Drinks to read (and write) by

When I sit and write it’s always important to stay well hydrated and have a good cigar. My favorite cigar is the Arturo Fuentes Hemingway Signature and as far as drinks go… anything with rum or Jack Daniels will do! Sometimes when people come over and get to experimenting with concoctions at my bar we come up with some tasty drinks. Here’s a few to try out.

Cherry Popper

2 oz. Jack Daniels
4 oz. Pepsi (use the Pepsi made with REAL sugar)
Splash of Grenadine
One cherry

Serve over ice

Mix the Jack and Coke over ice, add a splash of grenadine and a cherry. Done!

The Catalina Cocktail

I was shopping at my local Safeway/Vons store and saw a product in the juice section. It was a mix of Orange, Peach and Mango. I looked at that container and it seemed to just cry out, “ADD RUM!” So I bought it and brought it home. It can make this quick tropical drink and is named for Catalina Island where I spend a great deal of time.

4 oz. Rum
4 oz. Orange, Peach & Mango Juice
Lime wedge

Get a glass of any size… preferably large (at least 12 oz.) and fill it with ice.  Fill it half way with rum and the other half juice. Mix and garnish with a lime wedge.

* I always use dark rum, usually Cruzan, Meyers, or Plantation. If you like the spiced rums then it’s Sailor Jerry or Kraken… and if you want, you can always add a float of Bacardi 151.

This juice makes a great smoothie as well… which you can also add rum to.

1 ½ cups of juice
1 cup frozen mango
1 cup frozen Non Fat Vanilla Yogurt
Rum (optional)

Blend in the blender until frothy… add rum to taste!

Lizard Key Mojito

The Pirate Mojito

When I wrote Lizard Key I wanted to give the pirate, Nick Roberts, a signature drink. Just as James Bond has his vodka martini ‘shaken, not stirred’ Nick Roberts has his mojito, ‘dark rum, not too sweet’… sort of like a pirate’s soul.

2 oz. DARK rum (Gosling’s Black Rum or a dark rum of your choice)
Two mint sprigs
Juice of ½ a fresh lime
½ oz. sugar cane syrup… remember, not too sweet.
Club soda

Place the mint, lime juice and cane syrup in a 12 oz. tumbler (make sure it’s a sturdy glass!) Gently muddle the mix with a wooden muddler… not too hard, you don’t want to shred the leaves just bruise them to release the essential oils. Add some ice and rum, briefly shake and top it off with the club soda. Add mint leave or lime wedge as a garnish.

Cocktail Books

One of my friends in Key West is Bahama Bob Leonard. As it turned out Bob and I went to rival High Schools across town from each other in California and at one time were both SCCA racecar drivers. Bob has written two books which I consider the definitive works on cocktails… especially tropical cocktails; Cocktails and Tales and Cocktails and Tales Too. Great receipts and great history stories. If you’re ever in Key West stop in at the Rum Bar on Duval Street and have him mix you a drink or check him out at BahamaBobLeonard.com.

Seaplanes in Catalina

Sea Planes have been crossing from the California mainland to the Channel Islands for almost a century.  The first service was operated by Charlie Chaplin’s half-brother Syd in 1919. Operating for a couple of years, other firms moved in to operate the service until 1931 when Wrigley stepped up.

Phillip K. Wrigley, began the Wilmington-Catalina Airline, Ltd. through his Santa Catalina Island Company, and took over the sea plane services.  The airline’s fleet were mostly comprised of Douglas Dolphin’s designed by Donald Douglas.

Douglas Dolphin Sea Plane, Avalon, Santa Catalina, circa 1940
Douglas Dolphin Sea Plane flying over the casino and Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina. Circa 1940

In 1931, Wrigley helped design a unique airport at Hamilton Cove, the 2nd cove north of Avalon, to accommodate the Douglas Dolphin ‘Amphibion’ planes.  The twin-engine Dolphins landed just offshore & would taxi up a ramp to a large turntable mechanism.  The airplane would then be rotated until it was facing the water & ready for a trip back to the mainland. A small Spanish-style terminal building welcomed residents, business people & tourists to Catalina.”  There was also a large hanger behind the terminal building.

