The Falls of Clyde’s Layered History

falls-of-clyde-rusty bottom

 

To a writer, looking for fresh inspiration when creating historical fiction is an ongoing job. At times one can just trip over a great tale, but most often a story requires digging.

 

For me, weather-beaten objects can provide a good starting point. Last winter, while traveling through the hurricane-racked Caribbean, I was surrounded by the evidence of disaster. Each boat I saw, abandoned by wind and sea in some unlikely place, offered up a set of speculations: Where was this wrested from? At what point in the storm did it break free? How exactly did it land here? And then further back: Where did it come from? Who owned it? What were their hopes? Where are they now?

 

Let me turn now to the Falls of Clyde, an historic sailing ship lying in Honolulu Harbor. This once great square rigger has fallen on hard times. She is nearly one hundred and forty years old, and, despite the valiant efforts of local volunteers, has been in danger of being scrapped, or swallowed by the sea. I’ve walked her decks several times over twenty-five years, and each visit has lit up the imagination. Early on when the vessel was mostly intact, I could see her in her youth, her long, lean hull carving through the sea under a grand press of canvas. On later trips I took note of greater decay, and the individual efforts being made to paint bulwarks, or keep tar on the rigging. I wondered who was making the attempt to hold on. On my last visit the rigging had been taken down, and water was collecting below from leaks in the upper deck. My imagination ran down dark tunnels at that point; I began to speculate about what would happen should the volunteers stop attending the pumps. How long could this ship continue? What would be the final misfortune that would end her time?

Falls of Clyde-(NPS)

Happily, it is time for a new set of speculations. An organization named Falls of Clyde International has emerged with a plan to repatriate this storied ship to Scotland. They have secured a great deal, to have the Falls of Clyde transported on a huge dry-dock ship across the Pacific, through Panama and across the Atlantic starting in February. Once home, plans are in place to begin a full restoration. If you would like to help, you can find out more at: www.facebook.com/savefallsofclyde; e-mail directly to savefallsofclyde@gmail.com, or donate to their Indiegogo crowd sourcing campaign.

Falls of Clyde is a rare survivor of long sea travel, typhoons, and the ravages of salt and time. With broad-based support, future generations will be able to wonder about her long life and ask themselves: Who were the people who saved her?

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