Tuesday, May 31, 2011

After the long weekend

Suffice it to say that I didn't end up getting a new boat this weekend, and we'll leave it at that.


I did, however, begin work to prepare Monomoy No. 3 for re-framing. That involved stripping out her old deck beams and the remains of her decking, lots of cleaning, and assembly of another tipping beam adjustable cradle to complete her stabilization. If all goes well with preparation of the boat, procuring materials and setup of the various tools, we could be looking at some framing within the next several weeks. I'll be starting a series of clinics in steam bending that are as much for my own edification as they are for everyone else, and once we have our "steam team" assembled, we'll start splitting out the old frames and steaming in the new. Standby for more on that.


The hiatus that began after completion and setup of Mini-HORNET is over, and I'm reinstituting our Wednesday working sessions - every week at 1900, starting tomorrow. Come on out and lend a hand preparing Monomoy No. 3 for framing and beyond, and chat HORNET as we go.


Last night I had a great meeting about the future of NHS Youth Programs at the private home of our youth groups point man, Bill Rogers. When he came to the door, I held up my planner and said, "good evening, sir. My name is Will and I'm here to tell you about the good news. Have you heard of Church of Hornet and the message it sends through the centuries for you?"

The joke is that sometimes, I really do feel like I'm doing that.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Playing with my dinghy - or - a new start

Thanks to everyone for the well-wishes, Heather and I are fine. And although my poor Bandit 15 is indeed in miserable shape, I'm making preparations to formally donate her to NHS and add her to a winter work list, possibly expanding our instructional repertiore to include some fiberglass restoration work in the coming winter seasons. She'll need some serious work, but she may yet survive to see another day on the water.


As usually happens in my often seemingly semi-charmed existence, a replacement has been identified. Now I know you're thinking, "Will, this isn't supposed to be your personal blog, talk about HORNET, dammit!" but we all need our diversions and unless you want some insight as to the colors of the ties I have picked out for my next round of meetings, you're SOL - for now at least.

So what is the replacement? A friend and colleague of mine Carl A. found me a great Rhodes 19 for a song online. The problem? It's in Michigan. So, a little road trip this weekend, packing up the tools, and hopefully when I come back I'll have something new to tool around with, maybe even do a little beach cruising with.

More to follow late in the weekend - I'm sure I'll have lots of fun stories about how I loathe old trailers.


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

So where does Mini-Hornet go now?

For the last two weeks, our 1:12 scale mock up of the Sloop of War HORNET, affectionately dubbed 'Mini-HORNET' has been on display at US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk VA - where it has been much appreciated as the subject of much discussion. The question now is where is it going next? and when?

Good question. For starters, I had better send Jerry back his carronade pattern, first. Jeez, sorry Jerry.

I hadn't really planned out this far, considering the rapture was supposed to have claimed most of my volunteers by now. And when you can't count on top notch support and plenty of it, you shouldn't plan on moving Mini-HORNET - it's a chore and a half. But now, apparently, I have until October - and that I can work with.

In all seriousness, our plans for Mini-HORNET including using her as a backdrop for a webcast that we will be starting to film in the next few weeks, and her present location is very good for that purpose. Until we get that shooting schedule in place, she'll stay right where she is.

After the filming, she'll be moving to a public venue to wait until her fundraising debut. We have some ideas for this, but standby for a facebook poll or something (I don't know what those social media-types do with their time, it's PFM to me).


Monday, May 23, 2011

What's in a name? Generally vowells and consonants, in some order.

One of the interesting questions that has come up in recent research is something so mundane it seems to go entirely unnoticed. While leafing through original manuscripts, we see that every handwritten usage of James Lawrence's name seems to be spelled Laurence. And very clearly too. But every printed spelling is made Lawrence. So what's the deal?

Lawrence is listed as the "anglicized spelling of Laurence", which according to most baby name sites (yeah, I'm on those) means "crowned with laurels". Appropriate for ol' Jimmy since he was certainly a front runner in the 1812-era Naval officer corps when it came to fame and popularity. R. Lee Ermey - get bent (about 4:00).

Back on topic.

Newspapers from the time show Lawrence, as does the epitaph on his tombstone, so the error must not have been too egregious or unpalatable to JL or his family. But still, the written name and the man's own signature still belie he spelled it differently.

In the end, its not that big a deal, but taking things down to the letter I'm finding a degree of flexibility in spelling that seems rather unique. Words in common usage I would have expected some variation (and there is) but names, that's a new one to me.


