Part 2 out of 8
in their address, though with holes in their shoes and without
a sou in their pockets. The only interruption to the monotony
of their day seemed to be when a gust of wind drew round between
the mountains and blew off the boughs which they had placed for
roofs to their houses, and gave them a few minutes' occupation
in running about after them. One of these gusts occurred while
we were ashore, and afforded us no little amusement at seeing the
men look round, and if they found that their roofs had stood,
conclude that they might stand too, while those who saw theirs
blown off, after uttering a few Spanish oaths, gathered their
cloaks over their shoulders, and started off after them. However,
they were not gone long, but soon returned to their habitual
occupation of doing nothing.
It is perhaps needless to say that we saw nothing of the interior;
but all who have seen it, give very glowing accounts of it.
Our captain went with the governor and a few servants upon mules
over the mountains, and upon their return, I heard the governor
request him to stop at the island on his passage home, and offer
him a handsome sum to bring a few deer with him from California,
for he said that there were none upon the island, and he was very
desirous of having it stocked.
A steady, though light south-westerly wind carried us well off from
the island, and when I came on deck for the middle watch I could just
distinguish it from its hiding a few low stars in the southern horizon,
though my unpracticed eyes would hardly have known it for land.
At the close of the watch a few trade-wind clouds which had arisen,
though we were hardly yet in their latitude, shut it out from our view,
and the next day,
Thursday, Nov. 27th, upon coming on deck in the morning, we were
again upon the wide Pacific, and saw no more land until we arrived
upon the western coast of the great continent of America.
"TARRING DOWN"--DAILY LIFE--"GOING AFT"--CALIFORNIA
As we saw neither land nor sail from the time of leaving Juan Fernandez
until our arrival in California, nothing of interest occurred except
our own doing on board. We caught the south-east trades, and run
before them for nearly three weeks, without so much as altering a
sail or bracing a yard. The captain took advantage of this fine
weather to get the vessel in order for coming upon the coast.
The carpenter was employed in fitting up a part of the steerage
into a trade-room; for our cargo, we now learned, was not to be
landed, but to be sold by retail from on board; and this trade-room
was built for the samples and the lighter goods to be kept in,
and as a place for the general business. In the mean time we were
employed in working upon the rigging. Everything was set up taught,
the lower rigging rattled down, or rather rattled up, (according
to the modern fashion,) an abundance of spun-yarn and seizing-stuff
made, and finally, the whole standing-rigging, fore and aft, was
tarred down. This was my first essay at this latter business,
and I had enough of it; for nearly all of it came upon my friend
S----- and myself. The men were needed at the other work, and
M-----, the other young man who came out with us, was laid up with
the rheumatism in his feet, and the boy was rather too young and
small for the business; and as the winds were light and regular,
he was kept during most of the daytime at the helm; so that nearly
all the tarring came upon us. We put on short duck frocks, and
taking a small bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum in our hands we
went aloft, one at the main royal-mast-head and the other at the fore,
and began tarring down. This is an important operation, and is usually
done about once in six months in vessels upon a long voyage. It was
done in our vessel several times afterwards, but by the whole crew
at once, and finished off in a day; but at this time, as most of it
came upon two of us, and we were new at the business, it took us
several days. In this operation they always begin at the mast-head
and work down, tarring the shrouds, back-stays, standing parts of
the lifts, the ties, runners, etc., and go out to the yard-arms,
and come in, tarring, as they come, the lifts and foot-ropes.
Tarring the stays is more difficult, and is done by an operation
which the sailors call "riding down." A long piece of rope--
top-gallant-studding-sail halyards, or something of the kind--
is taken up to the mast-head from which the stay leads, and rove
through a block for a girt-line, or, as the sailors usually call it,
a gant-line; with the end of this a bowline is taken round the stay,
into which the man gets with his bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum,
and the other end being fast on deck, with some one to tend it, he
is lowered down gradually, and tars the stay carefully as he goes.
There he "sings aloft 'twixt heaven and earth," and if the rope slips,
breaks, or is let go, or if the bowline slips, he falls overboard or
breaks his neck. This, however, is a thing which never enters into
a sailor's calculation. He thinks only of leaving no holydays,
(places not tarred,) for in case he should, he would have to go
over the whole again; or of dropping no tar upon deck, for then
there would be a soft word in his ear from the mate. In this manner
I tarred down all the head-stays, but found the rigging about the
jib-booms, martingale, and spritsail yard, upon which I was afterwards
put, the hardest. Here you have to hang on with your eye-lids and tar
with your hands.
This dirty work could not last forever, and on Saturday night we
finished it, scraped all the spots from the deck and rails, and,
what was of more importance to us, cleaned ourselves thoroughly,
rolled up our tarry frocks and trowsers and laid them away for the
next occasion, and put on our clean duck clothes, and had a good
comfortable sailor's Saturday night. The next day was pleasant,
and indeed we had but one unpleasant Sunday during the whole voyage,
and that was off Cape Horn, where we could expect nothing better.
On Monday we commenced painting, and getting the vessel ready for
port. This work, too, is done by the crew, and every sailor who
has been long voyages is a little of a painter, in addition to his
other accomplishments. We painted her, both inside and out, from
the truck to the water's edge. The outside is painted by lowering
stages over the side by ropes, and on those we sat, with our brushes
and paint-pots by us, and our feet half the time in the water. This
must be done, of course, on a smooth day, when the vessel does not
roll much. I remember very well being over the side painting in this
way, one fine afternoon, our vessel going quietly along at the rate
of four or five knots, and a pilot-fish, the sure precursor of the
shark, swimming alongside of us. The captain was leaning over the
rail watching him, and we quietly went on with our work. In the
midst of our painting, on
Friday, Dec. 19th, we crossed the equator for the second time.
I had the feeling which all have when, for the first time, they find
themselves living under an entire change of seasons; as, crossing the
line under a burning sun in the midst of December, and, as I afterwards
was, beating about among ice and snow on the fourth of July.
Thursday, Dec. 25th. This day was Christmas, but it brought us no
holiday. The only change was that we had a "plum duff" for dinner,
and the crew quarrelled with the steward because he did not give us
our usual allowance of molasses to eat with it. He thought the plums
would be a substitute for the molasses, but we were not to be cheated
out of our rights in this way.
Such are the trifles which produce quarrels on shipboard. In fact,
we had been too long from port. We were getting tired of one another,
and were in an irritable state, both forward and aft. Our fresh
provisions were, of course, gone, and the captain had stopped our rice,
so that we had nothing but salt beef and salt pork throughout the week,
with the exception of a very small duff on Sunday. This added to the
discontent; and a thousand little things, daily and almost hourly
occurring, which no one who has not himself been on a long and tedious
voyage can conceive of or properly appreciate,--little wars and rumors
of wars,--reports of things said in the cabin,--misunderstanding of
words and looks,--apparent abuses,--brought us into a state in which
everything seemed to go wrong. Every encroachment upon the time
allowed for rest, appeared unnecessary. Every shifting of the
studding-sails was only to "haze"(1) the crew.
1. Haze is a word of frequent use on board ship, and never,
I believe, used elsewhere. It is very expressive to a sailor,
and means to punish by hard work. Let an officer once say,
"I'll haze you," and your fate is fixed. You will be
"worked up," if you are not a better man than he is.
In this midst of this state of things, my messmate S----- and myself
petitioned the captain for leave to shift our berths from the steerage,
where we had previously lived, into the forecastle. This, to our delight,
was granted, and we turned in to bunk and mess with the crew forward.
We now began to feel like sailors, which we never fully did when we were
in the steerage. While there, however useful and active you may be,
you are but a mongrel,--and sort of afterguard and "ship's cousin."
You are immediately under the eye of the officers, cannot dance, sing,
play, smoke, make a noise, or growl, (i.e. complain,) or take any
other sailor's pleasure; and you live with the steward, who is usually
a go-between; and the crew never feel as though you were one of them.
But if you live in the forecastle, you are "as independent as a
wood-sawyer's clerk," (nautice',) and are a sailor. You hear sailor's
talk, learn their ways, their peculiarities of feeling as well as
speaking and acting; and moreover pick up a great deal of curious
and useful information in seamanship, ship's customs, foreign countries,
etc., from their long yarns and equally long disputes. No man can be
a sailor, or know what sailors are, unless he has lived in the forecastle
with them--turned in and out with them, eaten of their dish and drank
of their cup. After I had been a week there, nothing would have tempted
me to go back to my old berth, and never afterwards, even in the worst
of weather, when in a close and leaking forecastle off Cape Horn,
did I for a moment wish myself in the steerage. Another thing which
you learn better in the forecastle than you can anywhere else, is,
to make and mend clothes, and this is indispensable to sailors.
A large part of their watches below they spend at this work, and here
I learned that art which stood me in so good stead afterwards.
But to return to the state of the crew. Upon our coming into the
forecastle, there was some difficulty about the uniting of the
allowances of bread, by which we thought we were to lose a few pounds.
This set us into a ferment. The captain would not condescend to explain,
and we went aft in a body, with a Swede, the oldest and best sailor of
the crew, for spokesman. The recollection of the scene that followed
always brings up a smile, especially the quarter-deck dignity and
eloquence of the captain. He was walking the weather side of the
quarter-deck, and seeing us coming aft, stopped short in his walk,
and, with a voice and look intended to annihilate us, called out,
"Well, what do you want now?" Whereupon we stated our grievances
as respectfully as we could, but he broke in upon us, saying that
we were getting fat and lazy, didn't have enough to do, and that made
us find fault. This provoked us, and we began to give word for word.
This would never answer. He clenched his fist, stamped and swore,
and sent us all forward, saying, with oaths enough interspersed to
send the words home,--"Away with you! go forward every one of you!
I'll haze you! I'll work you up! You don't have enough to do!
You've mistaken your man. I'm F----- T-----, all the way from
'down east.' I've been through the mill, ground, and bolted, and come
out a regular-built down-east johnny-cake, good when it's hot, but when
it's cold, sour and indigestible;--and you'll find me so!" The latter
part of the harangue I remember well, for it made a strong impression,
and the "down-east johnny-cake" became a by-word for the rest of the
voyage. So much for our petition for the redress of grievances.
The matter was however set right, for the mate, after allowing the
captain due time to cool off, explained it to him, and at night we
were all called aft to hear another harangue, in which, of course,
the whole blame of the misunderstanding was thrown upon us. We ventured
to hint that he would not give us time to explain; but it wouldn't do.
We were driven back discomforted. Thus the affair blew over, but the
irritation caused by it remained; and we never had peace or a good
understanding again so long as the captain and crew remained together.
We continued sailing along in the beautiful temperate climate of
the Pacific. The Pacific well deserves its name, for except in the
southern part, at Cape Horn, and in the western parts, near the
China and Indian oceans, it has few storms, and is never either
extremely hot or cold. Between the tropics there is a slight haziness,
like a thin gauze, drawn over the sun, which, without obstructing or
obscuring the light, tempers the heat which comes down with perpendicular
fierceness in the Atlantic and Indian tropics. We sailed well to the
westward to have the full advantage of the north-east trades, and when
we had reached the latitude of Point Conception, where it is usual to
make the land, we were several hundred miles to the westward of it.
We immediately changed our course due east, and sailed in that direction
for a number of days. At length we began to heave-to after dark, for fear
of making the land at night on a coast where there are no light-houses and
but indifferent charts, and at daybreak on the morning of
Tuesday, Jan 13th, 1835, we made the land at Point Conception,
lat 34º 32' N., long 120º 06' W. The port of Santa Barbara, to which
we were bound, lying about sixty miles to the southward of this point,
we continued sailing down the coast during the day and following night,
and on the next morning,
Jan. 14th, 1835, we came to anchor in the spacious bay of Santa Barbara,
after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days from Boston.
