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Before the Wind: The Memoir of an American Sea Captain, 1808-1833

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Charles Tyng's quarter century under sail took him around the world half a dozen times at the begining of the nineteenth century. Fortunately, he proved to be as natural a storyteller as he was a sailor. Before the Wind has been hailed as a superb contribution to seafaring literature, alongside such books as Two Years Before the Mast and the novels of Patrick O'Brian. Both Charles Tyng's quarter century under sail took him around the world half a dozen times at the begining of the nineteenth century. Fortunately, he proved to be as natural a storyteller as he was a sailor. Before the Wind has been hailed as a superb contribution to seafaring literature, alongside such books as Two Years Before the Mast and the novels of Patrick O'Brian. Both Tyng's life and the way he recounts his years at sea are full of wonder: He survives shipwrecks, squalls, and pirates. He makes and loses fortunes in tea, sugar, and cotton. He meets Lord Byron as well as the British princess (later queen) Victoria. Sailors, armchair travelers, history buffs, and lovers of pulse-quickening maritime stories will find this book as seductive as the siren song of the sea.


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Charles Tyng's quarter century under sail took him around the world half a dozen times at the begining of the nineteenth century. Fortunately, he proved to be as natural a storyteller as he was a sailor. Before the Wind has been hailed as a superb contribution to seafaring literature, alongside such books as Two Years Before the Mast and the novels of Patrick O'Brian. Both Charles Tyng's quarter century under sail took him around the world half a dozen times at the begining of the nineteenth century. Fortunately, he proved to be as natural a storyteller as he was a sailor. Before the Wind has been hailed as a superb contribution to seafaring literature, alongside such books as Two Years Before the Mast and the novels of Patrick O'Brian. Both Tyng's life and the way he recounts his years at sea are full of wonder: He survives shipwrecks, squalls, and pirates. He makes and loses fortunes in tea, sugar, and cotton. He meets Lord Byron as well as the British princess (later queen) Victoria. Sailors, armchair travelers, history buffs, and lovers of pulse-quickening maritime stories will find this book as seductive as the siren song of the sea.

30 review for Before the Wind: The Memoir of an American Sea Captain, 1808-1833

  1. 5 out of 5

    JwW White

    Wonderful book. A long-lost diary of an early nineteenth century sailor and eventually ship's captain. Descendants of Tyng found his hand written diaries more than a hundred years after the author's death and had them produced as a book. The story is authentic, honest, and reflects the harsh realities of life as a sailor. This is a great book for any adventure fan and especially for the avid sailor. The only negative is that the author stopped writing long before his career as a ship's captain e Wonderful book. A long-lost diary of an early nineteenth century sailor and eventually ship's captain. Descendants of Tyng found his hand written diaries more than a hundred years after the author's death and had them produced as a book. The story is authentic, honest, and reflects the harsh realities of life as a sailor. This is a great book for any adventure fan and especially for the avid sailor. The only negative is that the author stopped writing long before his career as a ship's captain ended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    Charles Tyng (1801-1879) was born to a prosperous upper-middle class family, but his mother died when he was seven, and Tyng thereafter seemed unable to apply himself to his studies, at least not enough to prepare himself for Harvard, as was typical for males in his family. Sent to sea at age thirteen, Tyng matured quickly and, by his early twenties, he was captaining his own ships. At the conclusion of this memoir, when Tyng was in his early 30s and had clearly joined the merchant class, he had Charles Tyng (1801-1879) was born to a prosperous upper-middle class family, but his mother died when he was seven, and Tyng thereafter seemed unable to apply himself to his studies, at least not enough to prepare himself for Harvard, as was typical for males in his family. Sent to sea at age thirteen, Tyng matured quickly and, by his early twenties, he was captaining his own ships. At the conclusion of this memoir, when Tyng was in his early 30s and had clearly joined the merchant class, he had already had experienced enough sailing adventures for several lifetimes, including encounters with sharks, pirates, typhoons, mutinies, shipwrecks, ice bergs, and cholera. Twice he effectively took charge of a ship while technically a passenger. That Tyng survived to write this incomplete memoir near the end of his life can be credited both to his pluck and (sometimes incredible) luck. Despite limited formal education, Tyng remained curious about his surroundings, had a storyteller’s gift, and wrote with remarkable verve and sometimes even humor. For instance, after some fellow sailors told him their ship was haunted, Tyne listened carefully to noises from the hold and discovered it to be the cook, sleeping on empty molasses casks, “snoring tremendously” and “producing a most unearthly sound.”

