Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Not So Smooth Sailing

November 14, 2014

Travel can add stress to any relationship, especially new ones. Mrs. Chatterbox and I have always gotten along with remarkably little friction, but one incident when we were newlyweds comes to mind, a time when things didn’t go well. Like most marriage squabbles, I can’t recall the cause for the dust up.

           

Shortly after our dangerous train experience in Bara (Here if you missed it) we reached Brindisi and spent the day in the old harbor waiting for a ship to take us to Patras, Greece. We’d selected the cheapest transport, but when it chugged into port I was surprised to see how old the ship was. She was named the Posedonia, a tramper plying the deep blue waters of the Ionian Sea. We steamed out of the harbor after dark, and to this day I can’t recall a denser darkness, as if the Posedonia were taking us on a ride across the River Styx to the land of the dead.

           

The Posedonia was not designed for comfort; our cabin was almost too small to turn around in, and had bunk beds. The ship was so old that the men’s toilet down the corridor was hidden behind a door marked with a monocled Charley McCarthy chap with a top hat and cane. The engines shook so much that we engaged in wild monkey sex in the bunk beds. Why not when the vibrating ship did most of the work?    

           

The remainder of our stay in Greece passed without incident, except for machine guns aimed at Mrs. Chatterbox when she absentmindedly reached down and picked up a small marble fragment on the Acropolis. Later, she found an unusual sponge in Athens’ Plaka which squeezed easily into our backpack. We didn’t have enough money to explore the Greek islands but we did make it to Delphi, where Mrs. C. wouldn’t reveal what she’d asked the famous Oracle. 

           

We were surprised to find a familiar Posedonia waiting for us at Patras for the return to Italy, and saddened to learn this would be the ship’s last voyage before being junked. After boarding the ship, we had a major blow-out, and again I honestly can’t remember what it was about.

           

I stormed off and purchased a bottle of licorice-flavored ouzo, the only liquor offered for sale on the ship. I drank it on the Posedonia’s deserted deck, and when nausea struck I barely managed to make it to the rail where I puked over the side. I was feeling dizzy and the water of the Ionian Sea seemed to be rising upwards when I felt someone grab me roughly by the collar to keep me from pitching overboard. 

              

My guardian angel was a gruff-looking old crewman with white hair and yellow teeth. He dragged me off to the crew’s mess and poured black coffee down my throat. I tried to leave several times but he kept pushing me back into a chair, so I just sat there and did what men have done for centuries, whined about women. I rattled on about nothing in particular while he whittled on a piece of wood. He didn’t appear to understand any English. He was carving a ship, and as I watched him work I gradually sobered up. I felt ashamed by the time he decided I wasn’t a menace to myself and let me go. I thanked him and shook his hand on the way out, his calloused palm hard as granite. 

               

Mrs. C. was going crazy with worry by the time I returned to the cabin. She was beginning to fear I had fallen overboard. Our quarrel was completely forgotten by the time we reached Brindisi. As we approached the gangplank to leave the ship, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my guardian angel. In his hand was the ship he’d been carving, now finished; it was the Posedonia. He pressed it into my hands and vanished before I could offer him a few coins.

           

I don’t know what happened to that little boat. Years later our boy CJ begged me to let him play with it and I finally gave in, and like so many things it was lost. When I reflect on that little boat, I smile and fondly remember the sea-scented breeze and crazy sex…until my mouth fills with the nasty taste of ouzo.

 

 

 

The ship in this Indiana Jones clip looks very much like the Posedonia.

