EJANZH: Hulme Chapter Ten

Volume 10

‘Belle of the West’ Boots overboard Hong Kong I learn of the ‘Lakes’ Boston to Buffalo Freshwater sailor to New Orleans Liverpool and a visit

After breakfast, for I went right to my old boarding house on Collins Street, I went down to the Colonial shipping office, but there was nothing being done that morning with Colonial vessels.

On passing the door of the American shipping office, I saw a card hung out, ‘Eight men wanted for the ship ‘Belle of the West”. I went inside and got into conversation with some men who were in. I learned that the ‘Belle of the West’ was going to Hong Kong with some Chinamen passengers, and from there to Manila in The Philippines, to load there for Boston, U.S.A.

I can scarcely now tell what impelled me to step into the office and ask the shipping master if he still wanted men for the ‘Belle of the West’. He replied, ‘Yes, the card has only just now been hung out’. I told him to count me one of them, and signed articles; wages, four pounds per month from Melbourne to Hong Kong, and from there to Manilla, and load there for Boston. I could not then, and I cannot now, explain why I signed those articles, but it was done, and at four o’clock I was on the pier at Sandridge along with seven other men waiting for the ship’s boat to come off for us, those being the Captain’s instructions as the ship was already for sea as soon as she got her compliment of sailors on board.

We were not kept waiting long before we saw the boat heading for the pier, and passing our dunnage into the boat, following them ourselves, we were not long being pulled out and alongside.

As we drew near to her I thought I never saw a prettier picture than the ship presented. She was in ballast trim, black as jet, all but a single gold bead running around her below the plankshear with a beautiful figure of a young girl holding a wreath of flowers in her hands and with three skysail yards across her with double topsail yards. I had noted these things as we were quickly rounded to alongside.

I stayed in the boat to pass up our bags and bedding and then went up the side ladder myself. When I got on to her rail and looked at her decks, my eyes involuntarily sought my feet. I had completely forgotton to replace the heavy hobnailed boots I had worn on the diggings, and as I looked at them, I realized that they would never be allowed on those decks, so clean and white before my eyes.

My dunnage lay on deck for me to pick up, but I sat on the monkey rail and unlacing my heavy miner’s boots, dropped them overboard, although i knew that these were all I had to either boots or shoes. There was no time for reflection about them for as I jumped on deck, we were told to pass our dunnage down the forecastle and man the windlass.

I followed my dunnage into the forecastle and threw bedding and bag into the first empty bunk I saw on the starboard side; after hastily changing my clothes, got on deck bare footed, for my miner’s shoes I had thrown overboard.

I found there were ten of us on the windlass, – the mate, a slight built man, was watching the chain come in and a large stout man who was fleeting the chain on the windlass as we hove it in, I took for second mate. Presently some one started a working song, and as the chorus swelled out telling the vessels laying around us there was another ship outward bound, the tug Sampson came alongside bringing off the Captain and three Chimamen.

The mate now took four men with him aft and the second mate with the rest of the crew passing a tow line to the tug who now came ahead. By the time the mate and the men he had with him came forward and the windlass was again manned, and in a short time the anchor had broke ground and we began to move down the bay, and now began the work of making sail with her double topsail yards. The sails were light and soon set, and before we passed St. Kilda, she had everything set and drawing and the ‘Sampson’ snaking her down the bay about ten miles an hour, and it was not until every stitch of canvas was set, and the braces had all had a pull, sheets and tacks hove down, that we were sent to supper.

As I went into the forecastle, my thoughts went back to the ‘Tornado’ and the scenes we went through the whole voyage out in her, and I wondered if the ‘Belle of the West’ was going to be anything like her; but when supper was handed down by two young men and there was no rush or haste, every man taking what he wanted, and there was plenty.

We now had a chance to get acquainted with each other and found there were four men forward who had made the whole voyage in the ship from Boston to San Francisco with passengers and a general cargo from Frisco. They had come to Melbourne under a similar charter, and she was now bound home by way of Hong Kong and Manila, and that she formed one of a line of Packet Ships between Boston and San Francisco known as Glidden & Williams line of Packets.

We also learned that the ship left Boston for San Francisco; that the Captain had his whole family on board, consisting of his wife and two boys, but while outward bound off the Brazilian coast, Mrs. Howe had been taken sick and died, and the day she was to have been buried at sea, they had sighted an America ship and on speaking her, found she was an American ship belonging to Bath, guano laden and bound to Hampton Roads for Orders. Capt. Howe then made arrangements to have his wife buried in the guano and carried to Hampton Roads and set from there to Brewster, Cape Cod, her home. All this information was given us while eating, and a half hour or more after supper that we remained undisturbed by a call from any one.

We were called on deck once or twice to the braces before eight bells when we got a call to muster all hands forward of the cabin to choose watches. This was soon done and I found myself in the starboard watch with an order to go below the starboard watch. The light at the Heads was in plain sight when we went below and we fully expected a call about the time we got to sleep, but the first call we got was eight bells, and on going on deck, found the tug had let go and we were outside the Heads and the light almost hull down on our port quarter. I then knew we were bound through Torres Straits, and not going round Cape Leeuwin, as some of the men had said we were going.

We had the wind about southwest and we were going with the wind off the starboard quarter. At four bells the log was hove and she was making eight knots, but she was doing it so easily she did not seem to make any noise over it. A lookout was kept on the top-gallant forecastle and that was relieved at four bells at the same time that the wheel was; no humbuging during that watch, no checking in of the braces and then bracing up again by way of exercise. I had no wheel that watch and had nothing to do but yarn with my watchmates, and this night I have always looked to as one of the turning points of my life.

One of the men I got into conversation with had been on ‘The Lakes’ as he expressed it, sailing out of Oswego to Lake Erie ports. This was the first time I had ever heard the American ‘Lakes’ mentioned, and the accounts he gave me as to the size and extent, and the way men were used on the Lake vessels, decided my course and changed, if I may so speak, the whole scene of my after life from one antipode to the other.

