Two Years Before The Mast

( 151 )

Overview

Two Years Before The Mast is Richard Henry Dana Jr.'s account of his life as a common seaman aboard the brig the Pilgrim which set out from Boston on August 14, 1835 destined for California by way of the treacherous Cape Horn.

Dana gives a detailed account of the workings of the ship, the day-to-day routines of the deck hands, and the brutal shortcomings of inept, tyrannical officers. This "author's edition" includes a chapter written by Dana twenty-four years after his initial...

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Two Years Before the Mast (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

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Overview

Two Years Before The Mast is Richard Henry Dana Jr.'s account of his life as a common seaman aboard the brig the Pilgrim which set out from Boston on August 14, 1835 destined for California by way of the treacherous Cape Horn.

Dana gives a detailed account of the workings of the ship, the day-to-day routines of the deck hands, and the brutal shortcomings of inept, tyrannical officers. This "author's edition" includes a chapter written by Dana twenty-four years after his initial voyage where he revisits some of the people, places and vessels that he had encountered on his original journey.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780217413008
  • Publisher: General Books LLC
  • Publication date: 1/29/2010
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary Kinder is the author of Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. He lives in Seattle.

From the Trade Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt


top hailed, and said he believed it was land, after all. " Land in your eye!" said the mate, who was looking through the telescope; " they are ice islands, if I can see a hole through a ladder"; and a few moments showed the mate to be right; and all our expectations fled; and instead of what we most wished to see we had what we most dreaded, and what we hoped we had seen the last of. We soon, however, left these astern, having passed within about two miles of them, and at sundown the horizon was clear in all directions. Having a fine wind, we were soon up with and passed the latitude of the Cape, and, having stood far enough to the southward to give it a wide berth, we began to stand to the eastward, with a good prospect of being round and steering to the northward, on the other side, in a very few days. But ill luck seemed to have lighted upon us. Not four hours had we been standing on in this course before it fell dead calm, and in half an hour it clouded up, a few straggling blasts, with spits of snow and sleet, came from the eastward, and in an hour more we lay hove-to under a close-reefed main topsail, drifting bodily off to leeward before the fiercest storm that we had yet felt, blowing dead ahead, from the eastward. It seemed as though the genius of the place had been roused at finding that we had nearly slipped through his fingers, and had come down upon us with tenfold fury. The sailors said that every blast, as it shook the shrouds, and whistled through the rigging, said to the old ship, " No, you don't! " " No) you don't! " For eight days we lay drifting about in this manner. Sometimes generally towards noon it fell calm; once or twice a round copper ball showed itselffor a few moments in the place where the sun ought to have been, a puff or two came from t...
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Table of Contents

Chapter I.
Departure
First Impressions
Ship's Duties
Chapter II.
First Impressions
Ship's Duties
Chapter III.
Ship's Duties
Chapter IV.
Sundays At Sea
Trouble on Board
Land Ho
A Pampero
Cape Horn
Chapter V.
Cape Horn
A Visit
Chapter VI.
Loss Of a Man
Chapter VII.
Superstitions
Juan Fernandez
Putting the Vessel In Order
Chapter VIII.
Painting
Daily Life
Point Conception
Chapter IX.
Santa Barbara
Beach-Combing
A Southeaster
Chapter X.
A Southeaster
Passage Up the Coast
Chapter XI.
Passage Up the Coast
Monterey
Chapter XII.
Monterey
Chapter XIII.
Monterey
A British Sailor
Santa Barbara
Chapter XIV.
Hide Droghing
Discontent
San Pedro
Flogging
Chapter XV.
Flogging
Night On Shore
State of Things On Board
San Diego
Chapter XVI.
Liberty-Day On Shore
Chapter XVII.
San Diego
Desertion
San Pedro Again
Easter Sunday
Chapter XVIII.
Easter Sunday
Italian Sailors
San Juan
San Diego Again
Life on Shore
Chapter XIX.
Sandwich-Islanders
Hide-Curing
Wood-Cutting
Coyotes
Rattlesnakes
Chapter XX.
New Comers
People at the Hide-Houses
Leisure
Pilgrim News from Home
Pilgrim Occupations on the Beach
California and its Inhabitants
Chapter XXI.
California and its Inhabitants
Chapter XXII.
Life on the Beach
The Alert
Chapter XXIII.
New Ship and Shipmates
A Race
My Watchmate, Tom Harris
San Diego Again
Chapter XXIV.
A Descent
A Hurried Departure
A New Shipmate
Chapter XXV.
Rumors of War
A Spouter
Sudden Slipping for a Southeaster
To Windward
A Dry Gale
Chapter XXVI.
San Francisco
Monterey Revisited
Chapter XVII.
Monterey Revisited
A Set-to
A Decayed Gentleman
A Contrabandista
A Fandango
Chapter XVIII.
A Victim
California Rangers-Beach-Combers
News From Home
Last Looks
Chapter XXIX.
Loading for Home
A Surprise
Last of an Old Friend
The Last Hide
A Hard Case
An Anchor, for Home!
The Alert and California
Homeward Bound
Chapter XXX.
Homeward Bound
Our Passenger, Professor Nuttall
Homeward Bound
Chapter XXXI.
Bad Prospects
First Touch of Cape Horn
Iceburgs
Temperance Ships
Lying-Up
Ice
Difficulty on Board
Change of Course
Straits of Magellan
Chapter XXXII.
Ice Again
Disappointment
Cape Horn
Land Ho!
Chapter XXXIII.
Cracking On
Progress Homeward
A Fine Sight
Fitting Ship
By-Plane
Chapter XXXIV.
An Escape
Equator
Tropical Squalls
Tropical Thunder-Storm
Chapter XXXV.
A Reef-Topsail Breeze
Scurvy
A Friend in Need
Preparing for Port
Gulf Stream
Chapter XXXVI.
Soundings
Sights About Home
Boston Harbo
Leaving the Ship
Twenty Four Years After 432
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Reading Group Guide

