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Two Years Before the Mast Paperback – January 29, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
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
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.
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.Read more ›
This book appears to have been 'influential' in the time frame 1850-1860, when people were thirsting for knowledge about California. This was a true account of what it was like when it was still a total backwater, providing depots to store and load hides onto shipping for resale back east, and little else!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Two Years Before The Mast is written as a journal that skips over the mundane boring days, to give you a fantastic view into life on a merchant ship plying the West Coast in the... Read morePublished 24 days ago by Tom H Texas
What remains to be said of such a poignant piece of work, written with amazing clarity of the life of a sailor "before the mast" in the opening decades of the nineteenth century. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Timothy J. Dearing
Good history of California prior to it becoming a part of US and then a state. Sailing terms and technique is well spelled out. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
A great story from the mid 1800's, both about life "before the mast" and what the California coast was like at that time. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Pete
This is an excellent story about the hardships at sea in the 1800's . Very realistic and great readPublished 4 months ago by 954TE
A very interesting portrayal of life aboard ship in the 1800s. The men were treated worse that slavesPublished 5 months ago by William K.
Excellent writing and a fascinating eye-witness account of sailing around Cape Horn and up the coast of S. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Roxanne