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Title: My Life at Sea
Author: Crutchley, W. Caius
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Life at Sea" ***

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(_From a photograph taken from the “Ruapehu”_)]


    MARINE (1863-1894)


    R.D., R.N.R., F.R.G.S.












My good sailor friend Captain Crutchley has asked me to write a
foreword to his autobiography. It is a pleasure to comply.

The author began his life at sea in sailing-ships, in the age of the
Black Ball liners, the Baltimore clipper-ships, and those perfect
specimens of naval architecture built in Aberdeen for the China tea

Captain Crutchley tells of the hardships of the sea. He gives stirring
descriptions of the performances of the ships in which he sailed. His
narrative may perhaps be briefly supplemented. Sir George Holmes, in
his book on ancient and modern ships, quotes many examples of record
passages. In 1851, the _Nightingale_, in a race from Shanghai to Deal,
ran on one occasion 336 knots in twenty-four hours. In the same year
the _Flying Cloud_, in a voyage from New York to San Francisco, ran 427
knots in one day. The _Thermopylæ_, 886 tons register, built by Messrs.
Steel, of Greenock, sailed 354 knots in twenty-four hours. The Aberdeen
clippers of the ’sixties did marvellous work. Under sail, the _Ariel_,
_Taeping_ and _Serica_ started together from Foochow on May 30, 1866.
They met off the Lizard on September 6; and on the same day the
_Taeping_ arrived in the East India Dock at 9.45 p.m., and the _Ariel_
at 10.15 p.m.--a difference of half-an-hour after racing for over three
months on end.

The present writer recalls a like personal experience of more recent
date. In 1905 a race was sailed from Sandy Hook to the Lizard for a
cup offered by the German Emperor. On that occasion the _Valhalla_, a
full-rigged ship, _Hildegarde_ and _Endymion_, two-masted fore-and-aft
schooners, and the _Sunbeam_, a three-masted topsail-yard schooner,
anchored off Cowes on the same tide, the distance of more than 3300
miles from Sandy Hook having been covered in fourteen days.

After years of service at sea, Captain Crutchley passed from sail to
steam. He filled important commands with distinguished success. He
began with the comparatively easy voyage to the Cape. In the later
years of his career at sea he was engaged in Australasian voyages, when
his experience in sailing-ships enabled him, by the combined power of
sail and steam, to make successful voyages.

In Captain Crutchley’s time ships coming direct from the homeland were
the bonds of empire. They received a warm welcome on their arrival
in the distant ports of New Zealand and Australia. Captain Crutchley
earned a deserved popularity as a representative seaman. He began his
work as an empire builder while serving at sea. It was continued ashore
for a period of many years in the capacity of Secretary of the Navy

The book abounds in valuable hints on discipline at sea. The vessels
commanded by Captain Crutchley were happy ships.

It only remains to commend this volume as interesting reading to all
who love the sea and admire the hardy breed of men who do business in
great waters.


  _March 7, 1912._


    CHAPTER I                  1

    CHAPTER II                25

    CHAPTER III               51

    CHAPTER IV                75

    CHAPTER V                 97

    CHAPTER VI               125

    CHAPTER VII              155

    CHAPTER VIII             185

    CHAPTER IX               215

    CHAPTER X                241

    CHAPTER XI               269

    CHAPTER XII              301


                   _To face page_

    CAPE HORN, DISTANT ONE MILE                          _Frontispiece_
      (_From a photograph taken from the “Ruapehu”_)


    U.S.S. “ROMAN”                                                  100

    U.S.S. “NYANZA”                                                 100

    U.S.S. “AFRICAN”                                                100

    U.S.S. “SYRIA”                                                  145
      (_From a painting by Willie Fleming of Cape Town_)

    N.Z.S. CO.’S “RUAPEHU”                                          243

    N.Z.S.S. “KAIKOURA”                                             271
      (_From a painting by Willie Fleming of Cape Town_)

    “KAIKOURA” IN HARBOUR                                           283

    THE MASTER OF THE “KAIKOURA”                                    289

    SHAKING A REEF OUT                                              303



    “Ride with an idle whip, ride with an unused heel,
    But, once in a way, there will come a day
    When the colt must be taught to feel
    The lash that falls, and the curb that galls,
    And the sting of the rowelled heel.”--KIPLING.

Early in the year 1863 there was brought into the little harbour
of Margate a vessel called the _Figaro_ of Narbonne, a small craft
with a cargo of wine. She had got into trouble on one of the many
outlying sandbanks which make the entrance to the Thames a problem of
considerable difficulty for any vessel not thoroughly qualified to meet
any emergency that may arise through wind or weather. What the precise
cause of this accident was escapes my memory, but whatever its origin,
it was instrumental in sending me to sea, for it brought me into close
contact with a London merchant, Mr. Trapp, who was interested in her
cargo and who had come down to supervise her repairs. This merchant was
also a shipowner, and had been at sea during the French wars in the
early part of the century. He was good enough to tell me many stories
relating to privateering and the customs of the sea, to all of which
I listened greedily, for I was born with the sound of the sea in my
ears and from my earliest recollections had made up my mind that the
sailor’s life was the only one worth living. Unfortunately this view
was not shared either by my father or my mother, both of whom had set
their minds upon making me a civil engineer. My head master was of the
same opinion as myself as regards my future, but we reached the same
conclusion by somewhat different roads, as will be seen.

I scarcely think I was tractable as a school-boy. I can distinctly
remember that from the age of ten until I was fourteen I was
always the “awful example,” and my impression is that the cane was
administered thrice daily with great regularity. At the age of fourteen
there was a serious difference of opinion between the head master and
myself; he suggested that my conduct in class was beyond his endurance,
and I, considering his was also objectionable, expressed my view by
launching a book at his head. When I turned to make my escape, there
was no escape for me; I was headed off and cornered by masters lower
down the room. And face downwards on a desk I both heard and felt the
best arguments that can be used in such circumstances. When I got
home, these arguments were only too palpable, and my indulgent parents
brought my career at that school to a summary conclusion. Nevertheless,
I bore the old boy no malice, for he was a good judge of a human boy’s
nature. When he asked me one day what I was going to be, I replied,
“Civil engineer,” to which he retorted, “A soldier or a sailor is all
they will ever make of you,” and it must be confessed that it was
a fairly accurate forecast, though the prophecy was evidently not
intended as a compliment to either army or navy.

After that episode it seemed to dawn upon my mind that it was time to
learn something, and I was put as a private pupil with a man whose
memory I shall always respect (afterwards Leetham of Thanet House), for
he had the great gift of raising his pupil’s enthusiasm for the subject
he was teaching. We used to start quite early in the morning, before
breakfast, take our time in the middle of the day for recreation, and
again tackle the work in the evening. It was in one of the mid-day
recreations that, happening to walk down the lower pier, I met my old
friend the shipowner. I soon made up my mind that I must go to sea,
and realised that here was the instrument by which my desire could be
accomplished. A steady siege was at once commenced.

My dear old father would not listen to the scheme for a moment; salt
water had no charms for him. Yet he himself had taught me the use of
mathematical instruments and given me a fair grounding in plan drawing
and similar matters. The shrine at which he worshipped, however, was
that of Brunel and the great engineers who were then discovering the
wonders of applied science. My mother, on the other hand, seeing that
my mind was made up, offered no further opposition, and when the time
arrived managed to give me the necessary assistance.

The scheme finally formulated was this. My friend Mr. Trapp had at that
time a vessel in port of which he was part owner, and as she carried
apprentices I was to take my place among them on her next voyage,
but it was also stipulated that a premium was to be paid. How often,
I wonder, have boys been jeered at by the old salts as being “blank
gentlemen’s sons that pay to go to sea,” and when one considers in
after life the hardships of a sailing-ship, such a custom certainly
seems humorous.

Well, the appointed day arrived and my mother and I set out for London
to carry out the necessary preliminaries. My father had provided
funds in a surreptitious sort of manner, for when the die was cast he
accepted the situation, though he never really acquiesced in it. Boys
are heartless brutes as a rule where their inclinations are concerned,
and set little store by the desires of those who have had the trouble
of rearing them. But, after all, we none of us are asked whether
we would like to come into the world. We are shoved upon the stage
willy-nilly without any consideration as to the part we are to play,
and expected to give unquestioning obedience to the prompter. This
seemed to me unreasonable, and that is how I at length found myself
in the London Docks boarding the _Alwynton_, a sailing barque of 491
tons register. To the best of my knowledge she was one of a series of
outside vessels chartered by the Orient line, and a stout, staunch
craft she was, good looking also in her own way.

On the other side of the wharf was the sailing-ship _Orient_, the first
of her name and a clipper of renown. The officers and men of that craft
considered themselves very superior beings to those who had not the
good fortune to sail under the blue St. Andrew’s Cross; but they in
their turn were looked down upon by the men sailing in the ships of
Green, Dunbar, Wigram & Smith. In those days it would have required a
very careful M.C. to give the varying grades of the merchant services
their due order of precedence.

We were met by a very dark, handsome man who we were told was one of
the owners of the vessel, and one of the first remarks he made to me
after the ceremony of introduction had been gone through was on the
iniquity of my wearing kid gloves. Needless to say, I immediately
disclaimed any intention of doing so in the future, being fearful
that so pernicious a habit should already have prejudiced my chances
of forming one unit of the ship’s company of so particularly correct
a craft. Let me here say that the last time I met that gentleman he
was bowed in stature and quite white on the figurehead; it was at the
Trinity House, and this time we foregathered on equal terms. I reminded
him of the particular incident and he was much amused. I regret that
he has now joined the majority, leaving behind him a name that will be
long remembered for good and philanthropic work wherever seamen are
concerned. I refer to Captain David Mainland.

My first doubts were raised when I met the second mate, who seemed
to be what I should now describe as a particularly “hefty” personage.
He was not wearing any elaborate uniform, in fact he wore neither
coat nor waistcoat, and was very busily engaged in assisting to take
in stores and stow them away down a hatchway in the after part of the
cabin, a receptacle known as the lazarette. For many months afterwards
that place to me was one of discomfort, for it was also the sailroom,
and to one not accustomed to the smell of “below decks” the work of
stowing and re-arranging canvas was not agreeable. It was, however,
particularly the sort of operation to which a raw and unskilled hand
could be usefully turned, and accordingly there fell to my lot a good
deal of it.

Immediately behind this hatchway were two staterooms, so called,
fine airy cabins, one of which was the abode of Captain Hole, whose
acquaintance it was now my lot to make. Let me try and describe him. He
was a man of more than average height and enormous chest measurement;
his face was not so weather-beaten as might have been expected, but it
was one mass of freckles, and was surmounted by sandy hair and fringed
with whiskers of the same colour. His hands were mighty and possessed
enormous power, as I was to discover later. There was withal a bluff
_bonhomie_ about the man that was attractive in its way, and to do him
justice I think he tried to behave as well as he could, but he was the
natural product of a hard school.

On this particular occasion he wished to be very agreeable, and the
interview went off well, ending with the transfer of my premium from my
mother’s pocket to his. In this he stole a march upon my first friend,
the owner, who had intended me to be _his_ apprentice, in place of
which I was forthwith indentured to Captain Hole.

The remainder of the day was all pure joy. I was a sailor and was
measured for my sailor clothes! Some days afterwards I went back
home to display to my lay acquaintances and the world of Margate in
general, the full glory of blue cloth and brass buttons. Upon mature
consideration I am not certain that the first wearing of a brass-bound
cap is not the most satisfactory experience in a long sea life; the
first command is not in any way to be compared with it.

At length the long-looked-for day arrived when I was to join my
ship, and I set out without a doubt in my mind, and with a callous
indifference to the tearful farewells of my family, or rather the
feminine portion of it. I have since noticed that this indifference is
not unusual with the human boy, and perhaps it is well that it should
be so, for he is like the young bear and has no idea of the troubles
that lie before him. Still, were my time to be gone through again, even
starting with the accumulated wisdom of half-a-century’s experience, I
doubt greatly whether I should act very differently.

I was not, however, fated to join my ship that day. I was taken by my
old friend, Mr. Trapp, to his house in the Minories and handed over to
the care of one of his sons. He took me to my first theatre, and next
morning at breakfast was solemnly reproved by his father for causing me
to break that clause in my indenture which forbade the apprentices to
frequent taverns or playhouses.

But the time had now come when the realities were to commence. We
were five apprentices in all, and, with the carpenter and boatswain,
lived in the starboard side of the topgallant forecastle. As the
ship’s windlass formed part of the furniture it may be imagined that
the quarters were rough in the extreme, but they were in keeping with
the life in general, which began to develop as soon as we reached the
dockhead, prior to being towed down the river. Here we began to make
acquaintance with that very authoritative person, the chief mate, who
in all well-ordered ships is the ruling spirit. Mr. Coleman was a good
specimen of the mate of his time. Not bad-looking by any means, very
neat in personal appearance, and painfully precise in his remarks to
all and sundry. There was also conveyed in some particularly subtle
manner the fact that he was an accomplished pugilist, and in point
of fact, there were not many that could emphasise their orders with
greater neatness and dispatch. I can recall many instances where the
trouble was over almost as soon as it began, and that was no small
qualification for an officer in the rough sailing-ship days. This
quality of command was quickly manifested on the way to Gravesend,
when the work of rigging out the jib-boom and getting things shipshape
commenced in earnest. Before the first day was finished we had
discovered that the lot of an apprentice was likely to prove an
extremely lively one.

The next few days were a blank to me--sea-sickness claimed me for its
very own, and there is only a confused recollection left in my mind of
wishing to die and being expressly prevented from doing anything of the
sort. That state of affairs lasted perhaps two days, until one morning
with a fair wind and fine weather the episode passed away like an ugly
dream. There was one other difficulty, however, to be surmounted, and
that was “going aloft.” But with a determined boatswain behind you it
is astonishing how quickly difficulties disappear; the terrors of the
unknown yielded swiftly to good solid pliable arguments capable of
immediate application.

It becomes evident to me that I must curtail my reminiscences of
this period or my work will grow to gigantic proportions completely
unwarranted by the importance of the subject, but I wish, if I may, to
record one phase in the change from sail to steam.

We were bound to Adelaide with a general cargo, and made a fairly good
passage. The captain firmly believed in giving the crew lots of work
to keep the devil out of their minds. Consequently the ship was what
was known as an “all hands ship,” in other words neither officer, nor
man, nor boy ever had an afternoon watch below. “Watch and watch” was
a thing unknown, but as the power of the master was absolute there
could be no appeal, and for reasons I have hinted at there were none
who would have been willing to incur the wrath of the ruling powers.
It will be shown presently how those powers were sometimes used, but
that was the ship’s routine, and every afternoon, no matter what
the weather, all hands were on deck from half-past twelve to five
o’clock. We apprentices were taught to observe the meridian altitude,
and sometimes in the afternoons and evenings the captain gave us some
instruction in navigation, but the mate rather resented what he termed
loafing in the cabin in the afternoon. Our captain was also fond of
signalling to other vessels, and that, of course, was our special work.
In those days it was almost a certainty that every vessel sighted was
British; a foreign flag was a matter of interest. But the great mass of
the world’s sailing-ships to-day are no longer of our nationality, and
the training of our future seamen can no longer be carried on in those
best of all possible schools for teaching men self-reliance, and the
faculty of doing the right thing at the right time. The trip out was
uneventful. By the time we had arrived at our port of destination we
boys had learned to steer, and to use a broom, also to furl the light
canvas, and generally do as we were told.

Port Adelaide in those days was still a rising town, and the facilities
it offered to shipping were considerable. We were consequently soon
discharged and loaded up for Auckland with a cargo of flour, wheat,
and sheep on deck. At that time the Maori War was in progress, and we
had hopes that some adventure might possibly befall, for up to this
time our visions of sea life had become very commonplace, and were far
from realising our youthful fancies. I may say that the experiences
of the passage out had satisfied several of the men and one of the
apprentices, who consequently deserted. Some difficulty was experienced
in filling their places, as colonial wages ran high.

We ran through Bass Straits with a fine fair wind. There are few more
picturesque parts of the sea than these grand straits, dotted with
steep rocky islands like impregnable fortresses. On this passage, as
I have said, we had a cargo of sheep on deck, and as these foolish
animals will not drink of their own accord, it was necessary to
administer to each member of the flock one quart bottle of water daily,
an operation which at first took a considerable time. After a few days,
however, they became accustomed to the treatment and gave no trouble.

When the coast of New Zealand was sighted and we were running through
the Bay of Islands, the captain thought it prudent to overhaul the
ship’s armoury, and muskets, pistols and cutlasses were all got on deck
for cleaning and putting in order. Here it was discovered that I was of
some use, for firearms had been one of my hobbies, in which I had been
encouraged by the officer in charge of the coastguard at Margate--dear
old Bob Aldrich. After a long lapse of years I can recall his cheery
face and the infinite patience with which he initiated me into the
mysteries of powder and shot. He succeeded after a time in making me a
fair marksman.

With a view to testing the hitting power of the crew a bottle was hung
at the fore yard-arm, and we all fired in turn. The bottle survived
until it came to my turn, and then, probably because I had loaded the
musket properly, I hit it, but suffered reproof afterwards because I
could not do so with a ship’s pistol. I mention this matter of loading
because, even with an old smooth-bore gun, if the bullet was properly
centred by means of the spare cartridge paper, it was quite possible
at short ranges to get decent shooting from it, but if, as commonly
happened, the bullet and cartridge were rammed down anyhow, the bullet
went anywhere.

There are few harbours in the world more beautiful than Auckland; it is
worthy of Kipling’s description “last, loveliest, loneliest, exquisite,
apart--on us, on us the unswerving season smiles.” I have known the
apple of beauty claimed often for Sydney. Of that harbour I cannot
speak personally, but I have heard a great Sydney authority confess
that the apple should, in fact, be given to the harbour of Rio, and
with that judgment I am inclined to agree.

The most striking object in entering Auckland is the mountain
Rangitoto. It is doubtful whether it can best be described as a cone or
a pyramid; from whichever side it is viewed it presents the same shape,
and it possesses considerable interest by the speculation it creates as
to whether it is an extinct volcano. In point of fact the whole region
is volcanic, and once, many years afterwards, in a little altercation
with an Auckland man concerning some point in connection with the
harbour, I heard it observed that he need not put on too much side,
“for he was only living on the outside of a bally cinder, anyway.”
Curiously enough, within ten days of that altercation, there occurred
the eruption of Tarawera, and the celebrated terraces were destroyed.

Anchored off Rangitoto was a splendid-looking ship, the _Tyburnia_,
as spick and span as any first-class London sailing-ship could be.
My recollection of her is vivid even now. I think that she had
taken troops there. As we got further up the harbour we came across
H.M.S. _Miranda_, an object of admiration and respect, for the tales
concerning warships that were then told in merchantmen were many and
wonderful, creating an atmosphere of awe. There was also the vague idea
still existing that a man-of-war could send on board and take any men
she pleased for the state service. Old traditions die hard, and at the
time I write of the great mass of the songs and ditties sung by seamen
were reminiscences in verse of the Great Napoleon, and the men of the
navy and the merchant service were more interchangeable than they are

The Queen Street wharf was not then the imposing feature it now is; but
it was a very fair size and we got to a comfortable berth at the end
of it, quickly getting clear of our live cargo. I have reason to think
that the entire shipload was extremely welcome, for the town was at
that time more than a little anxious concerning the future of the Maori
War. We, however, saw no signs of fighting.

As showing the vast changes a few years make, twenty-one years later I
lay at that same wharf, in command of a splendid mail steamer fitted to
carry frozen mutton and produce to the home country.

One great characteristic of Auckland in the early days was the peculiar
abruptness of some of its streets. It was not lit at night-time
with any degree of brilliance, and the sudden inequalities of road
surface required some practice to deal with; still we were generally
pleased with the place and the scene of bustle there was about the
shipping. We, being the end ship of the wharf, often got visits from
the members of other ships’ companies, and in particular there was one
midshipman from the _Tyburnia_ of whom we heard great things. He was a
good-looking lad and a gentleman, but it seemed that he was rather made
much of by his captain for his smartness as a seaman; he was credited
with being able to start from the deck, stow the mizzen royal, and
be down again in four minutes. Our ship was not exactly popular as a
rendezvous, however, for the custom of the grog tub, prevalent in most
ships in harbour, was entirely unknown to us.

In due course the cargo was discharged. The mate, having kept careful
tally, clapped on the hatches when he had landed the exact quantity
he was responsible for. There was a considerable surplus, but how the
matter was finally arranged I know not--probably by compromise I should
think, for the mate, being a canny Scot, was not likely to have given
much away. Our captain was anxious to secure a cargo for London, so
the ship was what is called “laid on” for that port, and we commenced
loading with casks of Kauri gum. These were stowed, with ballast to
fill in such spaces as would hold it, for it was necessary to give
her some stiffening; but one afternoon I was taken up to the agents
by the captain and sent back with a message to the mate to commence
and break out and land all we had taken in, as enough could not be
procured to fill the ship. We all thought that bad luck, for we now
had to ballast the ship and return to Adelaide in the hope of filling
with wool and copper. We made rather a long passage back, for there
was a good deal of strong head wind, the ship being hove-to under a
close-reefed main topsail for some days. That made no difference to the
work of the crew, for day after day we were kept at it scraping and
oiling the woodwork of the hold, in other words the inner skin of the
ship. I personally was very glad to recognise some of the landmarks I
remembered in Bass Straits, and to know that we were that much nearer
home. We duly arrived at Adelaide without adventure, and commenced
preparations for the homeward run.

Before going further with the narration let me describe a scene, not
an unusual one in those days, which took place on the passage from
Auckland. There were certain epithets which were considered fair
and lawful to use, and which men did not resent, on the other hand
there was one term only used if he who was delivering the oration
was prepared to back his opinion by muscular arguments. Our ship was
fitted with patent reefing topsails, but as most good things have
drawbacks to them this particular main topsail had developed a habit of
carrying its halliards away, and their replacement usually caused some
little trouble. For one thing, it was an “all hands job,” and with the
scanty rest the crew were permitted, this did not tend to increase the
smoothness of current matters either for officers or men. Upon this
particular evening the halliards had parted and the yard came down with
a run. As the chain passed round the yard it was necessary it should
be kept clear of turns to ensure smooth working of the patent, and
this was a job of some little difficulty. The second mate and a fair
number of men were aloft reeving the chains when one man in the top
incurred the wrath of the mate, who was superintending operations from
the quarter-deck. He yelled out to his subordinate aloft: “Mr. King,
kick that son of a ---- out of the top.” King on his part addressed
some drastic remarks to the delinquent, but did not appear to consider
it necessary to do more, so the work proceeded until the man who had
been “mentioned” came down the rigging saying loudly: “I’ve never been
called son of a ---- before and won’t stand it.” That was enough for
the mate. As the man stepped on deck he was met by a straight one, two,
in the face, and then began a rough-and-tumble about the end of which
there could be no doubt. The captain came along to see what was going
on, and the mate sang out: “Put this man in irons, sir.” The captain
did so, and poor Canadian Bill, as he was called, was duly ironed and
dropped for security down the lazarette hatch, where for some days he
endured the scanty bread and bitter waters of affliction. Needless to
say he lost no time in deserting on arrival in port, which no doubt
fitted in with the higher policy of the master, who did not wish to
retain the services of men at high colonial wages during a long stay in
port when the absolutely necessary routine work could be carried on by
apprentices, the cargo of course being stowed by stevedores.

It may not be out of place here to say a few words concerning the power
of the master in those days. It may be summed up as absolute despotism.
There was seldom any attempt made to obtain redress for ill-treatment
at sea, and, strange though it may appear, a ship might bear a terrible
reputation through her master or officers, and yet little if any
trouble was experienced in shipping a crew. It must be remembered that
shortly before this had been the great days of the Australian clippers
that made most astonishingly quick passages, and to do this it was
necessary to keep the men in a very tight hand. This had its drawbacks,
for where seamen, accustomed to the rule of mates who in many cases
could have qualified as prize-fighters, happened to sail in a ship
where force was not so dominant, they were apt to be very troublesome,
as I shall show in the course of these pages. I give in this place one
instance of the despotic power of the master. One morning shortly
after we reached Adelaide for the second time we were greatly surprised
at breakfast-time to see the second mate, Mr. King, walk into our
quarters, sit down and commence to eat breakfast. He saw our looks of
astonishment, and remarked: “Did none of you fellows ever see a man
drinking a pannikin of tea before?” Then it came out that for some
offence, I never heard what, the master had turned him out of the cabin
to come and live with the apprentices and the warrant officers. As we
took home a few passengers that trip, I believe that the captain picked
a quarrel to get more room and an additional cabin aft, but King was
quite an acquisition to our party, for he was a splendid sailor, and
always bright and jolly, except when he thought it necessary to use a
rope’s end. That was pretty often, but the rope’s end had little terror
for me. I had been so well acclimatised to punishment at school that it
took more than a rope’s ending to upset my equanimity.

I must confess, however, that a system obtained in that ship which
was bound in the long run to end in disaster. The apprentices were
held responsible for far too many things, and if an article could
not be found in its right place, or let us say the ship heeled over
and a bucket came down to leeward and hit the mate on the legs, his
first instruction would be: “Mr King, lick those dam boys!” and we
got it. At that time the idea of possible rebellion had not taken
root--that was to come later. I still think that the rope’s end in
moderation is a good thing for a boy, and regret exceedingly that a
sickly sentimentality seems to be undermining the healthy view that
corporal chastisement is good for young people. I believe it is still
one of those luxuries dealt out at Eton and similar schools to the sons
of the wealthier classes, and this undoubtedly constitutes a real
advantage that the son of the rich man has over the board school boy.

Our life in Adelaide loading for home was enjoyable. There were many
vessels in port also bound home, and there was a certain amount of
_camaraderie_ among the various ships’ apprentices, but it seemed to
me there was always a certain number of them who walked about thanking
their Creator that they were not as other men were. In other words
they aspired to take rank as from the ship in which they served, and
when it came to a near thing between two ships of nearly equal merit,
a skysail, on a fitted flying jib-boom, or a patent pump, or some such
item was quite sufficient to establish a superiority which would be
insisted upon with all necessary vigour. What it may be to-day I know
not, but ship worship was a very strong feeling among young seamen at
the time of which I am writing, and it ran high in the crews of such
ships as the _Orient_, _Murray_, _Connatto_, _Goolwa_, and others, even
including that very respectable old vessel known as _Irene_.

As may be imagined in a small port such as Adelaide then was, the
younger portions of the ships’ crews were something of a terror to the
inhabitants, for if one could not invent some new piece of mischief,
another could; and when a party of us went on shore for the evening the
proceedings were seldom characterised by dulness. One great pastime
of our ship in particular was swimming. We lay in what was then the
river basin, and that was close to a creek where there was a fine
bathing-place. In the course of time we all became good swimmers, and
took an especial pride in diving. This was encouraged by the skipper,
who urged us to go higher and higher from the ship’s rigging, until at
last some of us could dive from the mainyard. As the time of the year
was the Australian summer it was a very pleasant way of spending the

The independent spirit manifested by the stevedores and other
working-men that had to do with the ship came to one rather as a
revelation. There was a quiet assurance about these men that was
remarkable; they knew what their importance was in a place where
labour was scarce, and being satisfied with the wages they got did
their work with a manly independence which needed no driving. I should
mention that the stevedores stowing the wool were paid by piecework,
and that perhaps may have had something to do with their satisfactory
performances. They had all been seamen at some period of their lives,
and when hauling on their tackles in the hold, screwing wool, could
raise a chanty that would merit unfeigned approval from a nautical
critic. Wool-screwing was there an art. There was not the hurry-scurry
of the present day, and I suppose it took two months to load that
little vessel with wool and copper. When this was done we shipped the
able seamen we were short of through desertions, and set out for our
homeward trip.

