“The wind has howled all day and I now know what hailstones look like when they hit the sea. I’ve also seen phosphorescence, not splashing over the stern in fluorescent spangles, but rather less romantically swirling round the loo! I got up for a wee in the night and although I’d been forewarned by Tom that the sea water flushing the loo was full of plankton, it was still a little eerie seeing the bowl come alive with sparks of coloured lights. Impressive, though, despite the setting. We have been on the mooring for 27 hours with no sign yet of being able to move on…"
Extract from my sailing diary. Walton-on-the-Naze. Waiting to cross the Thames Estuary.
Today sees the paperback publication of my third novel, Follow A Star, the second to feature Little Spitmarsh, a faded seaside town trying to reinvigorate itself. It’s also the second of my novels set around boats. In fact for much of the beginning of the novel May and Bill, the heroine and hero - neither of them whom need any more complications - are trapped together on a very small boat! I knew exactly how each of them would set the other off, and had a lot of fun creating sparks and misunderstandings between them. It was a hugely enjoyable novel to write and like, Turning the Tide, draws heavily on the days when I was a sailing ignoramus who happened to fall deeply in love with a keen sailor.
When I first floated the idea of writing a vaguely nautical novel (Follow A Star’s my ‘naughty’ nautical novel, according to Ma) I was discouraged by a friend in the know who told me ‘women don’t do boats’. I suppose the reason I couldn’t let go of the idea though is because I don’t do boats either – at least not carbon fibre go-faster yachts with seventeen-man crews clad in the latest offshore gear. But I do ‘do’ new experiences and sailing’s given me those in abundance, from shaking with fear in huge seas off Land’s End to watching basking sharks in flat calm seas, being accompanied by a pod of dolphins playing in the bow waves or seeing puffins skittering across the water. I’ve been challenged and inspired by every moment I’ve spent at sea, so I hope even those of you who think you don’t like boats might reconsider and not be too put off.
As for my sailing diary, well, we finally crossed the Thames Estuary but were driven by bad weather into Ramsgate where we met another couple, Margaret and Richard Masson who were also sheltering from the gales. Margaret and Richard had the most beautiful old wooden yacht, Hephzibah and were ‘heading south’ to follow their dreams. One dream both Richard and I shared was to get published. My diary entry simply says:
“We left Ramsgate at 3am. Margaret shouted, ‘it’s not a rehearsal!’ as we left.”