Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 7 out of 8

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.
Nuttall, the passenger, who had kept in his shell for nearly a
month, and hardly been seen by anybody, and whom 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, 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, we 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. Nuttall 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 there had now set
in a strong, steady, and clear southwester, 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 southwest, 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 topsails, and the reefed foresail set. When we came to
mast-head the topsail yards, with all hands at the halyards, we
struck up ``Cheerly, 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 taut, tackles got upon the
backstays, and everything 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 novelty; 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 taut 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 chip home, and threw her
continually off her course, the log would have shown her to have
been going somewhat faster. I went to the wheel with a young
fellow from the Kennebec, Jack Stewart, 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

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 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 mad, and began to steer wilder than ever. 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 the ship from broaching to, though as she
came up the studding-sail boom stood 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 clew-line 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
clew-line gave way at the first pull; the cleat to which the
halyards were belayed was wrenched off, and the sail blew round
the spritsail yard 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 violence; 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 lat. 50 27' S., lon. 62 13' W.,
having made four degrees of latitude in the last twenty-four hours.
Being now to the northward of the Falkland Islands, the ship was
kept off, northeast, 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 a 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.'' Every
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 top-gallant-masts were
got up, top-gallant and royal yards crossed, and the ship restored
to her fair proportions.

The Southern Cross and the Magellan Clouds settled lower and lower
in the horizon; and so great was our change of latitude that each
succeeding night 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.,
lon. 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, trousers, 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 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 trousers
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 abroad,-- we felt that we had got back into the
pleasantest part of a sailor's life. At sunset 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 or 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 good 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. To give a landsman some notion of
what is done on board ship, it may be truly said that 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 to be 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, and to all critics,
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 southeast trades, blowing about east-southeast, which
brought them nearly two points abaft our beam. They 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 things, too, are often interesting, as they
show the customs and states 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

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 backstays, coming up with the seizings,
hauling here, belaying there, and full of business, standing
between the knight-heads to sight the mast,-- when the captain
came forward, and also began to give orders. This made confusion,
and the mate left his place and went aft, saying to the captain:--

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

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, Captain Thompson, 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,'' &c., &c.

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, in strict
law, 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 somewhat 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. Once, on the coast, the mate had seized the steward, when
the steward suddenly lowered his head, and pitched it straight
into Mr. Brown's stomach, butting him against the galley, grunting
at every shove, and calling out ``You Brown!'' Mr. Brown looked
white in the face, and the heaviest blows he could give seemed to
have no effect on the negro's head. He was pulled off by the
second mate, and Mr. Brown was going at him again, when the
captain separated them; and Mr. Brown told his tale to the
captain, adding ``and, moreover, he called me Brown!'' From this
time ``moreover, he called me Brown,'' became a by-word on board.
Mr. Brown went aft, saying, ``I've promised it to you, and now
you've got it.'' But he did not seem to be sure which had ``got
it''; nor did we. We knew Mr. Brown would not leave the thing in
that equivocal position all the voyage, if he could help it. This
afternoon the mate asked the steward 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 committed the unpardonable offence of leaving 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 darkey tried to butt him, as before, 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. Mr. Brown was satisfied to let
him alone after that, as he had, on the whole, vindicated his
superiority in the eyes of the crew.


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 often 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, off Cape Horn,
reefing topsails of a dark night 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, French John, 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., lon. 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, feudal-looking banner of St. George-- the
cross in a blood-red field-- waving from the mizzen. We probably
were nearly 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 skysails, burying the hull in canvas and
looking like what the whalemen 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., lon. 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 seas.

Thursday, August 18th. At three P.M., made the island of Fernando
Naronha, lying in lat. 3 55' S., lon. 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 lon. 35 W.; having been twenty-seven days from Staten Land,--
a distance, by the courses we had made, of more than four thousand

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, had long been sunk, 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 our all to be
where we now were. We had a 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 trousers, 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 the yarns.
A cloud rises to windward, looking a little black; the skysails
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''; and 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 are 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.)[1]-- ``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 disappears.

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 lookout 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 lookout 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 lookout. 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 taut bowline, and in an
hour after slipping quietly along, with a light breeze over the
taffrail, and studding-sails set out on both sides,-- until we
fell in with the northeast 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 the
trades every hour. The light southerly breeze, which had been
breathing languidly during the first part of the day, died away
toward noon, and in its place came puffs from the northeast, which
caused us to take in our studding-sails 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
northeast 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-northwest; 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, September 4th, when they left us in lat. 22 N., lon. 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 trade-winds 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 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 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 mizzen 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 clew-lines and buntlines were
hauled up without any 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 call 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 once more, 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 southwest. 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 followed by
occasional drops and showers; but the lightning continued
incessant for several hours, breaking the midnight darkness with
irregular and blinding flashes. During all this 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 that 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, topsail 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
soft breeze and all sail set.

