The Sailing Master – Book One – Coming of Age by Lee Henschel Jr.

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Years ago I read Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and was captivated by the vivid portrayal of life on a British warship. In The Sailing Master-Coming of Age I found that same vivid portrayal and was once again transported to an age when nations relied on their navies for protection and for exploration. The author gives a wonderful account of what it took to man and sail a warship, often in chaotic conditions. While O’Brian focused on the doings of and the relationship between the captain and his surgeon/spy, the focus here is on the crew; especially the young boys who live a rough existence doing the bidding of officers and crew.  The protagonist, Owen Harriet, is taken on as cabin boy for his uncle, the captain of the frigate Eleanor. It’s a tough learning curve for a 12 year old when he finds himself alone and fearful. However, his innate intelligence is put to use as he is tutored by Eleanor’s sailing master, and in a nice twist he gets involved in espionage with a mysterious diplomatic passenger.  The author, by his descriptive abilities, makes the reader feel the roll of the ship in heavy seas, entertains the reader with the conversational patois of the crew, and shows the reader the best and the worst qualities of the men on Eleanor. I really enjoyed this book, a tale of many layers, and not just a few surprises. 5 stars

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