U.S. Exploring Expedition linguist Wiki Coffin sails with the famous convoy of ships toward Brazil, with no idea of the amazing events the fates and the winds have set in store for him. As the great flagship Vincennes, under the dubious command of eccentric captain Charles Wilkes, leads the convoy toward a dramatic entrance in the port of Rio, careless maneuvering causes one of the vessels to run afoul of a Boston trading ship - a shocking embarrassment that none of the sailors aboard is likely to live down during their time in port. As it turns out, the trader is owned and commanded by the famous and larger-than-life Captain William Coffin, father to Wiki and sailor of all seven seas as well as another dozen or so he's managed to invent in his years of telling tall tales. The encounter sets in motion a series of confounding events that reunites the elder Coffin with his illegitimate half-Maori son and that, before they are through, will see two men dead, Coffin on trial for murder, and Wiki working feverishly to unmask the real killers before the expedition sails on, leaving his father at the mercy of an unforgiving Brazilian court - and Wiki's own tenuous grip on family hanging desperately in the balance.