[1] A man at the wheel is required to repeat every order given him.
A simple ``Aye, aye, sir,'' is not enough there.


From the latitude of the West Indies, until we got inside the
Bermudas, where we took the westerly and southwesterly 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 back-stays hauled taut, and a
tackle got upon the martingale back-rope. One of the boys furls
the mizzen 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 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 head 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 lee 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 to sleep 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 thrown down on
deck; the noise of a sail is heard fluttering aloft, and the
short, quick cry which sailors make when hauling upon clew-lines.
``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 to the
officer of the watch to haul taut the weather brace. ``Hallo!
There's Ben Stimson aloft to furl the sail!'' Next thing, rigging
is thrown 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,
aho-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 mizzen-top-men
double-reef the mizzen 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

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 still more afraid 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 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 last 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
our 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 further among the crew, but there was danger that it
might; and these cases were bad ones.

Sunday, September 11th. Lat. 30 04' N., lon. 63 23' W.; the
Bermudas bearing north-northwest, 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-southeast, 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 Curacoa.'' ``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 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 made the
mistake, on board, of supposing that a new President had been
chosen the last winter, and, 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.

Our boat's crew had a laugh upon one of our number, Joe, who was
vain and made the best show of everything. The style and gentility
of a ship and her crew depend upon the length and character of the
voyage. An India or China voyage always is the thing, and a voyage
to the Northwest coast (the Columbia River or Russian America) for
furs is romantic and mysterious, and if it takes the ship round
the world, by way of the Islands and China, it out-ranks them all.
The grave, slab-sided mate of the schooner leaned over the rail,
and spoke to the men in our boat: ``Where are you from?'' Joe
answered up quick, ``From the Nor'west coast.'' ``What's your
cargo?'' This was a poser; but Joe was ready with an equivoke.
``Skins,'' said he. ``Here and there a horn?'' asked the mate, in
the dryest manner. The boat's crew laughed out, and Joe's glory
faded. Apropos of this, a man named Sam, on board the Pilgrim,
used to tell a story of a mean little captain in a mean little
brig, in which he sailed from Liverpool to New York, who insisted
on speaking a great, homeward-bound Indiaman, with her
studding-sails out on both sides, sunburnt men in wide-brimmed
hats on her decks, and a monkey and paroquet in her rigging,
``rolling down from St. Helena.'' There was no need of his
stopping her to speak her, but his vanity led him to do it, and
then his meanness made him so awestruck that he seemed to quail.
He called out, in a small, lisping voice, ``What ship is that,
pray?'' A deep-toned voice roared through the trumpet, ``The
Bashaw, from Canton, bound to Boston. Hundred and ten days out!
Where are you from?'' ``Only from Liverpool, sir,'' he lisped, in
the most apologetic and subservient voice. But the humor will be
felt by those only who know the ritual of hailing at sea. No one
says ``sir,'' and the ``only'' was wonderfully expressive.

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 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 and
onions; 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
teaspoonful 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 southwest 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 long absence,--

``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 in the neatest order. No
merchant vessel looks better than an Indiaman, or a Cape Horn-er,
after a long voyage, and captains and mates stake their reputation
for seamanship upon the appearance of their ships when they haul
into the dock. All our standing rigging, fore and aft, was set up
and tarred, the masts stayed, the lower and topmast rigging
rattled down (or up, as the fashion now is); and so careful were
our officers to keep the ratlines taut 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 ratlines 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 retouched 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, &c., &c. The anchors
and ring-bolts, and other iron work, were blackened with coal-tar;
and the steward was kept at work, polishing the brass of the
wheel, bell, capstan, &c. 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, of 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 graffings 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 northeast, 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 northeast,
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 deck, and took a turn round the
long-boat; and, looking 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 passenger.'' 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 deck. Another hand was sent to the royal-mast-head, who
stayed 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 never had 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 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 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 banks of dark, stormy clouds astern, in the twilight.


Friday, September 16th. Lat. 38 N., lon. 69 00' W. A fine
southwest wind; every hour carrying us nearer in toward the 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
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 all were ready to do with a will. The 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 fight 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 driving 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 cat-head 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-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. Peters! 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. As our soundings showed us to be 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 nothing.

Having got through the ship's duty, and washed and changed our
clothes, 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 trousers 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, remnants, and
mementos of our hard 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! If you get once moored, stem and stern, in old
Barnes'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!''

Harry White swore he would take rooms at the Tremont House and set
up for a gentleman; he knew his wages would hold out for two weeks
or so.

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

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 each other, 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
dark-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-northwest, for
Boston light, and began 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 gray 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 alive with sails gliding
about in all directions; 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 light-houses standing like sentries in white before the
harbors; and even the smoke from the chimneys 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 each other 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 meanwhile, 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, 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 outworks 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, Mr. Hooper,
jumped on board. I saw him from the mizzen-topsail yard, and knew
him well. He shook the captain by the hand, and went down into the
cabin, and in a few minutes 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 trousers and red shirt, long hair, and face burnt as dark as
an Indian's. We shook hands, and he congratulated me upon my
return and my appearance of health and strength, and said that my
friends were all well. He had seen some of my family a few days
before. 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 ought ever to remember this gentleman and his words
with pleasure.