A little more than a month previously I had written home to mother telling her that if circumstances remained favorable for the following five or six weeks, I should start for Melbourne and ship in something for Liverpool and bring both her and my only sister to Australia. There was another young lady to whom I had given the impression before leaving Liverpool in the ‘Tornado’ that when I took mother and sister to Australia, I should also take her out as my wife; and now the whole course of my life was being changed; – its scenes and incidents from Australia to the United States, for when I shipped in the ‘Belle of the West’, it was not with the intention of going to the States in her, but to leave her in Hong Kong or Manila and sail in the country vessels for a while and eventually to come back to Australia; but now my whole plans were changed. I was in a good ship, – that much I could see already, and I determined to go the whole trip in her to Boston and from there to the Lakes.

The southwester ran us into latitude thirty south. I should not have known how we were getting along had it not been for running alongside the whaling barque ‘Terror’ of Hobarttown, Van Die Man’s Land, six weeks out from Hobarttown with a whale alongside at the time we passed her. They were then stripping the blubber from the whale as we passed her, a large blanket piece being hooked on to, while the two Captains were talking. The time seemed to pass so easily in the ‘Belle of the West’ that we scarcely noticed the day going by; though we got no afternoon watch below, all hands being kept on deck from noon until two bells struck in the first dog watch; then the decks were cleared up for the night; we all ate supper together forward but the man at the wheel, and unless the braces wanted a pull or some other duty pertaining to the vessel, there was nothing done from supper until we got coffee about six bells in the morning watch, and then the force pump was rigged and scrubbing decks, bulwarks and every place where there was paint, was the work going on until seven bells and breakfast. And as to eating, there was practically no allowance in her, the cook sending plenty of victuals into the forecastle with orders to eat all we wanted but waste nothing, fish day on the ‘Belle of the West’ being invariably canned salmon of which she had apparently an unlimited quantity. I mention these things now for they struck me so forcibly in contrast with the usage we had received in the ‘Tornado’.

Another new feature to me was a library in the cabin for the use of all hands and the Captain’s oldest boy, Harry, acted as librarian, coming forward to the forecastle with a catalogue to give us an opportunity to change books twice a week.

The pranks of those two boys were a source of amusement to all hands the whole voyage, and I do not think there was one on board who would not have risked his own life to save one of those boys, had it been necessary.

As for the three Chinamen, they made friends with no one unless it might have been with Capt. Howe, for I never saw them in conversation with any one but themselves and sometimes the Captain.

No wonder time slipped away apparently unnoticed where everything was moving shipshape and smooth. There was discipline, too, for while I was in the ‘Belle of the West’ I never saw the officers make any familiarity with the men or anything but respect shown to the officers.

I had no opportunity of knowing how we were shortening our voyage. The only thing that I noticed was that the Southern Cross was getting low down on the horizon. We had seen no vessels to speak to since speaking to the old whaler, though occasionally we saw vessels but too far off to know anything about them. The first indications we had that we were drawing near the land was extra watchfulness on the officers’ part and their orders to us to keep a good lookout both night and day.

Sail had been shortened at sunset and although we still had a fair wind, none was made until day broke the next morning, and daylight also revealed to us that we were running past an island almost abeam to us and other islands in sight in every direction.

When we came on deck at eight bells, noon, we were passing Rain Island; the stone beacon was plain in sight, and that night we came to anchor to leeward of a low island but little higher than the water. At daylight we were again under weigh; the lookout was now kept from the fore topmast cross trees; from this point of view, the whole bottom of the sea was spread out before us and the deep water channels could be distinctly traced as the red and white coral reefs could be seen clearly defined by the deep blue water alongside of them. Before sunset we were again at anchor under the lee of Harvey’s Island, but not in the same bay I had been at anchor in when in the barque ‘Star’. Daylight again saw us under way. To-day I looked for the wrecks we had passed the last time I went through, about six years previous, but nothing could be seen but in one place, the blackened timbers of a vessel, showing that some one had set fire to her, but probably they had first been stripped of everything valuable, for while I was in the ‘Reindeer’, I heard of vessels that had been to Torres Straits on wrecking expeditions. We ran past Bank’s Island where we had anchored in the ‘Star’ to another large island and came to anchor for night. The next day saw us again under weigh.

To-day the greatest watchfulness was required. The channels through the reefs though well defined, required constant care and a quick eye to see the reefs in some places only a few feet below the water, some of them coming on to the surface, but we ran through that safely and that night came to anchor at Mount Adolphus Island. We remained there two days and filled some water casks that had been emptied and got some shell fish and captured one large turtle, but saw no signs of any natives. At daylight of the third day we got under weigh with a fresh breeze that soon ran us away from the land, but next morning, land was again in sight and as we drew near no flag was flying and no sign of life could be seen. We passed less than two miles distant from the island; that was the last sight I ever had to Bobby Island. It has been a haven of refuge for a large number of sailors of all nationalities who have been cast away on the coral reef; of Torres Straits.

When my wheel came round next time I found we were steering more westerly. We had now resumed our regular routine of duties, sail making and mending being the principal work going on.

We were now getting beautiful weather and were again sailing Por days among striped snakes laying in the sun sleeping on the surface of the water. Although I had seen these same snakes in different parts of the Indian ocean, yet nowhere so many of them as there are between New Guinea and the Gulf of Carpentaria. We were carrying a nice breeze with us most of the time, and land in sight on the starboard side and every day Malay proahs were in sight but none came near and Captain Howe showed no desire to get acquainted with them.

About this time the Captain’s younger boy, Joel, began to make friends with us forward, helping his brother Harry with the library, often bringing the books into the forecastle, and he sometimes told us what islands we were passing, having learned their names from his father who seemed to take a world of delight in those boys and gave them both practical lessons in navigation every day. It was Joel who told us we were going through the Gillole passage and for several days were passing large islands, but always giving them a good wide berth. There were a number of proahs in sight apparently fishing; but we carried a good breeze all the time until north of the Line. The little boy was the first to tell us we were north of the Line and pointed out the North star just on the horizon, the first I had seen it since coming out in the ‘Tornado’.

Working up with variable winds for a few days, we finally got a breeze from about south that ran us north at a lively rate hauling westerly and strengthening. We had now got the monsoons, and our Chinamen I think felt good. They were often to be seen talking with the Captain who now also seemed to be oftener on deck. >From the day we got the strong monsoons the time seemed to pass quickly. Day after day we were running with everything set, and I think the ‘Belle of the West’ got over more miles during these two weeks of fair wind than I ever travelled over in the same length of time.

