Running Away To Sea

In an ill hour, God knows, on the 1st of September, 1651, I went on

board a ship bound for London. Never any young adventurer's

misfortunes, I believe, began sooner, or continued longer, than mine.

The ship was no sooner out of the Humber, than the wind began to blow

and the sea to rise in a most frightful manner; and, as I had never

been at sea before, I was most inexpressibly sick in body, and

terrified in mind. I began now seriously to reflect upon what I had

done, and how justly I was overtaken by the judgment of Heaven, for my

wicked leaving my father's house, and abandoning my duty. All the good

counsels of my parents, my father's tears and my mother's entreaties,

came now fresh into my mind; and my conscience, which was not yet come

to the pitch of hardness to which it has since, reproached me with the

contempt of advice, and the breach of my duty to God and my father.

All this while the storm increased, and the sea went very high, though

nothing like what I have seen many times since; no, nor what I saw a

few days after; but it was enough to affect me then, who was but a

young sailor, and had never known anything of the matter. I expected

every wave would have swallowed us up, and that every time the ship

fell down, as I thought it did, in the trough or hollow of the sea, we

should never rise more; in this agony of mind, I made many vows and

resolutions, that if it would please God to spare my life in this one

voyage, if ever I got once my foot upon dry land again, I would go

directly home to my father, and never set it into a ship again while I

lived; that I would take his advice, and never run myself into such

miseries as these any more. Now I saw plainly the goodness of his

observations about the middle station of life, how easy, how

comfortably he had lived all his days, and never had been exposed to

tempests at sea, or troubles on shore; and I resolved that I would,

like a true repenting prodigal, go home to my father.

These wise and sober thoughts continued all the while the storm

lasted, and indeed some time after; but the next day the wind was

abated, and the sea calmer, and I began to be a little inured to it:

however, I was very grave for all that day, being also a little

sea-sick still; but towards night the weather cleared up, the wind was

quite over, and a charming fine evening followed; the sun went down

perfectly clear, and rose so the next morning; and having little or no

wind, and a smooth sea, the sun shining upon it, the sight was, as I

thought, the most delightful that ever I saw.

I had slept well in the night, and was now no more sea-sick, but very

cheerful, looking with wonder upon the sea that was so rough and

terrible the day before, and could be so calm and so pleasant in so

little a time after. And now, lest my good resolutions should

continue, my companion, who had enticed me away, comes to me: "Well,

Bob," says he, clapping me upon the shoulder, "how do you do after it?

I warrant you were frighted, wer'n't you, last night, when it blew but

a capful of wind?" "A capful d'you call it?" said I; "'twas a terrible

storm." "A storm, you fool you," replies he; "do you call that a

storm? why, it was nothing at all; give us but a good ship and sea

room, and we think nothing of such a squall of wind as that; but

you're but a fresh-water sailor, Bob. Come, let us make a bowl of

punch, and we'll forget all that; d'ye see what charming weather 'tis

now?" To make short this sad part of my story, we went the way of all

sailors; the punch was made, and I was made half drunk with it; and in

that one night's wickedness I drowned all my repentance, all my

reflections upon my past conduct, all my resolutions for the future.

In a word, as the sea was returned to its smoothness of surface and

settled calmness by the abatement of that storm, so the hurry of my

thoughts being over, my fears and apprehensions of being swallowed up

by the sea being forgotten, and the current of my former desires

returned, I entirely forgot the vows and promises that I made in my

distress. I found, indeed, some intervals of reflection; and the

serious thoughts did, as it were, endeavor to return again sometimes;

but I shook them off, and roused myself from them as it were from a

distemper, and applying myself to drinking and company, soon mastered

the return of those fits--for so I called them; and I had in five or

six days got as complete a victory over conscience as any young fellow

that resolved not to be troubled with it could desire. But I was to

have another trial for it still; and Providence, as in such cases

generally it does, resolved to leave me entirely without excuse; for

if I would not take this for a deliverance, the next was to be such a

one as the worst and most hardened wretch among us would confess both

the danger and the mercy of.

The sixth day of our being at sea we came into Yarmouth Roads; the

wind having been contrary and the weather calm, we had made but little

way since the storm. Here we were obliged to come to an anchor, and

here we lay, the wind continuing contrary, viz., at south-west, for

seven or eight days, during which time a great many ships from

Newcastle came into the same Roads, as the common harbor where the

ships might wait for a wind for the river.

We had not, however, rid here so long, but we should have tided it up

the river, but that the wind blew too fresh, and after we had lain

four or five days, blew very hard. However, the Roads being reckoned

as good as a harbor, the anchorage good, and our ground tackle very

strong, our men were unconcerned, and not in the least apprehensive of

danger, but spent the time in rest and mirth, after the manner of the

sea; but the eighth day, in the morning, the wind increased, and we

had all hands at work to strike our topmasts, and make everything snug

and close, that the ship might ride as easy as possible. By noon the

sea went very high indeed, and our ship rode forecastle in, shipped

several seas, and we thought once or twice our anchor had come home;

upon which our master ordered out the sheet-anchor, so that we rode

with two anchors ahead, and the cables veered out to the better end.