The captain went up to town in the boat with Mr. Hooper, 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 Northwest
Coast. He had left home a lad, and when, after so many years of
hard and trying experience, he found himself homeward bound, 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, 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 an 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 way. 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 skysails 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; pretended
to remember 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 North End, and rang among the buildings
in the dock, we hauled her in to the wharf.[1] 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.

[1] [Sept. 21, 1836.]


It was in the winter of 1835-6 that the ship Alert, in the
prosecution of her voyage for hides on the remote and almost
unknown coast of California, floated into the vast solitude of the
Bay of San Francisco. All around was the stillness of nature. One
vessel, a Russian, lay at anchor there, but during our whole stay
not a sail came or went. Our trade was with remote Missions, which
sent hides to us in launches manned by their Indians. Our
anchorage was between a small island, called Yerba Buena, and a
gravel beach in a little bight or cove of the same name, formed by
two small, projecting points. Beyond, to the westward of the
landing-place, were dreary sand-hills, with little grass to be
seen, and few trees, and beyond them higher hills, steep and
barren, their sides gullied by the rains. Some five or six miles
beyond the landing-place, to the right, was a ruinous Presidio,
and some three or four miles to the left was the Mission of
Dolores, as ruinous as the Presidio, almost deserted, with but few
Indians attached to it, and but little property in cattle. Over a
region far beyond our sight there were no other human habitations,
except that an enterprising Yankee, years in advance of his time,
had put up, on the rising ground above the landing, a shanty of
rough boards, where he carried on a very small retail trade
between the hide ships and the Indians. Vast banks of fog,
invading us from the North Pacific, drove in through the entrance,
and covered the whole bay; and when they disappeared, we saw a few
well-wooded islands, the sand-hills on the west, the grassy and
wooded slopes on the east, and the vast stretch of the bay to the
southward, where we were told lay the Missions of Santa Clara and
San Jose, and still longer stretches to the northward and
northeastward, where we understood smaller bays spread out, and
large rivers poured in their tributes of waters. There were no
settlements on these bays or rivers, and the few ranchos and
Missions were remote and widely separated. Not only the
neighborhood of our anchorage, but the entire region of the great
bay, was a solitude. On the whole coast of California there was
not a light-house, a beacon, or a buoy, and the charts were made
up from old and disconnected surveys by British, Russian, and
Mexican voyagers. Birds of prey and passage swooped and dived
about us, wild beasts ranged through the oak groves, and as we
slowly floated out of the harbor with the tide, herds of deer came
to the water's edge, on the northerly side of the entrance, to
gaze at the strange spectacle.

On the evening of Saturday, the 13th of August, 1859, the superb
steamship Golden Gate, gay with crowds of passengers, and lighting
the sea for miles around with the glare of her signal lights of
red, green, and white, and brilliant with lighted saloons and
staterooms, bound up from the Isthmus of Panama, neared the
entrance to San Francisco, the great centre of a world-wide
commerce. Miles out at sea, on the desolate rocks of the
Farallones, gleamed the powerful rays of one of the most costly
and effective light-houses in the world. As we drew in through the
Golden Gate, another light-house met our eyes, and in the clear
moonlight of the unbroken California summer we saw, on the right,
a large fortification protecting the narrow entrance, and just
before us the little island of Alcatraz confronted us,-- one
entire fortress. We bore round the point toward the old
anchoring-ground of the hide ships, and there, covering the
sand-hills and the valleys, stretching from the water's edge to
the base of the great hills, and from the old Presidio to the
Mission, flickering all over with the lamps of its streets and
houses, lay a city of one hundred thousand inhabitants. Clocks
tolled the hour of midnight from its steeples, but the city was
alive from the salute of our guns, spreading the news that the
fortnightly steamer had come, bringing mails and passengers from
the Atlantic world. Clipper ships of the largest size lay at
anchor in the stream, or were girt to the wharves; and capacious
high-pressure steamers, as large and showy as those of the Hudson
or Mississippi, bodies of dazzling light, awaited the delivery of
our mails to take their courses up the Bay, stopping at Benicia
and the United States Naval Station, and then up the great
tributaries-- the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Feather Rivers-- to
the far inland cities of Sacramento, Stockton, and Marysville.

