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The Life of a Ship   By: (1825-1894)

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The Life of a Ship from the Launch to the Wreck, by R.M. Ballantyne.

A story for pre teens, in which a small boy, Davy, is taken to a shipyard to watch the building of a new sailing vessel, the "Fair Nancy". Eventually Davy is allowed to sail on board of her as a boy seaman. He is sea sick at first, but soon recovers and learns how to climb the rigging to help with the sails. They encounter a hurricane, which knocks the ship over, and they lose the ship's boats. A raft is made, but only a few people can get away on it, including the captain's wife. The ship drifts helpless until she is wrecked on a hostile shore. There is only one chance for the men, and that would be if someone could swim ashore with a rope and fasten it, so that each member of the crew can be brought ashore with a travelling block and harness. This works, and no lives are lost. They walk out of the wilderness till they come to a village, from which they make their way to Quebec, and thence back to England.

I find it rather a depressing story, but the intention of the book, presumably, is to interest young people in a life at sea.





Oh! I love the great blue ocean, I love the whistling breeze, When the gallant ship sweeps lightly Across the surging seas. I watched my first ship building; I saw her timbers rise, Until her masts were towering Up in the bright blue skies.

I heard the cheers ascending, I saw her kiss the foam, When first her hull went plunging Into her ocean home. Her flags were gaily streaming, And her sails were full and round, When the shout from shore came ringing, "Hurrah! for the Outward bound!"

But, alas! ere long a tempest Came down with awful roar And dashed our ship in pieces Upon a foreign shore. But He who holds the waters In His almighty hand, Brought all the sailors safely Back to their native land.

Davy was a fisher boy; and Davy was a very active little boy; and Davy wanted to go to sea. His father was a fisherman, his grandfather had been a fisherman, and his great grandfather had been a fisherman: so we need not wonder much that little Davy took to the salt water like a fish. When he was very little he used to wade in it, and catch crabs in it, and gather shells on the shore, or build castles on the sands. Sometimes, too, he fell into the water neck and heels, and ran home to his mother, who used to whip him and set him to dry before the fire; but, as he grew older, he went with his father in the boat to fish, and from that time forward he began to wish to go to sea in one of the large ships that were constantly sailing away from the harbour near his father's cottage.

One day Davy sat on a rock beside the sea, leaning on his father's boathook, and gazing with longing eyes out upon the clear calm ocean, on which several ships and boats were floating idly, for there was not a breath of wind to fill their sails.

"Oh, how I wish my father would let me go to sea!" said Davy, with a deep sigh. "I wonder if I shall ever sail away beyond that line yonder, far, far away, where the sky seems to sink into the sea!" The line that he spoke of was the horizon.

Davy heaved another sigh, and smiled; for, just at that moment, his eyes fell on a small crab that stood before him with its claws up as if it were listening to what he said.

"Oh, crab, crab," cried the little boy, "you're a happy beast!"

At that moment he moved the boathook, and the crab ran away in such a desperate hurry that Davy opened his eyes wide and said, "Humph! maybe ye're not a happy beast after all!" While he sat thus, a stout fisherman came up and asked him what he was thinking about. On being told, he said, "Will you come with me, boy, to the building yard, and I'll show you a ship on the `stocks... Continue reading book >>

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