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Two Years Before the Mast Paperback – January 29, 2013

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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: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #425,868 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paying Guest on June 9, 2014
Format: Paperback
I read part of this in Jr HS, then all of it after I graduated from college; my Shakespeare teacher (38 plays in the full year course) asked me, as he read it, why so much reference to the "lee scuppers." For a beginning sailor like me, an easy answer: those are the drains that fill because of the heel of the boat away from windward.
I recall how Dana records the loss of their first crewman off South America; this, from a small crew, perhaps 15? I should re-read. Then I recall the great joy of their tea and molasses, or after reefing the topsail, some grog (with rum). The weather around Cape Horn was abysmal, with big seas and sleet and snow, but they were on their way to pick up hides dropped down from the high coasts of certain California ports. Dana observes that if the Californians ever learn to make shoes, their services will no longer be required: shipping hides, taking them around Cape Horn to New England to be made into shoes, which are then shipped around Cape Horn to be sold to the Californians.
The fear of the captain and mates, the appreciation of the cook and his tea, the hard work and danger aloft--these remain with me fifty years after reading Dana
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4 of 4 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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4 of 5 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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven Olson on October 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Even as a lit major, I had never read this one. Something suggested it and so I made up for having never.
It can be repetitious and technically repetitious but that is part of what makes it absorbing. In addition,
I was raised in California and the description of pastoral California in the 1830's is excellent. It was the
one book he needed to write and we are wealthier for it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By R. B. Gearon on April 13, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
. . . 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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