Unbeknown to many, the Hingham ferry is a place where fictional worlds unfold.Written by Kiley Jacques | Photography by Dan Cutrona
“People who take the boat love it and can’t imagine taking any other form of transportation.”
It’s probably fair to say that the majority of people making their way to and from Boston via the Hingham ferry do so to avoid traffic. Many use the time to unwind and socialize. Others write books. Among the latter is internationally published author David Hosp, who has been commuting by boat for nearly two decades. He estimates that 90 percent of each of his seven books was penned on the ferry. In fact, were it not for his time on the water, the trial lawyer may never have started writing. “I spent years working [and living] in the city . . . when I moved to the South Shore, it was the first time I had a real commute—a block of time at the beginning of the day and another at the end of the day.” And so began his series of thrillers.
Boston Harbor itself is something of a character in Hosp’s work. In fact, much of the setting in “Dark Harbor” is visible from the ferry route. One climactic scene takes place at Castle Island. Interestingly, it was originally set in a warehouse, but the pentagonal 18th-century fort that stands at the mouth of the harbor proved irresistible—Hosp happened to look up while writing the scene, and was inspired to relocate it. “Boston is a great city to write about because it has one of the longest histories in the country.
It has a wonderful mix of historical sites and new sites, such as the Seaport District, where my firm is located,” says the Hingham resident, who is now working on his eighth book. “It also has a wealth of criminal history with a peculiar flavor.”
Hosp draws from the South Shore, too—notably, Hull. The former summer town, with its distinctive character, has provided fodder when a scene calls for a location outside of the city. Of his fellow passengers, Hosp quips: “You will seldom find a group of commuters more fiercely loyal to their mode of commuting. People who take the boat love it and can’t imagine taking any other form of transportation.”
“I was committed to that being my work time. When I got on the boat, I went into my writing ‘cave’ and pounded out words—that’s how I wrote my first manuscript.”
Monica Tesler is another boat-commuting attorney-turned-author. Her debut book, “Bounders,” took shape on the ferry and kicked off a series of science fiction adventures for tweens and teens. Upon moving to Hingham in 2003, she fell in love with her time on the ferry. “I did almost all of my writing on the commuter boat,” she says, noting that, as a mother of two small children, it afforded her precious free time. “I was committed to that being my work time. When I got on the boat, I went into my writing ‘cave’ and pounded out words—that’s how I wrote my first manuscript.”
Asked about her genre, Tesler explains that her first attempt to be published took the form of a young adult book, which she finished at the same time her son was falling in love with reading. He wanted to read it but the content was too mature. So, for her second manuscript, she targeted a younger audience. “He was enjoying adventure series, so I wrote something I thought he would love,” she recalls.
Her first reader has been instrumental to her work. On family car rides, they talk about “world building,” which is a large part of science fiction writing. “We talk about what gadgets would be cool, what different planets should look like, what aliens might be introduced,” explains Tesler. “Both my kids give me input on that front. They help lend authenticity to my narrator and the perspective of what kids are like. I’m fortunate to have my target market in my house.”
Tesler now works from home as a full-time writer and doesn’t get to ride the commuter boat as often. It has been an adjustment for someone whose creative process includes short bursts of intense productivity—something the ferry commute fosters. “I associate the boat with my writing. That’s what I think about when I am there. . . . It’s like riding a bike. Even now, when I get on the boat, I flip open my laptop and get right to work. I write better there than probably anywhere else.”
Rushing sound of moving air
Whitecaps rise and fall, les moutons
On a field of ultramarine
The paint on my brush
Itching to be set free, to become
Wild as the wind
— Poem by Michael Weymouth
Michael Weymouth enjoys the way people go inward on the ferry. For him, the peaceful environment is conducive to his creative endeavors, which include writing, graphic design, photography and painting. Many of his paintings are born of photos he has taken from the boat. “I’m always watching the water and the atmospheric conditions on the islands—the way the light plays on both the water and land. That translates into paintings I do up on the Maine coast,” says Weymouth.
His published books include “How Photography Can Make You a Better Painter,” which addresses the resistance of many plein-air artists to paint from photos; “The Gentle Whisper of Living Things,” a description of his time spent building a Thoreau-inspired, off-the-grid camp deep in the woods of Maine; and “Maine Island Time,” for which he collaborated with poet Elizabeth Garber.
Weymouth has been a Hingham resident since the early 1970s and remembers commuting via the Hull ferry, where he was part of a tight-knit community that celebrated birthdays and even hosted weddings on the boat. “The idea of the boat as an intimate relationship was established back then, and when the Hingham boat started up, it was the same thing,” he notes, adding that the ferry is “a major draw for anyone thinking of moving to the South Shore.”