Sailing, Sailing…

Posted: July 11th, 2013 under Crown of Renewal, Life beyond writing, Revisions, the writing life.
Tags: , , , , ,

This will be the last post for awhile because a) deadlines and b) medical stuff–appointments, tests, all that, all taking time out of the writing day.    So I decided to hint at some things coming up in Crown of Renewal, along with the background research that went into them.   I hope this will tide you over for a couple of weeks, while I finish the revisions and the shorter work due for an anthology.I am fortunate to have a multi-talented friend who studied naval history in graduate school, and who has repeatedly helped me when I ventured offshore in a story.   Several years ago, I asked him to help me design the background of the seafaring people in Paksworld.    He lent books, suggested online sites, and steered me away from some of the movie-based ridiculous things I thought of initially.   This research, carried on over years,  meant that when I got to a book in which a POV character would actually be on a ship, I had a ship for the character to be on.   Blessing is this ship’s name, and she is one of three ships owned by the same  family.   There’s a sister ship, and then the third is a different type.

I still needed more details.   I wanted to know what kind of trees needed to exist for certain types of ships to be built,  what the sails and ropes would be made out of and why and what it would take to grow whatever it was.   I wanted to know if A was possible, and why B was better, and how the lack of gunpowder and guns would affect ship design.   We discussed the differences created by the kind of water a ship sails in–why ships limited to the Immerhoft Sea might be different than ships that sailed the Eastern Ocean.

I drew multiple plans of ships, trying to understand the logic of one design over another.   (These were very sketchy, rough, ugly drawings, nothing like finished plans for ships, and were on any scrap of paper I had handy when I thought of something new.)   In order for certain things to happen aboard, I needed certain elements of ships on Blessing (for instance, two passenger cabins on the main or waist deck, in addition to the master’s cabin, a fo’castle, a crow’s nest capable of holding two persons on the main mast, at least two masts carrying square sail(s),  sufficient cargo capacity to make a journey from Pargun to the Immer River without having to resupply,  and enough salable cargo to make a profit from such trade, etc.

There must, of course, be other types of ships than these.  Some are rowed–usually small, used in rivers, in coastal areas.   Some are both human- and wind-powered, carrying sail when the wind blows a convenient direction and rowed when the wind dies or it’s contrary.   (I’ve peered until my eyes watered at paintings, etchings, ink drawings, pencil sketches done by artists from the 1500s up, at least.)  I needed at least four basic types of vessel: the merchant cargo ship for sea travel, the merchant cargo vessel for river travel (up the Immer or the Honnorgat) , the pirate galley, the fishing vessel…plus a variety of small boats.   And then the various cultures got involved…the Pargunese, for river crossings, use a “Viking” type long, narrow vessel.   But there are also rafts, and small river-fishing boats, and in the Immer, some barge-like cargo boats rather like canal boats were, pulled by animal (or man) power from the shore.   And small-boats–like our common rowing and individual fishing boats.   Not all of them got into the story, but I had to know they existed, just in case.

Although I have sailed very small boats (we have a sorta-kayak with a sail rig, and I’ve been on a larger but still small sailboat with a cabin), and have visited both original (Old Ironsides, the Viking ships in the museums in Oslo, Norway) and replica historical ships, I’ve never been on a square-rigger under sail.   And I know that watching videos of re-enactment voyages is not like actually being there.    However…I had written about Paks’s winter trip from the Halverics to Verella in Oath of Gold before I’d ridden all day on a snowy mountain trail, and spent that day thinking “Hot diggity, I  got it right!”  (I had hiked in snow quite a few times.)    I’ve talked to another friend who has sailed in many places, including in New Zealand waters in rough weather.  So I’m hoping that the seagoing scenes will work for those of you who have been out of sight of land in a ship powered by sails.

