Victory at Sea: Wendy Joseph pilots an entry into our contest


Who among us has not slipped down to the wharves, and imagined ourselves as crew on an out-bound ship? Is there anything more romantic? I certainly think not. In this narrative for our contest, Wendy Joseph reminisces about her first love, the one who never betrays and always invites.  Enjoy her story, and I do hope you will play the video at the end, which captures the spirit of this unending love affair.

First Branding

By Wendy Joseph

The seagoing trade grabbed me for a bunch of reasons, lack of money being the principal one. But it started with a jolt of something I don’t call love or attachment or anything gooey sounding. How do you deal with something that goes bing! and caroms around your insides till you either explode, punch somebody out, leap to your death trying to fly, or something else equally foolish?

Wisdom, common sense, reason, practicality—these are not my strong traits. I do something because I like it, and if I don’t want to do it the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse couldn’t make me, so there. If the magic takes over I have no retaliatory battery to come to my defense, nor do I want one. Sail with your dreams! Fly! Achieve the impossible; go for it! I’ve done this all my life and have turned into a committee of failure. A warning to those who dream: You’re going to be broke, disappointed, and miserable. But I know it won’t stop you. It didn’t stop me.

Summer, 1999. I boarded the World War II freighter S.S. Lane Victory, which a bunch of crusty old salts had pulled out of mothballs, refurbished, gotten up steam and sailed again. My father and uncle had helped refit her. Both WWII Merchant Marine vets, their stories filled my childhood with the terribleness of war. Some guys can’t talk about it. You couldn’t shut my dad up. A hell of a storyteller, he orated every detail of the Murmansk Run, and what it was like to be torpedoed and cast adrift on the equator with no water and sharks circling around.

I volunteered for the Lane after my father died, and on the first voyage, a day cruise out of Los Angeles with eight hundred passengers, went up to the bridge. Here was the wheel, a fine old fashioned real wood wagon type wheel, with spokes, the way a proper wheel should be. Modern ships have wimpy little plastic wheels with no spokes. I took the wheel, and as I turned it and met the course we were on, magic happened. I knew this was what I wanted to do for a living.

Sixteen years later, after a rough and uneven career at sea, I visited the Lane Victory again. She was in need of new boilers and wasn’t sailing any more. Most of the old guys were gone, crossed the bar into Fishermen’s Green, where there’s bottles of rum on every tree and the captain makes tea for the crew. The wheelhouse was quiet, the wheel secured so visiting kids couldn’t mess with it and damage something. I stepped to the helm and took the wheel.

This was still my place. I wanted to stay home and not have the hassles of long boring voyages with no shore leave or family or my cats to treasure. I was done with serious ocean going seafaring.


But I belong behind the wheel of a ship.

17 thoughts on “Victory at Sea: Wendy Joseph pilots an entry into our contest

  1. Mike Casper says:

    Surely as a person can love a ship, they can also love an airplane, or (for me) the trusty baseball glove of my youth. I still have it.
    Wendy, your story flowed smoothly and left me yearning for more. Well done.

  2. Miryam says:

    Is this the SS Lane Victory that resides in San Pedro?
    I researched the Murmansk Run and found very interesting!
    Very cool story as well as heartfelt.
    Thanks Wendy Joseph.

  3. Diane Cresswell says:

    The love of the sea – isn’t anything like it. The real siren’s call. Your story captured it so wonderfully. Fantastic Wendy. I know that call.

  4. Dolores says:

    Beautifully written the power behind this…… Well it is your reality, your passion, and your love. Thank you for sharing. You would be or you are ” Fanny “

  5. Michael Stang says:

    Some of us are marked at birth. If we can see close enough at night, there our trails lead through the stars. Is everything written? In this case I think you had no choice: A storybook life (not all peaches and cream), history steamed with heroes, and always that talented pen in the desk drawer.
    Loved the nostalgic summary for wooded wheels.

  6. Thornton Sully says:

    We are all about promoting your interests as writers. This is stuff that you might want to investigate from Wendy. And Wendy, I have to admit, yours is one of my favorites, because I too, have wet dreams.

    The Witch’s Hand
    The Thinking Person’s Sword & Sorcery
    by Wendy Joseph
    from All Things That Matter Press

    Print and Kindle:
    Signed copy:

    Author website:

  7. Tiffany Vakilian says:

    What little I know of “sea life” is encapsulated on brief visits to the Queen Mary Hotel in high school. I’ve always loved living by coasts for some reason, but I admit I was never brave enough to take more than passing trip out into the deep ocean. Wendy, your story makes me think of some really cool moments in my life where I just owned who I was, stepped into it, and felt the Glorious yes. I thank you for sharing this.

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