Crusoe Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail

Robinson Crusoe was one of the first Best Sellers and has captured the imagination for generations. This new book takes a 300th Anniversary of publication look at the book, the author, the wider subject. – Very Highly Recommended

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NAME: Crusoe Castaways and Shipwrecks in the Perilous Age of Sail
FILE: R2866
AUTHOR: Mike Rendell
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back 
PAGES: 151
PRICE: £19.99
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: Pirates, mutineers, shipwrecks, storm, sail power, ship rig, drowning, 
storms, survivors, deserted islands, self-sufficiency, rescue, castaways, banishment

ISBN: 1-52674-474-2

IMAGE: B2866.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y479jfyz
LINKS:  
DESCRIPTION: Robinson Crusoe was one of the first Best Sellers and has captured 
the imagination for generations. This new book takes a 300th Anniversary of 
publication look at the book, the author, the wider subject. –   Very Highly 
Recommended

Daniel Foe was a flawed character who wrote 'Robinson Crusoe'. The book became 
a best seller and has remained popular through the three hundred years since it was 
published, a remarkable achievement for any author. His life and background are 
examined by Mike Rendell and present a pretty fair picture of a character who 
generally failed at most of the things he undertook. The exceptions being his success 
in squandering money from his wife's family and his crowning success with 
'Robinson Crusoe'.

The author has looked at the claims and legends about the origins of the character 
Robinson Crusoe and at a selection of wrecks, disasters, survival and stranding. This 
makes into a fascinating book that also captures the high risks of sailing in the 17th , 
18th  and early 19th Centuries.

With the rapid expansion of the British Empire, the Royal Navy was also expanding 
and stamping its supremacy on naval power. The French and Spanish still had 
substantial fleets of warships and their own colonies, as did the Dutch. However, the 
sea was a lawless place with many pirates and privateers, the difference between 
them being no more than Letters of Compensation and Retribution, or Letters of 
Mark, issued by a naval power to armed vessels in time of war when the private 
warships were authorized to attack and seize ships and cargoes of the enemy.

Command at sea was enforced ruthlessly and often brutally. With naval vessels, 
when many in the crew were pressed into service against their will, the necessary, 
but cruel, enforcement of authority led to mutiny, of which the story of HMS Bounty 
is perhaps the best known. The mutineers did kill their officers on occasion but 
frequently either put them ashore on a remote and deserted island, or put them in an 
open boat. Life was little better on many merchant ships and a similar fate awaited 
the officers. When naval crews mutinied they were most likely to find some where 
to come ashore, sinking their ship to avoid being found and hanged. When merchant 
ship crews mutinied, they often became pirates, making new use of their vessel.

Although mutiny by crews was relatively rare, life at sea was enormously dangerous, 
particularly for merchant ships, their crews and any passengers. A fundamental risk 
was that there was very little control over the construction and use of ships, or the 
qualifications of their officers and crews. Owners were always looking for ways of 
reducing costs and the obvious way of cutting cost was in delaying refits and the 
purchase of new ropes and sails. That increased the already high risk of sailing ships 
in some terrible storm conditions. Unlike modern shipping, the captains had no global 
weather forecasts or accurate all-weather navigation equipment. The charts of the day 
also left much to be desired. As a result, a ship could end up a considerable distance 
off the planned course, especially when the ship had run for days before a storm with 
no opportunity to take 'sun shots' to establish a position. Equally, a captain could sail 
his ship directly towards a violent storm, only realizing the danger when he was too 
close to take avoiding action and sail around the worst of the conditions.

Given all of the risks of the age, sinkings of ships were common and many vanished 
without any trace. That introduced another danger. Owners who had run out of ways 
of cutting cost decided to deliberately lose a ship after heavily insuring it and its 
cargo. 'Coffin Ships' were a regular fear for crews because most would perish in the 
sinking and only a small number involved in the sabotage who be able to plan an 
escape. This progressively led to the adoption in the 19th Century of 'Standards', such 
as the Plimsoll Line, to govern the construction of ships their loading and operation.
 Insurance companies became increasingly effective in identifying fraudulent sinkings 
of vessels. This progress has largely eliminated the events covered in this book, but 
not entirely. Piracy is still a reality in the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, South 
America and the South Seas. Ships are still deliberately sunk and can be victims of 
freak weather, structural and mechanical failure, and errors by captain and crew.