How Well the Sailors Run


The story of the Prodigal Son retold as a sea adventure….HWTSR_front_cvr_MR

In a cozy Oregon coastal town called Springwick Harbor, Wade Burns’ desire is to follow in the footsteps of his adoptive father, Abner, and become the Lighthouse Keeper. But Abner has chosen his natural son Jeshurun as First Assistant and successor. Wade is so jealous of Jeshurun’s favor that he decides to do what no sailor in town is brave enough to do: sail away on a cursed vessel called the Vermillion Mourning to become the Keeper of the Hostel Sound Lighthouse. It’s a mythical, diabolical place—rumored to cast bent light. Wade knows he shouldn’t stray, but Dion tempts him with its lure. Dion, a landlubber, is more jealous than even Wade. He wants to destroy him, as well as every other sailor in Springwick Harbor, before they fulfill their dreams asea. As they embark, they are joined by Jeshurun, who will stop at nothing to ensure Wade’s survival—even at the risk of his own life. Along with a loopy captain named Captain June, the three deckhands must brave severe winds and waves, leaky holds, heat exhaustion and starvation as they round Cape Horn on a sail that will determine not only Wade’s identity, but also the fate of an entire generation of Springwick Harbor sailors.

How Well the Sailors Run is the story of a boy who sails far from home in hope of finding new shores and a life with friends, blessed beyond imagination.


sailing by moonlight in an unsounded sea

Yearning for a sail? To feel the wind pulling the vessel as saltwater sprays over the bow, in a sea you’ve never known?

Buy How Well the Sailors Run here, on Amazon.



“There are some pretty surprising twists that kept me guessing right until the end.”    ~ By UltraReader

“Fans of literary fiction (Hemmingway’s The Old Man and The Sea, or books like Moby Dick) will really enjoy this jaunt into the world of sailing. Made me feel smarter by osmosis.”    ~ By Lisa P.

 “A GEM of an idea. A young man, frustrated by what he sees or doesn’t see in his father’s love, longing to be worthy of something he can’t obtain. All this and somehow he’s connected to a ghostly derelict sailboat that seems, inexplicably, to be tearing his town apart. The always present Evil person that never seems to be found out. Will the youth be driven to that mysterious vessel, perhaps to find resolution on an epic life changing voyage?”   ~ By R. A.

“This is a wonderful story and, even though it covers only a few years in time, it is a beautiful epic of the sea as much as a singular retelling of the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son. It is obvious that the author both loves and has had experience with a sailing vessel. His knowledge of sailing is commanding and his ability to put that glorious experience into words is colossal. This is a gifted, talented, rare author who can take a passion of his own and paint word pictures which captivate and inspire others to want to know more about his craft.

I’m amazed by the characters in this sea adventure. They are as finely developed as the sailing vessels that the author loves: Abner, father and lighthouse keeper; Wade, adopted son; Jeshurun, natural son chosen to succeed his father as lighthouse keeper; Captain June; Captain West; Abigail; Bethlem; Hank; Thaddeus; and the marvelously developed villain, Dion, who wants to destroy all sailors of Springwick Harbor, including Wade.

There is a lot of emotion and pathos in this work and at the heart of it is the loving relationship between the brothers (although one is adopted), Wade and Jeshurun, who, in the beginning, teaches Wade to sail. Then there is the beautiful father-son relationship and the compassion which the whole town has for Wade and for his history. There is even a love-affair with a ship, and even though the Vermillion Mourning was a wreck of a vessel, she was mystical and mesmerizing.

The author writes a jewel of sea-faring dialogue with all its charming colloquialisms which is natural, authentic and appropriate to his story. The plot is a masterful, well-paced, exciting, dangerous, glorious adventure. I wanted to get on a ship and go on an adventure, even with all its risks and dangers, after reading this beautiful epic.

