Two Years Before the Mast
Richard Henry Dana

Part 4 out of 8

half the running rigging, the very first day.

Having got all the news we could, we pulled ashore; and as soon as
we reached the house, I, as might be supposed, fell directly to
opening my bundle, and found a reasonable supply of duck, flannel
shirts, shoes, &c., and, what was still more valuable, a packet of
eleven letters. These I sat up nearly all night reading, and put
them carefully away, to be re-read again and again at my leisure.
Then came half a dozen newspapers, the last of which gave notice
of Thanksgiving, and of the clearance of ``ship Alert, Edward H.
Faucon, master, for Callao and California, by Bryant, Sturgis, &
Co.'' Only those who have been on distant voyages, and after a
long absence received a newspaper from home, can understand the
delight that they give one. I read every part of them,-- the
houses to let, things lost or stolen, auction sales, and all.
Nothing carries you so entirely to a place, and makes you feel so
perfectly at home, as a newspaper. The very name of ``Boston Daily
Advertiser'' ``sounded hospitably upon the ear.''

The Pilgrim discharged her hides, which set us at work again, and
in a few days we were in the old routine of dry hides, wet hides,
cleaning, beating, &c. Captain Faucon came quietly up to me, as I
was sitting upon a stretched hide, cutting the meat from it with
my knife, and asked me how I liked California, and repeated,--

``Tityre, tu patulae recubans subtegmine fagi.''

Very apropos, thought I, and, at the same time, shows that you
have studied Latin. However, it was kind of him, and an attention
from a captain is a thing not to be slighted. Thompson's majesty
could not have bent to it, in the sight of so many mates and men;
but Faucon was a man of education, literary habits, and good
social position, and held things at their right value.

Saturday, July 11th. The Pilgrim set sail for the windward, and
left us to go on in our old way. Having laid in such a supply of
wood, and the days being now long, and invariably pleasant, we had
a good deal of time to ourselves. The duck I received from home I
soon made up into trousers and frocks, and, having formed the
remnants of the duck into a cap, I displayed myself, every Sunday,
in a complete suit of my own make, from head to foot. Reading,
mending, sleeping, with occasional excursions into the bush, with
the dogs, in search of coyotes, hares, and rabbits, or to
encounter a rattlesnake, and now and then a visit to the presidio,
filled up our spare time after hide-curing was over for the day.
Another amusement which we sometimes indulged in was ``burning the
water'' for craw-fish. For this purpose we procured a pair of
grains, with a long staff like a harpoon, and, making torches with
tarred rope twisted round a long pine stick, took the only boat on
the beach, a small skiff, and with a torch-bearer in the bow, a
steersman in the stern, and one man on each side with the grains,
went off, on dark nights, to burn the water. This is fine sport.
Keeping within a few rods of the shore, where the water is not
more than three or four feet deep, with a clear, sandy bottom, the
torches light everything up so that one could almost have seen a
pin among the grains of sand. The craw-fish are an easy prey, and
we used soon to get a load of them. The other fish were more
difficult to catch, yet we frequently speared a number of them, of
various kinds and sizes. The Pilgrim brought us a supply of
fish-hooks, which we had never had before on the beach, and for
several days we went down to the Point, and caught a quantity of
cod and mackerel. On one of these expeditions, we saw a battle
between two Sandwich-Islanders and a shark. ``Johnny'' had been
playing about our boat for some time, driving away the fish, and
showing his teeth at our bait, when we missed him, and in a few
minutes heard a great shouting between two Kanakas who were
fishing on the rock opposite to us: ``E hana hana make i ka ia
nui!'' ``E pii mai Aikane!'' &c., &c.; and saw them pulling away
on a stout line, and ``Johnny Shark'' floundering at the other
end. The line soon broke; but the Kanakas would not let him off so
easily, and sprang directly into the water after him. Now came the
tug of war. Before he could get into deep water, one of them
seized him by the tail, and ran up with him upon the beach; but
Johnny twisted round, and turning his head under his body, and
showing his teeth in the vicinity of the Kanaka's hand, made him
let go and spring out of the way. The shark now turned tail and
made the best of his way, by flapping and floundering, toward deep
water; but here again, before he was fairly off, the other Kanaka
seized him by the tail, and made a spring toward the beach, his
companion at the same time paying away upon him with stones and a
large stick. As soon, however, as the shark could turn, the man
was obliged to let go his hold; but the instant he made toward
deep water, they were both behind him, watching their chance to
seize him. In this way the battle went on for some time, the
shark, in a rage, splashing and twisting about, and the Kanakas,
in high excitement, yelling at the top of their voices. But the
shark at last got off, carrying away a hook and line, and not a
few severe bruises.


We kept up a constant connection with the presidio, and by the
close of the summer I had added much to my vocabulary, beside
having made the acquaintance of nearly everybody in the place, and
acquired some knowledge of the character and habits of the people,
as well as of the institutions under which they live.

California was discovered in 1534 by Ximenes, or in 1536 by
Cortes, I cannot settle which, and was subsequently visited by
many other adventurers, as well as commissioned voyagers of the
Spanish crown. It was found to be inhabited by numerous tribes of
Indians, and to be in many parts extremely fertile; to which, of
course, were added rumors of gold mines, pearl fishery, &c. No
sooner was the importance of the country known, than the Jesuits
obtained leave to establish themselves in it, to Christianize and
enlighten the Indians. They established missions in various parts
of the country toward the close of the seventeenth century, and
collected the natives about them, baptizing them into the Church,
and teaching them the arts of civilized life. To protect the
Jesuits in their missions, and at the same time to support the
power of the crown over the civilized Indians, two forts were
erected and garrisoned,-- one at San Diego, and the other at
Monterey. These were called presidios, and divided the command of
the whole country between them. Presidios have since been
established at Santa Barbara, San Francisco, and other places,
dividing the country into large districts, each with its presidio,
and governed by a commandante. The soldiers, for the most part,
married civilized Indians; and thus, in the vicinity of each
presidio, sprung up, gradually, small towns. In the course of
time, vessels began to come into the ports to trade with the
missions and received hides in return; and thus began the great
trade of California. Nearly all the cattle in the country belonged
to the missions, and they employed their Indians, who became, in
fact, their serfs, in tending their vast herds. In the year 1793,
when Vancouver visited San Diego, the missions had obtained great
wealth and power, and are accused of having depreciated the
country with the sovereign, that they might be allowed to retain
their possessions. On the expulsion of the Jesuits from the
Spanish dominions, the missions passed into the hands of the
Franciscans, though without any essential change in their
management. Ever since the independence of Mexico, the missions
had been going down; until, at last, a law was passed, stripping
them of all their possessions, and confining the priests to their
spiritual duties, at the same time declaring all the Indians free
and independent Rancheros. The change in the condition of the
Indians was, as may be supposed, only nominal; they are virtually
serfs, as much as they ever were. But in the missions the change
was complete. The priests have now no power, except in their
religious character, and the great possessions of the missions are
given over to be preyed upon by the harpies of the civil power,
who are sent there in the capacity of administradores, to settle
up the concerns; and who usually end, in a few years, by making
themselves fortunes, and leaving their stewardships worse than
they found them. The dynasty of the priests was much more
acceptable to the people of the country, and, indeed, to every one
concerned with the country, by trade or otherwise, than that of
the administradores. The priests were connected permanently to one
mission, and felt the necessity of keeping up its credit.
Accordingly the debts of the missions were regularly paid, and the
people were, in the main, well treated, and attached to those who
had spent their whole lives among them. But the administradores
are strangers sent from Mexico, having no interest in the country;
not identified in any way with their charge, and, for the most
part, men of desperate fortunes,-- broken-down politicians and
soldiers,-- whose only object is to retrieve their condition in as
short a time as possible. The change had been made but a few years
before our arrival upon the coast, yet, in that short time, the
trade was much diminished, credit impaired, and the venerable
missions were going rapidly to decay.

The external political arrangements remain the same. There are
four or more presidios, having under their protection the various
missions, and the pueblos, which are towns formed by the civil
power and containing no mission or presidio. The most northerly
presidio is San Francisco, the next Monterey, the next Santa
Barbara, including the mission of the same, San Luis Obispo, and
Santa Buenaventura, which is said to be the best mission in the
whole country, having fertile soil and rich vineyards. The last,
and most southerly, is San Diego, including the mission of the
same, San Juan Capistrano, the Pueblo de los Angeles, the largest
town in California, with the neighboring mission of San Gabriel.
The priests, in spiritual matters, are subject to the Archbishop
of Mexico, and in temporal matters to the governor-general, who is
the great civil and military head of the country.

The government of the country is an arbitrary democracy, having no
common law, and nothing that we should call a judiciary. Their
only laws are made and unmade at the caprice of the legislature,
and are as variable as the legislature itself. They pass through
the form of sending representatives to the congress at Mexico, but
as it takes several months to go and return, and there is very
little communication between the capital and this distant
province, a member usually stays there as permanent member,
knowing very well that there will be revolutions at home before he
can write and receive an answer; and if another member should be
sent, he has only to challenge him, and decide the contested
election in that way.

Revolutions are matters of frequent occurrence in California. They
are got up by men who are at the foot of the ladder and in
desperate circumstances, just as a new political organization may
be started by such men in our own country. The only object, of
course, is the loaves and fishes; and instead of caucusing,
paragraphing, libelling, feasting, promising, and lying, they take
muskets and bayonets, and, seizing upon the presidio and
custom-house, divide the spoils, and declare a new dynasty. As for
justice, they know little law but will and fear. A Yankee, who had
been naturalized, and become a Catholic, and had married in the
country, was sitting in his house at the Pueblo de los Angeles,
with his wife and children, when a Mexican, with whom he had had a
difficulty, entered the house, and stabbed him to the heart before
them all. The murderer was seized by some Yankees who had settled
there, and kept in confinement until a statement of the whole
affair could be sent to the governor-general. The governor-general
refused to do anything about it, and the countrymen of the
murdered man, seeing no prospect of justice being administered,
gave notice that, if nothing was done, they should try the man
themselves. It chanced that, at this time, there was a company of
some thirty or forty trappers and hunters from the Western States,
with their rifles, who had made their head-quarters at the Pueblo;
and these, together with the Americans and Englishmen in the
place, who were between twenty and thirty in number, took
possession of the town, and, waiting a reasonable time, proceeded
to try the man according to the forms in their own country. A
judge and jury were appointed, and he was tried, convicted,
sentenced to be shot, and carried out before the town blindfolded.
The names of all the men were then put into a hat, and each one
pledging himself to perform his duty, twelve names were drawn out,
and the men took their stations with their rifles, and, firing at
the word, laid him dead. He was decently buried, and the place was
restored quietly to the proper authorities. A general, with titles
enough for an hidalgo, was at San Gabriel, and issued a
proclamation as long as the fore-top-bowline, threatening
destruction to the rebels, but never stirred from his fort; for
forty Kentucky hunters, with their rifles, and a dozen of Yankees
and Englishmen, were a match for a whole regiment of hungry,
drawling, lazy half-breeds. This affair happened while we were at
San Pedro (the port of the Pueblo), and we had the particulars
from those who were on the spot. A few months afterwards, another
man was murdered on the high-road between the Pueblo and San Luis
Rey by his own wife and a man with whom she ran off. The
foreigners pursued and shot them both, according to one story.
According to another version, nothing was done about it, as the
parties were natives, and a man whom I frequently saw in San Diego
was pointed out as the murderer. Perhaps they were two cases, that
had got mixed.

When a crime has been committed by Indians, justice, or rather
vengeance, is not so tardy. One Sunday afternoon, while I was at
San Diego, an Indian was sitting on his horse, when another, with
whom he had had some difficulty, came up to him, drew a long
knife, and plunged it directly into the horse's heart. The Indian
sprang from his falling horse, drew out the knife, and plunged it
into the other Indian's breast, over his shoulder, and laid him
dead. The fellow was seized at once, clapped into the calabozo,
and kept there until an answer could be received from Monterey. A
few weeks afterwards I saw the poor wretch, sitting on the bare
ground, in front of the calabozo, with his feet chained to a
stake, and handcuffs about his wrists. I knew there was very
little hope for him. Although the deed was done in hot blood, the
horse on which he was sitting being his own, and a favorite with
him, yet he was an Indian, and that was enough. In about a week
after I saw him, I heard that he had been shot. These few
instances will serve to give one a notion of the distribution of
justice in California.

