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Old 02-11-2014, 02:34   #1
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Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Hello folks!

Here comes a somewhat unusual request perhaps for you sailing savvy guys. Maybe you can help out someone who has practically no knowledge whatsoever of the matter, but needs some basic technical info. Well, here goes what I'm up to, so that you have an idea:

I'm writing sort of a novella that deals with a sailor travelling by ship in a setting comparable to, say, the 19th century. Actually, it's a rather unique - one might call it even avantgardistic - text in a way that it's not really an adventure story as you might expect, but more a poetic existential reflection on life with the sea as the main theme. You might as well call it a poem, though in its final form it will stretch over several dozen pages. The text changes between prose and lyrics, follows a certain rhythm dictated by the sea and the winds, and while there appears to be a main character, it's all really about the themes brought up and the reader himself/herself confronted with them as he/she journeys the vastness that is the sea. So the sea journey is analogous to life itself, melancholic in parts, exciting in others, a voyage into the unknown, with all its hopes, fears and dangers.

That said, here comes the issue: I'm not a sailor at all myself and approach the whole text of course more from the existential side I want to convey, so the sailing as such is secondary. But I come across certain questions where I definitely need technical advice to get things somewhat right.

Basically what I'm looking for is sort of a crash course on sailing a larger 19th century sailboat, complete with common terminology and technical advice on how to handle specific situations. Right now for example I'm looking for information on how to deal with a major storm on board of such a vessel - what tasks the various hands are supposed to do, when and why, how to react to winds and waves sailing-wise, if there are differences between larger and smaller ships I have to take into consideration, and so on.

So in short: If you know where I could find information to help with 19th century sailboat handling, that would be great. The more precise and easy to understand in layman's terms, the better of course, after all I'm not actually planning to sail such a boat... - Thanks in advance for any pointers!

Artimidor
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Old 02-11-2014, 02:45   #2
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Read "The Last Grain Race" by Eric Newby. Set in 1938, but little would have changed in the prior century. Some interesting tales and photos on how storm conditions were handled on windjammers.
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Old 02-11-2014, 04:08   #3
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

You could also read Riddle of the Sands for some insight into smaller boat handling around the turn of the Century.
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Old 02-11-2014, 05:00   #4
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, Artimidor.
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Old 02-11-2014, 05:07   #5
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

"Sailor's Treasury" by Frank Shay copyright 1948 could be a good resource.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:09   #6
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

3 years before the mast by dana
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:17   #7
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Seamanship in the Age of Sail by John Harland, publisher Naval Institute Press. Very well illustrated. Covers both naval and merchant marine practices.
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:42   #8
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/6317
Sailing Around The World Alone
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:51   #9
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Patrick O'Brian's Master & Commander or Joseph Conrad's short stories of the sea.
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Old 02-11-2014, 09:53   #10
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

The movie "Master & Commander-The Far Side of The World" is very realistic & educational.You may have to watch it a few times to catch some of the nuances.Watch for the guy using the "bathroom",etc. You should study a book on square rigging terminology or Youtube.
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Old 02-11-2014, 10:02   #11
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

"Sail Ho!" - Sir James Bisset

"Log of a Limejuicer" - Captain James P. Barker

"The Cape Horn Breed" - William H. S. Jones

These may be hard to find. The last two describe the same difficult voyage around Cape Horn - one tale from the captain, one from an apprentice on his ship.
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:08   #12
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Watch Around Cape Horn by Captain Irving Johnson available through mystic seaport
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Old 02-11-2014, 11:32   #13
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

Wow... Thanks for all those recommendations, guys!

From what I gather by comments on these books I've read in various places they seem to be spot on to cover the territory!

"The Last Grain Race" is currently being re-released in a new edition, available next week, so that's timing, eh? Shay's "Sailor's Treasury" seems like a real treasure chest as well, though apparently more difficult to come by unfortunately. Dana's book as far as I can see is actually called "Two Years before the Mast", also an absolute classic! "Seamanship in the Age of Sail" looks like a very thorough, more technical orientated book, but definitely the one to answer all remaining questions there might still occur. Well, and "Sailing Around The World Alone" and "Master & Commander" and all the rest round it all up, just marvellous! Looks like there's a lot to dig in, I'll make sure to order a couple of those and do my homework...

Many thanks for the comprehensive and speedy help, it is really very much appreciated! (If you know more sources, don't hesitate to post.)



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Old 02-11-2014, 11:33   #14
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

2nd or 3rd William Henry Dana's Two Years Befoe the Mast.. He was a Harvard undergrad when he fell ill. The 'cure' was to send him to sea as an common sailor on a commercial sailing voyage to the West Coast in the 1830s. The crew was housed in the forepeak of the ship while the officers quarters were in the stern hence the title. An excellent read and the description of California then and now is quite a contrast as well as conditions on a Sailing Ship by someone who actually sailed on one. Two Years Before the Mast - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Caution you on O'Brian. His books are great reads but they were based on service in the Royal Navy. The Navy typically crammed several hundred people, many of them impressed, into ships way less than 200' in length because of the need to man the guns as well as sail the ship in combat. They maintained discipline with an iron fist if necessary and desertion was a hanging offense, if caught. Sailing on commercial vessels was quite different as they were often undermanned and crew could easily jump ship if the conditions were too unpleasant. Also, O'Brian was not a sailor. Despite all the nautical terminology and description of life and manning a Man of War in the early 19th century, he had little if any personal experience of the reality of being at sea. https://www.latitude38.com/features/O'Brian.htm
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Old 02-11-2014, 17:21   #15
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Re: Seeking advice on 19th century sailboat handling

to the other books cited "Moby Dick"could be added. The first one half of the book describes the whaling industry. The Naval Institute Prceeding and the museum at Mystic Sea Port have books on sailing history.
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