BLOW YE WINDS WESTERLY: The Seaports & Sailing Ships of Old New England by Elizabeth Gemming

BLOW YE WINDS WESTERLY: The Seaports & Sailing Ships of Old New England

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A panorama of seafaring New England -- the exotic trade of Salem (sea slugs and birds' nests for China, pearls, oriental carpets and Galapagos turtles for the folks at home), the spartan fishermen of Cape Cod and the whaling industry of Nantucket and New Bedford. The texture of everyday life, from the thrifty fishermen's wives who served ""Cape Cod Turkey"" (a form of baked salt cod) to the rich merchants who had personal barbers and retired at 40, has been recreated from old journals and reminiscences and studded with details about social life, trade routes, craftsmanship and shipboard routines (including a gripping and gory description of the harpooning of a whale). Not all was idyllic; while captain's wives set up semi-permanent housekeeping on the whalers, gullible country boys and drifters, tricked into service as common seamen by the declining industry, had to soak their rations of salt beef in tea to remove the maggots. The era of Yankee sailing ships wore itself out quickly, until (as Gemming points out) the gold fields of California replaced the sea in America's get-rich-quick dreams, but its recreation here, notwithstanding a glimpse of the more unsavory aspects, proves irresistibly romantic.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 1971
Publisher: T. Y. Crowell