The Golden Ocean - Patrick O'Brian
This book is concerns the first three years of the nautical career of Peter Palafox, son of the curate of a poor parish in the west of Ireland, who shipped as a midshipman in 1740 as Commodore Anson took a squadron to the Pacific to destroy Spanish commerce, and hopefully come home loaded with Spanish gold.

It's a light-hearted adventure story, celebrating the joy of pushing through hardships to foreign lands to fight for riches (and coming home to a good woman's love, in the most traditional manner; the whole thing is absolutely typical of the genre as described in The Oxford Book of Adventure Stories). It's full of comedy (though O'Brian sets up some of his gags a little too obviously -- he got a bit subtler later on in his writing career) and warm camaraderie. The author's characteristic mannerisms of writing are here, but he's nonetheless very good, capable of some splendid passages. Fans of the Aubrey-Maturin series, if they read this book, will notice that O'Brian re-used versions of a few of its scenes and characters in the later series.