Thank you, David Ivester, for your knowledge and skill in promoting my work!
This is the third book in the Compass Crimes. This one is set in Florida. The research was exceptionally fun. You can read about it in my blog “Call Me Trawler Trash.” I know far more about airplanes than boats, so I sought out people who know boats. A special thanks goes out to Paul and Caryn Frink for sharing their trawler with me for their shake-down cruise. Paul, a career Navy man and engineer, understands more about boats than I’ll ever need to know. He was kind and patient while answering thousands of questions. He didn’t bat an eye when I asked where one could stash a 120-lb. person on his boat. He just started lifting hatches and asked, “Living or dead?” Note to self: Never mess with an engineer.
Trawler Hosts Caryn and Paul Frink
Caryn has been my best friend since grade school. It was a joy to spend time with her and to understand why she loves boating. They completed their first loop while West of Famous was being completed. Their accomplishment was far more daunting than mine by far.
Thanks also to Kimberly Russo, Director of the AGLCA (America’s Great Loop Cruisers’ Association) for answering all my questions about the AGLCA, otherwise known as Loopers. These intrepid souls live on boats and motor up the east coast, through rivers and the Great Lakes and turn south to travel through waterways down to the Gulf of Mexico. The LOOP the eastern states in boats. What an unusual and close-knit group!
The Loopers play a role in this story.
I pray the story is as exciting to read as it was to create.
Once the urge strikes to compose a novel, I draft a rough outline and launch into research. For my third novel this meant learning about boats–specifically Trawlers. Part of the story takes place on a trawler, so I needed to understand how they operate, navigate, smell, sound, look, and where to hide a body on one.
Using online research helps only up to a certain point. Cost, size, models, speed, and other performance facts about boats are readily available online. To fully capture the experience of being on such a boat, my BFF and her husband invited me to ride along. Meet hosts Caryn and Paul Frink. (South of Justice, book 1 of the Compass Crimes series, is dedicated in part to my BFF.)
Trawler Hosts Caryn and Paul Frink
For five days and four nights, I bunked in their guest cabin. The perfect hosts, they introduced me to life aboard the Seeker, a 37-foot, 22,600 pound, diesel-powered Nordic Tug 37. Aboard the Seeker, I learned the difference between seawater, fresh water, grey water, and black water (eeew). Captain Paul also explained the navigation equipment, maps, and the basic systems that keep the boat running smoothly whether powered by the engine or powered by the giant yellow power cable used while docked.
There are many key differences between piloting a boat and piloting an aircraft. The boating maps are huuuuge and very detailed. Navigating canals and waterways means watching for red and green signs with numbers, called markers. The markers guide boats through the deeper areas so boats don’t run aground. “Red, right, return,” became my mantra. Binoculars in hand, I tried to help find the markers as the horizon pitched up and down. The Seeker chugged along at a top speed of 8 knots. The Cessna 210 I fly cruises at about 175 knots, so yeah, boating is slower. More leisurely.
The trip began in Naples, Florida at the city dock made of wood. At lunch in Tin City, we saw a pelican try to swallow a beer can. Other pelicans even tried to steal it from him. Not the brightest creatures. I think they’ve become accustomed to human handouts. We traveled an inner passage of waterways south to Marco Island which had a floating cement dock. From there we headed into the Ten Thousand Islands between Marco Island and Everglades City.
The constant rocking meant learning how to walk differently. At first, I staggered like a drunk, but by the end of the week walking around became easier and less bruising. Paul and Caryn helped me resolve a few key issues with the plot of my next book. It involves a kidnapping, a trawler, and a navy brat who refuses to be a victim.
Not only did my hosts help me find the perfect spot to use in my book, but they took me there and we anchored overnight. The term ‘dead calm’ has new meaning for me. We found a remote spot that turned pitch black at night. The only sound at night was the glub-blub of water against the hull. Creepy quiet. It would have been peaceful if I had not been thinking about the book. Eventually, the boat rocked me to sleep.
Since we “crossed our own wake” on a mini loop, Caryn dubbed me a mini-looper. There is an entire society of Loopers, complete with a newsletter, blogs, and harbor hosts. They too, will play a part in the third book in the Compass Crimes–West of Famous.
The best part of the trip was spending time with Caryn, my dearest childhood friend. Thank you, Caryn and Paul, for putting up with a pesky stowaway who asked lots of questions and took notes and photos of all kinds of places. West of Famous is richer for this research.
Hubby calls it a vacation. I’m still calling it research. Ignore my tan.