‘I stowed away onboard a paddle steamer hoping for a great adventure’

May 28, 2019
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Violet was keen for a life of adventure thanks to her reading of 'Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' as a child. Source: Pixabay

I was born just a stone’s throw from the harbour in Newhaven, Sussex, in the United Kingdom. Probably the very first sound I ever heard was the sound of a ship’s horn as it entered and left the harbour.

Every night I listened to the magical orchestration of the sea, whether the waves were crashing on to the rocks in the middle of a storm or gently lapping the shore — they became my lullaby. Whenever I could, I would become a part of the orchestra, spending all my time in or on the sea, learning to swim when I was two years old.

Watching the boats, big and small, I began to dream of faraway places. Wondering where they had come from or what wondrous places they would be going to.

I sated my appetite by reading about the lands far away across the sea. That was until I read a novel by Mark Twain. The title of that book was Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. It wasn’t until some weeks after I’d read that book I realised the full impact that story had on me.

There in my harbour was the paddle steamer! Right out of the pages of my book. I rubbed my eyes — surely I must be dreaming? Never in my life had I seen anything so beautiful. It was as if I were entranced, as if — of their own accord — my feet carried me on board that magnificent boat. Without even looking around to see if anyone was watching me, I walked up the gangplank and stood on the deck gazing at the big wheel on the side the water gently lapping the bottom blades. I was mesmerised. Maybe I was Huckleberry Finn? I don’t really know. All I did know for sure at that moment was that I could never leave — I must stay on that boat forever. I hid behind some tarpaulins on the deck, praying no one would find me until we were far away.

A man found me a few hours later. I had fallen asleep and woke to the gentle shaking of my shoulder, as he said,”What have we here a stowaway?” The tone of his voice told me he was not cross with me, and I blurted out my story that I wanted to sail around the world and have lots of adventures.

The crew were back on board by now and were preparing to sail. His name was John and he asked me if I would like to see the rest of the ship. My heart felt like it would explode with happiness as my eyes took in the wonder of all that lay before me. Everyone was so kind and told me stories of their trips overseas. They gave me a big mug of tea and the biggest sandwich I had ever seen, I was taken to meet the captain. He promised me they would be back one day and I would be old enough to go with them. I was satisfied and child-like I believed him. Then the captain himself took me home.

To this day I remember his words to my mother, who was very surprised as she opened the door to find her young daughter, hand-in-hand with a sea captain. “You’ve got a wanderer with this one Mum, best keep an eye on young Violet, she will travel the world one day”. I certainly did! I still wish they had kept their promise and come back for me though.

What adventures did you go in search of as a child? Did they ever land you in any serious trouble?

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