Sailing a coffin ship to the Horn (several times)
Fiction writers of tall ship tales lean towards swashbuckling adventures - mutinous men and cruel and tyrannical captains. Most are set at the times of the Napoleonic Wars. They make for exciting reading and have a huge following.
Having just finished FitzRoy, I can see that only an immensely capable seaman could have embarked on, and completed so successfully, the five year circumnavigation, as FitzRoy did in HMS Beagle in the 1830s.
Originally rigged as a brigantine, the Beagle fell into the category known as a coffin ship. They were ungainly vessels which easily turned turtle. They also lay low in the water and were prone to heavy seas sweeping over the deck.
Fitzroy knew this and on accepting the commission, he added a third mast, (for increased manoeuvrability, thereby converting the vessed into a barquentine.
After spending almost five years in undoubtedly some of the roughest waters in the world, the Beagle returned to England having not lost a single spar. That was due entirely to the Captain's meticulous care and caution.
Only five men died during the five year period, one from old age, one from a shooting accident and three of fever while on shore in Rio. Not a man onboard was not full of admiration for FitzRoy.
Note: When I wrote the nautical section of Sea Dust, I was advised by an acadmic that there wasn't enough blood and guts in my manuscript and that my Captain was too mild mannered.
I'm pleased to say I stuck to my guns.
But as I mentioned, the stories which sell - from Treasure Island to Captain and Commander -are riddled with ever manner of disaster.
Perhaps I should change tack - adopt a male pseudonmy and head back out with all guns blazing.
The idea has crossed my mind more than once.
Photo: Barquentine, STS Leeuwin, sailing the Indian Ocean off Western Australia - M Muir