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January 23, 2014
Posted at 4:24 pm

Comments on Shipwrecked

Dear Readers …

I wanted to share this email with my readers and I really didn't know quite where to put it, I've been told the proper place is in a blog. However; before I post some comments I've received, I would first ask your indulgence and allow me to share a true story.

North of Seattle is a small town called Snohomish, (pop 7,500 ?) where I used to live with my family. The actor/comedian Richard Pryor made a movie in the little town and in one part of the movie he is running down a street and ducks into an alley. Half way down the alley is a fence and he jumps over the fence. Okay, I have walked down the street and I have been in that alley, and I am here to tell you two things: first, there is no fence in the middle of the alley and second, if there was and you jumped over it, you DO NOT come out where Pryor ends up as he jumps over the fence. My point? It's a movie. Somebody made up and when you make things up, you can do whatever you want. The same is true for a story.

I would like to thank Zen Master for sharing this interesting history and I wanted to share it with all of you. When I wrote "Shipwrecked" I had no real knowledge of any history from that era and I had to look up a lot of the sailing terms I did use. I hope this doesn't change your interest in "Shipwrecked".

To start with, the story begins by introducing Zach as an older man, one who went to sea as a youth and worked his way up from cabin boy to seaman to mate to Master, which is what they called the head seaman back then.

There was a change in the works about this time. The feudal system that England was trying to escape from would put a trusted leader in command of a ship because he was trusted. He would usually have an assistant who was also trusted, and a bunch of soldiers to help him stay on top, a group that slowly evolved into the Royal Marines.

Completely aside from this "management group" was the ship's crew. The leader of the crew was the Sailing Master, and he knew the ship in and out. He was the navigator and the one who decided what sail-plan to use for this tack, etc, but he couldn't be the Captain because the King didn't know or trust him with this incredibly expensive (and powerful) warship. All ships are expensive, and a 50-gun ship costs far more to build, outfit, man, and maintain than any cargo-carrier the same size or even larger.

The system didn't work well at all, because the titular "Captain" often had no clue what the ship could or could not do. Not only did he have trouble dealing with the 'experts', but he was very often a jackass that the 'experts' had no desire to help look good. So, the English/British Navy started promoting for competence, and grooming future competent officers from the ranks.

By the time of the American Revolution, most HMS were completely officered by men who had grown up in the fleet and knew what they were doing, but the senior officers in the Admiralty were still in many cases non-seamen. Still, each ship still had a man who knew THAT ship better than the builders, and the Captain would usually tell the Sailing Master to make sail for best speed on this tack. The SM would give the actual orders to trim this, douse that, etc.

By the time of the French Revolution, the HMS officer corps was competent enough that the office of "Sailing Master" was obsolete; the officers didn't need them. The Captain, his 1st Lt, and all the other lieutenants could do whatever was needed for any evolution.

Okay, back to your story. You've got this older man who has worked his way up to Sailing Master, and he's grumpy that he should have been Captain but no the system gives that honor to this jackass from court. You spend a bit of time pointing out that this is a brand new ship, a 50 (which right there means late Elizabethan era, as it's the only time such were built by the English, and the court-appointed CO with older Sailing Master fits. EVERYTHING you have written fits the 1550-1700 era). However, for the rest of the story you are talking about your hero as a young man, and the ship as an old hulk. You might want to reconcile those.

Next, you might want to come up with some excuse for why this King's ship in the Caribbean has no Marines. They would have been a major part of any battle with pirates. Maybe the contingent intended for this new ship were delayed for some reason, and the jackass decided he didn't really need them so he left port without them. That right there would ensure the crew despised the CO.

Again, thanks to Zen Master for his comments and short history lesson. Next time around I promise to do more research should I write a pirate story taking place in the 1600 era.