Posted 9th December 2018
The Writer’s Tale
In April 2018 I left Antigua heading for UK, having started my sixth novel - a story about a girl sailing alone. The narrative had stalled for lack of an engaging plot that could result in a positive outcome - the ‘must have’ in all my books - and I could wait no longer if I was to catch the westerly trades.
Then, in early May, an encounter with a sperm whale in mid-Atlantic almost sunk me and rendered mast and rigging severely impaired. During the next two weeks - coaxing my poor crippled boat on to the Azores in constant fear of losing the rig, or even worse, the keel - I developed a keener mortal awareness and came to examine my inner-workings as never before.
I realised for one thing, that the characters I invented in my stories were surrogate friends, substitutes for the human contact necessary for emotional fulfilment, and perhaps even sanity itself. If there’s nobody to talk to, invent someone.
It was this epiphany that gave focus to my work in progress; I would explore the psychological effects of sailing alone. My young sailing heroine would need emotional stamina to endure her seagoing adventures while trying to cope with psychosis and discover the hidden truths in her past that lay behind it. (It was a given that her misfortunes would now include a close encounter with a whale.)
Working out this idea proved a welcome distraction from my precarious real-life situation; riding the tumultuous north Atlantic in a badly compromised vessel to reach a safe haven some thousand miles away.
But reach it I did, and in Horta I set about arranging repairs, a project that used all the money I had and delayed my onward passage to the extent that continuing northwest was no longer a palatable option. I therefore sailed on to Sao Miguel to sit out the winter storms. Here I got to work with the sleep-robbing obsession that all writers will understand, and in early September, Girl on a Boat was published under the pen name, Amanda Wheelhouse.
Then I found a cheap flight to UK to spend a quality fortnight with my long-neglected family, my first trip home in three years.
Now, as Christmas approaches, I’m back in the Azores working (as Amanda) on a follow-up to that story, in which our feisty heroine’s destiny is derailed once more as she becomes embroiled in the dark intrigue surrounding the trafficking of migrants from North Africa.
This short story by Mike Rothery is dedicated to the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA 82) and all royalties from sales will acrue to this Registered Charity.
In July 2015 I went to Greece to move onto my yacht, Island Spirit with the intention of sailing far and wide while continuing to write novels. Here you can catch up with the story so far…