1. Discuss Dana's motives for the voyage. What do you feel was the predominating factor in his decision to undertake such a journey? What were the risks involved, and how serious do you feel they were? What is your view of Dana's momentous choice?

2. What do you make of Dana's attitude toward religion, and religious instruction? Do you agree or not? Why? Is his a perspective that is anachronistic, or not?

3. How does social class play a role in the book? Discuss the implications of Dana's background. How did it affect his experience on the ship? Did you find it important, or inconsequential?

4. What is your opinion of the book's stark realism? Does Dana have an agenda in writing the book? If so, what is it? Do you think the experience was a positive one for Dana, or not?

5. What is the role of nature and the outdoors for Dana? How does he view the American West? How does his voyage attest to his view of the outdoors? Does this view change throughout his experience on the ship? If so, how?

6. Discuss the contrasts between Captain Thompson and Captain Faucon. How do their leadership skills differ? Who is more effective, and why? Discuss Dana's book on a political level. What do his portrayals of each captain reveal?

7. Discuss the considerable shift in Dana's perspective as evidenced in 'Twenty-Four Years After.' How do you account for this change? Do you agree or disagree with the author's decision to replace the original final chapter with this later account? Why or why not?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 151 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(47)

4 Star

(37)

3 Star

(25)

2 Star

(17)

1 Star

(25)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 160 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 22, 2010

    Excellent read - don't know how I missed it for all these years

    Dana writes an eminently readable first-person account of his experiences as a common sailor on a couple of commercial sailing vessels in the mid 19th century. The title references the convention that common sailors were housed in the forecastle of the ship (before the mast), while officers stayed aft. His account of the day-to-day life of a sailor, two crossings of Cape Horn, and the coast of pre-Gold Rush California are fascinating. If you want to gain a sense of the reality behind the romance of large sailing vessels, this is a must-read. His observations of his fellow sailors, officers, and the culture of California give real insight into life in the 1800's.
    Dana's final chapter is a thoughtful essay on the hardships of the sailor's life, with some surprising conclusions on what should and should not be done to improve their lot.

    8 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    Great Stuff

    Forget Moby Dick, this is a real story of the sea! It has a remarkably contemparary feel to it and is told in a candid first person that never lags. Melvilles awful fantasy we all were forced to read blatantly rips off this fun, intimate and detailed American masterpiece. Anyone fascinated by the days of tall ships will love this intimate look behind the veil of life at sea.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2011

    Excellent Book

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. It is well written and it's history is amazing. If you're interested in the old "square rigger" sailing days and what it was like on one of these as crew this book will not let you down. It is also a great history book of California. Couldn't put it down.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 15, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Good for sailors

    This explains the old way to sail ships at sea. Having been in the U S Navy 22 years, I loved it and all the nautical terms being used. A sailors life was much different in the 1800's than it is today because of this book. If your not inerested in being at sea, then you'll find this book very boring. If you love the sea as I do, you'll enjoy it very much> I know I did.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    What I Think

    I'm going on a ship on April 28-29. My teacher said I have to read it to see what life was really like in "the olden days." I think it is good so far. I'll have to finish the book to see and so will you! Calikid615

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 11, 2011

    The Original Sailing Tale

    This was the first realistic account of what it was like to be a sailor. The author does not spare the reader any of the details of the boat, using all of the terminology of the time. The parts when Dana describes the changes in the sails/rigging tend to lose me. The strongest parts are when Dana turns his observation on the territory of California.

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