My First Voyage

The fourteenth day of August was the day fixed upon for the sailing of

the brig Pilgrim on her voyage from Boston round Cape Horn to the

western coast of North America. As she was to get under way early in

the afternoon, I made my appearance on board at twelve o'clock in full

sea-rig, and with my chest, containing an outfit for a two or three

years' voyage, which I had undertaken from a determination to cure, if

possible, by an entire change of life, and by a long absence from

books and study, a weakness of the eyes, which had obliged me to give

up my pursuits, and which no medical aid seemed likely to cure.

The change from the tight dress-coat, silk cap and kid gloves of an

undergraduate at Cambridge, to the loose duck trousers, checked shirt

and tarpaulin hat of a sailor, though somewhat of a transformation,

was soon made, and I supposed that I should pass very well for a jack

tar. But it is impossible to deceive the practised eye in these

matters; and while I supposed myself to be looking as salt as Neptune

himself, I was, no doubt, known for a landsman by every one on board

as soon as I hove in sight.

A sailor has a peculiar cut to his clothes, and a way of wearing them

which a green hand can never get. The trousers, tight round the hips,

and thence hanging long and loose round the feet, a superabundance of

checked shirt, a low-crowned, well-varnished black hat, worn on the

back of the head, with half a fathom of black ribbon hanging over the

left eye, and a peculiar tie to the black silk neckerchief, with

sundry other minutiae, are signs, the want of which betrayed the

beginner, at once. Besides the points in my dress which were out of

the way, doubtless my complexion and hands were enough to distinguish

me from the regular salt, who, with a sunburnt cheek, wide step, and

rolling gait, swings his broad and toughened hands athwart-ships, half

open, as though just ready to grasp a rope.

"With all my imperfections on my head," I joined the crew, and we

hauled out into the stream, and came to anchor for the night. The next

day we were employed in preparations for sea, reeving studding-sail

gear, crossing royal-yards, putting on chafing gear, and taking on

board our powder. On the following night, I stood my first watch. I

remained awake nearly all the first part of the night from fear that I

might not hear when I was called; and when I went on deck, so great

were my ideas of the importance of my trust, that I walked regularly

fore and aft the whole length of the vessel, looking out over the bows

and taffrail at each turn, and was not a little surprised at the

coolness of the old salt whom I called to take my place, in stowing

himself snugly away under the long-boat, for a nap. That was a

sufficient lookout, he thought, for a fine night, at anchor in a safe


The next morning was Saturday, and a breeze having sprung up from the

southward, we took a pilot on board, hove up our anchor, and began

beating down the bay. I took leave of those of my friends who came to

see me off, and had barely opportunity to take a last look at the city

and well-known objects, as no time is allowed on board ship for


As we drew down into the lower harbor, we found the wind ahead in the

bay, and we were obliged to come to anchor in the roads. We remained

there through the day and a part of the night. My watch began at

eleven o'clock at night, and I received orders to call the captain if

the wind came out from the westward. About midnight the wind became

fair, and having called the captain, I was ordered to call all hands.

How I accomplished this I do not know, but I am quite sure that I did

not give the true hoarse boatswain call of "A-a-ll ha-a-a-nds! up

anchor, a ho-oy!" In a short time every one was in motion, the sails

loosed, the yards braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which

was our last hold upon Yankee land.

I could take but little part in all these preparations. My little

knowledge of a vessel was all at fault. Unintelligible orders were so

rapidly given and so immediately executed; there was such a hurrying

about, and such an intermingling of strange cries and strange actions,

that I was completely bewildered. There is not so helpless and

pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor's


At length those peculiar, long-drawn sounds, which denote that the

crew are heaving at the windlass, began, and in a few moments we were

under way. The noise of the water thrown from the bows began to be

heard, the vessel leaned over from the damp night breeze, and rolled

with a heavy ground swell, and we had actually begun our long, long

journey. This was literally bidding "good-night" to my native land.

The first day we passed at sea was the Sabbath. As we were just from

port, and there was a great deal to be done on board, we were kept at

work all day, and at night the watches were set, and everything put

into sea order. When we were called aft to be divided into watches, I

had a good specimen of the manner of a sea captain. After the division

had been made, he gave a short characteristic speech, walking the

quarter-deck with a cigar in his mouth, and dropping the words out

between the puffs:

"Now, my men, we have begun a long voyage. If we get along well

together, we shall have a comfortable time; if we don't, we shall have

hell afloat. All you've got to do is to obey your orders and do your

duty like men,--then you'll fare well enough;--if you don't, you'll fare

hard enough,--I can tell you. If we pull together, you'll find me a

clever fellow; if we don't, you'll find me a bloody rascal. That's

all I've got to say. Go below, the larboard watch!"

