EJANAH: Hulme Chapter Eight

Volume 8

Around Cape Horn The Roaring Forties Trade winds to the Azores Falmouth, England Home to Ashton-Under- Line at last! Reunion

We now learned for the first time that we were bound for Falmouth for orders, where Capt. Loutitt would learn to what port he should take the guano. The ‘Eliza’ might be ordered to Liverpool or London, or to some port on the Continent, Hamburg, Antwerp or Havre. We stood off on the port tack for eight or nine days. The trade winds were not steady, sometimes we were heading up south and south by west. After going round on the starboard tack we stood to the nor’d and eastward for three or four days, and then went in stays again before we made the land.

We were out from the islands about six weeks before we lost the Trades. They gradually grew lighter. For the last week we had made two stretches into the land and were standing out when the wind died away, and for another week we drifted back northerly. We had so far had nothing but light winds and a cloudless sky, but a change came suddenly one night after we had been becalmed about a week.

During the last dog watch, between six and eight o’clock, dark clouds began to roll up from about west – southwest. The three royals Fore and Mizzen top-gallant sails were taken in, and main-top-mast sail and flying jib, and at eight bells when our watch (the port watch) went below, we did not expect to get the whole watch below without being called out to shorten sail. Before I got to sleep the main-top-gallant-sail had been taken in and stowed. After that I must have dozed off into a sleep, that was broken by one of the watch coming into the forecastle to call all hands to shorten sail.

In five minutes every man was on deck, and the second mate taking the boys and ordinary seamen aft, clewed up the cross jack or mizzen and put two reefs in the mizzen-top sail; while the balance of the crew under the mates’ orders were putting two reefs in the fore top sail, one in the main-top sail. After getting down from aloft and the yards trimmed by getting a pull on the weather braces, and the ‘Eliza’ had at least got the wind she wanted to drive her around Cape Horn. And the way she was now boiling through the water promised to shorten up the distance fast.

As soon as we were down from aloft and the yards checked in, the boatswain piped ‘That will do the watch’, and then piped ‘Grog, ho’. So long as I was in the ‘Eliza’ the watch below were never called to shorten sail and sent below without receiving an extra lot of grog, the only sailing vessel I ever was in that that rule was strictly followed, and I can also say that I never was in a ship of any nationality where there was so much harmony and good feeling between the officers and crew as there was in the ‘Eliza’ for during the fourteen months I was in her I do not recollect of a cross word passing between any man fore or aft.

Day after day we still carried the strong westerly winds, for we were now in the ‘Roaring Forties’. The weather too began to change, cape pigeon and albatross were plentiful but flying high. We now began to see the white nosed porpoises, or what sailors call Cape Horn Porpoises, as they are not seen far north in warmer weather. We had been driving to the south’ard some ten days or more, and had one deck whitened several times by light flurries, but not enough of it to last long. The weather too began to grow colder, far colder than any I had been in for some years. We sighted but few vessels and they were steering north, going about as free as we were.

We were all conjecturing in the forecastle whether we were south of the Horn or not. One day at dinner one of the oldest apprentices, who had made two voyages in the ‘Eliza’ said the Old Man for five or six years back had rounded the Horn in near 62 south Latitude, where he always hove to for soundings and took a fresh departure from there.

Captain Loutitt had been in command of the ‘Eliza’ some seven or eight years, mostly trading between London and Sydney, N.S.W. and on one of his voyages had for passenger, going home to England, a gentleman who had been connected with a surveying vessel belonging to Great Britain some years before. He and Capt. Loutitt were talking one day about the deep sea soundings off Cape Horn, telling him he had a deep sea lead line of 500 feet long, he could find bottom with it in 62 south Latitude 300 miles south of Cape Horn, and as his course would bring him close to the spot on reaching Latitude and Longitude given him by the government officer the Eliza was hove to for soundings, and bottom found with ninety fathoms, and on every voyage afterwards on his homeward passage, rounding Cape Horn, the Eliza was hove to and soundings taken. And in this voyage we found out we were going into 62 south, though we could have kept away, long before we did, and rounded the cape as it was. It was near the end of August before we were on the banks as the Old Man called them. The soundings were taken while our watch was below and we were told that bottom was found at 98 fathoms. Our deep sea lead line was 100 fathoms with a twenty-four pound lead and the watch had top take it to the capstan in order to heave it in. After getting in the lead line the main- top-sail was filled away and with her yards checked in on the port tack and a ten knot breeze driving her the Eliza made nothing fast for the next week or ten days. So far we had clear but very cold weather, but as we drew near to the Falkland Islands the wind canted more southerly and brought snow storms along. The first real nasty weather we had experienced so far to tell us what Cape Horn weather was or could be.

