Monday, January 17, 2011


I first picked up a copy of MANY CARGOES by W.W. Jacobs while staying overnight at the Tintswalo at Waterfall hotel in Johannesburg South Africa in 2009. I very much enjoyed the few stories I was able to read before I had to return it to the Hotel's bookcase. The book was first published in 1896.  When I got my Kindle I found I was able to download MANY CARGOES (Annotated) for a very nominal fee. So I did. W.W. Jacobs father was a dock worker in the Wapping part of London. So it seems only natural that Jacobs writing would be influenced by the tales of  Captains and crew of the boats that docked there. This book is full of  such characters on the merchant boats that sailed the area over one hundred years ago. The stories should give any sailor a good chuckle or two in reading them. For example there is the tale of a Captain who fancies himself more of a doctor than Captain much to the dismay of the crew:
'He's half crazy on doctoring. We nearly had a mutiny aboard once owing to his wanting to hold a post-mortem on a man what fell from the mast-head Wanted to see what the poor feller died of.'" "I call it unwholesome,' ses the second mate very savage. 'He offered me a pill at breakfast the size of a small marble; quite put me off my feed, it did.'
In another tale called IN MID ATLANTIC a Captain has a premonition: 
"We was about ten days out, an' still slipping along in this spanking way, when all of a sudden things changed. I,was at the wheel with the second mate one night, when the skipper, whose name was Brown, came up from below in a uneasy sort o' fashion, and stood looking at us for some time without speaking. Then at last he sort o' makes up his mind, and ses he—"'Mr. McMillan, I've just had a most remarkable experience, an' I don't know what to do about it.'
'"Yes, sir?' ses Mr. McMillan.
"' Three times I 've been woke up this night by something shouting in my ear, "Steer nor'-nor'-west!"' ses the cap'n very solemnly, '" Steer nor'-nor'-west!" that's all it says. The first time I thought it was somebody got into my cabin skylarking, and I laid for 'em with a stick, but 1 've heard it three times, an' there's nothing there.'
"' It's a supernatural warning,' ses the second mate, who had a great uncle once who had the second sight, and was the most unpopular man of his family, because he always knew what to expect, and laid his plans according.
"' That's what I think,' ses the cap'n. 'There's some poor shipwrecked fellow creatures in distress.'
Well, the Captain does eventually steer the boat nor'-nor'-west against the heated objections of the First Mate. The ship does come upon a sailor in "distress" but, not because of the reason you may think. You'll have to read the story to find out why. The books title MANY CARGOES certainly describes the twenty one short stories that were full of Captains, crew and landlubbers who find themselves in humorous situations on board various boats and ships.  Even though the book was published over one hundred years ago the stories still hold up today. Though Jacobs writing is very humorous in this collection he may be more famous for some of his more macabre stories like the Monkey's Paw. Still, I can recommend Many Cargoes as a book that would bring a lot of chuckles while reading it for most sailors.

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