I’ve been at sea for most of the summer.
It started right after school ended when I found my shell collection. It had been missing for a couple years, but we found it in the garage tucked behind some boxes. I was thrilled because I have been collecting shells since I was a little girl. I always come home with a shell from every beach I walk along. I also like to buy pretty shells. I just have a “thing” for shells and the ocean. In fact I love the ocean so much, that I can’t live far from the water. Except for a brief summer in Denver, and a year in Germany, I have only ever lived on the East coast or West coast where I can see salt water within minutes.
That box of shells inspired me to create a new ocean/shell display in our living room so I could get those shells and seastars out of the box where we could see them every day. Then I went back East with my daughter to see my family, traveling around Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Connecticut, New Jersey and New York. We were near the ocean every chance we could get, walking along the shore, collecting shells or enjoying some time in the sun or fog.
I started and ended my vacation in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Gloucester was settled in 1623 and was one of the first English settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. It’s known as America’s oldest seaport and if you have ever eaten Gorton’s fishsticks, they come from Gloucester!
When I’m in Gloucester, I visit my cousin, the owner and captain of the Aaron and Alexis. Captain Swicker is a cod and lobster fisherman and knows first hand how dangerous the sea can be.
On my last day in Gloucester, he took me to the Bookstore of Gloucester to outfit me with some books he wanted me take home, share with the family and read.
Reading Fatal Forecast, Lone Voyager, and the Perfect Storm immersed me into the lives of famous Gloucester fishermen. Fatal Forecast is the true story of Ernie Hazard, a fisherman aboard the Sea Fever, who during a hurricane was thrown overboard and survived fifty hours alone in a tiny life raft. Of the three books, this was my absolute favorite. It’s a terrifying tale with a happy ending, unlike The Perfect Storm. This book was made into a movie and filmed in Gloucester. Again, it’s the story of fishermen caught out in the fishing grounds in the Atlantic in 1991 in what was known as a ‘perfect storm’ – not perfect as in nice, but perfect as in the worst storm nature could put together with 100 foot waves and hurricane winds. Many of the fishermen and women made it home, but not the crew of the Andrea Gail. (I do not recommend the Perfect Storm for young readers due to language, and serious subject matter.)
I saved the Lone Voyager- a story about Howard Blackburn and his absolute love for sailing in the late 1880′s for last. In the winter of 1883, Howard and a crewmate were in an open dory (a small boat) and got separated from the main schooner during a blizzard. For five days he rowed himself toward land and when he eventually reached the shore, his hands were frozen to the oars, and his friend was frozen to death. While Howard lost all his fingers, and most of his toes from frostbite, the disability never stopped him from life on the sea. He went on to record the fastest solo sail voyage across the Atlantic. Of course, this time has since been beaten, but the fact that Blackburn sailed alone without fingers is still an amazing feat.
I have learned one main lesson on my summer sea-vacation. First, while I love the ocean – the smells, the sand, shells – I respect how dangerous it is. My cousin lost 800 traps in the storm of ’91 and I still remember how afraid we all were for the fishermen at sea. I love to go out on the boats and be on the open sea, but only in nice, sunny, summer days. When the storms hit, I want to be inside a house, warm and dry. I am a landlubber librarian, who only can take trips on the ocean through stories. I will leave fishing to the experienced mariners, and pray that they come home safely from every trip they take.
Do you prefer land or sea?
Have you ever been on the ocean in bad weather?
Leave a comment and let us know!