Over the weekend I received a copy of The Weekly Register, April 3 1813 - a small-sized Baltimore newspaper. On that date it ran a several page spread describing HORNET's battle with PEACOCK. Good reading, but fragile pages. It's already starting to break up, I'll have to be quite careful.

One great excerpt:

"A wag proposes to petition the secretary of the navy to direct the commanding officers of our public vessels to use only one-half of their accustomed quantity of powder, that they may take the British ships "alive". The Guerriere, Java and Peacock would have made a pretty addition to the U. States navy, if Hull, Bainbridge and Lawrence had not mauled them so unmercifully."


More research to follow - and I've got hundreds - literally hundreds - of pages of notes that bear discussion.


Navigating whitewater

There is something to be said about people who can handle whatever you throw at them - the US Navy breeds these people in droves. After all, the current operational tempo - meaning the pace of operations - is so high that its difficult to find time to maintain, equip and train our ships before sending them out again. But that's the climate we've been operating in for years now, and we're all sort of accustomed to what ADM Harvey calls a 'professional whitewater'.

In fact, in my personal life and in NHS, people are constantly commenting on how busy I am, how many things I'm tackling. Some have said I simply don't know how to relax. But the truth is, I don't really want to. Because in and amongst all of this, I've found a simple enjoyment from doing all that I can with what I have, where I am. People talk about living like it's some sort of bucket list of personal enjoyment experiences. I contend that making your mark on the world starts with a lot of chiseling, and that's what I'm trying to do. And so I think it's safe to say that I've learned to actually enjoy the professional whitewater. Every hard-fought paddle stroke is another chisel mark on the world - and no matter how small, over time, they will make a difference.

Hat tip ADM Harvey, and to everyone else who gets this post - plot your course, keep the screws turning and I'll see you on the other side of the horizon.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On deaf ears

One of the unique mission-sets of the completed replica of USS HORNET will be the integration of deaf participants, and possibly programs geared exclusively to the deaf. I say possibly because one of my core beliefs is that everyone benefits from diversity. No, not that kind - not forced or mandated diversity, but the opportunities that present themselves when you allow the natural elements to fall as they may. Case in point, when we open HORNET programming to the public, we are bound to have deaf participants. The entire crew of professionals and participants benefit from having a deaf person onboard, if only because they might not interact with a deaf person on a regular basis, and doing so adds educational value and breaks that communication bubble, if even only a little bit.

I will discuss my policies on diversity in another entry. For now, back on the topic of deaf participants.

I've not known many deaf people myself, but when I met Chelsea Lew, a volunteer financial analyst on our staff, I could instantly recognize that the term "disabled" did not apply. I don't want to use the term "handi-capable" because it's a bit lame. But case in point, Chelsea can speak well, read lips at an astonishing pace, and is brilliant to boot. The thought crossed my mind - what if I had written her off because she was deaf? Aside from being an ass, I would have missed out on harnessing her talents and energy - of which there are plenty.

But as much as Chelsea would undoubtedly love for me to continue ranting about her talents - this isn't about her. Well, not really. Start with the basics - how many deaf people are there in this country?

  • About 2 to 4 of every 1,000 people in the United States are "functionally deaf," though more than half became deaf relatively late in life; fewer than 1 out of every 1,000 people in the United States became deaf before 18 years of age.

  • However, if people with a severe hearing impairment are included with those who are deaf, then the number is 4 to 10 times higher. That is, anywhere from 9 to 22 out of every 1,000 people have a severe hearing impairment or are deaf.

That means the chances of the average person interacting with or knowing a deaf person are pretty good. Consequently, the chance of having deaf participants is also pretty high.

Add - impetus!

There is one more great reason that we should make a point of extending HORNET's programming to include the deaf - and you may be amazed to find that it comes from a historical source. In the 19th century, the mark of an efficient crew aboard a US Navy sailing ship is that they executed maneuvers in silence. The idea was that leaders of various groups of sailors could then hear commands, and communicate these to the other Sailors through action or hand-signals, thus preventing a caucophony of shouted commands and calls around the ship. Know your job, know the job of the person next to you, observe their actions, and conduct yours accordingly. The concept is simplicity itself. From Seamanship by Stephen B. Luce:

Officers of every rank are expected, when at quarters, when performing the duties of the ship, or when at their different stations, to preserve silence among the men, and see that the orders from the quarter-deck are executed with celerity, and without noise and confusion.

