Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 2 out of 8

after a voyage of one hundred and fifty days from Boston.


California extends along nearly the whole of the western coast of
Mexico, between the Gulf of California in the south and the Bay of
San Francisco on the north, or between the 22d and 38th degrees of
north latitude. It is subdivided into two provinces,-- Lower or Old
California, lying between the gulf and the 32d degree of latitude,
or near it (the division line running, I believe, between the bay
of Todos Santos and the port of San Diego), and New or Upper
California, the southernmost port of which is San Diego, in lat.
32° 39', and the northernmost, San Francisco, situated in the large
bay discovered by Sir Francis Drake, in lat. 37° 58', and now known
as the Bay of San Francisco, so named, I suppose, by Franciscan
missionaries. Upper California has the seat of its government at
Monterey, where is also the custom-house, the only one on the
coast, and at which every vessel intending to trade on the coast
must enter its cargo before it can begin its traffic. We were to
trade upon this coast exclusively, and therefore expected to go
first to Monterey, but the captain's orders from home were to put
in at Santa Barbara, which is the central port of the coast, and
wait there for the agent, who transacts all the business for the
firm to which our vessel belonged.

The bay, or, as it was commonly called, the canal of Santa
Barbara, is very large, being formed by the main land on one side
(between Point Conception on the north and Point Santa
Buenaventura on the south), which here bends in like a crescent,
and by three large islands opposite to it and at the distance of
some twenty miles. These points are just sufficient to give it the
name of a bay, while at the same time it is so large and so much
exposed to the southeast and northwest winds, that it is little
better than an open roadstead; and the whole swell of the Pacific
Ocean rolls in here before a southeaster, and breaks with so heavy
a surf in the shallow waters, that it is highly dangerous to lie
near in to the shore during the southeaster season, that is,
between the months of November and April.

This wind (the southeaster) is the bane of the coast of
California. Between the months of November and April (including a
part of each), which is the rainy season in this latitude, you are
never safe from it; and accordingly, in the ports which are open
to it, vessels are obliged, during these months, to lie at anchor
at a distance of three miles from the shore, with slip-ropes on
their cables, ready to slip and go to sea at a moment's warning.
The only ports which are safe from this wind are San Francisco and
Monterey in the north, and San Diego in the south.

As it was January when we arrived, and the middle of the
southeaster season, we came to anchor at the distance of three
miles from the shore, in eleven fathoms water, and bent a
slip-rope and buoys to our cables, cast off the yard-arm gaskets
from the sails, and stopped them all with rope-yarns. After we had
done this, the boat went ashore with the captain, and returned
with orders to the mate to send a boat ashore for him at sundown.
I did not go in the first boat, and was glad to find that there
was another going before night; for after so long a voyage as ours
had been, a few hours seem a long time to be in sight and out of
reach of land. We spent the day on board in the usual duties; but
as this was the first time we had been without the captain, we
felt a little more freedom, and looked about us to see what sort
of a country we had got into, and were to pass a year or two of
our lives in.

It was a beautiful day, and so warm that we wore straw hats, duck
trousers, and all the summer gear. As this was midwinter, it spoke
well for the climate; and we afterwards found that the thermometer
never fell to the freezing point throughout the winter, and that
there was very little difference between the seasons, except that
during a long period of rainy and southeasterly weather, thick
clothes were not uncomfortable.

The large bay lay about us, nearly smooth, as there was hardly a
breath of wind stirring, though the boat's crew who went ashore
told us that the long groundswell broke into a heavy surf on the
beach. There was only one vessel in the port-- a long, sharp brig
of about three hundred tons, with raking masts, and very square
yards, and English colors at her peak. We afterwards learned that
she was built at Guayaquil, and named the Ayacucho, after the
place where the battle was fought that gave Peru her independence,
and was now owned by a Scotchman named Wilson, who commanded her,
and was engaged in the trade between Callao and other parts of
South America and California. She was a fast sailer, as we
frequently afterwards saw, and had a crew of Sandwich-Islanders on
board. Beside this vessel, there was no object to break the
surface of the bay. Two points ran out as the horns of the
crescent, one of which-- the one to the westward-- was low and
sandy, and is that to which vessels are obliged to give a wide
berth when running out for a southeaster; the other is high, bold,
and well wooded, and has a mission upon it, called Santa
Buenaventura, from which the point is named. In the middle of this
crescent, directly opposite the anchoring ground, lie the Mission
and town of Santa Barbara, on a low plain, but little above the
level of the sea, covered with grass, though entirely without
trees, and surrounded on three sides by an amphitheatre of
mountains, which slant off to the distance of fifteen or twenty
miles. The Mission stands a little back of the town, and is a
large building, or rather collection of buildings, in the centre
of which is a high tower, with a belfry of five bells. The whole,
being plastered, makes quite a show at a distance, and is the mark
by which vessels come to anchor. The town lies a little nearer to
the beach,-- about half a mile from it,-- and is composed of
one-story houses built of sun-baked clay, or adobe, some of them
whitewashed, with red tiles on the roofs. I should judge that
there were about a hundred of them; and in the midst of them
stands the Presidio, or fort, built of the same materials, and
apparently but little stronger. The town is finely situated, with
a bay in front, and an amphitheatre of hills behind. The only
thing which diminishes its beauty is, that the hills have no large
trees upon them, they having been all burnt by a great fire which
swept them off about a dozen years ago, and they had not yet grown
again. The fire was described to me by an inhabitant, as having
been a very terrible and magnificent sight. The air of the whole
valley was so heated that the people were obliged to leave the
town and take up their quarters for several days upon the beach.

Just before sundown, the mate ordered a boat's crew ashore, and I
went as one of the number. We passed under the stern of the
English brig, and had a long pull ashore. I shall never forget the
impression which our first landing on the beach of California made
upon me. The sun had just gone down; it was getting dusky; the
damp night-wind was beginning to blow, and the heavy swell of the
Pacific was setting in, and breaking in loud and high ``combers''
upon the beach. We lay on our oars in the swell, just outside of
the surf, waiting for a good chance to run in, when a boat, which
had put off from the Ayacucho, came alongside of us, with a crew
of dusky Sandwich-Islanders, talking and hallooing in their
outlandish tongue. They knew that we were novices in this kind of
boating, and waited to see us go in. The second mate, however, who
steered our boat, determined to have the advantage of their
experience, and would not go in first. Finding, at length, how
matters stood, they gave a shout, and taking advantage of a great
comber which came swelling in, rearing its head, and lifting up
the sterns of our boats nearly perpendicular, and again dropping
them in the trough, they gave three or four long and strong pulls,
and went in on top of the great wave, throwing their oars
overboard, and as far from the boat as they could throw them, and,
jumping out the instant the boat touched the beach, they seized
hold of her by the gunwale, on each side, and ran her up high and
dry upon the sand. We saw, at once, how the thing was to be done,
and also the necessity of keeping the boat stern out to the sea;
for the instant the sea should strike upon her broadside or
quarter, she would be driven up broadside on, and capsized. We
pulled strongly in, and as soon as we felt that the sea had got
hold of us, and was carrying us in with the speed of a race-horse,
we threw the oars as far from the boat as we could, and took hold
of the gunwales, ready to spring out and seize her when she
struck, the officer using his utmost strength, with his
steering-oar, to keep her stern out. We were shot up upon the
beach, and, seizing the boat, ran her up high and dry, and,
picking up our oars, stood by her, ready for the captain to come

Finding that the captain did not come immediately, we put our oars
in the boat, and, leaving one to watch it, walked about the beach
to see what we could of the place. The beach is nearly a mile in
length between the two points, and of smooth sand. We had taken
the only good landing-place, which is in the middle, it being more
stony toward the ends. It is about twenty yards in width from
high-water mark to a slight bank at which the soil begins, and so
hard that it is a favorite place for running horses. It was
growing dark, so that we could just distinguish the dim outlines
of the two vessels in the offing; and the great seas were rolling
in in regular lines, growing larger and larger as they approached
the shore, and hanging over the beach upon which they were to
break, when their tops would curl over and turn white with foam,
and, beginning at one extreme of the line, break rapidly to the
other, as a child's long card house falls when a card is knocked
down at one end. The Sandwich-Islanders, in the mean time, had
turned their boat round, and ran her down into the water, and were
loading her with hides and tallow. As this was the work in which
we were soon to be engaged, we looked on with some curiosity. They
ran the boat so far into the water that every large sea might
float her, and two of them, with their trousers rolled up, stood
by the bows, one on each side, keeping her in her right position.
This was hard work; for beside the force they had to use upon the
boat, the large seas nearly took them off their legs. The others
were running from the boat to the bank, upon which, out of the
reach of the water, was a pile of dry bullocks' hides, doubled
lengthwise in the middle, and nearly as stiff as boards. These
they took upon their heads, one or two at a time, and carried down
to the boat, in which one of their number stowed them away. They
were obliged to carry them on their heads, to keep them out of the
water and we observed that they had on thick woollen caps. ``Look
here, Bill, and see what you're coming to!'' said one of our men
to another who stood by the boat. ``Well, Dana,'' said the second
mate to me, ``this does not look much like Harvard College, does
it? But it is what I call `head work.''' To tell the truth, it did
not look very encouraging.

After they had got through with the hides, the Kanakas laid hold
of the bags of tallow (the bags are made of hide, and are about
the size of a common meal-bag), and lifted each upon the shoulders
of two men, one at each end, who walked off with them to the boat,
when all prepared to go aboard. Here, too, was something for us to
learn. The man who steered shipped his oar and stood up in the
stern, and those that pulled the two after oars sat upon their
benches, with their oars shipped, ready to strike out as soon as
she was afloat. The two men remained standing at the bows; and
when, at length, a large sea came in and floated her, seized hold
of the gunwales, and ran out with her till they were up to their
armpits, and then tumbled over the gunwales into the bows,
dripping with water. The men at the oars struck out, but it
wouldn't do; the sea swept back and left them nearly high and dry.
The two fellows jumped out again; and the next time they succeeded
better, and, with the help of a deal of outlandish hallooing and
bawling, got her well off. We watched them till they were out of
the breakers, and saw them steering for their vessel, which was
now hidden in the darkness.

The sand of the beach began to be cold to our bare feet; the frogs
set up their croaking in the marshes, and one solitary owl, from
the end of the distant point, gave out his melancholy note,
mellowed by the distance, and we began to think that it was high
time for ``the old man,'' as a shipmaster is commonly called, to
come down. In a few minutes we heard something coming towards us.
It was a man on horseback. He came on the full gallop, reined up
near us, addressed a few words to us, and, receiving no answer,
wheeled round and galloped off again. He was nearly as dark as an
Indian, with a large Spanish hat, blanket cloak or serape, and
leather leggins, with a long knife stuck in them. ``This is the
seventh city that ever I was in, and no Christian one neither,''
said Bill Brown. ``Stand by!'' said John, ``you haven't seen the
worst of it yet.'' In the midst of this conversation the captain
appeared; and we winded the boat round, shoved her down, and
prepared to go off. The captain, who had been on the coast
before, and ``knew the ropes,'' took the steering-oar, and we went
off in the same way as the other boat. I, being the youngest, had
the pleasure of standing at the bow, and getting wet through. We
went off well, though the seas were high. Some of them lifted us
up, and, sliding from under us, seemed to let us drop through the
air like a flat plank upon the body of the water. In a few minutes
we were in the low, regular swell, and pulled for a light, which,
as we neared it, we found had been run up to our trysail gaff.

