A world of boats
Wherever I go in the world, as long as there's a river or lake or the sea, I try to find the boats. Even in the great cities of the world, many of which are old port towns, you can find historic ships or working tugs or fishing boats or gloriously swift yachts. I've been up Port Hacking in a battered aluminium dinghy, sailed on a timber ketch on Lake Te Anau, circumnavigated Malta on a day cruiser, cruised down the Thames on a tourist barge, sailed down the Bosphorus on a tall ship, and criss-crossed Hong Kong harbour on a Star Line ferry. It's the best way to see a city. Any old ferry or fishing boat will do.
Here are some of my favourites.
Auckland, where I live, is home to the graceful black-hulled yawl Ethel The Pirate Ship, which used to run bootleg liquor round the harbour. I'm not the only Ethel fan - one of her previous admirers was Errol Flynn.
The Auckland Maritime Museum in the Viaduct owns Breeze and the old scow Ted Ashby, both of which take to the harbour on day sails.
In New York, you can scramble all over the venerable barque Peking, launched in 1911 and one of the largest (and last) sailing ships ever built. Once I sailed around Manhattan at sunset on the elegant 1885 gaff-rigged schooner, Pioneer. Both are at South Street Seaport.
I've even got a certificate that proves I know how to climb the dizzyingly high masts of the James Craig, built in 1874, and sailing again on Sydney Harbour. The Australian Heritage Fleet's wonderful collection of ships and small boats is at the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. So is one of my other favourite ships: the replica of Captain Cook's bark Endeavour.
In Malta, where the Swashbuckler! books are set, you can potter about the harbour on a traditional luzzu .
But here's the ship that really stole my heart: the Star Flyer. I sailed on her from Istanbul to Athens, through the islands of the Aegean Sea.