Practical Airship Design Part 7

Saturday, December 23, 2017 0 comments

Splendid she must be!

"How time flies when you are having fun."
Or conversely...
"Life is what happens when you have other plans."

This is the final post in my Practical Airship Design series, which I started way back in November of 2012, 5 years ago!

You can read that initial post and start the series here.

According to the "Contents and Prospectus" this post should have been:

"In conclusion, our Captain has ordered that she must, in addition to being one of the most technologically advanced airships of the age, be one of the most "Splendid"(tm) and this post will attempt to grant his wishes to the best of this poor flight engineer's ability."

Alas, I never got around to writing that post and cannot at the moment remember what I had intended to cover...

However, I think this series does need a formal conclusion, so if you have landed here please stay with me for a bit.

Like any good fictional tale, the action does not take place in isolation from the world around it.  Fictional tales always have a framework that supports the story. For speculative fiction like Steampunk, that framework/world may or may not bear much of a resemblance to the real one. The world of our Role Play group, "The Airship's Mess Deck", is no exception. The world in which we traveled, on the experimental airship the Velvet Brush which is the subject of this series, was similar to the real world physically but its technical and political history was slightly different.

As I mentioned in the first post we tried to limit the fantastical to keep the world realistic, with only a few key changes to make it interesting. Authors are allowed to create any kind of world they like in which to place their tales, but in the case of our Role Playing, we consciously decided to make our shared world a parallel one only slightly different. Physics still works like normal, and even the most fantastical elements are still "believable" in context.  The awesomely powerful core of the Velvet Brush herself being a good example.   

In our world the Velvet Brush was truly a technical marvel, the finest ship in the Royal Airship Navy. No other airship in the world could match her. Being experimental, and therefore fantastically expensive, she was never equaled or copied. During the course of our role play, she survived storms, sabotage, intrigues, and political machinations. Those of us who flew with her across the skies of the world always had her as a solid base for our adventures.

The crew and passengers have moved on to new adventures, however the shared world we created still exists in the imaginations of those who played in the Airship's Mess Deck (see more below). Like the crew of any "happy ship" in the real world, lasting friendships have resulted.

As the Engineering Officer, and eventually the Commander, of our ship, I see her in my minds eye still, an enormous silver and polished brass ship,  moving through the clouds, steam rising from her twin funnels, signal flags hanging from her rails. The Velvet Brush is truly as "Splendid" as she was intended to be. 

Thanks for following along as I tried to do some Practical Airship Design.

I hope you have enjoyed the journey.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.



My character's adventures, along with some of the crew, are posted as Serial Tales on this blog:
"Frozen Sky"
"Lost at Sea"
"Ice and Clockwork"

One of the passengers on our ship has her own adventures chronicled in the brilliant Maddie Hatter stories written by Jayne Barnard
Maddie Hatter and the Deadly Diamond
Maddie Hatter and the Gilded Gauge
Maddie Hatter and the Timely Taffeta
And more coming soon.

Oh, and Parasol Duelling is now a formal sport played all over the world!

Thanks for reading.

Absinthium Redux

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 0 comments


A few years ago I was working on the design of a mechanical Absinthe preparer inspired by a mechanical wine pourer.

I called my device The Absinthium Project.

This machine which prepares a Gin and Tonic might just inspire me to start working on it again.


Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced!

World Championships 2017

Saturday, October 21, 2017 0 comments

A fine Autumn day of Skill and Elegance.

The 2017 Parasol Duelling World Championships were held on Saturday September 9.
Summer in Calgary had been very hot, and very smokey from the forest fires to the West in British Columbia, and this early September day was no exception.

The competition was held in a beautiful Confederation Park in NW Calgary.

Photo by Chuck Szmurlo, May 30, 2007
The park was built to celebrate the Canadian Centennial in 1967 and it stretches along a little creek that winds for almost a mile through a valley.  The park is a very popular wedding spot so we were not sure exactly where in the park we would be able to compete, but as luck would have it we found a beautiful spot amongst the cottonwood trees along the creek, within easy access of the main parking area.

The Grande Promenade of the contestants was very picturesque, the dark green trees with a scattering of bright yellow leaves falling made for a wonderful backdrop.

