When I first conceived of my Coast Guard series (Gulf Coast Rescue) I didn’t know enough about the different assets like small boats, cutters, fixed and rotary wing aircraft to determine how they might play into my story world. The more I researched actual missions and the kinds of rescues each asset was used for and why, I began narrowing my focus to aircrews. Eventually I decided to concentrate on the MH-60T recovery medium-range helicopter, or Jayhawk.
However, during my discovery phase, and later as I developed my heroine for Jayhawk Down, I researched the Coast Guard Academy and learned about the Barque Eagle, the only active duty square rigger tall ship in use today. Since 1946, she has been used to train cadets and officer candidates what sailing is all about. As a cadet in the academy, my heroine would have spent some time on the Eagle.
When I heard the Eagle was going to visit Port Canaveral, Florida at the end of May first of June, I knew I had to visit the ship known as the perfect lady. Will I be able to apply what I learned in my next book or two? I have no idea. I have discovered not to turn down opportunities to learn more about the important historical elements that make up the unique branch that protects our coasts and inland waters while conducting more civilian rescues than any single organization.
First, the Eagle is a beautiful ship. Under full sail, she can attain speeds up to 17 knots in the open ocean. There are over 22,000 square feet of sail, five miles of rigging, and over 200 lines. Looking up at the top of the masts (147-foot-tall), knowing those young cadets must climb up there to do their jobs, gives you a real appreciation of what the young men and women are required to do as part of their training. Hmm, good thing my character didn’t have a fear of heights!
It was fun to read the information placards, along with historical facts about sailing ships of all ages and designs.
Have any of your research discoveries led to unplanned story dividends? Do you fancy going in a different direction when you learn a new or arcane fact you hadn't known before?