We were seven weeks out from Melbourne when we sighted a fleet of Chinese junks on the wind, and next morning, land was in sight on the port bow and both junks and vessels going in every direction, but it was not until long after noon that we made out the city of Hong Kong and the large fleet of vessels at anchor, and it was near dark when we got abreast of the city and the ship brought to an anchor and sails clewed up and decks cleared up, before the word was passed along that that would do for the night.

The next morning we were called early and after breakfast one of the boats was got into the water and brought alongside and three large boxes were taken out of the cabin and lowered over the side into the boat, followed by the Chinamen and Captain Howe, and the two boys and four men to pull her ashore, the second mate going as cockswain.

It was not until after dinner that the boat came off with the Captain and the boys. This was my first trip to any Chinese port and all day could not help seeing what an overcrowded place it must be, for every boat or sam pans as they are termed, contains a whole family or more and the harbor is fairly alive with them, making their homes in the sam pans. They carry passengers and freight, in fact they live and make their living on and with the sam pan, and there are hundred of them dancing over the harbor, this way and that way, whichever way you look, up or down the harbor, they can be seen. I was told while there that there are families of father, mother and children on these boats who never put their feet ashore.

There were some fine ships laying here, both English and American and French, in fact, the flags of every nation almost in the world can be seen here. There was d beautiful large black clipper snip laid right ahead of us, ‘Young America’; I had heard of her but this was the only time I ever saw her.

Our stay here was short, for the day after landing our passengers we again got under weight. We were six days working to Manila. Here we found a large fleet of vessels loading and unloading, and now our work commenced in earnest by throwing out sand ballast enough to make room for cargo, and as fast as we cleared a part of the hold, it was filled with bags of sugar and bales of Manila hemp pressed into bales of some one hundred and eighty pounds each.

The cargo was brought off in large sam pans or lighters with mat sails fitted Chinese fashion with bamboo laced on every three or four feet. Some were manned by Chinamen and some by Manila men. It was a slow process of loading, whipping everything up by hand by the use of burtons and we were here twenty-five days before we were loaded, and three days more were used up getting our water casks filled by water boats that went up the canash some distance above the city to fill them. They were coming alongside and pumping it into our casks the same way we got water in Colonial ports.

It was about the third or fourth of April before we were ready for sea, and I think that everyone felt buoyant to think that we should soon be at sea again, and this time for Boston.

The yarns we heard in the forecastle from the man who had been sailing on ‘The Lakes’ had made fresh water sailors of every man in the forecastle, at least this was their talk now, and we all felt as anxious and as willing as the Old Man to be off.

The morning we got the order to man the windlass’ it was obeyed with a will, and I don’t think either Capt. Howe or his mates could find fault for lack of songs until the last sail was sheeted home and the anchor on the top-gallant forecastle and we were again at sea.

We had a long beat in the Chinese Seas before we got a shift of the monsoons, and then with yards checked in, the ship made good time until near the Line again; the Captain’s younger boy Joel keeping us well acquainted every day as to how fast we were making south.

When we got through the Straits of Sunda we came to anchor for one day at Anjier Point and got supplies of vegetables and fruit and the Old Man and the two boys spent half a day ashore here.

After leaving Anjier Point, we had light winds for a few days. We were not long without wind and we gradually worked south until we struck the northwest trades, and although braced sharp up, she about laid her course and made time. The log was hove every two hours, sometimes logging six and seven and as high as ten, and the wind was not steady, ranging from west northwest to north-northwest and whenever the wind freed her a few points.

We had passed the latitude of the Mauritius and were making time fast; the wind had been freshening all day; the three skysails and fore and mizzen top gallant sails were in; the yards were checked in about two points, when just before dark one night, she shipped a sea that stove in the bulkwarks on the starboard side from the fore rigging to the cat head. Some sail was taken off and she was kept away a little to give us a chance to get lines stretched from the fore rigging forward and nail canvas over the broken stanchions until morning.

The next morning the sea was still running high and the wind had freshened. The main top-gallant sail had been taken in before eight bells, and after breakfast the fore and mizzen upper top sails were clewed down and made fast; the flying jib and main sail being taken in at the same time.

We carried this breeze three days before it began to ease down and finally died away, leaving us with a heavy rolling sea, but as soon as the weather moderated, the carpenter was to work, and before we rounded the cape, the damage had all been make good and there was nothing forward to show the rough usage the ‘Belle of the West’ had passed through. We did not see the land, but when the vessel’s course was changed and she was hauled up, we knew she was around The Cape.

We still carried a good breeze and was making good time and from the day the ‘Belle of the West’ was hauled up until Cape Cod was sighted. One day was almost a repetition of the other. The working of the vessel was attended to when necessary and the officers always had work enough laid out so that there was no idle time from the time we had our coffee at two bells every morning until two bells in the first dog watch when the order came to clear up the decks for the night.

I can say here also, I never knew the second mate to be without work laid out and I do not now know that he ever gave d man any work to do as though he was in a hurry for it to be done, but one thing he did want was to have the work done shipshape and in the best possible style of seamanship, and I do not know that I ever heard him speak to a man as though anything had occurred to ruffle his temper but once, and that was to myself. So long as the outlook was well kept on the top-gallant forecastle, he never interfered with the rest of the watch during the night, laying around ready for a call and to have the wheel and lookout relieved on time. One night after we were north of the Line, it was my lookout rom twelve to two and I had walked fore and aft and athantships on the top-gallant forecastle and stopped by the pawlpost partly leaning against it. My thoughts had wandered back to the gold diggings days and wondering how my partner there was making out. I noticed the second mate come up on the starboard forecastle ladder, but did not think it necessary to change my position. He stood there silently for perhaps five minutes, then putting his hand on my shoulder said in the angriest tone I had as yet heard him make use of; ‘Is this the way you keep a lookout, Bill?’. I did not reply at once until he got through. I then told him I had seen him come on the forecastle and stand there, but as we had not been in the habit of speaking to him unless spoken to, I had simply kept the position I was in during the time he stood there, but had no idea that he thought I was sleeping. he accepted the explanation in a way that told me plainly that he did not believe me, but I heard no more of it and that was the only time I saw him either look or speak ugly.