Photo by Dave Harold
Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet

Photo by Karlo Keet
We had eight competitors this year, including the 2016 World Champion, the 2016 Junior, Compulsory Figures, and Flirtations Champions.
Competitors and Doctors
L to R: Maxwell MacDonald-Smythe (aka Kevin Jepson), Barb Sand, Sarafina Kain, Monica Willard, Karen Siemens, Teagan de Boer,
Dr Johann Portsmouth Adler (aka Stewart MacPhee.)
L to R seated Raven Hawthorne, Briona Justine, Josanna Justine
Photo by Dave Harold

After the promenade the contestants and Doctors gathered for the traditional "Welcome and Admonition" from Madame Saffron Hemlock, given this year by Baroness Fawkes as Madame was unable to attend due to the smoky air.

The Welcome and Admonition
Baroness Daniella Fawkes (Dana Teh) and Erin Sand were the judges.
Photo by Karlo Keet
Salute to the Judges
Photos by Karlo Keet

The first competition was the Compulsory Figures.

The Ladies demonstrated great skill and confidence with their figures.
Here is a sample of some of the Compulsory figure forms.

Karen Siemens
Photo by Dave Harold

Barb Sand
Photo by Dave Harold
Monica Willard
Photo by Karlo Keet

After the Compulsory Figures were completed the Flirtation Trials were held, always a crowd favourite as the Ladies try to elaborate on their figures.

Elegance and drama were very much in evidence.

Raven Hawthorne
Photo by Dave Harold
Raven Hawthorne and Josanna Justine
Photo by Peter Justine

This year there were several unique examples of creativity including, for the first time, the use of a 'prop'

Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard (with prop)
Photo by Karlo Keet

 Some different interpretations of the Plant...

Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard
Photo by Peter Justine
And the Snub.
Teigan de Boer and Monica Willard

Continued below.

A wonderful Afternoon at the Duelling

Saturday, September 16, 2017 0 comments

Another great Championships.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea Part VIII

Monday, September 11, 2017 0 comments


Here is the final part of the second of three serial stories from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously, the engine of the Argo is beginning to fail, and even though the storm has abated the old trawler is being forced back by the swell onto the roaring breakers crashing against the iron bound coast of Norway.


Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
  by Kevin Jepson

*The engine is making a loud grinding and knocking sound, but the smoother patch in the breakers has moved almost astern. It is clearly a spire of rock rising up from the seabed just below the base of the great swells, its seaweed covered surface can be seen just below the foaming troughs as the waves break across. It is almost full daylight now and there is indeed a bay reaching back beyond the rocks. Max and the members of the Velvet Brush's crew are all in the wheelhouse.*

    "Lt Bueckert, collect all the bits of your aether wave gear and your code books and put them in a sack and prepare to get them overboard!"

    Miss B.B. looks shocked "My, my code books Sir?"

    "Aye we are going to hit the shore and maybe sink, but if we don't we don't need anyone finding their Lordships codes to play with eh?"

    "Oh, oh yes, aye of course, I'll do that right away." Surprisingly Miss B.B touches her cap in salute and then drops down the ladder.

    "Simpson, gather up the navigator's charts, and the records from the Chirper, get them into a weighted bag and move them up onto the upper deck where we can grab them if we have to leave in a hurry! If the worst happens they should sink too."

    "Aye aye Sir!" and Simpson also drops down the ladder.

    Iveta makes to follow him but Max says "Lt Baleva, things are going to happen really fast once we are amongst the breakers, make sure everybody is on the upper deck. We'll likely roll over if we hit broadside on and I don't want anybody trapped below, understood."

    "Aye aye Sir."

    "And Lieutenant..."


    "Mr Angus and I will stay at the wheel as we get close so if anything happens to me you will be in command get them back to England as best you can."

    "Aye Sir, I..."

    Mr Angus growls, "No you bloody well won't laddy! You is an old salt and no mistake. I know how the Argo steers but I can't see behind us. I'll need you looking out to give me some proper helm orders as we get close. You get up on that bloody deck and see if there's a way through!"