We had been running since hauling her up to the north’ard with the wind about three points free, but when we began to get snow squalls the wind hauled more southerly and freshened. The royals had been taken in by our watch during the forenoon, and the star-board watch took the fore and mizzen top gallant sails in in their watch, in the afternoon. Before dark the main top gallant sail was clewed down and stowed. The sea was now running heavy, but we were running before it and making good weather. There was one good quality about the ‘Eliza’ and that was she steered like a pilot boat, running before a heavy sea, both when she was in ballast and now when she was loaded. The first watch from eight to twelve passed, and we went below thinking we were done with the heaviest squalls, but it must have been tween two and three when we got a call to shorten sail. We were not long in getting on deck.

As I stepped out of her forecastle door I heard my name called by the third mate, and a paniken was handed me, but it was so intensely dark that I could not see him. I knew what the paniken contained and took a long drink, and then started aft where I could hear the pulling going on.

As I got aft to the main-rigging on the port side the main-top sail reef tackles had been hauled out and as I got among the men the boatswain was just singing out, ‘Belay the reef tackles’, ‘Lay aloft and put in two reefs’. As he spoke I made a spring for the main- rigging, and found myself the first man on the topsail yard at the weather reefing earing, and I knew at the same time that the big drink of Old Jamacia Rum I had taken at the forecastle door had made me drunk as a fool.

The man who was out with me helping to pass the earing thought I acted queer. He told me afterwards. But the reefs were got in and we got on deck, but how I got down on deck from that main-top sail yard I never could tell. I think when I got on deck I must have gone forward with the notion of going into the forecastle, but did not get there, for when daylight broke the watch on deck found me laying on the deck close under the windlass on the after part of it, and I was persuaded to go and turn in, and as I did not have either wheel or lookout that next watch I do not think any one but the boatswain knew what an ass I had made of myself, that is among the officers, for the men forward could not help but know it. Laying in the bunk the following day, suffering from bad headache, I registered a vow to myself that so long as I retained my natural senses I would never let run again get the weather gauge of me, and that vow has been pretty faithfully observed.

When our watch came on deck at noon I found the main-sail and mizzen top sails, spanker and cross-jack all stowed and the ship running under double reefed main-top sail, close reefed fore top sail and single reefed fore sail and for five or six days we ran before that gale and sea. When it died away left us rolling in a heavy dead swell off the river LaPlatte.

We now had variable winds for the next twelve or fourteen days, but making some northing all the time. But we finally got a light breeze from the Nor’rd and West’erd that carried us along with a free wind for another week and then left us becalmed again.

We had now got well north and were expecting to get the S.E. Trades, but for a week or more, if the ‘Eliza’ had been a painted ship on a painted ocean, she could not have floated more quietly. The surface of the water was glistening and throwing back the rays of the hot sun as though it was a sea of glass.

Advantage, though was taken of this calm to unbend and send down the heavy weather sails we had rounded Cape Horn with, and they were replaced with an older and lighter suit, good enough to carry the ‘Eliza’ through the trades if not home altogether.

The shifting of the sails was the cause of getting me into the only pugilistic encounter I had so far got emboiled in, and when I got through I knew how it felt to be licked for I got a good threshing. A young fellow in our watch named Walton and I were sent aloft to send down the main top gallant sail. Walton was the first one on the yard and took the starboard yard arm to unbend. He had some bother about getting the head earings clear, and I got myself all cast loose first and was in the bunt waiting his die of the sail to come in so that it could all be lashed up together to be sent down. Though no notice was taken of his being slow from the decks he got mad at me for not holding on to my earing until he was ready to let go also. I took little notice of his growling aloft but at noon while at dinner he took it up again and threatened to lick me if I gave him any more back jaw about it, and as I did not feel any dread of him I made a hot reply back, and he started for me but the rest of our watch interfered and said if there was to be a fight to go on deck for it, where there was more room.

