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Friday, August 5, 2016
Love on the High Seas!
I love the sea and the ships that sail
upon it. I also love a romance with a sea captain hero. So, in writing my
Regencies, it was inevitable one or more would be set on a ship. Two of my
romances are set, at least in part, on a schooner of the period: Wind Raven, the third in my Agents of
the Crown trilogy, and To Tame the Wind,
the prequel to the trilogy, a Georgian romance.
When I began to do the research for
these stories—the part set on the ship—I had no idea what was involved.
Since I’m committed to making my
stories historically authentic, I dove into all the ship terminology, pouring
over my new 4-inch thick Sailor’s Word
Book until late at night. But I realized just having the vocabulary was not
enough. I wanted to be able to describe a storm at sea as huge waves crashed
onto the deck and a battle that had shot bringing the sails down around the
characters. For To Tame the Wind, I
had to describe battles raging in the English Channel. And I wanted to do it
all while getting the ship terminology correct. So, I did hundreds of hours of
research and studied diagrams of schooners and sail configurations until I was
seeing them in my dreams
But even that was not enough. I had to
get the feel of the ship. I decided
it was essential to take a ride on an actual schooner.
The schooner pictured below, as painted
by artist William Lowe, is the Californian,
a reproduction of a topsail schooner of the period that, fortunately for me, is
berthed in San Diego where I live. It is the type of schooner Capt. Jean
Nicholas Powell sails in Wind Raven
and his father, Capt. Simon Powell sails in To
Tame the Wind. And this is the ship I experienced under sail.
It was thrilling to hear the sails
luffing, feel the wind on my face as the ship’s bow cut through the waves and the
deck moving beneath my feet. (And, yes, it does move a lot.)
While on board, I soon exhausted the
knowledge of the docent, at least as to the Georgian and Regency era ships.
However, I found a jewel in the gunner, who became my technical consultant, and
now my good friend. She led me through the things my research could not tell
me. Even a simple question like whether the quarterdeck should be raised. You’d
be surprised at how complicated the answer is.
schooners were flush-decked, that is everything on the main deck is on one
level, like the Wind Raven and the Fairwinds in my stories, so that you
could walk from the bow to the stern without going up or down any ladders. The
ship still has a “quarterdeck”; it’s just not raised.
If you compound
this kind of issue many times over with everything from windows in the
captain’s cabin (side windows existed in larger schooners such as in my stories),
to what the captain might read (it’s in Wind
Raven), to how a fast schooner can avoid the guns of a larger brig-sloop
(it’s in To Tame the Wind), you begin
to get a picture of the depth of research required to “get it right.” But the
end result, I believe, is a story that puts you on the ships and gives you exciting
tales of love on the high seas.