So what is Blessing like?   She’s a combination (for story purposes) of a Portuguese caraval and a bluff-bowed, “fatter” Dutch trader (but not as big as most of those.)    She’s three-masted, with the main carrying a big square mainsail and a smaller square sail above it, and the mizzen and foremast usually carrying triangular sails that do more steering than anything else.  So she’s  nimble to steer, and moves well out at sea.   She has a large cabin area aft, with two passenger cabins (one on either side) a master’s cabin (quite good sized, at the rear, and a deck above these where the steersman and the master both hang out.    Exact dimensions aren’t given…but her ratio is 3:1, length to beam, and she has bluff bows and an almost square stern, though the transom overhangs the actual stern, which is more rounded for less drag from turbulence, and better rudder performance.  The passenger cabins are just a bit bigger than the sleeping compartments on the BritRail night train from Scotland to London I was on one year…longer, but not much if any wider.    Her ship’s boat, when at sea, is carried upside down over the forward hatch.

On northbound voyages, she carries both oilberry oil and oilberries themselves, southern wine,  salt,  certain spices, fish sauce, glazed tiles, pottery,  flax, hemp (both in bales and in more finished form) ,  silk (cloth only, not thread),  copper items and raw copper.    On southbound voyages she carries a lot of wood–both whole logs (not huge ones) and rough-sawn lumber,  wooden objects made of woods not available in the South,  salt fish (the equivalent of the salt cod),  furs (as skins),  wool,  tin, lead, raw silver.   Blessing sticks to this route, but interacts and trades at Bannerlíth with ships that routinely cross the Eastern Ocean to the eastern continent.   This continent, with its mountain range running N/S along the shores (inland, but not a long way) is a source of metal ores  and objects made by dwarves, gnomes, and elves, as well as a kind of grass highly prized for making mats and baskets.   These east-trading ships are often also bringing in the salt fish they’ve caught or traded for.   Specific leathers (raw or worked) are traded in various directions.

Pirates are a problem in specific areas…usually fairly close to shore, as they carry large crews that  limit their range (for supplies of water and food.)  Most combine oars and sail, and–if they get the right angle on a sailing vessel–are able to intercept and board it efficiently.     All pirates are not alike (other than capturing and robbing ships of cargo)–some also capture sailors and/or passengers for ransom or for sale,  some kill specific people (assassins afloat), etc.    Merchant ships try to avoid those areas where pirates are, and enough crew to fight them off.    Some cargo items are useful in fighting off pirates (though it cuts into the profit if you use up oilberry oil, for instance.)

Although there are monsters in the deep, they don’t come into this story.



  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — July 11, 2013 @ 6:15 pm


    Thanks Elizabeth for new things to explore and ponder. Many (!) years ago I read Richard Henry Dana’s, Two Years Before The Mast, to my sons as a bedtime story. When we got to the technical parts, I read the words in the order presented, but with absolutely no idea what it all meant. I’ve read all of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series since then and have learned enough to get pictures in my mind of Blessings as you described her. Maybe I could tackle TYBTM again while waiting for Crown’s release.
    Positive thoughts go with you to all the doctoring.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 11, 2013 @ 6:47 pm


    The MRI revealed nothing critical about the cervical spine (age-and-bad-posture-related stuff, but no immediate dangers) but picked up a possible thyroid problem. More investigation will be done on that & I start PT 2x weekly on Monday for the neck, back & shoulders. Since location for PT is > 1 hour away, that’s 2 hours in driving time for the hour of PT. 3+ hours gone, 2 days/week is worth it if it makes possible more actual work time & less pain.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 11, 2013 @ 6:49 pm


    The tests and things sound ominous, but I hope it will work out in the end.

    The voyage sounds fascinating, the background is fascinating. I hope you enjoyed the research as much as I enjoyed hearing about it.

    Best of luck with the revisions, and if we natives get too restless, there is always the extras breakroom.

  • Comment by iphinome — July 11, 2013 @ 7:00 pm


    I’m sorry, I know that quite a bit of thought went into the trade situation. I still find myself bothered.

    Given the climate and rivers should the north not be awash in flax? With the useful guild league roads wouldn’t it be cheaper and safer to get wool from Horngard and Andressat in the south?

    Salted cod along a coast? Shouldn’t that be moving inland when it lands? Are coastal dwellers so eager to get yet another kind of fish and this one not even fresh? Salted pork from the north would be more welcome no?