    Max watches the grey old fisherman grimly gripping the shattered wheel and shakes his head, comes to attention and salutes. "Aye aye Captain Angus, Aye aye."

    *The crew collects on the roof of the cabin, the roar of the surf is like thunder, the air thick with salt spray. Miss B.B. clutching the canvas bag with the remains of her aether wave gear and the code books watches the crashing surf for a moment and throws the bag overboard. The motion of the Argo is wilder now, corkscrewing and bucking in the confused waves close to the breaker line. The smooth patch is anything but this close in. A churning mass of foam and breaking water shooting high in the air.*

    Max calls out "Port 10!". Then "Midships!"

 *The rocks are closer, the water gushing in great frothing torrents onto and over the submerged rocks.*

    "Starboard 20!" Then "Midships... That's all Mr Angus we are on them now!"

    *Grabbing anything solid everyone hangs on as the Argo's whistle begins to sound, long, continuous, and mournful. Blasting her last defiance at wave and rock.*


This concludes the second of my three serial tales from The Airship's Messdeck.

The start of the third is here.

Thanks for reading!

2017 World Parasol Duelling Championships

Saturday, September 2, 2017 0 comments

Who will be the new World Champion?

Join the Ladies of Madame Saffron Hemlock's Parasol Duelling League as they compete to choose the 2017 World Champions!
The event is open to the public but you must be a member of Madame Saffron's to compete.
There will be competitions to choose the Champions of Duelling, Compulsory Figures, Flirtations, and Street Duelling.
The event will be held at Confederation Park, in Calgary Alberta Canada. Starting at 2:00pm Saturday September 9th 2017

Photo by Grant Zelych
Ladies grab your Parasols and join the fun.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling 
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Lost at Sea Part VII

Friday, August 4, 2017 0 comments

Drifting astern...

Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Max and his shipmates from the HMAS Velvet Brush, are struggling to keep the aged steam trawler Argo from being driven against the iron bound coast of Norway, following one of the greatest storms ever recorded.  The ship has been damaged and even though the storm is finally releasing them from its grip the swell is driving them relentlessly astern towards the breakers.

Enjoy Part VII.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part VII
  by Kevin Jepson

   *Another hour and a very welcome mug of Miss BB's hot tea later, sans medicine unfortunately, and the sky has become lighter. There is a definite horizon now.
    *For Max, the view out the shattered front of the Argo's pilot house is anything but encouraging however. As the light grows the long serried ranks of rollers can be seen looming up in front of the Argo. Their crests blowing spray and cascading in foam down their steepening fronts.*

   Grimly holding the broken wheel, he mutters to himself, "Like being in front of a bloody cavalry charge that is! Still as long as we can hold our position we may be able to get off this shore now that the wind is dropping."

    *The wind has indeed begun to drop away and the brightening sky shows spreading dark blue spaces with only the brightest stars still shining to the West. Now that the wind is no longer screaming, Max can feel the steady thump of the Argo's engine beneath him and hear the terrifying bass notes of the surf astern.*

    *It is a struggle to keep the Argo's bow pointed directly into the waves. For a while, after the mast had collapsed, it had actually been easier as freed of the resistance up forward the wind had helped to keep the Argo pointed correctly. Now it takes both Max and Mr Angus to hold her as she exhibits a frightening tendency to turn broadside to as she charges down the wave fronts into the troughs. Even a moments carelessness would cause them to broach and roll broadside to the waves. They would be swept helpless into the breakers as the Argo's engine would not be powerful enough to correct their course against the surf in time.*

    Mr Angus, stolidly guiding his labouring ship, along with Max at the wheel, suddenly lifts his head, like a hunting hound who smells the stag on the wind.

    "Something's wrong with the engine!"

    Max listens carefully to the steady thumping. "Maybe running a little slower but..."

    "No Laddy, I know my ship like I know me own hands and I tell ye something is amiss"

    *There is definite change in the engine vibrations now, a subtle slowing without the engine actually seeming to slow down. *

    Iveta scrambles up the ladder from the cabin. "We are loosing ground Sir! Last quarter of an hour we have definitely gotten closer to the line of breakers."

    "Blast! How long before we are in them? Can you tell how fast we are moving astern Lieutenant?"

