New Rock Polishing Toys – What Do You Think?

New Rock Polishing Toys!!

Gemstones fascinate me and are key elements in The Gemstone Chronicles fantasy adventure series I wrote. I’ve been looking for cabochon equipment for a while now and I lucked up upon a vintage Highland Park A-50 and a Rock Rascal Saw. The A-50 is mounted on a rolling cabinet and the saw is firmly installed on a nice little table. Check out the pictures below!

Rock Polishing Toys

Highland Park A-50


Rock Polishing Toys

Rock Rascal


Given the equipment hadn’t operated in a while, I had a bit of work to do on the machine. First thing I did was to replace the power cord to the A-50 motor. Once I finished that little repair, the motor ran perfectly. I discovered the water pump bucket was rusted through, but that didn’t stop me. I cut a 5 gallon plastic bucket down to size and it fit like a glove inside the original bucket. The pump discharge fitting was cracked and the hose wouldn’t fit properly, so I engineered a fix and it works amazingly well!

The Rock Rascal, as you can see from the picture above, needed a new power cord, too. Luckily, I learned a bit about electrical and electronic stuff back in my Navy days, so, like the cord for the A-50, it was an easy fix. Doesn’t make me want to be an electrician again (like I was right after I left the Navy), but it’s satisfying to make it work. Once complete, I op tested it and everything ran smoothly.

Rock Polishing Toys

I think I might modify the A-50 to add more wheels, but that will be down the road. For now, I’ll pick up various grit belts to use on the expanding drums and use a 6 inch wheel I received for Christmas on the Rock Rascal. Now, I just need a water source and return for the wheel.

The equipment package included a new 6 inch diamond blade for the Rock Rascal, a dopping pot, dopping wax, and cabochon templates. I’m all set now (or will be as soon as the new belts come in)!

What do you think about my new rock polishing toys? Personally, I can’t wait to see if I can make a cab or two and do something with all the rocks I found during my gemstone hunting trips. I might even be able to polish a sapphire or ruby once I get diamond belts for the expanding drums.

Connect with me: Like my new toys? Have advice for a novice rock polisher? I appreciate any comments and emails with tips and hints. I’m on social media, too. Find me at Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, Tumblr, and Pinterest, so don’t be shy! Say hello!


In Remembrance of USS Thresher (SSN593)

On April 10, 1963 USS Thresher (SSN593) was conducting sea trials after overhaul in Portsmouth, NH. Due to a series of unfortunate events, all hands were lost when the submarine sank. 129 sailors and shipyard personnel lost their lives that day. The incident led to a new emphasis on submarine safety. In this post, I want to pay tribute to the boat and crew, and the highlight the changes the tragedy brought to the submarine force.


According to the National Geographic, Thresher was at or near test depth when the reactor shut down. Without the power of the reactor to provide propulsion, the boat sank below its crush depth. According to reports from the USS Skylark, a submarine rescue ship accompanying Thresher, sonar operators heard a sound like air rushing into an air tank. Thresher was no more.

The cause of the reactor shutdown has not been determined. The most prevalent theory is that a seawater piping joint in the engine room failed. The water from the failed joint sprayed the electronics and forced the automatic reactor shutdown (reactor scram). According to Wikipedia, the reactor plant operating procedures at the time precluded doing fast recovery startups of the reactor plant after a scram. We practiced that evolution many times during my years aboard USS Sandlance (SSN660). Procedures also did not allow pulling steam from the plant while shutdown to drive the boat to the surface.

Additionally, the other emergency system failure was that of blowing the ballast tanks to cause the boat to surface. Anyone who watched the movie Hunt for Red October will recall the scene where USS Dallas comes flying out of the water after blowing the ballast tanks. Thresher tried to do that, too, but the design of the system failed. Instead of pumping air into the ballast tanks and blowing the water out to provide the necessary buoyancy, the condensation in the blow lines froze and stopped the flow of air. Since the boat had no power and couldn’t blow the water out of the ballast tanks, Thresher was doomed. All US submarines now have measures to prevent condensation and subsequent freezing of the blow lines.

The tragedy, one of two for the US Navy’s nuclear submarine force (the other being USS Scorpion in 1968), led to the SUBSAFE program. Wikipedia tells us that SUBSAFE is the Navy’s quality assurance program designed to maintain the safety of the nuclear submarine fleet. It provides maximum reasonable assurance that the subs hulls remain watertight and can recover from unanticipated flooding. SUBSAFE only refers to the systems exposed to sea pressure or that are critical to flooding recovery. Tight controls manage the systems. SUBSAFE materials are subject to traceability of the source material back to the lots from the mine, the smelting and hardening processes, etc. The traceability ends at the installation in a SUBSAFE system.

