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Title: Heroes of the Goodwin Sands
Author: Treanor, Thomas Stanley
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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HEROES OF THE GOODWIN SANDS

by

THE REV. THOMAS STANLEY TREANOR, M.A.

Chaplain, Missions to Seamen, Deal and the Downs

Author of "The Log of a Sky Pilot," "The Cry from the Sea and the
Answer from the Shore."

With Coloured and Other Illustrations



[Frontispiece: A Perilous Escape]


[Illustration: Title page]



London
The Religious Tract Society
4 Bouverie Street & 65 St. Paul's Churchyard
1904



PREFACE

For twenty-six years, as Missions to Seamen Chaplain for the Downs, the
writer of the following chapters has seen much of the Deal boatmen,
both ashore and in their daily perilous life afloat.  For twenty-three
years he has also been the Honorary Secretary of the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution for the Goodwin Sands and Downs Branch; he has
sometimes been afloat in the lifeboats at night and in storm, and he
has come into official contact with the boatmen in their lifeboat work,
in the three lifeboats stationed right opposite the Goodwin Sands, at
Deal, Walmer, and Kingsdown.  With these opportunities of observation,
he has written accurate accounts of a few of the splendid rescues
effected on those out-lying and dangerous sands by the boatmen he knows
so well.

Each case is authenticated by names and dates; the position of the
wrecked vessel is given with exactness, and the handling and
manoeuvring of the lifeboat described, from a sailor's point of view,
with accuracy, even in details.

The descriptions of the sea--of Nature in some of her most tremendous
aspects, of the breakers on the Goodwins--and of the stubborn courage
of the men who man our lifeboats are far below the reality.  Each
incident occurred as it is related, and is absolutely true.

The Deal boatmen are almost as mute as the fishes of the sea respecting
their own deeds of daring and of mercy on the Goodwin Sands.  It is but
justice to those humble heroes of the Kentish coast that an attempt
should be made to tell some parts of their wondrous story.

T. S. T.

DEAL, 1904.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER

    I.  THE GOODWIN SANDS
   II.  THE DEAL BOATMEN
  III.  THE AUGUSTE HERMANN FRANCKE
   IV.  THE GANGES
    V.  THE EDINA
   VI.  THE FREDRIK CARL
  VII.  THE GOLDEN ISLAND
 VIII.  THE SORRENTO, S.S.
   IX.  THE ROYAL ARCH
    X.  THE MANDALAY
   XI.  THE LEDA
  XII.  THE D'ARTAGNAN AND THE HEDVIG SOPHIA
 XIII.  THE RAMSGATE LIFEBOAT



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


A PERILOUS RESCUE . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

THE LAUNCH OF THE LIFEBOAT

THE GOODWIN SANDS

A WRECK ON THE GOODWINS

THE BOOM OF A DISTANT GUN

SHOWING A FLARE

HOOKING THE STEAMER

A FORLORN HOPE

POSITION OF THE GANGES ON THE SANDS

DANGEROUS WORK

THE ANCHOR OF DEATH (_from a photograph_)

DEAL BOATMEN ON THE LOOK OUT FOR A HOTEL

THE WRECK OF THE GOLDEN ISLAND

CLOVE-HITCH KNOTS

JARVIST ARNOLD

THE KINGSDOWN LIFEBOAT

SCENE ON DEAL BEACH, FEBRUARY 13, 1870

POSITION OF THE SORRENTO

THE SORRENTO ON THE GOODWIN SANDS

ALL HANDS IN THE LIFEBOAT

THE LIFEBOAT BRADFORD AT THE WRECK OF THE INDIAN CHIEF

LEAVING RAMSGATE HARBOUR IN TOW



[Illustration: The Launch of the Lifeboat.  From a photograph by W. H.
Franklin.]



CHAPTER I

THE GOODWIN SANDS


  'Would'st thou,' so the helmsman answered,
  'Learn the secrets of the sea?
  Only those who brave its dangers
  Comprehend its mystery.'


The Goodwin Sands are a great sandbank, eight miles long and about four
miles wide, rising out of deep water four miles off Deal at their
nearest point to the mainland.  They run lengthwise from north to
south, and their breadth is measured from east to west.  Counting from
the farthest points of shallow water around the Goodwins, their
dimensions might be reckoned a little more, but the above is
sufficiently accurate.

Between them and Deal lies thus a stretch of four miles of deep water,
in which there is a great anchorage for shipping.  This anchorage, of
historic interest, is called the Downs--possibly from the French _les
Dunes_, or 'the Sands,' a derivation which, so far as I know, was first
suggested by myself--and is sheltered from the easterly gales to some
extent by the Goodwins.

The Downs are open to the north and south, and through this anchorage
of the Downs runs the outward and homeward bound stream of shipping of
all nations, to and from London and the northern ports of England,
Holland, Germany, and the Baltic.

A very large proportion of the stream of shipping bound to London
passes inside the Goodwins or through the Downs, especially when the
wind is south-west, inasmuch as if they went in west winds outside the
Goodwins, they would find themselves a long way to leeward of the Gull
buoy.

The passage here, between the Gull buoy and the Goodwin Sands, is not
more than two miles wide; and again I venture to suggest that the Gull
stream is derived from the French _la Gueule_.

Though there are four miles of deep water between the Goodwin Sands and
the mainland, this deep water has rocky shallows and dangerous patches
in it, but I shall not attempt to describe them, merely endeavouring to
concentrate the reader's attention on the Goodwin Sands.  Inside the
Goodwins and in this comparatively sheltered anchorage of deep water,
the outward bound shipping bring up, waiting sometimes for weeks for
fair wind; hence Gay's lines are strictly accurate,

  All in the Downs the fleet was moored.


The anchorage of the Downs is sheltered from west winds by the mainland
and from east winds by the dreaded Goodwins.  They thus form a natural
and useful breakwater towards the east, creating the anchorage of the
Downs.

In an easterly gale, notwithstanding the protection of the Goodwins,
there is a very heavy and even tremendous sea in the Downs, for the
Goodwin Sands lie low in the water, and when they are covered by the
tide--as they always are at high water--the protection they afford is
much diminished.

The 'sheltered' anchorage of the Downs is thus a relative term.  Even
in this shelter vessels are sometimes blown away from their anchors
both by easterly and westerly winds.

In 1703 thirteen men-of-war were lost in the Downs in the same gale in
which Winstanley perished in the Eddystone Lighthouse of his own
construction, and I have seen vessels in winds both from east and west
driven to destruction from the Downs.  Even of late years I have seen
450 vessels at anchor in the Downs, reaching away to the north and
south for nearly eight miles.

Their appearance is most imposing, as may be judged from the engraving
on page 95, in which, however, only twenty-five ships are visible in
the moonlight.  Almost all the ships in the engraving are outward
bound, and some, it may be, are on their last voyage.

Outside, and to the cast of this great fleet of vessels, lies the great
'shippe-swallower,' the Goodwin Sands.  The sands are very irregular in
shape, and are not unlike a great lobster, with his back to the cast,
and with his claws, legs, and feelers extended westwards towards Deal
and the shipping in the Downs.  Far from the main body of the sands run
all manner of spits and promontories and jaws of sand, and through and
across the Goodwins in several directions are numbers of 'swatches,' or
passages of water varying in depth from feet to fathoms.

No one knows, or can know, all the swatches, which vary very much month
by month according to the prevalence of gales or fair weather.  I shall
never forget the sensation of striking bottom in one of those swatches
where I expected to find, and had found recently before in the same
state of the tide, a depth of six feet.  The noise of broken water on
each side of us, and the ominous grating thump of our boat's keel
against the Goodwins, while the stumps of lost vessels grinned close
by, gave us a keen sense of the nearness of real peril.  We were bound
to the East Goodwin lightship, and in the path of duty, but we were
glad to feel the roll of deep water under our boat's keel outside the
Goodwins.

No one therefore knows, or can know, by reason of the perpetual
shifting of the sands, all the passages or swatches, either as to
direction or depth, of the Goodwins; but two or three main swatches are
tolerably well known to the Deal and Ramsgate lifeboatmen.

There is a broad bay called Trinity Bay in the heart of the Goodwins,
out of which leads due north-east the chief swatch or passage through
the Sands.  It is four or five fathoms deep at low water, and from
about three-quarters to a quarter of a mile wide, and it is called the
Ramsgate Man's Bight.  Close to the outer entrance of this great
passage rides, about twelve feet out of water, the huge north-east
Whistle buoy of the Goodwins, which ever moans forth in calmest weather
its most mournful note.

Sometimes when outside the Goodwins on my way from the North Goodwin to
the East Goodwin lightship, we have passed so close to this great buoy
that we could touch it with a boat-hook, and have heard its giant
breathing like that of some leviathan asleep on the surface of the sea,
which was dead calm at the time.  I have also heard its boom at a
distance of eight miles.

I have said this great swatch leads north-east through the
Goodwins--but north-east from what, and how is the point of departure
to be found on a dark night?  If you ask the coxswain of the Deal
lifeboat, who probably knows more, or at least as much about the Sands
and their secrets as any other living man, he will tell you to 'stand
on till you bring such a lightship to bear so and so, and then run due
north-east; only look out for the breakers on either side of you.'  It
is one thing to go through this swatch in fair weather and broad
daylight, and another thing in the dark or even by moonlight, 'the sea
and waves roaring' their mighty accompaniment to the storm.

There are other swatches, one more to the southward than the preceding,
and also running north-east, through which the Deal men once brought a
ship named the Mandalay into safety after protracted efforts.

Another swatch too exists, opposite the East Goodwin buoy, being that
in which we struck the dangerous bottom.  And yet another, just north
of the south-east buoy, leads right across the tail of the monster, and
so into the deep water of the Downs.

Looking at a chart or reading of these passages, they seem easy enough,
but to find and get through them safely when you are as low down as you
are in a boat, near the sea level, is very difficult, and as exciting
as the escape of the entangled victims from the labyrinths of
old--unmistakable danger being all around you, and impressed on both
eyes and ears.

The whole of the Goodwin Sands are covered by the sea at high water;
even the highest or north part of the Sands is then eight or ten feet
under water.  At low water this north part of the Goodwins is six feet
at least above the sea level, and you can walk for miles on a rippled
surface cut into curious gulleys, the miniatures of the larger
swatches.  Wild and lonely beyond words is the scene.  The sands are
hard when dry--in some places as hard as the hardest beach of sand that
can be named.  Near the Fork Spit the sand is marvellously hard.  On
the north-west part of the Goodwins, which is that given in the
engraving, it is hard, but not so hard as elsewhere.  In all cases it
is soft and pliable under water, and sometimes in wading you sink with
alarming rapidity.

Recently attempting in company with a friend to wade a very
peculiar-looking but shallow swatch--to right and left of us being blue
swirls of deeper water, the 'fox-falls' on a smaller scale of another
part of the Sands, and exceedingly beautiful--I suddenly sank pretty
deep, and struggled back with all my energies into firmer footing from
the Goodwins' cold and tenacious embrace.

The Sands reach round you for miles, and the greater swatches cut you
off from still more distant and still more extensive reaches of sand.
In such solitudes, and with such vastness around you, of which the
great lonely level stretch makes you conscious as nothing ashore can
do, you realise what an atom you are in creation.

[Illustration: The Goodwin Sands.]

Here you see a ship's ribs.  This was the schooner laden with
pipe-clay, out of which in a dangerous sea the captain and crew escaped
in their own boat, as the lifeboat advanced to save them.  Far away on
the Sands you see the fluke of a ship's anchor, which from the shape
when close to it we recognise to be a French pattern.

With me stood the coxswain of the celebrated Deal lifeboat, Richard
Roberts.  Intently he gazed at the projecting anchor fluke--shaft and
chain had long been sucked down into the Goodwins--and then, after a
good long look all round, taking the bearings of the deadly thing, at
last he said, 'What a dangerous thing on a dark night for the lifeboat!'

Just think, good reader!  The lifeboat, close reefed, flies to the
rescue on the wings of the storm into the furious seas which revel and
rage on the Goodwins.  Her fifteen men dauntlessly face the wild
smother.  She sinks ponderously in the trough of a great roller, and
the anchor fluke is driven right through her bottom and holds her to
the place--for hold her it would, long enough to let the breakers tear
every living soul out of her!

Under our feet and deep in the sand lie vessels one over another, and
in them all that vessels carry.  Countless treasures must be buried
there--the treasures of centuries.  Witness the Osta Junis, a Dutch
East Indiaman, which, treasure-laden with money and other valuables to
a great amount, ran on the Goodwin Sands, July 12, 1783.  The Deal
boatmen were quickly on board, and brought the treasures ashore, which,
as it was war time, were prize to the Crown, and were conveyed to the
Bank of England[1].  That merchandise, curiosities, and treasures lie
engulfed in the capacious maw of the Goodwin Sands is very probable,
although we may not quite endorse Mr. Pritchard's statement that 'if
the multitude of vessels lost there during the past centuries could be
recovered, they would go a good way towards liquidating the National
Debt.'

From its mystery and 'shippe-swallowing' propensities, the word
'monster' is peculiarly appropriate to this great quicksand, which
still craves more victims, and still with claws and feelers
outstretched--Scylla and Charybdis combining their terrors in the
Goodwins--lies in ambush for the goodly ships that so bravely wing
their flight to and fro beyond its reach.  But it is only in the storm
blast and the midnight that its most dreadful features are unveiled,
and even then the lifeboatmen face its perils and conquer them.

Independently of the breakers and cross-seas of stormy weather, the
dangers of the Goodwin Sands arise from the facts that they lie right
in the highway of shipping, that at high water they are concealed from
view, being then covered by the sea to the depth of from ten to
twenty-five feet, varying in different places, and that furious
currents run over and around them.

Add to this that they are very lonely and distant from the mainland,
and, being surrounded by deep water, are far from help; whilst, as an
additional and terrible danger, here and there on the sands, wrecks,
anchors, stumps, and notably the great sternpost of the Terpsichore,
from which a few months ago Roberts and the Deal lifeboatmen had
rescued all the crew, stick up over the surface.  And woe be to the
boat or vessel which strikes on these!

On September 12, 1891, on my way to the North Sandhead lightship,
which, however, we failed to reach by reason of the strong ebb tide
against us and the wind dropping to a calm, we revisited this sternpost
of the Terpsichore.  We got down mast and sails and took to our oars.
The light air from the north-east blew golden feathery cloud-films
across the great blue arch above our heads, and for once in the arctic
summer of 1891 the air was warm and balmy.  Starting from the
North-west Goodwin buoy, we soon rowed into shallow water, crossing a
long spit of sand on which, not far from us, a feathery breaker raced.
Again we get into deep water, having just hit the passage into an
amphitheatre in the Goodwins of deep water bordered by a circle or
ridge of sand about three feet under water, over which the in-tide was
fiercely running and rippling, and upon which here and there a breaker
raised its warning crest.

We reached the great sternpost of the lost Terpsichore at 9.22 a.m.,
just two hours before low water at the neap tides, and found it
projected five feet nine inches above the water, which was ten feet six
inches deep in the swilly close to it, but nowhere shallower than eight
feet within a distance of fifty yards from the stump.  Underneath in
the green sea-water there lay quite visible the keel and framework of
the vessel; and again I heard the story from Roberts, the coxswain of
the Deal lifeboat, who was with me, of the rescue of the crew of this
very vessel at 2.15 a.m. on the stormy night of the preceding November
14.

As we held by the green sea-washed stump, it was hard to realise the
sublime story of that awful night: the mighty sea warring with the
furious wind, and the dismantled, beaten ship--masts gone overboard and
tossing in mad confusion of spars and cordage along her side--into
which most black and furious hell the lifeboatmen dared to venture the
Deal lifeboat, and out of which she and her gallant crew came, by God's
mercy, triumphant and unscathed, having saved every soul on board, and
also, with a fine touch of humanity often to be found in a brave
sailor's heart, the 'harmless, necessary cat' belonging to the vessel.
I can assure my readers that poor pussy's head and green eyes peering
out of the arms of one of the storm-battered sailors as they struggled
up Deal beach was a beautiful and most touching sight.

Having lingered and examined this wreck as long as we dared, we now
tried to get out of the great circle in which we were enclosed.  With
one man in the bows and another steering, we tried to cross the
submerged ridge of sand which encircled us and over which the tide
raced; but we struck the sand, and then were turned broadside on by the
furious current and swept back into the circle.  Cautiously we rowed
along, when, not twenty yards off, I saw an object triangular and not
unlike a shark's fin just above the water.  'Hard-a-starboard!' at the
same moment cried the man in the bows, and then in the same breath,
'Port, sir, quick!  Hard-a-port!'  For to right of us stuck up out of
eight feet of water, beautifully clear and green, the iron pump-work of
a submerged wreck, the iron projection being not more than six inches
out of water; and then, a few yards further on to the left of the boat,
out of deep water, a rib, it may be, of the same forgotten and it may
be long-buried vessel.

Had not the water been calm and clear, the place would have been a
regular death-trap.  With increased caution we felt our way all round
the great circle into which we had entered.  South of us rose a smooth
yellow-brown bank of sand, and upon this sunny shore tripped hundreds
of great white seagulls.  So warm, so silent, so lonely was the place
that it might have been an island in the Pacific; and upon the same
yellow sandbank there basked, quite within view, a great, large-eyed
seal.

At last we found our way out of the heart of the Goodwins, and got into
the deep, wide swatchway called the Ramsgate Man's Bight.  Away to the
north-east we saw the Whistle buoy, and toward the east the East buoy,
both of which mark the outer edge of the Goodwins.

In the deep centre of this swatch rolled the mast of another wreck,
somehow fast to the bottom, and having gazed at this weird sight, we
landed, amidst the wild screams of protesting sea-birds, and explored
all round for a mile the edges of this sandbank, which was of singular
firmness and yellowness, and upon which, in rhythmic cadence, plashed a
most pellucid sea.

With change of tide and rising water we got up sail and at last reached
the Gull lightship, on whose deck we met old friends, and where we had
Divine Service as the evening fell in.  Need it be said that that which
we had just seen on the Goodwins, the memories of the lost ships, and
of the gallant seamen who lie buried there, served to point a moral and
to raise all our hearts to that good land where 'there shall be no more
death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more
pain, for the former things are passed away.'  One of the hymns in that
service was suggested by the scene we had left, and began thus,

  Jesus!  Saviour!  Pilot me.


But not every boat that visits the mysterious quicksand escapes as
readily.  Skilled and hardy boatmen are sometimes lost even in fine
weather.

About twenty years ago a Deal galley punt, and four men, Bowbyas,
Buttress, Erridge, and Obree, skilled Deal boatmen, landed on the
Goodwins to get some coal from a wrecked collier.  All that is
certainly known is that they never returned, and that they had been
noticed by a passing barge running to and fro and waving, which the
bargemen thought, alas! was only the play of some holiday-keepers on an
excursion to the Goodwins.  They went to the Goodwins in a light
south-west breeze and smooth sea.  While there the wind shifted to
north-east and a tumble of a sea got up, and it is supposed that it
then beat into and filled their laden boat, despite the efforts which
they are believed to have made to float her or get her ride to her
anchor and come head to wind.  If this be so, how long and desperate
must their struggle have been to save their boat from wreckage, and to
pump out the water and heave out the coal.  Their anchor and cable,
found on the sands and let go to full scope, favours this idea.

On the other hand, the fact that they were seen wildly running to and
fro looks as if some sudden catastrophe had occurred, as if they had
struck on some stump in the water close to the very edge of the
Goodwins.

The very day on which the photographs were taken which have been used
to illustrate this chapter, we were shoving off the steep northern face
of the Goodwin Sands, when we saw, not ten yards from the precipitous
edge of the dull red sands, in about twenty-five feet of water, and
just awash or level with the surface, the bristling spars and masts of
a three-masted schooner, the Crocodile, which had been lost there
January 6, 1891, in a fearful snowstorm, from the north-east, of that
long winter.  Had we even touched those deadly points, we too should
have probably lost our boat and been entrapped on the Goodwin Sands.
The coxswain of the Deal lifeboat was with us, and told how that at
three o'clock on that terrible January morning, or rather night,
wearied with previous efforts, he had launched the lifeboat and beat in
the face of the storm and intense cold ten miles to windward, toward
the burning flares which told of a vessel on the Sands.

Just when within reach of the vessel, this very wreck, they saw the
Ramsgate tug and lifeboat were just before them, and taking the crew
out of the rigging of the wreck.  In sight of the whole company, for
their lanterns and lights were burning, the poor exhausted captain of
the schooner, in trying to get down from the rigging, in which he was
almost frozen to death, fell into the stormy sea and was lost in the
darkness, while the remainder were gallantly rescued by the Ramsgate
lifeboat.

[Illustration: A wreck on the Goodwins.]

It was on the dangerous stumps and masts of this vessel, to save the
crew of which the Deal and Ramsgate men made such a splendid effort,
that we so nearly ran; and an accident of this kind perhaps sealed the
fate of the four boatmen above mentioned.

On this north-west part of the Goodwins, on which hours of the deepest
interest could be spent, you can walk a distance of at least two miles,
but you are separated by the great north-east swatch of deep water from
getting to the extensive north-east jaw on the other side of the
swatch, which is also full of wrecks, and round and along the edges of
which, on the calmest day, somehow the surf and breakers for ever roar.
The southern part of the Goodwins is also full of memories, and of
countless wrecks.  The ribs of the Ganges, the Leda, the Paul Boyton,
the Sorrento, all lie there deep down beneath the Sands, excepting when
some mighty storm shifts the sand and reveals their skeletons.  Deep,
too, in the bosom of the Goodwins, masts alone projecting, is settling
down the Hazelbank, wrecked there in October, 1890; but this southern
part at lowest tide is barely uncovered by the sea, and only just awash.

At high water the depth is about three fathoms, varying of course in
patches, over this southern part or tail of the sea-monster.  It is
clear that, being thus, even at low tide, nearly always covered with
water, and as the sand when thus covered is much more 'quick' and
movable, the southern part of the Goodwins is an exceedingly awkward
place to explore.  If you made a stumble, as the sands slide under your
feet, it might, shall I say, land you into a pit or 'fox-fall,'
circular in shape, and very deep.  The stumps of forgotten wrecks are
also a real danger to the boat which accompanies the investigator.

As to the depth of the great sandbank, borings have been made down to
the chalk to a depth of seventy-eight feet--a fact which might have
been fairly conjectured from the depth of water inside the Goodwins,
down to the chalky bottom being nine or ten fathoms, while the depth
close outside the Goodwins, where the outer edge of the sands is sheer
and steep, is fifteen fathoms, deepening a mile and a half further off
the Goodwins to twenty-eight fathoms.

The ships wrecked on the Goodwins go down into it very slowly, but they
sometimes literally fall off the steep outer edge into the deep water
above described.

One still bright autumn morning I witnessed a tragedy of that
description.  On the forenoon of November 30, 1888, I was on the deck
of a barque, the Maritzburg, bound to Port Natal.  I had visited the
men in the forecastle, and indeed all hands fore and aft, as Missions
to Seamen chaplain; and to them all I spoke, and was, in fact, speaking
of that only 'Name under heaven whereby we must be saved,' when my eyes
were riveted, as I gazed right under the sun, by the drama being
enacted away to the southward.

There I saw, three miles off, our two lifeboats of Kingsdown and
Walmer, each in tow of a steamer which came to their aid, making for
the Goodwins, and on the outer edge of the Goodwins I beheld a hapless
brig, with sails set, aground.  I saw her at that distance lifted by
the heavy sea, and at that distance I saw the great tumble of the
billows.  That she had heavily struck the bottom I also saw, for
crash!--and even at that distance I verily seemed to hear the
crash--away went her mainmast over her side, and the next instant she
was gone, and had absolutely and entirely disappeared.  I could not
believe my eyes, and rubbed them and gazed again and yet again.

She had perished with all hands.  The lifeboats, fast as they went,
were just too late, and found nothing but a nameless boat, bottom
upwards, and a lifebelt, and no one ever knew her nationality or name.
She had struck the Goodwins, and had been probably burst open by the
shock, and then, dragged by the great offtide to the east, had rolled
into the deep water outside the Goodwins and close to its dreadful edge.

What a sermon!  What a summons!  There they lie till the sea give up
its dead, and we all 'appear before the judgment seat of Christ.'

The origin of the Goodwin Sands is a very interesting question, and is
discussed at length in Mr. Gattie's attractive _Memorials of the
Goodwin Sands_.  There is the romantic tradition that they once, as the
'fertile island of Lomea,' formed part of the estates of the great Earl
Godwin, and that as a punishment for his crimes they 'sonke sodainly
into the sea.'  Another tradition, given by W. Lambard, tells us that
in the end of the reign of William Rufus, 1099 A.D., there was 'a
sodaine and mighty inundation of the sea, by the which a great part of
Flaunders and of the lowe countries thereabouts was drenched and lost;'
and Lambard goes on to quote Hector Boethius to the effect that 'this
place, being sometyme in the possession of the Earl Godwin, was then
first violently overwhelmed with a light sande, wherewith it not only
remayneth covered ever since, but is become withal (_Navium gurges et
vorago_) a most dreadful gulfe and shippe-swallower.'

The latter phrase of 'shippe-swallower' being only too true, has stuck,
and there does seem historic ground to warrant us in believing that in
the year named there was a great storm and incursion of the sea; but
whether the Goodwin Sands were ever the fertile island of Lomea and the
estate of the great earl seems to be more than uncertain.

But there is no doubt whatever that the theory that the inundation of
the sea in A.D. 1099, which 'drenched' the Low Countries, withdrew the
sea from the Goodwins and left it bare at low water, while before this
inundation it had been more deeply covered by the ocean, is quite
untenable, for the sea never permanently shifts, but always returns to
its original level.  When we speak of the sea 'gaining' or 'losing,'
what is really meant is that the land gains or loses, and therefore the
idea of the Goodwins being laid bare and uncovered by the sea water
running away from it and over to Flanders is absurd.

In all probability the origin of the Goodwin Sands is not to be
ascribed to their once having been a fertile island, or to their having
been uncovered by the sea falling away from them, but to their having
been actually formed by the action of the sea itself, ever since the
incursion of the sea up the Channel and from the north made England an
island.

There are great natural causes in operation which account for the
formation of the mighty sandbank by gradual accumulation, without
having recourse to the hypothesis that it is the ruined remains of the
fabulous island of Lomea, fascinating as the idea is that it was once
Earl Godwin's island home.

The two great tidal waves of different speed which sweep round the
north of England and up the English Channel, meet twice every day a
little to the north of the North Foreland, where the writer has often
waited anxiously to catch the ebb going south.

Eddies and currents of all kinds hang on the skirts of this great
'meeting of the waters,' and hence in the narrows of the Channel, where
the Goodwins lie, the tide runs every day twice from all points of the
compass, and there is literally every day in the year a great whirlpool
all round and over the Goodwin Sands, deflected slightly perhaps, but
not caused by those sands, but by the meeting of the two tidal waves
twice every twenty-four hours.

This daily Maelstrom is sufficient to account for the formation of the
mighty sandbank, for the water is laden with the detritus of cliff and
beach which it has taken up in its course round England, and, just as
if you give a circular motion to a basin of muddy water, you will soon
find the earthy deposit centralised at the bottom of the basin, so the
great Goodwins are the result of the daily deposit of revolving tides.

That the tides literally 'revolve' round the Goodwins is well known to
the Deal men and to sailors in general, and this revolution is
described in most of the tide tables and nautical almanacks used by
mariners, _e.g._ 'The Gull Stream about one hour and ten minutes before
high water runs N.E. 3/4 N., but the last hour changes to E.N.E. and
even to E.S.E., and the last hour of the southern stream changes from
S.W. 1/2 S. to W.S.W. and even to W.N.W[2].'  Here the reader will
distinctly see recorded the great causes in operation which are
sufficient in the lapse of centuries to produce and maintain the
Goodwin Sands.  But how they came to be called the Goodwin Sands we
know not, and can only conjecture.  Those were the days of Siward and
Duncan and Macbeth, and, like them, the imposing form of the great Earl
of Kent is shrouded in the mists and the myths of eight centuries.

He was evidently placed, in the first instance by royal authority or
that of the Saxon Witan, in some such position as Captain of the Naval
forces of all Southern England, and it is certain that he gathered
round himself the affections of the sailors of Sandwich, Hythe, Romney,
Hastings, and Dover.

When he sailed from Bruges against Edward, 'the fort of Hastings opened
to his coming with a shout from its armed men.  All the boatmen, all
the mariners far and near, thronged to him, with sail and shield, with
sword and with oar.'  And on his way to Pevensey and Hastings from
Flanders he would seem to have run outside, and at the back of the
Goodwins, while the admirals of Edward the Confessor, Rodolph and Odda,
lay fast in the Downs.

He appears, by virtue of his semi-regal position--for Kent with Wessex
and Sussex were under his government--to have been the Commander of a
Naval agglomeration of those southern ports which was the germ, very
probably, of the subsequent 'Cinque Ports' confederation, with their
'Warden' at their head; but at any rate he swept with him in this
expedition against Edward all the 'Buscarles' (boat-carles or seamen)
of those southern ports, Hythe, Hastings, Dover, and Sandwich.  His
progress towards London was a triumphant one with his sons.  'All
Kent--the foster-mother of the Saxons,' we are told, on this occasion
'sent forth the cry, "Life or death with Earl Godwin!"'

Crimes may rest on the name of Earl Godwin, despite his oath to the
contrary and his formal acquittal by the Witan-gemot, and dark deeds
are still affixed to his memory, but 'there was an instinctive and
prophetic feeling throughout the English nation that with the house of
Godwin was identified the cause of the English people.'  With all his
faults he was a great Englishman, and was the popular embodiment of
English or Saxon feeling against the Normanising sympathies of Edward.

In legend the Godwin family, even in death, seem to have been connected
with the sea.  There is the legend of Godwin's destruction with his
fleet in the Goodwin Sands, and there is the much better authenticated
legend of Harold's burial in the sea-sand at Hastings.  The Norman
William's chaplain records that the Conqueror said, 'Let his corpse
guard the coasts which his life madly defended.'

  Wrap them together[3] in a purple cloak,
  And lay them both upon the waste sea-shore
  At Hastings, there to guard the land for which
  He did forswear himself.


Tenterden Steeple is certainly not the cause of the Goodwin Sands, and
the connection supposed to exist between them seems to have first
occurred to some 'aged peasant' of Kent examined before Sir Thomas More
as to the origin of the Goodwin Sands.  But, as Captain Montagu
Burrows, R.N., mentions in his most interesting book on the Cinque
Ports, Tenterden Steeple was not built till 1462, and 'was not in the
popular adage connected with the Goodwin Sands, but with Sandwich
Haven.  It ran thus--

  Of many people it hath been sayed
  That Tenterden steeple Sandwich haven hath decayed.'


Godwin's connection with Tenterden Steeple seems, therefore, to be as
mythical as his destruction in the Goodwin Sands with his whole fleet,
and we are driven to suppose that the connection of his family name
with the Goodwin Sands arose either from Norman and monkish detestation
of Harold and Godwin's race, and the desire to associate his name as
infamous with those terrible quicksands; or that these Sands had some
connection with the great earl and his family which we know not of,
whether as having been, according to doubtful legend, his estate, or
because he must often have victoriously sailed round them, and hard by
them often hoisted his rallying flag; or that these outlying, but
guarding Sands received from the patriotic affection of the valiant
Kentish men the title of 'the Goodwin Sands' in memory of the great
Earl Godwin and of Godwin's race[4].



[1] See Pritchard's interesting _History of Deal_, p. 196.

[2] Jefferson's _Almanack_, 1892.

[3] Edith and Harold.

[4] I am reminded by the Rev. C. A. Molony that Goodnestone next
Wingham or Godwynstone, and Godwynstone next Faversham, both referred
to in _Archaeologia Cantiana_, are localities which probably
commemorate the name of the great Earl of Kent.  Hasted mentions that
the two villages were part of Earl Godwin's estates, and on his death
passed to his son Harold, and that when Harold was slain they were
seized by William and given to some of his adherents.  Mr. Molony
mentions a tradition at Goodnestone near Wingham, that both that
village and Godwynstone near Faversham were the lands given by the
crown to Earl Godwin to enable him to keep in repair Godwin's Tower and
other fortifications at Dover Castle.



CHAPTER II

THE DEAL BOATMEN

  Where'er in ambush lurk the fatal sands,
  They claim the danger.


Ever since fleets anchored in the Downs, the requirements of the great
number of men on board, as well as the needs of the vessels, would have
a tendency to maintain the supply of skilled and hardy boatmen to meet
those needs.  Pritchard, in his _History of Deal_, which is a mine of
interesting information, gives a sketch of events and battles in the
Downs since 1063.  Tostig, Godwin, and Harold are noticed; sea fights
between the French and English in the Downs from 1215 are described;
the battles of Van Tromp and Blake in the Downs, and many other
interesting historical events, are given in his book, as well as
incidents connected with the Deal boatmen.

With the decay and silting up of Sandwich Haven the Downs became still
more a place of ships, and thus naturally was still more developed the
race of Deal boatmen, who were, and are to the present time, daily
accustomed to launch and land through the surf which runs in rough
weather on their open beach; and whose avocation was to pilot the
vessels anchoring in or leaving the Downs, and to help those in
distress on the Goodwin Sands.

[Illustration: The boom of a distant gun.  From a photograph by W. H.
Franklin.  James Laming, _Coxswain, Kingsdown Lifeboat_, R. Roberts,
_Coxswain, North Deal Lifeboat_, John Mackins, _Coxswain, Walmer
Lifeboat_.]

Like their descendants now, who are seen daily in crowds lounging round
the capstans, the night was most frequently their time of effort.  In
the day they were resting 'longshore' fashion, unless, of course, their
keen sailor sight saw anywhere--even on the distant horizon--a chance
of a 'hovel.'  Ever on the look-out in case of need, galleys, sharp as
a shark, and luggers full of men, would rush down the beach into the
sea in less time than it has taken to write this sentence.

But until the necessity for action arose a stranger, looking at the
apparently idling men, with their far-away gazings seaward, would
naturally say, 'What a lazy set of fellows!' as has actually been said
to me of the very men who I knew had been all night in the lifeboat,
and whose faces were tanned and salted with the ocean brine.

Justly or unjustly, in olden times the Deal boatmen were accused of
rapacity.  But the poor fellows knew no better--Christian love and
Christian charity seem to have slept in those days, and no man cared
for the moral elevation of the wild daring fellows.  True indeed, they
were accused of lending to vessels in distress a 'predatory succour'
more ruinous to them than the angry elements which assailed them.  In
1705 a charge of this kind was made by Daniel Defoe, the author of
_Robinson Crusoe_, and was sternly repelled by the Mayor and
Corporation of Deal; and Mr. Pritchard mentions that only one charge of
plundering wrecks was made in the present century, in the year 1807;
and the verdict of 'Guilty' was eventually and deservedly followed by
the pardon of the Crown.

With the increase of the shipping of this country, and the naval wars
of the early part of the nineteenth century, the numbers and fame of
the Deal boatmen increased, until their skill, bravery, and humanity
were celebrated all over the world.  In those times, and even recently,
the Deal boatmen, including in that title the men of Walmer and
Kingsdown, were said to number over 1000 men; and as there were no
lightships around the Goodwin Sands till the end of the eighteenth
century, there were vessels lost on them almost daily, and there were
daily salvage jobs or 'hovels' and rescues of despairing crews; and
what with the trade with the men-of-war, and the piloting and berthing
of ships, there were abundant employment and much salvage for all the
boatmen.

The dress of the boatmen in those days, _i.e._ their 'longshore
toggery'--and there are still among the older men a few, a very few
survivals--was finished off by tall hats and pumps; and in answer to my
query 'why they formerly always wore those pumps?' I was told, ''Cos
they was always a dancin' in them days'--doubtless with Jane and Bess
and black-eyed Susan.

There was smuggling, too, of spirits and tobacco, and all kinds of
devices for concealing the contraband articles.  Not very many years
ago boats lay on Deal beach with hollow masts to hold tea--then an
expensive luxury, and fitted with boxes and lockers having false
bottoms, and all manner of smuggling contrivances.

