Why this book?
We know Sterling Hayden mostly as a Hollywood movie actor – at least 40 film roles. Hollywood was his income, sailing was his love. At 6 ‘4” he was bigger than most in his life’s accomplishments. I think of him first as a maverick adventurer and a proponent of personal freedom, then second as an actor, and finally as a terrific author, that being his true legacy and one I would be glad to emulate. He lived a more than a full life and in his final days settled in Sausalito, CA and in 1976 wrote Voyage. He lived much of his life on ships and sailed around the world twice and more, so he knew about what he wrote in Voyage.
The paperback version that I treasure in my library is 700 pages of fine print and each page a detailed education about a ship, her crew, the ocean, social injustices, and the hardships aboard most sailing ships that were normal in the years around 1896. I read this story over twenty years ago and am still fascinated by the content. It is a book to read slowly, full of the sailing terms of the day—to learn a whole new vocabulary, cuss, fight, walk the yardarms, set the square sails, and bleed red with the crew. The steel square-rigged ‘barkentine’ called Neptune’s Car is commissioned to carry coal from New York around Cape Horn to San Francisco – by unplanned way of Hawaii. The fact that she was built of steel is key to her successful voyage, the steel didn’t melt.
In a second book by Hayden named Wanderer, which I also heartily recommend, Sterling writes about taking (stealing away) four of his teenaged children from their Hollywood home on his 95’ schooner to Tahiti from San Francisco.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
A magnificent epic of the sea and a dynamic portrait of turn-of-the-century America.—Publishers Weekly