Written and illustrated descriptions of your main characters, crucial settings, and important objects can go a long way when trying to write them into a scene. In the case of The Day the Pirates Went Mad, the sailing ship New Adventure is just as important as any character. Here’s a summary of my notes along with a couple of excerpts from the book.
The New Adventure is a black-hulled, sixty-five-foot, two-masted vessel with sails gaff-rigged to run fore-and-aft rather than in the square sail rig typical of larger ships. Three-foot-long pennants, in all the colours of the rainbow, hang from the stays and its brass fittings shine in the sun.
“Built fer speed she is, and I’d wager she can ’old ta windward like few other. Those cannon though…That many cannon and a swivel gun set in each quarter on a ship ’er size? Puts me ta mind of jus’ two things—the Royal Navy or pirates. And I’ve not seen any Navy officers standin’ about aboard there.”– Peter “Old Mossy” Moss in The Day the Pirates Went Mad, Chapter 3 – Decision Made
The New Adventure has the look and sail plan of a schooner, a category of sailing ship that becomes popular in later years. Converted from a custom-built sloop, the New Adventure has the following attributes:
63½ ft main deck
15¾ ft breadth
50 ft keel length
5 knots avg speed
10 knots top speed
4¼ ft hold depth
5¾ ft draught
71¾ tons burthen
8 French brass 8-pounders
4 English ½-pounder swivels
Math aside: the top speed of a sailing ship is calculated as the square root of length in water * 1.34. When normally loaded the New Adventure has a length in the water of ~59 ft. And with an average speed of 5 knots, it can travel 120 miles per day.
“He [Captain Garrett] discovered the sloop was named the Swallow. It had been specially made for Samuel Day, the recently appointed Governor of Bermuda, and he had outfitted it as an armed merchant ship. […] Now, not only was it a brand-new, well-armed ship out on its first voyage, it was also made of Bermuda cedar, which is known for being light, strong, and resistant to shipworms. A ship made of this timber is built to last! All in all, the captain fell very much in love with that sloop.”– Jack Randall in The Day the Pirates Went Mad, Chapter 5 – Ship’s Monkey
In 1698, Captain Garrett and a few other trusted shipmates boarded the Swallow after midnight, cut its cable, and escaped to the open ocean. There they made their way northward along the coast of Florida and up to New York, selling cargo as needed to buy food and other supplies. Once they arrived in New York, they sold off the rest of the cargo and anything else they didn’t need from the ship.
Then, Captain Garrett found a shipbuilder on nearby Rhode Island who could refit the Swallow to his specifications: adding a second mast, additional cannons, swivel guns, a permanent galley, hidden compartments in the hold, and hanging the gig out over the stern.
The captain now had the ship he needed to travel the world on his terms, with a specially selected crew as adventurous as himself.
Since its refit at Rhode Island, the New Adventure has criss-crossed the Atlantic and also run cargo between England and the Continent. Its year-long journey in 1701 to the Zanzibar Archipelogo, sailing along western Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope, and north into the India Ocean, was its most ambitious voyage to date.
Now, in 1702, the New Adventure sails again for the West Indies, with a crew of seventeen, to bring needed supplies to the English plantations on Barbados and Jamaica.
The New Adventure is a fictional sailing ship, plying the waves at the turn of the 18th century. A number of real-life vessels provided inspiration in envisaging what the New Adventure looked like and its capabilities. Two of the main contributors were:
- The Halcon, a 210-ton Spanish schooner of 10 guns (1840) – provided the hull shape and general deck layout.
- The 77-ton English advice boat Express of 4 guns (1695) – provided the dimensions and guidance for the armaments and crew capacity.
Whether the New Adventure can really sail in the manner described in the story is unknown, but we have to imagine it does – that’s all part of the fiction of historical fiction! 🙂