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 11, 2013 @ 7:53 pm


    Since the details of the trade aren’t in the book itself, it’s fine if you want to imagine things going in different directions. I picked stuff out of Braudel’s books on the economic tangles in Europe, plus some other books on that side of history, but even so–if it bugs you, imagine it differently and the book won’t contradict you.

    Choice of what’s shipped which way depends on more than latitude–or it did in Europe. “Bacala” or salted cod, was brought back to Mediterranean cultures by fishing fleets that went as far as the Grand Banks to get them and salt them before the official discoveries of NA continent by Europeans. Why, when you would think the Mediterranean was full of fish, the Portuguese, Spanish, and Italians bought salted cod, I do not know–but they did. Some was consumed inland, no doubt, but some also near enough the coast. Salted fish does move inland (in both parts of the continent) in Paksworld but it arrives in the port cities. The Pargunese like it a lot.

    Who grew what and where the market for something may be is also cultural: when the Aareans came over to Aarenis, the rich ones set up “plantations” much as they’d had in Aare, where they couldn’t grow flax–but here they could, so they did, just as others grew wine grapes, or oilberries, or hemp. Tradition made some areas great flax producers.

    Andressat is not great wool-sheep country; they raise primarily goats and hair-sheep (both for meat and milk) and import quality wool from the north. Some of the goats have a fine enough, long-enough coat to be spun into yarns, but the amount off one goat is less than the amount off one good wool-breed sheep. Horngard uses up most of its wool production locally and really doesn’t do much trading. They’ve been a very reserved, isolated mountain culture.

    Along the margin of the Dwarfwatch is good sheep country–Sorellin, recall, has shears for its coat of arms. But that region doesn’t produce enough wool (or enough high-quality long-fiber wool) for the demand in Aarenis. The north thus has a market, especially for their best wool. Tsaia from south of the North Marches is good wool-sheep country, and the eastern half of Fintha is, too. Though the Marrakaien brag about their horses, they raise fine wool-sheep and sell quality wool, both raw and woven. The Halverics have a flock of good wool sheep, for their own use.

    Aarenis has generally better dyers, and produces more colored yarn, some of which is sold back across the mountains to the north, and some of which is made into items sold back to the north as well as in Aarenis. (This also happened in Europe–raw wool wasn’t always, or mostly, dyed/spun/woven where the sheep were, but where those industries had set up.)

  • Comment by Suburbanbanshee — July 11, 2013 @ 10:00 pm


    The Mediterranean can’t be “full of fish” the same way that the Grand Banks is. The ancient Greeks thought fish was a condiment to your bread, and only rich people were tempted to eat equal parts fish and bread, or more fish than bread. Also, Mediterranean people spent a lot of time raising fish in artificial fishponds (vivariums), which they wouldn’t have if wild fish was super-plentiful and cheap. (Of course, ancient fishing boats didn’t go out of sight of land much, so maybe they overfished those close-in areas.)

    But fishes like cod and salmon are more “meaty” than little fish with lots of bones, I’d think. And cod is tasty and big.

  • Comment by Suburbanbanshee — July 11, 2013 @ 10:03 pm


    And cod were so plentiful that, even with the American secret voyage bother, it was still cheap enough for the medieval poor of Europe to afford, besides being storeable for use all year round.

  • Comment by Sharidann — July 12, 2013 @ 12:11 am


    First things first.

    1) Get well.

    2) Was wondering, which Braudel books? His mastetwork about the mediterranean (got it as a gift, from my father, as I finished High school, I treasure it to this day)or another one?

    Besides all that, huge, huge teaser from you, making us wonder who shall sail by boat and for what purpose.
    Shall it be Dorrin to revive Aare, somehow.
    Shall it be Arvid going sneaky, sneaky and freeing Andressat’s son ?
    Questions, questions. 🙂

  • Comment by Naomi — July 12, 2013 @ 1:59 am


    Dying for an expanded map update! Get well soon Elizabeth…

  • Comment by Daisy Kirkpatrick — July 12, 2013 @ 4:58 am


    One of the reasons I love your books is the care and attention you give to making things all make sense. Love the hints about ships. Hope medical issues resolve easily. Many thanks, Daisy

  • Comment by Jenn — July 12, 2013 @ 5:19 am


    Oh yes and expanded map update and if it not to much trouble a drawing of the ship(s).

