OF ALL THE CHILDREN’S BOOKS out there, the one I would most like to read to my kids is There Once was a Boat From Nantucket. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s because no one has written it…yet.
The brainchild for this book is Scott Douglas. In 2008, Douglas and his brother-in-law were tossed off his boat, Queen Bee, by a wave during a fishing trip. The men swam ashore safely, but the boat was carried out to sea and presumably sunk by the crashing waves.
But the boat did not sink. In fact, it recently washed up on the Spanish coast after spending three years floating around the Atlantic. According to the report, the vessel now belongs to Spain. Douglas says he doesn’t want the boat back, but, thinking of his four grandchildren, he’s considering turning Queen Bee’s story into a children’s book.
As I think back to my elementary days, and how tempted I am currently to write a children’s book of my own, I’m reminded of this limerick:
Who picked on the witches a lot.
They could no longer cope
So they tied him in rope
And cooked him alive in a pot.
When I was living in China, working on what my friend Bruce called “The Great American Novel,” I spent a lot of time drifting aimlessly. When I was finished procrastinating, I took an inventory of what I had done, the way an actual writer might have done a word count.
Number of incense sticks I’ve burned today: 3. Number of episodes of Entourage I’ve watched: 2. Number of times I’ve walked around the block: 2. Number of peanut shell halves on the table: 47. Number of peanut shell halves lost: 1. Number of nervous breakdowns, bad: 0, not so bad: 27.
The Queen Bee no doubt did some drifting herself. The approximate distance (as the crow flies) in miles from Nantucket, MA, to Llanes, Spain is 3253 miles or 5234.08 kilometers. It is impossible to determine the exact path Queen Bee took; however, if it took three years to go 3253 miles, that’s an average speed of .12 miles an hour. If you had a car that could drive on water and maintain an average speed of 60mph (96 kmh) it would take you 54.2 hours to reach Llanes from Nantucket. If you ate 3 times a day every day for 3 years, you ate 3,285 meals during the Queen Bee’s journey to Spain.
The hallmark of a good children’s story is a clear moral message. At first glance, it seems the moral of the Queen Bee story is to never stray too far from home, lest you become covered with barnacles and abducted by foreigners. It’s not a particularly uplifting message. Rather disturbing. In fact, with the right patriotic twist, I’m sure Toby Keith could turn it into a number-one hit.
Drawing again from my own experience, if I were a boat alone in the sea, I’d probably start by taking a thorough inventory.
Number of owners I’ve had: 1. Number of fish caught on board: 14. Number of sea gulls I’ve spotted: 243. Number of sea gulls that have crapped on me: 19. Number of barnacles on my hull: 98,724. Number of sharks that swam underneath me: 985. Number of clouds that looked like owner: 2. Number of volcanic ash clouds: 1. Number of miracles witnessed: 0. Number of loose screws: 3. Number of shooting stars: 2,377. Number of full moons: 35. Number of blue moons: 1. Number of times wished I had sunk: 0.
I’ve tried many times to write a children’s book, but no matter what I do, I can never get the story down quite right. I’ll write about a boy and his balloon, and then, for no apparent reason, everything goes horribly wrong. I’ve rewritten the Hindenburg.
If I could, I’d find the true moral and become a beloved children’s author, telling the tale of a boat named Queen Bee. Maybe Scott Douglas is the man to tell that story, but I’m not.