NaNoWriMo: The Islands Beyond, Day 8

The Islands Beyond MapDay 8

Today I touched up the map I’d drawn for the story, colouring it and adding some place names.  I imagine that I’d probably hand colour a final version, but for now, this is something pretty to look at. I went with a purple-blue-aquamarine palette to suggest something cold and icy.

On the writing front, I ended at 14540 words (just 1290 words today, but still ahead of the overall Day 8 goal). Part of what slowed me down is that I worked through a difficult section that I knew was necessary, but that, at least initially, I wasn’t sure how to write.

My two heroes, Ethan and Pete, have learned that they need to travel from Enoch’s Island to Fikskoljan, where their father is waiting for them. The only way to get there is by sailboat, but they don’t know how to sail!

Happily, there are stuck on the island with Henry Hudson, the 17th c. explorer, who obviously knows how to sail.  Now, the hardcore historians among us (you know who you are) will say that Henry Hudson would have been at least momentarily turned around on my circa-1970s reconstruction of an 1890s gaff-rigged Friendship sloop. But if pressed on the issue, I would simply say that Henry Hudson is a consummate sailor, and would have been able to make heads and/or tails of the boat.

The tricky part of what I wrote today, however, didn’t have to do with the potential for leaving Henry Hudson marooned in an anachronism. Instead, it had to do with knowing just how technical I should get in my writing as he taught the boys to sail. After all, there may be no activity in the world more riddled with jargon than sailing. It is an activity that clearly evolved over centuries, with vocabulary incorporated from many seafaring nations.

Thankfully, I intend to complement the text with drawings and diagrams, and these, I hope, will make the narrative more clear.

Here’s an excerpt.  I’d be interested to know what you think, especially if you know nothing about sailing.

John and Pete lent a hand undoing all the cords and getting the sail loosened and ready to be hoisted. The Hudsons seemed to move around the boat with confidence, but the boys were unsure of themselves. The most confusing aspect of the rigging was all of the ropes and lines and wires involved. But Henry explained that there were two cords, or halyards, that did all the lifting of the mainsail.

“Just remember that halyards hoist,” he said.

The wind was coming from the direction of the sea, and Henry hoisted the mainsail with the halyards. The sail fluttered in the wind like a bed sheet on a wash line.

“Shouldn’t the sails be catching the wind?” said Ethan. “How do you make it stop fluttering?”

“The sail is luffing, or fluttering, because we have not trimmed it yet,” said Henry. “First we hoist the mainsail and let the boat point itself into the wind. We cleat the halyards, like this, so that the gaff pole and sail do not fall back down. Afterwards, we raise the staysails in front of the mast.”

“And then we trim the sails?” asked Pete.  “Does that involve cutting them?”

John and Henry laughed. “No,” said Henry, “we will not cut the sails. We trim them by tightening the sheets, here and here. Remember, sheets control the shape of the sails.”

“Isn’t the sheet just another name for the sail?” asked Ethan.

“No. Do not confuse the word with a sheet of cloth. On a boat, a sheet is a rope.”

“So why don’t they just call it a rope?”

Henry smiled. “I am afraid there are many such terms in the sailor’s vocabulary, young man, and each of them utterly confusing for the newcomer. Block and boom, luff and leech, sheet and shroud. But do not despair. It will all come, and until then, I will make it easy.”

“And fun,” said John.


About jackfrey
Jack Frey lives somewhere in Northeast Asia with his wife and two young boys. He finds the letter K to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all the consonants, in both its upper and lowercase forms. Like many of us, he is currently seeking publication of his first novel.

2 Responses to NaNoWriMo: The Islands Beyond, Day 8

  1. That was great! I thought you did a fantastic job of explaining the vocab in context. I love it :). Congrats on your word count….I’m only at 12k

  2. jackfrey says:

    Thanks! I am glad to know it reads well. I peppered the chapter with a few more bursts of vocab and instruction, as well as a very dramatic warning from Henry that sailing on a calm sea is easy, but when the weather is bad, it can be very dangerous.

    Keep plugging away with the writing. I’ve decided that any undue attention I put on word count is probably defeating what the NaNoWriMo creators had in mind. Have fun! 🙂

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