From the novel: Erin and Monique caulk the forecastle deck

[Note: two girls from the 21st century are under full sail on the pirate ship Velocity racing toward Sugar Bowl Island. The year is 1720.]

The hours crawled by. The work was very hard. The old rope was difficult to remove, and it was rough with crusted tar and splinters. Much of it had to be yanked out by both of the girls pulling as hard as they could together.  To add to their troubles, the sun soon beat on their backs causing them to sweat.  The girls’ knees suffered until Mr. Toofour, the black sailmaker, happened by and, without looking at the girls, dropped scraps of canvas for them to kneel on.

Perhaps the worst of it was that Mr. Rumple made it clear that, once they had received their orders and training, they were forbidden to talk. None of the crew could say anything that wasn’t necessary to their work – even then they spoke quietly in short bursts.  Erin wanted so much to talk to Monique about their plan, their progress, the dangers ahead and most especially how they felt. And unlike in Mr. Bingo’s class in Dream City, they couldn’t whisper or pass notes when they simply had to share passing thoughts.

In time though,  Erin realized the silence wasn’t silence at all. She was surrounded by sounds: The hiss of the sea against the hull. The groans of the masts and yards. The lines trembling and whipping in the wind. The whumps and flaps and snaps of the sails. And, from time to time, the calls and responses of the officers and men. That’s when she understood the ban on chatter.  The officers and men had to be heard when a ship or coast was sighted, or a man hurt or a line broke.

Working on the thirty-foot square forecastle deck, Erin and Monique were constantly shifting about to allow people to pass. The lines holding the triangular staysails in the very front of the ship had to be frequently adjusted by skilled, agile men climbing along the bowsprit like monkeys. All the while, two very young men in long but rather ragged coats stood at the most forward point of the ship sweeping their telescopes across the horizon, along the starboard quarter; the other across the larboard, as Mr. Rumple called it. The young men spoke to no one, not even each other.

[Here is a photo of caulking a replica tall ship deck.]

Caulking a tall ship deck today

The caulking material the man is laying between the boards is called oakum. It’s made from animal hair, worn rope or anything else fibrous. It was mixed with tar and driven into the gap with a blunt awl and a mallet called a beetle, a metal version of which is shown here.

Current Word Count 44,614

The Chaser and the Gig

The Chaser and the GigIn this photo are the chaser and the gig of the Lady Washington out at sea. The are NOT, as they would be to landsmen, a canon and a boat. They have different names to sailors.

Nearly everything has is different name at sea. The bathroom is the head. The floor is the deck. Walls are bulkheads. A stairway is a companionway. And people are often known by their title and their jobs rather than their names. A senior officer is addressed, Sir; a junior one, Mister. At least in the stories of 1720, the time period I’m currently writing about.

This blog entry is by way of explaining – at least to myself in this log – that there is an explanation why my story has progressed only slightly since my last entry. I have had to spend several weeks more than I already have in learning not just the parts of the ship, but the language of its inhabitants of three hundred years ago. I must say, it’s been more fun than work. Here are the books I’ve studied:

The 24-gun frigate Pandora by John McKay and Ron Coleman (2003)
The Reverse of the Medal by Patrick Obrian (1986)
Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Dana  (1840)
A General History of the Pyrates by Danial Defoe (1724)
Henry IV Part I by William Shakespeare (1597)

The first two are sources for nautical terminology and war at sea. The third is about the duties of the the sailors. The fourth is about the language of the 1720’s and the lives of pirates (written by the author Robinson Crusoe).  And the last for the flamboyance and immediacy I wished to breath into some of the characters. I’ve used my Nook Tablet to search these books. And the audio of the last for flavor.

Now I will resume once again – with better footing – to assemble those words forged long ago into a story yet to come. Hopefully at a faster pace now. I’m hoping to finish the draft by the end of summer.

And by the way, unlike the heaps of useless stuff we landlubbers surround ourselves with, nearly everything is vital on a ship of war. Though small by comparison to the cannons that provided broadsides, the little chasers bolted to the stern were used at the most desperate moment when an enemy came “under the stern,” as was the term. This was the moment when the foe could, in one shot, render the boat unable to maneuver by shooting the way it’s rudder which is just to the right and beneath the chaser. Without the rudder, the enemy could simply sail back and forth pouring fire into the bow and stern with impunity.

The importance of the boat, in that case, would be elevated as it was the only means of escape save death or surrender. That’s why before the action began, the men tied the boats together in a chain and pulled them into a battle well below the level of fire.

Current Word Count 43,266