I being in the starboard, or second mate's watch, had the opportunity

of keeping the first watch at sea. S----, a young man, making, like

myself, his first voyage, was in the same watch, and as he was the son

of a professional man, and had been in a counting-room in Boston, we

found that we had many friends and topics in common. We talked these

matters over:--Boston, what our friends were probably doing, our

voyage, etc., until he went to take his turn at the lookout, and left

me to myself.

I had now a fine time for reflection. I felt for the first time the

perfect silence of the sea. The officer was walking the quarter-deck,

where I had no right to go, one or two men were talking on the

forecastle, whom I had little inclination to join, so that I was left

open to the full impression of everything about me. However much I was

affected by the beauty of the sea, the bright stars, and the clouds

driven swiftly over them, I could not but remember that I was

separating myself from all the social and intellectual enjoyments of

life. Yet, strange as it may seem, I did then and afterward take

pleasure in these reflections, hoping by them to prevent my becoming

insensible to the value of what I was leaving.

But all my dreams were soon put to flight by an order from the officer

to trim the yards, as the wind was getting ahead; and I could plainly

see by the looks the sailors occasionally cast to windward, and by the

dark clouds that were fast coming up, that we had bad weather to

prepare for, and had heard the captain say that he expected to be in

the Gulf Stream by twelve o'clock. In a few minutes eight bells were

struck, the watch called, and we went below.

I now began to feel the first discomforts of a sailor's life. The

steerage in which I lived was filled with coils of rigging, spare

sails, old junk, and ship stores, which had not been stowed away.

Moreover, there had been no berths built for us to sleep in, and we

were not allowed to drive nails to hang our clothes upon. The sea,

too, had risen, the vessel was rolling heavily, and everything was

pitched about in grand confusion. There was a complete "hurrah's

nest," as the sailors say, "everything on top and nothing at hand." A

large hawser had been coiled away upon my chest; my hats, boots,

mattress and blankets had all fetched away and gone over leeward,

and were jammed and broken under the boxes and coils of rigging. To

crown all, we were allowed no light to find anything with, and I was

just beginning to feel strong symptoms of sea-sickness, and that

listlessness and inactivity which accompany it.

Giving up all attempts to collect my things together, I lay down upon

the sails, expecting every moment to hear the cry of "All hands ahoy,"

which the approaching storm would soon make necessary. I shortly heard

the rain-drops falling on deck, thick and fast, and the watch

evidently had their hands full of work, for I could hear the loud and

repeated orders of the mate, the trampling of feet, the creaking of

blocks, and all the accompaniments of a coming storm. In a few minutes

the slide of the hatch was thrown back, which let down the noise and

tumult of the deck still louder, the loud cry of "All hands, ahoy!

tumble up here and take in sail!" saluted our ears, and the hatch was

quickly shut again.

When I got upon deck, a new scene and a new experience was before me.

The little brig was close-hauled upon the wind, and lying over, as it

then seemed to me, nearly upon her beam ends. The heavy head sea was

beating against her bows with the noise and force almost of a

sledge-hammer, and flying over the deck, drenching us completely

through. The topsail halyards had been let go, and the great sails

were filling out and backing against the masts with a noise like

thunder. The wind was whistling through the rigging, loose ropes

flying about; loud and, to me, unintelligible orders constantly given

and rapidly executed, and the sailors "singing out" at the ropes in

their hoarse and peculiar strains. In addition to all this, I had not

got my "sea legs" on, was dreadfully sick, with hardly strength enough

to hold on to anything, and it was "pitch dark." This was my state

when I was ordered aloft, for the first time, to reef topsails.

How I got along, I cannot now remember. I "laid out" on the yards and

held on with all my strength. I could not have been of much service,

for I remember having been sick several times before I left the

topsail yard. Soon all was snug aloft, and we were again allowed to go

below. This I did not consider much of a favor, for the confusion of

everything below, and the inexpressible sickening smell, caused by the

shaking up of the bilge-water in the hold, made the steerage but an

indifferent refuge from the cold wet decks.

I had often read of the nautical experiences of others, but I felt as

though there could be none worse than mine; for in addition to every

other evil, I could not but remember that this was only the first

night of a two years' voyage. When we were on deck we were not much

better off, for we were continually ordered about by the officer, who

said that it was good for us to be in motion. Yet anything was better

than the horrible state of things below. I remember very well going to

the hatchway and putting my head down, when I was oppressed by

nausea, and always being relieved immediately. It was as good as an


This state of things continued for two days.

Wednesday, Aug. 20th. We had the watch on deck from four till eight,

this morning. When we came on deck at four o'clock, we found things

much changed for the better. The sea and wind had gone down, and the

stars were out bright. I experienced a corresponding change in my

feelings; yet continued extremely weak from my sickness. I stood in

the waist on the weather side, watching the gradual breaking of the

day, and the first streaks of the early light. Much has been said of

the sunrise at sea; but it will not compare with the sunrise on shore.

