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Craft and Culture

The articles in this section have, for the most part, been previously published in magazines such as Canadian Geographic and Pacific Yachting. They reflect my lifelong interest in the cultures of the sea, the power of nature, and the role that storytelling has played in those interconnected contexts.

Casco: The Ship of Robert Louis Stevenson

They were led, one at a time, from the smoky dark of the hold and up the narrow companionway. Each man was flanked by a crew-member who spoke in clipped and rushing tones. The ship was quiet, the s...

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Rogue Waves

In February 1933, on its way from San Diego to Manila, the US Navy ship Ramapo was caught in the teeth of a relentless storm. The wind had slowly gathered momentum across thousands of nautical mile...

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Myths of the Primordial Waters

Plato wrote that the past is like the wake behind a boat; it spreads, and diminishes behind us, and merges with the surrounding sea. The past rolls under and is gone. We stand upon the foredeck of...

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The World Tree

South of the riverbend, twenty minutes along a trail fringed with pink flowers of hardhack and gangly stalks of sweet gale, a black spruce that I call the World Tree stands against a spring sky. He...

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The Resonance of Nautical Language

In 2003, paleoanthropologists digging on the island of Flores (about 550 km west of Bali) discovered a previously unknown and now extinct branch of the human genetic tree: Homo floresiensis , dimi...

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On Woodworking as Meditation

The warehouse is quiet today. An oldtimer carefully selects maple boards from a small pile at the back. Along the central aisle which stretches into shadow two of the staff move slabs of African bu...

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Wood Finishing for Marine Use

Woodworkers and boat builders are, on the whole, a contentious bunch. They argue about all kinds of things: tools, methods, aesthetics, materials. But their favorite topic, the one to which they ha...

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A Guide to Ethical Wood Use

We tend to think of the tension between pristine nature and human ambition as a contemporary struggle, but the urge to own and exploit forests is a fundamental human impulse. At every point in hist...

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Choosing Wood for Marine Applications

In an age of plastics and composites, wood has not surrendered its claim on the mariner. The color and texture of grain, the particular warmth of wood in the sun, the way a teak gunwale is shaped p...

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