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Afloat at Last A Sailor Boy's Log of his Life at Sea   By:

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Afloat at Last

by John Conroy Hutcheson This short book tells the adventures over just one voyage to Shanghai of the hero, Allan Graham, whose father is a country vicar. Allan is obtained a place as an apprentice aboard the Silver Queen, which he joins at Wapping Docks. An Irish bosun, Tim Rooney, takes a liking to the lad and helps him learn the ropes. Hutcheson nearly always has an Irish co hero in his books. We get a good description of how the vessel is warped out of the dock, how she makes her way down river, assisted by a steam tug, and then down the English Channel and into the wide Atlantic Ocean. Allan begins to learn a bit about navigation and ship handling, when the movement of the vessel in the Bay of Biscay causes him to retire with sea sickness. A stowaway is found on board, in the forepeak. Allan finds an ally in the Chinese cook, Ching Wang. On the other hand the Portuguese steward, Pedro, hates that cook.

They round the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), cross the Indian Ocean, and get into the Malay seas, where they notice a proa following them. After negotiating the tail end of a typhoon, they think they have escaped these possible pirates, pass through another typhoon, in which all their storm sails are blown out, yet see the pirates again. They are blown onto the Pratas shoal, aground, in which predicament the pirates attack. Ching Wang and Allan manage to get away in one of the pirates' small boats, and sail to where they can get help for the Silver Queen from a patrolling British Naval vessel, the Blazer. Rescued, eventually they get to Shanghai, where they receive their mails it is extraordinary how the mails are always waiting for them, no matter how fast a vessel has travelled. Back home with an uneventful voyage, and that's the end of the story. The book is very helpful in teaching you the basics of reading these old nautical novels. N.H. AFLOAT AT LAST




"And so, Allan, you wish to go to sea?"

"Yes, father," I replied.

"But, is there no other profession you would prefer the law, for instance? It seems a prosperous trade enough, judging from the fact that solicitors generally appear well to do, with plenty of money possibly that of other people in their possession; so, considering the matter from a worldly point of view, you might do worse, Allan, than join their ranks."

I shook my head, however, as a sign of dissent to this proposition.

"Well then, my boy," went on father in his logical way, anxious that I should clearly understand all the bearings of the case, and have the advantages and disadvantages of each calling succinctly set before me, "there is medicine now, if you dislike the study of Themis, as your gesture would imply. It is a noble profession, that of healing the sick and soothing those bodily ills which this feeble flesh of ours is heir to, both the young and old alike an easier task, by the way, than that of ministering to `the mind diseased,' as Shakespeare has it; although, mind you, I must confess that a country physician, such as you could only hope to be, for I have not the means of buying you a London practice, has generally a hard life of it, and worse pay. However, this is beside the question; and I want to avoid biassing your decision in any way. Tell me, would you like to be a doctor eh?"

But to this second proposal of my father as to my future career, I again signified my disapproval by shaking my head; for I did not wish to interrupt his argument by speaking until he had finished all he had to say on the subject, and I could see he had not yet quite done.

"H'm, the wise man's dictum as to speech being silvern and silence gold evidently holdeth good with the boy, albeit such discretion in youth is somewhat rare," he murmured softly to himself, as if unconsciously putting his thoughts in words, adding as he addressed me more directly: "You ought to get on in life, Allan; for `a still tongue,' says the proverb, `shows a wise head... Continue reading book >>

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