    "Hard to tell Sir. The shoreline is still in shadow but the ground rises sharply beyond, I would say at our current rate maybe an hour at most."

    "That low patch in the surf, can you tell what is beyond it?"

    "Not really Sir, the shoreline seems to swing away to the east at that point. There is a slight north set to the tide though, so we are moving towards it."

    "Right, see if you can get a better idea what's beyond that patch and try to estimate if we will be abreast of it before we are in the breakers."

    "Aye aye Sir!" Iveta drops down the ladder.

    "And what bloody Navy foolishness are ye planning now Laddy?"

    Max gives a grim smile. "I'm not sure yet Mr Angus, depends on what the Navigator can tell us."

    *The engine vibration is harder now, a slight knocking can be felt through the deck.*

    Simpson scrambles up the ladder drenched in sweat and covered in grease and coal dust. "Sir! The sea water has gotten into the oil and the bearings are overheating. I tried to rig up a secondary oil supply but the bearings are mostly shot. We're going to steadily loose power until they seize."

    Max shakes his head. "God Dammit! Somebody really doesn't want us to get back to Scapa! How long?"

    "Half an hour maybe three quarters, she's working damn hard, something could let go as the vibration gets worse and that would be that."

    Mr Angus swears loudly then shakes his head sadly. "She's done well to keep going this long, we should have been retired years ago."

    "Well she hasn't quit fighting yet, and as long as she keeps swimming we don't have to! Simpson get below and have the boys stoke the boiler as best they can to be able to run unattended for an hour or so then get them up out of the stoke hold."

    "Aye aye Sir!"

    "Lieutenant Bueckert!"

  Miss B.B. climbs up the ladder clutching a teapot in her hand. "Yes Sir?"

 "Get the Navigator and come back quick as you can."

 " Aye Sir"

  "Mr Angus I'm afraid we are going to have to put your fine ship ashore. Without power we'll be on the rocks anyway, least ways we can maybe choose where while we have some control."

    The old fisherman, now grey like the seas boiling around his struggling ship, simply nods and grimly continues to keep her head aimed squarely into the waves.

   *Iveta and Miss B.B clamber up into the wheelhouse*

   Iveta says,"Sir, at our current speed we will be abreast of the smoother patch just before we hit the surf line. It is not a lot smoother though."

   "Our engine power is failing so we will likely loose ground faster. Any idea what the smoother patch is?"

   "Looks like a pinnacle of rocks out front of the shore, at this state of the tide they are awash but I bet they aren't when it is low. Looks like there is a gap in them, though it isn't very wide. The shore beyond is a ways back, could be a bay."

   Mr Angus says "We can't turn and run into that spot. We would be rolled over before we could get around."

   "Then maybe can get there before we loose our engine. As we surf down these waves see if we can angle a bit to the north and maybe gain on that patch. Let's make use of what engine power we have left and back down onto it. We won't have much control but it's better than none at all!"

    "Aye true enough."

*Max follows Mr Angus' lead at the damaged wheel as, gritting his teeth, the old fisherman begins to carefully angle the old Argo to the north slightly as she slides down the back of each passing swell.  The rumble of the surf astern is louder and the knocking from the engine beneath their feet is like the ticking of some demonic clock.*

Part VIII is here.

A Sea of Words

Sunday, July 23, 2017 0 comments

All the words!

In the early 18th C there was a kind of mania for "dictionaries". While often oriented to the rapidly expanding vocabulary of English, they also covered many distinct subjects.
Many Victorians in the 19th C would recognize these subjects.
Some persist to this day others have faded from the main stream of academic pursuits.

This is from "The New World of Words: or a Universal English Dictionary" by John Philips, first published in 1706, (edited by John Kersey 6th edition). The 6th edition included, "A brief Explication of all terms that relate to the Arts and Sciences, either Liberal or Mechanical, viz."

