A few weeks ago, we went on a very fun ferry ride to celebrate Ferry to Cooperation Island. Thanks to the efforts of the Jamestown-Newport Ferry Company, 12 people left the dock on Katherine for a special tour of Narragansett Bay. First we headed south down East Passage and, just before Horsehead, saw some of the white-striped rocks that Courtney (a Chesapeake native) spots on her way into Brenton Island’s main harbor. Next, we waved out to sea toward where Brenton Island should be. (My favorite passenger swore she saw the island.) And then we headed into Newport Harbor, ending up right at the docks where the fictional ferry to Cooperation Island lands. Along the way, I was able to explain to any passenger who cared how the ferry we were onboard was different from the Homer S. Morgan.
But the most memorable (and well-captured) part of our cruise was completely unplanned. As we were crossing the Bay again to return to Jamestown, sun setting and southwest wind still strong, Paul (who’d signed on as official bookseller for the evening) and Captain Burt spotted a Laser drifting downwind with the sail blowing like a flag. When the sailor was asked if he needed help, he said he’d already tried to reattach the sail to the boom but couldn’t do it without capsizing. With Paul directing, the Laser was safely brought alongside the ferry long enough to retie the knot that had come undone. Then “Chad” sailed off toward the harbor again, taking time for a wave and a thank you to his unexpected rescuers. (Thanks to Jane Gilgun for capturing the entire rescue on video.)
Angel in the details
Though there’s a long list of potential seamanship lessons here, I’m going to focus instead on the writing lesson I learned (again) about creating characters who are true to life: chosen well, one key detail is the best way to establish personality. I’m definitely jumping to conclusions about Chad, but it seemed like he was just waiting to be rescued rather than taking any initiative to find his own way to safety. And here’s why I was so convinced of that: despite the danger of drifting downwind as darkness fell, he never shut off the music playing through a bluetooth speaker in his cockpit.
(He also didn’t seem at all concerned about the knot-tying skills of a bunch of random ferry passengers, but that’s another topic altogether.)
Watch the video, and then let me know if you jump to the same conclusion I did (or would focus on a different detail). Meanwhile, thanks to the Jamestown-Newport ferry for a very fun evening, and I’ll let you know when we get another chance to join them for a ferry ride!