It wants the accompaniments of the songs of birds, the awakening hum

of men, and the glancing of the first beams upon trees, hills, spires,

and house-tops, to give it life and spirit. But though the actual

rise of the sun at sea is not so beautiful, yet nothing will compare

with the early breaking of day upon the wide ocean.

There is something in the first gray streaks stretching along the

eastern horizon and throwing an indistinct light upon the face of the

deep, which combines with the boundlessness and unknown depth of the

sea round you, and gives one a feeling of loneliness, of dread, and of

melancholy foreboding, which nothing else in nature can give. This

gradually passes away as the light grows brighter, and when the sun

comes up, the ordinary monotonous sea day begins.

From such reflections as these, I was aroused by the order from the

officer, "Forward there! rig the head-pump!" I found that no time was

allowed for day-dreaming, but that we must "turn to" at the first

light. Having called up the "idlers," namely carpenter, cook, steward,

etc., and rigged the pump, we commenced washing down the decks. This

operation, which is performed every morning at sea, takes nearly two

hours; and I had hardly strength enough to get through it.

After we had finished, swabbed down, and coiled up the rigging, I sat

down on the spars, waiting for seven bells, which was the sign for

breakfast. The officer, seeing my lazy posture, ordered me to slush

the main-mast, from the royal mast-head down. The vessel was then

rolling a little, and I had taken no sustenance for three days, so

that I felt tempted to tell him that I had rather wait till after

breakfast; but I knew that I must "take the bull by the horns," and

that if I showed any sign of want of spirit or of backwardness, that I

should be ruined at once. So I took my bucket of grease and climbed up

to the royal-mast-head. Here the rocking of the vessel, which

increases the higher you go from the foot of the mast, which is the

fulcrum of the lever, and the smell of the grease, which offended my

fastidious senses, upset my stomach again, and I was not a little

rejoiced when I got upon the comparative terra firma of the deck. In

a few minutes seven bells were struck, the log hove, the watch called,

and we went to breakfast.

Here I cannot but remember the advice of the cook, a simple-hearted


"Now," said he, "my lad, you are well cleaned out; you haven't got a

drop of your 'long-shore swash aboard of you. You must begin on a

new tack--pitch all your sweetmeats overboard, and turn-to upon good

hearty salt beef and sea bread, and I'll promise you, you'll have your

ribs well sheathed, and be as hearty as any of 'em, afore you are up

to the Horn."

This would be good advice to give passengers, when they speak of the

little niceties which they have laid in, in case of sea-sickness.

I cannot describe the change which half a pound of cold salt beef and

a biscuit or two produced in me. I was a new being. We had a watch

below until noon, so that I had some time to myself; and getting a

huge piece of strong, cold salt beef from the cook, I kept gnawing

upon it until twelve o'clock. When we went on deck I felt somewhat

like a man, and could begin to learn my sea duty with considerable


At about two o'clock we heard the loud cry of "Sail ho!" from aloft,

and soon saw two sails to windward, going directly athwart our hawse.

This was the first time that I had seen a sail at sea. I thought then,

and have always since, that it exceeds every other sight in interest

and beauty. They passed to leeward of us, and out of hailing distance;

but the captain could read the names on their sterns with the glass.

They were the ship Helen Mar, of New York, and the brig Mermaid, of

Boston. They were both steering westward, and were bound in for our

"dear native land."

Thursday, Aug. 21st. This day the sun rose clear, we had a fine

wind, and everything was bright and cheerful. I had now got my sea

legs on, and was beginning to enter upon the regular duties of a

sea-life. About six bells, that is, three o'clock, P.M., we saw a sail

on our larboard bow. I was very anxious, like every new sailor, to

speak her. She came down to us, backed her maintopsail and the two

vessels stood "head on," bowing and curvetting at each other like a

couple of war-horses reined in by their riders. It was the first

vessel that I had seen near, and I was surprised to find how much she

rolled and pitched in so quiet a sea. She plunged her head into the

sea, and then, her stern settling gradually down, her huge bows rose

up, showing the bright copper, and her stern, and breast-hooks

dripping, like old Neptune's locks, with the brine. Her decks were

filled with passengers who had come up at the cry of "Sail ho," and

who by their dress and features appeared to be Swiss and French

emigrants. She hailed us in French, but receiving no answer, she tried

us in English. She was the ship La Carolina, from Havre, for New York.

We desired her to report the brig Pilgrim, from Boston, for the

northwest coast of America, five days out. She then filled away and

left us to plough on through our waste of waters. This day ended

pleasantly; we had got into regular and comfortable weather, and into

that routine of sea-life which is only broken by a storm, a sail, or

the sight of land.