We both got to the top-gallant forecastle deck and a ring was soon made and at it we went, but I soon found out I was no where with Watson in a game of that kind. He had more science than I had, and the result was that I had a lot of conceit taken out of me and that I knew nothing about boxing and got well threshed in the bargain, though we were pretty well matched for size and strength, that made no difference he pummeled me just about as he wanted to, until I told him I had enough and he was taken off, though he felt like pounding me longer. We washed our faces and went below and finished dinner.

I did not know until afterwards that the mate, Mr. Marshall, had witnessed the finish of our tussle. That night while I was as the wheel he asked me what was the cause of it, and I told him. ‘Wel’lad,’ said he in his broad north country dialect ‘The wa’rt a fule to tackle Watson, didn’t than know he were a cockney and a natural born boxer’.

Although I made no comment to Mr. Marshall’s answer, I made a mental note to the fact that I was no natural born boxer. The jangle between me and Watson left no ill feeling however, although I could not see how I deserved the licking.

Soon after getting our light weather canvas bent, we got the long looked for trade winds, light though, at first. They grew stronger as we got farther north. About the third day after getting the south east trades, two sail hove in sight on our weather quarter. We were making fair headway carrying all our square canvas and starboard fore lower and top-mast and top gallant studding sails, but the strangers were faster than the ‘Eliza’. They passed us some three or four miles to windward. Captain Loutitt exchanged signals with both vessels. They were rival traders between Liverpool and Rio De’Janerio. The leading vessel was the barque ‘Sword Fish’, and the other vessel was the barque ‘Don Pedro’ the second. It was evidently a race between the Captains. They were carrying all the sail they could crowd on, and they were not long in leaving the ‘Eliza’ far astern. They were both clipper barques, and the ‘Eliza’ was far from being a clipper, but she kept going ahead all the time and shortening up the passage home.

We ran through the southeast trades and were only delayed a few days before struck the northeast trades. Soon after crossing the line, during all this pleasant weather, there was very little change in the daily routine of our duties occurred to break the monotony of our every day’s work, that had now been started to get the ‘Eliza’ looking her prettiest, and to return the old ship home wearing her brightest colors, and setting up standing rigging was carried on by both watches.

Ocasionally we had a little diversion catching fish. We got some Albicore and Bonita, but though we often saw Dolphin we got none. Before we got through the northeast trades the rigging had been all over hauled and tarred down. After the Trades left us we were again becalmed for a few days, but that was dispelled one night in a hurry. The early part of the first watch was bright and clear but before eight o’clock a black cloud rolled up from northwest that rapidly swept down on us. Before the breeze struck, the studding sails had all been taken in and the booms rigged in, but none too soon, for both watches had their hands full, for the next two hours taking in and shortening sail, and by the time we got through the ‘Eliza’ was bounding along like a racer, with her yards checked in under, the whole fore sail single reefed fore and mizzen top sails, a whole main top sail, main sail and cross jack hauled up. The north wester ran us past the Azores or Western Islands, we sighted the island of Brava, the only one of the group we saw; but instead of dying away the wind only hauled more westerly giving us square yards, and a chance to shake out reefs and make more sail, but a fair wind is not a continuous thing any more than a calm is and the westerly breeze died out leaving us rolling in a heavy dead swell off the Bay of Biscay, in company with six other vessels, one of them an old brig close by us deep loaded with sugar from Kingston, Jamacia. She was so close to us that conversation could be carried on between the two Captains. And as she rolled her side out of the water, showing the barricles hanging onto her coppered sides as thick as they could possibly be stuck on. She was the brig ‘Henrietta’ of and bound to Bristol, twenty-two days out from Kingston.

