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Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana

Part 7 out of 8

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In this state of things, a new light was struck out, and a new
field opened, by a change in the watch. One of our watch was
laid up for two or three days by a bad hand, (for in cold weather
the least cut or bruise ripens into a sore,) and his place was
supplied by the carpenter. This was a windfall, and there was
quite a contest, who should have the carpenter to walk with him.
As "Chips" was a man of some little education, and he and I had
had a good deal of intercourse with each other, he fell in with
me in my walk. He was a Fin, but spoke English very well, and
gave me long accounts of his country;--the customs, the trade,
the towns, what little he knew of the government, (I found he was
no friend of Russia), his voyages, his first arrival in America,
his marriage and courtship;--he had married a countrywoman of his,
a dress-maker, whom he met with in Boston. I had very little to
tell him of my quiet, sedentary life at home; and, in spite of
our best efforts, which had protracted these yarns through five
or six watches, we fairly talked one another out, and I turned
him over to another man in the watch, and put myself upon my
own resources.

I commenced a deliberate system of time-killing, which united
some profit with a cheering up of the heavy hours. As soon
as I came on deck, and took my place and regular walk, I began
with repeating over to myself a string of matters which I had
in my memory, in regular order. First, the multiplication table
and the tables of weights and measures; then the states of the
union, with their capitals; the counties of England, with their
shire towns; the kings of England in their order; and a large
part of the peerage, which I committed from an almanac that we
had on board; and then the Kanaka numerals. This carried me
through my facts, and, being repeated deliberately, with long
intervals, often eked out the two first bells. Then came the
ten commandments; the thirty-ninth chapter of Job, and a few
other passages from Scripture. The next in the order, that I
never varied from, came Cowper's Castaway, which was a great
favorite with me; the solemn measure and gloomy character of
which, as well as the incident that it was founded upon, made it
well suited to a lonely watch at sea. Then his lines to Mary,
his address to the jackdaw, and a short extract from Table Talk;
(I abounded in Cowper, for I happened to have a volume of his
poems in my chest;) "Ille et nefasto" from Horace, and Goethe's
Erl King. After I had got through these, I allowed myself a more
general range among everything that I could remember, both in prose
and verse. In this way, with an occasional break by relieving the
wheel, heaving the log, and going to the scuttle-butt for a drink
of water, the longest watch was passed away; and I was so regular
in my silent recitations, that if there was no interruption by
ship's duty, I could tell very nearly the number of bells by my

Our watches below were no more varied than the watch on deck.

All washing, sewing, and reading was given up; and we did nothing
but eat, sleep, and stand our watch, leading what might be called a
Cape Horn life. The forecastle was too uncomfortable to sit up in;
and whenever we were below, we were in our berths. To prevent the
rain, and the sea-water which broke over the bows, from washing down,
we were obliged to keep the scuttle closed, so that the forecastle
was nearly air-tight. In this little, wet, leaky hole, we were all
quartered, in an atmosphere so bad that our lamp, which swung in
the middle from the beams, sometimes actually burned blue, with a
large circle of foul air about it. Still I was never in better
health than after three weeks of this life. I gained a great
deal of flesh, and we all ate like horses. At every watch, when we
came below, before turning-in, the bread barge and beef kid were
overhauled. Each man drank his quart of hot tea night and morning;
and glad enough we were to get it, for no nectar and ambrosia were
sweeter to the lazy immortals, than was a pot of hot tea, a hard
biscuit, and a slice of cold salt beef, to us after a watch on
deck. To be sure, we were mere animals and had this life lasted
a year instead of a month we should have been little better than
the ropes in the ship. Not a razor, nor a brush, nor a drop
of water, except the rain and the spray, had come near us all
the time; for we were on an allowance of fresh water; and who
would strip and wash himself in salt water on deck, in the snow
and ice, with the thermometer at zero?

After about eight days of constant easterly gales, the wind
hauled occasionally a little to the southward, and blew hard,
which, as we were well to the southward, allowed us to brace
in a little and stand on, under all the sail we could carry.
These turns lasted but a short while, and sooner or later it set
again from the old quarter; yet each time we made something,
and were gradually edging along to the eastward. One night,
after one of these shifts of the wind, and when all hands had been
up a great part of the time, our watch was left on deck, with the
mainsail hanging in the buntlines, ready to be set if necessary.
It came on to blow worse and worse, with hail and snow beating
like so many furies upon the ship, it being as dark and thick as
night could make it. The mainsail was blowing and slatting with
a noise like thunder, when the captain came on deck, and ordered
it to be furled. The mate was about to call all hands, when the
captain stopped him, and said that the men would be beaten out if
they were called up so often; that as our watch must stay on deck,
it might as well be doing that as anything else.

Accordingly, we went upon the yard; and never shall I forget
that piece of work. Our watch had been so reduced by sickness,
and by some having been left in California, that, with one man
at the wheel, we had only the third mate and three beside myself,
to go aloft; so that at most, we could only attempt to furl one
yard-arm at a time. We manned the weather yard-arm, and set to
work to make a furl of it. Our lower masts being short, and our
yards very square, the sail had a head of nearly fifty feet,
and a short leach, made still shorter by the deep reef which
was in it, which brought the clew away out on the quarters of
the yard, and made a bunt nearly as square as the mizen royal-
yard. Beside this difficulty, the yard over which we lay was
cased with ice, the gaskets and rope of the foot and leach of
the sail as stiff and hard as a piece of suction-hose, and the
sail itself about as pliable as though it had been made of sheets
of sheathing copper. It blew a perfect hurricane, with alternate
blasts of snow, hail, and rain. We had to fist the sail with
bare hands. No one could trust himself to mittens, for if he
slipped, he was a gone man. All the boats were hoisted in on
deck, and there was nothing to be lowered for him. We had need
of every finger God had given us. Several times we got the sail
upon the yard, but it blew away again before we could secure it.
It required men to lie over the yard to pass each turn of the
gaskets, and when they were passed, it was almost impossible to
knot them so that they would hold. Frequently we were obliged to
leave off altogether and take to beating our hands upon the sail,
to keep them from freezing.

After some time,--which seemed forever,--we got the weather side
stowed after a fashion, and went over to leeward for another trial.

This was still worse, for the body of the sail had been blown over
to leeward, and as the yard was a-cock-bill by the lying over of
the vessel, we had to light it all up to windward. When the yard-
arms were furled, the bunt was all adrift again, which made more
work for us. We got all secure at last, but we had been nearly
an hour and a half upon the yard, and it seemed an age. It just
struck five bells when we went up, and eight were struck soon after
we came down. This may seem slow work, but considering the state
of everything, and that we had only five men to a sail with just
half as many square yards of canvas in it as the mainsail of the
Independence, sixty-gun ship, which musters seven hundred men at
her quarters, it is not wonderful that we were no quicker about it.
We were glad enough to get on deck, and still more, to go below.
The oldest sailor in the watch said, as he went down,--"I shall
never forget that main yard;--it beats all my going a fishing.
Fun is fun, but furling one yard-arm of a course, at a time,
off Cape Horn, is no better than man-killing."

During the greater part of the next two days, the wind was pretty
steady from the southward. We had evidently made great progress,
and had good hope of being soon up with the Cape, if we were not
there already. We could put but little confidence in our reckoning,
as there had been no opportunities for an observation, and we had
drifted too much to allow of our dead reckoning being anywhere
near the mark. If it would clear off enough to give a chance for
an observation, or if we could make land, we should know where we
were; and upon these, and the chances of falling in with a sail
from the eastward, we depended almost entirely.

Friday, July 22d. This day we had a steady gale from the southward,
and stood on under close sail, with the yards eased a little by the
weather braces, the clouds lifting a little, and showing signs of
breaking away. In the afternoon, I was below with Mr. H-----,
the third mate, and two others, filling the bread locker in the
steerage from the casks, when a bright gleam of sunshine broke
out and shone down the companion-way and through the skylight,
lighting up everything below, and sending a warm glow through the
heart of every one. It was a sight we had not seen for weeks,--an
omen, a god-send. Even the roughest and hardest face acknowledged
its influence. Just at that moment we heard a loud shout from all
parts of the deck, and the mate called out down the companion-way to
the captain, who was sitting in the cabin. What he said, we could
not distinguish, but the captain kicked over his chair, and was on
deck at one jump. We could not tell what it was; and, anxious as
we were to know, the discipline of the ship would not allow of our
leaving our places. Yet, as we were not called, we knew there was
no danger. We hurried to get through with our job, when, seeing the
steward's black face peering out of the pantry, Mr. H----- hailed
him, to know what was the matter. "Lan' o, to be sure, sir! No
you hear 'em sing out, 'Lan' o?' De cap'em say 'im Cape Horn!"

This gave us a new start, and we were soon through our work,
and on deck; and there lay the land, fair upon the larboard
beam, and slowly edging away upon the quarter. All hands were
busy looking at it--the captain and mates from the quarter-deck,
the cook from his galley, and the sailors from the forecastle;
and even Mr. N., the passenger, who had kept in his shell for
nearly a month, and hardly been seen by anybody, and who we had
almost forgotten was on board, came out like a butterfly, and was
hopping round as bright as a bird.

The land was the island of Staten Land, and, just to the eastward
of Cape Horn; and a more desolate-looking spot I never wish to set
eyes upon;--bare, broken, and girt with rocks and ice, with here
and there, between the rocks and broken hillocks, a little stunted
vegetation of shrubs. It was a place well suited to stand at the
junction of the two oceans, beyond the reach of human cultivation,
and encounter the blasts and snows of a perpetual winter. Yet,
dismal as it was, it was a pleasant sight to us; not only as being
the first land we had seen, but because it told us that we had
passed the Cape,--were in the Atlantic,--and that, with twenty-
four hours of this breeze, might bid defiance to the Southern
Ocean. It told us, too, our latitude and longitude better than
any observation; and the captain now knew where we were, as well
as if we were off the end of Long wharf.

In the general joy, Mr. N. said he should like to go ashore upon
the island and examine a spot which probably no human being had
ever set foot upon; but the captain intimated that he would see the
island--specimens and all,--in--another place, before he would get
out a boat or delay the ship one moment for him.

We left the land gradually astern; and at sundown had the
Atlantic Ocean clear before us.


It is usual, in voyages round the Cape from the Pacific, to keep
to the eastward of the Falkland Islands; but as it had now set in
a strong, steady, and clear south-wester, with every prospect of
its lasting, and we had had enough of high latitudes, the captain
determined to stand immediately to the northward, running inside
the Falkland Islands. Accordingly, when the wheel was relieved at
eight o'clock, the order was given to keep her due north, and all
hands were turned up to square away the yards and make sail.
In a moment, the news ran through the ship that the captain was
keeping her off, with her nose straight for Boston, and Cape Horn
over her taffrail. It was a moment of enthusiasm. Every one was
on the alert, and even the two sick men turned out to lend a hand
at the halyards. The wind was now due south-west, and blowing
a gale to which a vessel close hauled could have shown no more
than a single close-reefed sail; but as we were going before it,
we could carry on.

Accordingly, hands were sent aloft, and a reef shaken out of the
top-sails, and the reefed foresail set. When we came to masthead
the topsail yards, with all hands at the halyards, we struck up
"Cheerily, men," with a chorus which might have been heard half-way
to Staten Land. Under her increased sail, the ship drove on through
the water. Yet she could bear it well; and the captain sang out from
the quarter-deck--"Another reef out of that fore-topsail, and give
it to her!" Two hands sprang aloft; the frozen reef-points and
earings were cast adrift, the halyards manned, and the sail gave
out her increased canvas to the gale. All hands were kept on
deck to watch the effect of the change. It was as much as she
could well carry, and with a heavy sea astern, it took two men
at the wheel to steer her. She flung the foam from her bows;
the spray breaking aft as far as the gangway. She was going at
a prodigious rate.