Admiral Rickover also changed the reactor plant operating procedures to include a Fast Recovery Startup. This allows immediate restart of the reactor plant (as noted in my comment above). Boats can also withdraw steam to get the ship to the surface in the event of emergency.

The 129 sailors and shipyard personnel who perished live on in the memories of every US Navy submarine sailor. We were and are a better, safer service for their sacrifice and we honor them on this day. RIP USS Thresher. Shipmates, rest your oars. We have the watch.


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Nuclear Powered Aircraft – In Dawsonville, GA!?!?

Nuclear Powered Aircraft!?

Readers of my blog and The Gemstone Chronicles know that I spent a decade in US Navy riding submarines and recruiting. I was trained as a nuclear reactor operator, and still keep up with some of the news in the nuclear world. My lovely and adorable bride, Lana, introduced me to a very cool website While browsing the site, I came across an article on a government research facility from the 1950’s in Dawsonville, Georgia. What does this have to do with submarines or nuclear power? Well, this research facility was used to test the radiation effects on various materials and the surrounding forest in an effort to build a nuclear powered aircraft! The map below, though kind of hard to read, shows the layout of the site.

Nuclear Powered Aircraft Site Map

According to our friends at Wikipedia, the site was the Georgia Nuclear Aircraft Laboratory (or AFP No. 67) and was run by Lockheed. The purpose was to test various military vehicles and the surrounding forest to assess the effects of nuclear war on the environment and wildlife and the do research on a nuclear powered aircraft. The site was closed in 1971 and sold to Atlanta as a potential site of a second airport. The topography wasn’t suitable for an airport, and nature has reclaimed much of the site. Here is a picture of the hot cell building.

Nuclear Powered Aircraft Hot Cell Bldg

With the secrecy surrounding the site, it comes as no surprise that most of the documents about what was done in the forest remains highly classified. And no nuclear powered aircraft came from the work. It does make me wonder, though, if some of the experiments led to materials used on submarines.

I did further research and found a lot of conspiracy stuff (not surprisingly) about the site. I also found claims of animals with interesting deformities and abnormalities. There are alleged sightings of deer with two racks of antlers, albino black bears, and other such creatures. In the research I did, one of the reactors on site was an open air (or naked) reactor that was hoisted into the air while operational and without shielding, allowing the radiation to blast the surrounding forest. Personnel at the site were in underground shielded areas during the open air testing. The picture below shows the site circa 1960.

Nuclear Powered Aircraft GNAL-Circa-1960-Web

The underground facility was supposedly six or seven levels deep, but who knows for sure. When the site closed, the entrance tunnels were collapsed and sealed. One of the remaining visible buildings is the hot cell, which is also sealed and surrounded by barbed wire fencing. The hot cell is where they placed irradiated materials for further study. The building was deemed to be too hot to demolish until the radiation levels subsided more. That might be another 30-50 years…

The area is now public land managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. There are plenty of hiking and biking trails, and you can kayak down the Etowah River that runs through the site.

As you can imagine, I have to take a trip up there to look around. It isn’t very far from where I live, so maybe next weekend might be a good time to go! When I do, I will be sure to post pics and do a follow-up to this post.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, we never had a nuclear powered aircraft. The USAF did experiment with a reactor in a plane, but that was to test the shielding for the crew. The reactor never actually powered the engines. I do recall when I was in Idaho in the Navy, there was an experiment going on to convert nuclear power for space travel, though, but I don’t know much more than that.

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It looks pretty cool to me, but what do you think? Leave me a comment and let me know. You can connect with me on social media, too. I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and Tumblr. You can also send me an email at And, if you don’t want to miss a post (including my follow-up to this one), subscribe to the blog!


Suzuki SJ 410 – My Ride in Idaho!!

In previous posts, I talked about my path to and through Naval Nuclear Power School. I was looking through some old pictures the other day and found some pictures of Idaho Falls, and it sent me down a path of remembrance of my days in Idaho Falls, Idaho at prototype. Remembering those days reminded me of the house I lived in (the Roy House – so named for our landlord Roy), the snow, the lack of sleep, the relief of completing my qualification as a reactor operator, and the vehicle I drove to Idaho – my Suzuki SJ410.


