A Studio That Rocks!


It really does. Beluga is 32 year old sailboat. She’s 44 feet long, 14 feet wide, and very comfortable. It’s where my wife Kathy and I have lived since 2012 when we sold our house in Colorado  and began our 2nd life afloat. Even though it hadn’t seen much use, I brought my Rode Podcaster microphone aboard instead of selling it along with the decades worth of other stuff we’d collected as landlubbers. Then, in 2013, one of my publishing clients said he wanted an audiobook version too. After checking into ACX, I decided to see if I could produce acceptable quality audio on a boat.

The “nav station” was the obvious location. It’s one of the few places a laptop can be left setup for any period of time. It’s a little cubby with a built-in desk top the size of what you had in third grade. There are nautical charts stuffed underneath it, and 2 radios and an old radar unit mounted above it.

I clamped the Rode to the desk, fired up Audacity which I already had some proficiency with, and started experimenting. The sound wasn’t bad to begin with, but I found quite a few things I could do to improve it. I augmented the sound deadening provided the window curtains and one over the companionway opening next to me with a blanket hung across behind my head. I try to record when Kathy’s not aboard since besides having to be quiet, she’d trip over me since I block access to the aft half of the boat.

Sound proofing for a boat does include a few less common chores. The lines that tie us to the dock  have to be of a stretchy type, to minimize creaking And of course it changes all the time with the tide. All the halyards, the lines that run up the masts (Beluga is a ketch with two masts) have to be secured away from the mast so they don’t bang it. Of course, most sailors do much of this anyway, so they can sleep at night. Since a boat rocks most of the time, I have to make sure that cans can’t roll in drawers, or glasses clink against each other. Doors have to be latched open or closed to keep from swinging.

When I’m actually ready to record, I turn to the boat’s electrical panel next to my nav station studio and flick off most of the switches. Water pump, refrigeration, air conditioning, battery charger, fans, and anything else that whirs or hums. If it’s hot, I record until the sweat gets in my eyes and then take a break and turn the A/C back on for a while.

It’s often true that all of that is not enough. If the wind is howling, or the rain is splattering, or the seagulls are squawking, I have to wait. But so far, a little prioritizing and planning has kept that from stopping work. When the conditions are right, I record every minute of it I can. When they’re not, I edit. Since editing requires most of the time anyway, it all works out.

I held my breath as I sent my initial auditions, wondering if my audio would be ignored as garbage. But amazingly, offers materialized. My clients are happy and most importantly, they’re offering me their next books. It’s probably true that my efforts take more time than a formal studio. But on the other hand, I might walk up on deck on any given day and see a beach in the Bahamas a few hundred yards away.