After the Storm

From Ocean Navigator #123
July/August 2002
John Rousmaniere, author of the Annapolis Book of Seamanshipand Fastnet, Force 10, has produced another definitive volume having to do with the sea and ships. Anyone could write a collection of sea disaster stories; the material is rich and varied. But Rousmaniere, who could be considered one of sea literature’s few living godfathers, along with Jonathan Raban and more recently Nathaniel Philbrick, has an ability to understand and put into context the significance of maritime events, whether they involve ocean racing or maritime history. An added benefit is that he is a master storyteller.

After the Storm is a collection of a dozen sea stories that compel the reader to consider what’s left behind in the wake of a terrible storm at sea. The sea is unbiased in its ability to destroy lives and property. But people view the sea from many perspectives, either romantic or terrible, thought-provoking or a setting for limitless adventure. But the sea is never viewed as dull, certainly not by anyone who has lived through a storm on the high seas.

Beginning with a sensitive account of the storm that overwhelmed Percy Shelley’s yacht off the coast of Italy in 1822, in which he describes the poor poet as lacking all but the most basic level of seamanship as he succumbs to the waves. Rousmaniere takes the reader through storm after storm in all manner of vessels. Included are accounts of the loss of the steamer Portland off Cape Cod; the loss of a fleet of sailing and steam ships in Samoa, which was studied by the author Robert Louis Stevenson, who took up residence in Samoa shortly after the storm; and the mysterious loss of Mary Celeste in the Atlantic.

The book is heartbreaking and captivating. Rousmaniere is still in fine form.

International Marine/McGraw Hill, Camden, Maine; $24.95.

By Ocean Navigator