Garfield wanted to become a sailor when he was a boy. He read stories about adventures at sea and thought that would be better than his poverty-stricken life. At age sixteen, he left home for the Cleveland docks. Rejected for a job because of his age, he worked on a canal boat called the Evening Star that was owned by his cousin Amos Letcher. He fell overboard numerous times. After one fall, he caught a fever and went home. His mother convinced him to resume his studies and further his education.