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kim Zinkowski

    A+.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Eunice

    Interesting read about life at sea in the 1800s. Captain Tyng was much more than a captain. He appreciated art, business, and good company. Loved this adventure!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Otis

    An excellent memoir from the 19th century. Reading this in the time of COVID-19, the last few pages on cholera are fascinating.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Avis Black

    It's pretty good until about 2/3rds of the way in, where it starts to describe the author's maritime business ventures. At this point, the narrative bogs down and turns very dreary indeed. The author gets into a lot of trouble once he becomes a shipowner due to his lack of oversight. He keeps trying to buy/charter unseaworthy vessels because he doesn't check them out, and he keeps picking lousy crews/captains because he doesn't check them out either. If the book had been edited down, it would ha It's pretty good until about 2/3rds of the way in, where it starts to describe the author's maritime business ventures. At this point, the narrative bogs down and turns very dreary indeed. The author gets into a lot of trouble once he becomes a shipowner due to his lack of oversight. He keeps trying to buy/charter unseaworthy vessels because he doesn't check them out, and he keeps picking lousy crews/captains because he doesn't check them out either. If the book had been edited down, it would have been better.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kelley Jansson

    A memoir from the early 19th century, this text offers a "wicked" view of a Boston mariner's life on the high seas. Tyng traveled between the Continents with such ease, it was hard to believe his tales were 200-years old. It seems that the world has been "flat," in terms of trade, for a long time; at least Tyng never thought otherwise. We are all lucky that both Tyng and his text survived as he narrowly escaped death a number of times. A big thank you to the Peabody Essex Museum and Tyng family m A memoir from the early 19th century, this text offers a "wicked" view of a Boston mariner's life on the high seas. Tyng traveled between the Continents with such ease, it was hard to believe his tales were 200-years old. It seems that the world has been "flat," in terms of trade, for a long time; at least Tyng never thought otherwise. We are all lucky that both Tyng and his text survived as he narrowly escaped death a number of times. A big thank you to the Peabody Essex Museum and Tyng family members for preserving this marvelous slice of maritime history.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Karin

    This book was a vivid personal account of someone who'd been sent to sea at age 12 during the era of the China Trade ships, early 19th century. He wrote with such an objective eye about the most frightening and intriguing experiences. He was managing his own ship as a young man; many of his travels give poignant insight into the past. Every one growing up should read it instead of a traditional history course. Loved it. This book was a vivid personal account of someone who'd been sent to sea at age 12 during the era of the China Trade ships, early 19th century. He wrote with such an objective eye about the most frightening and intriguing experiences. He was managing his own ship as a young man; many of his travels give poignant insight into the past. Every one growing up should read it instead of a traditional history course. Loved it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    My partner and I both really enjoyed this book. Charles Tyng's life had all the features of an excellent seafaring novel- villains, storms, shipwrecks, pirates, fortunes made and lost. The story begins immediately after the Revolutionary War so it is a window into a fascinating period of American history as well as a good yarn. My partner and I both really enjoyed this book. Charles Tyng's life had all the features of an excellent seafaring novel- villains, storms, shipwrecks, pirates, fortunes made and lost. The story begins immediately after the Revolutionary War so it is a window into a fascinating period of American history as well as a good yarn.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Elise White

    One of the most amazing books I have read. So thoroughly enjoyable and gripping, but yet so understated. The memoir of Charles Tyng from age 7 to 32. He lived to be almost 80. From losing his mother to becoming a sea captain and sailing all over the world many, many times. Escaping death from storms, diseases, pirates and mutiny as many times! Amazing and fascinating!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ken Bickley

    Fascinating journal of a merchant captain during the formative years of American sea power. The writing style is remarkably readable for a book of that period. I recommend it to anyone interested in American history or in ships and the sea.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Xdw

    very good first person account

  13. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Absolutely 100% LOVED this book. . . except for the ending. I wanted it to go on and on and on. If you like 19th century history, AND a great story, this book delivers.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Monica

  15. 5 out of 5

    George King

  16. 4 out of 5

    David August

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cambell Camshaft

  18. 5 out of 5

    Nina

  19. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

  20. 5 out of 5

    Laura

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Koppe

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Ramos

  23. 4 out of 5

    William Egger

  24. 5 out of 5

    DMcQH

  25. 5 out of 5

    Charlie Burrow

  26. 4 out of 5

    Erik

  27. 4 out of 5

    Margie

  28. 5 out of 5

    Luis Menchu

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Parrack

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kyle DeCicco-carey

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