Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Five of My Favorite Posts


Near Death By Chocolate

September 23, 2011



Ships this size don’t sink, I told myself. Sure maybe in movies, but I wasn’t Leonardo De Caprio and this wasn’t the Titanic. More than two thousand souls were on board and we couldn’t possibly be facing the unimaginable. Still, the storm was strengthening and waves were getting pretty darn high, breaking over most of the decks. The ship was plunging into deep troughs and moaning when she rose up to catch the wind, and from the window of our cabin I could see crew members preparing lifeboats. We had been ordered to stay off the decks and balconies, and told to have our lifejackets ready.

Our ship was Holland America’s Amsterdam, a full day out of Glacier Bay when the storm caught us in open water on The Bay of Alaska. Up until then I’d resisted cruising because I knew being trapped on a floating all-you-can-eat restaurant wouldn’t be good for my waistline.

Sue, usually the patron saint of moderation, this time enticed me with, “The Amsterdam, as its name would imply, is a Dutch ship. And you know what the Dutch are famous for, don’t you?”

 

I licked my lips. I didn’t care much for tulips, wooden shoes or windmills, but I was a chocoholic, and convinced the streets of Paradise were paved with the stuff. I’d agreed to come on this cruise because the brochure promised a chocolate extravaganza beyond my imagination. Now it looked like my lust for chocolate was going to send me to Davy Jones’ locker.


In our lurching cabin, Sue was already wearing her lifejacket, along with all of the jewelry she’d brought with her. She was wearing a path on the carpet while running to the bathroom with her hand pressed over her mouth. A steward knocked on our door. He was handing out Dramamine like they were Pez. 


     “Why is the ship rocking so much?” I asked. “Don’t these vessels have stabilizers?”


     He said, “The stabilizers are out of commission. The Amsterdam is scheduled to 
go into dry-dock for repairs when this cruise is over.”


     “Is this a hurricane?” I’d never experienced one before, but this certainly felt like one.


     “Winds are approaching seventy miles an hour, so we’re close.”

 

I checked my wristwatch, and then hit him with what was really on my mind. “They haven’t cancelled the ten o’clock chocolate extravaganza in the dining room, have they?”


He pushed back his cap and looked at me like I had a third eye in the middle of my forehead. “I haven’t heard anything, but I doubt many passengers are going to want chocolate any time soon.” 


Sue took that moment to once more leap off the bed and dash to the bathroom.

 

I thanked the steward for the Dramamine and gave them to Sue when, white-faced, she emerged from the bathroom. She took the tablets and was soon blissfully unconscious.


It was five minutes to ten. Hurricane or no hurricane, I had no intention of missing out on the chocolate extravaganza. Sue was snoring on the bed, and I knew she wouldn’t want me plunging to the bottom of the ocean without my beloved chocolate on my lips, so I closed the cabin door behind me and inched to the stairs. 


A sign indicated that the elevators had been shut down because of the storm so I descended the stairs on my hands and knees until arriving at the floor where Heaven awaited me. As I reached the dining room door, the ship shook like it was being crushed by a giant fist. I heard a tremendous crash. The door opened and a chef covered in chocolate barred my entrance.


     “I’m sorry, sir, but we just lost the chocolate extravaganza.”


     “What do you mean, you lost it?” I shrieked. 


     “The table collapsed and it just hit the floor.”

 

 

“I need to see it, Pleeeze!” I wasn’t above chasing a chocolate truffle around the floor of a pitching ship.


     “It isn’t safe in there. I insist you go back to your cabin.” 


He was too big for me to tangle with so I reluctantly complied. During the night the hurricane blew itself out and the seas finally flattened. The next day the captain ordered free champagne for the passengers. Of course few stomachs could hold any down. 

 

As I drained my second bottle I reflected on Captain Ahab. Like him I, too, was destined to spend my life in pursuit of the unobtainable, forever searching for something just out of reach. Ahab would never get his whale, and although I’ve eaten a ton of chocolate over the years, none of it has matched my imagination. None has compared to what was denied me when my chocolate extravaganza crashed to the floor.



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