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The Way of a Ship: A Square-Rigger Voyage in the Last Days of Sail Hardcover – April 1, 2003

3.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Lundy draws on the experiences of a great-great uncle to track the scary 1880s voyage of the merchant ship Beara Head around Cape Horn.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

“A tribute to the seamen of the Age of Sail.” (Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World)

“The wealth and authority of this book make it a worthy companion to the very best histories on seafaring.” (Sunday Times (London))
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (April 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0066210127
  • ISBN-13: 978-0066210124
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,355,332 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on April 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Derek Lundy's "The Way of a Ship: A Square-Rigger Voyage in the Last Days of Sail" is in large part a history of blue-water merchant shipping in the late Nineteenth Century with a particular focus on those ships rounding Cape Horn, along with literary meditations by the author upon the works of Melville and Dana and Conrad. But interleaved with the history is Lundy's account of an imagined 1885 voyage around the Horn by his great-great-uncle Benjamin aboard the fictional 4-masted barque Beara Head. It is a harrowing, but by no means atypical voyage aboard a giant iron-hulled square-rigger of the era, its crew kept small by the owners' economies necessary to compete with steamships. This novel-within-a-history is a useful device for conveying the harsh realities of life aboard such a vessel, and Lundy is well up to the challenge of portraying ships and the sea in convincing, highly vivid detail. This will come as no surprise to readers of his earlier book, "Godforsaken Sea: Racing the World's Most Dangerous Waters", about the 1996 Vendee Globe race.
The spark that drove Lundy to write this book is a simple (and perhaps unanswerable) question: how were his great-great-uncle and men like him able to challenge Cape Horn? Even with the strong iron hulls and wire rigging of the 1880's, Cape Horn killed men and ships with a regularity that would dismay the modern world. And if wind and wave were not enemies enough, then inadequate food, terrible living conditions, and hard-driving captains and mates would supply sufficient misery to seemingly make any rational man balk from voluntarily undertaking such a voyage.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My Son, Brendan gave me a copy of this book for my eightieth Birthday recently and it is a treasure; I could feel the cold and wet working into my oilskins and my hands and arms did not start to recover until we had weathered Cape Stiff. Yes, I said we because this is a probably mostly true and factual story about blue water sailors learning to climb the heights on masts, finding almost inhuman reserves of energy when survival is at stake and feeling a sense of accomplishment when looking back on the voyage; making mere men into blue water sailors who largely get along under difficult circumstances better than most. To feel as if you were and are a true seafarer you had to be a successful Cape Horn sailor, everything else pales in comparison. A truly well done book about the Lundy family.
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Format: Paperback
The Way of a Ship is a strangely structured book on an interesting topic. Derek Lundy tells a good story, but it is spoiled by the other information interleaved in it.

One of the authors forebear's was a sailor on a square rigger that sailed around Cape Horn. That is what sparked his interest in the story. He describes this as well as some of the research he did for this story. Fortunately these interruptions are short.

He then goes on to interrupt the story with lessons on the economics and history of sea transport at the time of the story. He also describes the social life of the people who made up the crew on these ships and has some comments on the types of ships being built as steam ships over took sailing vessels. There are also interludes of historical information about Joseph Conrad, Richard Henry Dana and Herman Melville.

While they are reasonably well written and are interesting by themselves they just serve to confuse the fiction. They look very much like filler to me. The story that makes up the central theme of the book is a well told sea tale with a sympathetic protagonist. However the story cannot survive being lumped in with all these other distractions. The reader has to be motivated to read yet another sea tale to bother with this one.
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Format: Hardcover
"Them was the days, sonnies,
"Them was the men,
"Them was the ships,
"As we'll never see again."
(From the book)

This book is the author's imagined account of his grand-uncle's voyage as a crewman on the "Beara Head," a four-masted barque sailing around Cape Horn from Liverpool to Varparaiso, South America, in the 1880's. The author creates an engaging narrative of characters and things that may or may not have happened on the voyage, based on log information and what is known about the trip. Interspersed are chapters with general background material on the ships, history, and difficulties of the time.

I found this a very engaging read, and when I had finished it I was wishing for more. The life of a seaman in those days was truly harsh, a life of constant misery and hardship. The men live on short rations, long hours, little or no sleep, constant cold and damp, battling storm after storm, climbing up in the masts 160 feet above the rolling deck to deal with canvas sails weighing hundreds of pounds. Some men get their fingernails pulled out, some fall to their deaths in the sea, never to be seen again, and some live on to see the next port and another voyage.

If you are interested in sailing ships and stories of the sea, you will like this book.
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