For those who don’t know, the SJ410 was a small 4WD convertible. Many may remember the Suzuki Samurai that came after the SJ410, but this was the predecessor.

When I bought my SJ410, I was in Florida at Nuclear Power School. I saw the small 4WD at the dealership and decided to buy one. If I remember correctly, I paid just over $5000 for it brand spanking new! As you can see from the photos, it was red and black (UGA colors) with a white convertible top. No AC (but who needs one with a convertible), a 59.4 cu in motor (not a typo), and a ton of fun!

After Nuclear Power School, I was assigned to S1W in Idaho Falls, ID. I gathered up my seabag and a few others things, and headed west. I remember arriving in Idaho Falls on February 14th, 1985 to about 3 feet of snow. As I turned to head toward my rental house, there was a Ford F150 stuck in a snow drift. I graciously pulled the F150 from the snow bank and never even locked in 4WD. The F150 driver was grateful- but somewhat embarrassed that my little Suzuki (which he had never seen before) had to pull him out.

Working 12 hour rotating shifts didn’t leave much time for enjoying the Suzuki in the snow and ice, but my roommate had a Mustang that just didn’t fare very well in the weather, so the Suzuki became the workhorse of our house. I took it everywhere and had to park it in the driveway as the Mustang was in the garage. That meant knocking the snow and ice off the convertible top everyday so the weight wouldn’t tear the top. Here is a picture of my SJ410 parked next to a snow drift. And yes, that was the depth of the snow next to the house!

Suzuki SJ410

When summer rolled around, the top came off, and I cruised as often as I could. As the second RO to qualify, I got to change to 8 hour shifts earlier than most, and I rode a lot. Top down and radio blasting, I had a good time in the few hot days of summer. Below is a picture of the Suzuki with the top down!

Suzuki SJ410

Alas, I had to depart Idaho and report to USS Sandlance (SSN660) in Charleston, SC. I remember leaving on August 18th and it was 32 degrees that morning. I was a newly minted Reactor Operator, had a sizable reenlistment bonus, and was headed back south. When I got to Charleston, I bought an Audi 4000S (my favorite car ever). My brother John drove the Suzuki to college and he brought my beloved SJ410 to a tragic end when he totaled it.

Suzuki Wrecked 1

Suzuki Wrecked 2

I left the Navy in 1993, after 10 years of service. I married the love of my life, the lovely and adorable Lana, raised an amazing daughter, Laura, and have been blessed with 2 extraordinary grandchildren, Aidan and Maggie. My post-Navy career is brilliant, I’ve written The Gemstone Chronicles fantasy adventure series, and generally enjoyed life. I occasionally miss portions of my time in the Navy (mostly the people), and will always have a special place in my heart for the first brand new vehicle I ever owned – my Suzuki SJ410!

What was your special vehicle? A sports car? A truck? Leave me a comment and let me know!

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Reactor Shutdown – Recruiting Duty (My Navy Career Ends)

In two previous posts, I chronicled my path from boot camp through Navy Nuclear Power School, and then from graduation from prototype to my time spent aboard USS Sandlance (SSN660). Today’s post will be the final installment of this series and will follow my path from Sandlance to recruiting duty and the end of my Navy career. This is my picture from my first day on recruiting duty at NRD Atlanta!

Recruiting Duty September 1989

Recruiting Duty NRD Atlanta

Why go to recruiting duty after spending 6 years going through nuclear power training and qualifying aboard a submarine? It was a little strange, I guess, but I had been aboard Sandlance from October 1985 – August 1989. In May 1988, Sandlance went into the shipyards in Portsmouth, NH, leaving Charleston, SC. I got married to the lovely and adorable Lana in July 1988 and moved her and my daughter Laura to Dover, NH. We spent a year there, but it was time to move on to something else. Lana and I wanted to head back to the warmer world of the South, and recruiting duty seemed like a good fit. I requested the transfer and it was granted! Below is my recommendation from my CO.

Recruiting Duty Recommendation


The first part of recruiting duty consisted off 5 weeks of training in Orlando. The coursework was not difficult – especially compared to the previous regimen I experienced in Orlando, but it was challenging in its own way. One of the more awkward training sequences was making cold calls. Anyone who has been in most any kind of sales knows about cold calling. Basically, you have a list of phone numbers and a script and you call someone at random and try to convince them to buy your product. Memorizing the script was pretty easy, but trying to stay on script with people who didn’t want to talk to you was difficult. It did help to develop a thick skin, which was a necessary trait for a recruiter, and one that I still use today in my role as a global supply chain manager.

