In 1972, I returned to sea-going after eight years ashore as a Surveyor to Lloyd's Register of Shipping, the British Classification Society, having extended my technical knowledge in areas not accessible to a sea-going engineer. I'd been involved in at least one, highly technical, court case and one show Royal Commission of Inquiry into the loss of twenty-one lives on a ship named "M.V.Noongah". I'd undertaken various courses of technical study during the years ashore and one abortive attempt to improve my report writing skills which saw me complete a nine week course in creative writing. It did no harm and saw me published for the first time in a long defunct UK men's magazine.
The tempo of life at sea seemed slow to me after the eight years of intense learning and I looked around for a diversion. With my recent publishing success (?) as a prompt, I decided to write a story about life in the Australian Coastal Shipping.
The first difficulty was who was to tell the story. Seafarers seldom thinks about the oddities that surround them, they are a part of their normality. I needed a character seeing the reality of shipboard life for the first time and chose one based on someone I'd just met.
She came on board the ship in Port Kembla and wandered into the Engineer's duty mess whilst I was having a late supper as the ship-keeping engineer on duty. Pleasant looking, she'd lost her way at University and was bumming around Australia. We sat an talked for an hour or so, things were quiet at the time, before she made an offer of herself in return for a shower, a meal and a bed for the night. I saw that she had a shower and a meal but declined the remainder, suggesting she try two decks down in the crew's quarters. I met her again, very briefly, four years later in the Crown hotel, a noted seaman's pub in Woolongong. I was having a quiet drink and watching the passing parade of characters, as was my wont, when a very bedraggled woman, no longer young, approached me claiming that we'd met. It took me some time to recognize the pleasant looking young woman who'd entered the duty mess four years earlier--drug addiction and lifestyle had made many changes. She was desperate for a fix and I gave her the money in memory of the hour we'd talked. I learned later that she'd died within six month from an overdose.
That was all in the future when I wrote "Coasting" and both my daughters loved the story, forever pestering me to see it published. With the decision to write as David Andrews, I retrieved the ten versions of the hard copy and read them, acknowledging the quality of the story, but recognizing that it would have to be written afresh.
I started doing that a day ago...