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Old 24-02-2014, 22:26   #1
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seasick novelist has some questions

I joined the forum recently as a writer who knows very little about sailing, and I'm trying to be precise about details in my first novel, which I'm sending off to publication soon. Please respond if you have a little time and patience for me. Also, please don't feel like you have to answer everything at once; maybe this will be a group effort. Warning: some of these questions will seem naive, if not downright silly, to most of you.

First, a quick prelude: part of my novel, in particular the finale, has been inspired by stories of young people taking solo trips in their own sailboats. In my book, there are three young people on board a large boat (the eldest is 16, the other pair are 14). The younger two are very familiar with their vessel. At the end of the story, they're departing from Hawaii and headed to Australia and New Zealand.

1) What kind of boat can you envision for these three, in order for them to comfortably make the journey? This question encompasses issues like how large/ long the boat should be, and what type it is. I want these young characters to be actually sailing (that is, working sails on the boat), but the boat would also have to be modern enough, with a motor, to power it. It will most likely be a refurbished yacht, but not quite a super yacht. I don't want it to be over-the-top, but I'd like it to be comfortable and spacious enough for their long journey. Am I making any sense? I'm still trying to get my head around how a boat can be both a sailboat and a motorboat/ cruiser.

2) I have written that the "captain" of the boat, the sole female, is commanding/ steering, etc.. She has a physical impairment and cannot move around easily. What are her duties at the seat of control, as someone who is limited to mostly sitting there? Would she steer from an upper (or lower?) platform that actually has a steering wheel, and does she also monitor the "vital signs" of the boat/ conditions from there with a dashboard/ computer screens?

3) If one of the passengers is on this upper platform with the captain, would the third sailor be on deck maneuvering the sails (and is there a special word for working the sails)? Does the sailing and "motoring" ever happen at the same time?

4) What does the sailor on deck (the first mate?) have to do exactly, in order to manage a large boat, even if the captain is in her upper platform and there is another person on board, and what specific things does he have to be careful/ mindful of?

5) What could the third person do to help out on board, even if he is not much of a sailor like the other two?

6) If these three are sailing from Hawaii to Australia, would they have to stop and refuel/ resupply along the way? Where would this be?

I realize these questions can be dense (in more ways than one), since some contain more than one query. I'll leave it at these for now. Thank you SO much in advance for your input!
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Old 24-02-2014, 22:43   #2
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Given your platforms this is a large vessel. Is that your vision a large multi tiers vessel? Or are you imagining minimalist under 50 foot sailing vessel.
The request is lacking in so much detail it's difficult to imagine what you are after.
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Old 24-02-2014, 22:50   #3
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Hi, yep, I was afraid of this-- not giving enough detail because I'm not yet sure exactly what I'm after, as you say. But I CAN reply that yes, I envision this as a two or three-tiered vessel, perhaps around 60-70 feet?
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:03   #4
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

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Originally Posted by EveOkay View Post
I joined the forum recently as a writer who knows very little about sailing, and I'm trying to be precise about details in my first novel, which I'm sending off to publication soon. Please respond if you have a little time and patience for me. Also, please don't feel like you have to answer everything at once; maybe this will be a group effort. Warning: some of these questions will seem naive, if not downright silly, to most of you.

First, a quick prelude: part of my novel, in particular the finale, has been inspired by stories of young people taking solo trips in their own sailboats. In my book, there are three young people on board a large boat (the eldest is 16, the other pair are 14). The younger two are very familiar with their vessel. At the end of the story, they're departing from Hawaii and headed to Australia and New Zealand.

1) What kind of boat can you envision for these three, in order for them to comfortably make the journey? This question encompasses issues like how large/ long the boat should be, and what type it is. I want these young characters to be actually sailing (that is, working sails on the boat), but the boat would also have to be modern enough, with a motor, to power it. It will most likely be a refurbished yacht, but not quite a super yacht. I don't want it to be over-the-top, but I'd like it to be comfortable and spacious enough for their long journey. Am I making any sense? I'm still trying to get my head around how a boat can be both a sailboat and a motorboat/ cruiser.

