Priscilla, tell us a bit about how you ended up sailing to the Leeward Islands?
It was an unfortunate misunderstanding, or fortunate, depending on how you look at it. My dearest friend Lottie Etheridge had married and moved to the island of St. Kitts. We were supposed to have our London season together. Lottie was my anchor, and without her, I was adrift. Desperate for another close confidant, I attached myself to Nellie Archard, who wasn’t the best influence. She persuaded me to attend the Lemoore Masquerade party because she was enamored with Lord Fortin, who would profess his sentiments of love any moment. I accepted to keep Nellie out of trouble, but matters got out of hand, and I had to sneak aboard my brother’s ship to save my reputation.
But your brother was no longer captain?
Quite right, he’d been escorted off the ship while I awaited him in his cabin.
How did the new captain react to your presence?
Not well. He was not particularly fond of stow-a-ways, especially of the female variety. To make matters worse, I’d grown up the daughter and sister of British Naval Officers, and I had a different perspective of how a ship should run. Tobias is a routine and precise man who borders on controlling. We’ve come to a better understanding, but aboard the Trade Wind, the pair of us had many heated exchanges.
Why didn’t the captain turn the ship around?
British soldiers’ lives were at stake. Tobias’s mission was to make haste to Brimstone Hill in St. Kitts, gather more ships, and lead them to battle in New Orleans. Intelligence had reached the King that the American General, Andrew Jackson, had assembled a rag-tag band of militia fighters, consisting of frontiersmen, Indians, slaves, and even Jean Lafitte’s pirates. Tobias and his men were to provide naval support to General Sir Edward Pakenham as they battled the “dirty shirts,” which is how the general referred to the Americans. I only recently discovered that a treaty had been signed between the two countries before the battle of New Orleans had even begun, but word didn’t reach either general in time. Many British lives were lost. So tragic.
How did you end up on an island near Anegada?
A terrible storm blew in. We changed course and sought shelter in a cove off Tortola, but… I kind of… well, there was another embarrassing mishap. I’d prefer not to discuss it.
What survival tips do you have for someone who, heaven forbid, lands in a similar stranded situation?
Locating fresh water is crucial. We can only survive a few days before dying of dehydration. A fresh spring or fast-moving stream are best, but coconuts will work in a pinch. They contain water and a food source. Just be careful of the brown coconuts lower in the branches. They wield more oil, which can… hmm… let’s merely say that partaking can leave one indisposed.
Second, find food. Snails, clams, oysters, and conch in tide pools can be easy prey if you can stomach the slimy creatures. We didn’t initially have a fire, and I can still feel them wiggle as they slid down my throat. Yuck.
Third, you’ll need to build a shelter. Higher elevations have fewer mosquitoes, and the more inland you go, the fewer sand flies. A simple Y-frame lean-to covered in palm branches will suffice.
Lastly, trust God. He is with you. He won’t leave you, nor will He forsake you. It is truly by His power that I’m here today.
Lorri Dudley has been a finalist in numerous writing contests and has a master’s degree in Psychology. She lives in Ashland, Massachusetts with her husband and three teenage sons, where writing romance allows her an escape from her testosterone filled household.