California extends along nearly the whole of the western coast of
Mexico, between the gulf of California in the south and the bay of
Sir Francis Drake on the north, or between the 22d and 38th degrees
of north latitude. It is subdivided into two provinces--Lower or
Old California, lying between the gulf and the 32d degree of latitude,
or near it; (the division line running, I believe, between the bay of
Todos Santos and the port of San Diego;) and New or Upper California,
the southernmost port of which is San Diego, in lat. 32º 39', and the
northernmost, San Francisco, situated in the large bay discovered by
Sir Francis Drake, in lat. 37º 58', and called after him by the English,
though the Mexicans call it Yerba Buena. Upper California has the seat
of its government at Monterey, where is also the custom-house, the only
one on the coast, and at which every vessel intending to trade on the
coast must enter its cargo before it can commence its traffic. We were
to trade upon this coast exclusively, and therefore expected to go to
Monterey at first; but the captain's orders from home were to put in
at Santa Barbara, which is the central port of the coast, and wait
there for the agent who lives there, and transacts all the business
for the firm to which our vessel belonged.
The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa Barbara,
is very large, being formed by the main land on one side, (between
Point Conception on the north and Point St. Buena Ventura on the south,)
which here bends in like a crescent, and three large islands opposite
to it and at the distance of twenty miles. This is just sufficient to
give it the name of a bay, while at the same time it is so large and
so much exposed to the south-east and north-west winds, that it is
little better than an open roadstead; and the whole swell of the
Pacific ocean rolls in here before a southeaster, and breaks with
so heavy a surf in the shallow waters, that it is highly dangerous
to lie near to the shore during the south-easter season; that is,
between the months of November and April.
This wind (the south-easter) is the bane of the coast of California.
Between the months of November and April, (including a part of each,)
which is the rainy season in this latitude, you are never safe from it,
and accordingly, in the ports which are open to it, vessels are obliged,
during these months, to lie at anchor at a distance of three miles from
the shore, with slip-ropes on their cables, ready to slip and go to sea
at a moment's warning. The only ports which are safe from this wind
are San Francisco and Monterey in the north, and San Diego in the south.
As it was January when we arrived, and the middle of the south-easter
season, we accordingly came to anchor at the distance of three miles
from the shore, in eleven fathoms water, and bent a slip-rope and
buoys to our cables, cast off the yard-arm gaskets from the sails,
and stopped them all with rope-yarns. After we had done this,
the boat went ashore with the captain, and returned with orders to
the mate to send a boat ashore for him at sundown. I did not go in
the first boat, and was glad to find that there was another going
before night; for after so long a voyage as ours had been, a few hours
is long to pass in sight and out of reach of land. We spent the day
on board in the usual avocations; but as this was the first time we
had been without the captain, we felt a little more freedom, and looked
about us to see what sort of a country we had got into, and were to
spend a year or two of our lives in.
In the first place, it was a beautiful day, and so warm that we had
on straw hats, duck trowsers, and all the summer gear; and as this
was mid-winter, it spoke well for the climate; and we afterwards
found that the thermometer never fell to the freezing-point throughout
the winter, and that there was very little difference between the
seasons, except that during a long period of rainy and south-easterly
weather, thick clothes were not uncomfortable.
The large bay lay about us, nearly smooth, as there was hardly a
breath of wind stirring, though the boat's crew who went ashore told
us that the long ground swell broke into a heavy surf upon the beach.
There was only one vessel in the port--a long, sharp brig of about
300 tons, with raking masts and very square yards, and English colors
at her peak. We afterwards learned that she was built at Guayaquil,
and named the Ayacucho, after the place where the battle was fought
that gave Peru her independence, and was now owned by a Scotchman
named Wilson, who commanded her, and was engaged in the trade between
Callao, the Sandwich Islands, and California. She was a fast sailer,
as we frequently afterwards perceived, and had a crew of Sandwich
Islanders on board. Beside this vessel there was no object to break
the surface of the bay. Two points ran out as the horns of the crescent,
one of which--the one to the westward--was low and sandy, and is that
to which vessels are obliged to give a wide berth when running out
for a south-easter; the other is high, bold, and well wooded, and,
we were told, has a mission upon it, called St. Buenaventura, from which
the point is named. In the middle of this crescent, directly opposite
the anchoring ground, lie the mission and town of Santa Barbara, on a
low, flat plain, but little above the level of the sea, covered with
grass, though entirely without trees, and surrounded on three sides
by an amphitheatre of mountains, which slant off to the distance of
fifteen or twenty miles. The mission stands a little back of the town,
and is a large building, or rather a collection of buildings, in the
centre of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells; and the
whole, being plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and is the
mark by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little nearer
to the beach--about half a mile from it--and is composed of one-story
houses built of brown clay--some of them plastered--with red tiles on
the roofs. I should judge that there were about an hundred of them;
and in the midst of them stands the Presidio, or fort, built of the
same materials, and apparently but little stronger. The town is
certainly finely situated, with a bay in front, and an amphitheatre
of hills behind. The only thing which diminishes its beauty is,
that the hills have no large trees upon them, they having been all
burnt by a great fire which swept them off about a dozen years before,
and they had not yet grown up again. The fire was described to me by
an inhabitant, as having been a very terrible and magnificent sight.
The air of the whole valley was so heated that the people were obliged
to leave the town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.
Just before sun-down the mate ordered a boat's crew ashore, and I
went as one of the number. We passed under the stern of the English
brig, and had a long pull ashore. I shall never forget the impression
which our first landing on the beach of California made upon me.
The sun had just gone down; it was getting dusky; the damp night wind
was beginning to blow, and the heavy swell of the Pacific was setting in,
and breaking in loud and high "combers" upon the beach. We lay on our
oars in the swell, just outside of the surf, waiting for a good chance
to run in, when a boat, which had put off from the Ayacucho just after
us, came alongside of us, with a crew of dusky Sandwich Islanders,
talking and halooing in their outlandish tongue. They knew that we
were novices in this kind of boating, and waited to see us go in.
The second mate, however, who steered our boat, determined to have
the advantage of their experience, and would not go in first.
Finding, at length, how matters stood, they gave a shout, and taking
advantage of a great comber which came swelling in, rearing its head,
and lifting up the stern of our boat nearly perpendicular, and again
dropping it in the trough, they gave three or four long and strong pulls,
and went in on top of the great wave, throwing their oars overboard,
and as far from the boat as they could throw them, and jumping out the
instant that the boat touched the beach, and then seizing hold of her
and running her up high and dry upon the sand. We saw, at once,
how it was to be done, and also the necessity of keeping the boat
"stern on" to the sea; for the instant the sea should strike upon
her broad-side or quarter, she would be driven up broad-side-on,
and capsized. We pulled strongly in, and as soon as we felt that
the sea had got hold of us and was carrying us in with the speed
of a race-horse, we threw the oars as far from the boat as we could,
and took hold of the gunwale, ready to spring out and seize her when
she struck, the officer using his utmost strength to keep her stern on.
We were shot up upon the beach like an arrow from a bow, and seizing
the boat, ran her up high and dry, and soon picked up our oars,
and stood by her, ready for the captain to come down.
Finding that the captain did not come immediately, we put our oars
in the boat, and leaving one to watch it, walked about the beach to
see what we could, of the place. The beach is nearly a mile in
length between the two points, and of smooth sand. We had taken
the only good landing-place, which is in the middle; it being
more stony toward the ends. It is about twenty yards in width
from high-water mark to a slight bank at which the soil begins,
and so hard that it is a favorite place for running horses.
It was growing dark, so that we could just distinguish the dim
outlines of the two vessels in the offing; and the great seas
were rolling in, in regular lines, growing larger and larger as
they approached the shore, and hanging over the beach upon which
they were to break, when their tops would curl over and turn white
with foam, and, beginning at one extreme of the line, break rapidly
to the other, as a long card-house falls when the children knock
down the cards at one end. The Sandwich Islanders, in the mean time,
had turned their boat round, and ran her down into the water, and were
loading her with hides and tallow. As this was the work in which we
were soon to be engaged, we looked on with some curiosity. They ran
the boat into the water so far that every large sea might float her,
and two of them, with their trowsers rolled up, stood by the bows,
one on each side, keeping her in her right position. This was hard
work; for beside the force they had to use upon the boat, the large
seas nearly took them off their legs. The others were running from
the boat to the bank, upon which, out of the reach of the water,
was a pile of dry bullocks' hides, doubled lengthwise in the middle,
and nearly as stiff as boards. These they took upon their heads,
one or two at a time, and carried down to the boat, where one of
their number stowed them away. They were obliged to carry them
on their heads, to keep them out of the water, and we observed
that they had on thick woolen caps. "Look here, Bill, and see
what you're coming to!" said one of our men to another who stood
by the boat. "Well, D-----," said the second mate to me, "this does
not look much like Cambridge college, does it? This is what I call
'head work.'" To tell the truth, it did not look very encouraging.
After they had got through with the hides, they laid hold of the
bags of tallow, (the bags are made of hide, and are about the size
of a common meal bag,) and lifting each upon the shoulders of two
men, one at each end, walked off with them to the boat, and prepared
to go aboard. Here, too, was something for us to learn. The man
who steered, shipped his oar and stood up in the stern, and those
that pulled the after oars sat upon their benches, with their oars
shipped, ready to strike out as soon as she was afloat. The two
men at the bows kept their places; and when, at length, a large
sea came in and floated her, seized hold of the gunwale, and ran
out with her till they were up to their armpits, and then tumbled
over the gunwale into the bows, dripping with water. The men at
the oars struck out, but it wouldn't do; the sea swept back and
left them nearly high and dry. The two fellows jumped out again;
and the next time they succeeded better, and, with the help of
a deal of outlandish hallooing and bawling, got her well off.
We watched them till they were out of the breakers, and saw them
steering for their vessel, which was now hidden in the darkness.
The sand of the beach began to be cold to our bare feet; the frogs
set up their croaking in the marshes, and one solitary owl, from the
end of the distant point, gave out his melancholy note, mellowed by
the distance, and we began to think that it was high time for
"the old man," as the captain is generally called, to come down.
In a few minutes we heard something coming towards us. It was a
man on horseback. He came up on the full gallop, reined up near us,
addressed a few words to us, and receiving no answer, wheeled around
and galloped off again. He was nearly as dark as an Indian, with a
large Spanish hat, blanket cloak or surreppa, and leather leggins,
with a long knife stuck in them. "This is the seventh city that
ever I was in, and no Christian one neither," said Bill Brown.
"Stand by!" said Tom, "you haven't seen the worst of it yet."
In the midst of this conversation the captain appeared; and we
winded the boat round, shoved her down, and prepared to go off.
The captain, who had been on the coast before and "knew the ropes,"
took the steering oar, and we went off in the same way as the other
boat. I, being the youngest, had the pleasure of standing at the bow,
and getting wet through. We went off well, though the seas were high.
Some of them lifted us up, and sliding from under us, seemed to let
us drop through the air like a flat plank upon the body of the water.
In a few minutes we were in the low, regular swell, and pulled for a
light, which, as we came up, we found had been run up to our trysail gaff.
Coming aboard, we hoisted up all the boats, and diving down into
the forecastle, changed our wet clothes, and got our supper.
After supper the sailors lighted their pipes, (cigars, those
of us who had them,) and we had to tell all we had seen ashore.
Then followed conjectures about the people ashore, the length of
the voyage, carrying hides, etc., until eight bells, when all hands
were called aft, and the "anchor watch" set. We were to stand two
in a watch, and as the nights were pretty long, two hours were to
make a watch. The second mate was to keep the deck until eight
o'clock, and all hands were to be called at daybreak, and the word
was passed to keep a bright look-out, and to call the mate if it
should come on to blow from the south-east. We had also orders
to strike the bells every half-hour through the night, as at sea.
My watchmate was John, the Swedish sailor, and we stood from
twelve to two, he walking the larboard side, and I the starboard.
At daylight all hands were called, and we went through the usual
process of washing down, swabbing, etc., and got breakfast at
eight o'clock. In the course of the forenoon, a boat went aboard
of the Ayacucho and brought off a quarter of beef, which made us
a fresh bite for dinner. This we were glad enough to have, and the
mate told us that we should live upon fresh beef while we were on
the coast, as it was cheaper here than the salt. While at dinner,
the cook called, "Sail ho!" and coming on deck, we saw two sails
coming round the point. One was a large ship under top-gallant
sails, and the other a small hermaphrodite brig. They both backed
their topsails and sent boats aboard of us. The ship's colors had
puzzled us, and we found that she was from Genoa, with an assorted
cargo, and was trading on the coast. She filled away again, and stood
out; being bound up the coast to San Francisco. The crew of the
brig's boat were Sandwich Islanders, but one of them, who spoke a
little English, told us that she was the Loriotte, Captain Nye,
from Oahu, and was engaged in this trade. She was a lump of a thing
--what the sailors call a butter-box. This vessel, as well as the
Ayacucho, and others which we afterwards saw engaged in the same trade,
have English or Americans for officers, and two or three before the
mast to do the work upon the rigging, and to rely upon for seamanship,
while the rest of the crew are Sandwich Islanders, who are active,
and very useful in boating.