2) I have written that the "captain" of the boat, the sole female, is commanding/ steering, etc.. She has a physical impairment and cannot move around easily. What are her duties at the seat of control, as someone who is limited to mostly sitting there? Would she steer from an upper (or lower?) platform that actually has a steering wheel, and does she also monitor the "vital signs" of the boat/ conditions from there with a dashboard/ computer screens?

3) If one of the passengers is on this upper platform with the captain, would the third sailor be on deck maneuvering the sails (and is there a special word for working the sails)? Does the sailing and "motoring" ever happen at the same time?

4) What does the sailor on deck (the first mate?) have to do exactly, in order to manage a large boat, even if the captain is in her upper platform and there is another person on board, and what specific things does he have to be careful/ mindful of?

5) What could the third person do to help out on board, even if he is not much of a sailor like the other two?

6) If these three are sailing from Hawaii to Australia, would they have to stop and refuel/ resupply along the way? Where would this be?

I realize these questions can be dense (in more ways than one), since some contain more than one query. I'll leave it at these for now. Thank you SO much in advance for your input!
First, let me say that you be caught out on the details of such a trip by any competent sailor. No matter how many answers you get on this (or any other forum) you won't get it right (unless you are a sailor yourself). The terminology itself will reveal you.

Assuming you have a sailboat (they do have engines, not motors) the helm is either in the cockpit or perhaps a pilot house. Depending on the boat, if the helm is in the cockpit, it may be either a tiller or a wheel.

Typically on a modern boat, the helmsman would have an array of instruments showing, position, sea chart, radar, wind (apparent and relative) depth, course. Depending on how much money has been spent, the sails, boom etc could be hydraulically operated (or they could be manual).

You say not quite a super yacht, which suggests this is a rather large, say 50 ft. plus. Big boat for some teenagers. 50 foot is nowhere near a super yacht. For that you'd be up in something like 80 feet or much more. For 3 teens, something in the 40-45 foot range makes more sense.

A well-founded boat, equipped correctly can make the run from Hawaii to Australia non-stop. But, and here is a big but, just what time of year are you planning to have these kids make the run. It might be advisable to avoid the bad weather season.

So your one teen is handicapped. Which means every time he/she has to go below, they need to be carried?, go to the potty etc? Whilst handicapped person do sail, and many of them sail RTW, it is not easy. They need to be strapped in the entire time.

The distance (as the bird flies) from Hawaii to Australia (depends on where in Australia) is roughly 4600 NM. A boat does not sail in a straight line. Assuming your kids are great sailors and navigators, let's say they only will end up sailing something like 5100NM (wind and weather). At an average speed of 6 knots (you'll have to learn this terminology to write a believable story) the trip will take 85 days. That is one hell of a long time to be on a boat. It can be done, although I sure wouldn't want to do it.

There are islands along the way they can stop at - but the more you stop the longer the trip.

You ask about motoring along - on a sailboat, you rarely motor, unless you really need to.

The above gives you some idea of what you're getting into. If you really want to do write this, you're better off finding a competent sailor, who's also a writer and have him/her ghostwrite these passages for you. You'll never get it right by yourself.

I'm a novelist and I've tried writing about things I knew nothing about. In those cases, either the research killed me or I ended up writing garbage.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:07   #5
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

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Originally Posted by EveOkay View Post
Hi, yep, I was afraid of this-- not giving enough detail because I'm not yet sure exactly what I'm after, as you say. But I CAN reply that yes, I envision this as a two or three-tiered vessel, perhaps around 60-70 feet?
Probably ain't no sailboat then. You're looking at a motorboat.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:08   #6
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