Coming aboard, we hoisted up all the boats, and, diving down into
the forecastle, changed our wet clothes, and got our supper. After
supper the sailors lighted their pipes (cigars, those of us who
had them), and we had to tell all we had seen ashore. Then
followed conjectures about the people ashore, the length of the
voyage, carrying hides, &c., &c., until eight bells, when all
hands were called aft, and the ``anchor watch'' set. We were to
stand two in a watch, and, as the nights were pretty long, two
hours were to make a watch. The second mate was to keep the deck
until eight o'clock, all hands were to be called at daybreak, and
the word was passed to keep a bright lookout, and to call the mate
if it should come on to blow from the southeast. We had, also,
orders to strike the bells every half-hour through the night, as
at sea. My watchmate was John, the Swedish sailor, and we stood
from twelve to two, he walking the larboard side and I the
starboard. At daylight all hands were called, and we went through
the usual process of washing down, swabbing, &c., and got
breakfast at eight o'clock. In the course of the forenoon, a boat
went aboard of the Ayacucho and brought off a quarter of beef,
which made us a fresh bite for dinner. This we were glad enough to
have, and the mate told us that we should live upon fresh beef
while we were on the coast, as it was cheaper here than the salt.
While at dinner, the cook called ``Sail ho!'' and, coming on deck,
we saw two sails bearing round the point. One was a large ship
under top-gallant sails, and the other a small hermaphrodite brig.
They both backed their topsails and sent boats aboard of us. The
ship's colors had puzzled us, and we found that she was from
Genoa, with an assorted cargo, and was trading on the coast. She
filled away again, and stood out, being bound up the coast to San
Francisco. The crew of the brig's boat were Sandwich-Islanders,
but one of them, who spoke a little English, told us that she was
the Loriotte, Captain Nye, from Oahu, and was engaged in the hide
and tallow trade. She was a lump of a thing, what the sailors call
a butter-box. This vessel, as well as the Ayacucho, and others
which we afterwards saw engaged in the same trade, have English or
Americans for officers, and two or three before the mast to do the
work upon the rigging, and to be relied upon for seamanship, while
the rest of the crew are Sandwich-Islanders, who are active and
very useful in boating.

The three captains went ashore after dinner, and came off again at
night. When in port, everything is attended to by the chief mate;
the captain, unless he is also supercargo, has little to do, and
is usually ashore much of his time. This we thought would be
pleasanter for us, as the mate was a good-natured man, and not
very strict. So it was for a time, but we were worse off in the
end; for wherever the captain is a severe, energetic man, and the
mate has neither of these qualities, there will always be trouble.
And trouble we had already begun to anticipate. The captain had
several times found fault with the mate, in presence of the crew;
and hints had been dropped that all was not right between them.
When this is the case, and the captain suspects that his chief
officer is too easy and familiar with the crew, he begins to
interfere in all the duties, and to draw the reins more taut, and
the crew have to suffer.


This night, after sundown, it looked black at the southward and
eastward, and we were told to keep a bright lookout. Expecting to
be called, we turned in early. Waking up about midnight, I found a
man who had just come down from his watch striking a light. He
said that it was beginning to puff from the southeast, that the
sea was rolling in, and he had called the captain; and as he threw
himself down on his chest with all his clothes on, I knew that he
expected to be called. I felt the vessel pitching at her anchor,
and the chain surging and snapping, and lay awake, prepared for an
instant summons. In a few minutes it came,-- three knocks on the
scuttle, and ``All hands ahoy! bear-a-hand[1] up and make sail.'' We
sprang for our clothes, and were about half dressed, when the mate
called out, down the scuttle, ``Tumble up here, men! tumble up!
before she drags her anchor.'' We were on deck in an instant.
``Lay aloft and loose the topsails!'' shouted the captain, as soon
as the first man showed himself. Springing into the rigging, I saw
that the Ayacucho's topsails were loosed, and heard her crew
singing out at the sheets as they were hauling them home. This had
probably started our captain; as ``Old Wilson'' (the captain of
the Ayacucho) had been many years on the coast, and knew the signs
of the weather. We soon had the topsails loosed; and one hand
remaining, as usual, in each top, to overhaul the rigging and
light the sail out, the rest of us came down to man the sheets.
While sheeting home, we saw the Ayacucho standing athwart our
hawse, sharp upon the wind, cutting through the head seas like a
knife, with her raking masts, and her sharp bows running up like
the head of a greyhound. It was a beautiful sight. She was like a
bird which had been frightened and had spread her wings in flight.
After our topsails had been sheeted home, the head yards braced
aback, the fore-topmast staysail hoisted, and the buoys streamed,
and all ready forward for slipping, we went aft and manned the
slip-rope which came through the stern port with a turn round the
timberheads. ``All ready forward?'' asked the captain. ``Aye, aye,
sir; all ready,'' answered the mate. ``Let go!'' ``All gone,
sir''; and the chain cable grated over the windlass and through
the hawse-hole, and the little vessel's head swinging off from the
wind under the force of her backed head sails brought the strain
upon the slip-rope. ``Let go aft!'' Instantly all was gone, and we
were under way. As soon as she was well off from the wind, we
filled away the head yards, braced all up sharp, set the foresail
and trysail, and left our anchorage well astern, giving the point
a good berth. ``Nye's off too,'' said the captain to the mate;
and, looking astern, we could just see the little hermaphrodite
brig under sail, standing after us.

It now began to blow fresh; the rain fell fast, and it grew black;
but the captain would not take in sail until we were well clear of
the point. As soon as we left this on our quarter, and were
standing out to sea, the order was given, and we went aloft,
double-reefed each topsail, furled the foresail, and double-reefed
the trysail, and were soon under easy sail. In these cases of
slipping for southeasters there is nothing to be done, after you
have got clear of the coast, but to lie-to under easy sail, and
wait for the gale to be over, which seldom lasts more than two
days, and is sometimes over in twelve hours; but the wind never
comes back to the southward until there has a good deal of rain
fallen. ``Go below the watch,'' said the mate; but here was a
dispute which watch it should be. The mate soon settled it by
sending his watch below, saying that we should have our turn the
next time we got under way. We remained on deck till the
expiration of the watch, the wind blowing very fresh and the rain
coming down in torrents. When the watch came up, we wore ship, and
stood on the other tack, in towards land. When we came up again,
which was at four in the morning, it was very dark, and there was
not much wind, but it was raining as I thought I had never seen it
rain before. We had on oil-cloth suits and southwester caps, and
had nothing to do but to stand bolt upright and let it pour down
upon us. There are no umbrellas, and no sheds to go under, at sea.

While we were standing about on deck, we saw the little brig
drifting by us, hove to under her fore topsail double reefed; and
she glided by like a phantom. Not a word was spoken, and we saw no
one on deck but the man at the wheel. Toward morning the captain
put his head out of the companion-way and told the second mate,
who commanded our watch, to look out for a change of wind, which
usually followed a calm, with heavy rain. It was well that he did;
for in a few minutes it fell dead calm, the vessel lost her
steerage-way, the rain ceased, we hauled up the trysail and
courses, squared the after-yards, and waited for the change, which
came in a few minutes, with a vengeance, from the northwest, the
opposite point of the compass. Owing to our precautions, we were
not taken aback, but ran before the wind with square yards. The
captain coming on deck, we braced up a little and stood back for
our anchorage. With the change of wind came a change of weather,
and in two hours the wind moderated into the light steady breeze,
which blows down the coast the greater part of the year, and, from
its regularity, might be called a trade-wind. The sun came up
bright, and we set royals, skysails and studding-sails, and were
under fair way for Santa Barbara. The little Loriotte was astern
of us, nearly out of sight; but we saw nothing of the Ayacucho. In
a short time she appeared, standing out from Santa Rosa Island,
under the lee of which she had been hove to all night. Our captain
was eager to get in before her, for it would be a great credit to
us, on the coast, to beat the Ayacucho, which had been called the
best sailer in the North Pacific, in which she had been known as a
trader for six years or more. We had an advantage over her in
light winds, from our royals and skysails which we carried both at
the fore and main, and also from our studding-sails; for Captain
Wilson carried nothing above top-gallant-sails, and always unbent
his studding-sails when on the coast. As the wind was light and
fair, we held our own, for some time, when we were both obliged to
brace up and come upon a taut bowline, after rounding the point;
and here he had us on his own ground, and walked away from us, as
you would haul in a line. He afterwards said that we sailed well
enough with the wind free, but that give him a taut bowline, and
he would beat us, if we had all the canvas of the Royal George.

The Ayacucho got to the anchoring ground about half an hour before
us, and was furling her sails when we came to it. This picking up
your cables is a nice piece of work. It requires some seamanship
to do it, and to come-to at your former moorings, without letting
go another anchor. Captain Wilson was remarkable, among the
sailors on the coast, for his skill in doing this; and our captain
never let go a second anchor during all the time that I was with
him. Coming a little to windward of our buoy, we clewed up the
light sails, backed our main topsail, and lowered a boat, which
pulled off, and made fast a spare hawser to the buoy on the end of
the slip-rope. We brought the other end to the capstan, and hove
in upon it until we came to the slip-rope, which we took to the
windlass, and walked her up to her chain, occasionally helping her
by backing and filling the sails. The chain is then passed through
the hawse-hole and round the windlass, and bitted, the slip-rope
taken round outside and brought into the stern port, and she is
safe in her old berth. After we had got through, the mate told us
that this was a small touch of California, the like of which we
must expect to have through the winter.

After we had furled the sails and got dinner, we saw the Loriotte
nearing, and she had her anchor before night. At sundown we went
ashore again, and found the Loriotte's boat waiting on the beach.
The Sandwich-Islander who could speak English told us that he had
been up to the town; that our agent, Mr. Robinson, and some other
passengers, were going to Monterey with us, and that we were to
sail the same night. In a few minutes Captain Thompson, with two
gentlemen and a lady, came down, and we got ready to go off. They
had a good deal of baggage, which we put into the bows of the
boat, and then two of us took the señora in our arms, and waded
with her through the water, and put her down safely in the stern.
She appeared much amused with the transaction, and her husband was
perfectly satisfied, thinking any arrangement good which saved his
wetting his feet. I pulled the after oar, so that I heard the
conversation, and learned that one of the men, who, as well as I
could see in the darkness, was a young-looking man, in the
European dress, and covered up in a large cloak, was the agent of
the firm to which our vessel belonged; and the other, who was
dressed in the Spanish dress of the country, was a brother of our
captain, who had been many years a trader on the coast, and that
the lady was his wife. She was a delicate, dark-complexioned young
woman, of one of the respectable families of California. I also
found that we were to sail the same night.

As soon as we got on board, the boats were hoisted up, the sails
loosed, the windlass manned, the slip-ropes and gear cast off; and
after about twenty minutes of heaving at the windlass, making
sail, and bracing yards, we were well under way, and going with a
fair wind up the coast to Monterey. The Loriotte got under way at
the same time, and was also bound up to Monterey, but as she took
a different course from us, keeping the land aboard, while we kept
well out to sea, we soon lost sight of her. We had a fair wind,
which is something unusual when going up, as the prevailing wind
is the north, which blows directly down the coast; whence the
northern are called the windward, and the southern the leeward

[1] ``Bear-a-hand'' is to make haste.


We got clear of the islands before sunrise the next morning, and
by twelve o'clock were out of the canal, and off Point Conception,
the place where we first made the land upon our arrival. This is
the largest point on the coast, and is an uninhabited headland,
stretching out into the Pacific, and has the reputation of being
very windy. Any vessel does well which gets by it without a gale,
especially in the winter season. We were going along with
studding-sails set on both sides, when, as we came round the
point, we had to haul our wind, and take in the lee
studding-sails. As the brig came more upon the wind, she felt it
more, and we doused the skysails, but kept the weather
studding-sails on her, bracing the yards forward, so that the
swinging-boom nearly touched the spritsail yard. She now lay over
to it, the wind was freshening, and the captain was evidently
``dragging on to her.'' His brother and Mr. Robinson, looking a
little disturbed, said something to him, but he only answered that
he knew the vessel and what she would carry. He was evidently
showing off, and letting them know how he could carry sail. He
stood up to windward, holding on by the backstays, and looking up
at the sticks to see how much they would bear, when a puff came
which settled the matter. Then it was ``haul down'' and ``clew
up'' royals, flying-jib, and studding-sails, all at once. There
was what the sailors call a ``mess,''-- everything let go, nothing
hauled in, and everything flying. The poor Mexican woman came to
the companion-way, looking as pale as a ghost, and nearly
frightened to death. The mate and some men forward were trying to
haul in the lower studding-sail, which had blown over the
spritsail yard-arm and round the guys, while the
topmast-studding-sail boom, after buckling up and springing out
again like a piece of whalebone, broke off at the boom-iron. I
jumped aloft to take in the main top-gallant studding-sail, but
before I got into the top the tack parted, and away went the sail,
swinging forward of the top-gallant-sail, and tearing and slatting
itself to pieces. The halyards were at this moment let go by the
run, and such a piece of work I never had before in taking in a
sail. After great exertions I got it, or the remains of it, into
the top, and was making it fast, when the captain, looking up,
called out to me, ``Lay aloft there, Dana, and furl that main
royal.'' Leaving the studding-sail, I went up to the cross-trees;
and here it looked rather squally. The foot of the
top-gallant-mast was working between the cross and trussel trees,
and the mast lay over at a fearful angle with the topmast below,
while everything was working and cracking, strained to the utmost.