The three captains went ashore after dinner, and came off again at
night. When in port, everything is attended to by the chief mate;
the captain, unless he is also supercargo, has little to do, and is
usually ashore much of his time. This we thought would be pleasanter
for us, as the mate was a good-natured man and not very strict.
So it was for a time, but we were worse off in the end; for wherever
the captain is a severe, energetic man, and the mate is wanting in
both these qualities, there will always be trouble. And trouble we
had already begun to anticipate. The captain had several times found
fault with the mate, in presence of the crew; and hints had been
dropped that all was not right between them. When this is the case,
and the captain suspects that his officer is too easy and familiar
with the crew, then he begins to interfere in all the duties, and to
draw the reins taughter, and the crew have to suffer.
A SOUTH-EASTER--PASSAGE UP THE COAST
This night, after sundown, it looked black at the southward and
eastward, and we were told to keep a bright look-out. Expecting
to be called up, we turned in early. Waking up about midnight,
I found a man who had just come down from his watch, striking a light.
He said that it was beginning to puff up from the south-east, and that
the sea was rolling in, and he had called the captain; and as he threw
himself down on his chest with all his clothes on, I knew that he
expected to be called. I felt the vessel pitching at her anchor,
and the chain surging and snapping, and lay awake, expecting an
instant summons. In a few minutes it came--three knocks on the
scuttle, and "All hands ahoy! bear-a-hand up and make sail."
We sprang up for our clothes, and were about halfway dressed,
when the mate called out, down the scuttle, "Tumble up here, men!
tumble up! before she drags her anchor." We were on deck in an instant.
"Lay aloft and loose the topsails!" shouted the captain, as soon as
the first man showed himself. Springing into the rigging, I saw that
the Ayacucho's topsails were loosed, and heard her crew singing-out
at the sheets as they were hauling them home. This had probably
started our captain; as "old Wilson" (the captain of the Ayacucho)
had been many years on the coast, and knew the signs of the weather.
We soon had the topsails loosed; and one hand remaining, as usual,
in each top, to overhaul the rigging and light the sail out, the rest
of us laid down to man the sheets. While sheeting home, we saw the
Ayacucho standing athwart our bows, sharp upon the wind, cutting through
the head sea like a knife, with her raking masts and sharp bows running
up like the head of a greyhound. It was a beautiful sight. She was
like a bird which had been frightened and had spread her wings in flight.
After the topsails had been sheeted home, the head yards braced aback,
the fore-top-mast staysail hoisted, and the buoys streamed, and all
ready forward, for slipping, we went aft and manned the slip-rope
which came through the stern port with a turn round the timber-heads.
"All ready forward?" asked the captain. "Aye, aye, sir; all ready,"
answered the mate. "Let go!" "All gone, sir;" and the iron cable
grated over the windlass and through the hawse-hole, and the little
vessel's head swinging off from the wind under the force of her backed
head sails, brought the strain upon the slip-rope. "Let go aft!"
Instantly all was gone, and we were under weigh. As soon as she was
well off from the wind, we filled away the head yards, braced all
up sharp, set the foresail and trysail, and left our anchorage well
astern, giving the point a good berth. "Nye's off too," said the
captain to the mate; and looking astern, we could just see the
little hermaphrodite brig under sail standing after us.
It now began to blow fresh; the rain fell fast, and it grew very
black; but the captain would not take in sail until we were well
clear of the point. As soon as we left this on our quarter, and were
standing out to sea, the order was given, and we sprang aloft,
double reefed each topsail, furled the foresail, and double reefed
the trysail, and were soon under easy sail. In those cases of
slipping for south-easters, there is nothing to be done, after you
have got clear of the coast, but to lie-to under easy sail, and wait
for the gale to be over, which seldom lasts more than two days,
and is often over in twelve hours; but the wind never comes back
to the southward until there has been a good deal of rain fallen.
"Go below the watch," said the mate; but here was a dispute which
watch it should be, which the mate soon however settled by sending
his watch below, saying that we should have our turn the next time
we got under weigh. We remained on deck till the expiration of
the watch, the wind blowing very fresh and the rain coming down in
torrents. When the watch came up, we wore ship, and stood on the
other tack, in towards land. When we came up again, which was at
four in the morning, it was very dark, and there was not much wind,
but it was raining as I thought I had never seen it rain before.
We had on oil-cloth suits and south-wester caps, and had nothing to
do but to stand bolt upright and let it pour down upon us. There are
no umbrellas, and no sheds to go under, at sea.
While we were standing about on deck, we saw the little brig
drifting by us, hove to under her fore topsail double reefed;
and she glided by like a phantom. Not a word was spoken, and we
saw no one on deck but the man at the wheel. Toward morning the
captain put his head out of the companion-way and told the second
mate, who commanded our watch, to look out for a change of wind,
which usually followed a calm and heavy rain; and it was well
that he did; for in a few minutes it fell dead calm, the vessel
lost her steerage-way, and the rain ceased. We hauled up the
trysail and courses, squared the after yards, and waited for the
change, which came in a few minutes, with a vengeance, from the
north-west, the opposite point of the compass. Owing to our
precautions, we were not taken aback, but ran before the wind
with square yards. The captain coming on deck, we braced up a
little and stood back for our anchorage. With the change of wind
came a change of weather, and in two hours the wind moderated into
the light steady breeze, which blows down the coast the greater
part of the year, and, from its regularity, might be called a
trade-wind. The sun came up bright, and we set royals, skysails,
and studding-sails, and were under fair way for Santa Barbara.
The little Loriotte was astern of us, nearly out of sight; but we
saw nothing of the Ayacucho. In a short time she appeared,
standing out from Santa Rosa Island, under the lee of which she
had been hove to, all night. Our captain was anxious to get in
before her, for it would be a great credit to us, on the coast,
to beat the Ayacucho, which had been called the best sailer in
the North Pacific, in which she had been known as a trader for
six years or more. We had an advantage over her in light winds,
from our royals and skysails which we carried both at the fore
and main, and also in our studding-sails; for Captain Wilson
carried nothing above top-gallant-sails, and always unbent his
studding-sails when on the coast. As the wind was light and fair,
we held our own, for some time, when we were both obliged to brace
up and come upon a taught bowline, after rounding the point; and here
he had us on fair ground, and walked away from us, as you would haul
in a line. He afterwards said that we sailed well enough with the
wind free, but that give him a taught bowline, and he would beat us,
if we had all the canvas of the Royal George.
The Ayacucho got to the anchoring ground about half an hour before us,
and was furling her sails when we came up to it. This picking up your
cables is a very nice piece of work. It requires some seamanship to
do it, and come to at your former moorings, without letting go another
anchor. Captain Wilson was remarkable, among the sailors on the coast,
for his skill in doing this; and our captain never let go a second
anchor during all the time that I was with him. Coming a little to
windward of our buoy, we clewed up the light sails, backed our main
topsail, and lowered a boat, which pulled off, and made fast a spare
hawser to the buoy on the end of the slip-rope. We brought the other
end to the captain, and hove in upon it until we came to the slip-rope,
which we took to the windlass, and walked her up to her chain, the captain
helping her by backing and filling the sails. The chain is then passed
through the hawse-hole and round the windlass, and bitted, the slip-rope
taken round outside and brought into the stern port, and she is safe
in her old berth. After we had got through, the mate told us that
this was a small touch of California, the like of which we must
expect to have through the winter.
After we had furled the sails and got dinner, we saw the Loriotte
nearing, and she had her anchor before night. At sun-down we went
ashore again, and found the Loriotte's boat waiting on the beach.
The Sandwich Islander who could speak English, told us that he had
been up to the town; that our agent, Mr. R-----, and some other
passengers, were going to Monterey with us, and that we were to
sail the same night. In a few minutes Captain T-----, with two
gentlemen and one female, came down, and we got ready to go off.
They had a good deal of baggage, which we put into the bows of
the boat, and then two of us took the señora in our arms, and waded
with her through the water, and put her down safely in the stern.
She appeared much amused with the transaction, and her husband was
perfectly satisfied, thinking any arrangement good which saved his
wetting his feet. I pulled the after oar, so that I heard the
conversation, and learned that one of the men, who, as well as I
could see in the darkness, was a young-looking man, in the European
dress, and covered up in a large cloak, was the agent of the firm
to which our vessel belonged; and the other, who was dressed in the
Spanish dress of the country, was a brother of our captain, who had
been many years a trader on the coast, and had married the lady who
was in the boat. She was a delicate, dark-complexioned young woman,
and of one of the best families in California. I also found that
we were to sail the same night. As soon as we got on board,
the boats were hoisted up, the sails loosed, the windlass manned,
the slip-ropes and gear cast off; and after about twenty minutes
of heaving at the windlass, making sail, and bracing yards, we were
well under weigh, and going with a fair wind up the coast to Monterey.
The Loriotte got under weigh at the same time, and was also bound up
to Monterey, but as she took a different course from us, keeping the
land aboard, while we kept well out to sea, we soon lost sight of her.
We had a fair wind, which is something unusual when going up, as the
prevailing wind is the north, which blows directly down the coast;
whence the northern are called the windward, and the southern the
PASSAGE UP THE COAST--MONTEREY
We got clear of the islands before sunrise the next morning, and by
twelve o'clock were out of the canal, and off Point Conception, the
place where we first made the land upon our arrival. This is the
largest point on the coast, and is uninhabited headland, stretching
out into the Pacific, and has the reputation of being very windy.
Any vessel does well which gets by it without a gale, especially
in the winter season. We were going along with studding-sails set
on both sides, when, as we came round the point, we had to haul our
wind, and take in the lee studding-sails. As the brig came more upon
the wind, she felt it more, and we doused the sky-sails, but kept
the weather studding-sails on her, bracing the yards forward so that
the swinging-boom nearly touched the sprit-sail yard. She now lay
over to it, the wind was freshening, and the captain was evidently
"dragging on to her." His brother and Mr. R-----, looking a little
squally, said something to him, but he only answered that he knew
the vessel and what she would carry. He was evidently showing off
his vessel, and letting them know how he could carry sail. He stood
up to windward, holding on by the backstays, and looking up at the
sticks, to see how much they would bear; when a puff came which
settled the matter. Then it was "haul down," and "clew up," royals,
flying-jib, and studding-sails, all at once. There was what the
sailors call a "mess"--everything let go, nothing hauled in, and
everything flying. The poor Spanish woman came to the companion-way,
looking as pale as a ghost, and nearly frightened to death. The mate
and some men forward were trying to haul in the lower studding-sail,
which had blown over the sprit-sail yard-arm and round the guys;
while the topmast-studding-sail boom, after buckling up and springing
out again like a piece of whalebone, broke off at the boom-iron.
I sprang aloft to take in the main top-gallant studding-sail, but
before I got into the top, the tack parted, and away went the sail,
swinging forward of the top-gallant-sail, and tearing and slatting
itself to pieces. The halyards were at this moment let go by the run;
and such a piece of work I never had before, in taking in a sail.
After great exertions I got it, or the remains of it, into the top,
and was making it fast, when the captain, looking up, called out
to me, "Lay aloft there, D-----, and furl that main royal." Leaving
the studding-sail, I went up to the cross trees; and here it looked
rather squally. The foot of the top-gallant-mast was working between
the cross and trussel trees, and the royal-mast lay over at a fearful
angle with the mast below, while everything was working, and cracking,
strained to the utmost.
There's nothing for Jack to do but to obey orders, and I went up
upon the yard; and there was a worse "mess," if possible, than I
had left below. The braces had been let go, and the yard was swinging
about like a turnpike-gate, and the whole sail having blown over to
leeward, the lee leach was over the yard-arm, and the sky-sail was
all adrift and flying over my head. I looked down, but it was in
vain to attempt to make myself heard, for every one was busy below,
and the wind roared, and sails were flapping in every direction.