I wish I dare set down in black and white the various incidents of that
trip, but I must refrain. We had three passengers, an old Cornishman
and his wife, considered second class, who lived in a boarded space
in the poop, and a fairly young lady who messed with the captain and
mate. The front of the poop was fitted up as an immense birdcage
for a great number of small green parrots that at one period of the
voyage died by scores daily. I believe, however, that enough survived
to make the venture a paying one to the skipper. We had shipped as
steward a colonial man, the blackest I ever saw, with an immense idea
of his own importance. As the steward on a sailing-ship is looked upon
exclusively as the master’s servant there is frequently antagonism
shown him by the mate, and the present case was no exception to the

Now let me say that so far as my knowledge serves me, all boys at
sea are thieves so far as food is concerned. It is not considered
dishonourable to steal any food that can be got at, but the great crime
is to be found out. My particular chum, Fred Wilkes, however, not
content with annexing potatoes, had the audacity to light the galley
fire in the middle watch for the purpose of baking them. This was
asking for trouble, which promptly arrived, for, being taken red-handed
in the act, he was sentenced to be deprived of his forenoon watch below
for an indefinite time, and this sentence of brutality was actually
carried out. For the uninitiated it may be explained that, having been
on deck for eight hours previous to 8 a.m., he was allowed time for his
breakfast and then called on deck to begin a full day’s work.

The passage home was to be made round the Cape of Good Hope (few of the
Adelaide ships favoured the Cape Horn route), and we were particularly
fortunate in getting round Cape Leeuwin and up into the south-east
trades with a fine fair wind. There are few more pleasant passages than
that across the Indian Ocean at the southern limit of the south-east
trade, which on this occasion was blowing very strongly. Indeed, at
times it was more than we could carry all studding sails to. I remember
that in our middle watch the lower stunsail had been taken in for
wind, and the captain, coming on deck during a period of lull, soundly
abused the second mate, in whose watch I was, for keeping the ship
“hove-to,” and that with everything set except one lower stunsail which
was even then being got ready to hoist again. King was not in favour
with the powers that were, although to do him justice he was a very
fine seaman. On one occasion on the passage from Auckland to Adelaide
it became necessary to call all hands to shorten sail, and it happened
that King was in charge, neither the mate nor captain being on deck. It
was necessary to take in the mainsail, and he did it successfully by
taking up the lee side first, in opposition to the dictum laid down in
Falconer’s _Shipwreck_ that--

    “He who seeks the tempest to disarm
     Will never first embrail the lee yardarm.”

At that time, however, there was a difference of opinion on the
subject, and I think a good deal is to be said for both contentions.
The truth probably is that with a strong crew and proper management a
heavy course, if taken in lee sheet first, was easier to furl, as the
canvas was not so much blown over to leeward, but on the other hand, if
great care was not taken the canvas very often blew to pieces.

To do justice to the officers of that ship they were all fine seamen,
and insisted on a high standard of a sailor man’s attainments from all
hands. A “job of work” badly done, or done in a slovenly manner, called
down immediate reproof and punishment--which usually meant doing it
again in a watch below. In modern times it may sound strange to talk
about reefed stunsails, but we carried them, and night or day not a
moment was lost in making or trimming sail as it was required.

It was when we were nearing the Cape of Good Hope that the mate going
aloft one afternoon discovered that the mainmast was sprung, and
reported it to the captain in the words, “The mainmast is a sprung
mast, sir, just below the futtocks.” In fact, as was afterwards
discovered, the mast was pretty rotten. All hands were immediately
turned to splice a big spar up the after side of the mast, and so well
was this done by lashings of rope and chain, tightened up by wooden
wedges, that it lasted the remainder of the trip without giving any
trouble. When the mast was taken out in London every one marvelled that
it had lasted as it had.

When we sighted the land about the Cape, the first view of Table
Mountain was most impressive, and it is one of those great natural
features that never loses its grandeur or becomes stale by constant
acquaintance. I little thought that at that time there was a little
maiden two years old toddling about an old garden there that in after
years was to be my wife. So it was, however, and indeed I ultimately
grew to regard the Cape quite in the light of a home country.

The remainder of the passage home was uneventful. The next thing I
remember was being at the wheel on a bitterly cold June morning, when
we made the English land, and the feeling of exhilaration that it gave
all hands was a thing to be remembered. Then the run up-Channel in
company with many other vessels was a pure joy. The old man walked the
poop snapping his fingers; as soon as we got the pilot off Dungeness,
and a tug, we commenced to furl the canvas and put the finishing
touches on the ship’s harbour toilet. Once in the London Docks the ship
was soon deserted by the crew and left to the care of the apprentices,
who were not supposed to have any desire to get away. It happened,
however, on this occasion that Captain Hole was subjected to a raid by
my sisters, chaperoned by that kind, gracious and beautiful lady, the
late Mrs. G. E. Dering, whose wealthy and eccentric husband recently
achieved posthumous fame as “The Hermit of Welwyn.” As they desired to
take me away at once for at least six weeks the old man surrendered at
discretion, and in all the glory of gilt buttons I was borne away.

That brings to a close my maiden voyage, but one thing that struck me
when I got home was the pleasure with which one remembered familiar
details--even such insignificant things as old cracks in paving-stones.
It seemed almost wonderful that one had been so far away and yet come
back to find everything just the same, even to the same old boatmen
lounging on the pier apparently in the same position they had occupied
from one’s earliest recollections.


    “’Twas all along of Poll, as I may say,
     That fouled my cable when I ought to slip.”--HOOD.

It is doubtful whether, if left to his own devices, any boy would go a
second voyage without a very considerable amount of hesitation. Indeed,
a trip as far as the Downs quite satisfied the nautical aspirations
of a certain friend of mine, who put to sea in the _Roxburgh Castle_
and left at the earliest possible moment. This was poor Will Terriss,
whose tragic ending is still fresh in the memory of his many friends
and countless admirers. My own brother also had nautical aspirations.
He went from London to Newcastle to join a vessel as an apprentice.
Unfortunately he went by sea, and the trip was amply sufficient to cure
him, for he took train and came back home at once, without even having
seen his ship. I must say this was nothing remarkable, for sea-sickness
is such a sheer horror that people become indifferent to all
surroundings, and are frequently so demoralised that they would hardly
resist being thrown overboard. I have known a case where, touching at
a port some days out, it has been necessary to land a lad to save his
life, the sea affected him so terribly.

Terriss and my brother, therefore, had my sympathy in deciding not to
stick to the sea, but in my own case there was no alternative. I had
insisted upon going to sea, so had to stick to it, and after six weeks’
holiday rejoined my ship in the London Docks. They had replaced the
sprung mainmast, and the ship was again loading for Adelaide.

Without any doubt it is wrong to make boys live on board a ship in
dock without any effective control. There were always three of us and
sometimes four on board, and night watchmen looking after lights were
easily hoodwinked. We had gorgeous and surreptitious feasts, and the
seals of custom house officers on excisable goods were tampered with
quite easily. I can recall on more than one occasion the mystified
looks of officers who found seals intact and contents considerably
shortened of what they should have been; and, generally speaking, there
is scarcely any problem of food supply that boys on board ship will
not find a way of solving. Very wrong indeed, many people will say;
what became of your moral principle? I reply in the words of the Eton
dame who, asked as to the moral qualities of the boys: said, “There was
never a moral amongst them,” and, after all, it wasn’t much worse than
orchard robbing! This is a digression, but it is a little difficult to
sit down late in life to recount one’s juvenile villainies without at
least a half-hearted attempt to palliate them--knowing also at the time
that even then you do not mean your confession to be a complete one.

In due course the ship was loaded and the crew signed on. We had a new
second mate, who we quickly discovered was of a different make to the
last one. In fact, I think it was hinted to him that the rope’s-end
régime was not to our liking, and that we had begun to discover that
unity was strength, but this was only possibly because he messed with
us. For the “old man,” having started by turning King out of the cabin,
thought fit to continue the innovation, and kind-hearted Geordie
Roshwell was not the type of man to assert himself. A good seaman he
was, but more sailmaker than second mate. Both mate and captain bullied
him unmercifully, and destroyed the little authority he was capable of

We were detained in the Downs for many days, one ship of a large
fleet, for the wind was blowing too hard from the westward for us to
attempt to beat down-Channel. When at last we did make the attempt
we got as far as Dungeness and spent one night under short canvas,
almost constantly wearing ship on short boards and eventually anchoring
again; but we finally did get a slant of wind and fairly started on
the voyage. I will only recall one incident as showing the sort of
treatment that was then meted out to seafarers as the ordinary custom.
It was one of the desires of Captain Hole that his apprentices should
be first-class helmsmen, and for some unexplained reason that they
should steer better than the able seamen. One day the ship was going
her course with a very strong wind just free enough to carry a topmast
stunsail in addition to all plain sail. She was steering badly when I
relieved an A.B. at noon; in point of fact she was a bit of a handful
and the old man had been taking a good deal of interest in what had
been going on. This interest he now transferred to me, and because I
could not do better than my predecessor I was sentenced to stay at the
wheel until eight o’clock that night. Fortunately for my arms the wind
grew lighter as the afternoon wore on, and about six o’clock my chum
smuggled me a biscuit along. In this, however, with his usual bad luck,
he was detected, and when eight bells came he was ordered to relieve
me, and spent the four hours of his watch below at the wheel. It was a
rough school, but injustice never seemed to be questioned, or thought
much about; the master was absolute and despotic, and there was no more
to be said.

There is little of interest to record of this passage. Adelaide was
reached in due course; the cargo was discharged, the crew deserted,
the ship was chartered for London and taken out into the stream to
load, as it was likely to be a long operation. The wool was only coming
down slowly, and the apprentices had their fair share of work cut out
for them. The routine was something after this fashion--called at
5.30 a.m. and got to work by 6.0, washing decks, or doing boat work;
half-an-hour for breakfast at 8 a.m.; then on again to 1.0, when there
was an hour for dinner; 5.30 p.m. clear up decks. Even after supper
the work was not over, for two of us had to pull the skipper on shore
and remain in the boat waiting for him, usually till midnight. As we
were taking in the ship’s water, the rest of us frequently spent the
evenings in towing off a small lighter that carried water-tanks. Well,
that was all right enough; it was hard work, but we were used to it and
did not grumble; but I think the cause of the subsequent trouble was
the interference with our shore leave, and I am also afraid that the
eternal feminine had a little to do with it.

It was in this way. On the preceding voyage the skipper invited some
young ladies on board to lunch, with one of whom he seemed to be
somewhat smitten. Now, as it happened, I also was acquainted with the
family, and as boys and girls we were on good terms together. Of this
the skipper knew nothing until some kind friend gave the show away.
That was quite enough for him, and I was duly informed when I asked
leave to go on shore, that it was no longer permitted.

That evening we boys held a great pow-wow, at which I stated my
intentions to do no more work, and two others also resolved to follow
my lead. The sense of injustice rankled very strongly; we were worked
most unsparingly and then denied the most ordinary privileges to which
we had a right; and the proverbial worm at length turned.

Next morning came the usual summons to turn out, and as I woke up I
remembered that I was pledged to defiance by the resolution I had come
to the preceding evening. So when my fellow conspirators looked to me
for guidance they got all they wanted.

Now that I am nearing the end of my career I can look back and see that
there is, and has been, one very curious trait in my character. It is
the greatest of my desires to live at peace with my fellows, and to pay
the greatest respect and obedience to properly constituted authority,
but once that idea has been overcome there is nothing that would stay
me in carrying out my own will at any cost, or in the face of any
obstacle. This characteristic has led me into much hot water, and I am
not at all sure that it has left me even now.

“Now, you boys, turn out,” said the voice of “old Geordie,” as we
nicknamed the second mate. To this we replied that we were not going
to do any more work. I can see the smile of pitying incredulity that
spread over his features as he listened to our resolve and pointed
out the inevitable consequences. These, however, we had made up
our minds to face, so, leaving us, he went and informed the mate,
who, to our surprise, also tried to reason with us and pointed out,
with considerable sarcastic energy, what was likely to happen if we
persisted in our attitude and forced him to tell the captain. We said
we had counted the cost and were solid in our refusal, but we came as
far aft as the mainmast at his bidding and waited for developments.

They soon came. I can see the scene now as clearly as when it
happened--a beautiful sunshiny morning. We three boys in shirts and
trousers, bare-footed, and the old man just roused from his sleep
looking like an angry bear, and not by any means dressed, rushing from
the cabin, his eyes blazing with wrath at an act of rebellion such as
he had not conceived to be possible. He began with me. Picking up the
end of the forebrace, which was close to where we were standing, he
gave me the order “Go to work,” to which I replied, “I won’t, sir.”
Then, swinging his shoulders, he gave me three strokes with the end of
the forebrace. It hurt, but it had not the least effect in disturbing
my resolve, and the mate interposed with the advice not to strike us
but to put us in irons in the after cabin. This was done, our hands
were ironed behind our backs, and we were left to our own devices. To
the best of my belief the other fellows escaped the rope’s end that had
so beautifully scored my back.

The after cabin in which we were put was fitted with lockers for
holding tinned provisions, wines, etc., and it had stern ports that
opened outwards. Access to the deck could also be obtained through an
open skylight. Our sentence involved no food or water, and it seems to
me after this lapse of time that more care might have been taken as
to our place of confinement, for we were fairly familiar with those
lockers and knew exactly what they contained, also, being slim and
active as young eels, it was a perfectly easy matter to get our hands
in front of us, and ordinary irons do not prevent people from doing
useful things on an emergency. During the day we were not absolutely
hungry, for we were able to make provision against that, but the thirst
was another matter, and that we could not remedy. At seven the next
morning we had had enough, and surrendered in exchange for water that
we could no longer do without. Our irons were taken off and we went

I should here interpose that at the time of which I write the custom
of “hazing” a man was still prevalent. In other words, if a man were
obnoxious to either mate or master he would be kept at the most
difficult, obnoxious, and perhaps even dangerous work until he
deserted, for as a rule there was no purging an offence, and desertion
was the only remedy. At the time I speak of there was a man on board
a ship in the harbour who had been sitting on the end of a royal yard
for some days. What he was doing no one knew, except the mate who was
hazing him, and when once that treatment commenced, it was a dog’s life
indeed for the individual on whom it was being tried. I mention this to
show that we knew perfectly well what our future lot was likely to be,
but up to then we had possibly not sinned beyond forgiveness, although
that seemed a little unlikely.

But now I was confronted with another difficulty, for my chest had
disappeared, and I went aft to inquire about it from the captain.

“As I neither intend to allow you money or liberty,” he replied, “I
have taken charge of your wardrobe.” I remember the words as well as if
spoken yesterday, and I told him that he could put me in irons again,
for work I would not. Probably this was pot-valiant on my part, but I
had had a good drink of water. Moreover, I knew the letters that box
contained, and also guessed that their destination would be--the father
of the girl who wrote them, so I went back _solus_ to my irons in the
after cabin. The others had had enough of the treatment to satisfy
their longings for martyrdom, ardent though these had been.

With me, however, it was entirely different. I had been hurt in more
ways than one, and much as I hated the idea of deserting I resolved
that no power should make me risk the passage home in that ship if I
could do otherwise. As I meditated I saw through the stern port the
steward sculling the dingy on shore, and that gave me an idea.

The ship was in the stream, possibly a hundred yards from the shore.
I got the irons in front of me, slipped on deck through the skylight
unseen by any one on board, threw the vang fall over the side, slid
down it, and struck out for the shore. Although, manacled as I was, I
could not swim in the ordinary way, I could paddle, and at times turn
over on my back for a rest. Not a soul lent me a hand or interfered
until I got to the landing-stage, where I was promptly arrested by a
constable and marched up to the police station.

The police superintendent, as it happened, was imbued with an idea of
fair play. He released me from the irons and told me what I should
have to do. By this time my clothes had got fairly dry, I was sitting
quietly wondering what would happen next when in came Captain Hole.

“Take that fellow into custody,” he said, directly he caught sight of
me, “for being absent from his ship without leave.”

I subsequently learnt that he had called at his lawyers’ on the way
up and they had suggested this course as a “try on.” It did not work,
however. The superintendent declined, saying that I had come to him
for protection and he would see that I got it, and on this the old man
retired very crestfallen. The outcome was that I was granted a summons
for assault, and the captain had to appear before the magistrates next
day. I cannot at the moment of writing find the record of the police
court proceedings, but anyhow the skipper was fined for the assault,
as it was called, on the three of us, and was ordered to give up my
property. We, on our side, had to return to our duties. The name of
the lawyer who represented us was Edmunds, and I recollect well how he
painted the terror we must be in (at which we grinned comprehensively)
when one could risk life by venturing into the water with irons on.

After that episode life went on for some little time much on the former
lines, except that there was shown to us a suspicious consideration
which did not augur well for our comfort on the passage home. Indeed,
I received a broad hint from the mate. “Bill,” he said, one day, “if I
were in your place I should skedaddle and get a moke,” his idea for my
future being some sort of a costermonger’s business, then very popular
amongst the runaway Jacks. That scheme, however, had no fascination
for me; I had gone to sea to become a skipper, and nothing was going
to spoil the idea though there might be many obstacles. However, we
finally resolved that we would bolt and get up-country, our objective
being a place on the Murray River called Port Mannum. We laid our plans
with care, for if we went too soon there would be the more time to
catch us, and also it was necessary that we should have as many hours’
start as possible in order to escape immediate recapture. What we did
with the clothes in our chests I have no very clear recollection. I
should think we sold them, for we had to go very light for travelling;
but certainly from that time I was not overburdened with clothes until
my return to England.

On the fateful night Fred Wilkes and Bob Walters were the two to
pull the skipper on shore, and having done so returned on board with
instructions to fetch him off at 11 p.m. It was clear they would have
to wait until that time or the hue and cry would be raised too soon,
so it was settled I should go first and make arrangements for them to
pick up their bundles. These were placed in a round washing-tub with
my own apparel, and lowered over the side, followed by me. I swam on
shore to the peninsula side of the river, pushing the tub before me,
and gave a cooee. Then I dressed and, taking the bundles, left the tub
for the enlightenment of those on board in the morning, and set off to
the house of a town boy friend, who, with his mother, were aiding and
abetting us. That was an evening of many incidents, some pleasant, all
to be remembered, and I wonder if these words will meet the eye of any
of the actors. If they do they will know that the waters of Lethe have
not obliterated for me the memory of their kindness and help.

About midnight Fred and Bob duly arrived. They told me that when they
had taken the skipper off they intentionally left the oars in the
boat. This he noticed and had them taken on board as usual. When he
had turned in they quietly replaced them and pulled on shore. As there
was no other ship’s boat in the water, the presumption was that we
were safe from pursuit until the morning, but had the skipper had the
imaginative faculty at all developed, the first omission to remove
the oars might have provided him with the opportunity for a dramatic
surprise. I always feel regret that I never met any one afterwards
who saw what went on the next morning when it was discovered that the
birds had flown. The skipper’s face must have been a study when he
was told that the ship’s boat was to be seen made fast to the steps
and the three apprentices missing. There was a fourth one, who stayed
behind, but as he was delicate, and more or less used as a cabin-boy,
our actions had not been any guide to him. These words are in no way
intended to convey a reproach to you, Jim Powell, of Pimlico, for you
were a sportsman, although you could not go quite the pace of your more
athletic comrades.

Well, away we went, tramping through the hours of darkness, and when
the sun rose we took shelter under a haystack and slept until awakened
by the pangs of hunger. We had arrived at a place called Golden Grove,
and, knowing the hospitality that was extended to travellers, had no
hesitation in going to the house and asking for food, which was freely
given. I cannot remember the name of the owner of the house, but he saw
his opportunity of securing a useful hand on the estate and persuaded
Bob to stay with him. Bob accordingly drops out of this story. Fred
and I, after our appetites were satisfied, continued our journey, and
I quite think we made a good time of it. The next night we spent in a
place called Gumeracha, and experienced the hospitality of a landowner
named Randall. I expect it was pretty clearly seen what we were, but
there was always a great deal of sympathy ready for runaway seamen, and
we certainly met it in this instance. The next day we started on what
we meant to be the final stage of the journey. It was, but well do I
remember the interminable white hills of that road. From the top of
each one in succession we hoped to see the water of the River Murray,
and this kept us going. Other characteristics of the road were trees
and fields of water-melons. I also remember being struck with the
appearance of great worn boulders perched on hilltops, and the soil
turned up showing fields of white shells something of the nature of
oysters. At length, however, we climbed the last hill and came in sight
of our destination, a small cluster of huts by the side of a wide white
river, fringed by great trees, and conveying to the mind an idea of
vastness and grandeur.

Here we had reached a place where one could exist by one’s own
exertion, and where, if you did not like the job you had, you could
leave it and find another more to your liking.

As it happened Mannum was the head-quarters of a Captain Randall, who
commanded one of the steamers that plied on the Murray. They took up
all sorts of merchandise for the towns on the river banks, and towed
down barges laden with wool. I did not make one of these trips, but
I was told they were at times fairly exciting, for what with shallow
water at one time and overhanging branches of trees at another, there
was usually plenty of incident. There were five carpenters there
building a new barge for Captain Randall. These men were accommodated
in a large tent, and in a very short time it was explained to me that I
could have a pound a week and my tucker if I could do their cooking for
them. The offer was gratefully accepted, especially as it transpired
that there was a shot-gun at my disposal, and that I was expected to
replenish the stores from the sources of wildfowl that were to be found
in the lagoons on the other side of the river. I do not well remember
what occupation Fred found at first, but eventually he went as a deck
hand in a river steamer, and thus he also drops out of my story. I
heard afterwards that he took up his quarters at a town higher up the
river. Good luck to him, wherever he may be, for he was a good fellow,
although we had many a scrap together at odd times.

Left by myself I waited for the time I might safely return to Adelaide,
but my life in the meantime was by no means a bad one. The Murray is an
exceedingly beautiful river, running as it does, almost a milky white
colour, between banks thickly wooded with splendid gum trees. Of course
its volume depended upon whether there was a wet or dry season, but
I saw no sign of drought while I was there. On one occasion two men
and myself were towed some hundred miles up in a barge, and then cast
adrift to drop down the stream, with instructions to stop at intervals
and cut branches of trees that would be suitable for using as knees
for the new barge. I regret to say that our success in this matter
was not commensurate with our expectations. The life, however, was an
ideal one, the weather all that could be desired, warm and beautiful,
with a bright moon at nights. Life by the camp fire, with plenty of
tea, damper and beef, was an excellent stimulant to high spirits, and a
night passed in Swan Reach was especially noticeable in this matter.

If we were not as successful in our wood-cutting as we might have been,
we certainly had a most enjoyable time, and when at last we got back to
head-quarters I found a newspaper which gave me the information that
the _Alwynton_ had duly sailed for home.

Well, with the least possible lapse of time I gave up my job, got a
cheque for my wages, duly cashed it, and took my passage back in a
sort of coach. I have no very clear recollections of any incidents in
that trip, but I got to Adelaide all right and learned that a warrant
was out for me as a deserter. That was no more than I expected, for it
was the ordinary thing. The police, however, were not over zealous in
worrying runaway seamen, for they themselves had mostly once been in
the same category. The thing was to find a ship, and for that purpose
I was advised to consult a certain boarding-house master, Jack Hanly I
think his name was, and not a bad sort by any means, but it was rather
an eye-opener to be fitted out with a discharge that had belonged
to some other seaman of about my own age, and it further involved a
change of name which I saw might lead to complication when it came to
producing papers for the Board of Trade. The first trial showed me that
it would not do. There was in the harbour a big American ship called
the _Borodino_, and when Jack and I went to the captain the following
conversation took place. Said Jack: “Captain, I’ve brought you a hand,
wants to learn to be a captain.”

“No, thank you,” said the skipper, “looks too white about the gills for
me, no deal.”

That was the end of that episode, and I cast round myself to see what
could be done. There was also in port another ship called the _Troas_,
which I remembered we had spoken at sea on the previous voyage. On the
strength of this acquaintance, I went to see her skipper, who, being
badly in want of hands, agreed to see me through the police court and
ship me as an ordinary seaman. When I was fined £5 or a month for
desertion my new skipper paid the fine, and I forthwith took up my
berth in my new ship. She was a full-rigged vessel of about 800 tons,
and was bound for Foo Chow to load tea for home. So far as the officers
were concerned the tone of the ship was on a fairly high plane. The
mate was no great personality, but the second, George Davies, was
a very fine seaman and a splendid officer. He was also a splendid
athlete. I have seen him go out on a bare topmast stunsail boom to
reeve a tack that had become unrove, in order to save the time it would
have taken to rig the boom in. I believe he was afterwards in command
of a sailing vessel that was lost in a typhoon in the China Sea--at all
events his ship was reported as missing. There was also a third mate,
whom I afterward met when he was serving in the P. & O. service.

The crew were a curious lot. There was especially one typical old
sailor full of ancient lore and tradition. Commenting on the fact
of the captain having his wife on board he predicted evil from the
commencement. “You mark my words,” he said, “they are bad cattle to
sail with.” That was not, however, the general opinion, for the lady
in question was pleasant to look upon, and every one she spoke to was
pleased with her charming manner.

The cause of our misfortune was something quite different, and might
have been foreseen. After taking in about one hundred tons of stone
ballast for the trip to Foo Chow, we took in for the remainder a great
quantity of semi-liquid mud that had been dredged up from the bottom
of the river. Whether any consideration had been given to the matter
by those in charge I am unable to say, but the fact remains that as
soon as we got to sea the ship showed a great want of stability or
stiffness, and as she heeled over the moist mud picked up its lowest
possible level. It was evident that this state of things would not do,
so as the ship had sister keelsons we tried to build a dam amidships by
driving down piles inside them and then filling up the internal space
with stone ballast. The general effect of this procedure was, I think,
to make matters worse, and as we could not get back to Adelaide, the
wind being strong and adverse, we tried to get to Port Lincoln. Here,
again, our luck was poor, for the wind came strong from the westward
and cut us off.

