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July 10 , 2010

My Life at Sea


My good sailor friend Captain Crutchley has asked me to write a foreword to his autobiography. It is a pleasure to comply.
The author began his life at sea in sailing-ships, in the age of the Black Ball liners, the Baltimore clipper-ships, and those perfect specimens of naval architecture built in Aberdeen for the China tea trade.
Captain Crutchley tells of the hardships of the sea. He gives stirring descriptions of the performances of the ships in which he sailed. His narrative may perhaps be briefly supplemented. Sir George Holmes, in his book on ancient and modern ships, quotes many examples of record passages. In 1851, the Nightingale, in a race from Shanghai to Deal, ran on one occasion 336 knots in twenty-four hours. In the same year the Flying Cloud, in a voyage from New York to San Francisco, ran 427 knots in one day. The Thermopylæ, 886 tons register, built by Messrs. Steel, of Greenock, sailed 354 knots in twenty-four hours. The Aberdeen clippers of the ’sixties did marvellous work. Under sail, the Ariel, Taeping and Serica started together from Foochow on May 30, 1866. They met off the Lizard on September 6; and on the same day the Taeping arrived in the East India Dock at 9.45 p.m., and the Ariel at 10.15 p.m.—a difference of half-an-hour after racing for over three months on end.
The present writer recalls a like personal experience of more recent date. In 1905 a race was sailed from Sandy Hook to the Lizard for a cup offered by the German Emperor. On that occasion the Valhalla, a full-rigged ship, Hildegarde and Endymion, two-masted fore-and-aft schooners, and the Sunbeam, a three-masted topsail-yard schooner, anchored off Cowes on the same tide, the distance of more than 3300 miles from Sandy Hook having been covered in fourteen days.
After years of service at sea, Captain Crutchley passed from sail to steam. He filled important commands with distinguished success. He began with the comparatively easy voyage to the Cape. In the later years of his career at sea he was engaged in Australasian voyages, when his experience in sailing-ships enabled him, by the combined power of sail and steam, to make successful voyages.
In Captain Crutchley’s time ships coming direct from the homeland were the bonds of empire. They received a warm welcome on their arrival in the distant ports of New Zealand and Australia. Captain Crutchley earned a deserved popularity as a representative seaman. He began his work as an empire builder while serving at sea. It was continued ashore for a period of many years in the capacity of Secretary of the Navy League.
The book abounds in valuable hints on discipline at sea. The vessels commanded by Captain Crutchley were happy ships.
It only remains to commend this volume as interesting reading to all who love the sea and admire the hardy breed of men who do business in great waters.

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