It was hard to persuade those wild, daring men that there was anything
wrong in smuggling the articles they had honestly purchased with their
own money.

'There's nothing in the Bible against smuggling!' said one of them to a
clerical friend of mine, who aptly replied: 'Render therefore unto
Caesar the things that be Caesar's, and unto God the things that be
God's.'

'Is it so? you're right,' the simple-minded boatman replied; 'no more
smuggling after this day for me!'  And there never was.

But that which has given the Deal boatmen a niche in the temple of fame
and made them a part and parcel of our 'rough island story,' is their
heroic rescues and their triumphs over all the terrors of the Goodwin
Sands.

There was no lightship on or near the Goodwin Sands till 1795, when one
was placed on the North Sand Head.  In 1809 the Gull lightship, and in
1832 the South Sand Head lightships, were added, and the placing of the
East Goodwin lightship in 1874 was one of the greatest boons conferred
on the mariners of England in our times.

It is hard even now sometimes to avoid the deadly Goodwins, but what it
must have been in the awful darkness of winter midnights which brooded
over them in the early part of this century is beyond description.

Nor was there a lifeboat stationed at Deal until the year 1865.  Before
that time the Deal luggers attempted the work of rescue on the Goodwin
Sands.  In those days all Deal and Walmer beach was full of those
wonderful sea-boats hauled up on the shingle, while their mizzen booms
almost ran into the houses on the opposite side of the roadway.  The
skill and daring of those brave boatmen were beyond praise.  Let me
give in more detail the incident alluded to in the account of the
Ganges.

Fifty-two years ago, one stormy morning, a young Deal boatman was going
to be married, and the church bells were ringing for the ceremony, when
suddenly there was seen away to the southward and eastward a little
schooner struggling to live in the breakers, or rather on the edge of
the breakers, on the Goodwins.  The Mariner lugger was lying on the
beach of Deal, and there being no lifeboat in those days a rush of
eager men was made to get a place in the lugger, and amongst them,
carried away by the desire to do and to save, was the intended
bridegroom.

By the time they plunged into the awful sea on the sands the schooner
had struck, and was thumping farther into the sands, sails flying
wildly about and the foremast gone.  The crew, over whom the sea was
flying, were clustered in the main rigging.  It was a service of the
most awful danger, and the lugger men, well aware that it was a matter
of life and death, put the question to each other, 'What do you say, my
lads; shall we try it?'  'Yes!  Yes!' and then one and all shouted,
'Yes!  We'll have those people out of her!' and they ran for the
drifting, drowning little Irish schooner.  They did not dare to
anchor--a lifeboat could have done so, but for them it would have been
certain death--and as they approached the vessel and swept past her
they shouted to the crew in distress, 'Jump for your lives.'

They jumped for life, as the lugger rose on the snowy crest of a
breaker, and not a man missed his mark.  All being rescued, they again
fought back through the broken water, and when they reached Deal beach
they were met by hundreds of their enthusiastic fellow townsmen, who by
main force dragged the great twenty-ton lugger out of the water and far
up the steep beach.  The interrupted marriage was very soon afterwards
carried out, and the deserving pair are alive and well, by God's mercy,
to this day.

The luggers are about forty feet long and thirteen feet beam, more or
less.  The smaller luggers are called 'cats.'  There is a forecastle or
'forepeak' in the luggers where you can comfortably sleep--that is, if
you are able to sleep in such surroundings, and if the anguish of
sea-sickness is absent.  I once visited in one of these luggers, lost
at sea with two of her crew on November 11, 1891, the distant Royal
Sovereign and Varne lightships, and had a most happy three days' cruise.

There is a movable 'caboose' in the 'cats' right amidships, in which
three or four men packed close side by side can lie; but if you want to
turn you must wake up the rest of the company and turn all together--so
visitors to Deal are informed.  These large boats are lugger-rigged,
carrying the foremast well forward, and sometimes, but very rarely,
like the French _chasse-marées_, a mainmast also, with a maintopsail,
as well, of course, as the mizzen behind.  The mainmast is now hardly
ever used, being inconvenient for getting alongside the shipping, and
therefore there only survive the foremast and mizzen, the mainmast
being developed out of existence.

The luggers are splendid sea-boats, and it is a fine sight to see one
of them crowded with men and close-reefed cruising about the Downs
'hovelling' or 'on the look out' for a job in a great gale.  While
ships are parting their anchors and flying signals of distress, the
luggers, supplying their wants or putting pilots on board, wheel and
sweep round them like sea-birds on the wing.

[Illustration: Showing a flare.]

As I write these lines, a great gale of wind from the S.S.W. is
blowing, and it was a thrilling sight this morning at 11 a.m. to watch
the Albert Victor lugger launched with twenty-three men on board, in
the tremendous sea breaking over the Downs.  Coming ashore later, on a
giant roller, the wave burst into awful masses of towering foam, so
high above and around the lugger that for an instant she was out of
sight, overwhelmed, and the crowds cried, 'She's lost!' but upwards she
rose again on the crest of the following billow, and with the speed of
an arrow flew to the land on this mighty shooting sea.

Just at the same moment as the lugger came ashore the bold coxswain of
the North Deal lifeboat launched with a gallant crew to the rescue of a
despairing vessel, the details of which service are found below.

There is no harbour at Deal, and all boats are heaved up the steep
shingly beach, fifty or sixty yards from the water's edge, by a capstan
and capstan bars, which, when a lugger is hove up, are manned by twenty
or thirty men.  When hauled up thus to their position the boats are
held fast on the inclined plane on which they rest by a stern chain
rove through a hole in the keel called the 'ruffles.'  This chain is
fastened by a 'trigger,' and when next the lugger is to be launched
great flat blocks of wood called 'skids,' which are always well
greased, are laid down in front of her stem, her crew climb on board,
the mizzen is set, and the trigger is let go.  By her own impetus the
lugger rushes down the steep slope on the slippery skids into the sea.
Even when a heavy sea is beating right on shore, the force acquired by
the rush is sufficient to drive her safely into deep water.  Lest too
heavy a surf or any unforeseen accident should prevent this, a cable
called a 'haul-off warp' is made fast to an anchor moored out far, by
which the lugger men, if need arise, haul their boat out beyond the
shallow water.  The arrangements above described are exactly those
adopted by the lifeboats, which are also lugger-rigged, and being
almost identical in their rig are singularly familiar to Deal men.  The
introduction of steam has diminished greatly the number of the luggers,
as fewer vessels than formerly wait in the Downs, and there is less
demand for the services of the boatmen.

There was formerly another class of Deal boats, the forty-feet
smuggling boats of sixty or seventy years ago.  The length, flat floor,
and sharpness of those open boats, together with the enormous press of
sail they carried, enabled them often to escape the revenue vessels by
sheer speed, and to land their casks of brandy or to float them up
Sandwich River in the darkness, and then run back empty to France for
more.  In the 'good old times' those piratical-looking craft would pick
up a long thirty-feet baulk of timber at sea--timber vessels from the
Baltic or coming across the Atlantic often lose some of their
deck-load--and when engaged in towing it ashore would be pounced upon
by the revenue officers, who would only find, to their own
discomfiture, amidst the hearty 'guffaws' of the boatmen, that the
latter were merely trying to earn 'salvage' by towing the timber ashore.

A little closer search would have revealed that the innocent-looking
baulk of timber was hollow from end to end, and was full of lace,
tobacco, cases of schnapps, 'square face,' brandy, and silks.  There is
little or no smuggling now, and the little that there is, is almost
forced on the men by foreign vessels.

Perhaps four boatmen have been out all night looking for a job in their
galley punt.  At morning dawn they find a captain who employs them to
get his ship a good berth, or to take him to the Ness.  Perhaps the
captain says--and this is an actual case--in imperfect English, 'I have
no money to pay you, but I have forty pounds of tobacco, vill you take
dat?  Or vill you have it in ze part payment?'  The boatmen consult;
hungry children and sometimes reproachful wives wait at home for money
to purchase the morning meal.  'Shall we chance it?' say they.  _They_
take the tobacco, and the first coastguardsman ashore takes _them_,
tobacco and all, before the magistrates, and I sometimes have been sent
for to the 'lock-up,' to find three or four misguided fellows in the
grasp of the law of their country, which poverty and opportunity and
temptation have led them to violate.

At present a large number of galley punts lie on Deal beach.  These
boats carry one lugsail on a mast shipped well amidships.  These boats
vary in size from twenty-one feet to thirty feet in length, and seven
feet beam, and as the Mission boat which I have steered for thirteen
years, as Missions to Seamen Chaplain for the Downs, is a small galley
punt, I take a peculiar interest in their rig and behaviour.

The galley punts are powerful seaboats; when close reefed can stand a
great deal of heavy weather, and are the marvel of the vessels in
distress which they succour.

All the Deal boats, the lifeboats of course excepted, are clinker built
and of yellow colour, the natural elm being only varnished.  And it is
fine to see on a stormy day the splendid way in which they are handled,
visible one moment on the crest and the next hidden in the trough of a
wave, or launched or beached on the open shingle in some towering sea.

I have been breathless with anxiety as I have watched the launch of
these boats into a heavy sea with a long dreadful recoil, but the
landing is still more dangerous.

If you wait long enough when launching, you can get a smooth, or a
comparatively smooth, sea.  I have sometimes waited ten minutes--and
then the command is given 'Let her go,' and the boat is hurled into the
racing curl of some green sea.

Sometimes the sea is too heavy for landing, and the galley punts lie
off skimming about for hours.  Sometimes if the weather looks
threatening it is best to come at once, and then, supposing a heavy
easterly sea, you must clap on a press of sail to drive the boat.  You
get ready a bow painter and a stern rope, and the boat, like a bolt set
free, flies to the land.  Very probably she takes a 'shooter,' that is,
gets her nose down and her stern and rudder high into the air, and, all
hands sitting aft, she is carried along amidst the hiss and burst of
the very crest of the galloping billow.  Fortunate are they if this
wave holds the boat till she is thrown high up the beach, broadside on,
for at the last minute the helm must be put up or down, to get the boat
to lie along the shore, but only at the very last minute--otherwise
danger for the crew!  I have known a boat landing, to capsize and catch
the men underneath, and I have been myself tolerably near the same
danger.

Three or four men man these galley punts, and the hardships and perils
they encounter in the earning of their livelihood are great.  The men
are sometimes, even in winter time, three days away in these open
boats, sleeping on the bare boards or ballast bags and wrapped in a
sail.

They cruise to the west to put one of their number on board some
homeward-bound vessel as 'North Sea pilot,' or they cruise to the north
and up the Thames as far as Gravesend, a distance of eighty miles, to
get hold of some outward-bound vessel with a pilot on board, which
pilot is willing to pay the boatmen a sovereign for putting him ashore
from the Downs, and they are towed behind the vessel, probably a fast
steamer, for eighty miles to Deal and the Downs.  I have done this--and
it is a curious experience--in summer, but to be towed in the teeth of
a north-easterly snowstorm from Gravesend to the Downs is quite another
thing; but it is the common experience of the Deal boatmen.  And every
day in winter they hover off Deal in their splendid galley punts,
rightly called 'knock-toes,' for the poor fellows' hands and feet are
often semi-frozen, to take a pilot out of some outward-bound steamer
going at the rate of ten or fifteen knots an hour.  It means at the
outside about 5_s_. per man; perhaps they have earned nothing for a
week, and hungry but dauntless they are determined to get hold of that
steamer, if men can do it.  On the steamer comes full speed right end
on at them.  The Deal men shoot at her under press of canvas, haul down
sail, and lay their boat in the same direction as the flying steamship,
which often never slackens her speed the least bit.  As all this _must_
be done in an instant, or pale death stares them in the face, it is
done with wonderful speed and skill.  While a man with a boat-hook, to
which a long 'towing-line' is attached, stands in the bow of the galley
punt and hooks it into anything he can catch, perhaps the bight of a
rope hung over the steamer's side, the steersman has for his own and
his comrades' lives to steer his best and to keep his boat clear of the
steamer's sides, and of her deadly propeller revolving astern, while
the bowman pays out his towing-line, and others see it is all clear,
and another takes a turn of it round a thwart.

[Illustration: Hooking the steamer.]

The steamer is 'hooked,' and, fast as she flies ahead, the galley punt
falls astern, this time, thank God, clear of the 'fan,' into the
boiling wake of the steamer, and at last she feels the tremendous
jerk--such a jerk as would tear an oak tree from its roots--of the
tightening tow-rope.

Then the boat, with her stem high in the air, for so boats tow best,
and all hands aft, and smothered in flying spray, is swept away with
the steamer as far perhaps as Dover, where the pilot wants to land.
Then the steam is eased off and the vessel stopped, but hardly ever for
the Deal men.

This 'hooking' of steamers going at full speed is most dangerous, and
often causes loss of life and poor men's property--their boats and
boats' gear--their all.  Sometimes a kindly disposed captain eases his
speed down.  I have heard the boatmen talking together, as their keen
eyes discerned a steamer far off, and could even then pronounce as to
the 'line' and individuality of the steamer: 'That's a blue-funnelled
China boat--she's bound through the Canal: he's a gentleman, he is; he
always eases down to ten knots for us Deal men.'

Even at ten-knot speed the danger is very great, and it is marvellous
more accidents do not occur, in spite of the coolness and skill of the
boatmen.  Accidents do occur too frequently.  The last fatal accident
happened to a daring young fellow who had run his boat about six feet
too close to a fast steamer; six feet short of where he put her would
have meant safety, but as it was, the steamer cut her in two and he was
drowned with his comrade, one man out of three alone being saved.  Just
half an hour before he had waved 'good-bye!' to his young wife as he
ran to the beach.

Another boat has her side torn out by a blow from one of the
propeller's fans, and goes down carrying the men deep with her; one is
saved after having almost crossed the border, and I shall long remember
my interview with that man just after he was brought ashore, appalled
with the sense of the nearness of the spirit land, and just as if he
had had a revelation--his gratitude, his convulsive sobs, his
penitence.  Another man has his leg or his arm caught by the tow-rope
as it is paid out to the flying steamer; in one man's case the keen axe
is just used in time to cut the line as it smokes over the gunwale
before the coil tears his leg off; in another's case the awful pull of
the rope fractured the arm lengthways and not by a cross fracture, and
the bone never united after the most painful operations.

Owners and captains and officers of steamships, for God's sake, ease
down your speed when your poor sailor brethren, the gallant Deal
boatmen who man the lifeboats, are struggling to hook your mighty
steamships!  Ease down a bit, gentlemen, and let the men earn something
for the wives and children at home without having to pay for their
efforts with their precious lives!

The very same men who work the galley punts I have just described are
the 'hovellers' in the great luggers when the tempest drives the
smaller boats ashore, and they also are the same men who, in times of
greater and extremer need, answer so nobly to the summons of the
lifeboat bell.

Pritchard's most interesting chapter, in which the best authorities are
quoted at length, is convincing that the word 'hoveller' is derived
from _hobelier_ (_hobbe_, [Greek] _hippos_, Gaelic _coppal_) and
signifies 'a coast watchman,' or 'look-out man,' who, by horse
(_hobbe_) or afoot, ran from beacon to beacon with the alarm of the
enemies' approach, when, 'with a loose rein and bloody spur rode inland
many a post.'  Certainly nothing better describes the Deal boatmen's
occupation for long hours of day and night than the expression so well
known in Deal, 'on the look-out,' and which thus appears to be
equivalent to 'hovelling.'

In 1864 the first lifeboat of the locality was placed in Walmer by the
Royal National Lifeboat Institution.  In 1865 another lifeboat was
placed in North Deal, a cotton ship with all hands having been lost on
the southern part of the Goodwins in a gale from the N.N.E., which
unfortunately the Walmer lifeboat, being too far to leeward, was unable
to fetch in that wind with a lee tide.

This splendid lifeboat was called the Van Cook, after its donor, and
was very soon afterwards summoned to the rescue for the first time.

It was blowing 'great guns and marline-spikes' from the S.S.W. with
tremendous sea on Feb. 7, 1865, when there was seen in the rifts of the
storm a full-rigged ship on the Goodwin Sands.  The lifeboat bell was
rung, a crew was obtained, and the men in their new and untried
lifeboat made her first, but not their first, daring attempt at rescue.
A few moments before the Deal lifeboat, there launched from the south
part of Deal one of the powerful luggers which lay there, owned by Mr.
Spears, who himself was aboard; and the lugger was on this occasion
steered by John Bailey.  The Walmer lifeboat also bravely launched, and
the three made for the wrecked vessel.

The lugger, being first, began the attempt, and in spite of the risk
(for one really heavy sea breaking into her would have sent her to the
bottom) went into the breakers.  But the lugger, rightly named
England's Glory--and the names of the luggers are admirably chosen, for
example, The Guiding Star, Friend of All Nations, Briton's Pride, and
Seaman's Hope--seeing a powerful friend behind her in the shape of the
lifeboat, stood on into the surf of the Goodwins to aid in saving life,
and also for a 'hovel,' in the hope of saving the vessel.

It was dangerous in the extreme for the lugger, but, as the men said,
'They was that daring in them days, and they seed so much money
a-staring them in the face, in a manner o' speaking, on board that
there wessel, that they was set on it.'

And when Deal boatmen are 'set on it,' they can do much.

When the lugger fetched to windward of the vessel she wore down on her
before the wind.  She did not dare to anchor; had she done so, she
would have been filled and gone down in five minutes, so hauling down
her foresail to slacken her speed, she shot past the vessel as close as
she dared, and as she flew by, six of the crew jumped at the rigging of
the wreck, and actually caught it and got on board.  The Walmer
lifeboat sailed at the vessel and tried to luff up to her, hauling down
her foresail, but the lifeboat had not 'way' enough, and missed the
vessel altogether, being driven helplessly to leeward, whence it was
impossible to return.

In increasing storm and sea, more furious as the tide rose, on came the
Deal lifeboat, the Van Cook, Wilds and Roberts (the latter now coxswain
in place of Wilds) steering.  They anchored, and veering out their
cable drifted down to the wreck; then six of the lifeboatmen also
sprang to the rigging of the heeling wreck, and the lifeboat sheered
off for safety.

The wreck was lying head to the north and with a list to starboard.
Heavy rollers struck her and broke, flying in blinding clouds of spray
high as her foreyard, coming down in thunder on her deck, so that it
seemed impossible that men could work on that wave-beaten plane.  She
was also lifted by each wave and hammered over the sand into shallower
water, so that the drenched and buffeted lifeboatmen had to lift anchor
and follow the drifting vessel in the lifeboat, and again drop anchor
and veer down as before.  All this time three powerful steam-tugs were
waiting in deep water to help the vessel, but they dared not come into
the surf where the lifeboat lay.

To stop the drift of the wrecked Iron Crown was her only chance of
safety, and it would have probably ruined all had they dropped anchors
from the vessel's bows, as she would have drifted over them and forced
them into her bottom.  The Deal men, therefore, with seamanlike skill
and resource, swung a kedge anchor clear of the vessel high up _from
her foreyard_, and as the vessel drifted the kedge bit, and the bows of
the vessel little by little came up to the sea, when her other anchors
were let go, and in a few minutes held fast; then with a mighty cheer
from the Deal men--lifeboatmen and lugger's crew all together--the Iron
Crown half an hour afterwards was floated by the rising tide on the
very top of the fateful sands; her hawser was brought to the waiting
tug-boats, and she was towed--ship, cargo, and crew all saved--into the
shelter of the Downs.

The names of this the first crew of the Deal lifeboat are given
below[1], and their gallant deed was the forerunner of a long and
splendid series of rescues, no less than 358 lives having been saved,
including such cases as the Iron Crown, by the North Deal lifeboat and
her gallant crew, and counting 93 lives saved by the Walmer lifeboat
Centurion, and 101 lives saved by the Kingsdown lifeboat Sabina, a
total of 552 lives have been saved on the Goodwin Sands.

The next venture of the Deal lifeboat was not so fortunate.  It was
made to the schooner Peerless, wrecked in Trinity Bay, in the very
heart of the Goodwins.  The men were lashed in the rigging, and the sea
was flying over them, or rather at them; but all managed to get into
the lifeboat except one poor lad who was on his first voyage.  He died
while lashed on the foreyard, and was brought down thence by Ashenden,
who bravely mounted the rigging and carried down the dead lad with the
sea-foam on his lips.  Among the rescuers of the Peerless crew were
Ashenden, named above, Stephen Wilds (for many years my own comrade in
the Mission Boat), brave old Robert Wilds, Horrick, Richard Roberts,
and ten others.

I have told of the first rescue effected by the Deal lifeboat--let me
describe one of the last noble deeds of mercy done on November 11,
1891, during an awful gale then blowing.  In the morning of the day two
luggers launched to help vessels in distress, but such was the fury of
the gale, and so mountainous was the sea, that the luggers were
themselves overpowered, and had to anchor in such shelter as they could
get.

At 2 p.m., tiles flying in the streets, and houses being unroofed, it
was most difficult to keep one's feet; crowds of Deal boatmen in
sou'-westers and oilskins were ready round the lifeboat, and in the
gaps of the driving rain and in the smoking drifts of the howling
squalls which tore over the sea, they saw that a small vessel which had
anchored inside the Brake Sand about two miles off the mainland had
parted her anchors, and, being helpless and without sails, was drifting
towards and outwards to the Brake.

[Illustration: A forlorn hope]

Then the Deal lifeboat was off to the rescue, and with eighteen men in
her, three being extra and special hands on this dangerous occasion,
launched into a terrible sea, grand but furious beyond description.
Hurled down Deal beach by her weight, the lifeboat was buried in a wild
smother, and the next minute was left dry on the beach by the ghastly
recoil.  The coming breaker floated her, and she swung to her haul-off
warp.

Then they set her close-reefed storm foresail and took her mizzen off.
Soon after an ominous crack, loud and clear, was heard in her foremast,
and such was the force of the gale that Roberts--the same brave man
who, having been second coxswain and in the lifeboat in the rescue of
the Iron Crown above described in 1865, on this perilous day in 1891
again headed his brave comrades as coxswain, with his old friend and
brother in arms, so to speak, E. Hanger, as second coxswain--hauled
down the foresail and set the small mizzen close-reefed on the
foremast, and even then the great lifeboat was nearly blown out of the
water.

With unbounded confidence in their splendid lifeboat, under this sail,
and indeed they can only work their weighty lifeboat under sail, they
literally flew before the blast into the terrific surf on the Brake
Sand, six men being required to steer her!

By this time the little vessel named The Thistle had struck the Sand,
but not heavily enough to break her in pieces, and hurled forwards by a
great roller, she grated and struck, and then was hurled forwards
again, seas breaking over her and her hapless crew.  So thick was the
air with the sea spray carried along in smoking spindrifts that the
Deal men lost sight of the wreck while they raced into the surf of the
Brake.

In that surf--which I beheld from the end of Ramsgate Pier, being
called there by imperative business, and thus deprived of the privilege
of being with the men--the lifeboat was apparently swallowed up.  She
was filled over and over again, and sometimes there was not a man of
the crew visible to the coxswain, who stood aft steering in wind which
amounted to a hurricane, and, according to Greenwich Observatory,
representing a velocity of eighty miles an hour.

At this moment I was witness of the fine sight of the Ramsgate tug and
lifeboat steaming out of Ramsgate Harbour, brave coxswain Fish steering
the lifeboat, which plunged into the mad seas behind the tug, while
blinding clouds of spray flew over the crew.  Those splendid 'storm
warriors' also rescued the crew of the Touch Not, wrecked that day on
the Ramsgate Sands; but just while they were steaming out of Ramsgate,
away on the horizon as far as I could bear to look against the fury of
the wind and rain, struggling alone and unaided in the surf of the
Brake Sand, I beheld the Deal lifeboat engaged in the rescue of The
Thistle.

There indeed before my eyes was a veritable wrestle with death for
their own lives and those of the wrecked vessel's crew.  The latter had
beaten over the Brake Sand, and was anchored close outside it, the
British ensign hoisted 'Union down,' and sinking.  Sinking lower and
lower, and only kept afloat by her cargo of nuts, her decks level with
the sea which poured over them.  In the agony of despair her crew of
five had taken to their own small boat, being afraid, from signs known
to seamen and from the peculiar wallowing of their vessel, that she was
about to make her final plunge to the bottom.

But now the great blue lifeboat rode like a messenger from heaven
alongside them, and their brave preservers dragged them over her sides
into safety from the very mouth of destruction.

Amidst words of gratitude and with praise on their lips to a merciful
God, the utterly exhausted crew saw the Deal men set sail and fight
their way again through the storm landwards.

Looking back for an instant, all hands saw the appalling sight of the
vessel they had left turn on her side and sink to the bottom of the sea.

With colours flying, with proud and thankful hearts they reach
Broadstairs, whence I received the coxswain's telegram--'Crew all
saved; sprung foremast.  R. Roberts.'

This gallant rescue was effected under the leadership of R. Roberts and
E. Hanger, the very same men who were foremost in the saving of the
Iron Crown.  Their names should not be passed over in silence, nor
those of the brave fellows who back up with their skill, their
strength, and their lives the efforts of their coxswains.

In very truth the Deal boatmen (Deal, Walmer, and Kingsdown all
included) as a class of men are unique.  As pilots, boatmen, and
fishermen they, with the Ramsgate men, stand alone, in their perils
around and on the great quicksand which guards their coast, and they
must always be of deep interest to the rest of their fellow-countrymen
by reason of their hardships, their skill, and their daring, and above
all by reason of their generous courage, consistent with their ancient
fame.  Faults they have--let others tell of them--but it seems to me
that these brave Kentish boatmen are worthy descendants of their Saxon
forefathers who rallied to the banners of Earl Godwin and died at
Senlac in stubborn ring round Godwin's kingly son.

To them, the lifeboatmen and coxswains of Deal, Walmer, and Kingsdown,
friends and comrades, I dedicate these true histories of splendid
rescues wrought by them, the 'Heroes of the Goodwin Sands.'



[1] Crew of the Deal lifeboat on her first launch to the rescue of the
Iron Crown:--R. Wilds, R. Roberts, E. Hanger, G. Pain, J. Beney, G.
Porter, E. Foster, C. Larkins, G. Browne, J. May, A. Redsull, R.
Sneller, T. Goymer, R. Erridge.



CHAPTER III

THE AUGUSTE HERMANN FRANCKE

          A brave vessel,
  Who had, no doubt, some noble creatures in her
  Dashed all to pieces!  Oh, the cry did knock
  Against my very heart!  Pool souls! they perished.


All day long April 20, 1886, it had been blowing a gale from the
north-east, and a heavy sea was tumbling on the beach at Deal.  On the
evening of that stormy day I was making my way to the Boatmen's Rooms,
at North Deal, where the boatmen were to assemble for the usual evening
service held by the Missions to Seamen chaplain.

On my way I met a boatman, a valued comrade on many a rough day in the
mission-boat.  Breathless with haste, he could at first only say, 'Come
on, sir, quick!  Come on; there's a man been seen running to and fro on
the Goodwins!'

Seeing that immediate help was needed, it appeared that the coxswain of
the lifeboat proposed signalling a passing tug-boat, and wanted my
sanction for the measure.  Had she responded to the signal, she would
have towed the lifeboat to the rescue of the mysterious man on the
Goodwins in an hour or so.  As Hon. Secretary of the Lifeboat Branch, I
at once authorised the step, and a flag was dipped from Deal pierhead,
and blue lights were burned; but all in vain.  The tug-boat went on her
way, taking no notice of the signals, which it is supposed she did not
understand.

It was plain some disaster had taken place, but what had happened on
those gruesome sands I could only conjecture until I reached the
Boatmen's Rooms.  Outside the building I found in groups and knots a
crowd of boatmen and pilots, and also Richard Roberts, the coxswain of
the Deal lifeboat.

Roberts had that evening, about five p.m., been taking a look at the
Goodwins with his glass, a good old-fashioned 'spy-glass.'  After a
long steady search--'Why,' said he to the men round him, 'there's a new
wreck on the sands since yesterday!'  The gale of the morning part of
the day had been accompanied by low sweeping clouds of mist and driving
fog, and as soon as the curtain of thick vapour lifted, Roberts noticed
the new wreck.

The other boatmen then took a look, and they all went up to the high
window of the lifeboat-house to gain a better view of the distant
Goodwins.

The point where the wreck, or the object they saw lay, was the outer
part of the Goodwin Sands towards the north, and was quite eight miles
distant from the keen-eyed watchers at Deal.

'That's a wreck since yesterday,' said one and all.

Roberts, gazing through his glass, now cried out, 'There's something,
man or monkey, getting off the vessel and moving about on the sand!'

'Let's have a look, Dick,' said another and another, and then all cried
out,

'Yes; it's a man!  He's waving something--it's a flag!'

'No, 'tis n't a flag,' said Roberts, 'it's more like a piece of canvas
lashed to a pole; it blows out too heavy for a flag.'

Just about the same time, watchers at Lloyd's office had seen through a
powerful glass the same object on the Goodwins, and they sent word to
the coxswain of the lifeboat that there was a man in distress on the
Goodwin Sands, and wildly running to and fro.

The wind, however, being north-east, and the tide having just commenced
to run in the same direction as the wind, thus producing what is called
a lee tide, it would have been worse than useless for the Deal lifeboat
to have launched.  No boat of shallow draft of water, such as a
lifeboat is, can beat to windward over a lee tide, and had she been
launched, the Deal lifeboat would have drifted farther at each tack
from the point she aimed at.

As before explained, the Deal lifeboat was unable to attract the
attention of the passing tugboat, and it was therefore decided to wire
to Ramsgate to explain that Deal was helpless, and ask the Ramsgate
lifeboat to go to the rescue.

By an extraordinary combination of misfortunes the Ramsgate lifeboat
and tugs were also helpless, and having been suddenly disabled were
laid up for repairs.  We then anxiously discussed every alternative,
and it was sorrowfully decided that nothing more could be done until
the lee tide was over, which would be about 10.30 p.m.

It was now dark, and the hour had come for the boatmen's service which
I was to hold.  The men as usual trooped in, and the room was crowded;
the scene was a striking one.  Fine stalwart men to the number of sixty
were present--free rovers of the sea, men who never call any one
master, with all the characteristic independence and even dignity of
those who follow the sea.  There was present the coxswain of the
lifeboat, and there were present also most of the men who manned the
lifeboat a few hours afterwards.  In every man's face was written the
story of dangers conquered, and a lifelong experience of the sea, on
which they pass so much of their lives, and on whose bosom a large
proportion of them would probably meet death.

On all occasions and at all times those meetings are of overwhelming
interest, by reason of the character and histories of each man among
that unique audience, and also it may be added on account of their rapt
attention to the 'old, old story,' which, 'majestic in its own
simplicity,' is invariably set before them.  But, on this occasion, add
to the picture the distant and apparently deserted figure just seen
through the rifts in the mist, 'wildly running to and fro on the
Goodwins,' the eager and sympathetic faces of the boatmen in their
absolute helplessness for a few long hours--hours that seemed centuries
to all of us.  Observe their restrained but impatient glances at the
clock, and listen to their deep-throated responses to the impassioned
petitions of the Litany of the Church of England.

I am only recording the barest facts when I say that the response of
'Good Lord, deliver us,' following that most solemn of all the
petitions of the Litany, was touching beyond the power of words to
describe.  In the midst of the service I stopped and said, 'Has any man
another suggestion to offer?  Shall we telegraph for the Dover tug?'
It was seen after a short discussion that this would be unavailing, and
the service went on.

The hymns sung at that service were three in number, and perhaps are
familiar to those who read this story:--

  Light in the darkness, sailor!
  Day is at hand,

being the well-known 'Life-boat' hymn;

  Rescue the perishing;

and then

  Jesu, lover of my soul.


No man present could fail to think at each part of the service, and as
each hymn was sung, of the poor forlorn figure seen on the Goodwins,
and now in the most dire need of help.  Nor do I think that service
will ever fade from the memories of those present on that Tuesday
evening.

Service over, we all went to the front of the lifeboat-house, and the
coxswain and myself once more consulted.  We stood just down at the
water's edge, where the white surf showed up against the black night,
and fell heavily on the shingle, resounding.

We asked, 'Had Ramsgate gone to the rescue?'

'Why was there no flare burning if there were any one or any vessel on
the Goodwins?'

'Why the dull oppressive silence and absence of all signs of signals of
distress?'

Looking up the beach we saw the black mass of boatmen all gathered
round the door of the lifeboat-house, and we heard their shouts, 'Throw
open the doors!'  'Let us have the key!'  'Why not give us the
life-belts now?'

Finally we decided to launch at exactly nine o'clock.  I went home to
dress for the night, having arranged to go in the lifeboat.  Meantime
the bell was rung, and the usual rush was made to get the life-belts.
So keen were the men that the launch was made before the time agreed
upon, and the lifeboat rushed down the beach just as I got in sight of
her--to my great and sore disappointment--and soon disappeared in the
night.

They stood on till they reached the inner edge of the Goodwins, along
which they tacked, being helped to windward, and swept towards the
north by the weather-tide, which they met about eleven o'clock.  As
they worked their way into Trinity Bay, a sort of basin in the very
heart of the Goodwins, the coxswain felt sure they were drawing near
the spot where the wreck had been seen, but it was absolutely dark.
They could see nothing, no flare, no light, and they could hear nothing
but the hollow thunder of breaking surf.

Roberts now decided to run the lifeboat right through the breakers
which beat on the outer part of the sands, and thoroughly to search
that part of the Goodwins.

Some said, 'The Ramsgate lifeboat has been here and taken the man off.'

Others, 'If there are people alive on the wreck, why is there no light
or flare?'

And then they ran her, in that pitchy blackness, into the surf; she
went through it close hauled, and beyond it into the deep sea the other
side, and searched the outside edge of the sands, but to no purpose.
Then, having shouted all together and listened, they stood back again
through the surf, running now before the wind.

The broken and formidable sea raged round the lifeboat like a pack of
wolves.  It broke on both sides of the lifeboat right into her, and
literally boiled over her as she flew before the gale and the impulse
of the swell astern.  Nothing could be seen in this stormy flight
except the white burst of the tumultuous waves, and all around was
midnight blackness.

Some were of opinion, after the prolonged search, that the wreck had
disappeared; but Roberts carried all hearts with him when he said,
'We're not going home till we see and search that wreck from stem to
stern!'

Then they anchored in Trinity Bay in four fathoms of water.  They each
had a piece of bread, a bit of cheese, and a smoke; and with every
faculty of sight and hearing strained to the utmost, they longed for
the coming of the day.

We may now return to the wrecked vessel, and describe the fate of her
captain and crew.  She was a Norwegian brig, the Auguste Hermann
Francke, bound from Krageroe to sunny San Sebastian with a cargo of
ice.  She had a crew of seven all told, and the captain's name was
Jargersen.

He had been running his vessel that morning before the gale, and at
eight o'clock in the forenoon struck on the Goodwins, having either
failed in the thick weather to pick up the lightships or the Foreland
as points from which to take a safe departure, or being carried out of
his course altogether by the strong tides which run around and over the
Goodwins, and which, if not allowed for, are a frequent cause of
disaster.  It was on the shallower northern part of the Goodwins that
the Norwegian brig struck in a north-easterly gale.

The brig struck the Goodwins about high water with a terrific crash,
and was lifted up by successive billows and thumped down and hammered
on the hard sand.  Contrary to the popular idea, ships sink but slowly
in the sand, which is practically very hard and close.  When she took
the ground the crew rushed to the main rigging and the captain to the
fore rigging.  The sea beat in clouds high over the vessel, and the
seven men lashed themselves in the rigging to prevent themselves being
shaken into the sea by the shocks.  Again and again the heavy vessel
was lifted up and thumped down; while the weather was so thick that
neither could she be seen from the nearest lightship or the land, nor
could they on the vessel see the land, or form the least idea as to
where they were; conjecturing merely that they were aground on the
Goodwins.

