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Fifteen-year-old Thach goes to work for the great Donald McKay making drawings of his plans for the clipper ship Flying Cloud. The ship completed, Thach becomes an apprentice, sails around the Horn, is initiated by “Neptune,” contends with mutineers, and nearly loses his life in a shipboard fire.
Mocked by the other boys because of his fear of the sea, Mafatu secretly takes a small boat and leaves his village. Alone on a terrifying ocean voyage, the boy, son of a Polynesian chief, overcomes his fear of the sea.