Hamilton Cove Seaplane Base
Hamilton Cove Sea Plane Base, north of Avalon Harbor, Santa Catalina, California

According the Catalina Goose, Wilmington-Catalina Air Line was noted in the March 1941 issue of Flying & Popular Aviation as “the shortest airline in the world.” The article points out that not only was Wilmington-Catalina Air Line, serving 2 towns less than 30 miles apart, the shortest but also the safest airline, having flown the channel 38,000 times carrying over 200,000 passengers with no accidents or injuries between 1931-41.

Seaplane service was discontinued & replaced by a landplane base in the spring of 1941 and following the entry of the USA into WWII, civilian air traffic to Catalina Island was shut down and the Coast Guard took over the Hamilton Cove Seaplane Base.


Sea Creatures

Just a few photos of the creatures we share the sea with. Future web posts will have some of our smaller creatures.

Octopus close encounter
Octopus Close Encounter

A close encounter of the octopus kind! This is one of my favorite creatures. They are incredibly smart and very adaptive. They change colors depending on their mood or environment.

Barracuda Belize

Large barracuda like this guy usually swim around alone. When they are small you will see them in large schools. They have large sharp teeth and the unwarranted  reputation as being dangerous. I have been in the water with them hundreds of times and have found them to just be curious. If you catch one on a fishing line… getting him off the hook could be dangerous. This was taken in Belize.

Caribbean Reef Shark
Caribbean Reef Shark

Caribbean reek shark. I love diving with sharks. They are fun to photograph and add an element of excitement to any dive. This guy and his pals were keeping us company on a dive. There are really only a few species that are of much concern to divers.

Lemon Shark Bora Bora
Lemon Shark

Lemon shark in Bora Bora. This was a large pregnant shark about ten feet long. She was a little far away for the photo and kept her distance. The photo shows how well they blend into the surroundings. You look into the distance and see nothing and then suddenly they are there. We saw several sharks of the same size on this dive but only a few came close to us.

Pamela Marchetti 70 feet down Bora Bora
Pamela Marchetti

This is my wife, Pamela, diving in Bora Bora at about 70 feet down. The water is warm enough that you do not have to use a wet suit but keep in mind that in the ocean there are lots of little stingy things that can get you. I learned that lesson with fire coral many years ago. Clear warm water with lots of fish… just like an aquarium.

California Spiny Lobster - Panulirus interruptus
California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) in Casino Point Scuba Park, Santa Catalina, California

Garibaldi damselfish - Hypsypops rubicundus
Garibaldi damselfish (Hypsypops rubicundus) is the state fish of California and is prevalent in the shallows around Santa Catalina Island, California

Green Abalone - Haliotis fulgens
Green Abalone, Haliotis fulgens, is a species of large edible sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusk, found in the Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina.

California sheephead - Semicossyphus pulcher
California sheephead exposing his teeth against the backdrop of the kelp forest in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina.

Diving Cormorant
Cormorant diving for dinner in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, Santa Catalina

California moray - Gymnothorax mordax
California moray (Gymnothorax mordax) is a moray eel of the family, hiding in a crevasse in Casino Point Scuba Park, Avalon, California

Wreck Diving

Wrecks offer great places to dive and they are located all over the world. As technology evolves divers are able to go to sites much deeper than in past years however those dives involve greater risk to the diver and advanced training. In my younger days I did dive to much deeper wrecks but now I focus on shallower sites within what is referred to as “sport diver limits”. Wrecks provide areas that attract wide varieties of marine life and many of the sites have interesting stories attached to them. All of the sites I will post on this web site are wrecks that are within the sport diver limits of no more than 130 feet down. When you travel on a dive trip, the local dive shop can be the focal point to find those interesting sites that are attractions in the area. Sometimes, if you are lucky, you can find a local who will take you to a site that’s not on the tourist trail.

Airplane wreck Mexico
Airplane Wreck, Mexico

Airplane wreck – Mexico. As with most airplane wrecks, it’s upside down and now a home for the fish.

Airplane wreck Bermuda Triangle
Airplane wreck, Bermuda Triangle

Airplane wreck found upside down…somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle. The story is that it’s the results of a drug smuggling operation gone wrong.