At last the mainmast went by the board, carrying with its ruin and
tangle of sails, spars and cordage, six of the crew into the terrible
billows.  As each man unlashed himself he was carried away by the sea
before the eyes of the captain.  The last of the crew was the ship's
boy, who, just as he cast off the fastenings by which he was lashed to
the rigging, managed to seize the jib sheet, which was hanging over the
side, and called piteously to the captain to save him.  A great wave
dashed him against the ship's side, and his head was literally beaten
in.  He too was carried away, and the captain was left alone.

The foremast shortly afterwards gave way, but the captain saw the crash
coming, and lashed himself to the windlass, where, drenched and half
drowned, he was torn at by the waves which were hurled over the ship
for hours.

At last the tide fell, and still, owing to the thick driving mist, no
one knew of the tragedy that was being enacted on the Goodwins.

Alas! many similar disasters take place on the Goodwins, the details of
which are covered by the black and stormy nights on which they occur,
and nothing is ever found to reveal the awful secret but, perhaps, a
few fishermen's nets and buoys, or a mast, or a ship's boat.

With the falling tide the sands round the wrecked vessel became dry for
miles, and the captain, half-crazed with grief and terror, climbed down
from the wreck and ran wildly about the sands.  His first thought was
not to seek for a way of escape or help, but to find the bodies of his
crew, and to protect them from the mutilations of the sea.

But he found none of them, and then he walked and wildly ran and ran
for miles, and waved his hands to the nearest but too-distant
lightship.  Sick at heart, he then fastened on the wreck a pole with a
piece of canvas lashed to it, and, as we know, he was seen by God's
mercy about that time at Deal.

As the tide again rose, evening came on, and again the captain had to
return to his lonely perch, and to lash himself again as before on the
little platform, barely three feet square, over which the sea had
beaten so fiercely a few hours before.  What visions--what fancies,
what terrors may have possessed his soul as the cruel, crawling sea
again lapped against the vessel's sides in the darkness of that awful
night!

Even now a gleam of mercy shone on him, for though the cold waves again
tumbled over and around him, they did not break up the little square
platform upon which he stood, and upon the holding together of which
his chance of living through the night depended.  None may tell of the
workings of that man's mind during that long night.  It is said that in
moments of great peril sometimes the whole course of the past life,
past but not obliterated, is summoned up in the most vivid minuteness.
Thrice blessed is the man who in that dread moment can trust himself
wholly to Him who is 'a hiding-place from the wind and a covert from
the tempest.'

And yet, though he knew it not--though hope and faith itself may have
burned low, nay, been all but quenched in that poor wearied Norwegian
seaman's breast, though grim despair may have shouted in his ears,
'Curse God and die,' all that long night the lifeboat was close to him.
The dauntless coxswain and crew, though wearied, drenched and buffeted,
were 'determined to see the wreck before they went home.'  To use their
own simple words, 'They hollered and shouted both outside and inside
them breakers, but you won't hear anything--not out there--the way the
sea was a roarin'.'

At last morning broke.  When the wind is easterly you can always see
the coming morning much sooner; and about 3.30, when the birds in the
sweet hedgerows were just beginning to twitter, the first soft, grey
dawn stole over the horizon in the east.

The weather was clearing fast and 'fining down' when the coxswain
roused all hands to 'get up the anchor.'  The foresail was set, and
then a man in the bows cried out, 'I can see something there--there's
the wreck!'--and, indeed, there it was, not more than four hundred
yards distant.

Now the sky was lighted up a rosy red, so fast came on the 'jocund morn
a tiptoe' over the waves.

'There's a man running away from the wreck!' said the coxswain.

He had descried the bright blue lifeboat with the red wale round her
gunwale, and was running to meet her in the direction she was heading.
But the lifeboat was making short tacks to windward, and the coxswain
taking off his sou'-wester waved it to the running figure to come back
and follow the lifeboat on the other tack.

Back again came the solitary man, and then at last was given the final
order from the coxswain, 'Run straight into the surf to meet him!' and
the lifeboat, carried on by a huge roller, grounded on the sands.

Running, staggering, pressing on, the rescued man came close to the
lifeboat, and then fell forwards on his knees with face uplifted to the
heavens, and his back to the lifeboat.

'They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great
waters; these see the works of the Lord, and His wonders in the
deep. . . .  Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and He
bringeth them out of their distresses. . . .  Oh that men would praise
the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children
of men!'

Now rose the glorious sun, darting his golden javelins high up into the
blue majestical canopy; and cheerily into the water, now burnished by
the sunbeams, sprang Alfred Redsull, danger and hardship all forgotten,
with a line round his waist, to guide and help the exhausted man away
from the deadly 'fox-falls,' which were full of swirling water, and at
last into the lifeboat.  Then with bated breath they learned the
story,--that all the rest were gone, and that the captain himself was
the solitary survivor.  His hands were in gloves; they cut those off,
and also his boots, so swelled were hands and feet.  They gave him a
dry pair of long stockings and woollen mittens, and they let down the
mizzen and made a lee for him under its shelter, for he was half
perished with the cold of that bitter night.  After a few minutes he
insisted on again searching the sands for his lost crew, and the
coxswain and others of the lifeboatmen went with him.

The lifeboat was by this time high and dry, for the water was falling
with great rapidity, and there was a mile of dry sand on each side of
her.  The company of men now searched the sands, and a long way off the
coxswain saw a dark object.

'What's that?' he said.

That's my ship's rudder,' replied the captain, 'and I walked round it
yesterday evening when death was staring in my face.'

Then they came to the wreck; her decks were gone, every atom of what
had once been on board her was swept clean out of her: she was split
open at her keel, and lay in halves, gaping.

Inside this wrecked skeleton ship lay her foremast, and so crushed and
flattened out was the vessel that the men stepped from the sand at once
into the hollow shell--and there they saw, still holding together, the
little spot of planking, ten feet above them, on which the rescued man
had stood, and where he had been lashed: and they took down and brought
away as a memento the piece of canvas which he had fastened to the
pole, and which had caught the eyes of the boatmen at Deal; but the
bodies of the drowned crew were never seen again.

When the tide rose the lifeboat got up anchor and made for home.
Crowds were assembled at the beach, expecting, as the British ensign
was hoisted at the peak, to find a rescued crew 'all saved' on board;
but, alas! only one wearied, overwrought man struggled up the beach.

I led him to get some hot coffee and to give him a few minutes' repose;
but he could eat nothing, and he laid his head on his arms and sobbed
as if his heart would break for the friends that were gone, and
overwhelmed by the mercy of his own preservation.

All honour to the brave coxswain and his lifeboat crew who sought and
searched for him through and through that dreadful midnight surf, and
stuck to their task with determined resolution, and who found and
rescued this poor Norwegian stranger from the very grasp of death!

All honour to the brave![1]



[1] The crew of the lifeboat on this occasion were--Richard Roberts
(coxswain), Alf. Redsull, W. Staunton, H. Roberts, W. Adams, E. Hall,
P. Sneller, W. Foster, W. Marsh, Thomas May, J. Marsh, T. Baker, R.
Williams, G. Foster.



CHAPTER IV

THE GANGES

  I've lived since then in calm and strife,
  Full fifty summers, a sailor's life;
  And Death whenever he come to me
  Shall come on the wide unbounded sea.


The rule that gales of wind prevail at the equinoxes is certainly
proved by the exceptions, but October 14, 1881, was an instance of a
gale so close to the autumnal equinox that it belonged rather to the
rule than to the exception.  It had been blowing from the west all that
day, and the Downs was full of ships.  Others were running back from
down Channel under lower fore top-sails, all ready to let go their
anchors.

Sometimes in stress of weather a ship bringing up will lose her anchors
by not shortening sail sufficiently before she lets them go.  She
preserves too much 'way' through the water, and she snaps the great
chain cable by the force of her momentum as if it had been a
pack-thread.

The wind reached the force of a 'great gale,'--the entry I find in my
diary of that date.  The boatmen say to the present day that it was
blowing a 'harricane,' and, according to the report of the coxswain of
the lifeboat, 'it was blowing a very heavy gale of wind.'  There was,
therefore, no mere capful of wind, but a real, whole, tremendous gale.
Old salts are always ready to pity landsmen, and to overwhelm them with
'Bless you's!' when they venture to talk of a 'storm'; but the harsh,
steady roar of the wind on this day made it plainly and beyond doubt a
storm.

Long lines of heavy dangerous rollers broke on Deal beach, and only the
first-class luggers could launch or live in the Downs, so great was the
sea.  These splendid luggers being of five feet draught, and having
therefore a deeper hold of the water, could do better than a lifeboat
in the deep water of the Downs.  They could fight to windward better,
and would not be so liable to upset under sail as a lifeboat; but this
only applies to the deep water.

Put the best Deal lugger that ever floated alongside the present Deal
lifeboat, the Mary Somerville, in a furious sea of breakers on the
Goodwin Sands, and the whole state of affairs is altered.  The lugger
would be swamped and overwhelmed in five minutes, while the lifeboat
would empty herself and live through it successfully.

The fortunes of the vessels in the Downs on that day were varied.  Some
were manfully riding out the gale; others were holding on to their one
remaining anchor, signalling for help, and as sorely in need of fresh
anchors and chains as ever was King Richard of a horse.  Some had lost
both anchors and were drifting out to destruction; destruction meaning
the Goodwin Sands, on which a fearful surf was raging about two miles
under their lee.

One of those driving vessels was the Ganges.  She had run back from the
Channel to the Downs for shelter, and dropped her anchors running
before a strong tide and a heavy gale; having thus too much 'way' on
her, both the long chain cables parted, snapping close to the anchors,
and trailed from her bows.  Her head was thus kept up to the wind,
while there was no sufficient check to her drift astern and outwards
towards the Goodwins.

Efforts, but ineffectual efforts, were made to get rid of the trailing
cables, and therefore the vessel's head could not be got before the
wind, and she could not be steered, but drifted out faster and faster.
It is supposed that there was another anchor on the forecastle head,
which had somehow fouled, or, at any rate, could not be got loose from
some cause or other.

In the confusion, the sails of the great vessel--for she was a
full-rigged ship--having been either neglected or imperfectly furled,
were torn adrift and blew to ribbons.  These great strips of heavy
canvas cracked like monstrous whips with deafening noise, thrashing the
masts and rigging, and rendering any attempt to furl them or cut them
away, perilous in the extreme.

The crew consisted of thirty-five hands 'all told,' of whom the
captain, mates, petty officers, and apprentices were English, while the
men before the mast were Lascars.  Now I think my readers will agree
with me in believing that 'Jack,' with all his faults, is a more
reliable man to stand 'shoulder to shoulder' with in time of danger
than Ali Mahmood Seng, the Lascar.  In cold and storm and peril most of
us would prefer 'our ain folk' alongside of us.

Some years ago a Board of Trade report contained a quotation from the
remarks of a firm of shipowners, to the effect that they largely
employed foreign sailors on board their vessels, because they were
(_a_) more sober, (_b_) more amenable to discipline, and (_c_) cheaper
than British sailors; but they added, 'we always keep a few Englishmen
among the crew to lead the way aloft on dark and stormy nights.'

What a heart-stirring comment on the character of the British sailor is
there in the passage above quoted!  Is there no remedy, and no
physician for the frailties and degradations of poor Jack, who,
whatever be his faults, 'leads the way aloft on dark and stormy
nights?'  'If the constituents of London mud can be resolved, if the
sand can be transformed into an opal,' to use the noble simile of a
great living writer, 'and the water into a drop of dew or a star of
snow, or a translucent crystal, and the soot into a diamond such as

  On the forehead of a queen
  Trembles with dewy light,--

if such glorious transformations can be wrought by the laws of Nature
on the commixture of common elements, shall we despair that
transformations yet more glorious may be wrought in human souls now
thwarted and blackened by the malice of the devil, when they are
subjected to the far diviner and far more stupendous alchemy of the
Holy Spirit of God?'

The moral to be drawn from these pages surely must be this--that there
is splendid material to work upon, the most undaunted heroism and the
noblest self-sacrifice, among the seafaring classes of our island.

On this dark, tempestuous night, be the cause what it may, preventible
or otherwise, the Ganges drifted helplessly to her fate.  A powerful
tug-boat got hold of her, but the ship dragged the tug-boat astern with
her, towards the Goodwins, until at last the tug-boat snapped her great
15-inch hawser, and then gave up the attempt and returned to land.

The Ganges now burned flares and blue lights for help.  Noting her
rapid approach to the Goodwins, on which an awful sea was running, and
the helpless and dishevelled condition of the vessel, the Gull
lightship fired guns and rockets at intervals of five minutes.

This is the proper and recognised summons to the lifeboats, but long
before the lightship fired her signal, the Deal boatmen saw the peril
of the vessel; and one of their number, Tom Adams, ran to the coxswain
of the Deal lifeboat with the news: 'Tug's parted her, and she'll be on
the Goodwins in five minutes!'  'Then we'll go,' said the coxswain, and
he rang the bell and summoned a crew.

As it was one of the wildest nights on which the Deal lifeboat was ever
launched, the very best men on Deal beach came forward to the struggle
for a place in the lifeboat, and out of their number a crew of fifteen
was got.

R. Roberts, at this time the second coxswain, was afloat in his lugger,
putting an anchor and chain on board the Eurydice, and in his absence
Tom Adams helped the coxswain to steer the lifeboat, which literally
flew before the blast, to the rescue.

The squalls of this tempest were regular 'smokers,' a word which
signifies that the crests of the waves were blown into the astonished
air in smoking clouds of spray; and the lifeboat was stripped for the
fight, reefed mizzen and double-reefed storm foresail.  I should say
that running out before the wind the mizzen was not set, and they
frequently had to haul down the reefed foresail, and let her run under
bare poles right away from the land into the hurricane.

No one can appraise the nature of this dangerous task who has not run
before a gale off shore for five or six miles to leeward, and then
tried to get back home dead to windwards.  No one who has ever tried
it, and got back, will ever forget it, if his voyage, or rather his
escape from death, has been effected in an open boat.

Nor can any one realize how furious and terrible is the aspect of the
sea in a gale off shore, and especially in the surf of the Goodwins,
who has not been personally through such an experience.

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution pay the men who form the
lifeboat crew on each occasion generously and to the utmost limit their
funds will admit.  No one who knows the facts of the case and the
management of this splendid Institution can have any doubt on this
subject.  Each man is paid L1 for a night service, and 10_s_. for
service in the daytime.  If he be engaged night and day, he is paid
30_s_.  This single launch cost L18--that is, L15 to the fifteen men
who formed the crew, and L3 to the forty helpers who were engaged in
launching and heaving up the lifeboat on her return.

But no money payment could compensate the men for the risk to their
lives--lives precious to women and children at home; and no money
payment could supply the impulse which fired these men and supported
them in their work of rescue.

One of the men in the lifeboat on this occasion, Henry Marsh, and his
name will end this chapter, was the man referred to in Chapter II, who
had on the day he was going to be married, many years before, rushed
into a lugger bound to the rescue of a ship's crew on the Goodwins.

Notwithstanding the splendid services of the Deal lifeboatmen in many a
heart-stirring rescue, they seem utterly unconscious of having done
anything heroic.  This is a remarkable and most interesting feature in
their character.  There is no boasting, no self-consciousness, and not
the faintest word of self-praise ever crosses their lips.  The noblest,
the purest motives and impulses that can actuate man glow within their
breasts, as they risk their lives for others, and they nevertheless are
dumb respecting their deeds.  They die, they dare, and they suffer in
silence.

A lifeboat rescue killed poor Robert Wilds, the coxswain of the Deal
lifeboat.  The present second coxswain of the same lifeboat, E. Hanger,
was struck down after a rescue by pneumonia.  J. Mackins, the coxswain
of the Walmer lifeboat, was also seized by pneumonia after a splendid
service across the Goodwins, when his lifeboat was buried thirty times
in raging seas; S. Pearson, once coxswain of the Walmer lifeboat, died
of Bright's disease, the result of exposure; and on the occasion of the
rescue of the Ganges, one of the crew, R. Betts, had his little finger
torn off.  The Lifeboat Institution gave him a generous donation.  But
the rescues by the Deal lifeboatmen are done at the risk, and sometimes
at the cost, of their health, their limbs and their lives.

There is a Kentish proverb that 'there are more fools in Kent than in
any other county of England,' because more men go to sea from Kent than
from any other county in England, Devon coming next; but Kent on this
wild night need not have blushed for the folly of her sailor sons,
until it be proved folly to succour and to save.

The Ganges had by this time struck on the middle part of the Goodwins,
and the sea was breaking mast-high over her.  Her lights and flares had
gone out, and the lifeboat had the greatest difficulty in finding her.
Just when the lifeboatmen were in perplexity, she again burned blue
lights, and these guided the advancing boat.  When they came close to
the wreck they found her head was lying about north, so that the great
wind and sea were beating right on her broadside, and a strong tide was
also running in the same direction right across the ship.

Just before the arrival of the lifeboat, in the bewilderment of terror,
one of the boats of the wrecked vessel was lowered, and one English
apprentice and four Lascars sprang into it.  In the boiling surf which
raged alongside, the boat was upset in an instant, and with the
exception of one Lascar, who grasped a chain-plate, all were lost,
their drowning shrieks being only faintly heard as they were swept into
the caldron of the Goodwins to leeward.  There can be no doubt that a
merciful insensibility came soon to their relief.  To swim was
impossible in raging surf, and there would be little suffering in the
speedy death of those poor fellows.  I once heard a sailor say to
another one moonlight night in the Mediterranean, 'Death is nothing, if
you are ready for it;' and if there be a good clear view of the country
beyond the river, and of the King of that land, as Shepherd, Saviour,
Friend, the writer firmly holds with his sailor friend, long since lost
at sea, and now with God, that 'Death is nothing, if you are ready for
it.'

The position of the lifeboat had to be now chosen with reference to
tide, wind and sea.  Had the lifeboat anchored close outside the
vessel, there would have been the fearful danger of falling masts; and,
besides this, the tide would have swept her completely away from the
wreck, and would have prevented her getting back, had she once been
driven to leeward; hence, as shown in the diagram, they were driven to
anchor to windward of the vessel, or right between her and the land.

[Illustration: Position of the Ganges on the Sands.]

They first tried to get to the stern of the vessel, but they found this
position unsuitable, and being baffled, they hauled up to their anchor
with great trouble, and approached the bows of the wreck, having veered
out their cable again.

There was, be it remembered, an enormous sea, which during all the
struggles of the men broke with fury over the lifeboat, and kept her
full to her thwarts all the night, bursting in clouds of spray, and of
course drenching the lifeboatmen.

They now got to the bows of the wreck, where the strong off-tide
drifted them right under the jib-boom and bowsprit.  Looking up, they
could just dimly see the jib-boom and bowsprit covered with men, who
had, in their terror, swarmed out there to drop into the lifeboat.

As they were hoisted up on the crest of a great breaker, which also
filled them, the great iron martingale or dolphin striker of the
vessel, pointed like an arrow, came so near the lifeboat that the men
saw that a little heavier sea would have driven the spear head of the
martingale through the lifeboat.  One of the crew had a very narrow
escape of being impaled.  This novel danger drove them back again
therefore to their anchor, to which they had with great difficulty
again to haul the lifeboat; and in reply to the imploring cries and
shouts of those on the jib-boom, they shouted back, 'We're not going to
leave you!'

The lifeboat now lay to windward of the vessel, in the full blast of
the tempest, and exposed to the full sweep of the breakers.  The
official report of the coxswain was: 'We succeeded in getting alongside
after a long time and with great difficulty, through a very heavy sea
and at great risk of life, as the sea was breaking over the ship.'

As the lifeboat rode to windward of the wreck, the shouts of those on
board were inaudible, and their gestures and signs in the dim lantern
light could not be understood by the lifeboatmen.  Having thrown their
line to the vessel, a weightier line was now passed and made fast on
board the Ganges, and in order to remedy the confusion and give the
necessary directions to save the lives of the distressed sailors, one
of the lifeboatmen, Henry Marsh, volunteered to jump into the sea with
a line round his waist, to be dragged through the breakers on board the
wreck.  Heavy seas were bursting on the broadside and breaking over the
vessel, so that it was a marvel he escaped with his life.

He fastened a jamming hitch round his waist and then with a shout of
'Haul away!' sprang into the midnight surf.  Some said, 'He's mad!'
others said, 'He's gone!' and then, 'Haul away, hard!'  He fought
through the sea, he struggled, he worked up the ship's side, against
which he was once heavily dashed, and he gained the deck, giving
confidence to all on board: the brave fellow being sixty-five years of
age at the time.

The vessel was during this event thumping and beating out over the
Goodwins, and was at last, when finally wrecked and stuck fast, not
more than one hundred yards from safety and deep water, having thumped
for miles across the Sands.  The lifeboat had to follow her on her
awful journey and almost to the outer edge of the Goodwins.

Her masts had stood up to this time, and she had been listing over to
the east, or away from the wind and the sea, but now all over and
within the ship were heard loud noises of cracking beams and the sharp
harsh snap of timbers breaking.  The crew of the wreck, in dread of
instant death, now again burned blue lights.  Just before the lifeboat
approached, as if in a death-throe, the ship reeled inwards, and her
tottering masts leaned to port, or towards the lifeboat and against the
wind--thus adding great peril to the work of rescue.

By the directions of the coxswain and the lifeboatmen the exhausted
crew were at last got down life-lines into the lifeboat, seventeen in
number, including the captain, mates and apprentices; while twelve
Lascars got into the Ramsgate lifeboat, which had about this time
arrived to help in the work of rescue.

One of the features of this terrible night which perhaps impressed the
memories of the lifeboat crew most of all, was the noise of the torn
sails above their heads as they fought the sea below.  Just before
shoving off with the rescued crew, the words of the lifeboatmen were,
'We'll all go mad with that awful noise.'

At last all were on board, thirty-two souls in all, and at two o'clock
a.m. the lifeboat got up sail for home, which lay seven miles off dead
to windward.

The canvas they set will give some idea of the nature of the
struggle--a reefed mizzen and two reefs in the storm foresail.  Thus
reefed down, they struggled to get hold of the land, which they finally
did at four o'clock on that dark wintry morning, landing the rescued
men on Deal beach, when boatmen generously took them to their houses[1].

Not the faintest publicity has ever before been given to the details of
this gallant achievement, which I now rescue from obscurity and
oblivion.

I cannot refrain from recording a previous gallant deed of Henry Marsh,
before mentioned.  On February 13, 1870, there was a furious tempest
blowing, with the wind from E.N.E.  All the vessels at anchor in the
Downs had been, with one exception, blown ashore and shattered into
fragments.

A Dutch brig, sugar-laden, went ashore in the afternoon opposite Deal
Castle, and was broken up and vanished in ten minutes; others went
ashore at Kingsdown, and late in the evening, opposite Walmer Castle,
another brig came ashore, also sugar-laden--a French vessel with an
English pilot on board.

The gale was accompanied with snow squalls, and Marsh, hearing of the
wrecks along Deal and Walmer beach, determined to go and see for
himself.  His wife, as is the manner of wives, repressed his rash and
impulsive intentions, and said, 'Don't you go up near them!'  But Marsh
said, 'I'll just take a bit of bread and cheese in my pocket, and I'll
take my short pipe with me, and I'll be back soon.'  He laid great
stress and emphasis on having 'his short pipe' with him, probably
reserving a regular long-shanked 'churchwarden' for home use.

He found the beach crowded with spectators, and the sea breaking blue
water over the French brig.  Her rigging was thick with ice, and the
snow froze as it fell.  She was rocking wildly in and out, exposing her
deck as she swung outwards to the full sweep of the tremendous easterly
sea.  Between her and the beach there were about ten feet deep of
water, which with each giant recoil swept round her in fury.

Marsh asked, 'Are all the people out of that there brig?'  'All but
two,' said the bystanders, 'and we can't get no answer from them.
They're gone, they are!'

Said Marsh, 'Won't nobody go to save them?'

'Which way are you going to save them?' said one; and all said the
same.  'I'm a-going,' said Marsh.  'Harry, don't go!' cried many an old
sailor on the beach.  'Here, hold my jacket!' said Marsh.  And I verily
believe he was thinking chiefly of the preservation of his short pipe.
'Don't you hold me back!  I'm a-going to try!  Let go of me!' and
seizing the line which led from the rocking brig to the shore, Marsh
rushed neck deep in a moment into the surf.  Swept the next instant off
his feet, on, hand over hand, he went; swayed out under her counter,
back towards the shore, still he lives!  Dashed against the ship's
side, while some shout 'He's killed,' up he clambers still, hand over
hand; and as the vessel reels inwards, down, down the rope Marsh slips
into the water and the awful recoil.  'He is gone!' they cry.  No! up
again! with true bull-dog tenacity, Marsh struggles.  And at last,
nearly exhausted, he wins the deck amid such shouting as seldom rings
on Deal beach.

Taking breath, he first fastens a line round his waist and to a
belaying pin; and then he discovers a senseless form, Holbrooke, the
pilot, a friend of his own, who, fast dying with the cold and drenching
freezing spray, was muttering, 'The poor boy! the poor boy!'

'William!' said Marsh.  'Who are you?' was the reply.  'I'm Henry
Marsh, and I'm come to save you.'  'No, I'll be lost; I'll be lost!'
'No you won't,' said Marsh, 'I'll send you ashore on the rope.'  'No,
you'll drown me! you'll drown me!'

And then finding the poor French boy was indeed lost and swept
overboard, alone he passed the rope round the nearly insensible man,
protecting and holding him as the seas came; and finally watching when
the vessel listed in, alone he got him on the toprail of the bulwarks,
with an exertion of superhuman strength, and then, with shouts to the
people ashore, 'Are you ready?' and 'I'm a-coming!' threw Holbrooke, in
spite of himself, into the sea; and both were safely drawn ashore.

The people nearly smothered Marsh when he got ashore, but he ran home,
his clothes frozen stiff when he got in; and I have no doubt that the
'short pipe' played no insignificant part in his recovery.

Eleven years afterwards, this same Henry Marsh was dragged by a rope
from the lifeboat to the Ganges, as described in the beginning of this
chapter, through the breakers on the Goodwin Sands at midnight; and he
is now (1892), my readers will be glad to hear, alive and hearty, at
the age of seventy-five, and I rejoice to say 'looking for and hasting
unto that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the Great God,
and our Saviour Jesus Christ.'

There can be few, I think, of my readers who will not find their hearts
beat faster as they read this story, and few will hesitate to say,
'Bravely done!'



[1] The names of the crew of the lifeboat on this occasion were--R.
Wilds (coxswain), Thomas Adams, Henry Marsh, T. Holbourn, Henry
Roberts, James Snoswell, T. Cribben, J. May, T. May, George Marsh, H.
Marsh, R. Betts, and Frank Roberts.



CHAPTER V

THE EDINA

  The oak strikes deeper as its boughs
  By furious blasts are driven.


The Edina was one of a great fleet of ships at anchor in the Downs on
January 16, 1884.  Hundreds of vessels were there straining at their
anchors--vessels of many nations, and of various rigs.  There were
picturesque red-sailed barges anchored close in shore, while even there
the sea flew over them.  Farther out were Italians, Norwegians and
Yankees, all unmistakable to the practised eye; French _chasse-marées_,
Germans, Russians and Greeks were there; and each vessel was
characterised by some nautical peculiarity.  Of course the greater
number were our own English vessels, as plainly to be pronounced
British as ever was John Bull in the midst of Frenchmen or Spaniards.

It was blowing a heavy gale from the W.S.W., and towards night,
accompanied by furious rain-squalls and thunder, the gale increased to
a storm.  The most powerful luggers along the beach tried to launch,
but as the tide was high they had not run enough to get sufficient
impetus, and were therefore beaten back on the beach by the surf.

[Illustration: Dangerous work.]

Some vessels were blown clean out of the Downs, and away from their
anchors.  Indeed, when the weather cleared between the squalls, a
pitiable number of blue light signals of distress were seen in the
distance beyond the North Foreland.  And it is probable that vessels
were lost that night on the Goodwins of which no one has ever heard.

When the tide fell, about 8.45, flares and rockets were seen coming
from the Brake, a very dangerous and partially rocky 'Sand' lying close
to the Goodwin Sands.  Then the Gull lightship also fired guns and
rockets.  There being obviously a vessel in danger on or near either
the Goodwins or the Brake Sand, the Deal lifeboat bell was rung; and a
crew was obtained out of the hundred men who rushed to get a place.
The beach was smoothed to give the lifeboat a run, she was let go, and,
in contrast with the failure of other boats, launched successfully.

In receiving the report of the coxswain next day, I asked him what time
precisely he launched.  Now that evening, about 9 p.m., I was sitting
in my own house listening to the long-protracted roar of the wind, and
just when I thought the strong walls could bear no more, there came a
blinding flash of lightning which paled the lamps, almost
simultaneously with a peal of thunder that made the foundations of the
house tremble.  When I asked the coxswain next day what time exactly he
launched, his reply was, 'Just in that clap of thunder.'

This may help my readers to depict the scene in its appalling grandeur,
and to realise the meaning of the words, 'A vessel in distress,' and
the launch of the lifeboat on its sacred errand.

The flares which had been burning now suddenly stopped.  This, however,
was owing to the distressed vessel having exhausted her stock of
rockets and torches.

Passing under the stern of a schooner which they hailed, the gallant
lifeboat crew were pointed out the vessel that had been burning them,
riding with a red light in her rigging to attract notice.  Making for
her, they anchored as usual ahead, and veered down eighty fathoms.  In
the gale and heavy sea they found the anchor would not hold, and they
had to bend on another cable, and pay out a hundred fathoms, and at
last they got alongside.

The captain cried out, 'Come on board and save the vessel!  My crew are
all gone!'  And indeed she was in a sore plight.

That evening after dark, about 6 p.m., this brig, the Edina, had been
riding out the gale in the Downs.  In a furious blast a heavy sea broke
her adrift from her anchor, and she came into helpless collision with a
ship right astern of her.  Grinding fiercely into this other very large
vessel, the Edina tore herself free with loss of bowsprit and jib-boom,
all her fore-rigging being in dire ruin and confusion.

In the collision, six of the crew of the Edina jumped from her rigging
to the other ship with which they were in collision, leaving only three
men, the captain, mate, and boy, on board the Edina.  By great efforts
they, however, were able to let go another anchor, but that did not
bite, and the Edina kept dragging with the wreckage and wild tangle of
bowsprit and jib-boom hanging over her bows and beating against her
side.

One of the six men who had jumped from the Edina in the panic of the
collision had, alas! jumped too short, and had fallen between the two
vessels.  The next day his body was found by the lifeboatmen entangled
in the wreckage, and under the bows of the Edina.

The Edina in her wrecked and crippled condition had dragged till she
got to the very edge of the Brake Sand.  She had dragged for two miles,
and at last her anchor held fast when within twenty fathoms or forty
yards of the Brake Sand.  She was stopped just short of destruction as
the sea was breaking heavily under her stern, and had she drifted a few
more yards she would have struck the deadly Brake, and have perished
with those on board before the lifeboat could have reached her.

In setting off his rockets, the unfortunate captain had blown away a
piece of his hand, and was in much suffering, when the advent of the
lifeboat proclaimed that he was not to be abandoned to destruction.
The vessel was riding in only three fathoms of water, and as a furious
sea was running, she was plunging bows under.  Six of the lifeboatmen
sprang on board and turned to clearing the wreck--the remainder of the
men remaining in the lifeboat, as they feared every moment the ship
would break adrift and strike.

They worked with the energy of men working for life, but they took
three hours to clear away the wreck; this being absolutely necessary in
order to get at the windlass and raise the anchor.

At morning dawn they found the body of the poor sailor who had failed
to spring to the other vessel; they got up anchor, they set the sails,
and they brought the vessel out of her dangerous position into Ramsgate
Harbour.

That day four weeks the Edina came out of Ramsgate refitted and ready
for sea.  I went on board the vessel on my daily task as Missions to
Seamen Chaplain in the Downs, and talked with the captain over the
events of the night as here described, and the merciful Providence
which prevented him striking on the Brake Sand.  'What brought you up,'
I asked him, 'when you had already dragged for miles?'

The captain pointed me to a roll of large-printed Scripture texts, a
leaf for each day, for four weeks.  'Why,' said he, 'that's the very
leaf that was turned the night of the 26th of last month'--and going
close to the 'Seaman's Roll,' as this Eastbourne publication is
called--'There,' said he, 'is the very text.'

It ran thus: 'Wherefore, also, He is able to save them to the uttermost
that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession
for them.'

'And that,' said the captain, 'was the anchor that held my ship that
awful night.'

It is hard to doubt that He who once stilled the tempest, and granted
to this humble sailor the mighty gift of Faith, on that stormy night
'delivered His servant that trusted in Him.'

The Edina went on her way to Pernambuco.



CHAPTER VI

THE FREDRIK CARL

  There is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet.


On October 30, 1885, the small Danish schooner, the Fredrik Carl, ran
aground on the Goodwin Sands.  She struck on the outer part of the
North Sand Head, about eight miles from the nearest land, and two miles
from the well-known Whistle Buoy, which ever and always sends forth its
mournful note of warning--too often unavailing.

Summoned by the lightship's guns and rockets to the rescue--for the red
three-masted North Sand Head lightship was only two miles from the
wreck--the Ramsgate lifeboat, towed by the steam-tug Aid, came to the
spot, and, after a long trial, failed to get the schooner afloat, and,
having taken her crew out of her, returned to the shore.

At low water the next day, October 31, the vessel lay high and dry on
the Goodwin Sands.  She was tolerably upright, having bedded herself
slightly in the sand, and all her sails were swinging loose as the wind
chose to sway them.  There was no rent in her side that could be seen,
and to all appearance she was safe and sound--only she was stranded on
the Goodwins, from which _vestigia nulla retrorsum_.  As in the Cave of
Cacus, once there, you are there for ever, and few are the cases in
which vessels fast aground on the Goodwins ever again get away from the
great ship-swallower.

[Illustration: The anchor of death.  From a photograph by W. H.
Franklin.]

The schooner had a cargo of oats, and if she could be got off would be
a very valuable prize to her salvors.  But 'if'--and we all know that
'there's much virtue in your "if".'

However, when morning broke on October 31, many of the Deal boatmen,
whose keen eyes saw a possibility of a 'hovel,' came in their powerful
'galley punts' to see about this 'if,' and try if they could not
convert it into a reality.  Accordingly, two of the Deal boats, taking
different directions, the Wanderer and the Gipsy King, approached the
Goodwin Sands near the north-west buoy.

On this day there was just enough sea curling and tumbling on the edge
of the sands to make landing on them difficult even for the skilled
Deal boatmen.  For the inexperienced it would have been dangerous in
the extreme.

There were four Deal men in each boat, and they only got ashore with
difficulty, one of the boats' cables having parted; and they had all to
jump out and wade waist-deep in the surf, as they dared not let their
weighty boats touch the bottom.

Two boatmen remained in each boat, for neglect of this precaution has
caused accidents frightful to think of, on the Goodwins; and the
remaining four boatmen, daring fellows of the sea-dog and amphibious
type, walked across the sands, dripping with the brine.  As a matter of
fact, two of them were not only Deal boatmen, but were sailors who had
been round and round the world, and one was an old and first-rate
man-o'-war's man.

Sometimes they met a deep gully with six feet of water in it, which
they had to make a circuit round, or to swim; and farther on a shallow
pond, in the midst of which would be a deep-blue 'fox-fall,' perhaps
twenty feet deep of sea-water.  Then, having avoided this, more dry,
hard sand, rippled by the ebbing tide, and then a dry, deep cleft--for
the Goodwins are full of surprises--and then came more wading.

Wading on the Goodwins conveys a very peculiar sensation to the naked
feet.  The sand, so dense when dry, at once becomes friable and
quick--indeed, it is hard to believe there is not a living creature
under the feet--and if you stand still you slowly sink, feet and
ankles, and gradually downwards.  As long as you keep moving, it is
hard enough, but less so when under water.

