ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Great Books about Ships at Sea

Updated on January 1, 2016

People’s imaginations have always been captured by the dream of setting sail to faraway lands. Legends, songs, and stories have long reflected this romantic obsession with life aboard ship. Those who listened to fireside tales or opened the pages of an adventure novel set at sea didn’t do so to read about peaceful sunsets under palm trees. What people hoped for was hair-raising accounts of dire voyages, perilous crossings, monstrous sea creatures, or murderous piratical crew. Writers have done their best to satisfy this desire for as long as they have been putting pen to paper.

Or even before that. One of the earliest sea stories, the epic poem, The Odyssey, was recited, not written, by the blind poet Homer more than 2000 years ago. The Odyssey is the story of Odysseus, King of Ithaca, who after spending ten years away from home at the walls of Troy, sets sail for his home in Ithaca. Offending the sea god Poseidon, he is cursed on his return voyage, spending another ten years wandering treacherous seas, facing tricks of devious gods and attacks by horrendous sea creatures. Odysseus at one point famously lashed himself to the mast so that he could hear the song of the sirens without going mad as his crew sailed the ship with their ears plugged.

Madness and obsession is always a dangerous thing. Aboard ship, it can be life threatening. In Moby Dick, Herman Melville’s classic 1851 story of obsession and revenge, Captain Ahab sets sail from Nantucket in the Pequod, a 19th century whaling ship, to seek the great white whale, Moby Dick, who took Ahab’s leg in an earlier voyage. Considered one of the greatest American novels, Moby Dick is a study of human passion and obsession, as well a fascinating account of whaling life in 19th century New England.

The Pequod was featured again more recently, along with Ahab and his crew, in another novel – the brilliant Ahab’s Wife, by Sena Jeter Naslund. Told from the point of view of a young woman with a salty history of her own, it gives a different perspective of events aboard the doomed Pequod. In addition, Una, Ahab’s wife, has her own harrowing adventures aboard another whaling ship, where she poses as a boy in order to follow friends to sea, with dire consequences.

Sometimes boats serve as the catalyst for disaster. In Walter Farley’s classic children’s story The Black Stallion, the boy Alec meets the fiery stallion, Black, when traveling aboard a tramp steamer with his father. Alec shows the spirited Black simple kindness. When an explosion causes the ship to sink, the boy and horse must struggle for their lives in the open ocean at night.

Times of war have always provided an exciting backdrop for stories of courage and daring at sea, and luckily for writers and readers, sea battles have been waged for as long as man has set sail. Patrick O’Brien authored a beloved series of novels that are as salty and adventurous as they come. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, the novels, starting with Master and Commander, follow the naval career of lucky Jack Aubrey, and his ship’s doctor Stephen Maturin, who is also an agent of the British government

The books are chockfull of naval battles, deadly storms, perilous voyages, shipwrecks, intrigue, and wit. Over the course of the series, some twenty novels, the characters sail in the HMS Surprise and other ships, circumnavigating the globe, with countless salty adventures along the way.

HMS Surprise
HMS Surprise

One of the most famous pirate stories of all time is Treasure Island, written by Robert Louis Stevenson.Treasure Island is the story of young Jack Hawkins, who stumbles upon a pirates’ treasure map at his mother’s Inn. Setting out to search for the treasure with a few others, Hawkins and his friends hire the ship Hispaniola. To his horror, Hawkins finds that he has unknowingly set sail in a ship manned by bloodthirsty pirates. Treasure Island is a fantastic story, and children’s adventure classic.

A boat need not be a grand ship to be an important part of a story. A simple dory boat will sometime do. A great story of a man pitted against the elements, Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, is about an old fisherman from Cuba, who, while fishing in a small open boat, manages to hook a big marlin on his hand line, and is towed out to sea by the fish. This is a powerful story told in Hemingway’s simple prose about man’s frailty in the face of the powerful forces of life.

Obsession, revenge, unlooked for friendship, treasure, pirates, and monster fish are just some of the fantastic elements that can be found in sea stories. Whether setting sail on a homemade raft down the Mississippi River with Huckleberry Finn; or on board a ship foundering in a storm of Shakespeare’s devising in The Tempest; novels set aboard ship offer an extra thrill – the thrill of the unknown and unpredictable element of life at sea.

Jangaplanet ©

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Jangaplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      A James Di Rodi 

      6 years ago

      I'll take you up on that Danila! I never visited the museum but I'v been in Milan so many times!

    • Jangaplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      A James Di Rodi 

      6 years ago

      @ scarytaff, thanks for the vote up!

      @ fordie, Yes a book should help but also a Movie would do the job lol. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Jangaplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      A James Di Rodi 

      6 years ago

      @ CMCastro, Thanks for stopping by! There are a lot of adventure books out there, all of which are great books! Thanks for suggesting the 'Adventure Series About Jacky Faber' - I've been meaning to look into that! I will stop by your hub and read it!

    • Jangaplanet profile imageAUTHOR

      A James Di Rodi 

      6 years ago

      @ point2make, thanks! I love the Sea as well and the majestic ships that once sailed the open water. I appreciate you stopping by, thanks again!

    • ArgentinaDanila profile image

      ArgentinaDanila 

      6 years ago

      Wow! What a beautiful hub! The only one I haven't read is The old man and the sea! The rest are all fantastic! Back in Argentina my brother has a collection of historical Ships. (not real ships) :)

      When you come to Italy I will show you the Milan museum of Ships they have here! I don't know if you've ever visited the Milan museum, but I'm almost sure you will like. Voting up and beautiful!

    • profile image

      fordie 

      6 years ago

      You are so right - I want and need to 'set sail to faraway lands'. Maybe a book or two will help control the urge for now

    • profile image

      Angelina 

      6 years ago

      Absolutely stunning photos! Your article was a pleasure to read! I have read some of these books-not all but most- and they are intriguing! Your Imagery took me away from every day reality and I actually started to dream about life at Sea! It was fun reading!

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      6 years ago from South Wales

      Thanks for reminding me of these great books. They are always worth reading again. Voted up.

    • CMCastro profile image

      Christina M. Castro 

      6 years ago from Baltimore,MD USA

      I enjoyed this hub, and it is nice to get a synopsis of books about the sea and its place in certain person's life. The ocean in reality is a mysterious place to discover and these stories, whether or not they are fictional prove to tell how many want to discover its treasures and why it relates to them. Of course, my most favorite book series about the sea and its adventures is highlighted in my hub, My Favorite Adventure Series About Jacky Faber By L A Meyer. I hope you will read it sometime, and discover that these books are quite related to all that you shared here. I look forward to discovering hubs by you. I think it is great when we fellow hubbers can share the same interest in the same subjects. Thank you so much and happy hubbing.

    • point2make profile image

      point2make 

      6 years ago

      I love this hub. I love the sea and I love the stories that have been written by those who have sailed the oceans both fiction or non fiction. These are great photos and selections. I have read almost every example you present here and would highly recommend all of them.

    • profile image

      Designstudio 

      6 years ago

      You got some pretty amazing pictures here. These novels are interesting.

      Great Job!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)