USS Bluegill WWII Submarine Conning Tower Hawaii
USS Bluegill WWII Submarine

USS Bluegill WWII submarine once located in 130’ of water off Lahaina, HI. This is the view looking up at the conning tower.

USS Bluegill WWII Submarine divers on deck Hawaii
Divers over USS Bluegill WWII Submarine

Divers swimming along the deck of the USS Bluegill towards the bow. These photos were taken during the late 1970’s before the boat was relocated to very deep water out of the range of divers.

USS Bluegill WWII Submarine conning tower to bow Hawaii
USS Bluegill WWII Submarine

Dive conditions were a bit murky on the day of the USS Bluegill dive. This is the base of the conning tower looking forward. The boat was used as a training location for Navy divers and a popular site for recreational divers before being relocated.

baby barge reef honolulu hawaii
“Baby Barge” Hawaii

This is the wreck of the “Baby Barge”, a small barge that was sunk to become a reef near Honolulu, HI. The bubbles are from the divers under and in the wreckage.

Turtle YO-257 WWII Navy fueling vessel
Turtle on YO-257 WWII Navy Fueling Vessel

This turtle was taking a nap on the wreck of the YO-257, a Navy fueling vessel from WWII, before the divers woke him up! There were three turtles hanging around the wreck when we arrived.

oil pump connections YO-257 WWII Navy Fueling Vessel
YO-257 WWII Navy Fueling Vessel

These are the oil pump connections on the YO-257 used in pumping oil during the refueling process. The YO-257 was 174’ long and now home to much marine life.

Top Structure YO-257 WWII Navy Fueling Vessel
YO-257 WWII Navy Fueling Vessel

The top structure of the YO-257. I love diving on wrecks, partly because of the history of the ships and partly because they attract a wide variety of marine life. The YO-257 was intentionally sunk off Honolulu to become a reef structure in 1989.

San Pedro Reef Wreck Honolulu Hawaii
San Pedro Artificial Reef, Hawaii

A short swim from the YO-257 lies the wreck of the San Pedro. The 111’ vessel was sunk as a reef off Honolulu, HI in 1996. Two turtle gracefully swim into the wreckage.

james marchetti 50foot sailboat wreck caribbean
James Marchetti

This is my youngest son, James, diving with me to a sunken sailboat at about 125’deep in the Caribbean. The boat was about 50’ long and was now the home of tropical fish and moray eels.

turtle sugarcane barge wreck caribbean
Sleeping Turtle on Sugarcane Barge

This turtle was located during a night dive on a sunken sugarcane barge that sunk off a small Caribbean island in about 30’ of water. It makes a perfect sleeping station for the turtles. They find a comfortable spot on deck to sleep and when they need air, it’s a short swim to the surface then back to the boat for more sleep. The remora on his back just tags along for the ride.

ray sugarcane barge wreck caribbean
Night Ray in Caribbean

On the way to the sugarcane barge this ray went swimming by in the darkness.

Wreck of 54' Gaff-rigged Schooner, SueJac
Sheephead swimming through the hull of the 54′ Gaff-rigged Schooner, SueJac, which sank in 1980 in Catalina Harbor


The Story Behind the Novel “Texas Jack”

‘Texas’ Jack Vermillion
‘Texas’ Jack Vermillion 1849-1893

I have been asked by people about the characters in the book… who they are based on? Is it about ‘Texas Jack’ Vermillion, ‘Texas Jack’ Reed, or ‘Texas Jack’ Omohundro? The truth is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. There is possibly a little of each character in the ‘Texas Jack’ of the novel but the story is not based on the life of any one historical character. The Texas Jack of my novel is a composite of many cowboys, outlaws, and soldiers of the era. There were many cowboys and outlaws who had nicknames associated with where they were from or believed to have been from. Some were simply an alias, while some were given to them by accident or just a moniker they attached to themselves allowing them to stand out from the crowd. There were several outlaws with the ‘Texas’ moniker.

