All At Sea... (Part Two)


 .... With Indie B.R.A.G and Anna Belfrage (and my own Jesamiah Acorne)

PART TWO

To celebrate Indie B.R.A.G's Book Blitz Week (where they are promoting some of their top B.R.A.G. Medallion Honorees) the author of the timeslip Graham Saga Series, Anna Belfrage and I have been asked to talk about sea travel in the late 1600's.


Because this is a somewhat long post I've split it into two:
click here for Part One (an interview with Anna)





Life At Sea
Before 1700, Europe’s mariners and mapmakers knew only about half the Earth’s surface with any detail. Australia had not been ‘discovered’ as a continent, and only a handful of sailors had successfully circumnavigated the globe.


Shipping in the sixteenth and seventeenth century was precarious although the later 1600’s were an age of advancement. Various wars and the boom in trade from the islands of the Caribbean and the east coast of North America (no ‘white man’ had travelled into the interior before 1700) resulted in an improvement in ship design. By the mid 1700's the shipyards of Deptford and Woolwich were producing bigger and better warships which sailed more efficiently, and were more effective with firepower. The capacity for carrying provisions and guns improved. Masts and yards became taller and longer, giving more spread of canvas sails – and therefore more speed and manoeuvrability.
   Navigation also improved. Samuel Pepys, in charge of Charles II’s navy stressed in his diary the need for a 'scientific and mathematick approach to navigation'. The foundation of an observatory at Greenwich and the study of the stars helped develop new sea routes and greater accuracy in sailing but it was not until well into the eighteenth century that navigation improved. Alex was quite right to be afraid of the ship taking her across the Atlantic being wrecked by storms, although the greatest danger at that time was getting lost. Finding latitude at sea was routine and accurate, but longitude was done by experience, guesswork, and a knowledge of observing the stars. The solution was to develop a reliable sextant and a seaworthy clock, but no such clock existed.
    The task of developing something which could be used at sea began after a naval disaster in 1707 when four ships ran aground due to navigational mistakes. In consequence, the British government offered a prize of £20,000, (several million pounds sterling today) for anyone who could determine longitude accurately. John Harrison a Yorkshire carpenter, eventually claimed the reward in 1761. His marine chronometer was trialled by his son and at the end of a ten-week voyage the clock was discovered to be in error by no more than five seconds.


Conditions aboard ship were poor at best, appalling at worst. There was little room below deck – warships gave preference to their guns, not the men who handled them. Merchants to cargo. Food was salted or dried and stored in barrels – rats were a problem, as were weevils. On long voyages without fresh fruit or vegetables men developed scurvy. Water was precious – there were no provisions for washing in anything except salt or rain water. Injury and illness were always an unwanted companion aboard ship. Accidents were common. If a man fell from the mast it was better if he fell into the sea and drowned quickly rather than suffer a lingering death.
    Fights at sea were brutal. Cannons could do a lot of damage to a man and a wooden ship – fire was the dread of every sailor. The life of a ‘tar’ or a ‘foremast jack’ was often short – especially for pirates like Jesamiah Acorne who took the law into their own hands. If disease, food poisoning or dying of thirst didn’t get you, then storm and shipwreck would; or maybe for the pirates, dancing a jig on the hangman’s noose. It was not death that these men feared, but the nature of it. 


* * * 
1661 The second in Anna Belfrage's timeslip series, Like Chaff In The Wind features time traveller Alexandra Lind and her 17th century husband, Matthew Graham. Matthew committed the mistake of his life when he cut off his brother's nose. In revenge, Luke Graham has Matthew abducted and transported to the Colony of Virginia, there to be sold as indentured labour - a death sentence more or less. He arrives in Virginia in May 1661, and any hope of someone willing to listen to his tale of abduction is quickly extinguished. He also realises that no one has ever survived the seven years of service.