I suggest googling a variety of sailboats until you find the one you have a mental picture of - and then go from there. You should be able to post the picture or at least the make/model of your concept. 60-70 feet is a relatively large boat, in my opinion, and I have trouble imagining 3 teenagers sailing a boat that size. Check out boats of that size on Yachtworld.com.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:17   #7
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Okay, I should specify, my novel is basically complete, I already have an editor attached and at least one interested publisher, and I wouldn't dream about sending it off without covering all of my research. Which brings us to my presence in this great forum. I'll specify more: at the VERY end of the novel, these young characters leave in a boat that was essentially willed to them. So I see it as a large boat, a big ol' yacht in fact, and two of them already know how to sail it, as it has been in the family. I'm not actually writing about their trip overseas (but we as readers know they are headed to Australia, etc.). If I did that, I'd need to do a lot more research. I'm sorry if my questions sound like I don't know what I'm talking about... Thanks very much for your corrections.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:20   #8
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

A couple of you are already saying that a 60-70ft boat is perhpas too much for a few teens, so I'm taking that in, thanks, and I'll look at some more pictures, maybe in the 50-60ft range. I've been looking at stuff online and also gazing at the yachts that sail by my apartment on the Brisbane River... it's just hard for me to gauge how big they are.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:39   #9
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

If it is at the VERY end of the novel, why bother with all the questions? Just state that they got on their 80 foot Oyster(Swan, Willy, Halberg Rassy or whatever) and sailed off into the sunset?

You'll never get the details or terminology right. There are damned few 2 or 3 tiered sailboats around ( I know someone will find one on the net).

By the way are you thinking monohull or catamaran? Sloop. Ketch or Yawl rigged? Pilot house, hard or soft Dodger? GRP, Ferro, wood, aluminum or steel?

See what I mean?
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:47   #10
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Not sure on the tiered thing. There are lots of tired sailboats around though. Owners to match sometimes.

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Old 24-02-2014, 23:47   #11
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

The boat shows up earlier in the story, and their trip is discussed between them, etc., before they sail away... yeah, I see what you mean, I'd probably never get all the terminology right if I got into greater detail and followed them on this trip. I wouldn't ask these questions if the story hadn't called for some answers, though, i.e. there are some blanks to fill in, and I wanted to write about the correct/ corrected picture of what I'm envisioning.
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Old 24-02-2014, 23:51   #12
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Actually, if Robert Redford can make a movie without knowing much about sailing it seems, then I see no reason why you cannot write a book about it under the same restrictions. (Just don't advertise it on here, you may suffer)

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Old 24-02-2014, 23:58   #13
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

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Actually, if Robert Redford can make a movie without knowing much about sailing it seems, then I see no reason why you cannot write a book about it under the same restrictions. (Just don't advertise it on here, you may suffer)

Coops.
yes, but Redford destroyed 3 boats while making the movie. If these kids destroy 3 boats on their way to Oz, then they will need to have multiple ancestors dying off at the right rate and leaving them as heirs to rather large boats.

Not saying it can't happen………………..
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Old 25-02-2014, 00:02   #14
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Good point, and yes, it's fiction I'm writing after all, not a non-fiction account of my own experience. But I am devoted to being as precise as possible and making the story believable; there are many other elements in it that make it so, and I'd hate to have the sailing details throw anything off. I will keep trying in this forum; I can take a little saltiness directed at my own ignorance, but I'm most grateful when there's helpful info attached.
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Old 25-02-2014, 00:03   #15
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Re: seasick novelist has some questions

Have you ever read any novels or stories of sailing? It would sure help you get the flavor. I don't mean to be rude but to be a good writer requires studying the subjects you are writing about. You can query all you wish here but that's not going to make it flow naturally or sound convincing. You need to capture the terms but also the spirit. I am a power boater and I've read many books of sailors including circumnavigations. Still I would have to go back and make some notes and carefully figure out where I was going. How are you going to capture how the young people feel when they sail away?

I'd hate to see you risk all the work you've done to this point by lack of preparation and immersion in sailing.
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