The World a New Picture of Itself
The boy first learned of the sea by meeting old sailors, guessed Alan Villiers.
Such sea wanderers, always ready for a yam, thronged the streets of the seaport towns of northern England.
And James Cook’s mother, Grace, and his Scottish father, James Senior,
a day laborer in the fields who had worked his way up to managing a farm, saw to it that their son had a good education.
The farm owner saw merit in this hard-working young famil y and paid for the boy’s schooling.
At 16he gotajobasapprentice in a general store in a coastal town near the thriving seaport of Whitby.
Whit by, fronting on the North Sea, was full of the comings and goings of sailing ships-ships from Baltic,
Captain Cook Offers Mediterranean and even American and far away Indian ports,
bringing in the products of the wide world in England ‘s growing trade of the later 1700s.
But the main trade from Whitby was in coal, carried some 200 miles south to the crowded houses and multifarious industries of the great and growing metropolis of London.
This was the easiest way for a young man to get to sea.
The coal trade was carried by a special bluff-bowed breed of coasting vessels known as “cats”.
The cat was a small bark, broad of beam and flat-bottomed, suitable for working the sandy shallows of the Thames estuary leading in from.
Captain Cook Offers the North Sea 30 miles upstream to London.
She was lightly rigged to save on crew costs, but ruggedly built to take the stress of grounding with a heavy cargo in the ship ‘s capacious hold.
It was on one of these bulky, 450-ton ships, the Freelove, owned by a Quaker sea captain, John Walker of Whitby, that James Cook first put to sea.
He was 18. Going to sea as apprentice only three years short of achieving his majority at age 21 meant only three years instead of seven or more to learn the seaman ‘s trade,
and only three years of virtually free labor for the shipowner.
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