In 1803, at the age of 14, Robert Hay ran away from home to join the Royal Navy, and for the next eight years experienced the trials and tribulations of a sailor s life. Intelligent, agile and willing, he became a boy servant to a series of officers, all of whom helped advance his education as was the practice of the day. But the taxing conditions of life onboard he found detestable and he was, after an action off the French coast, sorely tempted to desert but the well known and ruthless treatment of deserters, if caught, deterred him this time. He was then posted to the East Indies where he was badly wounded and nearly lost a leg before returning home after five years with £14 and fourteen days leave to look forward to. His next ship ran aground off Plymouth and, this time, he took the opportunity to desert but was then quickly taken by a press gang. Terrified of being identified, he managed to escape and reach the Scotland and home. As well as a wonderful yarn, the book is also an impressive description of early nineteenth-century naval life, and his ability as a writer was considerable. His descriptions of his remarkable experiences in the East Indies are full of the flavour of the region, while the sailor s natural inclination to drink and debauchery is told with verve. But also running through the narrative are many fine observations on nature and on the human condition. A true and vivid account of the sailor s life of this era.
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Resolu examination ship and Salvador
from 31 December 1803
Rear Admiral Sir Edward Pellew voyage
Arrival in the East Indies Pulopenang
14 February10 July 1809
HMS Amethyst we are wrecked and I
By coach to London the press gang
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admiral admiral’s Amethyst anchor arrack arrived ashore Barnstaple became berth boat bosun’s mate Bristol Channel captain carpenter carpenter’s Cawsand Bay clothing coast considerable number Crease crew Culloden Dasher desert Dunsterville duty Edward Edward Hawke Eling enemy England escape eyes father fleet frequently Greenock grog guard ship hammock Hamoaze hands harbour Hay’s HMS Culloden hoist honour hope immediately India Jamaica joined King’s service knew land learned leave lieutenant Locker Madras Maldon master masts merchant miles morning mother Mutton Cove native naval Navy never night officer ourselves passage passed Patterson Pemberton piece Plymouth port press gang pretty procured quarterdeck ratline reached repaired Robert Hay rope sail sailors Salvador del Mundo Scotland seamen seemed seen sent servant ship’s shipmates shore shoulders soon spritsail stow holes thought told took trade Vellore vessel voyage wages warships watch wind