‘Texas’ Jack Vermillion 1849-1893. When asked why he was called ‘Texas Jack’ he replied, “Because I’m from Virginia.” The fact is that he was from Virginia, not Texas. The moniker was from a wanted poster and it stuck. He was a friend of Doc Holiday, a fellow Southerner, and rode with Wyatt Earp and Holiday on the famous vendetta ride. He was later given the name of ‘shoot your eye out Jack’ after he killed a card cheat by shooting him in the eye.

Texas Jack Omohundro
Texas Jack Omohundro, 1846 – 1880

One of the best known Texas Jacks was John Baker ‘Texas Jack’ Omohundro 1846-1880. He was born in Virginia and at seventeen years old enlisted in Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (much like the character in the novel). He served in Major General J.E.B. Stuart’s 5th Cavalry Corps. After the war he went to Texas where during a cattle drive he acquired the ‘Texas Jack’ addition to his name. He met Buffalo Bill Cody and they became lifelong friends. Both were scouts for the U. S. Cavalry. At about that time he also became friends with Wild Bill Hickok who at that time was the Acting Sheriff of Ellis County, Kansas. He later went into show business with Buffalo Bill in a production of “Scouts of the Prairie”. A year later Wild Bill Hickok joined the production and they changed the name to “Scouts of the Plains”. Texas Jack and Buffalo Bill were also the guides for Grand Duke Alexis of Russia on a buffalo hunt under the command of Lt. Colonel Custer. Texas Jack died at just thirty four years of age from pneumonia while escorting his beautiful actress/ballerina wife, Josephine Morlacchi, on a stage show tour. He was elected posthumously to the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City where he was honored for his skills as a working cowboy and stage actor.

Nathaniel 'Texas Jack' Reed
Nathanial ‘Texas Jack’ Reed 1862-1950

Nathaniel ‘Texas Jack’ Reed 1862-1950. This ‘Texas Jack’ was a stagecoach and train robber who started his life of crime at twenty one years old. He made $6000 on his first train robbery and that started a decade long criminal career. He was best known for the botched Blackstone Train Robbery in Oklahoma. He was shot while escaping but made it to Missouri where he healed up. He vowed to go straight after that and tried to cut a deal with Judge Isaac Parker to testify against his partners in exchange for probation. His partners were found and killed in a gunfight and the Judge went back on the deal and gave him five years in prison. He got religion while in jail and was paroled after a year. He then became an evangelist preacher.

There was also a ‘Texas Tom’. Michael ‘Texas Tom’ Mills 1866-1888 however I was unable to find any specifics about him.

Thomas ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum
Thomas ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum 1863-1901

Other outlaws had the ‘Jack’ part of the moniker, like Thomas ‘Black Jack’ Ketchum 1863-1901. He was born in Texas and robbed trains with the Hole in the Wall Gang.

Jack ‘Red Jack’ Almer 18??-1883 was a stage robber and the legend says he buried $8000 in gold coins somewhere near Prescott, Arizona… the gold has never been found.

William ‘Tulsa Jack’ Blake 1859-1895 rode with the Wild Bunch Gang robbing trains and banks. He was from the Oklahoma territory.

Some of the old west characters adapted names to give themselves a background. William ‘Russian Bill’ Tattenbaum 1853-1881 claimed to be the son of the wealthy Russian aristocrat, Countess Telfrin. He claimed he served in the Russian Army but fled while facing a court martial. Most believed he just was telling tall tales or an outright liar. He made his way to Tombstone Arizona and was an associate of the Clantons and ‘Curley Bill’ Brocious. ‘Russian Bill’ ended up being hung in a town near Tombstone for cattle rustling. Two years after his death a representative of Countess Telfrin arrived in Tombstone looking for the Countess’ son.

Charles ‘Colorado Charlie’ Utter was Wild Bill Hickok’s best friend and born in New York. He migrated to Colorado and added that to his name before his time in Deadwood, South Dakota.