Fortunately, Matthew has a remarkable wife who has no intention of letting her husband die. Alex sets off on a perilous journey to bring him home. She prays for a miracle to carry her swiftly to his side, but what should have been a two month crossing turns into a year long voyage. Will she find him in time? If she does, will she be capable of paying the price to buy him free? And will she survive sailing across the Atlantic Ocean?

The Time : The Golden Age of Piracy - 1716. 
The Place : The Pirate Round - from the South African Coast to the Islands of the Caribbean.

    Escaping the bullying of his elder half brother, from the age of fifteen Jesamiah Acorne has been a pirate with only two loves - his ship and his freedom. But his life is to change when he and his crew mates unsuccessfully attack a merchant ship off the coast of South Africa.
    He is to meet Tiola Oldstagh an insignificant girl, or so he assumes - until she rescues him from a vicious attack, and almost certain death, by pirate hunters. And then he discovers what she really is; a healer, a midwife - and a white witch.
    When the call of the sea and an opportunity to commandeer a beautiful ship - the Sea Witch - is put in Jesamiah's path he must make a choice between his life as a pirate or his love for Tiola. He wants both, but others want him dead. In trouble, imprisoned in the darkness and stench that is the lowest part of a ship, can Tiola with her gift of Craft save him.
    But first she must brave the ocean depths to confront Tethys, the Spirit of the Sea, an elemental who will stop at nothing to claim Jesamiah's soul and bones as a trophy.
* * * 