Here is the list:
Grammar, Rhetorick, Logic, Theology, Law, Metaphysicks, Ethicks, Natural Philosophy, Natural History, Physick, Surgery, Anatomy, Chymistry, Pharmacy, Botanicks, Arithmetick, Geometry, Astronomy, Astrology, Cosmography, Hydrography, Navigation, Architecture, Fortification, Dialling, Surveying, Gauging, Opticks, Catopticks, Diopticks, Perspective, Musick, Mechanicks, Statics, Chiromanct, Physiognomy, Heraldry, Merchandise, Maritime and Military affairs, Agriculture, Gardening, Handicrafts, Jewelling, Painting, Carving, Engraving, Confectionery, Cookery, Horsemanship, Hawking, Hunting, Fowling, Fishing, etc.
I suspect there was still a lot included under "etc"

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea Part VI

Thursday, May 11, 2017 0 comments

An iron bound coast

Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Max and his crew are trapped, aboard a labouring steam trawler, in a massive storm raging across the North Sea. They have been battling the storm for days, the old Argo unable to steam through it and unable to run without being swamped by the merciless storm.
A great wave breaking across the bow has broken the mast and smashed the front of the wheelhouse.
Max orders Iveta and Simpson to lash the remains of the mast to the rail to keep it from smashing in the hatch cover...

 Enjoy Part VI

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part VI
  by Kevin Jepson

    "Breakers Astern!"

    *Words to chill the heart of any sailor, especially in the dark of a subarctic night and close to an unseen lee shore!
    Max and Angus, teeth chattering and skin blue from the icy sea water blasting across them through the wreck of the pilothouse wall, struggle to keep the Argo's head into the massive Atlantic rollers.*

    Max, spluttering out sea water calls below "Lieutenant Bueckert!"

    Miss B.B. climbs quickly up the ladder from the cabin below "Yes? Sir"

    "I need you to  tell the Navigator to go aft and see if she can get an estimate of how far off the shore we are. Also, and this is important, unless the breakers are right under our ass... er stern... she is to take her time and try to determine if we are getting closer or we are holding our ground. Understood?"

    "I'll tell her."

    "Thank you and send Simpson up!"

    *As miss B.B. heads down the ladder Max can hear the hatch slam shut and soon Simpson is climbing up into the wreck of the wheelhouse. Seawater pours off his jacket and pools around him, his hands are shaking from the cold*

    Christ if we don't get out of this soon we'll freeze to death! If we aren't smashed and drowned first.

    "Simpson, get below to the Chirper, if it's still workable let me know the moment it gets shallow enough to anchor."

    "No point laddy!" says Mr Angus before Simpson can reply. "The coast hereabouts is steep to, you could have every link of chain out and you'd hit the rocks before the anchor touched bottom! Our only chance is to try to claw off. The wind is dropping maybe we can make some headway."

    Simpson looks at Max. "Sir?"

    *Max watches the waves breaking across the deck below, a grey glow in the darkness, it is starting to get lighter. The wind has definitely dropped but the rollers are even bigger than before and they are trying to push the Argo back every time one passes.*

    "Damn! Get below and check with the lads, make sure all is well with the engine. I'll try to give you some warning if the Navigator says we are going to hit the shore."

    "Aye aye Sir." Simpson gives a wan smile, "Least wise it's warmer down there!"

    Yes the wind is definitely less, and there are more stars, maybe we can actually see what we are in for now Max me lad.

    After what seems like an eternity Miss B.B. comes up the ladder and starts talking. Having memorized the message that Iveta had given her she starts counting on her fingers as she says, "Cannot tell how far off we are, nothing for scale. Seem to be holding at current distance neither approaching or receding. Breakers are continuous wall of surf except for a patch like river rapids... ah... she said 30 degrees Starboard Quarter?"

    "River rapids?"

    "Yes that is what she said. I asked her and she pointed it out to me, it is a lower patch in the surf, darker than the others, still very nasty looking to me though."

    "Very good, thank you Lieutenant. Get below and maybe see if you can get us some tea eh?"

    "Ok, we don't have any milk or sugar though, maybe I could put some medicine in it for you."

    Max laughs, shaking his head to get the sea water out of his eyes. "Aye ma'am that would be perfect! Make sure Lt Baleva get's some first."

    "Ok. Yes she is very cold I think, even though she doesn't show it." And with that Miss B.B. drops below.

