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When, as a young man in the 1880s, Benjamin Lundy signed up for unimaginably hard duty aboard a square-rigged commercial sailing vessel -- one destined for a treacherous, white-knuckle passage around that notorious graveyard of ships, Cape Horn -- he had no idea that his experience would also provide a window into an epochal transition that would fundamentally change man's relation to the sea.
A century later, Derek Lundy, author of the bestselling Godforsaken Sea and an accomplished amateur seaman himself, set out to recount his forebear's journey. The Way of a Ship is a mesmerizing account of Benjamin's life on board the square-rigger Beara Head, a remarkable reconstruction of a harrowing journey through the most dangerous waters, furling sails 150 feet aloft in heavy weather; enduring cold and danger; sleep-deprived and malnourished, at times half-starved; fighting each day to save the ship and his crewmates. In the process, Benjamin learns the eternal lessons of the sea, which is to say that he finds out the sort of man he is.
But The Way of a Ship extends beyond the dramatic narrative of the voyage itself, evoking both the romance and brutality of a bygone era, illuminating the history of square-rigger seamen and the last days of the beautiful, widow-making, deep-sea sailing ships, above all demonstrating how the ascendancy of the steam engine led to the end of a centuries'-old tradition. Derek Lundy's masterful account reminds readers of what Melville and Conrad expressed so well: that the sea voyage is an overarching metaphor for life itself.