It is Hurricane Season in Houston. I am writing this on the third anniversary of Hurricane Harvey that swamped Houston starting August 25, 2017. We’re still cleaning up after that monster storm. It is Tuesday and we’re wondering how Hurricanes Laura and Marco will impact our region. In keeping with the 2020 trend of unprecedented events, we’re expecting two hurricanes the same week. Or are we?
WE INTERRUPT THIS BLOG WITH LATE BREAKING NEWS: Marco fizzled out. Laura hit SW Louisiana. Damage being assessed. If you care to help, make a donation to the non-profit disaster response group of your choice. Find a list at National VOAD.
We’re told they might hit Louisiana instead. Or we might get one while the other one heads further east. Or maybe they’ll both come here. We’ll know by the time this blog is posted on Friday. Meanwhile, we wait. That’s the thing about hurricanes. We get plenty of warning one is coming; but we can never really know if we should stay or leave. Evacuating in the midst of a pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges. Already people in areas to the east and south of Houston are advised to evacuate. Our mayor is asking those of us in the city to stay home and out of their way. I’m starting to believe the year 2020 has been brought to us by Murphy to prove his theory that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
A Disastrous 1620 Atlantic Storm
Meanwhile, as we wonder what adventures we’ll experience this week, I thought you might enjoy reading this excerpt from Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures about an Atlantic storm 400 years ago that nearly capsized the Mayflower.
The Atlantic Ocean – Fall 1620
Entry from Mayflower log. Saturday, 23 Sept.: A sharp change. Equinoctial weather, followed by stormy westerly gales; encountered crosswinds and continued fierce storms. Ship severely shaken and her upper works made very leaky. One of the main beams in the midship has bowed and cracked. Some fear that the ship will not be able to perform the remainder of our voyage. They entered into serious consultation with the master and other officers of the ship about whether to return rather than cast themselves into a desperate and inevitable peril.
The ship’s rolling grew worse. A cold breeze caused the travelers to shiver. They sat together in silence, watching sailors climb high overhead to pull ropes, adjust sails, and call out to one another. They appeared to be oblivious of the passengers, whose very lives were in their hands.
The wind howled at such a high pitch it was nearly impossible to hear what Master Jones was yelling to the crew. Jones was waving his arms in a wild arc, motioning for everyone to get below. The Brewster’s returned to the tween deck to find most of the women and children either screaming or crying. The men were all shouting orders at once, making it impossible to decipher who said what. Two sailors tossed coils of ropes into the crowd. “Tie yourselves down. It’s gonna get worse. Nothing we can do but ride it out. Go on, now—do it quick, ‘fore someone breaks their bones.”
A couple of the smaller children had already rolled from one side of the ship to the other as it pitched to and fro in the high waves. Mothers tied their children to one another, then to the ship’s posts. The waves crashing against the ship sounded like a hammer pounding nails into a board.
Icy salt water poured over the railing and into the lower decks. The sailors tossed down more ropes which the passengers stretched around poles and ladders for people to hold onto as they tried to move about. Next, they tossed buckets to the men. Though they could scarcely stand, even holding onto the ropes, they did as the sailors instructed. They formed a bucket brigade and began passing buckets full of water along a line to the open cannon ports. The men closest to the portholes pitched water back into the sea, and then sent empty buckets back. All the while, the pumps below ran at full capacity.
With great effort, the bucket brigade barely managed to dump water back into the sea as fast as more washed over the deck.
* * *
The roaring wind drowned out most of the wailing and screams from the terrified women and children who huddled together in the tween deck area. Some held ropes with one hand and placed the other on their bellies or covered their mouths, hoping to stave off discharging the contents of their stomachs.
Then their precarious situation got worse. The passengers all heard the loud crack, even over the roar of the wind and waves. It sounded like a clap of thunder. Everyone wondered what had happened, but none dared venture forth to find out.
Sometime after midnight the winds started to subside. The passengers soon learned from one of the crewmen that the noise they had heard was the cracking of the beam supporting the center mast. The stress from the relentless wind and waves had caused it to buckle. The crew surveyed the broken beam by the light of many lanterns. Meanwhile, the Separatist men gathered to assess their situation.
“We cannot turn back now!” said Carver. “We must convince the crew to keep sailing west.”
Bradford added, “Let us pray, pray, and pray some more that this will not end our plans.”
“Perhaps the cooper Alden can apply his barrel-making skills,” suggested Bradford. Just then, the captain approached.
“I heard you talking. The ship’s my responsibility. I’m not looking for help from a bunch of bloody landlubbers.”
Carver interrupted. “But Master Jones, we have with us a giant iron screw. We brought to build our new homes. We thought perhaps your cooper here, young John Alden, might use it.”
“Where?!” bellowed Jones.
“Below, with the other tools and provisions we’ve brought.”
Alden was quick to add, “And I know how to use it, for I was a shipbuilder in the Southampton yards before I hired on to sail with you, sir.”
Thank you for taking time to read this excerpt. Share it with a friend or sign up for your own free subscription at HowWiseThen. In the weeks to come I’ll be sharing other information about the amazing Mayflower voyage and the events planned to commemorate it – even if most of them will now be virtual.
Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale or Two Cultures is scheduled for release in October. Here are three places available for pre-orders. Others will be available in the weeks to come.
Bookshop.org (Supporting local Indie Bookshops)
Amazon.com/Mayflower-Chronicles-Tale-Two-Cultures/ https://www.bluewillowbookshop.com (in Houston)