August 14: Cruisin'

Not only did Dana's ship only have salt beef, there was no shuffleboard.

We're back on the high seas with Richard Henry Dana, and it is a tale of bone-chilling bravery:
Monday, Nov. 10th. During a part of this day we were hove to, but the rest of the time were driving on, under close-reefed sails, with a heavy sea, a strong gale, and frequent squalls of hail and snow.

Tuesday, Nov. 11th. The same.

Wednesday. The same.

Thursday. The same.
It is exciting, isn't it? Speaking of "the same," I don't have much to add to the last time we sailed with Dana, except for a couple observations -- observation-ettes, really:

1. Our own comfort is based on the (sometimes-compensated) suffering of others.
I remember an English lad who was always the life of the crew, but whom we afterwards lost overboard, standing for nearly ten minutes at the galley, with his pot of tea in his hand, waiting for a chance to get down into the forecastle; and seeing what he thought was a “smooth spell,” started to go forward. He had just got to the end of the windlass, when a great sea broke over the bows, and for a moment I saw nothing of him but his head and shoulders; and at the next instant, being taken off his legs, he was carried aft with the sea, until her stern lifting up and sending the water forward, he was left high and dry at the side of the long-boat, still holding on to his tin pot, which had now nothing in it but salt water.
But the good people of Boston liked their tea just as much as that English lad did, whatever his name was, and so to ships they sailed. (And the other sailors all gave him some from their pot.) This seems like an extremely unremarkable observation, except that I think there's a myth, embedded in those corporate-image ads with wind turbines and stuff, of a kind of clean, freshly-showered future. But somebody always has to be below, heating the water.

2. The "elevating" nature of the Harvard Classics means it's kind of light on the details of daily life. (Fiction, which is good for gleaning details of daily life, is relegated to a separate shelf.) So this excerpt is helpful just because, even though a nineteenth-century sailor's life wasn't for everyone, at least we see people having dinner:
...we were allowed a tin pot full of hot tea, (or, as the sailors significantly call it “water bewitched,”) sweetened with molasses. This, bad as it was, was still warm and comforting, and, together with our sea biscuit and cold salt beef, made quite a meal.
As hellish as I imagine a cruise ship to be, it's better than molasses-sweetened tea.

(Photo by Flickr user mre770, used with a Creative Commons license.)

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