The Way of a Ship | Penguin Random House Canada

The Way of a Ship

A Square-Rigger Voyage in the Last Days of Sail

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From the author of Godforsaken Sea -- a #1 bestseller in Canada and “one of the best books ever written about sailing” (Time magazine) -- comes a magnificent re-creation of a square-rigger voyage round Cape Horn at the end of the 19th century.

In The Way of a Ship, Derek Lundy places his seafaring great-great uncle, Benjamin Lundy, on board the Beara Head and brings to life the ship’s community as it performs the exhausting and dangerous work of sailing a square-rigger across the sea.

The “beautiful, widow-making, deep-sea” sailing ships could sail fast in almost all weather and carry substantial cargo. Handling square-riggers demanded detailed and specialized skills, and life at sea, although romanticized by sea-voyage chroniclers, was often brutal. Seamen were sleep deprived and malnourished, at times half-starved, and scurvy was still a possibility. Derek Lundy reminds readers what Melville and Conrad expressed so well: that the sea voyage is an overarching metaphor for life itself. As Benjamin Lundy nears the Horn and its attendant terrors, the traditional qualities of the sailor -- fatalism, stoicism, courage, obedience to a strict hierarchy, even sentimentality -- are revealed in their dying days, as sail gave way to steam.

Derek Lundy tells his gripping tale with the kind of storytelling skill and writerly breadth that is usually the ken of our finest novelists, and in so doing, imagines a harrowing and wholly credible history for his seafaring Irish-Canadian ancestor.


Them was the days, sonnies,
Them was the men,
Them was the ships
As we’ll never see again.

C. Fox Smith, “What the Old Man Said”

To snatch in a moment of courage, from the remorseless rush of time,
a passing phase of life . . .
Joseph Conrad,...
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“Armchair adventurers will devour this book about a trip around Cape Horn during the last days of great sailing ships.... Lundy knows the beauty of the sea as well as its malign influence.... A terrific read -- tough, hardy and strong.” -- Alan Hustak, The Gazette (Montreal)

“Lundy’s ocean is as real and nuanced and true as Emma Bovary. [His] exhaustive research shows through every fascinating aside about the minutiae of rigging and the social order of sailors.” -- Kevin Patterson, Globe and Mail, 26 October 2002

“Lundy explores the lives of ordinary seamen in the dying days of sail. Lundy does this admirably, recreating their skill and courage as well as the meanness of their unforgiving shipbound existence…..The strength of the book lies in Lundy’s use of the skills that made his 1988 Godforsaken Sea a bestseller…. He understands the lore and has a passion for the material, delivering powerful and occasionally poetic descriptions, sprinkled with the musings of the best writers about the sea.” -- The Toronto Star

“Agreeably discursive….There is also plenty of lore….He succeeds, for the voyage ends with us knowing precisely what a sailor meant when, meeting yet another heartbreak, he exclaimed, ‘Who’d sell a farm?’ It was the short way of crying ‘Who’d sell a farm and go to sea?’” -- National Post

“For the serious sailor, this way of a ship will be desirable reading…. This account is saturated with wonderful detail on every aspect of a late-19th century voyage…. [the] ship is peopled with
realistic characters…. The Way of a Ship serves well as a story of what life was like for thousands of nameless seamen, many lost to sea, and until now to history.” -- Edmonton Journal

“Derek Lundy’s new book, The Way of a Ship, takes a number of different tacks to paint a complete picture of life aboard a four-masted square-rigger in the dying dails of sail….Anyone with even a modest interest in sailing ships will find The Way of a Ship an engrossing, entertaining, if at times overwhelming read.” -- The Chronicle-Herald, Halifax

“Fascinating. I don't think I've ever read anything that so authoritatively brings to life what it was like to sail a square-rigged vessel.” -- Nathaniel Philbrick, author of In the Heart of the Sea

The Way of a Ship … is ultimately a hearfelt paean to the hard men of that era and technology, to the thousands who were wrecked or swept overboard or went missing, presumed lost.” -- Quill & Quire

Praise for Godforsaken Sea:
“Dramatic . . . Powerful . . . Remarkable . . . Derek Lundy’s riveting and wonderfully expressive chronicle [is] a compelling example of creative non-fiction at its best.” -- Ottawa Citizen

“Lundy does a wonderful job . . . the writing is superb and engaging.” -- The Globe and Mail

“In his eloquent Godforsaken Sea . . . Lundy not only makes stirring narrative drama but also draws the lineaments of an archetypal hero, a human driven by fear, addicted to adrenalin, in need of the edge.” -- The New York Times

"One of the best books ever written about sailing. Lundy's knowledge of sea lore and history is rich, his pace perfect, his intelligence full of energy." -- Time

"Goes beyond the events at hand to explore our fascination with the sea, and, as [Lundy] quotes Melville, 'the tiger heart that pants beneath it.'" -- Outside