Still, everything held. Preventer braces were reeved and hauled
taught; tackles got upon the backstays; and each thing done to
keep all snug and strong. The captain walked the deck at a rapid
stride, looked aloft at the sails, and then to windward; the mate
stood in the gangway, rubbing his hands, and talking aloud to the
ship--"Hurrah, old bucket! the Boston girls have got hold of the
tow-rope!" and the like; and we were on the forecastle, looking
to see how the spars stood it, and guessing the rate at which
she was going,--when the captain called out--"Mr. Brown, get up
the topmast studding-sail! What she can't carry she may drag!"
The mate looked a moment; but he would let no one be before him
in daring.

He sprang forward--"Hurrah, men! rig out the topmast studding-sail
boom! Lay aloft, and I'll send the rigging up to you!"--We sprang
aloft into the top; lowered a girt-line down, by which we hauled
up the rigging; rove the tacks and halyards; ran out the boom and
lashed it fast, and sent down the lower halyards, as a preventer.
It was a clear starlight night, cold and blowing; but everybody
worked with a will. Some, indeed, looked as though they thought
the "old man" was mad, but no one said a word. We had had a new
topmast studding-sail made with a reef in it,--a thing hardly
ever heard of, and which the sailors had ridiculed a good deal,
saying that when it was time to reef a studding-sail, it was time
to take it in. But we found a use for it now; for, there being
a reef in the topsail, the studding-sail could not be set without
one in it also. To be sure, a studding-sail with reefed topsails
was rather a new thing; yet there was some reason in it, for if
we carried that away, we should lose only a sail and a boom;
but a whole topsail might have carried away the mast and all.

While we were aloft, the sail had been got out, bent to the yard,
reefed, and ready for hoisting. Waiting for a good opportunity,
the halyards were manned and the yard hoisted fairly up to the
block; but when the mate came to shake the catspaw out of the
downhaul, and we began to boom-end the sail, it shook the ship
to her centre. The boom buckled up and bent like a whip-stick,
and we looked every moment to see something go; but, being of
the short, tough upland spruce, it bent like whalebone, and nothing
could break it. The carpenter said it was the best stick he had
ever seen. The strength of all hands soon brought the tack to
the boom-end, and the sheet was trimmed down, and the preventer
and the weather brace hauled taught to take off the strain.
Every rope-yarn seemed stretched to the utmost, and every thread
of canvas; and with this sail added to her, the ship sprang through
the water like a thing possessed. The sail being nearly all forward,
it lifted her out of the water, and she seemed actually to jump from
sea to sea. From the time her keel was laid, she had never been so
driven; and had it been life or death with every one of us, she could
not have borne another stitch of canvas.

Finding that she would bear the sail, the hands were sent below,
and our watch remained on deck. Two men at the wheel had as much
as they could do to keep her within three points of her course,
for she steered as wild as a young colt. The mate walked the deck,
looking at the sails, and then over the side to see the foam fly
by her, slapping his hands upon his thighs and talking to the
ship--"Hurrah, you jade, you've got the scent!--you know where
you're going!" And when she leaped over the seas, and almost
out of the water, and trembled to her very keel, the spars
and masts snapping and creaking,--"There she goes!--There she
goes,--handsomely!--as long as she cracks she holds!"--while we
stood with the rigging laid down fair for letting go, and ready
to take in sail and clear away, if anything went. At four bells
we hove the log, and she was going eleven knots fairly; and had it
not been for the sea from aft which sent the ship home, and threw
her continually off her course, the log would have shown her to
have been going much faster. I went to the wheel with a young
fellow from the Kennebec, who was a good helmsman; and for two
hours we had our hands full. A few minutes showed us that our
monkey-jackets must come off; and, cold as it was, we stood in
our shirt-sleeves, in a perspiration; and were glad enough to have
it eight bells, and the wheel relieved. We turned-in and slept
as well as we could, though the sea made a constant roar under
her bows, and washed over the forecastle like a small cataract.

At four o'clock, we were called again. The same sail was still on
the vessel, and the gale, if there was any change, had increased
a little. No attempt was made to take the studding-sail in;
and, indeed, it was too late now. If we had started anything
toward taking it in, either tack or halyards, it would have blown
to pieces, and carried something away with it. The only way now was
to let everything stand, and if the gale went down, well and good;
if not, something must go--the weakest stick or rope first--and
then we could get it in. For more than an hour she was driven on
at such a rate that she seemed actually to crowd the sea into a
heap before her; and the water poured over the spritsail yard as
it would over a dam. Toward daybreak the gale abated a little,
and she was just beginning to go more easily along, relieved of
the pressure, when Mr. Brown, determined to give her no respite,
and depending upon the wind's subsiding as the sun rose, told us
to get along the lower studding-sail. This was an immense sail,
and held wind enough to last a Dutchman a week,--hove-to. It was
soon ready, the boom topped up, preventer guys rove, and the idlers
called up to man the halyards; yet such was still the force of the
gale, that we were nearly an hour setting the sail; carried away the
outhaul in doing it, and came very near snapping off the swinging
boom. No sooner was it set than the ship tore on again like one
that was mad, and began to steer as wild as a hawk. The men at
the wheel were puffing and blowing at their work, and the helm was
going hard up and hard down, constantly. Add to this, the gale
did not lessen as the day came on, but the sun rose in clouds.
A sudden lurch threw the man from the weather wheel across the deck
and against the side. The mate sprang to the wheel, and the man,
regaining his feet, seized the spokes, and they hove the wheel up
just in time to save her from broaching to; though nearly half
the studding-sail went under water; and as she came to, the boom
stood up at an angle of forty five degrees. She had evidently
more on her than she could bear; yet it was in vain to try to
take it in--the clewline was not strong enough; and they were
thinking of cutting away, when another wide yaw and a come-to,
snapped the guys, and the swinging boom came in, with a crash,
against the lower rigging. The outhaul block gave way, and the
topmast studding-sail boom bent in a manner which I never before
supposed a stick could bend. I had my eye on it when the guys
parted, and it made one spring and buckled up so as to form nearly
a half circle, and sprang out again to its shape.

The clewline gave way at the first pull; the cleat to which the
halyards were belayed was wrenched off, and the sail blew round
the spritsail yards and head guys, which gave us a bad job to
get it in.

A half hour served to clear all away, and she was suffered to drive
on with her topmast studding-sail set, it being as much as she could
stagger under.

During all this day and the next night, we went on under the same
sail, the gale blowing with undiminished force; two men at the wheel
all the time; watch and watch, and nothing to do but to steer and
look out for the ship, and be blown along;--until the noon of the
next day--

Sunday, July 24th, when we were in latitude 50° 27' S., longitude
62° 13' W., having made four degrees of latitude in the last
twenty-four hours. Being now to northward of the Falkland Islands,
the ship was kept off, north-east, for the equator; and with her
head for the equator, and Cape Horn over her taffrail, she went
gloriously on; every heave of the sea leaving the Cape astern,
and every hour bringing us nearer to home, and to warm weather.
Many a time, when blocked up in the ice, with everything dismal
and discouraging about us, had we said,--if we were only fairly
round, and standing north on the other side, we should ask for
no more:--and now we had it all, with a clear sea, and as much
wind as a sailor could pray for. If the best part of the voyage
is the last part, surely we had all now that we could wish.
Every one was in the highest spirits, and the ship seemed as
glad as any of us at getting out of her confinement. At each
change of the watch, those coming on deck asked those going
below--"How does she go along?" and got for answer, the rate,
and the customary addition--"Aye! and the Boston girls have had hold
of the tow-rope all the watch, and can't haul half the slack in!"
Each day the sun rose higher in the horizon, and the nights grew
shorter; and at coming on deck each morning, there was a sensible
change in the temperature. The ice, too, began to melt from off
the rigging and spars, and, except a little which remained in the
tops and round the hounds of the lower masts, was soon gone. As we
left the gale behind us, the reefs were shaken out of the topsails,
and sail made as fast as she could bear it; and every time all hands
were sent to the halyards, a song was called for, and we hoisted
away with a will.

Sail after sail was added, as we drew into fine weather; and in
one week after leaving Cape Horn, the long topgallant masts were
got up, topgallant and royal yards crossed, and the ship restored
to her fair proportions.

The Southern Cross we saw no more after the first night; the
Magellan Clouds settled lower and lower in the horizon; and so
great was our change of latitude each succeeding night, that we
sank some constellation in the south, and raised another in the
northern horizon.

Sunday, July 31st. At noon we were in lat. 36° 41' S., long.
38° 08' W.; having traversed the distance of two thousand miles,
allowing for changes of course, in nine days. A thousand miles
in four days and a half!--This is equal to steam.

Soon after eight o'clock, the appearance of the ship gave evidence
that this was the first Sunday we had yet had in fine weather.
As the sun came up clear, with the promise of a fair, warm day,
and, as usual on Sunday, there was no work going on, all hands
turned-to upon clearing out the forecastle. The wet and soiled
clothes which had accumulated there during the past month, were
brought up on deck; the chests moved; brooms, buckets of water,
swabs, scrubbing-brushes, and scrapers carried down, and applied,
until the forecastle floor was as white as chalk, and everything
neat and in order. The bedding from the berths was then spread on
deck, and dried, and aired; the deck-tub filled with water; and a
grand washing begun of all the clothes which were brought up.
Shirts, frocks, drawers, trowsers, jackets, stockings, of every
shape and color, wet and dirty--many of them mouldy from having
been lying a long time wet in a foul corner--these were all washed
and scrubbed out, and finally towed overboard for half an hour;
and then made fast in the rigging to dry. Wet boots and shoes
were spread out to dry in sunny places on deck; and the whole
ship looked like a back yard on a washing day. After we had
done with our clothes, we began upon our own persons. A little
fresh water, which we had saved from our allowance, was put in
buckets, and with soap and towels, we had what sailors call
a fresh-water wash. The same bucket, to be sure, had to go
through several hands, and was spoken for by one after another,
but as we rinsed off in salt water, pure from the ocean, and the
fresh was used only to start the accumulated grime and blackness
of five weeks, it was held of little consequence.

We soaped down and scrubbed one another with towels and pieces
of canvas, stripping to it; and then, getting into the head,
threw buckets of water upon each other. After this, came shaving,
and combing, and brushing; and when, having spent the first part of
the day in this way, we sat down on the forecastle, in the afternoon,
with clean duck trowsers, and shirts on, washed, shaved, and combed,
and looking a dozen shades lighter for it, reading, sewing, and
talking at our ease, with a clear sky and warm sun over our heads,
a steady breeze over the larboard quarter, studding-sails out alow
and aloft, and all the flying kites aboard;--we felt that we had
got back into the pleasantest part of a sailor's life. At sundown
the clothes were all taken down from the rigging--clean and dry--and
stowed neatly away in our chests; and our southwesters, thick boots,
guernsey frocks, and other accompaniments of bad weather, put out
of the way, we hoped, for the rest of the voyage, as we expected
to come upon the coast early in the autumn.

Notwithstanding all that has been said about the beauty of a
ship under full sail, there are very few who have ever seen
a ship, literally, under all her sail. A ship coming in or
going out of port, with her ordinary sails, and perhaps two of
three studding-sails, is commonly said to be under full sail;
but a ship never has all her sail upon her, except when she has
a light, steady breeze, very nearly, but not quite, dead aft,
and so regular that it can be trusted, and is likely to last
for some time. Then, with all her sails, light and heavy, and
studding-sails, on each side, alow and aloft, she is the most
glorious moving object in the world. Such a sight, very few,
even some who have been at sea a great deal, have ever beheld;
for from the deck of your own vessel you cannot see her, as you
would a separate object.