The surroundings are deeply impressive.  The waves plash at your feet,
and the seagull, strangely tame, screams close overhead; but glorious
as is the unbroken view of sky and ocean, the loneliness of the place,
and the unutterable mystery of the sea, and the deep sullen roar, and
the memories of the long sad history of the sands, oppress your soul.
Tragedies of the most fearful description have been enacted on the very
spot whereon you stand.  Terror, frozen into despair, blighted hope,
faith victorious even in death, have thrilled the hearts of thousands
hard by the place where you stand, and which in a few hours will be ten
feet under water.  Here you can see the long line of a ship's ribs
swaddling down into the sands, and there is the stump of the mast to
which the seamen clung last year till the lifeboat snatched them from a
watery grave.

Buried deep in the sands are the cargoes of richly-laden ships, and
their 'merchandise of gold and silver, and precious stones, and pearls,
and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet.'  'To dig there' (if
that could be done, say the Deal boatmen), 'would be all as one as
going to Californy;' and who should know the Goodwins or the secret of
the sea better than they do?  'Only those who brave its dangers
comprehend its mystery.'

Keenly intent on getting to the wreck, the four men hastened on, and
they perceived that other boatmen had landed at similar risk, at other
points of the sands, and were also making for the wreck.

The four boatmen reached the vessel, found ropes hanging over her side,
all sails set, and a part of the Ramsgate lifeboat's cable chopped off
short, telling the tale of her unsuccessful efforts the night before to
get the vessel off.  They clambered up, and found others there before
them, and soon more came, and eventually there were twelve boatmen on
board.

All eagerly discussed the chances of getting her off.  To the
unpractised eye she seemed sound enough; but, after a thorough
overhaul, some saying she could be kept afloat, and others the reverse,
it was found that the water had got into her up to the level of her
cabin-seats, and that a bag of flour in one of her cabin-lockers was
sodden with salt-water.  Judging by these signs that the water would
again come into her when the tide rose, and that she was broken up, the
four men whose journey across the sands has been described, decided
with sound judgment to leave her to her fate, and with them sided four
other men, who also came to the conclusion that it was beyond the power
of their resources to save her.

George Marsh and George Philpot with six others took this view.
Looking overboard, they found the rising tide just beginning to lap
round her.

'Best for us to bolt,' said Marsh; and seeing there was no time to
lose, the eight men came down the ropes and made for their boats, more
than a mile off; leaving the four others, who took a different view, on
board.  The eight men ran, and ran the harder when they found the wind
and sea had increased, and having run and waded as before half the
distance, they made a halt and called a council of war.  There were now
serious doubts whether they would be able to reach their boats, which
they could see a long way off heaving on the swell, which was becoming
heavier every minute.

Some said, 'Best go back to the ship--we'll never reach the boats.'
And indeed it was very doubtful if they could do either; for the
flood-tide was now coming like a racehorse over the sands, and hiding
its fox-falls and gullies.  Others said, 'You'll never get back to the
ship now; there's deep water round her bows by this time!  Come on!'

But some of the men had left brothers on the vessel, and this attracted
three of the company back to the wreck, and Marsh was persuaded to join
the returning band.  And so they parted, there being danger either way:
Marsh with three others back to the ship, and Philpot with three others
to the boats; and both parties now ran for their lives.

Looking back, they saw Marsh standing in uncertainty, and they waved to
him.  But he finally decided--little knowing at the time how momentous
was his decision--for the ship.  He and his party reached it with great
difficulty, finding deep water around it, and they were at the last
minute pulled on board through the water by lines slung to them from
their friends.

Of the others, each man for himself, as best he could, 'pursues his
way,'--

  And swims or sinks or wades or creeps,

till they all come as close as the rough sea permits them to their
boats, and stand breathless on a narrow and rapidly contracting patch
of sand.

'Upon this bank and shoal' clustered the four men.  The sea was so
heavy that the weighty Deal boats did not dare to back into it.  The
men at first thought of trying to swim to them; but a strong tide
running right across their course rendered that out of the question.

Fortunately a tug-boat hove in sight, bound to the wrecked schooner,
and seeing the men waving and their dangerous plight, eased her
engines.  Deal boats were towing astern, and Deal boatmen were on
board, and out of their number Finnis and Watts bravely volunteered to
go to the rescue in the tug-boat's punt.

This boat being light and without ballast, they at considerable risk
brought off the four men to their own boats, when they forthwith,
forgetting past hardship and perils, got up sail for the wrecked
schooner, to see how their comrades who had returned, and those who
remained on board, were faring.

They found the tug-boat close to the wreck--say half a mile off--and
also many other Deal boats; but none ventured nearer than that
distance, and none could get nearer.

The wind, which had been blowing from south-west freshly, was dropping
into a calm, while great rollers from an entirely opposite quarter were
tumbling in on the Goodwins.  In fact, a great north-easterly sea was
breaking in thunder on the sands, and around and over the vessel.  The
eight men on board her were therefore beset as if in a beleaguered
city, and as nothing but a lifeboat could live for a moment in that
tremendous surf, the crews of the Deal boats, astounded at the sight,
were simply helpless spectators of their comrades' danger, and torn
with distress and sympathy, as they saw them take to the rigging of the
vessel.

An hour before this pitch of distress had been reached, a galley punt
had gone to Deal for the lifeboat, and in the afternoon, about 3 p. m.,
the boat reached Deal beach with one hand on board.  He jumped out, and
staggered up the beach to tell the coxswain of the lifeboat that eight
boatmen were on board the wreck, and that nothing but a lifeboat could
reach the vessel, as there was a dreadful sea all round her, and that
his own brother was among the number on board.

The Deal boatmen are not slow to render help when help is needed, and
indifference to the cry of distress is not one of their failings; but
when they heard of their own friends and neighbours, their comrades in
storm and in rescue and lifeboat work, thus beset and in imminent
peril, their eagerness was beyond the power of words to describe.  From
the time the bell rang to 'man the lifeboat' to the moment she struck
the water only seven minutes passed!

A fresh south-west breeze brought her to the North Sand Head, and round
and outside it to the melancholy spot where, in the waning autumnal
light, they could just discern the wreck.  They passed through the
crowd of Deal boats, and close to the tug-boat; but no one spoke or
hailed the other, as all knew what had to be done, and the nature of
the coming struggle.

The south-west breeze had now dropped completely, and they encountered,
as explained before, the strange phenomenon of a great windless swell
from the north-east, rolling in before the wind, which was evidently
behind it, and which indeed blew a gale next day, though it was now an
absolute calm.  Great tumbling billows came in from different quarters,
and met and crossed each other in the most furious collision.  There
was tossing about in the sea at the time an empty cask, which was
caught in the clash together of two such waves, and was shot clean out
of the water as high as the wrecked schooner's mast, or thirty feet
into the air, by the force of the blow.  The water-logged wreck was now
nearly submerged, or just awash, her bulwark-top-rail being now and
then exposed and covered again with the advance and recoil of each wave.

Aft there were a raised quarter-deck and a wheel-house, behind the
remains of which three of the boatmen took refuge, while the five
others climbed into the rigging, but over them even there the sea broke
in clouds.

As there was no tide and no wind, it was impossible to sheer the
lifeboat, and, whatever position was taken by anchoring, in that only
the lifeboat would ride after veering down before the sea.  The
coxswains, therefore, had to try again and again before they got the
proper position to veer down from.

At last, however, they succeeded, and anchoring the lifeboat by the
stern, they veered down bows first towards the wreck into the midst of
this breezeless but awful sea--bows first, lest the rudder should be
injured.

The cable was passed round the bollard or powerful samson-post, and
then a turn was taken round a thwart; and the end was held by Roberts,
the second coxswain, with his face towards the stern, and his back to
the wreck, watching the billows as they charged in line, and easing his
cable or getting it in when the strain had passed.

The heavy rollers drove the lifeboat before them like a feather, and
end on towards the wreck, till her cable brought her up with a jerk.
The strain of these jerks was so great, that, even though Roberts eased
his cable, each wave seemed to all hands as if it would tear the after
air-box out of the lifeboat, or drag the lifeboat itself in two pieces.

They veered down to about five fathoms of the wreck; closer they dared
not go, lest a sea should by an extra strain dash their bows into the
wreck, when not one of all the company would have been saved, and the
lifeboat herself would have perhaps been broken up.

Then they saw their friends and comrades and heard them cry, 'Try to
save us if you can!'  And the men said afterwards, 'We got in such a
flurry to save them, that what we did in a minute we thought took us an
hour.'

At last the cane and lead were thrown from the lifeboat by a stalwart
boatman standing in the bows.  A heavier line was then drawn on board
by the light cane line, and the boatmen came down from the rigging,
and, having made themselves fast to pins and staunchions, sheltered
behind the bulwark and the wheel-house, seeing the approach of rescue.

Enough of the slack of the weightier line was kept on board the
wreck--the end being there made fast--to permit the middle of the rope
being fastened round a man and of his being dragged away from the wreck
through the sea into the lifeboat.  A clove-hitch was put by George
Marsh over the shoulders of the first man, who watched his chance for
'a smooth,' jumped into the waves, and, after a long struggle--for the
line fouled--was hauled safe into the lifeboat.  Marsh on the wreck saw
after this that the line was clear, and that no kink or knot stopped
its running freely.

Reading these lines in our quiet homes, and in a comfortable arm-chair
by the fireside, it is hard to realise the position of those eight
boatmen.  They were drenched and buried in each wallowing sea, which
strove to tear them from the pin to which each man was belayed by the
line round his waist; and their ears were stunned with the bellow of
each bursting wave.  But, on the other hand, their eyes beheld the
grand and cheering spectacle of their brethren in the lifeboat
struggling manfully with death for their sakes, and they heard their
undaunted shouts.

If for a moment they cast off or lengthened their lifelines, they were
washed all over the slippery deck; and brave George Marsh, who was
specially active, was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, having been
dashed against a corner of the wheel-house.

The wheel-house up to this time had afforded some shelter to the men
who ventured on the deck of the wreck, lashed as just explained, of
course, to some pin or bollard; and even they had now and then to rush
up the rigging when a weighter [Transcriber's note: weightier?] wave
was seen coming.  But just at this time a great mass of water advanced
and wallowed clean over the wreck, carrying the wheelhouse away with
it, and bursting, where it struck the masts and booms, into a cloud: it
was too solid to burst much, but it just 'wallowed' over the wreck.

Successive seas are, of course, unlike in height, volume, and
demeanour.  One comes on board and falls with a solid, heavy lop--there
may be twenty tons of blue water in it--the next rushes along with wild
speed and fury.

Roberts in the lifeboat now saw a great roller of the latter
description advancing; ready to ease his cable, he cried, 'Look out!
Look out!  Hold on, my lads!'

But before Wilds, the coxswain, who was not a young man, could turn
round and grasp a thwart, the sea was on him, and drove him with great
force against the samson-post, breaking over and covering the lifeboat
fore and aft in fury.  This sea would have washed every man off the
wreck if they had not had ropes round their waists, and fastened
themselves to something; and it most certainly stupefied them and
half-drowned them, fastened as they were.

The blow which Wilds in the lifeboat received would have killed him but
that he was wearing his thick cork life-belt.  His health was so much
affected that he never came afloat again, and he never recovered the
strain, the shock, and the exposure of this day.  He was a brave man,
and a stout, honest Englishman.

  Faithful below he did his duty,
    And now he's gone aloft.

And the writer has good reason for sure and certain hope that this is
so.  His post as coxswain has since been filled, and nobly filled, by
R. Roberts, for many years second coxswain.

In meeting this sea, which struck down poor Wilds with such force, the
lifeboat stood straight up on her stern and reared, as the men
expressed it, 'like a vicious horse'; and so much did the cable spring,
that the lifeboat was driven to within a fathom, or six feet, of the
wreck, and was withdrawn the next instant to fifteen fathoms distance
by the recoil of the cable.

One by one the men were dragged through the breakers into the lifeboat,
until at last only two remained on the wreck, George Marsh and another
man.  It was Marsh, it will be remembered, who in the earlier part of
the day had been persuaded to return to the wreck across the sand, and
it was Marsh now who in each case had passed the clove-hitch round his
comrades, sending them before himself.  He was a very smart sailor and
a brave man, and with wise forethought he had also passed the end of
the veering line, on which the men were dragged through the surf, over
the main boom of the wreck, to let it run out clear of anything which
might have caught it, and, in fact, was the leader of the men in peril
on the wreck.

The last two men intended to come together, when another great billow,
notice of its advance being given by Tom Adams, came towering and
seething, filled the lifeboat, as usual, and covered the ship--indeed,
breaking right into her fore-top-sail!  That is, thirty feet above her
deck!

When the sea passed, the two remaining men, who had been tied together,
were not to be seen.

The men in the lifeboat pulled at the line, but it was somehow and
somewhere fast to something.  And then they shouted, and minutes went
by, hours as it seemed to them.  At last one of the men--but not
Marsh--slowly raised his head and seemed to move about in a dazed
condition.

'Where's Marsh?' cried the lifeboatmen.

'Can't find him!' he replied.

'Is he drowned?'

'Is he washed away?'

And the reply was, 'I can't find him.'

And then this man was pulled into the water, and was the last man
saved--and that with great difficulty, for the line fouled and
jammed--from the wreck of the Fredrik Carl, which had proved a
death-trap to poor Marsh, and so nearly to the seven others who were
saved.

Still the lifeboat waited in the gathering darkness, and hailed the
wreck, hoping against hope to see Marsh appear; but he was never seen
again alive.  Short as was the distance between the lifeboat and the
wreck, it was impossible to swim to her, lying broadside as she was to
the swell.  Anyone attempting it would either have been dashed to
pieces against her, or lifted bodily over her, brained very possibly,
and certainly washed away to leeward, return from which would have
been, even for an uninjured man, impossible.

And still the lifeboatmen waited and called; but there was no answer.
Poor Marsh had been suddenly summoned to meet his God.  The oldest man
of the number, and for some years a staunch total abstainer, he had
manfully stuck to his post, he had sent the others before himself, and
had shown throughout a fine spirit of self-sacrifice worthy of the best
traditions of the Deal boatmen.

Slowly and sadly the lifeboat got her anchor up, and never perhaps did
the celebrated Deal lifeboat return with a more mournful crew; for they
had seen, in spite of their best efforts, one of their comrades perish
before their eyes.

The next day it blew a gale of wind from the north-east, and it was not
till several days afterwards that Marsh's body was recovered, entangled
in the wreckage, to leeward of the vessel, and sorely mangled.  Wrapped
in a sail, and with the rope still round him which ought to have drawn
him into safety, lay the poor 'body of humiliation' in which had once
dwelt a gallant spirit; but a good hope burned within me as the
triumphant lines rang in my ears--

  Deathless principle, arise!
  Soar, thou native of the skies.
  Pearl of price, by Jesus bought,
  To His glorious likeness wrought!


In telling the story of this gallant struggle to save their comrades,
made by the Deal lifeboatmen, I lay this tribute of hope and regard on
the grave of brave George Marsh.

[Illustration: Deal boatmen on the lookout for a hovel.]



CHAPTER VII

THE GOLDEN ISLAND

  Nor toil nor hazard nor distress appear
  To sink the seamen with unmanly fear;
  Though their firm hearts no pageant-honour boast,
  They scorn the wretch that trembles in his post.


The smart and trim three-masted schooner, the Golden Island, was bound
from Antwerp to Liverpool, with a cargo of glass-sand, and was running
before a favouring gale to the southward.  At midnight, on May 14,
1887, or the early morning of May 15, with a heavy sea rolling from the
N.E., suddenly, no notice being given and no alarm felt, she struck
with tremendous force the outer edge of the Goodwin Sands.

The timbers of the Golden Island opened with the crash, and she filled,
and never lifted or thumped, but lay swept by each billow, like a rock
at half-tide, immovable by reason of her heavy cargo.  Her crew
consisted of seven all told, including a lad, the captain's son, and
they managed to light a large flare, which was seen a long way, and was
visible even in Deal, eight miles distant.

With what sinking of heart, as the waters raged round and over them,
they watched the flame of their torch burning lower and lower.  How
intense the darkness when it was extinguished!  How terrible the
thunderous roar of the breakers!

The nearest lightship was about four miles from them, and her look-out
man noticed the flare and fired the signal guns of distress, and sent
up the usual rockets.

At 2 a.m. the coastguard on Deal beach called the coxswain of the
lifeboat, R. Roberts.  Hastily dressing himself he went up the beach,
and seeing the flash of the distant guns, he rang the lifeboat bell.
Men sprang out of their warm beds, and, half-dressed, rushed to the
lifeboat.  Their wives or mothers or daughters followed with the
remainder of their clothes, their sea boots, or jackets or mufflers.
Then came the struggle to gain a place in the lifeboat, and then the
bustle and hurry of preparation to get her ready for the launch.

Deal beach at such a time is full of boatmen, some in the lifeboat
loosing sails and setting the mizzen, some easing her down to the top
of the slope, some seeing to the haul-off warp, a matter of life or
death in such a heavy sea dead on shore; others laying down the
well-greased 'skids' for the lifeboat to run on, and others clearing
away the shingle which successive tides had gathered in front of her
bows.

Mingling among the workers are the wives and mothers, putting a piece
of bread and cheese in Tom's pocket or helping on 'father' with his
oilskin jacket or his sou'wester.  And now 'All hands in the lifeboat!'
and twenty minutes after the bell is rung she rushes down the steep and
plunges into the surf.  The loving, lingering watchers on the beach
just see her foresail hoisted, and she vanishes into the night, as the
green rocket shoots one hundred yards into the sky to tell the
distressed sailors 'The lifeboat is launched and on her way.'

The vessel's flare had now burned out, and the guns and rockets from
the lightships had ceased, and in front of the lifeboat was only the
chill night, 'black as a wolf's throat.'  As they worked away from the
shore there came in, borne landwards and towards them by the gale, the
dull deep roar of the surf on the Goodwins.

It is marvellous how far the sound of the sea on the Goodwins travels.
Previously, on a fine calm day, with light breeze, I was standing
across the Goodwins, bound to the East Goodwin lightship, and we could
hear the roar of the ripple on the Goodwins--not breakers, but
ripple--at a distance of two miles.  We were sucked into that
ugly-looking ripple by an irresistible current, and after an anxious
half-hour we got through safely.

In front of the lifeboat on this night was no mere ripple, but
breakers; and the deep hollow roar foretold a tremendous sea.

As the dawn came faintly, the breakers were seen by the oncoming
lifeboat; she was already stripped for the fight, and her canvas was
shortened to reefed mizzen and reefed storm-foresail.  Even then she
was pressed down by the blast and leaned over as the spray flew
mast-high over her.  There was a mile of this surf to go through, and
with her red sails flat as a board the lifeboat plunged into it.

She thrashed her way nobly through, now up and down on short
wicked-looking chopping seas, now on some giant wave hoisted up to the
sky; and still up as if she was about to take flight into the air--as
we once before experienced in a gale on the Brake Sand--then buried and
smothered; and then over the next wave like a seabird.  On to the
rescue flew the lifeboat, steered by the coxswain himself, beating to
windward splendidly, as if conscious of and proud of the sacred task
before her.  On triumphantly through and over the breakers, onwards to
the Golden Island the lifeboat beat out against the sea and the storm.
She stood on till quite across the Goodwins, and fetched the East Buoy,
which lies in deep water well outside the breakers.  In that deep water
of fifteen fathoms there were of course no breakers, only a long roll
and heavy sea; but the moment this heavy sea touched the Goodwin Sands
it broke with the utmost fury, and was sweeping over the Golden Island,
now not more than half-a-mile from the lifeboat.  At the East Buoy the
lifeboat put about on the other tack, and stood in towards the Goodwins
and again right into the breakers, from which she had just emerged.

The wreck was lying with her head to the N.W., and was leaning to port,
so that her starboard quarter was exposed to the full fetch of the
easterly sea that was breaking 'solid' in tons on her decks.  'Why, she
was just smothered in it sometimes, and every big sea was just a-flying
all over her.'  Her masts they saw were still standing, and her crew of
seven were cowering for refuge between the main and mizzen masts under
the weak shelter of the weather bulwarks, and also under the lee of the
long boat, which still held its place, being firmly fastened to the
deck.  The fierce breakers burst rather over her quarter; had they
swept quite broadside over her, the boat would have been torn from its
fastenings long before.

As the Deal lifeboat stood in towards the Goodwins, they saw that their
noble rivals the Ramsgate tug and lifeboat in tow had arrived on the
scene a few minutes before them, and were close to the wreck.

The Ramsgate tug Aid now cast off the lifeboat, which got up sail and
made in through the breakers with the wind right aft impelling her
forwards at speed.  The tug of course waited outside the surf, in deep
water.  The Deal men, separated from the Ramsgate lifeboat by about
four hundred yards, were breathless spectators of the event.  They
watched her plunging and lifting into and over each sea and on towards
the wreck.

The Ramsgate men could not lie or ride alongside the vessel to
windward; there was too terrible a sea on that side, and therefore, in
spite of the danger of the masts falling, they were obliged to go to
leeward, or to the sheltered side of the vessel.

Just as the Ramsgate lifeboat was coming under the stern of the wreck
and about to haul down foresail and shoot up alongside her, she was
struck by a terrific sea.  The Deal men saw this and shouted 'She's
capsized!'  The Ramsgate lifeboat was indeed almost, but not quite
capsized, and she was also shot forwards and caught under the cat-head
and anchor of the wreck.  The captain of the wrecked vessel told me
afterwards that he thought she was lost, but it was happily not so, and
the Ramsgate lifeboatmen anchored, after recovering themselves, ahead
of the vessel and veered down to her.

But the tidal current which runs over the Goodwins varies in a very
irregular manner according to the wind that is blowing, and, contrary
to their calculations, swept the Ramsgate lifeboat to the full length
of her cable away from the vessel.

They naturally expected to find the usual off-tide from the land before
and at high-water, which would have carried them towards the vessel
when they anchored under her lee; but instead of that there was running
a strong 'in-tide,' which swept them helplessly away from the vessel,
and rendered them absolutely unable to reach her, though anchored only
two hundred yards off.

The seamen on the wreck, in order to reach by some means the lifeboat
which had thus been borne away from them so mysteriously, threw a
fender, with line attached, overboard, hoping that it too would follow
the current which carried away the lifeboat, and that thus
communications would be established between them; but the currents
round the ship held the fender close to the wreck, and kept it eddying
under her lee.

All eyes were now turned to the advancing Deal lifeboat battling in the
thickest of the surf.  Both the Ramsgate men with warm sympathy and the
shipwrecked crew with keen anxiety watched the Deal men's attempt, as
they raced into the wild breakers.

The poor fellows clinging to the masts feared lest the Deal lifeboat
too might miss them, and that they might all be lost before either
lifeboat could reach them again, and they beckoned the Deal men on.

The very crisis of their fate was at hand, but there were no applauding
multitudes or shouts of encouragement, only the cold wastes and
solitudes of wild tumbling breakers around the lifeboatmen on that grey
dawn, and only the appealing helpless crew in a little cluster on the
wreck.

It was now 4 a.m., and the Deal coxswain, cool and sturdy as his native
Kentish oak, knowing that the combination of an easterly gale with neap
tides sometimes produces an 'in-tide' at high-water, and seeing the
Ramsgate lifeboat carried to leeward, gave the order to 'down
foresail!' when well outside the wreck, and anchored E. by S. of her.
Thus the same 'in-tide' which swept the Ramsgate lifeboat away from the
wreck, carried the Deal lifeboat right down to her.

[Illustration: Location of the wreck]

It will be remembered that the head of the Golden Island lay N.W., and
the accompanying diagram will enable the reader to understand that as
the lifeboat anchored in nearly the opposite quarter, viz. about S.E.,
her head, as she ranged alongside the wreck, lay in precisely the
opposite direction to the head of the shipwrecked schooner.

The Deal lifeboat coxswain now hoisted a bit of his foresail to sheer
her in towards the wreck, but from the position of his anchor he could
not get closer than ten fathoms, or twenty yards.

To bridge this gulf of boiling surf, the cane loaded with lead, to
which a light line was attached, had to be hurled by a stalwart arm,
and John May succeeded in throwing the 'lead line' on board the wreck.

As the half-drowned and perishing crew of the wreck saw the Deal
lifeboat winning her way towards them, and inch by inch conquering the
opposing elements, their hearts revived.

They saw within hailing distance of them--for their cries could be
heard plainly enough coming down the wind by the Deal men--the brave,
determined faces of their rescuers, and they felt that God had not
forsaken them, but had wrought for them a great deliverance.

Having gone through all that surf, and having got within reach as it
were of the wreck, the crew of the Deal lifeboat were now eager for the
final rescue.  They never speak of, or even allude to the feeling on
such occasions within them, yet we know their hearts were on fire for
the rescue, and men in that mood are not easily to be baulked or to be
beaten.

As the wearied seamen grasped the meaning of the Deal coxswain's
shouts, or rather signs, for shouts against the wind were almost
inaudible, they aided in rigging up veering and hauling lines, by which
they would have to be dragged through the belt of surf which lay
between them and the lifeboat.

A clove-hitch, which my readers can practise for themselves, was passed
round the waist of the captain's son, a boy of thirteen, who was first
to leave the wreck.

[Illustration: Clove-hitch]

The lad naturally enough shrank from facing the boiling caldron which
raged between him and the lifeboat, and with loud cries clung to his
father.  Waiting was impossible, and he had to be separated partly by
persuasion and partly by main force from his father's arms and dragged
through the sea.  When once he was in the water the boatmen pulled at
him with all their might, and when alongside, two strong men reached
over the side and hoisted him like a feather into the lifeboat.

The men said 'he cried dreadful,' and the coxswain found a moment to
tell him, 'Don't cry, my little fellow! we'll soon have your father
into the lifeboat.'  But with the words came a sea 'that smothered us
all up, and it wanted good holding to keep ourselves from being carried
overboard.'  Some kind-hearted fellows, till the sea passed, held the
boy, but still he kept crying, 'Come, father!  Come, father!'

Three more of the crew then got the 'clove-hitch' over their shoulders
and jumped into the sea; some of them helped themselves by swimming and
kept their heads up; others merely gripped the rope and fared much
worse, being pulled head under, but all three were quickly dragged
through the water into the lifeboat.

I have said dragged through the 'water'; but surf is not the same as
water--it is water lashed into froth or seething bubbles in mountainous
masses.  You can swim in water; but the best swimmer sinks in 'froth,'
and can only manage and spare himself till the genuine water gives him
a heave up and enables him to continue the struggle on the surface.

Now water that breaks into surf is not merely motionless 'froth,' that
is half air and half water, but it runs at speed, and being partly
composed of solid water strikes any obstacle with enormous force and
smashes like a hammer.  These then were the characteristics of the sea
which beat all round the wreck, and through which the half-dazed and
storm-beaten sailors had to be dragged.

Besides the veering and hauling line by which the sailors in distress
came, there was another line passed round the mast of the tossing
lifeboat, to hold her in spite of her plunging as close as possible to
the ship; and this line had to be eased with each sea and then the
slack hauled in again.  Some better idea will be given of the nature of
this deadly wrestle, when I mention that this line cut so deeply into
the mast as to render it unsafe, and it was never again used after that
day.

The sails of the wrecked vessel were clattering and blowing about,
'like kites'--indeed, they were in ribbons; and the wind in the rigging
was like the harsh roar of an approaching train, so that in the midst
of this wild hurly-burly even the men in the lifeboat could hardly hear
each other's shouts.

Roberts now saw that it was necessary to shift the cable as it lay on
the bow of the lifeboat, and he shouted to his comrades forward to have
this done; but 'the wind was a blowin' and the sea a 'owling that
dreadful' that not a man could hear what he said, and he sprang forward
to shift the cable himself.  That very moment round the stern of the
wreck there swept the huge green curl of a gigantic sea, which, just as
it reached the lifeboat, broke with a roar a ton of water into her.

It took Roberts off his feet, so that he must have gone overboard, but
for the foremast against which it dashed him, and to which he clung
desperately, as the great wave melted away hissing, to leeward.
Shaking off the spray, the drenched lifeboatmen again turned to the
work of rescue; the coxswain having been preserved by his thick cork
lifebelt from what might otherwise have been a fatal crush.

This weighty sea tore away the lines and all means of communication
between the wreck and the lifeboat, and drove the three remaining
sailors on the vessel away from the shelter of the long boat to the
bows of the wreck.  Indeed, as they grasped for dear life the belaying
pins on the foremast, the sea covered them up to their shoulders, and
they were all but carried away.

Again the loaded cane had to be thrown; again the task was entrusted to
John May, who sent it flying through the air, and again the veering and
hauling line was rigged, and the remaining seamen were got into the
lifeboat.

The last man has to see to it for his life that the veering line is
clear, and that it is absolutely free from anything that could catch or
jam it or prevent it running out freely.

Just as coming down a steep ice slope where steps have to be cut by men
roped together, the best man should come last, so the last man rescued
from a wreck should have a good clear head and the stoutest heart of
all; and last man came bravely the captain, to the great joy of his
little son.

Then the lifeboatmen turned to preparations for home.  They dared not
get in their cable and heave their anchor on board, lest they should be
carried back and dashed against the wreck, the danger of which, a
glance at the sketch will show.  So they got a spring on the cable, to
cant the lifeboat's head to starboard or landsward, and with a parting
'Hurrah!' they slipped their cable, of course thus sacrificing it and
their anchor.  They hoisted their foresail, and with a gale of wind
behind them raced into and through the surf on the Goodwins, which lay
between them and home.

The Goodwins are four miles wide, and the land was eight miles distant,
but a splendid success had crowned the brave and steadfast Deal
coxswain's efforts.  Not a man was lost, and they had with them in the
lifeboat the shipwrecked vessel's crew--all saved.

It was a noble sight to see the lifeboat nearing the land that morning
at 7 a.m.  The British red ensign was flying proudly from her peak, in
token of 'rescued crew on board'; and as the men jumped out, I grasped
the brave coxswain's hand and said, 'Well done, Roberts!'  And as I saw
the rescued crew and their gallant deliverers, 'God bless you, my lads,
well done!'  The words will be echoed in many a heart, but could my
readers have seen the faces of the lifeboatmen, weather-beaten and
incrusted with salt, or watched them, as they staggered wearied but
rejoicing up the beach--could they have knelt in the thanksgiving
service which I held that morning with the rescued crew, and have heard
their graphic version of the grim reality--and how that the living God
had in His mercy stretched out His arm and saved them from death on the
Goodwins, they would better understand,--better, far, than words of
mine can bring it home--how splendid a deed of mercy and of daring was
that day done by the coxswain and the crew of the North Deal
lifeboat[1].



[1] The names of the crew of the lifeboat on this occasion (being one
man short, which was not observed in the darkness of the launch)
were--Richd. Roberts (coxswain), G. Marlowe, John May, Henry May, Wm.
Hanger, Ed. Pain, R. Betts, G. Brown, David Foster, Wm. Nicholas, Henry
Roberts, R. Ashington, John Adams, John Marsh.



CHAPTER VIII

THE SORRENTO, S.S.

  And the clamorous bell spake out right well
  To the hamlet under the hill,
  And it roused the slumb'ring fishers, nor its warning task gave o'er,
  Till a hundred fleet and eager feet were hurrying to the shore.


That Norse and Viking blood is to be found in the E. and S.E. coasts of
England is tolerably certain.  Tradition, as well as the physical
characteristics of the people, go to support the belief that the
inhabitants of the little picturesque village of Kingsdown, midway on
the coast line between Deal and the South Foreland, are genuine 'Sons
of the Vikings.'

Kingsdown looks seaward, just facing the southern end of the Goodwin
Sands, and at the back of the pretty village, which is built on the
shingle of the beach, rise the chalk cliffs which culminate in the
South Foreland, a few miles farther on.  Here in days gone by the
samphire gatherer plied his 'dreadful trade,' and, still from the
wooded cliff 'the fishermen that walk upon the beach appear like mice.'

Like their Deal brethren, the hardy boatmen of Kingsdown live by
piloting and fishing, and, like the Deal men, have much to do with the
Goodwin Sands.  The same may be said of the more numerous Walmer
boatmen; and all three are usually summed up in the general and
honourable appellation of Deal boatmen.

[Illustration: Jarvist Arnold]

The Kingsdown villagers are believed to be Jutes, and the names
prevalent amongst them add probability to the idea.  Certainly there is
a Norse flavour about the name of Jarvist Arnold, for many years
coxswain of the Kingsdown lifeboat Sabrina.  This brave, fine old
seaman still survives, and still his eye kindles, and his voice still
rings, as with outstretched hand and fire unquenched by age he tells of
grapples with death on the Goodwin Sands.  He is no longer, alas! equal
to the arduous post which he nobly held for twenty years, a post now
well filled by James Laming, Jarvist's comrade in many a risky job; but
still he is regarded with reverence and affection, and the rescue of
the crew of the Sorrento and the story of the 'old cork fender' will
always be honourably associated with his name.  Round him the incidents
of this chapter will group themselves, for, though brave men were his
crew on each occasion, he was the guiding spirit.

[Illustration: The Kingsdown lifeboat]

The mode of manning the Kingsdown lifeboat is somewhat different from
the practice of Deal and Walmer, as will be seen, but in all three
cases the same rush of eager men is made to gain the honourable post of
a place in the lifeboat.

Sometimes the launch is utterly unavailing, as was the case on a
December night in 1867, when with Jarvist Arnold at the helm, the
lifeboat sped into and through the tossing surf and 'fearful sea' (the
coxswain's words), across the south end of the Goodwins, and found a
barque from Sunderland on fire and drifting on to the sands.  So hot it
was from the flames that they could not if they would go to leeward of
her, and they kept to windward, witnessing the spectacle of a ship on
fire in a midnight 'hurricane from the west.'  There was no one on
board of the burning ship, and no one knows the fate of her crew.
Sadly the lifeboatmen returned to the land.

Again Jarvist Arnold is summoned to the rescue, and this time with a
different result.  On February 12, 1870, all the vessels in the Downs
were driven ashore, with the exception of one, which the skill and
pluck of E. Hanger, second coxswain of the Deal lifeboat, safely
piloted away to safety, through the tremendous sea.

There was a great gale from E.S.E. with bitter cold and snow.  Vessel
after vessel came ashore, and some were torn into matchwood along the
beach.  One large vessel, the ship Glendura, having parted her anchors
in the great sea that was running, was driving landwards.  The captain,
foreseeing the inevitable, and determined, if he could not save his
vessel, to save precious lives--his wife and child being on
board--boldly set his lower foretopsail, to force his vessel stem on as
far ashore on the mainland as possible; and about 9 p.m., in this dark
freezing snowstorm, the stem of his large vessel, drawing about
twenty-three feet of water, struck the land.

[Illustration: Scene on Deal Beach February 13, 1870.  From a painting
by W. H. Franklin.]

The engraving shows this ship in the act of striking.  Facing the
picture, the Glendura lies farthest from the spectator.  Between her
and the land would be about 100 fathoms, or 200 yards of water; but
that water was one furious mass of advancing billows hurled landwards
by this great tempest.

Fortunately, as I have said, the Glendura struck the beach unlike the
other vessels in the engraving, not broadside on, but stem on.  They
were broken up very soon; but the Glendura held together, burning
flares and sending up appealing rockets.  Still more fortunately--but
in truth providentially is the word to use--she struck right opposite
Kingsdown lifeboat house, where lay head to storm-blast, the Kingsdown
lifeboat Sabrina, and where, grouped round her, Jarvist Arnold and the
lifeboat crew stood ready.

Had the wrecked ship come ashore at any distance from the spot where
the lifeboat lay, either to the right or left, that is, either west or
east of where she did strike, the probability is that all on board
would have perished.  With a heavy gale dead on shore, if the lifeboat
had succeeded in launching, she would not have fetched the wreck, had
she lain any distance either side, but would have been helplessly
beaten back again.

The Kingsdown men were keenly watching the approaching catastrophe as
the Glendura came landwards.  Long before she struck, the little
fishing village echoed to the cry of 'Man the lifeboat,' and clad in
their sou'-westers and lifebelts the brave crew waited for the crash of
the doomed vessel, which, by God's mercy, took place right in front of
them.  The sea they had to face was terrific, and so bitter was the
night that the sea spray froze as it was borne landwards by the blast,
and each rope in the ship's rigging was thick with ice.