There's nothing for Jack to do but to obey orders, and I went up
upon the yard; and there was a worse mess, if possible, than I had
left below. The braces had been let go, and the yard was swinging
about like a turnpike gate, and the whole sail, having blown out
to leeward, the lee leach was over the yard-arm, and the skysail
was all adrift and flying about my head. I looked down, but it was
in vain to attempt to make myself heard, for every one was busy
below, and the wind roared, and sails were flapping in all
directions. Fortunately, it was noon and broad daylight, and the
man at the wheel, who had his eyes aloft, soon saw my difficulty,
and after numberless signs and gestures got some one to haul the
necessary ropes taut. During this interval I took a look below.
Everything was in confusion on deck; the little vessel was tearing
through the water as if she had lost her wits, the seas flying
over her, and the masts leaning over at a wide angle from the
vertical. At the other royal-mast-head was Stimson, working away
at the sail, which was blowing from him as fast as he could gather
it in. The top-gallant sail below me was soon clewed up, which
relieved the mast, and in a short time I got my sail furled, and
went below; but I lost overboard a new tarpaulin hat, which
troubled me more than anything else. We worked for about half an
hour with might and main; and in an hour from the time the squall
struck us, from having all our flying kites abroad, we came down
to double-reefed topsails and the storm-sails.

The wind had hauled ahead during the squall, and we were standing
directly in for the point. So, as soon as we had got all snug, we
wore round and stood off again, and had the pleasant prospect of
beating up to Monterey, a distance of a hundred miles, against a
violent head wind. Before night it began to rain; and we had five
days of rainy, stormy weather, under close sail all the time, and
were blown several hundred miles off the coast. In the midst of
this, we discovered that our fore topmast was sprung (which no
doubt happened in the squall), and were obliged to send down the
fore top-gallant-mast and carry as little sail as possible
forward. Our four passengers were dreadfully sea-sick, so that we
saw little or nothing of them during the five days. On the sixth
day it cleared off, and the sun came out bright, but the wind and
sea were still very high. It was quite like being in mid-ocean
again; no land for hundreds of miles, and the captain taking the
sun every day at noon. Our passengers now made their appearance,
and I had for the first time the opportunity of seeing what a
miserable and forlorn creature a sea-sick passenger is. Since I
had got over my own sickness, the third day from Boston, I had
seen nothing but hale, hearty men, with their sea legs on, and
able to go anywhere (for we had no passengers on our voyage out);
and I will own there was a pleasant feeling of superiority in
being able to walk the deck, and eat, and go aloft, and compare
one's self with two poor, miserable, pale creatures, staggering
and shuffling about decks, or holding on and looking up with giddy
heads, to see us climbing to the mast-heads, or sitting quietly at
work on the ends of the lofty yards. A well man at sea has little
sympathy with one who is sea-sick; he is apt to be too conscious
of a comparison which seems favorable to his own manhood.

After a few days we made the land at Point Pinos, which is the
headland at the entrance of the bay of Monterey. As we drew in and
ran down the shore, we could distinguish well the face of the
country, and found it better wooded than that to the southward of
Point Conception. In fact, as I afterwards discovered, Point
Conception may be made the dividing-line between two different
faces of the country. As you go to the northward of the point, the
country becomes more wooded, has a richer appearance, and is
better supplied with water. This is the case with Monterey, and
still more so with San Francisco; while to the southward of the
point, as at Santa Barbara, San Pedro, and particularly San Diego,
there is very little wood, and the country has a naked, level
appearance, though it is still fertile.

The bay of Monterey is wide at the entrance, being about
twenty-four miles between the two points, Año Nuevo at the north,
and Pinos at the south, but narrows gradually as you approach the
town, which is situated in a bend, or large cove, at the
southeastern extremity, and from the points about eighteen miles,
which is the whole depth of the bay. The shores are extremely well
wooded (the pine abounding upon them), and as it was now the rainy
season, everything was as green as nature could make it,-- the
grass, the leaves, and all; the birds were singing in the woods,
and great numbers of wild fowl were flying over our heads. Here we
could lie safe from the southeasters. We came to anchor within two
cable lengths of the shore, and the town lay directly before us,
making a very pretty appearance; its houses being of whitewashed
adobe, which gives a much better effect than those of Santa
Barbara, which are mostly left of a mud color. The red tiles, too,
on the roofs, contrasted well with the white sides, and with the
extreme greenness of the lawn upon which the houses-- about a
hundred in number-- were dotted about, here and there,
irregularly. There are in this place, and in every other town
which I saw in California, no streets nor fences (except that here
and there a small patch might be fenced in for a garden), so that
the houses are placed at random upon the green. This, as they are
of one story, and of the cottage form, gives them a pretty effect
when seen from a little distance.

It was a fine Saturday afternoon that we came to anchor, the sun
about an hour high, and everything looking pleasantly. The Mexican
flag was flying from the little square Presidio, and the drums and
trumpets of the soldiers, who were out on parade, sounded over the
water, and gave great life to the scene. Every one was delighted
with the appearance of things. We felt as though we had got into a
Christian (which in the sailor's vocabulary means civilized)
country. The first impression which California had made upon us
was very disagreeable,-- the open roadstead of Santa Barbara;
anchoring three miles from the shore; running out to sea before
every southeaster; landing in a high surf; with a little
dark-looking town, a mile from the beach; and not a sound to be
heard, nor anything to be seen, but Kanakas, hides, and
tallow-bags. Add to this the gale off Point Conception, and no one
can be at a loss to account for our agreeable disappointment in
Monterey. Besides, we soon learned, which was of no small
importance to us, that there was little or no surf here, and this
afternoon the beach was as smooth as a pond.

We landed the agent and passengers, and found several persons
waiting for them on the beach, among whom were some who, though
dressed in the costume of the country, spoke English, and who, we
afterwards learned, were English and Americans who had married and
settled here.

I also connected with our arrival here another circumstance which
more nearly concerns myself; viz., my first act of what the
sailors will allow to be seamanship,-- sending down a royal-yard.
I had seen it done once or twice at sea; and an old sailor, whose
favor I had taken some pains to gain, had taught me carefully
everything which was necessary to be done, and in its proper
order, and advised me to take the first opportunity when we were
in port, and try it. I told the second mate, with whom I had been
pretty thick when he was before the mast, that I could do it, and
got him to ask the mate to send me up the first time the
royal-yards were struck. Accordingly, I was called upon, and went
aloft, repeating the operations over in my mind, taking care to
get each thing in its order, for the slightest mistake spoils the
whole. Fortunately, I got through without any word from the
officer, and heard the ``well done'' of the mate, when the yard
reached the deck, with as much satisfaction as I ever felt at
Cambridge on seeing a ``bene'' at the foot of a Latin exercise.


The next day being Sunday, which is the liberty-day among
merchantmen, when it is usual to let a part of the crew go ashore,
the sailors had depended upon a holiday, and were already
disputing who should ask to go, when, upon being called in the
morning, we were turned-to upon the rigging, and found that the
top-mast, which had been sprung, was to come down, and a new one
to go up, with top-gallant and royal masts, and the rigging to be
set. This was too bad. If there is anything that irritates
sailors, and makes them feel hardly used, it is being deprived of
their Sunday. Not that they would always, or indeed generally,
spend it improvingly, but it is their only day of rest. Then, too,
they are so often necessarily deprived of it by storms, and
unavoidable duties of all kinds, that to take it from them when
lying quietly and safely in port, without any urgent reason, bears
the more hardly. The only reason in this case was, that the
captain had determined to have the custom-house officers on board
on Monday, and wished to have his brig in order. Jack is a slave
aboard ship; but still he has many opportunities of thwarting and
balking his master. When there is danger or necessity, or when he
is well used, no one can work faster than he; but the instant he
feels that he is kept at work for nothing, or, as the nautical
phrase is, ``humbugged,'' no sloth could make less headway. He
must not refuse his duty, or be in any way disobedient, but all
the work that an officer gets out of him, he may be welcome to.
Every man who has been three months at sea knows how to ``work Tom
Cox's traverse''-- ``three turns round the long-boat, and a pull
at the scuttled butt.'' This morning everything went in this way.
``Sogering'' was the order of the day. Send a man below to get a
block, and he would capsize everything before finding it, then not
bring it up till an officer had called him twice, and take as much
time to put things in order again. Marline-spikes were not to be
found; knives wanted a prodigious deal of sharpening, and,
generally, three or four were waiting round the grindstone at a
time. When a man got to the mast-head, he would come slowly down
again for something he had left; and after the tackles were got
up, six men would pull less than three who pulled ``with a will.''
When the mate was out of sight, nothing was done. It was all
up-hill work; and at eight o'clock, when we went to breakfast,
things were nearly where they were when we began.

During our short meal the matter was discussed. One proposed
refusing to work; but that was mutiny, and of course was rejected
at once. I remember, too, that one of the men quoted ``Father
Taylor'' (as they call the seamen's preacher at Boston), who told
them that, if they were ordered to work on Sunday, they must not
refuse their duty, and the blame would not come upon them. After
breakfast, it leaked out, through the officers, that, if we would
get through work soon, we might have a boat in the afternoon and
go a-fishing. This bait was well thrown, and took with several who
were fond of fishing; and all began to find that as we had one
thing to do, and were not to be kept at work for the day, the
sooner we did it the better. Accordingly, things took a new
aspect; and before two o'clock, this work, which was in a fair way
to last two days, was done; and five of us went a-fishing in the
jolly-boat, in the direction of Point Pinos; but leave to go
ashore was refused. Here we saw the Loriotte, which sailed with us
from Santa Barbara, coming slowly in with a light sea-breeze,
which sets in towards afternoon, having been becalmed off the
point all the first part of the day. We took several fish of
various kinds, among which cod and perch abounded, and Foster (the
ci-devant second mate), who was of our number, brought up with his
hook a large and beautiful pearl-oyster shell. We afterwards
learned that this place was celebrated for shells, and that a
small schooner had made a good voyage by carrying a cargo of them
to the United States.

We returned by sundown, and found the Loriotte at anchor within a
cable's length of the Pilgrim. The next day we were ``turned-to''
early, and began taking off the hatches, overhauling the cargo,
and getting everything ready for inspection. At eight, the
officers of the customs, five in number, came on board, and began
examining the cargo, manifest, &c. The Mexican revenue laws are
very strict, and require the whole cargo to be landed, examined,
and taken on board again; but our agent had succeeded in
compounding for the last two vessels, and saving the trouble of
taking the cargo ashore. The officers were dressed in the costume
which we found prevailed through the country,-- broad-brimmed hat,
usually of a black or dark brown color, with a gilt or figured
band round the crown, and lined under the rim with silk; a short
jacket of silk, or figured calico (the European skirted body-coat
is never worn); the shirt open in the neck; rich waistcoat, if
any; pantaloons open at the sides below the knee, laced with gilt,
usually of velveteen or broadcloth; or else short breeches and
white stockings. They wear the deer-skin shoe, which is of a dark
brown color, and (being made by Indians) usually a good deal
ornamented. They have no suspenders, but always wear a sash round
the waist, which is generally red, and varying in quality with the
means of the wearer. Add to this the never-failing poncho, or the
serapa, and you have the dress of the Californian. This last
garment is always a mark of the rank and wealth of the owner. The
gente de razon, or better sort of people, wear cloaks of black or
dark blue broadcloth, with as much velvet and trimmings as may be;
and from this they go down to the blanket of the Indian, the
middle classes wearing a poncho, something like a large square
cloth, with a hole in the middle for the head to go through. This
is often as coarse as a blanket, but being beautifully woven with
various colors, is quite showy at a distance. Among the Mexicans
there is no working class (the Indians being practically serfs,
and doing all the hard work); and every rich man looks like a
grandee, and every poor scamp like a broken-down gentleman. I have
often seen a man with a fine figure and courteous manners, dressed
in broadcloth and velvet, with a noble horse completely covered
with trappings, without a real in his pockets, and absolutely
suffering for something to eat.