Samuel, God has given you a gift: You are able to write about a passion as passionately as the dream itself. This is a book that will be a classic sea tale. Marvelous work!”  ~ By Dr. J


In the summer of 1999 I sailed as a deckhand on Schooner Roseway, whose port of call, at the time, was Camden, Maine. A novice at the beginning of the summer, by summer’s end I had learned enough seamanship to serve unofficially as firstmate. We embarked on three and four-day cruises, sailing passengers all around Penobscot Bay. We’d anchor off islands and cook fresh lobster on the beach in a pot of seaweed and a little saltwater. It was an incredible summer. I served under a great captain, alongside an outstanding crew. I learned much about sailing: how to tie a clove hitch, how to make an eyesplice, how to be safe aloft, the terminology of the vessel and the procedures (called revolutions) of how to weigh anchor or drop the mainsail, and more. If the sailing wasn’t grand enough, the passengers whom we transported gave me such good memories that it feels like that summer has never ended.

Roseway is rich in history. It is an official Grand Banks schooner, built in 1924, in the same fashion as those vessels who made their trade by fishing off Nova Scotia, similarly described in Rudyard Kipling’s Captain’s Courageous. She weighs 250 tons. Double-hulled. Drafts 15 feet. Is 137 feet from bowsprit to stern, 112 feet on deck. Twenty-four feet in the beam. She was known in Camden for her tanbark sales and her “Kirby Green” hull, the color of the sea. She was built by a wealthy businessman to serve as his swordfishing yacht, and named after his wife, Rose, who “always got her way;” hence Roseway. For several years after, she served as the pilot boat for Boston harbor. All throughout the 1990s she served as a windjammer, sailing through Penobscot Bay in the summers, then in the British Virgin Islands during the winter. I am deeply thankful to have been a part of her history, to have been a part of that crew in the summer of 1999. If you by chance sailed as a passenger aboard her in that summer, please email me at I’d love to hear from you!

A special note. How Well the Sailors Run is written from a deckhand’s perspective. It intends to convey the most accurate word for the object onboard. The sailing terminology may be difficult to navigate through. I am sensitive to this. Please note that all the terms used in this book are terms we used every day in our service aboard Roseway. Believe it or not, it is written plainly and functionally. If Wade was not able to communicate with Captain June on this functional level, knowing, for example, the difference between starboard (right side of the boat when facing forward) and port (left side), then when Captain June tells him to “sheet in on the port jib!”, Wade might have turned right and fallen off the boat, and eaten by sharks on the first day’s sail from Springwick Harbor.

I invite you to explore your own journey into that grace–on a sail that will never end. Thank you for reading this story!

 Chapter One

Wade Burns with the wind in his favor gathered his strength and ran for the harbor. With sweat stinging his eyes and his lungs exhausted, he struggled onward into the heart of town—to the harbor, that lifeless haven desperate for sailors. The blood from his blisters splashed through the holes in his shoes and his legs felt like wax, yet he refused to give way to his suffering. For his soul had already set course into an unknown and dangerous storm; but with the wind behind, any hope, however troubled, seemed possible.

As his footfalls echoed against the empty cobblestone streets, he thought he saw a drape or two surreptitiously pulled back. Though the wind that morning offered ideal conditions to sail into the Pacific, all the salts had gone indoors; they refused even to go down to the harbor. It had been this way for as long as he could remember. He knew why. They were afraid. He was going to change it.

Staggering into the lifeless intersection of Shoreline and Main, he tripped on a curb and smacked a stone. The sharp pain caused him to bite his lip. Blood welled from his kneecap and tongue.

Somewhere within his Keep he was thinking of the sailors. The hope of them sailing again. Their wind. Their joy. Their treasure just beyond the warm setting sun. But at the moment, in his skin and skull burned a jealousy so consuming that it had finally defaulted to a desperate and foolish end.

He rose. Set his eyes, limped down the street lined with anchor lanterns, arrived at the wooden pier that overlooked all the vessels crowded into the intimate harbor. It was shaped in a cozy U, one side less than ninety yards or so from the other. Packed with world class sailing craft such as Elegant Bride, Seventh Blessing, Weathering Peace, their naked masts spired into the gull-laden sky. Heaving, he collapsed.

When he vomited nothing came up except a long rope of saliva pooling between his hands. He turned on his back, covered his face from the sun. The blood from his palms mixed into his eyes. He was breathing so hard he startled a gull from the parapet into its lonely swoop over the weathered and lifeless sea craft.

