A remarkably unfortunate woman was Annie Ricketson of Fall River, Massachusetts, who sailed on the Pedro Varela. In 1885 her husband, Daniel, became very ill with some kind of blood poisoning, Annie recording that “one of his testicles come to a sore and bursted and running badly,” and she was terribly afraid for his life.
The schooner beat against head winds to get to Barbados, and Captain Ricketson was carried on shore on a litter, to be treated by two shore doctors. They gave him ether and cleaned out the abscess in his groin—and overdid the anaesthetic, which drove Captain Ricketson insane.
At that, the two surgeons reverted to more traditional methods, putting a blister plaster on the back of his neck. “I never felt so bad in my life as I did when I cut that hair off,” Annie wrote, and that page of her journal is still stained with her tears.
Two days later, her husband died.
Wives died, too. Jemima Gifford and George E. Allen were married in Westport, Massachusetts, on January 27, 1864, and she sailed on the Mermaid of Westport in 1880: the log for June 29, 1881, records that “the Capt Wife is very sick we stear for Bermuders.” The battle to get her to a doctor was doomed, however, for the July 8 entry relates that they “had head winds ever sence July 1st at 20 minuets to 8 PM the Capt wife died of consumption we are still trying to get to Bermuda wind still ahead Lat 33.37N Long 61.00W.”
They made the island - eventually. On July 21 the entry reads, “left Bermuda the Capt has gone home with his children.”