I recently finished reading “Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana. It says that the copyright is 1935 on the inside cover, but the book itself was written around 1840, and is a travel diary of sorts (an old library book that I found in my collection but never read before). A college man leaves his studies to get a break from book work, and signs on a merchant sailboat for a two year stint. They leave from Boston, him never having been on a boat before (and he gets seasick almost immediately), and head for the west coast, which is still pretty much wild, and spend most of their time collecting hides to bring back to Boston. It was a bit dry at times, especially the descriptions of furling this sail or that sail, since there was hardly any context to understand it by, but otherwise really interesting. If you ever wanted to know how it was to be a sailor on board a ship, read this book. Pirate movies are terrific, but really romanticize the whole ‘life at sea’ thing. There are magnificent storms and horrible living conditions and tedious tasks, learning to sew, eating mostly meat and tea everyday, and he spends a lot of time describing his time on the west coast. All of the ‘natives’ and the ports in San Diego, Santa Barabara, Monterey, and San Francisco (when there was no Golden Gate Bridge to speak of, and hardly and people, but a TON of deer), etc. As I’m currently living in California a bit east of Monterey, it was cool reading a perspective from so long ago.

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