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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 19 June 2016
I'd not read this book until recently. American classics were part of my school diet - Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in particular, but not this one. The author dropped out of college and took ship in a bid to get his health back. Tough way to do it; they went around the Horn to California where the task was dressing and compressing cowhides as the return cargo. It's an adventure all the way to California, where I found the repetition of what they did with hides in need of editing, before his eventual return. Time-wise, he was on the Californian coast in 1836 and heard about the fall of the Alamo there. One fascinating encounter is with a retired sea captain with whom he has a conversation about the advances in sailing ships since the old dude retired some fifteen years earlier. The beaches and creeks he worked hides on were long gone in his lifetime, built over by San Diego and San Francisco, which he mentions visiting in later years. And the San Francisco he saw is long gone too, what with the earthquake and the fire. He gives a lot of detail of the daily grind on ship where there is always something to do, make, mend, repair, paint, tar, splice or clean. He comes across as one who got stuck into whatever task he was given and eventually manages to get as good at it as the crew; men who seem quite tolerant of this bookish, sickly youth from the start and proud to have known him by the end. He went on to be a lawyer, an abolitionist and one who stood tall for the rights of others - seamen, slaves or free. His book became an instant hit when published, being one of the very few (at the time) reference books about California.
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on 13 January 2013
A great read for anyone with an interest in the trails and tribulations of sailing a full size ship from Boston to California via Cape Horn in the nineteenth century. Lots of technical details and terminology. In addition Dana painted a full size picture of the life and economy of 1830's Southern California. A unique record by someone who did it all, saw it all, and was able to write it for all.
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on 18 September 2013
I hadn't read this book for about twenty years, and could only remember that it was terrific. In fact, it's extraordinary. Apart from the hair-raising life of a seaman in 1836, it gives a detailed portrait of California when it was just a sparsely populated source of hides to be shipped four or thousand miles back to Boston. It's like watching America grow from scratch. Weird and wonderful.
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on 25 July 2014
An interesting insight into the life and times. Tedious, in parts (as was the life of the mariner working in the rawhides trade), but well worth the effort. In particular, it was interesting to read of how the ships were handled, and I was fascinated to discover that setting only the highest sails on the foremost (all other yards being bare) would actually 'lift' the bow of the ship rather than pushing it under. (Later research revealed that sails act like aircraft wings, with the wind blowing over and along the sail, actually 'pulling' rather than pushing the ship along! Fascinating stuff.)
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on 17 December 2014
I read this book many years age but it was good to re-read it again, a glimpse into the sailing of square rigged sailing ships & the hardship by these tough sailors, I don't know how they survived the conditions, if into sea faring read this book.
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on 27 February 2014
We have read this book for a second time. The writer had the gift of being able to transport the reader back in time to life aboard a merchant sailing ship in the 1830s. I thoroughly recommend reading this book to anyone with an interest in sailing or life in that era. A memorable piece of literature.
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on 24 February 2015
Very matter of fact. An interesting account and the facts that are covered are remarkable but, perhaps in part owing to the age of the text now, not a compelling read for me despite my interest in the historical and nautical.
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on 17 December 2013
It chronicles the life of an educated man who signed on a merchant ship in 1800's it details the daily routine, often dangerous of the seaman. The author has a keen eye for detail which I found most interesting.
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on 16 January 2015
A brilliant insight into the life of a common sailor in the 1830's. Harsh life. Complete with archaic language, spellings, and nautical terms...and a bit of Spanish, Latin, and I'm guessing Hawaiian for good measure. It doesn't matter if you're not a linguist, you get the gist. Written at the time, with the zeitgeist of the day. Be prepared for little shock or dismay at the commonplace cruelty, racism,sexism and the cheapness of life. 'Jack' has a truly cosmopolitan experience. Also, as well as action at sea, interesting times on land
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on 8 November 2013
I read this at school back in the 1960's and I have thoroughly enjoyed re-reading it. The Kindle copy doesn't display the diagram of the ship's rigging properly, so a lot of the technical rope-pulling narrative was lost to me. However, the book did inspire me to search on line for more information about the boats and the places in the book, and there is a lot of interest to be found.
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