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

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

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Two Years Before The Mast 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 167 reviews.
oldsmores More than 1 year ago
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.
Winterlight00 More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
seniorchief More than 1 year ago
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.
LynnLD 18 days ago
A Vicarious Journey! This is an excellent account of a Harvard student's life on a merchant ship for two years. He clearly describes their voyage as they leave Boston in 1839, make their way southward around the Cape of South America and spend the majority of their time going up and down the California coast trading hides. What a remarkable journey!
Anonymous 7 months ago
Two Years Before the Mast is an engaging non-fiction novel published in 1840 about the experiences of a nineteen-year-old university student, who after being sick with measles, is recommended by his doctor to take time at sea to recover his health. Unlike many such cases of men going to sea to recover their health, Richard Henry Dana Jr. enlists himself as a sailor on the merchant ship Pilgrim, rather than as a passenger on a cruise. From this decision, Richard learns firsthand the rigors of sea faring travel. At a time before America was split in two, Richard provides detailed accounts of life at sea, with its glories and hardships. From cruel ship captains to breathtaking sights; Richard’s experiences led him to become a lawyer after returning from his travels; a profession which he used to fight for the rights of sailors and slaves alike. Having read Two Years Before the Mast twice now, there are some things that might benefit an interested reader to know before cracking open the book. Richard provides detailed accounts of his travels, and provides an interesting glimpse into the realities of sea trade during the 1800’s. His experiences teach a great deal about the lost art of sailing, and his descriptions of well-known locations in California, now bustling metropolises, describe California when it was a territory of Mexico. Some of his descriptions contrasted starkly with how those places look today, but the weather apparently has not changed all that much in the last 180 years. As for authenticity and information, this novel is rich in truths and is as good a novel as it is a historical document. The story follows the ebbs and flows of Richard’s travels and experiences. Often the sea is exciting and treacherous, with pirate chases and rounding the Cape Horn of South America, but not every account is that of adventure. As such, there are times the book becomes as monotonous as the daily work it describes. Richard does get stuck managing some trade of hides, and gets stuck on land for some time. In those underwhelming segments of text, it may take a bit of plowing to get through, but a nice hot beverage will ease the effort. Well written descriptions of landscapes no longer in existence can be seen more as paintings than blocks of text, and in doing so, they become serene moments. Outside of such moments however, is a rich and visceral experience of navigating the coast of the Americas as told by a person as real as you or I. Richard writes in combination of conversations and descriptions, and uses emotions that can be felt; some funny, some critical and sad. The human element is hugely important to the novel; without it no amount warm beverages would make reading enjoyable. If you consider yourself a fan of traditional sailing, put aside those fictional novels of the open seas. Instead, sail alongside Richard as he conscripts himself to a lifestyle of arduous work, salty air, and new experiences. Let him walk you through a less well-known part of pre-Civil war America; and the greater coasts of the American continents. Two Years Before the Mast is not just for people who like tales of the sea though, it is a rich example of peoples, customs, and cultures along the coasts of the Americas during the 1800’s. Richard Henry Dana Jr. has given us a text valuable for its readability, and for its influence on history.
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