As I said before, one day was only a repetition of the other. From the time we got north of Cape of Good Hope, we carried a breeze about all the time and on the morning of July 6th, we had Cape Cod in sight about eight miles off. Before entering the bay, we took a pilot aboard from a pilot boat that ran down to us and before dark we had a tug ahead of us and were towed to a dock at the foot of Commerce Street.

Before we had the ship made fast, runners from the different sailors boarding houses were swarming aboard. It was soon learned by them that she had carried her whole crew from Melbourne round by Manila and home, and that we must have a good pay day coming, but until the ship was fast, not a man left his work to talk to runners or anyone else. As soon as we were through, we went forward and could scarcely get to the forecastle scuttle to get below for the rush of these runners wanting to drag us to their boarding houses, but six of the men and myself had made up our minds to go to the ‘Sailors’ Home’, and the runner from that house being there, we told him to get our dunnage into his wagon; and here let me state how I landed in the United States. When I threw my digger’s boots overboard from the ship’s rail in Hobsons Bay, I had not any others and I made the passage to Hong Kong bare footed. When I signed articles, I took a half month’s advance, saying I would draw the other half in Hong Kong. On reaching that place, I went aft to ask for the remainder of my advance and was told by the Captain that a whole month’s advance had been drawn and charged to my name. I then got two dollars from him and bought from a Chinese bumboat that came alongside, a pair of heavy slippers. It was seldom I used them, but I had them on and was aloft with one of the men taking in the main top-gallant sail the morning after washing the bulkwarks out of her before rounding the Cape of Good Hope. While aloft, I lost one overboard and before coming down kicked the other one off to follow its mate, and I had never had a boot or shoe on my feet from that time, and not so much as given it a thought until I came to pack my bag to go with the rest of the men. One of my shipmates offered me the use of a pair of sea boots, but I did not care for them and we all got into the express wagon and were driven to the ‘Sailors’ Home’ on Purchase Street. Here Mr. Chayne, the gentlemen in charge of the Home, advanced me five dollars and I then rigged my feet out for city travel. Two days after we were paid off at one of the shipping offices down town.

On getting paid off, the party of us who had decided to try fresh water sailing concluded to take a few days in Boston and that city’s amusements. I concluded to take a run on the cars into Rhode Island. I had relatives living near Providence who had moved there a few years previous, about the time I left Liverpool in the ‘Tornado’; so arranging to meet my shipmates in Buffalo in four days, I made a short visit with them, much to their surprise, as they expected I was still in Australia.

While here I fell in with one of my boyhood schoolmates working here in one of the Cotton factories near Providence, whom I had not seen since I first went to sea. I visited about there for three days and took the cars for Buffalo, and the first man at the depot to ask me if I wanted a house to stay at, was a runner from a house opposite the depot on Exchange Street, kept by a Mr. Carney, and while in Buffalo I never stayed at any other house, and here I may state that I never saw one of the men that I left in Boston who were all so anxious to come up to the Lakes. They may have come but I never ran across them. I was in Buffalo two days when I shipped in a brigantine whose name I have not been able to recall for years, the only vessel I ever was in whose name I cannot now recall.

I made two trips in that brig, as I found the sailors here called all brigantines. Those trips were made to Newport and a place called China, about eight miles up the river above St. Clair. Our loads both trips were oak staves to Buffalo; and now let me speak of the impressions I had on these my first trips as a Lake sailor.

I thought the style of living was simply superb. We had a woman cook who spared no pains to spread a good table and as the work aside from loading, we had nothing to do but steer. I thought the rivers a nuisance as we used no tug on either of the trips; but one think I gave the Lakes full credit for and I have never changed my mind on that subject, and that was that here was the purest and freshest, and it tasted to me the sweetest, water I had ever drank in my life, and no allowance. It seemed to me I had got to a sailor’s paradise, – no allowance of provisions, no allowance of water, and the sailors eating in the cabin with the Captain and mates; what next?

On arriving in Buffalo from the second voyage to China and Newport, for we went to both places each trip, taking the heading and staves from both docks, when we towed to the stave dock where the cargo was consigned to, we found two other vessels ahead of us to unload, and although we were not paid off, we were not asked to do anything.

Here let me state what our wages were: – on my first Lake sailing, eighteen dollars per month. So far as wages were concerned, I had left better behind me in Australia as the wages on the coast when we left were six pounds, or thirty dollars, per month, but I was told the wages would come up later in the fall. While waiting for a berth to unload, a large fore and aft schooner called the ‘Arcturus’ hauled alongside. She had just taken on sand ballast. I got talking with the second mate of her and found she wanted three men. I told him I would go in her if I could get my wages from the one I was in; our Captain coming on board soon after, I called for my wages and going into the cabin, they were handed to me without a word, as though it was an every day occurrence to be paying off sailors.

As soon as I had packed my bag, I left it in the bunk and went on board the ‘Arcturus’ and learned that the Captain had just come on board. I waited around until he came out of the cabin and then spoke to him. and was never more deceived in my life from his appearance. I took him for a Swede or Norwegian, but in the broadest kind of Scotch dialect he replied that he shipped ‘two men while ashore, and I wad make the ether’, and he also added ‘get your dunnage on board before dinner for we will tow out after dinner’. In a few minutes I had transferred my dunnage from one vessel to the other, and in a short time the other two men came on board. By this time a bell rang out aft, ‘That means dinner’ some one said and we went aft to dinner Here was something new to me again, calling us after dinner with a bell. The ‘Tornado’ was the only vessel I had ever seen a bell used to call her officers to meals. In the ‘Arcturus’ I found another female cook and the question came up in my own mind, do all the lake vessels carry them ? But I did not find this one so stylish in appearance as the one I had left. I speak of these now as they were a novelty to me at that time. After dinner we were called aft to sign articles, and I now found the Captain’s name to be Capt. Chayne, wages twenty dollars per month, from Buffalo to Milwaukee, and these were the first articles I signed on the Lakes, about the sixth of August of 1860. After dinner and the articles signed, the Old Man went ashore and in a short time was alongside with a tug and we towed out and canvas was got on in short time. This was my first trip in a fore and aft schooner. We had a good run through Lake Erie and up Detroit river, but we got the wind ahead on Lake St. Clair and from there beat to Algonac where we came to anchor for the night.