By this time it blew a terrible storm indeed; and now I began to see

terror and amazement in the faces even of the seamen themselves. The

master, though vigilant in the business of preserving the ship, yet as

he went in and out of his cabin by me, I could hear him softly to

himself say, several times, "Lord, be merciful to us! we shall be all

lost; we shall be all undone!" and the like. During these first

hurries I was stupid, lying still in my cabin, which was in the

steerage, and cannot describe my temper: I could ill resume the first

penitence which I had so apparently trampled upon, and hardened myself

against: I thought the bitterness of death had been past; and that

this would be nothing like the first; but when the master himself came

by me, as I said just now, and said we should be all lost, I was

dreadfully frighted. I got up out of my cabin and looked out; but such

a dismal sight I never saw: the sea ran mountains high, and broke upon

us every three or four minutes; when I could look about, I could see

nothing but distress round us; two ships that rode near us, we found,

had cut their masts by the board, being deep laden; and our men cried

out, that a ship which rode about a mile ahead of us was foundered.

Two more ships, being driven from their anchors, were run out of the

Roads to sea, at all adventures, and that not with a mast standing.

The light ships fared the best, as not so much laboring in the sea;

but two or three of them drove, and came close by us, running away

with only their spritsail out before the wind.

Towards evening the mate and boatswain begged the master of our ship

to let them cut away the foremast, which he was very unwilling to do;

but the boatswain protesting to him, that if he did not the ship would

founder, he consented; and when they had cut away the foremast, the

mainmast stood so loose, and shook the ship so much, they were obliged

to cut that away also, and make a clear deck.

Any one must judge what a condition I must be in at all this, who was

but a young sailor, and who had been in such a fright before at but a

little. But if I can express at this distance the thoughts I had about

me at that time, I was in tenfold more horror of mind upon account of

my former convictions, and the having returned from them to the

resolutions I had wickedly taken at first, than I was at death itself;

and these, added to the terror of the storm, put me into such a

condition, that I can by no words describe it. But the worst was not

come yet; the storm continued with such fury, that the seamen

themselves acknowledged they had never seen a worse. We had a good

ship, but she was deep laden, and wallowed in the sea, so that the

seamen every now and then cried out she would founder. It was my

advantage in one respect that I did not know what they meant by

founder, till I inquired. However the storm was so violent, that I

saw, what is not often seen, the master, the boatswain, and some

others more sensible than the rest, at their prayers, and expecting

every moment when the ship would go to the bottom. In the middle of

the night, and under all the rest of our distresses, one of the men

that had been down to see, cried out we had sprung a leak; another

said, there was four feet water in the hold. Then all hands were

called to the pump. At that word, my heart, as I thought died within

me: and I fell backwards upon the side of my bed where I sat, in the

cabin. However, the men roused me, and told me, that I, that was able

to do nothing before, was as well able to pump as another; at which I

stirred up, and went to the pump, and worked very heartily. While this

was doing, the master seeing some light colliers, who, not able to

ride out the storm, were obliged to slip, and run away to the sea, and

would come near us, ordered to fire a gun as a signal of distress. I,

who knew nothing what they meant, thought the ship had broken, or some

dreadful thing happened. In a word, I was so surprised that I fell

down in a swoon. As this was a time when everybody had his own life to

think of, nobody minded me, or what was to become of me; but another

man stepped up to the pump, and thrusting me aside with his foot, let

me lie, thinking I had been dead; and it was a great while before I

came to myself.

We worked on; but the water increasing in the hold, it was apparent

that the ship would founder; and though the storm began to abate a

little, yet it was not possible she could swim till we might run into

any port; so the master continued firing guns for help: and a light

ship, who had rid it out just ahead of us, ventured a boat out to help

us. It was with the utmost hazard the boat came near us; but it was

impossible for us to get on board, or for the boat to lie near the

ship's side, till at last the men rowing very heartily, and venturing

their lives to save ours, our men cast them a rope over the stern with

a buoy to it, and then veered it out a great length, which they, after

much labor and hazard, took hold of, and we hauled them close under

our stern, and got all into their boat. It was to no purpose for them

or us, after we were in the boat, to think of reaching their own ship;

so all agreed to let her drive, and only to pull her in towards shore

as much as we could; and our master promised them, that if the boat

was staved upon shore, he would make it good to their master: so

partly rowing, and partly driving, our boat went away to the

northward, sloping towards the shore almost as far as Winterton Ness.

We were not much more than a quarter of an hour out of our ship till

we saw her sink, and then I understood for the first time what was

meant by a ship foundering in the sea. I must acknowledge I had hardly

eyes to look up when the seamen told me she was sinking; for from the

moment that they rather put me into the boat, than that I might be

said to go in, my heart was, as it were, dead within me, partly with

fright, partly with horror of mind, and the thoughts of what was yet

before me.

While we were in this condition--the men yet laboring at the oar to

bring the boat near the shore--we could see (when, our boat mounting

the waves, we were able to see the shore) a great many people running

along the strand, to assist us when we should come near; but we made

but slow way towards the shore; nor were we able to reach the shore,

till, being past the lighthouse at Winterton, the shore falls off to

the westward towards Cromer, and so the land broke off a little the

violence of the wind. Here we got in, and, though not without much

difficulty, got all safe on shore, and walked afterwards on foot to

Yarmouth, where, as unfortunate men, we were used with great humanity,

as well by the magistrates of the town, who assigned us good quarters,

as by particular merchants and owners of ships, and had money given us

sufficient to carry us either to London or back to Hull, as we thought


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