by Ed Johnson
Scudding is an unusual, well-written book by George Sherlock Maynard which weaves two interconnected, alternating stories and a world cruise by sail of the long-term effects of submarine activity during the Cold War.
In the early 1970′s, when my wife and I moved to Noank, we were introduced to George and Mary Maynard and their children. At that time, George was primarily self-employed as a woodcarver who specialized in decorative eagle and whale carvings, with a fine local reputation. He had a background in carpentry and had served aboard Navy submarines, although we were unaware of his actual Navy experiences back then. Mary worked as a feature writer with The Day in New London, and their three children, Molly, Gary and Hudson, all attended Groton public schools.
The family had been reading Joshua Slocum’s book, Sailing Alone Around the World, which described Slocum’s journeys aboard the broad-beamed yawl, Spray. George and Mary had long dreamt of world travel and decided to hand-build a replica, Scud, using a gaff-rigged-yawl sailplan. They would take the entire family on a long-term sailing cruise around the world—with no auxiliary engine.
Hence, perhaps, the boat’s name: The nautical use of the term “scud” describes “to run before a gale with little or no sail set.”
For two years, as partners, Mary supported the family at her job while George built the 37-foot Scud. A home-economics major, Mary also planned meals in advance by estimating food consumption at home and obtaining educational materials for home- schooling on the boat. George received training in celestial navigation and, in 1973, they launched and stocked the boat, sold the house, donated their car, loaded the children, and sailed away across the Atlantic from Block Island to the Azores in 18 days. There, they acquired a dog, Leao, who became their security protector for the remaining journey.
After the family spent a year in the Azores, winds and currents took them to Gibraltar, Canary Islands, Cape Verdes, Panama Canal, and across the Pacific to Marquesas, Tonga, Fiji, Australia, Bali, Mauritius, Capetown…and back to Noank in 1978. They found varied employment and repaired the boat en route while the children stayed current with their schoolwork.
The author, George, writes with an engaging style in describing locations, events and people they encountered on this long trip, and is especially effective at narrating conversations. And although we know everyone makes it safely home to Noank, there were times when the family had some close calls which draw the reader’s attention….all part of what makes this book so enjoyable.
In parallel, the author relates an in-depth description of his previous, Navy life. In 1962, he suffered a delayed mental breakdown as a result of cataclysmic Cold War events while he was serving aboard a submarine. In modern terms, we’d call it an episode of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. He was placed in a Navy psychiatric hospital for a time and ultimately received an Honorable Discharge in 1964. But the nightmares continued: it took 14 years, including the five-year cruise, before he finally experienced recovery.
Many of us were unaware of these events until reading this book years later. In describing that difficult part of his life, George is very direct and his sense of humor is refreshing. Older readers will recognize that the Cold War period of the 1960′s was more dangerous than we realized at the time…especially if the author, we were directly involved, and forced to deal with moral issues and psychological consequences. Many wounds of war are not easily visible but are very deep.
In summary, George Sherlock Maynard’s book is enjoyable on two levels as an account of the family’s adventures during the voyage, as well as the author’s quest for healing from a crippling psychiatric disorder. He succeeds at both levels with intelligence and good humor.
Scudding is currently being sold in Noank Village at both the Community Market and Carson’s Store. It can also be ordered through Amazon.com.
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