So if HORNET's crew is trained to that historic standard, why should it not be relatively easy to integrate the deaf into regular programming? Ensure a few of our crewmembers - and possibly all, later on - are fluent in ASL, and there you have it. Teach, explain, demonstrate, do.

More about HORNET's programming plans later on.


Meet and greet, wash, rinse, repeat

Since our soft launch, we have been building partnerships and connections with other 501(c)3 organizations as well as those institutions with critical importance to our mission with the USS HORNET Project. I've been meeting some great people and making great connections, sharing some fun sea stories and good jokes. Eat, sleep, get up and do it again. Each day I wake up and realize that I have no idea where I might end up, who I might meet, and what connections I'll have made by the time I hit the rack that night.

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to sit in on the War of 1812 commemorations working group led by CAPT Pat Burns and his staff at the Naval History and Heritage Command Office of Commemorations. And before you say "oh cool" you need to picture a very full room, a malfunctioning conference call-er widget and death by powerpoint. Yes, it was that exciting. But the key take-away is that since October 2010, CAPT Burns and his team have been networking Navy commands and public institutions getting the preparations made for the War of 1812 bicentennial commemorations - no easy thing when your task is to harness the ever-shrinking body of Navy assets that can be allocated to such events (vice combat deployments) and personal, professional and political networks as vast and complex as a united string of my past girlfriends. Yikes.

When I look at NHS, from the top down to the individual volunteers, I see a united formation fighting an uphill battle with substandard weapons and limited support. I think my job is difficult. And then I meet CAPT Burns and his team riding their backsides raw corralling a nation-wide support base and pushing to collect and conglomerate what may be the most complex, challenging and (for the time being) under-appreciated commemoration schedule in decades. I realize that I am small potatoes, here.

There is a certain hopeless feeling that starts to erode confidence after a few hours. And yet CAPT Burns and his people are still there, in the saddle, pushing onward. They know, as few others can imagine, that all of this grating, grinding, agonizing planning and re-planning will ultimately produce something grand, impressive, and remarkably meaningful. And not only for the historical community and its broad base of armchair supporters, but for our Sailors and Marines, for whom the last ten years have been the epitome of the drawn-out, uphill battle full of far-flung enemies, economic strain, and personal sacrifice.

Realizing that 200 years ago, we faced similar perils and triumphed, against all odds, those Sailors and Marines will look back proudly at their remarkable history. At the same time, the American public will focus on and celebrate the proud heritage that these Sailors and Marines have carried on - with aplomb - and recognize that, contrary to the "kids these days" outlook, our Naval forces remain READY, RESPONSIVE and RELEVANT. Our Sailors and Marines are the heart of that truth, and carry that torch proudly. Let them remember that, and let the public remember that.

Dismount - soapbox.

Hat tip, NHHC Commemorations Office!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring clearing.

This weekend I spent some much needed spare time organizing and clearing out the Dockyard. I took some time going through all of our sails, pulling them out and marking those that needed maintenance before sending them back out into service. I shifted the trailers and did my "spring clearing" of the brush and tall grass that had begun to spring up in the back forty. Now, thankfully, we are returning to normalcy after the great scamble over Mini-Hornet.

After months of not having a stitch of free time to get that and several other related projects done, it was odd to have an entire weekend with nothing that NEEDED doing. It was almost surreal. And as a few of my colleagues predicted - I didn't quite know what to do with myself. But of course, my boredom inevtably leads to productivity - I don't sit still very well.

I broke out and set up the Bandit 15, my own personal boat, a 30-year-old racing dinghy that is doing well but approaching its last few seasons. After a quick scrub down, she looked tolerable again and all of her rigging and spars were in good order. Of course, I need to find a new jib - having shredded the leach of the existing sail last year. But with a little bit of searching and an ungodly amount of money for such a small but critical sail, she'll be back out on the water in a few weeks. If you're ever on the waterfront trying to find me, the Bandit flies the NHS pennant, and, well, her hull is bright yellow. Can't miss that, really.

Hopefully by the time I get around to procuring myself a new jib and getting the last of the pollen stains out of the cockpit it'll provide me a great personal diversion, some occasional time away from the continued heavy lifting on the HORNET Project. And who knows, it might actually save my sanity!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Reactions to HORNET - or - how we know we are on the right track

I think I've beaten to death all the tales about three years of planning, developing a financially self-sustaining cultural attraction and so forth. If you have questions about that, please read the website first, then email - I'm a little shocked by the number of emails I get that remind me "make sure you put engines in your ship." Um, thanks.