Anna and Helen
(HNS Conference Denver 2015 photo Cathy Helms)
Anna and I wondered what would happen if Jesamiah were to meet Alex 
as she was crossing the Atlantic in search of Matthew. 
As a special, exclusive treat  here's what we came up with
* * *
Somewhere in the Atlantic 1661...
“Who are you?” Alex wiped at the wet hair that was clinging to her face. She knew for a fact she’d not seen the man standing beside her before on the Regina Anne – Captain Miles would never tolerate a sailor who looked so…so…dangerous? Her gaze slid over his cutlass – cutlass! – and the pistol tucked through his belt…up to his dark eyes. He was grinning, his gold acorn-shaped earring glinting in a sudden flash of sun. Beneath his three-corned hat he had thick, black hair, tied back with a sea-blue ribbon. Poncy, Alex thought, but then men in the here and now had a predilection for lace and ribbons. Not like the men of her time, who thought they were daring if they wore a pink shirt with their business suit.
   The man removed his hat, made a slight bow. “Captain Jesamiah Acorne, at your service, ma’am. And who might you be?”
   Captain? Alex thought boats only had one captain. And this captain didn’t exactly look like the sort of person Captain Miles would comfortably work alongside. Fight against maybe…?
   Swallowing another threat of rising bile, Alex attempted to be polite. “I am Mistress Alexandra Graham, wife to Matthew Graham who has been abducted and sold into indentured slavery.”
   “That was careless of him,” Captain Acorne quipped, taking a small silver container from his pocket. Un-stoppering it and putting the spout to his mouth, he took a long swig of whatever was inside it.
   “It was not carelessness at all!” Alex bridled, angry, her fists bunching. “He cut off his brother’s nose. In revenge, the bastard has had Matthew transported to Virginia to be sold into indentured labour – a death sentence. I am intent on not letting my husband die, either there or bound in chains aboard one of these, these,” she whirled her arms around indicating the ship, ”floating coffins!”
  Acorne wiped the top of the flask and handed it to her. Alex shook her head.
  “It’ll do your stomach good,” he said, offering it again. “And if his brother is anything like mine, I think I like the sound of your husband.”
   Alex took the flask, wiped the spout again with the corner of her cloak and took a tentative sip. Spluttered at the taste of very strong rum. He was right, though, it was warming. Tasted good. She had another sip, said quietly, “I cannot bear to think of Matthew chained in dark squalor below deck.”
   “Ah.” Jesamiah Acorne nodded. “I’ve no liking for men who carry their enchained brethren like so much cattle across the sea. I’ve suffered such myself.” He took the flask back, gulped a mouthful of the contents down.
   "You have?” Alex supposed she should commiserate, ask him about his experiences, but the man just shook his head, indicating these were matters he refused to talk about. The deck tilted. It tilted again, and Alex clung to the railing, cursing the wind, the sea, the goddamn boat and, most of all, Luke Graham.
   “I am no sailor,” she admitted. “I hate this bloody boat. I hate picking weevils out of bread that is as hard as iron, I hate having no private place to relieve myself, no fresh water to clean my hair or teeth – to wash. Nowhere warm or dry to sit or sleep. I hate the squalor, the stink, the fact that the bloody boat itself is as fragile as a walnut shell and might fall apart the next time the wind blows up!”
   “Ship,” Captain Acorne corrected. “She’s a ship.” 
  He pointed to the masts soaring overhead into the grey-blue sky, the wind-filled canvas sails creaking and groaning, the rigging humming like a discordant, badly rehearsed string section of an orchestra. “Three masts, fore, main and mizzen. That makes her a ship, not a boat.” He leant back against the rail, looked about with a critical eye - completely at ease with the ship’s perpetual rise and fall and roll motion. "Sails set fair, cordage coiled and stowed neat, decks clear and tidy." He pointed to a nearby hatch that had been partly swung open to let light and air down to the deck below; "Secured correct. Looks like this vessel has a captain who knows what he’s about, and a crew not made up of mithering landlubbers who don’t like to get their fekking hands dirty. She’s smaller in length and width than my ship, and her quarterdeck is higher. I don’t have any poop deck aboard Sea WitchMy father had a ship like this one when he sailed with Henry Morgan. She was a sound vessel, from what I gather. As fast as a greyhound. Regina Anne won’t be as good if she needs a turn of speed, but she seems seaworthy enough.”
   “I don’t care if she’s not the bloody HMS Victory,” Alex retorted. “As long as she’s not the Titanic! I hate the sea. I hate the way it goes up and down; I hate the cold, the wet!”
He looked at her quizzically, not recognising the ships' names. “The sea can be fickle, I grant, and you must treat her with the greatest respect. She can be all those things, but the sea and a ship, to some, mean freedom and dignity. You treat sea and ship like a mistress, with care and attention. And you put up with their squalls and the tantrums for what they offer in return.”
   Alex nodded, pretending she agreed. For all the passion he was expressing, to her mind he was talking fool nonsense. She did not care a bent binnacle, or whatever the nautical words were, for this ship or any ship, and she had no idea why she was listening to this rag-tag ruffian. She had no idea who or what he was, although that cutlass and pistol reminded her of the appearance of a pirate. Whoever, whatever, she had a suspicion that he did not belong to this boat – ship. There was something about him, something different yet familiar? He does not belong to this ship or this time, she thought. Like me. He shouldn’t be here.
   Somehow that helped, and she suddenly found herself talking and talking, letting loose all the fears that had been churning, heavy in her stomach – and had refused to be spewed up over the side with her seasick vomit. It all poured out, the whole story of Matthew and Luke, finding a ship to take her as passenger, the misery of seasickness, the horror of it all and the fear that any moment may be her last.
Embarrassed at her outburst she ended with the truth. “What if this ship sinks? I’m scared shitless!”
   He answered her with a smile and equal truth. “Ships do sink – more often than us sailors want to think about. Wind, tide, storms, current, they can all take their toll.” He gave a low, deep-throated laugh. “And then there’s pirates.”
   Alex decided to ignore his last remark. She had enough on her over-full plate as it was. “Not the ship Matthew is on.” She gave him a despairing look. “Not the ship with my Matthew. His ship is sturdy and fast and safe. He is safe. He is!”
Jesamiah, Captain Acorne, did not reply. He just looked at her, and something in his eyes made her want to cry. “He must be safe,” she said. “Without him, I…” Would die. Just like that. Alex bit her lip in an effort not to wail out loud.
   The man, Captain, Jesamiah Acorne, put his arm around her shoulders and drew her to his side. For that brief moment Alex felt warm and comfortable. Safe. Despite the fact that he stank of unwashed clothes, sweat and tar. Matthew smelt the same, although without the tar. Tears of lonely grief filled her eyes, her heart and her soul.
   “Believe in yourself, sweetheart,” Jesamiah said as he kissed the top of her head. “And keep that vision of freedom in your mind. The blue sea, the white-capped rollers, the wind that is filling the sails. Touch a stay every morning for luck. And never give up hope. Once you do, you might as well head for the horizon with your arse on fire.”
   She blinked back the tears, shut her eyes, gripped the rail. When she opened them again, he had gone. But there, on the deck beside her foot was a tightly stoppered silver flask, and wound about it, a blue ribbon.
Anna Belfrage & Helen Hollick