As we had now a long "spell" of fine weather, without any incident to

break the monotony of our lives, there can be no better place to

describe the duties, regulations, and customs of an American

merchantman, of which ours was a fair specimen.

The captain, in the first place, is lord paramount. He stands no

watch, comes and goes when he pleases, and is accountable to no one,

and must be obeyed in everything, without a question, even from his

chief officer. He has the power to turn his officers off duty, and

even to break them and make them do duty as sailors in the forecastle.

Where there are no passengers and no supercargo, as in our vessel, he

has no companion but his own dignity, and no pleasures, unless he

differs from most of his kind, but the consciousness of possessing

supreme power and, occasionally, the exercise of it.

The prime minister, the official organ, and the active and

superintending officer, is the chief mate. He is first lieutenant,

boatswain, sailing-master, and quartermaster. The captain tells him

what he wishes to have done, and leaves to him the care of overseeing,

of allotting the work, and also the responsibility of its being well

done. The mate (as he is always called, par excellence) also keeps

the logbook, for which he is responsible to the owners and insurers,

and has the charge of the stowage, safe-keeping, and delivery of the

cargo. He is also ex-officio, the wit of the crew; for the captain

does not condescend to joke with the men, and the second mate no one

cares for; so that when "the mate" thinks fit to entertain "the

people" with a coarse joke or a little practical wit, every one feels

bound to laugh.

The second mate's is proverbially a dog's berth. He is neither officer

nor man. The men do not respect him as an officer, and he is obliged

to go aloft to reef and furl the topsails, and to put his hands into

the tar and slush, with the rest. The crew call him the "sailor's

waiter," as he has to furnish them with spun-yarn, marline, and all

other stuffs that they need in their work, and has charge of the

boatswain's locker, which includes serving-boards, marline-spikes,

etc. He is expected to maintain his dignity and to enforce obedience,

and still is kept at a great distance from the mate, and obliged to

work with the crew. He is one to whom little is given and of whom much

is required. His wages are usually double those of a common sailor,

and he eats and sleeps in the cabin; but he is obliged to be on deck

nearly all his time, and eats at the second table, that is, makes a

meal out of what the captain and chief mate leave.

The steward is the captain's servant, and has charge of the pantry,

from which every one, even the mate himself, is excluded. These

distinctions usually find him an enemy in the mate, who does not like

to have any one on board who is not entirely under his control; the

crew do not consider him as one of their number, so he is left to the

mercy of the captain.

The cook is the patron of the crew, and those who are in his favor can

get their wet mittens and stockings dried, or light their pipes at the

galley in the nightwatch. These two worthies, together with the

carpenter and sail-maker, if there be one, stand no watch, but, being

employed all day, are allowed to "sleep in" at night unless all hands

are called.

The crew are divided into two divisions, as equally as may be, called

the watches. Of these the chief mate commands the larboard, and the

second mate the starboard. They divide the time between them, being on

and off duty, or, as it is called, on deck and below, every other four

hours. If, for instance, the chief mate with the larboard watch have

the first night-watch from eight to twelve; at the end of the four

hours the starboard watch is called, and the second mate takes the

deck while the larboard watch and the first mate go below until four

in the morning, when they come on deck again and remain until eight;

having what is called the morning watch. As they will have been on

deck eight hours out of the twelve, while those who had the middle

watch--from twelve to four--will only have been up four hours, they have

what is called a "forenoon watch below," that is, from eight A.M. till

twelve M. In a man-of-war, and in some merchantmen, this alternation

of watches is kept up throughout the twenty-four hours; but our ship,

like most merchantmen, had "all hands" from twelve o'clock to dark,

except in bad weather, when we had "watch and watch."

An explanation of the "dog-watches" may, perhaps, be of use to one who

has never been at sea. They are to shift the watches each night, so

that the same watch need not be on deck at the same hours. In order to

effect this, the watch from four to eight A.M. is divided into two

half, or dog-watches, one from four to six; and the other from six to

eight. By this means they divide the twenty-four hours into seven

watches instead of six, and thus shift the hours every night. As the

dog-watches come during twilight, after the day's work is done, and

before the night-watch is set, they are the watches in which everybody

is on deck. The captain is up, walking on the weather side of the

quarter-deck, the chief mate on the lee side, and the second mate

about the weather gangway. The steward has finished his work in the

cabin, and has come up to smoke his pipe with the cook in the galley.

The crew are sitting on the windlass or lying on the forecastle,

smoking, singing, or telling long yarns. At eight o'clock, eight bells

are struck, the log is hove, the watch set, the wheel relieved, the

galley shut up, and the other watch goes below.