We rolled and tumbled about there for three days before the sea ran down, and then we got the wind light from the eastward. And we all went off on the starboard tack, close hauled. We had light easterly weather for a week or more, and during this time we painted mast heads and studding sails boom ends, scraped and oiled the booms, and painted the bulkwarks inside and out and topsides below her painted ports. While this was being done we went standing back and forth in the chops of the channel. We were now in company with a large fleet of vessels, inward bound from all parts of the world. We sighted the French coast near Brest, and got the wind off the land there, and carried a light southerly wind until we ran across the channel, and picked up a Scilly island pilot, who took charge and brought the ship to anchor in Falmouth Roads, on November Sixteenth, one hundred and thirty-three days from the Chincha Islands.

After getting to anchor and sails all stowed, on coming down from aloft we found ourselves surrounded by jews, who soon found out that we were from Australia by way of the Chincha Islands, and consequently had a good big pay day ahead and they were urging, almost forcing their goods upon us, taking a due bill on the ship. Most of us bought something, some clothing, some jewelry. We lay here four days before we received orders to come on to London.

In the meantime Capt. Loutitt had been joined by his wife and two little girls, one about twelve and the other nine or ten years old. And they remained aboard and made the passage up the channel with us, making the old ship seem more home-like by the presence of the Captain’s wife and children.

We left Falmouth in charge of a channel pilot. We had light winds, and were three days before he brought us to anchor at the North Freland and gave the ship up to a London River Pilot, who got her under way with the flood tide and worked her up to the Gravesend, where we got a tug, who took hold of us, and at day-light of November twenty-fourth we found ourselves alongside of a large ship, waiting for high water to enter the Victoria Dock, at Blackwall. I was at the wheel at the time we made fast to the other vessel, but had taken no notice of her, until I heard my name called out by the man at her wheel, and was surprised to see French Tom and to learn that the ship alongside was the ‘William Treat’, that left the Chinchas six weeks ahead of us.

Tom and I had been having quite a long talk with one another about our voyage home. They had experienced more calm weather than we had, and Tom said the ‘Eliza’ was some faster.

While we were still talking Capt. Loutitt came on the Poop deck and recognized the Frenchman’s voice and threatened to have him arrested for deserting his ship and to stop his pay on the ship he was then on, but I believe the Old Man said it more to scare him than anything else, for he never took any more notice of it. But the frenchman was uneasy about it until he got paid off, and then took the first R.R. Train for Liverpool.

We were towed right to our berth in the dock as soon as the gates were open, and the ‘Eliza’, was made fast for good, and our long voyage was done, and now came the most sincere regret of the whole crew that the voyage was ended and parting.

We had been so long together like members of a family, that each man and boy on board the old ship was sorry to part with each other. But boarding house runners were alongside with wagons and all of their clamoring, and urging the merits and advantages of their respective boarding houses. So Adieus were spoken, bags, sea-chests, and hammocks were loaded into one or another of the wagons their owners going with them.

Myself and Charley Beattie going to the Wells’ St. Sailors’ Home, to stay there until we were paid off and got our discharges, that the Old Man told us would not be earlier than three days.

As a home for sailors the Wells Street Home and the Green Sailors’ Home are far ahead of any private sailor’s boarding house I ever boarded in. The well known firm of ship owners, Green and Wigram, having built a home for the sailors in their employ, or the unmarried portion of them, when they returned from their long voyages to India and China, or Australia, where the men could enjoy all the comforts of a private home, each man having a room to himself, unless two shipmates chose to sleep together, then they could do so.

The officers of both the Sailors’ Homes were retired sea Captains or men who had followed the sea in some capacity or other. Men who understood a sailor’s ways and dispositions so that the change in associations from the ship to one of these sailors homes were not easily noticed, unless for the better, for though the rules of both the sailors’ homes were stringent and strictly enforced there was seldom any trouble with the men who made these homes their only homes while ashore.

The discipline these men had been accustomed to in the East Indies, and in fact in all well regulated ships, such as are found in the lines of first class ships, known as East India Men, or engaged in the Australian trade from London. Although the rules of the sailors’ home seemed slack and easy to the men fresh from the more strict discipline of ship board, still the rules and regulations of the home varied but little from those observed on board ship, but the training those men had received kept them from infringing the rules and regulations, although the only penalty for so doing was dismissal from the home. The genuine thorough-bred sailor having a deep sense of honor and pride in the knowledge that either the officers of his ship, or the officers of one of those sailor’s homes treat and respect him as a man and but few men who go to either of those sailors’ homes ever incur the penalty of dismissal through breach of discipline. The meals are served at a regular hour in a large airy dining room, and to each of those institutions is attached a comfortable reading room, well supplied with all the leading daily papers and monthlies besides papers and magazines in other languages, Norwegian, German, Swedish and French; beside other means of amusement to keep Jack from seeking to wile away his hours in other and worse places. A cheese board and draughts, and dominos are found in the reading rooms.

