The Colcord Family of Searsport

Capt. Lincoln A. Colcord

Joanna and Lincoln Colcord were born at sea, aboard the Charlotte A. Littlefield, in 1881 and 1883 respectively. Their parents were Captain Lincoln A. Colcord and Jane French Sweetser Colcord of Searsport. Over the next 20 years the family took many voyages together. Sometimes Captain Colcord sailed alone, but more often he was accompanied by his wife and one or both of his children. Joanna and Lincoln did lessons on board, and Joanna even took her final exams from Searsport High School in Hong Kong. She had to wait several months to learn whether or not she had passed.

A typical voyage might be one taken in 1895-97 by the whole family, aboard the barkBark

A sailing vessel with three masts; square-rigged on the fore and main masts and fore-and-aft rigged on the mizzen.
Harvard. Joanna was 14, and Lincoln 12. Leaving from New York, they sailed first to Port Elizabeth, near the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. From there they went on to Durban, on the east coast of Africa; Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia; across the Pacific to Mollendo, on the west coast of South America; north to Astoria and then Portland, in Oregon; south to Santa Rosalia on the west coast of Mexico; then back to Victoria, British Columbia; and ending up in Tacoma, Washington.

 

Fishing Fleet at Hong Kong Crew of sampan in Hong Kong

From there, Mrs. Colcord, who had been very ill during the voyage, traveled home with the children on the Canadian Pacific Railway. Captain Colcord took the Harvard on to Iquique and Junin, on the west coast of South America; then to Philadelphia; and finally back to New York.

The vessel carried cargoes of timber and nitratesNitrate

A fertilizer consisting of potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate, formed from nitric acid.
, but sometimes sailed in ballastIn ballast

Empty of cargo but carrying ballast, stones or sand or something else of low value to give the ship stability.
from port to port.

Between 1899 and 1901 Captain and Mrs. Colcord and Joanna made several voyages to the Orient on the State of Maine. Son Lincoln remained at home to attend Searsport High School and later the University of Maine at Orono.

Landing at Sunda Strait

The State of Maine carried case oilCase oil

Kerosene packed in five-gallon cans, two cans to a wooden case.
from New York and brought back tea, fans, and rattanRattan

The stem of a variety of palm tree, used to make furniture or rope. Rattan rope was used in the Far East in the first half of the nineteenth century for cables and running gear.
furniture. In Letters from Sea, Joanna describes these cargoes as desirably “light and clean.” On the second voyage, 1900-01, Joanna took a camera along, and her photographs preserved a record of the voyage.

This was a time when steamersSteamer steamboat,steamship

A mechanically-propelled vessel in which the principal motive power is steam, as opposed to a sailing vessel or motorship. Steamboats traditionally were the sometimes sizable coastal steamers, while steamship referred to ocean going vessels.
were taking over the bulk cargo trades, and sea routes were made shorter by first the Suez CanalSuez Canal

A ship canal about 103 miles long, linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Suez with the Mediterranean Sea.
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and then the Panama CanalPanama Canal

Opened in 1914, the canal connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is 51 miles long. It crosses the Isthmus of Panama. It was completed by the United States but now belongs to the nation of Panama.
. The days of sail were coming to a close.