In their domestic relations, these people are not better than in
their public. The men are thriftless, proud, extravagant, and very
much given to gaming; and the women have but little education, and
a good deal of beauty, and their morality, of course, is none of
the best; yet the instances of infidelity are much less frequent
than one would at first suppose. In fact, one vice is set over
against another; and thus something like a balance is obtained. If
the women have but little virtue, the jealousy of their husbands
is extreme, and their revenge deadly and almost certain. A few
inches of cold steel has been the punishment of many an unwary
man, who has been guilty, perhaps, of nothing more than
indiscretion. The difficulties of the attempt are numerous, and
the consequences of discovery fatal, in the better classes. With
the unmarried women, too, great watchfulness is used. The main
object of the parents is to marry their daughters well, and to
this a fair name is necessary. The sharp eyes of a dueña, and the
ready weapons of a father or brother, are a protection which the
characters of most of them-- men and women-- render by no means
useless; for the very men who would lay down their lives to avenge
the dishonor of their own family would risk the same lives to
complete the dishonor of another.

Of the poor Indians very little care is taken. The priests,
indeed, at the missions, are said to keep them very strictly, and
some rules are usually made by the alcaldes to punish their
misconduct; yet it all amounts to but little. Indeed, to show the
entire want of any sense of morality or domestic duty among them,
I have frequently known an Indian to bring his wife, to whom he
was lawfully married in the church, down to the beach, and carry
her back again, dividing with her the money which she had got from
the sailors. If any of the girls were discovered by the alcalde to
be open evil livers, they were whipped, and kept at work sweeping
the square of the presidio, and carrying mud and bricks for the
buildings; yet a few reals would generally buy them off.
Intemperance, too, is a common vice among the Indians. The
Mexicans, on the contrary, are abstemious, and I do not remember
ever having seen a Mexican intoxicated.

Such are the people who inhabit a country embracing four or five
hundred miles of sea-coast, with several good harbors; with fine
forests in the north; the waters filled with fish, and the plains
covered with thousands of herds of cattle; blessed with a climate
than which there can be no better in the world; free from all
manner of diseases, whether epidemic or endemic; and with a soil
in which corn yields from seventy to eighty fold. In the hands of
an enterprising people, what a country this might be! we are ready
to say. Yet how long would a people remain so, in such a country?
The Americans (as those from the United States are called) and
Englishmen, who are fast filling up the principal towns, and
getting the trade into their hands, are indeed more industrious
and effective than the Mexicans; yet their children are brought up
Mexicans in most respects, and if the ``California fever''
(laziness) spares the first generation, it is likely to attack the


Saturday, July 18th. This day sailed the Mexican hermaphrodite
brig Fazio, for San Blas and Mazatlan. This was the brig which was
driven ashore at San Pedro in a southeaster, and had been lying at
San Diego to repair and take in her cargo. The owner of her had
had a good deal of difficulty with the government about the
duties, &c., and her sailing had been delayed for several weeks;
but everything having been arranged, she got under way with a
light breeze, and was floating out of the harbor, when two
horsemen came dashing down to the beach at full speed, and tried
to find a boat to put off after her; but there being none then at
hand, they offered a handful of silver to any Kanaka who would
swim off and take a letter on board. One of the Kanakas, an
active, well-made young fellow, instantly threw off everything but
his duck trousers, and, putting the letter into his hat, swam off,
after the vessel. Fortunately the wind was very light, and the
vessel was going slowly, so that, although she was nearly a mile
off when he started, he gained on her rapidly. He went through the
water leaving a wake like a small steamboat. I certainly never saw
such swimming before. They saw him coming from the deck, but did
not heave-to, suspecting the nature of his errand; yet, the wind
continuing light, he swam alongside, and got on board, and
delivered his letter. The captain read the letter, told the Kanaka
there was no answer, and, giving him a glass of brandy, left him
to jump overboard and find the best of his way to the shore. The
Kanaka swam in for the nearest point of land, and in about an hour
made his appearance at the hide-house. He did not seem at all
fatigued, had made three or four dollars, got a glass of brandy,
and was in high spirits. The brig kept on her course, and the
government officers, who had come down to forbid her sailing, went
back, each with something very like a flea in his ear, having
depended upon extorting a little more money from the owner.

It was now nearly three months since the Alert arrived at Santa
Barbara, and we began to expect her daily. About half a mile
behind the hide-house was a high hill, and every afternoon, as
soon as we had done our work, some one of us walked up to see if
there was a sail in sight, coming down before the regular trades.
Day after day we went up the hill, and came back disappointed. I
was anxious for her arrival, for I had been told by letter, that
the owners in Boston, at the request of my friends, had written to
Captain Thompson to take me on board the Alert, in case she
returned to the United States before the Pilgrim; and I, of
course, wished to know whether the order had been received, and
what was the destination of the ship. One year, more or less,
might be of small consequence to others, but it was everything to
me. It was now just a year since we sailed from Boston, and, at
the shortest, no vessel could expect to get away under eight or
nine months, which would make our absence two years in all. This
would be pretty long, but would not be fatal. It would not
necessarily be decisive of my future life. But one year more might
settle the matter. I might be a sailor for life; and although I
had pretty well made up my mind to it before I had my letters from
home, yet, as soon as an opportunity was held out to me of
returning, and the prospect of another kind of life was opened to
me, my anxiety to return, and, at least, to have the chance of
deciding upon my course for myself, was beyond measure. Beside
that, I wished to be ``equal to either fortune,'' and to qualify
myself for an officer's berth, and a hide-house was no place to
learn seamanship in. I had become experienced in hide-curing, and
everything went on smoothly, and I had many opportunities of
becoming acquainted with the people, and much leisure for reading
and studying navigation; yet practical seamanship could only be
got on board ship, therefore I determined to ask to be taken on
board the ship when she arrived. By the first of August we
finished curing all our hides, stored them away, cleaned out our
vats (in which latter work we spent two days, up to our knees in
mud and the sediments of six months' hide-curing, in a stench
which would drive a donkey from his breakfast), and got all in
readiness for the arrival of the ship, and had another leisure
interval of three or four weeks. I spent these, as usual, in
reading, writing, studying, making and mending my clothes, and
getting my wardrobe in complete readiness in case I should go on
board the ship; and in fishing, ranging the woods with the dogs,
and in occasional visits to the presidio and mission. A good deal
of my time was passed in taking care of a little puppy, which I
had selected from thirty-six that were born within three days of
one another at our house. He was a fine, promising pup, with four
white paws, and all the rest of his body of a dark brown. I built
a little kennel for him, and kept him fastened there, away from
the other dogs, feeding and disciplining him myself. In a few
weeks I brought him into complete subjection, and he grew nicely,
was much attached to me, and bade fair to be one of the leading
dogs on the beach. I called him Bravo, and all I regretted at the
thought of leaving the beach was parting from him and the Kanakas.

Day after day we went up the hill, but no ship was to be seen, and
we began to form all sorts of conjectures as to her whereabouts;
and the theme of every evening's conversation at the different
houses, and in our afternoon's paseo upon the beach, was the ship,--
where she could be, had she been to San Francisco, how many
hides she would bring, &c., &c.

Tuesday, August 25th. This morning the officer in charge of our
house went off beyond the point a-fishing, in a small canoe, with
two Kanakas; and we were sitting quietly in our room at the
hide-house, when, just before noon, we heard a complete yell of
``Sail ho!'' breaking out from all parts of the beach at once,--
from the Kanakas' oven to the Rosa's hide-house. In an instant
every one was out of his house, and there was a tall, gallant
ship, with royals and skysails set, bending over before the strong
afternoon breeze, and coming rapidly round the point. Her yards
were braced sharp up; every sail was set, and drew well; the stars
and stripes were flying from her mizzen-peak, and, having the tide
in her favor, she came up like a race-horse. It was nearly six
months since a new vessel had entered San Diego, and, of course,
every one was wide awake. She certainly made a fine appearance.
Her light sails were taken in, as she passed the low, sandy tongue
of land, and clewing up her head sails, she rounded handsomely to
under her mizzen topsail, and let go her anchor at about a cable's
length from the shore. In a few minutes the topsail yards were
manned, and all three of the topsails furled at once. From the
fore top-gallant yard, the men slid down the stay to furl the jib,
and from the mizzen top-gallant yard, by the stay, into the
main-top, and thence to the yard; and the men on the topsail yards
came down the lifts to the yard-arms of the courses. The sails
were furled with great care, the bunts triced up by jiggers, and
the jibs stowed in cloth. The royal-yards were then struck,
tackles got upon the yard-arms and the stay, the long-boat hoisted
out, a large anchor carried astern, and the ship moored. This was
the Alert.

The gig was lowered away from the quarter, and a boat's crew of
fine lads, between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, pulled the
captain ashore. The gig was a light whale-boat, handsomely
painted, and fitted up with cushions and tiller-ropes in the stern
sheets. We immediately attacked the boat's crew, and got very
thick with them in a few minutes. We had much to ask about Boston,
their passage out, &c., and they were very curious to know about
the kind of life we were leading upon the beach. One of them
offered to exchange with me, which was just what I wanted, and we
had only to get the permission of the captain.

After dinner the crew began discharging their hides, and, as we
had nothing to do at the hide-houses, we were ordered aboard to
help them. I had now my first opportunity of seeing the ship which
I hoped was to be my home for the next year. She looked as well on
board as she did from without. Her decks were wide and roomy
(there being no poop, or house on deck, which disfigures the after
part of most of our vessels), flush fore and aft, and as white as
flax, which the crew told us was from constant use of holystones.
There was no foolish gilding and gingerbread work, to take the eye
of landsmen and passengers, but everything was ``ship-shape.''
There was no rust, no dirt, no rigging hanging slack, no fag-ends
of ropes and ``Irish pendants'' aloft, and the yards were squared
``to a t'' by lifts and braces. The mate was a hearty fellow, with
a roaring voice, and always wide awake. He was ``a man, every inch
of him,'' as the sailors said; and though ``a bit of a horse,''
and ``a hard customer,'' yet he was generally liked by the crew.
There was also a second and third mate, a carpenter, sailmaker,
steward, and cook, and twelve hands before the mast. She had on
board seven thousand hides, which she had collected at the
windward, and also horns and tallow. All these we began
discharging from both gangways at once into the two boats, the
second mate having charge of the launch, and the third mate of the
pinnace. For several days we were employed in this way, until all
the hides were taken out, when the crew began taking in ballast,
and we returned to our old work, hide-curing.

Saturday, August 29th. Arrived, brig Catalina, from the windward.

Sunday, August 30th. This was the first Sunday that the Alert's
crew had been in San Diego, and of course they were all for going
up to see the town. The Indians came down early, with horses to
let for the day, and those of the crew who could obtain liberty
went off to the Presidio and Mission, and did not return until
night. I had seen enough of San Diego, and went on board and spent
the day with some of the crew, whom I found quietly at work in the
forecastle, either mending and washing their clothes, or reading
and writing. They told me that the ship stopped at Callao on the
passage out, and lay there three weeks. She had a passage of a
little over eighty days from Boston to Callao, which is one of the
shortest on record. There they left the Brandywine frigate, and
some smaller American ships of war, and the English frigate
Blonde, and a French seventy-four. From Callao they came directly
to California, and had visited every port on the coast, including
San Francisco. The forecastle in which they lived was large,
tolerably well lighted by bull's-eyes, and, being kept perfectly
clean, had quite a comfortable appearance; at least, it was far
better than the little, black, dirty hole in which I had lived so
many months on board the Pilgrim. By the regulations of the ship,
the forecastle was cleaned out every morning; and the crew, being
very neat, kept it clean by some regulations of their own, such as
having a large spit-box always under the steps and between the
bits, and obliging every man to hang up his wet clothes, &c. In
addition to this, it was holystoned every Saturday morning. In the
after part of the ship was a handsome cabin, a dining-room, and a
trade-room, fitted out with shelves, and furnished with all sorts
of goods. Between these and the forecastle was the
``between-decks,'' as high as the gun-deck of a frigate, being six
feet and a half, under the beams. These between-decks were
holystoned regularly, and kept in the most perfect order; the
carpenter's bench and tools being in one part, the sailmaker's in
another, and boatswain's locker, with the spare rigging, in a
third. A part of the crew slept here, in hammocks swung fore and
aft from the beams, and triced up every morning. The sides of the
between-decks were clapboarded, the knees and stanchions of iron,
and the latter made to unship. The crew said she was as tight as a
drum, and a fine sea boat, her only fault being-- that of most
fast ships-- that she was wet forward. When she was going, as she
sometimes would, eight or nine knots on a wind, there would not be
a dry spot forward of the gangway. The men told great stories of
her sailing, and had entire confidence in her as a ``lucky ship.''
She was seven years old, had always been in the Canton trade, had
never met with an accident of any consequence, nor made a passage
that was not shorter than the average. The third mate, a young man
about eighteen years of age, nephew of one of the owners, had been
in the ship from a small boy, and ``believed in the ship''; and
the chief mate thought as much of her as he would of a wife and

The ship lay about a week longer in port, when, having discharged
her cargo and taken in ballast, she prepared to get under way. I
now made my application to the captain to go on board. He told me
that I could go home in the ship when she sailed (which I knew
before); and, finding that I wished to be on board while she was
on the coast, said he had no objection, if I could find one of my
own age to exchange with me for the time. This I easily
accomplished, for they were glad to change the scene by a few
months on shore, and, moreover, escape the winter and the
southeasters; and I went on board the next day, with my chest and
hammock, and found myself once more afloat.


