Monday, October 29, 2007

Tea & Spice And Everything Nice

Thanks to the inter-library loan system, I just received “The Romance of the Clipper Ships” from a college in another part of the state. It’s not quite the edition I remember, so I’ll check again to see if there is an expanded version. This seems to be an abridgement of a larger edition, possibly the one I want to buy from Amazon, but I’d rather see it first and the inter-library loan is the best way to go.

These were the fast, cargo-laden ships that brought us tea and spices from the Far East. They were the fastest thing on the water at the time and, although far slower than today’s ships, still hold respectable records for daily runs.

The tea clipper “Cutty Sark,” all sail and still at dock in Greenwich, England; the “Flying Cloud,” and so many others. They raced from England to where the spices and teas were, then raced back.

Whoever wrote the words, “Calm seas and prosperous voyage,” never bothered to let the flatlanders know that you had one or the other. A prosperous voyage was when the winds roared and the seas towered; this was what the Cutty Sark was made for with (as far as I can tell) its 28 sails.

The romantic part of these ships is reading about them in the evening, with music playing and a steaming mug of tea at the ready. I doubt working aboard them was very romantic; conditions and livestyle must have been fairly rugged.


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