"Quite a Curiosity"

Quite a Curiosity - The Sea Letters of Grace. F. Ladd ed.by Louise Nichols

Grace Forrest was born in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in 1864. At the age of twenty-one she married Fred Ladd, captain of a sailing vessel, and traveled with him around the world for most of his sailing career. They raised their young children onboard until they were old enough to be at school full time.

This book is a collection of letters that she wrote to her father from various places around the world. Included are a few that he wrote back and some of her daughter Kathryn's memories. By the time Katheryn was born, steam ships were handling most of the trans-atlantic crossings so her memories are mostly of sailing up and down the Atlantic coast of North and Sound America, making her own experience different from that of her brother, Forrest, who saw the world in his early years.

I can barely imagine what it's like to raise a toddler on a ship but the Ladds seemed to have have no problem with it. They took care of medical emergencies, weathered storms at sea and celebrated Christmas with gifts and festive meals. The pictures of their living quarters are impressive so I know they had some creature comforts, but still, it would take a strong woman to live that life and feel comfortable raising her children on the sea. I have nothing but admiration for this woman.

Grace collected "curiosities" from the places she visited, hence the title. She and her husband made friends of other sailing couples they would meet in various ports and even visit between ships when they were at sea. In port she did the tourist things, shopping and seeing how the natives lived, then writing of her father to tell what they had seen and done.

I was born and raised on the east coast of Canada and lived here all my life but had never heard Grace Ladd's story, so I was thrilled to come across this book. It's a fascinating look at sailing life in what is called "The Golden Age of Sail" and at the personal details of domestic life and child-rearing at sea. A great read, indeed.      


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