    *As the Argo continues to struggle against the waves there is a new sound, felt rather than heard. A low rumble, like the bass note of some fiendish pipe organ, the sound of surf against cliffs of hard Norwegian granite.*

Part VII is here.

Ahhhh, Spring time and a young man's fancy turns to...

Sunday, April 2, 2017 0 comments

Parasol Duelling!

The first formal competition of the season will soon be upon us!

The Third Annual Spring Regionals in Calgary Alberta, Canada.

Ladies grab your Parasols and join the fun.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling 
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

New Maddie Hatter Book!

Sunday, March 26, 2017 0 comments

A New Adventure.

Maddie Hatter, intrepid investigator and fashion reporter, has a new adventure coming out!

Check out this teaser trailer.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

More info on Maddie here at Jayne Barnard's blog:
Clockworks and Crime

Lost at Sea Part V

Friday, March 10, 2017 0 comments

An Ocean Greybeard.

Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Max and his crew are trapped in a massive storm raging in the North Sea. They had been sent out to continue the testing of the Chirper after the engines in their old airship had failed. The Argo, an aged steam fishing trawler, is a sturdy ship but she continues to be battered by the merciless storm.  Max has asked Iveta and Simpson to try and determine their location, fearful that they may be running out of sea room.

Enjoy Part V.

Keep your sightglass full. your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part V
  by Kevin Jepson

 *Max is sitting at the table in the cabin of the Argo. Iveta has her charts laid out. Miss BB is tinkering with her aetherwave gear trying to bring in some kind of signal. Everyone looks tired, dirty, coal blackened, and salt encrusted. The Argo is still swinging and bucking in the seas but there has been a change in the waves since sunset, still chaotic but there is now a much larger heave and surge to them.*

Hanging tightly to the edge of the table he peers at Iveta's charts. "Are you sure about this Lieutenant?"

"Yes Sir. As best I can work out we must be north of the Skagerrak and off the coast of Norway."

"Hmmm, that explains the change in the seas then, we are getting the big rollers from the Atlantic here. They been streaming East from Greenland with nothing but the Faeroes to get in their way.  How close to the coast are we?"

"I haven't determined that yet Sir. We may be very close, hard to tell without a good sun or star sight."

Well done Lieutenant."

 "Thank you Sir."

 Max listens to the slight change in sound of the wind and seas roaring against the Argo's hull. "Well the storm seems to finally be letting us out of its grip and the sky should clear. Maybe we can finally make some headway West again."

 Miss BB, looking very worn but no longer quite so green, says, "Ohhhh I have a signal, very faint... oh dear... lost it again. Wasn't admiralty codes though."

 "Keep trying Lieutenant, will we be able to transmit again?"

 "No I don't think so... Sir. Too much salt in the machine."

"If you pick up anything that can help Lt Baleva get a better fix on our position that would help."

 "I will let her know if I do."

  Max smiles. "Thank you, glad to see you are beginning to get yer sea legs lieutenant."

 Miss BB smiles a thin tired smile. "I don't know why anyone would want sea legs, too wet and cold, I prefer my air legs."

  "Ha, and that be true an all..."

 *There is a sudden change in the motion of the Argo and all three grab the table to hold on, the bow is tossed upwards with a jerk. There is a sudden shout from both Mr Angus and Simpson at the wheel above, followed by the Argo almost lurching to a stop. The crash of something solid hitting the cabin is followed by the sound of breaking glass. A torrent of icy cold seawater floods down the ladder from the wheelhouse.*

 *Scrambling from the table Max grabs the base of the ladder up to the wheelhouse, sea water is still pouring down, he can hear the sound of the wind and waves above him.*

 Christ it's like the wheelhouse is gone...

Simpson shouts down from the wheelhouse "We lost the mast Sir. Mr Angus is down and the wheel is damaged Sir."

 "Lt Baleva get below and check with the lads, make sure that hatchway ain't breached or we'll be swimming!"

 "Aye aye Sir" and Iveta drops quickly down the ladder to the stokehold.

 *Max sees Miss BB desperately clinging to the table, her aetherwave gear, wrenched from the table, is spread across the floor in pieces.*

 "Oh, oh, sorry, sorry it came loose, oh my!"

