The wind was blowing fair as I stepped aboard the frigate, a modest ship in appearance, but sturdy and well-equipped. It hadn’t been built long ago—its paint was still bright—and the captain was on the young side. Yet I had perfect confidence in both.
The anchor was drawn up, and the ship glided out of the harbor. The sun sparkled as the ship sailed along, practically leaping over the waves. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, savoring the salty air and the bright sun warming my pale face.
Then a cannon roared. My eyes flicked open and I found myself upon the shores of America. The year – 1776. The place – a red brick building named Independence Hall. Men were crowded around a table, signing a document declaring their independence from Great Britain. The captain described them as “underdogs”, selfless men lacking in modern conveniences who’d taken everything they considered good and used it to craft an “amazing” document.
We lingered a moment, observing them. Then, all at once, we were back on board the ship. Eastward we sailed until we ran aground in Europe. Here there was also a war raging, a far more terrible one than the war that had taken place in America only a short time before. As blood stained the cobblestoned streets, the captain and I shuddered and discussed the origins of this war in low voices.
It was not a just one, we agreed, not like the one in America. Worse yet, it did not just end when the last man dropped his arms. Its effects are still felt today, much to the distress of all.
We did not linger upon those shores long. Rather, we embarked upon an even longer voyage, far, far across the ocean to an obscure port. There the land was enveloped in darkness. The people, cut off from the rest of the world, lived in squalid mud huts and had long beards.
Soon, though, all that changed. A man called Peter the Great came to the throne. A magnanimous ruler, he traveled hundreds upon hundreds of miles to Western Europe, which had left the Dark Ages his own country was trapped in far behind. Enlightened by what he saw there, Peter returned to Russia and, as the captain informed me, within the span of twenty years—less than someone’s lifetime—transformed the country, bringing it up to par with the rest of the civilized world.
Throughout the rest of the voyage, we visited many more ports. Each was unique and interesting in its own way, but it was the captain and the ship that carried me to these places that truly enchanted me. I’ve been at sea before both aboard my own and other boats, but this frigate possessed a unique charm. Light and agile, it was guided by a steady hand. The thoughtful captain took me wherever I wished and was most gracious in answering the questions that poured forth from me.
At last, though, we dropped anchor in home port. As I set foot on land, I glanced back at the captain—my best friend—and smiled. Thank you, Friend, for giving me passage aboard your ship of knowledge and taking me on a voyage far away from my front porch across the sea of history. I salute you in your striving to become a professional historian and wish you all the best.
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