The morning commences with the watch on deck "turning-to" at day-break

and washing down, scrubbing, and swabbing the decks. This together

with filling the "scuttled butt" with fresh water, and coiling up the

rigging, usually occupies the time until seven bells (half after

seven), when all hands get breakfast. At eight, the day's work begins,

and lasts until sundown, with the exception of an hour for dinner.

Before I end my explanations, it may be well to define a day's work,

and to correct a mistake prevalent among landsmen about a sailor's

life. Nothing is more common than to hear people say--"Are not sailors

very idle at sea? what can they find to do?" This is a very natural

mistake, and being very frequently made, it is one which every sailor

feels interested in having corrected. In the first place, then, the

discipline of the ship requires every man to be at work upon

something when he is on deck, except at night and on Sundays. Except

at these times, you will never see a man, on board a well-ordered

vessel, standing idle on deck, sitting down, or leaning over the side.

It is the officer's duty to keep every one at work, even if there is

nothing to be done but to scrape the rust from the cabin cables. In no

state prison are the convicts more regularly set to work, and more

closely watched. No conversation is allowed among the crew at their

duty, and though they frequently do talk when aloft, or when near one

another, yet they always stop when an officer is nigh.

With regard to the work upon which the men are put, it is a matter

which probably would not be understood by one who has not been at sea.

When I first left port, and found that we were kept regularly employed

for a week or two, I supposed that we were getting the vessel into sea

trim and that it would soon be over, and we should have nothing to do

but to sail the ship; but I found that it continued so for two years,

and at the end of the two years there was as much to be done as ever.

As has often been said, a ship is like a lady's watch, always out of

repair. When first leaving port, studding-sail gear is to be rove, all

the running rigging to be examined, that which is unfit for use to be

got down, and new rigging rove in its place; then the standing rigging

is to be overhauled, replaced, and repaired, in a thousand different

ways; and wherever any of the numberless ropes or the yards are

chafing or wearing upon it, there "chafing gear," as it is called,

must be put on. This chafing gear consists of worming, parcelling,

roundings, battens, and service of all kinds--both rope-yarns,

spun-yarn, marline, and seizing-stuffs. Taking off, putting on, and

mending the chafing gear alone, upon a vessel, would find constant

employment for two or three men, during working hours, for a whole


The next point to be considered is, that all the "small stuffs" which

are used on board a ship--such as spun-yarn, marline, seizing-stuff,

etc.--are made on board. The owners of a vessel buy up incredible

quantities of "old junk," which the sailors unlay after drawing out

the yarns, knot them together and roll them up in balls. These

"rope-yarns" are constantly used for various purposes, but the greater

part is manufactured into spun yarn. For this purpose every vessel is

furnished with a "spun-yarn winch"; which is very simple, consisting

of a wheel and spindle. This may be heard constantly going on deck in

pleasant weather; and we had employment, during a great part of the

tune, for three hands in drawing and knotting yarns, and making


Another method of employing the crew is "setting up" rigging. Wherever

any of the standing rigging becomes slack (which is continually

happening), the seizing and coverings must be taken off, tackles got

up, and after the rigging is bowsed well taut, the seizings and

coverings replaced; which is a very nice piece of work.

There is also such a connection between different parts of a vessel,

that one rope can seldom be touched without altering another. You

cannot stay a mast aft by the back-stays without slacking up the

head-stays, etc. If we add to this all the tarring, greasing, oiling,

varnishing, painting, scraping, and scrubbing which is required in the

course of a long voyage, and also remember this is all to be done in

addition to watching at night, steering, reefing, furling, bracing,

making and setting sail, and pulling, hauling, and climbing in every

direction, one will hardly ask, "What can a sailor find to do at sea?"

If, after all this labor--after exposing their lives and limbs in

storms, wet and cold,

"Wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch;

The lion and the belly-pinched wolf

Keep their furs dry;--"

the merchants and captains think that they have not earned their

twelve dollars a month (out of which they clothe themselves), and

their salt beef and hard bread, they keep them picking oakum--ad


This is the usual resource upon a rainy day, for then it will not do

to work upon rigging; and when it is pouring down in floods, instead

of letting the sailors stand about in sheltered places, and talk, and

keep themselves comfortable, they are separated to different parts of

the ship and kept at work picking oakum. I have seen oakum stuff

placed about in different parts of the ship, so that the sailors might

not be idle in the snatches between the frequent squalls upon

crossing the equator.

Some officers have been so driven to find work for the crew in a ship

ready for sea, that they have set them to pounding the anchors (often

done) and scraping the chain cables. The "Philadelphia Catechism" is,

"Six days shalt thou labor and do all that thou art able,

And on the seventh--holystone the decks and scrape the cable."

