• Lee Karlis

Finding inspiration while on vacation

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

Seafaring Women

A few years ago, I found myself and my companion sailing towards Cuttyhunk, the beautifully serene outermost of the Elizabeth Islands off Massachusetts. This quaint island is only about one mile and a half long and three quarters of a mile wide. People can only visit this island by chartering a boating, taking the hour long ferry ride from New Bedford, water taxi, or sailing in like we did. Even a helicopter will get you there if you don't mind shelling out more than a few bucks. Boasting only a few dozen year-round residents, it's rustic and isolated...but that is the draw.

Now, thinking back to that inspiring and reflective visit to Cuttyhunk, I can't help but be amazed by the many women who have voyaged the deep blue sea long before me. History has recorded that traveling by sea has never been an easy venture, especially for women. It would not have been unlikely that a woman brave enough to be a passenger on an extended sea voyage might find herself without any other female companions. What hardships they must have endured... from the scarcity of fresh water, to their burdensome clothing, even the stench. I have such respect for those seafaring women of years past.

In the late 1800s, Mary Chipman Lawrence, the wife of Captain Samuel Lawrence, kept a journal over her three and a half year voyage on a whaling ship. She even had a five year old daughter, Minnie, aboard ship. I haven't read her journal yet, but I have put it on my TBR pile.

Here is an except from her journal:

FOURTH OF JULY [1857]  “How different from any which I ever passed before, cold, rainy, and disagreeable. A few guns were fired by way of amusement, which was all the celebration we could get up except an extra dinner. We had for dinner a pair of ducks, stuffed amd roasted, cranberry sauce, potatoes, pumpkin, and boiled pudding, or duff as we call it.  Saw a whale in the forenoon; lowered and got fast to one [harpoon hit its mark]. After getting him half killed, he took a fancy to run and consequently took the whole of the line and made tracks for somewhere….What better celebration could we have wished for than a whale alongside. But perhaps it was all for the best as it was, for the wind blew up a gale, and we must have obliged to cut from him alongside [cut the line and release the whale], which would have been all the worse.”

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