I’ve also sailed near Hong Kong in the South China Sea and around the tip of Cape Cod on the other side of the world. I’ve sailed along the same route off Wiscasset, Maine, that Daniel Collins and his crewmates followed on their fateful trip to the Caribbean.
Sailing gives me a taste for nautical history that books don’t. Tasting the salt in the air, feeling the sun on my face, glimpsing the stars in the night sky when the clouds part after a tense rainfall—these are the same sights and sounds and tastes that Daniel Collins and the doomed crew of the Betsey experienced in the 1800s.
That heavy, humid, tangy air in the Indian Ocean? That’s exactly what the crew and passengers of the Runnymeade had to contend with for weeks before they shipwrecked.
It’s details like these that make writing this series of books so much fun. I get to relive my times at sea and inject the scenes with those details, even though the events I’m writing about took place long before I was even born!
And the fear and uncertainty my characters felt when faced with deadly consequences—I’ve had my share of that too. Nothing quite so brutal, because now we have GPS and the Coast Guard and other useful modern inventions. But there was a time I went sailing on Lake Eerie and the afternoon did not go as planned. You’d think the open ocean would be the water to beat me, but it was on the lake that our boat lost its rudder. Have you ever tried sailing a boat with a lost rudder? Remember when Captain Doutty realized the Runnymeade had lost its rudder? “Losing the rudder meant that whatever weak control Captain Doutty had managed to hold on to was gone.” Yup. That was me. Stuck on the lake without a rudder.
The situation turned out more embarrassing than dangerous. We got a tow back to land. No capsizing on an island and having to defend ourselves from cannibals. Phew!
One thing writers know is that everything is material. And my sailing experiences are certainly material. I used them extensively when writing Pirates and Shipwrecks, and I’m sure they’ll come into play in more books.
Tom McCarthy has been an award-winning writer and editor for more than twenty-five years. As an editor and ghostwriter for various publishers in New York City, Maine, and Connecticut, he developed and edited titles that have won such awards as Harvard University's Goldsmith Award for Book of the Year; Readers Digest Top Five Summer Books; Sports Illustrated's Top Books of the Year; and Esquire's The Year's Five Best Reads, among others. As the series editor for several best-selling collections, including Incredible Pirate Tales, Ghost Pirates, and Incredible Tales of the Sea, he has developed a knack for finding great stories for readers of all ages. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.
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