Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

Now ensued the bustle incident to such occasions. Captain William Boyd, who had volunteered to pilot the brig down the harbor, came on board; the sails were hoisted; the deck was crowded with persons to take leave of their friends, or gratify a morbid curiosity; and what with the numerous questions asked, the running to and fro, the peremptory commands of the mate, the unmusical singing and shouting of the crew as they executed the various orders, together with the bawling of the handrartmen and truckmen as they brought down the last of the trunks, chests, stores, and provisions, my brain was in a whirl of excitement; I hardly knew whether I stood on my head or my heels.

At last the captain came down the wharf, accompanied by Joshua Haven, one of the owners, and some friends, who had made arrangements to proceed in the brig so far as the mouth of the harbor. The single rope which connected the Dolphin with the shore was cast loose; the pilot gave some orders, that were Greek to me, in a loud and energetic tone; the men on the wharf gave

three cheers, which were heartily responded to by the temporary passengers

and crew; and with a pleasant breeze from the westward, we sailed merrily down the river.

Some few persons lingered on the wharf, and continued for a time to wave their handkerchiefs in token of an affectionate farewell to their friends. I seemed to stand alone while these interesting scenes were enacted. I took no part in the warm greetings or the tender adieus. I had bidden farewell to my friends and relatives in another town some days before; and no one took sufficient interest in my welfare to travel a few miles, look after my comforts, and wish me a pleasant voyage as I left my native land.

Although from the reception I had met with I had little reason to expect present indulgences or future favors from my kinsman who commanded the brig, I did not regret

the step I had taken. On the contrary, my bosom bounded with joy when the last rope was severed, and the vessel on whose decks I proudly stood was actually leaving the harbor of Portsmouth, under full sail, bound to a foreign port. This was no longer “ the baseless fabric of a vision.” The dream of my early years had come to pass; and I looked forward with all the confidence of youth to a bold and manly career, checkered it might be with toil and suffering, but replete with stirring adventure, whose wild and romantic charms would be cheaply won by wading through a sea of troubles. I now realized the feeling which has since been so well described by the poet :

[blocks in formation]

THE Dolphin was what is termed, in nautical parlance, an “hermaphrodite brig,” of about one hundred and fifty tons burden; and had been engaged, for some twelve or fifteen years, in the West India trade. This vessel could not with propriety be regarded as a mode of grace and beauty, but gloried in bluff bows, a flat bottom, and a high quarter-deck; carried a large cargo for her tonnage, and moved heavily and reluctantly through the water.

On this particular voyage, the hold of the brig, as I have already stated, was filled with lumber; and thirtyfive thousand feet of the same article were carried on deck, together with an indefinite quantity of staves, shooks, hoop poles, and other articles of commerce too numerous to mention. On this enormous deck-load were constructed, on each side, a row of sheep-pens, sufficiently spacious to furnish with comfortable quarters some sixty or seventy sheep; and on the pens, ranged along in beautiful confusion, was an imposing display of hen-coops and turkey-coops, the interstices being ingeniously filled with bundles of hay and chunks of firewood. The quarter-deck was “lumbered up” with hoggheads of water, and casks of oats and barley, and hencoops without number.

With such a deck-load, not an unusually large one in those days, the leading trucks attached to the forerigging were about half way between the main deck and the foretop. It was a work of difficulty and danger to descend from the deck-load to the forecastle; but to reach the foretop required only a hop, skip, and a jump. The locomotive qualities of this craft, misnamed the Dolphin, were little superior to those of a well constructed raft; and with a fresh breeze on the quarter, in spite of the skill of the best helmsman, her wake was as crooked as that of the “wounded snake,” referred to by the poet, which “ dragged its slow length along."

It was in the early part of July, in the year 1809, that the brig Dolphin left Portsmouth, bound on a voyage to Dutch Guiana, which at that time, in consequence of the malignant fevers that prevailed on the coast, was not inaptly termed “the grave of American seamen.” The crew consisted of the captain and mate, five sailors, a green hand to act as cook, and a cabin. boy. There was also a passenger on board, a young man named Chadwick, who had been residing in Portsmouth, and

was going to Demarara, in the hope — which fortunately for him was not realized — of establishing himself in a mercantile house.

The forecastle being, for obvious reasons, untenable during the outward passage, these ten individuals, when below deck, were stowed away in the cabin and steerage, amid boxes, bales, chests, barrels, and water casks, in a manner somewhat miscellaneous, and not the most commodious or comfortable. Indeed, for several days after we left port, the usual and almost only access to the cabin was by the skylight; and those who made the cabin their home, were obliged to crawl on all fours over the heterogeneous mass of materials with which it was crowded, in order to reach their berths !

The owners of the brig must have calculated largely on favorable weather during the passage; for had we experienced a gale on the coast, or fallen in with the tail-end of a hurricane in the tropics, the whole deck-load would have been swept away, and the lives of the ship’s company placed in imminent peril. The weather, however, proved remarkably mild, and the many inconveniences to which the crew were subjected were borne with exemplary patience, and sometimes even regarded as a capital joke.

We passed the Whale's Back at the mouth of the Piscataqua, and the Isles of Shoals loomed up through the hazy atmosphere; and although the wind was light, and the sea apparently smooth, the brig began to have a motion an awkward, uneasy motion — for which I' could not account, and which, to my great annoyance, continued to increase as we left the land. I staggered as I crossed the quarter-deck, and soon after we cleared the harbor, came near pitching overboard from the platform covering the sheep-pens. My head was strangely confused, and a dizziness seized me, which I in vain

struggled to shake off. My spirits, so gay and buoyant as we sailed down the harbor, sunk to zero.

At length I could not resist the conviction that I was assailed with symptoms of seasickness; a malady which I had always held in contempt, believing it to exist more in imagination than in fact, and which I was determined to resist, as unsailor-like and unmanly. Other symptoms, of a less equivocal description, soon placed the character of my illness beyond a doubt. My woe-begone looks must have betrayed my feelings, for one of the men told me, with a quizzical leer, that old Neptune always exacted toll in advance from a green hand for his passage over the waters.

Mr. Thompson, who seemed to pity my miserable condition, gravely assured me that exercise was a capital thing as a preventive or cure for seasickness, and advised me to try the pump.

I followed his advice: a few strokes brought up the bilge water, than which nothing at that time could have been more insufferably nauseous ! I left the pump in disgust, and retiring to the after part of the quarter-deck, threw myself down on a coil of rope, unable longer to struggle with my fate. There I remained unnoticed and uncared for for several hours, when, the wind having changed, the rope which formed my bed, and proved to be the “main sheet,” was wanted, and I was unceremoniously ejected from my quarters, and roughly admonished to “go below and keep out of the way!” I crawled into the cabin, and, stretched on some boxes, endeavored to get a little sleep; but the conglomeration of smells of a most inodorous character, which, as it seemed to my distempered fancy, pervaded every part of the vessel, prevented my losing a sense of suffering in sleep.

As I lay musing on the changes which a few days had wrought in my condition, and, borne down by the pangs of seasickness, was almost ready to admit that

« FöregåendeFortsätt »