I have been a sailor all my life, including service in the Royal Australian Navy, which gave me background for my novel Whisky Tango Foxtrot, and am still cruising in my yacht, Jabiru. After leaving the Navy, a budding career as an economist lasted only two semesters at Sydney University when I realised the Dismal Science was mostly black magic, an opinion vindicated by the Global Financial Crisis several years later.
Reverting to my true vocation, I sailed in tankers, tugs, container ships, survey ships, semi-submersible oil rigs but the most challenging and satisfying job was skipper of a sail training ship. Herding cats is a snack compared to controlling a bunch of teenagers full of their oats aboard a sailing ship. But it was rewarding. Character development is the aim of the sail training program. We get them seasick, teach them how to pull on ropes, tie useless knots and sing sea shanties, wake them up in the middle of the night to go on watch and give them a certificate at the end saying what great kids they are. Most of them believe it, and in most cases it’s true.
I found time to do some writing; won a scholarship in creative writing at Stanford University, published a novel, Little Joe, subtitled ‘A Lusty Yarn of the Sea,’ which was a bit of a stretch on the publisher’s part. I swear there was no erotica in it. Wrote numerous articles and stories, mostly with a nautical theme and produced The Seaman’s Handbook, a textbook for marine students.
But I guess I always had my eye on Ferdinand Magellan, the greatest sailor in history and too little known in the Anglophone world. Columbus steals his thunder without good reason. I claim to be the first person to write about Magellan who sailed around the world in his track, and the first master mariner. He is more than a figure of history. He has a human face. His iron will overcame every obstacle in his way except one: the fatal flaw in his own character that brought about his downfall. A Singular Captain indeed.