The 5 weeks flew by and I graduated and was selected as “Most Likely To Succeed” by my classmates. I was surprised and humbled by the honor! Here is my award!

Recruiting Duty Most Likely to Succeed


My duty station was Naval Recruiting District Atlanta and my office the Naval Recruiting Station Americus. For those who don’t know where Americus is, it is in South Georgia about 30 miles from Albany and about 10 miles from Plains, GA (home of former President Jimmy Carter). If you have ever gone down I 75 and turned at exit 101 in Cordele, you were at the eastern edge of my recruiting territory. The western edge was at the Alabama line in Stewart County. I had 9 high schools to visit monthly, so I logged a huge amount of windshield time!! One thing about recruiting duty is the awards you get. The recruiting world is very keen on recognition! I added a few pictures of awards I received further down in the post and pictures of my recruiting badge (rookie cookie and with gold star) and business card.

Recruiting Duty Rookie Cookie

Recruiting Badge Rookie Cookie


Recruiting Duty Gold Wreath

Recruiting badge with 6 gold wreaths


Reccruiting Duty Business Card

Interestingly enough, recruiting duty helped me decide on my college major. Georgia Southwestern State University is located in Americus, and happened to be right on my way home. It seemed only natural to  go to school there and, given that recruiting is part of the Human Resources function in most places, HR Management became my major. That is probably about as diametrically opposite to nuclear power as one can get!

What did I do while on recruiting duty? Besides logging the windshield time, I did my high school visits, and made the required cold calls> I filled out tons of paperwork and ran waivers on kids that needed them. Mostly, I tried to present an accurate picture of what the Navy was all about. I know the reputation that recruiters have for telling potential recruits whatever was necessary to get them to sign on the dotted line, but I didn’t do that (as every recruiter in the world will tell you). Seriously, I didn’t! Over the 3 and a half years of recruiting duty, of all the people I sent to boot camp and only 2 of them didn’t make it through. One broke an ankle and the other caught pneumonia. Of all of the kids I recruited only 3 didn’t go to boot camp, so I had a pretty good track record. Below is one of my Delayed Entry Program (DEP) Management Awards.

Recruiting Duty DEP Mgt Award

DEP Management Award



For you submarine sailors out there, you know the cup, but we had a couple of cups, too!

Recruiting Duty Cup 1


I have to recount one story, though. During a visit to one of my favorite high schools, I set up my table at lunch to talk to kids while they were in the cafeteria. Across from me was a Marine Gunny Sergeant, all decked out in his dress blues. I was wearing my normal winter blues, so I was definitely out dressed.

Anyway, this kid asked the gunny what all his ribbons meant and all was fine until the gunny pointed to his sea service ribbon (with 3 stars) and told the kid it was some kind of Marine Corps ribbon. I couldn’t take it and told the gunny to tell the kid the truth. The gunny gave me a cold stare, but the kid noticed that I had the ribbon, too (with no stars). He asked me what it was and I told him. The kid got mad because the Marine was lying to him. The Marine was mad at me because he thought he lost a recruit, and I just smiled! I think the kid eventually went into the Air Force.

That was the way I conducted my time as a recruiter. I would tell the kids that, based on their ASVAB scores, they qualified for certain jobs, although I couldn’t guarantee that job. I drove most of them to Atlanta, and waited while they went through physicals and job classification. Afterwards, I drove them home, encouraged them to tell their friends about me and the Navy, and monitored them until they departed for boot camp. Many of my recruits came back to work for me for a week after boot camp and enthusiastically spoke to former classmates and friends about their Navy experiences.

While on recruiting duty, I finished my degree (which the Navy mostly paid for), and was a walking poster child for getting an education while serving on active duty. Since school was on the way home, I often wore my uniform to class. That generated a lot of leads and conversations – especially when people found out that I served aboard submarines! I did nuclear power lectures for math and science classes. Once I had to speak extemporaneously for an hour during a school club day! Like I said, while not as academically challenging as nuke school, recruiting duty taught me a lot. I still use the presentation skills in my job today.

