White Squall: The Last Voyage of Albatross available in Paperback
- Pub. Date:
- Bristol Fashion Publications
"Dick Langford was a tremendous asset on the school voyage of the Brigantine Albatross. He was a great human being, a leader of the young students, and a fine English teacher.
He has written a vivid, dramatic account about the ship's final, fatal voyage. His own experience was particularly harrowing. He brings it alive with great sensitivity and flowing prose."
Captain Christopher B. Sheldon
Author Bio: Richard E. Langford has lived on and around the sea all his life. Born and raised in Pensacola, Fla., as a teen-ager he served as a volunteer Red Cross water safety instructor and lifeguard. He worked as a professional Safety Services Representative for American National Red Cross, training hundreds of instructors in life saving, swimming, boating, sailing and first aid.
Author Comments: Back in 1960 I answered an ad in Yachting Magazine, placed by The Ocean Academy Ltd. owned and operated by Christopher B. Sheldon, Ph.D., and N. Alice Sheldon, MD. They wanted a teacher of English for a nine-month voyage on the school ship Albatross, a square-rigged brig to be crewed by teen-aged students.
The Sheldons expected to sail through the Caribbean, transit the Panama Canal, then spend a month or more in the Galapagos Islands before returning to their home port of Mystic, Conn. I was 35 years old, teaching English at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., when I answered the ad. I was determined to sail on Albatross's first schooling voyage even if obliged to resign from Stetson. Fortunately, an understanding dean and department head allowed me a leave of absence. As many readers no doubt know, the first schooling voyage of Albatross was also her last. This is the tale of that voyage.
I wrote most of it in the middle '60s, then put it aside for the interim. The film White Squall engendered fresh interest in the Albatross voyage, even though the film was more Hollywood parody than fact. Readers of this volume will acquire a more realistic understanding of the people and events involved.
I am indebted to travel writer Janet Groene for her interest in this book. She read it, liked it and recommended it to one of her publishers. Without her efforts on my behalf, the manuscript would remain in a box beneath my desk, where it had been for more than three decades.
Richard E. Langford
|Publisher:||Bristol Fashion Publications|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
I first saw Albatross in June 1960. She lay alongside a wharf at Mystic Seaport, Conn., her long bowsprit almost touching the stern of Charles W. Morgan, the old whaler now permanently moored there as an exhibit. Albatross' captain, Christopher Sheldon, had already hired me to serve as English Master for his ship's first schooling cruise, beginning the following fall, and I looked forward to seeing the vessel I would live aboard for nine months.
Albatross was 92 feet long, drew nine feet in the bow and 11 in the stern, and was rigged as a hermaphrodite brigantine: four squaresails on the foremast and a marconi main. She had teak decks, a 21-foot beam that gave ample deck space, a galley house on deck forward and a chart house aft. Painted white, trimmed in red and black with a beautiful mahogany stern rail that gleamed with varnish, she was the largest sailing ship I had seen up close. She had served as a North Sea pilot schooner following her commissioning in 1921 before conversion to a brigantine.
Chris and Alice Sheldon bought Albatross from novelist Ernest K. Gann, author of best sellers such as The High and the Mighty, Soldier of Fortune and Twilight for the Gods. Used by the Nazi Kriegsmarine during WW II, the ship was sold to a Dutch company in 1949, from which Gann bought her in 1954.
Gann had Albatross re-rigged as a brigantine, and though this probably affected her stability, he assured the Sheldons it did not. In any event, Albatross became a suitable romantic setting for the writer's adventure novels.
When the Sheldons bought Albatross, ship's cook George Ptacnik came with her. George was an intelligent, educated 30-year-old Mexican-American teacher of English who found Albatross far more appealing than the classroom. By the time I came aboard, George (who later became known as Spook) had already sailed with the Sheldons on an adventure cruise through the Mediterranean and around Africa.
Standing alongside, I craned back my head to see the tops of her masts. They looked like giant steel trees with white branches in the clouds, fitting perfectly with all the old sailing vessels surrounding her in Mystic Seaport harbor.
No one was on deck. I walked to the gangway and shouted, but there was no answer. Stepping aboard, I stuck my head through the aft companionway into the chart house and called out again. This time I got an answer, and Skipper Sheldon came on deck from the engine room where he had been working. He was a big man, about 6'2" and heavy through the midsection, with blond hair balding in front. His eyes were a startling blue.
