sailing ships and time travel

Sea Ocean BooksIn preparation for writing Timearang Pirates* I’m doing research on the age of sail and the physics of time.

I’m reading Master and Commander for the dialect and vocabulary. Patrick O’Brian was a very good writer with a slavish devotion to naval history, architecture and customs. Though the period of his story is both two hundred years behind and a hundred years ahead of my story, still his work is invaluable to me.

I’ve recently finished Under the Black Flag, a comprehensive history of the Age of Pirates by David Cordingly. It is the pirate lover’s bible and is well thought of by everyone I meet who knows the subject well. (And believe me when I say I know a few pirates here in Seattle.)

I’ve just bought The Charting of the Oceans: Ten Centuries of Maritime Maps by Peter Whitfield from Sea Ocean Books, a wonderful bookstore on the north shore of Lake Union here in Seattle. For anyone looking for books relating to the sea I heartily recommend this source. The owner is fastidious in keeping his stacks jammed with well-tended books and, being a retired sailor, is extremely knowledgeable. The Charting of the Oceans presents dozens of handsome representations of historic charts and has much to say about the history of the documents. I believe they will help me as a primary source for cartography and navigation, though some of my settings are not actually found on your globe.
Sea Ocean Books

About a month ago I bought a 1939 edition of the Sea Scout Manual from In the second novel my main character Erin Isabelle Becker-Spotsworth must know how to sail. In the first chapter I plan to have her and some of her friends learning to do so from Erin’s inventor father. They will sail through Comet Bay off Star Island in a sloop in a stiff wind, foretelling the adventures that await our protagonist under the canvas on the high seas in the Seventeenth Century. The Sea Scout manual is a bit dated but dated in the precise way I want. There is something 40’s and ’50s about the first book and this one too. In The Inventors’ Daughter there’s a pinch of Roger Rabbit and Sam Spade about some of the characters despite the modern inventions. The series is in its way noir. Despite Erin’s best efforts to fight crime and injustice, Dream City – past and present – is a dangerous world. The scout manual was a gateway to that era and a pitch-perfect primer for young sailors, as it is still today. If I’ve learned anything from my research it is that tradition is everthing on the sea.

In my research of time and time travel I am concurrently, I am reading A Briefer History of Time by (of course) Stephen Hawking (with Leonard Mlodinow). I’ve read several books on Einstein’s theories, quantum and string theory and the physics of time and space but none so elegant and intelligible as this. I recommend it to anyone who wishes to better understand relativity and other currently held theories of universal physics.

I have also recently read a number of children’s fantasy books including the Harry Potter series, Wave Traveller, Hugo Cabret, the Lemony Snicket novels, Harriet the Spy, and re-reading Treasure Island and my favorite sea story, The Odyssey, which though not a children’s book is a fabulous yarn that (to dangle a participle) I hope my story bears some infinitesimal resemblance to.

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