Originally published in Historic Naval Fiction.
In the Age of Sail the strength of wind and the height of waves in the southern ocean faced by ships rounding the Horn in winter were infamous, so from a book titled Hell Around the Horn you expect some pretty graphic descriptions of life at sea. Rick Spilman does not disappoint.
After an introduction from one of the crew in later life, the story starts as the windjammer Lady Rebecca takes on a cargo of coal and signs on crew at Tiger Bay, Cardiff, ready for a voyage to Chile. We then follow the vessel from the point of view of various officers, apprentices and crew, as well as the captain’s wife, as it faces seemingly never ending storms and the hardships lead to death and conflict aboard.
With Spilman’s graphic writing you get a real feel for the conditions they faced and the hardships of handling these large ships with minimal crew. Though this is a work of fiction it is based around a well documented voyage in the early 1900’s, a period rarely covered, and the descriptions of life aboard are as informative as a non-fiction work without overpowering the reader with minute detail.
Spilman’s familiarity with his subject shines through, and Hell Around the Horn is highly recommended to all lovers of tales of the sea.