The next day, the cargo having been entered in due form, we began
trading. The trade-room was fitted up in the steerage, and
furnished out with the lighter goods, and with specimens of the
rest of the cargo; and Mellus, a young man who came out from
Boston with us before the mast, was taken out of the forecastle,
and made supercargo's clerk. He was well qualified for this
business, having been clerk in a counting-house in Boston; but he
had been troubled for some time with rheumatism, which unfitted
him for the wet and exposed duty of a sailor on the coast. For a
week or ten days all was life on board. The people came off to
look and to buy,-- men, women, and children; and we were
continually going in the boats, carrying goods and passengers,--
for they have no boats of their own. Everything must dress itself
and come aboard and see the new vessel, if it were only to buy a
paper of pins. The agent and his clerk managed the sales, while we
were busy in the hold or in the boats. Our cargo was an assorted
one; that is, it consisted of everything under the sun. We had
spirits of all kinds (sold by the cask), teas, coffee, sugars,
spices, raisins, molasses, hardware, crockery-ware, tin-ware,
cutlery, clothing of all kinds, boots and shoes from Lynn,
calicoes and cotton from Lowell, crapes, silks; also, shawls,
scarfs, necklaces, jewelry, and combs for the women; furniture;
and, in fact, everything that can be imagined, from Chinese
fireworks to English cart-wheels,-- of which we had a dozen pairs
with their iron tires on.

The Californians are an idle, thriftless people, and can make
nothing for themselves. The country abounds in grapes, yet they
buy, at a great price, bad wine made in Boston and brought round
by us, and retail it among themselves at a real (12 1/2 cents) by the
small wineglass. Their hides, too, which they value at two dollars
in money, they barter for something which costs seventy-five cents
in Boston; and buy shoes (as like as not made of their own hides,
which have been carried twice round Cape Horn) at three and four
dollars, and ``chicken-skin boots'' at fifteen dollars a pair.
Things sell, on an average, at an advance of nearly three hundred
per cent upon the Boston prices. This is partly owing to the heavy
duties which the government, in their wisdom, with an idea, no
doubt, of keeping the silver in the country, has laid upon
imports. These duties, and the enormous expenses of so long a
voyage, keep all merchants but those of heavy capital from
engaging in the trade. Nearly two thirds of all the articles
imported into the country from round Cape Horn, for the last six
years, have been by the single house of Bryant, Sturgis, & Co., to
whom our vessel belonged.

This kind of business was new to us, and we liked it very well for
a few days, though we were hard at work every minute from daylight
to dark, and sometimes even later.

By being thus continually engaged in transporting passengers, with
their goods, to and fro, we gained considerable knowledge of the
character, dress, and language of the people. The dress of the men
was as I have before described it. The women wore gowns of various
texture,-- silks, crape, calicoes, &c.,-- made after the European
style, except that the sleeves were short, leaving the arm bare,
and that they were loose about the waist, corsets not being in
use. They wore shoes of kid or satin, sashes or belts of bright
colors, and almost always a necklace and ear-rings. Bonnets they
had none. I only saw one on the coast, and that belonged to the
wife of an American sea-captain who had settled in San Diego, and
had imported the chaotic mass of straw and ribbon, as a choice
present to his new wife. They wear their hair (which is almost
invariably black, or a very dark brown) long in their necks,
sometimes loose, and sometimes in long braids; though the married
women often do it up on a high comb. Their only protection against
the sun and weather is a large mantle which they put over their
heads, drawing it close round their faces, when they go out of
doors, which is generally only in pleasant weather. When in the
house, or sitting out in front of it, which they often do in fine
weather, they usually wear a small scarf or neckerchief of a rich
pattern. A band, also, about the top of the head, with a cross,
star, or other ornament in front, is common. Their complexions are
various, depending-- as well as their dress and manner-- upon the
amount of Spanish blood they can lay claim to, which also settles
their social rank. Those who are of pure Spanish blood, having
never intermarried with the aborigines, have clear brunette
complexions, and sometimes even as fair as those of English women.
There are but few of these families in California, being mostly
those in official stations, or who, on the expiration of their
terms of office, have settled here upon property they have
acquired; and others who have been banished for state offences.
These form the upper class, intermarrying, and keeping up an
exclusive system in every respect. They can be distinguished, not
only by their complexion, dress, and manners, but also by their
speech; for, calling themselves Castilians, they are very
ambitious of speaking the pure Castilian, while all Spanish is
spoken in a somewhat corrupted dialect by the lower classes. From
this upper class, they go down by regular shades, growing more and
more dark and muddy, until you come to the pure Indian, who runs
about with nothing upon him but a small piece of cloth, kept up by
a wide leather strap drawn round his waist. Generally speaking,
each person's caste is decided by the quality of the blood, which
shows itself, too plainly to be concealed, at first sight. Yet the
least drop of Spanish blood, if it be only of quadroon or
octoroon, is sufficient to raise one from the position of a serf,
and entitle him to wear a suit of clothes,-- boots, hat, cloak,
spurs, long knife, all complete, though coarse and dirty as may
be,-- and to call himself Español, and to hold property, if he can
get any.

The fondness for dress among the women is excessive, and is
sometimes their ruin. A present of a fine mantle, or of a necklace
or pair of ear-rings, gains the favor of the greater part. Nothing
is more common than to see a woman living in a house of only two
rooms, with the ground for a floor, dressed in spangled satin
shoes, silk gown, high comb, and gilt, if not gold, ear-rings and
necklace. If their husbands do not dress them well enough, they
will soon receive presents from others. They used to spend whole
days on board our vessel, examining the fine clothes and
ornaments, and frequently making purchases at a rate which would
have made a seamstress or waiting-maid in Boston open her eyes.

Next to the love of dress, I was most struck with the fineness of
the voices and beauty of the intonations of both sexes. Every
common ruffian-looking fellow, with a slouched hat, blanket cloak,
dirty under-dress, and soiled leather leggins, appeared to me to
be speaking elegant Spanish. It was a pleasure simply to listen to
the sound of the language, before I could attach any meaning to
it. They have a good deal of the Creole drawl, but it is varied by
an occasional extreme rapidity of utterance, in which they seem to
skip from consonant to consonant, until, lighting upon a broad,
open vowel, they rest upon that to restore the balance of sound.
The women carry this peculiarity of speaking to a much greater
extreme than the men, who have more evenness and stateliness of
utterance. A common bullock-driver, on horseback, delivering a
message, seemed to speak like an ambassador at a royal audience.
In fact, they sometimes appeared to me to be a people on whom a
curse had fallen, and stripped them of everything but their pride,
their manners, and their voices.

Another thing that surprised me was the quantity of silver in
circulation. I never, in my life, saw so much silver at one time,
as during the week that we were at Monterey. The truth is, they
have no credit system, no banks, and no way of investing money but
in cattle. Besides silver, they have no circulating medium but
hides, which the sailors call ``California bank-notes.''
Everything that they buy they must pay for by one or the other of
these means. The hides they bring down dried and doubled, in
clumsy ox-carts, or upon mules' backs, and the money they carry
tied up in a handkerchief, fifty or a hundred dollars and

I had not studied Spanish at college, and could not speak a word
when at Juan Fernandez; but, during the latter part of the passage
out, I borrowed a grammar and dictionary from the cabin, and by a
continual use of these, and a careful attention to every word that
I heard spoken, I soon got a vocabulary together, and began
talking for myself. As I soon knew more Spanish than any of the
crew (who, indeed, knew none at all), and had studied Latin and
French, I got the name of a great linguist, and was always sent by
the captain and officers for provisions, or to take letters and
messages to different parts of the town. I was often sent for
something which I could not tell the name of to save my life; but
I liked the business, and accordingly never pleaded ignorance.
Sometimes I managed to jump below and take a look at my dictionary
before going ashore; or else I overhauled some English resident on
my way, and learned the word from him; and then, by signs, and by
giving a Latin or French word a twist at the end, contrived to get
along. This was a good exercise for me, and no doubt taught me
more than I should have learned by months of study and reading; it
also gave me opportunities of seeing the customs, characters, and
domestic arrangements of the people, beside being a great relief
from the monotony of a day spent on board ship.

Monterey, as far as my observation goes, is decidedly the
pleasantest and most civilized-looking place in California. In the
centre of it is an open square, surrounded by four lines of
one-story buildings, with half a dozen cannon in the centre; some
mounted, and others not. This is the Presidio, or fort. Every town
has a presidio in its centre; or rather every presidio has a town
built around it; for the forts were first built by the Mexican
government, and then the people built near them, for protection.
The presidio here was entirely open and unfortified. There were
several officers with long titles, and about eighty soldiers, but
they were poorly paid, fed, clothed, and disciplined. The
governor-general, or, as he is commonly called, the ``general,''
lives here, which makes it the seat of government. He is appointed
by the central government at Mexico, and is the chief civil and
military officer. In addition to him, each town has a commandant
who is its chief officer, and has charge of the fort, and of all
transactions with foreigners and foreign vessels; while two or
three alcaldes and corregidores, elected by the inhabitants, are
the civil officers. Courts strictly of law, with a system of
jurisprudence, they have not. Small municipal matters are
regulated by the alcaldes and corregidores, and everything
relating to the general government, to the military, and to
foreigners, by the commandants, acting under the governor-general.
Capital cases are decided by the latter, upon personal inspection,
if near; or upon minutes sent him by the proper officers, if the
offender is at a distant place. No Protestant has any political
rights, nor can he hold property, or, indeed, remain more than a
few weeks on shore, unless he belong to a foreign vessel.
Consequently, Americans and English, who intend to reside here,
become Papists,-- the current phrase among them being, ``A man
must leave his conscience at Cape Horn.''

But, to return to Monterey. The houses here, as everywhere else in
California, are of one story, built of adobes, that is, clay made
into large bricks, about a foot and a half square, and three or
four inches thick, and hardened in the sun. These are joined
together by a cement of the same material, and the whole are of a
common dirt-color. The floors are generally of earth, the windows
grated and without glass; and the doors, which are seldom shut,
open directly into the common room, there being no entries. Some
of the more wealthy inhabitants have glass to their windows and
board floors; and in Monterey nearly all the houses are
whitewashed on the outside. The better houses, too, have red tiles
upon the roofs. The common ones have two or three rooms which open
into each other, and are furnished with a bed or two, a few chairs
and tables, a looking-glass, a crucifix, and small daubs of
paintings enclosed in glass, representing some miracle or
martyrdom. They have no chimneys or fireplaces in the houses, the
climate being such as to make a fire unnecessary; and all their
cooking is done in a small kitchen, separated from the house. The
Indians, as I have said before, do all the hard work, two or three
being attached to the better house; and the poorest persons are
able to keep one, at least, for they have only to feed them, and
give them a small piece of coarse cloth and a belt for the men,
and a coarse gown, without shoes or stockings, for the women.

In Monterey there are a number of English and Americans (English
or Ingles all are called who speak the English language) who have
married Californians, become united to the Roman Church, and
acquired considerable property. Having more industry, frugality,
and enterprise than the natives, they soon get nearly all the
trade into their hands. They usually keep shops, in which they
retail the goods purchased in larger quantities from our vessels,
and also send a good deal into the interior, taking hides in pay,
which they again barter with our ships. In every town on the coast
there are foreigners engaged in this kind of trade, while I
recollect but two shops kept by natives. The people are naturally
suspicious of foreigners, and they would not be allowed to remain,
were it not that they conform to the Church, and by marrying
natives, and bringing up their children as Roman Catholics and
Mexicans, and not teaching them the English language, they quiet
suspicion, and even become popular and leading men. The chief
alcaldes in Monterey and Santa Barbara were Yankees by birth.