Fortunately, it was noon and broad daylight, and the man at the wheel,
who had his eyes aloft, soon saw my difficulty, and after numberless
signs and gestures, got some one to haul the necessary ropes taught.
During this interval I took a look below. Everything was in confusion
on deck; the little vessel was tearing through the water as if she were
mad, the seas flying over her, and the masts leaning over at an angle
of forty-five degrees from the vertical. At the other royal-mast-head
was S-----, working away at the sail, which was blowing from him as
fast as he could gather it in. The top-gallant-sail below me was
soon clewed up, which relieved the mast, and in a short time I got my
sail furled, and went below; but I lost overboard a new tarpaulin hat,
which troubled me more than anything else. We worked for about half
an hour with might and main; and in an hour from the time the squall
struck us, from having all our flying kites abroad, we came down to
double-reefed top-sails and the storm-sails.
The wind had hauled ahead during the squall, and we were standing
directly in for the point. So, as soon as we had got all snug,
we wore round and stood off again, and had the pleasant prospect
of beating up to Monterey, a distance of an hundred miles, against
a violent head wind. Before night it began to rain; and we had
five days of rainy, stormy weather, under close sail all the time,
and were blown several hundred miles off the coast. In the midst
of this, we discovered that our fore topmast was sprung, (which no
doubt happened in the squall,) and were obliged to send down the
fore top-gallant-mast and carry as little sail as possible forward.
Our four passengers were dreadfully sick, so that we saw little or
nothing of them during the five days. On the sixth day it cleared off,
and the sun came out bright, but the wind and sea were still very high.
It was quite like being at sea again: no land for hundreds of miles,
and the captain taking the sun every day at noon. Our passengers now
made their appearance, and I had for the first time the opportunity
of seeing what a miserable and forlorn creature a sea-sick passenger
is. Since I had got over my own sickness, the third day from Boston,
I had seen nothing but hale, hearty men, with their sea legs on,
and able to go anywhere, (for we had no passengers;) and I will own
there was a pleasant feeling of superiority in being able to walk the
deck, and eat, and go about, and comparing one's self with two poor,
miserable, pale creatures, staggering and shuffling about decks,
or holding on and looking up with giddy heads, to see us climbing
to the mast-heads, or sitting quietly at work on the ends of the
lofty yards. A well man at sea has little sympathy with one who is
seasick; he is too apt to be conscious of a comparison favorable
to his own manhood. After a few days we made the land at Point Pinos,
(pines,) which is the headland at the entrance of the bay of Monterey.
As we drew in, and ran down the shore, we could distinguish well the
face of the country, and found it better wooded than that to the
southward of Point Conception. In fact, as I afterwards discovered,
Point Conception may be made the dividing line between two different
faces of the country. As you go to the northward of the point,
the country becomes more wooded, has a richer appearance, and is
better supplied with water. This is the case with Monterey,
and still more so with San Francisco; while to the southward of
the point, as at Santa Barbara, San Pedro, and particularly San Diego,
there is very little wood, and the country has a naked, level
appearance, though it is still very fertile.
The bay of Monterey is very wide at the entrance, being about
twenty-four miles between the two points, Año Nuevo at the north,
and Pinos at the south, but narrows gradually as you approach the
town, which is situated in a bend, or large cove, at the south-eastern
extremity, and about eighteen miles from the points, which makes the
whole depth of the bay. The shores are extremely well wooded,
(the pine abounding upon them,) and as it was now the rainy season,
everything was as green as nature could make it,--the grass,
the leaves, and all; the birds were singing in the woods, and great
numbers of wild-fowl were flying over our heads. Here we could
lie safe from the south-easters. We came to anchor within two
cable lengths of the shore, and the town lay directly before us,
making a very pretty appearance; its houses being plastered, which
gives a much better effect than those of Santa Barbara, which are
of a mud-color. The red tiles, too, on the roofs, contrasted well
with the white plastered sides and with the extreme greenness of
the lawn upon which the houses--about an hundred in number--were
dotted about, here and there, irregularly. There are in this place,
and in every other town which I saw in California, no streets, or
fences, (except here and there a small patch was fenced in for a
garden,) so that the houses are placed at random upon the green,
which, as they are of one story and of the cottage form, gives them
a pretty effect when seen from a little distance.
It was a fine Saturday afternoon when we came to anchor, the sun
about an hour high, and everything looking pleasantly. The Mexican
flag was flying from the little square Presidio, and the drums and
trumpets of the soldiers, who were out on parade, sounded over the
water, and gave great life to the scene. Every one was delighted
with the appearance of things. We felt as though we had got into a
Christian (which in the sailor's vocabulary means civilized) country.
The first impression which California had made upon us was very
disagreeable:--the open roadstead of Santa Barbara; anchoring three
miles from the shore; running out to sea before every south-easter;
landing in a high surf; with a little dark-looking town, a mile from
the beach; and not a sound to be heard, or anything to be seen,
but Sandwich Islanders, hides, and tallow-bags. Add to this
the gale off Point Conception, and no one can be at a loss to
account for our agreeable disappointment in Monterey. Beside all
this, we soon learned, which was of no small importance to us,
that there was little or no surf here, and this afternoon the
beach was as smooth as a duck-pond.
We landed the agent and passengers, and found several persons
waiting for them on the beach, among whom were some, who, though
dressed in the costume of the country, spoke English; and who,
we afterwards learned, were English and Americans who had
married and settled in the country.
I also connected with our arrival here another circumstance which
more nearly concerns myself; viz, my first act of what the sailors
will allow to be seamanship--sending down a royal-yard. I had seen
it done once or twice at sea, and an old sailor, whose favor I
had taken some pains to gain, had taught me carefully everything
which was necessary to be done, and in its proper order, and advised
me to take the first opportunity when we were in port, and try it.
I told the second mate, with whom I had been pretty thick when he
was before the mast, that I would do it, and got him to ask the mate
to send me up the first time they were struck. Accordingly I was
called upon, and went up, repeating the operations over in my mind,
taking care to get everything in its order, for the slightest mistake
spoils the whole. Fortunately, I got through without any word from
the officer, and heard the "well done" of the mate, when the yard
reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at Cambridge
on seeing a "bene" at the foot of a Latin exercise.
LIFE AT MONTEREY
The next day being Sunday, which is the liberty-day among merchantmen,
when it is usual to let a part of the crew go ashore, the sailors had
depended upon a day on land, and were already disputing who should
ask to go, when, upon being called in the morning, we were turned-to
upon the rigging, and found that the topmast, which had been sprung,
was to come down, and a new one to go up, and top-gallant and royal-masts,
and the rigging to be set up. This was too bad. If there is anything that
irritates sailors and makes them feel hardly used, it is being deprived
of their Sabbath. Not that they would always, or indeed generally,
spend it religiously, but it is their only day of rest. Then, too,
they are often necessarily deprived of it by storms, and unavoidable
duties of all kinds, that to take it from them when lying quietly
and safely in port, without any urgent reason, bears the more hardly.
The only reason in this case was, that the captain had determined to
have the custom-house officers on board on Monday, and wished to have
his brig in order. Jack is a slave aboard ship; but still he has
many opportunities of thwarting and balking his master. When there
is danger, or necessity, or when he is well used, no one can work
faster than he; but the instant he feels that he is kept at work
for nothing, no sloth could make less headway. He must not refuse
his duty, or be in any way disobedient, but all the work that an
officer gets out of him, he may be welcome to. Every man who has
been three months at sea knows how to "work Tom Cox's traverse"--
"three turns round the long-boat, and a pull at the scuttled-butt."
This morning everything went in this way. "Sogering" was the order
of the day. Send a man below to get a block, and he would capsize
everything before finding it, then not bring it up till an officer
had called him twice, and take as much time to put things in order
again. Marline-spikes were not to be found; knives wanted a prodigious
deal of sharpening, and, generally, three or four were waiting round
the grindstone at a time. When a man got to the mast-head, he would
come slowly down again to get something which he had forgotten;
and after the tackles were got up, six men would pull less than
three who pulled "with a will." When the mate was out of sight,
nothing was done. It was all uphill work; and at eight o'clock,
when we went to breakfast, things were nearly where they were
when we began.
During our short meal, the matter was discussed. One proposed
refusing to work; but that was mutiny, and of course was rejected
at once. I remember, too, that one of the men quoted "Father
Taylor," (as they call the seamen's preacher at Boston,) who told
them that if they were ordered to work on Sunday, they must not
refuse their duty, and the blame would not come upon them. After
breakfast, it leaked out, through the officers, that if we would get
through our work soon, we might have a boat in the afternoon and
go fishing. This bait was well thrown, and took with several who
were fond of fishing; and all began to find that as we had one thing
to do, and were not to be kept at work for the day, the sooner we
did it, the better.
Accordingly, things took a new aspect; and before two o'clock this
work, which was in a fair way to last two days, was done; and five of
us went a fishing in the jolly-boat, in the direction of Point Pinos;
but leave to go ashore was refused. Here we saw the Loriotte, which
sailed with us from Santa Barbara, coming slowly in with a light
sea-breeze, which sets in towards afternoon, having been becalmed
off the point all the first part of the day. We took several fish
of various kinds, among which cod and perch abounded, and F-----,
(the ci-devant second mate,) who was of our number, brought up with
his hook a large and beautiful pearl-oyster shell. We afterwards
learned that this place was celebrated for shells, and that a small
schooner had made a good voyage, by carrying a cargo of them to
the United States.
We returned by sun-down, and found the Loriotte at anchor,
within a cable's length of the Pilgrim. The next day we were
"turned-to" early, and began taking off the hatches, overhauling
the cargo, and getting everything ready for inspection. At eight,
the officers of the customs, five in number, came on board,
and began overhauling the cargo, manifest, etc.
The Mexican revenue laws are very strict, and require the whole
cargo to be landed, examined, and taken on board again; but our
agent, Mr. R-----, had succeeded in compounding with them for the
two last vessels, and saving the trouble of taking the cargo ashore.
The officers were dressed in the costume which we found prevailed
through the country. A broad-brimmed hat, usually of a black or
dark-brown color, with a gilt or figured band round the crown, and
lined inside with silk; a short jacket of silk or figured calico,
(the European skirted body-coat is never worn;) the shirt open in the
neck; rich waistcoat, if any; pantaloons wide, straight, and long,
usually of velvet, velveteen, or broadcloth; or else short breeches
and white stockings. They wear the deer-skin shoe, which is of a
dark-brown color, and, (being made by Indians,) usually a good deal
ornamented. They have no suspenders, but always wear a sash round
the waist, which is generally red, and varying in quality with the
means of the wearer. Add to this the never-failing cloak, and you
have the dress of the Californian. This last garment, the cloak, is
always a mark of the rank and wealth of the owner. The "gente de razón,"
or aristocracy, wear cloaks of black or dark blue broadcloth, with as
much velvet and trimmings as may be; and from this they go down to the
blanket of the Indian; the middle classes wearing something like a
large table-cloth, with a hole in the middle for the head to go through.
This is often as coarse as a blanket, but being beautifully woven with
various colors, is quite showy at a distance. Among the Mexicans there is
no working class; (the Indians being slaves and doing all the hard work;)
and every rich man looks like a grandee, and every poor scamp like a
broken-down gentleman. I have often seen a man with a fine figure,
and courteous manners, dressed in broadcloth and velvet, with a noble
horse completely covered with trappings; without a real in his pocket,
and absolutely suffering for something to eat.
TRADING--A BRITISH SAILOR
The next day, the cargo having been entered in due form, we began
trading. The trade-room was fitted up in the steerage, and furnished
out with the lighter goods, and with specimens of the rest of the
cargo; and M-----, a young man who came out from Boston with us,
before the mast, was taken out of the forecastle, and made supercargo's
clerk. He was well qualified for the business, having been clerk in a
counting-house in Boston. He had been troubled for some time with
the rheumatism, which unfitted him for the wet and exposed duty of
a sailor on the coast. For a week or ten days all was life on board.
The people came off to look and to buy--men, women, and children;
and we were continually going in the boats, carrying goods and
passengers,--for they have no boats of their own. Everything must
dress itself and come aboard and see the new vessel, if it were only
to buy a paper of pins. The agent and his clerk managed the sales,
while we were busy in the hold or in the boats. Our cargo was an
assorted one; that is, it consisted of everything under the sun.
