Scurvy, starvation averted | Letter

On New Year’s Day, a pair of San Juan Island residents were traveling to Orcas Island to visit friends. The residents were the only car on the ferry Klahowya to Orcas that morning.

Getting to the ferry line a bit late, there was no time to get coffee or something to eat near the ferry landing. In great fear of scurvy and starvation, the residents boarded the vessel.

Scurvy was often seen in sailors on long ocean voyages described from the 15th century onwards. Many men died from the disease until it was discovered that scurvy could be effectively cured and prevented by consuming vitamin C through lemons, oranges and limes. The nickname for British sailors of ‘limey’ derives from the practice of giving British sailors limes.

It is thought that scurvy occurs very rarely in modern societies of today as most people have access to year-round fresh fruits and vegetables which are rich sources of vitamin C. However, several groups of people are at risk. These include: people with chronic malnutrition or those that eat less than 2 servings of fruits/vegetables per day, also alcoholics, the elderly, men who live alone (bachelor or widower scurvy), and those with eating disorders.

Boarding the vessel and realizing that the galley was closed for the winter season, and yes, with one of the residents technically qualifying as elderly and therefore at risk for scurvy, the San Juan Island residents were forlornly looking at the vending machine choices for a snack and terrible coffee. $2.50 for a few cookies for example, and no source of Vitamin C!

Scurvy looked imminent and starvation near!

Then, Cathie, a Washington State Ferry employee, saw their predicament and stepped in with emergency relief. She offered a tangerine to the two to share. Vital vitamin C! Then, while the vessel was underway she brought the two a cup of good coffee and four Christmas cookies for sustenance. The emergency action by this Ferry employee was much appreciated and tragedy was thus averted on the Salish Sea! – Your faithful shipping news reporter

Philip W. Cook

San Juan Islands