The men in Monterey appeared to me to be always on horseback.
Horses are as abundant here as dogs and chickens were in Juan
Fernandez. There are no stables to keep them in, but they are
allowed to run wild and graze wherever they please, being branded,
and having long leather ropes, called lassos, attached to their
necks and dragging along behind them, by which they can be easily
taken. The men usually catch one in the morning, throw a saddle
and bridle upon him, and use him for the day, and let him go at
night, catching another the next day. When they go on long
journeys, they ride one horse down, and catch another, throw the
saddle and bridle upon him, and, after riding him down, take a
third, and so on to the end of the journey. There are probably no
better riders in the world. They are put upon a horse when only
four or five years old, their little legs not long enough to come
half-way over his sides, and may almost be said to keep on him
until they have grown to him. The stirrups are covered or boxed up
in front, to prevent their catching when riding through the woods;
and the saddles are large and heavy, strapped very tight upon the
horse, and have large pommels, or loggerheads, in front, round
which the lasso is coiled when not in use. They can hardly go from
one house to another without mounting a horse, there being
generally several standing tied to the door-posts of the little
cottages. When they wish to show their activity, they make no use
of their stirrups in mounting, but, striking the horse, spring
into the saddle as he starts, and, sticking their long spurs into
him, go off on the full run. Their spurs are cruel things, having
four or five rowels, each an inch in length, dull and rusty. The
flanks of the horses are often sore from them, and I have seen men
come in from chasing bullocks, with their horses' hind legs and
quarters covered with blood. They frequently give exhibitions of
their horsemanship in races, bull-baitings, &c.; but as we were
not ashore during any holiday, we saw nothing of it. Monterey is
also a great place for cock-fighting, gambling of all sorts,
fandangos, and various kinds of amusement and knavery. Trappers
and hunters, who occasionally arrive here from over the Rocky
Mountains, with their valuable skins and furs, are often
entertained with amusements and dissipation, until they have
wasted their opportunities and their money, and then go back,
stripped of everything.

Nothing but the character of the people prevents Monterey from
becoming a large town. The soil is as rich as man could wish,
climate as good as any in the world, water abundant, and situation
extremely beautiful. The harbor, too, is a good one, being subject
only to one bad wind, the north; and though the holding-ground is
not the best, yet I heard of but one vessel's being driven ashore
here. That was a Mexican brig, which went ashore a few months
before our arrival, and was a total wreck, all the crew but one
being drowned. Yet this was owing to the carelessness or ignorance
of the captain, who paid out all his small cable before he let go
his other anchor. The ship Lagoda, of Boston, was there at the
time, and rode out the gale in safety, without dragging at all, or
finding it necessary to strike her top-gallant-masts.

The only vessel in port with us was the little Loriotte. I
frequently went on board her, and became well acquainted with her
Sandwich Island crew. One of them could speak a little English,
and from him I learned a good deal about them. They were well
formed and active, with black eyes, intelligent countenances, dark
olive, or, I should rather say, copper complexions, and coarse
black hair, but not woolly, like the negroes. They appeared to be
talking continually. In the forecastle there was a complete Babel.
Their language is extremely guttural, and not pleasant at first,
but improves as you hear it more; and it is said to have
considerable capacity. They use a good deal of gesticulation, and
are exceedingly animated, saying with their might what their
tongues find to say. They are complete water-dogs, and therefore
very good in boating. It is for this reason that there are so many
of them on the coast of California, they being very good hands in
the surf. They are also ready and active in the rigging, and good
hands in warm weather; but those who have been with them round
Cape Horn, and in high latitudes, say that they are of little use
in cold weather. In their dress, they are precisely like our
sailors. In addition to these Islanders, the Loriotte had two
English sailors, who acted as boatswains over the Islanders, and
took care of the rigging. One of them I shall always remember as
the best specimen of the thoroughbred English sailor that I ever
saw. He had been to sea from a boy, having served a regular
apprenticeship of seven years, as English sailors are obliged to
do, and was then about four or five and twenty. He was tall; but
you only perceived it when he was standing by the side of others,
for the great breadth of his shoulders and chest made him appear
but little above the middle height. His chest was as deep as it
was wide, his arm like that of Hercules, and his hand ``the fist
of a tar-- every hair a rope-yarn.'' With all this, he had one of
the pleasantest smiles I ever saw. His cheeks were of a handsome
brown, his teeth brilliantly white, and his hair, of a raven
black, waved in loose curls all over his head and fine, open
forehead; and his eyes he might have sold to a duchess at the
price of diamonds, for their brilliancy. As for their color, every
change of position and light seemed to give them a new hue; but
their prevailing color was black, or nearly so. Take him with his
well-varnished black tarpaulin, stuck upon the back of his head,
his long locks coming down almost into his eyes, his white duck
trousers and shirt, blue jacket, and black kerchief, tied loosely
round his neck, and he was a fine specimen of manly beauty. On his
broad chest was stamped with India ink ``Parting moments,''-- a
ship ready to sail, a boat on the beach, and a girl and her sailor
lover taking their farewell. Underneath were printed the initials
of his own name, and two other letters, standing for some name
which he knew better than I. The printing was very well done,
having been executed by a man who made it his business to print
with India ink, for sailors, at Havre. On one of his broad arms he
had a crucifix, and on the other, the sign of the ``foul anchor.''

He was fond of reading, and we lent him most of the books which we
had in the forecastle, which he read and returned to us the next
time we fell in with him. He had a good deal of information, and
his captain said he was a perfect seaman, and worth his weight in
gold on board a vessel, in fair weather and in foul. His strength
must have been great, and he had the sight of a vulture. It is
strange that one should be so minute in the description of an
unknown, outcast sailor, whom one may never see again, and whom no
one may care to hear about; yet so it is. Some persons we see
under no remarkable circumstances, but whom, for some reason or
other, we never forget. He called himself Bill Jackson; and I know
no one of all my accidental acquaintances to whom I would more
gladly give a shake of the hand than to him. Whoever falls in with
him will find a handsome, hearty fellow, and a good shipmate.

Sunday came again while we were at Monterey; but, as before, it
brought us no holiday. The people on shore dressed and came off in
greater numbers than ever, and we were employed all day in boating
and breaking out cargo, so that we had hardly time to eat. Our
former second mate, who was determined to get liberty if it was to
be had, dressed himself in a long coat and black hat, and polished
his shoes, and went aft, and asked to go ashore. He could not have
done a more imprudent thing; for he knew that no liberty would be
given; and besides, sailors, however sure they may be of having
liberty granted them, always go aft in their working clothes, to
appear as though they had no reason to expect anything, and then
wash, dress, and shave after the matter is settled. But this poor
fellow was always getting into hot water, and if there was a wrong
way of doing a thing, was sure to hit upon it. We looked to see
him go aft, knowing pretty well what his reception would be. The
captain was walking the quarter-deck, smoking his morning cigar,
and Foster went as far as the break of the deck, and there waited
for him to notice him. The captain took two or three turns, and
then, walking directly up to him, surveyed him from head to foot,
and, lifting up his forefinger, said a word or two, in a tone too
low for us to hear, but which had a magical effect upon poor
Foster. He walked forward, jumped down into the forecastle, and in
a moment more made his appearance in his common clothes, and went
quietly to work again. What the captain said to him, we never
could get him to tell, but it certainly changed him outwardly and
inwardly in a surprising manner.


After a few days, finding the trade beginning to slacken, we hove
our anchor up, set our topsails, ran the stars and stripes up to
the peak, fired a gun, which was returned from the presidio, and
left the little town astern, standing out of the bay, and bearing
down the coast again for Santa Barbara. As we were now going to
leeward, we had a fair wind, and a plenty of it. After doubling
Point Pinos, we bore up, set studding-sails alow and aloft, and
were walking off at the rate of eight or nine knots, promising to
traverse in twenty-four hours the distance which we were nearly
three weeks in traversing on the passage up. We passed Point
Conception at a flying rate, the wind blowing so that it would
have seemed half a gale to us if we had been going the other way
and close hauled. As we drew near the islands of Santa Barbara, it
died away a little, but we came-to at our old anchoring ground in
less than thirty hours from the time of leaving Monterey.

Here everything was pretty much as we left it,-- the large bay
without a vessel in it, the surf roaring and rolling in upon the
beach, the white Mission, the dark town, and the high, treeless
mountains. Here, too, we had our southeaster tacks aboard again,--
slip-ropes, buoy-ropes, sails furled with reefs in them, and
rope-yarns for gaskets. We lay at this place about a fortnight,
employed in landing goods and taking off hides, occasionally, when
the surf was not high; but there did not appear to be one half the
business doing here that there was in Monterey. In fact, so far as
we were concerned, the town might almost as well have been in the
middle of the Cordilleras. We lay at a distance of three miles
from the beach, and the town was nearly a mile farther, so that we
saw little or nothing of it. Occasionally we landed a few goods,
which were taken away by Indians in large, clumsy ox-carts, with
the bow of the yoke on the ox's neck instead of under it, and with
small solid wheels. A few hides were brought down, which we
carried off in the California style. This we had now got pretty
well accustomed to, and hardened to also; for it does require a
little hardening, even to the toughest.

The hides are brought down dry, or they will not be received. When
they are taken from the animal, they have holes cut in the ends,
and are staked out, and thus dried in the sun without shrinking.
They are then doubled once, lengthwise, with the hair side usually
in, and sent down upon mules or in carts, and piled above
high-water mark; and then we take them upon our heads, one at a
time, or two, if they are small, and wade out with them and throw
them into the boat, which, as there are no wharves, we usually
kept anchored by a small kedge, or keelek, just outside of the
surf. We all provided ourselves with thick Scotch caps, which
would be soft to the head, and at the same time protect it; for we
soon learned that, however it might look or feel at first, the
``head-work'' was the only system for California. For besides that
the seas, breaking high, often obliged us to carry the hides so,
in order to keep them dry, we found that, as they were very large
and heavy, and nearly as stiff as boards, it was the only way that
we could carry them with any convenience to ourselves. Some of the
crew tried other expedients, saying that that looked too much like
West India negroes; but they all came to it at last. The great art
is in getting them on the head. We had to take them from the
ground, and as they were often very heavy, and as wide as the arms
could stretch, and were easily taken by the wind, we used to have
some trouble with them. I have often been laughed at myself, and
joined in laughing at others, pitching ourselves down in the sand,
in trying to swing a large hide upon our heads, or nearly blown
over with one in a little gust of wind. The captain made it harder
for us, by telling us that it was ``California fashion'' to carry
two on the head at a time; and as he insisted upon it, and we did
not wish to be outdone by other vessels, we carried two for the
first few months; but after falling in with a few other ``hide
droghers,'' and finding that they carried only one at a time, we
``knocked off'' the extra one, and thus made our duty somewhat

After our heads had become used to the weight, and we had learned
the true California style of tossing a hide, we could carry off
two or three hundred in a short time, without much trouble; but it
was always wet work, and, if the beach was stony, bad for our
feet; for we, of course, went barefooted on this duty, as no shoes
could stand such constant wetting with salt water. And after this,
we had a pull of three miles, with a loaded boat, which often took
a couple of hours.

