Maiden Voyage

Below is an excerpt from a longer poem about a maiden voyage of a ship. The poem was based mainly on two sources. One source was the diary kept by the author's younger brother, Ronald Pearson, ship design engineer, on a maiden voyage from Chile to Mauritius via Cape Horn and the Cape of Good Hope undertaken during winter. The other source was excerpts from the story of Earl Rognvald's pilgrimage by sea from Orkney to the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades (italicised). There are also brief references to the travels of Ronald's great-grandfather, Alexander Pearson, ship's carpenter on the SS Great Britain. In her later life, as a cargo vessel under sail, the Great Britain carried Welsh coal round Cape Horn to San Francisco.

...Day seven dawns.
We check our bow thruster compartment.
All is well. Choppy seas, light swells.
She's burying her nose a bit in waves
but riding them well. We plough up
the sea-plain with the spraying prow.

If she's not pitching, she's rolling.

I give up on sleep. On the Bridge I see
six radar contacts ahead of us, slow moving.
Icebergs and maiden voyages come to mind,
the Titanic racing into night. But it is fishing boats
far from their port. I think of Shetland whalers
sailing to St Georgia, the Falklands. I think of
my great grand-father battling with a broken spar
rounding Cape Horn on the last leg home
from taking coals to San Francisco.

We test some serious rolls to either side
for good measure. I'm glad I'm on the Bridge.
Below it feels your hanging on to life.

I turn in at 5.30 am, wedge myself into my bunk,
head against one side, feet against the other.
I sleep fitfully in our sea-rinsed ship, dream
of underwater worlds, strange creatures.

Christine De Luca, Hansel Cooperative Press, 2004


  • "The poems paint pictures, and bring people vividly to life...This is a fascinating book."The New Shetlander, No. 230 - Yule Issue 2004
  • "Drops in Time's Ocean is the unravelling of a complex family history, the author's own."Chapman Literary Magazine, January 2006
  • "Each verse seems to resonate with a sense of place"The Shetland Post, November 2004
Read More Reviews