The Sea Captain’s Wife

We went out to Santa Cruz Island Saturday and Sunday (Mother’s Day) on a quick outing.   The fishing was slow, so I enjoyed some reading.  Several months ago Gary had been recommended the book Diary of a Sea Captain’s Wife: Tales of Santa Cruz Island by Margaret Holden Eaten.  He bought the book and gave it to me.  Generally I’m not a history fan, and the cover wasn’t really exciting, but I put it on the boat and as I’ve been out at the islands, I started to read it.  I finished the book this last Sunday, and I must say it was a really good read.

Margaret and her husband Ira lived out on the island in the early 1900’s.  They started with total camping and absolutely no comforts of home.  They lived in a shack with mud floor and orange crates for furniture.  Eventually they had a daughter that lived there too.

Ira fished, did salvage on shipwrecks, made moonshine and ran alcohol during prohibition.  They helped movie companies make movies out at the island by running a camp where they housed and catered groups as large as a hundred people.   Movie greats Cecil B DeMille and John Barrymore spent time out the island.

Ira would bring people across the channel.  Sometimes in bad weather they would arrive soaking wet in the middle of the night.  Margaret would get up, make coffee, and help everyone get into something dry.  They eventually had a generator hooked up to draw spring water so they had running water and electricity.

The book even makes a reference to the woman that the book Island of the Blue Dolphins was based on.  Apparently she lived on San Nicolas Island (farther South).

As I read the book I could really relate to Margaret.  She was so happy even with almost nothing because she loved the beauty of the island.   I really love being out at the islands, and I love to camp, but I always say I need to be warm and dry.  With a TV, microwave, stove, toilets and a shower with warm water, I realize how spoiled I am.

Some of the movies they made were the mermaid movies, where the girls would swim around in mermaid costumes.  I won’t get into the water without at least a shorty, if not a full wetsuit.  Gary and I have cooked for large groups at our yacht club,  so I can imagine how difficult it would be to cater to that many people under those conditions.  Because Gary spent years as a driver for the movie industry,  renting camera trucks as well as makeup and wardrobe trailers and star trailers, the early movie years were interesting.  Gary was given a small part in Little Rascals because the director liked him.

Reba McEntire and Gary in  Little Rascals (1994).

Reba McEntire and Gary in Little Rascals (1994).

This morning Gary got a call from the yacht club commodore.  He said that a movie company called and wanted to hire a boat for a week.  He was wondering if Gary would be interested.  I thought it would be totally great.  Spending a week at the islands and getting paid.  Awesome.  But Gary had already scheduled to go out on a fishing charter with some friends down to Mexico.  They’ve already put deposits down.  Too bad.  We could have been just like Margaret and Ira Eaton.

Note:  On Mother’s Day Gary cooked a great breakfast, and told me he ordered me a pink Avet MC reel.  (See My Pretty Pink Avet Reel)  Am I lucky or what?  Life is great on the Joy Sea.