THE SECRET SHE KEPT
Now available in hardback and also e-book - paperback available 25 October from Amazon.co.uk
Novelist Amelia Carr went on a voyage on Lord Nelson so that she could write accurately about sailing in her new novel which has a sailing theme.
Amelia wrote the piece below specially for the JST website:
What a learning curve! What a fantastic experience!
When I came up with the plot for THE SECRET SHE KEPT, with its sailing background, my only experience of sailing was a few trips out in my sister’s boat, doing nothing more taxing than sitting in the sun and watching the others work. I had to know what the real thing was like, and from friends at my Rotary club who were heavily involved I learned of the Jubilee Trust. Fascinated, I logged onto the website, and before I could have second thoughts, booked a week’s voyage on the Lord Nelson.
I arrived at Portsmouth on a sunny Sunday in May, a couple of years ago, with no idea what to expect, but was immediately struck by the warm and friendly atmosphere, old friends greeting one another, newcomers being made welcome. I found my bunk, unloaded my gear, and attended the afternoon briefing when I was allocated to a Watch – the times when I would be on duty – and the permanent crew introduced themselves. My fellow voyage crew, I discovered, came from all walks of life, some able-bodied, some with varying degrees of disability ranging from blindness to the wheelchair bound.
Thus began the most amazing, totally full-on week. A log I wrote for my Watch perhaps gives a taste of life onboard.
"3.40 am, and I’m awoken by someone shaking me, gently but firmly. I can’t see who it is, all I know is they’re wearing a woolly hat pulled well down and carrying a torch. A cat burglar? Hardly, since we’re in the Alderney Race, heading for Jersey. So it must be the Press Gang waking me for my watch. I pile into layers of clothes, including my husband’s motor-cycling long johns, and stagger up to the bridge. Fortified by hot coffee, we begin work. In spite of the cold, it’s great fun. As we’re very close now to Jersey, we have to keep a good look-out for fishing buoys. Mark (who is blind) takes the helm with audible guidance, and then I get my first turn, which I really enjoy. It’s daylight now, and Jersey is on the horizon.
Relieved of our watch, we have a very welcome breakfast, and then it’s all hands on deck to stow the sails and get 'Nellie’ into harbour. It’s a lovely day, blue skies and sunshine. And time for my next great adventure – climbing the mast! I’m scared rigid but Radar (bosun’s mate) assures me that if I freeze he’ll bring me down in a fireman’s lift. That’s quite a tempting offer, but when he tells me he’d have to knock me out to do it, I decide it might be better to come down under my own steam. I’m attached to a line, climb over the rail, and, with Pete (bosun) beside me I set off skywards."
Be warned - forget a daily shower – you’ll probably hear 'All hands on deck!’ as you’re about to take one. Be prepared to test yourself to the limit. Stop worrying about the weight you’ll put on from all that gorgeous food – believe me, you’ll work it all off. But for companionship, fun and an unforgettable experiece, it takes some beating. And I speak as one who has their bus pass ….
The Lord Nelson started out as a means of me finding out something about sailing, but finished up with a starring role in my novel. To find out how – well, you’ll just have to read it!
More about Amelia, taken from her website:
I’ve been writing stories for as long as I can remember – at school I wrote serials for my classmates on sheets of paper torn from my exercise books, which were passed from hand to hand – until being caught writing under the desk in a chemistry lesson put a stop to my budding career. It wasn’t until I was married, with a young baby, that I took up my pencil again. Over night-time feeds, washing nappies, and ironing, my imagination once again kicked in, and with it, the itch to write. This time, though, I was inspired to try to sell my work – we were flat broke, and it was the prospect of earning some money as much as the desire to see my stories in print that spurred me on to submitting them to IPC women’s magazines. To my delight, they sold – hundreds of them! For the next ten years, I wrote either a short story or a serial episode every single week, often specially commissioned by the magazines.