The next idea was to run for Melbourne. We in the forecastle were
dependent for our news of what was being done upon such scanty
information as might be dropped by one of the officers, but we mostly
recognised that we were in rather a tight fix and that we should be
lucky to get out of it. Owing to the ship’s inability to stand up to
her canvas we were driven south of Kangaroo Island and were hardly put
to it to weather Cape Jaffa. From that point, however, the land trended
a little to the north-eastward, but it was soon recognised that nothing
short of a shift of wind would save us, and that there was no sign of.
We had weathered Cape Jaffa about midnight, having carried close-reefed
topsails and foresail with the greatest difficulty. The ship, of
course, lay over tremendously, but she still carried some way. As soon
as we were past the Cape the maintopsail blew away and, the foretopsail
and foresail being furled, we lay hove-to under the mizzen-topsail.
The next morning we were set to work to get up stay and yard tackles
for the long boat, and to clear away the spars that were stowed on top
of it. This was done and the stay tackles hooked on and hauled tight,
but during this operation I had fallen on my left shoulder and hurt it
so badly that it was difficult and painful to move my arm. Some time
shortly after noon the weather cleared a little and some one shouted
out “land on the lee beam.” There it was sure enough, and about two
miles or so of breakers I should think. There was no escape, for the
ship was simply drifting to leeward. Davies, who went aloft to obtain a
better view, hailed the poop: “It’s all right, sir--a sandy beach;” and
then scuttled down to help and advise the only thing possible, which
was to run for the beach. As we discovered afterwards, it was the top
of high water and fortune had directed us to the only patch of sand in
the locality.

The second mate was now the man of the moment, the mate was not much
use, and the master, never a noisy man, was apparently well contented
to see Davies run the show. Foresail and foretopsail were loosed and
set, the mizzen-topsail was clued up, the helm put hard-a-weather, and
keeping her quarter to the sea we ran for the beach. Davies commanded
the ship. A big German, a very fine fellow, was at the weather wheel,
I was on the lee side. Needless to say, we were all a little curious
as to what the next few minutes might bring about, though honestly
speaking I do not think young people care very much what faces them. I
perfectly well remember thinking that I might shortly be called to an
account for all I had done or left undone, but decided that there was
no time to dwell upon such thoughts. Just about this time the first
real comber came on board, sweeping the main deck clean of everything.
It left the stem and stern posts of the long boat, however, swinging
in the tackles. By this time the ship was nearly on her beam ends and
probably touching the ground, for the water was breaking very heavily
over her, and to the best of my recollection the foreyard was touching
the sand. We cut away the weather rigging so far as we could, and in
long-drawn heaves and attempts to come right side up the masts and
spars gradually left us to a precarious foothold on the outside of the
ship’s weather quarters. I can remember that episode well, for the
water came over bitterly cold and seemed blown by the wind into our
very bones.

In the course of an hour or so it became evident that the water was
receding and it was possible to see what could be done. The ship was
breaking up fast, and before three hours had passed there was a hole
through the middle of her. But the ends kept together and some of the
comicalities of life commenced to appear. The mate was walking as best
he could in the cabin with a lifebelt round him and a musket over his
shoulder, and as little semblance of order remained, it was left to the
stronger spirits to do the best they could. Here John, the big German,
and the second mate came to the front, and they did well. By the time
it was low water a rope had been got on shore, how I know not, and some
had gone on shore by it, but I know that before we left the ship we had
a feed of jugged hare in Davies’s cabin. That stands out vividly, but I
cannot remember any drunkenness on the part of any member of the crew.

The landing of the captain’s little lady was accomplished with little
trouble, for she was a plucky soul, and went through a trying time
with a courage that was greatly to be admired, but she could not have
avoided drawing conclusions which would have been invidious could
they have been particularised. The next scene in this drama was round
a big fire under the lee of a sand-hill, where most of the crew were
gathered. Some of the crowd had secured food, and there was a general
feeling of satisfaction that we had not lost the number of our mess.
Also we gained the knowledge that a bag of flour made a first-rate
life-buoy for a man who wanted to get on shore with a rope. One of the
big deck water-casks had been washed on shore; we knocked the head in
and placed it with its sound end to windward, and its opening to the
fire to make a shelter for the lady of the party, and then, hot on one
side and cold on the other, we waited for day. Some bold spirits had
already tried exploration, and failed to find any sign of habitation.

Shortly after daylight, we saw two men on horseback gazing at the ship,
and they expressed wonderment and surprise at the good fortune which
enabled us to greet them. It appeared that the general character of
the coast was rocky, and the other wrecks that had taken place in the
vicinity had all been attended by fatalities.

As we were the exceptions we could only be thankful that Providence had
been so good to us. Then we set to work to think out the next move.
As for myself, I had got on shore with little more than a packet of
letters, tied up with a rope yarn, and a copy of Byron’s poems. I have
them both now, but they were neither of any considerable value when the
world had to be faced in a shirt and trousers only.

Our friends on horseback came from a station near to Lake Albert. It
was some miles away, but we went there and were hospitably entertained
for days. We made occasional visits to what was left of the ship, and
were lucky in finding some boots and articles of clothing. These were
useful, as our hosts had begun to hint that it would be well if we made
a move to see what some other station’s damper and mutton were like.
Davies and I had tramped to Rivoli Bay, an old boiling-down station, to
see if any vessel was there, but not finding one we returned, and soon
afterwards we all set out for Port Macdonnel.

There were many amusing incidents in that trip. The news had travelled
that a party of sailormen were on the tramp, and at one station the
cook was exceeding wrath because his master had not given him notice
that we should be there for supper. He observed that the boss had done
it for spite, to take him unawares. “Just,” he said, “as if twenty-five
bally men could knock me out at any time!” I think his confidence was
not egotism, for we were well done, and the people from the big house
came down to the shed to look at us all.

Words fail me to convey the surprises of the next day’s tramp along the
bush paths. We passed emu in droves; the wallabys hardly troubled to
get out of the path; and to see the kangaroos cover the ground was a
constant source of wonderment. I do not know what the record kangaroo
high-jump is, but what we saw them do with apparent ease seemed
absolutely marvellous.

It must not be supposed that the period between the wreck and our
arrival at Port Macdonnel was only a few days. I should think it was
about a month. There were certain matters regarding wages that the
captain had to arrange with a great part of his crew, and he had to
ride to Mount Gambier to find some one to finance him, subsequently
meeting us at Port Macdonnel. My wages were no source of trouble to me,
for he had paid my fine and I was consequently in debt to the ship, but
with the others it was different. The skipper was the object of much
wrath when it leaked out that he was not in favour of our getting a
passage round to Melbourne by the coasting steamer, but preferred to
play into the hands of a road constructor who was anxious to secure
our services. One of the owners of the steamer was present when the
altercation was taking place, and solved the question by giving a
passage to those who wished to go. I shall always entertain a kindly
remembrance of that action by the gentleman in question, whose name
I think was Ormerod. This series of events led up to one of the
pleasantest times of my life. We got to Melbourne, for the steamer
went up the Yarra, and as many of us as wished were taken on to assist
in loading and unloading cargo. For this we were paid one shilling an
hour for eight hours’ work, and we lived at the sailors’ home. Strange
as it may seem, we were satisfied with our lot, and the pay sufficed
for all reasonable needs. When that particular ship was finished with,
however, Davies, Dowling, third mate of the _Troas_, and myself thought
it time to see about getting home again, and so, with our added store
of knowledge of various forms of life, we got down to Sandridge Pier to
look for a ship.


Sandridge Pier in those days was a beautiful sight to any lover of salt
water. It belonged to a period that will never again come round--the
time when ships were beautiful, and no pains were spared to make them
so. Steam had not then got all the passenger trade, and the ships of
Green, Wigram, Smith and Dunbar were the lineal descendants of the old
East Indiamen. They carried big crews, and they were mostly commanded
and officered by men who were splendid seamen as well as gentlemen.
The command of one of these vessels for a voyage extending over nine
months might be worth a thousand pounds; that was before the world
woke to the period of extreme competition. But beautiful though these
ships were, they only pleased the eye because they were to our belief
the embodiment of all that was the finest to be found afloat. Many of
the best specimens of them can be found to-day in various ports of the
world serving as coal hulks. When I made a trip to the docks some years
ago to see the _Essex_, it was difficult to believe that she was the
ship one had known teeming with life, brilliancy and smartness. She
was, I suppose, about 240 feet long, which was then considered a very
fair length for any sailing-ship.

What is known as “taking the time ball” was one of the events of the
day. A midshipman belonging to each vessel would be perched in some
prominent part of the poop of each ship, and in close proximity would
be the boatswain and his mates, ready to pipe to dinner and grog at
the instant the signal was given that the ball had dropped. The chorus
of pipes was a thing to hear and remember, as it was taken up by the
assembled ships; there was always a laudable ambition to be the first
ship to commence.

The names of the ships there escape my memory, but there was more than
one belonging to Money, Wigram & Co., and there was also a splendid old
frigate-built ship called the _Holmesdale_. I am not quite sure whether
the celebrated packet-ship the _White Star_ was there then, or whether
I came across her the next voyage, but both she and the _Champion of
the Seas_ were magnificent-looking vessels, and the captain of the
latter ship, Outridge, I think, was his name, was in appearance quite
in keeping with the name of his command.

The point I want to bring out is that these two last-mentioned ships,
fast sailers and “packet-ships” though they were, did not rank among
the aristocracy of the sea, such as the Blackwell ships proper were
then considered. They were regarded in the same manner as, ten years
later, a Union Steamship man would regard a Donald Currie ship. He
would throw a condescending glance upon a Donald Currie ship as much as
to say, “Very worthy, no doubt, but you are not _us_, although you try
your hardest to get the set of our sail covers and to keep your yards
decently square.” But of that more anon.

It appeared that the _Essex_ wanted two able and one ordinary seamen,
and as Dowling and I both wanted to ship as ordinary, Davies, who
was the wise man of the party, advised me to ship as A.B. As he put
it, “You want to get home, and they can only reduce your wages in
proportion to your incompetency.” Accordingly, when we had concluded a
satisfactory interview with the “first officer,” as he was styled, I
followed this advice. This first officer’s name was Gibbs. He turned
out to be a great favourite with all, and I can say with truth that the
forecastle hands tried their best to please him always out of sheer
personal liking. We used to speak of him as “Lady Jane.” He had his
valet with him, and on one occasion he sang “The Lost Child” in costume
and was much applauded. I met him years afterwards, on more level
terms, and I hope he retains as kindly a remembrance of me as I do of

Soon after taking up our quarters on board, we had our first lesson in
“Blackwall fashion.” Davies and I were on a stage on the ship’s side
busily painting when one of the Jacks put his head over: “Here, you
chaps, you’re doing too much work, that ain’t Blackwall fashion,” and I
must confess that we immediately complied with the regulation.

That ship, of 1042 tons about, carried captain, four mates, midshipmen
and apprentices, twenty-four able seamen, and a boatswain and two
mates. It was a fine crew, and could work the ship handsomely. It was
then considered that it took four A.B.’s to stow a topgallant sail,
but I have some recollection that upon one occasion Davies managed by
himself at the fore, where he was stationed as a foretop man. I was a
maintop man, and, being under the immediate eye of the officer of the
watch, had not that same freedom of action they enjoyed forward, and
yet I seem to remember some association between the game of euchre and
the maintop on fine afternoons.

The first night out on the homeward trip we had three topsails to reef
at once. It was well done and quickly, and, in the curious way in which
news gets forward, we learned that the old man was very pleased with
the way in which it was done, and said he never had a finer crew. And
let me here, as one of that crew, pay a tribute of respect to Captain
J. S. Attwood, who was in command of it.

The said crew was one such as I am thankful to say I never had to deal
with as a skipper. Almost without exception they were men holding
Board of Trade certificates of competency, having been runaways or
something of the sort. There was one man whom I had seen in command
of a sailing-ship in Adelaide, the _Jessie Heyns_, he was working his
passage in order to buy a ship in London. He did so, and afterwards
wanted me to go as second mate with him. Fine seamen as they were, the
men knew too much to be tractable. Their _bête noire_ was the third
mate. Now there are various ways of annoying officers. One punishment
that can be served out by a crew is not to sing out when hauling upon
the ropes in the night time. By the tone of the men’s voices it can
usually be learned in the dark what they are doing, but to shorten
sail with silent men was an ordeal that was spared me as an officer,
I am thankful to say. I learned a lot on that trip, however. For one
thing I cultivated the art of chewing tobacco, so that I might be able
to demonstrate undeniably to my people at home the fact that I was an
A.B., and could, therefore, spit brown with a clear conscience.

It is a curious thing how trifling incidents come back to the memory
when dealing with past events. There was one night the third mate had
already given rather more trouble than we thought he ought to have
done, when he put the finishing touch by giving the order to set a
lower studding-sail. The night was pitch dark, and we were being as
awkward and as slow as we knew how to be. The captain was on deck, and
ordered the third to go forward and see what the delay was caused by.
He did so promptly, and got a ball of spun yarn thrown at his head
by a hand unknown, on which he retired aft and told the skipper. Now
Captain Attwood was a man who feared nothing or no one, and he promptly
came to inquire who had “thrown a ball of spun yarn at his third mate’s
head?” Such was the temper of the men that the betting was very even
as to what he was likely to get himself; but after some talk of more
or less lurid hue, Davies solved the difficulty by saying, “Look here,
Captain Attwood, if you want the work done we can do it, but we are not
going to be humbugged round by that third mate of yours; now we’ll show
you how to set a stunsail.” And we did. But, as I said before, I am
glad that I never had such a crowd to deal with. This little incident
will serve to explain the temper of crews on the southern seas during
the ’sixties.

We rounded Cape Horn without any striking incident. It was winter
time, and beyond the clothes I stood in I had precious little. There
was, however, some sort of a sale on board, for I know that I got a
warm monkey jacket. We ran from the Horn to the line in under sixteen
days--a good passage--and off the western islands were becalmed for
some days with a number of other vessels, tea ships mostly, and vessels
of repute at that. But when once the wind began to make from the
westward, as it did, what a glorious spin home it was! The _Essex_ was
not loaded deeply, she had fine lines, and it took something to pass
her. In this case I think she was the second ship to dock, the winner
of the race being a ship called the _Florence Henderson_.

Blackwall dock at last, and my mother to meet me! I can see her
look of horror as I jumped on shore from one of the maindeck ports,
bare-footed, dressed in shirt and trousers, with a quid of tobacco in
my cheek that was intended to be obvious even to the casual observer!

It is a little remarkable how one’s views on the conventions change
with one’s surroundings.


  “All the way to Calcutty have I been, and seed nothing but
  one--banany. Howsomever, it was werry good, so I’m going back to
  have another.”--_Old Sailor Story._

Back once more to the house of Trapp & Sons in the Minories, where I
had to face Captain Hole, and “dree my weird.”

It was essential in my sea time for obtaining my certificate that I
should have four years of good conduct to show, and that could only
be obtained by the cancelling of my indentures, or serving out the
remainder of my time. Now Captain Hole had retired from the sea, having
put the late mate, Mr. Coleman, in command of the _Alwynton_, and was,
moreover, keenly bent upon getting a bit of his own back, so he utterly
declined to cancel my indentures and finished the discussion by saying,
“I know you like big ships; you have just come home in one in time to
go out in a small one. The _Lord Nelson_ is in Swansea, and you will
join her at once. If you had stayed in the _Alwynton_ you would have
gone away second mate of her this voyage. And that’s for saying ‘I
won’t’ to me.”

Well, there was no help for it, but there was a touch of “I told you
so” in Mr. Trapp’s private remark, “If you had paid your premium to me
I could have altered things.” There was also human nature in this, but
what Captain Hole got he kept, as he was part owner, and I proceeded to
Swansea to join my new craft as second mate.

A little barque of 247 tons, built by White of Cowes for a whaler, she
had made many voyages round Cape Horn and had just come home with a
cargo of copper ore. She was not in good repair and was to be refitted
and rigged with new wire rigging. I am not at all sure that this was
not a stroke of good fortune for me, for as the operation took some
months it gave me an opportunity of learning some of the tricks of the

There was a captain who lived on board with his daughter; his name was
Boisse, and he was very kind to me, for I lived in the mate’s berth
and messed in the cabin. At the same time I had the good fortune to
become acquainted with the family of a Captain Outerbridge, the master
of a copper ore ship, the _Glamorganshire_. They treated me as one of
themselves, and Tom Outerbridge and myself were inseparable. We both
had a great liking for the theatre, to which we treated ourselves to
the extreme limit of our purses. Wybert Reeve was then the manager of
the Swansea theatre; I met him more than twenty years later in New
Zealand and we talked over and remembered the actors and actresses of
the old days, but admiration for Kate Saville lingered even then.

Captain Hole paid frequent visits to Swansea to see how the work
progressed, and he was also paymaster. After some little time Boisse
went on leave, and that left a great deal more responsibility for me,
but I learned how caulking required to be watched when it was being
done by contract, and also mysteries connected with re-coppering and
rigging a ship. It was good useful work. So far as I can recollect
there were three riggers and myself, and I suppose that by that time
I considered that I could do a man’s work, as my ability to do so had
not been questioned in the last ship, and furthermore I had shown that
I could do a day’s work at carrying bags of wheat, which is a hardish

Whether there is the same zeal now concerning the details of their
calling among sailor boys as there was in my time I cannot say, but
we apprentices in the _Alwynton_ had always striven to learn all
we could about our business. Doubtless we were better in practice
than in theory, but we had certain text books that we hammered at
until we mastered the various difficulties that presented themselves.
Consequently I thought myself equal to sending anything aloft that
might be necessary, and naturally took a lead among the riggers. One
morning I learned a little more.

We were sending the foreyard aloft, and age and experience said that
two double blocks and a fall were the proper tackle to use--no, said
Youth, hook on a top block, reeve the end of a small hawser through it,
bend on to the yard, and we will take it to the windlass and heave away.

We did so, and hove the yard high enough, two men then going aloft to
shackle on the slings. It was a cold morning, and Youth, having held on
to the hawser while it was being hove on found his fingers cold, and
not suspecting harm, as there were many turns of it round the windlass
barrel, put it on the deck and stood on it while he warmed his hands.
Now this shows how a fine idea may miscarry by some absurd detail being
overlooked; in getting my feet on the hawser I suppose I had slacked it
slightly and the next thing I knew was being on my back, a vision of
flying rope, terrible swearing aloft, and the foreyard down across the
rails. I laugh as I recall the scene, but it might have been far more
serious. The lesson was learned, however, that a purchase was better
than a single rope, even if sufficient power could be applied. In this
particular case no harm was done, for as the mainstays set up right in
the eyes of her--they had eased the yard as it came down. It had been
a narrow thing for the men aloft, but they were good fellows and said
little after the first natural outburst.

Then there came an inventor from Whitstable and fitted the barque with
patent topsails of his own invention. I trust that Heaven may have
forgiven him by this time, but I freely confess that nothing will ever
induce me to do so. A good patent topsail, if there is such a thing
(which I doubt), may be a boon and a blessing. I can say a word or two
in favour of Cunningham’s patent, which is not so very bad, but this
particular patent in question must have been inspired by the spirit of
evil, who in some moment doubting his power over the destiny of the
souls of seamen, made assurance doubly sure as regards the future crews
of the _Lord Nelson_. These yards were awful things to work with and
had more weak points about them than even erring human nature.

By the time the ship was nearly ready for sea we received the new mate
on board. He was a great raw-boned Scotchman named McKinnon, a good
seaman, and not bad to get on with. His first introduction to his new
ship did not seem to impress him very favourably.

We loaded a cargo of coal to take round to Plymouth, where we were to
load for Australia, and with a scratch crew of ten all told we were
towed to sea. The skipper, Boisse, who had re-joined to take her round
the coast, observed, “Never mind about washing down to get the coal
dust from the deck, she’ll do that for herself when she gets outside.”
He showed a sound knowledge of her ways, for deep as she was it was
like being on a half-tide rock.

In due course we got to Plymouth, discharged a great portion of the
coal and commenced to load large iron pipes and machinery for Wallaroo.
It was mining gear of some sort, but, not being content with a fair
load, the skipper had some of the pipes filled in with coal to make
more room, the result being that the ship was loaded inordinately deep.

About this time, for some unexplained reason, there was a change of
skippers, and our new one was R. K. Jeffery. He was a most important
personage, with a great deal of the Methodist about him. There were
two or three apprentices and one Bob McCarthy, an ordinary seaman,
who was a friend of the owners. He was supposed to be suffering from
consumption and came to sea to be cured or killed. He was cured, as
it happened, and we were chums for the voyage, as he lived in the
deck-house with the carpenter and myself. The last I heard of him, some
years ago, was that he was in command of a steamer and doing well. The
apprentices disappeared from the ship before we put to sea.

This was early in the year 1866, and the winter season in the Atlantic
had been bad. It was shortly after the _London_ went down in the
Bay, and our anticipations of the trip were not hopeful. It will be
remembered that this was before Mr. Plimsoll began his celebrated
crusade, and, in point of fact, here was as fine an illustration of
overloading as any one could wish to see. So far as I know there was at
that time no check at all upon the amount of cargo a master or owner
might think fit to place on board, and I am sure that no one was ever
more entitled to the gratitude of seamen than was Samuel Plimsoll. His
method of procedure might have been crude, but the fact remains that
his book was a fair and just account of the usages of the sea at the
time it was written. Some years afterwards, when it came into my hands,
I found how closely my experiences coincided with his remarks.

This matter of overloading ships was a very vexed question, and “as
deep as a collier” is a proverb not altogether forgotten even to-day.
The evil now to some extent corrects itself, for a deeply-laden steamer
is always lightening herself by her coal consumption, but I am
confident that I could go to the docks to-day and point out first-class
steamers that would be overloaded if down to their Plimsoll mark, and
which, if they put to sea in the teeth of a bad breeze of wind, would
give considerable anxiety to those in charge of their navigation. Of
this, however, I may say more anon.

We put to sea loaded as deeply as possible, and had no great luck to
speak of, for after rounding Ushant the wind drew to the southward of
west and began to blow hard. The barque laboured heavily, commencing
to make a good deal of water. The pumps eventually got choked with
small coal and we had to bale the water out by buckets. This was only
possible because, owing to the nature of the cargo, the hold was not
full, and we were able to clear a way pretty deep down in the coal and
so keep the water under. Then the maintopsail yard (patent) carried
away, and that gave us more joy, and finally the men came aft to the
captain and demanded that he should put back to Plymouth or the nearest

To proceed with the voyage in our then condition would have been
impossible, but the old man did not yield with any good grace. The
crew, however, were worn out by constant work and want of sleep, and
there was nothing for it but to shift the helm, and hope we might be
fortunate enough to get to port. The decision to do so acted as a tonic
to all hands, and eventually we got back to Plymouth Dock to unload and
refit. To the best of my recollection the ship was by this time so down
by the head that the hawse pipes were almost level with the water, and
it was a mercy that any of us ever again set foot on shore. It is one
of the dispositions of Providence, however, that a danger once escaped
leaves no lasting or abiding cautions behind it, and perhaps in the
interests of adventure it is well that it should be so.

When the cargo was discharged and it came to clearing the ship’s hold,
we found that the spaces between the ship’s timbers as high as the
’tween-decks were filled in tightly and solidly with small coal, which
was very troublesome to extract. In fact, a great deal of the inner
planking of the ship had to be removed to get at it, but eventually it
was done, the cargo reloaded, the coal being omitted, and once more we
set out on the voyage.

There was nothing particularly striking on the passage out. The ship
was too deep to sail well, and the captain after rounding the Cape went
no further south than was necessary to get a westerly wind. He was
greatly distressed, however, at the erratic course the ship made when
she had a fair wind. Of course the mate declared that she was properly
steered in his watch, and I do not doubt it, but I was called into
the cabin, and inferentially informed that iniquities always occurred
on my watch, further that it was _always_ in the second mate’s watch
that things did go wrong. Neither of my mentors appeared to realise
that they had both been in the same position themselves, and that,
therefore, they must have suffered in their time from that particular
original sin of which they were now complaining.

So long as my connection with sailing-ships lasted I found that this
idea concerning the second mate was very firmly rooted (it would not,
of course, apply to the steamers in which I afterwards served), and
indeed it was not much to be wondered at. He was as a rule the least
experienced of the afterguard. He was necessarily thrown much among the
crew, for he had to serve out and be responsible for all stores, other
than food, used by the men. And he required to be a strong character
in addition to his muscular development if he hoped to obtain the same
respect and attention given to his superiors.

We arrived at Wallaroo after a long passage, and were moored alongside
the pier. It was not a comfortable berth, for the port was subject to
sudden strong winds known as “Southerly busters.” These came up against
the side of the pier and consequently the stern moorings were slip
ropes, which permitted the vessel to cast off and ride by the head
moorings, end on to the wind. The pier is probably strengthened by this
time, but in those days it was a very flimsy affair.

Our skipper was a man who used his head, and by his instruction the
mate had rigged a swinging derrick that discharged our cargo with ease
and safety. We then ballasted and set sail for Port Victor, where we
loaded a cargo of wool for Melbourne.

Before leaving Wallaroo, however, my old shipmate Hill of the _Essex_
tried very hard to get permission for me to transfer to a brigantine
which he owned and was in command of in Adelaide. We had inspected her
together in London, and he had then bought her, declaring I should be
second mate with him. He reckoned, however, without my skipper, who was
obdurate. Hill afterwards took the _Belle_ trading in the China Sea,
where he died suddenly, leaving a young wife on board.

Port Victor was a curious little place in those days. It had originated
as a boiling-down station. It was not much more than an open roadstead,
but it was sheltered by an island that afforded some protection at the
mouth of the bay. We had fair luck there and, loading our wool easily,
got to Melbourne, where we discharged at Williamstown, and ballasted.
There were many splendid ships in port--curiously enough again the
_White Star_ and _Champion of the Seas_, and also a celebrated Aberdeen
White Star liner _The Star of Peace_. Those ships were in a class by
themselves; they made very good passages, at times records, and were
kept up in first-rate style, I retain a vivid recollection of being
passed by one of them when bound up-Channel--but I will refer to that
in its proper order.

We beat down Melbourne harbour in charge of one of the smartest pilots
I ever saw. I am sorry I have forgotten his name, but the way he worked
that ship to windward was a very masterpiece of handling. He had,
moreover, a fairly biting tongue, and a vocabulary that was practically
inexhaustible if the least thing went wrong in tacking ship. We heard
a good deal of it, but we made a fair start for Point de Galle, and
nothing of moment happened on the passage.

It is not given to me to adequately describe the first smell of the
East. It is years since I last experienced it, and the thought arises
whether steam and modernity can have made serious inroads into the
characteristics of the Garden of the World? It is no use speculating
on that point, however. Here we were anchored off Point de Galle,
the smell of the land wind almost giving a sense of intoxication,
spice-laden as it came, the native catamarans darting about at an
astonishing speed, and what was of still greater interest to us, each
boat with a bunch of big yellow luscious bananas that we lost no time
in making acquaintance with. There again is a new experience, the first
taste of an East Indian banana is not a thing to be easily forgotten.
Let no one imagine that the forced and imported things we get in London
to-day can be compared to the fruit in its native state; as well
compare chalk with cheese!

We lay at anchor here some days, and I remember well seeing the largest
shark in my experience. He was blue with black spots and a square head,
and probably between eighteen and twenty feet long; in the clear still
blue water he looked an enormous brute.

Eventually the skipper came off and we got under way for Colombo,
where we were to load coffee for either New York or the Continent,
calling off Bahia for orders. This was indeed good news, and the work
of the ship went with a snap and a swing that made child’s play of it
until the novelty of being homeward bound wore off a bit.

