Through the winter of 1832 the HMS Baci, ever vigilant for “Sea Maidens”, sailed southward into warmer waters, bad luck cruising in her wake. One gusty afternoon, Sir Edmund Roberts, the naturalist charterer was on deck seeking to repair his abominable relations with the ship’s captain. Captain Fitzwillie’s hat, he called out, was singularly handsome. The crew paused to watch the exchange. The captain glared for a moment and then grudgingly invited Sir Edmund onto his hallowed quarterdeck. He removed his hat with monumental reticence and passed it to Roberts relating with menaced pride that it was worn by his grandfather at the Battle of Trafalgar and had in fact been used to fan the mortally wounded Admiral Nelson. “It is,” he whispered passionately and furtively, “more dear to me than my wife.”
It was as Sir Edmund struggled with that thought, that he fell victim to a confluence of playful wind and the devilish masthead hail, “Sea Maiden ho! Hard on the port bow!” Sir Edmund dashed to the lee rail, neglected his grip and watched as the cherished hat wafted far out to sea before settling on a distant wave.
For three days the Baci’s crew rowed her boats in ever widening circles around the bobbing and funereal ship, but to no avail. A fortnight later the third “Sea Maiden” was sighted by Sir Edmund himself. Sir Edmund’s subsequent journal entries are a swirl with naiveté regarding Captain Fitzwille: We have crossed the equator and I have seen another Sea Maiden! Have to at the small island of Fernando de Noronha off the coast of Brazil. Slept on shore and awoke to a glorious Sea Maiden illuminated by our guttering fire and within arm’s reach. We stared at one another for at least an hour before she backed to the water and swam off. To assuage our captain. I have named her after his wife. Attempted to atone for that blasphemy with her Latin name.
May 27, 1832
Fernando de Noronha
Average height. Average weight. Dark hair.
The following week he wrote: Captain Fitzwillie has forgiven! He has assured me two assistants: A chipper little fellow of the Japan Isles named Sushi and a massive and sage African the crew calls Bones. Says he, “As long as Bones has friend, Bones unafraid of hunger.” Well said! Both very anxious for our next Sea Maiden. Regret doubting Captain Fitzwillie’s ability to forgive.