A fine tale, Art. I know that I am preaching to the converted here on the WBF, but I think that very few people realize how brave and self-sacrificing the sailors of our east coast fishing fleets were (and still are), and how often the put themselves in utter peril for the sake of others and asked no thanks nor recognition for it. I have been fortunate during my life to have heard many stories of such exploits, often first-hand, by humble fishermen who honestly felt that "it warn't nuthin' special - anybody would done it, if they'd been there".
In hopes of adding to this body of work, and not in the least trying to diminish the magnitude of the events described above, I'd like to add an excerpt from a history of my area, which is closer to yours in spirit and common ancestry than in miles. Keep in mind that the schooner referred to was most likely around forty to fifty feet LOA and would have only the rudest of cuddies forward with no other accomodation space, and that the trip to Halifax would have normally been expected to last twelve hours or so:
Angeline's Wedding Dress
At dawn one December day (1868), the small schooner Industry sailed from Lahave to Halifax with a cargo of fish and cord wood. There were only three in the crew, but there were some passengers on board. One of the passengers was Angeline Publicover, a girl of eighteen, who was going to Halifax to buy her wedding dress.
The winds that drove the Industry toward Halifax were so light that the ship took seventeen hours to sail forty miles. The next morning, just as they could see the Sambro Light, the beacon for Halifax, a fierce snowstorm roared down on them. The foresail was split, other sails torn to rags, and the Industry was blown out into the Atlantic.
For three days and three nights the ship raced under bare poles straight out to sea. The can of kerosene had been spilled so the people on board had no light at night. Their small supply of food had been spoiled by the salt water, and all they had left were one or two potatoes. Worst of all, the water casks had been broken and only two gallons of water had been saved. For eighteen days, all that the seven people on board had to drink was a small wine glass of water each day. Their Christmas dinner was a boiled potato shared among the seven of them. Their tongues became so swollen that they could scarcely eat.
Day after day, starving and thirsty, the men worked on the tossing, windswept deck, pumping the water out as fast as it came in. When the men lost hope, Angeline told them that their prayers would be answered and that God would care for them.
Her faith was rewarded. Eighteen days after they had left Lahave, the Nova Scotian barque Providence from Canning sighted the battered Industry. Captain Hiram Coalfleet risked his ship and all on board to bring his big barque alongside the tiny schooner. Abel Coalfleet, the mate, let himself down on a rope to the pitching deck of the Industry. He fastened a line around Angeline and she was quickly drawn up on the deck of the Providence. The others were pulled on board by the crew. The Providence, although badly damaged, continued on her way to London where the weak and starved castaways were cared for. Angeline finally reached Halifax sixty-one days after she had left Lahave.
- from "Nova Scotia: A Brief History" by Phyllis Blakely
I can't begin to comprehend the range of emotions that Angelina's family and fiance went through during this ordeal in an age before radios and rapid trans-atlantic communication. Decendants of the Publicover family still reside in Lahave.
Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.