October 27, 2020

“Shanghaied” author to speak at Rotary Club function

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David Collins, the author of Shanghaied, a part-fictionalised, part-real account of an American teenage boy who runs away from home all set for adventure will be talking about his book and his life on March 22th at The Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa.

The part-autobiographical book centres around the character Jack Sligo, a 15-year old boy from Boston who hitch-hikes to New York in the 1950’s in search of a summer job aboard a ship.

He wants to travel the world, to drink in exotic cultures and explore uncharted lands, living life to the full, while creating memories and stories that will last forever—all in time to return to school in September.

While looking for a ship, Jack is befriended by two affable German seamen who quickly seduce him with alcohol and rowdy entertainment. Jack revels in their company, only to wake up hours later to discover he has been drugged, kidnapped and shanghaied aboard a monstrous African freighter, the SS Iron Prince, bound for ports unknown.

Horrified and helpless, Jack is now surrounded by a salty crew of old sea-dogs, worldly-wise, hard-working and hard-drinking, few of whom even speak English. As the ship approaches its mysterious voyage, will Jack be brave enough to escape if the opportunity arises, or is he already condemned to a watery grave?

In an interview with iNews Cayman, the author spoke about the book, about his connections with the Cayman Islands: “I was born in 1937 in Worcester Massachusetts  and spent childhood summers on the Atlantic Coast near Boston. I worked my way through school as a seaman so it took a couple extra years but I loved going to sea. I still do but now it’s as a passenger on cruise ships,” Mr Collins said.

“The book is dedicated to the memory of Orman Whittaker, who inspired my life. He was once President of the Rotary chapter where I will speak. We lost touch over the years so I began to search for the man I called “Bo’sun” around 2000. On a visit to George Town in 2002 an old sailor called Walter Hyde helped me find him. Then, my wife Victoria and I visited the Bo’sun and his wife Gwen. That connection sparked the book. I flew back in 2004 to interview him and another Caymanian seaman, Austin Bothwell. Many of the men I sailed with were from the Cayman Islands, the best seamen in the World.

“The book is based on what happened to me but fictionalised. All the incidents happened, the photos are mine, and the people in the novel were real people. What is not clear is the actual act of being Shanghaied. In fact I have no idea how I got on that ship. What I do know is that neither the Bo’sun nor the other Caymanians had anything to do with getting me onboard. It was two Germans named Hans and Max. Surely I was the most naive kid ever and, unbeknownst to me, the Bo’sun protected me from a couple of very
bad people.

 

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