Joseph Conrad amazes me. He mastery of the English language is remarkable - it's his third language! He writes better than many native English writers. And, he knows how to write an actually interesting sea story! I haven't enjoyed any of the Melville stories I've read - Moby Dick, Benito Cereno, Billy Budd (and Bartleby, but it's not a sea story) and I didn't care for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I'm also currently reading Cloud Atlas and wanted to give up during the first section with the dreadful sea voyage journal, but fortunately stayed with it and am enjoying now that that part is over for now!
In the short story Youth, Conrad uses Marlow, the same narrator from Heart of Darkness, to narrate this story. Marlow is with a group of friends, telling them a story about his first trip as a second mate 22 years earlier. It's a story of disaster after disaster - it takes them three months just to leave England! In the story, Marlow remains optimistic that everything will work out, but the present day Marlow knows that youth disappears as quickly as a ship can burn.
I really enjoyed this short story, and this reminded of how much I like Conrad. I may have to move Lord Jim up in my reading pile.