I must go down to the sea again (or: researching Pirate King)

You know, research is tough.

I don’t know a lot about boats.  They go in the water, sure, and sometimes they’re the only way to get from one place to another, especially in 1924.  But sailboats?  Um, no. I do have People (or, a Person) who know from boats, the sorts of people who can tell me such delicious bits as what happens when a sail suddenly catches the wind, and how you stop a sailboat in a hurry.

Which means I have a safety net to keep me from looking idiotic.  But for the details, the smells and sounds and wind-on-your-face stuff?  Yes, time to go on a boat.  Oh, the suffering.

After some research and discussion, I decided that the boat I needed was a brigantine, which then meant I had to find one.  Or two.  And as it turned out, there was a festival available, just down the California coastline.

with brigantines:

A brigantine is a two-masted ship with square sails on the fore mast (square to the line of the boat, that is, not square in shape) and fore-and-aft sails behind (which, surprise, follow the line of the boat.)  Like this:

This means the in order to let out the square sails, people have to climb up the lines, work their way out on the mast, dangling their rears out over thin air, while the ship is bouncing around wildly.  Not for the faint of heart.

The Dana Point tall ships festival is enormous fun, even if you’re not hard at work researching a book.  And there’s pirates, of course.  The twin brigantines Exy and Irving Johnson are run by the Los Angeles Maritime Institute to train at-risk young people into the teamwork of a tall ship, and letting them go out on these evening pirate sails where the ships get to shoot at each other (not actual canon balls) like this:

Now, isn’t that just a whole lot of fun?


To order your very own signed copy of Pirate King, go here.

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  1. TheMadLibrarian on August 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

    Yarr! If you go down the coast a bit, you will find docked in San Diego at the Maritime Museum the Surprise (formerly H.M.S. Rose) and the Star of India, both of which are available for tours. The Star is a honkin’ big ship, barque-rigged, and one of the last of the big cargo sailers. The Surprise starred in the Master and Commander movie, but prior to that was a sail trainer. I had the privilege of crewing on her for her last sail before she was turned over to the studio, and yes I did repeatedly climb the mast to make sail. There was much cussing involved, which is why sailors have a reputation for language that would cause a NYC cabbie to blanch. That and the drunkenness.

  2. Laraine on August 30, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    Laurie, your post brought me a lovely memory from a visit to Boston years ago. HMS Black Watch was docked in the harbor, and I was sitting in a dockside pub, admiring the gorgeous tall ship. A nearby man noticed and made a comment or two; we got into a conversation, and after a few minutes I realized that I was talking with the skipper of the Black Watch! Fascinating, and a wonderful moment for the confirmed romantic that I was and am. Thanks for sharing your research! I hear about the Dana Point festivities once in a while, but I think I’ll have to make a serious effort to get down there next time.

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