Just as the men were all in the lifeboat, and were about to man their
haul-off warp to pull the lifeboat out into deep water thereby, a
service of the greatest danger on such a night, some one on the
beach--it was James Laming, the present able Kingsdown coxswain, but
then a very young man--even in that black night discovered a great
fender floating in the recoil.  It was pulled ashore, and it was then
found that a line was attached to it, and to that line a weightier one;
and to that a four and a half-inch hawser, or strong cable, leading
from the wrecked ship to the land.

Perceiving the object of those on board, Jarvist Arnold gave the order
to 'Let the lifeboat go,' and she plunged down the steep beach into the
black billows of that easterly snowstorm and right into the very teeth
of it.  No sooner had they touched the water than they hauled upon the
cable which had been sent ashore from the vessel; and so, bit by bit,
one moment submerged and the next swung on the crest of some stormy
wave, they gradually hauled themselves out to the vessel, and found the
crew with the captain and his wife and child gathered in a forlorn
little cluster out on the jib-boom.

Right under the martingale with its sharp spear-like head the lifeboat
had to lie.  When a monstrous sea came roaring round the stern of the
vessel, the lifeboat had to let go and come astern, lest she should be
impaled on the sharp point, as she was hoisted up with great force.

Back again the crew hauled her, and when the furious sea had passed, in
answer to shouts of 'Come on!' 'Now's your time!' down a rope into the
lifeboat came the second mate with the captain's child in his arms.  Up
the stiff half-frozen rope again he climbed and brought down the
captain's wife; and some more of the crew rapidly came the same way.
Then the lifeboat having their full complement of people on board, some
of whom were perishing with the cold of that awful night, made for the
land; still holding the cable from the ship they drifted, or rather
were hurled ashore, in the darkness, pelted by hail and snow and
drenched by the seas, which broke with force clean over them.

The task of landing the enfeebled crew and the poor lady and child in
such a great sea was dangerous, but it was accomplished safely.
Indeed, such was the sympathy and enthusiasm of the Kingsdown villagers
and fisherfolk that, if need were, they could and would have carried
the lifeboat with its human freight right up the beach.

An attempt was now made to use the rocket apparatus, and a rocket was
fired, which went clean through the fore-topsail and to the poop of the
vessel behind.  Another whizzing rocket, carrying its line with it,
went hurtling through or close to the crowd clustered on the
top-gallant forecastle, where they cowered before creeping out on to
the bowsprit.  No harm was done by the erratic flight of the rockets,
but the wrecked sailors naturally preferred to go ashore in the
lifeboat to being dragged through the breakers in the cradle of the
rocket-apparatus, and declining to use it, they again summoned the
lifeboat.

The first crew of the lifeboat were worn out with their exertions, and
the blows and buffetings of the freezing sea-spray.  A fresh crew was
therefore obtained, all but the coxswain, Jarvist Arnold, who stuck to
his post.  Back again to the ship the lifeboatmen hauled themselves,
through such a sea that words which would truly describe it must seem
exaggerated.  Remember the bows of the ship lay nearly two hundred
yards from the land in a veritable cauldron of waters.

Again the lifeboat returned with her living freight of rescued seamen,
and again worn out as before with the struggle, a fresh crew was
obtained; but again Jarvist Arnold for the third time went back to the
wreck.  And yet again with a fourth fresh crew the brave man returned
for the fourth and last time to the vessel; and finally came safe to
the shore with the remainder of the crew, twenty-nine of whom were thus
rescued, but only rescued by the most determined and repeated efforts,
through what the coxswain's report describes as 'a fearful sea with
snowstorm and freezing hard all the time.'

When, long after midnight, the lifeboatmen staggered home, Jarvist
found that his oilskin coat was frozen so hard that it stood upright
and rigid on his cottage floor when he took it off his own half-frozen
self.  But he had a soft pillow that night; he had bravely done his
duty, and had saved twenty-nine of his fellow human beings from death
in the sea.

Many a stormy struggle after this rescue was gone through by Jarvist
Arnold and his Kingsdown lifeboat crew on the Goodwin Sands during the
years 1870-1873.  Holding the honourable but arduous post of coxswain
of the Kingsdown lifeboat Sabrina, he also manfully earned his living
as Channel pilot, being a most trustworthy and skilful seaman.  He did
well that which came to his hand; he did his best and his duty.  I
speak after the manner of men, and as between man and man.  More than
that no man can do.

On the night of December 17, 1872, about 2.30 a.m., it was blowing a
gale from the south-west.  Out of the gale was borne landwards the boom
of guns; far away on the horizon, or where the horizon ought to be, was
seen the flash of their fire; and upwards into the winter midnight shot
the distant rockets, appealing not in vain for help.

Almost simultaneously the coxswains at Walmer and Kingsdown were
roused, William Bushell and Jarvist Arnold.  At Walmer the
lifeboat-bell rang out its summons, but at Kingsdown a fast runner was
sent round the village, crying as he ran, 'Man the lifeboat!'  'Ship on
the Goodwins!'  Up sprang the men--that is, all the grown-up men in the
village; and while the tempest shook their lowly cottage roofs, out
they poured into the night, followed by lads, boys, wives, mothers,
sweethearts and sisters.

Jarvist Arnold's wife said, 'Ladies can sometimes keep their husbands,
but poor women like us must let them go;' and once more Jarvist Arnold
steered his lifeboat--shall I not say to victory? for 'Peace hath her
victories no less renowned than War;' and this sentence might well be
emblazoned on every lifeboat in the kingdom.

At 3 a.m. on this midwinter night they launched at their respective
stations, distant about two miles from each other, the lifeboats of
Walmer and Kingsdown, and faced the sea and the storm.  Think of the
deed, and its hardships, and its heroism; of the brave hearts who
'darkling faced the billows,' and the anxious women left behind, ye who
live to kill time in graceless self-indulgence, and ere it be too late,
learn to sacrifice and to dare.

The two lifeboats got together before they reached the edge of the
Goodwins, and held such consultation as was possible in the pitchy
darkness and in the roar of the sea.  It was agreed between them that
there would be much difficulty in finding the vessel in distress, as
her signals and blue lights had ceased and the night was very dark.
They decided that the Kingsdown lifeboat should go first, and if they
hit the vessel they were to burn a red light in token of success, and a
white light if they could not find her; but that, in any case, Walmer
was to come shortly after them and search through the breakers, whether
Kingsdown succeeded or not.

In the dark the Kingsdown coxswain put his lifeboat into the surf on
the Goodwins; it was heavy, but they got through it safely, and found
on the off-part of the Goodwins, towards its southern end--known as the
South Calliper--a large steamship aground.  She proved to be the
Sorrento, bound from the Mediterranean to Lynn.

Close outside where she lay on the treacherous sands were thirteen and
fourteen fathoms of deep water, that is, from seventy to eighty feet,
while she lay in about six feet of white surf, which flew in clouds
over her as each sea struck her quarters and stern.

The Sorrento had struck the Goodwins at midnight, or a little after, in
about twenty-one feet of water, but when the lifeboat got alongside the
tide had fallen, and there was only six feet of broken water around
her.  As the sands were nearly dry to the southward of her, the sea was
by no means so formidable as it afterwards became with the rising tide
and increasing gale and greater depth of water.

The Kingsdown lifeboat sent up her red light, and then came through the
surf the Walmer lifeboat, guided by the red signal of success from
Jarvist Arnold.  Both lifeboats got alongside the great steamer, and
the greater part of the crews of both lifeboats clambered on board her,
leaving eight men in each lifeboat.

The head of the wrecked steamer lay about E.N.E., and the seas were
hammering at and breaking against her starboard quarter, which rose
high in the air quite twenty feet out of the water at the time the
lifeboats got alongside.  All the lifeboatmen now turned to pumping the
vessel, which was very full of water, with a view to saving the ship
and her valuable cargo of barley.

The Walmer lifeboat lay alongside the Sorrento, under her port bow, and
the head of the Walmer lifeboat pointed towards the stern of the
wrecked steamer, and was firmly fastened to her by a stout hawser.

About this time--say, five o'clock in the morning--while it was dark,
the Ramsgate lifeboat also arrived, and seeing the other two lifeboats
alongside they anchored outside the sands.  And the Kingsdown lifeboat,
manned only by her coxswain and seven of her crew, was sheered off
about two hundred fathoms, to lay out a kedge anchor, with a view to
preventing the vessel drifting farther, as the tide rose, into the
shallower parts of the sands, and in the hope of warping her into
deeper water.

Naturally the presence of the lifeboats and a company of seventeen or
eighteen stalwart lifeboatmen, all thoroughly up to their work, infused
fresh courage into the captain and crew of the Sorrento.  They felt
that all was not lost, and dividing themselves into different gangs of
men, all hands worked with a will, throwing the cargo overboard to
lighten the vessel, and pumping with all their energies--their shouts
ringing out bravely as they worked to get out the water.  The donkey
engine too was set at work, and steam fought storm and sea, but this
time in vain.  After several hours' hard work, the engineer came to the
captain and lifeboatmen and said, 'It's all up; the water's coming in
as fast as we pump it out.  Come down and see for yourselves!'

It was too true, the good steamship's back was broken, and the clear
sea-water bubbled into her faster than it could be got out.  As the day
began to break, the sea rose and beat more heavily over the vessel; it
burst no longer merely in clouds or showers on the deck, but in heavy
volumes, and on all sides, especially to the south; long lines of
rollers careered on towards the doomed vessel with tossing, tumbling
crests, and then burst over her.

At 11 a.m. in this state of affairs the hope of saving the ship was
abandoned, and all only thought now of saving life.  Thinking the two
lifeboats--the Centurion and the Sabrina--were insufficient to rescue
the whole of the steamer's crew, the ensign was hoisted 'union down'
for more assistance.  None came; probably the signal was not seen, or
possibly, it was thought that the presence of the lifeboats had
answered the appeal.

As the tide rose the water deepened and more wind came.  Heavy masses
of water struck the hapless vessel, and though her starboard quarter
was still ten feet out of the water, each sea swept her decks, carrying
spars, hen coops, and everything movable clean before it.

All hands now fled to the bridge of the steamer, watching for a
favourable moment to get into the Walmer lifeboat, still riding
alongside, while each mad billow lifted her up almost to the level of
the bridge and then smothered the lifeboat in its foaming bosom as she
descended into the depths.

Any one who carefully observes a succession of waves either breaking in
charging lines on a beach, or in the wilder turmoil of the Goodwins,
must notice how frequently they differ in shape and in size.  I am by
no means convinced that either the third wave--the [Greek] _trikumia_
of the Greeks--or the tenth wave, as the Latin _fluctus decimanus_
seems to suggest--is always larger than its tempestuous comrades, but
ashore or afloat you do now and then see a giant, formed mysteriously
in accordance with the laws of fluids, that does out-top its fellows,
[Greek] _kephalen te kai eureas ômous_.

Such a great sea was seen advancing by the occupants of the bridge of
the Sorrento.  Combing, curling, high over the stern of the wreck it
broke, carrying everything before it in one common ruin.  It carried
away the boats of the wrecked steamer, tearing them and the davits
which supported them out of the vessel.

Snap went the strong five-inch cable which fastened the Walmer lifeboat
to the port or sheltered quarter of the Sorrento, as the end of the
great green sea swept round her stern; and as the lifeboat was torn
away from the wreck she was forced up against the crashing jangle of
the steamer's boats and davits; and yet again with tremendous force
jammed right up against the anchor of the Sorrento, which was driven
into the fore thwart of the ascending lifeboat.  The lifeboatmen
crouched down to avoid destruction, and--for all this was done in a
moment--away she sped, spun round as a boy would spin his top, to
leeward of the wreck and among the breakers of the Goodwins.

'Never saw anything spin round like her in my life!' said one of the
crew afterwards; and so far was she carried by this great sea that she
could not drop anchor till she was half a mile from the wrecked
steamship.  Tide and wind were both against her, and she was utterly
unable to get back to the wreck.  She simply rode helplessly to her
anchor with less than half of her own men in her, the remainder being
clustered on the bridge, as already described, or clinging to the
rigging of the Sorrento.  The aspect of affairs had now become one of
extreme gravity.

The Walmer lifeboat was swept away, and as helpless as if she were
fifty miles off, leaving seven of her crew in great peril on the
bridge.  Seven of the crew of the Kingsdown lifeboat were also gathered
on the steamer's bridge, together with thirty-two of the crew of the
wrecked vessel herself.  In all, there stood or clung there, drenched
by the clouds of spray, drowned almost as they fought for breath,
forty-six persons; and their only hope or chance for life was the
Kingsdown lifeboat, which still bravely lived, heavily plunging into
and covered now and then by the seas.

At the helm, in dire anxiety, was Jarvist Arnold, and with him were in
the lifeboat only seven of his crew, the remainder of them being
entrapped on board the Sorrento, together with the Walmer lifeboatmen.
It was thought, as my readers will remember, that two lifeboats were
insufficient to rescue all hands, but now the rescue--if rescue there
were to be--depended upon one small lifeboat half manned.

Besides this, Jarvist Arnold saw with his own eyes the defeat of the
Walmer lifeboat, and was so close to the wreck that he was well aware
of the dangerous sea sweeping over her and racing up under her stern;
but the brave fellow never faltered in his determination to attempt the
rescue; and he was strung to his formidable task by the knowledge that
three of his own sons were holding on for dear life on the bridge of
the wreck.  He could see the gestures and hear the shouts from the
bridge as the sounds came across the wind, now a heavy gale.

There was no lack of resolution, but the problem was to get at the
Sorrento at all, as the diagram will help the reader to understand.

[Illustration: Position of the Sorrento.]

It will be plain that the tide current was forcing the Kingsdown
lifeboat, even when at anchor, away from the distressed vessel, and
that if she weighed anchor, she would be carried away to leeward, as
the Walmer men had been.

Thinking of all expedients, they bent on their second cable and rode to
the long scope of one hundred and sixty fathoms.  Still the cruel
lee-tide and wind forced them away.  They sheered the head of the
lifeboat in towards the wreck--and then--the six men in her sprang to
the oars, and tugged and strained at them, all rowing on the same side,
to direct the lifeboat towards the vessel.  While they struggled, the
great breakers overwhelmed and blinded them, filling many times the
gallant little lifeboat--she was only thirty-six feet in length--which
as obstinately emptied herself free and lived through it all, by God's
good providence.

'Must I see my sons die in my sight, and my friends and neighbours
too?' thought Jarvist Arnold, as he was beaten away from the vessel;
and then, 'Lord, help me!'  Again and again, in vain they struggled,
when some one on the wreck sprang from the bridge at the most imminent
peril of his life, on to the slippery, sloping wave-swept deck.

He had seen coiled on a belaying pin on the bridge a long lead line,
and on the deck still unwashed away an old cork fender.  Some say it
was the mate of the vessel; others that it was one of the Kingsdown men
who fastened the lead line to the fender and who slung it overboard,
and then, stumbling and slipping, ran for his life back to the bridge,
barely escaping an overwhelming wave.

Swirling and eddying in the strange currents on the Goodwins, and
beaten of the winds and waves, on came the old cork fender towards the
lifeboat.  They had not another bit of cable to spare on board the
lifeboat; every inch of their one hundred and sixty fathoms was paid
out.  Breathless the coxswain, and the man in the bows, rigid as his
own boat-hook with the anxiety of the moment, lashed to his position, a
life line round his waist, watched the approach of the fender.  It was
sucked by the current towards the lifeboat, and then tossed by a wave
away from her again.

Feeling assured that a great loss of life must soon occur, either by
the people on the frail refuge of the steamer's bridge being swept off
it, or by the bridge itself being carried away by the seas, which were
becoming more solid every moment, Jarvist and his comrades thought the
cork fender was a long time in reaching them.  Lives of men hung in the
balance, and minutes seem hours then.

At last it drifted hopelessly out of reach, but into a curious
backwater, which eddied it right under the boat hook of the bowman.  In
an instant it was seized, and the line made fast to a thwart.  'I've a
great mind to trust to it,' said Jarvist Arnold, but caution prevailed,
and they made fast a stout rope to the lead line.

Again the people on the bridge watched their chance.  One man managed
to wade along the now submerged deck to reach the lead line, and he
hauled it with the stronger rope on board, making the latter securely
fast.  Again had this man to fly for life up the bridge from an
advancing billow, which, leaping over the stern of the wreck, nearly
overtook him, and at the same time by its great weight and impulse,
beat the stern of the steamship a little way round to the west.

Hauling on this cable without letting go their own anchor, Jarvist
Arnold and his small crew hauled their lifeboat as close under the
leaning bridge as they dared.

The first man who tried to escape from the bridge in his leap missed
the lifeboat and fell into the sea, and not a moment too soon was
grasped by friendly hands and dragged into the lifeboat.

The direction of the tidal current on the Goodwins shifts every hour to
a different point of the compass; and now this strong eddy, being
altered still more by the position of the wreck, would suck the
lifeboat towards the stern of the wreck.  There she would meet another
current of the truer tide, and get hurried back again half buried in
breakers, which were ever and anon bursting over and round the stern of
the wreck.

[Illustration: The Sorrento on the Goodwin Sands.]

Then she would come back under the bridge, where every effort was made
to hold her by stern ropes; and as she rose, 'by the dreadful tempest
borne, high on the broken wave,' man after man they jumped, or were
dragged, or came quick as lightning down a rope, into the Sabrina, the
whole forty-six of the imperilled men, the captain being last man, and
almost too late.

Bringing with them the old cork fender as a memento, Jarvist and his
unbeaten crew sheered out their lifeboat to ride by their own cable, as
before the timely arrival of the fender.  Now they saw signs of the
approaching break up of the Sorrento, for before they had left her very
long her funnel and masts went overboard, and reeling to the blows of
the sea, she split in halves and disappeared under the breakers of the
Goodwins.

But before this dramatic conclusion, the Kingsdown lifeboat slipped her
anchor, to which she never could have got back, and setting her mast
and double-reefed storm-foresail, ran away before the wind through the
'heavy boiling surf' on the Goodwins.  These are the coxswain's own
written words, and I can only repeat they are below the grim reality.

With the forty-six rescued seafarers on board she was terribly low in
the water, and was filled in and out from both sides at once by the
seas as they broke.  Only a lifeboat could have lived, but even she
resembled a floating baulk of timber, which is covered and swept by the
seas on the same level as itself.  Holding on for life to thwarts and
life-lines, they kept the lifeboat dead before the sea.  They did not
dare to luff her to the west or bear her away to the east.  They dared
not keep away to get to the Walmer lifeboat, nor in the other direction
toward the mainland, about six miles off.

The slightest exposure of the broadside of the lifeboat would either
have capsized her, or washed every soul out of her; onwards, therefore,
dead before the wind and right on the top of and in the breakers of the
Goodwins she flew her stormy flight for nearly four miles.

The Walmer lifeboat had got up anchor at the same time as the Kingsdown
men; for as the Kingsdown overcrowded lifeboat ran past the Walmer
lifeboat, which was waiting at anchor for them, they shouted to the
Walmer men, 'Slip your cable, and come after us!'

This the Walmer lifeboat did, and now ventured to approach the
Kingsdown lifeboat.  Though handled with skill and caution, being
light, she took a sea; and she came right on top of the gunwale of the
Kingsdown lifeboat, smashing her oars, which were run out to steady
her, like so many pipe-shanks, and crunching into her gunwale.

But at last, with difficulty, half of the living freight of the Sabrina
was transferred to the Walmer lifeboat; and then both lifeboats luffing
in through Trinity Swatch, by God's mercy, escaped the deadly Goodwins,
and landed the rescued crew at Broadstairs.

And the gallant deed is still sung by the Kingsdown children in simple
village rhymes,

  God bless the Lifeboat and its crew,
    Its coxswain stout and bold,
  And Jarvist Arnold is his name,
    Sprung from the Vikings old,
  Who made the waves and winds their slaves,
    As likewise we do so,
  While still Britannia rules the waves,
    And the stormy winds do blow;
  And the old Cork Float that safety brought,
    We'll hold in honour leal,
  And it shall grace the chiefest place
    In Kingsdown, hard by Deal!


One of Jarvist Arnold's sons never recovered the strain of those awful
hours on the bridge of the Sorrento in her death-throes, and, to use
his father's words: 'He never was a man no more.'  But Jarvist himself
did many a subsequent good deed of rescue, and stuck to his arduous
post as long as, and even beyond, what health and strength and age
permitted.

Would that I could say that the noble old fellow was in independent
circumstances!  Despite the continued generosity of the Royal National
Lifeboat Institution to him, alas! this is not the case.  Would that
some practicable scheme for providing a pension for deserving working
men in their old age were before the country!

Jarvist Arnold is, however, not forsaken; he has good and honourable
children, and I know that with that inner gaze which sees more clearly
as eternity approaches, he too in simple faith beholds the advancing
lifeboat, and hears the glad words, 'When thou passest through the
waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not
overflow thee,' from the mouth of the Great Commander.



CHAPTER IX

THE ROYAL ARCH

  Cease, rude Boreas, blust'ring railer!
  List, ye landsmen ill, to me!
  Messmates! hear a brother sailor
  Sing the dangers of the sea.


This and the following chapter contains the story of cases of rescue in
which the ships in distress were saved, together with all on board, by
the skill and courage of the Deal lifeboatmen, and brought finally with
their respective cargoes safe into port.

A century ago, certain of our English coasts are described by the same
writer whose lines head this chapter, as--

  Where the grim hell-hounds, prowling round the shore,
  With foul intent the stranded bark explore.
  Deaf to the voice of woe, her decks they board,
  While tardy Justice slumbers o'er her sword.


But these pages recount, in happy contrast, the generous and gallant
efforts of the Deal boatmen, in the first instance to save life, and
then, when besought to stand by the vessel, or employed to do so, of
their further success in saving valuable property, often worth many
thousand pounds, from utter destruction in the sea.

I stood some years ago on the deck of a lightship stationed near the
wreck of the British Navy, a vessel sunk by collision in the Downs one
dreadful night, when twenty sailors went to the bottom with her, and I
saw her masts blown up and out of her by an explosion of dynamite to
remove the wreck from the Downs, while the water was strewn with the
debris of her valuable cargo.  This cargo, amongst countless other
commodities, was said to have contained one hundred pianos; hence some
idea may be gathered of the pecuniary importance, apart from the
story's thrilling interest, of salvage of valuable vessels and precious
merchandize.

On March 29, 1878, the wind blew strong from the E.N.E., and only one
vessel, the Royal Arch, lay in the Downs.  The great roadstead,
protected from the full fetch of an easterly sea by the natural
breakwater of the Goodwins--for without those dreaded sands neither the
Downs as a sheltered anchorage would exist, nor in all probability the
towns of Deal and Walmer--was nevertheless on that day a very stormy
place, and as the wind freshened towards evening, as the east wind
nearly always does in this locality, it eventually came on to blow a
whole gale dead on shore.

The sea raised by an easterly gale on Deal beach is tremendous, and not
even the first-class luggers, or their smaller sisters, the 'cats,'
could be launched.  Had there been a harbour from which the Deal
luggers could at once make the open sea, they would have been able to
live and skim like the stormy petrel over the crest of the billows; but
it is quite a different thing when a lugger has to be launched from a
beach right in the teeth of a mountainous sea, and incurs the certainty
of being driven back broadside on to the steep shingle, and of her crew
being washed out of her, and drowned by some giant sea.  Hence that
evening no ordinary Deal boat or even lugger could launch.  On the
morning of the same day the captain of the Royal Arch had been
compelled by some necessary business to come ashore.  To have come
ashore in his own ship's boat in such a wind and sea would have
involved certain disaster and even loss of life, and therefore he came
ashore in a Deal galley punt, which successfully performed the feat of
beaching in a heavy surf.

In the evening, against an increasing gale, and much heavier sea, the
galley punt dared not launch to bring the captain back.  None even of
the luggers would encounter the risk of launching in so heavy a sea
dead on the beach.  He therefore tried the lifeboats, upon the plea and
grounds that his ship was dragging her anchors and in peril.  She was
lying abreast of Walmer Castle, and was indeed gradually dragging in
towards the surf-beaten shore, which, if she struck, not a soul on
board probably would have been saved.

The anxious captain first tried the Walmer lifeboat, but she was too
far to leeward, and would not have been able to fetch the vessel.  But
eventually, as his vessel was now burning signals of distress, he ran
to the North Deal lifeboat, and the coxswain, Robert Wilds, seeing all
other boats were helpless, decided to ring the lifeboat bell and pit
the celebrated Van Cook against the stormy sea in deadly fight.

The Deal boatmen had long foreseen the launch of the lifeboat, and they
were massed in crowds round the lifeboat-house, competitors for the
honour of forming the crew.  The danger of the distressed vessel was
known in the town, and crowds had assembled on the beach, amongst them
the Mayor of Deal, to watch the lifeboat launch.

The long run of the great waves came right up to where the lifeboat
lay, so that when she was let go she had no steep slope to rush down so
as to hurl her by her own impetus into the sea.  She depended,
therefore, for her launching against this great sea, on her haul-off
warp, which was moored one hundred fathoms out to sea, and by which her
fifteen men hoped to pull her out to deep water.  But this dark night
she simply stuck fast after running down a little way, and got into the
'draw back' under the seas bursting in fury.

Her situation was most perilous, and the danger of the men being swept
out of her was great.  But through it all the lifeboatmen, with
stubborn pluck, held on to the haul-off warp and strained for their
lives, and at last a great sea came and washed them afloat within its
recoil, and covered the lifeboat and her crew.  The spectators groaned
with horror as the lifeboat disappeared, but the men were straining
gallantly at the haul-off warp, and the lifeboat emerged.  When she was
seen above the surges just only for an instant, 'All Deal sent forth a
rapturous cry,' and the brave men, though they could not see the people
on the land, yet heard their mighty cheer, and, strung in their hearts
to dare and to conquer, sped on their glorious task.

When just out to deep water, the coxswain sang out, 'Hang on, every
man!' and a great sea came out of the night right at the lifeboat.  Tom
Adams was out on the fore air-box, lifting the haul-off warp out of the
cheek, a perilous spot, when the sea was seen; he had just time to get
back and clasp both arms round the foremast as the sea broke,
overwhelming lifeboat and the crew and the captain of the Royal Arch,
who was aft, in a white smother of foam.  But the lifeboat freed
herself of the sea, and like a living creature stood up to face the
gale.

Close-reefed mizzen and reefed storm foresail was her canvas; watchful
men stood by halyards and sheets, hitched, not belayed, and watched
each gust and sea as only Deal men who watch for their lives can watch,
and even they are sometimes caught.

At last the vessel in distress loomed through the night, and from many
an anxious heart on board went up, 'Thank God! here comes the
lifeboat!'  Not too soon was she!  For the hungry breakers were roaring
under their lee.  Blue lights and other signals of distress had already
been made on board the vessel for some time; a rocket too had been
fired, with a rather unsatisfactory result.

One of the mates, who I was informed hailed from County Cork, decided
to fire a rocket, a thing he had never, it seems, done before in his
life, and failing the usual rocket-stand, he bethought him of the novel
and ingenious expedient of letting it off through the iron tube which
formed the chimney of the galley or cooking-house on deck, thus hoping
to make sure of successfully directing its flight upwards.  In the
confusion and darkness he did in his execution not perhaps do justice
to himself, or to the fertility of resource which had devised so
excellent a plan.  The sea was rolling to the depth of two feet over
the deck, and washing right through the galley house, and it was only
by great efforts he succeeded in the darkness in fastening the rocket
in the tube which formed the chimney.

To do this he had unwisely removed the rocket from its stick, and,
unfortunately, he fastened it in the chimney upside down.  Having done
so, he fumbled in his pocket, the darkness being intense, for his
matches, and applied the light underneath in the usual place.  But the
rocket being upside down he of course failed to set it off, and then he
unluckily tried the other end, which was uppermost, with the disastrous
result, as my English informant described it, that 'the hexplosion
blowed him clean out of the galley.'

'Blowed him!' said I, unconsciously adopting my friend's expression,
'where?'

'Why,' said he, 'hout of the galley into the lee scuppers.'

'Was the poor fellow much hurt?'

'Hurt!  Bless you! not he.  But he kept shouting like forty blue
murders!'

'What did he say?'

'Well,' he replied, 'he was that scared and that choked with soot, as
ever was, that all he could say was--I'm dead!  I'm dead!  I'm dead!'

The position of the vessel was now very serious; she was going so fast
astern towards the breakers and the land that after the lifeboat
anchored ahead of and close to her she could hardly keep abreast of the
dragging vessel by paying out her cable as fast as possible.  Roberts
and Adams, and in all five of the lifeboatmen, sprang on board of her
as she rolled in the pitchy night.

They sprang, as the lifeboat went up and the ship came down, over the
yawning chasm, on the chance of gripping the shrouds, and some of them
rolled over and actually and literally, as they were carried off their
feet, had to swim on the decks of the labouring vessel.

The captain of the vessel could not get on board in the same way, and
though they passed a line round his waist it was a good half-hour
before they could get him up the steep side.

The lifeboatmen say that when he did reach the deck he declared 'that
if that was what they called coming hoff in a lifeboat from Deal beach,
he wouldn't do it again--no, not for hall the money in the Bank of
England!'

The captain now hesitated to slip his ship, lest she might pay off on
the wrong tack and come ashore; but as the vessel was steadily drifting
and the sea terrific, the lifeboat being now and then hoisted up to her
foreyard, while mountainous seas wallowed over both the lifeboat and
the vessel, the Deal lifeboatmen said, 'If you don't slip her, we will.
There's death right astern for all of us if you delay.'

Then the captain himself took the helm, the rudder-head being twisted,
and the spirit and energy of the Deal men infused new life into the
wearied crew, and all hands worked together with a will.

They loosed the fore-topsail and they set the foretopmast staysail.
Tom Adams went or waded forwards, holding on carefully, with a lantern,
and he watched by the dim light till the fore-topmast staysail bellied
out with a flap like thunder on the right side, and then he shouted
down the wind, 'Hard up, captain!  Hard a-port!'  At the same instant
Roberts shouted, 'Slip the cable!  Let go all!'  And just within the
very jaws of the breakers, the ship's head payed away to the southward,
and she escaped--saved at the last minute, and safe to the open sea.

When safe away and running before the gale, the Deal men strapped the
rudder-head with ropes, straining them tight with a tackle, and then
wedged the ropes tighter and tighter still, making the rudder head
thoroughly safe.

And then, though only very poorly and miserably supplied with food--for
they only had dry biscuits till they reached port--they manned the
pumps with the worn-out crew, and brought the ship safe to Cowes.

But for the existence of a lifeboat at North Deal the ship would have
been wrecked that night on the stormy beach of Deal, and, in all
probability, her crew would also have perished.

It is pleasant to record the unselfish heroism of the Deal lifeboatmen,
who on this occasion were the means of saving both valuable property
and precious human lives.



CHAPTER X

THE MANDALAY

  The leak we've found, it cannot pour fast;
  We've lightened her a foot or more--
  Up and rig a jury foremast,
  She rights!  She rights, boys!  Wear off shore!


The case of the Mandalay here recorded so far resembles that of the
Royal Arch and of the Edina, that in all three cases the vessels, the
cargoes, and the lives of all on board, were saved by the Deal
lifeboatmen, and by their courage and seamanlike skill, and intimate
local knowledge of the Goodwins and other places and sands in their
dangerous vicinity, brought safe to port.  The Royal Arch was drifting
at night from her anchorage in the Downs, in an easterly gale towards
the surf-beaten shore.  The Edina was in the most imminent peril on the
edge of the Brake Sand.  The Mandalay was on the Goodwins itself, and
to save a vessel and her cargo from the Goodwins is no easy task.

On December 13, 1889, the Mandalay was passing the North Sand Head
lightship a little after midnight.  She was outward bound from
Middlesbrough to the River Plate with a cargo of railway iron sleepers.
They hailed the lightship as its great lantern rapidly flashed close to
them, but the reply was lost in the plash of the sea and the flap of
the sails and the different noises of a ship in motion.  At any rate
the Mandalay mistook her bearings, and managed to get into the very
heart of the Goodwin Sands.

In the darkness she probably sailed into what is called the Ramsgate
Man's Bight, though this is only a conjecture.  This bight is a
swatchway of deep water, and the Mandalay then struck the Sands on the
eastern jaw of another channel into the Goodwins.  This swatchway runs
N.E. and S.W., and leads from the deep water outside the Goodwins into
the inmost recesses of the Sands; that is, into a shallowish bay called
Trinity Bay; and it is much harder to get out of this bay than to get
in, like many a scrape of another kind.  The swatchway leading into
Trinity Bay was about seven fathoms deep, but only fifty fathoms or one
hundred yards wide.  On the eastern bank or jaw of this channel the
Mandalay ran aground.  She ran aground at nearly high water, when all
was covered with the sea, on a fine, calm night, there being no surf or
ripple or noise to indicate the shallow water or the deadly proximity
of the Goodwin Sands.

Some of the crew were on deck--the man at the wheel aft would take a
sight of the compass gleaming in the light of the binnacle lamp, and
then cast his eye aloft, where the main truck was circling among the
stars, as the ship gently swung along with a light N.W. breeze.  Others
of the crew were below and had turned in, 'their midnight fancies
wrapped in golden dreams,' when the grating sound of contact with the
Sands was heard.  Then came, 'Turn out, men!  All hands on deck!  We're
aground on the Goodwins!'

Efforts were made to box the ship off by backing and swinging the yards
and trimming the sails, but all to no purpose, and then flares and
torches to summon help were lighted.  These at once caught the notice
of the look-out men on the lightships, and drew from those vessels the
guns and rockets, the usual signals of distress.  As the sea was smooth
there was no present danger for the Mandalay, but wind and sea rise
suddenly on the Goodwins, and no one could foresee what might happen.

The Deal coxswain was roused by the coastguard; he saw the flash of the
distant guns and rockets, and having obtained a crew launched at 1.30
a.m., the weather being hazy with frost.  They reached the Gull
lightship, and heard there that the vessel ashore lay E.N.E. from them.
They steered in that direction, gazing into the darkness and listening
for sounds or shouts or guns, and at last, about 3 a.m., found the
vessel, her flares having gone out.  In spite of the efforts of those
on board, she was sidling more and more on to the Sands, and settling
further into them.

The lifeboat anchored and veered down as usual to the stranded vessel,
and the coxswain got on board: then morning came, and with it low
water, when there would be not more than two feet of water round the
Mandalay and the lifeboat, which latter was at that depth of water just
aground.  The lifeboat remained by the vessel, to insure the safety of
the crew in case of possible change of weather.  About midday, as the
tide began to rise over the Goodwins, the lifeboat and her crew were
employed by the captain to do their best to save the vessel.

The lifeboat was now on the port bow of the Mandalay, which lay fast on
the Sands with her head to the S.W., and the coxswains laid out a kedge
or small anchor, with warp attached, to the N.E., five of the
lifeboatmen remaining in the lifeboat with Roberts, the coxswain, to
direct the course of action on the Sands, while Hanger, the second
coxswain, went on board with seven lifeboatmen to direct operations
there, and to heave on the warp, in order to move the vessel.  Just
then a tug-boat hove in sight, and as the sea was calm, she backed in
and made fast her hawser to the Mandalay, at the captain's desire.
Though all on board heaved their best on the warp, and the tug-boat
Bantam Cock made every effort, they were unable to move the Mandalay
from her perilous position, and the tug-boat then gave the matter up as
a bad job and later in the evening went away.

It was now about 3 p.m., and the tide was again falling when the lugger
Champion, of Ramsgate, appeared and anchored in the swatchway spoken of
above.  Some of her crew also went on board the Mandalay, and under the
directions and advice of Roberts and Hanger, the two Deal coxswains,
who were determined to win, all hands turned to throwing overboard the
cargo to lighten the vessel.  They thus jettisoned about two hundred
tons of iron sleepers--working at this job till midnight--and threw it
over the right or starboard side of the ship, where it lay in a great
mass.  It was never recovered, though every effort was afterwards made
to save it.  It had been engulfed and disappeared in the Goodwins'
capacious maw.