    Remember PT stands for pain and torture. Hope it helps.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 12, 2013 @ 9:11 am


    On the trade issue, various kinds of fish are often traded along coasts because the people are used to eating a lot of fish. People who live inland tend to have a different diet – more meat or poultry or milk, and so the traditional recipes don’t include much fish.

    For most people, for most of history, it was far too expensive to import food, and they ate what was fairly close at hand. Only the small, light, and relatively non-perishable items could be transported very far (salt, spices, salted fish, dried fruits, hard cheeses).

  • Comment by Wickersham's Conscience — July 12, 2013 @ 10:58 am


    More than a two hour commute for PT? Yikes! I hope driving isn’t a contributing cause to your problems.

    Good luck with your adventures with the American health care system, with the revisions to Crown and with the shorter works. And staying off the blog and social media; they are addictive.

  • Comment by rkduk — July 12, 2013 @ 5:16 pm


    Driving for over an hour after physical therapy could reduce its therapeutic effects. Maybe the therapists have some helpful recommendations for the long drive. (I once drove 2 hours in the early morning for a brain-scan appointment, and was so wired by the drive — no caffeine needed — that the scans were nearly worthless. It would have been better if I had spent the night at a motel closer in.)

  • Comment by Linda — July 12, 2013 @ 7:34 pm


    I too will be wishing you well, with all the challenges. I did Feldenkraise rather than traditional PT. One of the many things I loved about it was that after each session I was sent out to walk for about a half hour in a lovely Vermont village (even in rain and snow). It was specifically to let the good work of my session settle in before I got into the car.

    Another thing that seemed wonderful to me was the painlessness of it and the integration of the mind with the body. It was okay if I fell asleep !!! I didn’t but it was so relaxing … and I stopped having head aches, stiff neck and frozen shoulders.

    Anyway I am chuckling over the frequent appearance of pirates in your works … the Vatta books, Sassinak’s world and Paks world too. When I was growing up I often slept on a screened porch overlooking an estuary at my grandparent’s house. Gramp was into boats and somehow pirates were part of that. Historically there were pirates around that part of the Atlantic coast, and many nights they haunted my dreams … both the Long John Silver types and the Captain Hook types.

    Thanks to Rosemary Sutcliff I found myself diving into stories of the Vikings, and then archeology, and finally traveling to Scandinavia.

    Quite off that track, an old Rick Steves video on Saltzburg had shots of a place in Austria (Halstatt) where folks bones are dug up after the flesh is gone and moved to an ossuary … and their names and bits about their lives are painted on them. What a delightful surprise to discover where that came from. I’ve been wanting to head there some day and this adds to the allure.

  • Comment by Jenn — July 13, 2013 @ 5:50 am



    I had forgotten about ossuaries in France. Now you have me remembering the catacombs of Paris. I found it very peaceful there.

  • Comment by Annabel — July 13, 2013 @ 11:00 am


    Good luck with what I would call “the physio” (we abbreviate things differently).

    Is there an equivalent to chick peas in Paksworld; having been reminded that they have, traditionally, been the poor man’s protein of the Mediterranean, so delicious, so nourishing, I wondered if they had an equivalent? Certainly all the food sounds delicious – I would love the recipe for a ham hot-pot. Here, hot-pots traditionally have topping of sliced potato, rather than pastry, but from what I read, you don’t have an equivalent starchy vegetable in that world.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 13, 2013 @ 7:34 pm


    Annabel: Unfair as it is to the tribe of legumes, which I’m quite fond of, I’m limited references in Paksworld to “beans.” There certainly are varieties of beans, and some might more resemble peas in being rounder, but they’re all called beans. You’re certainly free to imagine Regar’s wife’s beans with shreds of goat meat as chickpeas with shreds of goat meat if you wish.

    No time for recipes tonight, but will consider that later. I’ve made a ham hot pot, and a ham and beef hot pot, that went over well with the people who ate them.

