We Call Her “She”

Workbench 15When I kayak-camped Old Hickory Lake in the fall of 2016, I learned that a broader view of my “ordinary life” created a matching horizon and that every adventure whether great or small sharpened a dull perspective.

Buying the Catalina 25′ was a precarious risk, but the benefits are already self-evident. My shed was a dump, my tools unrecognizable. Now, electricity, a coffee pot, beer fridge, roll-away tool-chest and wireless internet access embolden my determination. I created a space for design drawings and built an inexpensive workbench from lumber costing less than fifty dollars.

The Catalina’s previous owner had abandoned an assortment of useful and expensive accessories, including the additional winches and running rigging for single-handed sailing. I calculated the “used” or “second-hand” value of the equipment stowed in the sailboat’s cabin, along with the tandem-axle trailer. The exercise encouraged my optimism. I valued the property at more than double the price paid, and that excluded the value of the boat.

Cabin 14However, elation soon gave way to suspicion. Why did I get such a good deal? Did I overlook a potentially catastrophic fault as I carried out the preliminary inspection? After all, I studied Don Casey’s “Inspecting the Aging Sailboat.” What did I miss? What did the previous owner hide from me? I thought, noticing the shadow of a doubt. Believing I had mastered the art of the deal as an accomplished boat-buyer, the discovery of a costly repair would seriously mash my pride. Nevertheless, my growing attachment to the boat ensured that my dreams remained intact.

Not long after the Catalina’s arrival, I began using the feminine pronoun. I referred to the boat as “she” or “her,” a historical tradition for seamen yet without, so far anyway, a reasonable explanation. Rear Admiral Francis D. Foley’s satirical prose “Why We Call a Ship a She,” records how a “salty retired U.S. flag officer shuns the current trend toward political correctness.” Foley documents a series of derogatory female comparisons, including how, “some have a cute fantail, others are heavy in the stern”  When I read this, I questioned my use of the word.

Female or not, my relationship began with the Catalina 25 the minute I first laid eyes on her. In the days that followed her moving into my home, my infatuation only grew. I love her I thought as she towered above me, the tip of her bow nosed up in the air, her red and green side lights squinting from the hull. She drew my full attention. Boy, I couldn’t wait to climb into her cockpit and stake my claim as her captain.

DSCF2059The dreamboat honeymoon lasted for weeks, but soon after, lovey-dovey gave way to practicality. The exact nature of our relationship clarified as I scrutinized her physical condition. I stripped her down and took photographs. I considered her past, her excellent reputation as I picked at her many blemishes. “Who could have done this to you?” I asked and finally deduced that for several years others had mistreated her. Used and abused, my Catalina 25 bore the scars of macho neglect. “She” is the worn out residue of her previous relationships. I desperately wanted to fix her, a scenario I frequently encountered during my twenties and thirties.

Without a doubt, renovating a sailboat is an enormous commitment that emulates a human connection. This similarity supported my use of the feminine personal pronoun. For me, fixing up this sailboat is indeed a romantic adventure, and so she deserves the highest esteem.

Don’t forget to visit the gallery depicting the Catalina’s current condition. Click here on “Catalina 25 pics.” Next time, I’ll post a new gallery illustrating the workbench construction and other embarrassing workshop sights. “Setting up Shop” will be accessible in the next couple of days.

Until then, and for an elaborate carpentry tutorial, I recommend a visit to YouTube where an increasing number of master craftsmen inspire humanity for zero dollars down, thus usurping traditional education methods. Click on the following link and discover my dream workbench”  posted by the KingPost TimberWorks.



Shitty Shed 3     For almost ten years, our 16 X 10 feet Spacemaker shed housed the junk that I cleared out of our basement when I converted the space into a yoga room, an office and a studio. Although I referred to the outbuilding as the garden shed, it became, over time, a storage room for all of those “rainy day” items. Now, more than one thousand rainy days later, I decided to empty the shed. When I opened the doors, I couldn’t step inside without pulling things out of the way. I didn’t take a picture, but even if I had, I still wouldn’t post it here. The place was a shambles, an overwhelming sight and sharing it would cause such embarrassment.

Allowing the space to evolve in that way was a personal trait that I hadn’t noticed before. How could I be such a clutter-bug? Nevertheless, with a 12ft. tall sailboat on a 30ft. trailer parked in the yard, and a gutsy, determined attitude, I took a deep breath…and begged my wife for her help. We went through the stuff and voted on whether to ditch it or gift it. Most of it was useless and went to the city dump. Hoarding the items, a decision we made a long time ago, no longer made any sense. Workshop or not, going through the shed was cathartic. I wished we had done so earlier.

