The Seaman's Friend: A Treatise on Practical Seamanship by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. (above in 1842) was originally published in 1841. None other than D. H. Lawrence tells us that the author “…achieves greatness” with his seminal work on seafaring. Of course Dana’s name will be familiar to many. He authored the classic Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, which documented his time as a foremast Jack aboard a clipper travelling from Boston, around Cape Horn to California and back.
I love Dana’s work for its “… dispassionate statement of plain material facts”, to again quote Lawrence. There’s nothing left out but there is also no emotion added to the mix. This is sailing, matter-of-fact, perilous and rewarding. And it is worth returning to over and over again. So today, a sample: Dana’s advice on landing a ship’s boat through heavy surf. It is hard work but it can be safely done if proper procedures are followed.
As far as possible, avoid each sea [ed note: in this paragraph “sea” refers to breaking waves] by placing the boat where the sea will break ahead or astern of her.
If the sea be very heavy, or if the boat be very small, especially if she has a square stern, bring her bow round to seaward and back her in, rowing ahead against each heavy surf that cannot be avoided sufficiently to allow it to pass the boat.
If it be considered safe to proceed to the shore bow foremost, back the oars against each sea [again, a wave in this case] on its approach so as to stop the boat’s way through the water as far as possible and, if there is a drogue [buoy on a line], or anything in the boat that may be used as one, tow it astern to aid in keeping the boat end-on to the sea, which is the chief object in view.
Bring the principal weights in the boat toward the end that is to seaward, but not to the extreme end.
If a boat worked by sails or oars be running under sail for the land through a heavy sea, her crew should under all circumstances, unless the beach is steep, take down the masts and sails before entering the broken water, and take her to land under oars alone, as above described. If she have sails only, her sails should be much reduced, a half-lowered fore-sail or other small head-sail being sufficient.
If sent for treasure, always have a net or canvas bag to contain the treasure, and a buoy rope to attach to it to recover it in case of accident. [Note here that treasure may mean nothing more than fresh water, but then again…]