There was a time, he had heard, when these vessels were in shipshape condition. In their prime they had sported shiny brass, varnished decks, coiled lines—vessels able to stir the heart of a mariner, and he could almost picture them now embarking through the inner channel for the sea, the sun glinting off their hulls. But with refuse now covering their decks and rigging they looked like swollen boils ready to burst. But he hadn’t come to look at those vessels.

He rose to a knee. At that moment the wind was so calm it barely rippled the water—a vast shift from the tremendous storm which had smothered the town and her waters for three full days. The wind lifted his black bangs and the thick hair on his arms. Rich, swarthy brine filled his nostrils. He never tired of it. Gathering his strength he stepped to the parapet and looked down to the vessel of his aim.

She was dark. And rugged. Snarled in light. Her masts towered above all the other vessels. Her long sheer stretched beyond the length of the dock. She was a maimed schooner, gorgeous and wrong, a withering mistake: the schooner Vermillion Mourning.

A gale had ripped her form from her journey around Cape Horn, so the myth went. She lacked segments of both standing and running rigging. Her forestays dangled. Her foremast listed. Her halyards lay twisted in knots. The kedge anchor dangled from the bow. The fallen topmast had plunged into the deck. Chainplates were stained with rust. Peeling paint revealed the heterogeneous composite of wood comprising her hull: oak, pine, birch, butternut, elm, hickory, maple, locust, fir, spruce, cedar and teak. Bird waste covered her housetops and hatch covers, deck and rigging. Her helm was missing a full third of its spokes. Her figurehead, supposedly of St. Elmo, had vanished.

Today was the day he was going to board her—the one vessel every salt in town was afraid of boarding, the one they all wanted to scuttle; once she was gone, the harbor would be safe again and they would be free to board their own vessels and sail leisurely into the ocean. But before any of that was possible, he had determined to save her by taking her to sea himself.

Terns and gulls darted overhead, stinging her deck with sharp, shadowy welts. Wade squeezed the railing like a nervous cat and he whispered, “She isn’t cursed. She can’t be.”

He set his eyes on grasping her helm.

When Walter, the lonely proprietor of Walt’s Nautical and mayor of SpringwickHarbor, saw him through the enormous porthole windows of his shop, he said to Bethlem, the heavy butcher, “I hope it happens, Bethlem. I do hope it happens.” He watched him rise in pain and limp down the street toward the harbor like a wounded but brave soldier.

Bethlem, in the back, looked at Walter and his strong hands holding the piñata shaped like a sailing ship, which all the sailorfolk had pitched in to make, and he dropped his eyes to his work. With a sharp hack he cut the pork. “If it does, it’ll be a miracle. But hey, we survived Y2K. And what a miracle was that!” he chuckled. “And now it’s 2001, the official start to the New Millennium. Anything’s possible.”

“I hope so. We can’t afford to live without a miracle,” he said, scratching his bright, expressive eyes. “This town doesn’t have anything left but to hope in one.”

Bethlem sighed, the strain in his heavy eyebrows. “Well, if a miracle is going to happen, I suppose it’ll happen here on the coast of Oregon. I can’t imagine it happening anywhere else.”

Walter tried to ease his concern by expressing cheerily, “You know, Bethlem, don’t worry. I feel the sun is almost over the yardarm. Don’t you?”

“I’ll raise a pint to that!” shouted Bethlem, chuckling resonantly.

The rest of the store crew in the back office cried out “Ole!” overhearing the conversation. The three of them were sitting around a table writing out on slips of paper places they wanted to sail to—places that existed only in their dreams. They were dropping the slips of paper in a coffee jar that they had planned to tuck away until the right time, but only if the right time ever arrived.

Walter’s brow soured. He scratched his chin. “I just hope he doesn’t try something foolish today.” He looked at Bethlem for reassurance, but Bethlem kept his head down. “Maybe I can talk some sense into him.”

“Maybe. Speak for us all.”

Tucking the piñata under his arm, he left through the ringing front door, hobbled down the sloping street in pursuit of him.

When he saw Wade drooped over the railing as if he was about to tumble into the harbor, his heart softened. He had never seen him so near collapse.

