Beyond the Book: Background information when reading The Red Wolf Conspiracy

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The Red Wolf Conspiracy

by Robert V. S. Redick

The Red Wolf Conspiracy by Robert V. S. Redick
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2009, 464 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2010, 544 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

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A Beginner's Guide to Tall Ships
The Red Wolf Conspiracy takes place almost entirely aboard an immense sailing ship (aka "tall ship") with seven decks and five sails, similar, albeit perhaps on a grander scale, to those one might envision in use during the 18th century. Although the book is set in a fantasy world, Redick references familiar ship types and crew positions throughout the novel.

A tall ship* is a large traditionally rigged sailing vessel.  Tall ships are defined by their rigging, their masts and, in particular, by their sails. Some of the more common ship types are:

  • Fully-Rigged: Three or more masts with square sails on each mast.
  • Barque: Three or more masts, with square sails on all except the smaller mizzen mast at the back (aft) of the boat.
  • Barquentine: Three or more masts, but with a square sail only on the fore mast.
  • Brig: Two masts, with square sails on both.
  • Brigatine: Two masts, with square sails on the fore but not the aft mast.
  • Cutter: One mast with two or more foresails.
  • Ketch: Two masts, with the fore being higher than the aft.
  • Schooner: Two or more masts of equal height or with the aft mast being higher.
  • Sloop: One mast with the foresail forward of the mast.
  • Yawl: Two masts, with the aft mast behind the steering position.

In addition to the crew (aka the "hands"), other important positions aboard an 18th century ship would have included:

  • Captain – The individual ultimately responsible for everything aboard the ship: Personnel, cargo, rigging, navigation, etc.
  • First Mate – The second in command, who takes over if the Captain becomes incapacitated.
  • Bosun or Boatswain – A very experienced sailor, expected to inspect all ropes and sails, replacing any that are damaged or frayed. Also responsible for the secure storage of the ship's cargo and other supplies.
  • Quartermaster – Maintains order and discipline aboard the ship; also responsible for purchasing supplies and the distribution thereof.
  • Gunner – Responsible for the use and maintenance of the cannon aboard the ship.
  • Carpenter – Performs repairs to the hull, deck and masts.
  • Surgeon – Responsible for any and all medical care. There were no formal qualifications for this position; skill was mostly gained through experience.
  • Navigator – Calculates the ship's position. In times past, often using just the sun and stars as guides.
  • Pilot (Helmsman) – The person who steers the ship.
  • Master – A section leader (Master Gunner, Master Carpenter, etc.).
  • Cabin Boy – A young boy responsible for waiting on the officers of the ship, running errands and delivering messages; also an apprentice of sorts, expected to learn all aspects of the maritime trade. (Similar to the "tarboy" featured throughout The Red Wolf Conspiracy.)

Article by Kim Kovacs

This article was originally published in May 2009, and has been updated for the January 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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