The men had been at sea in small whaling boats for over 90 days since their ship, the Essex, had been sunk by a sperm whale. When they were finally rescued, only 8 of the original 20 men were still alive, hallucinating from hunger and thirst, they had resorted to cannibalism some time ago. This is the story of the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket as told by historian Nathaniel Philbrick in his best selling and National Book Award winning book In the Heart of the Sea, The Tradegdy of the Whaleship Essex.
Unlike my mom and sister, I'm not much of a reader. I read a lot more than the average American, but the average American doesn't read ever. However, whenever I travel I tend to read a lot more. This is the fourth book I've finished on board Wings of the Dawn, but this one was so fascinating of a story that I finished it's 238 pages in a marathon that would have made my sister proud. The most amazing part is that it is nonfiction.
Captian Bob and I have not been without our setbacks, but our experiences have been more along the lines of trying to get the perfect picture of a whale, not surviving a ramming attack from a raging bull whale seeking revenge as we hunted his pod. Instead of exhausting our provisions of hardtack and drawing lots to see whom would be executed to keep the other from starving to death, we've wondred repeatedly how to make the most appetising use of Kirkland canned Premium Top and Bottom Round Roast Beef in Beef Broth.
We've been struggling with an intermitent issue with the engine. At first the diesel would ocassionally slow down, we believed the problem to be bad fuel clogging the filters. Now it's become a near constant issue and we're convinced that it may be something with the fuel pump. Both Bob and I are very familiar with diesel engines, but neither of us is an experienced diesel mechanic, so we slowly trudge along until we can get to the first substantial town where a good mechanic is available. When the winds are favorable this is not a problem at all, as we can raise the sails of Wings and move along nearly as fast as a healthy motor can move us, and faster than a problematic and slow running power plant can push us.
But in spite of it's issues, Wings of the Dawn is a very capable craft. At 30' on the water line and over 9 tons, she's somewhere between small and large. Her hull, as Bob related to me, is capable of taking a rifle round. I'm not sure of this, and wouldn't want to test that theory, but it did very well bouncing off of small icebergs that were in our path at the north end of Glacier Bay. We have a surprisingly sophisticated navigation system, with charts on a iPad, another set of charts linked to GPS on a laptop, and paper charts and dead reckoning as a backup. In spite of this we still managed to put the boat aground as soon as we entered Canada, but luckily it was at the bottom of low tide, and patience and a flood of incoming water lifted us to freedom.
Another thing working in Wings of the Dawn's favor is it's capable Captain, Bob Brown. Bob has had Wings for over 21 years, and had a smaller Catalina 25 for quite some time before upgrading to the heavy Willard. Bob's knowlege of his boat has been an asset, and even when he experienced a major breakdown at sea before I joined him, he was able to sail into port to get nescessary repairs made.
Bob has been a pleasure to cruise with as well. Our biggest combined failing is our bachelor statuses and our lack of cullinary expertise. Bob's wife Pat was such a capable homemaker that he never had to learn to cook very well, and in spite of my slightly greater abilities in the kitchen I'm so sadly out of practice that I'm not much help. But as we go along we discover new amazing ways to use the canned beef, and we also learn through trial and error what flavors we can reliable create to our mouthwatering delight. Shrimp stir fry seasoned with lemon and pepper and garlic, fesh crab with lemon butter, fresh baked brownies, and a mean P B and J.
I've been with Bob during the 2 year anniversary of the passing of his wife Pat, and also her birthday. Pat was like an aunt to me, and on both of these ocasions, and nearly every other moment of the journey, the memory of time spent with her and her kind and glowing spririt greatly outweigh the sadness of her loss, heavy as it may be. Her legacy does leave us with a well stocked galley, with kithen equipment to perform any task we dare take on, and a waste basket in the head that weighs a silly amount. Not to mention the scented candles, and with us two filthy bachelors, the scented candles have saved the day more than once.
So we continue to limp along on our journey. As our mechanical issues are still intermitent, we have better days and not so better days. But our spirits remain high and hopeful. Wish us fair winds and following seas, and may you have the same.