The dock into which we drew, and the streets about it, were
densely crowded with express wagons and hand-carts to take
luggage, coaches and cabs for passengers, and with men,-- some
looking out for friends among our hundreds of passengers,-- agents
of the press, and a greater multitude eager for newspapers and
verbal intelligence from the great Atlantic and European world.
Through this crowd I made my way, along the well-built and
well-lighted streets, as alive as by day, where boys in high-keyed
voices were already crying the latest New York papers; and between
one and two o'clock in the morning found myself comfortably abed
in a commodious room, in the Oriental Hotel, which stood, as well
as I could learn, on the filled-up cove, and not far from the spot
where we used to beach our boats from the Alert.

Sunday, August 14th. When I awoke in the morning, and looked from
my windows over the city of San Francisco, with its storehouses,
towers, and steeples; its court-houses, theatres, and hospitals;
its daily journals; its well-filled learned professions; its
fortresses and light-houses; its wharves and harbor, with their
thousand-ton clipper ships, more in number than London or
Liverpool sheltered that day, itself one of the capitals of the
American Republic, and the sole emporium of a new world, the
awakened Pacific; when I looked across the bay to the eastward,
and beheld a beautiful town on the fertile, wooded shores of the
Contra Costa, and steamers, large and small, the ferryboats to the
Contra Costa, and capacious freighters and passenger-carriers to
all parts of the great bay and its tributaries, with lines of
their smoke in the horizon,-- when I saw all these things, and
reflected on what I once was and saw here, and what now surrounded
me, I could scarcely keep my hold on reality at all, or the
genuineness of anything, and seemed to myself like one who had
moved in ``worlds not realized.''

I could not complain that I had not a choice of places of worship.
The Roman Catholics have an archbishop, a cathedral, and five or
six smaller churches, French, German, Spanish, and English; and
the Episcopalians a bishop, a cathedral, and three other churches;
the Methodists and Presbyterians have three or four each, and
there are Congregationalists, Baptists, a Unitarian, and other
societies. On my way to church, I met two classmates of mine at
Harvard standing in a door-way, one a lawyer and the other a
teacher, and made appointments for a future meeting. A little
farther on I came upon another Harvard man, a fine scholar and
wit, and full of cleverness and good-humor, who invited me to go
to breakfast with him at the French house,-- he was a bachelor,
and a late riser on Sundays. I asked him to show me the way to
Bishop Kip's church. He hesitated, looked a little confused, and
admitted that he was not as well up in certain classes of
knowledge as in others, but, by a desperate guess, pointed out a
wooden building at the foot of the street, which any one might
have seen could not be right, and which turned out to be an
African Baptist meeting-house. But my friend had many capital
points of character, and I owed much of the pleasure of my visit
to his attentions.

The congregation at the Bishop's church was precisely like one you
would meet in New York, Philadelphia, or Boston. To be sure, the
identity of the service makes one feel at once at home, but the
people were alike, nearly all of the English race, though from all
parts of the Union. The latest French bonnets were at the head of
the chief pews, and business men at the foot. The music was
without character, but there was an instructive sermon, and the
church was full.

I found that there were no services at any of the Protestant
churches in the afternoon. They have two services on Sunday; at 11
A.M., and after dark. The afternoon is spent at home, or in
friendly visiting, or teaching of Sunday Schools, or other humane
and social duties.

This is as much the practice with what at home are called the
strictest denominations as with any others. Indeed, I found
individuals, as well as public bodies, affected in a marked degree
by a change of oceans and by California life. One Sunday afternoon
I was surprised at receiving the card of a man whom I had last
known, some fifteen years ago, as a strict and formal deacon of a
Congregational Society in New England. He was a deacon still, in
San Francisco, a leader in all pious works, devoted to his
denomination and to total abstinence,-- the same internally, but
externally-- what a change! Gone was the downcast eye, the bated
breath, the solemn, non-natural voice, the watchful gait, stepping
as if he felt responsible for the balance of the moral universe!
He walked with a stride, an uplifted open countenance, his face
covered with beard, whiskers, and mustache, his voice strong and
natural,-- and, in short, he had put off the New England deacon
and become a human being. In a visit of an hour I learned much
from him about the religious societies, the moral reforms, the
``Dashaways,''-- total abstinence societies, which had taken
strong hold on the young and wilder parts of society,-- and then
of the Vigilance Committee, of which he was a member, and of more
secular points of interest.

In one of the parlors of the hotel, I saw a man of about sixty
years of age, with his feet bandaged and resting in a chair, whom
somebody addressed by the name of Lies.[1] Lies! thought I, that
must be the man who came across the country from Kentucky to
Monterey while we lay there in the Pilgrim in 1835, and made a
passage in the Alert, when he used to shoot with his rifle bottles
hung from the top-gallant studding-sail-boom-ends. He married the
beautiful Dona Rosalia Vallejo, sister of Don Guadalupe. There
were the old high features and sandy hair. I put my chair beside
him, and began conversation, as any one may do in California. Yes,
he was the Mr. Lies; and when I gave my name he professed at once
to remember me, and spoke of my book. I found that almost-- I
might perhaps say quite-- every American in California had read
it; for when California ``broke out,'' as the phrase is, in 1848,
and so large a portion of the Anglo-Saxon race flocked to it,
there was no book upon California but mine. Many who were on the
coast at the time the book refers to, and afterwards read it, and
remembered the Pilgrim and Alert, thought they also remembered me.
But perhaps more did remember me than I was inclined at first to
believe, for the novelty of a collegian coming out before the mast
had drawn more attention to me than I was aware of at the time.

