Growing up on the Bay of Fundy, Azuba Galloway dreams of going
to sea. She watches magnificent ships slowly making their way into
Whelan's Cove, the sense of exoticism bursting from their holds
along with foreign goods.
As a young woman, Azuba marries a seasoned merchant sea captain,
Nathaniel Bradstock. Unwilling to have him away at sea for most of
their married life, and anxious to see far shores, she extracts a
promise that he will take her with him. But Azuba becomes pregnant
soon after they marry and Nathaniel knows too well the perils of
life on a ship. He reneges on his promise and refuses to allow
Azuba to join him.
When Nathaniel leaves on his journey, Azuba desperately misses her
husband. Days turn into weeks and months - voyages can take two,
three years before the ship and crew return home. Despite her
loneliness, Azuba becomes a strong, independent woman, caring for
her child and her home. With her parents and beloved grandmother
nearby, she settles into a life of quietude and predictability, all
the while yearning to be by her husband's side aboard his
Her loneliness eventually propels her into a friendship with the
local vicar, Reverend Simon Walton. He is a quiet, kind and
contemplative man, and Azuba takes comfort and enjoyment in their
increasingly intimate friendship. One afternoon, despite her
misgivings, Azuba goes on a picnic with the vicar and becomes
trapped by the tide. When they return home the next morning, Azuba
and Reverend Walton have become a topic of gossip.
When Nathaniel returns home he is enraged by her impropriety.
Reluctantly he decides to take Azuba and their young daughter,
Carrie, with him on his next voyage. Mother and child are loaded
from a rowboat and hauled onto the weather deck along with barrels
of coal and crates of chickens. Nathaniel has drawn a line across
the deck. "You'll never again cross that line," he instructs
It is October 1862. It will be three years before Azuba sees the
shores of Whelan's Cove again. Aboard Traveller, the small
family visits places Azuba dreamed she would one day see: London,
San Francisco and exotic countries in Europe.
But she also experiences the terror that can come during a life at
sea: a harrowing passage around Cape Horn, half-starvation while
listlessly floating in the doldrums, and a stop at the Chincha
Islands to pick up a load of guano, where she witnesses a mass
suicide by slaves. She begins to question her decision to join her
husband, particularly when she realizes there is "no way to erase
horror from a child's memory."
Misery follows misfortune and Azuba feels alone in a male world,
surrounded by the splendour and the terror of the open sea. The
voyage tests not only her already precarious marriage, but
everything Azuba believes in.
With a sure hand, Beth Powning captures life aboard a sailing ship
- ferocious storms, the impossibly isolated ports of call, the
gruelling daily routine - and shows how love evolves even in the
most extreme circumstances.
The Sea Captain's Wife is an awe-inspiring tour
that captures the vigour of life in the last days of the Age of
Sail and gives us an unforgettable young heroine who shows
compassion, courage and love while under incredible duress.