The men of the lifeboat, now cold, wearied, and hungry, managed to get
an exceedingly frugal meal of tea and some bread and meat, and about 4
or 5 p.m. the light N.W. breeze fell away to a calm.  Towards 7 p.m.
the Champion lugger at anchor hoisted her light, to indicate the
channel or swatchway by which the Mandalay would have to come out if
ever she moved at all.  The wind now came strong from the S.W. and then
backed to S. and by W., and there was heard the far-off moan of
breaking surf, making it plain that there was a heavy sea rolling in
from the S.W. on a distant point of the Sands.  The sea was evidently
coming before the wind, 'the moon looked,' the men said, 'as if she was
getting up contrary,' and Roberts said, 'We'll have trouble before
morning.'  At 10 p.m. the wind came.  The calm was 'but the grim repose
of the winter whirlwind,' and it soon blew a gale from the S.W.  Before
this some Deal galley punts had also wisely made their way for the
shore, and the lifeboat and the Champion lugger were left alone on the
scene--than which nothing could now be wilder.  Fortunately another
tug-boat, the Cambria, had anchored about 7 p.m. in deep water outside
the Goodwins, as close as was prudent to the swatchway before
described; but the inevitable struggle was regarded with the greatest
anxiety by all hands, notwithstanding the proffered help of the
tug-boat and the lightening of the ship.

About midnight the rising tide had again covered the Goodwins, but the
surface, no longer fair and calm, was now lashed into fury by the gale.
The seas were breaking everywhere, and as the moon emerged from behind
a flying cloud, far as the eye could see was one sheet of tumbling,
raging breakers, except the narrow channel in which the brave Champion
rode with her guiding light, plunging heavily even in the deep channel.
But the most furious sea raged on the western jaw of the deep
swatchway; there currents and cross seas met, and the breakers rose up
and clashed and struck together in weightier masses and with especial
fury.  Now a black cloud covered the moon, and again as it swept away
came the clear moonlight, but in the darkness and in the moonlight the
scene was equally tremendous.

As the water deepened round the ship, sea after sea broke over her with
such increasing fury that the work of jettisoning the cargo, which had
been carried on under great difficulties, had to be given up, and the
hatches had to be put on and battened down tight, to keep the ship from
filling.  The same seas that broke over the Mandalay also struck and
buried the lifeboat as she rode alongside to the full scope of her
cable, and as each breaker went roaring past she as regularly freed
herself from the water which had been hurled into her the moment before.

At one o'clock this wild winter morning the time came for a final
effort to float the ship; and the steam-tug Cambria that had been
waiting outside the Sands now moved in, and, guided by the riding light
of the Champion lugger, anchored for this purpose in the swatchway, was
cautiously manoeuvred in through the narrow channel, and feeling her
way with the lead at great risk came even into the broken water in
which the Mandalay was lying.  This broken water was only fourteen or
fifteen feet deep, and though barely enough to float the tug-boat in a
sort of raging smother of froth, was not deep enough to float the
Mandalay, which required three feet more and still lay firm as a rock,
and, like a tide-washed rock, was swept by the seas which were flying
over her.

Directed by the second coxswain, attempts were now made to get the
Cambria's steel hawser on board the vessel, and in the boiling turmoil
the Cambria came dangerously near the heap of jettisoned iron on the
starboard side of the Mandalay.  It will be plain that without the
presence of the lifeboat and her crew in case of disaster, all other
efforts to save the ship would have been paralysed, and indeed would
never have been attempted.  Without the lifeboat, no tug-boat, or any
other boat, would have dared to venture into that fearful labyrinth of
sand and surf.

The hawser was got on board after an hour's struggle, and made fast to
the Mandalay's starboard bow; but though the Mandalay rolled and bumped
she was not moved from her sandy bed.  It was almost impossible for
those on board to keep their feet as she struck the sand and as the
seas swept her decks.  The position of the tug on the starboard side of
the Mandalay was so perilous that it was decided to bring her across
the bows of the vessel to her port side; and this was done with great
difficulty against the gale and sea continually becoming heavier.
Creeping round the bows of the Mandalay the tug-boat came, and in doing
so crossed the cable of the lifeboat with her hawser, and therefore the
lifeboat's cable had to be slipped at once, and she had to be made fast
to and ride alongside the Mandalay.

Still round came the tug, and getting into deeper water of about three
or three and a half fathoms, after a most hazardous and gallant passage
through the breakers round the vessel, set her engines going full speed
ahead.  The seas now struck and bumped the Mandalay so heavily that, in
spite of all efforts to save her, she was in a most critical position,
and at the same time a great disaster nearly occurred.  The great steel
hawser of the tug, as she strained all her powers, was now tautening
and slackening, and then, as steam strove for the mastery against the
storm, again tightening with enormous force till it became like a rigid
iron bar.  It vibrated and swung alongside the lifeboat, which could
not get out of the way, and dared not leave the vessel--return to
which, had the lifeboat once slipped her anchor, against wind and tide
would have been impossible; and their comrades' lives, and those of
all, depended on their standing by the vessel.  Though the gallant
coxswain did all that man could do to combat this new danger, still
with a terrific jerk the steel hawser got right under the lifeboat,
hoisting her, in spite of her great weight, clean out of the water.

Aided by an awful breaker, whose tumultuous and raging advance was seen
afar in the moonlight, this powerful jerk of the tightening hawser,
which had got under the very keel of the lifeboat, lifted her up so
high that she struck in her descent, with her ponderous iron keel or
very undermost part of the lifeboat, the top rail of the Mandalay's
bulwarks.  The marvel is how she escaped being turned right over by the
shock.  The next day I saw with astonishment the crushed woodwork where
this mighty blow had been struck.

The lifeboat's rudder was smashed and her great stern post sprung, and
one of the crew that remained in her was also injured, but still
Roberts held on to the ship.  At this critical moment Hanger, seeing
the lifeboat's safety was endangered, and regarding it as a question of
saving not only his comrades' lives but the lives of all, most
reluctantly gave orders to cut the steel hawser of the tug, which was
made fast on board the vessel.  This would have of course sacrificed
all the trouble and risk that had been incurred; another tug-boat had
also crept up on the starboard bow to help the first, and efforts were
being made to get her hawser too on board; in fact, success and safety
seemed almost within their grasp, but it was a matter of life or death,
and one of the Deal men, obeying orders, seized an axe and hewed and
struck with all his might at the steel hawser, which was still
endangering the lifeboat.

Strand after wire strand was divided, when a great sea came and the
vessel trembled from her keel to her truck, and all hands had to hold
on for life.  Down again came the axe, as the sea went by.  But its
edge was blunted and it cut slowly, as the wielder doubled his efforts
in reply to the shouts, 'Cut the hawser, or the lifeboat's lost!'

A confused struggle was now going on; some were passing the second
tug-boat's hawser on board, and some were trying, under pressure of
dire necessity, to cut the hawser by which the Cambria tug was
straining at the vessel, and still the terrible hawser got under the
lifeboat, and still the axeman strove vainly with a blunted axe to
divide the hawser.

Another sea came racing at the vessel.  It lifted her off the Sands,
and thumped her down with such fury that Hanger said, 'The bottom is
coming out of her!'

Just then, holding on to prevent himself falling, he looked at the
compass, 'Great heavens!  She's moving!  She's slewing, lads!' he said;
the axeman threw down his useless axe, and again came a sea, lifting up
the vessel and her iron cargo as if she had been a feather.  Had she
struck the bottom as violently as before, her masts must have gone over
with a crash into the lifeboat, but the lift of this overwhelming sea
was at the very instant aided by the strain of the tug-boat's hawser,
exerting enormous force, though divided almost in twain, and the
vessel's head was torn round to the east and, 'Hurrah! my lads! she's
off!' was heard from the undaunted but wearied battlers with the storm.

The hawser of the second tug-boat had been passed shortly before this
with extreme danger both to that tug-boat, the Iona, and to the
lifeboatmen working forwards to make it fast, on the slippery footing
of the deck.  The strain of the second tug-boat was now felt by the
moving vessel, and then came the scrapes and the crunches and the
thumps as she was pulled over the sand towards the deep swatchway.  Her
head sails were set, to pay her head off still more, and at last the
victorious tug-boats pulled her safe into the swatchway, accompanied by
the lifeboat.

On the left or western jaw, it will be remembered, the most terrific
sea was running, and the tug-boat approached this awful turmoil too
closely.  Fortunately, Roberts saw the danger, and shouted from the
lifeboat, 'Port your helm!  Hard a-port! or you're into the breakers!'
Hanger on board, with answering readiness, set the great spanker of the
vessel, and forced her head up to the north-east, barely clearing the
Champion and her invaluable riding light; and at last the Mandalay was
towed through the narrow swatch, on either side of which roared the
hungry breakers, baulked of their prey by human skill and perseverance
and dauntless British pluck.

Some time before emerging from the death-trap, as the spot where the
Mandalay grounded might well be called, and when in the very most
anxious and critical part of the struggle, the moon broke out from
behind a great dark cloud, and there was seen struggling and labouring
in the gale a ship whose sails caught the moonlight.  She shone out
vividly against the black background, but the lifeboatmen were
horrified to see that, attracted by the lights of the Champion, she was
heading straight for the terrible sea on the western jaw of the swatch,
where she apparently thought she would find safe anchorage in company
with other vessels.

The North Deal coxswain expected to see her strike, and had decided, in
his mind, to get his crew from the Mandalay on board, and then rush
through the breakers to the doomed vessel, and having rescued her crew,
to return with the help of one of the tug-boats to the Mandalay; but,
fortunately, this catastrophe was averted by the humane and generous
action of the captain of the tug-boat Bantam Cock, who went at full
speed within hail, and warned the unsuspecting vessel of the terrible
danger so near her.

We can almost fancy we hear the hoarse shouts from the tug-boat of
'Breakers ahead!'  'Goodwins under your lee!' and then the rattling and
the thunderous noise of the sails, and the creaking of the yards and
braces, as the vessel swings round on the other tack into safety.

The Mandalay was then towed out of the swatchway by the Cambria into
deep water, and round the Goodwin Sands, with the lifeboat alongside
her, into the anchorage of the Downs by the half-divided hawser.  Had
the axe's edge been keener, or had a few more blows been struck, or a
few more strands severed, or had the masts of the vessel crashed into
the lifeboat, or the lifeboat been capsized by the hawser's mighty
jerks, how different a tale would have been told!

But it is our happy privilege to record the successful issue of
thirty-five hours' struggle against the terrors of a winter's gale on
the Goodwin Sands, and of doing some small justice to the seamanlike
skill and daring of the Deal coxswains and lifeboatmen, and of all
engaged in the task.

It will be seen from the case recorded in this chapter that the motives
which were apparent in the minds of the brave fellows who manned the
lifeboat on each occasion were those of humanity and generous ardour to
succour the distressed; the salvage of property was an afterthought.
They started from the beach to put their intimate local knowledge of
the Goodwins, their skill, their strength, nay, their lives, at the
service of seamen in distress; but when they saw that their energies,
and theirs alone, could save a valuable vessel and her cargo, and that
they could earn such fair recompense as the law allowed, this salvage
of property became a duty, in the discharge of which, had any man lost
his life he would have lost it nobly, having entered upon his perilous
task in the unselfish and sublimer spirit of rescuing 'some forlorn and
shipwrecked brother' from death on the Goodwin Sands.



CHAPTER XI

THE LEDA

  Swift on the shore, a hardy few
  The Lifeboat man, with a gallant, gallant crew.


Some years ago I remember reading a tale, the hero of which was a youth
of nineteen.  The scene was laid around the lifeboat of either Deal or
Walmer.  There was supposed to be a ship in distress on the Goodwins,
and the night was dark and stormy.  All the boatmen hung back, so the
story ran, from the work of rescue, and shrank from the black fury of
the gale, when the hero appeared on the scene, and roundly rating the
coxswain and crew, sprang into the lifeboat, pointed out exactly what
should be done, gave courage to all the quailing boatmen, and seizing
an oar--those heroic youths always 'seize' or 'grasp' an oar--pulled to
the Goodwin Sands 'in the teeth of a gale.'  I notice these heroes
always prefer the 'teeth of a gale,' especially when pulling in a
lifeboat; nothing would apparently induce them to touch an oar if the
wind were fair or moderate.

Having rescued the crew of the distressed vessel, _solus fecit_--some
slight assistance having also been rendered by the lifeboatmen--the
lifeboat is of course overturned, and he swims ashore.  Still, by some
extraordinary manoeuvre on the part of the wind 'in the teeth of the
gale,' bearing the beauteous heroine in his arms, with the usual result
and the inevitable opposition from the cruel uncle, who is actuated of
course by deadly hatred to all heroic youths of nineteen.

I only refer to this fiction to point out how absurd it is to represent
the brave men who man our lifeboats of the Goodwin Sands and Downs as
ever needing to be roused to action by passing and incompetent
strangers, who must be as ignorant of the perils to be faced as of the
work to be done.  When the boatmen of Deal hang back in the
storm-blast, who else dare go?

Again, the three lifeboats of this locality always _sail_ to the
distant Goodwin Sands.  To reach those sands, four to eight miles
distant, according as the wreck lies on the inner or the outer edge, in
one of our heavy lifeboats, if they were only propelled by oars, would
be impossible.  As a matter of fact, the lifeboat services to the
Goodwins are invariably effected under sail.  In other places, where
the wreck lies close to the land, and the lifeboats are comparatively
light, services are performed with oars, but not to the Goodwin Sands,
which have to be reached under sail, and from which the lifeboats have
to get home by sail, often against a gale off shore, eight miles to
windward--with no steam-tug to help them, but by their own unaided
skill, 'heart within and God o'erhead.'

[Illustration: 'All hands in the lifeboat!'  From a photograph by W. H.
Franklin.]

The following simple statement--far below the sublime reality--will
prove, if proof be needed, that the men who live between the North and
South Forelands are not inferior to their fathers who sailed with Blake
and Nelson.

About one o'clock on Sunday, December 28, 1879, a gun from the South
Sand Head lightship, anchored about a mile south of the Goodwins, and
six miles from Deal, gave warning that a ship was on the dreadful
Sands.  It was blowing a gale from the south-west, and the ships in the
Downs were riding and straining at both anchors.  It was a gale to stop
your breath, or, as the sailors say, 'to blow your teeth down your
throat,' and the sea was white with 'spin drift.'  As the various
congregations were streaming out of church, umbrellas were turned
inside out, hats were blown hopelessly, wildly seawards, and children
clung to their parents for shelter from the blinding spray along Deal
beach.

Just then, in answer to the boom of the distant gun, the bell rang to
'man the lifeboat,' and the Deal boatmen answered gallantly to the
summons.  A rush was made for the lifebelts.  The first and second
coxwains, Wilds and Roberts, were all ready, and prepared with the key
of the lifeboat house, as the rush of men was made.

The first thirteen men who succeeded in getting the belts with the two
coxwains formed the crew, and down the steep beach plunged the great
lifeboat to the rescue.  There were three vessels on the Goodwins: the
fate of one is uncertain; another was a small vessel painted white,
supposed to be a Dane, and she suddenly disappeared before my eyes,
being probably lost with all hands; the third was a German barque, the
Leda, homeward bound to Hamburg, with a crew of seventeen 'all told.'
This ill-fated vessel while flying on the wings of the favouring
sou'-westerly gale, supposed by the too partial poet to be

        A ladies' breeze,
  Bringing home their true loves,
    Out of all the seas,

struck, while thus impelled at full speed before the wind, the inner
part of the S.E. spit of the Goodwin Sands.  This is a most dangerous
spot, noted for the furious surf which breaks on it, and where the
writer has had a hard fight for his life with the sea.

The Germans, therefore, found this 'ladies' breeze' of Charles
Kingsley's splendid imagination more unfriendly to them than even 'the
black north-easter,' and their first contact with the Goodwin Sands was
a terrific crash while they were all at dinner, toasting absent friends
and each other with the kindly German _prosit_, and harmless clinking
of glasses, innocent of alcohol.

The shock against the Goodwins as the vessel slid from the crest of a
snowy roller upon the Sands, threw the cabin dinner table and
everything on it up to the cabin ceiling, and no words can describe the
wild hurry and helpless confusion on the sea-pelted motionless vessel,
as the foam and the spray beat clean over her.

Under her reefed mizzen and reefed storm foresail the lifeboat came
ramping over the four miles of tempestuous sea between the mainland and
the Goodwins, the sea getting bigger and breaking more at the top of
each wave, or 'peeling more,' as the Deal phrase goes, the farther they
went into the full fetch of the sea rolling up Channel.  At last the
shallower water was reached about twenty feet in depth, where the
Goodwins commence.

Up to this point any ordinary good sea-boat of sufficient size and
power would have made as good weather of it as the lifeboat, but when
at this depth of twenty feet the great rollers from the southward began
to curl and topple and break into huge foam masses, and coming from
different directions to race with such enormous speed and power that
the pillars of foam thrown up by the collision were seen at the
distance of five miles, then no boat but a lifeboat, it should be
clearly understood, could live for five minutes, and even in a lifeboat
only the 'sons of the Vikings' dare to face it.

The wreck lay a long mile right into the very thick of this awful surf,
into which the Deal men boldly drove the lifeboat.  As her great
forefoot was forced through the crest of each sea she sent showers of
spray over her mast and sails, and gleamed and glistened in the evening
sun as she struggled with the sea.

To the wrecked crew she was visible from afar, and her bright colours
and red sails told them unmistakeably she was a lifeboat.  Now buried,
then borne sky-high, she appeared to them as almost an angelic being
expressly sent for their deliverance, and with joy and gratitude they
watched her conquering advance, and they knew that brave English hearts
were guiding the noble boat to their rescue.

When within about half a mile, the lifeboatmen saw the mainmast of the
vessel go over, and then down crash came the mizzenmast over the port
side, carrying with them in the ruin spars and rigging in confusion,
and all this wild mass still hung by the shrouds and other rigging
round the quarter and stem of the doomed ship, and were ever and anon
drawn against her by the sea, beating her planking with thunderous
noise and tremendous force.

The Leda's head was now lying S.W., or facing the sea, as after she
struck stem on, her nose remained fast, and the sea gradually beat her
stem round.  There was running a very strong lee-tide, i.e. a tide
running in the same direction as the wind and sea, setting fiercely
across the Sands and outwards across the bows of the wreck.  Owing,
therefore, to this strong cross tide and the great sea, every minute
breaking more furiously as the water was falling with the ebb-tide, the
greatest judgment was required by the coxswains to anchor in the right
spot, so as not to be swung hopelessly out of reach of the vessel by
the tide.  All the bravery in the world would have failed to accomplish
the rescue, had the requisite experience been wanting.  Nothing but
experience and the faculty of coming to a right decision in a moment,
amidst the appalling grandeur and real danger which surrounded them,
enabled the coxswains to anchor just in the right spot, having made the
proper allowance for the set of the tide, the sea, and the wind.

This decision had to be made in less time than I have taken to write
this sentence, and the lives of men hung thereon.  All hands knew it,
so 'Now!  Down foresail!' and the men rushed at the sail, and some to
the 'down-haul,' and got it in; the helm being put hard down, up, head
to sea, came the lifeboat, and overboard went the anchor, taking with
it coil after coil of the great white five-inch cable of Manilla hemp;
and to this they also bent a second cable, in order to ride by a long
scope, thus running out about 160 fathoms or 320 yards of cable.  They
dropped anchor therefore nearly a fifth of a mile ahead of the wreck
and well on her starboard bow.  Now bite, good anchor! and hold fast,
stout cable!  for the lives of all depend on you.

If the cable parted, and the lifeboat struck the ship with full force,
coming astern or broadside on, not a man would have survived to tell
the tale, or if she once got astern of the wreck she could not have
worked to windward--against the wind and tide--to drop down as before.
No friendly steam-tug was at hand to help them to windward, in case of
the failure of this their first attempt, and both the lifeboatmen and
the crew of the wrecked vessel knew the stake at issue, and that this
was the last chance.  But the crew of the lifeboat said one to another,
'We're bound to save them,' and with all the coolness of the race,
though strung to the highest pitch of excitement, veered down towards
the wreck till abreast of where her mainmast had been.

Clinging to the bulwarks and forerigging in a forlorn little cluster
were the Germans, waving to the lifeboat as she was gradually veered
down alongside, but still at a considerable distance from the wreck and
the dangerous tossing tangle of wreckage still hanging to her.

To effect communication with a wreck, the lifeboat is provided with a
piece of cane as thick as a man's little finger and about a foot long,
to which a lump of lead is firmly fastened.  To the end of the cane a
long light line is attached, and the line is kept neatly coiled in a
bucket.

With this loaded cane in his right hand, a man stood on the gunwale of
the lifeboat; round his waist his comrades had passed a line, to
prevent him from being washed overboard  his left hand grasped the
halyards, for the masts of the lifeboat are always left standing
alongside a wreck, and at the right moment with all his might he threw
the cane.  Hissing through the air, it carried with it right on board
the wreck its own light line, which at great risk a German sailor
seized.  Hauling it in, he found the lifeboat had bent on to it a
weightier rope, and thus communication was effected between the
lifeboat and the wreck.

But though the lifeboat rode plunging alongside, she rode alongside at
a distance of twenty yards from the wreck, and had to be steered and
sheered, though at anchor, just as if she was in motion.  At the helm,
therefore, stood the two coxswains, while round the foremast and close
to the fore air-box grouped the lifeboatmen.  Wave after wave advanced,
breaking over them in clouds, taking their breath away and drenching
them.

The coxswains were watching for a smooth to sheer the lifeboat's head
closer to the wreck, and the wearied sailors on the wreck were
anxiously watching their efforts, when, as will happen at irregular
intervals, which are beyond calculation, a great sea advanced, and was
seen towering afar.  'Hold on, men, for your lives!' sang out the
coxswains, and on came the hollow green sea, so far above their heads
that it seemed as they gazed into its terrible transparency that the
very sky had become green, and it broke into the lifeboat, hoisting her
up to the vessel's foreyard, and then plunging her bodily down and down.

In this mighty hoist the port bilge-piece of the lifeboat as she
descended struck the top rail of the vessel's bulwarks, and the
collision stove in her fore air-box.  That she was not turned clean
over by the shock, throwing out of her, and then falling on, her crew,
was only by God's mercy.  All attempts to help the seamen on the wreck
in distress were suspended and buried in the wave.  The lifeboatmen
held on with both arms round the thwarts in deadly wrestle and
breathless for dear life.  Looking forwards as the boat emerged, the
coxswains, standing aft on their raised platform, could only see
boiling foam.  Looking aft as the noble lifeboat emptied herself, the
crew saw the two coxswains waist deep in froth, and the head of the
Norman post aft was invisible and under water.  We were all 'knocked
silly by that sea,' said the men, and they found that two of their
number had been swept aft and forced under the thwarts or seats of the
lifeboat.

And now they turned to again--no one being missing--alone in that wild
cauldron of waters, with undaunted courage, to the work of rescue.  Two
lines leading from the ship to the lifeboat were rigged up, the ends of
those lines being held by one of the lifeboatmen, George Philpot, who
had to tighten and slack them as the lifeboat rose, or when a sea came.
Spread-eagled on this rough ladder or cat's cradle, holding on for
their lives, the German crew had to come, and Philpot, who held the
lines in the lifeboat--no easy task--was lashed to the lifeboat's mast,
to leave his hands free and prevent his being swept overboard himself.
A space of about thirty feet separated the wreck and the lifeboat, as
the latter's head had to get a hard sheer off from the ship, to
counterbalance the tide and sea sucking and driving her towards the
wreck, and over this dangerous chasm the German sailors came.

Still the giant seas swept into the lifeboat, and again and again the
lifeboat freed herself from the water, and floated buoyant, in spite of
the damage done to her airbox, so great was her reserve of floating
power.  This her crew knew, and preserved unbounded confidence in the
noble structure under their feet, especially as they heard the clicks
of her valves at work and freeing her of water.

In the intervals between the raging seas, twelve of the crew had now
been got into the lifeboat, when one man seeing her sheer closer than
usual towards the vessel, jumped from the top rail towards the
lifeboat.  Instead of catching her at the propitious moment when she
was balanced on the summit of a wave, he sprang when she was rapidly
descending; this added ten feet to the height of his jump, and he fell
groaning into the lifeboat.

Having put the rescued men on the starboard side of the lifeboat, to
make room for the descent of the others, great seas again came fiercely
and furiously.  As the tide was falling fast, the water became
shallower, and all around was heard only the hoarse roar of the storm,
and there was seen only the advancing lines of billows, tossing their
snowy manes as they came on with speed.

Again and again the lifeboat was submerged, and the man lashed to the
mast had to ease off the lines he held till the seas had passed.

'It was as if the heavens was falling atop of us; but we had no fear
then, we were all a-takin' of it as easy as if we was ashore, but it
was afterwards we thought of it.'

But not so the rescued crew who were in the lifeboat; some of them
wanted to get back to the ship, which was fast breaking up, but one of
their number had, strange to say, been rescued before--twice before,
some say--by the same lifeboat on the very same Goodwin Sands, and he
encouraged his comrades and said, 'She's all right! she's done it
before!  Good boat! good boat!'  And then the rest of the crew came
down, or rather along the two lines, held fast and eased off as before,
till, last man down, or rather along the lines, came the captain.
'Come along, captain!  Come along.  There's a booser coming!' and
Roberts aft, second coxswain, strained at the helm to sheer the
lifeboat off, before the sea came.

It came towering.  'Quick!  Captain!  Come!'  Had the captain rapidly
come along the lines, he would have been safe in the lifeboat, but he
hesitated just for an instant, and then the sea came--a moving mountain
of broken water, one of the most appalling objects in Nature--breaking
over the foreyard of the wreck, sweeping everything before it on the
deck, and covering lifeboat and men.  Everything was blotted out by the
green water, as they once again wrestled in their strong grasp of the
thwarts, while the roar and smother of drowning rang in their ears.
But there is One who holds the winds in His fist and the sea in the
hollow of His hand, and once again by His mercy not a man was missing,
and again rose the lifeboat, and gasping and half-blinded, they saw
that the ropes along which the captain was coming were twisted one
across the other, and that, though he had escaped the full force of the
great wave, the captain of the Leda was hanging by one hand, and on the
point of dropping into the wild turmoil beneath, exhausted.  Another
second would have been too late, when, quick as lightning, the
lifeboatman, G. Philpot, still being lashed to the mast, by a dexterous
jerk, chucked one of the ropes under the leg of the clinging and
exhausted man, and then, once again, they cried, 'Come along!  Now's
your time!'  And on he came; but as the ropes again slacked as the
lifeboat rose, fell into the sea, though still grasping the lines,
while strong and generous hands dragged him safe into the lifeboat--the
last man.  All saved!  And now for home!

They did not dare to haul up to their anchor, had that been possible,
lest before they got sail on the lifeboat to drag her away from the
wreck she should be carried back against the wreck, or under her bows,
when all would have perished.  So the coxswains wisely decided to set
the foresail, and then when all was ready, the men all working
splendidly together, 'Out axe, lads! and cut the cable!'  Away to the
right or starboard faintly loomed the land, five long miles distant.
Between them and it raged a mile of breakers throwing up their spiky
foaming crests, while their regular lines of advance were every now and
then crossed by a galloping breaking billow coming mysteriously and yet
furiously from another direction altogether, the result being a
collision of waters and pillars and spouts of foam shot up into the
air.  Through this broken water they had to go--there was no other way
home, and 'there are no back doors at sea.'  So down came the keen axe,
and the last strand of the cable was cut.

Then they hoisted just a corner of the foresail, to cast her head
towards the land and away from the wreck--more they dared not hoist,
lest they should capsize in such broken water, the wind still blowing
very hard.  As her head paid off, a big sea was seen coming high above
the others.  'Haul down the foresail, quick!' was the cry; but it was
too late, and the monstrous sea struck the bows and burst into the
sail, filling and overpowering the lifeboat and the helm and the
steersmen--for both Wilds and Roberts were straining at the yoke
lines--and hurled the lifeboat like a feather right round before the
wind, and she shot onwards with and amidst this sea, almost into the
deadly jangle of broken masts and great yards and tops, which with all
their rigging and shrouds and hamper were tossing wildly in the boiling
surf astern of the wreck.

But the noble deed was not to end in disaster.  Beaten and hustled as
the Deal lifeboatmen were with this great sea, there was time enough
for those skilled and daring men to set the foresail again, to drag her
clear before they got into the wreckage.  'Sheet home the foresail, and
sit steady, my lads,' said Roberts, 'and we'll soon be through!' and
they made for the dangerous broken water, which was now not more than
twelve feet deep.  The coxswains kept encouraging the men, 'Cheer up,
my lads!'  And then, 'Look out, all hands!  A sea coming!'  And then,
'Five minutes more and we'll be through.'  And so with her goodly
freight of thirty-two souls, battered but not beaten, reeling to and
fro, and staggering and plunging on through the surf, each moment
approaching safety and deep water--on pressed the lifeboat.

Now gleams of hope broke out as the lifeboat lived and prospered in the
battle, and at last the rescued Germans saved 'from the jaws of death,'
and yet hardly believing they were saved, sang out, though feeble and
exhausted, 'Hurrah!  Cheer, O.'  And inside the breakers the Kingsdown
lifeboat, on their way to help, responded with an answering cheer.

Then we may be well sure that from our own silent, stubborn Deal men,
many a deep-felt prayer of gratitude, unuttered it may be by the lips,
was sent up from the heart to Him, the 'Eternal Father strong to save,'
while the Germans now broke openly out into 'Danke Gott!  Danke Gott!'
and soon afterwards were landed--grateful beyond expression for their
marvellous deliverance--on Deal beach[1].

With conspicuous exceptions, few notice and fewer still remember those
gallant deeds done by those heroes of our coast.

Few realize that those poor men have at home an aged mother perhaps
dependent on them, or children, or 'a nearer one yet and a dearer,' and
that when they 'darkling face the billow' the possibility of disaster
to themselves assumes a more harrowing shape, when they think of loved
ones left helpless and destitute behind them.  Riches cannot remove the
pang of bereavement, but alas! for 'the _comfortless_ troubles of the
needy, and because of the deep sighing of the poor.'  And yet the brave
fellows never hang back and never falter.  There ought to be, there is
amongst them, a trust in the living God.

They apparently think little of their own splendid deeds, and seldom
speak of them, especially to strangers; yet they are part, and not the
least glorious part, of our 'rough island story.'  The recital of them
makes our hearts thrill, and revives in us the memories of our youth
and our early worship of heroic daring in a righteous cause.  God speed
the lifeboat and her crew!



[1] The names of the crew who on this occasion manned the lifeboat were
Robert Wilds (coxswain 1st), R. Roberts (coxswain 2nd), Thos. Cribben,
Thos. Parsons, G. Pain, Chas. Hall, Thomas Roberts, Will Baker, John
Holbourn, Ed. Pain, George Philpot, R. Williams, W. Adams, H. Foster,
Robt. Redsull.  Of these men, poor Tom Cribben never recovered
[Transcriber's note: from] the exposure and the strain.



CHAPTER XII

THE D'ARTAGNAN AND THE HEDVIG SOPHIA

  Loud roared the dreadful thunder,
  The rain a deluge poured.


There was a gale from the S.W. blowing over the southern part of
England, on November 11, 1877.  The barometer had been low, but the
'centre of depression' was still advancing, and was probably over the
Straits of Dover about the middle of the day.  Perhaps more is known
now than formerly of the path of the storm and the date of its arrival
on these coasts, and more is also known of the pleasanter but rarer
anti-cyclonic systems.  Nevertheless, we are still in the dark as to
the cause which originates those two different phenomena, and brings
them from the east and the west.  The secrets of Nature belong to Him
who holds the winds in His fist and the sea in the hollow of His hand.
In the seaboard towns of the S.E. coast the houses shook before the
blast, and now and then the tiles crashed to the pavement, and the
fierce rain squalls swept through the deserted streets, as the gale
'whistled aloft his tempest tune.'  To read of this makes every
fireside seem more comfortable, but somehow it also brings the thought
to many a heart 'God help those at sea to-night!'

In the great roadstead of the Downs, among the pilots and the captains,
there were anxious hearts that day.  There were hundreds of ships at
anchor, of many nations, all outward bound, and taking refuge in the
comparative shelter of the Downs.  Those vessels had everything made as
snug as possible to meet the gale, and were mostly riding to two
anchors and plunging bows under.  Here and there a vessel was dragging
and going into collision with some other vessel right astern of her; or
perhaps slipping both her anchors just in time to avoid the crash; or
away to the southward could be seen in the rifts of the driving rain
squalls, a large ship drifting, with anchors gone and sails blown into
ribbons.

Deal beach was alive with the busy crowds of boatmen either launching
or beaching their luggers.  The smaller boats, the galley punts, which
are seven feet beam and about twenty-eight feet in length, found the
wind and sea that day too much for them, especially in the afternoon.
They had been struggling in the Downs all day with two or three reefs,
and in the 'smokers' with 'yardarm taken,' but in the afternoon the
mercury in the barometers began to jump up and

  First rise after low
  Foretells a stronger blow.

Then the galley punts had to come ashore, and only the luggers and the
'cats' were equal to cruising among the storm-tossed shipping,
'hovelling' or on the look-out for a job.

Some of the vessels might need a pilot to take them to Margate Roads or
northwards, or some might require a spare yard, or men to man the
pumps, or an anchor and chain, the vessels in some cases riding to
their last remaining anchor--or perhaps their windlass had given way or
the hawse pipe had split, and in that case their own chain cable would
cut them down to the water's edge in a few hours.  To meet these
various needs of the vessels, the great luggers were all day being
continuously beached and launched, and it was hard to say which of the
two operations was most perilous to themselves or most fascinating to
the spectator.  Once afloat they hovered about, on the wing as it were,
among the vessels, and from the beach it could be seen how crowded with
men they were, and how admirably they were handled.

The skill of the Deal boatmen is generally supposed to be referred to
in the lines:

  Where'er in ambush lurk the fatal sands,
  They claim the danger, proud of skilful bands;
  Fearless they combat every hostile wind,
  Wheeling in mazy tracks with course inclined.


The passage has certainly a flavour of the Goodwins but at any rate the
sea-bird does not sweep to the raging summit of a wave, or glide more
easily from its seething crest down the dark deep blue slope to its
windless trough, or more safely than the Deal boatmen in their luggers.

Richard Roberts had been all that day afloat in the Downs in his
powerful 'cat,' the Early Morn.  It was this boat, some of my readers
may remember, which picked up, struggling in the water, twenty-four of
the passengers of the Strathclyde, when she was run down off Dover by
the Franconia, some years ago.  But the gale increasing towards
evening, Roberts, who had got to leeward too much, could not beat home,
and he had to run away before the wind and round the North Foreland to
Margate.  Thence he took train, and leaving his lugger in safety,
reached Deal about nine p.m., just as the flash from the Gull
lightship, and then the distant boom of a gun and again another flash,
proclaimed there was a ship ashore on the sands.  And through the wild
rain gusts he saw the flare of a vessel in distress on the Brake
Sand--God have mercy on them! for well he knew the hard and rocky
nature of that deadly spot.

Then rang out wildly above the storm-shriek the summons from the iron
throat of the lifeboat bell, 'Man the lifeboat!  Man the lifeboat!'
The night was dark, the ponderous surf thundered on the shingle, and
there could be seen the long advancing lines of billows breaking into
white masses of foam; and outside that there was only the blackness of
sea and sky, and the tossing lights and flares and signals calling for
help.  'No lanterns could be kept lit that night, sir!  Blowed out they
was, and we had to feel our way in the lifeboat.'