One night, while we were in these tropics, I went out to the end
of the flying-jib-boom, upon some duty, and, having finished it,
turned round, and lay over the boom for a long time, admiring the
beauty of the sight before me. Being so far out from the deck,
I could look at the ship, as at a separate vessel;--and there rose
up from the water, supported only by the small black hull, a pyramid
of canvas, spreading out far beyond the hull, and towering up almost,
as it seemed in the indistinct night air, to the clouds. The sea
was as still as an inland lake; the light trade-wind was gently and
steadily breathing from astern; the dark blue sky was studded with
the tropical stars; there was no sound but the rippling of the water
under the stem; and the sails were spread out, wide and high;--the
two lower studding-sails stretching, on each side, far beyond the deck;
the topmast studding-sails, like wings to the topsails; the top-gallant
studding-sails spreading fearlessly out above them; still higher,
the two royal studding-sails, looking like two kites flying from
the same string; and, highest of all, the little skysail, the apex
of the pyramid, seeming actually to touch the stars, and to be
out of reach of human hand. So quiet, too, was the sea, and so
steady the breeze, that if these sails had been sculptured marble,
they could not have been more motionless. Not a ripple upon the
surface of the canvas; not even a quivering of the extreme edges
of the sail--so perfectly were they distended by the breeze.
I was so lost in the sight, that I forgot the presence of the
man who came out with me, until he said, (for he, too, rough old
man-of-war's-man as he was, had been gazing at the show,) half to
himself, still looking at the marble sails--"How quietly they do
their work!"

The fine weather brought work with it; as the ship was to be put in
order for coming into port. This may give a landsman some notion
of what is done on board ship.--All the first part of a passage is
spent in getting a ship ready for sea, and the last part in getting
her ready for port. She is, as sailors say, like a lady's watch,
always out of repair. The new, strong sails, which we had up off
Cape Horn, were to be sent down, and the old set, which were still
serviceable in fine weather, to be bent in their place; all the
rigging to be set up, fore and aft; the masts stayed; the standing
rigging to be tarred down; lower and topmast rigging rattled down,
fore and aft; the ship scraped, inside and out, and painted;
decks varnished; new and neat knots, seizings and coverings
to be fitted; and every part put in order, to look well to the
owner's eye, on coming into Boston. This, of course, was a long
matter; and all hands were kept on deck at work for the whole of
each day, during the rest of the voyage. Sailors call this hard
usage; but the ship must be in crack order, and "we're homeward
bound" was the answer to everything.

We went on for several days, employed in this way, nothing remarkable
occurring; and, at the latter part of the week, fell in with the
south-east trades, blowing about east-south-east, which brought
them nearly two points abaft our beam. These blew strong and
steady, so that we hardly started a rope, until we were beyond
their latitude. The first day of "all hands," one of those little
incidents occurred, which are nothing in themselves, but are great
matters in the eyes of a ship's company, as they serve to break the
monotony of a voyage, and afford conversation to the crew for days
afterwards. These small matters, too, are often interesting, as they
show the customs and state of feeling on shipboard.

In merchant vessels, the captain gives his orders as to the ship's
work, to the mate, in a general way, and leaves the execution of
them, with the particular ordering, to him. This has become so fixed
a custom, that it is like a law, and is never infringed upon by a wise
master, unless his mate is no seaman; in which case, the captain must
often oversee things for himself. This, however, could not be said
of our chief mate; and he was very jealous of any encroachment upon
the borders of his authority.

On Monday morning, the captain told him to stay the fore-topmast
plumb. He accordingly came forward, turned all hands to, with
tackles on the stays and back-stays, coming up with the seizings,
hauling here, belaying there, and full of business, standing between
the knightheads to sight the mast,--when the captain came forward,
and also began to give orders. This made confusion, and the mate,
finding that he was all aback, left his place and went aft, saying to
the captain--

"If you come forward, sir, I'll go aft. One is enough on the forecastle."

This produced a reply, and another fierce answer; and the words flew,
fists were doubled up, and things looked threateningly.

"I'm master of this ship."

"Yes, sir, and I'm mate of her, and know my place! My place is
forward, and yours is aft!"

"My place is where I choose! I command the whole ship; and you
are mate only so long as I choose!"

"Say the word, Capt. T., and I'm done! I can do a man's work
aboard! I didn't come through the cabin windows! If I'm not
mate, I can be man," etc., etc.

This was all fun for us, who stood by, winking at each other, and
enjoying the contest between the higher powers. The captain took
the mate aft; and they had a long talk, which ended in the mate's
returning to his duty. The captain had broken through a custom,
which is a part of the common-law of a ship, and without reason;
for he knew that his mate was a sailor, and needed no help from him;
and the mate was excusable for being angry. Yet he was wrong, and
the captain right. Whatever the captain does is right, ipso facto,
and any opposition to it is wrong, on board ship; and every officer
and man knows this when he signs the ship's articles.

It is a part of the contract. Yet there has grown up in merchant
vessels a series of customs, which have become a well understood
system, and have almost the force of prescriptive law. To be sure,
all power is in the captain, and the officers hold their authority
only during his will; and the men are liable to be called upon for
any service; yet, by breaking in upon these usages, many difficulties
have occurred on board ship, and even come into courts of justice,
which are perfectly unintelligible to any one not acquainted with the
universal nature and force of these customs. Many a provocation has
been offered, and a system of petty oppression pursued towards men,
the force and meaning of which would appear as nothing to strangers,
and doubtless do appear so to many "'long-shore" juries and judges.

The next little diversion, was a battle on the forecastle one
afternoon, between the mate and the steward. They had been on
bad terms the whole voyage; and had threatened a rupture several
times. This afternoon, the mate asked him for a tumbler of water,
and he refused to get it for him, saying that he waited upon
nobody but the captain: and here he had the custom on his side.
But in answering, he left off "the handle to the mate's name."
This enraged the mate, who called him a "black soger;" and at it
they went, clenching, striking, and rolling over and over; while
we stood by, looking on, and enjoying the fun. The darky tried
to butt him, but the mate got him down, and held him, the steward
singing out, "Let me go, Mr. Brown, or there'll be blood spilt!"
In the midst of this, the captain came on deck, separated them,
took the steward aft, and gave him half a dozen with a rope's end.

The steward tried to justify himself; but he had been heard to talk
of spilling blood, and that was enough to earn him his flogging;
and the captain did not choose to inquire any further.


The same day, I met with one of those narrow escapes, which are
so often happening in a sailor's life. I had been aloft nearly
all the afternoon, at work, standing for as much as an hour on
the fore top-gallant yard, which was hoisted up, and hung only by
the tie; when, having got through my work, I balled up my yarns,
took my serving-board in my hand, laid hold deliberately of the
top-gallant rigging, took one foot from the yard, and was just
lifting the other, when the tie parted, and down the yard fell.
I was safe, by my hold upon the rigging, but it made my heart beat
quick. Had the tie parted one instant sooner, or had I stood an
instant longer on the yard, I should inevitably have been thrown
violently from the height of ninety or a hundred feet, overboard;
or, what is worse, upon the deck. However, "a miss is as good
as a mile;" a saying which sailors very often have occasion to
use. An escape is always a joke on board ship. A man would be
ridiculed who should make a serious matter of it. A sailor knows
too well that his life hangs upon a thread, to wish to be always
reminded of it; so, if a man has an escape, he keeps it to himself,
or makes a joke of it. I have often known a man's life to be saved
by an instant of time, or by the merest chance,--the swinging of
a rope,--and no notice taken of it. One of our boys, when off
Cape Horn, reefing topsails of a dark night, and when there were
no boats to be lowered away, and where, if a man fell overboard he
must be left behind,--lost his hold of the reef-point, slipped from
the foot-rope, and would have been in the water in a moment, when
the man who was next to him on the yard caught him by the collar
of his jacket, and hauled him up upon the yard, with--"Hold on,
another time, you young monkey, and be d----d to you!"--and that
was all that was heard about it.

Sunday, August 7th. Lat. 25° 59' S., long. 27° 0' W. Spoke the
English bark Mary-Catherine, from Bahia, bound to Calcutta.
This was the first sail we had fallen in with, and the first
time we had seen a human form or heard the human voice, except of
our own number, for nearly a hundred days. The very yo-ho-ing of
the sailors at the ropes sounded sociably upon the ear. She was
an old, damaged-looking craft, with a high poop and top-gallant
forecastle, and sawed off square, stem and stern, like a true
English "tea-wagon," and with a run like a sugar-box. She had
studding-sails out alow and aloft, with a light but steady breeze,
and her captain said he could not get more than four knots out of
her and thought he should have a long passage. We were going six
on an easy bowline.

The next day, about three P. M., passed a large corvette-built
ship, close upon the wind, with royals and skysails set fore
and aft, under English colors. She was standing south-by-east,
probably bound round Cape Horn. She had men in her tops, and black
mast-heads; heavily sparred, with sails cut to a t, and other marks
of a man-of-war. She sailed well, and presented a fine appearance;
the proud, aristocratic-looking banner of St. George, the cross in
a blood-red field, waving from the mizen. We probably were as fine
a sight, with our studding-sails spread far out beyond the ship
on either side, and rising in a pyramid to royal studding-sails
and sky-sails, burying the hull in canvas, and looking like what
the whale-men on the Banks, under their stump top-gallant masts,
call "a Cape Horn-er under a cloud of sail."

Friday, August 12th. At daylight made the island of Trinidad,
situated in lat. 20° 28' S., long. 29° 08' W. At twelve M.,
it bore N. W. 1/2 N., distant twenty-seven miles. It was a
beautiful day, the sea hardly ruffled by the light trades,
and the island looking like a small blue mound rising from
a field of glass.

Such a fair and peaceful-looking spot is said to have been, for a
long time, the resort of a band of pirates, who ravaged the tropical

Thursday, August 18th. At three P. M., made the island of Fernando
Naronha, lying in lat. 3° 55' S., long. 32° 35' W.; and between
twelve o'clock Friday night and one o'clock Saturday morning,
crossed the equator, for the fourth time since leaving Boston,
in long. 35° W.; having been twenty-seven days from Staten
Land--a distance, by the courses we had made, of more than
four thousand miles.

We were now to the northward of the line, and every day added to
our latitude. The Magellan Clouds, the last sign of South latitude,
were sunk in the horizon, and the north star, the Great Bear,
and the familiar signs of northern latitudes, were rising in
the heavens.

Next to seeing land, there is no sight which makes one realize
more that he is drawing near home, than to see the same heavens,
under which he was born, shining at night over his head. The
weather was extremely hot, with the usual tropical alternations
of a scorching sun and squalls of rain; yet not a word was said
in complaint of the heat, for we all remembered that only three or
four weeks before we would have given nearly our all to have been
where we now were. We had plenty of water, too, which we caught by
spreading an awning, with shot thrown in to make hollows. These
rain squalls came up in the manner usual between the tropics.--A
clear sky; burning, vertical sun; work going lazily on, and men
about decks with nothing but duck trowsers, checked shirts, and
straw hats; the ship moving as lazily through the water; the man
at the helm resting against the wheel, with his hat drawn over
his eyes; the captain below, taking an afternoon nap; the passenger
leaning over the taffrail, watching a dolphin following slowly in
our wake; the sailmaker mending an old topsail on the lee side of
the quarter-deck; the carpenter working at his bench, in the waist;
the boys making sinnet; the spun-yarn winch whizzing round and round,
and the men walking slowly fore and aft with their yarns.--A
cloud rises to windward, looking a little black; the sky-sails are
brailed down; the captain puts his head out of the companion-way,
looks at the cloud, comes up, and begins to walk the deck.--The
cloud spreads and comes on;--the tub of yarns, the sail, and other
matters, are thrown below, and the sky-light and booby-hatch put
on, and the slide drawn over the forecastle.--"Stand by the royal
halyards;"--the man at the wheel keeps a good weather helm, so as
not to be taken aback. The squall strikes her. If it is light,
the royal yards are clewed down, and the ship keeps on her way;
but if the squall takes strong hold, the royals are clewed up,
fore and aft; light hands lay aloft and furl them; top-gallant
yards clewed down, flying-jib hauled down, and the ship kept off
before it,--the man at the helm laying out his strength to heave
the wheel up to windward. At the same time a drenching rain,
which soaks one through in an instant. Yet no one puts on a
jacket or cap; for if it is only warm, a sailor does not mind
a ducking; and the sun will soon be out again. As soon as the
force of the squall has passed, though to a common eye the ship
would seem to be in the midst of it,--"Keep her up to her course,
again!"--"Keep her up, sir," (answer);--"Hoist away the top-gallant
yards!"--"Run up the flying jib!"--"Lay aloft, you boys, and loose
the royals!"--and all sail is on her again before she is fairly
out of the squall; and she is going on in her course. The sun
comes out once more, hotter than ever, dries up the decks and
the sailors' clothes; the hatches are taken off; the sail got up
and spread on the quarter-deck; spun-yarn winch set a whirling
again; rigging coiled up; captain goes below; and every sign of
an interruption is removed.