Tuesday, September 8th, 1835. This was my first day's duty on
board the ship; and though a sailor's life is a sailor's life
wherever it may be, yet I found everything very different here
from the customs of the brig Pilgrim. After all hands were called
at daybreak, three minutes and a half were allowed for the men to
dress and come on deck, and if any were longer than that, they
were sure to be overhauled by the mate, who was always on deck,
and making himself heard all over the ship. The head-pump was then
rigged, and the decks washed down by the second and third mates;
the chief mate walking the quarter-deck, and keeping a general
supervision, but not deigning to touch a bucket or a brush. Inside
and out, fore and aft, upper deck and between-decks, steerage and
forecastle, rail, bulwarks, and water-ways, were washed, scrubbed,
and scraped with brooms and canvas, and the decks were wet and
sanded all over, and then holystoned. The holystone is a large,
soft stone, smooth on the bottom, with long ropes attached to each
end, by which the crew keep it sliding fore and aft over the wet
sanded decks. Smaller hand-stones, which the sailors call
``prayer-books,'' are used to scrub in among the crevices and
narrow places, where the large holystone will not go. An hour or
two we were kept at this work, when the head-pump was manned, and
all the sand washed off the decks and sides. Then came swabs and
squilgees; and, after the decks were dry, each one went to his
particular morning job. There were five boats belonging to the
ship,-- launch, pinnace, jolly-boat, larboard quarter-boat, and
gig,-- each of which had a coxswain, who had charge of it, and was
answerable for the order and cleanness of it. The rest of the
cleaning was divided among the crew; one having the brass and
composition work about the capstan; another the bell, which was of
brass, and kept as bright as a gilt button; a third, the
harness-cask; another, the man-rope stanchions; others, the steps
of the forecastle and hatchways, which were hauled up and
holystoned. Each of these jobs must be finished before breakfast;
and in the mean time the rest of the crew filled the
scuttled-butt, and the cook scraped his kids (wooden tubs out of
which sailors eat), and polished the hoops, and placed them before
the galley to await inspection. When the decks were dry, the lord
paramount made his appearance on the quarter-deck, and took a few
turns, eight bells were struck, and all hands went to breakfast.
Half an hour was allowed for breakfast, when all hands were called
again; the kids, pots, bread-bags, &c., stowed away; and, this
morning, preparations were made for getting under way. We paid out
on the chain by which we swung, hove in on the other, catted the
anchor, and hove short on the first. This work was done in shorter
time than was usual on board the brig; for though everything was
more than twice as large and heavy, the cat-block being as much as
a man could lift, and the chain as large as three of the
Pilgrim's, yet there was a plenty of room to move about in, more
discipline and system, more men, and more good-will. Each seemed
ambitious to do his best. Officers and men knew their duty, and
all went well. As soon as she was hove short, the mate, on the
forecastle, gave the order to loose the sails! and, in an instant
all sprung into the rigging, up the shrouds, and out on the yards,
scrambling by one another,-- the first up, the best fellow,-- cast
off the yard-arm gaskets and bunt gaskets, and one man remained on
each yard, holding the bunt jigger with a turn round the tye, all
ready to let go, while the rest laid down to man the sheets and
halyards. The mate then hailed the yards,-- ``All ready forward?''--
``All ready the cross-jack yards?'' &c., &c.; and ``Aye, aye,
sir!'' being returned from each, the word was given to let go;
and, in the twinkling of an eye, the ship, which had shown nothing
but her bare yards, was covered with her loose canvas, from the
royal-mast-heads to the decks. All then came down, except one man
in each top, to overhaul the rigging, and the topsails were
hoisted and sheeted home, the three yards going to the mast-head
at once, the larboard watch hoisting the fore, the starboard watch
the main, and five light hands (of whom I was one), picked from
the two watches, the mizzen. The yards were then trimmed, the
anchor weighed, the cat-block hooked on, the fall stretched out,
manned by ``all hands and the cook,'' and the anchor brought to
the head with ``cheerly, men!'' in full chorus. The ship being now
under way, the light sails were set, one after another, and she
was under full sail before she had passed the sandy point. The
fore royal, which fell to my lot (as I was in the mate's watch),
was more than twice as large as that of the Pilgrim, and, though I
could handle the brig's easily, I found my hands full with this,
especially as there were no jacks to the ship, everything being
for neatness, and nothing left for Jack to hold on by but his

As soon as we were beyond the point, and all sail out, the order
was given, ``Go below, the watch!'' and the crew said that, ever
since they had been on the coast, they had had ``watch and watch''
while going from port to port; and, in fact, all things showed
that, though strict discipline was kept, and the utmost was
required of every man in the way of his duty, yet, on the whole,
there was good usage on board. Each one knew that he must be a
man, and show himself such when at his duty, yet all were
satisfied with the treatment; and a contented crew, agreeing with
one another, and finding no fault, was a contrast indeed with the
small, hard-used, dissatisfied, grumbling, desponding crew of the

It being the turn of our watch to go below, the men set themselves
to work, mending their clothes, and doing other little things for
themselves; and I, having got my wardrobe in complete order at San
Diego, had nothing to do but to read. I accordingly overhauled the
chests of the crew, but found nothing that suited me exactly,
until one of the men said he had a book which ``told all about a
great highwayman,'' at the bottom of his chest, and, producing it,
I found, to my surprise and joy, that it was nothing else than
Bulwer's Paul Clifford. I seized it immediately, and, going to my
hammock, lay there, swinging and reading, until the watch below
was out. The between-decks clear, the hatchways open, a cool
breeze blowing through them, the ship under easy way,-- everything
was comfortable. I had just got well into the story when eight
bells were struck, and we were all ordered to dinner. After dinner
came our watch on deck for four hours, and at four o'clock I went
below again, turned into my hammock and read until the dog watch.
As lights were not allowed after eight o'clock, there was no
reading in the night watch. Having light winds and calms, we were
three days on the passage, and each watch below, during the
daytime, I spent in the same manner, until I had finished my book.
I shall never forget the enjoyment I derived from it. To come
across anything with the slightest claims to literary merit was so
unusual that this was a feast to me. The brilliancy of the book,
the succession of capital hits, and the lively and characteristic
sketches, kept me in a constant state of pleasing sensations. It
was far too good for a sailor. I could not expect such fine times
to last long.

While on deck, the regular work of the ship went on. The sailmaker
and carpenter worked between decks, and the crew had their work to
do upon the rigging, drawing yarns, making spun-yarn, &c., as
usual in merchantmen. The night watches were much more pleasant
than on board the Pilgrim. There, there were so few in a watch,
that, one being at the wheel and another on the lookout, there was
no one left to talk with; but here we had seven in a watch, so
that we had long yarns in abundance. After two or three night
watches, I became well acquainted with the larboard watch. The
sailmaker was the head man of the watch, and was generally
considered the most experienced seaman on board. He was a
thorough-bred old man-of-war's-man, had been at sea twenty-two
years, in all kinds of vessels,-- men-of-war, privateers, slavers,
and merchantmen,-- everything except whalers, which a thorough
man-of-war or merchant seaman looks down upon, and will always
steer clear of if he can. He had, of course, been in most parts of
the world, and was remarkable for drawing a long bow. His yarns
frequently stretched through a watch, and kept all hands awake.
They were amusing from their improbability, and, indeed, he never
expected to be believed, but spun them merely for amusement; and
as he had some humor and a good supply of man-of-war slang and
sailor's salt phrases, he always made fun. Next to him in age and
experience, and, of course, in standing in the watch, was an
Englishman named Harris, of whom I shall have more to say
hereafter. Then came two or three Americans, who had been the
common run of European and South American voyages, and one who had
been in a ``spouter,'' and, of course, had all the whaling stories
to himself. Last of all was a broad-backed, thick-headed, Cape
Cod[1] boy, who had been in mackerel schooners, and was making his
first voyage in a square-rigged vessel. He was born in Hingham,
and of course was called ``Bucket-maker.'' The other watch was
composed of about the same number. A tall, fine-looking Frenchman,
with coal-black whiskers and curly hair, a first-rate seaman,
named John (one name is enough for a sailor), was the head man of
the watch. Then came two Americans (one of whom had been a
dissipated young man of some property and respectable connections,
and was reduced to duck trousers and monthly wages), a German, an
English lad, named Ben, who belonged on the mizzen-topsail yard
with me, and was a good sailor for his years, and two Boston boys
just from the public schools. The carpenter sometimes mustered in
the starboard watch, and was an old sea-dog, a Swede by birth, and
accounted the best helmsman in the ship. This was our ship's
company, beside cook and steward, who were blacks, three mates,
and the captain.

The second day out, the wind drew ahead, and we had to beat up the
coast; so that, in tacking ship, I could see the regulations of
the vessel. Instead of going wherever was most convenient, and
running from place to place, wherever work was to be done, each
man had his station. A regular tacking and wearing bill was made
out. The chief mate commanded on the forecastle, and had charge of
the head sails and the forward part of the ship. Two of the best
men in the ship, the sailmaker from our watch, and John, the
Frenchman, from the other, worked the forecastle. The third mate
commanded in the waist, and, with the carpenter and one man,
worked the main tack and bowline; the cook, ex officio, the fore
sheet, and the steward the main. The second mate had charge of the
after yards, and let go the lee fore and main braces. I was
stationed at the weather cross-jack braces; three other light
hands at the lee; one boy at the spanker-sheet and guy; a man and
a boy at the main topsail, top-gallant, and royal braces; and all
the rest of the crew-- men and boys-- tallied on to the main
brace. Every one here knew his station, must be there when all
hands were called to put the ship about, and was answerable for
the ropes committed to him. Each man's rope must be let go and
hauled in at the order, properly made fast, and neatly coiled away
when the ship was about. As soon as all hands are at their
stations, the captain, who stands on the weather side of the
quarter-deck, makes a sign to the man at the wheel to put it down,
and calls out ``Helm's a lee'!'' ``Helm's a lee'!'' answers the
mate on the forecastle, and the head sheets are let go. ``Raise
tacks and sheets!'' says the captain; ``tacks and sheets!'' is
passed forward, and the fore tack and main sheet are let go. The
next thing is to haul taut for a swing. The weather cross-jack
braces and the lee main braces are belayed together upon two pins,
and ready to be let go, and the opposite braces hauled taut.
``Main topsail haul!'' shouts the captain; the braces are let go;
and if he has chosen his time well, the yards swing round like a
top; but if he is too late, or too soon, it is like drawing teeth.
The after yards are then braced up and belayed, the main sheet
hauled aft, the spanker eased over to leeward, and the men from
the braces stand by the head yards. ``Let go and haul!'' says the
captain; the second mate lets go the weather fore braces, and the
men haul in to leeward. The mate, on the forecastle, looks out for
the head yards. ``Well the fore topsail yard!'' ``Top-gallant
yard's well!'' ``Royal yard too much! Haul in to windward! So!
well that!'' ``Well all!'' Then the starboard watch board the main
tack, and the larboard watch lay forward and board the fore tack
and haul down the jib sheet, clapping a tackle upon it if it blows
very fresh. The after yards are then trimmed, the captain
generally looking out for them himself. ``Well the cross-jack[2]
yard!'' ``Small pull the main top-gallant yard!'' ``Well that!''
``Well the mizzen topsail yard!'' ``Cross-jack yards all well!''
``Well all aft!'' ``Haul taut to windward!'' Everything being now
trimmed and in order, each man coils up the rigging at his own
station, and the order is given, ``Go below the watch!''