We had now got well settled down into our harbor duties, which, as
they are a good deal different from those at sea, it may be well
enough to describe. In the first place, all hands are called at
daylight, or rather-- especially if the days are short-- before
daylight, as soon as the first gray of the morning. The cook makes
his fire in the galley; the steward goes about his work in the
cabin; and the crew rig the head pump, and wash down the decks.
The chief mate is always on deck, but takes no active part, all
the duty coming upon the second mate, who has to roll up his
trousers and paddle about decks barefooted, like the rest of the
crew. The washing, swabbing, squilgeeing, &c. lasts, or is made to
last, until eight o'clock, when breakfast is ordered, fore and
aft. After breakfast, for which half an hour is allowed, the boats
are lowered down, and made fast astern, or out to the swinging
booms by geswarps, and the crew are turned-to upon their day's
work. This is various, and its character depends upon
circumstances. There is always more or less of boating, in small
boats; and if heavy goods are to be taken ashore, or hides are
brought down to the beach for us, then all hands are sent ashore
with an officer in the long-boat. Then there is a good deal to be
done in the hold,-- goods to be broken out, and cargo to be
shifted, to make room for hides, or to keep the trim of the
vessel. In addition to this, the usual work upon the rigging must
be going on. There is much of the latter kind of work which can
only be done when the vessel is in port. Everything, too, must be
kept taut and in good order,-- spun-yarn made, chafing gear
repaired, and all the other ordinary work. The great difference
between sea and harbor duty is in the division of time. Instead of
having a watch on deck and a watch below, as at sea, all hands are
at work together, except at mealtimes, from daylight till dark;
and at night an ``anchor watch'' is kept, which, with us,
consisted of only two at a time, all the crew taking turns. An
hour is allowed for dinner, and at dark the decks are cleared up,
the boats hoisted, supper ordered; and at eight the lights are put
out, except in the binnacle, where the glass stands; and the
anchor watch is set. Thus, when at anchor, the crew have more time
at night (standing watch only about two hours), but have no time
to themselves in the day; so that reading, mending clothes, &c.,
has to be put off until Sunday, which is usually given. Some
religious captains give their crews Saturday afternoons to do
their washing and mending in, so that they may have their Sundays
free. This is a good arrangement, and goes far to account for the
preference sailors usually show for vessels under such command. We
were well satisfied if we got even Sunday to ourselves; for, if
any hides came down on that day, as was often the case when they
were brought from a distance, we were obliged to take them off,
which usually occupied half a day; besides, as we now lived on
fresh beef, and ate one bullock a week, the animal was almost
always brought down on Sunday, and we had to go ashore, kill it,
dress it, and bring it aboard, which was another interruption.
Then, too, our common day's work was protracted and made more
fatiguing by hides coming down late in the afternoon, which
sometimes kept us at work in the surf by starlight, with the
prospect of pulling on board, and stowing them all away, before

But all these little vexations and labors would have been nothing,--
they would have been passed by as the common evils of a sea
life, which every sailor, who is a man, will go through without
complaint,-- were it not for the uncertainty, or worse than
uncertainty, which hung over the nature and length of our voyage.
Here we were, in a little vessel, with a small crew, on a
half-civilized coast, at the ends of the earth, and with a
prospect of remaining an indefinite period,-- two or three years
at the least. When we left Boston, we supposed that ours was to be
a voyage of eighteen months, or two years, at most; but, upon
arriving on the coast, we learned something more of the trade, and
found that, in the scarcity of hides, which was yearly greater and
greater, it would take us a year, at least, to collect our own
cargo, beside the passage out and home; and that we were also to
collect a cargo for a large ship belonging to the same firm, which
was soon to come on the coast, and to which we were to act as
tender. We had heard rumors of such a ship to follow us, which had
leaked out from the captain and mate, but we passed them by as
mere ``yarns,'' till our arrival, when they were confirmed by the
letters which we brought from the owners to their agent. The ship
California, belonging to the same firm, had been nearly two years
on the coast getting a full cargo, and was now at San Diego, from
which port she was expected to sail in a few weeks for Boston; and
we were to collect all the hides we could, and deposit them at San
Diego, when the new ship, which would carry forty thousand, was to
be filled and sent home; and then we were to begin anew upon our
own cargo. Here was a gloomy prospect indeed. The Lagoda, a
smaller ship than the California, carrying only thirty-one or
thirty-two thousand, had been two years getting her cargo; and we
were to collect a cargo of forty thousand beside our own, which
would be twelve or fifteen thousand; and hides were said to be
growing scarcer. Then, too, this ship, which had been to us a
worse phantom than any flying Dutchman, was no phantom, or ideal
thing, but had been reduced to a certainty; so much so that a name
was given her, and it was said that she was to be the Alert, a
well-known Indiaman, which was expected in Boston in a few months,
when we sailed. There could be no doubt, and all looked black
enough. Hints were thrown out about three years and four years;
the older sailors said they never should see Boston again, but
should lay their bones in California; and a cloud seemed to hang
over the whole voyage. Besides, we were not provided for so long a
voyage, and clothes, and all sailors' necessaries, were
excessively dear,-- three or four hundred per cent advance upon
the Boston prices. This was bad enough for the crew; but still
worse was it for me, who did not mean to be a sailor for life,
having intended only to be gone eighteen months or two years.
Three or four years might make me a sailor in every respect, mind
and habits, as well as body, nolens volens, and would put all my
companions so far ahead of me that a college degree and a
profession would be in vain to think of; and I made up my mind
that, feel as I might, a sailor I might have to be, and to command
a merchant vessel might be the limit of my ambition.

Beside the length of the voyage, and the hard and exposed life, we
were in the remote parts of the earth, on an almost desert coast,
in a country where there is neither law nor gospel, and where
sailors are at their captain's mercy, there being no American
consul, or any one to whom a complaint could be made. We lost all
interest in the voyage, cared nothing about the cargo, which we
were only collecting for others, began to patch our clothes, and
felt as though our fate was fixed beyond all hope of change.

In addition to, and perhaps partly as a consequence of, this state
of things, there was trouble brewing on board the vessel. Our mate
(as the first mate is always called, par excellence) was a worthy
man.-- a more honest, upright, and kind-hearted man I never saw,--
but he was too easy and amiable for the mate of a merchantman. He
was not the man to call a sailor a ``son of a bitch,'' and knock
him down with a handspike. Perhaps he really lacked the energy and
spirit for such a voyage as ours, and for such a captain. Captain
Thompson was a vigorous, energetic fellow. As sailors say, ``he
hadn't a lazy bone in him.'' He was made of steel and whalebone.
He was a man to ``toe the mark,'' and to make every one else step
up to it. During all the time that I was with him, I never saw him
sit down on deck. He was always active and driving, severe in his
discipline, and expected the same of his officers. The mate not
being enough of a driver for him, he was dissatisfied with him,
became suspicious that discipline was getting relaxed, and began
to interfere in everything. He drew the reins tighter; and as, in
all quarrels between officers, the sailors side with the one who
treats them best, he became suspicious of the crew. He saw that
things went wrong,-- that nothing was done ``with a will''; and in
his attempt to remedy the difficulty by severity he made
everything worse. We were in all respects unfortunately situated,--
captain, officers, and crew, entirely unfitted for one another;
and every circumstance and event was like a two-edged sword, and
cut both ways. The length of the voyage, which made us
dissatisfied, made the captain, at the same time, see the
necessity of order and strict discipline; and the nature of the
country, which caused us to feel that we had nowhere to go for
redress, but were at the mercy of a hard master, made the captain
understand, on the other hand, that he must depend entirely upon
his own resources. Severity created discontent, and signs of
discontent provoked severity. Then, too, ill-treatment and
dissatisfaction are no ``linimenta laborum''; and many a time have
I heard the sailors say that they should not mind the length of
the voyage, and the hardships, if they were only kindly treated,
and if they could feel that something was done to make work
lighter and life easier. We felt as though our situation was a
call upon our superiors to give us occasional relaxations, and to
make our yoke easier. But the opposite policy was pursued. We were
kept at work all day when in port; which, together with a watch at
night, made us glad to turn-in as soon as we got below. Thus we
had no time for reading, or-- which was of more importance to us--
for washing and mending our clothes. And then, when we were at
sea, sailing from port to port, instead of giving us ``watch and
watch,'' as was the custom on board every other vessel on the
coast, we were all kept on deck and at work, rain or shine, making
spun-yarn and rope, and at other work in good weather, and picking
oakum, when it was too wet for anything else. All hands were
called to ``come up and see it rain,'' and kept on deck hour after
hour in a drenching rain, standing round the deck so far apart so
as to prevent our talking with one another, with our tarpaulins
and oil-cloth jackets on, picking old rope to pieces, or laying up
gaskets and robands. This was often done, too, when we were lying
in port with two anchors down, and no necessity for more than one
man on deck as a lookout. This is what is called ``hazing'' a
crew, and ``working their old iron up.''

While lying at Santa Barbara, we encountered another southeaster;
and, like the first, it came on in the night; the great black
clouds moving round from the southward, covering the mountain, and
hanging down over the town, appearing almost to rest upon the
roofs of the houses. We made sail, slipped our cable, cleared the
point, and beat about for four days in the offing, under close
sail, with continual rain and high seas and winds. No wonder,
thought we, they have no rain in the other seasons, for enough
seemed to have fallen in those four days to last through a common
summer. On the fifth day it cleared up, after a few hours, as is
usual, of rain coming down like a four hours' shower-bath, and we
found ourselves drifted nearly ten leagues from the anchorage;
and, having light head winds, we did not return until the sixth
day. Having recovered our anchor, we made preparations for getting
under way to go down to leeward. We had hoped to go directly to
San Diego, and thus fall in with the California before she sailed
for Boston; but our orders were to stop at an intermediate port
called San Pedro; and, as we were to lie there a week or two, and
the California was to sail in a few days, we lost the opportunity.
Just before sailing, the captain took on board a short,
red-haired, round-shouldered, vulgar-looking fellow, who had lost
one eye and squinted with the other, and, introducing him as Mr.
Russell, told us that he was an officer on board. This was too
bad. We had lost overboard, on the passage, one of the best of our
number, another had been taken from us and appointed clerk, and
thus weakened and reduced, instead of shipping some hands to make
our work easier, he had put another officer over us, to watch and
drive us. We had now four officers, and only six in the
forecastle. This was bringing her too much down by the stern for
our comfort.

Leaving Santa Barbara, we coasted along down, the country
appearing level or moderately uneven, and, for the most part,
sandy and treeless; until, doubling a high sandy point, we let go
our anchor at a distance of three or three and a half miles from
shore. It was like a vessel bound to St. John's, Newfoundland,
coming to anchor on the Grand Banks; for the shore, being low,
appeared to be at a greater distance than it actually was, and we
thought we might as well have stayed at Santa Barbara, and sent
our boat down for the hides. The land was of a clayey quality,
and, as far as the eye could reach, entirely bare of trees and
even shrubs; and there was no sign of a town,-- not even a house
to be seen. What brought us into such a place, we could not
conceive. No sooner had we come to anchor, than the slip-rope, and
the other preparations for southeasters, were got ready; and there
was reason enough for it, for we lay exposed to every wind that
could blow, except the northerly winds, and they came over a flat
country with a rake of more than a league of water. As soon as
everything was snug on board, the boat was lowered, and we pulled
ashore, our new officer, who had been several times in the port
before, taking the place of steersman. As we drew in, we found the
tide low, and the rocks and stones, covered with kelp and seaweed,
lying bare for the distance of nearly an eighth of a mile. Leaving
the boat, and picking our way barefooted over these, we came to
what is called the landing-place, at high-water mark. The soil
was, at it appeared at first, loose and clayey, and, except the
stalks of the mustard plant, there was no vegetation. Just in
front of the landing, and immediately over it, was a small hill,
which, from its being not more than thirty or forty feet high, we
had not perceived from our anchorage. Over this hill we saw three
men coming down, dressed partly like sailors and partly like
Californians; one of them having on a pair of untanned leather
trousers and a red baize shirt. When they reached us, we found
that they were Englishmen. They told us that they had belonged to
a small Mexican brig which had been driven ashore here in a
southeaster, and now lived in a small house just over the hill.
Going up this hill with them, we saw, close behind it, a small,
low building, with one room, containing a fireplace,
cooking-apparatus, &c., and the rest of it unfinished, and used as
a place to store hides and goods. This, they told us, was built by
some traders in the Pueblo (a town about thirty miles in the
interior, to which this was the port), and used by them as a
storehouse, and also as a lodging-place when they came down to
trade with the vessels. These three men were employed by them to
keep the house in order, and to look out for the things stored in
it. They said that they had been there nearly a year; had nothing
to do most of the time, living upon beef, hard bread, and
fríjoles, a peculiar kind of bean, very abundant in California.
The nearest house, they told us, was a Rancho, or cattle-farm,
about three miles off; and one of them went there, at the request
of our officer, to order a horse to be sent down, with which the
agent, who was on board, might go up to the Pueblo. From one of
them, who was an intelligent English sailor, I learned a good
deal, in a few minutes' conversation, about the place, its trade,
and the news from the southern ports. San Diego, he said, was
about eighty miles to the leeward of San Pedro; that they had
heard from there, by a Mexican who came up on horseback, that the
California had sailed for Boston, and that the Lagoda, which had
been in San Pedro only a few weeks before, was taking in her cargo
for Boston. The Ayacucho was also there, loading for Callao; and
the little Loriotte, which had run directly down from Monterey,
where we left her. San Diego, he told me, was a small, snug place,
having very little trade, but decidedly the best harbor on the
coast, being completely land-locked, and the water as smooth as a
duck-pond. This was the depot for all the vessels engaged in the
trade; each one having a large house there, built of rough boards,
in which they stowed their hides as fast as they collected them in
their trips up and down the coast, and when they had procured a
full cargo, spent a few weeks there taking it in, smoking ship,
laying in wood and water, and making other preparations for the
voyage home. The Lagoda was now about this business. When we
should be about it was more than I could tell,-- two years, at
least, I thought to myself.

