Of Ships and sails
I’m a happy landlubber. I grew up in Alberta, a landlocked province on the north-west edge of a vast continental prairie. My family weren’t boaters, nor were they into water sports like swimming or fishing.
My boating experience includes a handful of paddleboats, a couple of canoes, one outboard motorboat (all on lakes), a few ferries, and a gigantic cruise ship. I was in charge of none of them, though I helped pedal and row in the smallest of them.
But I gave Caledon a centuries-long passion for the ocean and made them a race of master ship-builders living on a remote island in the middle of the North Sea. While writing the Dragon’s Fire Series, I learned a lot about boats, and although I have creative license under the genre “fantasy,” I like to stay close to reality where I can.
Caledon’s formidable navy is the reason that Langdon and Zandor both founded their capital cities inland. The seagoing history of the Caledonian people gets its first in-depth details in Guardians of Caledon with the rumors about the Neach Gwynt, and Finnian’s building of the Lann Sciath. Both ships are speedy, with the latter sporting a double mast, a feature which did not become common in reality until the late middle ages. The former’s spectacular speed came from engineering; she lifted her bow out of the water when the wind hit her sails, scudding along with an upturned nose.
Fast and maneuverable, Caledon’s warships struck fear into the hearts of her foes, and she ruled the seas around the island from the early 360s until the modern day.
Each ship of significance in the stories has a name. Most of those names are Caledonian words specific to the ship’s role or the quirk that makes it stand out from the rest. In Book Eight, I have created a small rowboat and named it, too. Eahlu means “escape.” In Dragon’s Fire, the Suainydd patrolled the coasts for pirates. Her name means “tranquility.” In The Mystic’s Mandate, the Bwaydh, or “victory,” carried passengers east toward Zandor. And mentioned in Guardians of Caledon, one of three ships that landed on Caledon’s remote shores after fleeing a Roman invasion was the Saorsa, whose name means “freedom.”
About a year after publishing Dragon’s Fire and a few months before releasing The Curse of Caledon, StoryShopUSA employed me to edit their book, A Most Excellent Pirate Adventure. This story is an updated re-release of a 1922 novel titled Blackbeard Buccaneer by Ralph Delahaye Paine. Paine knew his ships, and his naval vocabulary was beyond me, so I kept the dictionary to hand as I worked. Most people don’t read for pleasure with a dictionary alongside them, so I suggested to StoryShop’s executives that we include a handy glossary in the story. Writing it fell to me, partly because of the research I had already completed for the Dragon’s Fire Series.
I won’t take up glossary composition as a steady part of my career. The assignment was less-than-thrilling, but I learned a lot while I was doing it! I now have a copy on my computer and in the novel by StoryShopUSA. Blame the glossary project if you find too many ship terms in my books for which you need a dictionary.
I love watching Caledonian ships sail in my imagination, and I admire vessels in real life. Mostly, though, I’ll keep my feet on solid ground; I’m content to write about grand boats and the brave people who sailed them.
Check out my interview with blogger Fiona Mcvie! https://wp.me/p3uv2y-75n