It was the fashion when a ship was leaving to send a boat’s crew on
board from all the other vessels in harbour to help to work her out of
the anchorage. The skipper usually took charge of that job, and it was
a kindly and useful assistance which tended towards good fellowship
all round. At times a marvellous smartness would be developed, seeing
that no proper stations had been prearranged, but to help to get a ship
under way for home was always a pleasant experience.

Now it should be known that the one great day on a long voyage is
that on which one gets money and leave for twenty-four hours. It
was looked forward to most keenly, and afterwards served as a topic
of conversation until long afterwards. This particular leave was no
exception to the rule, and as I have not visited Colombo since I
shall always remember it for its intense beauty. There is only one
place with which I can compare it for beauty, and that is Rio. The
luxuriant vegetation made it appear as a sort of paradise to men who
had been cooped up in a small craft for months past. I suppose we
amused ourselves pretty much the same as sailors on shore usually do.
We chartered a conveyance and drove out into the country, we bathed
in a fresh-water lake, and generally disported ourselves like a lot
of overgrown school-boys, but on return to town, in some way or other
we made the acquaintance of certain bandsmen of the 25th Regiment and
found them very good fellows. They did their best to do the honours of
the place, and succeeded very much to our satisfaction. A dinner in the
evening in an open-air corridor attached to a big hotel completed my
enchantment, and I wanted to stay there and enlist in the “Borderers.”
My particular friend (by this time), a bandsman named Hibbert, with a
view to giving effect to this suggested that I should meet him after
the officers’ mess, when he would be free and would put me in the way
of doing so. I sat outside the officers’ mess on the other side of the
street and envied them. Eventually I was taken to a Sergeant Sinclair,
who invited me to his quarters and put me up for the night. I like to
put this action on record as typical of the kindness shown by men of
the services to youngsters when they get a little adrift. Before I
turned in, in a spotlessly clean bed which was a change indeed from my
usual quarters, he discovered that he had served in the 92nd under a
cousin of mine for whom he had the greatest respect and regard. Next
morning he said to me: “If I enlist you I shall get so much bounty
(I forget how much), but for your own sake I think you had better go
back to your ship. You very likely would work up to a commission, but
go home and see your friends before altering the idea of your life.”
Whether that was good advice or not I cannot say. Anyhow I took it, and
retain a grateful remembrance of the Sergeant’s kindness.

So it was back to the mill once more, and an end of all the pleasant
things that had been so tantalisingly held in view, back to the daily
round, the wretched food, and the discomfort of poor quarters in hot
weather with no chance of more shore leave.

Our cargo was being stowed by a gang of natives who lived on board at
the fore end of the ship. We took the bags in, they stowed them, and a
specially beautiful lot of coffee that was, in fact a rare consignment.
Every possible care was taken in its stowage, and no precaution was
neglected to ensure its safe carriage to its destination.

Our stock of ship’s bread or biscuit had run out by this time. It was
of the hard brown type that required a deal of cracking, and we were
rather pleased to take in a supply of native baked biscuits that at
the time we first tasted them were a great improvement upon the former
supply. But before we had been a month at sea they were simply swarming
with black weevils, little insects resembling ants.

Sailing day came, and with it the usual crowd of boats from the various
ships to help us out of port. On these occasions it was usual to offer
the visitors a glass of grog, but I cannot remember that the crew of
the _Lord Nelson_ ever had a taste of it, for none was put on board.
The advocates of so-called temperance can say what they please, but
the judicious administration of grog on board ship (sailing-ships
especially) will always have my support. In a wet weary world of toil
it frequently helps to put a more cheerful face upon a very drab

The commencement of the homeward-bound trip is always an occasion when
high spirits (animal, not spiritous) prevail. Yards were hoisted to
the tune of artistic chanties, for where a collection of sailing-ships
were gathered together each ship’s crew prided itself upon singing
some particular ditty better than any one else. This was reserved for
special occasions. The finishing pulls were given, hands were shaken
with cheery good wishes, the strangers dropped over the side into their
boats, and we were off under the most favourable auspices for a trip to
which we all looked forward.

As I am now writing of events that occurred forty-five years ago, and
as there are no notes to consult, I cannot pretend to remember more
than a fair share of detail, but that fact will not form a pretext for
drawing upon the imagination. We crossed the line and reached the
latitude of Mauritius without any event of note happening, but we were
conscious that it took longer to pump the ship out than it had formerly
done. Nothing to speak of, perhaps, but as we had a valuable cargo we
were naturally careful to eliminate any unnecessary chance of damage.

One evening we had a fine beam wind on the port side and the old man
was rather keen upon making the most of it. As he cracked on more and
more canvas the ship lay over a good deal. It was my first watch and
it was spent mostly at the pump, but when the mate relieved me at
midnight I was able to report that the ship had “sucked,” which was
equivalent to saying that she was pumped dry. Dry below she might have
been certainly, but as her starboard rail was more often under water
than not, on deck it was certainly more than a little damp. I had hung
on to the topgallantsails for my watch, and the mate now proceeded to
get these in. That, I suppose, was really the beginning of the trouble,
for we all, from the skipper down, should have known that a small old
ship would not stand being driven unfairly. But she had the reputation
for being strong and sound, and as she had been built by White of Cowes
the idea obtained was that there was on occasion a turn of speed to be
driven out of her.

The starboard watch now went below. The mainsail was stowed, and we
knew that the mate could handle the topsails if it became necessary to
reef down. This, indeed, was very soon done, as we could gather from
the various noises. We could also tell that she was wallowing into it,
and that a great quantity of water was being taken on deck. Before our
watch below expired “all hands” were called to take in the foresail.

It was blowing fairly hard, there was a good amount of sea running, and
the ship had a very dull, heavy motion that did not seem to be quite
right, but we got the foresail in, and went aloft to stow it. I had
learned by that time that it was well to make sure work of such things,
so as the gaskets on the lee side were rather insufficient I sent a man
down to let go the lee leach line so that I could use it as an extra

While I was busy over this the day was breaking, and I saw the mate
with the sounding line doing something at the pumps and making signs to
me to come down. At the same time it occurred to me that the ship was
rising very sluggishly to the sea. Even then the truth did not occur,
but as I got on the deck, the mate yelled in my ear, “There’s seven
feet of water in her.”

There are times when all men think alike, not frequently I will admit,
but this was one of those rare cases when no one proposed to argue the
point, and a rush aft was made for the mainbraces. The skipper was on
deck by this time, and he also appeared to acquiesce, for he had not
been specially called, and was unaware that anything out of the way was
happening. There was another strange occurrence; there was a black man
at the wheel--at least he was a black nigger when he went there--but as
he put the helm up his face had paled to some nondescript colour that
was certainly not black. I have never seen a similar case.

As we squared away the mainyard and the vessel got before the sea, the
next consideration was to get the pumps going, and this we proceeded to
do with a will, finding out as we did so that most of the stanchions
on the starboard side were sprung and that the water was fast pouring
into the hold. I am afraid that our saucy craft was not well fitted
to cope with an emergency; there was a wooden pump brake to work one
pump, but the double brake to work the two had for some time been used
aloft as a spreader for the outriggers at the main topmast head. I soon
nipped aloft, however, and got it down, and then we set to work in good
earnest to see what fate had in store for us.

We ran under close-reefed topsails and the sea was not much, now that
we ran before it, but our wake in the dark blue of the ocean was now
a sickly olive green. I doubt if so large a brew of coffee has ever
been made before or since. The water came up from the pumps green and
smelling of it, and it did not require much prescience to forecast that
the greater part of the cargo was hopelessly spoiled.

How long it took to clear the ship of water I do not remember;
fortunately the weather became fine and enabled us to lay our course
again--but the fact remained that in that eventful middle watch a
great part of the starboard bulwarks had been washed away, and on
the earliest opportunity as many men as could drive a nail and find
a hammer to do it with, clapped on and nailed some planks to the
stanchions for a makeshift, while the carpenter did his best to caulk
the openings in the covering board through which the water had got
below. But oh, what a mess it all was!

Naturally as soon as there was time to talk about anything, the
discussion arose as to who was responsible for it all, and equally
certain it was that the second mate was to be blamed if possible. I say
nothing against the time-honoured custom of cursing “that second mate,”
who has been held responsible for everything that has gone wrong from
the time of the Ark, but on this particular occasion I was not taking
the blame. It commenced this way: Quoth the skipper, “William, there
can be no doubt that this is all your fault, you could not possibly
have pumped the ship out properly in your watch.” My reply to this was
that I had left the starboard bulwarks intact when I went below, that
they had been washed away in the middle watch, and that if the mate
could not explain how the ship got half full of water, neither could I,
especially as he had had her for four hours to himself. That reasoning
appeared to be conclusive, for afterwards there was no endeavour made
to pile the blame upon me.

By the time we drew down to the Cape there was more pleasure in store
for us, inasmuch as all the biscuits on board had developed so great
a capacity for producing weevils that it began to be a matter for
speculation who would eventually consume the biscuits, the weevils or
ourselves? We generally tried to extrude the weevils before eating the
biscuits, but in this we were not always successful, and we acquired
the knowledge that they were very objectionable shipmates.

What a helping the Agulhas current is to homeward-bound ships! On this
occasion we were lying-to under a close-reefed maintopsail, and all
the time being set to windward thirty or forty miles a day directly on
our course. I remember perfectly being passed one Sunday by one of the
Natal traders called the _Alphington_, outward bound. She was carrying
every stitch of canvas with a beautiful fair wind and we were lying-to
under the shortest possible canvas. She reported us, however, when she
got to port, as having sustained damage. In due course we rounded the
Cape and drew up into the S.E. trades, heading for Bahia.

In most sea-going ships where a fair ship’s company is carried, there
are two cries or shouts from the poop or quarterdeck in the ordinary
routine, one is “Heave the log” the other “Trim the binnacle light.” In
this craft, however, in my watch I had to attend to the latter business
myself, and when the light required attention I would take it down the
cabin companion-way, and prick the wick up as required. One night
shortly after rounding the Cape I was doing this when in spite of all
I could do the light went out. I thought this was funny and got some
matches, but as I struck them they went out also. Then I took the lamp
and matches into the deck-house, where I slept, and had no difficulty
in lighting up. It puzzled me considerably why lamp nor match would
burn below, when suddenly the thought arose--where a light won’t burn
a man can’t live, so I went below and with difficulty aroused the mate
and then the skipper. They both took a deal of awakening before I got
them on deck, and then we came to the conclusion that the gas generated
by the decaying coffee in the hold had found a vent into the cabin,
which had it not been discovered in time would in all probability have
been fatal to life. The skipper slept in a hammock on deck between
there and New York, and the mate took very good care that the skylight
was kept open and a windsail run into his berth.

The pinch of hunger was by this time telling on us all--even the
rats--and I have repeatedly woke up when sleeping with bare feet in
warm weather and disturbed a rat that was making a light meal by
nibbling the hard skin from the soles of my feet. It was some time ere
I discovered how it was that at times my feet became so tender. The
failure of bread at sea is a disaster hard to overcome.

On this passage the chief point of interest to me was on the evening I
went to the skipper to announce the fact that I was “out of my time.”
I then discovered for certain what I had long suspected to be the
case, that the old man must be a Methodist with leanings towards the
pulpit, for the sermon he gave me was long enough and dull enough to
have run into “fourteenthly and lastly.” He wound up by advising me not
to forget the night I was out of my time, and I have carried out that
instruction religiously.

We called off Bahia and received orders to go to New York to discharge
our cargo. We arrived there without any further adventure, and as the
crew were entitled to be paid off at the port of discharge the able
seamen all left, only the mate and the cook remaining.

What a sight did the hold present when the hatches were removed! Not a
sound bag of coffee remained. The greater part of it was dug out with
shovels, and altogether it was one of the most deplorable losses that I
have come across at sea.

New York in those days had a lawless atmosphere, and revolver shots
could be heard on the river pretty frequently throughout the hours
of darkness, for thieves were daring in the pursuit of plunder, and
a night watchman if he did his duty on board a ship (ours did) had
need be a very determined and plucky man to hold his own. We were not
molested, however, and after our cargo was discharged we proceeded to
load resin and timber of sorts, for the run home to London.

Let me mention here as a matter of interest that during this visit
to New York we saw the celebrated sailing-ship _Great Republic_. She
was then laid up, but I well remember that her decks were temporarily
covered with loose planks, in order to preserve them from the weather.
She was an enormous vessel, and carried a crew of 100 men. She must
then have been near the end of her career, for she was built early in
the ’fifties and a life of fifteen years was a long one for a soft-wood

At this time, too, steam had not entirely driven the sailing passenger
ship from the Atlantic trade. Whether I ever saw the celebrated
_Dreadnought_ I cannot quite remember, but she was then in her prime
and had made passages across more than once in ten or twelve days.
It was generally a very rough life on the Atlantic, and whether in
steam or sail, canvas was carried to its extreme limit. There were in
existence a class of mates who were prime seamen and fighting men in
addition. The crew were a very hard-bitten lot too, but a reputation
once earned in that trade was not easily forgotten, and when a man
shipped in a western ocean packet, he was generally pretty well
cognisant of the treatment he was likely to receive on board. That
particular trade had its customs, and its laws, though unwritten, were
none the less binding. It had its own rough code of honour too. I shall
deal later on with a few of the methods that were put in practice in
order to ascertain just exactly how far a crew would be allowed to take
liberties, but I want to get home again in this chapter.

We filled up with the necessary number of “packet rats” as they were
called, for the run home, and I saw these men come on board with
great curiosity. They were a queer-looking lot, but fine big fellows,
not extravagantly burdened with clothes, and with faces that carried
plainly the marks of many a scrapping-match. But here the rough code of
honour came in. These men found themselves in a little quiet peaceable
ship, and they consequently did not consider it compatible with their
ideas to make trouble where they could have had it all their own way.
They behaved as decently as any men I have been shipmates with.

We had also on board some new stores for the trip, and it was possible
to eat the biscuits, seasoned only with the remembrance of the weevils
of the last lot. Still bad food will eventually tell upon the best
constitution, and it took some considerable time for me to shake off
all the ill-effects; in point of fact when I landed in London I had a
hole in my leg that one could have put a small egg inside.

The fates were good to us and we made a fair run across. With the first
smell of the Channel away went the remembrance of all troubles, and
eventually the ship was docked and I stepped on shore from the _Lord
Nelson_ “out of my time” and a free man.

This, however, was, as I fully recognised, only the beginning of
things. My kind friends nursed and fed me back to a decent state
of health, and then came the ordeal of getting my second mate’s
certificate. In this connection I should like to pay a tribute to the
memory of a good and clever man, the late John Newton, master of the
Navigation School in Wells Street. He was tireless and unremitting in
his endeavours to impart information, and his patience with pupils of
all sorts was a thing to be gratefully remembered.

I had, of course, been preparing myself at sea to the best of my
ability for the anticipated ordeal, and it may perhaps have been that
knowledge that led me to pay less attention than I might have done to
the advantages offered. I suppose it was a recrudescence of the spirit
which earned me three thrashings a day at school, but Newton’s patience
was equal to the test, and his kindness was inexhaustible, although I
was generally the ringleader in any attempt to adjourn the day’s work.

But there was now another factor in the equation, and that was the
Board of Trade. Let me say here, for the benefit of any young reader
whose eyes may fall upon these lines, that the anticipation of an evil
is far worse than the reality, but at the same time I do not wish to
belittle the ordeal through which I now had to pass.

It is needless to say that before examining a candidate for a
certificate, certain certificates of service and sobriety are required,
and the Board has the necessary machinery for verifying such
certificates. Hence when I went to put my papers in, it was discovered
that I had deserted from my ship, and I was informed that to purge so
heinous an offence it would be necessary to petition the Board. It
did not by any means follow that the petition would be granted, but
in this case, helped by my friend Newton, I got my petition through
successfully, and I was ready to face the music.

There were certain examiners in navigation and seamanship for the Board
of Trade whose names were well known--some with terror--to the aspiring
youths of the Mercantile Marine; but there were two who possessed
a reputation for severity that was somewhat phenomenal. Personally
speaking in all my examinations I got the fairest of fair play, but
it does not follow that others may not have suffered. Human nature is
not infallible, and some people would try the patience of a saint.
Further I have seen officers going up for their certificates dressed
so untidily and badly that if they created a prejudice they had only
themselves to thank for it. One case in particular recalls itself to me
as an illustration.... The man in question had been a brother officer
of mine, and I liked him. He was also a gentleman, but he went up
looking as though he had been rolled in a hayloft, and came back failed
and cursing his examiner--instead of his own folly.

The two undoubted dwellers on the threshold of certificated competency
were Captains Noakes and Domett. The former had been in the East
India Company’s service, and I should imagine had been a leader of
men. I had, therefore, many qualms when on the day of examination
the usher opened the door of the waiting-room and informed me that
“Captain Noakes is now waiting for you, sir.” My inmost reflection
was, “Shall I make a meal for him or not?” That feeling did not last
long, however. He asked me a few questions about rigging gear for
hoisting out weights, then about handling canvas, and it was done in
so conversational a manner that one had rather the feeling of enjoying
it. Finally we discussed shortening sail as per Falconer’s _Shipwreck_,
with a few other trifles of a like nature, and I heard him say that
he did not intend to put more questions, that I had passed a good
examination, and where would I like my certificate issued? To which I
promptly replied Ramsgate and bowed myself out, with a feeling that the
world was now a ball at my feet. As I write these lines I have the firm
knowledge that the ball has been me--but nevertheless it is good to
remember that the world was young once, and there were things to strive
for, with the store of energy necessary to secure them.

In due course I got back home to Margate, and walked the pier and
jetty with some of my old friends the boatmen, who having known me as
a boy were now inclined to regard me as being rather a credit to them.
I went to Ramsgate, received my certificate from the collector of
Customs there, who was kind enough to assure me that I should have no
difficulty in obtaining employment. In thanking him I was content to
accept his assurance, which, however, I found afterwards was a somewhat
optimistic one.


    “Oh, we’re bound for Mother Carey where she feeds her chicks at

It was one thing to be assured by my friend the collector of Customs
that I should never be in want of employment, and quite another part
of speech to find a ship. I have a very distinct recollection of the
trouble I had to get suited. Without any influence in the shipping
world berths were not easy to obtain, and many a long day did I pass
prowling round the various docks before success attended my efforts.
What the procedure of others was I know not, but mine was to pick out
a good-looking ship and then get into conversation with some one on
board her to ascertain if she had a second mate. Of course this action
would be useless in well-established lines, for they would promote
their own men, but an outsider was all I could aspire to, as I was not
sufficiently pleased with my late owners to apply to them for help.

One day my eyes lighted upon a very handsome little iron ship lying
in the London Docks. I thought her a beauty, and on closer inspection
discovered her name to be _Lord of the Isles_; she was not the
celebrated tea clipper of that name, which ten years previously had
beaten the Yankee vessels in the race from Foo Chow to London. There
was this similarity, however, that she was built at Greenock by Steel,
while the earlier ship was built by Scott of the same place. Anyhow she
was a little beauty, and, when I went to try my luck, I was fortunate
enough to find the captain on board, and to get into conversation with
him. I think we took rather a liking to each other, for without much
trouble I secured the berth of second mate. The ship was loading for
Adelaide, and it transpired that the owner was anxious the ship should
make a quick passage, for I well remember Mr. Williamson of the firm
of Williamson and Milligan saying to me, “Mind, Mr. Second Mate, we
expect the ship to make the passage of the season.” I rather liked that
remark, for it seemed to give a share of responsibility to so very
humble an individual as myself, and, indeed, as a matter of policy, or
humbug, it might be well if people in authority realised more than many
of them do, how a junior is “bucked up” by a word of encouragement. I
can moralise over this now that the opportunity of putting the precept
into practice has passed away, but I cannot remember that I was ever
very sympathetic to my subordinates when I had them.

And while dealing with ethics, let me add the note of utility, and
suggest to any young man the desirability of keeping some notes of his
life’s events. There is no need to go into detail, but for one engaged
in such a calling as the sea a chronological note-book will in many
cases save an infinity of trouble. Even now as I pen these lines I find
the want acutely of some record that would fix dates and aid memory,
for it entails an enormity of trouble to get together the necessary

My new captain was James Craigie, a Scotchman, I think, from the
kingdom of Fife, and there were two apprentices on board from the
same town. I remember their Christian names were “Wully” and Peter.
Occasionally the old man engaged them in broad Scotch conversation,
presumably lest they should forget their native dialect, for they
were _broad_ Scotch, and the skipper was proud of the fact. Captain
Craigie was a fine seaman and a skilled and scientific navigator. He
had no notion of what fear was, and although he suffered from an
absurd affliction that eventually killed him he was tireless in doing
everything that he conceived to be his duty to his owner. But--and it
was a big but--he had little notion of what discipline was, and perhaps
the education I got on that ship was useful to me afterwards. It is
all very well to be on familiar terms with those you control, but you
require to be very careful how you set about it. However, I think we
most of us learned things on that voyage.

The mate was a little Welshman named Jones, not a bad sort, but there
was a certain natural antipathy between him and that which was the
fact. He was a poor hand at keeping order amongst the men, and, all
things considered, it was hardly matter for surprise that we had the
trouble we did.

At that time there was a good deal of difficulty with the crews of
outward-bound ships. The glamour of carrying canvas was very great.
There were the traditions of the _Marco Polo_ with Bully Forbes in
command; the Black Ball liners such as the _Red Jacket_ and her kindred
ships; the _Donald McKay_, and others where it was the custom to say,
“What you can’t carry you must drag,” all of which entailed an immense
mastery over the crews. In the vessels I have mentioned there was a
lot of hard usage, and the masters and mates were mostly young men who
could fight, and occasionally use a belaying-pin with decent effect.
But, as with the western ocean men, there were certain able seamen who
habitually sailed in fighting ships by choice, and if they by chance
got with a peaceable crowd of officers they might or might not behave
themselves, as the fancy took them. Our crew contained a fine lot of
men physically, and there was no doubt that the old man intended to get
the utmost out of his ship, which was a smart craft and a good sailer.

We had rather a dusting during the beat down-Channel. I got her into
one mess through hanging on too long to the topgallantsails, but a mild
reproof was all that I suffered, and a youngster must often pick up his
experience at the expense of some one else. We made very fair progress
on the way south, and the skipper stated his intention to go well south
and make a passage if possible.

One clear morning we were about due south of the Cape of Good Hope,
running under all the canvas we could carry and making about thirteen
knots, when we sighted our first iceberg. It was about eight bells, and
the whole of the forenoon we made towards it, passing it shortly after
noon. In size and shape it reminded me of St. Paul’s cathedral. Modern
Antarctic explorers tell us that the size of these southern bergs have
been greatly exaggerated, but as we saw this particular berg more than
fifty miles off it cannot have been a very small one.

For some days after this we constantly saw ice. One Sunday afternoon,
my watch on deck, it was misty, and we continually sighted the heads
of bergs in more or less close proximity. There was a strong following
wind, but the old man took in the mizzen-royal and crossjack, and,
telling me that he had snugged the ship down for me, went below to
sleep the sleep of perfect peace. With the gaudy confidence of youth,
however, this did not give me any immediate concern.

But we did carry canvas, and I should hesitate to say how many
topmast-stunsail-booms we carried away. We had got into a streak of
fair wind, varying from N.W. to S.W., and made the most of it. The
watch on deck was frequently occupied with draw knives helping the
carpenter make new booms to replace those that went, but after a few
days of this work it began to pall upon the crew, who lacked the
accustomed stimulus to their exertions as supplied by a “heftier”
school of mates, and for some days the men would not come out of the
forecastle. The ship in the meantime was worked by the apprentices and
afterguard. This was not an uncommon occurrence at the time, and should
have been cured by the administration or threat of a few leaden pills,
but before the old man made up his mind to apply this remedy the crew
turned to again. They had secured a store of biscuits, but were unable
to cook anything below, and this brought them to reason.

In the last chapter I mentioned the sort of custom that existed when
there was any serious friction between the men in the forecastle and
any particular officer. If action was deliberately decided upon, the
development would be something on the following lines. At 4.30 a.m. it
was the custom for the watch on deck to have their morning coffee. This
is a sustenance that is very greatly appreciated in all ships, and I
can remember that my friend Mr. Clark Russell enlarges more than once
in his inimitable books upon its advantages. At 5 a.m. when the watch
commenced to wash decks, one man would come aft to relieve the man at
the wheel to go and get his coffee. I have not previously mentioned
the custom of the sea which reserved the weather side of the poop for
the captain or officer of the watch, whichever might be in possession
(if the captain came on deck the officer of the watch would cross
over to the lee side), but by reason of this custom if a man were out
looking for trouble he would attempt to come aft on the weather side
of the poop to relieve the wheel. The officer of the watch would then
meet him at the head of the poop-ladder with, “Go up the lee side,
you ----;” that is left blank for the reader to fill in the precise
amount of profanity or warmth that had been previously generated,
and consequently brought about the breach of the peace which was now
certain to follow. Curious ways sailors have!

Well, in that telepathic manner in which news spreads on board ship,
the hands got to know that I was not a believer in half measures where
refractory men were concerned, and my watch laid themselves out to see
how much trouble they could give me. They really succeeded in a most
creditable manner, and the result of a little difference of opinion
that became manifest, concerning the setting of a lower stunsail
one middle watch, was that when the mate came on deck to relieve
me he found me insensible and covered with snow. I had been rather
badly manhandled, and when next I looked at my face in the glass it
was not by any means a thing of beauty; in fact, I carry the scars
to-day. Worst of all they were very manifest when I had to again face
my refractory watch, but there was no help for it; we were making a
splendid passage, and the old man was for peace at any price.

We made the run from the meridian of the Cape to Adelaide in twenty
days, which was very fair work, and duly docked the ship and started to
discharge cargo. There was, however, to be another unpleasant little
episode before the crew were finished with, and to this day I laugh
at the remembrance of the mate’s coat-tails streaming behind him as
he rushed forward one afternoon with a hammer in his hand, to take
vengeance on some man who had aroused his ire. I forget what it was all
about, but the men came aft in a body bent on mischief. The ship was
alongside the wharf, the old man was on shore, and there was a crowd
of onlookers from other ships, when the mate left to fetch the police.
I was being roughly handled, but putting up the best fight I could,
when, seeing the captain of another ship looking on, I shouted to him
to ask what I was to do. “Get a cutlass and smash their skulls for
them,” was the answer I got, and with one in my fist I escaped further
trouble. The police came down and marched the lot off to jail, and on
the next day I fancy they got three months a-piece. There was a Captain
Douglas, R.N., acting as one of the magistrates on the bench, and he
appeared highly interested in learning the manners and customs which
had obtained on board the _Lord of the Isles_.

Our stay in port after this was most agreeable; I renewed acquaintance
with many old friends, and when it was time to depart did so with
regret. There is a certain great artist alive to-day, who may remember
an episode concerning a letter and an old boot. Do you, Mortimer
Menpes? I have not forgotten.

Some pains were taken to get a decent crew together. We were towed to
the outer anchorage, there to await their arrival, for we were to sail
for Newcastle, N.S.W., in ballast and then take a cargo of coal for
Manilla, where we were to load for home. The mate and I had by this
time made up our minds that if there was to be any more hammering done
we were not intending to play the passive part.

