In addition to The Skiff, the Scow and the Footbridge, Arch Davis admits to have written two other novels “a long time ago in New Zealand.” More recently he has written a number of articles for “Wooden Boat Magazine.” His main business is designing and assembling kits for back yard boat builders. He lives, works and writes from Belfast, Maine and has a worldwide following. His boats are both beautiful and capable and his first published book is a corker.
The idea for The Skiff… was inspired by the favorite English Classic, Swallows and Amazons as well as his own childhood. Davis grew up in Whangarei, a small port on the north coast; host of coastal shipping then and these days a hurricane hole for circumnavigating yachtsmen. “We had recreational boats as kids, [boating] was my main interest in life.” A high school classmate built a boat and sailed it to Fiji…a mere 1000 miles.
Davis first visited the U.S in the 1980s and moved to Maine in 1998 with his wife, a nurse practitioner and two adopted black children. “I read to them a lot when they were young and this story simmered. My daughter actually built a small boat.”
The story reflects his own childhood more than his children’s, he thinks.
“There’s too much magic and fantasy in children’s literature today. I wanted to show kids that they can have an exciting and rewarding real life as the characters in fantasies. Put the electronics away, use your own imagination and go out and do something! Have fun!” He says. “Consequently, older people enjoy the book, too. It’s a great book to read aloud.”
When Davis got down to the nitty-gritty of writing he got up at 6 AM and wrote with pen and paper and coffee until the rest of the family got up…about 500 words a morning. “Then I would be thinking about what would happen next during the rest of the day. The Iraq War was gearing up then and thinking about the book was a great antidote.”
Davis’s characters are based on people he knows; both in Maine and New Zealand, as well as his own kids (his son Jack is likeable, popular and a great baseball player--as is the character, Tim). Music plays an integral part in the book because, “music is very important to me, Grace [his daughter] plays the violin,” he says. “The whole thing was enormously fun to do. I wrote in the winter, thinking of summer.”
During the winter after he wrote the book, Davis set out to build his own 30’ sailboat for coastal cruising, “but I will start up writing again when the boat’s done.”
For more about Arch Davis wooden boat designs and plans visit http://www.archdavisdesigns.com/.