Bledsoe Creek 2     Back in 2014, we renovated a 1967 Yellowstone Camper.  I mentioned the project because the garden shed at that time was the bane of my every day. Inundated shelves, cranky old tools and a tangle of overloaded extension cords intensified frustration and often led to a tantrum. One day, my questionable behavior came up in conversation. My wife pointed out that if I repeated the hurling of objects and expletives, the Yellowstone camper would become my new home. “You’ll be out on your ear,” she said. With that freshened perspective, converting the shed into a well-organized workshop garnered every ounce of my enthusiasm.

Before long, I drilled out the studs, pulled all the cables and installed my outlet devices. I used 20 amp, #12 gauge Metal Clad Cable (12/2 MC) which provided one 20 amp circuit for the workshop. Mechanics, welders and carpenters’ wood-shops demand much higher amperage, but for my solitary work as a sailboat enthusiast, a 20-amp circuit is adequate. 12/2 MC is easy to work with, and impervious to inquisitive squirrels. The materials for the 20-amp circuit, including a dozen receptacles and a fluorescent light fixture, cost less than $100.

Wiring 1     As a licensed electrician, I always make sure that my work follows the N.E.C. standards for both indoor and outdoor installations. Please check with a licensed professional before carrying out electrical work. While installing the equipment yourself will save money, it should not cost you your life.

After completing so many projects; the yoga room, home office, jeweler’s bench, recording studio, artist’s retreat, model mountain railroad, raised-bed veggie garden, chicken coop, decks, fences, and a camper renovation, I discovered that walking around on a grimy surface distracted my untapped genius. In my brilliant mind, stepping in filth diminished me. Okay, I’m joking. At least, it grated my nerves.

For the workshop, I needed a project-resistant floor covering that cleaned up easily, and yet wouldn’t devour my budget. Fortunately, I found some “peel and stick” floor tile, or “luxury vinyl plank” in a clearance sale at our local hardware store. At 98 cents per square foot, it converted the grubby, chipped plywood shed floor into an attractive and durable work-space. Even with the purchase of the plywood underlay, which comes already primed for the vinyl tiles’ adhesive, the new workshop floor cost less than $250, including the screws for the underlay.

Flooring 2One helpful tip: If you decide on a similar product as the one I selected on price, here is something to bear in mind. The vinyl plank system relies on an almost invisible “tongue and groove” structure and only fits together if laid in one direction. An arrow printed on the adhesive shield directs the correct installation. In my case, however, seeing the new tiles transforming the grotty old floor excited me. Occasionally, I rushed the job, and installed a piece the wrong way. A few hours later, without the support of an adjacent member, the improperly laid tile became partially unstuck and consequently needed replacing.

Finally, getting rid of old stuff isn’t easy. Who knows why we hold on to past acquisitions that no longer enhance our lives. Objects, habits, memories, and emotions color each precious moment. I hated the shed. Its contents reinforced my fear of scarcity and yet owning each valueless object increased my idea of self-worth. I believed I couldn’t live without them. Now, the Catalina 25′ dominates my yard, her potential invigorates my life just as her renovation transformed our old garden shed. Already, I wish I had a name for my boat. Perhaps you have a good idea. I look forward to reading your comments, and I thank you for reading my blog.

Next time, I’ll open the doors to my workshop and introduce my $50 workbench. You’ll be amazed what you can do with fifty bucks! I hope you enjoy the gallery I posted displaying an overview of the Catalina 25’s current condition. Find it here on my website or click on the link, “Catalina 25 Pics.”

Until next time, have a great week!



Catalina's New Home

     A functional sailboat comprises of several integrated systems. Their efficiency enables the flotation and transport of a comfortable living space across the water’s surface. System maintenance requires a wide range of skill-sets and a variety of tools.

     In his book, “Fix it and Sail,” Brian Gilbert details the renovation of a 1972 MacGregor 222, and recommends preparing an alternative work-space. Working in the boat’s cockpit, on deck, or down below is not always a viable option.I understood the necessity for a workshop.

     First, I considered our basement, which is warm in the winter and stays cool in the summer. With a 7 ft. high ceiling and floor space of around 1,100 sq ft. (the size of a decently sized bungalow), it satisfied my self-inflated ego. However, we currently use 300 sq ft. as a home office. We have a small laundry area, a 20 ft. x 12 ft. yoga and exercise room complete with a kick bag, martial arts equipment and a flat-screen TV on the wall. My wife uses the rest of the space as a multi-media artist’s studio. A lot goes on in our basement. I thought better of sharing my latest idea.