It is very curious how these things happen. The cook was the only bit
of the old leaven that was left, and there was no love lost between
him and the steward. The first morning we were at anchor outside, the
steward, who was a very good-looking fellow, went forward to the galley
to get early morning coffee for the mate and me. While it was preparing
in the customary saucepan, the cook blew upon the rising steam to see
if the preparation was boiling.

“Don’t blow on the coffee, cook,” said the steward.

“Shall if I like!” replied the cook.

The steward gave a hitch up to his trousers, and the cook brought the
saucepan of hot stuff down on the steward’s head, cutting it open, and
sending him aft badly hurt and much scalded. The cook then proceeded
to sharpen his knife on the grindstone for the edification of those
whom it might concern. It did not help him much, however, for the mate
told me to put him in irons, and that I promptly did, using only such
arguments as were really necessary.

That day the old man came off with the crew, and we got under way,
settling all little unpleasantnesses as we went. To make a long story
short, there was only one more case of trouble during the voyage. I
found it necessary on one occasion to stretch a man out, and the old
man, who was looking on barefooted and dressed in his usual rig of
shirt and trousers, kept up by one brace, quietly knocked a broom off
the handle and giving me the stick observed, “Now baste him until
there isn’t a whole ‘bane’ in his body.” I did not altogether obey the
injunction, but that was the last of any trouble.

The experience of a coal cargo is not a pleasant one, but there were
quite a lot of fine ships in Newcastle on a similar errand to ours.
We got away with fair expedition and made the eastern passage up to
Manilla, where every basket of coal that came out of the main hatch
was tipped over the side by me. Work of that sort in a blazing sun is
a fair test of endurance; however, it was done, the holds cleaned, the
ship watered and loaded for home with sugar. Then we had a day’s leave
on shore. The place that all the skippers and mates who came to visit
us expressed a wish to see was the cigar manufactory, but it appeared
to be a difficult matter to obtain the necessary permission. When I got
on shore (I had a brass-bound coat, as was the fashion then for young
mates to wear if they fancied themselves) the comprador got me a pony
and I started out to the manufactory. There were soldier sentries at
the entrance, but no difficulty was made about admitting me. I was
shown into the presence of some high official, offered white sweet
cake and wine, then a cigar, and was taken over the factory. Whether
the same plan of manufacture is carried on to-day I know not, but the
pounding of the tobacco leaves with flat stones, by women or girls, on
thin wooden tables made a deafening noise, comparable to very noisy
machinery. Of the courtesy shown me I can only speak in the highest

I was also very successful in regard to my mid-day meal, to which I was
directed by a monk from the window of some religious house, who heard
me inquiring after the manner of Englishmen. When Admiral Dewey sailed
into Manilla Bay, I know that I remembered the stately courtesy I had
there experienced and felt sorry that the modern world had broken in
upon it. We all know that it is no trouble for a Spaniard to die as
a brave man should, but to have modernity thrust down his throat, at
the sacrifice of his life’s teachings, entitles him to the sympathy of
every Briton who cherishes his own hereditary rights and privileges.

At the time of year that we were at Manilla the wind blew pretty
constantly down the harbour; it was consequently a fair wind out, and
the custom obtained there to some extent of helping another ship to get
under way. There was one point of seamanship over which much argument
took place, and this was whether, getting under way with a fair wind,
it was the correct thing to leave the afteryards square, or to fill
them as soon as possible. I could argue it either way myself, but it
was a source of never-failing criticism whichever way was adopted. In
our case the afteryards were left square.

Our run down the China Sea was a pleasant one, through Gaspar Straits
and so down to Sunda, where we were becalmed for ten days, to the
intense exasperation of every one. Even the supply of the mangosteen
procured at Anger Point did not compensate for this. Lest it should
seem that I overrate the charms of fresh fruit, let me say that no
one who has not eaten mangosteen is qualified to form a fair opinion.
Unfortunately, the fruit is so delicate it hardly stands carriage, for
I have never seen one away from its place of growth. It is, however,
probably the daintiest and most delicious fruit that grows.

Once clear of the Straits, our good fortune returned to us and we
made a fine run across to the Cape. The ship was rapidly fouling, but
the old man hung on to the canvas with all his wonted pertinacity,
and very little wind got past us that could be put to any use.
As an instance, once in a morning watch I was keeping, I saw a
foretopgallant-studdingsail depart in its entirety; tack, sheet
and halliards parted at the same moment, and where the sail went I
never saw. It was the only time such an occurrence took place in my
experience, but it gives an idea of how canvas was carried.

In due course we got to Queenstown, and, getting orders for London,
arrived at St. Katherine’s dock without further incident. I was not
anxious to make another trip in that ship as I wanted to see other
fashions, so took my discharge and went down home once more. I parted
from Captain Craigie with regret, for I had profound respect for him,
and he had helped me on the passage home to coach myself for my first
mate’s examination.

That was the next thing to encounter, so once again to John Newton and
the Wells Street associations! This time I stayed at the Sailors’ Home
while passing, and spent my spare time looking for a ship. The details
of this examination do not seem to have left any lasting impression
upon me. I got through all right, and passed in seamanship before
Captain Domett, but I remember there were one or two critical moments
when my certificate seemed to waver in the balance.

Then began once more in earnest the search for a ship that was to my
liking. There was in those days a place frequented by shipowners called
the “Jerusalem.” I was never clear as to what went on there exactly,
but one of the officials was a Mr. Paddle, and to him I took a letter
from a friend. By this interposition I secured a berth as second mate
in a tea clipper called the _Omba_, belonging to the firm of Killick &

The _Omba_ was a fine composite built ship of about eight hundred
tons, well found in all respects, and altogether I was not displeased
with my bargain. But she turned out to be by no means the ship of my
aspirations, for I often found myself wondering why it was not possible
for officers of a ship to carry out their duties in a gentlemanly
manner. I had seen that the officers in the _Essex_ were gentlemen and
could do their work, and I hoped it might be my good fortune to again
sail in a ship where the decencies of life might receive some little
attention. There was some show of refinement in the ship, but not much,
although nothing was wanting to secure it but the will.

The skipper was an Englishman hailing from close to Deal; the mate
was a Scotchman, herculean in size and apparently simple in manner on
first acquaintance. This simplicity, however, disappeared as the ship
left the dock, and he stood revealed as big a hustler as it had been my
fortune to come across--a voice like a bull, dauntless courage, and in
the technique of his calling with little if anything to learn. I have
seen him swing the deep sea lead (thirty-two pounds) over his head with
two fathoms of line for drift, and it will be realised that this was no
common accomplishment. At all events I could not do it; in fact I did
not try, nor did any other man in the ship, but when he started to go
aloft, _via_ the main tack and up the weather leaches to the main royal
yard, it became necessary for me also to acquire that accomplishment,
at all events if my end of the stick was to be properly supported. And
in the end I think that at that particular game I beat him. We were
never on cordial terms, for I was not his sort, and curiously enough
both he and the skipper resented my holding a certificate superior
to my rating. In fact, the old man once observed, “Look here, Mr.
Crutchley, you seem to think that mate’s certificate of yours makes
you a gentleman: there’s only one gentleman in this ship, that’s me;
if there’s to be another then it’s the mate, not you!” That statement
appeared to me to be quite adequate, and not to be controverted.

There was, however, a third mate with whom I did associate. Tom Boulton
was a nice boy, and we had much in common. Further, he liked the same
books that I did. It is many years since I saw him, but I know he rose
to the command of fine sailing-ships, afterwards setting up in some
business on shore. Of all those I knew in the sailing-ship days he is
the only survivor that I have recently been in touch with. As for the
rest of the crew, there were some boys living in the half-deck with
the warrant officers. I think they were special lads, more or less
friends of the owners and well born, but long years afterwards, when I
commanded a steamer, I saw a certain foolish expression on the face of
my boatswain, and my mind went back, prompting the question, “Were you
ever in the _Omba_?” I knew I recognised that expression. He was one
of the boys; his father was a doctor, but he himself only a waster who
could never do any good for himself or any one.

About this period the theory of compass compensation for local
attraction was understood by the few, and composite ships were supposed
to be more difficult to adjust than iron or steel ones. So we made fast
to the buoys off Greenhithe while the operation was being gone through,
afterwards making the best of our way down-Channel in charge of a pilot
whom we landed off the Isle of Wight. The wind soon after this came out
from the westward, and we had the pleasure of working her down-Channel
in company with many other biggish ships. I remember one we were often
in company with--she was called the _Liberator_, and she sailed well.
We had the misfortune to knock the mast out of a trawler somewhere off
the Start; I do not think it was our fault, though I doubt not the ship

It fell to me to write the letter to the owner describing the
circumstances, and how it occurred, for the old man was not fluent with
his pen. I shall later on give an instance of how letter-writing was
regarded by many masters.

During the first part of the passage out there was no particular
incident, save that we boarded a little schooner in order to send
home letters. She was a Spaniard, and the skipper was as polite as
his countrymen usually are, begging me to accept the present of a box
of cigars, which, needless to say, I was glad to do. It was my first
experience of boating on a line swell, and it came as a surprise.

We made a fair passage through the Trades and commenced to run the
Easting down. The skipper decided to run through the Straits of Sunda
and up the China Sea in preference to the eastern passage, but that
did not hinder him from getting well down into the “roaring forties.”
As a general thing no one minded much being up to the waist in water,
but higher than that was unpleasant, for it induced a suggestion of
swimming that had its drawbacks.

The ship had fine bulwarks, nearer six feet high than five, and she was
fairly deep in the pickle too, but the way she took the water over in
heaps when she was running was uncomfortable. There was no fuss about
it, but just one steady cataract, that at times gave the relieving
ports all they could do to get clear of it before another lot came
along. I am not going to say that at any time she was filled up to the
top of the bulwarks, but it seemed very much like it, and I do not
believe we took the maintopgallantsail in while we were down south,
for the old man carried canvas like a hero. Our best day’s run was 335
miles--a very respectable performance, but it was fortunate there was
no ice about.

Up through the Straits of Sunda and the smooth tract of sea immediately
north of them, which always struck me as being so eminently quiet and
peaceful. The passage through Gaspar Straits was not looked forward to
by many masters with much pleasure, but I suppose that with steam all
its difficulties have disappeared. We had only to anchor once, but when
we got higher up the sea into the Bashee Channel we caught something
that was worth having from the point of view of experience.

I cannot state the exact position of the ship when this happened,
seeing that I did no navigation save an occasional star latitude when
the skipper wanted one, but it was somewhere in the Bashee Channel
and the wind blew from one direction only--I think it was N.N.E. We
took in bit by bit every scrap of canvas down to a lower maintopsail
and a mizzen-staysail; in due course both these sails disappeared in
rags, and it was a brand-new maintopsail too. It was blowing far too
hard for a big sea to get up, but at times a vicious one would come
along and smash something; for instance, one hit her on the starboard
bow and started the knight-heads--a very curious accident. There she
lay for the better part of twenty-four hours without a rag of canvas,
and heeling over about a steady forty-seven degrees--(I may say that
a clinometer I had rigged early on the trip was regarded as one of my
fads). I suppose the rain also helped to keep the sea down, but on
one occasion I saw the watch at the pumps fairly overwhelmed, and I
scarcely expected to find any of them left.

At last it ended. The ship came upright, we got canvas on her, and
found that we were not very far from land. It is really comical the
manner in which sailors take things for granted. I should not have
dared to ask the skipper to see the chart, and had we all known of the
danger it would have done no good, so perhaps it was for the best.

The following story I believe to be true, it was told me by Captain
Ballard, C.M.G., in these words: “Once in a cyclone the ---- was off
Mauritius; we could not help ourselves, and I saw we must be swept upon
---- Island, when it would all have been over. I went aft to tell the
people in the saloon, but stopped half-way; I thought it could do no
good, and would only worry them before it was necessary; but she was
either swept over the island by the tidal wave or else we missed it.”

But what an awful mess that ship was in; as a rule she was spic and
span, the acme of neatness, but now a survey of our state was pitiable.
The laniards of the lower rigging on the lee side were so chafed that
it was doubtful if they would last to port, and altogether the rigging
had suffered greatly. But Providence was good to us, and we got in
without much more trouble, although it was a beat up the China Sea.

When I speak of the customary neatness of our rigging I in no way
exaggerate. As an instance of my meaning, most people know that to
save chafe on the backstays in the way of the lower yards, wooden
battens are usually seized to the backstays. That was far too rough a
method for us. We had the backstays served with unlaid strands of wire
rigging, and if any one wishes to try his hand at putting that on, he
is welcome to the job so far as I am concerned, for it came to my lot
frequently to have to show men that the operation of serving with stiff
wire was a possible one.

It was early winter when we arrived at Shanghai and fairly cold.
There were a lot of ships in the harbour, and among them was the
_Lauderdale_, of which George Davies was now mate. We renewed our
friendship, and had lots to talk over. I think he obtained command of
that ship on her next voyage, and was never again heard of. There was
also a ship called the _Loudoun Castle_, whose skipper had the dire
misfortune to incur the enmity of our mate, which led to disagreeables
for the following absurd reason. A party of skippers were with our old
man talking in the cabin, and the topic of discussion was the writing
of letters home to the owner, an operation sometimes considered a
difficulty. One of the guests happened to say that when he wrote home
he turned the mate out of the cabin, imagined he had the owner opposite
him, and then wrote as if he were speaking to him. There was no great
harm in that, one would say, but our mate heard it, and attributing it
rightly or wrongly to the captain of the _Loudoun Castle_, made it a
personal matter that a mate should be asked to leave the cabin. There
was considerable trouble over the matter, and I very stupidly went to
a lot of trouble to make peace in a business in which I had no concern

We discharged our cargo in due course, and in spite of the bucketing
we found there had been no leaking or damage to speak of. Then we
commenced preparing for the homeward cargo of tea. Now, as all people
know, tea is a very light commodity, and the ship had to be ballasted
to stiffen her. The second mate is supposed to supervise the stowage,
but in this case the mate did. To save space he did not leave a
sufficient thickness of ballast on the turn of the bilge, and so some
tea was spoiled. I heard afterwards it was put down to the fault of
“that second mate,” although I had nothing whatever to do with it. It
is one of the prettiest operations conceivable to see Chinamen stowing
a cargo of tea--great heavy mallets are used, and the tiers are built
up with almost mathematical accuracy.

We carried several boats bottom upwards on skids, and these were filled
with every article we could bring up from any place below where tea
could be stowed, and with the cargo work went on the repairing of the
rigging. Here I can illustrate how splendid a sailor the mate was. We
rove new laniards to the lower rigging fore and aft. It was bitterly
cold weather, yet such care was taken over the business that they
did not require to be set up again when we got into warm weather,
or touched for the remainder of the voyage, and let no man say he
stretched the rope to ruin, for it was not so, but the strain was put
on properly.

We had rather a good day’s leave on shore there. Pony-riding seemed
the correct thing to do, and most of us were duly shot off by the
sudden swerve of the beast into some haunt of seamen with which we were
unacquainted. We also foregathered with some of the officers of the old
P. & O. paddler _Ganges_. Nothing of note occurred, however, and in due
course the ship was fully loaded, all the officers were given the usual
bounty of tea as a present, and we prepared to make the start homewards.

We had taken on board three passengers, a clergyman and his wife and
child. A lady at table was a novelty for us, but they were nice people,
and I in my spare time got the loan of many books, and for the first
time made acquaintance with a series of back numbers of the _Saturday
Review_. I can remember a lot of the smart and caustic writing they
contained even now.

We had to beat out to sea, and in doing so discovered that the ship
was rather tender with a beam wind, the royals made an appreciable
difference, but thus it was and we had to make the best of it. To beat
out was fairly hard work, for we had to tack so frequently that there
was no time to coil the braces down; as they came in, so they went out.
But the pilot was a smart fellow and handled the ship beautifully.

Once outside there was a fair wind down the China Sea and we started
to make the best of it. We carried royal stunsails and let very little
wind get past us. The canvas was good, the gear was good, not a moment
was lost in trimming or making sail, and we did well.

One morning, it was my watch, I had rather a scare, for I suddenly made
out breakers on the port bow and I had not the least idea that there
was land in the vicinity. I yelled down the skylight for the skipper,
and at once began to brace up and haul off. The old man came on deck in
a hurry, and was graciously pleased to consider that I had done well
to avoid running on top of the Pescadore Islands, which with a slack
look-out might easily have happened.

There was a certain amount of confusion in getting clear, and to make
matters more complex we heard a great riot going on in the cabin, and
clouds of steam were arising therefrom. It seems that as we came to the
wind, the cabin stove fetched way to leeward and capsized, scattering
the lighted coals. The crash brought the parson out of his cabin and
he promptly made use of all the liquids he could lay hands upon, thus
creating a condition combining safety with a filthy smell.

The skipper was good enough to say that we kept a very good look-out in
my watch, even if the proverbial second mate’s slackness was apparent
in other matters, but looking back at this little episode after the
lapse of years, it seems to me there was no excuse for not warning the
officer of the watch that there was a possibility of the ship making a
bad course. I trust that a different order of things now exists, but in
that ship it would have been little short of sacrilege to ask to see
a chart, or to inquire as to the ship’s position. I should have been
informed with biting sarcasm, “When I want you to navigate the ship,
Mr. So-and-So, I will let you know, meantime, _I_ am quite capable.”

We had great luck down the China Sea, through the straits and as far
as St. Helena, which we made in sixty days from Shanghai. But when
we reached the line our troubles began. There we ran into a stark
calm that lasted for three weeks, and tried the patience of all. More
especially did it affect the captain, as was but natural, and his
extravagances were at times very comical. On the first part of the
trip, when all had gone well, no one concerned themselves about the
proverbial ill-luck which attends the carriage of parsons by sea, but
it now seemed to have improved by keeping. It had been the custom of
the skipper to make up a dummy whist party with the parson and his
wife, but this was now discontinued, and the old man’s text as he
tramped the poop was loudly spoken and often. “Oh, if the Lord will
only forgive me this once for carrying a parson I’ll never do it any
more.” One night he solemnly brought up a pack of cards and consigned
them with many varied and choice imprecations to the deep. I cannot,
however, consider that he was an artist in the use of language--there
was too much sameness and repetition about it.

Whether it was owing to the foregoing incantation I do not know, but
we did eventually get away from the line. Our passage, however, was
completely spoiled, and at the end of it we were shamefully outsailed
by that celebrated clipper the _Jerusalem_. We were going up-Channel
with a fine southerly wind that was about a-beam, but, as I have
said before, we were a bit tender and could not usefully under those
conditions carry all the sail we should have wished. The _Jerusalem_
passed us to windward under all plain sail, and we felt the beating
badly, for we could not carry our royals without burying the lee side
to the detriment of our speed. Off Beechy Head, however, we took on
board a hoveller as a Channel pilot, and I can hear even now the sigh
of relief the old man gave as he welcomed him on board.

There is nothing more to chronicle of that ship; I had made up my mind
she did not suit me--nor I her--so we parted with scant regret on
either side.

There was in the East India Docks a vessel called the _Albuera_. She
belonged to the firm of John Willis & Co., and rejoiced in a double
row of painted ports. To her I transferred my services. Her captain,
Gissing by name, was a nice fellow, and we should have got on together,
but my fortune was now in the ascendant, and I left her to take up the
berth in steam that was then becoming the ambition of all young seamen.
The Suez Canal was open, and it required no great prescience to foresee
the end of sails. The modern sailing-ship that was then being built,
however, was very beautiful. Let me instance one as an example, the
_Lothair_; she was afterwards commanded by Tom Boulton, but she was
built on the lines of a yacht and was as beautiful, although the modern
ship never had the stately grace of the old frigate-built Indiaman.


    “The liner she’s a lady by the paint upon her face,
     An’ if she meets an accident they count it sore disgrace.”


Good-bye to sail! The chance had come to make the plunge that was
rendered inevitable by the opening of the Suez Canal and the march
of modern invention. It was sad to realise that the sailing-ship
was becoming a back number and that the future for the sea lay with
steam--a means of propulsion that would for ever put in the background
the manly management of masts, yards and sails. To-day, the period in
which this country won its greatest triumphs on the sea is commonly
referred to (even in the Royal Navy) as the “stick and string time,”
but I am old-fashioned enough to believe that the seamen of the past
were in their way as clever engineers as the men that fit and drive the
modern turbine engines.

In the museum of the Royal United Service Institution is to be seen
a fully rigged model of the old _Cornwallis_. Stand by the side of
it and try to realise the exquisite skill that was necessary to rig
that vessel, and then keep the masts in her through all the varied
experiences that would befall. How, pitching in a head sea, every stay
must bear its due proportion of strain or something would go! Consider
the friction and chafe that would be constantly taking place with rope
rigging, and the unceasing vigilance that was necessary to preserve it
intact, and then, if you know enough to realise what it meant, sneer if
you will at the days of stick and string, but forgive those who look
back with regret at what was the inevitable eclipse of a notable phase
in a very noble calling.

The sailing-ship man had a little doubt in his mind as to how he
should properly rank the steamship man. I had on the previous voyage
heard engineer officers in a mail steamer speak disparagingly of the
seamanlike qualities of the ship’s officers--such, for instance, as
an order to the engine-room, “Half a turn sideways if you can; if
you can’t never mind.” Not to be believed for a moment, but still we
sailors doubted as to how they ought to rank in the hierarchy of the
sea. It was also said by the same engineers that they had a chief
officer who was worth anything in bad weather, for he could go round
the decks with such a beautiful command of language that nothing ever
went wrong with them, and so the conclave with whom I discussed the
matter concluded that there might possibly be an opening for one that
had graduated even in a hard school of seamanship. Need I say that, in
spite of chaff and theoretical leanings, I was unfeignedly thankful
to be offered the berth of third mate in the mail steamer _Roman_
belonging to the Union Steamship Company, of Southampton. I said
good-bye to Captain Gissing of the _Albuera_ with regret, and proceeded
with all due haste to take up my appointment.

It was in July 1870 that I first set eyes upon the _Roman_. It was
evening and she was deserted save by an old shipkeeper, who having been
an officer in the very early days of the company was willing enough to
gossip, and satisfy such curiosity as I was not backward to confess on
the subject of my new surroundings.

[Illustration: U.S.S. “ROMAN”]

[Illustration: U.S.S. “NYANZA”]

[Illustration: U.S.S. “AFRICAN”]

Naturally the first things that caught my eyes were the ship’s spars,
and there I was gratified; she being rigged with yards beautifully
squared, sail covers on, and royal and topgallant-yards up and down
the lower rigging in approved man-of-war fashion. Next, the decks
were clean, and there was a look of the old Blackwall liner about
the paintwork that spoke well for her. Altogether she bore an air of
prosperity that made me think my lines had fallen in pleasant places.
My first impression in this case was the right one, for I doubt if
I ever had an unhappy day on board that ship. She had originally
been built with a flush deck by Lungley of Deptford, on a so-called
unsinkable principle, but the exigencies of increasing trade had caused
the company to build a poop on her to a great sacrifice of good looks.
She carried it well, however, and years afterwards they even lengthened
and put a forecastle upon her, from which you descended by a ladder to
the bowsprit to get at the jib.

On the day after my arrival I reported myself at the office to the
Marine Superintendent, Captain R. W. Ker, R.N.R., and learned from him
that I was on a trial voyage, and that my tenure of office depended
upon my suitability for the company’s service. With this information
I was perfectly satisfied, and went down to the ship to present my
appointment to Captain Warleigh. Things were then done with a good
deal of form, and I trust I may be forgiven a certain amount of regret
that a system which gave excellent results has been departed from. The
policy of “hustle” is not the only one productive of good results.

My new captain was somewhat of a revelation. He received me as one
gentleman would another, and when he chose he could be particularly
agreeable. His appearance was decidedly prepossessing, and he had a
pair of steely blue eyes that could on occasions show a very lurid
light. Let me say at once that I always found him a kind friend, though
years afterwards we had differences of opinion. Warleigh was a very
fine character and would have been an ornament to any service; he was
not, however, physically strong, having suffered greatly from fever
contracted on the Mauritius service. When he had asked me some few
questions as to where I had been and what I did there, he called to the
chief officer, whose name was Coathupe, and introduced me to him in the
following manner: “Curly, this is our new third, show him round and
help him feel his feet, will you?” The freedom of speech, I afterwards
learnt, was owing to the fact that Warleigh had only been promoted the
previous voyage, and as he and Coathupe had been great friends when
officers together, the skipper was on more free and easy terms with
his chief than would otherwise have been the case. Fred Coathupe was
one of those gifted mortals liked by every one; indeed, I cannot call
to mind any occasion on which I knew him to lose his temper. There was
little if anything of the sailor in his manner, but for all that he
was a smart officer and kept his ship in excellent order. We proceeded
in search of the second officer, whom we found in the shed tallying
cargo--or going through the form of doing so--for let me say here,
that to put a steamer’s officer on to do clerk’s work is both unfair
and a farce. I know that in some cases it is done to-day, but I feel
sure that the loss entailed by an imperfect record of cargo carried is
far more than would pay for the time of a clerk who has been properly
trained to the work. In sailing-ship days, when there was no hurry, the
mate could sit on the rail and do his tallying easily enough, but not
so now.

Reginald Leigh, the “second,” was a man with a very keen sense of
humour, never at a loss for a reply to any curious remark that might be
addressed to him, and altogether gifted with a flow of language that on
occasion compelled even the admiration of the victim to whom it might
be addressed. I could tell amusing stories on this subject, but think I
will refrain from details. Indications of them may appear, however, in
future pages. Leigh made my acquaintance with a humorous grin, observed
that “It was a good dog that barked when it was told,” that was his
motto, and would I just relieve him for a little time with the tally
book? He and I had to share the same cabin, and we were on very good
terms, the one difference of opinion being that he abhorred tobacco,
while I and my pipe were good friends. When the ship was not full of
passengers the captain gave permission for the third to use one of the
saloon cabins, and indeed the fashion in the service was for every one
to be made as comfortable as possible. The captain, throughout the
company’s service, was a very important personage. Under him the chief
officer was practically supreme in all matters. If, for instance, one
of the crew had a grievance and wished to represent it to the chief,
he had first to secure the attention and support of a warrant or petty
officer who would certify to his statement and accompany him aft to lay
it before the chief officer.

It may not be out of place here to say a few words about Southampton as
it then was--not the great home of mammoth liners it is to-day--but a
nice, quiet little place with just enough of the best sort of shipping
to make it of considerable importance. The people who lived there did
not seem very keen about encouraging shipping, they rather preferred
it to be considered the county town, and to rely upon the support of
the county families; at all events that is what the townsfolk used to
say if one pointed out the vast potentialities of the port. I confess
that to visit the place to-day makes me look back to the old times with
keen regret, for a Southampton sailor in the early ’seventies could
with truth take unto himself the thanksgiving of the Pharisee when he
contemplated the despised Publican.

Firstly, to mention the shipping companies in their order of
precedence, there was the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. This was,
and is, I believe, the only steamship company incorporated by Royal
charter, and it had various quaint privileges denied to others. It is
difficult even now to arrive at them, but the tie between the Royal
Navy and the Royal Mail has been close, and undoubtedly the line was
at one time more or less under the active patronage of the government
of the day. Its ships were well officered, and there was fairly rapid
promotion, for the climate of the West Indies taken all round was not
very conducive to longevity, owing to the fevers that were at that time
very common.

