This is the story of a voyage of a sailing ship from Baltimore to Seattle, east-to-west around Cape Horn in the winter. It is set in 1913 and the glory days of "wooden ships and iron men" are long over. The Elsinore is a four-masted iron sailing vessel carrying a cargo of 5000 tons of coal. She has a "bughouse" crew of misfits and incompetents.
This book was published in 1915 and some actions of some of the characters seem odd to us today. There is romance, but it is strangely platonic. Two important characters disappear with no real explanation. The disparity between the officers on the one hand and the fo'c'sle on the other is striking (literally). Some people will be offended by the bigotry.