Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Sailing into 2007

My New Year resolutions for 2007 include writing two books and I'm pleased to say the first is underway.
It's a sea story (age-of-sail era), and in the past couple of weeks I've managed 25,000 words on paper - very rough draft, however!
As part of my background research, I've just finished reading, A Mariner of England.
It's a warts-and-all story (first published in 1908) written by William Richardson, a seaman who served on both merchant and naval ships around the time of the Battle of Trafalgar.
Richardson saw active service - mainly as warrant officer/Gunner (23 years)- in the Channel, West Indies, Calcutta, Flushing and off Portugal.
The detailed picture he paints so eloquently provides an amazing insight into life on the sea 200 years ago.
Reading between the lines it's not hard to spot the differences between the two services, eg: pay scales and punishments.
Interestingly, both merchantmen and naval ratings were regularly duped over money - payment of wages or prize money.
The degree of severe and regular punishments on naval vessels was directly related to the calibre of the Captain (mainly) and officers. For example on one ship Richardson says that two seamen would not dare be seen even talking together on deck - on another the first lieutenant gave him a roll of cloth to make himself some clothes.
One thing that amazed me was the number of ships which sailed together in convoys - naval vessels escorting merchantmen - sometimes there were several hundred sail (400 on one voyage) and it's not surprising that occasionally they got themselves tanlged up together.
William Richardon's autobiographical story is well told and very readable.
It certainly transported me back to the late 1700s and early 1800s and put me in the mood for writing in that era.
If you are interested in the sea or history, or just want an interesting read, I would thoroughly recommend it.
Available on Amazon

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