Monday, February 2, 2009

The Schooner "Equator"

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850 - 1894) was a Scottish novelist, poet and essayist. At age 29 he traveled to the US to marry his wife Fanny. He lived in California between 1880 and 1887 (returning to Scotland and England for summer visits) during which time he wrote the famous books "Treasure Island " and "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (among many others).

In "Treasure Island" the central character is Jim Hawkins. Jim meets an old pirate Billy Bones, who has in his possession a map showing the location of a treasure. Bones dies and Jim opens the pirate's chest and finds the map. He sets off for Treasure Island. Jim has a number of adventures with pirates and a one-legged man named Long John Silver. The treasure is found and Jim and his friends sail back to England.

There is famous poem from the novel -- "Fifteen men on the dead man's chest / Yo-ho-ho, and the bottle of rum!/ Drink and the devil had done for the rest / Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"

"The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" is about a London lawyer who investigates strange happenings between his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and the misanthropic Mr. Edward Hyde. The book is known for its portrayal of a split personality-- split in the sense that within the same person there is both a good and an evil personality, each being distinct from each other. The work has gone on to inspire many plays and movies.

Suffering from poor health, Stevenson decided to try a complete change of climate. For nearly three years he sailed the eastern and central Pacific, visiting important island groups and stopping for extended stays in the Hawaiian Islands. In 1890 he purchased four hundred acres of land on one of the Samoan Islands. His experiences were preserved in his letters and in the books "The South Seas."

During these voyages Stevenson chartered several yachts, one of which was the "Equator."

The Stevenson Party Leaving Honolulu June 30 1889 on the Schooner Equator
This is a picture of "The Stevenson Party Leaving Honolulu, June 30, 1889, on the Schooner Equator."

When my family moved to Everett Washington in the early 1960s my Mom mentioned that the Equator was located at the Everett waterfront. Sure enough, she drove around and found it and pointed it out for me and told me the story of Robert Louis Stevenson and the schooner.

Now the remains of the Equator are protected under a metal roof near the entrance of the 10th Street Boat Launch in Everett. The two-masted schooner was built in San Francisco in 1888 and was later used as a trading vessel and steamer. It was eventually abandoned in the Everett harbor in 1953. The Equator is on the National Register of Historic Places. Attempts to rebuild the ship have failed since it was placed on the Register. It will probably continue to deteriorate.

In 1894 Stevenson felt depressed and wondered if he had exhausted his creativity and completely overworked himself. He even feared that he might return to poor health again and become a helpless invalid. Yet, he rebelled against this idea-- "I wish to die in my boots . . . To be drowned, to be shot, to be thrown from a horse . . . to be hanged, rather than pass again through that slow dissolution." He got back to work writing.

After a hard day at writing in December 1894, while conversing with his wife and straining to open a bottle of wine, he suddenly yelled "What's that?" Then he asked her "Does my face look strange?" and collapsed beside her. He died within a few hours at the age of 44 (probably of a cerebral hemorrhage).

1 comment:

  1. You're reading fiction?
    I picked up a copy of James Mitchner's "Tales of the South Seas" at the HNL. Not much choice in the racks between gates 84 and 86. But I'm finding this is a good study of story-telling, narration, and dialogue.
    Just into it a couple of chapters. Hoping we get away from the air and ship battles of the Coral Sea and into some of that lascivious hula dancing (ok... kidding about that... but I think there will be some really good stories).