We had spirits of all kinds, (sold by the cask,) teas, coffee, sugars,
spices, raisins, molasses, hardware, crockery-ware, tinware, cutlery,
clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes from Lynn, calicoes and cottons
from Lowell, crepes, silks; also shawls, scarfs, necklaces, jewelry,
and combs for the ladies; furniture; and in fact, everything that can
be imagined, from Chinese fire-works to English cart-wheels--of which
we had a dozen pairs with their iron rims on.
The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make
nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they
buy bad wines made in Boston and brought round by us, at an immense
price, and retail it among themselves at a real (12½ cents) by
the small wine-glass. Their hides, too, which they value at two
dollars in money, they give for something which costs seventy-five
cents in Boston; and buy shoes (like as not, made of their own hides,
and which have been carried twice around Cape Horn) at three or
four dollars, and "chicken-skin" boots at fifteen dollars apiece.
Things sell, on an average, at an advance of nearly three hundred
per cent upon the Boston prices. This is partly owing to the heavy
duties which the government, in their wisdom, with the intent, no
doubt, of keeping the silver in the country, has laid upon imports.
These duties, and the enormous expenses of so long a voyage, keep
all merchants, but those of heavy capital, from engaging in the
trade. Nearly two-thirds of all the articles imported into the
country from round Cape Horn, for the last six years, have been by
the single house of Bryant, Sturgis & Co., to whom our vessel belonged,
and who have a permanent agent on the coast.
This kind of business was new to us, and we liked it very well for
a few days, though we were hard at work every minute from daylight
to dark; and sometimes even later.
By being thus continually engaged in transporting passengers with
their goods, to and fro, we gained considerable knowledge of the
character, dress, and language of the people. The dress of the
men was as I have before described it. The women wore gowns of
various texture--silks, crape, calicoes, etc.,--made after the
European style, except that the sleeves were short, leaving the arm
bare, and that they were loose about the waist, having no corsets.
They wore shoes of kid, or satin; sashes or belts of bright colors;
and almost always a necklace and ear-rings. Bonnets they had none.
I only saw one on the coast, and that belonged to the wife of an
American sea-captain who had settled in San Diego, and had imported
the chaotic mass of straw and ribbon, as a choice present to his
new wife. They wear their hair (which is almost invariably black,
or a very dark brown) long in their necks, sometimes loose,
and sometimes in long braids; though the married women often
do it up on a high comb. Their only protection against the sun
and weather is a large mantle which they put over their heads,
drawing it close round their faces, when they go out of doors,
which is generally only in pleasant weather. When in the house,
or sitting out in front of it, which they often do in fine weather,
they usually wear a small scarf or neckerchief of a rich pattern.
A band, also, about the top of the head, with a cross, star, or
other ornament in front, is common. Their complexions are various,
depending--as well as their dress and manner--upon their rank; or,
in other words, upon the amount of Spanish blood they can lay claim to.
Those who are of pure Spanish blood, having never intermarried with
the aborigines, have clear brunette complexions, and sometimes, even
as fair as those of English women. There are but few of these families
in California; being mostly those in official stations, or who, on the
expiration of their offices, have settled here upon property which they
have acquired; and others who have been banished for state offences.
These form the aristocracy; inter-marrying, and keeping up an exclusive
system in every respect. They can be told by their complexions, dress,
manner, and also by their speech; for, calling themselves Castilians,
they are very ambitious of speaking the pure Castilian language,
which is spoken in a somewhat corrupted dialect by the lower
classes. From this upper class, they go down by regular shades,
growing more and more dark and muddy, until you come to the pure
Indian, who runs about with nothing upon him but a small piece
of cloth, kept up by a wide leather strap drawn round his waist.
Generally speaking, each person's caste is decided by the quality
of the blood, which shows itself, too plainly to be concealed,
at first sight. Yet the least drop of Spanish blood, if it be
only of quadroon or octoroon, is sufficient to raise them from
the rank of slaves, and entitle them to a suit of clothes--boots,
hat, cloak, spurs, long knife, and all complete, though coarse
and dirty as may be,--and to call themselves Españolos, and to
hold property, if they can get any.
The fondness for dress among the women is excessive, and is often
the ruin of many of them. A present of a fine mantle, or of a
necklace or pair of ear-rings, gains the favor of the greater part
of them. Nothing is more common than to see a woman living in
a house of only two rooms, and the ground for a floor, dressed in
spangled satin shoes, silk gown, high comb, and gilt, if not gold,
ear-rings and necklace. If their husbands do not dress them well
enough, they will soon receive presents from others. They used to
spend whole days on board our vessels, examining the fine clothes
and ornaments, and frequently made purchases at a rate which
would have made a seamstress or waiting-maid in Boston open
Next to the love of dress, I was most struck with the fineness of
the voices and beauty of the intonations of both sexes. Every
common ruffian-looking fellow, with a slouched hat, blanket cloak,
dirty under-dress, and soiled leather leggins, appeared to me to be
speaking elegant Spanish. It was a pleasure, simply to listen to
the sound of the language, before I could attach any meaning to it.
They have a good deal of the Creole drawl, but it is varied with an
occasional extreme rapidity of utterance, in which they seem to skip
from consonant to consonant, until, lighting upon a broad, open
vowel, they rest upon that to restore the balance of sound. The
women carry this peculiarity of speaking to a much greater extreme
than the men, who have more evenness and stateliness of utterance.
A common bullock-driver, on horseback, delivering a message, seemed
to speak like an ambassador at an audience. In fact, they sometimes
appeared to me to be a people on whom a curse had fallen, and stripped
them of everything but their pride, their manners, and their voices.
Another thing that surprised me was the quantity of silver that
was in circulation. I certainly never saw so much silver at one
time in my life, as during the week that we were at Monterey.
The truth is, they have no credit system, no banks, and no way
of investing money but in cattle. They have no circulating medium
but silver and hides--which the sailors call "California bank notes."
Everything that they buy they must pay for in one or the other of
these things. The hides they bring down dried and doubled, in
clumsy ox-carts, or upon mules' backs, and the money they carry
tied up in a handkerchief;--fifty, eighty, or an hundred dollars
and half dollars.
I had never studied Spanish while at college, and could not speak
a word, when at Juan Fernandez; but during the latter part of the
passage out, I borrowed a grammar and dictionary from the cabin,
and by a continual use of these, and a careful attention to every word
that I heard spoken, I soon got a vocabulary together, and began
talking for myself. As I soon knew more Spanish than any of the
crew, (who indeed knew none at all,) and had been at college and
knew Latin, I got the name of a great linguist, and was always sent
for by the captain and officers to get provisions, or to carry letters
and messages to different parts of the town. I was often sent to get
something which I could not tell the name of to save my life; but
I liked the business, and accordingly never pleaded ignorance.
Sometimes I managed to jump below and take a look at my dictionary
before going ashore; or else I overhauled some English resident
on my way, and got the word from him; and then, by signs, and the
help of my Latin and French, contrived to get along. This was a
good exercise for me, and no doubt taught me more than I should
have learned by months of study and reading; it also gave me
opportunities of seeing the customs, characters, and domestic
arrangements of the people; beside being a great relief from
the monotony of a day spent on board ship.
Monterey, as far as my observation goes, is decidedly the pleasantest
and most civilized-looking place in California. In the centre
of it is an open square, surrounded by four lines of one-story
plastered buildings, with half a dozen cannon in the centre; some
mounted, and others not. This is the "Presidio," or fort. Every
town has a presidio in its centre; or rather, every presidio has a
town built around it; for the forts were first built by the Mexican
government, and then the people built near them for protection. The
presidio here was entirely open and unfortified. There were several
officers with long titles, and about eighty soldiers, but they were
poorly paid, fed, clothed, and disciplined. The governor-general,
or, as he is commonly called, the "general," lives here; which makes
it the seat of government. He is appointed by the central government
at Mexico, and is the chief civil and military officer. In addition to
him, each town has a commandant, who is the chief military officer,
and has charge of the fort, and of all transactions with foreigners
and foreign vessels; and two or three alcaldes and corregidores,
elected by the inhabitants, who are the civil officers. Courts and
jurisprudence they have no knowledge of. Small municipal matters are
regulated by the alcaldes and corregidores; and everything relating
to the general government, to the military, and to foreigners,
by the commandants, acting under the governor-general. Capital
cases are decided by him, upon personal inspection, if he is near;
or upon minutes sent by the proper officers, if the offender is at a
distant place. No Protestant has any civil rights, nor can he hold
any property, or, indeed, remain more than a few weeks on shore,
unless he belong to some vessel. Consequently, the Americans and
English who intend to remain here become Catholics, to a man;
the current phrase among them being,--"A man must leave his
conscience at Cape Horn."
But to return to Monterey. The houses here, as everywhere else
in California, are of one story, built of clay made into large bricks,
about a foot and a half square and three or four inches thick, and
hardened in the sun. These are cemented together by mortar of the
same material, and the whole are of a common dirt-color. The floors
are generally of earth, the windows grated and without glass; and
the doors, which are seldom shut, open directly into the common
room; there being no entries. Some of the more wealthy inhabitants
have glass to their windows and board floors; and in Monterey
nearly all the houses are plastered on the outside. The better houses,
too, have red tiles upon the roofs. The common ones have two or
three rooms which open into each other, and are furnished with a
bed or two, a few chairs and tables, a looking-glass, a crucifix of
some material or other, and small daubs of paintings enclosed in
glass, and representing some miracle or martyrdom. They have no
chimneys or fire-places in the houses, the climate being such as to
make a fire unnecessary; and all their cooking is done in a small
cook-house, separated from the house. The Indians, as I have said
before, do all the hard work, two or three being attached to each
house; and the poorest persons are able to keep one, at least, for
they have only to feed them and give them a small piece of coarse
cloth and a belt, for the males; and a coarse gown, without shoes
or stockings, for the females.
In Monterey there are a number of English and Americans (English
or "Ingles" all are called who speak the English language) who
have married Californians, become united to the Catholic church,
and acquired considerable property. Having more industry, frugality,
and enterprise than the natives, they soon get nearly all the
trade into their hands. They usually keep shops, in which they
retail the goods purchased in larger quantities from our vessels,
and also send a good deal into the interior, taking hides in pay,
which they again barter with our vessels. In every town on the coast
there are foreigners engaged in this kind of trade, while I recollect
but two shops kept by natives. The people are generally suspicious
of foreigners, and they would not be allowed to remain, were it not
that they become good Catholics, and by marrying natives, and
bringing up their children as Catholics and Mexicans, and not
teaching them the English language, they quiet suspicion, and even
become popular and leading men. The chief alcaldes in Monterey and
Santa Barbara were both Yankees by birth.
The men in Monterey appeared to me to be always on horseback.
Horses are as abundant here as dogs and chickens were in Juan
Fernandez. There are no stables to keep them in, but they are
allowed to run wild and graze wherever they please, being branded,
and having long leather ropes, called "lassos," attached to their
necks and dragging along behind them, by which they can be easily
taken. The men usually catch one in the morning, throw a saddle and
bridle upon him, and use him for the day, and let him go at night,
catching another the next day. When they go on long journeys,
they ride one horse down, and catch another, throw the saddle and
bridle upon him, and after riding him down, take a third, and so
on to the end of the journey. There are probably no better riders
in the world. They get upon a horse when only four or five years
old, their little legs not long enough to come half way over his
sides; and may almost be said to keep on him until they have grown
to him. The stirrups are covered or boxed up in front, to prevent
their catching when riding through the woods; and the saddles are
large and heavy, strapped very tight upon the horse, and have
large pommels, or loggerheads, in front, round which the "lasso"
is coiled when not in use. They can hardly go from one house to
another without getting on a horse, there being generally several
standing tied to the door-posts of the little cottages. When they
wish to show their activity, they make no use of their stirrups
in mounting, but striking the horse, spring into the saddle as
he starts, and sticking their long spurs into him, go off on
the full run. Their spurs are cruel things, having four or five
rowels, each an inch in length, dull and rusty. The flanks of
the horses are often sore from them, and I have seen men come in
from chasing bullocks with their horses' hind legs and quarters
covered with blood. They frequently give exhibitions of their
horsemanship, in races, bull-baitings, etc.; but as we were not
ashore during any holyday, we saw nothing of it. Monterey is also
a great place for cock-fighting, gambling of all sorts, fandangos,
and every kind of amusement and knavery. Trappers and hunters, who
occasionally arrive here from over the Rocky mountains, with their
valuable skins and furs, are often entertained with every sort of
amusement and dissipation, until they have wasted their time and
their money, and go back, stripped of everything.