The Union Company drew many of its officers from the Royal Mail, and
there was consequently a good deal of intercourse between the two
services. Antagonism existed, however, to a considerable extent between
the officers of the Royal Mail and the P. & O. service; they would not
foregather on any condition, the reason being that each was jealous of
the other. Either, however, would associate with us, for they could
and did say in a patronising tone: “Oh, yes, that’s a very nice little
company of yours, quite nice,” little thinking what it would grow to in
the very near future. At that time the Royal Mail was modernising its
fleet. It still had running such paddle steamers as the _La Plata_ and
_Shannon_, and the contrast between these and the new _Elbe_ was very
marked. I happened to know an officer named Teddy Griffiths who was
appointed to the latter ship, and he, in describing his first visit to
her, declared she was so spacious and intricate that he lost his way,
and sat down crying on a hatch until a boy came along and showed him
the way out. Be that as it may, we spent many a cheery evening on board
that ship, for we were young, we could sing a good song, and we had
the gift of good fellowship--which I regret is not always appreciated
at its proper value when one is its owner. It may lead you into undue
exuberance, but it’s a valuable possession to be able to see the best
that’s in your immediate surroundings.

Whether the Royal Mail or the P. & O. was entitled to the first place
might be a matter of debate, but there is no doubt that in the matter
of looks the P. & O. was an easy first. Their ships lay in the outer
basin and always presented a beautiful appearance. Vessels like the
_Mooltan_, _Poonah_ and many more of the same class were even then
being superseded by newer ships like the _Australia_, _Bangalore_ and
_Kaiser-I-Hind_, newer and more up-to-date, but not to be compared for
appearance with the older vessels. With rigging and sails in perfect
order they were all that the eye of a sailor could desire.

Mentioning that these vessels lay in the outer basin reminds me that
the rise and fall of tide at Southampton was considerable, and that at
times the bowsprits of these old-fashioned ships, extending as they
frequently did over the lines of rails on the quay at low water, were
level with the lines of railway trucks. One day an artist in mischief
quietly hooked a truck coupling to a neighbouring bowsprit bobstay. As
the tide rose so did the truck, and great was the interest taken in
the incident. I never heard that the culprit was discovered, and he
deserved immunity for his genius.

Beyond the Channel Mail steamers, a few grain ships, and the North
German Lloyd ships, there was little traffic to the docks. The German
ships were fine vessels, well managed, and the local pilots who
had the handling of them always spoke in the highest terms of the
qualifications of their officers. It struck me at the time in a vague
sort of way that it was curious the Germans should have such fine
craft. It is easy to see now that they were in the early stages of the
thirst for sea power. Apropos of this matter, I might mention that the
Union Company had just sent out their steamer _Dane_ (Captain Ballard)
with sealed orders, but as we afterwards learned on an expedition to
the Western Islands to warn a German training-ship for officers that
war had been declared between France and Germany.

No notice of Southampton in the early ’seventies would be complete
without the mention of Queen’s Terrace and the Canute Hotel. The
Terrace was, generally speaking, the abode of the officers of the
vessels in harbour. As a rule the landladies were a good sort, looked
after us well and did not unduly rob us. They were also fairly patient
and long-suffering where our misdeeds were concerned. For the days
were not long enough for all we tried to crowd into them, and the
nights were very short and bed was to most of us a last resort. The
experiences were many and varied, but there was mostly the charm of
novelty about them. Some officers rather favoured a ladder that would
afford an exit through the backyard from their bedroom windows when it
was undesirable for various reasons to make use of the front door. The
Canute Hotel was the general rendezvous of all officers in port for
lunch. It was kept by Mrs. Hyles, who in her way would have mothered
the lot of us. She supplied most excellent chops, the remembrance of
which and the appetites that devoured them lingers to the present day.
I have only one ground of complaint against that good lady and I may as
well state it now.

There was a music hall in Southampton called the Royal York which was
well attended by officers generally. When I had been in command about
two years, Mrs. Hyles was managing it. One night Charlie Hight, a most
respectable official of the National Provincial Bank, and myself
thought we would like to see the York once more if we could do so in
safety and with no loss of dignity. We consulted Mrs. Hyles, who said,
“You shall have my own private box,” and we went there. That was all
right, but she afterwards extended a similar favour to three young
doctors from Netley who had been dining very well if not too wisely. At
one period of the performance there was a lady on the stage known as
Jenny Hill, or the “Vital Spot,” and these young doctors commenced to
chaff her. She stood on the stage and dressed them down properly, for
which she was applauded by the audience, but as we were also occupants
of the box addressed, we tried to make ourselves as inconspicuous as
possible, I especially so, for I could see my third officer in the
stalls taking a great interest in the proceedings. Our box was at the
end of a long gallery, filled with people, which had to be traversed to
obtain exit, and when the doctors departed, the whole house rose and
howled at them. Charlie and I sat fast, thinking that we should slip
away later unobserved, but no such luck. After an hour we tried to go,
but got rather a worse doing than the actual culprits. It only shows
how accidents may happen to respectable well-meaning men if they stray
from the paths of strict propriety.

It was amusing at times to observe the feeling between the P. & O. and
the West Indian Mail men. For instance, one of the former would say,
“Now, Mrs. Hyles, when you have quite finished with those brass-bound
gentlemen will you spare me a little attention?” That was called for
because the uniform of the P. & O. men was conspicuously plain and neat
in contrast with the rather liberal use of gold lace by the West Indian
Co. I think it may be found that a history of the Royal Mail Company
would prove a valuable book if any one acquainted with the legends of
the Company would write it, for it seems a pity that such interesting
matter should be lost. Such stories, for instance, as permission being
given to wear epaulets, “any number above two,” and an authentic
statement as to when the white hat for full dress was finally dispensed
with. These may be trivial matters, but the traditions of the sea
service are precious to those who still love the Briton’s heritage, and
the records of the merchant service are as much part of the country’s
history as are those of the Royal Navy.

To leave the shore details and come back once more to the _Roman_, it
was then the custom of the Company the day before the ship sailed to
muster the crew, and go through fire and boat drill, and a very good
custom too. It was a respectable show to see the men fallen in, dressed
in uniform and saluting in proper fashion as their names were called
over, the officers dressed in frock coats trimmed to the company’s
fashion. The captain’s uniform had evidently been copied from that of
the Trinity Masters, an excellent example, and it always appeared to me
that it was a mistake to too closely follow the uniform of the Royal
Navy. It is, I am aware, commonly done, but it would show better taste
if it were discontinued.

Naturally this condition of things appealed to me vastly, and I
may say gave a liking for the service which never departed. Years
afterwards when I had sought “fields afresh,” it was said of me that
“as well expect the planets to have left their orbits as me to sever
my connection with the company,” and I am more than ever sure now that
it was the biggest mistake in the many that I have to record. I firmly
believe that that service was the last stronghold of the conservatism
of the sea.

At the time of which I am now writing it was customary to leave
Southampton two days before the date of sailing from Plymouth. The
Company’s vessels were not powerful enough to make sure of their
passage against a strong adverse wind, and cases were frequent when it
was found necessary to put the vessel under fore and aft canvas, and
reproduce in a mild form the tactics of sailing-ships with a head wind.

We also took a Channel pilot who was ordinarily employed as the
Company’s pilot. His name was William Waters. He was a man of strong
character, and stronger language. There was little of the _suaviter in
modo_ about him, but he was a sailor, and could handle a ship for all
she was worth. Many are the stories that might be told of incidents
that occurred during those trips down-Channel, but they would lose
much of their point if their text were departed from, and as much of
it is unprintable, there is nothing to do save leave it alone. But
never shall I forget William’s language to the man in charge of a
small schooner without any lights that we found in close proximity to
us one dark night. In reply to a forcible question concerning lights,
the reply came up, “Sure, sir, they’ve gone out.” This reminds me of
another Irishman, Pat Malony, afterwards one of the Company’s captains,
who being in the hold when he was fourth officer, was asked, “How many
lights have you down there, Malony?” He replied, “Six, sir, but they’re
all gone out.”

The fore and aft canvas carried by the Union ships was peculiar to
those vessels. I never saw anything quite like it, though I believe the
P. & O. Company at one time had something very similar. The trysails
were set on very large booms, and the gaffs were hoisted by the steam
winches. They were quite easily handled if once people knew the way
to do it, but at first it required a good deal of faith to see a steam
winch tearing away with throat and peak halliards. I can’t say I ever
saw an accident, but years afterwards in the same ship with the same
spars and sails, it was sad to see how the old skill had departed from
the hands that worked them. They seemed to have lost the knowledge that
to work big fore-and-afters, the throat should always be higher than
the peak in hoisting, but that principle takes a lot of driving into
the heads of people. There was also another peculiarity in the rig of
these ships, the lower yards were fitted to lower across the rails when
steaming against a head wind. The Jeer falls were always kept rove, and
I have on occasion, when dealing with baffling winds about the line,
seen royal, topgallant and lower yards up and down three times in a
day. It took about twenty minutes to complete the job.

Nothing of special importance occurred on the way down-Channel on
this voyage, but it was a novel experience to be left in charge of a
steamer’s bridge for the first time. It was frequently the custom to
double the watches in narrow waters, but on this particular occasion
the captain did not do so. He left me entirely to myself, although
I had the impression that he kept a very careful eye on all that
transpired in that first watch. It was an excellent way to let a new
man feel his feet, but on no occasion did the captain interfere with me
when carrying on the duty of officer of the watch.

We did a thing leaving Plymouth that is not often done, we ran well
into Cawsand Bay to pick up a gentleman and his wife as passengers from
a shore boat. He had formerly been one of the Company’s captains, and
report, rightly or not, said that he being an old friend, Warleigh had
taken him away in this fashion to save him from his creditors. I dare
say it was likely enough, for there was no breach of the law in doing
as we did. The ex-captain afterwards made a fortune on the diamond
fields. Needless to say we were fairly filled with passengers, but
it is one of the difficulties in writing this story to know just how
much or how little one should say on that particular subject. There
was every inducement for passengers and officers to be on friendly
terms. We messed with them, and they were always treated as though they
were guests. There was a lot of spare time to get through, and it was
expected that the officers would take the lead in devising amusement to
pass the time. The contract speed for the mails was seven and a half
knots and the passage was seldom made under thirty-five days, and gave
one ample opportunity to acquire a very fair knowledge of whether one’s
fellows were amiable or otherwise.

The Cape Colony in those days was a small place, and I soon began to
discover that almost every one of our own nationality took an interest
in the officering of the mail steamers, and to do bare justice to the
hospitality universally extended to us on shore, we were generally
welcome guests wherever we went. Therefore, there was a great amount of
good feeling on all sides, and disagreeables were rare.

Particularly fortunate in this respect were we on the occasion of my
first voyage in steam. We had a most agreeable set of passengers,
and at our first port of call, Madeira, we were put into quarantine.
We found the Company’s ship _Northam_ there, and as she was in a
similar plight, homeward bound, we foregathered with her officers
and passengers. I was greatly struck by the good tone that seemed to
pervade the Company’s ships, and was immensely pleased at my good
fortune in being able to take a share in it.

When Cape Town was reached, it was customary to fire two guns as an
announcement that the English mail had arrived. These were answered by
two fired from the castle, for in those days this was an event. Upon
this particular occasion we carried out the news of the outbreak of the
Franco-German War. This, however, did not seem to greatly interest our
visiting officials, who were then full of the discovery of the diamond
fields, and it may be said that we on our side did not realise the vast
importance of this new discovery. There was no cable in those days, and
the near interior of South Africa was an unexplored country. We landed
our Natal passengers, who were sent up the coast in a smaller vessel
called the _Natal_, and said good-bye with regret to one of the best of
fellows, a sugar-planter called Tom Milner, whose memory is still green
to old Natalians.

Cape Town docks were at that time open for sailing-ships and small
vessels, but we discharged our cargo in Table Bay to sailing lighters.
Little more than the commencement of the present magnificent breakwater
had been made, and it was not an infrequent occurrence for vessels to
drive on shore when it blew hard from the north-west. The Table Bay
boatmen were very splendid seamen. In the worst weather a well-fitted
anchor boat would keep the sea, and if a vessel was driving, or had
parted her cable, they were very clever at passing on board the end of
a big coir cable, the other end of which was fast to an anchor they had
let go to windward.

Before we left Table Bay, the homeward-bound mail steamer came in--the
_Briton_, afterwards H.M.S. _Dromedary_. She looked a small but
beautiful little ship, as she came in with yards squared to a nicety,
sail covers on, nicely painted, and generally speaking spick and span.
She looked thoroughly workmanlike and typical of her captain, by name
George Rawlinson Vyvyan, of whom more anon. On a preceding voyage the
_Briton_ had lost her propeller and had run into Vigo at the rate of
three hundred miles in a day under canvas only, which was plain proof
that sail was not carried in those ships for ornament only.

In due course we completed our trip to Algoa Bay, discharged our cargo
and loaded wool for home, calling at Table Bay on the way back to fill
up with cargo and passengers. We had amongst our passengers one very
accomplished man named Woollaston, who took great pains both to teach
me écarté and indicate the sort of reading that would be useful to me;
I retain grateful memories of him. On the passage home the S.E. trades
blew strongly. The _Roman_ on that voyage had a two-bladed propeller;
this we fixed up and down when the engines were stopped, and for two
days we ran over ten knots with no steam at all. As that was well over
contract speed it was thought desirable to save coal, but the pursuance
of that policy brought about the opposition which in time absorbed the
original line of mail steamers.

Captain Warleigh was naturally anxious to make the most of the sailing
powers of the ship, and as I was last out of a sailing-ship, I was
pleased to find that one and all permitted me to trim canvas to my
heart’s content, and I was encouraged to do so by every one except the
boatswain, who did not like the officer of the watch to interfere with
details. He was told, however, by the chief, that if other officers
left the work to him, that was no reason why every one should, and
after that there was no trouble, for he was a decent sailor man. This
business of canvas helped me materially with the captain, who told me
one evening he would do all he could to retain me in the Company’s
service, for which I was grateful. My advice to any young fellow
joining a new service would be to try how much they will let you do
even to the usurpation of what may be the work of other people--do the
work, and do it well--it pays.

When we got home the ship was immediately taken in hand to fit up for
an extra crowd of passengers. I was confirmed in my appointment, and
we got a new chief officer named Alex J. Garrett, a man as strong as
Hercules and as obstinate as a mule, a good sailor, and a good friend
where he took a fancy. He was very good to me, and gave me the run of
his father’s house in Southampton. I may say that the father was a
clergyman, but Garrett’s proclivities did not run that way much; he
had been trained in one of the old Blackwall liners of Smith’s, and
represented the type of officer capable of filling any position with
credit. He had a short and effective way of managing the crew, and
rejoiced in the nickname of “three-fingered Jack.” In the matter of
our crews the men often stuck by the same chief officer, voyage after
voyage. They were mostly a very decent lot and, in sharp contrast to
the present day, the firemen were probably the best men on board. They
as a rule had been seamen taken into the stokehold because of their
steady conduct. In those days the glands of the engines were made tight
by hempen or cotton packing, and this was made in the form of square
sennit by firemen, and they had to make lots of it. The pressure of
steam in the main engines was about fourteen pounds. There were no
spring safety valves, and at each moderate roll of the ship there would
be the escape of a large puff of steam brought about by decrease of
pressure on the weighted bar that controlled the safety valve. This
loss of steam was a very considerable item, but the time for reform
had not then arrived, and we were all content to pursue the old and
pleasant road of “as you were.”

In addition to the main and second saloons we now had first-class
accommodation fitted up in the midship and after between-decks. The
ship had been built with a view to this being done if necessary;
there were consequently ports fitted that only required to be brought
into use to provide light and ventilation. These cabins were of the
rough-and-ready description, but they were eagerly snapped up by the
first crowd of adventurers making for the diamond fields. There were
names among those people that were well known in South Africa in after
years. Many of them did well, some came to grief, and one of the
brightest of them all, Albert Ward, had his career ended fighting for
his adopted country in the Cowie Bush. We also had on board the Roman
Catholic Bishop of Cape Town with several priests, who were mostly good
fellows. Their presence gave us, according to sea superstition, promise
of a good passage which was not falsified. It is a curious fact that
Anglican clergy are generally credited with bringing _bad_ weather.

We left Plymouth, leaving behind us various would-be passengers who
had come off in the vain hope of getting a passage. On the passage to
Madeira I was very friendly with a young man named Brett, who was going
to spend the winter there. He was, I believe, a great man afterwards in
the Isle of Wight. At all events I know he must have been known to the
police, for one evening some months later we had been dining together,
and then finding a stray horse wandering about the High Street,
Southampton, we took it to the police station and wished to give it in
charge for disorderly conduct. The sergeant in charge seemed disposed
to think it was we who were disorderly, but my companion took charge
and saved the situation in a masterly manner. I never looked him up
afterwards, but it was a pleasant friendship of young men while it
lasted, and the faculty for friendship does not improve with age.

The passage to Madeira was rather a rough one. Crossing the Bay the
wind was just abaft the beam, and Warleigh was disposed to make the
most of it. One first watch I had been hanging on to the canvas in the
good old-fashioned style, but it had taken a bit of doing to get her to
stand up decently when the squalls came down, and Leigh, when he came
on deck, would not take charge until the canvas was reduced. He did not
care to take the extra care necessary to carry it, and I dare say he
was right, but with a good ship and a good crew I loved the job. We got
to Madeira in good time, and there are few changes more striking than
the beauty of a fine morning at Madeira after you have had a dusting
across the Bay.

To my surprise when we anchored the skipper sent for me, and asked
whether I could ride? A reply in the affirmative brought me an
invitation to go on shore and ride with him, as he could provide a
mount. It did not take me long to get into riding clothes, and we had a
most delightful scramble over the hills. I am afraid we rather exceeded
the speed limit in the town, but the officials in Funchal were fairly
tolerant when once you were on shore, although inexorable over matters
of quarantine, and, moreover, the influence of the Blandy family,
which was very considerable, was always devoted to making things go as
smoothly as possible; in fact there was always a touch of old world
courtesy in all the business relations with our agents at Madeira.
Needless to say, that on our return to the ship it was every button on
duty once more.

With the number of people we had on board it was necessary to
duplicate each meal. I presided at first breakfast at 8 a.m., and first
dinner at 3.30 p.m. These meals were mostly attended by the younger and
more rowdy element, who naturally seemed to gravitate in my direction,
but the skipper was pleased on one occasion to express his approval of
the way in which I represented him at the head of the table, and that
gave me great pleasure. There is little need in these days to describe
what life on board ship was like; athletics, cards and sweepstakes
absorbed much time. Add to this a little music, and perhaps amateur
theatricals, and you obtain a fair list of the methods, mostly employed
successfully, to pass the time.

They were a lively crowd on that journey, and the officers of the watch
had to keep the quartermaster pretty much on the _qui vive_ to prevent
sheer mischief, for with a number of young fellows in a confined space
with nothing to do save to try how they can create diversion for
themselves, what one does not think of the other does. The passage
ended in a great spree at Cape Town, and the party separated to their
varying fortunes.

On this voyage we went into Cape Town Docks for the first time. It was
a very awkward entrance, and it is not given to every man to handle
a ship under steam in the vicinity of a pier. Warleigh, however,
acquitted himself well, and I can only say that his first performance
was a marked success in comparison with mine.

When lying in Algoa Bay loading for home, the ship was rather well
thought of. The skipper was very particular as to the stowing of the
sails, and the chief was quite as keen. We lay there with royal yards
across and fancied ourselves no end. I should mention that along the
rails forward, all our ships in those days carried an immense coir
spring for putting on the cables if riding out a south-easter. It was
probably ten inches in diameter, and in use would stretch and take up
like a bit of elastic, but I do not now feel sure by any means that the
plan of riding out a gale in shallow waters, as we then did, was the
best course. Far better weather is made in fifteen to seventeen fathoms
of water.

As showing the vagaries of sea-sickness, the skipper, Leigh, Trotman,
the chief engineer, myself and four men pulled out one day to fish on
the Roman rock. We duly anchored upon it, and at the expiration of an
hour, when we had caught many fish, every soul in the boat was sea-sick
with the exception of the chief engineer. The motion of a boat at
anchor under some circumstances is disgusting, very, but Trotman fairly
had the laugh of us all.

On the return trip from Algoa Bay we went into dock to complete
loading, and there occurred an incident I shall always remember with
amusement. Leigh had taken under his protection a curious specimen of a
pariah dog that used to prowl round the docks, and the poor beast was
rather at a loss to understand the vast amount of consideration shown
him. He was permitted to sleep in his master’s cabin and generally
was made a pet of. One night after dinner, when we had a young fellow
named Hanbury dining with us, Leigh had retired to his cabin, got into
his pyjamas and prepared to go to sleep, attended by the faithful
hound. Now, as it happened, Hanbury had a dog also, a bull terrier,
and as Garrett, Hanbury and I went to say good-night to Leigh, the dog
came also. No sooner did he catch sight of the stray dog than he went
for him, and the next moment the two were on the top of Leigh in his
bunk, indulging in a wonderful scuffle. It was a trifle difficult
to differentiate between barks and yells, for Leigh under the dogs
was yelling to Garrett to take the dogs away, and that was eventually
done--when we were able to stop laughing. That was the finish of the
good time of the pariah dog.

We had a fine passage home, a lovely run across the Bay with a strong
fair wind. I find in a note-book certain caustic comments on the
wisdom or otherwise of running under whole topsails, and taking in the
foresail, but age brings a certain amount of charity with it, and the
skipper might possibly have had reasons for his actions which he did
not impart to us. I remember the matter rather well, for some of the
gear of the foresail had parted, and I lost some of the skin off my
fingers in helping to furl the sail. They had, I suppose, become soft
for want of work. There was no need to have gone aloft, but it was a
stiffish job, and I fancied myself if there was anything out of the way
to be done. “Zeal, Mr. Simple, zeal!”

When we got to Southampton the skipper had to change over to the
_Briton_, a very quick turn round, and I never again had the pleasure
of sailing with him.

Our next captain, I am glad to say, is still alive and well, honoured
and respected by all who know him. He is now Sir George R. Vyvyan,
K.C.M.G., the late Deputy Master of the Trinity House, and it was my
great good fortune to sail with him more than once.

If I were to attempt to record events of separate voyages this
reminiscence would run to an intolerable length, therefore I think
that I will mention only certain occurrences that impressed themselves
on me during the time I served as third officer, and so bring this
chapter to an end. Let me place on record my thankfulness that I was
never deprived of my watch-keeping privilege. It was the custom in some
ships in narrow waters to give the watches to the chief and second
officers only. Both my captains held, however, that if a man was not
fit to keep a watch in one place, he was not fit in another, and really
this reasoning is the true one, for once in charge of the bridge of a
steamer you have to deal, as a rule without notice, with whatever may
happen, and it is a little lowering to the self-respect of even a young
officer to infer that he is not at all times capable of taking charge
of the ship.

Now it is not pleasant to find fault with anything in that service, but
the days of steam were comparatively young, and there were numbers of
things that were not rated at their real importance. I will mention two
only. There was no engine-room telegraph and orders were shouted down
the engine-room skylight; and secondly, and of still more importance,
there was no recognised standard compass. The ship was steered right
aft on the poop, and there was a binnacle on either side; the starboard
one was that by which the ship was navigated, and that speaks so
eloquently that no further comment is necessary. If any captain had
proposed expenditure to provide a suitable navigating instrument such
as a well-placed standard compass, I doubt if his wishes would have
been listened to. He would have been told that surely he could do as
others had done. It was reserved for Sir W. Thompson, afterwards Lord
Kelvin, to first convert the shipbuilders on the Clyde to the belief
that it was necessary to provide a suitable location for a standard
compass, and then to confer that greatest boon that was ever given to
seamen, a really sound and effective compass.

This voyage was the last one on which the mail steamer called at
Plymouth on the outward trip. For some years after this there was a
good deal of see-saw about calling at that port to take or land mails.
Now that steamers have such power that they can be certain of landing
mails at Southampton by a stated time, there is no reason why the
western port should be visited, but at the time of which I write a trip
down-Channel to Plymouth in a low-powered steamer was a hard experience
in the winter time.

We had now lots of passengers both ways, and the ship was a very
comfortable one to be in. There was no great change in the routine, and
the ship was always kept in apple-pie order. The Saturday inspection
was as thorough as it was possible to be. The Southampton ships were, I
think, unique in the matter of the inspection of the crews’ quarters.
Whether the fashion was set by the Royal Mail or the P. & O. I hesitate
to say, but it was the custom, and a good one.

There was one little matter that made a great impression on my mind
on that voyage, and I have never forgotten it. On the visit to Table
Bay homeward bound we did not go into dock, but finished loading in
the bay. One morning at lunch time the skipper came into the saloon in
his riding togs. I suppose I looked at him hungrily, for he asked me
if I would like to go with him, saying he would mount me. When I had
quite got my breath, of course I said yes, and hurried off to change
into suitable clothes. Well, we went on shore and had a glorious ride,
visiting his friends at Bishopscourt and Newlands. Such kindness was
not a common occurrence. It set me an example as to the way junior
officers might be treated where the opportunity arose, and in after
years I tried to do likewise.

On that passage home we had as passengers Mr. Molteno (afterwards
Sir John Molteno, the first premier of Cape Colony under responsible
government) and two of his charming daughters. When they returned to
the Colony I was always welcomed at Claremont by the family, and some
time later, when I was in command of the _Mexican_, I had the great
pleasure and pride of entertaining some of the family in the finest
ship of the line.

Do any of my readers know what “coal fever” is? It is a nasty disorder
prevalent in small-power steamers, when a doubt arises as to the
sufficiency or otherwise of the coal on board to take the ship into
port. It was rather common in some of our ships, but I never saw it
arrive at the crisis when the ship’s woodwork had to be sacrificed,
an occurrence which has been known to take place. In some cases
preparation has been made to cut up derricks and every available thing
that would burn. I should say that the worst evil that can befall a
ship-master is to be cursed with a chief engineer who cannot keep a
correct account of coal expended.

I propose to relate one incident more that occurred during my service
as third, for it has its amusing side.

When in Cape Town dock on one occasion it was blowing hard outside,
and there was a nasty run in the dock causing the ship to strain at
her moorings and bump heavily against a shoulder in the dock wall that
took us about the main rigging. Unknown to any of us we started some
rivets in the side. On the way round to Algoa Bay we had bad weather,
and arriving at the anchorage, went in rather further than was usually
done, causing the lighthouse-keeper to say we were on shore. The ship
did not touch, however, and had ample water under her.

When the captain was asked if he had been on shore, he said no, and his
word was, of course, taken; but a day or so afterwards it transpired
that we had made water in the afterhold, and people knowing nothing
about the dock episode revived the story of our grounding. The port
captain, Skead, a really good fellow, again approached our captain,
saying that as an accident had occurred would he formally deny that the
lighthouse-keeper’s story was true? That was enough to set the skipper
going. He stated in incisive language that he had already done so,
but that if the port captain chose to accept the word of a “reptile”
against his, he was at liberty to do so and take what steps he pleased.