During the last twenty-four hours of the passage, we beat off and
on the land, making a tack about once in four hours, so that I had
sufficient opportunity to observe the working of the ship; and
certainly it took no more men to brace about this ship's lower
yards, which were more than fifty feet square, than it did those
of the Pilgrim, which were not much more than half the size; so
much depends upon the manner in which the braces run, and the
state of the blocks; and Captain Wilson, of the Ayacucho, who was
afterwards a passenger with us, upon a trip to windward, said he
had no doubt that our ship worked two men lighter than his brig.
This light working of the ship was owing to the attention and
seamanship of Captain Faucon. He had reeved anew nearly all the
running rigging of the ship, getting rid of useless blocks,
putting single blocks for double wherever he could, using pendent
blocks, and adjusting the purchases scientifically.

Friday, September 11th. This morning, at four o'clock, went below,
San Pedro point being about two leagues ahead, and the ship going
on under studding-sails. In about an hour we were waked up by the
hauling of the chain about decks, and in a few minutes ``All hands
ahoy!'' was called; and we were all at work, hauling in and making
up the studding-sails, overhauling the chain forward, and getting
the anchors ready. ``The Pilgrim is there at anchor,'' said some
one, as we were running about decks; and, taking a moment's look
over the rail, I saw my old friend, deeply laden, lying at anchor
inside of the kelp. In coming to anchor, as well as in tacking
ship, each one had his station and duty. The light sails were
clewed up and furled, the courses hauled up, and the jibs down;
then came the topsails in the buntlines, and the anchor let go. As
soon as she was well at anchor, all hands lay aloft to furl the
topsails; and this, I soon found, was a great matter on board this
ship; for every sailor knows that a vessel is judged of, a good
deal, by the furl of her sails. The third mate, sailmaker, and the
larboard watch, went upon the fore topsail yard; the second mate,
carpenter, and the starboard watch, upon the main; and I, and the
English lad, and the two Boston boys, and the young Cape Cod man,
furled the mizzen topsail. This sail belonged to us altogether to
reef and to furl, and not a man was allowed to come upon our yard.
The mate took us under his special care, frequently making us furl
the sail over three or four times, until we got the bunt up to a
perfect cone, and the whole sail without a wrinkle. As soon as
each sail was hauled up and the bunt made, the jigger was bent on
to the slack of the buntlines, and the bunt triced up, on deck.
The mate then took his place between the knight-heads to ``twig''
the fore, on the windlass to twig the main, and at the foot of the
mainmast for the mizzen; and if anything was wrong,-- too much
bunt on one side, clews too taut or too slack, or any sail abaft
the yard,-- the whole must be dropped again. When all was right,
the bunts were triced well up, the yard-arm gaskets passed, so as
not to leave a wrinkle forward of the yard-- short gaskets, with
turns close together.

From the moment of letting go the anchor, when the captain ceases
his care of things, the chief mate is the great man. With a voice
like a young lion, he was hallooing in all directions, making
everything fly, and, at the same time, doing everything well. He
was quite a contrast to the worthy, quiet, unobtrusive mate of the
Pilgrim, not a more estimable man, perhaps, but a far better mate
of a vessel; and the entire change in Captain Thompson's conduct,
since he took command of the ship, was owing, no doubt, in a great
measure, to this fact. If the chief officer wants force,
discipline slackens, everything gets out of joint, and the captain
interferes continually; that makes a difficulty between them,
which encourages the crew, and the whole ends in a three-sided
quarrel. But Mr. Brown (a Marblehead man) wanted no help from
anybody, took everything into his own hands, and was more likely
to encroach upon the authority of the master than to need any
spurring. Captain Thompson gave his directions to the mate in
private, and, except in coming to anchor, getting under way,
tacking, reefing topsails, and other ``all-hands-work,'' seldom
appeared in person. This is the proper state of things; and while
this lasts, and there is a good understanding aft, everything will
go on well.

Having furled all the sails, the royal yards were next to be sent
down. The English lad and myself sent down the main, which was
larger than the Pilgrim's main top-gallant yard; two more light
hands the fore, and one boy the mizzen. This order we kept while
on the coast, sending them up and down every time we came in and
went out of port. They were all tripped and lowered together, the
main on the starboard side, and the fore and mizzen to port. No
sooner was she all snug, than tackles were got up on the yards and
stays, and the long-boat and pinnace hove out. The swinging booms
were then guyed out, and the boats made fast by geswarps, and
everything in harbor style. After breakfast, the hatches were
taken off, and everything got ready to receive hides from the
Pilgrim. All day, boats were passing and repassing, until we had
taken her hides from her, and left her in ballast trim. These
hides made but little show in our hold, though they had loaded the
Pilgrim down to the water's edge. This changing of the hides
settled the question of the destination of the two vessels, which
had been one of some speculation with us. We were to remain in the
leeward ports, while the Pilgrim was to sail, the next morning,
for San Francisco. After we had knocked off work, and cleared up
decks for the night, my friend Stimson came on board, and spent an
hour with me in our berth between decks. The Pilgrim's crew envied
me my place on board the ship, and seemed to think that I had got
a little to windward of them, especially in the matter of going
home first. Stimson was determined to go home in the Alert, by
begging or buying. If Captain Thompson would not let him come on
other terms, he would purchase an exchange with some one of the
crew. The prospect of another year after the Alert should sail was
rather ``too much of the monkey.'' About seven o'clock the mate
came down into the steerage in fine trim for fun, roused the boys
out of the berth, turned up the carpenter with his fiddle, sent
the steward with lights to put in the between-decks, and set all
hands to dancing. The between-decks were high enough to allow of
jumping, and being clear, and white, from holystoning, made a good
dancing-hall. Some of the Pilgrim's crew were in the forecastle,
and they all turned-to and had a regular sailor's shuffle till
eight bells. The Cape Cod boy could dance the true fisherman's
jig, barefooted, knocking with his heels, and slapping the decks
with his bare feet, in time with the music. This was a favorite
amusement of the mate's, who used to stand at the steerage door,
looking on, and if the boys would not dance, hazed them round with
a rope's end, much to the entertainment of the men.

The next morning, according to the orders of the agent, the
Pilgrim set sail for the windward, to be gone three or four
months. She got under way with no fuss, and came so near us as to
throw a letter on board, Captain Faucon standing at the tiller
himself, and steering her as he would a mackerel smack. When
Captain Thompson was in command of the Pilgrim, there was as much
preparation and ceremony as there would be in getting a
seventy-four under way. Captain Faucon was a sailor, every inch of
him. He knew what a ship was, and was as much at home in one as a
cobbler in his stall. I wanted no better proof of this than the
opinion of the ship's crew, for they had been six months under his
command, and knew him thoroughly, and if sailors allow their
captain to be a good seaman, you may be sure he is one, for that
is a thing they are not usually ready to admit. To find fault with
the seamanship of the captain is a crew's reserved store for

After the Pilgrim left us, we lay three weeks at San Pedro, from
the 11th of September until the 2d of October, engaged in the
usual port duties of landing cargo, taking off hides, &c., &c.
These duties were much easier, and went on much more agreeably,
than on board the Pilgrim. ``The more the merrier'' is the
sailor's maxim, and, by a division of labor, a boat's crew of a
dozen could take off all the hides brought down in a day without
much trouble; and on shore, as well as on board, a good-will, and
no discontent or grumbling, make everything go well. The officer,
too, who usually went with us, the third mate, was a pleasant
young fellow, and made no unnecessary trouble; so that we
generally had a sociable time, and were glad to be relieved from
the restraint of the ship. While here, I often thought of the
miserable, gloomy weeks we had spent in this dull place, in the
brig; discontent and hard usage on board, and four hands to do all
the work on shore. Give me a big ship. There is more room, better
outfit, better regulation, more life, and more company. Another
thing was better arranged here: we had a regular gig's crew. A
light whale-boat, handsomely painted, and fitted out with stern
seats, yoke and tiller-ropes, hung on the starboard quarter, and
was used as the gig. The youngest lad in the ship, a Boston boy
about fourteen years old, was coxswain of this boat, and had the
entire charge of her, to keep her clean and have her in readiness
to go and come at any hour. Four light hands, of about the same
size and age, of whom I was one, formed her crew. Each had his oar
and seat numbered, and we were obliged to be in our places, have
our oars scraped white, our tholepins in, and the fenders over the
side. The bowman had charge of the boat-hook and painter, and the
coxswain of the rudder, yoke, and stern-sheets. Our duty was to
carry the captain and agent about, and passengers off and on,
which last was no trifling duty, as the people on shore have no
boats, and every purchaser, from the boy who buys his pair of
shoes, to the trader who buys his casks and bales, was to be
brought off and taken ashore in our boat. Some days, when people
were coming and going fast, we were in the boat, pulling off and
on, all day long, with hardly time for our meals, making, as we
lay nearly three miles off shore, from thirty to forty miles'
rowing in a day. Still, we thought it the best berth in the ship;
for when the gig was employed, we had nothing to do with the
cargo, except with small bundles which the passengers took with
them, and no hides to carry. Besides, we had the opportunity of
seeing everybody, making acquaintances, and hearing the news.
Unless the captain or agent was in the boat, we had no officer
with us, and often had fine times with the passengers, who were
always willing to talk and joke with us. Frequently, too, we were
obliged to wait several hours on shore, when we would haul the
boat up on the beach, and, leaving one to watch her, go to the
nearest house, or spend the time in strolling about the beach,
picking up shells, or playing hop-scotch, and other games, on the
hard sand. The others of the crew never left the ship, except for
bringing heavy goods and taking off hides; and though we were
always in the water, the surf hardly leaving us a dry thread from
morning till night, yet we were young, and the climate was good,
and we thought it much better than the quiet, humdrum drag and
pull on board ship. We made the acquaintance of nearly half
California; for, besides carrying everybody in our boat,-- men,
women, and children,-- all the messages, letters, and light
packages went by us, and, being known by our dress, we found a
ready reception everywhere.

At San Pedro, we had none of this amusement, for, there being but
one house in the place, there was nothing to see and no company.
All the variety that I had was riding, once a week, to the nearest
rancho,[3] to order a bullock down to the ship.

The brig Catalina came in from San Diego, and, being bound to
windward, we both got under way at the same time, for a trial of
speed up to Santa Barbara, a distance of about eighty miles. We
hove up and got under sail about eleven o'clock at night, with a
light land-breeze, which died away toward morning, leaving us
becalmed only a few miles from our anchoring-place. The Catalina,
being a small vessel, of less than half our size, put out sweeps
and got a boat ahead, and pulled out to sea during the night, so
that she had the sea-breeze earlier and stronger than we did, and
we had the mortification of seeing her standing up the coast with
a fine breeze, the sea all ruffled about her, while we were
becalmed in-shore. When the sea-breeze died away, she was nearly
out of sight; and, toward the latter part of the afternoon, the
regular northwest wind setting in fresh, we braced sharp upon it,
took a pull at every sheet, tack, and halyard, and stood after her
in fine style, our ship being very good upon a taut bowline. We
had nearly five hours of splendid sailing, beating up to windward
by long stretches in and off shore, and evidently gaining upon the
Catalina at every tack. When this breeze left us, we were so near
as to count the painted ports on her side. Fortunately, the wind
died away when we were on our inward tack, and she on her outward,
so we were in-shore, and caught the land-breeze first, which came
off upon our quarter, about the middle of the first watch. All
hands were turned up, and we set all sail, to the skysails and the
royal studding-sails; and with these, we glided quietly through
the water, leaving the Catalina, which could not spread so much
canvas as we, gradually astern, and, by daylight, were off Santa
Buenaventura, and our competitor nearly out of sight. The
sea-breeze, however, favored her again, while we were becalmed
under the headland, and laboring slowly along, and she was abreast
of us by noon. Thus we continued, ahead, astern, and abreast of
each other, alternately; now far out at sea, and again close in
under the shore. On the third morning we came into the great bay
of Santa Barbara two hours behind the brig, and thus lost the bet;
though if the race had been to the point, we should have beaten
her by five or six hours. This, however, settled the relative
sailing of the vessels, for it was admitted that although she,
being small and light, could gain upon us in very light winds, yet
whenever there was breeze enough to set us agoing, we walked away
from her like hauling in a line; and, in beating to windward,
which is the best trial of a vessel, had much the advantage.

