After the collapse of the Simmons and Derby partnership, Sabe Derby could have found employment at sea, though it would have meant long separations from his wife, Rose. Serving in the maritime trades was a fairly common experience for both enslaved and free people of color.
Many people preferred the variety of life on board a sailing vessel to domestic service or agricultural labor.
Still, the rigid hierarchy of a sailing vessel often left people of color at a disadvantage. Most Black men remained in low skilled, low wage jobs. And they worked in these positions much longer than their white counterparts, thus leaving their families for a much larger percentage of their life. And Black men could be vulnerable on a sailing vessel, subjected to corporal punishment or even kidnapped and sold back into slavery.
Though several notable exceptions existed to the dangers of maritime trade, including Venture Smith, a formerly enslaved man who worked on whaling expeditions, fished, and cut cordwood. He eventually invested in property and owned his own shipping business in Connecticut.
Venture Smith's 1775 real estate purchase in East Haddam, Connecticut.
Digitized by Cameron Blevins from the land records of the Town of Haddam, Connecticut. Courtesy of CT Humanities.