The Douglas Library will host a presentation by Vaughn Sherman, author of “Sea Travels: Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner” on Tuesday, April 16, at 6:30 p.m.
“Sea Travels” tracks two generations of the Christensen family from Puget Sound’s pioneer days, to the Alaskan Gold Rush and onto the open ocean. Their saga includes hard times and history -- taking President Truman salmon fishing on Puget Sound and La Blanca’s dynamite-fueled explosion on a Tacoma shore -- as well as the hijinks and heroism of men of the sea.
J. Holger Christensen recorded his life story shortly before he died in 1988, at the request of his nephew, Vaughn Sherman of Edmonds, Wash. Sherman transcribed the tapes, giving copies to family, as well as a few local libraries and museums. Nearly three decades later, Sherman decided to publish his uncle’s stories. Sherman, a former Pacific Northwest fisheries biologist, is the author of “Sasha Plotkin’s Deceit,” an espionage novel based on his own experiences in the CIA, as well as three books focused on the management of non-profit organizations.
Here is an excerpt from “Sea Travels.”
“I was to go through my closest shave not long after that, when we were at Shemya. The second-to-last port westward in the Aleutian chain, Attu being the last, Shemya was a terrible place to handle cargo. There was a dock of sorts at the port, but the harbor is open to the Bering Sea with all its awful weather. To hold at the dock we had to drop our starboard anchor, then swing around on it to back into the dock, paying out about 75 fathoms of anchor chain to act as a snubber and take strain off the lines holding us at the dock. The Army had tried to build a breakwater across the entrance to the harbor, but storms were so bad that every time they got it started another storm would come along and wash away the work that had been done.
A storm came up while we were lying at the dock, with most of the cargo unloaded. We were surging so hard against the dock that we were forced to leave before getting rid of the last part of the cargo. We started slowly ahead, taking up on the anchor chain. The anchor was stuck in the bottom of the bay, leaving us broadside to the wind and waves. From the bridge we could see the wreck of a ship on the beach. I figured they didn’t need another one to join it.”
From “Sea Travels: Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner,” by J Holger Christensen, as told to Vaughn Sherman