Sunday, October 4th. This was the day of our arrival; and, somehow
or other, our captain seemed to manage, not only to sail, but to
come into port, on a Sunday. The main reason for sailing on Sunday
is not, as many people suppose, because it is thought a lucky day
but because it is a leisure day. During the six days the crew are
employed upon the cargo and other ship's works, and, Sunday being
their only day of rest, whatever additional work can be thrown
into it is so much gain to the owners. This is the reason of our
coasters and packets generally sailing on Sunday. Thus it was with
us nearly all the time we were on the coast, and many of our
Sundays were lost entirely to us. The Catholics on shore do not,
as a general thing, do regular trading or make journeys on Sunday,
but the American has no national religion, and likes to show his
independence of priestcraft by doing as he chooses on the Lord's

Santa Barbara looked very much as it did when I left it five
months before: the long sand beach, with the heavy rollers,
breaking upon it in a continual roar, and the little town,
embedded on the plain, girt by its amphitheatre of mountains. Day
after day the sun shone clear and bright upon the wide bay and the
red roofs of the houses, everything being as still as death, the
people hardly seeming to earn their sunlight. Daylight was thrown
away upon them. We had a few visitors, and collected about a
hundred hides, and every night, at sundown, the gig was sent
ashore to wait for the captain, who spent his evenings in the
town. We always took our monkey-jackets with us, and flint and
steel, and made a fire on the beach with the driftwood and the
bushes which we pulled from the neighboring thickets, and lay down
by it, on the sand. Sometimes we would stray up to the town, if
the captain was likely to stay late, and pass the time at some of
the houses, in which we were almost always well received by the
inhabitants. Sometimes earlier and sometimes later, the captain
came down; when, after a good drenching in the surf, we went
aboard, changed our clothes, and turned-in for the night,-- yet
not for all the night, for there was the anchor watch to stand.

This leads me to speak of my watchmate for nine months,-- and,
taking him all in all, the most remarkable man I had ever seen,--
Tom Harris. An hour, every night, while lying in port, Harris and
I had the deck to ourselves, and walking fore and aft, night after
night, for months, I learned his character and history, and more
about foreign nations, the habits of different people, and
especially the secrets of sailors' lives and hardships, and also
of practical seamanship (in which he was abundantly capable of
instructing me), than I could ever have learned elsewhere. His
memory was perfect, seeming to form a regular chain, reaching from
his earliest childhood up to the time I knew him, without a link
wanting. His power of calculation, too, was extraordinary. I
called myself pretty quick at figures, and had been through a
course of mathematical studies; but, working by my head, I was
unable to keep within sight of this man, who had never been beyond
his arithmetic. He carried in his head, not only a log-book of the
voyage, which was complete and accurate, and from which no one
thought of appealing, but also an accurate registry of the cargo,
knowing where each thing was stowed, and how many hides we took in
at each port.

One night he made a rough calculation of the number of hides that
could be stowed in the lower hold, between the fore and main
masts, taking the depth of hold and breadth of beam (for he knew
the dimensions of every part of a ship before he had been long on
board), and the average area and thickness of a hide; and he came
surprisingly near the number, as it afterwards turned out. The
mate frequently came to him to know the capacity of different
parts of the vessel, and he could tell the sailmaker very nearly
the amount of canvas he would want for each sail in the ship; for
he knew the hoist of every mast, and spread of each sail, on the
head and foot, in feet and inches. When we were at sea, he kept a
running account, in his head, of the ship's way,-- the number of
knots and the courses; and, if the courses did not vary much
during the twenty-four hours, by taking the whole progress and
allowing so many eights southing or northing, to so many easting
or westing, he would make up his reckoning just before the captain
took the sun at noon, and often came very near the mark. He had,
in his chest, several volumes giving accounts of inventions in
mechanics, which he read with great pleasure, and made himself
master of. I doubt if he forgot anything that he read. The only
thing in the way of poetry that he ever read was Falconer's
Shipwreck, which he was charmed with, and pages of which he could
repeat. He said he could recall the name of every sailor that had
ever been his shipmate, and also of every vessel, captain, and
officer, and the principal dates of each voyage; and a sailor whom
we afterwards fell in with, who had been in a ship with Harris
nearly twelve years before, was much surprised at having Harris
tell him things about himself which he had entirely forgotten. His
facts, whether dates or events, no one thought of disputing; and
his opinions few of the sailors dared to oppose, for, right or
wrong, he always had the best of the argument with them. His
reasoning powers were striking. I have had harder work maintaining
an argument with him in a watch, even when I knew myself to be
right, and he was only doubting, than I ever had before, not from
his obstinacy, but from his acuteness. Give him only a little
knowledge of his subject, and, among all the young men of my
acquaintance at college, there is not one whom I had not rather
meet in an argument than this man. I never answered a question
from him, or advanced an opinion to him, without thinking more
than once. With an iron memory, he seemed to have your whole past
conversation at command, and if you said a thing now which ill
agreed with something you had said months before, he was sure to
have you on the hip. In fact, I felt, when with him, that I was
with no common man. I had a positive respect for his powers of
mind, and thought, often, that if half the pains had been spent
upon his education which are thrown away yearly, in our colleges,
he would have made his mark. Like many self-taught men of real
merit, he overrated the value of a regular education; and this I
often told him, though I had profited by his error; for he always
treated me with respect, and often unnecessarily gave way to me,
from an overestimate of my knowledge. For the intellectual
capacities of all the rest of the crew,-- captain and all,-- he
had a sovereign contempt. He was a far better sailor, and probably
a better navigator, than the captain, and had more brains than all
the after part of the ship put together. The sailors said, ``Tom's
got a head as long as the bowsprit,'' and if any one fell into an
argument with him, they would call out: ``Ah, Jack! you had better
drop that as you would a hot potato, for Tom will turn you inside
out before you know it!''

I recollect his posing me once on the subject of the Corn Laws. I
was called to stand my watch, and, coming on deck, found him there
before me; and we began, as usual, to walk fore and aft, in the
waist. He talked about the Corn Laws; asked me my opinion about
them, which I gave him, and my reasons, my small stock of which I
set forth to the best advantage, supposing his knowledge on the
subject must be less than mine, if, indeed, he had any at all.
When I had got through, he took the liberty of differing from me,
and brought arguments and facts which were new to me, and to which
I was unable to reply. I confessed that I knew almost nothing of
the subject, and expressed my surprise at the extent of his
information. He said that, a number of years before, while at a
boarding-house in Liverpool, he had fallen in with a pamphlet on
the subject, and, as it contained calculations, had read it very
carefully, and had ever since wished to find some one who could
add to his stock of knowledge on the question. Although it was
many years since he had seen the book, and it was a subject with
which he had had no previous acquaintance, yet he had the chain of
reasoning, founded upon principles of political economy, fully in
his memory; and his facts, so far as I could judge, were correct;
at least, he stated them with precision. The principles of the
steam-engine, too, he was familiar with, having been several
months on board a steamboat, and made himself master of its
secrets. He knew every lunar star in both hemispheres, and was a
master of the quadrant and sextant. The men said he could take a
meridian altitude of the sun from a tar bucket. Such was the man,
who, at forty, was still a dog before the mast, at twelve dollars
a month. The reason of this was to be found in his past life, as I
had it, at different times, from himself.

He was an Englishman, a native of Ilfracomb, in Devonshire. His
father was skipper of a small coaster from Bristol, and, dying,
left him, when quite young, to the care of his mother, by whose
exertions he received a common-school education, passing his
winters at school and his summers in the coasting trade until his
seventeenth year, when he left home to go upon foreign voyages. Of
this mother he spoke with the greatest respect, and said that she
was a woman of a strong mind, and had an excellent system of
education, which had made respectable men of his three brothers,
and failed in him only from his own indomitable obstinacy. One
thing he mentioned, in which he said his mother differed from all
other mothers that he had ever seen disciplining their children;
that was, that when he was out of humor and refused to eat,
instead of putting his plate away, saying that his hunger would
bring him to it in time, she would stand over him and oblige him
to eat it,-- every mouthful of it. It was no fault of hers that he
was what I saw him; and so great was his sense of gratitude for
her efforts, though unsuccessful, that he determined, when the
voyage should end, to embark for home with all the wages he should
get, to spend with and for his mother, if perchance he should find
her alive.

After leaving home, he had spent nearly twenty years sailing upon
all sorts of voyages, generally out of the ports of New York and
Boston. Twenty years of vice! Every sin that a sailor knows, he
had gone to the bottom of. Several times he had been hauled up in
the hospitals, and as often the great strength of his constitution
had brought him out again in health. Several times, too, from his
acknowledged capacity, he had been promoted to the office of chief
mate, and as often his conduct when in port, especially his
drunkenness, which neither fear nor ambition could induce him to
abandon, put him back into the forecastle. One night, when giving
me an account of his life, and lamenting the years of manhood he
had thrown away, ``There,'' said he, ``in the forecastle, at the
foot of those steps, a chest of old clothes, is the result of
twenty-two years of hard labor and exposure-- worked like a horse,
and treated like a dog.'' As he had grown older, he began to feel
the necessity of some provision for his later years, and came
gradually to the conviction that rum had been his worst enemy. One
night, in Havana, a young shipmate of his was brought aboard
drunk, with a dangerous gash in his head, and his money and new
clothes stripped from him. Harris had been in hundreds of such
scenes as these, but in his then state of mind it fixed his
determination, and he resolved never to taste a drop of strong
drink of any kind. He signed no pledge, and made no vow, but
relied on his own strength of purpose. The first thing with him
was a reason, and then a resolution, and the thing was done. The
date of his resolution he knew, of course, to the very hour. It
was three years before I became acquainted with him, and during
all that time nothing stronger than cider or coffee had passed his
lips. The sailors never thought of enticing Tom to take a glass,
any more than they would of talking to the ship's compass. He was
now a temperate man for life, and capable of filling any berth in
a ship, and many a high station there is on shore which is held by
a meaner man.

He understood the management of a ship upon scientific principles,
and could give the reason for hauling every rope; and a long
experience, added to careful observation at the time, gave him a
knowledge of the expedients and resorts for times of hazard, for
which I became much indebted to him, as he took the greatest
pleasure in opening his stores of information to me, in return for
what I was enabled to do for him. Stories of tyranny and hardship
which had driven men to piracy; of the incredible ignorance of
masters and mates, and of horrid brutality to the sick, dead, and
dying; as well as of the secret knavery and impositions practised
upon seamen by connivance of the owners, landlords, and officers,--
all these he had, and I could not but believe them; for he made
the impression of an exact man, to whom exaggeration was
falsehood; and his statements were always credited. I remember,
among other things, his speaking of a captain whom I had known by
report, who never handed a thing to a sailor, but put it on deck
and kicked it to him; and of another, who was highly connected in
Boston, who absolutely murdered a lad from Boston who went out
with him before the mast to Sumatra, by keeping him hard at work
while ill of the coast fever, and obliging him to sleep in the
close steerage. (The same captain has since died of the same fever
on the same coast.)

In fact, taking together all that I learned from him of
seamanship, of the history of sailors' lives, of practical wisdom,
and of human nature under new circumstances and strange forms of
life,-- a great history from which many are shut out,-- I would
not part with the hours I spent in the watch with that man for the
gift of many hours to be passed in study and intercourse with even
the best of society.

[1] Sailors call men from any part of the coast of Massachusetts
south of Boston Cape Cod men.

[2] Pronounced croj-ac.

[3] This was Sepulveda's rancho, where there was a fight, during our
war with Mexico in 1846, between some United States troops and the
Mexicans, under Don Andréas Pico.


Sunday, October 11th. Set sail this morning for the leeward;
passed within sight of San Pedro, and, to our great joy, did not
come to anchor, but kept directly on to San Diego, where we
arrived and moored ship on--

Thursday, October 15th. Found here the Italian ship La Rosa, from
the windward, which reported the brig Pilgrim at San Francisco,
all well. Everything was as quiet here as usual. We discharged our
hides, horns, and tallow, and were ready to sail again on the
following Sunday. I went ashore to my old quarters, and found the
gang at the hide-house going on in the even tenor of their way,
and spent an hour or two, after dark, at the oven, taking a whiff
with my old Kanaka friends, who really seemed glad to see me
again, and saluted me as the Aikane of the Kanakas. I was grieved
to find that my poor dog Bravo was dead. He had sickened and died
suddenly the very day after I sailed in the Alert.