    Linda and Jenn: Ossuaries (and other “displayed” forms of burial) have fascinated me for years: such a tidy, neat way of dealing with limited space and lots of dead people and the desire to show some respect for the dead. I did see that Rick Steves show on TV, but it was after I’d written about the Royal Ossuary (so my writer-brain was saying “Right idea,folks, but you didn’t carry it far enough…”)

    rkduk and Wickersham’s Conscience: The one way drive is about an hour. Two hours total. I don’t really have a choice, and will do what’s necessary to unkink when I get out of the car at each end.

    And now…back to the work at hand…

  • Comment by din — July 14, 2013 @ 4:00 am


    just coming back after finishing limit of power. Looking forward to book 5.

    I’m curious if there was a reason why Arvid could see the mages, who said ‘someone’ to Kieri when he was trying to work out why magical ability is coming back, and how the war will work out.

    as for ‘the old fellow on the ledge’, how old was stammel ?

    hope thinks go well for everyone who reads this

  • Comment by Richard — July 14, 2013 @ 5:21 am


    not that old for our world: from bits of backstory in the Deed, Stammel was too young to enlist (so under 18 winters), about 31 years before that incident in Limits of Power, but didn’t have long to wait. So mid-to-late forties. Which I dare say is twice the age of the POV person who calls him an old fellow.

    (About 31 years before as I make it from the available clues, with the “about” meaning 30 is possible, or 32 just possible, and always bearing in mind Elizabeth’s right to say “Oops, that can’t be right”.)

    Just to be on the safe side, I think I might go to Spoiler Space to talk about the magic.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 14, 2013 @ 8:46 am


    din: I have to say I was startled to see your “din”–my mother’s initials were din and she signed some of her work that way. How old was Stammel when he was killed? Mid-late forties. However, to a 20-something pirate, anyone over 45 looked “old”. In fact, had he not been attacked and invaded (an ordeal that aged him more, though he never saw himself after that) he would have been nearing the end of his career–another few campaign seasons, and he’d have been offered a less strenuous position in the north. As it was, with the effects of that attack, and his blindness, he was visibly older than his chronological age. He looked like a fit, active man of 55-60…which, in that world at that time, was definitely old.

  • Comment by Hawkman — July 23, 2013 @ 9:40 am


    I’ve had friends who canceled their thyroid surgeries after going cold turkey off sucralose, although it is difficult these days. Wish you well.

  • Comment by elizabeth — July 23, 2013 @ 11:40 am


    I don’t use artificial sweeteners (I have a friend who keeps trying to push Splenda (sucralose) on me…but if I’m going to eat something sweet, it’ll be sweetened with sugar or honey or (of course, the ubiquitous) corn syrup. I also eat butter, the original type, not butter substitutes. My dietary sins are all of the original variety.

    I’m not surprised that artificial sweeteners are associated with various problems–so is what I eat, but at least the problems are well-known.

  • Comment by Jenn — July 24, 2013 @ 5:12 am


    Everything in moderation.

    Honey is my favorite sweetener.

  • Comment by GinnyW — July 24, 2013 @ 3:40 pm


    I avoid artificial sweeteners on the principle that the human body has adapted to natural sugars. There is no substitute for real maple syrup or brown sugar or molasses that resembles the real thing. But I have considerable sympathy for people who must control their sugar for health reasons. It is not easy.

    I hope the revisions and medical issues are working themselves out for the better, and you will be back soon.

  • Comment by Eowyn — August 16, 2013 @ 9:46 am


    Some are both human- and wind-powered, carrying sail when the wind blows a convenient direction and rowed when the wind dies or it’s contrary.

    Oh boy does that sound familiar. I am a former member of a re-enactment group that has a pair of replica Viking ships. We make jokes about we sail when we can and row when we must … the gods tend to decree a LOT of rowing.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 16, 2013 @ 10:06 am


    We had a Folbot with a sail rig. You could sail it or paddle it, but every sail began with paddling out to deeper water and ended with paddling it back. At least a kayak type paddle is easier than rowing (I am not a trained or efficient or even modestly competent person with an oar in a rowboat…! I can paddle a canoe moderately well, and I can paddle a Folbot, which is basically a modified kayak, quite well. Or I could, back when we went out with them often in Texas rivers and lakes.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment