Final voyages

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It's a journey that's been at least 10 years in the making, but for the author of the "Final Voyages: Trouble at Sea" series, Jim Wellman, the stories never get old.Originally from Port Anson, Mr. Wellman started writing stories about the sea and the people who make a living from it in 2003, when what's now considered volume one of the series released by Flanker Press. The stories of tragedy at sea are those that are all too familiar with people from the Maritimes - this province in particular.

"On average, we lose a commercial fisherman every single month in the Maritimes," said Mr. Wellman. "It's by far one of the deadliest professions we have today."

His criteria for a story has changed over time. Once, his conditions consisted of stories of a loss of life or a loss of a vessel. Since then, he's added a third category he calls "here but for the Grace of God." In any case, for Mr. Wellman, every single loss or near loss at sea is a story that needs to be told.

"A lot of people have written about the big stories," he said. "The big schooners, the sealing tragedies - but what about the guy who has a tragedy going out in his speed boat to haul his lobster traps? I write about the guys who end up getting one night on the news, one story in the paper, and then all of a sudden they're forgotten about."

Mr. Wellman has limited his stories to what would be considered tales of the "in-shore" fishery. Being involved with the fishing industry for so long, often times, the stories he tells are from people he knew who were there when it happened, or other times, the victims in the stories are friends as well.

As a broadcaster for several years and host of the Fisheries Broadcast for nearly 15 years, Mr. Wellman has come to know those who make a living off the ocean in nearly every port and area of the province. This has come in handy when coming up with stories to write.

"I'll usually pick up the phone on a Sunday morning and call a fisherman friend in some area of the province and ask what he knows about a tragedy that may have happened there," he said.

From then, the research continues, until he's pieced the puzzle together and the story begins taking shape.

"Often times I'll get letters and emails from people thanking me for telling a story about their father or grandfather, or uncle, that they never even knew themselves," he said.

The painful memories of sudden loss are often too harsh to recall for immediate family members, which Mr. Wellman said could very well mean others never find out the truth of the tale.

If Mr. Wellman had to pick a story that really stands out, he said the first chapter of his latest release comes in with a high score.

"It was the first story I did for this book called Ode to Big G."

Big G was a young man from Nova Scotia who was tragically killed at sea at a young age.

"One of the things that stands out about this story, is that I got to know the family so well, without even meeting them," he said. "And then learning so much about what happened with this story - particularly after the tragedy and the outpouring of the entire community, and the surrounding area, how they came together and supported and did everything they possibly could for the families involved."

He goes on to say that while the stories in his books may be centred around tragedy, out of most of them comes a sense of renewal, hope, and the reader is left with a heart-warming feeling, that despite it all, things are going to be OK.

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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