I wanted to go back to sea after recruiting duty and planned to go to King’s Bay, GA on a missile boat. However, when I called my detailer, he told me I could go to Bremerton, WA or Pearl Harbor, HI. I told him that he forgot option 3….see ya! I had recently graduated with my degree in HR. My wife was in graduate school and my daughter a junior in high school. Uprooting them was out of the question. August 23, 1993,  a little over 10 years from my date of enlistment, I left the Navy with an honorable discharge. I headed out into the civilian world, my Navy career at an end.

I never worked in HR after I got my degree. I’ve spent most of my post-Navy career working in the human and animal pharmaceutical business in supply chain. I went on to complete a master’s degree in Management and have had a great life. I’m happily married to my amazing wife, Lana. I have an amazing daughter, and two incredible grandchildren. I’ve written four books (The Gemstone Chronicles series), about to start my fifth book, learned to hunt for gemstones, prospect for gold, and generally enjoy life! I do occasionally wonder what would have happened had I stayed in the Navy. If I had, I probably would have applied for OCS, and who knows where that may have led? I miss the guys from the boat (not the boat so much), and stay connected with quite a few of them. All told, my Navy career was a formative time and one that remains firmly entrenched in everything I do!

Did any of you readers spend time as a recruiter? If so, leave me a comment and let me know how your experience was. If you served in any branch of military, did your recruiter tell you the truth? Did you know what to expect when you enlisted? I’m always interested to hear stories about recruiting duty or tales of the wrong and right actions of recruiters.

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Reactor Start Up (or Becoming a Navy Nuke)!!!




Commence reactor start up! The statement itself conjures up many memories for me, and can be a metaphor for the start of my Navy career. As a refresher (for those who don’t know), I spent ten years in the Navy as an electronics technician, nuclear trained reactor operator, and finally, a recruiter. In the Navy, there are three different enlisted nuclear rates – Machinist Mate (MM) that includes the Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT), Electrician Mate (EM), and Electronics Technician (ET) home of the Reactor Operators. Now, I have to admit that whoever decided to make me an ET knew that my mechanical skills were…um…less than optimal for the other rates.

My career started in Great Lakes, Illinois at Recruit Training Command (boot camp). After boot camp in Great Mistakes er..Lakes, I headed off to Electronics Technician “A” School (during which I spent a grueling winter on the shores of Lake Michigan). After graduating, it was off to Orlando for Nuclear Power School (aka Uncle Hyman’s School for Misguided Children – nicknamed for the father of Naval Nuclear Power, Admiral Hyman Rickover). After warm sunny Orlando, it was off to Idaho (yes, a Navy school in Idaho) for prototype training, where I actually ran an operating nuclear power plant.

This is me with my Recruit Training Command Company. We were the Color Company of our graduating class (I’m in the lower right hand corner of the picture).

Company 158 Reactor Start Up

Company 158 Great Lakes Naval Training Center

One very cool thing about graduation was the keynote speaker. Admiral Grace Hopper – one of the pioneers of modern computers – was our graduation dignitary! The lovely and adorable Lana often uses this quote attributed to Admiral Hopper: “A ship in port is safe, but that’s not ships are built for.” Powerful words from an amazing woman!

As I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to spend a winter in Great Lakes attending ET “A” School. We learned to troubleshoot electronics gear and managed to survive the snow and ice of a northern Illinois winter. For someone who had lived in South Georgia for a long time, it was cold and miserable!! Below is my ET “A” school graduating class.

Reactor Start Up ET A School

ET “A” School

Sunny Orlando was the next stop on my Navy journey. Before Nuke School started, I was a Master At Arms at the Transient Personnel Detachment. What does all that mean? We were the shore patrol for the barracks for the Nuke School drops that were headed for the fleet, or, depending on the reason for the drop, perhaps out of the Navy. Too many stories to tell about that temporary duty station, but it was certainly an eye-opening experience! The fun had to come to an end, though, and it was off to Nuclear Power School.

How can one describe Nuclear Power School? To say it was difficult would be a massive understatement. Basically, you crammed mathematics, nuclear physics, electrical power and generating equipment, nuclear reactor technology, thermodynamics, chemistry, materials science, metallurgy, health physics, reactor principles, and reactor ethics into 6 months. Taught at the college level, our classes ran from 8:00 – 4:30 pm, and students still had to stand watches. Oh, and you had to do homework at school since the training materials were classified and couldn’t leave the building. That was 40 classroom hours per week. I was on suggested 20 study hours while I was in Orlando, so I had at least 60 hours per week in the classroom. Others had mandatory study of 40 hours, so 80 hours per week in the classroom. Add to that the pressure to excel or even to keep up, and it’s understandable why the attrition rate was and still is, by some accounts, > 70%! We had to maintain at least a 2.5 GPA on a 4.0 scale, and the popular view was 2.8 and skate! Somehow, I made it through with a decent GPA and it was off to Idaho! Here is the 8407 Class picture. Interestingly enough, my future Executive Officer (XO) on the Sandlance is in this picture.

