Seaflower: Turquoise Waters, Deadly Perils

Thank you for all your kind comments on the post about my second book, ARTEMIS. The third book in the series is SEAFLOWER. There’s certainly a shock for Kydd and Renzi at the beginning of the story – the two friends are ‘turned over’; instead of being able to return to loved ones in England they find themselves shipped out in haste to Barbados.

A model by Bob Squarebriggs of the little topsail cutter Seaflower

A model by Bob Squarebriggs of the little topsail cutter Seaflower

On a cold, grey January morning in 2001 Kathy and I set off from London for the much warmer climes of the Caribbean and our first major location research trip for the Kydd series.

What were some of the highlights of this trip?

I’d done extensive research before we left but there are always things you can only get when you actually visit a place, the chief of these is a mental map of how it would have looked two hundred years ago. There are also the small but so evocative things – the colours, smells, sounds which you just can’t get from travel books. And then there is the serendipity element: quite often on location research I’ve chanced on some small piece of information from a knowledgeable local that I’d not known about before that develops into a sub-plot or adds substance to something I’d only had a tantalising fragment of detail on.

For example, I’d come across references to the Maroons in my preliminary reading but it was only after more research in the Jamaican library that I saw how they could be an interesting sub-plot in the book.

The Blue Mountains of Jamaica, home to the Maroons

The Blue Mountains of Jamaica, home to the Maroons

The Maroons had a colourful history. When the British captured Jamaica in 1655 the Spanish colonists fled leaving a large number of African slaves. Rather than be re-enslaved by the British, they escaped into the hilly, mountainous regions of the island, joining those who had previously escaped from the Spanish, to live with the Arawaks. The Maroons intermarried with Arawak natives, establishing independence in the back country. They survived by subsistence farming and by raiding plantations. Over time, they came to control large areas of the Jamaican interior before they were eventually shipped out to Canada!

Any other examples of serendipity?

Well, there was the Camelford incident. Curator Reg Murphy of the Antigua dockyard told me the story of a deadly confrontation on the quayside in Kydd’s day. A rusting old anchor marks the spot where a British peer and acting commander – Thomas Pitt, the 2nd Baron Camelford – shot dead another officer in a pistol duel. I was intrigued and had to find out more… This incident became the basis for my fatal meeting between Farrell and Powell.

Which location did you enjoy most?

We visited four countries – Jamaica, Antigua, Guadeloupe and Barbados – and all were fascinating and worthwhile in their own right – but to me English Harbour was the most evocative of Kydd’s day. As a former shipwright trained in traditional wooden ship construction, the facilities there in the eighteenth century for the Royal Navy were of special interest and I took much pleasure in having Kydd learn something about the chippy’s art when he spent some time in that very dockyard under the strict eye of the Master Shipwright.

Today, Nelson’s Dockyard (as it is now known) is the world’s only Georgian-era dockyard still in use.

In 1784, 26-year-old Horatio Nelson arrived there in HMS Boreas to serve as captain and second-in-command of the Leeward Island Station. Under him was the captain of HMS Pegasus, Prince William Henry, duke of Clarence, who was later crowned King William IV. The prince acted as best man when Nelson married Fannie Nisbet on Nevis in 1787.
When the Royal Navy abandoned the station at English Harbour in 1889, it fell into a state of decay, but was restored and re-opened in 1961.

The Dockyard Museum in the original Naval Officer’s House is worth a visit – it has a collection of ship models, mock-ups of English Harbour, maps, prints – and Nelson’s telescope and tea caddy.

What did you find to be the best resources for your research?

The staff of the Barbados Museum and Historical Society in St Michael were very obliging. The National Library of Jamaica in East Street, Kingston, was also particularly helpful in sourcing documents relating to the period I was interested in. The original papers and letter books of two former governors, Roger Hope Ellestson and Sir George Nugent, were invaluable in building up a picture of plantation society.

Do you have a favourite scene in the book?

I enjoyed writing Seaflower immensely and I guess, if pressed, my favourite passage is in chapter 9 in a scene of fellowship and good feeling that I can relate to from my own days at sea, and which fellow Old Salts have told me resonates with them.