 "Follow me up to help in the wheelhouse!"

 *Ms BB eyes the ladder still streaming with water nervously, her face is now white and she makes no move to release the table*

 "Lieutenant!" Max snaps at Miss BB.

 Then he says more calmly "Beulah, lets go and check Mr Angus and Phillip shall we, they will need our help."

 "Oh, oh yes I'll come too"

 *Max climbs the ladder, the wheelhouse in a shambles. The whole front of the wheelhouse is stove in. Simpson is struggling to hold the damaged wheel as best he can, Mr Angus is slumped against the wall of the wheelhouse. The wind and spray is blowing in as if they were on the open deck.*

 Max quickly checks Mr Angus, the old seaman is stunned but still conscious and trying to stand up, Max puts a hand on his shoulder, "Here now you old salt you just sit tight for a bit, Lt Bueckert will help you."

 Spitting out seawater Mr Angus says "Och we hit a greybeard that broke right in front of us, never saw it coming in the darkness. The mast broke at the deck, crane yard went right across the wheelhouse as it went."

 Miss BB comes up the ladder her eyes wide at the mess. "Oh my... oh my!"

"Lieutenant look after Mr Angus!"


 *Max reaches the wheel and grabs the unbroken part and then looks to check the compass heading. The compass has been smashed! Looking out into the spray for the mast he sees it lodged  between the hatch and the rail. The foaming green seas are still washing across the deck with no sign of entering the hull.*

Thank the Lord it missed that hatch or we would be in Davey Jones' Locker already.

 "You OK Simpson?"

 "Aye Sir! Were a great block from the crane arm went right through us like a wrecking ball Sir."

 Iveta comes up the ladder from the cabin "All's secure below Sir! Bit of leakage through the deck but the pumps are handling it."

 "Good, take Simpson and one of the lads and try to lash that mast down so it can't come loose and punch a hole in us."

 "Aye aye Sir!"

 "Be careful... and no heroics!"

 Simpson grins at Max. "Who, us?" and then turns to follow Iveta down the ladder.

 *With the help of Miss BB Mr Angus gets to his feet and grabs the wheel.*

 "Lt Bueckert, go and assist the Navigator and Simpson if you can, but don't go on deck unless you have to, understood?"

 "Yes Sir." and she carefully heads down the ladder.

 *The seas continue to break across the deck but the wind has definitely slackened and Max catches glimpses of stars through the scudding clouds. While he and Mr Angus struggle to keep the Argo's head firmly aimed into the wind, Simpson and Iveta, carefully tied to the rail, begin to get lines across the bulk of the mast where it is wedged tight against the rail.*

Christ! It's like you never left the surface navy at all, we belong in the air not on the sea!

 *After a half hour in the churning icy water, Iveta and Simpson finally get the broken mast lashed down and start to head back towards the cabin.*

They both stop, staring aft,  pointing and waving Simpson shouts, "Breakers astern!"

Part VI is here.

Parasol Duelling

Sunday, February 12, 2017 0 comments

Ladies! Are you ready?

Grab your parasols and get ready to compete in the elegant sport of Ladies Parasol Duelling.

 For more information and to find out more about this great sport go to:
Madame Saffron Hemlock’s Parasol Duelling League for Steampunk Ladies

Click here for information on the history and development of Parasol Duelling 
or click the Parasol Duelling tag.

The Rules for Parasol Duelling are here.

Keep your sightglass full, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

Lost at Sea Part IV

Monday, January 16, 2017 0 comments

Sea room.

Here is the next part of my serial story from our Role Play group The Airship's Messdeck.

You can start from the beginning here.

Previously Max and his crew are stuck in a massive storm raging in the North Sea. They had been sent out to continue the testing of the Chirper after the engines in their old airship had failed. The Argo, an aged steam fishing trawler, is a sturdy ship but she is being battered by the merciless storm.

Enjoy Part IV.

Keep your sightglass full. your firebox trimmed and your water iced.