We were called before daylight by the men who had the anchor watch to man the windlass. He had called the mate according to orders on getting a change of wind. Daylight was just breaking when the anchor broke ground and with a free sheet, we started up the river. The wind was now right up the river and it was a constant jibing of the foresail and shifting of the gaff topsail tack and sheet over the tryantic stay.

Now this was the first time I had ever been shipmates with a fore gaff topsail, so when that sail had been loosed coming out of Buffalo, I took the main topsail to loose and so far had kept clear of the fore topsail, but we had made a square jib of both fore and mainsails. My watch mate had got ahead of me to the maintopsail and I had to tackle the fore one. Mr. Coleman saw at once by my moves that I was a stranger to that sail, for when I sung out ‘sheet home’, it would not ‘sheet home’. In my hurry, and I think a little nervousness at my tackling something I was not sure I was doing right, I got everything wrong. I had the sheet through the clue line and the tack I had shifted over the gaff. I had just left it as it was. After a good deal of holloing I managed to get the sail shifted over all right, and when I got down on deck, Mr. Coleman asked me if I had ever been shipmates with a gaff topsail before. I told him ‘Yes, main ones, but not fore ones’. ‘That is all right’, said he, ‘You are in a good place now to get acquainted with the animal. You will have lots of chance to know all about shifting sheets tacks before we get through the river onto Lake Huron’. He was right, for after my first blunder, I did not hesitate to jump aloft to shift the fore topsail sheet again, and before we got onto Lake Huron, I knew as much about them as I do now.

After getting out of the river, I could not help comparing St. Clair River from Algonac to Port Huron with the lower river Murray for volume of water, but here the comparison ends as the St. Clair was all lined with fine orchards and cultivated farms, and the shores of the Murray nothing but salt bush and tea tree scrub, the home of the Kangaroo and Wallaby.

After passing Port Huron and the broad expanse of Lake Huron opened out to say I was delighted, only half expressed my feelings. I was surprised, too, at the size and magnitude of these fresh water lakes and size and number of fine vessels we were meeting, of all kinds of rigs but full rigged ships. I was told there was one full rigged barque still on the Lakes, the ‘Morgan’ and one brig, the ‘Burns’.

We had a nice run from the river to Point An Barques. Then we had light, variable winds from there to the Straits. We passed Duncan City on a Saturday morning and the wind all but died away and the yawl was lowered into the water and tackles rigged and the boat taken on deck to do some calking and paint her bottom. She was turned up athant the deck under the fore boom.

We had no wind all day Sunday until towards night when we got the wind about southwest. We had the eight hours out that night and had worked round Point Waugoshance and were on the port tack with a fresh breeze standing towards what I had already learned was Beaver Island, Seven bells was made and we went to breakfast.

Eight bells came and the wheel was relieved and we went below but had not been in the forecastle more than ten minutes when the mate told his watch to haul down the jib topsail and told his watch to go out and roll it up. At the same time the second mate came forward to the forecastle scuttle saying, ‘Come on deck boys and clue down the gaff topsails’. We jumped on deck, clewed down the fore topsail and went aft to the main topsail to haul it down when we were startled by Capt. Chayne who was walking the deck to windward. ‘Hard down! Hard down!’ We looked to leeward, expecting to see a vessel under her bows. The mate then grabbed one of the boats oars that lay on the cabin and flung it at some object over the quarter. ‘Get the boat in the water’ was the next order of the second mate and we all ran for the boat, turned her over on her keel and in about the time it takes me to write it, the boat was on the rail and launched overboard, stern first. Mr. Coleman and I had kept her steady as she went over the side and as the boat struck the water, we two jumped into the boat, two oars being thrown after us. I now learned that the two men who had gone out to roll up the jib topsail were overboard. The mate was on the cabin and told us in what direction to pull. We saw something on the water floating and pulled for It, to find one of the men’s hats, but that was all we ever found. We pulled around for half an hour or more but could find nothing more, and when the schooner came up after going in stays and standing towards us, they threw us a heaving line and we went alongside. We made another tack in search of the men but we never saw them again. It was blowing fresh and the schooner was going about six or seven miles an hour through the water and probably went right over them, and we surmised that the centreboard struck them and hurt them. The mate while on the cabin watching for them while we were getting the boat into the water saw one man come to the surface and throw up his hands and immediately disappear. That was the only glimpse any one ever got of them.

Capt. Chayne now told what he knew about it. He was walking on the weather side of the main deck when we hauled down the fore topsail, and when we started to haul down the main one, he happened to look forward and saw the men disappear all at once. A second glance assured him that they were gone and he then sung out ‘Hard down! Hard down!’, but no one ever said there was a man overboard until we were pulling away from the schooner.

This was the first time I had ever been brought to realize the uncertainty of a sailor’s life by losing shipmates overboard, but they were gone and we now went into the forecastle and packed up the lost sailors’ clothes and took them aft and found Capt. Chayne in tears, grieving for the loss of his men in such an unforseen manner.

One of the starboard watch was now put into port watch and we had a hard beat from the Straits up Lake Michigan, and I now began to realize something about the size of these fresh water seas.

We were about 15 miles off the land at what I afterwards knew as Two River Point when the wind all died away and we lay becalmed about twenty-four hours when the sky clouded over and there was every appearance of a squall. The light sails were taken in, but none too soon, for it was on us like a flash. I don’t know if the Old Man got excited, but I thought he did. As the squall struck, he sang out ‘Take in the foresail’ and before we had the foresail down, he was singing out, ‘Take in the mainsail. Take them a’ in’, and as quick as we could get them down, we did so and she went before the wind for some time under the staysail, but it was soon over and sail was again made and we had a fair wind and from here we had a good run to Milwaukee where we stopped at a dock to throw out our sand ballast.

