The Spectator – 20th November 1926
“ALTHOUGH large sailing ships—at all events British sailing ships—have almost disappeared from the seas it seems that the memory of the great days will not be allowed to fail. There is a regular flow of books, mostly by men well advanced in life, describing the sea-faring life under sail. This flow cannot last long, for the young seamen of to-day are for the most part trained from boyhood in steamships. It is desirable, therefore, to give every kind of encouragement to the old shellbacks who write their reminiscences; what they say, simple though it may be, is the matter of history. It is a strange fact that the great sailing ships were never so majestic and were never better handled than in the few years immediately before their disappearance. Most of the authors of reminiscences to-day can remember the grandeur of the clipper days, when ships like the ‘Cutty Sark' and the 'Thermopylae' did voyages round the world marvellous for their sustained speed. There are now only four deep-sea square-rigged ships on the British register.
Captain George P. Boughton tells in his Sea-Faring (Faber and Gwyer, 15s. net) some truths about those who follow the profession of the sea which are not often told by seamen themselves. The men of the deep-water sailing ships had a gaiety that was unmatched in any other occupation. They somehow compensated themselves for all the hardship and danger. Only men of great simplicity of mind could have done that. They were simple in their respect for authority and also in their religious convictions—we need not say piety—which were apparently the result of being constantly in the presence of immense natural forces. Many readers of Typhoon must-have felt, as the present writer did, that when Conrad had described in a hundred different ways the same phenomenon of a large sea crashing along the vessel from end to end, they had a sense of physical exhaustion, and indeed the worse sense of having been pommelled and bruised. But the master of the ship, when he returned to his home and was asked by his wife what kind of voyage he had had, replied tersely, "dirty weather". The mind of a seaman, it appears, dwells little upon incidents, however trying and perilous, which must be expected in the nature of his calling. St. Paul, not being a sailor; was evidently absorbed in the efforts made to save the ship in which he was wrecked; but if the truth were known it would probably be found that the sailors themselves soon forgot all that and remembered only the viper which fastened upon St. Paul's hand after the landing. The merit of Captain Boughton's book is that in depicting typical scenes of sea-life he has recalled emotions that have fleeted from the minds of most men with similar experience.”
SEAFARING - THE FULL STORY by Captain George P Boughton (Pub: 1926, 2013 Epilogue added, 2014 Prologue added)
isbn: Print 9780957672826