Chickens     For several years we kept chickens in a coop. Since all six of the birds stopped laying about a year ago,  I mulled the idea of re-purposing their home.  Within the structure’s 24′ run I could store the Catalina’s mast, keeping it mostly under cover. Then, similar to a kitchen on a teardrop camper-trailer, I imagined a drop-down, pull-out workbench for the side of the coop. The chickens would have to go, I decided. However, I didn’t have the heart for butchering the “girls,” so the structure remains as it is: an assisted-living facility for old hens. We nicknamed the chicken coop, “Government House.”

     Finally, I addressed the possible remodeling of our neglected, and over-filled Spacemaker  shed. Almost every year, we speculated upon its fate. “It would make a great tiny house,” my wife said. Situated a little more than fifty feet from our house beyond a large wooden deck with a fire pit, converting the shed into a human habitat required more work than I could imagine. Besides, my “tiny house” was a sailboat now, and a workshop only needs electricity. This time, necessity moderated our high expectations, and with 160 sq ft available the shed matched my new-found modesty. 

     Buying the Catalina 25 was ambitious, but then so were many other things I enjoyed in my life. I made a living from writing music and settled here in the United States. I married an Irish-American woman and love her unconditionally. I fathered my son and encouraged my step-son, both of whom became exceptional young men. Each experience enriched my life beyond my imagination. When I took on a challenge, it altered my perspective and many times resulted in success.

DSCF1484 (2)

     Admittedly, a few of my quests didn’t go as expected and the odd one brought me to tears, but at this stage of the game, accommodating the boat and converting the shed was a win-win opportunity for everyone. I designed two new electrical circuits, one for the deck and another for the new workshop. In my view, the wiring project killed two birds with one stone; much better I thought than lopping off the heads of six aging hens with an axFor now, at least, the chickens are safe, and according to my wife, since I started this project I am “much easier to live with.” So, I wondered. Am I fixing the Catalina or is “she” fixing me? I look forward to reading your comments.

Until then, have a great week!


Welcome Aboard my Catalina 25

The Boat

Hi, my name is Martin. I live in the sun-drenched state of Tennessee, land-locked among the mid-southern forests of the United States. Although I grew up in the U.K., that gnarly old island on the other side of the Atlantic, I know little about sailing, even less about sailboats or “yachts” as we called them back home.

My work brought me to Tennessee many years ago, but my lifetime profession gradually lost its allure. Late last year, in search of a more noble purpose, I took to the lake on a kayak and camping adventure. On my return, I wrote my first non-fiction book, “One Sumner Tale” and worked as a writer almost every day since.

Earlier this year, I bought a sail for my 15′ Prijon kayak. From the moment the sail billowed out against the backdrop of an infinite blue sky and carried me across the water, my passion for sailing ignited. Owning and piloting a full size yacht became a new and tremendous ambition that quickly turned into an obsession.

With limited funds, I bought a 1981 Catalina 25′ sailboat. Anyone who has acted upon a similar impulse will know that when she, my boat, arrived in the back yard, I became the happiest man alive. The question is though, will she and I make it to the lake by the spring of 2018 or will she just sit there on her trailer, blocking the sun from my window? That we shall see.

After watching countless videos and reading informative blogs, I recognized that every situation is unique. Very few sailboats are identical. During thirty odd years of use and neglect, each boat develops a unique personality. Not only that but every project-boat owner has their own perspective on repair methods, tools, and supplies. Often, personal expectations and available finances determine a renovation strategy, practical goals and ultimately results. Every renovation is different.

Although my Catalina is in fair to good shape for her age, there is a multitude of smaller issues due to either the lack of maintenance or years of neglect that require an upgrade, replacement or repair. The work demands a broad skill-set including plumbing, electrical, fiberglass laminating, mechanical engineering and an understanding of sailor-speak. The Halyards, sheets, boom vang, and spreaders are names that amuse me every time I use them in conversation.
Fortunately, the joy of discovery evaporates the fog of ignorance. So, with a limited budget, I’ll fix the old girl up and sail her in the spring of this year, 2018. My family expects a safe, casual cruise with a comfortable cabin stocked with food and drinks. The challenge excites my core. So, welcome aboard my 1981 Catalina 25’ yacht renovation adventure.

Follow my progress by clicking the following link: Rehab Catalina 25′ Blog


On Getting Published

Not a rejection 4 (2)

“Not until the drizzle seeps through the attire,

The numbing of fingers and lips,

Does the number fourteen arrive at the bus stop,

Along with the five and the six.”

On Getting Published by Martin J Laight © 2018




Rosemarie’s Child

Scan 300dpi 2“The burden of shame for another’s evil weighs heavily on a person’s life. If any of this victorious tale alerts you to act, regardless of gender or sexual preference, speak up, speak out. Expose! Be more not half. Truth is the key to freedom.”

