My Year Before the Mast
by Annette Brock Davis My Year Before the Mast is two stories. The first is the story of a seaman-apprentice with a burning desire to become a master mariner aboard one of the last barques still sailing the old clipper routes of the great Southern Ocean. The second and more remarkable story is that of a tenacious young woman, Annette Brock Davis, who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to become one of the first female able seamen to serve on a commercial sailing vessel.
By the time she reached her late teens, Annette knew she would pursue a career at sea. That was during the dirty ’30s, a time when the Great Depression had sucked the life from the world’s economies. The determined girl grew up in comfortable circumstances in Montreal, the daughter of a merchant who survived the economic collapse and expected her to become a debutante, marry well, and settle down to a life of baby production. But Annette’s 23rd birthday found her signed on as an apprentice seaman aboard the Finnish registered L’Avenir, a four-masted barque of 3,650 tons. Annette’s story is a well-crafted yarn recounting her exploits aboard L’Avenir during a voyage from Copenhagen to Port Germein and back to England. The real life charactersGerman, Finnish, Scottish, British, Swedish, Belgian, and Canadianare worthy of “Ship of Fools” fiction.
Hounslow Press, Toronto, Ont.; 416-214-5544; $15; 217 pages.