A "hen frigate," traditionally, was any ship with the captain's wife on board. Hen frigates were miniature worlds -- wildly colorful, romantic, and dangerous. Here are the dramatic, true stories of what the remarkable women on board these vessels encountered on their often amazing voyages: romantic moonlit nights on deck, debilitating seasickness, terrifying skirmishes with pirates, disease-bearing rats, and cockroaches as big as a man's slipper. And all of that while living with the constant fear of gales, hurricanes, typhoons, collisions, and fire at sea. Interweaving first-person accounts from letters and journals in and around the lyrical narrative of a sea journey, maritime historian Joan Druett brings life to these stories. We can almost feel for ourselves the fear, pain, anger, love, and heartbreak of these courageous women. Lavishly illustrated, this breathtaking book transports us to the golden age of sail.
Historical sidelights can be as intriguing as major events, as in this study of 19th-century sea captains' wives who sailed with their husbands and recorded their impressions in journals and letters. Druett (Petticoat Whalers) points out that in some instances finances dictated that wives be taken along, for a captain who put all of his capital into a ship might have no funds for a home on land. But there were other motivations, too, such as enjoying a honeymoon or sharing experiences. The Victorian female was as "submissive, timid and impregnably virtuous," but the work on shipboard put no premium on submission or timidity. Children were born and raised on ships, with the captain often delivering his own offspring; the captain's wife frequently served as cook and repaired torn sails, and the couple joined forces to fight wind and weather as well as illness. The book provides solid entertainment along with interesting information. Illustrations.