Of the two men who were lost overboard, one was a german and there was nothing about either his dunnage or bunk to give any clue as to his home or if he had friends in this country; but the other man had letters in his sea chest from his father near Waukesha, and to him Capt. Chayne wrote, and before I left Milwaukee, the father came to Milwaukee for his son’s effects. I have not yet spoken about the cause of the two men lost. The jib and flying jib foot ropes were as usual in one piece, the bight of the foot rope being seized on to the jib guy and the seizing covered with canvas and painted to correspond with the painting on the boom, and the foot rope here broken under the canvas covering just forward of the seizing.

This was my first and only instance of loosing a shipmate through any defect of rigging, and here let me state that in any vessel I have been in since, on my first going aloft or out on the jib boom, I have always critically examined the seizings of both lifts and foot ropes, – the rope on which the sailor’s life depends more than on any other rope on board, and have since that time steadily fought against covering any seizing with canvas and paint for they may look good, while under the canvas the rope may be rotten, as was the case in the ‘Arcturus’. Tar and uncovered seizings are good enough for me.

I do not speak now with censure to either the first or second mates for neither of those two officers had anything to do with the fitting of those foot ropes, and as for Capt. Chayne, that trip was the commencement of a friendship that has lasted until the present time. After unloading the sand ballast, the schooner was towed to Dan Newall’s Elevator at the foot of Clinton Street to take a load of wheat. Here we found the brig ‘Wm. Ferguson’ almost loaded. We had to wait about two hours before we could take her berth, and while so waiting, I got into conversation with the mate of the ‘Ferguson’. He commenced talking about, the loss of the two men. He had just come from the elevator after weighing the last of her cargo just as the last of the grain was in, and the Captain of the ‘Ferguson’ came on board and Captain and mate had a few minutes conversation and I was called to help get a line ashore as we were hanging on to the brig.

After making the line fast, the mate of the ‘Ferguson’ came to me on the dock to see if I would go second mate on the ‘Ferguson’. I told him I had only just come on the Lakes from Boston and knew nothing about the Lakes. ‘Well’, said he, ‘The Old Man is on deck a good deal himself and you will soon get posted’. Just then the Captain himself came over to us and the result was that I agreed to leave the ‘Arcturus’ and go in the brig.

I went aft and called for my wages and told him where I was going, so without any more words he paid me off, and I went forward and packed my dunnage and at once took them on board the ‘Ferguson’ where after putting them away in the cabin, went on deck where there was plenty to do getting the decks cleared up ready to get out that night. The hatches were battened down and everything ready when the Captain came along side with the tug ‘Tift’ and got our tow line, and in a short time we were outside with a fine breeze off the west shore. We got a good run down Lake Michigan and through the Straits when we took quite a fresh northeaster. We went to anchor at Cheboygan and stayed there two days when the wind died out, and when we got the wind again we got it from due south with a fresh breeze that ran us past Thunder Bay Island and again left us rolling off the mouth of Saginaw Bay. The wind freshened up from the south again and we beat all the way from abreast of Thunder Bay to abreast of Lexington before we got a tug. After dark and the following night, or rather, near daylight, we were out on Lake Erie and from there had a good run to Buffalo.

I made three trips in the ‘Ferguson’ and then left her in Milwaukee. Both myself and the mate left her the result of a disagreement we had on Lake Erie coming up the last time.

We had been windbound in Buffalo after getting our ballast on board but got a good run down. I had the eight hours out that night. When I came on deck at four o’clock, daylight had spread so as to see the horizon clearly. As I relieved the mate, he handed me the glass he had been looking through, and pointing to a schooner a little to the lee bow, remarked ‘There is something about that schooner I don’t understand, sometimes she is before the wind and sometimes right in the wind’. He went below and in about an hour, we were almost up to her so that her name could be read. She was the ‘Wm. Mathers’, of Toledo, waterlogged and abandoned. I called both the Old Man and the mate as they came on deck . We were just passing her not twenty rods distant; her deck load of black walnut was just starting to leave. A few boards had got loose, but were close by . The mate and I and the men forward were anxious to take her in tow and get her into Cleveland, – the smoke of that city could be plainly seen, but the 0ld Man did not want to lose the fair wind we had, saying some tug would take her in during the day . There was no one on board. I thought I saw the boat, with the glass, heading for Cleveland, anyway, the Old Man would not have anything to do with her for fear his owners would not like it, and that was primarily the cause of both the mate and me leaving her on arriving in Milwaukee, and for the first time I went ashore in Milwaukee.

The mate being acquainted, took the lead and we went to a house on Lake Street kept by Charlie McCarthy as he seemed to be familiarly known by that name, and before he died and after he died, I never had any other boarding house in Milwaukee.

I was ashore now for some time before I shipped again, then I got a berth in d Milwaukee schooner, the ‘Three Belles’. In this schooner I first became shipmates with Capt. Wm. P. Robinson now of the schooner ‘Thall ‘. We both stayed in the ‘Three Belles’ until she laid up.

While I was in the ‘Three Belles’, running up along the west shore, and I think the quickest run I ever made, from Sheboygan to Milwaukee, was the night the ‘Lady Elgin’ was burned north of Gross Point, and so many lives lost. That night we passed Sheboygan at eight p.m. and at twelve o’clock we went into Milwaukee. Next morning the news arrived of the loss of the steamer with over three hundred excursionists, numbering among them a large percentage of the young girls of the third ward. While in the ‘Three Belles’, I developed into a fruit speculator, and that enterprise finally involved me in a law suit. Capt. Leander Whaffle usually bought from thirty to fifty barrels in Buffalo, and he told us forward that if we wanted to put a little money into apples we could do so as the schooner came up in ballast every time. But I was the only one forward who went into the speculation for I found more money in it than in my wages, buying at from seventy-five cents to one dollar a barrel and selling at from S1.75 to $2.25. This went along until we were coming up Lake Erie on our last trip. The Old Man asked me one day at the wheel what I would take for my bargain on apples. I had forty barrels, for which I had paid one dollar per barrel. I told him he could have them for $1.75. Said he ‘Will you insure them to Milwaukee?’ I told him ‘Yes’. From this on the apples were considered his. He also had forty barrels on his own account; his apples were down aft and mine down forward.