Sunday was again, as usual, our sailing day, and we got under way
with a stiff breeze, which reminded us that it was the latter part
of the autumn, and time to expect southeasters once more. We beat
up against a strong head wind, under reefed topsails, as far as
San Juan, where we came to anchor nearly three miles from the
shore, with slip-ropes on our cables, in the old southeaster style
of last winter. On the passage up, we had an old sea-captain on
board, who had married and settled in California, and had not been
on salt water for more than fifteen years. He was surprised at the
changes and improvements that had been made in ships, and still
more at the manner in which we carried sail; for he was really a
little frightened, and said that while we had top-gallant-sails
on, he should have been under reefed topsails. The working of the
ship, and her progress to windward, seemed to delight him, for he
said she went to windward as though she were kedging.

Tuesday, October 20th. Having got everything ready, we set the
agent ashore, who went up to the Mission to hurry down the hides
for the next morning. This night we had the strictest orders to
look out for southeasters; and the long, low clouds seemed rather
threatening. But the night passed over without any trouble, and
early the next morning we hove out the long-boat and pinnace,
lowered away the quarter-boats, and went ashore to bring off our
hides. Here we were again, in this romantic spot,-- a
perpendicular hill, twice the height of the ship's mast-head, with
a single circuitous path to the top, and long sand-beach at its
base, with the swell of the whole Pacific breaking high upon it,
and our hides ranged in piles on the overhanging summit. The
captain sent me, who was the only one of the crew that had ever
been there before, to the top to count the hides and pitch them
down. There I stood again, as six months before, throwing off the
hides, and watching them, pitching and scaling, to the bottom,
while the men, dwarfed by the distance, were walking to and fro on
the beach, carrying the hides, as they picked them up, to the
distant boats, upon the tops of their heads. Two or three
boat-loads were sent off, until at last all were thrown down, and
the boats nearly loaded again, when we were delayed by a dozen or
twenty hides which had lodged in the recesses of the bank, and
which we could not reach by any missiles, as the general line of
the side was exactly perpendicular, and these places were caved
in, and could not be seen or reached from the top. As hides are
worth in Boston twelve and a half cents a pound, and the captain's
commission was one per cent, he determined not to give them up,
and sent on board for a pair of top-gallant studding-sail
halyards, and requested some one of the crew to go to the top and
come down by the halyards. The older sailors said the boys, who
were light and active, ought to go; while the boys thought that
strength and experience were necessary. Seeing the dilemma, and
feeling myself to be near the medium of these requisites, I
offered my services, and went up, with one man to tend the rope,
and prepared for the descent.

We found a stake fastened strongly into the ground, and apparently
capable of holding my weight, to which we made one end of the
halyard well fast, and, taking the coil, threw it over the brink.
The end, we saw, just reached to a landing-place, from which the
descent to the beach was easy. Having nothing on but shirt,
trousers, and hat, the common sea rig of warm weather, I had no
stripping to do, and began my descent by taking hold of the rope
with both hands, and slipping down, sometimes with hands and feet
round the rope, and sometimes breasting off with one hand and foot
against the precipice, and holding on to the rope with the other.
In this way I descended until I came to a place which shelved in,
and in which the hides were lodged. Keeping hold of the rope with
one hand, I scrambled in, and by aid of my feet and the other hand
succeeded in dislodging all the hides, and continued on my way.
Just below this place, the precipice projected again, and, going
over the projection, I could see nothing below me but the sea and
the rocks upon which it broke, and a few gulls flying in mid-air.
I got down in safety, pretty well covered with dirt; and for my
pains was told, ``What a d---d fool you were to risk your life for
half a dozen hides!''

While we were carrying the hides to the boat, I perceived, what I
had been too busy to observe before, that heavy black clouds were
rolling up from seaward, a strong swell heaving in, and every sign
of a southeaster. The captain hurried everything. The hides were
pitched into the boats, and, with some difficulty, and by wading
nearly up to our armpits, we got the boats through the surf, and
began pulling aboard. Our gig's crew towed the pinnace astern of
the gig, and the launch was towed by six men in the jolly-boat.
The ship was lying three miles off, pitching at her anchor, and
the farther we pulled, the heavier grew the swell. Our boat stood
nearly up and down several times; the pinnace parted her tow-line,
and we expected every moment to see the launch swamped. At length
we got alongside, our boats half full of water; and now came the
greatest trouble of all,-- unloading the boats in a heavy sea,
which pitched them about so that it was almost impossible to stand
in them, raising them sometimes even with the rail, and again
dropping them below the bends. With great difficulty we got all
the hides aboard and stowed under hatches, the yard and stay
tackles hooked on, and the launch and pinnace hoisted, chocked,
and griped. The quarter-boats were then hoisted up, and we began
heaving in on the chain. Getting the anchor was no easy work in
such a sea, but as we were not coming back to this port, the
captain determined not to slip. The ship's head pitched into the
sea, and the water rushed through the hawse-holes, and the chain
surged so as almost to unship the barrel of the windlass. ``Hove
short, sir!'' said the mate. ``Aye, aye! Weather-bit your chain
and loose the topsails! Make sail on her, men,-- with a will!'' A
few moments served to loose the topsails, which were furled with
reefs, to sheet them home, and hoist them up. ``Bear a hand!'' was
the order of the day; and every one saw the necessity of it, for
the gale was already upon us. The ship broke out her own anchor,
which we catted and fished, after a fashion, and were soon
close-hauled, under reefed sails, standing off from the lee shore
and rocks against a heavy head sea. The fore course was given to
her, which helped her a little; but as she hardly held her own
against the sea, which was setting her to leeward-- ``Board the
main tack!'' shouted the captain, when the tack was carried
forward and taken to the windlass, and all hands called to the
handspikes. The great sail bellied out horizontally, as though it
would lift up the main stay; the blocks rattled and flew about;
but the force of machinery was too much for her. ``Heave ho! Heave
and pawl! Yo, heave, hearty, ho!'' and, in time with the song, by
the force of twenty strong arms, the windlass came slowly round,
pawl after pawl, and the weather clew of the sail was brought down
to the water-ways. The starboard watch hauled aft the sheet, and
the ship tore through the water like a mad horse, quivering and
shaking at every joint, and dashing from her head the foam, which
flew off at each blow, yards and yards to leeward. A half-hour of
such sailing served our turn, when the clews of the sail were
hauled up, the sail furled, and the ship, eased of her press, went
more quietly on her way. Soon after, the foresail was reefed, and
we mizzen-top men were sent up to take another reef in the mizzen
topsail. This was the first time I had taken a weather earing, and
I felt not a little proud to sit astride of the weather yard-arm,
pass the earing, and sing out, ``Haul out to leeward!'' From this
time until we got to Boston the mate never suffered any one but
our own gang to go upon the mizzen topsail yard, either for
reefing or furling, and the young English lad and I generally took
the earings between us.

Having cleared the point and got well out to sea, we squared away
the yards, made more sail, and stood on, nearly before the wind,
for San Pedro. It blew strong, with some rain, nearly all night,
but fell calm toward morning, and the gale having blown itself
out, we came-to,--

Thursday, October 22d, at San Pedro, in the old southeaster berth,
a league from shore, with a slip-rope on the cable, reefs in the
topsails, and rope-yarns for gaskets. Here we lay ten days, with
the usual boating, hide-carrying, rolling of cargo up the steep
hill, walking barefooted over stones, and getting drenched in salt

The third day after our arrival, the Rosa came in from San Juan,
where she went the day after the southeaster. Her crew said it was
as smooth as a mill-pond after the gale, and she took off nearly a
thousand hides, which had been brought down for us, and which we
lost in consequence of the southeaster. This mortified us: not
only that an Italian ship should have got to windward of us in the
trade, but because every thousand hides went towards completing
the forty thousand which we were to collect before we could say
good by to California.

While lying here, we shipped one new hand, an Englishman, of about
six-and-twenty years, who was an acquisition, as he proved to be a
good sailor, could sing tolerably, and, what was of more
importance to me, had a good education and a somewhat remarkable
history. He called himself George P. Marsh; professed to have been
at sea from a small boy, and to have served his time in the
smuggling trade between Germany and the coasts of France and
England. Thus he accounted for his knowledge of the French
language, which he spoke and read as well as he did English; but
his cutter education would not account for his English, which was
far too good to have been learned in a smuggler; for he wrote an
uncommonly handsome hand, spoke with great correctness, and
frequently, when in private talk with me, quoted from books, and
showed a knowledge of the customs of society, and particularly of
the formalities of the various English courts of law and of
Parliament, which surprised me. Still he would give no other
account of himself than that he was educated in a smuggler. A man
whom we afterwards fell in with, who had been a shipmate of
George's a few years before, said that he heard, at the
boarding-house from which they shipped, that George had been at a
college (probably a naval one, as he knew no Latin or Greek),
where he learned French and mathematics. He was not the man by
nature that Harris was. Harris had made everything of his mind and
character in spite of obstacles; while this man had evidently been
born in a different rank, and educated early in life accordingly,
but had been a vagabond, and done nothing for himself since.
Neither had George the character, strength of mind, or memory of
Harris; yet there was about him the remains of a pretty good
education, which enabled him to talk quite up to his brains, and a
high spirit and amenability to the point of honor which years of a
dog's life had not broken. After he had been a little while on
board, we learned from him his adventures of the last two years,
which we afterwards heard confirmed in such a manner as put the
truth of them beyond a doubt.

He sailed from New York in the year 1833, if I mistake not, before
the mast, in the brig Lascar, for Canton. She was sold in the East
Indies, and he shipped at Manilla, in a small schooner, bound on a
trading voyage among the Ladrone and Pelew Islands. On one of the
latter islands their schooner was wrecked on a reef, and they were
attacked by the natives, and, after a desperate resistance, in
which all their number, except the captain, George, and a boy,
were killed or drowned, they surrendered, and were carried bound,
in a canoe, to a neighboring island. In about a month after this,
an opportunity occurred by which one of their number might get
away. I have forgotten the circumstances, but only one could go,
and they gave way to the captain, upon his promising to send them
aid if he escaped. He was successful in his attempt; got on board
an American vessel, went back to Manilla, and thence to America,
without making any effort for their rescue, or, indeed, as George
afterwards discovered, without even mentioning their case to any
one in Manilla. The boy that was with George died, and he being
alone, and there being no chance for his escape, the natives soon
treated him with kindness, and even with attention. They painted
him, tattooed his body (for he would never consent to be marked in
the face or hands), gave him two or three wives, and, in fact,
made a pet of him. In this way he lived for thirteen months, in a
delicious climate, with plenty to eat, half naked, and nothing to
do. He soon, however, became tired, and went round the island, on
different pretences, to look out for a sail. One day he was out
fishing in a small canoe with another man, when he saw a large
sail to windward, about a league and a half off, passing abreast
of the island and standing westward. With some difficulty, he
persuaded the islander to go off with him to the ship, promising
to return with a good supply of rum and tobacco. These articles,
which the islanders had got a taste of from American traders, were
too strong a temptation for the fellow, and he consented. They
paddled off in the track in which the ship was bound, and lay-to
until she came down to them. George stepped on board the ship,
nearly naked, painted from head to foot, and in no way
distinguishable from his companion until he began to speak. Upon
this the people on board were not a little astonished, and, having
learned his story, the captain had him washed and clothed, and,
sending away the poor astonished native with a knife or two and
some tobacco and calico, took George with him on the voyage. This
was the ship Cabot, of New York, Captain Low. She was bound to
Manilla, from across the Pacific; and George did seaman's duty in
her until her arrival in Manilla, when he left her, and shipped in
a brig bound to the Sandwich Islands. From Oahu, he came, in the
British brig Clementine, to Monterey, as second officer, where,
having some difficulty with the captain, he left her, and, coming
down the coast, joined us at San Pedro. Nearly six months after
this, among some papers we received by an arrival from Boston, we
found a letter from Captain Low, of the Cabot, published
immediately upon his arrival at New York, giving all the
particulars just as we had them from George. The letter was
published for the information of the friends of George, and
Captain Low added that he left him at Manilla to go to Oahu, and
he had heard nothing of him since.

