Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Put Ashore



The image above, as stated, is of a ship's boat. This small boat basically served as the taxi for the Captain of a ship and for those he ordered to board it.

I am re-writing a few paragraphs of the opening chapter of my book and I am thinking much about these two words, "put ashore." Jessie Slocum was put ashore at her Aunt's house in Natick, Massachusetts in the late 1880's when she was a teenager after having lived her entire life at sea aboard one ship or another that her father captained. I have been teasing out what this implies and how many ways one can be put ashore? Too, Jessie fought against being put ashore and what was it that she fought against? Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. She fought against the superstitions of the male crew regarding women at sea. These superstitions viewed women as a curse to a ship. The curse could be a crew mutinying or a ship being lost as sea with all aboard drowned. So serious was this belief that aboard at least one ship during the Victorian era, several traveling English women, who had taken passage, were thrown overboard during a raging storm in the belief that ridding them of the ship would calm both the skies and seas.

2. It was believed by the male crew that having the Captain's wife and family aboard ship distracted him from his maritime duties. Jessie would have been viewed as distracting her father from the wheel.

3. She was put ashore after her mother Virginia Walker died. Jessie no longer had an overseeing female chaperone who would ensure she was raised as a "proper young lady" and provided with the education one would need.

4. She was no longer a child. She was a young woman. Perhaps she had reached an age when sailors/men of the crew would find her attractive. This would have been an uncomfortable situation for all parties. There are many sea shanties about the captain's daughter. Here is a few verses from one:

What shall we do with a drunken sailor? 
What shall we do with a drunken sailor?
Early in the morning.


Chorus:
Way-hay, up she rises,
Way-hay, up she rises,
Way-hay, up she rises,
Early in the morning.


Put 'im in bed with the Captain's daughter,
Put 'im in bed with the Captain's daughter,
Early in the morning.


5. Would being put ashore include being buried on a foreign land? Virginia Walker was taken from the Northern Light (the ship her husband Joshua Slocum then captained) after her death aboard ship, brought to shore via the ship's boat and buried in Argentina. She was put ashore and never brought back to her parents' home in Sydney, Australia or to that of the Slocums' in Nova Scotia. Many maritime families had husbands, wives and/or children "put ashore" this way.

Of course, there were other women who insisted on being put ashore after a period of time aboard ship. In the comic image below, the woman appears quiet unhappy and anxious for a ride ashore. Unlikely, however, that she would find it in such a small boat as the one being offered her.





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