These scenes, with occasional dead calms, lasting for hours, and
sometimes for days, are fair specimens of the Atlantic tropics.
The nights were fine; and as we had all hands all day, the watch
were allowed to sleep on deck at night, except the man at the
wheel, and one look-out on the forecastle. This was not so much
expressly allowed, as winked at. We could do it if we did not
ask leave. If the look-out was caught napping, the whole watch
was kept awake.

We made the most of this permission, and stowed ourselves away
upon the rigging, under the weather rail, on the spars, under the
windlass, and in all the snug corners; and frequently slept out
the watch, unless we had a wheel or a look-out. And we were glad
enough to get this rest; for under the "all hands" system, out of
every other thirty-six hours, we had only four below; and even
an hour's sleep was a gain not to be neglected. One would have
thought so, to have seen our watch, some nights, sleeping through
a heavy rain. And often have we come on deck, and finding a
dead calm and a light, steady rain, and determined not to lose
our sleep, have laid a coil of rigging down so as to keep us out
of the water which was washing about decks, and stowed ourselves
away upon it, covering a jacket over us, and slept as soundly as
a Dutchman between two feather beds.

For a week or ten days after crossing the line, we had the usual
variety of calms, squalls, head winds, and fair winds;--at one
time braced sharp upon the wind, with a taught bowline, and in
an hour after, slipping quietly along, with a light breeze over
the taffrail, and studding-sails out on both sides;--until we fell
in with the north-east trade-winds; which we did on the afternoon of

Sunday, August 28th, in lat. 12° N. The trade-wind clouds had been
in sight for a day or two previously, and we expected to take them
every hour. The light southerly breeze, which had been blowing
languidly during the first part of the day, died away toward noon,
and in its place came puffs from the north-east, which caused us
to take our studding-sails in and brace up; and in a couple of
hours more, we were bowling gloriously along, dashing the spray
far ahead and to leeward, with the cool, steady north-east trades,
freshening up the sea, and giving us as much as we could carry
our royals to. These winds blew strong and steady, keeping us
generally upon a bowline, as our course was about north-north-west;
and sometimes, as they veered a little to the eastward, giving us
a chance at a main top-gallant studding-sail; and sending us well
to the northward, until--

Sunday, Sept. 4th, when they left us, in lat. 22° N., long. 51° W.,
directly under the tropic of Cancer.

For several days we lay "humbugging about" in the Horse latitudes,
with all sorts of winds and weather, and occasionally, as we were in
the latitude of the West Indies--a thunder storm. It was hurricane
month, too, and we were just in the track of the tremendous hurricane
of 1830, which swept the North Atlantic, destroying almost everything
before it. The first night after the tradewinds left us, while we
were in the latitude of the island of Cuba, we had a specimen of
a true tropical thunder storm. A light breeze had been blowing
directly from aft during the first part of the night which gradually
died away, and before midnight it was dead calm, and a heavy black
cloud had shrouded the whole sky. When our watch came on deck at
twelve o'clock, it was as black as Erebus; the studding-sails were
all taken in, and the royals furled; not a breath was stirring;
the sails hung heavy and motionless from the yards; and the
perfect stillness, and the darkness, which was almost palpable,
were truly appalling. Not a word was spoken, but every one stood
as though waiting for something to happen. In a few minutes the
mate came forward; and in a low tone, which was almost a whisper,
told us to haul down the jib. The fore and mizen top-gallant sails
were taken in, in the same silent manner; and we lay motionless upon
the water, with an uneasy expectation, which, from the long suspense,
became actually painful. We could hear the captain walking the deck,
but it was too dark to see anything more than one's hand before the
face. Soon the mate came forward again, and gave an order, in a
low tone, to clew up the main top-gallant sail; and so infectious
was the awe and silence, that the clewlines and buntlines were
hauled up without any of the customary singing out at the ropes.
An English lad and myself went up to furl it; and we had just got
the bunt up, when the mate called out to us, something, we did
not hear what,--but supposing it to be an order to bear-a-hand,
we hurried, and made all fast, and came down, feeling our way among
the rigging. When we got down we found all hands looking aloft,
and there, directly over where we had been standing, upon the main
top-gallant-mast-head, was a ball of light, which the sailors name
a corposant (corpus sancti), and which the mate had called out to
us to look at. They were all watching it carefully, for sailors
have a notion that if the corposant rises in the rigging, it is
a sign of fair weather, but if it comes lower down, there will
be a storm. Unfortunately, as an omen, it came down, and showed
itself on the top-gallant yard-arm. We were off the yard in good
season, for it is held a fatal sign to have the pale light of the
corposant thrown upon one's face. As it was, the English lad did
not feel comfortably at having had it so near him, and directly
over his head. In a few minutes it disappeared, and showed itself
again on the fore top-gallant yard; and after playing about for
some time, disappeared again; when the man on the forecastle
pointed to it upon the flying-jib-boom-end. But our attention
was drawn from watching this, by the falling of some drops of
rain and by a perceptible increase of the darkness, which seemed
suddenly to add a new shade of blackness to the night. In a few
minutes, low, grumbling thunder was heard, and some random flashes
of lightning came from the south-west. Every sail was taken in
but the topsails, still, no squall appeared to be coming. A few
puffs lifted the topsails, but they fell again to the mast, and all
was as still as ever. A moment more, and a terrific flash and peal
broke simultaneously upon us, and a cloud appeared to open directly
over our heads and let down the water in one body, like a falling
ocean. We stood motionless, and almost stupefied; yet nothing had
been struck. Peal after peal rattled over our heads, with a sound
which seemed actually to stop the breath in the body, and the
"speedy gleams" kept the whole ocean in a glare of light.
The violent fall of rain lasted but a few minutes, and was
succeeded by occasional drops and showers; but the lightning
continued incessant for several hours, breaking the midnight
darkness with irregular and blinding flashes. During all which
time there was not a breath stirring, and we lay motionless, like a
mark to be shot at, probably the only object on the surface of the
ocean for miles and miles. We stood hour after hour, until our
watch was out, and we were relieved, at four o'clock. During all
this time, hardly a word was spoken; no bells were struck, and the
wheel was silently relieved. The rain fell at intervals in heavy
showers, and we stood drenched through and blinded by the flashes,
which broke the Egyptian darkness with a brightness which seemed
almost malignant; while the thunder rolled in peals, the concussion
of which appeared to shake the very ocean. A ship is not often
injured by lightning, for the electricity is separated by the
great number of points she presents, and the quantity of iron
which she has scattered in various parts. The electric fluid
ran over our anchors, top-sail sheets and ties; yet no harm was
done to us. We went below at four o'clock, leaving things in the
same state. It is not easy to sleep, when the very next flash may
tear the ship in two, or set her on fire; or where the deathlike
calm may be broken by the blast of a hurricane, taking the masts
out of the ship. But a man is no sailor if he cannot sleep when
he turns-in, and turn out when he's called. And when, at seven
bells, the customary "All the larboard watch, ahoy?" brought us
on deck, it was a fine, clear, sunny morning, the ship going
leisurely along, with a good breeze and all sail set.


From the latitude of the West Indies, until we got inside the Bermudas,
where we took the westerly and south-westerly winds, which blow
steadily off the coast of the United States early in the autumn,
we had every variety of weather, and two or three moderate gales,
or, as sailors call them, double-reef-topsail breezes, which came
on in the usual manner, and of which one is a specimen of all.--A
fine afternoon; all hands at work, some in the rigging, and others
on deck; a stiff breeze, and ship close upon the wind, and skysails
brailed down.--Latter part of the afternoon, breeze increases, ship
lies over to it, and clouds look windy. Spray begins to fly over
the forecastle, and wets the yarns the boys are knotting;--ball
them up and put them below.--Mate knocks off work and clears up
decks earlier than usual, and orders a man who has been employed
aloft to send the royal halyards over to windward, as he comes
down. Breast backstays hauled taught, and tackle got upon the
martingale back-rope.--One of the boys furls the mizen royal.--Cook
thinks there is going to be "nasty work," and has supper ready
early.--Mate gives orders to get supper by the watch, instead of
all hands, as usual.--While eating supper, hear the watch on deck
taking in the royals.--Coming on deck, find it is blowing harder,
and an ugly head sea is running.--Instead of having all hands on the
forecastle in the dog watch, smoking, singing, and telling yarns,
one watch goes below and turns-in, saying that it's going to be an
ugly night, and two hours' sleep is not to be lost.

Clouds look black and wild; wind rising, and ship working hard
against a heavy sea, which breaks over the forecastle, and washes
aft through the scuppers. Still, no more sail is taken in, for the
captain is a driver, and, like all drivers, very partial to his
top-gallant sails. A top-gallant sail, too, makes the difference
between a breeze and a gale. When a top-gallant sail is on a ship,
it is only a breeze, though I have seen ours set over a reefed
topsail, when half the bowsprit was under water, and it was up
to a man's knees in the scuppers. At eight bells, nothing is said
about reefing the topsails, and the watch go below, with orders to
"stand by for a call." We turn-in, growling at the "old man" for
not reefing the topsails when the watch was changed, but putting
it off so as to call all hands, and break up a whole watch below.
Turn-in "all standing," and keep ourselves awake, saying there is
no use in going asleep to be waked up again.--Wind whistles on
deck, and ship works hard, groaning and creaking, and pitching
into a heavy head sea, which strikes against the bows, with a
noise like knocking upon a rock.--The dim lamp in the forecastle
swings to and fro, and things "fetch away" and go over to
leeward.--"Doesn't that booby of a second mate ever mean to
take in his top-gallant sails?--He'll have the sticks out of
her soon," says old Bill, who was always growling, and, like
most old sailors, did not like to see a ship abused.--By-and-by
an order is given--"Aye, aye, sir!" from the forecastle;--rigging
is heaved down on deck;--the noise of a sail is heard fluttering
aloft, and the short, quick cry which sailors make when hauling
upon clewlines.--"Here comes his fore-top-gallant sail in!"--We
are wide awake, and know all that's going on as well as if we were
on deck.--A well-known voice is heard from the mast-head singing out
the officer of the watch to haul taught the weather brace.--"Hallo!
There's S----- aloft to furl the sail!"--Next thing, rigging is
heaved down directly over our heads, and a long-drawn cry and a
rattling of hanks announce that the flying-jib has come in.--The
second mate holds on to the main top-gallant sail until a heavy
sea is shipped, and washes over the forecastle as though the
whole ocean had come aboard; when a noise further aft shows
that that sail, too, is taking in. After this, the ship is
more easy for a time; two bells are struck, and we try to get a
little sleep. By-and-by, bang, bang, bang, on the scuttle--"All
ha-a-ands, a ho-o-y!"--We spring out of our berths, clap on a
monkey-jacket and southwester, and tumble up the ladder.--Mate
up before us, and on the forecastle, singing out like a roaring
bull; the captain singing out on the quarter-deck, and the second
mate yelling, like a hyena, in the waist. The ship is lying over
half upon her beam-ends; lee scuppers under water, and forecastle
all in a smother of foam.--Rigging all let go, and washing about
decks; topsail yards down upon the caps, and sails flapping and
beating against the masts; and starboard watch hauling out the
reef-tackles of the main topsail. Our watch haul out the fore,
and lay aloft and put two reefs into it, and reef the foresail,
and race with the starboard watch, to see which will mast-head its
topsail first. All hands tally-on to the main tack, and while some
are furling the jib, and hoisting the staysail, we mizen-topmen
double-reef the mizen topsail and hoist it up. All being made fast
--"Go below, the watch!" and we turn-in to sleep out the rest of the
time, which is perhaps an hour and a half. During all the middle,
and for the first part of the morning watch, it blows as hard as
ever, but toward daybreak it moderates considerably, and we shake
a reef out of each topsail, and set the top-gallant sails over
them and when the watch come up, at seven bells, for breakfast,
shake the other reefs out, turn all hands to upon the halyards,
get the watch-tackle upon the top-gallant sheets and halyards,
set the flying-jib, and crack on to her again.