Reactor Start Up NNPS Class 8407

Class 8407 Naval Nuclear Power School

I arrived in Idaho Falls, Idaho on February 14, 1985 to three feet of snow. After Great Lakes, though, I was ready for the snow. What I wasn’t ready for was prototype. Yes, we still had a lot of theory to learn, but now we were actually running a nuclear reactor. We worked 12 hours days on a rotating shift, rode a bus for an hour in each direction (which turned our 12 hour days into 14 hour days), and generally lived at the site. Prototype training lasted 6 months, just like Nuclear Power School, and was just as intense – though in a different way. A lot of students who did well in the theoretical world of Nuke school struggled putting theory into practice.

Again, with a lot of help from my sea dad, my advisers, and my classmates, I made it through  prototype. I actually performed a reactor start up for the first time at prototype. Idaho Falls was its own adventure, but that is a story for another time! I was the second person in my class to qualify Reactor Operator. My orders sent me to the USS Sandlance (SSN660) home ported in Charleston, SC.

Reactor Startup USS Sandlance Charleston

USS Sandlance (SSN660)

There you have an outline of the beginning of my time in the US Navy. In a future post, I will talk about my time aboard USS Sandlance (SSN660) a Sturgeon Class fast attack submarine. If I hadn’t had these experiences, I couldn’t have used them in my fantasy adventure series The Gemstone Chronicles!

I love to connect with other submariners and current and former Navy nukes. If you are one, or know one, please leave me a comment and let me know about your experiences. As always, shares and feedback are always welcome!

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Beebop’s Submarine Days

One of the main characters in The Gemstone Chronicles is Beebop, grandfather of Aidan and Maggie and husband to Nana. In the books, Beebop is a US Navy submarine veteran. News flash! So am I!!

Okay, I admit it. I borrowed some of my own experiences as a nuclear trained electronics technician for Beebop’s character. In a tribute to him and to submarine sailors everywhere, I thought I would do a post about the US Navy’s submarine force and my old boat, a Sturgeon Class fast attack, the USS Sandlance (SSN660)!

We used to wear ball caps like this instead of the “dixie cups” that people often associate with sailors. Ball caps were much more comfortable!! Note the silver dolphins for the enlisted sailors. Officers wore similar ball caps, but their dolphins were gold.




My lovely and adorable bride (who was the inspiration for Nana in the books) gave me this drawing of my old boat as a present. Hand drawn by the artist, I got the first of 100 originals! Please forgive the quality of the photos.



USS Sandlance drawing



For those who don’t know about Naval traditions, there are a number of places where sailors become members of somewhat exclusive clubs. For instance, when you cross the Equator for the first time, you transition from a Pollywog to a Shellback. When you cross the International Date Line, you become a member of the Realm of The Golden Dragon. I never got to experience either of those while on the boat (although I have crossed both on airplanes), but I did get to something that is a bit more rare. The USS Sandlance did under ice operations and we crossed the Arctic Circle. That makes me a Blue Nose!! Below is my official Blue Nose Certificate.


Blue Nose Certificate


Submarine sailors are a different breed. They have to be able to handle being underwater for extended periods of time, with little to no communication with the outside world. They exist in a hostile environment where the hungry sea wants to crush the boat, where sonar (an inexact science) is the eyes and ears of the submarine, and nuclear energy provides the power and the ability to remain submerged. Sub sailors make their own water, oxygen, and, as long as there is food, can simply stay at sea. The friendships made on the boat can last a lifetime – even if separated by years and distance.

I spent 3 and a half years aboard USS Sandlance before departing for recruiting duty. I earned my Dolphins (Submarine Qualification Pin), got my Blue Nose Certificate, and learned that when the lights go out underway, it becomes so dark that it is disorienting. While I can’t say that I miss the boat (and that unique boat smell that can only be gotten rid of by using Gain detergent) , I do miss the people!