Buy Like Chaff  In The Wind 

On Kindle: Amazon.co.uk £3.49 ...  Amazon.com  $5.41
In Paperback: Amazon.co.uk  ...  Amazon.com

Buy Sea Witch

On Kindle: Amazon.co.uk £3.48  ...  Amazon.com $5.43
In Paperback: Amazon.co.uk ...  Amazon.com

Anna's Website  : Blog Facebook  : Twitter @Anna_Belfrage

Helen's Website : Facebook : Twitter @HelenHollick

Indie B.R.A.G.  Website  :  Facebook



GIVEAWAY - Two WINNERS: Two BOOKS
(competition closed)
our winners were Christine and Lara
unfortunately I haven't got a contact for Lara ...
 please message me via the contact form Lara and Anna and I can ship your prize!


choose Book One 
or Book Three
AND




28 comments:

  1. So clever and so much fun! a great post-

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  2. Oh brilliant! I did enjoy that, for as you know Helen, I do love a bit of time travel, not to mention the confusion it causes. However, much as I love to read or write about time travel, no way in the world would I actually do it! I like my creature comforts way too much. I'll continue to enjoy it in books. �� But thank you both for this short story, it was great fun.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Loretta - Jesamiah would miss his rum of course... LOL

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  3. Ladies I loved the meeting of Jesamiah and Alex, the story gave me goose bumps, and made my eyes fill up. I can see I will have to add more books to my wish list thanks ladies. I do love Time Travel and Sea Adventures. I think I would miss my Earl Grey tea. I can manage without too many creature comforts.

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    Replies
    1. I agree about the Earl Grey! Thanks Libby, glad you enjoyed the encounter between Jesamiah and Alex - Anna and I had great fun writing it!

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  4. This was a great story, thank you very much! I really enjoyed it! I definitely need to read both. But still, I would miss many things when living in these times or on board a ship - first of all my bed, where I can snuggle in and read a whole day or two. And coffee! :)

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    Replies
    1. Oh Carolin I SO agree! I love my memory-foam snug as a bug bed... *shudder* wouldn't swap it for seventeenth century actual bed bugs! Yuk!

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  5. Oh I did enjoy reading the meeting of Alex and Jesamiah! I enjoyed the contrasting views of ships and sailing too...and bless him, he's such a charmer. *laughs* Well done, ladies!!

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  6. 1. I'd miss convenient and reliable access to a wide range of foods. So restaurants, supermarkets etc.

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    Replies
    1. Gosh yes! They had taverns and places to eat but not the wide variety we have today - no Chinese take-away!

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  7. 2. A medical emergency without access to today's hospitals, docs, equipment, medicine, etc.

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    Replies
    1. I often think that when I hear of people complaining about the British National Health Service... try going back to the 1600's then you'll find out why we should appreciate what we have!

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  8. 3. A meaningful encounter with a historical figure during an important time.

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm... maybe warn Mr Fawkes NOT to try blowing up Parliament? Advise Charles I to listen to what the people are saying? I'm tempted to say I'd like to be there at the Battle of Hastings but it would be too sad, so maybe a happy occasion instead...the day of Elizabeth I's coronation perhaps?

