Sea Travels — Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner

Patos Island Press is pleased to announce the release of another title on September 1, 2012.  Sea Travels — Memoirs of a 20th Century Master Mariner, is the autobiography of author Vaughn Sherman’s uncle, J. Holger Christensen, as told to Vaughn.

Born in  Nome, Alaska , in 1906, Holger was the son of Danish immigrants who were mining gold in the sands of that frontier town.  His dad, a sailor of the old school who served on the last of the full-rigged sailing ships in the late 1800’s, cashed in the gold to buy a Puget Sound workboat.  Raised on Bainbridge Island, home port for the workboat, Holger was employed as a deck hand on the boat from an early age, learning  sea lore from a a true sailor man.  By the age of twelve Holger was trusted to navigate the boat while his dad slept.  By the age of sixteen he quit school to work on the “mosquito fleet” boats that were primary transportation on Puget Sound at the time.  And when he was seventeen he began sailing on deep sea cargo ships.

This is a story not only of Holger the sailor, but of the maritime industry as it waxed and waned between World War I and World War II and beyond; of the plight of badly treated seamen in the teens and twenties, and the strikes of the early thirties that brought better conditions; of historic ships and historic travels, including sea travels in support of bases for the Pan American Airline’s pioneering  seaplane travel across the Pacific under the watchful eyes of the Japanese military as they prepared for World War II.

Holger became a deck officer as World War II opened,  experiencing life on the bridge in huge convoys of ships off the east coast, from the west coast to Hawaii, and from Puget Sound to Alaska.  As  captain of a World War II Liberty-class cargo ship, his last years of World War II  post-war years were spent mainly on voyages between Puget Sound and the small ports of far western Alaska, the Aleutians.  The book relates some of the horrific weather and other dangers of operating in the Bering Sea during the winter, and is especially interesting in its description of the life of a captain in these circumstances, a man who alone carries responsibility of the lives of his crew and the safety of the cargo being carried.

Holger is remarkably open in telling about his life, from some of the trouble he got into by drinking too much, the fist fights that were common at the time and with the nature of the men he worked with, and even of some of the prostitutes he visited.

This is a story of men at sea.  It’s a story of an industry that took a vital role in assuring the success of our country’s involvement in the two Great Wars of the Twentieth Century.  The book includes many historic photographs of cargo ships built from before World War I to World War II.  It includes maps of some of Holger’s voyage.  And most of all it helps the reader understand something of the life of men at sea in that historic period during the first half of the Twentieth Century

“The author’s glimpses of Puget Sound maritime life in the 1930s and ’40s are truly fascinating.”—Joe Upton, author of Bering Sea Blues

10 b/w photos, 3 maps
Trade paperback, 208 pages, 6×9
$15.95, ISBN 978-0-9847225-1-8
(Distributed by Aftershocks Media/Epicenter Press)