This book by a much-published sea writer tells, briefly and assiduously, the story of America's famed clipper ships in the 1840's and '50's. It does so with a deftness, description and feeling which make it highly desirable reading. It tells of the ships themselves--their construction from keel up to sky-scraping top ""moonraker"" sails. It tells of the men who planned, built and sailed them----skipper Nat Palmer, builder Donald McKay. It tells of some of the ships themselves--- Rainbow, Flying Cloud (she made 374 miles in one day) Sovereign of the Seas (she carried 12,000 yards of canvas). Here are the China and Liverpool record-breaking runs, the ports of South America and San Francisco, the bully captains like ""Bully"" Waterman, the heartbreak of wreck and the violence of Malay pirates. A final section detailing American life in China during the Opium Wars makes especially good reading too. One can only call this an excellent chronicle of America's most exciting days at sea.