Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative

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Houghton Miffin Company, 1911 - Sailors - 533 pages
3 Reviews
Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882) of Boston left his studies at Harvard in 1834 in the hope that a sea voyage would aid his failing eyesight. He shipped out of Boston as a common seaman on board the brig Pilgrim bound for the Pacific, and returned to Massachusetts two years later. Completing his education, Dana became a leader of the American bar, an expert on maritime law, and a life-long advocate of the rights of the merchant seamen he had come to know on the Pilgrim and other vessels. Two years before the mast (1911) is based on the diary Dana kept while at sea. First published in 1841, it is one of America's most famous accounts of life at sea. It contains a rare and detailed account of life on the California coast a decade before the Gold Rush revolutionized the region's culture and society. Dana chronicles stops at the ports of Monterey, San Pedro, San Diego, Santa Barbara, and Santa Clara. He describes the lives of sailors in the ports and their work of hide-curing on the beaches, and he gives close attention to the daily life of the peoples of California: Hispanic, Native American, and European. The edition of the book reproduced here includes the chapter "Twenty-four Years After" prepared by Dana to accompany the "author's" edition published in 1869 as well as his son's "Seventy-six Years After," an appendix prepared in 1911.

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User Review  - wildbill - LibraryThing

This is a true life adventure of two years of the life of an American sailor in the 1830's. It had been sitting on my shelf for several years; an American classic that that I felt would be dull and ... Read full review

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User Review  - tomgm -

I am not even halfway through the book but it has me coming back for more. The item arrived quickly and was an overall great shopping experience. Read full review

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Page 480 - Roll on, thou deep and dark blue Ocean, roll! Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain; Man marks the earth with ruin, his control Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain The wrecks are all thy...
Page 172 - ... tis to cast one's eyes so low ! The crows, and choughs, that wing the midway air, Show scarce so gross as beetles. Half way down Hangs one that gathers samphire ; dreadful trade ! Methinks he seems no bigger than his head. The fishermen, that walk upon the beach, Appear like mice ; and yon' tall, anchoring bark, Diminished to her cock ; her cock, a buoy Almost too small for sight.
Page 43 - ... your side in battle, and the mangled body remains an object, and a real evidence; but at sea the man is near you - at your side - you hear his voice, and in an instant he is gone, and nothing but a vacancy shows his loss. Then, too, at sea, to use a homely but expressive phrase, you miss a man so much. A dozen men are shut up together in a little bark, upon the wide, wide sea, and for months and months see no forms and hear no voices but their own, and one is taken suddenly from among them and...
Page 382 - Several times in our watch loud cracks were heard, which sounded as though they must have run through the whole length of the iceberg, and several pieces fell down with a thundering crash, plunging heavily into the sea. Toward morning a strong breeze sprang up, and we filled away, and left it astern, and at daylight it was out of sight.
Page 7 - How I got along, I cannot now remember. I " laid out" on the yards and held on with all my strength. I could not have been of much service, for I remember having been sick several times before I left the topsail yard.
Page 126 - Almost doubled up with pain, the man walked slowly forward, and went down into the forecastle. Every one else stood still at his post, while the captain, swelling with rage, and with the importance of his achievement, walked the quarter-deck, and at each turn, as he came forward, calling out to us: "You see your condition! You see where I've got you all, and you know what to expect!" — "You've been mistaken in me; you didn't know what I was! Now you know what I am!
Page 445 - How like a younker, or a prodigal, The scarfed bark puts from her native bay, Hugged and embraced by the strumpet wind ! How like the prodigal doth she return, With over-weathered ribs, and ragged sails, Lean, rent, and beggared by the strumpet wind ! Enter LORENZO.
Page 6 - I now began to feel the first discomforts of a sailor's life. The steerage, in which I lived, was filled with coils of rigging, spare sails, old junk, and ship stores, which had not been stowed away. Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and we were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon. The sea, too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and everything was pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete " hurrah's nest," as the sailors say, "everything...
Page 15 - dog watches" may, perhaps, be of use to one who has never been at sea. They are to shift the watches each night, so that the same watch need not be on deck at the same hours. In order to effect this, the watch from four to eight PM is divided into two half, or dog, watches, one from four to six, and the other from six to eight. By this means they divide the twenty-four hours into seven watches instead of six, and thus shift the hours every night. As the dog watches come during twilight, after the...
Page 271 - The royal yards were all crossed at once, and royals and skysails set, and, as we had the wind free, the booms were run out, and all were aloft, active as cats, laying out on the yards and booms, reeving the studding-sail gear; and sail after sail the captain piled upon her, until she was covered with canvas, her sails looking like a great white cloud resting upon a black speck.

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