Seabbatial Log #11- My Seabbatical, in hindsight


IMG_0240After 27 years of teaching at Tabor, I had the good fortune to receive and enjoy a fall semester sabbatical, which I have dubbed my “Seabbatical.” My Seabbatical has provided me the time and space to travel, write, volunteer, collaborate and spend time with my daughter. I’ve been asked countless times, “What have you been doing on your sabbatical?” My typical reply is, “ALL of the things that I wouldn’t have time for when I am working.”

The following are snippets (some but certainly not all) of my Seabattical experiences. For further reading please refer to my Seabattical Log series #1 through #11 in my personal blog:

TravelIMG_0277 IMG_4560

The Spanish Virgin Islands, my favorite sailing territories, are outlined by St. Thomas, Vieques, Culebra, and Puerto Rico. My Seabattical provided me with the time to voyage, swim, snorkel, practice my Spanish, and live-aboard a Jeanneau 349 cruising sailboat. I lavished in the 84-degree air temperature, the 82-degree water temperature, and the consistent 20-knot easterly trade winds. I was in sailing and swimming heaven! Meeting new people and experiencing new places, I was continually reminded that in Puerto Rico, the culture is all about the romance!


During my sabbatical I took pause to write a series of eleven Seabbatical Log essays. In addition to this writing series, my latest professional technical writing was published in the December 2015 Small Boats Monthly on-line publication. My product review was about the merits of Linseed Oil Based Paints. As part of the research for this article I ventured to Mystic Seaport to interview the shipwrights for the Charles W. Morgan restoration. During the entire restoration linseed oil based paints were used for historical and practical reasons. You’ll find a greater level of detail about the review in my #10 Seabbatical log post:

Volunteer and Collaborate

IMG_5019During the fall I volunteered at the Lloyd Center for the Environment in Dartmouth, Mass. I painted their marine critter touch tank, raked leaves, and maintained the public walking trails. I am currently working with the Lloyd Center, the Padanaram Oyster Farm, and the Dartmouth Harbormaster to develop a collaborative oyster growing education program at the Lloyd Center for this coming summer.

Spend Time with My Daughter

IMG_0246With a more flexible daily schedule I’ve been able to regularly assist my daughter in her afterschool job of mucking horse paddocks at the barn. I’ve found that slinging horse manure with your daughter provides for occasional intimate conversations and at other times silence. When you have a pitchfork in your hands there is no time for texting and YouTube. I’ve also been helping her learn how to drive. An activity that is not for the faint of heart I assure you.

In a couple of weeks I enthusiastically return to my full-time faculty responsibilities. I do so with a set of recharged batteries and renewed vigor!



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Seabattical Log #10- Linseed Oil and Linseed Oil Based Paint



Over the years, there were a number of converging influences that lead me down the trail of using linseed oil and linseed oil based paint.



Be sure that you read my product review in December 2015 Small Boats Monthly publication.

Years ago during my shell fishing days, I used boiled linseed oil on my clam rake handles to preserve them and prevent them from drying out. I liked that linseed oil was a natural product (made from pressed flax seeds) and especially because there was NO sanding between coats….just add additional coatings as needed. Imagine a world without sanding!

When it is time to preserve and waterproof the wood radio-controlled sailing model hulls that my students build, on goes an application of linseed oil. The oil serves as a water resistant foundation and wood preservative that can be painted or varnished over. The linseed oil applies without any fuss and you don’t have to worry about brush strokes, dust, or even holidays (unlike using varnish). After an overnight drying of around 8 hours, just buff the oiled surfaces with a clean rag.

Once again, boiled linseed oil proved to be the thing to use on my friend’s mahogany porch railings. The oil was brushed on to the rails and balusters. The weather beaten and sun dried railings soaked up the linseed oil like a sponge. The thought of the hours and effort required to sand and then carefully varnish the same area made my stomach turn inside out.

In my search for the ideal sailboat, there is usually a lot of bright work to maintain. Instead of conventional petroleum based spar varnish, using linseed oil in conjunction with linseed oil based paint or linseed oil based varnish offered some huge incentives. With no sanding between coatings, and easy application major labor savings could be applied. When the time comes for reapplication, brush on another thin coat. The linseed oil soaks into the wood and preserves it. The oil remains flexible and allows the wood to breathe and water to be released. Oil based paints and varnish created glossy surfaces but also dry hard, seal water into the wood, and consequentially can promote rot.


While doing my research for the Linseed Oil Paint review, I heard through the grapevine that Mystic Seaport used linseed oil and linseed oil based paint throughout the restoration of the Charles W. Morgan. The linseed oil was chosen for historically correct and practical reasons. All paints during the Morgan era were generated from plant oils with earth pigments.

Linseed oil and linseed oil products are organic, solvent free, and safe to use. Unlike the drying agents added to modern oil based paints, linseed oil paints emit virtually no VOCs (volatile organic compounds) so you’ll not find yourself high as a kite after painting. A can of linseed oil is 100% dry weight. In conventional paints, it can be that up to 20% of the paint contents emit into the air we are breathing! You’ll find compelling information in the frequently asked questions section of the solvent free paint website

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Seabattical Log # 9- The Cuttyhunk Oyster Farm

IMG_0240Let’s contemplate the “love” that goes into the growing of the oyster that you desire at your favorite raw bar, restaurant, or seafood retailer. The oyster growing process reminds me of the Nigerian proverb “It takes a whole village to raise an oyster” (liberally adjusted by the author for this application). Previously during my Seabattical, I learned by lending a hand (and back) at other oyster grants in Duxbury Bay and in Wellfleet. On this frosty mid-November morning I found myself on a small powerboat crossing Buzzards Bay. This time to work on another oyster growing operation at the Cuttyhunk Oyster farm.


Upon our arrival, the enthusiastic team geared up (hip boots, gloves, and warm work clothes) and golf-carted across the island to the Cuttyhunk Pond farm site. From the floating work barge we pulled numerous lantern nets where the oysters were growing like pumpkins on a vine.


Here’s where the work began. We divided and conquered the work list. My job was to empty the oysters from the nets into milk crates. Two of the team began culling the oysters into market sized oysters and those that would be returned to the nets for further growing out. Next the nets had to be “picked” by hand to clear them from oysters which had stuck or grown themselves into the nets. This task reminded me of extracting meatballs from a tangled clump of spaghetti noodles. Ideally, I would remove the fouled oysters without damaging the net. Occasionally, with an especially stubborn oyster, the net would have to be cut with the most minimal incision required to remove the offending oyster. The net cleaning process, which seemed to go on for hours, appealed to my compulsive nature. After each net was “picked” it was spread out above the high tide line to bake in the sun.

The work was entertained by sporadic conversations, joking, stories, and long periods of peaceful, contemplative, harmonic working silence. Every once in a while I stood up to stretch my back out from my hunched-over-the-net working position. I took in the breathtaking seascape surroundings, and then grabbed another lantern net to sort out. It was fulfilling to be a part of this a brood of hardworking cheerful aquatic farmers.


As the cullers CONTINUED their sorting, the rest of the team filled repaired lantern nets with oysters that were going back into the water to grow larger. At the crescendo of both operations, we all jumped back on the barge to rehang the nets back into their aquatic pumpkin patch.

Today, I was once again reminded of the extraordinary effort and care that the farming of organic food (especially the oyster in this case) receives before it lands on our palate. Certainly the process adds value to the food and to the appropriateness of the adage “what you eat is what you are”.

Thanks to Captain Seth Garfield and his jolly team of ocean ranchers for allowing me to contribute to the workings of the Cuttyhunk Oyster Farm.


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