Conrad First The Joseph Conrad Periodical Archive
Extract (A Personal Record)

Almost Shipwrecked

in The Brownsville Daily Herald (Brownsville, TX, USA) (Sep 27, 1912): (Page imagery not yet available)

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Trying Ordeal For the Sailor Who Wanted to Be a Master.

Joseph Conrad, who was a sailor before he turned author, has told of the examination that he underwent for his master's certificate. The examiner began by trying to make him talk nonsense.

"But I had been warned of that fiendish trait and contradicted him with great assurance. After awhile he left off. So far good. Placing me then in a ship of a certain size at sea under certain conditions of weather, season, and so forth, he ordered me to execute a certain maneuver. Before I was half through with it he did some material damage to the ship. As soon as I had grappled with that difficulty he caused another to present itself, and when that, too, was met he stuck another ship before me, creating a very dangerous situation. I felt slightly outraged by this ingenuity in piling trouble upon a man.

"'I wouldn't have got into that mess,' I suggested mildly. 'I could have seen that ship.'

"'No, you couldn't. The weather's thick.'

"'Oh!' I apologised blankly.

"The examiner did not stop there. Difficulty followed difficulty in the imaginary homeward voyage until when just off a lee shore with outlying sand banks the examinee said desperately, 'I shall have to think a little, sir.'

"'Doesn't look as if there were much time to think,' was the sardonic reply.

"'No, sir,' the examinee responded, not on board a ship; but, then, I could see. As it is, so many accidents have happened that I really can't remember what's left for me to work with. Have I two anchors at the bow, sir?'

"'Yes. But there's only one cable. You've lost the other.'

"'Then I would back them if I could and tail the heaviest hawser on board on the end of the chain before letting go, and if she parted from that, which is quite likely, I would just do nothing.'

"'Nothing more to do, eh?'

"'No, sir. I could do no more.'

"'You could always say your prayers.'

"But the shipwrecked captain of this vessel in multiform distress was not shipwrecked after all. He passed with credit."

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