Our captain had been married only a few weeks before he left Boston;
and, after an absence of over two years, it may be supposed he was
not slow in carrying sail. The mate, too, was not to be beaten by
anybody; and the second mate, though he was afraid to press sail,
was afraid as death of the captain, and being between two fears,
sometimes carried on longer than any of them. We snapped off three
flying-jib booms in twenty-four hours, as fast as they could be
fitted and rigged out; sprung the spritsail yard; and made nothing
of studding-sail booms. Beside the natural desire to get home,
we had another reason for urging the ship on. The scurvy had begun
to show itself on board. One man had it so badly as to be disabled
and off duty, and the English lad, Ben, was in a dreadful state,
and was daily growing worse. His legs swelled and pained him so
that he could not walk; his flesh lost its elasticity, so that if
it was pressed in, it would not return to its shape; and his gums
swelled until he could not open his mouth. His breath, too, became
very offensive; he lost all strength and spirit; could eat nothing;
grew worse every day; and, in fact, unless something was done for
him, would be a dead man in a week, at the rate at which he was
sinking. The medicines were all, or nearly all, gone; and if we had
had a chest-full, they would have been of no use; for nothing but
fresh provisions and terra firma has any effect upon the scurvy.
This disease is not so common now as formerly; and is attributed
generally to salt provisions, want of cleanliness, the free
use of grease and fat (which is the reason of its prevalence
among whalemen,) and, last of all, to laziness. It never could
have been from the latter cause on board our ship; nor from the
second, for we were a very cleanly crew, kept our forecastle in
neat order, and were more particular about washing and changing
clothes than many better-dressed people on shore. It was probably
from having none but salt provisions, and possibly from our having
run very rapidly into hot weather, after having been so long in
the extremest cold.

Depending upon the westerly winds, which prevail off the coast in
the autumn, the captain stood well to the westward, to run inside
of the Bermudas, and in the hope of falling in with some vessel
bound to the West Indies or the Southern States. The scurvy had
spread no farther among the crew, but there was danger that it
might; and these cases were bad ones.

Sunday, Sept. 11th. Lat. 30° 04' N., long. 63° 23' W.; the Bermudas
bearing north-north-west, distant one hundred and fifty miles.
The next morning, about ten o'clock, "Sail ho!" was cried on deck;
and all hands turned up to see the stranger. As she drew nearer,
she proved to be an ordinary-looking hermaphrodite brig, standing
south-south-east; and probably bound out, from the Northern States,
to the West Indies; and was just the thing we wished to see.
She hove-to for us, seeing that we wished to speak her; and we
ran down to her; boom-ended our studding-sails; backed our main
topsail, and hailed her--"Brig, ahoy!"--"Hallo!"--"Where are you
from, pray?"--"From New York, bound to Curaçoa."--"Have you any
fresh provisions to spare?"--"Aye, aye! plenty of them!" We
lowered away the quarter-boat, instantly; and the captain and
four hands sprang in, and were soon dancing over the water,
and alongside the brig. In about half an hour, they returned
with half a boat-load of potatoes and onions, and each vessel
filled away, and kept on her course. She proved to be the brig
Solon, of Plymouth, from the Connecticut river, and last from New
York, bound to the Spanish Main, with a cargo of fresh provisions,
mules, tin bake-pans, and other notions. The onions were genuine
and fresh; and the mate of the brig told the men in the boat, as he
passed the bunches over the side, that the girls had strung them
on purpose for us the day he sailed. We had supposed, on board,
that a new president had been chosen, the last winter, and, just
as we filled away, the captain hailed and asked who was president
of the United States. They answered, Andrew Jackson; but thinking
that the old General could not have been elected for a third time,
we hailed again, and they answered--Jack Downing; and left us to
correct the mistake at our leisure.

It was just dinner-time when we filled away; and the steward,
taking a few bunches of onions for the cabin, gave the rest to us,
with a bottle of vinegar. We carried them forward, stowed them
away in the forecastle, refusing to have them cooked, and ate
them raw, with our beef and bread. And a glorious treat they
were. The freshness and crispness of the raw onion, with the
earthy taste, give it a great relish to one who has been a long
time on salt provisions.

We were perfectly ravenous after them. It was like a scent
of blood to a hound. We ate them at every meal, by the dozen;
and filled our pockets with them, to eat in our watch on deck;
and the bunches, rising in the form of a cone, from the largest
at the bottom, to the smallest, no larger than a strawberry,
at the top, soon disappeared.

The chief use, however, of the fresh provisions, was for the men
with the scurvy. One of them was able to eat, and he soon brought
himself to, by gnawing upon raw potatoes; but the other, by this time,
was hardly able to open his mouth; and the cook took the potatoes raw,
pounded them in a mortar, and gave him the juice to drink. This
he swallowed, by the tea-spoonful at a time, and rinsed it about
his gums and throat. The strong earthy taste and smell of this
extract of the raw potato at first produced a shuddering through
his whole frame, and after drinking it, an acute pain, which ran
through all parts of his body; but knowing, by this, that it was
taking strong hold, he persevered, drinking a spoonful every hour
or so, and holding it a long time in his mouth; until, by the
effect of this drink, and of his own restored hope, (for he had
nearly given up, in despair) he became so well as to be able to
move about, and open his mouth enough to eat the raw potatoes and
onions pounded into a soft pulp. This course soon restored his
appetite and strength; and in ten days after we spoke the Solon,
so rapid was his recovery, that, from lying helpless and almost
hopeless in his berth, he was at the mast-head, furling a royal.

With a fine south-west wind, we passed inside of the Bermudas;
and notwithstanding the old couplet, which was quoted again and
again by those who thought we should have one more touch of a
storm before our voyage was up,--

"If the Bermudas let you pass,
You must beware of Hatteras--"

we were to the northward of Hatteras, with good weather, and beginning
to count, not the days, but the hours, to the time when we should be
at anchor in Boston harbor.

Our ship was in fine order, all hands having been hard at work
upon her from daylight to dark, every day but Sunday, from the
time we got into warm weather on this side the Cape.

It is a common notion with landsmen that a ship is in her finest
condition when she leaves port to enter upon her voyage; and that
she comes home, after a long absence,

"With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails;
Lean, rent and beggared by the strumpet wind."

But so far from that, unless a ship meets with some accident, or
comes upon the coast in the dead of winter, when work cannot be
done upon the rigging, she is in her finest order at the end of
the voyage. When she sails from port, her rigging is generally
slack; the masts need staying; the decks and sides are black and
dirty from taking in cargo; riggers' seizings and overhand knots
in place of nice seamanlike work; and everything, to a sailor's
eye, adrift.

But on the passage home, the fine weather between the tropics is
spent in putting the ship into the neatest order. No merchant vessel
looks better than an Indiaman, or a Cape Horn-er, after a long voyage;
and many captains and mates will stake their reputation for seamanship
upon the appearance of their ship when she hauls into the dock.
All our standing rigging, fore and aft, was set up and tarred;
the masts stayed; the lower and top-mast rigging rattled down,
(or up, as the fashion now is;) and so careful were our officers
to keep the rattlins taught and straight, that we were obliged
to go aloft upon the ropes and shearpoles with which the rigging
was swifted in; and these were used as jury rattlins until we got
close upon the coast. After this, the ship was scraped, inside and
out, decks, masts, booms and all; a stage being rigged outside,
upon which we scraped her down to the water-line; pounding the
rust off the chains, bolts and fastenings. Then, taking two days
of calm under the line, we painted her on the outside, giving her
open ports in her streak, and finishing off the nice work upon the
stern, where sat Neptune in his car, holding his trident, drawn
by sea-horses; and re-touched the gilding and coloring of the
cornucopia which ornamented her billet-head. The inside was then
painted, from the skysail truck to the waterways--the yards black;
mast-heads and tops, white; monkey-rail, black, white, and yellow;
bulwarks, green; plank-shear, white; waterways, lead color, etc.,
etc. The anchors and ring-bolts, and other iron work, were blackened
with coal-tar; and the steward kept at work, polishing the brass
of the wheel, bell, capstan, etc. The cabin, too, was scraped,
varnished, and painted; and the forecastle scraped and scrubbed;
there being no need of paint and varnish for Jack's quarters.
The decks were then scraped and varnished, and everything useless
thrown overboard; among which the empty tar barrels were set on
fire and thrown overboard, on a dark night, and left blazing
astern, lighting up the ocean for miles. Add to all this labor,
the neat work upon the rigging;--the knots, flemish-eyes, splices,
seizings, coverings, pointings, and graftings, which show a ship in
crack order. The last preparation, and which looked still more
like coming into port, was getting the anchors over the bows,
bending the cables, rowsing the hawsers up from between decks,
and overhauling the deep-sea-lead-line.

Thursday, September 15th. This morning the temperature and
peculiar appearance of the water, the quantities of gulf-weed
floating about, and a bank of clouds lying directly before
us, showed that we were on the border of the Gulf Stream.
This remarkable current, running north-east, nearly across
the ocean, is almost constantly shrouded in clouds, and is the
region of storms and heavy seas. Vessels often run from a clear
sky and light wind, with all sail, at once into a heavy sea and
cloudy sky, with double-reefed topsails. A sailor told me that
on a passage from Gibraltar to Boston, his vessel neared the
Gulf Stream with a light breeze, clear sky, and studding-sails
out, alow and aloft; while, before it, was a long line of heavy,
black clouds, lying like a bank upon the water, and a vessel coming
out of it, under double-reefed topsails, and with royal yards sent
down. As they drew near, they began to take in sail after sail,
until they were reduced to the same condition; and, after twelve
or fourteen hours of rolling and pitching in a heavy sea, before a
smart gale, they ran out of the bank on the other side, and were in
fine weather again, and under their royals and skysails. As we drew
into it, the sky became cloudy, the sea high, and everything had the
appearance of the going off, or the coming on, of a storm. It was
blowing no more than a stiff breeze; yet the wind, being north-east,
which is directly against the course of the current, made an ugly,
chopping sea, which heaved and pitched the vessel about, so that
we were obliged to send down the royal yards, and to take in our
light sails. At noon, the thermometer, which had been repeatedly
lowered into the water, showed the temperature to be seventy;
which was considerably above that of the air,--as is always
the case in the centre of the Stream. A lad who had been at
work at the royal mast-head, came down upon the deck, and took
a turn round the long-boat; and looking very pale, said he was
so sick that he could stay aloft no longer, but was ashamed to
acknowledge it to the officer. He went up again, but soon gave
out and came down, and leaned over the rail, "as sick as a lady

He had been to sea several years, and had, he said, never been
sick before. He was made so by the irregular, pitching motion
of the vessel, increased by the height to which he had been above
the hull, which is like the fulcrum of the lever. An old sailor,
who was at work on the top-gallant yard, said he felt disagreeably
all the time, and was glad, when his job was done, to get down
into the top, or upon the deck. Another hand was sent to the
royal mast-head, who staid nearly an hour, but gave up. The work
must be done, and the mate sent me. I did very well for some time,
but began at length to feel very unpleasantly, though I had never
been sick since the first two days from Boston, and had been in all
sorts of weather and situations. Still, I kept my place, and did
not come down, until I had got through my work, which was more
than two hours. The ship certainly never acted so badly before.
She was pitched and jerked about in all manner of ways; the sails
seeming to have no steadying power over her. The tapering points
of the masts made various curves and angles against the sky overhead,
and sometimes, in one sweep of an instant, described an arc of more
than forty-five degrees, bringing up with a sudden jerk which made
it necessary to hold on with both hands, and then sweeping off,
in another long, irregular curve. I was not positively sick,
and came down with a look of indifference, yet was not unwilling
to get upon the comparative terra firma of the deck. A few hours
more carried us through, and when we saw the sun go down, upon our
larboard beam, in the direction of the continent of North America,
we had left the bank of dark, stormy clouds astern, in the twilight.