Since our soft launch just over a week ago I've been sort of watching the responses attempting to gauge opinions. We haven't started the full-on media blitz, in fact we've declined interviews in order to prolong the "soft-kill" study and get our ducks in a row for the "hard-kill" barrage to come. What I've seen I can summarize as follows:

(1) once Sailors understand what we're doing - that we're actually building a ship, and how we intend to run our programming - they are excited. VERY excited.

(2) existing sail training professionals are largely skeptical and quietly discussing the program in back rooms. Here in Norfolk, I expected nothing less. Others have engaged, cautiously, to see what we're about - glad to hear from you.

(3) history professionals want to know why we weren't touring a lecture circuit or writing a book. Good ideas, but the immediate effects would have played out on the wrong audience. Don't worry, our groundwork is well in place for both - and they'll come soon enough.

(4) the average person with no vested interest is surprised at our projected price points. Common response "sounds like fun, sign me up!"


Processing responses is a matter of weighing professional demographics (listed above) with appropriate attention to the individual motivations within each category. Once the motivation is factored in, determining relevance is relatively easy - basically asking ourselves "should we care?" The answer for the first and last demographics - US Navy Sailors and the otherwise uninterested general public - is absolutely. That's our market base, our reason for doing this. These are the people we will serve. On the other hand, sail training and history professionals have comparatively little to lend HORNET as a community on the whole - though we certainly have something to give them. And that's not to say we won't need support and assistance from individuals within these categories, but rather to say that a ringing endorsement from those professions as a whole is relatively unimportant compared to the measured impact on our target audiences.

Go back and read that sentence carefully, and make sure you take it all in before emailing.

Special thanks to the special advisement of those people in the aforementioned categories that we've brought onboard so far. Hat tip.

The point is this, we've had some great feedback from the most important people - our target audience - and can definitely say we are on the right track.


Mini-HORNET will be at US Fleet Forces Command until May 20th, after which we'll be breaking it down to hit the road for our fundraising efforts. In the meantime, we've been establishing the partnerships that are going to make this project really take off. In the last week alone, we've finalized plans with several other 501(c)3 organizations, all of which will be made public with our first media release.

Stay tuned!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On to Richmond...

Okay, bad pun there and I'm certainly mixing up my historical message, but it is what it is. Chock it up to just one more thing that history nerds like me smirk at and goes right over everyone else's head. If it's any consolation, I made it a lot faster than Little Mac. On topic.

Yesterday I had a great opportunity to present the USS HORNET Project to the Richmond Council, Navy League of the United States. Special thanks to Dave Vachet, SCPO (ret) for arranging the introductions, and for lunch! And in another proof of 'small world, small Navy' - I ran into the former CMC from USS Carter Hall, John M. Heistand MCPO (ret), whom I had the privelege to serve with for a short period in 2008 - and found out that he was responsible for one of my favorite daily diversions - the CO's daily speech on giving the Sailor of the Day his challenge coin. It went something like this (Master Cheif, feel free to correct me here):

"...and as the Sailor of the Day, they'll recieve the much sought after, difficult to obtain, designed by me, completely indestructible, made from the secret compound unobtanium, the hardest, most precious metal known to man, the formula for which is kept in a peanut butter jar in my safe, the only known cure for the common cold, the key component in the flux capacitor that makes time travel possible... the USS Carter Hall Sailor of the Day Coin."

Or something like that. It used to be much longer, funnier and changed almost daily. You would of had to hear it aboard the ship, echoing through the machinery spaces, after a long day. I don't know why that did it for me, but it did. At any rate, it was great to catch up with a shipmate, albeit a brief one, and share a recent happy memory of life at sea. Great to see you Master Chief!

Resume, FOCUS!

That's a close order drill command - not many people know that.

The meeting went very well, and I could tell by the questions and comments that the idea of the USS HORNET Project resonated with a great many members of the board. I look forward to developing a partnership that allows us each to compliment each other's missions and enhance our effectiveness.

And for those of you who don't know, the Navy League of the United States has been DIRECTLY HELPING SAILORS AND MARINES for many, many years. The Richmond Council is composed of approximately 550 men and women who are interested in promoting the safety, welfare, and future of the maritime forces of the United States. Membership is open to all patriotic Americans not on active military duty. Prior service in the Armed Forces is not a requirement for membership. They currently sponsor USS CARTER HALL, LSD-50 (fighting five-oh!), USS NORMANDY, CG-60 and USCGC Northland. They give 'Deployment Dollars' for morale, welfare and recreation, buy big-screen TVs, send care packages, and just about anything else they can to support our Sailors and Marines on the front lines.

