Sailing Through Time
Faith’s fictional story, originally published in 1953 but long out of print, has been recently republished for a new audience. The author, the late Clara Nickerson Boden, aptly named her historical novel The Cut of Her Jib. Boden’s engaging writing is reminiscent of another Cape Cod storyteller who was roughly her contemporary—Joseph C. Lincoln. What elevates Boden’s work above simply another charming tale, however, is that she meticulously fashioned Faith and Seth’s fictional account from the real-life experiences of her own schoolteacher/sea-captain grandparents, Clarissa and Horace Nickerson. Just as Clarissa longed for Horace’s return, so Faith pines for Seth’s. Both women—the fictional and the factual—pass the wearisome years by “attending meeting,” visiting the sick, participating in sewing circles, and keeping a diary; both scour the local papers for reports of a distant sighting of their husbands’ ships in Hong Kong, the Arctic or the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii); and both—perhaps aware of a just-published novel titled Moby Dick—fear a Captain-Ahab-like fate for their mates.
“The tradition is really true,” Boden told radio station WEEI in a 1954 interview. “When we sold our Cape house in Cotuit to summer folks, we found my grandmother Clarissa’s diary (1851-1853) in an old sea chest. It had been tucked out of sight and hadn’t seen the light of day for nearly 100 years . . . I could definitely remember the diary stories, as I had heard them as a child from grandmother’s own lips. They inspired me to write this book.” For Boden, who was born in 1883 in the very house Horace built for Clarissa above Cotuit’s Loop Beach, it became a 13-year journey to weave together the diary entries and recalled historical snippets into The Cut of Her Jib.
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