George had an interesting journal of his adventures in the Pelew
Islands, which he had written out at length, in a handsome hand,
and in correct English.[1]

[1] In the spring of 1841, a sea-faring man called at my rooms, in
Boston and said he wished to see me, as he knew something about a
man I had spoken of in my book. He then told me that he was second
mate of the bark Mary Frazer, which sailed from Batavia in company
with the Cabot, bound to Manilla, that when off the Pelew Islands
they fell in with a canoe with two natives on board, who told them
that there was an American ship ahead, out of sight, and that they
had put a white man on board of her. The bark gave the canoe a tow
for a short distance. When the Mary Frazer arrived at Manilla, they
found the Cabot there; and my informant said that George came on
board several times, and told the same story that I had given of
him in this book. He said the name of George's schooner was the
Dash, and that she was wrecked, and attacked by the natives, as
George had told me.

This man, whose name was Beauchamp, was second mate of the Mary
Frazer when she took the missionaries to Oahu. He became religious
during the passage, and joined the mission church at Oahu upon his
arrival. When I saw him, he was master of a bark.


Sunday, November 1st. Sailed this day (Sunday again) for Santa
Barbara, where we arrived on the 5th. Coming round Santa
Buenaventura, and nearing the anchorage, we saw two vessels in
port, a large full-rigged, and a small, hermaphrodite brig. The
former, the crew said, must be the Pilgrim; but I had been too
long in the Pilgrim to be mistaken in her, and I was right in
differing from them, for, upon nearer approach, her long, low,
shear, sharp bows, and raking masts, told quite another story.
``Man-of-war brig,'' said some of them; ``Baltimore clipper,''
said others; the Ayacucho, thought I; and soon the broad folds of
the beautiful banner of St. George-- white field with blood-red
border and cross-- were displayed from her peak. A few minutes put
it beyond a doubt, and we were lying by the side of the Ayacucho,
which had sailed from San Diego about nine months before, while we
were lying there in the Pilgrim. She had since been to Valparaiso,
Callao, and the Sandwich Islands, and had just come upon the
coast. Her boat came on board, bringing Captain Wilson; and in
half an hour the news was all over the ship that there was a war
between the United States and France. Exaggerated accounts reached
the forecastle. Battles had been fought, a large French fleet was
in the Pacific, &c., &c.; and one of the boat's crew of the
Ayacucho said that, when they left Callao, a large French frigate
and the American frigate Brandywine, which were lying there, were
going outside to have a battle, and that the English frigate
Blonde was to be umpire, and see fair play. Here was important
news for us. Alone, on an unprotected coast, without an American
man-of-war within some thousands of miles, and the prospect of a
voyage home through the whole length of the Pacific and Atlantic
Oceans! A French prison seemed a much more probable place of
destination than the good port of Boston. However, we were too
salt to believe every yarn that comes into the forecastle, and
waited to hear the truth of the matter from higher authority. By
means of the supercargo's clerk I got the amount of the matter,
which was, that the governments had had a difficulty about the
payment of a debt; that war had been threatened and prepared for,
but not actually declared, although it was pretty generally
anticipated. This was not quite so bad, yet was no small cause of
anxiety. But we cared very little about the matter ourselves.
``Happy go lucky'' with Jack! We did not believe that a French
prison would be much worse than ``hide droghing'' on the coast of
California; and no one who has not been a long, dull voyage, shut
up in one ship, can conceive of the effect of monotony upon one's
thoughts and wishes. The prospect of a change is a green spot in
the desert, and the probability of great events and exciting
scenes creates a feeling of delight, and sets life in motion, so
as to give a pleasure which any one not in the same state would be
unable to explain. In fact, a more jovial night we had not passed
in the forecastle for months. All seemed in unaccountably high
spirits. An undefined anticipation of radical changes, of new
scenes and great doings, seemed to have possessed every one, and
the common drudgery of the vessel appeared contemptible. Here was
a new vein opened,-- a grand theme of conversation and a topic for
all sorts of discussions. National feeling was wrought up. Jokes
were cracked upon the only Frenchman in the ship, and comparisons
made between ``old horse'' and ``soup meagre,'' &c., &c.

We remained in uncertainty as to this war for more than two
months, when an arrival from the Sandwich Islands brought us the
news of an amicable arrangement of the difficulties.

The other vessel which we found in port was the hermaphrodite brig
Avon, from the Sandwich Islands. She was fitted up in handsome
style; fired a gun, and ran her ensign up and down at sunrise and
sunset; had a band of four or five pieces of music on board, and
appeared rather like a pleasure yacht than a trader; yet, in
connection with the Loriotte, Clementine, Bolivar, Convoy, and
other small vessels, belonging to sundry Americans at Oahu, she
carried on a considerable trade,-- legal and illegal, in
otter-skins, silks, teas, &c., as well as hides and tallow.

The second day after our arrival, a full-rigged brig came round
the point from the northward, sailed leisurely through the bay,
and stood off again for the southeast in the direction of the
large island of Catalina. The next day the Avon got under way, and
stood in the same direction, bound for San Pedro. This might do
for marines and Californians, but we knew the ropes too well. The
brig was never again seen on the coast, and the Avon went into San
Pedro in about a week with a replenished cargo of Canton and
American goods.

This was one of the means of escaping the heavy duties the
Mexicans lay upon all imports. A vessel comes on the coast, enters
a moderate cargo at Monterey, which is the only custom-house, and
commences trading. In a month or more, having sold a large part of
her cargo, she stretches over to Catalina, or other of the large,
uninhabited islands which lie off the coast, in a trip from port
to port, and supplies herself with choice goods from a vessel from
Oahu, which has been lying off and on the islands, waiting for
her. Two days after the sailing of the Avon, the Loriotte came in
from the leeward, and without doubt had also a snatch at the
brig's cargo.

Tuesday, November 10th. Going ashore, as usual, in the gig, just
before sundown, to bring off the captain, we found, upon taking in
the captain and pulling off again, that our ship, which lay the
farthest out, had run up her ensign. This meant ``Sail ho!'' of
course, but as we were within the point we could see nothing.
``Give way, boys! Give way! Lay out on your oars, and long
stroke!'' said the captain; and stretching to the whole length of
our arms, bending back again so that our backs touched the
thwarts, we sent her through the water like a rocket. A few
minutes of such pulling opened the islands, one after another, in
range of the point, and gave us a view of the Canal, where was a
ship, under top-gallant-sails, standing in, with a light breeze,
for the anchorage. Putting the boat's head in the direction of the
ship, the captain told us to lay out again; and we needed no
spurring, for the prospect of boarding a new ship, perhaps from
home, hearing the news, and having something to tell of when we
got back, was excitement enough for us, and we gave way with a
will. Captain Nye, of the Loriotte, who had been an old whaleman,
was in the stern-sheets, and fell mightily into the spirit of it.
``Bend your backs, and break your oars!'' said he. ``Lay me on,
Captain Bunker!'' ``There she flukes!'' and other exclamations
current among whalemen. In the mean time it fell flat calm, and,
being within a couple of miles of the ship, we expected to board
her in a few minutes, when a breeze sprung up, dead ahead for the
ship, and she braced up and stood off toward the islands, sharp on
the larboard tack, making good way through the water. This, of
course, brought us up, and we had only to ``ease larboard oars,
pull round starboard!'' and go aboard the Alert, with something
very like a flea in the ear. There was a light land-breeze all
night, and the ship did not come to anchor until the next morning.

As soon as her anchor was down we went aboard, and found her to be
the whale-ship Wilmington and Liverpool Packet, of New Bedford,
last from the ``off-shore ground,'' with nineteen hundred barrels
of oil. A ``spouter'' we knew her to be, as soon as we saw her, by
her cranes and boats, and by her stump top-gallant-masts, and a
certain slovenly look to the sails, rigging, spars, and hull; and
when we got on board, we found everything to correspond,-- spouter
fashion. She had a false deck, which was rough and oily, and cut
up in every direction by the chines of oil casks; her rigging was
slack, and turning white, paint worn off the spars and blocks,
clumsy seizings, straps without covers, and ``homeward-bound
splices'' in every direction. Her crew, too, were not in much
better order. Her captain was a slab-sided Quaker, in a suit of
brown, with a broad-brimmed hat, bending his long legs as he moved
about decks, with his head down, like a sheep, and the men looked
more like fishermen and farmers than they did like sailors.

Though it was by no means cold weather (we having on only our red
shirts and duck trousers), they all had on woollen trousers,-- not
blue and ship-shape, but of all colors,-- brown, drab, gray, aye,
and green,-- with suspenders over their shoulders, and pockets to
put their hands in. This, added to Guernsey frocks, striped
comforters about the neck, thick cowhide boots, woollen caps, and
a strong, oily smell, and a decidedly green look, will complete
the description. Eight or ten were on the fore topsail yard, and
as many more in the main, furling the topsails, while eight or ten
were hanging about the forecastle, doing nothing. This was a
strange sight for a vessel coming to anchor; so we went up to
them, to see what was the matter. One of them, a stout,
hearty-looking fellow, held out his leg and said he had the
scurvy; another had cut his hand; and others had got nearly well,
but said that there were plenty aloft to furl the sails, so they
were sogering on the forecastle. There was only one ``splicer'' on
board, a fine-looking old tar, who was in the bunt of the fore
topsail. He was probably the only thorough marline-spike seaman in
the ship, before the mast. The mates, of course, and the
boat-steerers, and also two or three of the crew, had been to sea
before, but only on whaling voyages; and the greater part of the
crew were raw hands, just from the bush, and had not yet got the
hay-seed out of their hair. The mizzen topsail hung in the
buntlines until everything was furled forward. Thus a crew of
thirty men were half an hour in doing what would have been done in
the Alert, with eighteen hands to go aloft, in fifteen or twenty

We found they had been at sea six or eight months, and had no news
to tell us, so we left them, and promised to get liberty to come
on board in the evening for some curiosities. Accordingly, as soon
as we were knocked off in the evening and were through supper, we
obtained leave, took a boat, and went aboard and spent an hour or
two. They gave us pieces of whalebone, and the teeth and other
parts of curious sea animals, and we exchanged books with them,--
a practice very common among ships in foreign ports, by which you
get rid of the books you have read and re-read, and a supply of
new ones in their stead, and Jack is not very nice as to their
comparative value.[2]

Thursday, November 12th. This day was quite cool in the early
part, and there were black clouds about; but as it was often so in
the morning, nothing was apprehended, and all the captains went
ashore together to spend the day. Towards noon the clouds hung
heavily over the mountains, coming half-way down the hills that
encircle the town of Santa Barbara, and a heavy swell rolled in
from the southeast. The mate immediately ordered the gig's crew
away, and, at the same time, we saw boats pulling ashore from the
other vessels. Here was a grand chance for a rowing-match, and
every one did his best. We passed the boats of the Ayacucho and
Loriotte, but could not hold our own with the long six-oared boat
of the whale-ship. They reached the breakers before us; but here
we had the advantage of them, for, not being used to the surf,
they were obliged to wait to see us beach our boat, just as, in
the same place, nearly a year before, we, in the Pilgrim, were
glad to be taught by a boat's crew of Kanakas.

We had hardly got the boats beached, and their heads pointed out
to sea, before our old friend, Bill Jackson, the handsome English
sailor, who steered the Loriotte's boat, called out that his brig
was adrift; and, sure enough, she was dragging her anchors, and
drifting down into the bight of the bay. Without waiting for the
captain (for there was no one on board the brig but the mate and
steward), he sprung into the boat, called the Kanakas together,
and tried to put off. But the Kanakas, though capital water-dogs,
were frightened by their vessel's being adrift, and by the
emergency of the case, and seemed to lose their faculties. Twice
their boat filled, and came broadside upon the beach. Jackson
swore at them for a parcel of savages, and promised to flog every
one of them. This made the matter no better; when we came forward,
told the Kanakas to take their seats in the boat, and, going two
on each side, walked out with her till it was up to our shoulders,
and gave them a shove, when, giving way with their oars, they got
her safely into the long, regular swell. In the mean time, boats
had put off to the Loriotte from our ship and the whaler, and,
coming all on board the brig together, they let go the other
anchor, paid out chain, braced the yards to the wind, and brought
the vessel up.

