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Shiver Me Timbers!

September 2007

On this cruise we particularly enjoyed getting to know one of the lecturers, Bob Macomber. A maritime historical novelist, he has written a series of novels incorporating Peter Wake, an American naval intelligence officer who manages to become involved with every important naval operation from the Civil War to, so far, 1899. Similar to the Flashman Papers, although with a brave, not cowardly, protagonist.

Bob grew up in a multi-lingual household. At mealtimes when he and the other kids would be chattering away in different languages, and his Russian father had had enough, he'd slap his hand on the table and shout "KARANDOSH" (-osh as in posh) which would silence them.

One day Bob gave a lecture on pirates, including modern-day ones. As we were at sea at the time, you can imagine that drew a full house. He said that the only two nations whose ships are not hijacked are Israel and Russia, because their crews are known to be heavily armed. The lesson was learned early – the first time pirates tried to capture a Russian ship, when it sailed into port, their dead bodies were draped over the railing for all to witness.

In any given year, he is responding to editorial comments about his latest book, writing the next one, and researching the one after that. In his research for the latest novel at the time, Bob was on a freighter leaving from Columbia. It had not yet come up to speed when two boats with armed men pulled alongside and ordered them to stop. The first thing he noticed – or rather the second, after their weapons – was that they weren't the scruffy group that he had imagined, seemingly being attired with the latest from LL Bean.

Although he had learned more Russian after those early childhood years, in the stress of the moment – he was targeted by their spotlight – karandosh was the first word that came to mind, and he shouted "KARANDOSH, KARANDOSH, ..." at the top of his lungs. Evidently his accent, and demeanor, were convincing, because they hesitated, then left.

He said he didn't pay for a drink for the rest of the voyage, but he never revealed that the meaning of karandosh was pencil!

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