The result was a court of inquiry, at which about half the ship’s
company attended and swore we had not touched the bottom. The ship was
acquitted, but the port captain afterwards observed to me, “To my dying
day I shall believe you were all perjurers.”

On the homeward trip on one occasion we met the outward-bound steamer
_Celt_, one of ours, and passed within hailing distance. Before the
captains could get a word in there was a chorus from our passengers:
“What won the Grand National?” Answered from an equal chorus: “The
Lamb.” We had one or two breakdowns, between that and the Channel, and
on one occasion I remember hoisting the mainyard by the passengers
only, the inducement to help being that if we did not hurry up they
would not see the Derby. That was Favonius’ year.

When the time came to leave the _Roman_, I was pleased to get my
promotion, but sorry to lose my shipmates. I was rather lucky, two of
my seniors had just resigned in order to try their luck at the diamond
fields. One was named Johnson, and I don’t know what eventually became
of him; but the other was Doveton, who, as Major of the Imperial Horse,
was killed at Wagon Hill. At one time serving in the _Cambrian_ when
she put into Saldana Bay short of coal, he rode to Cape Town for help
in record time, for he was one of our best riders, and a first-class
all-round man.

The Company had bought from the Royal Mail their paddle steamer,
_Danube_, had converted her into a screw, and generally made a very
nice little ship of her. She was commanded by Captain Baynton, who was
commodore. She was, therefore, the best ship in the Company, and I was
very proud when I mustered on her as second officer. It was true that
I was told I should have to change with a senior then serving on the
coast ship, but that in no way detracted from my satisfaction.


    “Fair is our lot--O, goodly is our heritage!”--KIPLING.

The _Danube_, as I have already stated, was a converted paddler, and in
our eyes loomed as a big ship. As we went to muster, Captain Baynton
casually drew attention to the fact that a few years ago they were
serving in vessels that were not as long, as from the taffrail to the
mainmast, and used his favourite expression: “It’s marvellous!” Now the
_Danube_ was about three hundred feet long, so that may give some idea
of the size of the vessels that the Union Company made a commencement
with. Baynton was one of the men who upheld the best traditions of the
merchant service. In person he was short and unduly stout, but the
possessor of great natural dignity, brave as a lion, and with an eye
that brooked no contradiction. He had me under arrest one morning for
a short time, and my fault so far as I could gather was that I had
looked at him in a manner he disapproved of. But we were afterwards
great friends and I had a most sincere regard for him. I think that the
earlier portion of his life had been spent in the service of the Royal
Mail, and he commanded the _Medway_ when she towed H.M.S. _Britannia_
in for the bombardment of the forts at Sebastopol. As he once told me,
his wife and a faithful attendant named Anne were with him on that
occasion, and he further explained that when he had finished with the
flagship and went to see about them, they were sitting on camp-stools
on one of the sponsons amused at watching the shots fall. It may be
mentioned here that when the question of towing the flagship under
fire was raised, the crew of the _Medway_ gladly acquiesced, with
the understanding that if fatalities occurred their families were to
receive the same consideration financially as if they had been serving
in corresponding rank in the Royal Navy.

Our chief, Sammy Valler, was quite a character in his way, but does not
call for comment specially; the third was a nice enough youngster but
as weak as water, and his own enemy. He took a great fancy to me, and
if we had remained shipmates I fancy his career might have been better
than it was. Altogether it was a good ship’s company, and I was very
glad to get to sea. As it was a first voyage we were naturally trying
what we could get out of the ship, and, going down-Channel the first
night out, I nearly ran over a sailing-ship which was going the same
way as ourselves without even showing a binnacle light over the stern.
I did call the captain, who came on the bridge and made a few cursory
remarks concerning the iniquities of sailing-ships generally, after
which he retired. If Baynton could not trust the officer of the watch,
he got some one he could trust. A master who is too much on the bridge
is not an unmixed blessing, for he lessens the sense of responsibility
in the officer of the watch, and, strange though it may seem to a
landsman, the bridge under ordinary conditions is not his place.
Baynton realised this and acted accordingly. The weather we experienced
for the first day or two was such as to cause the ship to roll heavily,
and the rigging, being new, stretched to an abnormal amount, so much
so that it had to be “swiftered in” until we could get into quiet
water. I watched this operation with some interest as it was carried
on under the supervision of the chief and the boatswain, and inclined
as I was to criticise steamboat sailors, I confessed to myself that it
was done in a seamanlike manner. I think it was the same night in the
middle watch that the wind came out fresh and free from the northward
and I was able to get the square canvas on her. It was a treat to do
so, for although lots of the gear was foul, sail never having been set
before, the way she showed her sense of the attention was beautiful to
see. In these days of twin screws and massive ships canvas would mean
little, but in well-sparred, fine-lined steamers, canvas was then like
water to a thirsty plant, and imparted a motion and buoyancy that were
delightful to experience. To the speed of the _Danube_ canvas would add
at least two knots.

The remainder of the voyage passed without any event of interest, and
in due course we got to Algoa Bay and commenced to load for home.
We had started a new plan of stowing our own cargoes of wool, and
naturally the second officer had charge of the business. This was
rather a novelty and I was taking a great interest in the entire job.
One day the chief and I wanted to go on shore to a ball to which we had
been invited, and the captain had given us free permission to do so,
saying with a certain amount of sarcasm, that if all the officers went,
and the boatswain as well, he thought we might find the ship afloat
when we returned. However, we made allowance for the fact that the
atmosphere was a little sultry. I was on that day just finishing the
stowing of the after orlop deck, when a voice from above gave notice
that the captain was coming down. He duly made his appearance, being
lowered in a big basket known as a cheese basket, variously used for
discharging small boxes of cheese and also for landing timid passengers
into boats in bad weather. There was a space into which I was
determined to get a bale of wool, but there was considerable trouble
in doing so, and Baynton, having comfortably seated himself in a chair
I had procured for him, expressed a decided opinion that the job was
impossible. His remarks continued to be of a very caustic nature, until
the bale being in its place, he observed: “Now I suppose you think you
are a dam clever fellow,” and as he did not patronise hold ladders,
shouted out for his return conveyance. There must be many still alive
who can picture this scene to themselves.

We went to our dance and had a splendid time, and I know that in
this season of the Coronation I shall meet stately ladies who though
unfortunately no longer young, helped on that occasion to make the sun
rise far too quickly. On our return to Table Bay, Nemesis overtook
me. I was far too comfortable and contented and consequently had to
turn over to the coasting steamer _Natal_, a little craft of under 500
tons. The man I relieved was named Borlase, commonly known as “handsome
Henry”; he was my senior and had managed to work the oracle with the
Company’s agents, and my skipper had not objected. My shipmates in the
_Danube_ gave me a very cheery farewell dinner and send off, and I
entered upon my new experience with a lot of curiosity, for the tales
of the coast were many and various.

It is not an easy matter after many years to put events in quite their
right perspective, especially when many things were happening at the
same time, but the history of that little ship was a fairly crowded
one. In the first place she had recently been sent home with the mails,
when the proper mail steamer had broken down. They had then greatly
increased her passenger accommodation by building a saloon on deck,
which was an advantage, and as at that time the Franco-German war was
on, there was a clause in the ship’s articles when they were opened at
Southampton that was unusual and, if I may say so, more’s the pity!
It ran as follows: “The said crew agree to fight and defend the ship
to the best of their ability, at the discretion of the said master.”
Advantage had not been taken of the chance to reboiler the ship, and
this was an endless source of trouble, for it always made sailing-day a
period of uncertainty. It was the old story of putting a new patch on
an old garment, and a patch on one place often caused a break-out in

But, as in all the Company’s ships, the personnel of the officers was
of the best. Ballard was skipper; I have referred to him in connection
with a previous experience. He was a sailor, curiously quiet until
roused, when he could make the sparks fly with a vengeance; very
self-contained, but always ready and willing to do a good turn if he
could to any one. I am happy to say I won his confidence. The chief
was the ill-fated Edward Manning, afterwards lost in the _Teuton_.
His end was in keeping with his life, for probably no man ever
kept himself under more complete control than did Manning. Knowing
his work thoroughly, he seldom if ever raised his voice; nothing
ruffled--outwardly at least--the calm serenity of his temper. I only
saw him move hastily twice; once to get the helm over when I was
shaving a point rather closely, and again to fling me a rope’s end
when, in lifting the end of a buoyed cable, the boat was capsized and
we were all in the ditch. He was a very fine character, and a good
shipmate. Our third, Harrison, was a good man too, but after a short
time he was relieved by Jones, of whom more anon.

The duties of the _Natal_ were to make a trip monthly between Cape Town
and Durban, taking up the mail and passengers brought out by the mail
steamer coming to Cape Town, and feeding her in a similar manner from
Natal. It usually took about two days to accomplish the transhipment.
There was a certain amount of novelty in this work, for it was rather
out of the beaten track, and the eastern ports were in a very primitive
state of development. Take in the first place East London, then a
very difficult port to enter even with the smallest craft. The mouth
of the Buffalo river, which made the port, was closed by a sand bar
that at times was impassable even by a lifeboat. The method of working
was for lighters to haul out by surf lines laid over the bar and
extending a fair distance into the anchorage; the ship that had cargo
or passengers to discharge anchored as closely in as was prudent and
then ran a warp to the buoyed end of the surf line for the lighter to
reach the ship by; the work was rough, very, and the boatmen were in
perfect keeping with their surroundings. I should not like to do the
men an injustice, but they seemed to be the scourings of the roughness
and rascality of the world. Their lives were mostly in their hands,
and they did not attach much value either to them or the language
with which they adorned them. It was no uncommon thing when there
was a sea on the bar--and there mostly was--to see a breaker sweep a
surf boat from end to end. The men generally managed to hold on, but
fatal accidents were not infrequent. These boats would frequently land
passengers, who were carefully battened down and in almost complete
darkness while the passage was being accomplished. Both at this port
and Durban, passengers were put into the lighters in large baskets
lowered by the cargo whips, and if the ship were rolling it would be no
uncommon occurrence to see a basket containing perhaps three or four
men and women hoisted half way out and held fast by derrick and stay
until the roll had subsided. People got used to it, however, and no
improvement was made until the visit of the Empress Eugènie to South
Africa, when it occurred to some genius that a wicker cage might be
made with a door in the side which would obviate the necessity for
lifting the ladies into the basket. If, however, the ladies were young
and good-looking there was never much difficulty noticeable in finding
volunteers to take on this arduous duty.

Leaving East London the navigation of the ship was conducted on
different lines to that adopted to the westward. There one could steer
a course and be moderately confident of making it within reasonable
limits, but between East London and Natal you had to face the full
force of the Mozambique current, which mostly ran anything between
three and five knots to the south-west, unless you were close in shore,
when you were sometimes, but not always, favoured with a drain of eddy

With a vessel steaming perhaps nine knots it was therefore necessary
to keep as much inshore as could be done with safety. To set a course
was not possible; during the daylight hours the ship was steered by
the coastline, and when darkness closed in a course was set which ran
parallel to the land by the chart, yet caught the current on the port
bow, with the result that when daylight came the ship would be thirty
miles out, or more, fighting the full strength of an adverse current.
The nett result was that passages between East London and Natal were a
very uncertain quantity.

I took to this sort of watch-keeping in the daylight very kindly. The
coast was mostly like English parkland, and I set myself to learn it as
thoroughly as possible; in this I was assisted in every possible manner
by the captain, who spared no pains to point out the various places by
name. It was interesting work, for it gave one a chance to exercise
one’s initiative which was in no way checked by my seniors.

Durban harbour in those days was not the ample port it is now. Under
the best conditions there might be perhaps sixteen feet of water on the
bar at high tide. It was more often twelve or even less. Outside the
bar there were the remains of three attempts to improve the harbour,
but each one had been a failure. There was an impression that any
of them might have been a success if it had been persevered with,
but money had been too scarce to push the experiment to a successful
ending. There was, however, one man who even then had made up his mind
that Durban should be a port, and he lived long enough to realise his
ambition. His name was Harry Escombe, afterwards “Right Honourable.” If
Harry Escombe and Cecil Rhodes were alive to-day there would be some
backbone in the councils of the Empire. But this is a digression.

There was a good deal of formality about getting the little _Natal_
into the Bluff Channel, a dignified port captain, an oracular pilot,
lots of signalling and a final pointing for the bar. Whether we touched
or not I cannot remember; most likely we did, for it was a very common
occurrence--but anyhow we got in, moored in the Bluff Channel, and
looked around us with satisfaction. There was every reason to do so.
A beautiful harbour, a hearty welcome from all, and an utter absence
of anything approximating to bustle. Further it was the land of the
Zulu, who was relied upon to do all the hard work. I suppose that it
would be difficult to find finer specimens of muscular humanity than
were the Zulus who did the shipwork; their scanty raiment appeared
perhaps inadequate to the white ladies who were then making their
first acquaintance with the manners and customs of the country, but if
modernity has now insisted upon trousers in the towns of Natal, it has
destroyed a picturesque side of the national life.

Natal was absolutely different from any other part of South Africa,
inasmuch as it was mainly British! In Cape Town you heard as much Dutch
spoken as English, if not more. Towns like Stellenbosch or Wellington
might be called all Dutch, and I remember when I first visited those
places I wondered in a vague sort of way how it happened that the
British flag flew over them, by which it is evident that I had not
learned my history properly. But in Durban there was a different
atmosphere. It was essentially British and the inhabitants prided
themselves upon being up to date and live specimens of colonists. They
were, moreover, intensely loyal, and fully realised what their country
was going to be in the future.

I was sitting in the Durban Club one Sunday afternoon and certain men
were arguing as to the possibility of a railway between Durban and
Pietermaritzburg, the journey in those days being made by mail cart.
Escombe brought the matter to a head with the following words addressed
to a sugar planter named Tom Milner, a splendid fellow who had come
out with me on the first voyage of the _Roman_: “Look here, Milner,
I will give you a shilling a day until I go by train from Durban to
Maritzburg; after that you shall pay my butcher’s bill for life!--is it
a bet?” Milner said yes, and this being in 1872 he received his cheque
yearly until about eight years later when the railway was built and the
bet was compromised. I fancy he paid back two shillings for each one

No one walked in Natal. If a man wished to go one hundred yards
down the street, the Kaffir boy invariably brought his horse. There
was never any difficulty in borrowing a mount. The people were most
generous and hospitable; but underlying it all there was the sure
knowledge that the great Zulu power in the north would some day have
to be reckoned with. There was one little incident that happened about
this time that should find a place here, for it shows that even then
the minds of Germans were fixed upon the great expansion of their
nation. There was a small German trading steamer on the coast called
the _Bismarck_. She was commanded by a very fine fellow named Staats,
who wore a magnificent beard. On one occasion he had a difference of
opinion with the Point boatmen, who were not quite as bad as the East
London men, although very nearly, and they declared they would cut off
his beard. Staats, however, set them at defiance, and declared that the
German flag was sufficient to prevent such an outrage even then, and
would be for all time. The men admired his pluck and cheered him, for
it took a bit of doing.

When I left the _Roman_, Leigh presented me with a suit of canvas
clothes which he had found useful. In the daytime I lived in them, for
the forehold of the Natal was not a place adapted for the wear of fine
raiment. The principal articles we took away were raw hides, sugar and
wool, and the smell of those hides was a thing to remember. There was
no trouble in getting cargo either stowed or discharged, but an officer
had to be there all the time, and in a canvas rig it was possible to
sit down. The Zulus would work well if you did not lose your temper,
and as they happened to approve of me I never had any trouble with them.

One voyage was much like another, but sailing day at Natal offered
considerable variety, for it depended upon the vagaries of the bar.
I have known passengers and their friends come down four days in
succession and be detained for want of water. Those days, however,
usually resulted in a sort of picnic on the bluff--and were most
enjoyable. It was a treat to see the way the girls could negotiate the
steep slope under the lighthouse, and if the idea was to go up town,
there would be a rush for the point, with not too much care exercised
as to whose pony you mounted to get there. Upon one occasion we stuck
on the bar for over half-an-hour, bumping fairly heavily, but she was
a well-built little ship and it did not seem to do much harm; it used
to jar the spars a good deal though. On the passage down the coast we
would call at the ports, weather permitting and pick up such passengers
and cargo as we could, transhipping to the mail steamer in Cape Town

After a few trips I got some knowledge of the upper part of the coast,
and experienced a dislike to being set off miles in the middle watch
by the current. I therefore sounded the skipper as to whether he would
let me exercise my judgment in keeping her in when I could see well.
I found he was agreeable that I should do so, and I used to report to
him every hour, and hand the ship over to the chief at 4 a.m. well in
shore. This led to a considerable shortening of the passage up the
coast; but it told against me in one way, for when I wanted to get home
the old man said, “No, the ship has made much better passages up since
you’ve been here and I shan’t let you go.” That was a bit hard, for
there was a lot of promotion going on at home, new men being taken in
as chief, and I out of it all, as was said, for lack of experience.

On one passage down we were anchored at East London, and a breeze of
wind came on from the sea. Seven sailing-ships went on shore that
night, one, a brig called the _Nant-y-Glo_, driving close past us. At
that we decided to slip and go to sea without loss of time; we did so,
but, picking up the cable next day when we were fast to the slip rope
in the cutter, the ship drifted down on us, fouled the rope with her
propeller and capsized us all into the water. That was one of the
occasions when I saw Manning run. Curiously enough, we let go another
anchor, and when we picked it up brought up the other cable that we had
slipped foul of it, so all was joy once more.

But the boilers were in that sad condition that it was necessary to
go in for thorough repairs. We had had to delay our sailing from Cape
Town for four days through bad leaks, on one occasion; and as the
Company had just got the contract for the Zanzibar mail we went in for
a thorough overhaul. This was towards the end of 1872, and a good two
months were spent over the operation. When it was finished, we found
the _Natal_ painted yellow, the better to withstand the anticipated
heat of Zanzibar.

Before we started the first voyage on the new route, we made a trial
trip to Saldanah Bay, and took up with us as visitors many of the
principal people in the Cape, including Mr. Molteno, the premier, and
his two sons. I wonder if one of those sons, now an M.P. and director
of a steamship company, remembers firing one of our twelve-pounder
signal-guns under my tuition? It was a very jolly trip, and we all
enjoyed ourselves immensely. We changed our chief officer about this
time, and got in his place an officer named Barker, a man of no
striking personality but a good fellow, who always went about the deck
humming, and had a most curious voice.

When we left Natal behind us on the first upward trip I think we all
felt like Columbus when he started on his voyage of discovery. The
East Coast of Africa was very imperfectly known, and the charts were
by no means reliable guides. It was a mercy that in those early days
the craft we were navigating were small, and drawing little water, or
I fear that there would have been a good few landmarks left by the
pioneers. Delagoa Bay, for instance, splendid harbour though it is,
was absolutely without a solitary buoy to give a friendly lead, and
the land in the immediate vicinity at the entrance is not conspicuous
enough to give any definite leading marks. No actual mishap occurred
either going in or coming out, but we had enough experience of the
various tides to show us that it was no place to take liberties with.
Quillemane, which is the port at the mouth of the Zambesi, was also
touched at; here again was a river entrance apparently big enough to
take in any ship, but there was the same failing--imperfect survey and
lack of competent pilotage. Presumably in the future this will be one
of the big ports of the world, but at that time it was considered as a
place to be avoided at all hazards.

It was a change to get to Mozambique, where there was a harbour with
plenty of water, and sufficiently well surveyed to make negotiation
easy; it was also a striking-looking place from the sea, with a
magnificent old fort built (so report had it) of stone brought from
Portugal early in the sixteenth century. The work accomplished by those
early navigators and settlers was simply marvellous; it made one wonder
why it was that people who had been so enterprising and splendid as
explorers should have so terribly deteriorated. May the Gods avert a
similar fate for Britain! So far as we could gather the country in
the immediate vicinity of the settlement was rich and fertile, but no
strong or satisfactory rule had then been established, and the entire
place seemed to be marking time.

A strong current sets down the coast past Cape Delgado, but we had fine
and favourable weather for the run into Zanzibar. The entrance to the
anchorage is narrow in one or two places, but in the absence of buoys
the ship could in the daylight be easily conned from aloft between the
coral reefs, though that indeed was hardly necessary. But it was not
advisable to attempt the narrow passes in the hours of darkness, and
consequently the mail steamer bound south usually left before noon.
Our first arrival at Zanzibar was on a Sunday, with a temperature of
ninety-seven degrees in the shade--not a breath of wind, and the water
so clear that the bottom could be seen in ten fathoms. We found H.M.S.
_Daphne_ at anchor, and also the B.I. steamer _Punjaub_, which was
concerned in the mail contract from Zanzibar northward.

About this time there was some excitement at home concerning slavery
at Zanzibar, and Sir Bartle Frere paid a visit to the place in the
_Enchantress_. He arrived the day we left. There was also fitting out a
Livingstone expedition under the leadership of Colonel Pelly. There is
no need here to go into any description of the place itself, except to
say that it was quaint, the people well disposed towards the British,
and that slavery as then practised, was on the whole a respectable
institution, although more than one black man swam off to the ship
and begged to be taken down the coast. Indeed, in after years we were
frequently asked by friends at the Cape and Natal to bring them down a
black boy for service, and there was never any difficulty in procuring
them. There were at times very strong winds of hurricane force, and the
previous year the island had been visited by one that did great damage.

We had a slight specimen of this sort of thing. One morning we had
just commenced working cargo in the usual manner, taking it in from
lighters, when a dense cloud gathered to the N.W., and occasional
flashes of lightning were seen. About 7.30 a.m. down came the squall
with great fury. We got up steam, but had no occasion to use it
although a small dhow full of cargo that was made fast to us went down,
and the beach was strewn with dhows driven from their moorings. I saw
a roof--part of the Sultan’s palace--lift at one side, roll up like a
piece of paper and blow over into the courtyard with a mighty crash,
but I did not hear it if killed many people. By noon the weather had
changed, the wind was gone, and people commenced to pick up the pieces
and resume the ordinary routine of life.

Shortly afterwards we left for Natal, passing H.M.S. _Briton_ on the
road. One trip on this route was much like another, but we spent a very
fair portion of every month in Natal harbour. The last voyage I made
was under somewhat altered circumstances, for Captain Ballard had been
appointed to the _Basuto_, and Barker was in acting command of the
_Natal_. I, of course, got an acting appointment as chief which tended
to stir up in my mind a taste or longing to participate in that stream
of promotion that was flowing at Southampton, but which did not flow my
way. I tried vainly for some time to get home, but as long as Ballard
commanded the _Natal_ I could not manage it, for he would not let me
go. He was very good-humoured, however, in granting leave.

On one occasion I greatly wanted to go to a dance at Maritzburg to be
held on a Monday night. A great friend of mine, and one well-known and
liked by all, named Manisty, offered to find me the necessary mounts
and to ride with me. We started off on Sunday afternoon, arriving at
Maritzburg at 9 a.m. on Monday, sleeping some hours on the road. After
a bath and breakfast we rode to a place fifteen miles out, and in again
to a dinner and the dance, which was kept up till 5 a.m. Then I changed
my clothes, got on my horse, and started for Durban, arriving on board
by 6 p.m. in time for dinner. My companion on the road down was a
cheery soul named Innes. It rained heavily all the time, but it was
the most enjoyable ride I ever had. It was fifty-seven miles between
the towns, and the journey totalled 144 miles in just over two days,
but I had relays of horses to do it, although there were some of all
sorts amongst them.

Soon after Ballard left the _Natal_ to join the _Basuto_ we met her in
Natal harbour, and I arranged to change into that ship for the run to
Cape Town, and the transfer to a home ship. Here for the first time I
met a notable character in the person of Harry Owen, who was chief of
that ship, and one of those who had been put over the heads of many.
He was in those days one of the cheeriest of companions one could well
find, and also a reckless dare devil. We first foregathered over the
matter of firing a royal salute on the Queen’s birthday. We had two
big guns in the _Natal_, the _Basuto_ had three little ones, but as
the ships were alongside each other the combined salute was done in
a fairly respectable manner. I can’t say more than that, but no one
was killed or hurt, and after all that counts for a little. Here also
I first met Bishop Colenso, who would come on board our ships in the
Bluff Channel and simply delight us with his charming companionship; he
was shipmate with me afterwards and was fond of sailors, but it always
seemed strange to me to be on even conversational terms with the man
whose book on algebra had given me as a boy so much trouble to master.
I transferred to the _Basuto_ as second officer and thus came under
Owen’s orders. He was the worst man at relieving a watch I ever knew.
We dined at 6 p.m., and if I had the dinner look-out, he never showed
up on the bridge before 7.30 p.m., for the chief was always relieved
for dinner. This was rather a tax on the second, who had to turn out
at midnight, but it came to an end in a few days, and I turned over to
the _European_ for the passage home, acting as third officer. About
this period the _Roman_ had had an accident and returned to Cape Town
for repairs. She had had a difference of opinion with some rocks off
Dassen Island, and the _European_ was instructed to make the best
passage home with the news, for there was no cable in those days.
She was for her time a fast ship, steaming a good twelve, which was
exceptional for us, and every one was delighted; she was comfortable
and there was a nice crowd of passengers on board. Our skipper was
named Jeffries, a curious compound, who did not make friends easily,
but where he did, stuck to them. I should like to tell many stories
about him, but refrain. His great hobby was whist, and he played a fair
game, but his main fault was that he had little tact in dealing with
awkward people, and this on one occasion, coupled with his having also
a tactless chief officer, led to a lot of reckless young passengers
throwing overboard a great portion of his cabin furniture, including
various embroidered covers by which he set great store. I personally
got on well with him, and I adopted when my time came many hints that
he gave me as to various duties that the officer of the watch should

We made a good passage home. I was favourably received, and after a
spell of sick leave, which I had asked for to enable me to leave the
coast, I was sent down to Dundee to join the _American_, the newest
ship then fitting out. My application for sick leave was not humbug,
however; I had had a touch of the sun one afternoon riding from the
point to Durban, and the particular way the ailment should be treated
caused a marked difference of opinion between two celebrated London

There was a very delightful old Scotchman who kept an hotel where we
stayed in Dundee. His family were as hospitable as himself; I think the
house was called the Globe, but anyhow it was close to the dock where
the _American_ was fitting out. One remark of his impressed itself
upon my memory: “Ye ken we have a’ things in season in the good toon
o’ Dundee,” and it seemed as if a good time was specially in season at
that period. The builders of the ship, Stevens & Co. and some of their
connections named Crowdace, were particularly attentive and civil to
us all, but I entirely fail to remember who was chief officer of that
ship. Baynton was in command and Mrs. Baynton was also with him. She
came round to Southampton in the ship, and it was a fortunate day for
me when she did so, for it enabled me to make a friendship that, apart
from the pleasure it gave me, was of infinite value as far as my future
prospects were concerned. To any young man I would say that if you come
in touch with the ladies connected with your seniors or superiors,
use your best efforts to interest and be agreeable to them, for apart
from the advantage you derive from association with women possessing
presumably “the knowledge of life,” you never know where it may not
possibly be in their power to put in a word in the home circle that may
be of benefit to you in your professional career. Some men may sneer at
this advice, but my experience is that it is good. At all events Mrs.
Baynton was a good friend to me.

