Synopses & Reviews
A gripping, beautifully told story of a young man’s coming-of-age at sea
When John Moynihan decided to ship out in the Merchant Marine during the summer of his junior year at Wesleyan University, his father, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, was not enthusiastic: As a young man, before joining the U.S. Navy, Pat Moynihan had worked the New York City docks and knew what his son would encounter. However, John’s mother, Elizabeth, an avid sailor, found the idea of an adventure at sea exciting and set out to help him get his Seaman’s Papers. When John was sworn in, he was given one piece of advice: to not tell the crew that his father was a United States senator.
The job ticket read “forty-five days from Camden, New Jersey, to the Mediterranean on the Rose City,” a supertanker. As the ship sailed the orders changed, and forty-five days became four months across the equator, around Africa, across the Indian Ocean, and up to Japan—a far more perilous voyage than John or his mother had imagined. The physical labor was grueling, and outdated machinery aboard the ship, including broken radar, jeopardized the lives of the crew. They passed through the Straits of Malacca three times, with hazardous sailing conditions and threats of pirates. But it was also the trip of a lifetime: John reveled in the natural world around him, listened avidly to the tales of the old timers, and even came to value the drunken camaraderie among men whose only real family was one another. A talented artist, John drew what he saw and kept a journal on the ship that he turned into his senior thesis when he returned to Wesleyan the following year.
A few years after John died in his early forties, the result of a reaction to acetaminophen, his mother printed a limited edition of his journal illustrated with drawings from his notebooks. Encouraged by the interest in his account of the voyage, she agreed to publish the book more widely. An honestly written story of a boy’s coming into manhood at sea, The Voyage of the Rose City is a taut, thrilling tale of the adventure of a lifetime.
"Home on spring break from Wesleyan College in 1980, Moynihan declared to his parents the late senator Patrick Moynihan and his wife, Elizabeth, who lovingly shepherded her son's book into print that he was planning to join the Merchant Marines for the summer; at the end of the spring semester, he's standing in line at the Seafarers' International Union to get his papers as an Ordinary Seaman, shipping out on a Merchant Marine ship the next day. From the moment of his induction through the challenging and revealing days and nights at sea aboard the SS Rose, he kept a journal of his daily life, his sometimes frightening dreams, and his reflections on the meaning of life. Entries from his journal are woven through the narrative that is as listless as the sea in calm weather. When his shipmates discover that his father's connections helped him to his position on the ship (thereby taking away an opportunity from the seaman next in line for the job ticket), they give him the cold shoulder. He feels alone and trapped with no friends, and many of his shipmates go out of their way to remind him that he is not one of them. Moynihan finds solace in the beauty of the sea, in the occasional marijuana joint, and in books, and he achieves his dream of sailing part of the way around the world during the 103-day voyage. Moynihan died in 2004, the result of a reaction to acetaminophen." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
John Moynihan was born in Syracuse, New York, and lived with his family in India for two years during middle school. That experience, and the travels that went with it, set him on a lifelong quest to see the wider world. He worked as a writer and animator and loved teaching as he traveled, always returning to New York City, his home base.