Friday, March 09, 2012

Mary Patten - Captain of Clipper ship in 1856

Coincidentally, (International Women’s Day), I have just read, THE CAPTAIN’S WIFE the true, but fictionalized narrative, of Mary Patten who captained a great clipper ship around the Horn in 1856.
Sailing out of Boston, 19 year old Mary, accompanies her husband, Joshua aboard NETUNE’S CAR on a voyage to San Francisco which is expected to take about 100 days.

Before they reach the Horn, however, the first mate’s behaviour is such that he is locked in the hold and Joshua suffers a debilitating illness (possibly meningitis) and is only semi-conscious for much of the voyage. With a 22 year old second mate doing all he can on deck, Mary, being the only one who can use the sextant, must navigate and take control of the ship. The struggle to get around the Horn takes weeks but the ship eventually makes it to San Francisco after 138 days.

The author, Douglas Kelley, recounts an accurate picture of square rigged sailing under torrid conditions.
A good read.

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