Lazy Days and Concrete Ships

(Originally Posted Monday, October 1, 2007)


I’m on vacation, staying at a little house in Cape May Point, New Jersey, just a quarter-mile down the beach from the ruins of the “Atlantus” (right).

The Atlantus was a prototype cement-hulled ship, built during WWII when the military was beginning to worry they might not be able to get enough iron to build all the ships they needed. Alas, it never sailed. It was being towed through Delaware Bay when a storm came up and it sank, just off of Sunset Beach.

Nobody knows how effective a cement hulled ship might have proved. The war ended before another could be built, and suddenly the Navy had more ships than they needed.

And the connection to my writing? In Stations of the Tide, the ship that was covered with (if I remember correctly) migrating orchid crabs in the middle of the forest — an image, incidentally that I lifted from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude — was named the Atlantus.

So there’s the reason for the funny spelling and further proof, if any were needed, that everything a writer does is research and therefore ought to be tax-deductible.

Not that I’m fool enough to try that.

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