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Xu Cun Lu
Afloat at Last, by John Conroy Hutcheson
Post Date:
2017-10-17 07:56:08

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This short book tells the adventures over just one voyage to Shanghai of the hero, Allan Graham, whose father is a country vicar. Allan is obtained a place as an apprentice aboard the Silver Queen, which he joins at Wapping Docks. An Irish bosun, Tim Rooney, takes a liking to the lad and helps him learn the ropes. Hutcheson nearly always has an Irish co-hero in his books. We get a good description of how the vessel is warped out of the dock, how she makes her way down river, assisted by a steam-tug, and then down the English Channel and into the wide Atlantic Ocean. Allan begins to learn a bit about navigation and ship-handling, when the movement of the vessel in the Bay of Biscay causes him to retire with sea-sickness. A stowaway is found on board, in the forepeak. Allan finds an ally in the Chinese cook, Ching Wang. On the other hand the Portuguese steward, Pedro, hates that cook.
They round the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa), cross the Indian Ocean, and get into the Malay seas, where they notice a proa following them. After negotiating the tail end of a typhoon, they think they have escaped these possible pirates, pass through another typhoon, in which all their storm sails are blown out, yet see the pirates again. They are blown onto the Pratas shoal, aground, in which predicament the pirates attack. Ching Wang and Allan manage to get away in one of the pirates’ small boats, and sail to where they can get help for the Silver Queen from a patrolling British Naval vessel, the Blazer. Rescued, eventually they get to Shanghai, where they receive their mails—it is extraordinary how the mails are always waiting for them, no matter how fast a vessel has travelled. Back home with an uneventful voyage, and that’s the end of the story. The book is very helpful in teaching you the basics of reading these old nautical novels.


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