And you might hear in the bustle and din of quick preparation the
boatmen's shouts, 'Ease her down, Bill! just to land her bow over the
full!'  'Man that haul-off warp! she'll never get off against them seas
unless you man that haul-off warp!  Slack it off!'  And the coxswain
shouts, 'All hands aboard the lifeboat!  Cut the lanyard!'

Then the trigger flies loose and the stern chain which holds the
lifeboat in her position on the beach smokes through the 'ruffles,' or
hole in the iron keel through which it runs, as the mighty lifeboat
gains speed in her rush down the steep declivity of the beach.  As she
nears the sea, faster still she slides and shoots over the well-greased
skids, urged forwards by her own weight and pulled forwards by the
crew, who grasp the haul-off warp moored off shore a long way, and at
last, as a warrior to battle, with a final bound she meets the shock of
the first great sea.  And then she vanishes into the darkness.  God
speed her on her glorious errand!

Close-reefed mizzen and double-reefed storm foresail was the canvas
under which the lifeboat that night struggled with the storm, to reach
the vessel on the Brake Sand.  'She did fly along, sir, that night, but
we were too late!  The flare went out when we were half-way!'  Alas!
alas! while the gallant crew were flying on the wings of mercy and of
hope to the rescue, the vessel broke up and vanished with all hands in
the deep.

The lifeboat cruised round and round in the breakers, but all in vain.
The crew gazed and peered into the gloom and listened, and then they
shouted all together, but they could hardly hear each other's voices,
and there was no answer; all had perished, and rescue close at hand!

Suddenly there was a lift in the rain, and between them and the land
they saw another flare, 'Down with the foresheet!  All hands to the
foresheet!  Now down with the mizzen sheet!' cried the coxswain, and
ten men flew to the sheets.  As the lifeboat luffed she lay over to her
very bearings, beating famously to windward on her second errand of
mercy.

It was about midnight, and there was 'a terrible nasty sea,' and a
great run under the lifeboat as she neared the land; and the coxswains
made out the dim form of a large vessel burning her flare, with masts
gone and the sea beating over her.

Once again the lifeboat was put about, and came up into the wind's eye,
the foresail was got down and the other foresail hoisted on the other
side and sheeted home, sails, sheets and blocks rattling furiously in
the gale, and forwards on the other tack into the spume and sea-drift
the lifeboat 'ratched.'  Between them and the vessel that was burning
her signal of distress, the keen eyes of the lifeboatmen discerned an
object in the sea, 'not more than fifty fathoms off, as much as ever it
was, it was that bitter dark!'  Another wreck!  'Let us save them at
any rate!' said the storm-beaten lifeboatmen, as a feeble cry was heard.

The anchor was dropped.  The lifeboat was then veered down on her cable
a distance of eighty fathoms, and the object in the sea was found to be
a forlorn wreck.  Her lee deck bulwarks were deep under water, and even
her weather rail was low down to the sea.

The wreck was a French brig, the D'Artagnan, as was afterwards
ascertained, and on coming close it was seen her masts were still
standing, but leaning over so that her yardarms touched the water.
Nothing could live long on her deck, which was half under water and
swept by breakers.

In the main rigging were seen small objects, which were found to be the
crew, and in answer to the shouts of the lifeboatmen they came down and
crawled or clung along the sea-beaten weather rail.  Half benumbed with
terror and despair and lashed by ceaseless waves, they slowly came
along towards the lifeboat, and the state of affairs at that moment was
described by one of the lifeboatmen as, 'Yes, bitter dark it were, and
rainin' heavens hard, with hurricane of wind all the time.'

The wreck lay with her head facing the mainland, from which she was
about a mile distant, and which bore by compass about W.N.W.  The wind
and the strong tide were both in the same direction, and if the
lifeboat had anchored ahead of the vessel she would have swung
helplessly to leeward and been unable to reach the vessel at all.  So,
also, had she gone under the wreck's stern to leeward, the same tide
would have swept her out of reach, to say nothing of the danger of
falling masts.  It was impossible to have approached her to windward,
as one crash against the vessel's broadside in such a storm and sea
would have perhaps cost the lives of all the crew.

They therefore steered the lifeboat's head right at the stern of the
vessel, as well for the reasons given as also because the cowering
figures in the rigging could be got off no other way.  They could not
be taken to windward nor to leeward, and therefore by the stern was the
only alternative.

By managing the cable of the lifeboat and by steering her, or by
setting a corner of her foresail, she would sheer up to the stern of
the wreck just as the fishing machine called an otter rides abreast of
the boat to which it is fast.  The lifeboat's head was, therefore,
pointed at the stern of the wreck, which was leaning over hard to
starboard, and the lifeboatmen shouted to the crew, some in the rigging
and some clutching the weather toprail, to 'come on and take our line.'
But there was no response; only in the darkness they could see the men
in distress slowly working their way towards the stern of the wreck.

The position of the lifeboat was very dangerous.  The sea was raging
right across her, and it was only the sacred flame of duty and of pity
in the hearts of the daring crew of the lifeboat that kept them to
their task.  The swell of the sea was running landwards, and the 'send'
of each great rolling wave, just on the point of breaking, would shoot
the lifeboat forwards till her stem and iron forefoot would strike the
transom and stern of the wreck with tremendous force.  The strain and
spring of the cable would then draw back the lifeboat two or three
boats' lengths, and then another breaker, its white wrath visible in
the pitchy darkness, would again drive the lifeboat forwards and
upwards as with a giant's hand, and then crash! down and right on to
the stern and even right up on the deck of the half-submerged vessel.
Sometimes even half the length of the lifeboat was driven over the
transom and on the sloping deck of the wreck, off which she grated back
into the sea to leewards.

What pen can describe the turmoil, the danger, and the appalling
grandeur of the scene, now black as Erebus, and again illumined by a
blaze of lightning?  And what pen can do justice to the stubborn
courage that persevered in the work of rescue in spite of the
difficulties which at each step sprang up?

It was now found that the crew in distress were French.  In their
paralysed and perished condition they could not make out what our men
wanted them to do, and they did not make fast the lines thrown them.
Nor had they any lines to throw, as their tackle and running gear were
washed away, nor could they understand the hails of the lifeboatmen.
Hence the task of saving them rested with the Deal men alone.

The Frenchmen, when they saw the lifeboat rising up and plunging
literally upon their decks with terrific force, held back and
hesitated, clinging to the weather rail, where their position was most
perilous.  A really solid sea would have swept all away, and every two
or three minutes a furious breaker flew over them.  Something had to be
done to get them, and to get them the men in the lifeboat were
determined.

Now the fore air-box of the lifeboat has a round roof like a tortoise's
back, and there is a very imperfect hand-hold on it.

Indeed, to venture out on this air-box in ordinary weather is by no
means prudent, but on this night, when it was literally raked by
weighty seas sufficient in strength to tear a limpet from its grip, the
peril of doing so was extreme, but still, out on that fore air-box,
determined to do or die, crept Richard Roberts, at that time the second
coxswain of the lifeboat, leading the forlorn hope of rescue, and not
counting his life dear to him.  Up as the lifeboat rose, and down with
her into the depths, still Roberts held on with the tenacity of a
sailor's grasp.

As the lifeboat surged forwards on the next sea, held behind by his
comrades' strong arms, out on the very stem he groped his way, and then
he shouted, and behind him all hands shouted, 'Come, Johnny!  Now's
your time!'  There's a widespread belief among our sailor friends that
the expression 'Johnny' is a passport to a Frenchman's heart.  At any
rate, seeing Roberts on the very stem and hearing the shouts, the
nearly exhausted Frenchmen came picking their dangerous way and
clinging to the weather rail one by one till they grasped or rather
madly clutched at Roberts' outstretched arms.  'Hold on, mates!' he
cried, 'there's a sea coming!  Don't let them drag me overboard!'  And
then the Frenchmen grasped Roberts' arms and chest so fiercely that his
clothes were torn and he himself marked black and blue.  Then rang out
as each poor sailor was grasped by Roberts, 'Hurrah!  I've got him!
Pass him along, lads!'--and the poor fellows were rescued and welcomed
by English hearts and English hands.  'We never knowed if there was any
more, but at any rate we saved five,' said the lifeboatmen.

Having rescued this crew, all eyes were now turned to the vessel that
had for some hours been burning her signals of distress.

It was by this time four o'clock on this winter morning, and the crew
of the lifeboat were, to use their own words, 'nearly done.'  They also
noticed that the lifeboat was much lower than usual in the water, but
neither danger, nor hardships, nor fatigue can daunt the spirits of the
brave, and their courage rose above the terror of the storm, and they
forgot the crippled condition of the lifeboat--both of her bows being
completely stove in by the force of her blows against the deck and the
transom of the French brig--and they responded gallantly to the
coxswain's orders of 'Up anchor and set the foresail!' and they made
for the flare of the fresh wreck for which they had been originally
heading.

The signals of distress were from a Swedish barque, the Hedvig Sophia.
She had parted her anchors in the Downs, and had come ashore in three
fathoms of water, which was now angry surf; her masts were gone, but as
the rigging was not cut adrift, they were still lying to leeward in
wild confusion.  She had heeled over to starboard, and her weather rail
being well out of the water, afforded some shelter to the crew; but her
sloping decks were washed and beaten by the waves that broke over her
and it was all but impossible to walk on them.

The lifeboat's anchor was dropped, and again they veered down, but this
time it was possible to get to windward, and by reason of the wreckage
it was impossible to get to leeward.  There was an English pilot on
board, who helped to carry out the directions given from the lifeboat,
and lines were quickly passed from the wreck.

It was seen the captain's wife was on board, for the grey morning was
breaking, and as the lifeboat rose on the crest of a wave, after the
crew and just before the captain, who came last, the poor lady was
passed into the lifeboat.

She only came with great reluctance and after much persuasion, as the
deck of the lifeboat was covered with three inches of water and she
seemed to be sinking.  When the Swedish captain came on board, while
the spray was flying sky-high over them, could he truly be said to be
taken 'on board'?

'Here's a pretty thing to come in--full of water!' said the captain.

'Well,' replied Roberts, 'we've been in it all night, and you won't
have to wait long.'

The lifeboatmen then got up anchor, and with twelve Swedes, five
Frenchmen, and their own crew of fifteen made for home.  Deep plunged
the lifeboat, and wearily she rose at each sea, but still she struggled
towards Deal, as the wounded stag comes home to die.  Her fore and
after air-boxes were full of water, for a man could creep into the rent
in her bows, and she had lost much of her buoyancy.  Still she had a
splendid reserve in hand, from the air-boxes ranged along and under her
deck, and thus fighting her way with her freight of thirty-two souls,
at last she grounded on the sands off Deal, and the lifeboatmen leaped
out and carried the rescued foreigners literally into England from the
sea, where they were received as formerly another ship-wrecked stranger
in another island 'with no little kindness.'

The next day the storm was over; sea and sky were bathed in sunshine,
and the swift-winged breezes just rippled the surface of the deep into
the countless dimples of blue and gold.

        [Greek] _Pontiôn te kumatôn_
  _Anerithmon gelasma_

was the exact description, more easily felt than translated; but close
to the North Bar buoy, in deep water, and just outside the Brake Sand,
there projected from out of the smiling sea the grim stern spectacle of
the masts of a barque whose hull lay deep down on its sandy bed.  She
it was which had been burning flares for help the night before in vain,
and she had been beaten off the Brake Sand and sank before the lifeboat
came.  She was a West India barque, with a Gravesend pilot on board,
and his pilot flag was found hoisted in the unusual position of the
mizzen topmast head, a fact which was interpreted by the Deal boatmen
as a message--a last message to his friends, and as much as to say,
'It's me that's gone.'

But the brave men in the lifeboat did their best, and by their
extraordinary exertions, although they did not reach this poor lost
barque in time, yet by God's blessing on their skill and daring they
did save, Swedes and Frenchmen, seventeen souls that night from a
watery grave.



CHAPTER XIII

THE RAMSGATE LIFEBOAT

  Not once or twice in our rough island story
  The path of duty was the way to glory.


A book bearing the title of _Heroes of the Goodwin Sands_, would hardly
be complete without a chapter devoted to the celebrated Ramsgate
lifeboat and her brave coxswain and crew.  To them, by virtue of Mr.
Gilmore's well-known book, the title of _Storm Warriors_ almost of
right belongs, but I am well aware they will not deny their daring and
generous rivals of Deal a share in that stirring appellation, and I
know that their friends, the Deal boatmen, on their part gladly admit
that the Ramsgate lifeboatmen are also among the 'Heroes of the Goodwin
Sands.'

The first lifeboat placed in Ramsgate was called the Northumberland.
The next was called the Bradford, in memory of the interesting fact
that the money required to build and equip her, about L600, was
subscribed in an hour on the Bradford Exchange, and within the hour the
news was flashed to London.  Since then the rescues effected by the
Ramsgate lifeboat have become household words wherever the English
tongue is spoken.

Nor less celebrated than the lifeboat is her mighty and invaluable ally
the steam-tug Aid, so often captained in the storm-blast by Alfred
Page, her brave and experienced master.  This powerful tug boat has
steam up night and day, ready to rush the lifeboat out into the teeth
of any gale, when it would be otherwise impossible for the lifeboat to
get out of the harbour.  The names of Coxswain Jarman, and more
recently of Coxswain Charles Fish, the hero of the Indian Chief rescue,
will long thrill the hearts of Englishmen and Englishwomen who read
that wondrous story of the sea.  It may be fairly said that no storms
that blow in these latitudes can keep the Ramsgate tug and lifeboat
back, when summoned to the rescue.

I had the privilege of standing on Ramsgate pier-head on November 11,
1891, when amidst the cheers of the crowd, who indeed could hardly keep
their feet, the tug and lifeboat slowly struggled out against the great
gale which blew that day.  The lifeboat is towed a long way astern of
the tug-boat, to the full scope of a sixty fathom, five inch, white
Manilla hawser, and on the day I speak of, as the lifeboat felt the
giant strain of the tug-boat and was driven into the seas outside the
harbour, every wave broke into wild spray mast high over the lifeboat
and into the faces of her crew.

The crew are obtained from a body of 150 enrolled volunteers.  The
first ten of these who get into the lifeboat when the rocket signal
goes up from the pier-head form on that occasion the crew of the
lifeboat.  In addition to these the two coxswains, by virtue of their
office, raise the total number to twelve.  The celebrated coxswain,
Charles Fish, was also harbour boatman at Ramsgate, and slept in a
watch-house at the end of the pier in a hammock.  He was always first
aroused by the watch to learn that rockets were going up from some
distant lightship signifying 'a ship on the Goodwins.'  With him rested
the decision to send up the answering rocket from the pier-head, upon
seeing which the police and coastguard called the lifeboat crew.  Then
would come the rush for a place.

The coxswain had to decide what signals were to be regarded as false
alarms, and there are many such; sometimes, it is said in Ramsgate, the
flash of the Calais lighthouse is taken for a ship burning flares and
in distress on the Goodwins, and draws the signal guns from the
lightships.  Sometimes a hayrick on fire is mistaken for a vessel's
appealing signal; sometimes the signals, of enormous and unnecessary
size, which the French trawlers burn to each other at night around the
Goodwins, set both the lightships and lifeboats all astray; and the
coxswains of the lifeboats, both at Ramsgate and Deal, have to be on
their guard against these delusive agencies.  As the coxswains in both
of these places are men of exceptional shrewdness and ability, mistakes
are few and far between.  The coxswain of a lifeboat ought to have the
eye of a hawk and the heart of a lion, and, I will add, the tenderness
and pity of a woman.

Never was the possession of these qualities more finely exhibited than
by coxswain Charles Fish and the crew of the Ramsgate lifeboat in the
rescue of the survivors of the Indian Chief from the Long Sand on
January 5 and 6, 1881.  The following account has been taken by
permission from the _Lifeboat Journal_ for February, 1881, including
the extracts from the _Daily Telegraph_ and the admirable engraving.

The accompanying graphic accounts of the wreck of the Indian Chief, and
of the noble rescue of a portion of her crew by the Bradford
self-righting lifeboat, stationed at Ramsgate, appeared in the _Daily
Telegraph_ on January 11 and 18, as related by the mate of the vessel
and the coxswain of the lifeboat.  The lifeboats of the National
Lifeboat Institution stationed at Aldborough (Suffolk), Clacton and
Harwich (Essex), also proceeded to the scene of danger, but
unfortunately were unable to reach the wreck.  Happily the Bradford
lifeboat persevered, amidst difficulties, hardships, and dangers hardly
ever surpassed in the lifeboat service; but her reward was indeed great
in saving eleven of our fellow-creatures, who must have succumbed, as
their mates had a few hours previously, to their terrible exposure in
bitterly cold weather for nearly thirty hours.

[Illustration: The lifeboat Bradford at the wreck of the Indian Chief.]

Indeed, Captain Braine, the zealous Ramsgate harbour-master, states in
an official letter of January 8, in reference to this noble service,
that--

'Of all the meritorious services performed by the Ramsgate tug and
lifeboat, I consider this one of the best.  The decision the coxswain
and crew arrived at to remain till daylight, which was in effect to
continue for fourteen hours cruising about with the sea continually
breaking over them in a heavy gale and tremendous sea, proves, I
consider, their gallantry and determination to do their duty.  The
coxswain and crew of the lifeboat speak in the highest terms of her
good qualities; they state that when sailing across the Long Sand,
after leaving the wreck, the seas were tremendous, and the boat behaved
most admirably.  Some of the shipwrecked crew have since stated that
they were fearful, on seeing the frightful-looking seas they were
passing through, that they were in more danger in the lifeboat than
when lashed to the mast of their sunken ship, as they thought it
impossible for any boat to live through such a sea.'

The following are the newspaper accounts of a lifeboat service that
will always be memorable in the annals of the services of the lifeboats
of the National Lifeboat Institution; and many and many such services
reflect honour alike on the humanity of the age in which we live, and
on the organisation and liberality which have prompted and called them
into existence.

'On the afternoon of Thursday, January 6, I made one of a great crowd
assembled on the Ramsgate east pier to witness the arrival of the
survivors of the crew of a large ship which had gone ashore on the Long
Sand early on the preceding Wednesday morning.  A heavy gale had been
blowing for two days from the north and east; it had moderated somewhat
at noon, but still stormed fiercely over the surging waters, though a
brilliant blue sky arched overhead and a sun shone that made the sea a
dazzling surface of broken silver all away in the south and west.
Plunging bows under as she came along, the steamer towed the lifeboat
through a haze of spray; but amid this veil of foam, the flags of the
two vessels denoting that shipwrecked men were in the boat streamed
like well-understood words from the mastheads.  The people crowded
thickly about the landing-steps when the lifeboat entered the harbour.
Whispers flew from mouth to mouth.  Some said the rescued men were
Frenchmen, others that they were Danes, but all were agreed that there
was a dead body among them.  One by one the survivors came along the
pier, the most dismal procession it was ever my lot to behold--eleven
live but scarcely living men, most of them clad in oilskins, and
walking with bowed backs, drooping heads and nerveless arms.  There was
blood on the faces of some, circled with a white encrustation of salt,
and this same salt filled the hollows of their eyes and streaked their
hair with lines which looked like snow.  The first man, who was the
chief mate, walked leaning heavily on the arm of the kindly-hearted
harbour-master, Captain Braine.  The second man, whose collar-bone was
broken, moved as one might suppose a galvanised corpse would.  A third
man's wan face wore a forced smile, which only seemed to light up the
piteous, underlying expression of the features.  They were all
saturated with brine; they were soaked with sea-water to the very
marrow of the bones.  Shivering, and with a stupefied rolling of the
eyes, their teeth clenched, their chilled fingers pressed into the
palms of their hands, they passed out of sight.  As the last man came I
held my breath; he was alive when taken from the wreck, but had died in
the boat.  Four men bore him on their shoulders, and a flag flung over
the face mercifully concealed what was most shocking of the dreadful
sight; but they had removed his boots and socks to chafe his feet
before he died, and had slipped a pair of mittens over the toes, which
left the ankles naked.  This was the body of Howard Primrose Fraser,
the second mate of the lost ship, and her drowned captain's brother.  I
had often met men newly-rescued from shipwreck, but never remember
having beheld more mental anguish and physical suffering than was
expressed in the countenances and movements of these eleven sailors.
Their story as told to me is a striking and memorable illustration of
endurance and hardship on the one hand, and of the finest heroical
humanity on the other, in every sense worthy to be known to the British
public.  I got the whole narrative direct from the chief mate, Mr.
William Meldrum Lloyd, and it shall be related here as nearly as
possible in his own words.



No. 1.--_The Mate's Account_.

'Our ship was the Indian Chief, of 1238 tons register; our skipper's
name was Fraser, and we were bound with a general cargo to Yokohama.
There were twenty-nine souls on board, counting the North-country
pilot.  We were four days out from Middlesbrough, but it had been thick
weather ever since the afternoon of the Sunday on which we sailed.  All
had gone well with us, however, so far, and on Wednesday morning, at
half-past two, we made the Knock Light.  You must know, sir, that
hereabouts the water is just a network of shoals; for to the southward
lies the Knock, and close over against it stretches the Long Sand, and
beyond, down to the westward, is the Sunk Sand.  Shortly after the
Knock Light had hove in sight, the wind shifted to the eastward and
brought a squall of rain.  We were under all plain sail at the time,
with the exception of the royals, which were furled, and the main sail
that hung in the buntlines.  The Long Sand was to leeward, and finding
that we were drifting that way the order was given to put the ship
about.  It was very dark, the wind breezing up sharper and sharper, and
cold as death.  The helm was put down, but the main braces fouled, and
before they could be cleared the vessel had missed stays and was in
irons.  We then went to work to wear the ship, but there was much
confusion, the vessel heeling over, and all of us knew that the Sands
were close aboard.  The ship paid off, but at a critical moment the
spanker-boom sheet fouled the wheel; still, we managed to get the
vessel round, but scarcely were the braces belayed and the ship on the
starboard tack, when she struck the ground broadside on.  She was a
soft-wood built ship, and she trembled, sir, as though she would go to
pieces at once like a pack of cards.  Sheets and halliards were let go,
but no man durst venture aloft.  Every moment threatened to bring the
spars crushing about us, and the thundering and beating of the canvas
made the masts buckle and jump like fishing-rods.  We then kindled a
great flare and sent up rockets, and our signals were answered by the
Sunk Lightship and the Knock.  We could see one another's faces in the
light of the big blaze, and sung out cheerily to keep our hearts up;
and, indeed, sir, although we all knew that our ship was hard and fast
and likely to leave her bones on that sand, we none of us reckoned upon
dying.  The sky had cleared, the easterly wind made the stars sharp and
bright, and it was comforting to watch the lightships' rockets rushing
up and bursting into smoke and sparks over our heads, for they made us
see that our position was known, and they were as good as an assurance
that help would come along soon and that we need not lose heart.  But
all this while the wind was gradually sweeping up into a gale--and oh,
the cold, good Lord! the bitter cold of that wind!

'It seemed as long as a month before the morning broke, and just before
the grey grew broad in the sky, one of the men yelled out something,
and then came sprawling and splashing aft to tell us that he had caught
sight of the sail of a lifeboat[1] dodging among the heavy seas.  We
rushed to the side to look, half-blinded by the flying spray and the
wind, and clutching at whatever offered to our hands, and when at last
we caught sight of the lifeboat we cheered, and the leaping of my heart
made me feel sick and deathlike.  As the dawn brightened we could see
more plainly, and it was frightful to notice how the men looked at her,
meeting the stinging spray borne upon the wind without a wink of the
eye, that they might not lose sight of the boat for an instant; the
salt whitening their faces all the while like a layer of flour as they
watched.  She was a good distance away, and she stood on and off, on
and off, never coming closer, and evidently shirking the huge seas
which were now boiling around us.  At last she hauled her sheet aft,
put her helm over, and went away.  One of our crew groaned, but no
other man uttered a sound, and we returned to the shelter of the
deckhouses.

'Though the gale was not at its height when the sun rose, it was not
far from it.  We plucked up spirits again when the sun shot out of the
raging sea, but as we lay broadside on to the waves, the sheets of
flying water soon made the sloping decks a dangerous place for a man to
stand on, and the crew and officers kept the shelter of the
deck-cabins, though the captain and his brother and I were constantly
going out to see if any help was coming.  But now the flood was making,
and this was a fresh and fearful danger, as we all knew, for at sunrise
the water had been too low to knock the ship out of her sandy bed, but
as the tide rose it lifted the vessel, bumping and straining her
frightfully.  The pilot advised the skipper to let go the starboard
anchor, hoping that the set of the tide would slue the ship's stern
round, and make her lie head on to the seas; so the anchor was dropped,
but it did not alter the position of the ship.  To know, sir, what the
cracking and straining of that vessel was like, as bit by bit she
slowly went to pieces, you must have been aboard of her.  When she
broke her back a sort of panic seized many of us, and the captain
roared out to the men to get the boats over, and see if any use could
be made of them.  Three boats were launched, but the second boat, with
two hands in her, went adrift, and was instantly engulphed, and the
poor fellows in her vanished just as you might blow out a light.  The
other boats filled as soon as they touched the water.  There was no
help for us in that way, and again we withdrew to the cabins.

A little before five o'clock in the afternoon a huge sea swept over the
vessel, clearing the decks fore and aft, and leaving little but the
uprights of the deck-houses standing.  It was a dreadful sea, but we
knew worse was behind it, and that we must climb the rigging if we
wanted to prolong our lives.  The hold was already full of water, and
portions of the deck had been blown out, so that everywhere great
yawning gulfs met the eye, with the black water washing almost flush.
Some of the men made for the fore-rigging, but the captain shouted to
all hands to take to the mizzenmast, as that one, in his opinion, was
the securest.  A number of the men who were scrambling forward returned
on hearing the captain sing out, but the rest held on and gained the
foretop.  Seventeen of us got over the mizzentop, and with our knives
fell to hacking away at such running gear as we could come at to serve
as lashings.  None of us touched the mainmast, for we all knew, now the
ship had broken her back, that that spar was doomed, and the reason why
the captain had called to the men to come aft was because he was afraid
that when the mainmast went it would drag the foremast, that rocked in
its step with every move, with it.  I was next the captain in the
mizzentop, and near him was his brother, a stout-built, handsome young
fellow, twenty-two years old, as fine a specimen of the English sailor
as ever I was shipmate with.  He was calling about him cheerfully,
bidding us not be down-hearted, and telling us to look sharply around
for the lifeboats.  He helped several of the benumbed men to lash
themselves, saying encouraging things to them as he made them fast.  As
the sun sank the wind grew more freezing, and I saw the strength of
some of the men lashed over me leaving them fast.  The captain shook
hands with me, and, on the chance of my being saved, gave me some
messages to take home, too sacred to be written down, sir.  He likewise
handed me his watch and chain, and I put them in my pocket.  The canvas
streamed in ribbons from the yards, and the noise was like a continuous
roll of thunder overhead.  It was dreadful to look down and watch the
decks ripping up, and notice how every sea that rolled over the wreck
left less of her than it found.

'The moon went quickly away--it was a young moon with little power--but
the white water and the starlight kept the night from being black, and
the frame of the vessel stood out like a sketch done in ink every time
the dark seas ran clear of her and left her visible upon the foam.
There was no talking, no calling to one another, the men hung in the
topmast rigging like corpses, and I noticed the second mate to windward
of his brother in the top, sheltering him, as best he could, poor
fellow, with his body from the wind that went through our skins like
showers of arrows.  On a sudden I took it into my head to fancy that
the mizzenmast wasn't so secure as the foremast.  It came into my mind
like a fright, and I called to the captain that I meant to make for the
foretop.  I don't know whether he heard me or whether he made any
answer.  Maybe it was a sort of craze of mine for the moment, but I was
wild with eagerness to leave that mast as soon as ever I began to fear
for it.  I cast my lashings adrift and gave a look at the deck, and saw
that I must not go that way if I did not want to be drowned.  So I
swung myself into the crosstrees, and swung myself on to the stay, so
reaching the maintop, and then I scrambled on to the main topmast
crosstrees, and went hand over hand down the topmast stay into the
foretop.  Had I reflected before I left the mizzentop, I should not
have believed that I had the strength to work my way for'rards like
that; my hands felt as if they were skinned and my finger-joints
appeared to have no use in them.  There were nine or ten men in the
foretop, all lashed and huddled together.  The mast rocked sharply, and
the throbbing of it to the blowing of the great tatters of canvas was a
horrible sensation.  From time to time they sent up rockets from the
Sunk lightship--once every hour, I think--but we had long since ceased
to notice those signals.  There was not a man but thought his time was
come, and, though death seemed terrible when I looked down upon the
boiling waters below, yet the anguish of the cold almost killed the
craving for life.

'It was now about three o'clock on Thursday morning; the air was full
of the strange, dim light of the foam and the stars, and I could very
plainly see the black swarm of men in the top and rigging of the
mizzenmast.  I was looking that way, when a great sea fell upon the
hull of the ship with a fearful crash; a moment after, the mainmast
went.  It fell quickly, and as it fell it bore down the mizzenmast.
There was a horrible noise of splintering wood and some piercing cries,
and then another great sea swept over the after-deck, and we who were
in the foretop looked and saw the stumps of the two masts sticking up
from the bottom of the hold, the mizzenmast slanting over the bulwarks
into the water, and the men lashed to it drowning.  There never was a
more shocking sight, and the wonder is that some of us who saw it did
not go raving mad.  The foremast still stood, complete to the royal
mast and all the yards across, but every instant I expected to find
myself hurling through the air.  By this time the ship was completely
gutted, the upper part of her a mere frame of ribs, and the gale still
blew furiously; indeed, I gave up hope when the mizzenmast fell and I
saw my shipmates drowning on it.

'It was half an hour after this that a man, who was jammed close
against me, pointed out into the darkness and cried in a wild hoarse
voice, "Isn't that a steamer's light?"  I looked, but what with grief
and suffering and cold, I was nearly blinded, and could see nothing.
But presently another man called out that he could see a light, and
this was echoed by yet another; so I told them to keep their eyes upon
it and watch if it moved.  They said by and by that it was stationary;
and though we could not guess that it meant anything good for us, yet
this light heaving in sight and our talking of it gave us some comfort.
When the dawn broke we saw the smoke of a steamer, and agreed that it
was her light we had seen; but I made nothing of that smoke, and was
looking heartbrokenly at the mizzenmast and the cluster of drowned men
washing about it, when a loud cry made me turn my head, and then I saw
a lifeboat under a reefed foresail heading direct for us.  It was a
sight, sir, to make one crazy with joy, and it put the strength of ten
men into every one of us.  A man named Gillmore--I think it was
Gillmore--stood up and waved a long strip of canvas.  But I believe
they had seen there were living men aboard us before that signal was
made.

'The boat had to cross the broken water to fetch us, and in my agony of
mind I cried out, "She'll never face it!  She'll leave us when she sees
that water!" for the sea was frightful all to windward of the Sand and
over it, a tremendous play of broken waters, raging one with another,
and making the whole surface resemble a boiling cauldron.  Yet they
never swerved a hair's-breadth.  Oh, sir, she was a noble boat!  We
could see her crew--twelve of them--sitting at the thwarts, all looking
our way, motionless as carved figures, and there was not a stir among
them as, in an instant, the boat leapt from the crest of a towering sea
right into the monstrous broken tumble.

'The peril of these men, who were risking their lives for ours, made us
forget our own situation.  Over and over again the boat was buried, but
as regularly did she emerge with her crew fixedly looking our way, and
their oilskins and the light-coloured side of the boat sparkling in the
sunshine, while the coxswain, leaning forward from the helm, watched
our ship with a face of iron.

'By this time we knew that this boat was here to save us, and that she
_would_ save us, and, with wildly beating hearts, we unlashed
ourselves, and dropped over the top into the rigging.  We were all
sailors, you see, sir, and knew what the lifeboatmen wanted, and what
was to be done.  Swift as thought we had bent a number of ropes' ends
together, and securing a piece of wood to this line, threw it
overboard, and let it drift to the boat.  It was seized, a hawser made
fast, and we dragged the great rope on board.  By means of this hawser
the lifeboatmen hauled their craft under our quarter, clear of the
raffle.  But there was no such rush made for her as might be thought.
No!  I owe it to my shipmates to say this.  Two of them shinned out
upon the mizzenmast to the body of the second mate, that was lashed
eight or nine feet away over the side, and got him into the boat before
they entered it themselves.  I heard the coxswain of the boat--Charles
Fish by name, the fittest man in the world for that berth and this
work--cry out, "Take that poor fellow in there!" and he pointed to the
body of the captain, who was lashed in the top with his arms over the
mast, and his head erect and his eyes wide open.  But one of our crew
called out, "He's been dead four hours, sir," and then the rest of us
scrambled into the boat, looking away from the dreadful group of
drowned men that lay in a cluster round the prostrate mast.

'The second mate was still alive, but a maniac; it was heartbreaking to
hear his broken, feeble cries for his brother, but he lay quiet after a
bit, and died in half an hour, though we chafed his feet and poured rum
into his mouth, and did what men in our miserable plight could for a
fellow-sufferer.  Nor were we out of danger yet, for the broken water
was enough to turn a man's hair grey to look at.  It was a fearful sea
for us men to find ourselves in the midst of, after having looked at it
from a great height, and I felt at the beginning almost as though I
should have been safer on the wreck than in that boat.  Never could I
have believed that so small a vessel could meet such a sea and live.
Yet she rose like a duck to the great roaring waves which followed her,
draining every drop of water from her bottom as she was hove up, and
falling with terrible suddenness into a hollow, only to bound like a
living thing to the summit of the next gigantic crest.

'When I looked at the lifeboat's crew and thought of our situation a
short while since, and our safety now, and how to rescue us these
great-hearted men had imperilled their own lives, I was unmanned; I
could not thank them, I could not trust myself to speak.  They told us
they had left Ramsgate Harbour early on the preceding afternoon, and
had fetched the Knock at dusk, and not seeing our wreck had lain to in
that raging sea, suffering almost as severely as ourselves, all through
the piercing tempestuous night.  What do you think of such a service,
sir?  How can such devoted heroism be written of, so that every man who
can read shall know how great and beautiful it is?  Our own sufferings
came to us as a part of our calling as seamen.  But theirs was bravely
courted and endured for the sake of their fellow-creatures.  Believe
me, sir, it was a splendid piece of service; nothing grander in its way
was ever done before, even by Englishmen.  I am a plain seaman, and can
say no more about it all than this.  But when I think of what must have
come to us eleven men before another hour had passed, if the lifeboat
crew had not run down to us, I feel like a little child, sir, and my
heart grows too full for my eyes.'

Two days had elapsed (continues the writer in the _Daily Telegraph_)
since the rescue of the survivors of the crew of the Indian Chief, and
I was gazing with much interest at the victorious lifeboat as she lay
motionless upon the water of the harbour.  It was a very calm day, the
sea stretching from the pier-sides as smooth as a piece of green silk,
and growing vague in the wintry haze of the horizon, while the white
cliffs were brilliant with the silver sunshine.  It filled the mind
with strange and moving thoughts to look at that sleeping lifeboat,
with her image as sharp as a coloured photograph shining in the clear
water under her, and then reflect upon the furious conflict she had
been concerned in only two nights before, the freight of half-drowned
men that had loaded her, the dead body on her thwart, the bitter cold
of the howling gale, the deadly peril that had attended every heave of
the huge black seas.  Within a few hundred yards of her lay the tug,
the sturdy steamer that had towed her to the Long Sand, that had held
her astern all night, and brought her back safe on the following
afternoon.  The tug had suffered much from the frightful tossing she
had received, and her injuries had not yet been dealt with; she had
lost her sponsons, her starboard side-house was gone, the port side of
her bridge had been started and the iron railing warped, her decks
still seemed dank from the remorseless washing, her funnel was brown
with rust, and the tough craft looked a hundred years old.  Remembering
what these vessels had gone through, how they had but two days since
topped a long series of merciful and dangerous errands by as brilliant
an act of heroism and humanity as any on record, it was difficult to
behold them without a quickened pulse.  I recalled the coming ashore of
their crews, the lifeboatmen with their great cork-jackets around them,
the steamer's men in streaming oilskins, the faces of many of them
livid with the cold, their eyes dim with the bitter vigil they had kept
and the furious blowing of the spray; and I remembered the bright smile
that here and there lighted up the weary faces, as first one and then
another caught sight of a wife or a sister in the crowd waiting to
greet and accompany the brave hearts to the warmth of their humble
homes.  I felt that while these crews' sufferings and the courage and
resolution they had shown remained unwritten, only half of the very
stirring and manful story had been recorded.  The narrative, as related
to me by the coxswain of the lifeboat, is a necessary pendant to the
tale told by the mate of the wrecked ship; and as he and his
colleagues, both of the lifeboat and the steam-tug, want no better
introduction than their own deeds to the sympathy and attention of the
public, let Charles Edward Fish begin his yarn without further preface.