This kind of work, of course, is not kept up off Cape Horn, Cape of

Good Hope, and in extreme north and south latitudes; but I have seen

the decks washed down and scrubbed, when the water would have frozen

if it had been fresh; and all hands kept at work upon the rigging,

when we had on our pea-jackets, and our hands so numb that we could

hardly hold our marline-spikes.

I have here gone out of my narrative course in order that any who read

this may form as correct an idea of a sailor's life and duty as

possible. I have done it in this place because, for some time, our

life was nothing but the unvarying repetition of these duties which

can be better described together.

Before leaving this description, however, I would state, in order to

show landsmen how little they know of the nature of a ship, that a

ship carpenter is kept in constant employ during good weather on

board vessels which are in, what is called, perfect sea order.

After speaking the Carolina, on the 21st August, nothing occurred to

break the monotony of our life until--

Friday, Sept. 5th, when we saw a sail on our weather (starboard)

beam. She proved to be a brig under English colors, and passing under

our stern, reported herself as forty-nine days from Buenos Ayres,

bound to Liverpool. Before she had passed us, "Sail ho!" was cried

again and we made another sail, far on our weather bow, and steering

athwart our hawse. She passed out of hail, but we made her out to be

an hermaphrodite brig, with Brazilian colors in her main rigging. By

her course, she must have been bound from Brazil to the south of

Europe, probably Portugal.

Sunday, Sept. 7th. Fell in with the northeast trade winds. This

morning we caught our first dolphin, which I was very eager to see. I

was disappointed in the colors of this fish when dying. They were

certainly very beautiful, but not equal to what has been said of them.

They are too indistinct. To do the fish justice, there is nothing more

beautiful than the dolphin when swimming a few feet below the surface,

on a bright day. It is the most elegantly formed, and also the

quickest fish, in salt water; and the rays of the sun striking upon

it, in its rapid and changing motions, reflected from the water, make

it look like a stray beam from a rainbow.

This day was spent like all pleasant Sabbaths at sea. The decks are

washed down, the rigging coiled up, and everything put in order; and

throughout the day, only one watch is kept on deck at a time. The men

are all dressed in their best white duck trousers, and red or checked

shirts, and have nothing to do but to make the necessary changes in

the sails. They employ themselves in reading, talking, smoking, and

mending their clothes. If the weather is pleasant, they bring their

work and their books upon deck, and sit down upon the forecastle and

windlass. This is the only day on which these privileges are allowed

them. When Monday comes, they put on their tarry trousers again, and

prepare for six days of labor.

To enhance the value of the Sabbath to the crew, they are allowed on

that day a pudding, or as it is called a "duff." This is nothing more

than flour boiled with water, and eaten with molasses. It is very

heavy, dark, and clammy, yet it is looked upon as a luxury, and really

forms an agreeable variety with salt beef and pork. Many a rascally

captain has made friends of his crew by allowing them duff twice a

week on the passage home.

On board some vessels this is made a day of instruction and of

religious exercises; but we had a crew of swearers, from the captain

to the smallest boy; and a day of rest, and of something like quiet

social enjoyment, was all that we could expect.

We continued running large before the northeast trade winds for

several days, until Monday--

Sept. 22d., when, upon coming on deck at seven bells in the morning we

found the other watch aloft throwing water upon the sails, and looking

astern we saw a small clipper-built brig with a black hull heading

directly after us. We went to work immediately, and put all the canvas

upon the brig which we could get upon her, rigging out oars for

studding-sail yards; and continued wetting down the sails by buckets

of water whipped up to the mast-head, until about nine o'clock, when

there came on a drizzling rain.

The vessel continued in pursuit, changing her course as we changed

ours, to keep before the wind. The captain, who watched her with his

glass, said that she was armed, and full of men, and showed no colors.

We continued running dead before the wind, knowing that we sailed

better so, and that clippers are fastest on the wind. We had also

another advantage. The wind was light, and we spread more canvas than

she did, having royals and sky-sails fore and aft, and ten studding

sails, while she, being an hermaphrodite brig, had only a gaff-topsail

aft. Early in the morning she was overhauling us a little, but after

the rain came on and the wind grew lighter, we began to leave her


as We Changed Ours"]

All hands remained on deck throughout the day, and we got our arms in

order; but we were too few to have done anything with her, if she had

proved to be what we feared. Fortunately there was no moon, and the

night which followed was exceeding dark, so that by putting out all

the lights on board and altering her course four points, we hoped to

get out of her reach. We had no light in the binnacle, but steered by

the stars, and kept perfect silence through the night. At daybreak

there was no sign of anything in the horizon, and we kept the vessel

off to her course.

Wednesday, Oct. 1st. Crossed the equator in long. 24 deg. 24' W. I now,

for the first time, felt at liberty, according to the old usage, to

call myself a son of Neptune, and was very glad to be able to claim

the title without the disagreeable initiation which so many have to go

through. After once crossing the line you can never be subjected to

the process, but are considered as a son of Neptune, with full powers

to play tricks upon others. This ancient custom is now seldom allowed,

unless there are passengers on board, in which case there is always a

good deal of sport.