I introduced myself and we sat on the aft-deck lockers. As we talked, I looked around at the bulwarks, the big wheel, the engine-room telegraph, the large compass and the wheelhouse. Albatross needed some red lead and paint, and what I could see of the mainsail did not encourage me regarding the ship's condition.
Sheldon read my expression. "We're taking her to Nova Scotia this summer for yard work." he said. "We just returned from Africa and a year at sea, and right now she's not up to par, but she will be by the time you see her this fall."
As I was to find out in a few months, even after the work in Nova Scotia Albatross required constant hard labor to keep her looking decent, more work than most of her young students had expected to perform.
Albatross took on supplies, tons of canned goods, crates of fresh vegetables, coils of new line stacked all around her well-worn decks. Skipper pointed to a high pile of canvas on top of the charthouse. "That's our new main. The old one is about gone, and I expect it will blow out almost anytime." Later that afternoon I helped feed the new main through the skylights down into the main cabin where we packed it away in one of the vacant bunks.
I explored the ship above and below. Albatross had a private stern cabin where Skipper and his wife lived, and it spanned the width of the ship. A narrow passageway led into the large main cabin where there were bunks for twelve. The dining table, in gimbals, was in the main cabin as well, while at the aft end was the ship's library (about 10 large shelves of books). Forward of the main cabin were 10 more bunks and several wash stands with two heads off the forepeak
As I climbed up the ladder out of the forepeak I heard a feminine voice say, "Hi. Welcome aboard." It was Alice Sheldon, the ship's surgeon, a handsome, heavyset woman of about 30 years. She smiled, and her short, brown hair blew about her face in the breeze. She spoke authoritatively and surely; I could tell that she was a very important part of the whole venture, and a few minutes of conversation with her told me that hers was the organizational mind that kept the Ocean Academy Ltd. moving smoothly.
John Perry (whose name soon became simply J.C.) had been hired a few days before as math teacher, and we worked together to stow our gear in our compartment. Alice had hung a heavy curtain between us and several of the boys so we had a semi-private area. We each had two bunks, one for sleeping and one for stowing books and other teaching materials.
Most of the students would come aboard in Bermuda, but Rick, Bill and Tim were already aboard, as well as several friends of the Sheldons who had sailed with them on Irving Johnson's Yankee a few years before. Our cook Spook was there, of course, and in just a few days, J.C., Spook and I had become good friends. At 35, I was the oldest person aboard Albatross; J.C. was 27, Spook was 30, and Skipper Sheldon was 34.
We rode out Hurricane Donna at Mystic Seaport. Though the Seaport wharves were under water and we had some wind and rain, there wasn't much damage. Skipper had us put out an extra anchor astern in the river and another on land.
Spook once described J.C. as "a loud, wild-eyed German storm trooper with an insane giggle," but it was said with a smile. Our math teacher was indeed loud-voiced, but he was also smart, confident, quick-witted and a skillful math teacher. He adapted quickly to the ship and became the mate of one of the three watches.
The final moments before we sailed from Mystic Seaport were hectic. The pilot and Skipper stood atop the charthouse as Albatross backed from her berth, swung, and headed down the Mystic River toward the town bridge. As we passed beneath it, Spook's laundry came bombing down on deck. (He had forgotten to pick it up, but a hasty phone call arranged for it to be delivered in this extraordinary fashion.)
We were under way.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The movie is excellent. No computer-generated effects here. A tank with 6 million gallons of water was used to show the faltering ship during the White Squall. Good thing he survived.
The teenagers in the film brought the book 'to life'. Jeff Bridges' interplay with them added to revealing the turmoil and problems with father figures (and real fathers) that teenage boys have to face head-on. I liked the author's technique of telling the story in the book, but the movie is the first thing that caught my attention, and led me to a reading of the book by Langford. The exciting film's ending was shot without computer graphics, thus the realism (the director shot inside a two-million gallon tank to secure the real-like squall effects perfectly,) which did justice to the book's story-telling. I saw an anti-climatic final 10 minutes, which was flat and poorly written. I give it 5 stars out of 5.
This is an excellent story. Don Hohl 3015 West Addison Street Chicago, IL 60618-4507