Upper Montclair, New Jersey, Sterling Hayden quit school at sixteen to join
the crew of a sailing ship. He served as seaman aboard fishing vessels and
sailing ships out of New England ports from 1932 to 1936, was first mate
on Irving Johnson’s* circumnavigation* on the schooner Yankee* (1936–
1938), became captain of the brigantine Florence Robinson out of Gloucester* in 1938, and owned and captained ships out of eastern ports during
the late 1930s and early 1940s. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps beginning in 1942 and acted in over fifty Hollywood films (Bahama Passage
[1941] and The Eternal Sea [1955], as maritime titles).
Wanderer (1963) is the personal story of Sterling Hayden’s flight from Hollywood to sea and eventually to Tahiti on the schooner Wanderer. Although his account of the sea passage is interrupted by many asides about
his life as a movie star and the custody battle over his four children, whom
he took with him on the ocean voyage to the South Pacific, his maritime
experience and his fine writing make Wanderer a meaningful story of seafaring as well as a story of escape.
Voyage: A Novel of 1896 (1976) is a re-creation of the days of the big
wooden “down-easters” built on the coast of Maine in the final decades of
the nineteenth century and early years of the twentieth. These vessels carried
the bulk cargoes of the United States on the oceans of the world. Hayden
takes advantage of the literary license of the 1970s to write dialogue using
the gritty, uncensored language that was most likely spoken on those vessels
eighty years earlier.