Much of the material for my Bluewater Thrillers comes from my own experience cruising the islands of the Eastern Caribbean with my wife aboard Play Actor for the last 10 years. While we’ve had little contact with the kind of criminals who are the antagonists in the books, most of the rest of my characters, the scenes, and the descriptions of sailing are drawn from life. While that brings verisimilitude to the books, it has a downside as well. Living the life about which I write means that I have to, well, actually spend time doing sailing related things.
Since I began the Bluewater Thrillers, writing, publishing, and promoting them has consumed my time. My wife and I have continued to live aboard Play Actor and hang out in the eastern Caribbean, but I’ve neglected her. Play Actor, that is, not my wife. Traditionally in western culture, ships have been given feminine attributes, and sometimes even referred to as mistresses, and they are as demanding as any significant other. Play Actor has been patient with me and my writing, and she has suffered some neglect over the last few years as a result.
When we started our sailing adventure years ago, family and friends prevailed upon us to set up a website so that they could follow along. That was before everyone had blogs, before Facebook, Twitter, and even before ebooks as we know them today. Our website was in essence a journal of our travels, describing where we were, the people we had met, and how we spent our time. Several of our readers remarked early on that we seemed to spend an inordinate amount of our time working on the boat. That won’t be a surprise to boat owners, but even the average weekend sailor might be shocked at the level of routine maintenance required to keep an offshore voyaging boat seaworthy.
Finally, Play Actor had enough of our inattention, and she let us know it. When we rejoined her in Antigua last November after a few months ashore in the wilds of the United States, we had two major boat projects on our agenda for the winter. It was past time for us to reupholster the interior. This was beyond a question of aesthetics; the cushions had deteriorated to the point where sitting was uncomfortable, not to mention the tattered fabric. We also were in need of a new mainsail to replace the one that was destroyed in a storm at the end of last season. We’d been deferring that for years, patching it to get us through another season, but it was finally time to order a new one.
Play Actor had her own agenda, though. At the top of her list was a structural issue; we had to replace the bowsprit. The bowsprit was made up of layers of teak alternating with a softer wood, and had some minor rot in the soft wood when we bought her back in ’88. Until this winter, we had dismissed it – it was adequately strong. But Play Actor decided otherwise while left on her own for several months. She got our attention by inviting a colony or two of termites to take up residence in the rotten spots in the old bowsprit.
We didn’t notice that right away, but we did notice the mud tubes that the termites had built in various spots throughout the living space below deck as they searched for water. Aside from eating a number of our books – they showed a particular fondness for The Grapes of Wrath and some of Steinbeck’s other work – they didn’t do any damage, as the solid teak interior wasn’t palatable to them. We eventually found their main nest in the non-teak layers of the bowsprit, and agreed with Play Actor that we should replace it.
If you think all of this has nothing to do with writing, you’re right. That’s why I haven’t been writing, and why I’ve pulled back from a lot of promotional activities as well. I’ve spent the last several months living the mundane part of the life that I write about. I’ve been working on Play Actor, with the able assistance of my wife, who also put her own non-boating interests on hold. We’re finished now, so we’re celebrating. Of course, finished is a relative term. It still takes an hour or two of routine maintenance each day to keep Play Actor happy, and we still have some long term projects to think about.
But I’ve started writing the sixth book in the Bluewater Thriller series; hence, the fireworks. Of course, the local people think the fireworks were to celebrate the opening of the new Causeway Bridge across the Lagoon in St. Martin, but Dani and Liz and I know differently. Look for their sixth adventure this Spring.