My hat is off to you all, Richmond Council, for the valuable service I PERSONALLY HAVE SEEN that you do. Thank you for your contributions!

Thanks again for taking time out of a very busy board meeting to hear about our project, and I look forward to working with you all over the weeks, months and years to come!


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mini- HORNET arrives!

The giant model we've been working on, Mini-HORNET, is finally presentable. Note I said presentable - she's only about 90% done. Last night we spent about six hours setting her up at US Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk. Here's the run-down, from the sign I posted on the model itself:

Working from copies of original drawings and with materials purchased from local home improvement vendors, this 1:12 scale mock-up of USS HORNET was constructed by Naval Heritage Society volunteers, including several active-duty Sailors from US Fleet Forces Command, over a five month period starting in January 2011. It is built to be disassembled for transport, and weighs only 79 lbs (all-inclusive) – the hull is made of high-density foam and lightweight plaster. Every piece was made by hand, an investment of more than 1,700 man-hours for construction, assembly and finishing. It is still only about 90% complete, but work will continue to add the ship’s boats, anchors and nine additional sails in the coming weeks.

In the process of building “Mini-Hornet”, the volunteers got to know more about the construction of the ship and how it would have been operated. All of the rigging is fully functional and can be used to manipulate the sails just as on the real ship.

And here's another, right next to the model:

The original HORNET and her crew caused
more than 300 enemy casualties
and the complete destruction of two enemy warships.

We have no idea what Mini-HORNET can do.

Please do not touch. Thanks.

You can find plenty of pictures of Mini-HORNET and her construction posted on Facebook. No, you don't need to be a member to view them.

Busy day today - back to work!


Monday, May 9, 2011

3D rendering 101 - or - how to lose your mind in 10 minutes

We've been getting a lot of comments about our 3D renderings of HORNET lately, with many people asking who did those for us. When we set out to produce those graphics back in January, we knew we would need professional help (as if we didn't already). So we took the old CAD drawings I used to analyze the ship waaaaay back in 2009 and passed them on to a really (and I mean this) first rate rendering firm. Just over two months and many, many emails later, we were at a total impass. In their defense, a sailing ship is no easy thing of which to understand the multitude of complexities - even enough to draw one effectively. Sails were floating in mid-air, and the rig was a complex tangle of virtual lines. Masts raked insensibly in every direction. We were getting nowhere fast.

And so in typical SWO/NHS fashion, and with three weeks remaining until showtime, I set to work figuring out what I would need to beef up my old CAD program to create something in the way of what I was looking for. In searching 3d rendering programs, the cheapest start out at around $900 - far more than our budget allowed. We had emergency reserve funds, but I didn't want to tap those unless absolutely necessary, and I was SURE it was what we needed. In the end, I found a program called Blender. This powerful software package is what NASA and other agencies use, and comes with an unbeatable pricetag - FREE. So what's the catch? Well, it has arguably the worst user interface ever devised. The learning curve was steep, but I had to give it a shot.

And so, after a whole week beating my head against a wall, I began to make headway. I actually started with the sails and rigging first, knowing they would pose the biggest obstacle as I had absolutely no idea where to start. I then began work on the hull, deck structures, guns and other details. I didn't make everything, mind you - I cut a good many corners by purchasing ready-made items such as the 3d carronade, 3d ship's wheel (which I edited to match Hornet's) and flags (many of which still aren't done). And night after night, until all hours, I was glued to my computer screen working node by node, edge by edge, face by face until I had produced a presentable 3D model.

Bear in mind, all the while we have four other teams working on sub-projects that I have a hand in - legal working on the project charter, setting up the corporate sub-accounts, filing paperwork with every government agency under the sun, and building Mini-HORNET. I was losing a lot of sleep.

In the end, what did we get? The rendering is halfway decent but not great - there are many points that still elude me about the actual rendering process and setting up 3d environments. But what we did get is a few volunteers who stepped up and began learning the program. Now, I'm looking forward to handing off the project to some more tech-savvy volunteers who will work on producing better renderings and even some animations! But there is a certain feeling of satisfaction - not only in knowing that I met the deadline when everyone said I was crazy (again, I agreed from the get-go), but in that others are picking up the ball and running with it! Charge onward, guys!


Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler...

This weekend we put the finishing touches - well, for the time being anyway - on Mini-HORNET in preparation for moving her to US Fleet Forces Command later today. As usual, we're pushing hard to meet a deadline, and calling in every ounce of support we can muster. Today, that means asking our base of support at USFFC to stay after work to help unpack and set her up. Yeah... I'm going to need you to come in on Sunday... too.

