A blog series from on board the Australian National Maritime Museum’s HMB Endeavour replica as it sails from Adelaide to Port Lincoln. See our Sail the Endeavour page to learn more about joining voyages like this.
Growing up in Colorado Cordon Miller did not have much of a chance for maritime pursuits, his domain was mountains, rivers and trees. It was not until he was at The Citadel, a Military College in Charleston, South Carolina, that his interest in sailing was sparked.
Friends, who were former Marines, helped “straighten him out” and give him some direction, something he lacked whilst a senior at High school. The idea of a regimented life appealed to Cordon and above all he could continue to play the pipes in the college band. It was one day, whilst crossing the Ashley River Bridge, he saw the ship Pride of Baltimore II berthed by the bridge.
It is possible that this was when his maritime gene inherited from a Spanish ancestor on his father’s side, one of the “Black Irish” who landed in Ireland around the time of the Armada, was activated.
He immediately went down to the ship spoke to a crew member who was doing maintenance who set him straight about the fact that sailing ships still sailed the world.
On graduating from The Citadel and Officer Candidate School and commissioning as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Marine Corps he had a 10 month wait before he could enter The Basic School, the next step in his career. Cordon started working as a storeman but that soon palled and in an effort to find something more fulfilling he sent out his resumé to various sailing ships, maritime gene working?
It was the captain of the Sultana who answered and offered him a 2-month position as a paid crew and which in turn helped finance his joining the Europa as voyage crew. Over the 2 months he was on the Europa the voyage started in Brazil went to Chile, Antarctica and finished in Argentina – the bug had well and truly bitten. On graduating the Basic School he then went to the next level in his career attending the Logistic Officer’s Course at the Logistic Operations School.
In April 2014 he joined the Marine Wing Support Squadron 172 and was then assigned as a Logistics Officer with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, embarked aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard. Deployed mainly in the Pacific out of Japan the only way that Cordon could satisfy his urge to sail was by hiring a day-sailer in the weekends, Japan is not really a place where you can find a sailing ship on the scale of the Europa or Sultana.
The desire to sail again as voyage crew never really went away and as he was close to finishing his current assignment and was planning to take leave before being re-assigned Cordon started looking for opportunities to join a ship as voyage crew. It was not until he came across the ANMM website and the HMB Endeavour that the timing was right for him and he was soon on a flight out of Japan. First to Shanghai, then to Melbourne then after some confusion on the part of the taxi driver he reached Essendon Field Airport and was on a plane to Portland.
On board the contrast between the USS Bonhomme Richard and the HMB Endeavour was just what he needed. On board the Bonhomme Richard when he was on duty as a Logistics Officer he was often confined to below decks. When he was off duty, usually at night, the decks were always off limits to all personnel.
However, aboard the Endeavour it was totally different: he could go on deck whenever he wished, he could climb, watch the movement of the sea, sunsets, the stars and sunrises – all the things he loved doing but was denied aboard the Bonhomme Richard. It was the traditional rigging on the Endeavour, the materials from which she was constructed and the opportunity to climb the rigging that all contributed to quenching a thirst he was unaware he had until the day he crossed the Ashley River Bridge.
Cordon’s imagined future includes joining a Global Logistics and Supply Chain Management Company and visiting the one continent and one ocean which he has yet to visit, Africa and the Arctic Ocean, preferably aboard a sailing ship. His dream life would be sail aboard sailing ships and his end goal when old and wrinkled, no doubt a result of many years of salt water and sun, is to build a boat in his backyard.