“You look like you crossed the whole country.”

Wade lifted his head a little, acknowledging him.

“Are you all right?”

He folded his arms on the railing, rested his head.

Walter gripped the piñata, stroking its rainbow-hued crepe.

Wade grinned.

Walter stepped closer. “You ran every one, didn’t you?”

Wade spit.

“That must’ve taken you all night.”

“Ran by every cottage, bungalow and deck home in SpringwickHarbor.”

Walter whistled. “No wonder you look like a shipwreck.”

Wade turned to face the harbor and he stretched his arms wide over the railing and leaned on them, straightening his legs until they bowed. He looked like a captain on the bridge of a ship. And he grinned away from Walter, over the harbor and fixed his ruddy eyes on the Vermillion Mourning.

Walter knew what he was doing. He softened his tone. “Are you sure you want to do this, son?”

Wade turned and noted the piñata. “What’s that for?”

“Are you sure that you want to go aboard her?” said Walter. He regarded his sharp, angular facial bones, his curly, coal-dark hair.

Wade gathered himself and shoved his hands into the pockets of his white athletic shorts. “She isn’t cursed, Walt.”

“No, she’s not. Of course not,” he said, burning Wade with his eyes. “But why don’t you let someone else go aboard her?”

“There’s no one here but me.” A horsefly landed on his neck. He tried to slap it but missed.

Walter opened his palm. “Why don’t you come back to the store with me. Abigail’s rolling the dough to make apple turnovers.”

Wade’s mouth watered. He scratched his neck. Turned to the schooner. Transferred his weight. Grabbed an arm. “But she’s not cursed. The salts are all wrong. She’s not a thorn in the harbor the way they think she is.” He closed his eyes tightly, straining to make his words true. “I can go aboard her and—”

“Not our vessels? Not our dreams? None of those are poisoned?”

Wade folded his arms. Clenched his jaw. “She isn’t cursed.”

“Wade, listen.” Walter smiled diplomatically. “Let the others do the dirty work. Let them take her to sea.”

I can do it!” And then his voice changed to a strained plea. “You and I both know what’ll happen if the salts get to her, Walt. You know.”

Walter remained firm. He kept his feet square.

“I’m not going to let it happen.”

Walter closed his eyes and breathed in the fresh salty air. And he felt the sun. “You can’t sail her by yourself.”

“I don’t care if I can’t.”

“The sea is a rough home. A dangerous home.”

Wade added, “Which is why you need a good boat. And a solid crew.”

“There are other vessels. Look at all the boats here just waiting to be taken into the sea.” He lifted his chin at the entire harbor.

Wade took it all in. The ships. The dreams. For a moment he felt his heart flutter open wide with wild, brine-bathed life. “Maybe I could … indulge—no, borrow—a vessel and a dream….” His mind chopped along trying to blend Walter’s words and his own. “Maybe this wood behind me is meant for the locker.”

“Something wise. Now let the others take her and send her down.”

Wade cringed. “You sound like Abner.”

“I sound like a mayor.” He stepped closer. “A mayor who cares for the people of this community.” He held up the piñata with his strong hands. Wade studied it skeptically. Walter brought it within inches of his chest. And he whispered, “You don’t yet know the strength of the community in which you live.”

Wade rolled his eyes.

“This piñata, friend, is a gift from all the mariners in this community to one very special sailor.”

Wade narrowed his eyes. “For someone here in Springwick Harbor?”

“Don’t worry about it. You’re Second Assistant Lighthouse Keeper.”

Wade set his teeth. “I’m not good at that piñata crap anyway.”

“Come away from the schooner. She has an unhealthy thing dented inside her. Let the others take her to sea and do with her what deserves to be done.”

Wade dropped his chin in thought.

Walter saw that his words were having some effect. “You’re a brave man. But prove your strength some other way.” He put an arm on his shoulder.

Wade nodded.

“Are we good?”

“Yeah. I guess you’re right.”

“If you come up to the store I’ll pour you a warm cup of delicious Sailor’s Nog. On me.”

