Saturday, September 21, 2013

Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.

Two Years Before the Mast
by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
1 star - nope

ALR Green - save for some albatrosses, whales, and dolphins, no animals were even mentioned in the part of the book I managed to get through.

In his preface, the author discusses why he wrote this book. The reason being that while there were several "entertaining" books available about life at sea, they were all written by navel officers or passengers and thus there existed a literary hole to fill regarding the life of the common sailor.

Following a bout of measles which affected his eyesight to the point where he could not continue his studies, Mr. Dana left Harvard to serve on the crew of the merchant vessel, Pilgrim, in a voyage from Boston to California (via Cape Horn) and back again. The book is drawn from his journal entries during that trip. Two years before the mast.

Unfortunately for me, Mr. Dana just isn't a great writer. I wasn't bothered by the cataloging of daily chores or the technical, seafaring language, but I had hoped for a bit more eloquence regarding the voyage. Instead, it was quite flat and tedious. I knew I was in trouble when his description of the wild storms around Cape Horn evoked no more emotion in me than the passages regarding the sailor's diet of salted pork. 

I abandoned this ship after a mere 75 pages.


  1. Well, they can't all be award winners! Sorry you chose a stinker. I have a horrible habit of trying to stick with books to the end, and several times, I've asked myself why. Something tells me you are of a similar mind, and so to hear that you abandoned ship tells me a lot about the book!

  2. I believe I tried this book some years back, and didn't fare any better than you.