Friday, Sept. 16th. Lat. 38° N., long. 69° 00' W. A fine south-west
wind; every hour carrying us nearer in toward land. All hands on deck
at the dog watch, and nothing talked about, but our getting in; where
we should make the land; whether we should arrive before Sunday;
going to church; how Boston would look; friends; wages paid;--and
the like. Every one was in the best of spirits; and, the voyage
being nearly at an end, the strictness of discipline was relaxed;
for it was not necessary to order in a cross tone, what every one
was ready to do with a will.

The little differences and quarrels which a long voyage breeds
on board a ship, were forgotten, and every one was friendly;
and two men, who had been on the eve of a battle half the voyage,
were laying out a plan together for a cruise on shore. When the
mate came forward, he talked to the men, and said we should be
on George's Bank before to-morrow noon; and joked with the boys,
promising to go and see them, and to take them down to Marblehead
in a coach.

Saturday, 17th. The wind was light all day, which kept us back
somewhat; but a fine breeze springing up at nightfall, we were
running fast in toward the land. At six o'clock we expected to
have the ship hove-to for soundings, as a thick fog, coming up
showed we were near them; but no order was given, and we kept
on our way. Eight o'clock came, and the watch went below,
and, for the whole of the first hour, the ship was tearing on,
with studding-sails out, alow and aloft, and the night as dark
as a pocket. At two bells the captain came on deck, and said a
word to the mate, when the studding sails were hauled into the
tops, or boom-ended, the after yards backed, the deep-sea-lead
carried forward, and everything got ready for sounding. A man
on the spritsail yard with the lead, another on the cathead with
a handful of the line coiled up, another in the fore chains,
another in the waist, and another in the main chains, each with
a quantity of the line coiled away in his hand. "All ready there,
forward?"--"Aye, aye, sir!"--"He-e-e-ave!"--"Watch! ho! watch!"
sings out the man on the spritsail yard, and the heavy lead drops
into the water. "Watch! ho! watch!" bawls the man on the cat-head,
as the last fake of the coil drops from his hand, and "Watch! ho!
watch!" is shouted by each one as the line falls from his hold;
until it comes to the mate, who tends the lead, and has the line
in coils on the quarter-deck. Eighty fathoms, and no bottom! A
depth as great as the height of St. Peter's! The line is snatched
in a block upon the swifter, and three or four men haul it in and
coil it away. The after yards are braced full, the studding-sails
hauled out again, and in a few minutes more the ship had her
whole way upon her. At four bells, backed again, hove the lead,
and--soundings! at sixty fathoms! Hurrah for Yankee land! Hand
over hand, we hauled the lead in, and the captain, taking it to
the light, found black mud on the bottom.

Studding-sails taken in; after yards filled, and ship kept on under
easy sail all night; the wind dying away.

The soundings on the American coast are so regular that a navigator
knows as well where he has made land, by the soundings, as he
would by seeing the land. Black mud is the soundings of Block
Island. As you go toward Nantucket, it changes to a dark sand;
then, sand and white shells; and on George's Banks, white sand;
and so on. Being off Block Island, our course was due east, to
Nantucket Shoals, and the South Channel; but the wind died away
and left us becalmed in a thick fog, in which we lay the whole
of Sunday. At noon of

Sunday, 18th, Block Island bore, by calculation, N. W. 1/4 W.
fifteen miles; but the fog was so thick all day that we could see

Having got through the ship's duty, and washed and shaved, we went
below, and had a fine time overhauling our chests, laying aside the
clothes we meant to go ashore in and throwing overboard all that were
worn out and good for nothing. Away went the woollen caps in which
we had carried hides upon our heads, for sixteen months, on the
coast of California; the duck frocks, for tarring down rigging;
and the worn-out and darned mittens and patched woollen trowsers
which had stood the tug of Cape Horn.

We hove them overboard with a good will; for there is nothing
like being quit of the very last appendages and remnants of
our evil fortune. We got our chests all ready for going ashore,
ate the last "duff" we expected to have on board the ship Alert;
and talked as confidently about matters on shore as though our
anchor were on the bottom.

"Who'll go to church with me a week from to-day?"

"I will," says Jack; who said aye to everything.

"Go away, salt water!" says Tom. "As soon as I get both legs
ashore, I'm going to shoe my heels, and button my ears behind me,
and start off into the bush, a straight course, and not stop till
I'm out of the sight of salt water!"

"Oh! belay that! Spin that yarn where nobody knows your filling!
If you get once moored, stem and stern, in old B-----'s grog-shop,
with a coal fire ahead and the bar under your lee, you won't see
daylight for three weeks!"

"No!" says Tom, "I'm going to knock off grog, and go and board
at the Home, and see if they won't ship me for a deacon!"

"And I," says Bill, "am going to buy a quadrant and ship for
navigator of a Hingham packet!"

These and the like jokes served to pass the time while we were
lying waiting for a breeze to clear up the fog and send us on our

Toward night a moderate breeze sprang up; the fog however continuing
as thick as before; and we kept on to the eastward. About the middle
of the first watch, a man on the forecastle sang out, in a tone which
showed that there was not a moment to be lost,--"Hard up the helm!"
and a great ship loomed up out of the fog, coming directly down
upon us. She luffed at the same moment, and we just passed one
another; our spanker boom grazing over her quarter. The officer
of the deck had only time to hail, and she answered, as she went
into the fog again, something about Bristol--probably, a whaleman
from Bristol, Rhode Island, bound out. The fog continued through the
night, with a very light breeze, before which we ran to the eastward,
literally feeling our way along. The lead was heaved every two hours,
and the gradual change from black mud to sand, showed that we were
approaching Nantucket South Shoals. On Monday morning, the increased
depth and deep blue color of the water, and the mixture of shells and
white sand which we brought up, upon sounding, showed that we were
in the channel, and nearing George's; accordingly, the ship's head
was put directly to the northward, and we stood on, with perfect
confidence in the soundings, though we had not taken an observation
for two days, nor seen land; and the difference of an eighth of
a mile out of the way might put us ashore. Throughout the day a
provokingly light wind prevailed, and at eight o'clock, a small
fishing schooner, which we passed, told us we were nearly abreast
of Chatham lights.

Just before midnight, a light land-breeze sprang up, which carried
us well along; and at four o'clock, thinking ourselves to the
northward of Race Point, we hauled upon the wind and stood
into the bay, west-north-west, for Boston light, and commenced
firing guns for a pilot. Our watch went below at four o'clock,
but could not sleep, for the watch on deck were banging away at
the guns every few minutes. And, indeed, we cared very little
about it, for we were in Boston Bay; and if fortune favored us,
we could all "sleep in" the next night, with nobody to call the
watch every four hours.

We turned out, of our own will, at daybreak, to get a sight of land.

In the grey of the morning, one or two small fishing smacks peered
out of the mist; and when the broad day broke upon us, there lay the
low sand-hills of Cape Cod, over our larboard quarter, and before us,
the wide waters of Massachusetts Bay, with here and there a sail
gliding over its smooth surface. As we drew in toward the mouth
of the harbor, as toward a focus, the vessels began to multiply
until the bay seemed actually alive with sails gliding about in
every direction; some on the wind, and others before it, as they
were bound to or from the emporium of trade and centre of the bay.
It was a stirring sight for us, who had been months on the ocean
without seeing anything but two solitary sails; and over two years
without seeing more than the three or four traders on an almost
desolate coast. There were the little coasters, bound to and
from the various towns along the south shore, down in the bight
of the bay, and to the eastward; here and there a square-rigged
vessel standing out to seaward; and, far in the distance,
beyond Cape Ann, was the smoke of a steamer, stretching along in
a narrow, black cloud upon the water. Every sight was full of
beauty and interest. We were coming back to our homes; and the
signs of civilization, and prosperity, and happiness, from which
we had been so long banished, were multiplying about us. The high
land of Cape Ann and the rocks and shore of Cohasset were full in
sight, the lighthouses, standing like sentries in white before
the harbors, and even the smoke from the chimney on the plains
of Hingham was seen rising slowly in the morning air. One of
our boys was the son of a bucket-maker; and his face lighted
up as he saw the tops of the well-known hills which surround his
native place. About ten o'clock a little boat came bobbing over
the water, and put a pilot on board, and sheered off in pursuit
of other vessels bound in.

Being now within the scope of the telegraph stations, our signals
were run up at the fore, and in half an hour afterwards, the owner
on 'change, or in his counting-room, knew that his ship was below;
and the landlords, runners, and sharks in Ann street learned that
there was a rich prize for them down in the bay: a ship from round
the Horn, with a crew to be paid off with two years' wages.

The wind continuing very light, all hands were sent aloft to
strip off the chafing gear; and battens, parcellings, roundings,
hoops, mats, and leathers, came flying from aloft, and left the
rigging neat and clean, stripped of all its sea bandaging. The
last touch was put to the vessel by painting the skysail poles;
and I was sent up to the fore, with a bucket of white paint and
a brush, and touched her off, from the truck to the eyes of the
royal rigging. At noon, we lay becalmed off the lower light-house;
and it being about slack water, we made little progress. A firing
was heard in the direction of Hingham, and the pilot said there
was a review there.

The Hingham boy got wind of this, and said if the ship had been
twelve hours sooner, he should have been down among the soldiers,
and in the booths, and having a grand time. As it was, we had
little prospect of getting in before night. About two o'clock a
breeze sprang up ahead, from the westward, and we began beating
up against it. A full-rigged brig was beating in at the same
time, and we passed one another, in our tacks, sometimes one
and sometimes the other, working to windward, as the wind and
tide favored or opposed. It was my trick at the wheel from two
till four; and I stood my last helm, making between nine hundred
and a thousand hours which I had spent at the helms of our two
vessels. The tide beginning to set against us, we made slow work;
and the afternoon was nearly spent, before we got abreast of the
inner light. In the meantime, several vessels were coming down,
outward bound; among which, a fine, large ship, with yards squared,
fair wind and fair tide, passed us like a race-horse, the men
running out upon her yards to rig out the studding-sail booms.
Toward sundown the wind came off in flaws, sometimes blowing
very stiff, so that the pilot took in the royals, and then it
died away; when, in order to get us in before the tide became
too strong, the royals were set again. As this kept us running
up and down the rigging all the time, one hand was sent aloft at
each mast-head, to stand-by to loose and furl the sails, at the
moment of the order. I took my place at the fore, and loosed
and furled the royal five times between Rainsford Island and the
Castle. At one tack we ran so near to Rainsford Island, that,
looking down from the royal yard, the island, with its hospital
buildings, nice gravelled walks, and green plats, seemed to lie
directly under our yard-arms. So close is the channel to some of
these islands, that we ran the end of our flying-jib-boom over
one of the out-works of the fortifications on George's Island;
and had an opportunity of seeing the advantages of that point as
a fortified place; for, in working up the channel, we presented
a fair stem and stern, for raking, from the batteries, three or
four times. One gun might have knocked us to pieces.