Roy Daugherty 'Arkansas Tom Jones'
Roy Daugherty ‘Arkansas Tom Jones’ 1870-1924

And then there are the outlaws who just completely reinvented themselves. Roy Daugherty known as ‘Arkansas Tom Jones’ 1870-1924 was born in Missouri and moved to Oklahoma, but claimed he was from Arkansas. He rode with the Wild Bunch Gang and killed a deputy marshal during a shootout. He was captured by James Masterson (Bat’s brother) and got sentenced to fifty years in jail. He was paroled in 1910 and went to Hollywood to get into the movies but when that failed he went back to robbing banks. He was finally shot and killed during a bank robbery.

The American West created a myth, culture, and excitement unique in history. It was an untamed, uncivilized wildness where disputes were often settled with violence. The time period just before the Civil War and the years that followed provide an interesting dichotomy in views. On one hand you have a nation divided against itself over, in large part, the issue of slavery… men going to war, fighting and dying to free an enslaved race but only giving them partial freedom after winning. As soon as that war was over, those same men launched a campaign to either enslave on reservations or eradicate the Native Americans.

Unless we study history we are doomed to make the mistakes of past generations. We are no better than those who came before us. We may have more technology but we are as human as our forefathers and prone to the same passions, prejudices, good, or evil. We can’t change the past but we can learn and be entertained by it.

Writing historical fiction allows me to create a fictional character based on historical facts and place him in a historical timeline. I can use characteristics of the many colorful characters of the time and infuse actual historical facts into the story. In addition, I also base many of the characters in my writing on people I know or have meet through my travels.

Mayan Ruins

Part of the inspiration for the book, Lizard Key, came from my travels to the Yucatan Region of Mexico many years ago. This was before the region became as large a tourist destination as it is today… before the cruise ships came! Back then the large hotels and resorts didn’t exist… only a handful of hotels and lots more jungle around them. It’s still a great place to visit with a great deal of history. Just a couple of photos to see where the book started. There are many books written on the history of the region but the two I like the best are; Incidents of Travel in Yucatan by John L. Stephens and The Americas Before Columbus by Dewey Farnsworth (the old photos in this book are great). The Stephens book is the classic. It documents his archaeological exploration of the region between 1839-1842. Since photography wasn’t available all the pictures are illustrations. There is some level of controversy around the Farnsworth book (primarily involving his religious beliefs) but that withstanding, it is interesting and has lots of old photos.

Chichen Itza
Chichen Itza

This is the famous pyramid in Chichen Itza.

Mayan Ruins
Mayan Ruins

As I would travel through the jungle in the region you could see many sites of unexcavated ruins. Most were taken over by jungle growth and almost unrecognizable as sites of ancient buildings… certainly not as easily seen as this.

Island Golf

When ever I travel I try to find a golf course. Some of your more remote islands don’t have the most well groomed courses but island golf combined with island cocktails can’t be beat! Sometimes the beauty of the tropical settings provides a good excuse when your game sucks… I was just over come with the scenery and couldn’t concentrate (always a good excuse!).

Moorea Green Pearl Golf Course French Polynesia
Moorea Green Pearl Golf Course

This is the Moorea Green Pearl course in French Polynesia. It was a quiet day and we had the place to ourselves.

"Old Course" St Andrew's, Scotland
“Old Course” St Andrew’s, Scotland

St. Andrews, Scotland… the “Old Course”. We played there for three days and the weather was PERFECT… no rain, no wind. I’m told they get weather like this about once every fifty years or so. It’s the birth place of golf and still island golf!

Catalina Island Golf Course, Catalina, California, USA
Catalina Island Golf Course

Catalina Island is what I consider my “home course” since I live there a good part of the year. It is one of the oldest courses in the western US, established in 1892. Catalina is a small island off the California coast. It’s one of the few places in America where the most common form of transportation is a golf cart. The courses in Hawaii, Jamaica, the Florida Keys, etc. may be more dramatic, but your home course is always your favorite

Garibaldi Fish

Garabaldi Fish
Garabaldi Fish

The Garibaldi is a brightly colored orange fish of the damselfish family that is native to the North-Eastern subtropical parts of the Pacific Ocean, ranging from Monterey Bay, California, to Baja California. The name is a reference to the Italian military and political figure Giuseppe Garibaldi who wore a trademark red shirt.

Not only is this fish a regular sight whilst diving off Santa Catalina, it is also the official marine state fish of California.