We arrived all right in Milwaukee. This voyage we had the hold nearly half full of salt in barrels and we towed through the Menomonie Bridge to a salt dock at the end of the Northern Transportation dock. This was after dinner. At night the Old Man was aboard at supper and asked if any of us wanted to go to Buffalo in the ‘Republic’, the other vessel owned by Dan Newall, the owner of the ‘Three Belles’. I was the only one who volunteered and the Old Man told me to go aboard in the morning and he would come on board some time during the day and pay me my wages for the trip and for the apples as well, so I went on board the ‘Republic’ and was to work there when Capt. Whaffle came on board saying ‘Bill, you had better go on board the ‘Three Belles’ and claim those apples. I can’t take them now as a man named Goss to whom I am indebted for moving a house for me some time ago has found out some way or other that I have those apples for sale and has put a garnishee on forty barrels of my apples. The mate and the crew are now fighting with the officer over the apples. You had better go on board and lay your claim on those apples for I shall not be able to take them now’. I left the ‘Republic’ and went round to the ‘Three Belles’ and the fight was still going on and apple barrels broken and apples scattered all over the deck and some of them, two barrels I think, had got over the dock into the water. I put a stop to the quarrel by telling the mate to let them go and I would replevin them and I went ashore to see a Mr. Rodgers, a lawyer, in the Marine Block, on Ferry Street.

This put an end to my going to Buffalo in the ‘Republic’. About a week passed before the case came up for trial. It was proved that I had bought the apples and they were awarded back to me and twenty-five dollars damage for whatever were lost or stolen. As soon as the apples were taken away from the schooner, Capt. Whaffle went and sold his forty barrels and got them out of his hands and the result was that I was the only one who lost in the transaction and that loss came from what was broken and destroyed. After securing the return of the apples back to me, I sold them again to Mr. Patek, a grocer, for just what I had paid for them. I supposed that Mr. Rodgers would collect the twenty-five dollars for me, but I was a week around town before I learned from the lawyer that I should probably have to sue to get it, so I asked him if he could not get it for me by the next summer as I had concluded to go to New Orleans and cross to Liverpool. I left Milwaukee about the middle of December for St. Louis and took passage on the ‘City of Memphis’. Going down on the steamer were some five or six men from Chicago, all sailors, going to Mobile, Alabama, to work at loading cotton ships. They followed that work every winter as I gathered from their conversation. On arriving at New Orleans, I made up my mind to go over with the crowd to Mobile and we all took the railroad to Lake Poutchartrain and by boat from there to Mobile and I went with them to the same boarding house kept by a Mr. Kerwin, and I soon found out that this house was 2 general resort for a class of men who, in the summer follow either sailing on the Lakes or mackerel fishing and as soon as the cotton season commences, they come south to New Orleans, Mobile and other southern ports, and most of them natives of the south of Ireland from Waterford County, almost to a man. As an English sailor, I should have found no favor or show with them, but as an Australian or Colonial I did, being dubbed as ‘Australian Bill’.

I went to work along with six or eight more on the bay boat ‘Baltic’, rolling cotton, taking it from the cotton presses to the ships in the bay. I worked at this until after New Years. By this time, Alabama was on the point of secession. Men were drilling in the streets every night and parading nights and talking of seceding all the time.

Most of the men I was working with were married, either in or around Boston, or Gloucester, all fisher men, and they did not want to get tied up down south so that they could not get home when they wanted, so it was thought high time to get away by most of them who were not bound here by any other ties than work.

The ship we had been bringing cotton to was loaded and wanted the greater part of her crew. She was a new ship on her first voyage, called the ‘E. Creighton’ to Thomaston, Maine, named after her Captain. Having brought cotton on her, we knew her officers and knew she was a good ship and as soon as she was loaded, fourteen of us shipped in her, every man of us having boarded with Mr. Kerwin; wages, twenty dollars per month. The day following after we got on board, we got under way and I think she was the last northern ship to leave Mobile with cotton before the Civil War broke out. The night before we left, there was a fine English ship called the ‘Birmingham’ about a quarter of a mile from the ‘Creighton’ burned to the water’s edge. She was almost loaded at the time; I believe the next day would have seen her loaded.

We got under way at daylight of January 9th, with a leading wind down Mobile Bay. The wind was light, but soon after eight bells at noon, we passed out between forts Morgan and Gaines and found ourselves outside before dark, and on the wind. We now found out that the ship was crank for there was not much wind and the royals were in, never having been set.

I was glad to be away from Mobile for everyone ashore was looking for Alabama to go out of the Union almost any day and we all knew that would mean a blockage of the bay, and I was pleased, too, to find myself in what had all the appearances of a good ship – no allowance of provisions, all we could eat and of just as much importance, a good cook. She was evidently a home ship. Capt. Creighton himself was a tall gray- haired Old Man, while the mate was a short built man with bushy dark head and beard, a Mr. O’Brien, and he, I heard, was a son of the owner, a ship builder, of Thomaston, Maine. The second mate was a Mr. Robinson. She also had a third mate, a nephew of the Captain. He was known as Mr. Creighton.

The forecastle was on deck aft of the foremast, and I now found she carried twenty-two men forward, but of these six were young fellows who had only made one or two voyages, one of them on his first voyage and we now learned that the mate had his wife on board with him. Before dark everything about the decks had been secured and after supper all hands were mustered aft at the front of the cabin and the second and third mates chose the watches. I found myself in the second mate’s watch. TG say I was pleased with the ship, does not half express my thoughts about her. She was a single topsail yard ship and carried no studding sails. We took our wheels in the same order that we were chosen by the mates and that gave me a wheel at four bells, in the middle watch that night. She had a splendid large wheel house that protected us from the sun and rain. There was another thing we learned from the men who were in her from Thomaston, that we had watch and watch. Sailors as a class, appreciate considerate and kind treatment from their officers and it is very seldom that these virtues are found more prominent than they shone out in the whole after guard of the ship ‘E. Creighton’. She was practically a home ship and there is no one who dislikes to see such officers imposed upon more than sailors. I had often heard of green horns shipping on vessels as sailors, but had never since my first voyage seen it so fairly shown out as we saw it at noon of the second day out from Mobile.

