ONE VOYAGER by Joseph E. Garland


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Suddenly the great sails are there."" This first sentence opens the reader into a voyage through the life of a master mariner whose ""eyes were like marbles at the bottom of the sea"". He was Howard Blackburn, a Gloucester fisherman at first, and his every voyage seemed to be something of a death voyage as well as a discovery--which accounts for the peculiarly inexpressive blue of his eyes. He married fairly young but the fact of his wife barely interested him. His face was toward the sea, not banal land, and he had seven years before the mast by the age of 20. One disastrous fishing voyage in 1883, he was separated from his ship while in a dory during a blizzard. Five frozen days later he found safety ashore, with his hands pure, chipped ice around the oar shafts-- ""the frozen flesh crumbled off in a dry powder. The wood was rasping his bare bones"". He lost all his fingers and, eventually, each toe and a heel. Back in Gloucester, he opened a tobacco shop as a famous man. He boosted this into ""BLACKBURN""--a great New England bar of the Gay Nineties. But this was not enough. He built a small ship and, handless and alone, crossed the Atlantic to England and greater fame. And he crossed again alone, setting a fantastic record of 39 days to Lisbon. His third voyage across failed, and he returned defeated. His story however carries on, right through Prohibition and into the Depression. Biographer Garland has a cool pen for block-and-ackle prose/poetry, a rhetoric that never melts. A strongly written book, about the dead-man's-float of the sea and a man with blue dead-alive eyes. Recommended.

Pub Date: Aug. 8th, 1963
Publisher: Little, Brown