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Location Spotlight: Catalpa

This is the name of Captain Alexander Hayes’ first ship and is loosely based on the ship, HMS Surprise in the series by Patrick O’Brian.

This is the floor plan for the HMS Surprise as put together by the lovely people here which I studied about six years ago to help me get a feel for the ship and where everything would be.

As you can see from the plans it’s triple masted and officially she was classified as a 6th rate ship of the line with 28 guns but in this version there’s actually room for 24 standard 32-pound cannonades and 8 18-pound cannonades, giving her four extra guns than normal. She housed a crew of 200+ and was a pretty nippy little ship.

While on board this ship, Marie ventured down into the main hold where Black Vane was held and spent a lot of her time in the Great Cabin, trying to avoid the ship’s Captain. She alludes to going to the lower deck and playing poker with some of the crew, something that would have been frowned upon had this been a ship of the line at the time, but thankfully Hayes was a privateer and the rules were a little different.

Although, I’ve based Catalpa on a real ship I’ve bent the history a little, obviously. Hayes bought Catalpa in a port in England and sailed her to the Caribbean himself, taking passangers who wanted to head over to the new colonies and any goods they desperately needed over there to ensure his crew were well paid and provisioned for.

Catalpa doesn’t actually feature much after the first third of the novel but that doesn’t make this gorgeous ship any less important. This was Hayes’ first and will always have a special place in the Captain’s heart.

Location Spotlight: Southstoke

In Sherdan’s Prophecy I mention that Sherdan and Anya head to a small village off the south of Bath to enjoy a picnic together, this village is Southstoke.

During the book I happen to mention they sit down on the ground in front of a stone bench, set into the hillside. The picture above is that very stone bench.

I found this location not very far from the house I used to live in while out walking with my mum and very much fell in love. The views from the seat are amazing.

This is what it looks like during the day, which as you can see it quite spectacular. In the book Sherdan takes Anya when it’s dark so they wouldn’t have been able to see all this detail but the view is still really rather special, even then (yes, I’ve also been at night, but photos don’t come out that great).

For any intrepid explorer types who want to find this bench and view, it’s a very short walk away from Southstoke and you can park right where Sherdan parks if you wish. Below is a map. You can come in from Bath, via Combe down and then park at the hill, then follow the black dashed line to the bench.

I don’t want to plot spoil so I won’t say too much about their visit here but I do think it has a certain charm to it.