The little topsail cutter has successfully completed working up to battle readiness and returns to Port Royal for rest. The passage reads:

Kydd swarmed up the narrow ladderway to the upper deck, where a sizeable gathering was celebrating Seaflower’s prospects. Doggo was leaning on a swivel gun forward of the mast, waving his tankard, with an audience and in full flow…
A friendly hail, and Renzi stepped on deck. ‘Tip us some words, mate,’ Petit called.
Renzi stood still and thoughtful, then declaimed into the velvet night:

‘Majestically slow before the breeze
The tall ship marches on the azure seas;
In silent pomp she cleaves the watery plain
The pride and wonder of the billowy main.’

[Then Ned Doud is persuaded to give a song.]

‘Come, come, m’jolly lads! The winds abaft
Brisk gales our sails shall crowd;
The ship’s unmoor’d, all hands aboard
The barky’s well mann’d and stor’d!’

The Drury Lane ballad, thought confected by a landman, was a great favourite and all joined in the chorus.

‘Then sling the flowing bowl – fond hopes arise
The can, boys, bring; we’ll drink and sing
While foaming billows roll.’

In the warm darkness something told Kydd that he would be lucky to experience an evening quite so pleasurable again.

My Pinterest board on Kydd in the Caribbean
See also my blog on SEAFLOWER and CARIBBEE

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14 Comments on “Seaflower: Turquoise Waters, Deadly Perils”

  1. Pingback: KyddFest-3: Seaflower | Julian Stockwin

  2. Pingback: Mutiny: Divided loyalties | Julian Stockwin

  3. I never knew, that the Maroons were shipped off to Canada. Where in Canada were they shipped to? What a change in climate for those poor people. They must have been shocked.

    • In 1796 about 560 Jamaican Maroons were deported from Jamaica to Halifax. Several years later they were sent to Freetown in Sierra Leone but exile to Africa was not an easy transition for the Trelawney Maroons and many returned to Jamaica to work on plantations.

  4. I particularly enjoyed Seaflower as it brought me back to my first real command, that of Captain of a small sail-training ship the 47′ gaff-rigged cutter Trident II. We didn’t carry square tops’l’s but her lines are very similar to Seaflowers and the intimate setting aboard with the officers and seaman working together to handle sail and helm in a spirit of what is best for the ship was the same. Thanks for the good read.

  5. Seaflower was the first Kydd book that I read. I picked it up at the bookstall in an airport departure lounge. I had never heard of Kydd and was attracted by the superb Geoff Hunt cover; I knew his work from his Patrick O’Brian covers. Needless to say I was converted and have now read all the available books, I am now in the process of working though electonic copies on my tablet!

  6. -17C here today on the Canadian Prairie (wind chill only -19C, must be calm out there for a change). The thoughts of a visit to Antigua and a tour is very compelling. Seaflower rates high on my list of favourites in the series because of that sense of the joy of the crew being together and the beginning of seeing the potential of Kydd as Captain as well as the characters established who will play an ongoing part in the story.

  7. My wife & I are shortly visiting Singapore & cruising back to Southampton on the QM 2- the previous occasion I did this was on a troopship(the Devonshire) in 1955,following my RAF tour with the Far East Flying Boat Wing operating Sunderland aircraft).Entertainment was minimal-a pack of cards was essential but also each day we had an opportunity to take part in a sweep-stake to guess the mileage the ship would travel that day-it was usually between 312 & 320 miles.As a matter of interest what would have been the average mileage that Kydd’s ships would have travelled in his day?
    Best regards
    Bryn Evans

  8. I remember our last visit to St. Kitts and a friend of mine took us over to Nevis. Stood outside the little church where Nelson`s and Fannie`s marriage certificate is housed. Couldnt get in because it was all locked up. Just got a photo. We then visited her father`s plantation house. Anyway we are soon off to Barbados to join the ship for our cruise taking in Antigua. I have a friend who is going to meet the ship and take myself and family back to Nelson`s dockyard for another visit. This time I shall not be taking a quick lie-down on the bed Nelson used! Didnt get caught the last time but no doubt I would this time.

  9. Hi Julian
    thanks for the reminder we’re of to Antigua in two weeks and the dockyard and English harbour will be a “port of call”

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