Usually the first mate takes over for the captain, but Joshua had removed the first mate due to negligence and replaced him with a man who had no idea how to navigate. To make matters worse, when the crew discovered the captain's condition, the original first mate tried to incite a mutiny! Mary knew she had to do something quick or she'd lose the ship and its cargo to either a mutinous crew or the storm. So, ordering all hands to muster on deck, she came above to address the crew.
What she said exactly we do not know, but her job was to persuade these men to remain loyal to her husband and to herself and to deliver the cargo to San Francisco safely. Somewhere in the howl of wind and sting of rain, she accomplished the impossible and the crew agreed to follow her orders. She decided to head southeast out of the storm and into colder waters. Finally when the sun broke through the clouds she was able to get a good reading on their location and discovered they were 250 miles south of the Horn. The waters were freezing and they spotted icebergs in the distance (certain death for any ship!)
Mary set double watches at night and put her keenest eyes in the tops during the day to navigate through the ice. For four long, frightening days, Neptune's Car eased her way west until finally they were free to head north into warmer waters. Mary's husband had two brief periods of recovery in between severe relaspses, one in which he lost his sight and the other in which he became deaf. Now Mary, at four months pregnant, was in full command of the ship. For the next 50 days, she did not even undress, sleeping in her clothes and focusing all her attention on getting to San Francisco.
In early November, they sighted the bay and on November 15th, Mary insisted on taking the helm and steering the salt-stained vessel into port. Below, read a portion of the letter addressed to her by the Union Mutual Insurance Company, the underwriters for the voyage.
Nor do we know of an instance on record where a woman has, from force of circumstances, been called upon , or assumed command of, a large and valuable vessel, and exercised a proper control over a large number of seamen, and by her own skill and energy, impressing them with a confidence and reliance making all subordinate and obedient to that command
Pretty cool, huh? And what's even cooler to me is that my maiden name is Patten. Hmm. Wonder if we are related?
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