It had been obvious to all hands for some time that the second mate,

whose name was Foster, was an idle, careless fellow, and not much of a

sailor, and that the captain was exceedingly dissatisfied with him.

The power of the captain in these cases was well known, and we all

anticipated a difficulty.

Foster (called Mr. by virtue of his office) was but half a sailor,

having always been short voyages and remained at home a long time

between them. His father was a man of some property, and intended to

have given his son a liberal education; but he, being idle and

worthless, was sent off to sea, and succeeded no better there; for,

unlike many scamps, he had none of the qualities of a sailor--he was

"not of the stuff that they make sailors of." He was one of the class

of officers who are disliked by their captain and despised by the

crew. He used to hold long yarns with the crew, and talk about the

captain, and play with the boys, and relax discipline in every way.

This kind of conduct always makes the captain suspicious, and is never

pleasant in the end, to the men; they preferring to have an officer

active, vigilant, and distant as may be, with kindness. Among other

bad practices, he frequently slept on his watch, and having been

discovered asleep by the captain, he was told that he would be turned

off duty if he did it again. To prevent it in every way possible, the

hen-coops were ordered to be knocked up, for the captain never sat

down oh deck himself, and never permitted an officer to do so.

The second night after crossing the equator, we had the watch from

eight till twelve, and it was "my helm" for the last two hours. There

had been light squalls through the night, and the captain told Mr.

Foster, who commanded our watch, to keep a bright lookout. Soon after

I came to the helm, I found that he was quite drowsy, and at last he

stretched himself on the companion and went fast asleep.

Soon afterward, the captain came very quietly on deck, and stood by me

for some time looking at the compass. The officer at length became

aware of the captain's presence, but pretending not to know it, began

humming and whistling to himself, to show that he was not asleep, and

went forward, without looking behind him, and ordered the main-royal

to be loosed. On turning round to come aft, he pretended surprise at

seeing the master on deck.

This would not do. The captain was too "wide awake" for him, and

beginning upon him at once, gave him a grand blow-up, in true nautical

style--"You're a lazy good-for-nothing rascal; you're neither man, boy,

soger, nor sailor! you're no more than a thing aboard a vessel!

you don't earn your salt! you're worse than a Mahon soger!" and

other still more choice extracts from the sailor's vocabulary. After

the poor fellow had taken this harangue, he was sent into his

stateroom, and the captain stood the rest of the watch himself.

At seven bells in the morning, all hands were called aft and told that

Foster was no longer an officer on board, and that we might choose one

of our number for second mate. It is usual for the captain to make

this offer, and it is very good policy, for the crew think themselves

the choosers and are flattered by it, but have to obey, nevertheless.

Our crew, as is usual, refused to take the responsibility of choosing

a man of whom we would never be able to complain, and left it to the

captain. He picked out an active and intelligent young sailor born

near the Kennebec, who had been several Canton voyages, and proclaimed

him in the following manner:

"I choose Jim Hall--he's your second mate. All you've got to do is, to

obey him as you would me; and remember that he is Mr. Hall." Foster

went forward into the forecastle as a common sailor, and lost the

handle to his name, while young foremast Jim became Mr. Hall, and

took up his quarters in the land of knives and forks and tea-cups.

Sunday, Oct. 5th. It was our morning watch; when, soon after day

began to break, a man on the forecastle called out, "Land ho!" I had

never heard the cry before, and did not know what it meant (and few

would suspect what the words were, when hearing the strange sound for

the first time), but I soon found, by the direction of all eyes, that

there was land stretching along on our weather beam. We immediately

took in the studding sails and hauled our wind, running for the land.

This was done to determine our longitude; for by the captain's

chronometer we were in 25 deg. W., but by his observations we were much

further, and he had been for some time in doubt whether it was his

chronometer or his sextant which was out of order. This landfall

settled the matter, and the former instrument was condemned, and

becoming still worse, was never afterwards used.

As we ran in toward the coast, we found that we were directly off the

port of Pernambuco, and could see with the telescope the roofs of the

houses, and one large church, and the town of Olinda. We ran along by

the mouth of the harbor, and saw a full-rigged brig going in. At two

P.M., we again kept off before the wind, leaving the land on our

quarter, and at sundown it was out of sight.

It was here that I first saw one of those singular things called

catamarans. They are composed of logs lashed together upon the water;

have one large sail, are quite fast, and, strange as it may seem, are

trusted as good sea boats. We saw several, with from one to three men

in each, boldly putting out to sea, after it had become almost dark.