Late in the afternoon, as there were vespers at the Roman Catholic
churches, I went to that of Notre Dame des Victoires. The
congregation was French, and a sermon in French was preached by an
Abbe; the music was excellent, all things airy and tasteful, and
making one feel as if in one of the chapels in Paris. The
Cathedral of St. Mary, which I afterwards visited, where the Irish
attend, was a contrast indeed, and more like one of our stifling
Irish Catholic churches in Boston or New York, with intelligence
in so small a proportion to the number of faces. During the three
Sundays I was in San Francisco, I visited three of the Episcopal
churches, and the Congregational, a Chinese Mission Chapel, and on
the Sabbath (Saturday) a Jewish synagogue. The Jews are a wealthy
and powerful class here. The Chinese, too, are numerous, and do a
great part of the manual labor and small shop-keeping, and have
some wealthy mercantile houses.

It is noticeable that European Continental fashions prevail
generally in this city,-- French cooking, lunch at noon, and
dinner at the end of the day, with cafe noir after meals, and to a
great extent the European Sunday,-- to all which emigrants from
the United States and Great Britain seem to adapt themselves. Some
dinners which were given to me at French restaurants were, it
seemed to me,-- a poor judge of such matters, to be sure,-- as
sumptuous and as good, in dishes and wines, as I have found in
Paris. But I had a relish-maker which my friends at table did not
suspect,-- the remembrance of the forecastle dinners I ate here
twenty-four years before.

August 17th. The customs of California are free; and any person
who knows about my book speaks to me. The newspapers have
announced the arrival of the veteran pioneer of all. I hardly walk
out without meeting or making acquaintances. I have already been
invited to deliver the anniversary oration before the Pioneer
Society, to celebrate the settlement of San Francisco. Any man is
qualified for election into this society who came to California
before 1853. What moderns they are! I tell them of the time when
Richardson's shanty of 1835-- not his adobe house of 1836-- was
the only human habitation between the Mission and the Presidio,
and when the vast bay, with all its tributaries and recesses, was
a solitude,-- and yet I am but little past forty years of age.
They point out the place where Richardson's adobe house stood, and
tell me that the first court and first town council were convened
in it, the first Protestant worship performed in it, and in it the
first capital trial by the Vigilance Committee held. I am taken
down to the wharves, by antiquaries of a ten or twelve years'
range, to identify the two points, now known as Clark's and
Rincon, which formed the little cove of Yerba Buena, where we used
to beach our boats,-- now filled up and built upon. The island we
called ``Wood Island,'' where we spent the cold days and nights of
December, in our launch, getting wood for our year's supply, is
clean shorn of trees; and the bare rocks of Alcatraz Island, an
entire fortress. I have looked at the city from the water, and at
the water and islands from the city, but I can see nothing that
recalls the times gone by, except the venerable Mission, the
ruinous Presidio, the high hills in the rear of the town, and the
great stretches of the bay in all directions.

To-day I took a California horse of the old style,-- the run, the
loping gait,-- and visited the Presidio. The walls stand as they
did, with some changes made to accommodate a small garrison of
United States troops. It has a noble situation, and I saw from it
a clipper ship of the very largest class, coming through the Gate,
under her fore-and-aft sails. Thence I rode to the Fort, now
nearly finished, on the southern shore of the Gate, and made an
inspection of it. It is very expensive and of the latest style.
One of the engineers here is Custis Lee, who has just left West
Point at the head of his class,-- a son of Colonel Robert E. Lee,
who distinguished himself in the Mexican War.[2]

Another morning I ride to the Mission Dolores. It has a strangely
solitary aspect, enhanced by its surroundings of the most
uncongenial, rapidly growing modernisms; the hoar of ages
surrounded by the brightest, slightest, and rapidest of modern
growths. Its old belfries still clanged with the discordant bells,
and Mass was saying within, for it is used as a place of worship
for the extreme south part of the city.