In the mate’s watch was a stout, lythe young fellow of twenty-three or four who had been to work with us on the Baltic rolling cotton. He had boarded at Kerwin’s and every one supposed he was a sailor. He seemed handy and willing, pulling and hauling with the rest, but he must have dodged out of going aloft some how or other and no one noticed him; but his trick at the wheel came at eight bells, noon. When the watch was called at noon instead of going aft to relieve the wheel as he ought to have done, he sat down with the rest of us to dinner. Some of his watch asked him if it was not his wheel. he replied he did not know. He was told that it was his wheel and got up and went aft, and the way he went aft drew the attention of every man in the forecastle, for before he left the forecastle, he lit his pipe and with it in his mouth, walked aft and up the weather companionway on to the quarter deck. His movement had now drawn the attention of every man in the forecastle on deck to watch results. The Old Man and the mate were walking together on the quarter deck and the man brushed in between the two, but before he got into the wheel house, the mate had stepped up behind him and broke the pipe in his mouth, but nothing abashed, he stepped into the wheel house and took the wheel, the man he relieved, giving him the course full and by the term generally used when steering, by the wind. He made no reply and the man relieved had got as far forward as the mainmast when there was a call for another man to the wheel. As soon as the man took the wheel, he must have put the wheel up, for she payed off. The mate went to the wheel house and watched the man a few minutes. He saw the vessel falling off and told the man to put the wheel down, but instead he started to heave the wheel over more. The mate then went in and took the wheel and called for another man to the wheel and the man whose wheel came next went aft and relieved the mate and the man came forward as though nothing had occurred to disturb him and sat down to dinner.

Had that man been in the ‘Tornado’, he would have learned the difference between a good ship and a bad one. Affairs now went along smoothly for about two weeks. That man had never been allowed at the wheel again, and if he had been a sensible man he might have gone to Liverpool all right.

We had been running before a heavy sea for three or four days and the wind began to freshen. The top-gallant sails were all in and now the mizzen topsail was clewed up and stowed and a single reef put in the foretopsail, and before we got below, the mate got orders from aft to put a reef in the foresail. The weather reef tackle had been hauled out, and while some were laying aloft, the rest went to the lee fore reef tackle. The third mate told the painter, as this man had been dubbed, to slack off the lee foresheet, but instead of slacking it off, he cast it loose from the cavel and let it fly. He had no sooner done it than the third mate struck him, when quick as a flash, he shot out a blow that stretched the third mate on deck. Not a word has passed between them so far. The mate now jumped down from the top-gallant forecastle and grabbed an iron belaying pin from the rail. A few words passed between them when the mate struck him with the belaying pin and he dropped in a heap on deck.

While this was transpiring, we had clewed up the lee side of the foresail and hauled out the reef tackle and were on the fore yard getting the reef put in and saw the whole performance.

When the man fell, the officers paid no more attention to him and he lay there until we about had the sail reefed, when the painter got up on his feet and felt for his sheath knife, and finding he did not have it, ran into the forecastle and came out with a knife in his hand, but before he had any opportunity of using it, the second mate grabbed his arms from behind and held him until the knife was taken from him, and the mate got a pair of hand cuffs from aft and he and the third mate got them on with his hands behind his back. The second mate then let go, but it had been no easy task to hold him by the second mate. While this was going on, the reef had been put in and we had come down from aloft and set the sail again, hauling the sheet aft just as the second mate let go the man’s arms and he was now powerless to harm any one. Some one had to feed him every meal; he was not neglected, but I do not believe he had any sympathy from any one.

After a while, Capt. Creighton came forward and talked with him and I think it was the third or fourth day he had been in irons the Captain told him if he would promise to go about his work as usual, and do whatever he could and make no further disturbance, he would have the irons taken off, but he was a whole week before me made that promise and he was then set at liberty.

I can imagine what that man’s condition would have been in a different ship, the ‘Tornado’, for instance, – he would have been half killed. We had a nice passage of thirty-five days to Liverpool. We went into the Queen’s dock and as soon as there was a berth for us, began to unload the cotton ourselves with some dock help. At this time cooking on foreign ships had not been done away with so we all lived aboard the ship, and there being no allowance of provisions in her, she was a boarding house for a crowd of down East sailors who were ashore here at this time, and I think some of them pretty hard up. There were three Thomaston ships in Liverpool at that time, the ‘Creighton’, ‘Joe Gilchrist’ and the ‘Edward O’Brien’, all unloading cotton, and the crews of all three ships used to get together nights around Dan Lowrie’s theatre and from there to one or the other of the ships and have what we considered then a high old time around Cleveland Square and Paradise Street, Liverpool, in those days being the principal resort for all the down East sailors.

Here I first knew Capt. Tom Fahy, of Chicago, at that time second mate of the ‘Edward O’Brien’. She was then unloading cotton from New Orleans..

One of the wildest of our young fellows was a man named Albert Kallock. I have since sailed with him out of Chicago myself before the mast and he as Master. I was with him in the ‘F.B.Stockbridge’ and the ‘Z.G.Simmons’. He was the only man lost out of the barque ‘L. Van Valkinburgh’ some years ago. The first Saturday night that came around after arriving in Liverpool, I went aft to get some money from the Old Man, and after getting five dollars, I asked him if I could get an opportunity to go on the following Saturday to DUCKINFIELD, my native village. On his learning that I had a mother and sister there, he not only gave me liberty for that night, but told me that we should be in Liverpool some time as we should be hauled out here to have the ship coppered, she not being coppered as yet. He further told me that I could get five dollars every Saturday afternoon and go to my home, to come back on the first train Monday. To say I was pleased, does not begin to express my feelings at this kind offer, and for the following six weeks that we were in Liverpool, unloading, hauling the ship out and her bottom recaulked and coppered, ship thoroughly repainted and fitted out and loaded again for Boston, every week I had the pleasure of going home to Mother. For that kindness I could never ascribe any reason only to the innate goodness of the Old Man’s heart.

We finally got the ship reloaded and then took on some seven hundred passengers for Boston; but here let me speak of the man we called the ‘painter’. For a week or more after arriving in Liverpool, the man remained on board as though he was contented. Finally, Mr. O’Brien told him that the ‘Creighton’ was not big enough to carry both of them back to Boston and that one of them would have to look for another ship, so the man took that for a hint to leave and packed his bag and left. We heard afterward that he went out in the ship ‘Ellen Austin’ to New York; if he did, he found out a difference in the two ships before he arrived in New York.