In her latest book, Out on the Water, New Zealand author Tessa Duder has written 12 short stories about sailing – something which she holds dear. Duder has written about sailing before – her story Night Race to Kawau is a perennial favourite and she is a trustee of the Spirit of New Zealand trust. In fact, as you read these stories you get the impression that boats have always been a feature of her life.
When an author writes about a topic he or she knows well, the stories come across as authentic and believable. When an author writes about a topic they are passionate about, the stories come across as exciting and intriguing. When an author can do both, as Duder has in this volume, a little bit of magic is borne.
This collection of twelve stories includes a historical story aboard an old square rigged ship (not terribly unlike the Spirit of New Zealand) where a young brother and sister are travelling across the Tasman Sea to meet their (overpowering) father. There’s a powerful story of a boy who yearns to work on his father’s barge and is in conflict with his mother who wants him to stay in school. The barge moves cattle between Great Barrier Island and an early version of Auckland City. The snippet of early farming life and the role of working vessels in pioneering New Zealand is lovely. There are stories of capsize, of first sailing experiences in small racing craft (P class, optimists, and the like) and lessons of safety and weather.
The twelve stories are each unique – time, place, characters – with only the sea and a vessel linking them. I’m sure readers will find some favourites among them.