In one of my walks about the wharves, I found a pile of dry hides
lying by the side of a vessel. Here was something to feelingly
persuade me what I had been, to recall a past scarce credible to
myself. I stood lost in reflection. What were these hides-- what
were they not?-- to us, to me, a boy, twenty-four years ago? These
were our constant labor, our chief object, our almost habitual
thought. They brought us out here, they kept us here, and it was
only by getting them that we could escape from the coast and
return to home and civilized life. If it had not been that I might
be seen, I should have seized one, slung it over my head, walked
off with it, and thrown it by the old toss-- I do not believe yet
a lost art-- to the ground. How they called up to my mind the
months of curing at San Diego, the year and more of beach and surf
work, and the steeving of the ship for home! I was in a dream of
San Diego, San Pedro,-- with its hill so steep for taking up
goods, and its stones so hard to our bare feet,-- and the cliffs
of San Juan! All this, too, is no more! The entire hide-business
is of the past, and to the present inhabitants of California a dim
tradition. The gold discoveries drew off all men from the
gathering or cure of hides, the inflowing population made an end
of the great droves of cattle; and now not a vessel pursues the--
I was about to say dear-- the dreary, once hated business of
gathering hides upon the coast, and the beach of San Diego is
abandoned and its hide-houses have disappeared. Meeting a
respectable-looking citizen on the wharf, I inquired of him how
the hide-trade was carried on. ``O,'' said he, ``there is very
little of it, and that is all here. The few that are brought in
are placed under sheds in winter, or left out on the wharf in
summer, and are loaded from the wharves into the vessels
alongside. They form parts of cargoes of other materials.'' I
really felt too much, at the instant, to express to him the cause
of my interest in the subject, and only added, ``Then the old
business of trading up and down the coast and curing hides for
cargoes is all over?'' ``O yes, sir,'' said he, ``those old times
of the Pilgrim and Alert and California, that we read about, are
gone by.''

Saturday, August 20th. The steamer Senator makes regular trips up
and down the coast, between San Francisco and San Diego, calling
at intermediate ports. This is my opportunity to revisit the old
scenes. She sails to-day, and I am off, steaming among the great
clippers anchored in the harbor, and gliding rapidly round the
point, past Alcatraz Island, the light-house, and through the
fortified Golden Gate, and bending to the southward,-- all done in
two or three hours, which, in the Alert, under canvas, with head
tides, variable winds, and sweeping currents to deal with, took us
full two days.

Among the passengers I noticed an elderly gentleman, thin, with
sandy hair and a face that seemed familiar. He took off his glove
and showed one shrivelled hand. It must be he! I went to him and
said, ``Captain Wilson, I believe.'' Yes, that was his name. ``I knew
you, sir, when you commanded the Ayacucho on this coast, in old
hide-droghing times, in 1835-6.'' He was quickened by this, and at
once inquiries were made on each side, and we were in full talk
about the Pilgrim and Alert, Ayacucho and Loriotte, the California
and Lagoda. I found he had been very much flattered by the praise
I had bestowed in my book on his seamanship, especially in bringing
the Pilgrim to her berth in San Diego harbor, after she had drifted
successively into the Lagoda and Loriotte, and was coming into him.
I had made a pet of his brig, the Ayacucho, which pleased him almost
as much as my remembrance of his bride and their wedding, which
I saw at Santa Barbara in 1836. Dona Ramona was now the mother of a
large family, and Wilson assured me that if I would visit him at his
rancho, near San Luis Obispo, I should find her still a handsome
woman, and very glad to see me. How we walked the deck together,
hour after hour, talking over the old times,-- the ships, the
captains, the crews, the traders on shore, the ladies, the Missions,
the southeasters! indeed, where could we stop? He had sold the
Ayacucho in Chili for a vessel of war, and had given up the sea,
and had been for years a ranchero. (I learned from others that he
had become one of the most wealthy and respectable farmers in the
State, and that his rancho was well worth visiting.) Thompson, he
said, hadn't the sailor in him; and he never could laugh enough at
his fiasco in San Diego, and his reception by Bradshaw. Faucon was
a sailor and a navigator. He did not know what had become of George
Marsh (ante, pp. 255-258), except that he left him in Callao; nor
could he tell me anything of handsome Bill Jackson (ante, p. 104),
nor of Captain Nye of the Loriotte. I told him all I then knew
of the ships, the masters, and the officers. I found he had kept
some run of my history, and needed little information. Old Senor
Noriego of Santa Barbara, he told me, was dead, and Don Carlos and
Don Santiago, but I should find their children there, now in
middle life. Dona Angustias, he said, I had made famous by my
praises of her beauty and dancing, and I should have from her a
royal reception. She had been a widow, and remarried since, and
had a daughter as handsome as herself. The descendants of Noriego
had taken the ancestral name of De la Guerra, as they were nobles
of Old Spain by birth; and the boy Pablo, who used to make
passages in the Alert, was now Don Pablo de la Guerra, a Senator
in the State Legislature for Santa Barbara County.

