  Before it was Potrero Nuevo, it was known as “The Bettencourt Place”. Bill had read Wax,  and  thought  I might have inside knowledge of the Bettencourt clan.  But my Bettencourts are fictitious; I had no stories to tell.

There’s a new chapter being written at Potrero Nuevo, however.  The wonderful old homestead is now providing fresh, organically-grown vegetables to locals in need, through the efforts of dedicated volunteers and charitable organizations, that help professional farmers Jay and Suzie, cultivate and harvest forty different crops from May through November.  Proceeds from the UPick Club, the sale of eggs from “pastured” chickens, and the sale of local honey, support the farm operation.  Last Monday, the volunteer harvest team sent 150 pounds of fresh produce to local tables.  They’re experimenting with pork, and will have their first meat available later this year.

One of my favorite WWII facts is that thirty percent of all produce served on American tables came from victory gardens — crops sown on school lots and in backyards.  PNF is supporting 15 UPick families and many other recipient families with two acres in cultivation.  Forty crops on two acres; it’s truly an accomplishment.  And everything is done beautifully.  It’s a joy to be there.


The working title is “Wheels”. My neighbors are monitoring my progress.  Most think it’s a pretty cool project; one thinks I’m crazy.  “You could have bought a trailer for less,” he says. But that’s not the point. There’s something very satisfying about working with your hands. There’s an immediacy to it.  If you make a straight cut or paint a straight line, you can stand back and admire your good work — right then.  Nailing one board to another produces instant results. I started writing when a woman working for me suggested I needed a creative outlet.  I was coming off a four-year project to build what I lovingly refer to as my “beach shack”.      I’d spent so many hours in selvage yards and warehouses.  Too little money had forced me to ‘make do’, to invent.  And for all the stress, I had fun. A writer should write every day.  It keeps the pump primed.  If I stay away from my imaginary friends for too long, I have to get reacquainted with them.  But there are days when the pull to work with something tangible is overpowering. “Wheels” will probably be finished in about two weeks.  As of today, only half the roof has shingles.  The inside needs insulation; some old redwood fence material that I sanded and coated for flooring still needs to be fitted and nailed into place.  But when all is done, I will invite my imaginary friends to visit and enthusiastically return to novel writing.

WWII American Home Front Oral History Project

I’m often asked, at readings, about the inspiration for “Wax”. I was inspired by oral histories I read — transcripts of interviews with women who worked in the shipyards during WWII — obtained through Rosie the Riveter, WWII Home Front, National Historical Park.

“Wax” is a work of fiction. The women in “Wax” are imagined, but their experiences are crafted from story threads gathered from “real life” interviews. I distinctly remember a story one Rosie recalled — about her welding supervisor telling her she’d get the rhythm for connecting beads of molten metal — like the rhythm for “knitting or crocheting” — but they were things she had never learned to do. Or the Rosie who was waiting at a bus stop when her vision went dark — the result of a flash burn to her corneas. These conversations and more, between interviewer and subject, fueled my imagination.

On Friday, I was contacted by David Dunham with the WWII American Home front Oral History Project, and learned that his team had completed those interviews, and that more are coming! Approximately 100 transcripts are now available online, right here, with an additional 75 expected by the end of 2012.

If you have stories to share, schedule an interview by contacting David at You will inspire generations to come.

Thank You Kaiser Heritage

I was happy to have the booth next to Kaiser Heritage during last weekend’s Home Front Festival in Richmond. The health care network that now serves 8.6 million members was born in the Richmond shipyards during WWII.

Wax was featured in the Heritage blog last week–you can read the full article here (a pdf).

Thank you so much!

If you visit Richmond, you can see the old Kaiser Field Hospital. It’s not open to the public now, but as plans for Rosie the Riveter WWII Home Front National Historic Park come to fruition, there ae fantastic opportunities for interpretation.