When I was 31, I had my first mid-life crisis. I felt stuck in a rut, both in my job as a newspaper journalist, and in my perpetually single life while friends were marrying and having children around me. So I decided to shake things up and quit my job, rented out my flat, sold my car and bought a one-way ticket to Borneo to live on a boat with a man I’d never met (and his cat).

Emma Bamford, Deep Water

Emma Bamford, Deep Water

I grew up in the East Midlands, about as far from the sea as you can get in the UK. None of my family are sailors but I fell in love with sailing after a hen weekend on a boat. Now I’ve crossed two oceans, swum with turtles, been so close to dolphins I could hear them sigh, and seen whales breaching. Most importantly, I’ve made new friends with people from all over the world and from different walks of life – all of that was definitely worth getting out of the rut for!

When I was a trainee reporter, my most embarrassing work moments were asking the Home Secretary what his favourite cheese was and asking F1 champ Jenson Button what his favourite toasted sandwich filling was (spot a theme?). I don’t know who was more embarrassed – me at having to ask the question or them at having to answer it.

I had my own Below Deck experience, working as a deckhand on a superyacht in Italy for six months. One set of charter guests asked us to move the boat 1,000km from Croatia to Sicily because the sea was ‘too cold’, while another had me running around a town at 1am, long after the shops had closed, trying to buy cartons of particular flavours of ice cream for the next day’s breakfast. 

Deep Water, my debut thriller, is inspired by my real-life experiences living on yachts. While I chronicled those times fairly faithfully in two memoirs, Casting Off and Untie the Lines, because Deep Water is fiction, I was able to let my imagination go to the extreme, and ask myself: What is the worst thing that could happen if a happy couple decide to set sail for an island known to be paradise?

The most beautiful island I have sailed to is Tobago Cays in St Vincent and the Grenadines. There are no buildings there, just an expanse of white sand and yachts on moorings. The colour of water is unreal, a near-fluorescent aquamarine. The most dramatic island was Narcondam in the Indian Ocean – a towering volcano rising from the sea, miles from anywhere.

The strangest thing I’ve ever eaten is bat. It is a delicacy in the Seychelles, so on a trip there I had to try it. It was curried, and the meat was like chicken leg or rabbit and tasted sweet, I guess from all the fruit the bats eat. I nibbled at a wing. I have to say, though – never again!

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