The points in the country, too, we noticed, as we passed them,--
Santa Cruz, San Luis Obispo, Point Ano Nuevo, the opening to
Monterey, which to my disappointment we did not visit. No;
Monterey, the prettiest town on the coast, and its capital and
seat of customs, had got no advantage from the great changes, was
out of the way of commerce and of the travel to the mines and
great rivers, and was not worth stopping at. Point Conception we
passed in the night, a cheery light gleaming over the waters from
its tall light-house, standing on its outermost peak. Point
Conception! That word was enough to recall all our experiences and
dreads of gales, swept decks, topmast carried away, and the
hardships of a coast service in the winter. But Captain Wilson
tells me that the climate has altered; that the southeasters are
no longer the bane of the coast they once were, and that vessels
now anchor inside the kelp at Santa Barbara and San Pedro all the
year round. I should have thought this owing to his spending his
winters on a rancho instead of the deck of the Ayacucho, had not
the same thing been told me by others.

Passing round Point Conception, and steering easterly, we opened
the islands that form, with the main-land, the canal of Santa
Barbara. There they are, Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa; and there is
the beautiful point, Santa Buenaventura; and there lies Santa
Barbara on its plain, with its amphitheatre of high hills and
distant mountains. There is the old white Mission with its
belfries, and there the town, with its one-story adobe houses,
with here and there a two-story wooden house of later build; yet
little is it altered,-- the same repose in the golden sunlight and
glorious climate, sheltered by its hills; and then, more remindful
than anything else, there roars and tumbles upon the beach the
same grand surf of the great Pacific as on the beautiful day when
the Pilgrim, after her five months' voyage, dropped her weary
anchors here; the same bright blue ocean, and the surf making just
the same monotonous, melancholy roar, and the same dreamy town,
and gleaming white Mission, as when we beached our boats for the
first time, riding over the breakers with shouting Kanakas, the
three small hide-traders lying at anchor in the offing. But now we
are the only vessel, and that an unromantic, sail-less, spar-less,
engine-driven hulk!

I landed in the surf, in the old style, but it was not high enough
to excite us, the only change being that I was somehow
unaccountably a passenger, and did not have to jump overboard and
steady the boat, and run her up by the gunwales.

Santa Barbara has gained but little. I should not know, from
anything I saw, that she was now a seaport of the United States, a
part of the enterprising Yankee nation, and not still a lifeless
Mexican town. At the same old house, where Senor Noriego lived, on
the piazza in front of the court-yard, where was the gay scene of
the marriage of our agent, Mr. Robinson, to Dona Anita, where Don
Juan Bandini and Dona Angustias danced, Don Pablo de la Guerra
received me in a courtly fashion. I passed the day with the
family, and in walking about the place; and ate the old dinner
with its accompaniments of frijoles, native olives and grapes, and
native wines. In due time I paid my respects to Dona Angustias,
and, notwithstanding what Wilson told me, I could hardly believe
that after twenty-four years there would still be so much of the
enchanting woman about her. She thanked me for the kind and, as
she called them, greatly exaggerated compliments I had paid her;
and her daughter told me that all travellers who came to Santa
Barbara called to see her mother, and that she herself never
expected to live long enough to be a belle.

Mr. Alfred Robinson, our agent in 1835-6, was here, with a part of
his family. I did not know how he would receive me, remembering
what I had printed to the world about him at a time when I took
little thought that the world was going to read it; but there was
no sign of offence, only a cordiality which gave him, as between
us, rather the advantage in status.

The people of this region are giving attention to sheep-raising,
wine-making, and the raising of olives, just enough to keep the
town from going backwards.

But evening is drawing on, and our boat sails to-night. So,
refusing a horse or carriage, I walk down, not unwilling to be a
little early, that I may pace up and down the beach, looking off
to the islands and the points, and watching the roaring, tumbling
billows. How softening is the effect of time! It touches us
through the affections. I almost feel as if I were lamenting the
passing away of something loved and dear,-- the boats, the
Kanakas, the hides, my old shipmates! Death, change, distance,
lend them a character which makes them quite another thing from
the vulgar, wearisome toil of uninteresting, forced manual labor.

The breeze freshened as we stood out to sea, and the wild waves
rolled over the red sun, on the broad horizon of the Pacific; but
it is summer, and in summer there can be no bad weather in
California. Every day is pleasant. Nature forbids a drop of rain
to fall by day or night, or a wind to excite itself beyond a fresh
summer breeze.

