In the Beginning...
Jim Nelson and his skipjack, circa 1974.
Jim Nelson was born and raised in Lewiston, Maine. He has always harbored a deep love of ships and the sea, though no one else in his family ever did,
which leads him to believe that it is a genetic disorder and not learned
behavior. While other boys his age obsessed on dinosaurs, he could be found
reading about whaling, or the Age of Fighting Sail. Growing up he built models
of ships, and in 9th Grade built his first real boat, a twelve foot skipjack,
which sailed poorly due to design flaws and Nelson's inability to sail a boat.
Jim and Paul with canoe, after extraction.
In 11th grade he and friend Paul McKeown build a strip canoe in Nelson's
mother's basement, which proved much harder to extract than they had
imagined. While in High School, Jim Nelson began working as a disc jockey for Top 40 radio. That led to a fascination with broadcast and ultimately to college at the University of California, Los Angeles's School of Motion Picture and Televison Production. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in motion picture/television production and for several years pursued a career in the television industry.
Launching Jim's Coronado 15, Marina Del Rey, CA,1986
At UCLA, Jim began sailing with the school's sailing club, and all that latent love of the sea began welling up again. He bought a fifteen foot day sailor and later a Newport 27. Enthusiasm for Los Angeles and the television industry began to wane. Finally, finding that despite being in Southern California, it was a damp, drizzly November in his soul, Jim took the cure Melville recommended and decided to sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
Steering the Hinde off the Yucatan Peninsula
Jim was living on his boat in Marina Del Rey, Los Angeles, when a replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hinde sailed in. Jim dropped everything and joined the crew of the Hinde, sailing from L.A. to Houston, Texas, over a year's time. On joining the ship, Jim met a fellow sailor, Lisa Page, who had been a part of the Hinde's crew since the Bay Area. It was contention at first sight, but that soon morphed into love.
Working as a rigger aboard Lady Washington
For four years he worked on board traditional sailing ships including the
Lady Washington and the Revolutionary War frigate HMS Rose
from Bridgeport, CT, the ship featured in the film Master and Commander
(the filming of which was regrettably after Nelson's time).
Writing the first novel in a cabin aboard Rose
In 1992, having turned thirty and realizing it would be easier to write about
sailing rather than actually doing it, he came ashore and began a career as a
writer. Jim actually began his first book, By Force of Arms while
serving as third mate aboard Rose. After several re-writes, Jim managed
to land an agent who sold the book as a series to Pocket Books, thus launching a new career.
Receiving the Morison Award, with Rear Admiral Joseph Callo
Today, Jim Nelson is the author of seventeen works of maritime fiction and history. His books cover the gamut from Vikings to piracy in Colonial America, the naval action of the American Revolution and the Civil War. His novel Glory in the Name was the winner or the American Library Association/William Young Boyd Award for Best Military Fiction and his nonfiction George Washington's Secret Navy won the Naval Order’s Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval History. He has lectured all over the country and appeared on the Discovery Channel, History Channel and BookTV. He currently lives in Harpswell with his former shipmate from the Golden Hinde, now wife, Lisa and their four children.