The third day of our being ashore was not long coming around, and at the appointed hour we all met at Brown’s shipping offices, in Ratlife Highway, to be paid off. It did not take long, as each man’s name was called off to go in and receive his wages and discharge, each man being told by Old Captain Loutitt that he would be glad to get every man back in whatever ship he went out in again, and taking each man’s address so that he could write to him when ready to ship his crew for another voyage.

I did not remain long in London after being paid off, but took the train next day for Manchester and from there to my own native village about seven miles distant from Manchester, arriving there early in the morning before the hour for the cotton factories to commence work.

This was my first visit home for nearly six years, and I felt almost a stranger in the little village I was born in. I had often during my voyage home pictures to myself my arrival, and the welcome I should find from my old mother and sisters, but I walked through the streets meeting a continual stream of the factory girls, boys and men going to their work just as I had done before going to sea, but I felt disappointed the faces were all strange that I met on the street and no one bid me welcome home.

My dress attracted attention from the people as they passed me, and that was all. I could not believe that the few years I had been off to sea had so changed me that no one would recognize me.

I went directly to the house that mother lived in when I last bid her good-bye, taking my little bundle of clothing tied in a hankerchief and started for Liverpool to commence a career I had mapped out for myself, and though she strongly opposed the choice of the life I was going to lead yet she gave me her blessing when I left her and my little sisters to go to sea and prepare myself for a sailors’ life.

On reaching the house I expected to find mother in I was met by a strange face but one that directed me to where I should see her. On reaching the house and knocking at the door it was opened by a young girl who I recognized as my younger sister, Mary, but I had grown out of her recollection; and she asked me who I was and what I wanted. I told her I wanted to see my mother. And Mother, who had not yet come down stairs recognized my voice and calling out wildly from the upper room, ‘My boy’; ‘My boy,’ and almost falling down stairs in her eagerness to reach me and clasp me again in her arms. And I now received the heartfelt welcome that I had so often anticipated in imagination, while walking the deck during the night watches on our long passage home.

After the first feeling of joy and pleasure at having her boy safe home again was over, Mother soon set to work and soon had breakfast ready and then I soon learned to what straits she had been reduced to, after I went to sea.

She found it very difficult work to earn enough to meet the weekly expenses with what little she could earn taking in fine sewing to do for a few ladies of the village who always tried to help her. But with all she could do she gradually fell behind with the rent and other debts. Doctor bills had accumulated for she had not had good health and my youngest sister, Sarah, who had been taken by two maiden ladies to bring up, was taken sick and comsumption set in and she came home to die. She passed away about the time the ‘Eliza’ was rounding Cape Horn in August.

If I could have learned the condition of affairs at home while I was in Australia I could have done a great deal to help them in their struggle for a living, but letters I wrote home from the Colonies never were received; and I never got a letter from home while out there. But I now lost no time in putting them in better circumstances for I had spent very little of the money I had been paid off with from the ‘Eliza’. And I can now look back with pleasure to that visit I made home when I left the ‘Eliza’ and to the many comforts I was able to surround mother and little sister with.

I spent about three weeks at home very pleasantly, but I then began to tire of laying around, and I found out that I was unfitted for a life in the cotton mills. And more, the roving life I had spent for the last five or six years had completely changed any ideas I ever had of living ashore. So I began to think it was high time to begin looking for a ship when I received a letter from Capt. Loutitt he having promised to write to every one of the ‘Elizas’ old crew, if he was going out in her again. But instead of going out in the ‘Eliza’ he was appointed to a new ship then building at Sunderland in the North of England, so I started for Liverpool and took up my quarters at the Sailors’ Home at the foot of Paradise Street, ready for anything that would turn up.