The next morning we found ourselves at anchor in the Bay of San
Pedro. Here was this hated, this thoroughly detested spot.
Although we lay near, I could scarce recognize the hill up which
we rolled and dragged and pushed and carried our heavy loads, and
down which we pitched the hides, to carry them barefooted over the
rocks to the floating long-boat. It was no longer the
landing-place. One had been made at the head of the creek, and
boats discharged and took off cargoes from a mole or wharf, in a
quiet place, safe from southeasters. A tug ran to take off
passengers from the steamer to the wharf,-- for the trade of Los
Angeles is sufficient to support such a vessel. I got the captain
to land me privately, in a small boat, at the old place by the
hill. I dismissed the boat, and, alone, found my way to the high
ground. I say found my way, for neglect and weather had left but
few traces of the steep road the hide-vessels had built to the
top. The cliff off which we used to throw the hides, and where I
spent nights watching them, was more easily found. The population
was doubled, that is to say, there were two houses, instead of
one, on the hill. I stood on the brow and looked out toward the
offing, the Santa Catalina Island, and, nearer, the melancholy
Dead Man's Island, with its painful tradition, and recalled the
gloomy days that followed the flogging, and fancied the Pilgrim at
anchor in the offing. But the tug is going toward our steamer, and
I must awake and be off. I walked along the shore to the new
landing-place, where were two or three store-houses and other
buildings, forming a small depot; and a stage-coach, I found, went
daily between this place and the Pueblo. I got a seat on the top
of the coach, to which were tackled six little less than wild
California horses. Each horse had a man at his head, and when the
driver had got his reins in hand he gave the word, all the horses
were let go at once, and away they went on a spring, tearing over
the ground, the driver only keeping them from going the wrong way,
for they had a wide, level pampa to run over the whole thirty
miles to the Pueblo. This plain is almost treeless, with no grass,
at least none now in the drought of midsummer, and is filled with
squirrel-holes, and alive with squirrels. As we changed horses
twice, we did not slacken our speed until we turned into the
streets of the Pueblo.

The Pueblo de los Angeles I found a large and flourishing town of
about twenty thousand inhabitants, with brick sidewalks, and
blocks of stone or brick houses. The three principal traders when
we were here for hides in the Pilgrim and Alert are still among
the chief traders of the place,-- Stearns, Temple, and Warner, the
two former being reputed very rich. I dined with Mr. Stearns, now
a very old man, and met there Don Juan Bandini, to whom I had
given a good deal of notice in my book. From him, as indeed from
every one in this town, I met with the kindest attentions. The
wife of Don Juan, who was a beautiful young girl when we were on
the coast, Dona Refugio, daughter of Don Santiago Arguello, the
commandante of San Diego, was with him, and still handsome. This
is one of several instances I have noticed of the preserving
quality of the California climate. Here, too, was Henry Mellus,
who came out with me before the mast in the Pilgrim, and left the
brig to be agent's clerk on shore. He had experienced varying
fortunes here, and was now married to a Mexican lady, and had a
family. I dined with him, and in the afternoon he drove me round
to see the vineyards, the chief objects in this region. The
vintage of last year was estimated at half a million of gallons.
Every year new square miles of ground are laid down to vineyards,
and the Pueblo promises to be the centre of one of the largest
wine-producing regions in the world. Grapes are a drug here, and I
found a great abundance of figs, olives, peaches, pears, and
melons. The climate is well suited to these fruits, but is too hot
and dry for successful wheat crops.

Towards evening, we started off in the stage-coach, with again our
relays of six mad horses, and reached the creek before dark,
though it was late at night before we got on board the steamer,
which was slowly moving her wheels, under way for San Diego.

As we skirted along the coast, Wilson and I recognized, or thought
we did, in the clear moonlight, the rude white Mission of San Juan
Capistrano, and its cliff, from which I had swung down by a pair
of halyards to save a few hides,-- a boy who could not be
prudential, and who caught at every chance for adventure.

As we made the high point off San Diego, Point Loma, we were
greeted by the cheering presence of a light-house. As we swept
round it in the early morning, there, before us, lay the little
harbor of San Diego, its low spit of sand, where the water runs so
deep; the opposite flats, where the Alert grounded in starting for
home; the low hills, without trees, and almost without brush; the
quiet little beach;-- but the chief objects, the hide-houses, my
eye looked for in vain. They were gone, all, and left no mark

I wished to be alone, so I let the other passengers go up to the
town, and was quietly pulled ashore in a boat, and left to myself.
The recollections and the emotions all were sad, and only sad.

Fugit, interea fugit irreparabile tempus.

The past was real. The present, all about me, was unreal,
unnatural, repellant. I saw the big ships lying in the stream, the
Alert, the California, the Rosa, with her Italians; then the
handsome Ayacucho, my favorite; the poor dear old Pilgrim, the
home of hardship and hopelessness; the boats passing to and fro;
the cries of the sailors at the capstan or falls; the peopled
beach; the large hide-houses, with their gangs of men; and the
Kanakas interspersed everywhere. All, all were gone! not a vestige
to mark where one hide-house stood. The oven, too, was gone. I
searched for its site, and found, where I thought it should be, a
few broken bricks and bits of mortar. I alone was left of all, and
how strangely was I here! What changes to me! Where were they all?
Why should I care for them,-- poor Kanakas and sailors, the refuse
of civilization, the outlaws and beach-combers of the Pacific!
Time and death seemed to transfigure them. Doubtless nearly all
were dead; but how had they died, and where? In hospitals, in
fever-climes, in dens of vice, or falling from the mast, or
dropping exhausted from the wreck,--


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