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

One thought on “From the novel: Erin and Monique caulk the forecastle deck

  1. Hi, Sperry: This is very cool that you are writing such fun books, and that Emily (my daughter!) is your editor. She was born to edit (who knew???) and working with you and your book will be a great experience for her. She tells us how excited she is to be working on this project. Best of luck, and happy writing!

    Marianne Ballantine

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