Book Review - Sailing Tall by Max Wood

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by Corley, Jul 22, 2012.

  1. Corley
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 3,770
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    Location: Melbourne, Australia

    Corley epoxy coated

    I recently purchased this book for something to read in the long hours while our 8 week old daughter keeps my wife and I awake.

    The book is a paperback of around 150 pages and details the Author's experiences as an apprentice then ordinary seamen on board Passat in one of her last voyages around the world while she was under the ownership of Gustaf Erikson. On their voyage they loaded Jarrah sleepers in Perth which they delivered to South Australia and Wheat for the return voyage from Australia to the UK via Cape Horn. It also contains some appendices and a glossary of terms that cover the more technical side of sailing ship operation and makes the text more accessible to non sailors.

    Max Wood's writing style is quite good I would not say the account is quite as engaging as perhaps Alan Villiers or James Bissets books but it makes for a good read and contains good detail on life in sail in the last few years of commercial sailing vessels. It follows his maturing from a green apprentice at the age of sixteen to a mature young man and the formative experiences he had upon the Passat.

    Abundently obvious is the budgetary constraints the commercial sailing ships of that time operated under and the almost extreme lengths they went to preserve sails when at sea. Also the tough life that the crews on the ships led with hard work and danger a part of their everyday lives. The impacts of the increase in cost of ropes, wire and canvas were having on the sailing trade are also clear. As the number of ships decreased the cost of operating the remaining vessels increased proportionately the cost of paying wages to the crew was actually the minor expense.

    I'd recommend the book to anyone interested in that period of commercial sailing ship history. As the author notes he was part of a period of history that has well and truly passed by. Later on Max Wood went into steamships and a yet to be published book was to cover that time. I'm not sure that will become a reality as "Sailing Tall" was published in 2004 so we may or may not see a sequel covering that time.
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