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Boats and Ships and Weapons


Boats and Ships and Weapons

My stories – adult and young-adult – often feature boats or ships at some point. What’s the difference? Well, the easiest way to think about the difference is to realize that a boat can be hoisted onto a ship. The aircraft carrier on which I served as a young naval officer carried eight motor whaleboats. Each of these boats could carry about 60 sailors to and from shore, whenever the carrier was anchored in some port city’s harbor: Hong Kong, Valparaiso, or Acapulco, for example.


But some boats are very small indeed. For example, in Visioners2,14-year-old Joanna tells us this:

“… my uncle and Mr. Adelman… have brought along the same inflatable raft the two of them used to cross Buttermilk Channel in their rescue of Mr. Belton from Castle Williams two nights ago. The raft is lashed onto the deck of our boat, near the bow. From my stern seat, the raft just appears as a black, shapeless nothing.”

That inflatable raft, in other words, is such a small boat that it can travel on the bow of another boat.


Ships are generally unmistakable in their size. For example, on one of the opening pages of my first novel for adults, The Face of the Enemy, we read this:

“He [Matt Clark] stepped purposefully through two of the regularly spaced watertight hatches… wheeled left into the starboard [right-hand side] escalator shaft… descended the now rapidly downward-moving stairway at full gallop, switched off the escalator mechanism… and, fifteen seconds later, stood at the executive officer’s closed door.”

Or, to cite another example from Visioners2, Joanna tells us,

“We see hatch after hatch – small doorways with hinged doors and wheels attached to each, designed to be shut and made watertight with the turn of the locking wheel – going frame after frame as far as we can see.”

Rebecca, Joanna’s mother, has a twin brother, Luke. When he was in his 20s, he served as an officer in England’s Royal Navy. He became well-known in both his own Navy and in the U.S. Navy for his exploits as a leader of boarding parties.


A boarding party is a small naval unit which, in a boat, comes swiftly alongside a ship, boards the ship using grappling hooks or other means of climbing up the ship’s side, and takes over the ship. The ship is often carrying drugs or other illegal cargo. The boarding party usually has to fight to accomplish this.


Joanna’s uncle Luke was effective as a boarding party leader, in part, because he did not use firearms. The fighting was always at such close quarters that he preferred that he and his team use their hands, clubs, or, if necessary, knives, to do their work. In my adult and young-adult novels, Luke never carries a gun. He carries an array of tools, ropes, and knives to do what is needed, usually to rescue a member or members of the family or extended family.


In the first Visioners book, there is a scene in which a group of men who are on the “good” side are planning to rescue Joanna’s parents and Gareth’s parents by taking a huge array of firearms to the place where they are being held by the “bad” side. Luke prevents this by disabling his friends’ vehicles so they can’t travel. He then conducts the rescue without using anything other than his hands and some of his ropes.


Luke is a formidable warrior, but his goal is always to save people’s lives without hurting anyone badly. He is very, very good at that.

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© 2018 By Walker Buckalew. 

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