Soren's Sea Story

and his time aboard the Wyoming.

This is one of my father’s many sea stories.  It is a story of two decisions, decisions that people make everyday of their lives, except these two decisions had life and death consequences.  These decisions were made by two men whose lives came together for a brief period of time in February of 1924, on the six masted schooner Wyoming.             

My father’s decision saved his life, but this fact was always overshadowed by his belief that he was conned into making this decision.  One of the reasons I started my research into this event was to uncover the real reason behind my father’s story.

The event leading to the two decisions started in the winter season of late 1923 and early 1924.  The schooner Wyoming had been in Boston harbor for 3 or 4 months waiting for a contract.  It was a severe winter and the supply of fuel that winter season was heavily taxed.  In New Brunswick Canada, this fact was made worse by a coal strike, so in February of 1924, The Wyoming was given a contract to deliver coal from Norfolk Virginia to New Brunswick Canada.  The Master of the Wyoming at this time was Captain Charles Glaesel.    The crew required for this voyage was hired by the William Wicker Agency, of 17 Commercial Wharf Boston.  Schooners of this size had a crew of 13 or 14 men, made up usually of a 1st and 2nd mates, an engineer, 8 able bodied seamen, a cook and a possible cabin boy. 
My father, Soren M. Pedersen, was hired as a cook.  He was 23 years old in February of 1924.  He had come to the United States by way of Texas, after going to sea at the age of 14.   He sailed in square riggers most of his nautical career, going around the world two times in various vessels. 

He came to the United States in Port Arthur, Texas, and started working in the oil fields of Texas, standing in mud up to his knees,  cutting off pilings driven into the ground to support oil storage tanks for the ever expanding oil industry of the 1920’s.  This was not the type of work to his liking, so he moved up into the Boston area looking for better work.  After several odd jobs, he got a job with a painting contractor to do outside work requiring staging and rigging, which he was familiar with, being required to climb the rigging of many ships he sailed on.  However, this job was not to start until sometime in the spring of 1924. 

The voyage of the Wyoming was to be from Boston to Norfolk, there to one or more ports in the dominion of Canada, and then back to a final port of discharge in the United States for a term of time, not exceeding 3 calendar months. This seemed to be a good fill in job to have before the painting job was to start. 

My father told many several sea stories, several of which included his cooking experiences, many involved catching and preparing porpoises, albatrosses, and even seagulls.  My wife’s stomach would start to feel queasy when ever he brought up one of these stories, so I was not entirely surprised when I found he was a cook on the Wyoming.  I never asked him what his position was on the Wyoming.  I assumed he was a seaman.   I regret never being more inquisitive about this particular sea story.

The Wyoming left Boston harbor on Saturday Feb. 16, 1924.  It had an extremely fast passage to Norfolk.  One account stated that it was sighted off Cape Henry lighthouse, which is on the southern side of Chesapeake Bay, 60 hours after it passes Boston light.  It arrived in Norfolk on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 1924.
Captain Glaesel was the master of the Wyoming for approximately 2 years.  He sailed most of his career out of Portland Maine, and was considered an excellent seaman.  He must have been extremely proud when he was given the command of the Wyoming, as this was the largest wooden commercial sailing vessel ever built, even to this day.  The Wyoming was the pride of Maine and the Percy and Small shipyard, where it was built. 

The Wyoming was to be launched on Dec. 14, 1909.  It was a well advertised event and a day off for all shipyard workers so they could attend the celebration of launching a ship of this magnitude, and was the last of the six masted schooners, encompassing the latest design features developed over many years of shipbuilding.  This included special iron supports that added structural integrity to the hull and hopefully lessened the problem of hogging(sagging) with ships of this size.  The bow and stern sagged due to the great buoyancy of the middle section of the ship.  One of the stories that my father always told, was of going down into the stern of the cargo hold and not being able to see the forward part of the hold, due to the hogging effect of an empty cargo hold. The iron strapping apparently did not accomplish what it was designed to do.

The much publicized launching of this great ship, however, was delayed for 1 day, due to a storm.  And was finally launched on February 15, 1924. Bad weather played a big role, at its very beginning, and its untimely end.
On the voyage to Norfolk and sometime before February 23, 1924,  Captain Glaesel decided to tell my father that the Wyoming would be delayed in port for some unknown time, and knowing my father had a job waiting for him in Boston that spring,  he would sign my father off the Wyoming, so he could get a quicker passage back to the Boston area.

My father made a decision to accept his offer.  Before he could get passage on a ship back to Boston, he saw the Wyoming sailing out of port.  He concluded that the Captain had made up the delay story, in order to bring his friend aboard for the remainder of the passage, a belief he held for the rest of his life.  This alleged deception, was always foremost in his mind, and not the fact that his decision to leave the ship, saved his life.    When I was old enough to realize the significance of this story, I would tell my father that these decisions by he and Captain Glaesel are what saved his life. Myself, my brother and our extended families would not exist if these decisions had been made any differently.  My father would conclude by saying, “Yes, but the captain should not have lied to me”.  ..... The story always ended that way!  





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