WHEN GOD WAS AN ATHEIST SAILOR: Memories of a Childhood at Sea; 1902-1910 by Burgess Cogill

WHEN GOD WAS AN ATHEIST SAILOR: Memories of a Childhood at Sea; 1902-1910

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The author of this utterly charming idyll was born September 5, 1902, aboard an oceangoing schooner becalmed in the mid-Pacific's doldrums. Commanded by her Danish-born father, the great sailing ship (named Snow & Burgess) was the little girl's home until she was piped ashore to attend school in 1910. Cogill (n‚e Sorenson) recalls and recounts her privileged years before the mast in always engaging, if episodic, fashion. Based in San Francisco, the cargo vessel on which she and her younger (by one year) sister resided had ports of call ranging from the Pacific Northwest down to Peru. Between and during commercial voyages, the square-rigged craft was an enchanted world for its diminutive passengers. Among other pleasures, they watched flying fish play, romped on the quarterdeck, witnessed brawls among crew members, studied natural maritime wildlife, reveled in rites of passage (as in first crossing the equator), and enjoyed a warm domestic existence in the captain's well-appointed quarters. Cogill, however, did miss the dubious excitement of San Francisco's 1906 earthquake because Snow & Burgess was at sea. Meanwhile, the author recollects her father as a starchy and demanding, even domineering, presence who refused to accompany his family to divine services; not until years later did she realize his muscular arms and chest bore a wealth of lusty tattoos. Evidently content to rely on fond memories alone, Cogill evokes absorbing, human-scale aspects of fin-de-si‚cle America.

Pub Date: Jan. 22nd, 1989
Publisher: Norton