Click the link to read the story  “Rosemarie’s Child “


Mile 228.6 (An Excerpt from “One Sumner Tale”)

Heaven awaitsMile 228.6

Regardless of whom or what we believe to be the Almighty, our connection to the universe is undeniable. Some people dispute their interpretation of an ethereal nexus to death. Others acknowledge the existence of one only when sickness or poverty strikes, or at somebody else’s demise. Many forget God until somebody hurts. Then, it’s all poems and prayers.

I do not belong to a church. Pedophiles and perverts tarnished this “child of a Mormon God’s” prescience. I also learned that God punitively darkened the skin of black people, the so-called “Sons of Lucifer,” because Cain slew his brother, Abel. The Church I knew, even in England, favored white salvation. Then, in 1978, via the prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, God forgave black people and racial profiling ended. I wondered why God didn’t turn their skin white again. The Mormon God’s psyche confused me so I left the church in 1979. I later discovered that yoga and meditation supported both my physical and spiritual well-being, eradicating the need for intermediaries.

Although I had left Johnny Cash’s boat dock, my thoughts lingered in the past. The site jogged a memory of an earlier time when my sister and her fiancé flew into Nashville from the other side of the world. They had moved several years ago to India, and I hadn’t seen my sister since.

Her lover, a much older man for whom she lived in voluntary servitude, revered Johnny Cash. The singer’s former home and grave-site drew the couple to Hendersonville. They peered at the rubble, posed by the guardhouse for holiday snaps, and later visited the graveyard. However, their visit troubled me. Strangely, their stay with us passed without any word from the rest of my family, two brothers, another sister and my mother who knew about my sister’s trip.

As I paddled along the base of the cliff, I mulled this thought over. I hadn’t heard from any of my family except when they buried my mother in 2014. They ordered me not to attend the funeral without a clear explanation. For years, I just dismissed those events but now, I realize how much they troubled me. I felt insignificant, unloved. The hurt lay beneath the obligatory demeanor expected of a fully grown man. I never cried about anything.

Alone in the kayak my thoughts overwhelmed me. I did my best to keep paddling. When I reached mile marker 228.6, I suddenly felt uneasy. The enormous square sign of luminescent blue-green, informs commercial traffic of its exact location as they travel along the main boating channel. The limestone cliff, now almost fifty feet high, radiated heat from the sun. The trees grew outward from the face of the rock, their limbs hanging out over the lake. Despite the good weather, I worried that one of the trees might tear from its roots and crash down on top of me. It would seriously ruin my day. To avoid them I traveled further away from the shore.

Once out of the “comfort zone,” my confidence evaporated. The never-ending cliff felt intimidating, as did the view of the lake off the starboard bow looking out toward Cage’s Bend. Old Hickory stretched for miles and the paddle-friendly, safe haven of a soft grassy shoreline disappeared. I hadn’t considered this stretch of the lake carefully enough. I worried about the Ingram barge boat appearing. The sound of its foghorn alone is alarming enough to unseat a paddler. I feared the effects of the wake as it passed. I doubted my ability. Capsizing would leave me clinging to the rock face, fearful of meeting a rabid beaver until somebody came to the rescue. That thought mustered the scraps of my faith. I wondered if there was a God.

My paddling became nervous and erratic. My heartbeat increased. My breathing quickened and my hands and feet tingled. I stopped for a moment, fearing a cardiac incident. My pulse throbbed up the side of my neck. I clenched my jaw and called out for God through my teeth. Then, I considered the suffering of others in the world and doubted that he, she or it ever listened out for someone like me.

The confinement of the kayak’s cockpit intensified the horror. Sealed into the boat by a waterproof spray skirt with a life jacket crushing my chest, and an ocean of lake water at the foot of the cliff terrified me to the point of paralysis. I trembled from my shoulders to my knees. Sensing an imminent capsize, I wanted to get it all over with.

“Go, Marty, go!” I thought. “Roll that yak over!” My thinking became ridiculous. All I could do was scream aloud like a person undergoing an exorcism. Although I hated the isolation, I hoped nobody heard me shouting. Nothing I thought made sense. Neither did having a panic attack. I hadn’t experienced one for years.

I reached for my deck bag and fumbled around inside. I needed something, any object would shift my focus and dissipate the feeling of panic. I wrestled out a clear plastic bottle in which I kept a mouthful of whiskey. Frantically, I twisted off the top and held the open bottle under my nose. I took a deep diver’s breath and savored the heavenly aroma. I lifted the bottle to my dry puckered lips and chugged the booze down in one gulp. My legs felt like jelly, my arms like noodles as I packed the empty bottle away. From the back of my tongue and down my throat, the bourbon left a warm trail of comfort, but landed in my gut like a stone. I felt more pathetic than poorly. Humbly, I prayed that no one on earth had witnessed me losing my mind in a kayak.