Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Master and Commander

People are curious about the sounds and feelings of living on a boat. I am frequently asked what it's like to live here, usually after a windstorm has gone thru the area. If you wanted to know what that sounds like, I'd suggest you rent the movie Master and Commander. In the opening scenes, the sound of the wind in the rigging is accurately captured - it sounds there exactly like it does here on Eolian when the wind is up.

The movie is an accurate depiction of nautical life (in the 18th century) in other respects as well:
  • Life in the fo'c'sle (forecastle) was very much rougher than life for the officers or the midshipmen.
  • These ships were crowded. Aside from the need for a lot of hands to man the rigging of a large windborne ship, recall that each cannon required a crew of six to operate. The HMS Surprise (125 feet long) was a 24 gun ship, meaning that 72 men were needed to fire the guns on one side, plus powder monkeys and other auxilliaries to keep them supplied. And then there were the Marines (ship-borne soldiers).
  • Luxurious tho the captain's quarters were (at least in comparison to the fo'c'sle), they were temporary. When the ship was made ready for battle, the quarters were completely torn down, making the area available for working the stern guns
  • The damage caused by a 32 lb iron ball traveling at a high rate of speed is devastating. Most injuries were caused by flying splinters resulting from the impacts.
  • The square meal was shown - "china" for the fo'c'sle was a simple wood plank
  • The officers were frequently what today we would call children.
  • Tho shown in the movie theatre, the scene showing the use of the head resides in the "Deleted scenes" section on the DVD. The head of the ship is the front. There were no "sanitary facilities" provided for the fo'c'sle crew - they were expected to go to the head, climb out into the bowsprit rigging, and drop trousers there. The deleted scene shows this in passing, when the HMS Surprise is rounding Cape Horn - a most unpleasant experience to be sure.
  • Medical care (when the ship carried a doctor) was primitive.
  • And shown so very well - the ship at sea is truly a world of its own. Completely isolated, and necessarily self sufficient.
We have this DVD aboard - it is one of the two required DVD's for liveaboards (the other being Captain Ron). I cannot recommend strongly enough that you see this DVD - not necessarily for the story line, but for the accurate depiction of life at sea in the 18th century.


Dennis @ Discount Marine Electronics said...

"Master and Commander" is definately a good movie. There are some excellent battle scenes too.

Drew Frye said...

And read "two Years Before the Mast" by Dana for the merchant equivalent.

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