Lost at Sea
A serial story from The Messdeck.
Part IV
  by Kevin Jepson

 *Max and Mr Angus are at the kicking wheel, the forward windows of the wheelhouse streaming with rain and spray, the deck a welter of white foam. For several days the Argo has battled valiantly against the gale. Since the Argo's single cylinder engine doesn't have enough power to make headway against the wind and the waves the best Max and Mr Angus have been able to do is keep her bow pointed into the breaking seas. It is a constant struggle to keep the old trawler from falling off and broaching in the troughs. Not being able to maneuver has meant that the Argo is totally at the mercy of the storm, she is being dragged around in the North Sea as the storm spins.*

    Max, takes advantage of a slight slackening in the wave motion to flex his hand. "Bloody hell Angus, I've never seen a storm that didn't let up for a week or more like this."

    Mr Angus his eyes red rimmed from lack of sleep and the salt spray leaking through the wooden wall of the wheelhouse says "Och, Aye an it don't normally, but we ain't steaming ahead. We is just forcing ourselves into the storm. We can't run and we can't hide so it just spins us around and all."

    Max peering out into the storm says, "It's moving East, so we are going to run out of sea eventually!"

    "More an likely, an we can't see what's astern in all this murk."

    *The wheel gives a lurch and Max quickly grabs the spokes. Taking the lead from Mr Angus he forces the Argo back onto her course.*

    Well Max me lad even Iveta can't do any dead reckoning in all this. Not knowing where we are and with the flat lying shores of Denmark and Jutland to wash up on there's not a pleasant prospect for the future.

    *A quick glance at the swinging compass shows that the Argo is now trying to battle waves forcing her astern to the North East. At what speed over the bottom Max has no way to tell.*

    Now if we just had some way to tell how close to the shore we was... Ah Max you old fool, you got a hold full of gear that can do just that!

    "Lt Baleva!" Max calls down from the wheelhouse.

    *Iveta pops up the ladder from the cabin below, her face streaked with coal dust from helping to stoke the hungry firebox of the Argo's boiler.*


    "If we knew the depth and some idea of what the bottom was like could you get us an estimate of whereabouts we are from the charts."

    "I think so Sir."

    "Very good, get Simpson to fire up the Chirper and see if he can get some depths and maybe a profile from the recording cylinder."

    "Aye Aye Sir" and Iveta drops quickly out of sight down the ladder.

    At least we ain't totally blind an all.

Part V is here.

Titan Airship

Saturday, January 7, 2017 0 comments

Experimental airship like mine!

If you read my Practical Airship Design series the design might seem a bit familiar!

The airship described in this NASA paper uses hydrogen as a lift gas rather than steam but it is powered by a real equivalent of our core. Of course using hydrogen on Titan is really safe because there is no free oxygen anywhere to cause problems.


"Radioisotope Stirling Engine Powered Airship for Atmospheric and Surface Exploration of Titan"

Author and Affiliation:   
Colozza, Anthony J.    (Vantage Partners, LLC, Brook Park, OH, United States);   
Cataldo, Robert L.    (NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland, OH United States)
    The feasibility of an advanced Stirling radioisotope generator (ASRG) powered airship for the near surface exploration of Titan was evaluated. The analysis did not consider the complete mission only the operation of the airship within the atmosphere of Titan. The baseline airship utilized two ASRG systems with a total of four general-purpose heat source (GPHS) blocks. Hydrogen gas was used to provide lift. The ASRG systems, airship electronics and controls and the science payload were contained in a payload enclosure. This enclosure was separated into two sections, one for the ASRG systems and the other for the electronics and payload. Each section operated at atmospheric pressure but at different temperatures. The propulsion system consisted of an electric motor driving a propeller. An analysis was set up to size the airship that could operate near the surface of Titan based on the available power from the ASRGs. The atmospheric conditions on Titan were modeled and used in the analysis. The analysis was an iterative process between sizing the airship to carry a specified payload and the power required to operate the electronics, payload and cooling system as well as provide power to the propulsion system to overcome the drag on the airship. A baseline configuration was determined that could meet the power requirements and operate near the Titan surface. From this baseline design additional trades were made to see how other factors affected the design such as the flight altitude and payload mass and volume.

Publication Date:     Jul 01, 2014

Keep your sightglass filled, your firebox trimmed, and your water iced.

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