He believes running away is his best way to stay alive. There aren’t many ways for a kid to escape, but living in coastal Maine there are hundreds of islands to hide on. Stealing a small sailboat he disappears into the night. But Fisher quickly discovers that was the easy part.
One night Fisher unexpectedly witnesses something he wished he hadn’t and believes his life is suddenly in great danger. People he’s trusted his whole life are after him. He believes running away is the only option. There aren’t many ways for a kid to escape, but living in a coastal Maine town there are hundreds of islands in the vast open waters to go into hiding. Stealing a small sailboat and disappearing into the night, he does just that.
While on the run, Fisher quickly comes to the realization that life is hard. Like it or not, his survival depends on growing stronger both physically and mentally. But he doesn’t have a choice. One day the drunkard lobsterman Skinny Pete stumbles onto the island where Fisher is hiding. The situation grows into a challenging problem, and he’s forced to take action. In the end, though, you don’t mess with Fisher Shoemaker.
Targeted Age Group:: 9-15
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
There were two key things that inspired me to write The Boat Thief. I love sailing, I’ve worked with sailboats my whole life, and I’ve written many sailing articles over the years. The obvious thing was to base a story about sailing. The thing was, I could not think of any sailing adventure books I had read when I was a kid, so I felt the kids of the world needed a good sailing adventure. I made it my job to provide just that! Also, the setting of Maine’s rugged coastline was plenty of inspiration. If you’ve ever seen it on a rough day you would think how could it not make for a great location for an adventure.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
The main character, Fisher Shoemaker, needed to be “every boy”; someone most kids could relate to. So in that respect, there’s not anything about him that stands out in a colorful way. On the other hand, the character Skinny Pete is probably the most intriguing. It’s unfortunate, but I based him off a friend of mine who I experienced many similar disappointments as one would when your friend has a weakness for the bottle.
(In this chapter, Fisher is alone on a sailboat in fog so thick he can’t even see the bow of the boat)
Thump . . . thump . . . I’m not sure I heard it at first, so I strain my ears to listen even harder. Quiet. Then, almost undetectable, I can hear it again; faint in the distance is the low sound of a diesel engine. My heart jumps into my throat. In fog this thick it’s hard to tell what direction it’s coming from. Fog is sneaky like that. It can carry sound in unlikely directions. For all I know, I might’ve been drifting in a current that pushed me closer to shore, making the noise actually a truck rumbling down a road.
But what was a faint deep rumble only a few minutes ago has gradually become a little louder so, to hear it, I no longer need to strain my ears. That’s not good.
Soon the deep thumping becomes even more intense. There’s no doubt that the chugging’s from a diesel engine in a much larger vessel, and it’s getting closer. Much closer than I like. If it’s on a collision course with me, it’ll never even know I’m here and will plow through the side of the hull leaving nothing more than splintered planks and a few shredded ribbons of sail. And if I’m lucky enough to survive the collision, the chance of someone actually finding me floating in the water’s pretty slim. After that it wouldn’t be long before the cold Maine water finished the job.
The constant deep thumping engine keeps coming closer, like a slow-moving freight train emerging from a dark tunnel.
I need to do something. Anything. Jumping down below I rummage around for anything that’ll make noise; a big bell, a flair gun, anything! I need to let the oncoming vessel know there’s a sailboat in its path. I’m sweating even though it’s cool. As I fling open drawers, looking for anything that I can use as a signal, I notice my hands are trembling. When I find a large frying pan, I toss it on the settee and keep frantically searching other places. I’m not sure what I’m looking for, but I know from the roar of the bellowing engine there isn’t much time left. Then I find a hammer; that’s it! Without a second to spare, I grab the frying pan and scramble topside, landing in the cockpit.
How much louder can the engine noise possibly get without me seeing the oncoming vessel? The constant metallic thumping’s now so loud that it might be right alongside. Frantically, I start banging the hammer and pan together, making a clanging noise much louder than I ever thought possible. BANG! BANG! BANG! Nothing. The other vessel hasn’t heard it because it would’ve blasted its horn in return.
I don’t stop. BANG! BANG! BANG! As hard as I can. Then, screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’m here! I’m here!” This is life or death.
Award winning writer, now author, MD Lee writes and lives on the coast in New England with his wife and young daughter. Many of the pieces he writes about are inspired by his true life adventures in the woods and on the sea. If there’s spare time in the day, he will grab either a surfboard, Mt. Bike, windsurfer, or kiteboard, all depending on conditions.
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