We had all set our hearts upon getting up to town before night
and going ashore, but the tide beginning to run strong against us,
and the wind, what there was of it, being ahead, we made but little
by weather-bowing the tide, and the pilot gave orders to cock-bill
the anchor and overhaul the chain. Making two long stretches,
which brought us into the roads, under the lee of the castle,
he clewed up the topsails, and let go the anchor; and for the
first time since leaving San Diego,--one hundred and thirty-five
days--our anchor was upon bottom. In half an hour more, we were
lying snugly, with all sails furled, safe in Boston harbor;
our long voyage ended; the well-known scene about us; the dome
of the State House fading in the western sky; the lights of the
city starting into sight, as the darkness came on; and at nine
o'clock the clangor of the bells, ringing their accustomed peals;
among which the Boston boys tried to distinguish the well-known
tone of the Old South.

We had just done furling the sails, when a beautiful little
pleasure-boat luffed up into the wind, under our quarter, and the
junior partner of the firm to which our ship belonged, jumped on
board. I saw him from the mizen topsail yard, and knew him well.

He shook the captain by the hand, and went down into the cabin,
and in a few moments came up and inquired of the mate for me.

The last time I had seen him, I was in the uniform of an undergraduate
of Harvard College, and now, to his astonishment, there came down
from aloft a "rough alley" looking fellow, with duck trowsers and
red shirt, long hair, and face burnt as black as an Indian's.
He shook me by the hand, congratulated me upon my return and my
appearance of health and strength, and said my friends were all
well. I thanked him for telling me what I should not have dared
to ask; and if--

"the first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office; and his tongue
Sounds ever after like a sullen bell--"

certainly I shall ever remember this man and his words with

The captain went up to town in the boat with Mr. H-----, and left
us to pass another night on board ship, and to come up with the
morning's tide under command of the pilot.

So much did we feel ourselves to be already at home, in anticipation,
that our plain supper of hard bread and salt beef was barely touched;
and many on board, to whom this was the first voyage, could scarcely
sleep. As for myself, by one of those anomalous changes of feeling
of which we are all the subjects, I found that I was in a state
of indifference, for which I could by no means account. A year
before, while carrying hides on the coast, the assurance that in a
twelvemonth we should see Boston, made me half wild; but now that I
was actually there, and in sight of home, the emotions which I had
so long anticipated feeling, I did not find, and in their place
was a state of very nearly entire apathy. Something of the same
experience was related to me by a sailor whose first voyage was
one of five years upon the North-west Coast. He had left home,
a lad, and after several years of very hard and trying experience,
found himself homeward bound; and such was the excitement of his
feelings that, during the whole passage, he could talk and think
of nothing else but his arrival, and how and when he should jump
from the vessel and take his way directly home. Yet when the vessel
was made fast to the wharf and the crew dismissed, he seemed suddenly
to lose all feeling about the matter. He told me that he went below
and changed his dress; took some water from the scuttle-butt and
washed himself leisurely; overhauled his chest, and put his clothes
all in order; took his pipe from its place, filled it, and sitting
down upon his chest, smoked it slowly for the last time. Here he
looked round upon the forecastle in which he had spent so many
years, and being alone and his shipmates scattered, he began to
feel actually unhappy. Home became almost a dream; and it was not
until his brother (who had heard of the ship's arrival) came down
into the forecastle and told him of things at home, and who were
waiting there to see him, that he could realize where he was, and
feel interest enough to put him in motion toward that place for
which he had longed, and of which he had dreamed, for years.
There is probably so much of excitement in prolonged expectation,
that the quiet realizing of it produces a momentary stagnation of
feeling as well as of effort. It was a good deal so with me. The
activity of preparation, the rapid progress of the ship, the first
making land, the coming up the harbor, and old scenes breaking upon
the view, produced a mental as well as bodily activity, from which
the change to a perfect stillness, when both expectation and the
necessity of labor failed, left a calmness, almost of indifference,
from which I must be roused by some new excitement. And the next
morning, when all hands were called, and we were busily at work,
clearing the decks, and getting everything in readiness for going up
to the wharves,--loading the guns for a salute, loosing the sails,
and manning the windlass--mind and body seemed to wake together.

About ten o'clock, a sea-breeze sprang up, and the pilot gave orders
to get the ship under weigh. All hands manned the windlass, and the
long-drawn "Yo, heave, ho!" which we had last heard dying away
among the desolate hills of San Diego, soon brought the anchor to
the bows; and, with a fair wind and tide, a bright sunny morning,
royals and sky-sails set, ensign, streamer, signals, and pennant,
flying, and with our guns firing, we came swiftly and handsomely
up to the city. Off the end of the wharf, we rounded-to and let
go our anchor; and no sooner was it on the bottom, than the decks
were filled with people: custom-house officers; Topliff's agent,
to inquire for news; others, inquiring for friends on board, or
left upon the coast; dealers in grease, besieging the galley to
make a bargain with the cook for his slush; "loafers" in general;
and last and chief, boarding-house runners, to secure their men.

Nothing can exceed the obliging disposition of these runners,
and the interest they take in a sailor returned from a long voyage
with a plenty of money. Two or three of them, at different times,
took me by the hand; remembered me perfectly; were quite sure I
had boarded with them before I sailed; were delighted to see me
back; gave me their cards; had a hand-cart waiting on the wharf,
on purpose to take my things up: would lend me a hand to get my
chest ashore; bring a bottle of grog on board if we did not haul
in immediately,--and the like. In fact, we could hardly get clear
of them, to go aloft and furl the sails. Sail after sail, for the
hundredth time, in fair weather and in foul, we furled now for
the last time together, and came down and took the warp ashore,
manned the capstan, and with a chorus which waked up half the
North End, and rang among the buildings in the dock, we hauled
her in to the wharf. Here, too, the landlords and runners were
active and ready, taking a bar to the capstan, lending a hand at
the ropes, laughing and talking and telling the news. The city
bells were just ringing one when the last turn was made fast,
and the crew dismissed; and in five minutes more, not a soul
was left on board the good ship Alert, but the old ship-keeper,
who had come down from the counting-house to take charge of her.


I trust that they who have followed me to the end of my narrative,
will not refuse to carry their attention a little farther, to the
concluding remarks which I here present to them.

This chapter is written after the lapse of a considerable time since
the end of my voyage, and after a return to my former pursuits;
and in it I design to offer those views of what may be done for
seamen, and of what is already doing, which I have deduced from
my experiences, and from the attention which I have since gladly
given to the subject.

The romantic interest which many take in the sea, and in those
who live upon it, may be of use in exciting their attention to
this subject, though I cannot but feel sure that all who have
followed me in my narrative must be convinced that the sailor has
no romance in his every-day life to sustain him, but that it is
very much the same plain, matter-of-fact drudgery and hardship,
which would be experienced on shore. If I have not produced
this conviction, I have failed in persuading others of what my
own experience has most fully impressed upon myself.

There is a witchery in the sea, its songs and stories, and in the
mere sight of a ship, and the sailor's dress, especially to a young
mind, which has done more to man navies, and fill merchantmen, than
all the press-gangs of Europe. I have known a young man with such
a passion for the sea, that the very creaking of a block stirred up
his imagination so that he could hardly keep his feet on dry ground;
and many are the boys, in every seaport, who are drawn away, as by an
almost irresistible attraction, from their work and schools, and hang
about the decks and yards of vessels, with a fondness which, it is
plain, will have its way. No sooner, however, has the young sailor
begun his new life in earnest, than all this fine drapery falls off,
and he learns that it is but work and hardship, after all. This is
the true light in which a sailor's life is to be viewed; and if
in our books, and anniversary speeches, we would leave out much
that is said about "blue water," "blue jackets," "open hearts,"
"seeing God's hand on the deep," and so forth, and take this up
like any other practical subject, I am quite sure we should do full
as much for those we wish to benefit. The question is, what can
be done for sailors, as they are,--men to be fed, and clothed,
and lodged, for whom laws must be made and executed, and who are
to be instructed in useful knowledge, and, above all, to be brought
under religious influence and restraint? It is upon these topics
that I wish to make a few observations.

In the first place, I have no fancies about equality on board ship,
It is a thing out of the question, and certainly, in the present
state of mankind, not to be desired. I never knew a sailor who
found fault with the orders and ranks of the service; and if I
expected to pass the rest of my life before the mast, I would not
wish to have the power of the captain diminished an iota. It is
absolutely necessary that there should be one head and one voice,
to control everything, and be responsible for everything. There are
emergencies which require the instant exercise of extreme power.
These emergencies do not allow of consultation; and they who would
be the captain's constituted advisers might be the very men over
whom he would be called upon to exert his authority. It has been
found necessary to vest in every government, even the most democratic,
some extraordinary, and, at first sight, alarming powers; trusting in
public opinion, and subsequent accountability to modify the exercise
of them. These are provided to meet exigencies, which all hope
may never occur, but which yet by possibility may occur, and if
they should, and there were no power to meet them instantly,
there would be an end put to the government at once. So it is with
the authority of the shipmaster. It will not answer to say that he
shall never do this and that thing, because it does not seem always
necessary and advisable that it should be done. He has great cares
and responsibilities; is answerable for everything; and is subject
to emergencies which perhaps no other man exercising authority
among civilized people is subject to. Let him, then, have powers
commensurate with his utmost possible need; only let him be held
strictly responsible for the exercise of them. Any other course
would be injustice, as well as bad policy.

In the treatment of those under his authority, the captain
is amenable to the common law, like any other person. He is
liable at common law for murder, assault and battery, and other
offences; and in addition to this, there is a special statute of
the United States which makes a captain or other officer liable
to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years, and to
a fine not exceeding a thousand dollars, for inflicting any
cruel punishment upon, withholding food from, or in any other
way maltreating a seaman. This is the state of the law on the
subject; while the relation in which the parties stand, and the
peculiar necessities, excuses, and provocations arising from
that relation, are merely circumstances to be considered in each
case. As to the restraints upon the master's exercise of power,
the laws themselves seem, on the whole, to be sufficient. I do
not see that we are in need, at present, of more legislation on
the subject. The difficulty lies rather in the administration
of the laws; and this is certainly a matter that deserves great
consideration, and one of no little embarrassment.

In the first place, the courts have said that public policy requires
the power of the master and officers should be sustained. Many lives
and a great amount of property are constantly in their hands, for which
they are strictly responsible. To preserve these, and to deal justly
by the captain, and not lay upon him a really fearful responsibility,
and then tie up his hands, it is essential that discipline should
be supported. In the second place, there is always great allowance
to be made for false swearing and exaggeration by seamen, and for
combinations among them against their officers; and it is to be
remembered that the latter have often no one to testify on their
side. These are weighty and true statements, and should not be lost
sight of by the friends of seamen. On the other hand, sailors make
many complaints, some of which are well founded.

On the subject of testimony, seamen labor under a difficulty full as
great as that of the captain. It is a well-known fact, that they are
usually much better treated when there are passengers on board.

The presence of passengers is a restraint upon the captain,
not only from his regard to their feelings and to the estimation
in which they may hold him, but because he knows they will be
influential witnesses against him if he is brought to trial.
Though officers may sometimes be inclined to show themselves off
before passengers, by freaks of office and authority, yet cruelty
they would hardly dare to be guilty of. It is on long and distant
voyages, where there is no restraint upon the captain, and none
but the crew to testify against him, that sailors need most the
protection of the law. On such voyages as these, there are many
cases of outrageous cruelty on record, enough to make one heartsick,
and almost disgusted with the sight of man; and many, many more,
which have never come to light, and never will be known, until the
sea shall give up its dead. Many of these have led to mutiny and
piracy,--stripe for stripe, and blood for blood. If on voyages of
this description the testimony of seamen is not to be received in
favor of one another, or too great a deduction is made on account
of their being seamen, their case is without remedy; and the captain,
knowing this, will be strengthened in that disposition to tyrannize
which the possession of absolute power, without the restraints of
friends and public opinion, is too apt to engender.

