||John Harland, Mark Myers
||Naval Institute Press
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The popularity of the sea romances by С S Forester, Dudley Pope, Alexander Kent, Patrick O'Brian and so on, indicates that many people are fascinated by the story of the 'wooden walls' and the men who sailed them. Reading these may prompt one to wonder about the exact manner in which things were managed aboard the old sailing man-of-war. How exactly was the anchor weighed, how was sail trimmed to best advantage, how did one heave to, and so on? A good deal of information about this sort of thing is to be found in the textbooks used by the young gentlemen who attended the naval schools in the 1800s, the most systematic and comprehensive accounts being in languages other than English. Seamanship was, and is, for the most part a practical subject, learnt primarily by doing rather than reading, and there was no overwhelming need to commit everything to paper. These accounts were written to complement rather than supplant practical instruction, and some technical points which are skated over because they were self-evident at the time, are often quite obscure to the modern reader. There are, moreover, formidable problems with some technical terms, since not all are to be found in the modern standard dictionaries. Initially, struggling with the blurred Gothic characters of a page of archaic Swedish, was like trying to decipher a passage in Minoan Linear B. Gradually, however, I was able to get things pretty well sorted out and reading through this material became relatively straightforward...