Publisher: Dutton 1St Edition edition
Mary's story begins in July 1856 in the heyday of the great clipper ships. Her husband, Captain Joshua Patten, is hired to navigate Neptune's Car on a treacherous voyage from New York to San Francisco-in record time.
The trip is marked by dark signs early on. The first mate shows traces of treason that soon erupt into a plot of mutiny. Upon reaching the equator, the captain falls ill. With no other choice, Mary takes command of the ship. Her command reigns throughout not only the most treacherous passage, Cape Horn, but during the most devastating weather in years.
Having learned to navigate on a previous voyage with her husband, she now must utilize all her skills as she demands respect from an unstable crew, nurses her husband day and night, keeps the mutinous first mate at bay, and finds as she becomes a captain, she will also become a mother.
Doug Kelley has crafted a brilliant novel that uses the little-known facts about Mary Patten's life to tell a gripping tale of deception, danger, and treachery on the high seas. In a world of discovery, when adventurous sea captains ruled the seas, Mary Patten became much more than a captain's wife.
Tall ships have always fascinated the world and our household is not immune to their graceful sails upon the seas! I am certain many of you have enjoyed the heroic prowess of fictional 'Horatio Hornblower' or 'Master and Commander' for the sheer pleasure of getting a feel for the life at sea (safely ensconced in your armchair just as I did!).
Both my father and husband recounted their individual experiences on the full rigged ship Christian Radich with awe and I know ex-RAF flyboy's greatest wish has always been to sail around the Horn.
It is with this in mind I acquired a copy of the story behind an intriguing and most courageous lady, Mary Patten, 'The Captain's Wife' written by Douglas Kelley.
In the heyday of clipper ships, and following her husband's grievous illness, this remarkable woman took over command of the vessel Neptune's Car and sailed it safely around one of the most dangerous straits, that of Cape Horn to San Francisco.
In these present days, women still encounter difficulties in accessing the corporate ladder so imagine one lone woman's asserting herself aboard a ship manned by rough sailors, a newly married teen in fact, assuming all Captain's duties!
Neptune's car, was a fast clipper heading towards San Francisco via Cap Horn in 1856. Mary Patten, the Captain's wife, learned navigation along her husband' side using a sextant soon proving herself proficient in plotting a course with charts and the almanac's star tables.
As the voyage progresses it becomes obvious the ship's First Mate is not to be trusted, a drunken liar who leaves the deck unattended for hours at a time during his watch.
During an altercation the Captain is seriously injured, has the man arrested and throws him in irons. What follows is an amazing story of survival and courage of a crew heading into some of the most dangerous waters in the world.
With the help of a twenty two years old second mate and the support of the crew, Mary and Neptune's car survives storm after storm, mishap after mishap, making their way around the Horn and up the coast of the South American continent.
This is the story of one astonishing woman and the outstanding crew who manned their ship, bringing it safely to harbour!
Douglas Kelley excels in his narrative of the unassuming young woman's journey that changed her life and theirs forever whilst earning their respect!
If you like the ocean and a good seafaring story, one unlike any other I might add, this is the one for you!
For those interested in Mary Patten and Neptune's Car behind the fictional recount:
This extreme clipper ship was built in 1853 by Page Allen, Portsmouth, VA. Dimensions 216'×40'×23'6" and tonnage 1,616 (of cargo carrying volume—old measurement).
Launched April 16, 1853 for Foster & Nickerson, New York. Left New York for San Francisco October 15, 1853, arrived February 9, making the run in 117 days under command of Captain Forbes. In 1854, she sailed from San Francisco to Singapore, then from Calcutta to New York in 109 days.
Between 1854 and 1856, she was under command of Captain Joshua Patten and during two of his trips, his 20-year-old bride sailed with him.
During their 1855 journey from San Francisco to New York around the Horn, Captain Patten fell gravely ill just before reaching Cape Horn, his First Mate was in irons, his Second Mate was but 20.
His wife, pregnant with their first child, had learned navigation during the long hours at sea. She, along with the young Second Mate, steered the ship safely through the treacherous waters and storms of Cape Horn to San Francisco.
Note: This review reflects my opinion only and was not requested by author or publisher!