Nothing but the character of the people prevents Monterey from
becoming a great town. The soil is as rich as man could wish;
climate as good as any in the world; water abundant, and situation
extremely beautiful. The harbor, too, is a good one, being subject
only to one bad wind, the north; and though the holding-ground is
not the best, yet I heard of but one vessel's being driven ashore
here. That was a Mexican brig, which went ashore a few months
before our arrival, and was a total wreck, all the crew but one being
drowned. Yet this was from the carelessness or ignorance of the
captain, who paid out all his small cable before he let go his other
anchor. The ship Lagoda, of Boston, was there at the time, and rode
out the gale in safety, without dragging at all, or finding it necessary
to strike her top-gallant masts.
The only vessel in port with us was the little Loriotte. I frequently
went on board her, and became very well acquainted with her
Sandwich Island crew. One of them could speak a little English,
and from him I learned a good deal about them. They were well
formed and active, with black eyes, intelligent countenances,
dark-olive, or, I should rather say, copper complexions and coarse
black hair, but not woolly like the negroes. They appeared to be
talking continually. In the forecastle there was a complete Babel.
Their language is extremely guttural, and not pleasant at first,
but improves as you hear it more, and is said to have great capacity.
They use a good deal of gesticulation, and are exceedingly animated,
saying with their might what their tongues find to say. They are
complete water-dogs, therefore very good in boating. It is for this
reason that there are so many of them on the coast of California;
they being very good hands in the surf. They are also quick and
active in the rigging, and good hands in warm weather; but those
who have been with them round Cape Horn, and in high latitudes,
say that they are useless in cold weather. In their dress they are
precisely like our sailors. In addition to these Islanders, the vessel
had two English sailors, who acted as boatswains over the Islanders,
and took care of the rigging. One of them I shall always remember as
the best specimen of the thoroughbred English sailor that I ever saw.
He had been to sea from a boy, having served a regular apprenticeship
of seven years, as all English sailors are obliged to do, and was
then about four or five and twenty. He was tall; but you only
perceived it when he was standing by the side of others, for the
great breadth of his shoulders and chest made him appear but little
above the middle height. His chest was as deep as it was wide;
his arm like that of Hercules; and his hand "the fist of a tar
--every hair a rope-yarn." With all this he had one of the pleasantest
smiles I ever saw. His cheeks were of a handsome brown; his teeth
brilliantly white; and his hair, of a raven black, waved in loose
curls all over his head, and fine, open forehead; and his eyes
he might have sold to a duchess at the price of diamonds, for their
brilliancy. As for their color, they were like the Irishman's pig,
which would not stay to be counted, every change of position and
light seemed to give them a new hue; but their prevailing color was
black, or nearly so. Take him with his well-varnished black tarpaulin
stuck upon the back of his head; his long locks coming down almost
into his eyes; his white duck trowsers and shirt; blue jacket;
and black kerchief, tied loosely round his neck; and he was a fine
specimen of manly beauty. On his broad chest he had stamped with
India ink "Parting moments;"--a ship ready to sail; a boat on the
beach; and a girl and her sailor lover taking their farewell.
Underneath were printed the initials of his own name, and two other
letters, standing for some name which he knew better than I did.
This was very well done, having been executed by a man who made
it his business to print with India ink, for sailors, at Havre.
On one of his broad arms, he had the crucifixion, and on the other
the sign of the "foul anchor."
He was very fond of reading, and we lent him most of the books
which we had in the forecastle, which he read and returned
to us the next time we fell in with him. He had a good deal
of information, and his captain said he was a perfect seaman,
and worth his weight in gold on board a vessel, in fair weather
and in foul. His strength must have been great, and he had the
sight of a vulture. It is strange that one should be so minute in
the description of an unknown, outcast sailor, whom one may never
see again, and whom no one may care to hear about; but so it is.
Some people we see under no remarkable circumstances, but whom,
for some reason or other, we never forget. He called himself Bill
Jackson; and I know no one of all my accidental acquaintances to
whom I would more gladly give a shake of the hand than to him.
Whoever falls in with him will find a handsome, hearty fellow,
and a good shipmate.
Sunday came again while we were at Monterey, but as before, it brought
us no holyday. The people on shore dressed themselves and came off in
greater numbers than ever, and we were employed all day in boating and
breaking out cargo, so that we had hardly time to eat. Our cidevant
second mate, who was determined to get liberty if it was to be had,
dressed himself in a long coat and black hat, and polished his shoes,
and went aft and asked to go ashore. He could not have done a more
imprudent thing; for he knew that no liberty would be given; and besides,
sailors, however sure they may be of having liberty granted them always
go aft in their working clothes, to appear as though they had no reason
to expect anything, and then wash, dress, and shave, after they get
their liberty. But this poor fellow was always getting into hot water,
and if there was a wrong way of doing a thing, was sure to hit upon it.
We looked to see him go aft, knowing pretty well what his reception
would be. The captain was walking the quarter-deck, smoking his
morning cigar, and F----- went as far as the break of the deck, and there
waited for him to notice him. The captain took two or three turns,
and then walking directly up to him, surveyed him from head to foot,
and lifting up his forefinger, said a word or two, in a tone too low
for us to hear, but which had a magical effect upon poor F-----.
He walked forward, sprang into the forecastle, and in a moment more
made his appearance in his common clothes, and went quietly to work again.
What the captain said to him, we never could get him to tell, but it
certainly changed him outwardly and inwardly in a most surprising manner.
SANTA BARBARA--HIDE-DROGHING--HARBOR DUTIES--DISCONTENT--SAN PEDRO
After a few days, finding the trade beginning to slacken, we
hove our anchor up, set our topsails, ran the stars and stripes
up to the peak, fired a gun, which was returned from the Presidio,
and left the little town astern, running out of the bay, and
bearing down the coast again, for Santa Barbara. As we were now
going to leeward, we had a fair wind and a plenty of it. After
doubling Point Pinos, we bore up, set studding-sails alow and aloft,
and were walking off at the rate of eight or nine knots, promising
to traverse in twenty-four hours the distance which we were nearly
three weeks in traversing on the passage up. We passed Point
Conception at a flying rate, the wind blowing so that it would have
seemed half a gale to us, if we had been going the other way and
close hauled. As we drew near the islands off Santa Barbara, it
died away a little but we came-to at our old anchoring-ground in
less than thirty hours from the time of leaving Monterey.
Here everything was pretty much as we left it--the large bay without
a vessel in it; the surf roaring and rolling in upon the beach;
the white mission; the dark town and the high, treeless mountains.
Here, too, we had our south-easter tacks aboard again,--slip-ropes,
buoy-ropes, sails furled with reefs in them, and rope-yarns for gaskets.
We lay here about a fortnight, employed in landing goods and taking
off hides, occasionally, when the surf was not high; but there did
not appear to be one-half the business doing here that there was
in Monterey. In fact, so far as we were concerned, the town might
almost as well have been in the middle of the Cordilleras. We lay
at a distance of three miles from the beach, and the town was nearly
a mile farther; so that we saw little or nothing of it. Occasionally
we landed a few goods, which were taken away by Indians in large,
clumsy ox-carts, with the yoke on the ox's neck instead of under it,
and with small solid wheels. A few hides were brought down, which we
carried off in the California style. This we had now got pretty well
accustomed to; and hardened to also; for it does require a little
hardening even to the toughest.
The hides are always brought down dry, or they would not be received.
When they are taken from the animal, they have holes cut in the ends,
and are staked out, and thus dried in the sun without shrinking.
They are then doubled once, lengthwise, with the hair side usually in,
and sent down, upon mules or in carts, and piled above highwater mark;
and then we rake them upon our heads, one at a time, or two, if they
are small, and wade out with them and throw them into the boat,
which as there are no wharves, we are usually kept anchored by a
small kedge, or keelek, just outside of the surf. We all provided
ourselves with thick Scotch caps, which would be soft to the head,
and at the same time protect it; for we soon found that however it
might look or feel at first the "head-work" was the only system for
California. For besides that the seas, breaking high, often obliged
us to carry the hides so, in order to keep them dry, we found that,
as they were very large and heavy, and nearly as stiff as boards,
it was the only way that we could carry them with any convenience
to ourselves. Some of the crew tried other expedients, saying that
they looked too much like West India negroes; but they all came to
it at last. The great art is in getting them on the head. We had
to take them from the ground, and as they were often very heavy,
and as wide as the arms could stretch and easily taken by the wind,
we used to have some trouble with them. I have often been laughed
at myself, and joined in laughing at others, pitching themselves
down in the sand, trying to swing a large hide upon their heads,
or nearly blown over with one in a little gust of wind. The captain
made it harder for us, by telling us that it was "California fashion"
to carry two on the head at a time; and as he insisted upon it,
and we did not wish to be outdone by other vessels, we carried two
for the first few months; but after falling in with a few other
"hide-droghers," and finding that they carried only one at a time we
"knocked off" the extra one, and thus made our duty somewhat easier.
After we had got our heads used to the weight, and had learned the
true California style of tossing a hide, we could carry off two or
three hundred in a short time, without much trouble; but it was
always wet work, and, if the beach was stony, bad for our feet;
for we, of course, always went barefooted on this duty, as no shoes
could stand such constant wetting with salt water. Then, too, we
had a long pull of three miles, with a loaded boat, which often
took a couple of hours.
We had now got well settled down into our harbor duties, which,
as they are a good deal different from those at sea, it may be
well enough to describe. In the first place, all hands are called
at daylight, or rather--especially if the days are short--before
daylight, as soon as the first grey of the morning. The cook makes
his fire in the galley; the steward goes about his work in the cabin;
and the crew rig the head pump, and wash down the decks. The chief
mate is always on deck, but takes no active part, all the duty coming
upon the second mate, who has to roll up his trowsers and paddle about
decks barefooted, like the rest of the crew. The washing, swabbing,
squilgeeing, etc., lasts, or is made to last, until eight o'clock,
when breakfast is ordered, fore and aft. After breakfast, for which
half an hour is allowed, the boats are lowered down, and made fast
astern, or out to the swinging booms, by ges-warps, and the crew
are turned-to upon their day's work. This is various, and its
character depends upon circumstances. There is always more or
less of boating, in small boats; and if heavy goods are to be
taken ashore, or hides are brought down to the beach for us,
then all hands are sent ashore with an officer in the long boat.
Then there is always a good deal to be done in the hold: goods to
be broken out; and cargo to be shifted, to make room for hides,
or to keep the trim of the vessel. In addition to this, the usual
work upon the rigging must be done. There is a good deal of the
latter kind of work which can only be done when the vessel is in
port;--and then everything must be kept taught and in good order;
spun-yarn made; chafing gear repaired; and all the other ordinary
work. The great difference between sea and harbor duty is in the
division of time. Instead of having a watch on deck and a watch
below, as at sea, all hands are at work together, except at meal
times, from daylight till dark; and at night an "anchor-watch" is
kept, which consists of only two at a time; the whole crew taking
turns. An hour is allowed for dinner, and at dark, the decks are
cleared up; the boats hoisted; supper ordered; and at eight, the
lights put out, except in the binnacle, where the glass stands;
and the anchor-watch is set. Thus, when at anchor, the crew have
more time at night, (standing watch only about two hours,) but have
no time to themselves in the day; so that reading, mending clothes,
etc., has to be put off until Sunday, which is usually given.
Some religious captains give their crews Saturday afternoons
to do their washing and mending in, so that they may have their
Sundays free. This is a good arrangement, and does much toward
creating the preference sailors usually show for religious vessels.