I also learned, to my surprise, that the desolate-looking place we
were in furnished more hides than any port on the coast. It was
the only port for a distance of eighty miles, and about thirty
miles in the interior was a fine plane country, filled with herds
of cattle, in the centre of which was the Pueblo de los Angeles,--
the largest town in California,-- and several of the wealthiest
missions; to all of which San Pedro was the seaport.

Having made arrangements for a horse to take the agent to the
Pueblo the next day, we picked our way again over the green,
slippery rocks, and pulled toward the brig, which was so far off
that we could hardly see her, in the increasing darkness; and when
we got on board the boats were hoisted up, and the crew at supper.
Going down into the forecastle, eating our supper, and lighting
our cigars and pipes, we had, as usual, to tell what we had seen
or heard ashore. We all agreed that it was the worst place we had
seen yet, especially for getting off hides, and our lying off at
so great a distance looked as though it was bad for southeasters.
After a few disputes as to whether we should have to carry our
goods up the hill, or not, we talked of San Diego, the probability
of seeing the Lagoda before she sailed, &c., &c.

The next day we pulled the agent ashore, and he went up to visit
the Pueblo and the neighboring missions; and in a few days, as the
result of his labors, large ox-carts, and droves of mules, loaded
with hides, were seen coming over the flat country. We loaded our
long-boat with goods of all kinds, light and heavy, and pulled
ashore. After landing and rolling them over the stones upon the
beach, we stopped, waiting for the carts to come down the hill and
take them; but the captain soon settled the matter by ordering us
to carry them all up to the top, saying that that was ``California
fashion.'' So, what the oxen would not do, we were obliged to do.
The hill was low, but steep, and the earth, being clayey and wet
with the recent rains, was but bad holding ground for our feet.
The heavy barrels and casks we rolled up with some difficulty,
getting behind and putting our shoulders to them; now and then our
feet, slipping, added to the danger of the casks rolling back upon
us. But the greatest trouble was with the large boxes of sugar.
These we had to place upon oars, and, lifting them up, rest the
oars upon our shoulders, and creep slowly up the hill with the
gait of a funeral procession. After an hour or two of hard work,
we got them all up, and found the carts standing full of hides,
which we had to unload, and to load the carts again with our own
goods; the lazy Indians, who came down with them, squatting on
their hams, looking on, doing nothing, and when we asked them to
help us, only shaking their heads, or drawling out ``no quiero.''

Having loaded the carts, we started up the Indians, who went off,
one on each side of the oxen, with long sticks, sharpened at the
end, to punch them with. This is one of the means of saving labor
in California,-- two Indians to two oxen. Now, the hides were to
be got down; and for this purpose we brought the boat round to a
place where the hill was steeper, and threw them off, letting them
slide over the slope. Many of them lodged, and we had to let
ourselves down and set them a-going again, and in this way became
covered with dust, and our clothes torn. After we had the hides
all down, we were obliged to take them on our heads, and walk over
the stones, and through the water, to the boat. The water and the
stones together would wear out a pair of shoes a day, and as shoes
were very scarce and very dear, we were compelled to go
barefooted. At night we went on board, having had the hardest and
most disagreeable day's work that we had yet experienced. For
several days we were employed in this manner, until we had landed
forty or fifty tons of goods, and brought on board about two
thousand hides, when the trade began to slacken, and we were kept
at work on board during the latter part of the week, either in the
hold or upon the rigging. On Thursday night there was a violent
blow from the northward; but as this was off-shore, we had only to
let go our other anchor and hold on. We were called up at night to
send down the royal-yards. It was as dark as a pocket, and the
vessel pitching at her anchors. I went up to the fore, and Stimson
to the main, and we soon had them down ``ship-shape and Bristol
fashion''; for, as we had now become used to our duty aloft,
everything above the cross-trees was left to us, who were the
youngest of the crew, except one boy.


For several days the captain seemed very much out of humor.
Nothing went right, or fast enough for him. He quarrelled with the
cook, and threatened to flog him for throwing wood on deck, and
had a dispute with the mate about reeving a Spanish burton; the
mate saying that he was right, and had been taught how to do it by
a man who was a sailor! This the captain took in dudgeon, and they
were at swords' points at once. But his displeasure was chiefly
turned against a large, heavy-moulded fellow from the Middle
States, who was called Sam. This man hesitated in his speech, was
rather slow in his motions, and was only a tolerably good sailor,
but usually seemed to do his best; yet the captain took a dislike
to him, thought he was surly and lazy, and ``if you once give a
dog a bad name,''-- as the sailor-phrase is,-- ``he may as well
jump overboard.'' The captain found fault with everything this man
did, and hazed him for dropping a marline-spike from the
main-yard, where he was at work. This, of course, was an accident,
but it was set down against him. The captain was on board all day
Friday, and everything went on hard and disagreeably. ``The more
you drive a man, the less he will do,'' was as true with us as
with any other people. We worked late Friday night, and were
turned-to early Saturday morning. About ten o'clock the captain
ordered our new officer, Russell, who by this time had become
thoroughly disliked by all the crew, to get the gig ready to take
him ashore. John, the Swede, was sitting in the boat alongside,
and Mr. Russell and I were standing by the main hatchway, waiting
for the captain, who was down in the hold, where the crew were at
work, when we heard his voice raised in violent dispute with
somebody, whether it was with the mate or one of the crew I could
not tell, and then came blows and scuffling. I ran to the side and
beckoned to John, who came aboard, and we leaned down the
hatchway, and though we could see no one, yet we knew that the
captain had the advantage, for his voice was loud and clear:--

``You see your condition! You see your condition! Will you ever
give me any more of your jaw?'' No answer; and then came wrestling
and heaving, as though the man was trying to turn him. ``You may
as well keep still, for I have got you,'' said the captain. Then
came the question, ``Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?''

``I never gave you any, sir,'' said Sam; for it was his voice that
we heard, though low and half choked.

``That's not what I ask you. Will you ever be impudent to me

``I never have been, sir,'' said Sam.

``Answer my question, or I'll make a spread eagle of you! I'll
flog you, by G---d.''

``I'm no negro slave,'' said Sam.

``Then I'll make you one,'' said the captain; and he came to the
hatchway, and sprang on deck, threw off his coat, and, rolling up
his sleeves, called out to the mate: ``Seize that man up, Mr.
Amerzene! Seize him up! Make a spread eagle of him! I'll teach you
all who is master aboard!''

The crew and officers followed the captain up the hatchway; but it
was not until after repeated orders that the mate laid hold of
Sam, who made no resistance, and carried him to the gangway.

``What are you going to flog that man for, sir?'' said John, the
Swede, to the captain.

Upon hearing this, the captain turned upon John; but, knowing him
to be quick and resolute, he ordered the steward to bring the
irons, and, calling upon Russell to help him, went up to John.

``Let me alone,'' said John. ``I'm willing to be put in irons. You
need not use any force''; and, putting out his hands, the captain
slipped the irons on, and sent him aft to the quarter-deck. Sam,
by this time, was seized up, as it is called, that is, placed
against the shrouds, with his wrists made fast to them, his jacket
off, and his back exposed. The captain stood on the break of the
deck, a few feet from him, and a little raised, so as to have a
good swing at him, and held in his hand the end of a thick, strong
rope. The officers stood round, and the crew grouped together in
the waist. All these preparations made me feel sick and almost
faint, angry and excited as I was. A man-- a human being, made in
God's likeness-- fastened up and flogged like a beast! A man, too,
whom I had lived with, eaten with, and stood watch with for
months, and knew so well! If a thought of resistance crossed the
minds of any of the men, what was to be done? Their time for it
had gone by. Two men were fast, and there were left only two men
besides Stimson and myself, and a small boy of ten or twelve years
of age; and Stimson and I would not have joined the men in a
mutiny, as they knew. And then, on the other side, there were
(beside the captain) three officers, steward, agent, and clerk,
and the cabin supplied with weapons. But beside the numbers, what
is there for sailors to do? If they resist, it is mutiny; and if
they succeed, and take the vessel, it is piracy. If they ever
yield again, their punishment must come; and if they do not yield,
what are they to be for the rest of their lives? If a sailor
resist his commander, he resists the law, and piracy or submission
is his only alternative. Bad as it was, they saw it must be borne.
It is what a sailor ships for. Swinging the rope over his head,
and bending his body so as to give it full force, the captain
brought it down upon the poor fellow's back. Once, twice,-- six
times. ``Will you ever give me any more of your jaw?'' The man
writhed with pain, but said not a word. Three times more. This was
too much, and he muttered something which I could not hear; this
brought as many more as the man could stand, when the captain
ordered him to be cut down, and to go forward.

``Now for you,'' said the captain, making up to John, and taking
his irons off. As soon as John was loose, he ran forward to the
forecastle. ``Bring that man aft!'' shouted the captain. The
second mate, who had been in the forecastle with these men the
early part of the voyage, stood still in the waist, and the mate
walked slowly forward; but our third officer, anxious to show his
zeal, sprang forward over the windlass, and laid hold of John; but
John soon threw him from him. The captain stood on the
quarter-deck, bareheaded, his eyes flashing with rage, and his
face as red as blood, swinging the rope, and calling out to his
officers: ``Drag him aft!-- Lay hold of him! I'll sweeten him!''
&c., &c. The mate now went forward, and told John quietly to go
aft; and he, seeing resistance vain, threw the blackguard third
mate from him, said he would go aft of himself, that they should
not drag him, and went up to the gangway and held out his hands;
but as soon as the captain began to make him fast, the indignity
was too much, and he struggled; but, the mate and Russell holding
him, he was soon seized up. When he was made fast, he turned to
the captain, who stood rolling up his sleeves and getting ready
for the blow, and asked him what he was to be flogged for. ``Have
I ever refused my duty, sir? Have you ever known me to hang back,
or to be insolent, or not to know my work?''

``No,'' said the captain, ``it is not that that I flog you for; I
flog you for your interference, for asking questions.''

``Can't a man ask a question here without being flogged?''

``No,'' shouted the captain; ``nobody shall open his mouth aboard
this vessel but myself,'' and began laying the blows upon his
back, swinging half round between each blow, to give it full
effect. As he went on, his passion increased, and he danced about
the deck, calling out, as he swung the rope: ``If you want to know
what I flog you for, I'll tell you. It's because I like to do it!--
because I like to do it!-- It suits me! That's what I do it for!''

The man writhed under the pain until he could endure it no longer,
when he called out, with an exclamation more common among
foreigners than with us: ``O Jesus Christ! O Jesus Christ!''

``Don't call on Jesus Christ,'' shouted the captain; ``he can't
help you. Call on Frank Thompson! He's the man! He can help you!
Jesus Christ can't help you now!''

At these words, which I never shall forget, my blood ran cold. I
could look on no longer. Disgusted, sick, I turned away, and
leaned over the rail, and looked down into the water. A few rapid
thoughts, I don't know what,-- our situation, a resolution to see
the captain punished when we got home,-- crossed my mind; but the
falling of the blows and the cries of the man called me back once
more. At length they ceased, and, turning round, I found that the
mate, at a signal from the captain, had cast him loose. Almost
doubled up with pain, the man walked slowly forward, and went down
into the forecastle. Every one else stood still at his post, while
the captain, swelling with rage, and with the importance of his
achievement, walked the quarter-deck, and at each turn, as he came
forward, calling out to us: ``You see your condition! You see
where I've got you all, and you know what to expect!''-- ``You've
been mistaken in me; you didn't know what I was! Now you know what
I am!''-- ``I'll make you toe the mark, every soul of you, or I'll
flog you all, fore and aft, from the boy up!''-- ``You've got a
driver over you! Yes, a slave-driver,-- a nigger-driver! I'll see
who'll tell me he isn't a NIGGER slave!'' With this and the like
matter, equally calculated to quiet us, and to allay any
apprehensions of future trouble, he entertained us for about ten
minutes, when he went below. Soon after, John came aft, with his
bare back covered with stripes and wales in every direction, and
dreadfully swollen, and asked the steward to ask the captain to
let him have some salve, or balsam, to put upon it. ``No,'' said
the captain, who heard him from below; ``tell him to put his shirt
on; that's the best thing for him, and pull me ashore in the boat.
Nobody is going to lay-up on board this vessel.'' He then called
to Mr. Russell to take those two men and two others in the boat,
and pull him ashore. I went for one. The two men could hardly bend
their backs, and the captain called to them to ``give way,''
``give way!'' but, finding they did their best, he let them alone.
The agent was in the stern sheets, but during the whole pull-- a
league or more-- not a word was spoken. We landed; the captain,
agent, and officer went up to the house, and left us with the
boat. I, and the man with me, stayed near the boat, while John and
Sam walked slowly away, and sat down on the rocks. They talked
some time together, but at length separated, each sitting alone. I
had some fears of John. He was a foreigner, and violently
tempered, and under suffering; and he had his knife with him, and
the captain was to come down alone to the boat. But nothing
happened; and we went quietly on board. The captain was probably
armed, and if either of them had lifted a hand against him, they
would have had nothing before them but flight, and starvation in
the woods of California, or capture by the soldiers and Indians,
whom the offer of twenty dollars would have set upon them.

