A STEADY TRADE: A Boyhood at Sea by Tristan Jones

A STEADY TRADE: A Boyhood at Sea

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Aside from one nasty storm, this teenage memoir has none of the nautical excitement which readers of Jones' seagoing autobiography (Ice!, Adrift, etc.) have come to expect. But, for those who dreamed of running off to sea as a lad (or lass), there's plenty of knot-by-knot detail here--both dreamily nostalgic and grittily unromantic. Tristan came from a family of Welsh sailors, growing up poor-ish but happy in Llangareth (rock-climbing, fishing, singing) while dad captained a ship over near London. But then, at last, at just nearly 14, came Tristan's first assignment--as apprentice aboard a small trading vessel, making trips back and forth across the North Sea or the Channel to Germany and Holland. Jones recalls, then, the pride in being un-motorized: ""We were as much a part of the sea and sky, the river and the trees, as the birds on high."" He provides a chapter that compares all the different sorts of ""coastal"" craft around the British isles circa 1938. He outlines the ""hard, mean, incessant toil that underlay all the beauty and fitness-for-purpose of the old coastal sailing ships"": his jobs included cook, deckhand, lookout, steward, cargo-handler, helmsman, rigger, sailmaker, and painter. And before that big North Sea storm, he fondly sketches in his mates: captain Tansy, bowler-hatted and old enough to have served with someone who remembered Trafalgar; mate Bert, contentedly oppressed by wife and home; the difference between them (""In Bert's case, he was in love with the ship. In Tansy's case, the ship was in love with him""); and rough, profane deckhand Ted, who'd steal anything on shore--but nothing at sea. Plain and sentimental, with close-ups of day-to-day sailing life instead of adventure or drama: pleasant, if unexciting, reading for Jones' sea-minded following.

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1982
ISBN: 1574090186
Publisher: St. Martin's