We were well satisfied if we got Sunday to ourselves, for, if any
hides came down on that day, as was often the case when they were
brought from a distance, we were obliged to bring them off, which
usually took half a day; and as we now lived on fresh beef, and ate
one bullock a week, the animal was almost always brought down on
Sunday, and we had to go ashore, kill it, dress it, and bring it
aboard, which was another interruption. Then, too, our common
day's work was protracted and made more fatiguing by hides coming
down late in the afternoon, which sometimes kept us at work in
the surf by star-light, with the prospect of pulling on board,
and stowing them all away, before supper.
But all these little vexations and labors would have been nothing,
--they would have been passed by as the common evils of a sea-life,
which every sailor, who is a man, will go through without complaint,
--were it not for the uncertainty, or worse than uncertainty,
which hung over the nature and length of our voyage. Here we were,
in a little vessel, with a small crew, on a half-civilized coast,
at the ends of the earth, and with a prospect of remaining an
indefinite period, two or three years at the least. When we left
Boston we supposed that it was to be a voyage of eighteen months,
or two years, at most; but upon arriving on the coast, we learned
something more of the trade, and found that in the scarcity of
hides, which was yearly greater and greater, it would take us a
year, at least, to collect our own cargo, beside the passage out
and home; and that we were also to collect a cargo for a large ship
belonging to the same firm, which was soon to come on the coast,
and to which we were to act as tender. We had heard rumors of
such a ship to follow us, which had leaked out from the captain
and mate, but we passed them by as mere "yarns," till our arrival,
when they were confirmed by the letters which we brought from
the owners to their agent. The ship California, belonging to the
same firm, had been nearly two years on the coast; had collected
a full cargo, and was now at San Diego, from which port she was
expected to sail in a few weeks for Boston; and we were to collect
all the hides we could, and deposit them at San Diego, when the new
ship, which would carry forty thousand, was to be filled and sent
home; and then we were to begin anew, and collect our own cargo.
Here was a gloomy prospect before us, indeed. The California had
been twenty months on the coast, and the Lagoda, a smaller ship,
carrying only thirty-one or thirty-two thousand, had been two years
getting her cargo; and we were to collect a cargo of forty thousand
beside our own, which would be twelve or fifteen thousand; and hides
were said to be growing scarcer. Then, too, this ship, which had
been to us a worse phantom than any flying Dutchman, was no phantom,
or ideal thing, but had been reduced to a certainty; so much so that
a name was given her, and it was said that she was to be the Alert,
a well-known India-man, which was expected in Boston in a few months,
when we sailed. There could be no doubt, and all looked black enough.
Hints were thrown out about three years and four years;--the older
sailors said they never should see Boston again, but should lay their
bones in California; and a cloud seemed to hang over the whole voyage.
Besides, we were not provided for so long a voyage, and clothes, and
all sailors' necessaries, were excessively dear--three or four hundred
per cent. advance upon the Boston prices. This was bad enough
for them; but still worse was it for me, who did not mean to be a
sailor for life; having intended only to be gone eighteen months or
two years. Three or four years would make me a sailor in every
respect, mind and habits, as well as body--nolens volens; and would
put all my companions so far ahead of me that college and a profession
would be in vain to think of; and I made up my mind that, feel as I
might, a sailor I must be, and to be master of a vessel, must be the
height of my ambition.
Beside the length of the voyage, and the hard and exposed life,
we were at the ends of the earth; on a coast almost solitary; in a
country where there is neither law nor gospel, and where sailors are
at their captain's mercy, there being no American consul, or any
one to whom a complaint could be made. We lost all interest in
the voyage; cared nothing about the cargo, which we were only
collecting for others; began to patch our clothes; and felt as
though we were fixed beyond all hope of change.
In addition to, and perhaps partly as a consequence of, this state
of things, there was trouble brewing on board the vessel. Our mate
(as the first mate is always called, par excellence) was a worthy
man;--a more honest, upright, and kind-hearted man I never saw;
but he was too good for the mate of a merchantman. He was not the
man to call a sailor a "son of a b---h," and knock him down with a
handspike. He wanted the energy and spirit for such a voyage as ours,
and for such a captain. Captain T----- was a vigorous, energetic
fellow. As sailors say, "he hadn't a lazy bone in him." He was
made of steel and whalebone. He was a man to "toe the mark,"
and to make every one else step up to it. During all the time that
I was with him, I never saw him sit down on deck. He was always
active and driving; severe in his discipline, and expected the same
of his officers. The mate not being enough of a driver for him, and
being perhaps too easy with the crew, he was dissatisfied with him,
became suspicious that discipline was getting relaxed, and began
to interfere in everything. He drew the reins taughter; and as,
in all quarrels between officers, the sailors side with the one who
treats them best, he became suspicious of the crew. He saw that
everything went wrong--that nothing was done "with a will;" and in
his attempt to remedy the difficulty by severity, he made everything
worse. We were in every respect unfortunately situated. Captain,
officers, and crew, entirely unfitted for one another; and every
circumstance and event was like a two-edged sword, and cut both
ways. The length of the voyage, which made us dissatisfied, made
the captain, at the same time, feel the necessity of order and strict
discipline; and the nature of the country, which caused us to feel that
we had nowhere to go for redress, but were entirely at the mercy of
a hard master, made the captain feel, on the other hand, that he
must depend entirely upon his own resources. Severity created
discontent, and signs of discontent provoked severity. Then, too,
ill-treatment and dissatisfaction are no "linimenta laborum;" and many
a time have I heard the sailors say that they should not mind the
length of the voyage, and the hardships, if they were only kindly
treated, and if they could feel that something was done to make
things lighter and easier. We felt as though our situation was
a call upon our superiors to give us occasional relaxations,
and to make our yoke easier. But the contrary policy was pursued.
We were kept at work all day when in port; which, together with a
watch at night, made us glad to turn-in as soon as we got below.
Thus we got no time for reading, or--which was of more importance
to us--for washing and mending our clothes. And then, when we
were at sea, sailing from port to port, instead of giving us
"watch and watch," as was the custom on board every other vessel
on the coast, we were all kept on deck and at work, rain or
shine, making spun-yarn and rope, and at other work in good
weather, and picking oakum, when it was too wet for anything
else. All hands were called to "come up and see it rain," and kept
on deck hour after hour in a drenching rain, standing round the
deck so far apart as to prevent our talking with one another, with
our tarpaulins and oil-cloth jackets on, picking old rope to pieces,
or laying up gaskets and robands. This was often done, too, when
we were lying in port with two anchors down, and no necessity for
more than one man on deck as a look-out. This is what is called
"hazing" a crew, and "working their old iron up."
While lying at Santa Barbara, we encountered another south-easter;
and, like the first, it came on in the night; the great black
clouds coming round from the southward, covering the mountain,
and hanging down over the town, appearing almost to rest upon
the roofs of the houses. We made sail, slipped our cable, cleared
the point, and beat about, for four days, in the offing, under close
sail, with continual rain and high seas and winds. No wonder,
thought we, they have no rain in the other seasons, for enough
seemed to have fallen in those four days to last through a common
summer. On the fifth day it cleared up, after a few hours, as is
usual, of rain coming down like a four hours' shower-bath, and
we found ourselves drifted nearly ten leagues from the anchorage;
and having light head winds, we did not return until the sixth
day. Having recovered our anchor, we made preparations for getting
under weigh to go down to leeward. We had hoped to go directly
to San Diego, and thus fall in with the California before she sailed
for Boston; but our orders were to stop at an intermediate port
called San Pedro, and as we were to lie there a week or two, and
the California was to sail in a few days, we lost the opportunity.
Just before sailing, the captain took on board a short, red-haired,
round-shouldered, vulgar-looking fellow, who had lost one eye,
and squinted with the other, and introducing him as Mr. Russell,
told us that he was an officer on board. This was too bad. We had
lost overboard, on the passage, one of the best of our number,
another had been taken from us and appointed clerk, and thus
weakened and reduced, instead of shipping some hands to make
our work easier, he had put another officer over us, to watch
and drive us. We had now four officers, and only six in the
forecastle. This was bringing her too much down by the stern
for our comfort.
Leaving Santa Barbara, we coasted along down, the country
appearing level or moderately uneven, and, for the most part, sandy
and treeless; until, doubling a high, sandy point, we let go our
anchor at a distance of three or three and a half miles from shore.
It was like a vessel, bound to Halifax, coming to anchor on the
Grand Banks; for the shore being low, appeared to be at a greater
distance than it actually was, and we thought we might as well
have staid at Santa Barbara, and sent our boat down for the hides.
The land was of a clayey consistency, and, as far as the eye could
reach, entirely bare of trees and even shrubs; and there was no
sign of a town,--not even a house to be seen. What brought us
into such a place, we could not conceive. No sooner had we come
to anchor, than the slip-rope, and the other preparations for
south-easters, were got ready; and there was reason enough for it,
for we lay exposed to every wind that could blow, except the north-west,
and that came over a flat country with a range of more than a
league of water. As soon as everything was snug on board, the
boat was lowered, and we pulled ashore, our new officer, who had
been several times in the port before, taking the place of steersman.
As we drew in, we found the tide low, and the rocks and stones,
covered with kelp and sea-weed, lying bare for the distance of
nearly an eighth of a mile. Picking our way barefooted over these,
we came to what is called the landing-place, at high-water mark.
The soil was as it appeared at first, loose and clayey, and except
the stalks of the mustard plant, there was no vegetation. Just in
front of the landing, and immediately over it, was a small hill,
which, from its being not more than thirty or forty feet high, we had
not perceived from our anchorage. Over this hill we saw three men
coming down, dressed partly like sailors and partly like Californians;
one of them having on a pair of untanned leather trowsers and a red
baize shirt. When they came down to us, we found that they were
Englishmen, and they told us that they had belonged to a small
Mexican brig which had been driven ashore here in a south-easter,
and now lived in a small house just over the hill. Going up
this hill with them, we saw, just behind it, a small, low building,
with one room, containing a fire-place, cooking apparatus, etc., and
the rest of it unfinished, and used as a place to store hides and
goods. This, they told us, was built by some traders in the Pueblo,
(a town about thirty miles in the interior, to which this was the
port,) and used by them as a storehouse, and also as a lodging place
when they came down to trade with the vessels. These three men
were employed by them to keep the house in order, and to look out
for the things stored in it. They said that they had been there
nearly a year; had nothing to do most of the time, living upon beef,
hard bread, and frijoles (a peculiar kind of bean very abundant in
California). The nearest house, they told us, was a Rancho,
or cattle-farm, about three miles off; and one of them went up,
at the request of our officer, to order a horse to be sent down,
with which the agent, who was on board, might go up to the Pueblo.
From one of them, who was an intelligent English sailor, I learned
a good deal, in a few minutes' conversation, about the place, its
trade, and the news from the southern ports. San Diego, he said,
was about eighty miles to the leeward of San Pedro; that they had
heard from there, by a Mexican who came up on horseback, that
the California had sailed for Boston, and that the Lagoda, which
had been in San Pedro only a few weeks before, was taking in her
cargo for Boston. The Ayacucho was also there, loading for Callao,
and the little Loriotte, which had run directly down from Monterey,
where we left her. San Diego, he told me, was a small, snug place,
having very little trade, but decidedly the best harbor on the coast,
being completely land-locked, and the water as smooth as a duck-pond.
This was the depot for all the vessels engaged in the trade; each one
having a large house there, built of rough boards, in which they
stowed their hides, as fast as they collected them in their trips
up and down the coast, and when they had procured a full cargo,
spent a few weeks there, taking it in, smoking ship, supplying
wood and water, and making other preparations for the voyage home.
The Lagoda was now about this business. When we should be about it,
was more than I could tell; two years, at least, I thought to myself.
I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking place we
were in was the best place on the whole coast for hides. It was the
only port for a distance of eighty miles, and about thirty miles in
the interior was a fine plane country, filled with herds of cattle,
in the centre of which was the Pueblo de los Angelos--the largest
town in California--and several of the wealthiest missions; to all
of which San Pedro was the sea-port.
Having made our arrangements for a horse to take the agent to
the Pueblo the next day, we picked our way again over the green,
slippery rocks, and pulled aboard. By the time we reached the
vessel, which was so far off that we could hardly see her, in the
increasing darkness, the boats were hoisted up, and the crew at
supper. Going down into the forecastle, eating our supper, and
lighting our cigars and pipes, we had, as usual, to tell all we had
seen or heard ashore. We all agreed that it was the worst place
we had seen yet, especially for getting off hides, and our lying off
at so great a distance looked as though it was bad for south-easters.
