Friday, December 28

The Sailing Master - a Brief Review

“The Sailing Master” 
By Lee Henschel Jr.

a mini review by Tony Gerard

This is my first time reviewing a novel and maybe I’m not the best guy for the job. Among historic re-enactors I tend to be what is referred to as a “button counter”. In other words I get caught up in small details of historical accuracy in both material and social culture.  Several of my nonhistorian friends now refuse to go to historic movies with me. They say I ruin the movie with my constant complaints about historic authenticity. During “New World” my girlfriend at the time actually got up and moved several seats away from me.

That being said, the author of “The Sailing Master” asked me to review his historic novel, so here goes….

The novel is set in 1798, the main character being a ship’s boy on a Royal Navy frigate. Right away (page 3 ) I found a couple of historic faux pas – the captain is described as having a beard, definitely not the style for a late 18th   century gentleman, and putting his thumbs in his belt loops. Belt loops didn’t appear until the early 20th century. But Mr. Henschel was kind enough to send me a free copy, so I kept reading and then… I was caught up in the story.  It’s definitely a fun read. I’m the kind of guy who goes to bed early (9pm) on a weeknight. I stayed up late reading two nights in a row.

The story is told in first person, but it’s written in a faster paced 20th century style. Henschel does throw in enough 18th century words and phrases to give the casual (read non- button counter) reader the feel of an 18th century narrative. The characters definitely have a modern mindset within a historic setting. This is especially obvious in the disrespect with which the Captain treats captured enemy officers – just not done in the 18th century by gentlemen.

Having said that it is obvious that Henschel knows sailing and 18th century navigation. That comes across and is a plus in my opinion.  

The novel is an adventure/mystery story. Several aspects are not that real life believable, but who cares? Think Michael Crighton rather than Patrick O’Brian. The story is fast paced and it kept my interest. That’s what kept me up. I was always reading just a bit more to see how this turned out, but by the time “this” was resolved there was something else- and I had to see how that turned out. As much as I love the Aubry/Maturin series I never had trouble putting it down to pick up again later. Not so for “The Sailing Master”. Be forewarned, just like real life, Henschel can take away a character you might have begun to like with no apologies. Also be warned, the book is meant to be the first of a series, and it ends as cliff hanger. I, for one, look forward to seeing what happens to ship’s boy Owen Harriet.

Thursday, December 27

HMS Victory, a Virtual Tour

 Special thanks to JASNA -GL member Janet Abell for allowing us to make use of the pictures she took aboard HMS Victory during her most recent visit to England, September 2013.

Tuesday, December 25

A Happy Christmas for the Acasta

'Acasta and the Herald 1812', click on image to visit the original painting
It was to be a Happy Christmas indeed when, on this very day (in 1812), the Acasta in the company of HMS Poictiers overtook and captured the American Privateer Herald as she and her prizes were bound for Baltimore. She had two other vessels with her, the Friendship and the Little Catharine.

The Herald, being a ship of only 10 guns and barely 50 men, was no match for the combined might of the Poictiers and the Acasta. According to the reports I've heard from the Acastas that have been aboard the Friendship, she has a fortune in cargo aboard her, a fine Christmas present for every man in the crew (in terms of prize money that is). 

U.S. Privateer- Herald 
Class- Brig.
Commanded by- .............
Out of- New York
Ships- 1
Brigs- 1
Schrs- 1
Sloops &c.- 0
Cargo, and estimated value- =$400,000

During the War with Great Britain, from 1812 to 1815.
The Cargo of the ship Friendship alone was estimated as per table; the brig was the packet Little Catharine of 6 guns. This cruiser was subsequently captured by the Acasta and Poictiers at sea, December 25, 1812.

George Foster Emmons, The navy of the United States, from the commencement, 1775 to 1853; with a brief history of each vessel’s service and fate ... Comp. by Lieut. George F. Emmons ... under the authority of the Navy Dept. To which is added a list of private armed vessels, fitted out under the American flag ... also a list of the revenue and coast survey vessels, and principal ocean steamers, belonging to citizens of the United States in 1850. ( Washington: Gideon & Co., 1853.) page 180, 181