No. 2.--_The Coxswain's Account_.

'News had been brought to Ramsgate, as you know, sir, that a large ship
was ashore on the Long Sand, and Captain Braine, the harbour-master,
immediately ordered the tug and lifeboat to proceed to her assistance.
It was blowing a heavy gale of wind, though it came much harder some
hours afterwards; and the moment we were clear of the piers we felt the
sea.  Our boat is considered a very fine one.  I know there is no
better on the coasts, and there are only two in Great Britain bigger.
She was presented to the Lifeboat Institution by Bradford, and is
called after that town.  But it is ridiculous to talk of bigness when
it means only forty-two feet long, and when a sea is raging round you
heavy enough to swamp a line-of-battle ship.  I had my eye on the
tug--named the Vulcan, sir--when she met the first of the seas, and she
was thrown up like a ball, and you could see her starboard paddle
revolving in the air high enough out for a coach to pass under; and
when she struck the hollow she dished a sea over her bows that left
only the stern of her showing.  We were towing head to wind, and the
water was flying over the boat in clouds.  Every man of us was soaked
to the skin, in spite of our overalls, by the time we had brought the
Ramsgate Sands abeam; but there were a good many miles to be gone over
before we should fetch the Knock lightship, and so you see, sir, it was
much too early for us to take notice that things were not over and
above comfortable.

'We got out the sail-cover--a piece of tarpaulin--to make a shelter of,
and rigged it up against the mast, seizing it to the burtons; but it
hadn't been up two minutes when a heavy sea hit and washed it right aft
in rags; so there was nothing to do but to hold on to the thwarts and
shake ourselves when the water came over.  I never remember a colder
wind.  I don't say this because I happened to be out in it.  Old Tom
Cooper, one of the best boatmen in all England, sir, who made one of
our crew, agreed with me that it was more like a flaying machine than a
natural gale of wind.  The feel of it in the face was like being gnawed
by a dog.  I only wonder it didn't freeze the tears it fetched out of
our eyes.  We were heading N.E., and the wind was blowing from N.E.
The North Foreland had been a bit of shelter, like; but when we had
gone clear of that, and the ocean lay ahead of us, the seas were
furious--they seemed miles long, sir, like an Atlantic sea, and it was
enough to make a man hold his breath to watch how the tug wallowed and
tumbled into them.  I sung out to Dick Goldsmith, "Dick," I says,
"she's slowed, do you see, she'll never be able to meet it," for she
had slackened her engines down into a mere crawl, and I really did
think they meant to give up.  I could see Alf Page--the master of her,
sir--on the bridge, coming and going like the moon when the clouds
sweep over it, as the seas smothered him up one moment, and left him
shining in the sun the next.  But there was to be no giving up with the
tug's crew any more than with the lifeboat's; she held on, and we
followed.

'Somewhere abreast of the Elbow buoy a smack that was running ported
her helm to speak us.  Her skipper had just time to yell out, "A vessel
on the Long Sand!" and we to wave our hands, when she was astern and
out of sight in a haze of spray.  Presently a collier named the Fanny,
with her foretopgallant-yard gone, passed us.  She was cracking on to
bring the news of the wreck to Ramsgate, and was making a heavy sputter
under her topsails and foresail.  They raised a cheer, for they knew
our errand, and then, like the smack, in a minute she was astern and
gone.  By this time the cold and the wet and the fearful plunging were
beginning to tell, and one of the men called for a nip of rum.  The
quantity we generally take is half a gallon, and it is always my rule
to be sparing with that drink for the sake of the shipwrecked men we
may have to bring home, and who are pretty sure to be in greater need
of the stuff than us.  I never drink myself, sir, and that's one
reason, I think, why I manage to meet the cold and wet middling well,
and rather better than some men who look stronger than me.  However, I
told Charlie Verrion to measure the rum out and serve it round, and it
would have made you laugh, I do believe, sir, to have seen the care the
men took of the big bottle--Charlie cocking his finger into the
cork-hole, and Davy Berry clapping his hand over the pewter measure,
whenever a sea came, to prevent the salt water from spoiling the
liquor.  Bad as our plight was, the tug's crew were no better off;
their wheel is forrard, and so you may suppose the fellow that steered
had his share of the seas; the others stood by to relieve him; and for
the matter of water, she was just like a rock, the waves striking her
bows and flying pretty nigh as high as the top of her funnel, and
blowing the whole length of her aft with a fall like the tumble of
half-a-dozen cartloads of bricks.  I like to speak of what they went
through, for the way they were knocked about was something fearful, to
be sure.

[Illustration: Leaving Ramsgate Harbour in tow.]

'By half-past four o'clock in the afternoon it was drawing on dusk, and
about that hour we sighted the revolving light of the Kentish Knock
lightship, and a little after five we were pretty close to her.  She is
a big red-hulled boat, with the words 'Kentish Knock' written in long
white letters on her sides, and, dark as it was, we could see her flung
up, and rushing down fit to roll her over and over; and the way she
pitched and went out of sight, and then ran up on the black heights of
water, gave me a better notion of the fearfulness of that sea than I
had got by watching the tug or noticing our own lively dancing.  The
tug hailed her first, and two men looking over her side answered; but
what they said didn't reach us in the lifeboat.  Then the steamer towed
us abreast, but the tide caught our warp and gave us a sheer that
brought us much too close alongside of her.  When the sea took her she
seemed to hang right over us, and the sight of that great dark hull,
looking as if, when it fell, it must come right atop of us, made us
want to sheer off, I can tell you.  I sung out, "Have you seen the
ship?"  And one of the men bawled back, "Yes."  "How does she bear?"
"Nor'-west by north."  "Have you seen anything go to her?"  The answer
I caught was, "A boat."  Some of our men said the answer was, "A
lifeboat," but most of us only heard, "A boat."

'The tug was now towing ahead, and we went past the lightship, but ten
minutes after Tom Friend sings out, "They're burning a light aboard
her!" and looking astern I saw they had fired a red signal light that
was blazing over the bulwark in a long shower of sparks.  The tug put
her helm down to return, and we were brought broadside to the sea.
Then we felt the power of those waves, sir.  It looked a wonder that we
were not rolled over and drowned, every man of us.  We held on with our
teeth clenched, and twice the boat was filled, and the water up to our
throats.  "Look out for it, men!" was always the cry.  But every upward
send emptied the noble little craft, like pulling out a plug in a
wash-basin, and in a few minutes we were again alongside the
light-vessel.  This time there were six or seven men looking over the
side.  "What do you want?" we shouted.  "Did you see the Sunk
lightship's rocket?" they all yelled out together.  "Yes.  Did you say
you saw a boat?"  "No," they answered, showing we had mistaken their
first reply.  On which I shouted to the tug, "Pull us round to the Long
Sand Head buoy!" and then we were under weigh again, meeting the
tremendous seas.  There was only a little bit of moon, westering fast,
and what there was of it showed but now and again, as the heavy clouds
opened and let the light of it down.  Indeed, it was very dark, though
there was some kind of glimmer in the foam which enabled us to mark the
tug ahead.  "Bitter cold work, Charlie," says old Tom Cooper to me:
"but," says he, "it's colder for the poor wretches aboard the wreck, if
they're alive to feel it."  The thought of them made our own sufferings
small, and we kept looking and looking into the darkness around, but
there was nothing to be spied, only now and again and long whiles apart
the flash of a rocket in the sky from the Sunk lightship.  Meanwhile,
from time to time, we burnt a hand-signal--a light, sir, that's fired
something after the manner of a gun.  You fit it into a wooden tube,
and give a sort of hammer at the end a smart blow, and the flame rushes
out, and a bright light it makes, sir.  Ours were green lights, and
whenever I set one flaring I couldn't help taking notice of the
appearance of the men.  It was a queer sight, I assure you, to see them
all as green as leaves, with their cork jackets swelling out their
bodies so as scarcely to seem like human beings, and the black water as
high as our mast-head, or howling a long way below us, on either side.
They burned hand-signals on the tug, too, but nothing came of them.
There was no sign of the wreck, and staring over the edge of the boat,
with the spray and the darkness, was like trying to see through the
bottom of a well.

'So we began to talk the matter over, and Tom Cooper says, "We had
better stop here and wait for daylight."  "I'm for stopping," says
Steve Goldsmith; and Bob Penny says, "We're here to fetch the wreck,
and fetch it we will, if we wait a week."  "Right," says I; and all
hands being agreed--without any fuss, sir, though I dare say most of
our hearts were at home, and our wishes alongside our hearths, and the
warm fires in them--we all of us put our hands to our mouths and made
one great cry of "Vulcan ahoy!"  The tug dropped astern.  "What do you
want?" sings out the skipper, when he gets within speaking distance.
"There's nothing to be seen of the vessel, so we had better lie-to for
the night," I answered.  "Very good," he says, and then the steamer,
without another word from her crew, and the water tumbling over her
bows like cliffs, resumed her station ahead, her paddles revolving just
fast enough to keep her from dropping astern.

'As coxswain of the lifeboat, sir, I take no credit for resolving to
lie-to all night.  But I am bound to say a word for the two crews, who
made up their minds without a murmur, without a second's hesitation, to
face the bitter cold and fierce seas of that long winter darkness, that
they might be on the spot to help their fellow-creatures when the dawn
broke and showed them where they were.  I know there are scores of
sailors round our coasts who would have done likewise.  Only read, sir,
what was done in the North, Newcastle way, during the gales last
October.  But surely, sir, no matter who may be the men who do what
they think their duty, whether they belong to the North or the South,
they deserve the encouragement of praise.  A man likes to feel, when he
has done his best, that his fellow-men think well of his work.  If I
had not been one of that crew I should wish to say more; but no false
pride shall make me say less, sir, and I thank God for the resolution
He put into us, and for the strength He gave us to keep that resolution.

'All that we had to do now was to make ourselves as comfortable as we
could.  Our tow-rope veered us out a long way, too far astern of the
tug for her to help us as a breakwater, and the manner in which we were
flung towards the sky with half our keel out of water and then dropped
into a hollow--like falling from the top of a house, sir,--while the
heads of the seas blew into and tumbled over us all the time, made us
all reckon that, so far from getting any rest, most of our time would
be spent in preventing ourselves from being washed overboard.  We
turned to and got the foresail aft, and made a kind of roof of it.
This was no easy job, for the wind was so furious that wrestling even
with that bit of a sail was like fighting with a steam-engine.  When it
was up ten of us snugged ourselves away under it, and two men stood on
the after-grating thwart keeping a look-out, with the life-lines around
them.  As you know, sir, we carry a binnacle, and the lamp in it was
alight and gave out just enough haze for us to see each other in.  We
all lay in a lump together for warmth, and a fine show we made, I dare
say; for a cork jacket, even when a man stands upright, isn't
calculated to improve his figure, and as we all of us had cork jackets
on and oil-skins, and many of us sea boots, you may guess what a raffle
of legs and arms we showed, and what a rum heap of odds and ends we
looked, as we sprawled in the bottom of the boat upon one another.
Sometimes it would be Johnny Goldsmith--for we had three
Goldsmiths--Steve and Dick and Johnny--growling underneath that
somebody was lying on his leg; and then maybe Harry Meader would bawl
out that there was a man sitting on his head; and once Tom Friend swore
his arm was broke: but my opinion is, sir, that it was too cold to feel
inconveniences of this kind, and I believe that some among us would not
have known if their arms and legs really had been broke, until they
tried to use 'em, for the cold seemed to take away all feeling out of
the blood.

'As the seas flew over the boat the water filled the sail that was
stretched overhead and bellied it down upon us, and that gave us less
room, so that some had to lie flat on their faces; but when this
bellying got too bad we'd all get up and make one heave with our backs
under the sail, and chuck the water out of it in that way.  "Charlie
Fish," says Tom Cooper to me, in a grave voice, "what would some of
them young gen'lmen as comes to Ramsgate in the summer, and says they'd
like to go out in the lifeboat, think of this?"  This made me laugh,
and then young Tom Cooper votes for another nipper of rum all round;
and as it was drawing on for one o'clock in the morning, and some of
the men were groaning with cold, and pressing themselves against the
thwarts with the pain of it, I made no objection, and the liquor went
round.  I always take a cake of Fry's chocolate with me when I go out
in the lifeboat, as I find it very supporting, and I had a mind to have
a mouthful now; but when I opened the locker I found it full of water,
my chocolate nothing but paste, and the biscuit a mass of pulp.  This
was rather hard, as there was nothing else to eat, and there was no
getting near the tug in that sea unless we wanted to be smashed into
staves.  However, we hadn't come out to enjoy ourselves; nothing was
said, and so we lay in a heap, hugging one another for warmth, until
the morning broke.

'The first man to look to leeward was old Tom's son--young Tom
Cooper--and in a moment he bawled out, "There she is!" pointing like a
madman.  The morning had only just broke, and the light was grey and
dim, and down in the west it still seemed to be night; the air was full
of spray, and scarcely were we a-top of a sea than we were rushing like
an arrow into the hollow again, so that young Tom must have had eyes
like a hawk to have seen her.  Yet the moment he sung out and pointed,
all hands cried out, "There she is!"  But what was it, sir?  Only a
mast about three miles off--just one single mast sticking up out of the
white water, as thin and faint as a spider's line.  Yet that was the
ship we had been waiting all night to see.  There she was, and my heart
thumped in my ears the moment my eye fell on that mast.  But Lord, sir,
the fearful sea that was raging between her and us! for where we were
was deepish water, and the waves regular; but all about the wreck was
the Sand, and the water on it was running in fury all sorts of ways,
rushing up in tall columns of foam as high as a ship's mainyard, and
thundering so loudly that, though we were to windward, we could hear it
above the gale and the boiling of the seas around us.  It might have
shook even a man who wanted to die to look at it, if he didn't know
what the Bradford can go through.

'I ran my eye over the men's faces.  "Let slip the tow rope," bawled
Dick Goldsmith.  "Up foresail," I shouted, and two minutes after we had
sighted that mast we were dead before the wind, our storm foresail taut
as a drum-skin, our boat's stem heading full for the broken seas and
the lonely stranded vessel in the midst of them.  It was well that
there was something in front of us to keep our eyes that way, and that
none of us thought of looking astern, or the sight of the high and
frightful seas which raged after us might have played old Harry with
weak nerves.  Some of them came with such force that they leapt right
over the boat, and the air was dark with water flying a dozen yards
high over us in broad solid sheets, which fell with a roar like the
explosion of a gun ten or a dozen fathoms ahead.  But we took no notice
of these seas, even when we were in the thick of the broken waters, and
all the hands holding on to the thwarts for dear life.  Every thought
was upon the mast that was growing bigger and clearer, and sometimes
when a sea hove us high we could just see the hull, with the water as
white as milk flying over it.  The mast was what they call 'bright,'
that is, scraped and varnished, and we knew that if there was anything
living aboard that doomed ship we should find it on that mast; and we
strained our eyes with all our might, but could see nothing that looked
like a man.  But on a sudden I caught sight of a length of canvas
streaming out of the top, and all of us seeing it we raised a shout,
and a few minutes after we saw the men.  They were all dressed in
yellow oilskins, and the mast being of that colour was the reason why
we did not see them sooner.  They looked a whole mob of people, and one
of us roared out, "All hands are there, men!" and I answered, "Aye, the
whole ship's company, and we'll have them all!" for though, as we
afterwards knew, there were only eleven of them, yet, as I have said,
they looked a great number huddled together in that top, and I made
sure the whole ship's company were there.

'By this time we were pretty close to the ship, and a fearful wreck she
looked, with her mainmast and mizzenmast gone, and her bulwarks washed
away, and great lumps of timber and planking ripping out of her and
going overboard with every pour of the seas.  We let go our anchor
fifteen fathoms to windward of her, and as we did so we saw the poor
fellows unlashing themselves and dropping one by one over the top into
the lee rigging.  As we veered out cable and drove down under her
stern, I shouted to the men on the wreck to bend a piece of wood on to
a line and throw it overboard for us to lay hold of.  They did this,
but they had to get aft first, and I feared for the poor half-perished
creatures again and again as I saw them scrambling along the lee rail,
stopping and holding on as the mountainous seas swept over the hull,
and then creeping a bit further aft in the pause.  There was a horrible
muddle of spars and torn canvas and rigging under her lee, but we could
not guess what a fearful sight was there until our hawser having been
made fast to the wreck, we had hauled the lifeboat close under her
quarter.  There looked to be a whole score of dead bodies knocking
about among the spars.  It stunned me for a moment, for I had thought
all hands were in the foretop, and never dreamt of so many lives having
been lost.  Seventeen were drowned, and there they were, most of them,
and the body of the captain lashed to the head of the mizzenmast, so as
to look as if he were leaning over it, his head stiff upright and his
eyes watching us, and the stir of the seas made him appear to be
struggling to get to us.  I thought he was alive, and cried to the men
to hand him in, but someone said he was killed when the mizzenmast
fell, and had been dead four or five hours.  This was a dreadful shock;
I never remember the like of it.  I can't hardly get those fixed eyes
out of my sight, sir, and I lie awake for hours of a night, and so does
Tom Cooper, and others of us, seeing those bodies torn by the spars and
bleeding, floating in the water alongside the miserable ship.

'Well, sir, the rest of this lamentable story has been told by the mate
of the vessel, and I don't know that I could add anything to it.  We
saved the eleven men, and I have since heard that all of them are doing
well.  If I may speak, as coxswain of the lifeboat, I would like to say
that all hands concerned in this rescue, them in the tug as well as the
crew of the boat, did what might be expected of English sailors--for
such they are, whether you call some of them boatmen or not; and I know
in my heart, and say it without fear, that from the hour of leaving
Ramsgate Harbour to the moment when we sighted the wreck's mast, there
was only one thought in all of us, and that was that the Almighty would
give us the strength and direct us how to save the lives of the poor
fellows to whose assistance we had been sent.'


Ten years more fly by, in which there is a splendid record of services
and rescues to the credit of Coxswain Fish, the Ramsgate lifeboatmen,
and the brave steam-tugs, Vulcan and Aid, and we come to the night of
Jan. 5 and 6, 1891, which is exactly, my readers will see, ten years to
the day after the rescue of the survivors of the Indian Chief, a rescue
certainly unsurpassed for its dramatic intensity and its heroism even
by the Deal lifeboat.

At 3 a.m. on the night of Jan. 5, 1891, Coxswain Fish was asleep in his
hammock in the watch-house at the end of Ramsgate pier.  There was a
gale blowing from the E.N.E., and in the long frost of that awful
winter there was no more terrible night than this.  The thermometer
stood at 15° below freezing-point; there was a great sea and strong
wind.

At 3 a.m. Fish was called by the watch on Ramsgate pier, and he saw a
flare on the Goodwins through the rifts in the snow squall.  At 2.15
Richard Roberts, the coxswain of the Deal lifeboat, was also roused
from sleep and launched his lifeboat, manned by the gallant Deal men.
But though the Deal men launched at 3.15 a.m., they had not the same
favourable chance of reaching the wreck, beating eight miles dead to
windward, as compared with the Ramsgate lifeboat, towed into the eye of
the wind by its powerful steam-tug Aid.

We may on this occasion, therefore, leave out the consideration of the
Deal lifeboat, splendid as its effort was, inasmuch as it only arrived
at the scene of the wreck just as the Ramsgate lifeboat had saved the
crew.  Some of the hardy Deal lifeboatmen were almost benumbed and
rendered helpless by the cold, and they only saw the tragedy of the
captain's death and the rescue of the remainder of the crew from the
wreck by the Ramsgate men.

At 3 a.m. then the Ramsgate rocket went up in answer to the signals
from the Gull lightship; on that bitter night the lifeboat was manned
in eight minutes.  The lifebelts and oilskins were handed into the
lifeboat; shivering, the brave hearts got their clothes on, and in less
time than this page has been written, the tow rope had been passed into
the lifeboat from the Aid, and that tug was out of the harbour,
dragging the lifeboat, head to sea, 110 yards astern of her.

It was black midnight, and no man in the boat could see his neighbour;
the pier was like a great iceberg and sheeted with ice; the sea was
flying over the oilclad figures in the lifeboat and freezing almost as
it fell, rattling against the sails or on the deck, or fiercely hurled
into the faces of the men; indeed, every oilskin jacket was frozen
stiff before they had been towed a quarter of a mile against the
furious sea, which drenched them 'like spray,' as the coxswain
expressed it, 'from the parish fire engines.'  The brave fellows were
more than drenched--they were all but frozen, but no one dreamed of
turning back, for though the lightship's rockets had stopped they could
see the piteous flares from the distant wreck now and then, as the snow
squalls broke, beckoning them on.

The vessel on the Goodwins was the three-masted schooner or barquentine
The Crocodile, laden with stone from Guernsey to London, and when about
a mile or so north of the Goodwins 'reaching' on the port tack, 'missed
stays' in the heavy sea, and before they had time to 'wear' ship, she
struck the northern face of the Goodwins, against which a tremendous
sea was driven by the black north-easter that was blowing from the
Pole.  She struck the Goodwins bows on with her head to the south-east,
and she heeled over to starboard, the sea which rolled from the E.N.E.
beating nearly on her port broadside.

The wrecked crew knew their position, and that their only chance was
the advent of some lifeboat, and they burned flares, which consisted on
this occasion of their own clothes, which they tore off and soaked in
oil.  They were soon beaten off the deck as the tide rose, and in the
darkness had to take to the rigging, the captain, who was an elderly
man, and his crew all together climbing in the mizzen weather rigging.
The weather rigging was of course more upright than the lee rigging,
which leaned over to the right or starboard hand as the vessel lay.

As the tug bored to windward and rapidly neared the vessel they could
see the flares being carried up the rigging by the sorely beset crew,
and knew the extremity of the case; then the next snow squall wrapped
them in like a winding-sheet, and all was shut out.  But still, on
plunged the Aid at great speed, for the new tug-boat Aid is a much
faster and more powerful boat than either of the old tugs, the Aid and
the Vulcan.  Towing the lifeboat well to windward of the wreck, at last
the moment arrived, and though not a word was spoken and not a signal
made, the end of the tow-rope was let go by the lifeboat and sail was
made on her for the wrecked vessel, or rather for the flares.

But even then down came an extra furious snow squall, and the lifeboat
had to anchor, lest she should miss the vessel altogether.

This took time.  Again in the fury of the storm the word was given 'Up
anchor!' and 'Run down closer to the wreck!' and again the anchor was
dropped to the best of the judgment of the coxswain.  Fish and Cooper
were first and second coxswains ten years before, and exactly ten years
before to the day and hour the same brave men were in a similar
desperate struggle at the wreck of the Indian Chief.  In the tremendous
sea the anchor was for the second time dropped well to windward of the
wreck.  The hull was under water, and over it the hungry sea broke in
pyramids or solid sheets of flying, freezing spray.  As they veered out
their cable and came towards the wreck bows foremost, for they anchored
the lifeboat this time by the stern, they could dimly see the cowering,
clinging figures in the rigging.  They had to pay out their powerful
cable most cautiously, for great rollers bursting at the top, and the
size of a house, every now and then came racing at them, open-mouthed.

I don't believe a man on board remembered it was exactly to the hour
ten years since they rescued the crew of the Indian Chief; but their
hearts, beating as warmly as ever in the cause of suffering humanity,
were concentrated on the present need.  They veered down under the
stern of the wreck, and passing the cable a little aft in the lifeboat,
steered her up under the starboard-quarter of the wreck.  They had just
got out their grapnel, and were about to throw it into the lee rigging
of the wreck, in hopes it would grip and hold--for unless it held of
itself no one of the frozen crew could come down to make it fast.  Left
foot in front, well out on the gunwale, left hand grasping the fore
halyards to steady him--strong brave right hand swung back to hurl the
grapnel on the next chance, stood a gallant Ramsgate man, when with a
roar like the growl of a wild beast, a monstrous sea broke over vessel
and lifeboat, not merely filling her up, and over her thwarts, but
snapping her strong new Manilla hawser.

Those who know the quality of the splendid cables supplied by the Royal
National Lifeboat Institution will understand the great force that must
have been exerted to snap this mighty hawser.  But so it happened, and
away to leeward into the darkness, smothered, baffled, and almost
drowned, but by no means beaten, were swept on to and into the
shallower and more furious surf of the north-west jaw of the Goodwins,
the Ramsgate lifeboatmen.

Contrast the freezing midnight scene of storm and surf, eight miles
from the nearest land, with the quiet sleep of millions.

Here was a January midnight, black as a wolf's throat--thermometer 15°
below freezing, a mountainous surf on the Goodwins, and only twelve
brave men to face it all; but those twelve men were the heroes of a
hundred fights, and were determined to save the men on the wreck or die
for it.

Therefore, though swept to leeward, they got sail on the lifeboat and
got her on the starboard tack, ten men sheeting home the fore sheet.
'Bad job this!' they said, for words were few that night, and they made
through the surf for the tug, which was on the look-out for them, and
steered for the blue light they burned.  Nothing can be more ghastly
than the effect of this blue light on the faces of the men or on the
wild hurly-burly of boiling snow white foam one moment seen raging
round the lifeboat, and the next obliterated in darkness, the more
pitchy by reason of the extinguished flare.

The blue light was seen by the Aid, and she moved to leeward to pick up
the lifeboat after she emerged from the breakers.  Again the tug-boat
passed her hawser on board the lifeboat, and once more towed her to
windward to the same position as before; and once again, burning to
save the despairing sailors, the lifeboatmen dropped anchor and veered
out their last remaining cable, well-knowing this was the last chance,
as they had only the one remaining cable.  Tight as a fiddle string was
the good hawser, and the howling north-easter hummed its weird tune
along its vibrating length, as coil after coil was paid out in the
lulls, and the lifeboat came closer and closer, and at last slued right
under the starboard quarter of the wreck.

By hand-lights, blue and green, they saw, high up in the air, the
unfortunate crew lashed in the weather-rigging, i. e. on the port or
left side of the wreck, the side opposite to that under shelter of
which they lay.  The shelter was a poor one, for great seas broke over
the wreck and into the lifeboat on the other side.

The men were lashed half-way up the weather rigging of the mizzenmast,
and the lifeboatmen shouted to them to come over and drop into the
lifeboat.  To do this, they, half-frozen as they were, had to unlash
themselves from the weather-rigging and, in the awful cold and
darkness, climb up to the mast-head, where the lee-rigging or shrouds
met more closely the weather-rigging.  Every giant sea shook the wreck;
every billow swayed her masts backwards and forwards so that they
'buckled' like fishing-rods, and the marvel is any man of the benumbed
crew succeeded in getting across from the weather side to the
lee-rigging aloft.

It must be borne in mind that the deck was under water and 'raked' by
every sea, and that the only possible way of reaching the lifeboat was
by going up the rigging from the place where the wrecked crew were
lashed, and coming down--if only they could reach across--the other
side, which was next the lifeboat, and thence jumping or being hauled
into her.

The topsails were in ribbons, and as the wrecked sailors clambered
aloft the great whips of torn canvas lashed and terrified and wounded
them.  By great effort they got across the black gulf between the two
riggings--all but the captain.

There high in air--visible as the blue lights flared up from the
lifeboat, struggling hard for life, hung the captain.

One leg straddled across the chasm--one hand clutched the
weather-rigging he wanted to leave, and one hand reached out
blindly--hopefully to catch the lee shrouds--'You'll do it, captain!
Come on, captain!  For God's sake, captain, come on!'  And every face
in the blue glare was riveted on the struggling man but,--oh! what
anguish to the staring lifeboatmen eager to save him!--he fell, his
life-belt being torn off in his fall, full forty feet on to the
wave-washed mizzen boom.

'Out boat-hooks, brave hearts, and catch him.'  But a great billow
broke over the wreck and lifeboatmen, and never was he seen again.

This time death won.

Let us trust he was ready to meet his God.  'If it be not now, yet it
will come--the readiness is all.'

Some jumping, and some dragged by the lines, the rest of the
shipwrecked men got into the lifeboat, so dazed, so benumbed that they
neither realised the loss of the captain nor their own miraculous
preservation.

Just at this moment, under press of canvas, the foam flying from her
blue bows, at full speed came the Deal lifeboat, too late to avert the
disaster they had witnessed.

They had left Deal at 3.15, but not having the aid of steam, were
half-frozen and much later on the scene of action than the Ramsgate tug
and lifeboat, to whom the honour of this grand rescue belongs.

They reached Ramsgate Harbour at 7.30 a.m. and at 9 o'clock, without
having gone ashore to breakfast, almost worn out, but borne up by
dauntless spirit within, in response to a telegram from Broadstairs,
the same steam-tug, lifeboat, coxswain and crew, again steamed out of
Ramsgate Harbour.  A collier, the Glide, had gone to the bottom after
collision with another vessel, named the Glance--such strange
coincidences there are in real life--and the crew of the Glide had
taken to their own small ship's boat, while the crew of the Glance had
been saved by the Broadstairs lifeboat.

The crew of the Glide in their little boat were in great peril in the
mountainous seas which run off the North Foreland in easterly gales,
and it was feared they were lost.

Once more into the teeth of the icy gale, without rest and with only
snatches of food taken in the lifeboat, after the long exposure of the
preceding night and its terrible scenes, the Ramsgate men were towed
behind their tug-boat to the rescue.  They found the boat of the Glide
riding in a furious sea to a sea-anchor, the very best thing they could
have done.  A sea-anchor may be rigged up by tying sails and oars
together, with, if possible, a weight attached just to keep them under
water, and then pitching the lot overboard.

To this half-floating, half-submerged mass, the boat's painter was made
fast, and as it dragged through the water much more slowly than the
boat, the latter checked in its drift came head to sea, and yielding to
the send of each wave rode over crests and combers which would
otherwise have swamped her.

Hardly hoping for deliverance, they saw the steam-tug and lifeboat
making for them and ranging to windward of them to give them a lee, and
they were all dragged at last safely into the Bradford.  Soon they were
towed in between Ramsgate piers, and this time the flying of the
British red ensign denoted, 'All saved.'  Shouts of rejoicing hailed
the double exploit of the hardy lifeboatmen, and their fellow townsmen
of Ramsgate proudly felt they had done 'by no means a bad piece of work
before breakfast that morning.'

'Storm Warriors' of unconquered Kent, rivals in a hundred deeds of
mercy with your brethren the Deal boatmen, and with them sharing the
title of 'Heroes of the Goodwin Sands,' God guard you in your perils
and bring you safe home at last!

At many other points around the British Isles the same noble spirit is
displayed of splendid daring in a sacred cause.  Would that all the
stalwart fishermen and boatmen of this dear England, as their
prototypes of the Sea of Galilee, would serve and follow Him who
Himself 'came to seek and to save that which was lost,' that so passing
through the waves of this troublesome world, finally they may come
through Him to the land of everlasting life!



[1] This clearly is an error, for no lifeboat could possibly have been
near the wreck at this early hour.  The ship struck at half-past two
o'clock on the morning of January 5, and at daybreak the rescue
mentioned was attempted, clearly, by a smack, for no lifeboat heard of
the wreck until eleven o'clock of the same day.  Probably it was that
smack which afterwards conveyed the news of the wreck to Harwich at 11
a.m.  Another fishing smack proceeded at once to Ramsgate, and arrived
there at noon, having received the information of the wreck from the
Kentish Knock lightship.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



THE BOY'S LIBRARY OF ADVENTURE & HEROISM


[Transcriber's note:  This list contains only the titles and authors of
the books in this catalog.  No attempt was made to transcribe the
assorted newspaper reviews.]

Allan Adair; or Here and There in Many Lands, by Dr. Gordon Staples,
R.N.

A Hero in Wolf-skin.  A Story of Pagan and Christian, by Tom Bevan.

The Adventures of Val Daintry in the Graeco-Turkish War, by V. L. Going.



Stories for Boys.

by Talbot Baines Reed.


The Adventures of a Three-Guinea Watch.

The Cock House and Fellsgarth.  A Public School Story.

The Fifth Form at St. Dominic's.  A Public School Story.

A Dog with a Bad Name.

The Master of the Shell.

My Friend Smith.  A Story of School and City Life.

Reginald Cruden.  A Tale of City Life.

Tom, Dick, and Harry.

Roger Ingleton, Minor.

Sir Ludar: A story of the Days of the Great Queen Bess.

Parkhurst Boys, and other Stories of School Life.



New Illustrated Stories.

_By Various Authors._


The Reign of Love, by H. M. Ward.

Life's Little Stage, by Agnes Giberne.

In Quest of Hatasu, by Irene Strickland.

Those Dreadful Girls, by Esther E. Enock.



Popular Stories by

Hesba Stretton.


Half Brothers.

Carola.

Cobwebs and Cables.

Through a Needle's Eye.

David Lloyd's Last Will.

The Soul of Honour.



Stories by

Evelyn Everett-Green.


The Conscience of Roger Trehern.

Joint Guardians.

Marcus Stratford's Charge; or, Roy's Temptation.

Alwyn Ravendale.

Lenore Annandale's Story.

The Head of the House.

The Mistress of Lydgate Priory; or, The Story of a Long Life.

The Percivals.



Popular Stories by

Mrs. O. F. Walton.


The Lost Clue.

A Peep behind the Scenes.

Was I Right?

Doctor Forester.

Scenes in the Life of an Old Arm-chair.

Olive's Story; or, Life at Ravenscliffe.



Popular Stories by

Amy Le Feuvre.


The Mender; A Story of Modern Domestic Life.

Odd Made Even.

Heather's Mistress.

On the Edge of a Moor.

The Carved Cupboard.

Dwell Deep; or Hilda Thorn's Life Story.

Odd.

A Little Maid.

A Puzzling Pair.



The Bouverie Florin Library.


The Awakening of Anthony Weir.  By Silas K. Hocking.

In the Days of the Gironde.  A Story for Girls.  By Thekla.

Money and the Man.  By H. M. Ward.

The Chariots of the Lord: A Romance of the Time of James H. and the
coming of William of Orange.  By Adolf Thiede.

The Rose of York.  By Florence Bone.

The Wonder Child: An Australian Story.  By Ethel Turner.

From Prison to Paradise: A Story of English Peasant Life in 1557.  By
Alice Lang.

A Hero in the Strife.  By Louisa C. Silke.

Adnah: A Tale of the Time of Christ.  By J. Breckenridge Ellis.

Living It Out.  By H. M. Ward.

The Trouble Man: or, the Wards of St. James.  By Emily P. Weaver.

The Men of the Mountain.  A Stirring Tale of the Franco-German War of
1870-1871.  By S. R. Crockett.

The Lost Clue.  By Mrs. O. F. Walton.

Love, The Intruder.  A Modern Romance.  By Helen H. Watson.

The Fighting Line.  By David Lyall.

The Highway of Sorrow:  A Story of Modern Russia.  By Hesba Stretton.

Veiled Hearts: A Romance of Modern Egypt.  By Rachel Willard.

Sunday School Romances.  By Alfred B. Cooper.

The Cossart Cousins.  By Evelyn Everett-Green.

The Family Next Door.  By Evelyn Everett-Green.

Greyfriars.  By E. Everett-Green.

Peggy Spry.  By H. M. Ward.



The 'Queen' Library.


Margaret, or, The Hidden Treasure.  By N. F. P. K.

Against the World.  By Evelyn R. Garratt.

Little Miss.  By M. B. Manwell.

Belle and Dolly.  By Anne Beale.





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