After a few disputes as to whether we should have to carry our
goods up the hill, or not, we talked of San Diego, the probability
of seeing the Lagoda before she sailed, etc., etc.
The next day we pulled the agent ashore, and he went up to
visit the Pueblo and the neighboring missions; and in a few days,
as the result of his labors, large ox-carts, and droves of mules,
loaded with hides, were seen coming over the flat country.
We loaded our long-boat with goods of all kinds, light and heavy,
and pulled ashore. After landing and rolling them over the stones
upon the beach, we stopped, waiting for the carts to come down the
hill and take them; but the captain soon settled the matter by ordering
us to carry them all up to the top, saying that, that was "California
fashion." So what the oxen would not do, we were obliged to do.
The hill was low, but steep, and the earth, being clayey and wet
with the recent rains, was but bad holding-ground for our feet.
The heavy barrels and casks we rolled up with some difficulty,
getting behind and putting our shoulders to them; now and then
our feet slipping, added to the danger of the casks rolling back
upon us. But the greatest trouble was with the large boxes of
sugar. These, we had to place upon oars, and lifting them up rest
the oars upon our shoulders, and creep slowly up the hill with the
gait of a funeral procession. After an hour or two of hard work,
we got them all up, and found the carts standing full of hides,
which we had to unload, and also to load again with our own goods;
the lazy Indians, who came down with them, squatting down on their
hams, looking on, doing nothing, and when we asked them to help us,
only shaking their heads, or drawling out "no quiero."
Having loaded the carts, we started up the Indians, who went
off, one on each side of the oxen, with long sticks, sharpened at
the end, to punch them with. This is one of the means of saving
labor in California;--two Indians to two oxen. Now, the hides
were to be got down; and for this purpose, we brought the boat
round to a place where the hill was steeper, and threw them down,
letting them slide over the slope. Many of them lodged, and we
had to let ourselves down and set them agoing again; and in this
way got covered with dust, and our clothes torn. After we had
got them all down, we were obliged to take them on our heads,
and walk over the stones, and through the water, to the boat.
The water and the stones together would wear out a pair of shoes
a day, and as shoes were very scarce and very dear, we were compelled
to go barefooted. At night, we went on board, having had the hardest
and most disagreeable day's work that we had yet experienced.
For several days, we were employed in this manner, until we had
landed forty or fifty tons of goods, and brought on board about
two thousand hides; when the trade began to slacken, and we were
kept at work, on board, during the latter part of the week,
either in the hold or upon the rigging. On Thursday night,
there was a violent blow from the northward, but as this was
off-shore, we had only to let go our other anchor and hold on.
We were called up at night to send down the royal-yards. It was
as dark as a pocket, and the vessel pitching at her anchors,
I went up to the fore, and my friend S-----, to the main,
and we soon had them down "ship-shape and Bristol fashion,"
for, as we had now got used to our duty aloft, everything above
the cross-trees was left to us, who were the youngest of the crew,
except one boy.
A FLOGGING--A NIGHT ON SHORE--THE STATE OF THINGS ON BOARD--SAN DIEGO
For several days the captain seemed very much out of humor.
Nothing went right, or fast enough for him. He quarrelled with
the cook, and threatened to flog him for throwing wood on deck;
and had a dispute with the mate about reeving a Spanish burton;
the mate saying that he was right, and had been taught how to do
it by a man who was a sailor! This, the captain took in dudgeon,
and they were at sword's points at once. But his displeasure was
chiefly turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow from the
Middle States, who was called Sam. This man hesitated in his speech,
and was rather slow in his motions, but was a pretty good sailor,
and always seemed to do his best; but the captain took a dislike
to him, thought he was surly, and lazy; and "if you once give a
dog a bad name"--as the sailor-phrase is--"he may as well jump
overboard." The captain found fault with everything this man did,
and hazed him for dropping a marline-spike from the main-yard,
where he was at work. This, of course, was an accident, but it
was set down against him. The captain was on board all day Friday,
and everything went on hard and disagreeably. "The more you drive
a man, the less he will do," was as true with us as with any
other people. We worked late Friday night, and were turned-to
early Saturday morning. About ten o'clock the captain ordered
our new officer, Russell, who by this time had become thoroughly
disliked by all the crew, to get the gig ready to take him ashore.
John, the Swede, was sitting in the boat alongside, and Russell
and myself were standing by the main hatchway, waiting for the
captain, who was down in the hold, where the crew were at work,
when we heard his voice raised in violent dispute with somebody,
whether it was with the mate, or one of the crew, I could not
tell; and then came blows and scuffling. I ran to the side and
beckoned to John, who came up, and we leaned down the hatchway;
and though we could see no one, yet we knew that the captain had
the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear--
"You see your condition! You see your condition! Will you ever
give me any more of your jaw?" No answer; and then came
wrestling and heaving, as though the man was trying to turn him.
"You may as well keep still, for I have got you," said the captain.
Then came the question, "Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?"
"I never gave you any, sir," said Sam; for it was his voice that
we heard, though low and half choked.
"That's not what I ask you. Will you ever be impudent to me again?"
"I never have been, sir," said Sam.
"Answer my question, or I'll make a spread eagle of you! I'll
flog you, by G--d."
"I'm no negro slave," said Sam.
"Then I'll make you one," said the captain; and he came to the
hatchway, and sprang on deck, threw off his coat, and rolling
up his sleeves, called out to the mate--"Seize that man up, Mr.
A-----! Seize him up! Make a spread eagle of him! I'll teach
you all who is master aboard!"
The crew and officers followed the captain up the hatchway,
and after repeated orders the mate laid hold of Sam, who made
no resistance, and carried him to the gangway.
"What are you going to flog that man for, sir?" said John, the
Swede, to the captain.
Upon hearing this, the captain turned upon him, but knowing
him to be quick and resolute, he ordered the steward to bring the
irons, and calling upon Russell to help him, went up to John.
"Let me alone," said John. "I'm willing to be put in irons. You
need not use any force;" and putting out his hands, the captain
slipped the irons on, and sent him aft to the quarter-deck. Sam by
this time was seized up, as it is called, that is, placed against the
shrouds, with his wrists made fast to the shrouds, his jacket off,
and his back exposed. The captain stood on the break of the deck,
a few feet from him, and a little raised, so as to have a good swing
at him, and held in his hand the bight of a thick, strong rope.
The officers stood round, and the crew grouped together in the waist.
All these preparations made me feel sick and almost faint, angry
and excited as I was. A man--a human being, made in God's likeness--
fastened up and flogged like a beast! A man, too, whom I had lived
with and eaten with for months, and knew almost as well as a brother.
The first and almost uncontrollable impulse was resistance. But what
was to be done? The time for it had gone by. The two best men were
fast, and there were only two beside myself, and a small boy of
ten or twelve years of age. And then there were (beside the
captain) three officers, steward, agent and clerk. But beside
the numbers, what is there for sailors to do? If they resist, it is
mutiny; and if they succeed, and take the vessel, it is piracy.
If they ever yield again, their punishment must come; and if they
do not yield, they are pirates for life. If a sailor resist his
commander, he resists the law, and piracy or submission are his
only alternatives. Bad as it was, it must be borne. It is what
a sailor ships for. Swinging the rope over his head, and bending
his body so as to give it full force, the captain brought it down
upon the poor fellow's back. Once, twice--six times. "Will you
ever give me any more of your jaw?" The man writhed with pain,
but said not a word. Three times more. This was too much, and he
muttered something which I could not hear; this brought as many
more as the man could stand; when the captain ordered him to be
cut down, and to go forward.
"Now for you," said the captain, making up to John and taking
his irons off. As soon as he was loose, he ran forward to the
forecastle. "Bring that man aft," shouted the captain. The second
mate, who had been a shipmate of John's, stood still in the waist,
and the mate walked slowly forward; but our third officer, anxious
to show his zeal, sprang forward over the windlass, and laid hold
of John; but he soon threw him from him. At this moment I would
have given worlds for the power to help the poor fellow; but it
was all in vain. The captain stood on the quarter-deck, bare-headed,
his eyes flashing with rage, and his face as red as blood, swinging
the rope, and calling out to his officers, "Drag him aft!--Lay hold
of him! I'll sweeten him!" etc., etc. The mate now went forward
and told John quietly to go aft; and he, seeing resistance in vain,
threw the blackguard third mate from him; said he would go aft
of himself; that they should not drag him; and went up to the
gangway and held out his hands; but as soon as the captain began
to make him fast, the indignity was too much, and he began to
resist; but the mate and Russell holding him, he was soon seized
up. When he was made fast, he turned to the captain, who stood
turning up his sleeves and getting ready for the blow, and asked
him what he was to be flogged for. "Have I ever refused my duty,
sir? Have you ever known me to hang back, or to be insolent, or
not to know my work?"
"No," said the captain, "it is not that that I flog you for; I flog
you for your interference--for asking questions."
"Can't a man ask a question here without being flogged?"
"No," shouted the captain; "nobody shall open his mouth aboard
this vessel, but myself;" and began laying the blows upon his back,
swinging half round between each blow, to give it full effect.
As he went on, his passion increased, and he danced about the deck,
calling out as he swung the rope,--"If you want to know what I
flog you for, I'll tell you. It's because I like to do it!--because
I like to do it!--It suits me! That's what I do it for!"
The man writhed under the pain, until he could endure it no
longer, when he called out, with an exclamation more common
among foreigners than with us--"Oh, Jesus Christ! Oh, Jesus
"Don't call on Jesus Christ," shouted the captain; "he can't help
you. Call on Captain T-----, he's the man! He can help you!
Jesus Christ can't help you now!"
At these words, which I never shall forget, my blood ran cold.
I could look on no longer. Disgusted, sick, and horror-struck,
I turned away and leaned over the rail, and looked down into the
water. A few rapid thoughts of my own situation, and of the
prospect of future revenge, crossed my mind; but the falling of the
blows and the cries of the man called me back at once. At length
they ceased, and turning round, I found that the mate, at a signal
from the captain had cut him down. Almost doubled up with pain,
the man walked slowly forward, and went down into the forecastle.
Every one else stood still at his post, while the captain, swelling
with rage and with the importance of his achievement, walked the
quarter-deck, and at each turn, as he came forward, calling out to
us,--"You see your condition! You see where I've got you all, and
you know what to expect!"--"You've been mistaken in me--you didn't
know what I was! Now you know what I am!"--"I'll make you toe the
mark, every soul of you, or I'll flog you all, fore and aft, from the
boy, up!"--"You've got a driver over you! Yes, a slave-driver--
a negro-driver! I'll see who'll tell me he isn't a negro slave!"
With this and the like matter, equally calculated to quiet us, and to
allay any apprehensions of future trouble, he entertained us for
about ten minutes, when he went below. Soon after, John came aft,
with his bare back covered with stripes and wales in every direction,
and dreadfully swollen, and asked the steward to ask the captain to
let him have some salve, or balsam, to put upon it. "No," said
the captain, who heard him from below; "tell him to put his shirt
on; that's the best thing for him; and pull me ashore in the boat.
Nobody is going to lay-up on board this vessel." He then called to
Mr. Russell to take those men and two others in the boat, and pull
him ashore. I went for one. The two men could hardly bend their
backs, and the captain called to them to "give way," "give way!" but
finding they did their best, he let them alone. The agent was in
the stern sheets, but during the whole pull--a league or more--not
a word was spoken. We landed; the captain, agent, and officer went
up to the house, and left us with the boat. I, and the man with me,
staid near the boat, while John and Sam walked slowly away, and sat
down on the rocks. They talked some time together, but at length
separated, each sitting alone. I had some fears of John. He was
a foreigner, and violently tempered, and under suffering; and he
had his knife with him, and the captain was to come down alone
to the boat. But nothing happened; and we went quietly on board.
The captain was probably armed, and if either of them had lifted a
hand against him, they would have had nothing before them but flight,
and starvation in the woods of California, or capture by the soldiers
and Indian blood-hounds, whom the offer of twenty dollars would
have set upon them.
After the day's work was done, we went down into the forecastle,
and ate our plain supper; but not a word was spoken. It was