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Two Years Before the Mast Paperback


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 442 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 29, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1482305860
  • ISBN-13: 978-1482305869
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,425 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Living aboard the Pilgrim was like living in a prison at sea.
matt mulder
This is an absolutely amazing account of life at sea and the fierce changes occurring in North America in the early 19th century.
Michael Falco
This is a novel which I like to re-read every 4 or five years.
Justa Guy

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Judie Fernandez on March 6, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Our technological world makes us forget what life was like when men, by sheer force of will and dangerous physical teamwork, could use the forces of nature to travel thousands of miles across oceans on wooden ships under fabric sails without electronics or comforts. What surprised me was the beauty of the writing by a young man in the 1830s. Dana's descriptions of raising the anchor and sails to glide out of California harbors, the four month journey trying to round Cape Horn in winter, the misery beneath decks, and the excitement as the ship headed north in the Atlantic toward home in Massachusetts created vivid scenes that still resonate in my mind. After his return home to Harvard and its law school, Dana dedicated his life to improving the slave-like lives of the sailors. I highly recommend this book to escape from our screens.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Louis J. Cattera on January 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is the 3rd time I have read this book and each time I learn a little more of what it was like to sail before the mast. These men were a breed of their own the likes of which will never be seen again. Life, and the work, was hard and dangerous though it seems it was more of an adventure besides being a wayn of life. Sixty years ago life aboard a man-of -war was not comfortable, but it was nothing compared to what Dana descibes. I highly recommend this book to anyone who is drawn to the sea. They won't be disappointed. Think of two years aboard a small vessel no larger in length than a modern yacht!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By J. E. Sharwarko, Jr. on November 4, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In 1834, a young man from a comfortable Boston family, seeking to improve his health that he may return to his undergraduate studies at Harvard, signs on to a two-year voyage "round the Horn" to the California coast. Quartered below decks in the forward part of the vessel "before the mast" he experiences this physically and technically demanding world as a common sailor: crossing the equator, rounding Cape Horn, sailing up & down the California coast from San Diego to San Fransisco, putting in at these and the five Mexican missions in between, until a full load of cattle hides is acquired for the return voyage, he experiences a culture exotic to Boston, and is transformed into an able-bodied seaman.

He returns to Boston aboard another hide vessel of the same employer in 1836, publishing his account of this voyage in "Two Years Before the Mast" in 1840. This work was the first authentic maritime narrative yet written, and created a new genre of English literature. It influenced Herman Melville in writing "Moby Dick" and walked off the shelves during the California gold rush, as the only travel narrative on California in existence. It is a classic of American literature.

J. E. Sharwarko, Jr.
Charleston, SC
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. . . ever! And I'm four score and eight months more.

Richard Henry Dana set out on a voyage that would take him from Boston, Massachusetts, to a California that few could identify with today. At the latter, there was no-one there! Well, not many. San Diego, for instance, was a sleepy little harbour; at least it was until his and other ships from time to time put in there, when the serious business of loading hides for Boston got under way. He even spent about six months ashore, preparing hides. Dana found even San Francisco's beautiful harbour almost devoid of human activity. Not that he would have considered that an unusual state, for he was not to know what lay ahead for it. Los Angeles was a town of 20,000 souls. And this was not so long ago: 1832-34. Crikey! Only 100 years before I was born!

The scruffy lightweight little ship Pilgrim took him round Cape Horn; seemingly without much incident, for he makes no big deal of that phase of his voyage. But we do learn from him, in amazing detail, of the day-to-day workings of, not only this vessel, but also of the Alert, the smartest ship on the Boston-California run in which he served on the return leg of his voyage. He has the ability to put us on board with himself, as if we were of the crew itself. I could feel the rope in my hands and below my feet, as I sped, with frozen fingers, to the topmost yard. I felt the cold blasts off icebergs of the Southern Ocean. I sweated in the tropic. I witnessed a brutal flogging by one captain, and suffered the indifference and wile of an uncaring other. All of this, as he an ordinary seaman, a choice he made, rather than as a passenger, which he could easily have afforded to be.
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This is one of the best books that I have ever read and I would recommend to anyone for all ages.
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By jonstark on March 3, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
An important read for anyone wanting to understand what it was like to be at sea more than 150 years ago.
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By Justa Guy on February 22, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a novel which I like to re-read every 4 or five years. It clearly depicts the actual life and possible mistreatment of those individuals who went to sea in the days of wooden ships and sails and also the simple and few pleasures which were available to them when they were rarely given the opportunity. Having been in our U.S. Navy and having had the good fortune to travel completely around the earth, Two Years Before the Mast will give those who have not been to sea for an extended period of time insights into the loneliness, limited food choices and absolute authority of the ship's captain which under times of war can be still what faces those of limited education as well as initiative. It is clean reading and I would recommend it to all.
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