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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 9 February 2009
A fascinating account of a mid-19th century sea voyage undertaken by a 19 year-old whose studies have been interrupted. His decision to sail with the Pilgrim on the trading route round Cape Horn to the western coast of America changes his life (the land route was yet to be opened up). He writes with vivacity, accuracy and humor, and provides us with a window on to the arduous life of a merchant sailor, constantly kept at work on sea and on land (with the hide trade) by domineering captains and first mates (some better than others). As a result of his two year voyage, he came back Boston and finished his training for the law. He dedicated a good part of his life to the cause of sailors to improve their working conditions. His story is an inspiration.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 9 September 2010
This is a fabulous true story of an educated young man's adventure aboard a ship which sailed from the east coast of the USA southwards, round Cape Horn, then northwards to the coast of California before it was even part of The States. The outward voyage alone took several months and the author was away from home for two years. The reason for the voyage was to buy cow hides - enough to fill the hold - before returning to Boston via the Cape again.

Mr Dana paints a wonderful picture of the hardships and the occasional brutality of the sailor's life in the 1830s. Although there some fairly detailed descriptions of the working of the ship, the less nautical reader might skim over these parts without losing the flow of the narrative. His descriptions of life at sea and ashore make this book a real page turner.

The edition I read had an additional chapter at the end describing the authors return to California twenty years later, to find that San Francisco had grown from a town consisting of a handful of buildings to a city of approaching half a million people (largely as a result of the gold rush of 1848/9).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2011
This book paints a vivid and often gritty account of the highs and lows of life on a sail trading ship during the 1830s. The references to Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and San Diego paint a strange contrast to those cities today. The only downside is the very detailed descriptions of the rigging and sails, which at times are too much to absorb. Nevertheless, I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in sailing, history and adventure.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 June 2011
I enjoyed Mr Dana's account of his somewhat 'gap year' (well, two years actually) along the present-day west coast of the USA. His tales of hardship, danger and a lot of hard toil are vividly told with passion, humour and good knowledge from the author's perspective. It is interesting to read how many of the basic things we take for granted now and couldn't live, didn't exist in the 1800s or were an extreme luxury.

Mr Dana's accounts of the people he met, their lives and his interactions with them were of particular interest and memory to me. He came across a wide range of people on his journey, from the all-empowered captains, to the easy going sandwich-islanders and Dana's obvious ability to relate to, and empathise with each, is interesting.

The only area which didn't work for me in this book is that my version lacked a glossary meaning that a lot of the technical jargon went over my head. For a modern reader, I thought there was perhaps too much sailing terms going on and I found it quite repetitive in the book, so found myself skip-reading large sections of the book in order to get to the areas that interest me. However for those how love living history, or adventures on the high-seas, don't let this put you off.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 28 June 1999
The book descriprion on this page is good and I enjoyed this edition of the book with the help of the glossary provided in this edition which contains definitions of sailing terms and and few archaic usages that are in this book. It made it much more enjoyable and understandable.
I liked the grueling portarit of life at sea, reading some first written observations of early California, a fine and admiring description of a very able-bodied seaman that Dana encountered and many other points.
I think to that this challenging adventure for Mr. Dana restulted in restored vision for his failing eyes after he removed himself from life perhaps largely behind a desk. Could the neccessity of challenge and needed to see have contributed?
There are many facets and admirable points in this book. I think you would enjoy it.
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Book in very good nick, I've sent it to a friend who much enjoys sea-faring stories and this is one of the great ones. More about the survival of crews in trade clipper-rigged brigs and the long hours of sailors who took goods from Boston USA to the Eastern states then rounded the Horn to arrive in California, which was under the jurisdiction of Mexico at the time.
Then to load up a cargo of animal skins bought from native American dealers to take back to Boston- a 2 year voyage if you're lucky A superb book.
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on 23 April 2014
The story itself is an excellent account of sea travel and California at the time and I strongly recommend reading it but I would not suggest anybody buy this particular edition. Its a low quality printing seemingly done for Amazon itself. The images from the original book are not present and the cover image has nothing to do with the ships in the book. It is an image of the clipper vessel Lightning and the exact image on the cover can be found on Wikipedia.
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on 16 November 2012
Possibly the best account of service "before the mast" on a 19th century sailing ship. Equally interesting is the account of the western coast of the USA before the growth of the major cities. A must for every sailor. (And then read Frances Chichester "Along the Clipper Way" who analyses the voyage and concludes that Dana's skipper was incompetent!) Good Luck and Good Sailing!
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on 13 February 2012
This is a classic sailing tale which allows insight, not only into the difficulties of rounding Cape Horn in a sailing vessel but also into the social , commercial and medical practices of the day. It all changed once the railway was built across America but this a brilliant overview of Life in the nid-nineteenth century. Highly recommended.
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on 10 February 2014
I thoroughly recommend this book. A great insight into the lives of the sailors that manned the tall ships more than 150 years ago. Easy to read in spite of the rather old fashioned language. Keep Wikipedia on hand to help you understand the correct names of every part of these astonishing ships.
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