Deduct two points if you don't know what movie that's from. Deduct TEN points if you also work at USFF. If you actually thought I was asking you to come in on Saturday, don't cry, call me and I'll come give you a hug. Back on topic.

While a handful of volunteers from USFF have been instrumental in building Mini-HORNET and getting it ready, most of our support base have only heard 'sea stories' about just how big it is. I think we're really going to knock their socks off when they see it. And for those members of the general public who aren't able to get on base to see our little masterpiece, be patient - she'll undoubtedly make the rounds this year as we start ramping up the USS HORNET Project.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Off and running!

Over the past several weeks we've been engaged in a mad dash to make a few of the aspects of the HORNET Project presentable to the public. Many of our volunteers worked long hours at the Dockyard to get our materials ready for launch, including the three primary projects: the 3D renderings, our website (yes, it too was built at our Dockyard -in the office), and Mini-Hornet - which we have decided to stop calling a model because at 1:12 scale it is just too damned huge (16' long, 12' tall)! In the end, our 'soft launch' went very well, and our mission at the moment is to get the word out, grassroots style.

So where do we go from here? Well, we're bending sails on Mini-Hornet this weekend, and we'll be taking her over to US Fleet Forces Command on Naval Security Annex Norfolk for display. As of Monday evening she'll be set up in their atrium until the end of the week, when she might be headed down to Town Point Park for the 10th annual Norfolk Beer Festival. We'll have to wait and see if they give us space.

A few people have asked, "where's the media?" Good question. We're working on that one, but like our soft launch, there are a great many things going into the media release, including our first big partnership - that will be announced at that time. For now, we'll keep the press on social media and personal connections until you're all sick of us asking if you've heard about it!

I'll probably be in and out of the Dockyard after that, engaged in a long string of meetings raising funds for the project. In my absence, we'll get some guest bloggers in here and mix things up a bit!

Rolling out to the shop - if you're in the area, stop on by and lend a hand! PS- Jerry, your carronade pattern will be on its way back to you later today - thanks a million!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Announcing the USS HORNET Project!

Our new site is uploaded, and with it the announcement of our newest and most ambitious project - construction of a full-scale replica of the US Sloop of War HORNET, one of the most successful ships of the War of 1812.

In honor of the occasion, I've published a few back-dated blog articles from the period of our radio silence. They explain in a little more detail the thought process behind all of this, and how we prepared for today - our first public announcement.

I'm going to take a bit of a breather to let everyone go explore the new website at http://www.navalheritage.org/ and read about the project. Feel free to come back and email me or post your questions, and I'll do my best to get back to you asap.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Thoughts on the night before

Well, here we go. It's down to hours now until news of our little project goes public, and we've combed through as much as we can to get prepared. Here's where we stand:

- the website is up and running and seems to be doing well. Here's hoping for no major coding glitches tonight or foul-ups in our opening weeks.

- the 3D renderings, a feature of the website, are presentable and not looking too shabby if I say so myself. They aren't complete, mind you, and my three weeks of experience in working with the programs - and 3D rendering in general - can only do so much. All in all, I think they came out well. Sometime soon, though, I'd like to get in and animate a few of Hornet's sea battles - and because they were so short in duration (she took Peacock in 14 minutes and Penguin in 22), they'll very likely be animated in real time! But I digress.

- Mini-Hornet is looking fantastic. All of her spars are completed and assembled, all of the standing rigging is in place and necessary running rigging on to boot. She is so much more impressive than the pictures show - you really have to see her in person. We hope to provide plenty of opportunities as she makes the rounds of various public venues.

- Hornet T-shirts and postage stamps are in - albeit in small quantity - as we progress with our merchandising plan. That's right, postage stamps (!). Maybe I'm a geek because that excites me. Or maybe it's far more than that. On topic - special thanks to Joe Sturiale for stepping out of his element a bit to help with those. Great work!

There is a great deal more getting set up right now, and so much more to unveil after the unveiling, but I think everyone will be sufficiently amazed to see what we have so far. After many weeks of working tirelessly - working a real job then coming home to put in ungodly long hours working on this, I am so relieved to see it all coming together. Granted, the really hard work is still to come, but I think we'll start seeing more help, more contributions and some really great movement soon.

Well, back to work. I'm on my eighth pot of coffee today, but who's counting?

Haven't worked like this since I was at sea - and it sure feels great!