Monday, July 20, 2020

a brush with the Dry Tortugas in my Family Tree

Hi folks.  Tortuga Brother Carl here today.

I am lucky enough to have in my possession My great grandfather, Peder Mikal Pedersen's, autobiography.  I have a copy.  The original is at my Mom's in Daytona.  I from time to time read it and have enjoyed the stories in it over the years.  I came across it today and read it from cover to cover.  It turns out I will not be the first in my family to visit the Tortugas.

Old Pete went to sea from Stavanger, Norway in 1889 at the age of fourteen as a deck boy on a bark (three masted sailing ship) called Ferda.  he spent about five years on various sailing ships working all over the world.  in 1894 he joined the crew of the steamer Senaca working between NY, The Bahamas, Havana and Mexico. Dropping off goods in one port  and picking a load and moving on along that route ending up back in NY.  With that route he would have passed the Tortugas many times.  During WW1 he piloted many vessels for the government being deployed for the war effort and would have taken on coal at Fort Jefferson most likely.

 My Great Gandfather Peder and my Great Grandmother Jenny on A.H. Morris' Yacht in Miami sometime in the 1930's  Jenny did not often sail with Pete.  She was busy running the Norwegian Sailor's Home in Brooklyn, NY

Old Pete's autobiography and a few family trinkets from around his time.

Between WW1 and WWII Pete became captain of some of the most famous racing yachts of the day.  Winning races in Larchmont, Newport and Miami mostly working for Mr. A.H. Morris, but spent time captaining for the Woolworth's and for the head of GM.  He held a license allowing him to pilot ships of any size anywhere in the world.  His claim to fame is he was the first man to pilot a hundred foot yacht via the overland route from the east coast of Florida thru rivers to Lake Okeechobee then via canals to get to Fort Myers.  He did this on a dare from the owner of the boat he captained who said it could never be done.

Is this little piece of a family connection what fuels the siren song that calls me to live off the grid for a month on Loggerhead Key.  I don't know for sure, but something has called me to that spot 70 miles West of Key West and 80 Miles North of Havana.  The Spirit of My Great Grandfather who lived his life at sea learned his trade in the Norwegian fjords on the last of the commercial three masted sailing ships and sailed the waters near the Tortugas is as good a reason as I can think of.  One night in september I will sip some Rum and drink a toast to Old Pete and imagine him navigating those treacherous waters where the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico meet by aid of the lighthouse on Loggerhead Key.

Loggerhead 2020

1 comment:

  1. holy mackerel! (or whatever fish are Norwegian!) What a great is in your bones, then, this love of the waters there. How surreal. You were meant to be there!