Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste


Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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February 28, 2014

 We’d come to Hong Kong because there were no direct flights from the United States to Thailand and our choices for connecting flights were Tokyo or Hong Kong. We didn’t want to arrive at our destination with jet lag so we stayed a few days in Hong Kong. As it turned out we made the right decision because Hong Kong was drizzly and foggy, but Tokyo was shut down with a blizzard.


On our last day in Hong Kong we purchased tickets for a sight-seeing bus and drove around the city, pausing at Aberdeen Harbour, a small fishing community now circled by high-rise apartments. Here, ignoring the towering urban development surrounding them, families live on boats much as they have for centuries.


It’s interesting how alone you can feel in a city populated by millions of people. We were the only passengers on our tour bus, and the weather was so bad we gave up sitting on the upper level and finally came in out of the rain. Our tickets included a sampan ride at Aberdeen Bay so we left the bus and climbed aboard a rickety sampan captained by a cackling old woman we nicknamed Sampan Sally. She laughed for no apparent reason as she navigated through the labyrinth of boats moored in the bay.





Sampan Sally


We’d heard that a famous floating restaurant was anchored somewhere in the harbour but as we approached (from the rear) I could only think of that dreadful movie Waterworld.  That set had infamously cost millions of dollars to build; they should have used the back of this restaurant which, to me, looked totally apocalyptic.



Rear of the restaurant.


The front of the restaurant appeared more presentable, the dragons guarding the entrance impressive. (Sorry about some of the blurry photos but Sally wasn’t going out of her way to provide a smooth ride.)  The rooms inside were tawdry and empty. Sampan Sally had motored away and Mrs. C. and I stood on the dock waiting for another sampan to pick us up. Eight million people in Hong Kong, yet at that moment none of them were visible.



Front of the restaurant.


The next day we flew to Bangkok. I was looking forward to abandoning our jackets and enjoying balmier weather. Warmth was waiting for us in Bangkok. We’d planned our trip to avoid Thailand’s stifling summer months, but we were not prepared for the heat waiting to greet us.  





Sound like loads of fun! It does look like something out of Waterworld!
By: David Walston on February 28, 2014
that feeling of isolation made me uneasy just in reading your tale!
By: TexWisGirl on February 28, 2014
That restaurant would look right at home on the Detroit River. Oh, in case you're wondering, my blog's address changed to http://pdilloway.blogspot.com
By: PT Dilloway on February 28, 2014
Maybe Sally laughed because she thought you were crazy to be out in such bad weather. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 28, 2014
Sounds adventurous, as most treks into foreign lands are. The restaurant was empty? To go through all that and end up without a meal is more adventure than i'd want.
By: mimi on February 28, 2014
Welcome home to the U.S, and welcome back to the blogosphere! This phase of your trip certainly sounds very different from normal life, at least, and that's what it's all about, isn't it?
By: tom sightings on February 28, 2014
I give you lots of credit for braving such weather and taking a tour through Hong Kong. The back of that restaurant would be enough to change my mind about eating there, but then again, ANY back of ANY restaurant generally looks a lot less appetizing than the front.
By: Pixel Peeper on February 28, 2014
I had visite Hong Kong a few times when I lived in Indonesia. It was a bargain paradise, but also full of crooks. It was porr, and busy and tacky. I thin there is some very modern areas and some expensive hotels as well.
By: Tabor on February 28, 2014
Looks like an interesting place, except I would have starved to death. S
By: Scott Cody Park on February 28, 2014
The back of the restaurant does look down right scary. Did you eat a meal there? I am confused why with the dense population there, were so few people out? You two are FEERLESS.
By: Cheryl P. on February 28, 2014
This reminds me of the reports coming out of Sochi about the awful hotels, water and food. But the front of the Jumbo restaurant is beautiful. I bet all the roaches inside wear silk suits!
By: Lexa Cain on February 28, 2014
I don't get to travel at all these days but I sure do enjoy your travels.. they're presented so well that I'm practically there.
By: Hilary on February 28, 2014
You were hardy tourists to take your boat tour, but you were given a lifetime experience.
By: red on February 28, 2014
That restaurant might want to think about making a deal with the sampan captains so they only approach from the the front. Who cares if you see the back AFTER dropping money on a meal.
By: Val on February 28, 2014
That boat ride sounds like it wasn't one for the faint hearted!
By: Bryan Jones on March 1, 2014
Welcome back, Stephen! I'm glad the front of the building isn't at all reminiscent of Waterworld (one of the worst movies I've ever seen). It actually reminds me a bit of the San Francisco Bay, Fisherman's Wharf, a lot more authentic. I'm looking forward to reading about more of your adventures. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on March 1, 2014
I think I need my eyes checked, I almost missed the dragons! That back does look, um, neglected... Must have been more than a bit unnerving, where was everyone hiding? Cat
By: Cat on March 2, 2014
I think I'd pass on this boat ride! Nice to see you back!
By: LL Cool Joe on March 3, 2014
I'm glad you did what you did. Now I don't have to. Kidding, why wouldn't you do these things... afterall, you're there to experience its offerings.
By: Daniel LaFrance on March 3, 2014
Plus, you can't get good Chinese food in Tokyo. Oh what am I saying? You can get good Chinese food anywhere. But, Tokyo has dinosaurs. You don't want to mess with dinosaurs.
By: Al Penwasser on March 4, 2014
Fascinating. It is hard to imagine all these people and none of them were around at the restaurant.
By: John on March 4, 2014

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