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Sea Struck – Paperback

Sea Struck – Paperback

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  • SeaStruckPBcover

Sea Struck – Paperback

“If I’m any judge, this marvelous book should be hailed as an instant classic” —David McCullough

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Some people seem to be born with salt water running in their veins. As soon as they are able, they go to sea. For certain young men at the turn of the last century, this was as much a rite of passage as making the grand tour. In most cases the experience was a transitory adventure; for a few it was a life-shaping experience. Seastruck is about the final decades of American square-rigged sail, as recorded in firsthand accounts of voyages made by three well-born young men from Massachusetts. The city of New Bedford looms large here–two young men, Frank Besse and Rodman Swift, came from families prominent in the whaling industry, and old whaling money financed the construction of two ships, the William J. Rotch and the Guy C. Goss, both built in Bath, Maine, under the direction of Captain William Besse of New Bedford (and cousin of young Frank). Young Tod Swift, scion of the prominent Rotch and Swift families of New Bedford and just graduated from Harvard, chose to go to sea as an ordinary seaman, much to the distress of his mother, who was particularly upset that he hadn’t packed his pajamas! Frank Besse, and a third young man, Carleton Allen, each sailed as paying passengers aboard their ships; even from that more sheltered vantage point, their accounts are fascinating. But Tod Swift’s journal, kept in secret aboard the steel four-masted bark Astral, relates the reality of a prolonged, hungry, and difficult voyage from Philadelphia to Japan and San Francisco. His account is made even more compelling by interspersed excerpts from Astral’s official log-which makes no mention of the fire that nearly doomed the ship, or that the hated cook was always armed with a cleaver, or that the crewwent on strike (and the captain called it mutiny). There is plenty of adventure here–storms, men overboard, a cargo of Chinese passengers, discipline that bordered on brutality, and exotic Far East ports–but these interwoven stories also demonstrate the fascinating web of connections in the New England maritime community. Frank and Carleton became bankers later in life and Tod an engineer. Swift had a small schooner built and until the end of his life, Tod Swift and Tyche were an integral part of the Martha’s Vineyard waterfront.

 

Reviews

“…close-up and vivid view of life at sea…Bunting’s ability to write sentences of stunning gracefulness…commonplace comes alive.” — WoodenBoat Magazine,January/February 2005

“…fine chronicle… of New England’s passion for the sea… fine collection of photographs, stoic reminders of the sea-struck past.” — Boston Sunday Globe, October 17, 2004

“…high-quality volume…eye-catching photos…Bunting…can make prose sing…makes you ponder the lessons of the sea…” — Working Waterfront/Inter-Island News, February, 2005

“…marvelous maritime history…entertaining story of high seas adventure…his best work.” — Central Maine Newspapers, December 19, 2004

“…unerringly informative and readable prose…engaging historical portrait…expertly edited, selected and annotated diaries…” — The Ellsworth American, January 6, 2005

“…wonderful, adventure-filled, and instructive story…” — The Martha’s Vineyard Times, October 14, 2004

“A remarkable story of three young men who went to sea…reads like the very best of seafaring sagas.” — Maine Sunday Telegram, January 16, 2005

“If you have an interest in life under sail, and in America’s historic ports… rewarding read and an excellent gift.” — Ten Pound Island Book Co., November 2004

“Looking for a book that will captivate you from beginning to end, ‘Sea Struck’ will.” — Maine Coastal News, February, 2005

“…rich in maritime detail, majestic in geographic sweep, lavish in its consignment of high-quality port and high-sea photographs, and handsomely designed…a standout…makings of a classic…” — Maine History Vol. 43, January 2008

From the Inside Flap

“If I’m any judge, this marvelous book should be hailed as an instant classic—that is a book that will be read with continued interest and pleasure, passed from hand to hand, talked about, quoted from, read aloud, cited as a model of splendid scholarship and love of subject, for many long years to come. I don’t know when I’ve become so immediately absorbed in a book about people I had never heard or and knew nothing about. But W. H. Bunting knows so much—about sailing ships, life at sea, and American maritime history-and he writes with such refreshing vitality that one is swept along as if on a grand adventure. There are passages, both in what he writes and in the remarkable letters included, that might be from Robert Louis Stevenson. The account of the explosion of Krakatoa is but one stunning example. Even the footnotes are entertaining. Give yourself a treat. Settle in for an evening with Sea Struck.
—David McCullough

About the Author

W. H. “BILL” Bunting shipped as galley boy aboard the brigantine Yankee at age 13 and later completed a 25,000-mile world voyage as first mate of a 132-foot barkentine. His books include Maine on Glass.

Additional Information

Author

W. H. Bunting

Format

Paperback

ISBN

978-0-88448-526-1

Pages

384 pages

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