The Indians go out in them after fish, and as the weather is regular

in certain seasons, they have no fear. After taking a new departure

from Olinda, we kept off on our way to Cape Horn.

We met with nothing remarkable until we were in the latitude of the

river La Plata. Here there are violent gales from the southwest called

Pamperos, which are very destructive to the shipping in the river, and

are felt for many leagues at sea. They are usually preceded by

lightning. The captain told the mates to keep a bright lookout, and if

they saw lightning at the southwest, to take in sail at once. We got

the first touch of one during my watch on deck. I was walking in the

lee gangway, and thought that I saw lightning on the bow. I told the

second mate, who came over and looked out for some time. It was very

black in the southwest, and in about ten minutes we saw a distinct

flash. The wind, which had been southeast, had now left us, and it was

dead calm. We sprang aloft immediately and furled the royals and

top-gallant-sails, and took in the flying-jib, hauled up the mainsail

and trysail, squared the after yards and awaited the attack. A huge

mist capped with black cloud came driving towards us, extending over

that quarter of the horizon, and covering the stars, which shone

brightly in the other part of the heavens. It came upon us at once

with a blast, and a shower of hail and rain, which almost took our

breath from us. The hardiest was obliged to turn his back. We let the

halyards run, and fortunately were not taken aback. The little vessel

"paid off" from the wind, and ran on for some time directly before it,

tearing through the water with everything flying. Having called all

hands, we close reefed the topsails and trysail, furled the courses

and jib, set the foretopmast staysail, and brought her up nearly to

her course, with the weather braces hauled in a little, to ease her.

This was the first blow, that I have seen, which could really be

called a gale. We had reefed our topsails in the Gulf Stream, and I

thought it something serious, but an older sailor would have thought

nothing of it. As I had now become used to the vessel and to my duty,

I was of some service on a yard, and could knot my reef-point as well

as anybody. I obeyed the order to lay[3] aloft with the rest, and

found the reefing a very exciting scene; for one watch reefed the

foretopsail, and the other the main, and every one did his utmost to

get his topsail hoisted first. We had a great advantage over the

larboard watch, because the chief mate never goes aloft, while our new

second mate used to jump into the rigging as soon as we began to haul

out the reef-tackle, and have the weather earing passed before there

was a man upon the yard. In this way we were almost always able to

raise the cry of "Haul out to leeward" before them, and having knotted

our points, would slide down the shrouds and back-stays, and sing out

at the topsail halyards to let it be known that we were ahead of them.

[Footnote 3: This word "lay," which is in such general use on board

ship, being used in giving orders instead of "go;" as, "Lay

forward!" "Lay aft!" "Lay aloft!" etc., I do not understand to be

the neuter verb lie, mispronounced, but to be the active verb lay

with the objective case understood; as, "Lay yourselves forward!"

"Lay yourselves aft!" etc.]

Reefing is the most exciting part of a sailor's duty. All hands are

engaged upon it, and after the halyards are let go, there is no time

to be lost--no "sogering," or hanging back, then. If one is not quick

enough, another runs over him. The first on the yard goes to the

weather earing, the second to the lee, and the next two to the dog's

ears, while the others lay along the bunt, just giving each other

elbow-room. In reefing, the yard-arms (the extremes of the yards), are

the posts of honor; but in furling, the strongest and most experienced

stand in the slings (or, middle of the yard), to make up the bunt. If

the second mate is a smart fellow, he will never let any one take

either of these posts from him; for if he is wanting either in

seamanship, strength, or activity, some better man will get the bunt

and earings from him; which immediately brings him into disrepute.

We remained for the rest of the night, and throughout the next day,

under the same close sail, for it continued to blow very fresh; and

though we had no more hail, yet there was a soaking rain, and it was

quite cold and uncomfortable; the more so, because we were not

prepared for cold weather, but had on our thin clothes. We were glad

to get a watch below, and put on our thick clothing, boots, and

southwesters. Toward sundown the gale moderated a little, and it began

to clear off in the southwest. We shook our reefs out, one by one, and

before midnight had topgallant-sails upon her.

We had now made up our minds for Cape Horn and cold weather, and

entered upon every necessary preparation.

Tuesday Nov. 4th. At daybreak, saw land upon our larboard quarter.

There were two islands, of different size, but of the same shape;

rather high, beginning low at the water's edge, and running with a

curved ascent to the middle. They were so far off as to be of a deep

blue color, and in a few hours we sunk them in the northeast. These

were the Falkland Islands. We had run between them and the main land

of Patagonia. At sunset the second mate, who was at the masthead, said

that he saw land on the starboard bow. This must have been the island

of Staten Land; and we were now in the region of Cape Horn, with a

fine breeze from the northward, topmast and topgallant-studding-sails

set, and every prospect of a speedy and pleasant passage round.

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