It is to be considered, also, that the sailor comes into court
under very different circumstances from the master. He is thrown
among landlords, and sharks of all descriptions; is often led to
drink freely; and comes upon the stand unaided, and under a certain
cloud of suspicion as to his character and veracity. The captain,
on the other hand, is backed by the owners and insurers, and has
an air of greater respectability; though, after all, he may have
but a little better education than the sailor, and sometimes,
(especially among those engaged in certain voyages that I could
mention) a very hackneyed conscience.

These are the considerations most commonly brought up on the
subject of seamen's evidence; and I think it cannot but be obvious
to every one that here, positive legislation would be of no manner
of use. There can be no rule of law regulating the weight to be
given to seamen's evidence. It must rest in the mind of the judge
and jury; and no enactment or positive rule of court could vary the
result a hair, in any one case. The effect of a sailor's testimony
in deciding a case must depend altogether upon the reputation of
the class to which he belongs, and upon the impression he himself
produces in court by his deportment, and by those infallible marks
of character which always tell upon a jury.

In fine, after all the well-meant and specious projects that have
been brought forward, we seem driven back to the belief, that the
best means of securing a fair administration of the laws made for
the protection of seamen, and certainly the only means which can
create any important change for the better, is the gradual one of
raising the intellectual and religious character of the sailor,
so that as an individual and as one of a class, he may, in the
first instance, command the respect of his officers, and if any
difficulty should happen, may upon the stand carry that weight
which an intelligent and respectable man of the lower class almost
always does with a jury. I know there are many men who, when a
few cases of great hardship occur, and it is evident that there
is an evil somewhere, think that some arrangement must be made,
some law passed, or some society got up, to set all right at once.
On this subject there can be no call for any such movement; on the
contrary, I fully believe that any public and strong action would
do harm, and that we must be satisfied to labor in the less easy
and less exciting task of gradual improvement, and abide the issue
of things working slowly together for good.

Equally injudicious would be any interference with the economy
of the ship. The lodging, food, hours of sleep, etc., are all
matters which, though capable of many changes for the better,
must yet be left to regulate themselves. And I am confident that
there will be, and that there is now a gradual improvement in all
such particulars. The forecastles of most of our ships are small,
black, and wet holes, which few landsmen would believe held a crew
of ten or twelve men on a voyage of months or years; and often,
indeed in most cases, the provisions are not good enough to make
a meal anything more than a necessary part of a day's duty;(1)

1. I am not sure that I have stated, in the course of my narrative,
the manner in which sailors eat, on board ship. There are neither
tables, knives, forks, nor plates, in a forecastle; but the kid
(a wooden tub, with iron hoops) is placed on the floor and the
crew sit round it, and each man cuts for himself with the common
jack-knife or sheath-knife, that he carries about him. They drink
their tea out of tin pots, holding little less than a quart each.

These particulars are not looked upon as hardships, and, indeed,
may be considered matters of choice. Sailors, in our merchantmen,
furnish their own eating utensils, as they do many of the instruments
which they use in the ship's work, such as knives, palms and needles,
marline-spikes, rubbers, etc. And considering their mode of life
in other respects, the little time they would have for laying and
clearing away a table with its apparatus, and the room it would take
up in a forecastle, as well as the simple character of their meals,
consisting generally of only one piece of meat,--it is certainly
a convenient method, and, as the kid and pans are usually kept
perfectly clean, a neat and simple one. I had supposed these
things to be generally known, until I heard, a few months ago,
a lawyer of repute, who has had a good deal to do with marine
cases, ask a sailor upon the stand whether the crew had "got up
from table" when a certain thing happened.

and on the score of sleep, I fully believe that the lives of
merchant seamen are shortened by the want of it. I do not refer
to those occasions when it is necessarily broken in upon; but,
for months, during fine weather, in many merchantmen, all hands
are kept, throughout the day, and, then, there are eight hours on
deck for one watch each night. Thus it is usually the case that
at the end of a voyage, where there has been the finest weather,
and no disaster, the crew have a wearied and worn-out appearance.
They never sleep longer than four hours at a time, and are seldom
called without being really in need of more rest. There is no one
thing that a sailor thinks more of as a luxury of life on shore,
than a whole night's sleep. Still, all these things must be left
to be gradually modified by circumstances.

Whenever hard cases occur, they should be made known, and masters
and owners should be held answerable, and will, no doubt, in time,
be influenced in their arrangements and discipline by the increased
consideration in which sailors are held by the public.

It is perfectly proper that the men should live in a different
part of the vessel from the officers; and if the forecastle is made
large and comfortable, there is no reason why the crew should not
live there as well as in any other part. In fact, sailors prefer
the forecastle. It is their accustomed place, and in it they are
out of the sight and hearing of their officers.

As to their food and sleep, there are laws, with heavy penalties,
requiring a certain amount of stores to be on board, and safely
stowed; and, for depriving the crew unnecessarily of food or
sleep, the captain is liable at common law, as well as under
the statute before referred to. Farther than this, it would
not be safe to go.

The captain must be the judge when it is necessary to keep his
crew from their sleep; and sometimes a retrenching, not of the
necessaries, but of some of the little niceties of their meals,
as, for instance, duff on Sunday, may be a mode of punishment,
though I think generally an injudicious one.

I could not do justice to this subject without noticing one part
of the discipline of a ship, which has been very much discussed
of late, and has brought out strong expressions of indignation from
many,--I mean the infliction of corporal punishment. Those who have
followed me in my narrative will remember that I was witness to an
act of great cruelty inflicted upon my own shipmates; and indeed
I can sincerely say that the simple mention of the word flogging,
brings up in me feelings which I can hardly control. Yet, when the
proposition is made to abolish it entirely and at once; to prohibit
the captain from ever, under any circumstances, inflicting corporal
punishment; I am obliged to pause, and, I must say, to doubt
exceedingly the expediency of making any positive enactment which
shall have that effect. If the design of those who are writing
on this subject is merely to draw public attention to it, and to
discourage the practice of flogging, and bring it into disrepute,
it is well; and, indeed, whatever may be the end they have in view,
the mere agitation of the question will have that effect, and,
so far, must do good. Yet I should not wish to take the command
of a ship to-morrow, running my chance of a crew, as most masters
must, and know, and have my crew know, that I could not, under any
circumstances, inflict even moderate chastisement. I should trust
that I might never have to resort to it; and, indeed, I scarcely
know what risk I would not run, and to what inconvenience I would
not subject myself, rather than do so. Yet not to have the power of
holding it up in terrorem, and indeed of protecting myself, and all
under my charge, by it, if some extreme case should arise, would be
a situation I should not wish to be placed in myself, or to take
the responsibility of placing another in.

Indeed, the difficulties into which masters and officers are
liable to be thrown, are not sufficiently considered by many
whose sympathies are easily excited by stories, frequent enough,
and true enough of outrageous abuse of this power. It is to
be remembered that more than three-fourths of the seamen in our
merchant vessels are foreigners. They are from all parts of the
world. A great many from the north of Europe, beside Frenchmen,
Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, men from all parts of the
Mediterranean, together with Lascars, Negroes, and, perhaps worst
of all, the off-casts of British men-of-war, and men from our own
country who have gone to sea because they could not be permitted
to live on land.

As things now are, many masters are obliged to sail without knowing
anything of their crews, until they get out at sea. There may be
pirates or mutineers among them; and one bad man will often infect
all the rest; and it is almost certain that some of them will be
ignorant foreigners, hardly understanding a word of our language,
accustomed all their lives to no influence but force, and perhaps
nearly as familiar with the use of the knife as with that of the
marline-spike. No prudent master, however peaceably inclined,
would go to sea without his pistols and handcuffs. Even with
such a crew as I have supposed, kindness and moderation would be
the best policy, and the duty of every conscientious man; and the
administering of corporal punishment might be dangerous, and of
doubtful use. But the question is not, what a captain ought
generally to do, but whether it shall be put out of the power of
every captain, under any circumstances, to make use of, even
moderate, chastisement. As the law now stands, a parent may
correct moderately his child, and the master his apprentice;
and the case of the shipmaster has been placed upon the same
principle. The statutes, and the common law as expounded in the
decisions of courts, and in the books of commentators, are express
and unanimous to this point, that the captain may inflict moderate
corporal chastisement, for a reasonable cause. If the punishment
is excessive, or the cause not sufficient to justify it, he is
answerable; and the jury are to determine, by their verdict in
each case, whether, under all the circumstances, the punishment
was moderate, and for a justifiable cause.

This seems to me to be as good a position as the whole subject
can be left in. I mean to say, that no positive enactment, going
beyond this, is needed, or would be a benefit either to masters
or men, in the present state of things. This again would seem to
be a case which should be left to the gradual working of its own
cure. As seamen improve, punishment will become less necessary;
and as the character of officers is raised, they will be less
ready to inflict it; and, still more, the infliction of it upon
intelligent and respectable men, will be an enormity which will
not be tolerated by public opinion, and by juries, who are the
pulse of the body politic. No one can have a greater abhorrence
of the infliction of such punishment than I have, and a stronger
conviction that severity is bad policy with a crew; yet I would
ask every reasonable man whether he had not better trust to the
practice becoming unnecessary and disreputable; to the measure
of moderate chastisement and a justifiable cause being better
understood, and thus, the act becoming dangerous, and in course
of time to be regarded as an unheard-of barbarity--than to take
the responsibility of prohibiting it, at once, in all cases,
and in what ever degree, by positive enactment?

There is, however, one point connected with the administration of
justice to seamen, to which I wish seriously to call the attention
of those interested in their behalf, and, if possible, also of
some of those concerned in that administration. This is, the
practice which prevails of making strong appeals to the jury in
mitigation of damages, or to the judge, after a verdict has been
rendered against a captain or officer, for a lenient sentence,
on the grounds of their previous good character, and of their
being poor, and having friends and families depending upon them
for support. These appeals have been allowed a weight which is
almost incredible, and which, I think, works a greater hardship
upon seamen than any one other thing in the laws, or the execution
of them. Notwithstanding every advantage the captain has over the
seaman in point of evidence, friends, money, and able counsel,
it becomes apparent that he must fail in his defence. An appeal
is then made to the jury, if it is a civil action, or to the judge
for a mitigated sentence, if it is a criminal prosecution, on the two
grounds I have mentioned. The same form is usually gone through in
every case. In the first place, as to the previous good character of
the party. Witnesses are brought from the town in which he resides,
to testify to his good character, and to his unexceptionable conduct
when on shore. They say that he is a good father, or husband, or son,
or neighbor, and that they never saw in him any signs of a cruel
or tyrannical disposition. I have even known evidence admitted
to show the character he bore when a boy at school. The owners
of the vessel, and other merchants, and perhaps the president of
the insurance company, are then introduced; and they testify to
his correct deportment, express their confidence in his honesty,
and say that they have never seen anything in his conduct to
justify a suspicion of his being capable of cruelty or tyranny.
This evidence is then put together, and great stress is laid upon
the extreme respectability of those who give it. They are the
companions and neighbors of the captain, it is said,--men who know
him in his business and domestic relations, and who knew him in
his early youth. They are also men of the highest standing in the
community, and who, as the captain's employers, must be supposed
to know his character. This testimony is then contrasted with
that of some half dozen obscure sailors, who, the counsel will
not forget to add, are exasperated against the captain because
he has found it necessary to punish them moderately, and who

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