This last picture is me in 1989 when I reported to Naval Recruiting District Atlanta for recruiting duty. Note that I am wearing my Dolphins and my “rookie cookie” recruiting badge.

WLS-USN 1989

So, there you have a quick tour of my time – and the fictitious Beebop’s – time in the Navy. I didn’t dwell on the time I spent going to electronics school or Nuclear Power School in Orlando and Idaho, mostly because it was academic and boring.

Are you a sub veteran or know someone who is? If so, leave me a comment about your time on your boat. I would love to hear about your experiences!!


Josiah Trenchard Part One The Might of Fortitude by Jonathon Fletcher – My Review

Josiah Trenchard!

Josiah Trenchard – My Review!

It’s funny how things work in this world. I became acquainted with author Jonathon Fletcher on Twitter when I saw a post of his referring to a space ship modeled on a submarine. As a former submarine sailor, my interest was immediately piqued and we exchanged tweets. Our conversation led me to provide some submarine knowledge to Jonathon (for authenticity in his books), but did not tell him I was going to read his book and write a review.

Josiah Trenchard


The Review:

I generally am not a huge fan of hard-core sci-fi as I tend to like fantasy a bit better. However, I’ve read some of John Ringo and Travis Taylor’s books and I found Josiah Trenchard Part One The Might of Fortitude to be similarly entertaining. The story begins with the hero, Josiah Trenchard, in a battle against insurgents. He is almost killed by a black clad assassin who slashes his throat and leaves him bleeding and with a whispered message. He survives to become the executive officer of the newest class of space ships that are based on submarines of old. This book deals with the actions of Josiah and The Might of Fortitude’s battle against space pirates. As always, I will not spoil the book by giving away details. There is plenty of action and enough blood and gore to satisfy those who crave that, and a hint of mystery with the would-be assassin.

As I mentioned above, I am a former submarine sailor, so the rude and vulgar language was a trip back in time aboard the boat. Sailors do tend to curse a lot, so that part was authentic. Jonathon Fletcher also got most of the terminology correct. I really liked the way he incorporated dolphins (submarine qualification pins) into the Space Navy.

The story was short, which made for a quick and easy read, but it did leave me wanting more. The book has good characters, good dialogue, and lots of action. I will certainly be checking out the next installment of the series and I hope you will give Josiah Trenchard Part One The Might of Fortitude a chance.

My rating: 4 stars 

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Discover more about Jonathan Fletcher and his series on Jonathan’s Amazon Author Page or his website. Please consider leaving a review for any (or all) of his books! I know he’ll appreciate it.


Adventures in Self-Publishing (Part 2)…

As I promised in my first post about adventures in self-publishing, this post will talk briefly about book marketing. Now I am the first to admit that I am not a marketing guru (I am an HR and Management degree holder and have spent most of my post nuclear Navy career in Supply Chain), so the nuances of a marketing campaign are new to me. One of the things I can do well, though, is research. So I fired up the laptop and started looking. Here I go with self-publishing (part 2)!

What I found is truly mind-boggling. There are hundreds of thousands of suggestions, websites, blogs, and other sources of advice on how to market books and ebooks (including books and ebooks about marketing books and ebooks). There are sites that will do a full marketing plan (for a price), others that allow you to post a sample of your book on their site (for free unless you want them to do a marketing push for it), and still others that are completely free. How to choose?

I think an author has to decide why they are marketing their book and to what audience they want to entice. For me, the answer to the first question was pretty easy. I wrote the books for my grandchildren. Since they were already written, I decided to see if they would sell. The second question is a bit trickier. I wrote my books for a middle grades/young adult audience, but I tried to make them entertaining enough to appeal to all ages. So, whom do I target for any marketing efforts? That is the part that I struggled with then and am still struggling with now.

As for marketing methods, I chose to create a Facebook page ( and author pages on both ( and Smashwords ( Hard as it is, I’ve really tried not to become annoying to people as I talk about my book. I still want them to read it and like it and write reviews.

My research revealed many different marketing ideas. I don’t use them all, but I may try to incorporate some of them as I go along. I promise to provide updates on what worked, what didn’t, and lessons learned. And who knows, maybe I will find the right formula to propel The Gemstone Chronicles to the top of the bestseller lists!


One of the best things about being self-published is I get to make great on social media. If you would like to connect with me, I can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Google+, and Tumblr. You can also send me an email at You can also subscribe to the blog so you won’t miss a post!