2 thoughts on “Today’s Book: “Master and Commander” by Patrick O’Brian

  1. Set the Mains’l! Hard aport!

    I discovered this from the excellent film (can we just say Paul Bettany?). I picked up one of the books while visiting the USS Constellation in Inner Harbor Baltimore MD.

    I came out of the film behind a couple talking about their visit aboard the Rose.
    WHAT?!? YOU WERE ON THE SURPRISE?!?!? (the ship portraying the Surprise was originally called Rose).

    This was all in the same year that also saw the Peter Pan film (with pirate ships) and Pirates of the Caribbean( need we say more?).

    Needless to say when my friends suggested we go to Baltimore the next spring for a tall ship festival I was all for it. (disclaimer: while I had been technically part of a “tall ship” crew for several decades, playing around with the Longship Company and our various Viking longships, which are square rigged vessels, therefore “tall ships” not sailboats, I was unfamiliar with modern sailboats, sailing or bigger ships, as most of the time on the longships, we spent rowing).

    All I remember is coming around a corner in the water taxi and falling in love… with a ship. It was the 1812 privateer Pride of Baltimore II, lying there with her sharp as a cutlass blade hull and her masts raked like she was doing warp 11 at the dock. I did sail on her many times later on public sails, and once as guest crew. Because of her, I have had some mighty fine photos, adventures, and sat in Mathew McConnaghy’s buttprints (Pride and McC were both in “Amistad”, so I guess I have also walked in the footprints of the inimitable Morgan Freeman as well).

    I have heard that Patrick O’Brian was a lousy sailor, but he sure wrote some ripping good yarns!

    Wiki tells me that… “For the sound of wind in the storm as the ship rounds Cape Horn, King devised a wooden frame rigged with one thousand feet of line and set it in the back of a pickup truck. By driving the truck at 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) into a 30–40-knot (56–74 km/h; 35–46 mph) wind, and modulating the wind with barbecue and refrigerator grills, King was able to create a range of sounds, from “shrieking” to “whistling” to “sighing,” simulating the sounds of wind passing through the ship’s rigging.”

    I have stood on Pride’s deck in wind, one hand on the shrouds (the standing rigging that holds up the masts) and felt them humming like giant harp strings… on a pass across the Chesapeake, the wind came up and we roared on a reach… the 100′ ship heeled till the channels (the boards the shrouds pass through, high on the side of the hull) were literally surfing (channel surfing), the water was washing in under the feet of the deck cannons, and the other side looked like a cliff face. This allowed the crew to take up silly poses on a slanting deck… the pics are on my website.

    http://www.swordwhale.com/pride-of-baltimore-ii.html

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    • I’m always insanely jealous of your adventures! I love reading about them and checking out your fantastic pictures on your site! I’ve gotten to set foot on a fair number of tall ships, but have never had the opportunity to sail in one. My dad and I have been fans of the books for quite a while (long before the movie), and that era and way of life are simply fascinating. I’d love to sail on the Rose or the Pride of Baltimore II. I’d heard that O’Brian was a lousy sailor, too, but it certainly didn’t impact his abilities as a writer or his gift for capturing the feel, sounds and smells of the sea and of sailing. Obviously I’m rereading the series (I’m not sure how many times this will make it), so expect to see quotes from it start appearing soon (among the Harry Potter, Buffy and Star Trek).

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