Nothing to do with whaling or reading but a good swash-buckling story worthy of Flashman: A peerless hero of U. S. mariners is Captain Ahab, the vindictive old salt who sailed the southern oceans screaming for more canvas, cursing tired crews, laughing wildly into the gale as he hunted the Great White Whale, Moby Dick, who had cost him a leg. Last week U. S. mariners heard a voice reminiscent of the great mad Ahab—almost.
Captain H. E. Raabe, 73, an oldtime slave-&-ebony trader in the Solomon Islands, who once skippered a ship with Author Jack London in the crew, had set out by himself in the 40-ft. powered yawl Spindrift from Port Washington, L. I., bound for the South Sea Islands. A friend received a letter from him, describing an adventure, as follows:
It was half past four toward evening of Monday, Nov. 2. While I was sailing with all sails drawing under a half gale from the north in Chesapeake Bay, I was under a lee shore. The sun was sinking. To my surprise the glare on the water became unbearable to my sight. (I was steering a westerly course.) I looked up at the mainsail. What a shock! It had turned from white to black. An optical illusion, of course. The sky, too, had turned black. Another glance at the sinking sun, and while I was looking, the bright orange orb turned to green. Then no matter where or how long I looked in other directions, whether I shut my eyes or opened them, I saw nothing but a bright green disk. Of the sails, the boat, the compass or the water I saw nothing.
I groped my way forward and, after several narrow escapes of going overboard, managed to take in the mainsail, then sailed on under reduced canvas, steering by the wind and a sense of direction, hoping that some vessel would come near enough to be hailed.
Unhappily, no boat drew near Captain Raabe that night. There was nothing but howling wind and rushing water. Blinded, he was unable to light his running lights. He ran afoul something in the dark. The Spindrift began to ship water . . . not until well on in the next day, after a night of horror, did the storm abate and his sight return sufficiently to see where he was— caught in a fish trap.
He got the crippled Spindrift into Annapolis to be refitted, and in the conclusion of his letter gave an inkling as to the difference between himself and heroic Ahab.
"What in the world could have been the cause of my eyesight failing at such a critical moment? Is it liable to happen again without the aid of the 18th Amendment? I saw the old Constitution outside of Annapolis the other day. She looked quite innocent of having had any part in diabolic Amendments. Well, thank the Lord, that part is over with. Now for the next. Let’s hope it will happen in waters too deep for the 18th Amendment—fish traps. . . . Well, here’s how to you and all. Hope this is safer stuff. The other bottle went overboard, so the fish won’t see the fish trap.
This description comes from the internet website of Time/CNN. No one, including OCLC, claims Cannibal Nights as fiction, but that it is.