After the day's work was done, we went down into the forecastle,
and ate our plain supper; but not a word was spoken. It was
Saturday night; but there was no song,-- no ``sweethearts and
wives.'' A gloom was over everything. The two men lay in their
berths, groaning with pain, and we all turned in, but, for myself,
not to sleep. A sound coming now and then from the berths of the
two men showed that they were awake, as awake they must have been,
for they could hardly lie in one posture long; the dim, swinging
lamp shed its light over the dark hole in which we lived, and many
and various reflections and purposes coursed through my mind. I
had no apprehension that the captain would try to lay a hand on
me; but our situation, living under a tyranny, with an ungoverned,
swaggering fellow administering it; of the character of the
country we were in; the length of the voyage; the uncertainty
attending our return to America; and then, if we should return,
the prospect of obtaining justice and satisfaction for these poor
men; and I vowed that, if God should ever give me the means, I
would do something to redress the grievances and relieve the
sufferings of that class of beings with whom my lot had so long
been cast.

The next day was Sunday. We worked, as usual, washing decks, &c.,
until breakfast-time. After breakfast we pulled the captain
ashore, and, finding some hides there which had been brought down
the night before, he ordered me to stay ashore and watch them,
saying that the boat would come again before night. They left me,
and I spent a quiet day on the hill, eating dinner with the three
men at the little house. Unfortunately they had no books; and,
after talking with them, and walking about, I began to grow tired
of doing nothing. The little brig, the home of so much hardship
and suffering, lay in the offing, almost as far as one could see;
and the only other thing which broke the surface of the great bay
was a small, dreary-looking island, steep and conical, of a clayey
soil, and without the sign of vegetable life upon it, yet which
had a peculiar and melancholy interest, for on the top of it were
buried the remains of an Englishman, the commander of a small
merchant brig, who died while lying in this port. It was always a
solemn and affecting spot to me. There it stood, desolate, and in
the midst of desolation; and there were the remains of one who
died and was buried alone and friendless. Had it been a common
burying-place, it would have been nothing. The single body
corresponded well with the solitary character of everything
around. It was the only spot in California that impressed me with
anything like poetic interest. Then, too, the man died far from
home, without a friend near him,-- by poison, it was suspected,
and no one to inquire into it,-- and without proper funeral rites;
the mate (as I was told), glad to have him out of the way,
hurrying him up the hill and into the ground, without a word or a

I looked anxiously for a boat, during the latter part of the
afternoon, but none came; until toward sundown, when I saw a speck
on the water, and as it drew near I found it was the gig, with the
captain. The hides, then, were not to go off. The captain came up
the hill, with a man, bringing my monkey jacket and a blanket. He
looked pretty black, but inquired whether I had enough to eat;
told me to make a house out of the hides, and keep myself warm, as
I should have to sleep there among them, and to keep good watch
over them. I got a moment to speak to the man who brought my

``How do things go aboard?'' said I.

``Bad enough,'' said he; ``hard work and not a kind word spoken.''

``What!'' said I, ``have you been at work all day?''

``Yes! no more Sunday for us. Everything has been moved in the
hold, from stem to stern, and from the water-ways to the

I went up to the house to supper. We had fríjoles (the perpetual
food of the Californians, but which, when well cooked, are the
best bean in the world), coffee made of burnt wheat, and hard
bread. After our meal, the three men sat down by the light of a
tallow candle, with a pack of greasy Spanish cards, to the
favorite game of ``treinte uno,'' a sort of Spanish
``everlasting.'' I left them and went out to take up my bivouac
among the hides. It was now dark; the vessel was hidden from
sight, and except the three men in the house there was not a
living soul within a league. The coyotes (a wild animal of a
nature and appearance between that of the fox and the wolf) set up
their sharp, quick bark, and two owls, at the end of two distant
points running out into the bay, on different sides of the hill
where I lay, kept up their alternate dismal notes. I had heard
the sound before at night, but did not know what it was, until
one of the men, who came down to look at my quarters, told me it
was the owl. Mellowed by the distance, and heard alone, at night,
it was a most melancholy and boding sound. Through nearly all the
night they kept it up, answering one another slowly at regular
intervals. This was relieved by the noisy coyotes, some of which
came quite near to my quarters, and were not very pleasant
neighbors. The next morning, before sunrise, the long-boat came
ashore, and the hides were taken off.

We lay at San Pedro about a week, engaged in taking off hides and
in other labors, which had now become our regular duties. I spent
one more day on the hill, watching a quantity of hides and goods,
and this time succeeded in finding a part of a volume of Scott's
Pirate in a corner of the house; but it failed me at a most
interesting moment, and I betook myself to my acquaintances on
shore, and from them learned a good deal about the customs of the
country, the harbors, &c. This, they told me, was a worse harbor
than Santa Barbara for southeasters, the bearing of the headland
being a point and a half more to windward, and it being so shallow
that the sea broke often as far out as where we lay at anchor. The
gale for which we slipped at Santa Barbara had been so bad a one
here, that the whole bay, for a league out, was filled with the
foam of the breakers, and seas actually broke over the Dead Man's
Island. The Lagoda was lying there, and slipped at the first
alarm, and in such haste that she was obliged to leave her launch
behind her at anchor. The little boat rode it out for several
hours, pitching at her anchor, and standing with her stern up
almost perpendicularly. The men told me that they watched her till
towards night, when she snapped her cable and drove up over the
breakers high and dry upon the beach.

On board the Pilgrim everything went on regularly, each one trying
to get along as smoothly as possible; but the comfort of the
voyage was evidently at an end. ``That is a long lane which has no
turning,'' ``Every dog must have his day, and mine will come by
and by,'' and the like proverbs, were occasionally quoted; but no
one spoke of any probable end to the voyage, or of Boston, or
anything of the kind; or, if he did, it was only to draw out the
perpetual surly reply from his shipmate: ``Boston, is it? You may
thank your stars if you ever see that place. You had better have
your back sheathed, and your head coppered, and your feet shod,
and make out your log for California for life!'' or else something
of this kind: ``Before you get to Boston, the hides will wear all
the hair off your head, and you'll take up all your wages in
clothes, and won't have enough left to buy a wig with!''

The flogging was seldom, if ever, alluded to by us in the
forecastle. If any one was inclined to talk about it, the others,
with a delicacy which I hardly expected to find among them, always
stopped him, or turned the subject. But the behavior of the two
men who were flogged toward one another showed a consideration
which would have been worthy of admiration in the highest walks of
life. Sam knew John had suffered solely on his account; and in all
his complaints he said that, if he alone had been flogged, it
would have been nothing; but he never could see him without
thinking that he had been the means of bringing this disgrace upon
him; and John never, by word or deed, let anything escape him to
remind the other that it was by interfering to save his shipmate
that he had suffered. Neither made it a secret that they thought
the Dutchman Bill and Foster might have helped them; but they did
not expect it of Stimson or me. While we showed our sympathy for
their suffering, and our indignation at the captain's violence, we
did not feel sure that there was only one side to the beginning of
the difficulty, and we kept clear of any engagement with them,
except our promise to help them when they got home.[1]

Having got all our spare room filled with hides, we hove up our
anchor, and made sail for San Diego. In no operation can the
disposition of a crew be better discovered than in getting under
way. Where things are done ``with a will,'' every one is like a
cat aloft; sails are loosed in an instant; each one lays out his
strength on his handspike, and the windlass goes briskly round
with the loud cry of ``Yo heave ho! Heave and pawl! Heave hearty,
ho!'' and the chorus of ``Cheerly, men!'' cats the anchor. But
with us, at this time, it was all dragging work. No one went aloft
beyond his ordinary gait, and the chain came slowly in over the
windlass. The mate, between the knight-heads, exhausted all his
official rhetoric in calls of ``Heave with a will!''-- ``Heave
hearty, men!-- heave hearty!''-- ``Heave, and raise the dead!''--
``Heave, and away!'' &c., &c.; but it would not do. Nobody broke
his back or his handspike by his efforts. And when the
cat-tackle-fall was strung along, and all hands-- cook, steward,
and all-- laid hold, to cat the anchor, instead of the lively song
of ``Cheerly, men!'' in which all hands join in the chorus, we
pulled a long, heavy, silent pull, and, as sailors say a song is
as good as ten men, the anchor came to the cat-head pretty slowly.
``Give us `Cheerly!''' said the mate; but there was no ``cheerly''
for us, and we did without it. The captain walked the
quarter-deck, and said not a word. He must have seen the change,
but there was nothing which he could notice officially.

We sailed leisurely down the coast before a light, fair wind,
keeping the land well aboard, and saw two other missions, looking
like blocks of white plaster, shining in the distance; one of
which, situated on the top of a high hill, was San Juan
Capistrano, under which vessels sometimes come to anchor, in the
summer season, and take off hides. At sunset on the second day we
had a large and well-wooded headland directly before us, behind
which lay the little harbor of San Diego. We were becalmed off
this point all night, but the next morning, which was Saturday,
the 14th of March, having a good breeze, we stood round the point,
and, hauling our wind, brought the little harbor, which is rather
the outlet of a small river, right before us. Every one was
desirous to get a view of the new place. A chain of high hills,
beginning at the point (which was on our larboard hand coming in),
protected the harbor on the north and west, and ran off into the
interior, as far as the eye could reach. On the other sides the
land was low and green, but without trees. The entrance is so
narrow as to admit but one vessel at a time, the current swift,
and the channel runs so near to a low, stony point that the ship's
sides appeared almost to touch it. There was no town in sight, but
on the smooth sand beach, abreast, and within a cable's length of
which three vessels lay moored, were four large houses, built of
rough boards, and looking like the great barns in which ice is
stored on the borders of the large ponds near Boston, with piles
of hides standing round them, and men in red shirts and large
straw hats walking in and out of the doors. These were the Hide
Houses. Of the vessels: one, a short, clumsy little hermaphrodite
brig, we recognized as our old acquaintance, the Loriotte;
another, with sharp bows and raking masts, newly painted and
tarred, and glittering in the morning sun, with the blood-red
banner and cross of St. George at her peak, was the handsome
Ayacucho. The third was a large ship, with top-gallant-masts
housed and sails unbent, and looking as rusty and worn as two
years' ``hide droghing'' could make her. This was the Lagoda. As
we drew near, carried rapidly along by the current, we overhauled
our chain, and clewed up the topsails. ``Let go the anchor!'' said
the captain; but either there was not chain enough forward of the
windlass, or the anchor went down foul, or we had too much headway
on, for it did not bring us up. ``Pay out chain!'' shouted the
captain; and we gave it to her; but it would not do. Before the
other anchor could be let go, we drifted down, broadside on, and
went smash into the Lagoda. Her crew were at breakfast in the
forecastle, and her cook, seeing us coming, rushed out of his
galley, and called up the officers and men.

Fortunately, no great harm was done. Her jib-boom passed between
our fore and main masts, carrying away some of our rigging, and
breaking down the rail. She lost her martingale. This brought us
up, and, as they paid out chain, we swung clear of them, and let
go the other anchor; but this had as bad luck as the first, for,
before any one perceived it, we were drifting down upon the


Back to Full Books