Wade smiled. “You know I can’t say no Abigail’s apple turnovers or Sailor’s Nog.”

Walter closed his eyes. The scare was over. He patted his shoulder.

They started for the mercantile.

“Wanna race?”

“I’m already spent, Walt.”

They laughed together.

 But behind Wade a long, shadowy line suddenly and unexpectedly looped him. He froze. Turned. Gazed again at the floating wreck. And the vessel uninhibited caused his eyes to change. The crimson veins of his eyeballs burst. He said to Walter over his shoulder, “Walt, I need to cool down…. Let me cool down first.”

Walter’s face darkened. He knew what Wade was going to do—knew it in his bones. And there was nothing he could do to stop him. He flattened his tone. “Then I’ll see you in a few.” Tucking the piñata gingerly under his arm so that it would not break, he left the pier to get as far away from the Vermillion Mourning as he could. He hobbled up the street the short distance to his mercantile, went inside to join Bethlem and the other employees, and tried to ignore the terrible events already falling upon Wade.

Wade turned to the Vermillion Mourning. Not her scuttling. Not her—not this rugged, wet mistake. Not before her time. She was not cursed. He could go aboard her. He could claim her as his own—the one vessel everyone else was afraid of.

The morning sun warmed him shining through the futtock shrouds. Controlling his breathing he descended the ramp delicately from the pain of his blisters and arrived on the floating dock on which the Vermillion Mourning was made fast. It moved gently. He felt the tugging of the schooner’s spring lines, the desperate pleading to be free. The movement eased him. His breathing fell into rhythm.

“This is not impossible,” he tried to convince himself.

His plan was to climb aboard by way of anchor. By doing so he would make a statement that the anchoring of his life lay in this vessel and not in anything else.

At eighteen he had never been anchored to anything. Especially not to his dismal post as Second Assistant to the Keeper of the Springwick Harbor Lighthouse. The job simply didn’t challenge him. He strayed from it constantly, avoiding duties and chores, working half-hearted under the oversight of Abner, the Keeper, his adoptive father. Wade felt like he could never please him. But that would change today. Once Abner saw how brave he was, he’d be sure to let him up into the lantern. And all his frustration over his job and life purpose would take on new dimension unparalleled among the salts.

He clenched his jaw and uttered, “I know I can do this,” and calculated the distance to the anchor.

The truth was, he burned to be the Keeper. He wanted more than anything else to share the lantern with Abner. But he knew Abner would never promote him, having reserved the service for his true son, Jeshurun, First Assistant. Abner had been blunt one evening, telling him, “You aren’t brave enough to be the Keeper. You’ll never be brave enough. Jeshurun is the only one who is.” Night after night while true father and true son spent their most intimate hours together in the lantern, he lay in bed, burning with jealously, obsessed over what went on up in that forbidden realm.

After that he began searching for another way to prove himself. It wasn’t long before his eyes fell upon the Vermillion Mourning. He didn’t like the sea or sailing, but he burned to helm a black fear. And if he helmed her in the red beam of the Lighthouse, then Abner, Jeshurun and all the sailorfolk would marvel at his courage and in turn burn with jealousy. And then, finally, Abner would promote him.

Weakening, he plopped to the dock, crawled even with the anchor, closed his eyes and breathed. Buried in the mystery of her, he believed, was the primordial life waiting for him.

A wind picked up. The dangling anchor swung gently then returned to plumb. A heavier wind blew and pushed it closer to the hull. The wind caught the crown broadside and the fluke punched into the thick wood.

“I can do this.…” he repeated, searching for confidence.

Gathering what was left of his feeble strength, he tried to burst forward. But his attempt to soar off the edge of the dock faltered in midair. His eyes grew wide. And then suddenly a gust of wind blew in against him. The strength of the wind caught him off guard, filling his lungs so full he felt like a helium balloon. Before he could lay even a finger on an arm, he splashed into the cold harbor.

He couldn’t swim.

How Well the Sailors Run is available for purchase as an ebook at Amazon. It sells for less than a cup of coffee. Read it on any number of electronic devices including: Kindle, Blackberry, PC, Mac, ipad, itouch, and Android devices.

Enjoy the adventure!

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