Q is for Quandary….




  1. Perplexity or uncertainty          over what to do in a difficult situation: “Jim is in a          quandary”.
  2. A difficult situation; a          practical dilemma.


perplexity – embarrassment –     dilemma – puzzle


origin unknown

First Known Use: 1579


My husband has a sense of humor. Today’s word should have come as no surprise, but when I got the text late last night, I could feel my eyes roll.



“Quandary” means something else to me –beyond the puzzlement-doubting-perplexing use of the word. I’m going to post a picture of a seiner. You might recognize her if you look to your right and check out the cover of The Fishing Widow. Yup . That’s her. Her name is F/V Quandary, and I don’t know much about her, other than, if you look on her stern, you’ll see she’s home-ported in Vail, Colorado. I start out by saying this: she is my all-time favorite seine boat. I hope I don’t offend any other seiners who might be reading this, but I just love her lines. There are people who argue that these boats are “utilitarian,” or “blocky,” or, (dare I say it?) “ugly.” No. I think they, in their own way, are elegant; and Quandary, for me, is the most elegant of all.

The story goes … I held a contest over on 99designs for a book cover. The cover design that won had a boat, but not a seiner, on it; it did have the mountains (those are actually the mountains behind Klawock Inlet that you can see from the Craig Library) and Elizabeth (oops—is that a spoiler? Oh, well). When a bookseller in Juneau saw the cover and turned the book over, he said, “The one on the back needs to be on the front.” Meaning, the image of the woman on the back (and she’s far more terrifying than the image on the front) should be on the front of the book. I, respectfully, disagreed. The whole point of Elizabeth (more spoilers) is that sometimes she looks just fine. Sometimes, in some light, she flickers between flesh and bone. On a dark boat, not knowing which Elizabeth you’re going to see when is part of the unsettling bits of the book. If you know what a “fishing widow” actually is (a woman left behind while her husband is out fishing), then a passingly mysterious and pretty woman on the front of the cover won’t give you pause for thought. If you realize what a “fishing widow” is in my world— more of a spider that spins a web—you’re completely okay with the terrifying visage on the back…

But, back to the book cover. I needed a seiner on the front, and Stuart, my cover artist, was more than accommodating. I am a self-described boat-stalker. I take pictures of boats. A lot. When we brought our sailboat from Hollis to Thorne Bay, I snapped pictures of boats in Clarence Strait. Guess who was there? I felt a strange sense of peace when Quandary plied by us far to starboard on her way to Ketchikan (at least, that’s where we thought she was headed). The picture below was taken as I was coming back from fishing myself. She was not only underway, she was close by. I sent a series of snapshots to Stuart.

“Her,” I said, “please put her on the cover.”

Stuart scrubbed her name off the bow and misted her over. He sent the cover pictured at the right. I instantly fell in book love….

I posted the cover on Facebook, and created an online event for a book release on Epiphany. Now, in Craig, we have a commercial fishing blogger who runs one called Hauling Gear (http://www.blog.haulinggear.com/) Johnny got hold of Dave who runs Back Deck Boss (http://juneautek.com/) and invited him to the ebook release. I got the following message from Dave:

“Hi. Can F/V Quandary have a copy of your book?”

I don’t know how long my heart stopped beating, but I’m pretty sure I could count the time in tens of minutes. I felt like I had committed an unforgiveable offense. Brett’s assessment of Katie Dawn in the book:

“What do you mean you think [it’s her]? Katie Dawn‘s a pretty distinctive boat,”

echoed back to me. I had to have known on some level that changing bits of the boat wouldn’t keep people in the know from recognizing her. (By the way – Book Trivia: Katie Dawn is named after my Border Collie and Cloudy? That’s my friends Shawn and Smitty’s dog)

With visions of cover alterations whirling through my brain, I crafted an articulate, well-thought-out, and succinct response to Dave Clark’s query.


His reply was nearly immediate. He had crewed on Quandary and was still friends with the Captain. He told me that he recognized her the moment he saw the cover and he posted the cover to the Captain’s Facebook Wall and “My phone rang seconds later.”

I like to picture Dave smiling as he wrote that, but I felt so small and terrible (and stupid) for not even knowing WHO to ask permission of, that I could still only feel my heart hammering.

“I’d be honored if they WANTED a copy.” That was my reply and I stared at it for a bit before I hit send. I mean, not to fan-girl scream or anything, but MY FAVORITE BOAT WANTS A COPY OF MY BOOK! I know, I know, just humor me here …

I did not breathe a sigh of relief until Dave assured me that the Captain thought it was cool that his boat is on the cover of a book. The relief at my house was palpable.

Because if it HADN’T worked out like that, I’d have had quite a –

You know.

Poetry Form:  Quatern

As the name might suggest this form consists of four, four line stanzas. As is typical of French forms there is a Refrain, but what is unusual is that there is no rhyme sequence specified.
As is normal with French poetry it consists of eight syllable lines with no meter specified.
The Refrain is the first line of the first stanza, which becomes the second line of the second stanza, the third line of the third stanza and finally the last line of the last stanza. (from

The Fishermen’s Quandary

Most men set out not seeking fish.

Still harbors empty every spring,

As Young and old haul lines, man helms,

While bows cut swaths through changeable seas.


The Psalmist sang of men and sea.

Most men set out not seeking fish.

Sang wonders dark and dread and dear

Caught stark ‘gainst light and shadow.


Calms follow fast, rare windless days

When swells subside and tender shift.

Most men set out not seeking fish.

They gaze upon the heart of God.


And so in time, their nets are cast,

And silv’ry shards like captives lay,

So think they measure their success.

Most men set out not seeking fish.

2 Replies to “Q is for Quandary….”

  1. Love the story about your favorite boat. And there are a few lines of the poem that gave me chills. Wish this month could go on forever!

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