Diary of an Ocean Voyage to Latin America
In the period “between the wars,” Marie Seegelken and her husband Oliver embarked on a cruise from Los Angeles to Cristobal, Panama. The couple left Los Angeles on August 7, 1934 after dining the night before at the California Yacht Club. The passengers started their voyage on the SS Santa Catalina but were transferred to the SS Santa Elena for the voyage home where they arrived on September 4. Both ships were part of the W. R. Grace Company line.
Marie kept a diary filled not only with an account of each day, but with hand-drawn illustrations of passengers, crew and ports. She also wrote vignettes of the passengers and dreamed of writing short stories based on overheard conversations and ship intrigue.
The days were filled with bridge, piano, masquerade parties, teas, conversations with crew, tours of the boats and languid afternoons sitting on deck. Places mentioned included Manzanillo, Calima (side trip to Hacienda Santiago); Alcapulco; the Gulf of Tehuantepec; Champerico, Guatemala; Puerto San Jose, Guatemala; Amapala, Honduras; Corinto, Honduras; Cutuco, El Salvador; and San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
The passengers endured sea sickness, hot days, and terrible thunderstorms but saw sharks and other sea life as well as beautiful scenery. Frances Parkinson Keyes who was a well-known novelist of the era was on board the Santa Elena and treated all the passengers to champagne. The box with the diary includes a menu and a passenger list for the SS Elena which lists Marie’s husband Oliver Seegelken not mentioned in the diary itself!
The Seegelkens did not have children. Marie died in 1976 and her husband Oliver in 1969. They appear to have been a middle class couple. He served in World War I and then worked as an accountant and a sales manager. She was a housewife.
The Santa Catalina was formerly the City of Panama and had two other names subsequently. The Santa Elena was sunk in the Mediterranean by Germany in 1943 during World War II.