 

 

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Comments

26 Comments
I'm guessing you haven't had Ouzo since. It's a shame you lost the boat carving.
By: Cranky on November 14, 2014
What a great story- too bad about the little boat.....
By: Kathe W. on November 14, 2014
I had a bad experience with Pernod once; very similar stuff, best avoided, especially in an emotional state. Sounds like a helluva trip, though...
By: Mike@A Bit About Britain on November 14, 2014
Only the young and in -love can survive trips such as these and go on as if nothing had happend. Such a shame about that lost treasure, it would be nice to see it in older eyes.
By: Tabor on November 14, 2014
what a good man he was to look out for you - and give you that gift.
By: TexWisGirl on November 14, 2014
I, too, have an ouzo tale. It will be in my next book, but the upshot was that I woke up in my pillowcase the next morning. And I mooned Shore Patrol. This was in Naples, though. I went to Brindisi, though. Dear Lord.
By: Al Penwasser on November 14, 2014
I've long loved Ouzo, though I haven't had any for years. But I can imagine getting drunk on it would have cured me of the taste.
By: Catalyst on November 14, 2014
What fabulous adventures you have had!
By: mimi on November 14, 2014
What a neat story and what a really cool man that seaman was. He not only saved you a dunking, he sobered you up while listening to your gibberish English and then gave you a neat gift. Too bad you didn't get a picture of him and I am so sorry the ship got lost.
By: Akansas Patti on November 14, 2014
Your great post is a tribute to the old Posedonia. An extraordinary adventure to be on it's last voyage. It sounds as though you and Mrs. C ran the full range of all that could have happened on the old tramp over the years. Sorry about the Ouzo. I had a similar experience with B&B, but was on land and found myself climbing out of a bathroom window. Glad you had a "guardian angel."
By: Tom Cochrun on November 14, 2014
Great story. I would have loved to have seen that wood carving.
By: Hilary on November 14, 2014
I've never had Ouzo, but now I'm tempted to try it. I probably should get the little trial sized bottle, huh?
By: Pixel Peeper on November 14, 2014
That would cure ME of Ouzo, Stephen!
By: Michael Manning on November 14, 2014
That's a wild story. No wonder Mrs C was irate. I don't mind riding on junk if I'm alone but I wouldn't take the micro manager.
By: red on November 14, 2014
I can't believe how adventurous you and Mrs. C were. I'd never have set foot on such a creepy train or that awful boat. The most adventurous thing I did was take a light plane from Indianapolis to Bloomington. It pitched and shook and would occasionally just drop for 15-20 seconds before catching air again. It was a nightmare far worse than the awful Greyhounds I'd gone cross country in. Lovely bit about the carved boat though. Hope you and Mrs. C have a great weekend.
By: Lexa Cain on November 14, 2014
What a lovely little story. I remember fondly when Greece was like that. Although I never went on the Poseidon itself I have been on similar ships.
By: Jenny on November 15, 2014
Shame about the boat that would have been cool to see. Yeah, I often can't remember what it is that starts the argument with my partner, normally it's connected to the kids, but I do remember the actual argument.
By: LL Cool Joe on November 15, 2014
I find it very interesting that you've been to Greece and Thailand and a hundred other places ... but never New York or New England. Come see us. We'll give you something "civilized" to drink!
By: tom sightings on November 15, 2014
Tom, My East Coast experiences are limited, but I have been to Boston, New York and D.C.. My mother was born in New Bedford and I've tooled around that area, including Lowell which I understand is becoming trendy. I've written several posts about my adventures in New York, and I intend to return there sometime in the future. I may just take you up sometime on that drink. Take care. Steve
By: Chubby Chatterbox on November 15, 2014
i also have had wild monkey sex to the vibrations of a ship's engine -- sadly I was alone....
By: Glen on November 15, 2014
ROFL ... monkey sex. Never quite heard it described that way, but kudos to you and the Mrs. Tell me dear Stephen... does she ever read your posts?
By: Daniel LaFrance on November 15, 2014
Wild monkey sex? Oh how I wish I could honestly say that your imagery brought up some old very pleasant memories to me. Sigh.
By: Jerry E. Beuterbaugh on November 15, 2014
I really like this story, the guardian angel and the gift.
By: John on November 16, 2014
Thanks for yet another wonderful story.
By: Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma on November 16, 2014
sweet story about the carved boat. pity it was lost but the memories stay forever.
By: lime on November 16, 2014
I assume you didn't have to dress for dinner on Posedonia?
By: Mitchell is Moving on November 24, 2014

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