Letters from the Sea


Letters from the Sea

In LETTERS FROM THE SEA, by Parker Bishop Albee, Jr., in June of 1881, on the very night of their wedding in Searsport, Maine, Captain Lincoln Alden Colcord and his new wife, Jane Sweetser Colcord, departed for sea to begin a two-year voyage on the bark Charlotte A. Littlefield. The voyage would take them around the world and witness the birth of their daughter Joanna amid the South Sea Islands and young Lincoln’s arrival during a treacherous winter storm off Cape Horn. Fifth-generation seafarers, Joanna and Lincoln Colcord spent their youth at sea aboard their father’s ships. The Colcord’s richly detailed journal-letters to family members ashore, their logbooks, photographs, and later correspondence give us a splendid window into the life of a seafaring family. The book’s foreword by maritime historian Andrew J. Nesdall, puts their story in perspective, explaining the trade and customs during those waning days of working sail at the turn of the century, yet the letters themselves are surprisingly contemporary as the family shares its joys and concerns, curiosity about new places, adventures, and growing pains. From New York to Yokohama to Valparaiso to Singapore to Durban to Hong Kong, we share their exhilaration when things go well yet are ever conscious of the uncertainties of sea life: illness, the threat of typhoons and dismastings, wrecks, and financial disaster. Family photographs, including a wonderful collection of glass plate negatives taken by Joanna Colcord aboard the State of Maine in her late teens, have been augmented by photographs from other sources to provide a fascinating glimpse of seaboard life, from passing ships at sea to details in the captain’s quarters, a favorite Chinese cook, harbor scenes, and more.


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