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  9. Comment sent via Contact Form from Gordon Levine: Thanks Gordon!

    Contest Question 1. What I'd miss the most...modern available medical
    treatment
    Contest question 2...Most awful...Transportation! (slavery type, not
    traveling)
    Contest Question 3...most exciting thing...watching a sword duel between
    two REAL experts, I'm so disgusted with all the phony swashbuckling duels
    on TV and in movies

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A sword fight would be interesting - although a bit scary as they didn't have your first 'miss most' back then! :-)

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  10. What would I miss most? Modern transportation! Imagine how long commuting would take!

    The worst thing to endure? Probably medical treatment. Ugh, leeches!

    Best or most exciting thing? I think being at some of the scientific discoveries of the century would have been a nice kind of exciting, if you weren't still there when the inquisition rocked up! The English Civil war, would have been exciting too, but definitely not the best experience!

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    Replies
    1. Hmm not sure about transportation i love tall ships and horse riding. I guess for emergencies or important things (wanting to see a newborn grandchild who is far away for instance) several weeks to get somewhere could be annoying.
      Did you know that modern warfare really started with the train? Prior to trains it took a long while to move troops around, which gave a chance for talks to sort the matter. Once train travel came though troops could reach battlefields much quicker.

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  11. What would I miss most? Modern transportation! Imagine how long commuting would take!

    The worst thing to endure? Probably medical treatment. Ugh, leeches!

    Best or most exciting thing? I think being at some of the scientific discoveries of the century would have been a nice kind of exciting, if you weren't still there when the inquisition rocked up! The English Civil war, would have been exciting too, but definitely not the best experience!

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    Replies
    1. Medical treatment seems to be winning hands down!

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  12. What would I miss most? Modern transportation! Imagine how long commuting would take!

    The worst thing to endure? Probably medical treatment. Ugh, leeches!

    Best or most exciting thing? I think being at some of the scientific discoveries of the century would have been a nice kind of exciting, if you weren't still there when the inquisition rocked up! The English Civil war, would have been exciting too, but definitely not the best experience!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yes! The excitement of that breakthrough moment! I'd have loved to be in the room when that first telephone call was made! Thanks for commenting Sam!

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  13. Christine tried to post - but sometimes Wordpress decides it doesn't like Blogger: so on her behalf:
    Hello Helen
    If I went back in time, I would miss books. I know books can be found in many periods of history, but, as a woman, I would probably be forbidden or unable (because of lack of education) to read. I can't imagine a life unable to read or more important, to write, books. Think that covers questions 1 and 2.
    A second comment - that I've just thought of for question 3.
    I would like to go back to Maldon in August 991, to meet Byrhtnoth. So I could tell him not to let those nasty Vikings across the causeway to kill him.
    However, if he had done that he wouldn't be remembered and I wouldn't have anyone to write my book about.
    Thanks
    Christine

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    Replies
    1. Oh I don't know, if the English had won at Maldon maybe they would be remembered in a different way. Although having said that we do tend to remember the heroic dead more than the victors don't we? And they do make darn good lead characters for us....

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  14. Just to add: Anna will hopefully be here soon.... she travelling & hasn't got internet.

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  15. GIVEAWAY - Two WINNERS: Two BOOKS
    (competition closed)
    our winners were Christine and Lara
    unfortunately I haven't got a contact for Lara ...
    please message me via the contact form Lara and Anna and I can ship your prize!

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for leaving a comment - it should appear immediately, but Blogger sometimes chucks its teddies out of the cot and has a tantrum (especially if you are a Wordpress person) If you are having problems, contact me on author@helenhollick.net and I will post it for you.
However, SPAMMERS will be stamped on, squashed, composted and very possibly cursed - if you spam my blog, next time something nasty happens to you just remember that I DID warn you...

Helen