In a few minutes, the captains came hurrying down, on the run; and
there was no time to be lost, for the gale promised to be a severe
one, and the surf was breaking upon the beach, three deep, higher
and higher every instant. The Ayacucho's boat, pulled by four
Kanakas, put off first, and as they had no rudder or steering-oar,
would probably never have got off, had we not waded out with them
as far as the surf would permit. The next that made the attempt
was the whale-boat, for we, being the most experienced
``beach-combers,'' needed no help, and stayed till the last.
Whalemen make the best boats' crews in the world for a long pull,
but this landing was new to them, and, notwithstanding the
examples they had had, they slewed round and were hove up-- boat,
oars, and men-- all together, high and dry upon the sand. The
second time they filled, and had to turn their boat over, and set
her off again. We could be of no help to them, for they were so
many as to be in one another's way, without the addition of our
numbers. The third time they got off, though not without shipping
a sea which drenched them all, and half filled their boat, keeping
them baling until they reached their ship. We now got ready to go
off, putting the boat's head out; English Ben and I, who were the
largest, standing on each side of the bows to keep her head out to
the sea, two more shipping and manning the two after oars, and the
captain taking the steering oar. Two or three Mexicans, who stood
upon the beach looking at us, wrapped their cloaks about them,
shook their heads, and muttered ``Caramba!'' They had no taste for
such doings; in fact, the hydrophobia is a national malady, and
shows itself in their persons as well as their actions.

Watching for a ``smooth chance,'' we determined to show the other
boats the way it should be done, and, as soon as ours floated, ran
out with her, keeping her head out, with all our strength, and the
help of the captain's oar, and the two after oarsmen giving way
regularly and strongly, until our feet were off the ground, we
tumbled into the bows, keeping perfectly still, from fear of
hindering the others. For some time it was doubtful how it would
go. The boat stood nearly up and down in the water, and the sea,
rolling from under her, let her fall upon the water with a force
which seemed almost to stave her bottom in. By quietly sliding two
oars forward, along the thwarts, without impeding the rowers, we
shipped two bow oars, and thus, by the help of four oars and the
captain's strong arm, we got safely off, though we shipped several
seas, which left us half full of water. We pulled alongside of the
Loriotte, put her skipper on board, and found her making
preparations for slipping, and then pulled aboard our own ship.
Here Mr. Brown, always ``on hand,'' had got everything ready, so
that we had only to hook on the gig and hoist it up, when the
order was given to loose the sails. While we were on the yards, we
saw the Loriotte under way, and, before our yards were
mast-headed, the Ayacucho had spread her wings, and, with yards
braced sharp up, was standing athwart our hawse. There is no
prettier sight in the world than a full-rigged, clipper-built
brig, sailing sharp on the wind. In a minute more our slip-rope
was gone, the head-yards filled away, and we were off. Next came
the whaler; and in half an hour from the time when four vessels
were lying quietly at anchor, without a rag out, or a sign of
motion, the bay was deserted, and four white clouds were moving
over the water to seaward. Being sure of clearing the point, we
stood off with our yards a little braced in, while the Ayacucho
went off with a taut bowline, which brought her to windward of us.
During all this day, and the greater part of the night, we had the
usual southeaster entertainment, a gale of wind, with occasional
rain, and finally topped off with a drenching rain of three or
four hours. At daybreak the clouds thinned off and rolled away,
and the sun came up clear. The wind, instead of coming out from
the northward, as is usual, blew steadily and freshly from the
anchoring-ground. This was bad for us, for, being ``flying
light,'' with little more than ballast trim, we were in no
condition for showing off on a taut bowline, and had depended upon
a fair wind, with which, by the help of our light sails and
studding-sails, we meant to have been the first at the
anchoring-ground; but the Ayacucho was a good league to windward
of us, and was standing in in fine style. The whaler, however, was
as far to leeward of us, and the Loriotte was nearly out of sight,
among the islands, up the Canal. By hauling every brace and
bowline, and clapping watch-tackles upon all the sheets and
halyards, we managed to hold our own, and drop the leeward vessels
a little in every tack. When we reached the anchoring-ground, the
Ayacucho had got her anchor, furled her sails, squared her yards,
and was lying as quietly as if nothing had happened.

We had our usual good luck in getting our anchor without letting
go another, and were all snug, with our boats at the boom-ends, in
half an hour. In about two hours more the whaler came in, and made
a clumsy piece of work in getting her anchor, being obliged to let
go her best bower, and, finally, to get out a kedge and a hawser.
They were heave-ho-ing, stopping and unstopping, pawling, catting,
and fishing for three hours; and the sails hung from the yards all
the afternoon, and were not furled until sundown. The Loriotte
came in just after dark, and let go her anchor, making no attempt
to pick up the other until the next day.

This affair led to a dispute as to the sailing of our ship and the
Ayacucho. Bets were made between the captains, and the crews took
it up in their own way; but as she was bound to leeward and we to
windward, and merchant captains cannot deviate, a trial never took
place; and perhaps it was well for us that it did not, for the
Ayacucho had been eight years in the Pacific, in every part of it,--
Valparaiso, Sandwich Islands, Canton, California, and all,-- and
was called the fastest merchant-man that traded in the Pacific,
unless it was the brig John Gilpin, and perhaps the ship Ann
McKim, of Baltimore.

Saturday, November 14th. This day we got under way, with the agent
and several Mexicans of note, as passengers, bound up to Monterey.
We went ashore in the gig to bring them off with their baggage,
and found them waiting on the beach, and a little afraid about
going off, as the surf was running very high. This was nuts to us,
for we liked to have a Mexican wet with salt water; and then the
agent was very much disliked by the crew, one and all; and we
hoped, as there was no officer in the boat, to have a chance to
duck them, for we knew that they were such ``marines'' that they
would not know whether it was our fault or not. Accordingly, we
kept the boat so far from shore as to oblige them to wet their
feet in getting into her; and then waited for a good high comber,
and, letting the head slue a little round, sent the whole force of
the sea into the stern-sheets, drenching them from head to feet.
The Mexicans sprang out of the boat, swore, and shook themselves,
and protested against trying it again; and it was with the
greatest difficulty that the agent could prevail upon them to make
another attempt. The next time we took care, and went off easily
enough, and pulled aboard. The crew came to the side to hoist in
their baggage, and heartily enjoyed the half-drowned looks of the

Everything being now ready, and the passengers aboard, we ran up
the ensign and broad pennant (for there was no man-of-war, and we
were the largest vessel on the coast), and the other vessels ran
up their ensigns. Having hove short, cast off the gaskets, and
made the bunt of each sail fast by the jigger, with a man on each
yard, at the word the whole canvas of the ship was loosed, and
with the greatest rapidity possible everything was sheeted home
and hoisted up, the anchor tripped and cat-headed, and the ship
under headway. We were determined to show the ``spouter'' how
things could be done in a smart ship, with a good crew, though not
more than half his numbers. The royal yards were all crossed at
once, and royals and sky-sails set, and, as we had the wind free,
the booms were run out, and all were aloft, active as cats, laying
out on the yards and booms, reeving the studding-sail gear; and
sail after sail the captain piled upon her, until she was covered
with canvas, her sails looking like a great white cloud resting
upon a black speck. Before we doubled the point, we were going at
a dashing rate, and leaving the shipping far astern. We had a fine
breeze to take us through the Canal, as they call this bay of
forty miles long by ten wide. The breeze died away at night, and
we were becalmed all day on Sunday, about half-way between Santa
Barbara and Point Conception. Sunday night we had a light, fair
wind, which set us up again; and having a fine sea-breeze on the
first part of Monday we had the prospect of passing, without any
trouble, Point Conception,-- the Cape Horn of California, where,
the sailors say, it begins to blow the first of January, and blows
until the last of December. Toward the latter part of the
afternoon, however, the regular northwest wind, as usual, set in,
which brought in our studding-sails, and gave us the chance of
beating round the Point, which we were now just abreast of, and
which stretched off into the Pacific, high, rocky, and barren,
forming the central point of the coast for hundreds of miles north
and south. A cap-full of wind will be a bag-full here, and before
night our royals were furled, and the ship was laboring hard under
her top-gallant-sails. At eight bells our watch went below,
leaving her with as much sail as she could stagger under, the
water flying over the forecastle at every plunge. It was evidently
blowing harder, but then there was not a cloud in the sky, and the
sun had gone down bright.

We had been below but a short time, before we had the usual
premonitions of a coming gale,-- seas washing over the whole
forward part of the vessel, and her bows beating against them with
a force and sound like the driving of piles. The watch, too,
seemed very busy trampling about decks, and singing out at the
ropes. A sailor can tell, by the sound, what sail is coming in;
and, in a short time, we heard the top-gallant-sails come in, one
after another, and then the flying jib. This seemed to ease her a
good deal, and we were fast going off to the land of Nod, when--
bang, bang, bang-- on the scuttle, and ``All hands, reef topsails,
ahoy!'' started us out of our berths; and, it not being very cold
weather, we had nothing extra to put on, and were soon on deck. I
shall never forget the fineness of the sight. It was a clear, and
rather a chilly night; the stars were twinkling with an intense
brightness, and as far as the eye could reach there was not a
cloud to be seen. The horizon met the sea in a defined line. A
painter could not have painted so clear a sky. There was not a
speck upon it. Yet it was blowing great guns from the northwest.
When you can see a cloud to windward, you feel that there is a
place for the wind to come from; but here it seemed to come from
nowhere. No person could have told from the heavens, by their
eyesight alone, that it was not a still summer's night. One reef
after another we took in the topsails, and before we could get
them hoisted up we heard a sound like a short, quick rattling of
thunder, and the jib was blown to atoms out of the bolt-rope. We
got the topsails set, and the fragments of the jib stowed away,
and the fore topmast staysail set in its place, when the great
mainsail gaped open, and the sail ripped from head to foot. ``Lay
up on that main yard and furl the sail, before it blows to
tatters!'' shouted the captain; and in a moment we were up,
gathering the remains of it upon the yard. We got it wrapped round
the yard, and passed gaskets over it as snugly as possible, and
were just on deck again, when, with another loud rent, which was
heard throughout the ship, the fore topsail, which had been
double-reefed, split in two athwartships, just below the
reef-band, from earing to earing. Here again it was-- down yard,
haul out reef-tackles, and lay out upon the yard for reefing. By
hauling the reef-tackles chock-a-block we took the strain from the
other earings, and passing the close-reef earing, and knotting the
points carefully, we succeeded in setting the sail, close reefed.

We had but just got the rigging coiled up, and were waiting to
hear ``Go below the watch!'' when the main royal worked loose from
the gaskets, and blew directly out to leeward, flapping, and
shaking the mast like a wand. Here was a job for somebody. The
royal must come in or be cut adrift, or the mast would be snapped
short off. All the light hands in the starboard watch were sent up
one after another, but they could do nothing with it. At length,
John, the tall Frenchman, the head of the starboard watch (and a
better sailor never stepped upon a deck), sprang aloft, and, by
the help of his long arms and legs, succeeded, after a hard
struggle,-- the sail blowing over the yard-arm to leeward, and the
skysail adrift directly over his head,-- in smothering it and
frapping it with long pieces of sinnet. He came very near being
blown or shaken from the yard several times, but he was a true
sailor, every finger a fish-hook. Having made the sail snug, he
prepared to send the yard down, which was a long and difficult
job; for, frequently, he was obliged to stop, and hold on with all
his might for several minutes, the ship pitching so as to make it
impossible to do anything else at that height. The yard at length
came down safe, and, after it, the fore and mizzen royal yards
were sent down. All hands were then sent aloft, and for an hour or
two we were hard at work, making the booms well fast, unreeving
the studding-sail and royal and skysail gear, getting
rolling-ropes on the yard, setting up the weather
breast-backstays, and making other preparations for a storm. It
was a fine night for a gale; just cool and bracing enough for
quick work, without being cold, and as bright as day. It was sport
to have a gale in such weather as this. Yet it blew like a
hurricane. The wind seemed to come with a spite, an edge to it,
which threatened to scrape us off the yards. The force of the wind
was greater than I had ever felt it before; but darkness, cold,
and wet are the worst parts of a storm, to a sailor.

Having got on deck again, we looked round to see what time of
night it was, and whose watch. In a few minutes the man at the
wheel struck four bells, and we found that the other watch was
out, and our own half out. Accordingly, the starboard watch went
below, and left the ship to us for a couple of hours, yet with
orders to stand by for a call.

Hardly had they got below, before away went the fore topmast
staysail, blown to ribands. This was a small sail, which we could
manage in the watch, so that we were not obliged to call up the
other watch. We laid out upon the bowsprit, where we were under
water half the time, and took in the fragments of the sail, and,


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