When we got to Southampton there were many changes going on in the
officering of the ships, and in the midst of it stood out the fact
that there was a captain and a chief officer short who would have to
come from somewhere. The manager of the Company in Southampton at that
time was Mr. G. Y. Mercer; he had been with it from its creation, and
possessed great power. He was a far greater man even than the marine
superintendent. Now Mrs. Mercer and Mrs. Baynton were great friends,
and it may be mentioned that the latter lived in a very charming house
at Shirley, called Trafalgar Lodge; it was an ideal place for the
people living in it. I was invited to dine there one evening, and doing
so met Mr. and Mrs. Mercer. It was fairly evident to me afterwards why
I had been invited, for after the ladies had left the table and the
men were discussing things generally Mr. Mercer made the casual remark
that “Nothing was certain in this world, not even that Crutchley would
go out as second of the _American_.” Very shortly after this I was
appointed to the _Syria_ as chief, and my skipper was Garrett, late of
the _Roman_, his first voyage in command. This opened up to me a new
vista of boundless possibilities, for the ship was one of our best.
Both the skipper and myself were new brooms and most anxious to sweep
clean. Our second was named Merritt, a nice fellow who came from Cape
Town. Garrett liked him very much, and when a year or so afterwards
Merritt died as the result of an accident, was inconsolable for months.

[Illustration: U.S.S “SYRIA”

(_From a painting by Willie Fleming of Cape Town_)]

The passage out was uneventful, but when we got to Algoa Bay we had
some time to spend there. The ship was in beautiful order, even to the
satisfaction of the skipper, who took a delight in trying to find out
something amiss out of sheer mischief and for the love of tormenting
me. Not that I minded in the least--it was good training--but for some
reason or other it came to the front that there were one or two anchors
and chains on the bottom in the vicinity of where we were anchored,
and Garrett told me to find them and pick them up. I started to sweep
and soon got fast to something heavy, and the work of recovery began.
I picked up an anchor and chain, claimed as belonging to one of the
Castle line, another anchor and chain, and also heavy moorings laid
down for the company’s ships some years before. On the last day I
was engaged in this operation, Garrett took Merritt on shore to the
races, leaving me with a pious adjuration to be sure not to kill any
one. It’s rather a mercy we had no accident, for we were dealing with
heavy weights with makeshift gear. However, it was done, though when we
got home the skipper was asked his reason for picking up the company’s
moorings. There is no doubt, however, that it was a good piece of work,
for it cleared a large space of the best anchoring ground; they were
moorings that would have held a liner of today, but the place was not
suitable for them.

On the passage home we called at St. Helena, and as there was some
spare room in the afterhold, we took in a great number of casks of
whale oil for Southampton. They were old and leaky and made an awful
mess of my beautifully clean teak deck before we could stow them in the
after lower hold. I had grave misgivings about them from the first, but
had to do as I was told. When we got off Ushant there was a heavy beam
sea and the ship rolled badly, with the result that they all collapsed
and not a single cask was landed. It took days to clean the hold, and
there had to be an extension of protest and all sorts of trouble to get
clear of the liability for loss, and to put it on the shoulders of the
insurance people.

When we arrived at Southampton, Garrett was relieved of his command and
so far as I remember was appointed to a new coasting steamer. With him
he took Merritt, who was succeeded by Dacre Bremer, an old Wigram’s
man and a very nice fellow. The new captain was H. E. Draper, and even
now after a lapse of years I find a difficulty in rightly defining
his character. I was with him a long time in various ships, and found
him kind and considerate; he had, however, a caustic wit that was
very telling, and which was perhaps nourished at the expense of other
more important qualities. I fail to remember anything of particular
note that occurred either on the outward passage or on the coast, but
homeward bound in the S.E. trades one beautiful Sunday afternoon I,
with many others, was having a delightful sleep. I woke up feeling an
awful vibration with the impression that the end of the world was upon
us. As I tumbled out on deck the masts seemed to be bending together,
and the first thing I remember was seeing the chief engineer making for
the engine-room and driving before him some firemen who were trying
to escape. The vibration soon ceased, and then we were informed that
the main shaft had broken well aft in the tunnel, that it had very
nearly gone through the side of the ship, that what remained was bent
in the stern tube, and that we must stop the ship’s way until it was
so secured that the propeller would not revolve. Now we were too far
north to fetch St. Helena under canvas, for although the ship was
brig-rigged and sailed fairly well, it was no use trying conclusions on
a wind with the S.E. trade, so when the shaft was secured we set course
for Ascension, and in due course made the island dead to leeward. The
trouble was to get the ship before the wind, but it was done by a
little scheming, and we rounded the east side of the island and luffed
up for the anchorage in quite the approved sailing-ship fashion. The
skipper, however, would not risk going into the proper anchorage,
so we put the anchor down some distance out, and warped further in
next day, in charge, much to my disgust, of a Naval lieutenant whose
interference was to my mind quite unnecessary. Beggars, however, could
not afford to be choosers. After a considerable amount of consultation
it was decided that we should endeavour to trim the ship by the head
so that we could unship the propeller, and that we should try and do
this before the arrival of the _American_, which was expected in about
a month, in the hope that she would give us a tow home. We had a fair
number of passengers on board, but fortunately they could spend lots
of their time on shore, where they were very welcome. Many of them, in
fact nearly all, were ultimately transhipped to the _Northam_, which
came in before the _American_, but it was no use looking to her for a
tow; it took her all her time to get about herself. She did, however,
bring Captain East, R.N., the new captain of the island, who, had he
come earlier, would, I fancy, have advised other steps than those we
had taken. It was then too late, however, for we had failed to trim
the ship sufficiently by the head to get at the propeller, and had had
to content ourselves with securing it with a length of stream chain,
replacing all the cargo we had shifted and leaving the ship on an even
keel. Thinking it all over, it seems rather a mercy that she did not
capsize with us, for we took a good many liberties with her.

One evening Captain East was detained on board as the “rollers” were
in, and a vessel in the offing was seen making signals. As they could
not get off from the shore, I went in our gig to see what they wanted.
She was the barque _Dione_ short of provisions, and the skipper was
very glad to avail himself of my assistance and that of the boat’s crew
to get into the anchorage. I stood well over to the eastern point,
tacked ship close in shore and then steered for the stern of the
_Syria_, luffed up as I rounded it, and then, laying everything flat
aback, put the anchor down in a beautiful inshore berth, where she got
what she wanted the next day and went on her way rejoicing. That was
the last sailing-ship I handled.

While waiting for the _American_ we proceeded to get ready our towing
gear, and for this purpose we got from the naval stores two big
hawsers. One was a thirteen inch and a beautiful bit of rope, the
other one as it turned out was afflicted with dry rot and gave a lot
of trouble at odd times. We had none of us had any experience in the
towing of ships, and I am greatly afraid the preparations we made
were of an unsatisfactory nature, for we provided for four tow-lines,
and that was three too many. By the light of experience it is easy to
see that one large hawser shackled on to a bower cable which could be
veered to any extent required by the ship being towed, would have given
all the elasticity required to prevent breakage, and the towing ship
could have slipped her end at any time she thought it necessary. In due
time the _American_ arrived, with Captain Baynton in command. She had a
fair number of passengers too, who were not overjoyed when they learned
that their passage would be delayed by towing us. But Baynton decided
he would do it, and the hawsers were passed. We sent some firemen on
board her, but before we got under way Baynton hailed us to send for
them back, which we did, as he observed, “They want a nursemaid to
look after them.” What the poor devils had done to offend him I know
not, but he was of a very peppery nature, and had little patience with
any obstruction. The scene getting those ships out of the roadstead
must have been a source of high entertainment to the onlookers, and
it was in no way creditable even as a first rehearsal. There are two
things necessary to those carrying out such an operation--patience and
moderation of language. Unfortunately we were none of us burdened with
either, but we managed to get away after indulging in comments on all
and sundry, to which the Commination Service would have seemed mild.
We parted hawsers and generally made as big a mess of things as was
possible. That scene, however, had its use, for when we could think it
over it was a fine object lesson for the future. It all arose from the
fact that there were two masters, and that was the weakness which was
evident on many future occasions.

There is little need for me to go into daily detail. We carried the
S.E. trade well north, and one morning we were informed by means of a
black board exhibited over the stern of the _American_ that we were to
go into Goree for coal, and this we did. When we got there it was found
that there was very little to be obtained, in fact only enough to take
us to St. Vincent in the Cape Verde Islands. It would have been well
if the _American_ had gone there alone, filled up with coal and come
back for us to tow in the comparatively smooth water near the land, but
that was no part of Baynton’s idea. He had towed us so far, and did not
intend to lose sight of us until he saw us safe so far as salvage was
concerned, so over we went to St. Vincent, where the N.E. trade nearly
always blows half a gale. There we found lots of ships and transports,
for the Ashanti War was just over and the troops were being sent
home. I seem to remember also that there were certain complications
concerning anchorages, differences of opinion in fact, but before we
had been there long in came the _Roman_ homeward bound with Garrett in
command, and to her the _American_ transhipped such of her passengers
as could be accommodated. We also, as did the _American_, took on board
some of the returning troops, mostly the married men. Incidentally
I may mention that the trooper _Tamar_ was at anchor to windward of
us, and I saw one afternoon a young lieutenant do the best bit of
boat-sailing it was ever my good fortune to witness. I wish I could
remember his name. When matters had been arranged we started again on
our homeward way. It was blowing hard from the N.E., and as we left the
harbour the tow-ropes at times stood out stiff as the ships pitched
to it, but, as we found in time, it is easier to tow with a head wind
than with a fair one. There were incidents in that trip that would have
made the fortunes of a comic writer and artist, but they would run to
too great length here. We called at Madeira for coal and set out on the
last stage of the journey. There was a S.W. gale in the Bay of Biscay
in which the ships parted company, and we were lost sight of for some
time, but picked up again the next day, and again taken in tow for the
run up-Channel. It was a Sunday, and remarks had been passed that we
only wanted a really good collision to make our experiences complete,
and as it happened we got it.

It was a fine cold night in March, and the Portland lights were in
sight. I was in my cabin asleep, for all was going well, when in
rushed the chief engineer asking for my tomahawk to cut the tow-ropes.
I grabbed it myself and jumped on deck habited in a scarlet flannel
sleeping suit, such as some of us rather affected at the time. There
I found that a large sailing-ship had struck the _American_ on the
port side, making a big hole in her, and knocking down the engine-room
skylight on top of the engines, so that they could not be moved. The
_Syria’s_ helm for some reason had been starboarded and we passed the
stern of the sailing-ship dragging our tow-ropes with us; when these
tightened the two steamers drew alongside one another and the _Aracan_,
as the sailing-ship was called, lay across our two sterns. No one that
was playing an acting part can describe a scene such as that. I can
only record certain, impressions--I looked over the side and saw the
interior of the ladies’ saloon of the _American_ through a great hole
in the side, a stewardess standing with a candle in her hand in blank
amazement. On the quarter-deck of the _American_ was Baynton as cool
as a fish, with his chief beside him, saying that there were plenty to
do the running about, all _he_ wanted was his engines cleared. At the
after end of the _Syria_ was a crowd trying to board the _American_,
thinking we were sinking. At the fore end of the _American_ another
crowd were coming on board us under similar delusion, and to add to it
all some Irish women were yelling blue murder either from fright or
devilment, I know not which. I got some of our boats in the water by
the skipper’s orders and then went on board the _Aracan_, whose crew
had left her, to get her clear of our stern. This I succeeded in doing.
She drifted a short distance away and went down by the head, her masts
crashing as the sails felt the water on her downward plunge. She had
been loaded with ammunition for Hong Kong, and it was rather a mercy
that nothing caused an explosion, for her bow was flattened in like a
wall where she had sailed into the _American’s_ side. When I got back
to the _Syria_ I got orders to hoist the boats, and, hailing one to
come alongside, I asked who was in charge, “Sergeant Dighton, sir,”
came back the reply. She was manned mostly by volunteers from marine
artillery, passengers, and that incident always struck me as being
comical. By this time they had cleared the _American’s_ engines, and
Baynton, seeing that the tow-ropes hung clear of his propeller, went
full speed ahead like the fiend he was. Any other man would have got a
spring out to separate the ships, but he meant to be out of it at the
first minute at all costs--it was rather a mercy that we did not have
some of the sticks down. Beyond a few breakages, however, little harm
was done to us, and one of the tow-ropes held, so that we proceeded on
our way to Southampton I cannot say how, but we got there the next day
and I for one was not sorry.

There is a good deal of incident, even when you get on shore, over
a collision case. The solicitor’s clerks are very busy collecting or
procuring evidence of sorts. I believe there is more honest perjury in
collision cases than in any other. It appears to me that no two men
view the same thing in exactly the same light. Thus--

(_a_) There is the thing as it happened.

(_b_) The thing as each individual thought it happened.

(_c_) The thing that you state in court, after your solicitor has
persuaded you the particular manner in which it ought to have happened.

After we got a new crank-shaft and repaired damages we had a change
of captains. Draper had to stay behind for the law business, and I
was once more shipmate with Vyvyan. The voyage passed pleasantly and
without incident. I had been warned before leaving Southampton to hold
myself in readiness to transfer to a coasting steamer, but as no one
gave me positive orders to go I made the complete trip, one of the
most pleasurable of all, the passage home being very jolly, with nice

I was ordered out as a passenger in the _African_ to serve on the
coast, and was told it was a compliment to be selected for the post,
but that will need another chapter.


  “One meets now and then with polished men, who know

I regretted to leave the _Syria_ chiefly because I had grown to
thoroughly appreciate the character of my captain, and to enjoy the
many talks we had on subjects connected with the sea and matters
relating to seamen. He was an exceptional man, as his after career has
proved, but he was not liked by every one, and for the matter of that,
what man worth his salt ever is? When I had arrived home, Captain Ker,
the superintendent, asked me why I had not stayed on the coast, to
which I replied that no man bade me do so.

“Then you will go out in the _African_ as a passenger,” he retorted,
“and relieve Mr. Owen.”

That passage to the Cape was memorable to me for many things that
I need not here detail. Baynton was in command and Leigh was chief
officer. The third I remember was one of those charming ne’er-do-wells
that one occasionally meets. His name is suppressed. He soon
disappeared, but he was talented, a good sailor, a good musician and a
man who was the enemy of no one but himself. I found it very nice to
have plenty of leisure with an exceptionally nice crowd of passengers.
Some of them are my friends now, but time has played sad havoc amongst
them. One of the best was Sutton Vane, the talented dramatic writer;
he and I played principal parts in a farce enacted on the passage, and
as Myles na Coppylene observed, “God be with thim good old days.” I
make my best bow to you even now, my fair shipmates, even if I do not
mention your names. Captain Baynton was kind enough to accept my help
as a navigator, and as he was laid up for a great portion of the trip
it was a pleasure to me to be of service to him. The officers in some
cases might have resented the interference of an officer on passage,
but somehow few people thought of opposing “old Ted,” as he was styled
behind his back. In a similar way Vyvyan was usually called “Lord
George,” while in after years I have been given to understand that I
was commonly spoken of as “Buffalo Bill.”

We arrived at Cape Town in due course and went our respective ways;
mine as it turned out was to be one of the most difficult I ever
traversed, for it led me to the _Basuto_, and of all the heartbreaking
ships that were, she was the worst. A north-country slop-built craft,
of low power, with a long poop and a short well and forecastle, she
could not be kept clean with the expenditure of labour that it was
practicable to devote to that purpose, for be it remembered that the
diamond fields had disorganised the usual steady routine of coast
work, and there was considerable difficulty in keeping a crew at
all. Thus discipline could not be maintained in the same manner that
was possible on the home route. I know that had it not been for the
unflinching support given us by the resident magistrate at Cape Town,
Mr. John Campbell, we should have had a difficulty in keeping the ships
going. I gladly bear my best testimony to his just and common-sense
reading of the Merchant Shipping Act, and also to the manner in which
he administered it. On sailing day it was no uncommon thing to be
obliged to go up town in a hansom cab, find your men half drunk, and
then sit upon them in the cab until you could get them safely on board
and in irons until they were sober. The _Basuto_, with Captain Draper
in command and Harry Owen as chief, had been rather a warm corner, so
when I relieved Owen I knew pretty well what was in store for me, and
truly I was in no way disappointed. There was always trouble with some
portion of the crew, and it was no uncommon matter being obliged to use
more than moral persuasion to carry on the work of the ship. Owen had
been in the habit of carrying a shooting-iron, and had found it useful
to encourage the belief that he had been schooled as a Yankee mate, but
a pistol never seemed to me to be a necessary precaution.

In connection with the employment of physical force on board ship I
and others were quite recently greatly amused by the experiences of
a captain of one of the Irrawaddy flotilla steamers, recounted as
follows: “The best peacemaker you can have is a sandbag about a foot
long and an inch thick; I and my mate and engineer have one, and we
never find it beyond us to clear the deck of a crowd.” I should think
it would be better than a belaying-pin, which is at times an awkward
thing to carry in your sea boot.

Be that as it may I found that practically everything was left in my
hands on board the _Basuto_, and that suited me excellently. We spent
our time between Cape Town and Zanzibar; there was no use hurrying,
for the ship could only go a certain pace, and if we missed one mail
we were in time for the next one, but nothing possible was spared to
do our work well. We were fortunate in having as second officer a man
I had the greatest respect for as a seaman, E. T. Jones, and further I
found by practical experience that he was a good man in an emergency,
and was to be absolutely relied upon. When in Natal we had the use of a
large ship’s boat belonging to the Company, rigged as a cutter. It was
a sight to see Jones sail her single-handed, but then he had served his
time with the Trinity House.

For some reason it had been decided that Captain Ker should leave
Southampton as marine superintendent, and reside at Cape Town as
manager of the Company in South Africa. When he arrived in Cape Town he
found the _Basuto_ after a refit, looking very spick-and-span, and I
suppose conceived the idea that that was her usual condition, which was
bad luck for me. There had never been any great cordiality between us
and there was to be less in future, for try as I might there was always
something wrong about my ship in his view, and he resented, I think,
meeting officers at houses where he visited, especially as ladies do
not always pay that deference to superior position to which its owner
may think himself entitled. But be that as it may the fact remains that
there was no love lost between us.

From time to time we carried as passengers many distinguished men, or
those who were in the way of becoming so. Especially do I remember two
clerical dignitaries; Bishop Colenso was one. He once confessed to me
a feeling of irritation because the new Bishop of Cape Town was to
be enthroned by one who was his junior in the Church of England, he
himself being precluded from officiating by reason of opinions he had
put forward. In due time the new bishop also travelled with us, and
when we got the usual dose of bad weather in consequence he declined
to turn in, saying with a merry twinkle in his eye that it would be
undignified if anything happened, for a bishop to be seen without his
gaiters. He is an archbishop now, but at the time I write of his hair
was black, and he was not above a bout at singlestick.

Just about this time there was a good deal of national unrest,
extending from Zululand to East London. It was shortly after the
Langalibalele trouble, and on our way down the coast we were ordered
to call at the Kowie and tow to Algoa Bay an American ship called
_Tecumseh_, which had lost her rudder. Captain Ker came up to supervise
the operation, and we also took on board as a passenger Mr. J. A.
Froude, the historian, who was then on his way to England. He had been
touring the country in order to form his own opinion on the political
situation for the benefit of his friend Lord Carnarvon, and one may be
permitted the remark that it was a great pity he did not take a more
careful survey of the situation, for South African politics were not
then to be learned in a three months’ sojourn in the country, or for
that matter in six either. At all events he failed to recognise the
fact that the situation was summed up in lines from Alice through the

    “The eldest oyster winked his eye, and shook his hoary head,
     Meaning to say he did not choose to leave the oyster bed.”

In my own mind I have always held Mr. Froude responsible for the Boer
rising which culminated at Majuba.

Of course when it comes to doing an unusual job things cannot be
expected to work quite smoothly, and they did not on this occasion. I
had been on board the _Tecumseh_ and rigged up a makeshift rudder with
stream chain, and returned to my own ship to get the towing-gear ready
for a start at daylight. In the morning, of course, I was up betimes,
and had as I thought the situation to myself. There was one A.B. who
was constantly giving me trouble when there was anything to do, and
usually required correcting by some method before the day was out. On
this particular occasion I thought I would make the correction before
the day began, so as to have no further trouble, when looking round I
found Mr. Froude paying me quite as much attention as I thought was
necessary. He inquired whether that was my usual method of maintaining
discipline, to which I replied in the affirmative, and the incident
closed. We towed that ship to Algoa Bay all right, but two captains in
one ship are quite unnecessary. Captain Ker, however, would interfere,
and at the end of the towage drew down on himself the wrath and
language of the Yankee skipper, expressed in a masterly manner, to
which I listened with an unholy satisfaction.

On another occasion when he was taking a passage I remember him giving
me an order to alter course without consulting Draper, that was an
absolutely unwarrantable action, manager for South Africa though he
was. His last exploit at sea was, however, splendid. Another manager
was appointed, and he took command of one of the Company’s ships
that went on the rocks at Ushant one winter’s night. He saved crew,
passengers, mails and specie in twenty minutes, and it took a man to do

When we got to Cape Town there was an amusing incident. One Sunday
Jones and I, with some cheery souls, went out to lunch at Coghills at
Wynberg. Mr. Froude was at the table talking in loud tones about his
great lady friends at home. There was also present Mr. Savage, one of
our directors, whom Jones did not happen to know. In the midst of lunch
Jones started to tell his friends how he had acquired some beautiful
ostrich feathers from a bird he had travelled with. I could not stop
him for my legs were not long enough, but I watched Savage’s face
until he said, interrupting dryly, “I hope those feathers were not on
freight, Mr. Jones.” Many at the table could see the joke and there was
a peal of laughter.

I was not sorry when after about twelve months I managed to get a
transfer home. I may mention here, however, the end of the _Basuto_.
She had various peculiarities, one of which was a playful habit of half
filling her after hold with water. Of course that never had anything to
do with the tunnel or the engine-room, so said the engineers at least;
I had my own opinion on the matter. Then, again, she was infested with
rats, and we got into a habit of shooting at them with small revolvers
in the evenings when we were in harbour. I say little of minor
depravities such as the anchor always fouling the stem when we got it.
Anyhow, she stayed on the coast about two years after I left her, and
then came home and was sold to some Frenchmen. The rest of the tale
about her is as it was told to me. The new owners did not understand
all her little failings as we had done; one fellow pulled a broomstick
out of a hole one morning, and that started an inrush of water which
they could not cope with. I heard that when the crew left her they did
not even stop the engines--but I do not vouch for the truth of this
particular yarn.

I got my passage home in the _Nyanza_ as supernumerary second. Warleigh
was skipper, William Somerset Ward was chief and Henry Barnes was
second. I forget the others. Now Ward was one of the men who had been
brought in over my head when the yarn was that they wanted “more
experienced men” (contrast that with the cry of to-day of too old at
forty). He was one of Green’s men and a very fine officer. He had
brought with him many of the old Blackwall fashions, one of which was
that the men of both watches should answer to their names when the
watch was relieved. That was a plan that I took with me from that ship
for the rest of my sea career, but it was an unpopular proceeding
though most useful from a disciplinary point of view. Barnes on the
other hand I had known since my first voyage to sea, when he was in the
_Elphinstone_. His appearance was fiery and his character did not belie
it, but he was a really good fellow at heart and I liked him. Trouble
soon arose. Warleigh wrote in the night order-book that the dinner
look-outs were to be kept alternately by the second, supernumerary
second, and fourth officers. As a rule they were kept by the third
and fourth only, so Barnes got the idea that Warleigh was unduly
favouring me, although I was actually Barnes’ senior in the Company. He
accordingly walked into the captain’s cabin the next morning and shut
the door. No one ever knew exactly what transpired. Barnes was a big
noisy man, and Warleigh slight and quiet. There was doubtless plain
speaking, for when Barnes reappeared he went to his cabin and remained
under arrest until we arrived home, when he left the service. He told
me afterwards that he had told Warleigh “he could make his bally chum
second mate, and perhaps that would please him”; but it always struck
me that he sacrificed his prospects for absolutely no reason.

We reached Southampton with no incident calling for special note, and
in due course I was sent for by the managing director, Mr. Mercer,
who informed me that I had been sent home by Captain Ker as my ship
was always behindhand with work, and I was constantly putting my men
in prison. “But,” said he in his most kindly manner, “as this is so
different a report from that which you have always had I am going to
send you out as chief of the _Roman_.” I thanked him to the best of
my ability, and was delighted with the change. My new skipper was
A. W. Brooke-Smith, with whom I never had any unpleasantness, and
whose friendship I value to-day. He told me confidentially that he
was delighted to have me for chief; but that we should have a warm
time on the coast as Ker hated me and would be sure to find fault.
Before we sailed Warleigh came to see me one morning to offer a bit of
advice. It was “Don’t do so much yourself; make the other officers do
more.” Ever after I acted upon this; it did not increase my popularity
with my fellows, but the counsel was good. Popularity may be paid for
too dearly, and after all it is our superiors that we should try to
please. Brooke-Smith was a great stickler for orders being obeyed to
the letter without any consideration as to discretionary power. He
also was given to making unreasonable demands upon one’s power of
performance. For instance, on Saturday at 9 a.m. he would give an
order to send down topsail-yards, and then expect the ship to be as
fit for inspection at 11 a.m. as if nothing extra had been done. Lower
and upper yards were all in the day’s work, but topsail-yards were an
innovation, and hardly fair play for Saturday morning. However, it was
done, and all went off well. When in that ship I had the good fortune
to make many friends, one of whom was Herbert Rhodes (brother of the
Colossus). What a splendid character that man had--a head to plan, a
hand to execute and the heart of a child. I think I was the last of all
his friends to see him before his untimely end.

Then again, one passage home there was Lord Rossmore and his brother
the Hon. Peter Westenra. Very lively companions they were--I never met
their equals in that respect. They never seemed to want to sleep, and
if there was any mischief to be done there was no need to call for
volunteers. They were cheery shipmates and left a pleasant remembrance
behind them. Also do I well remember Captain Byng, R.N., the commander
of the _Active_, Admiral Hewitt’s flagship. He also was a cheery soul,
and we habitually spent our evenings together. I learned from him many
tricks in the trade of managing men.

I now had rather more time to attend to my personal affairs, and one
important matter was to get my master’s certificate. I could now ask
for leave to go to town to pass, and was furnished with excellent
references both from the Company and my captains. We had as marine
superintendent at this time Captain Walter Dixon, who had commanded
the Company’s ships for years. He was a very excellent man for the
post, kind, courteous and considerate. But in spite of agreeable
qualities there was never any doubt as to his ability to enforce his
will, and his word went a long way with the Board of Direction. In
addition he was the keenest of sportsmen. He simply loved horses and
sport, and rather affected a horsey style of dress. He did me many a
good turn, as it will give me pleasure to relate.

Passing for master at the time I write of was no great ordeal, but it
was a somewhat tricky one for this reason--the examiners in seamanship
were necessarily old sailing-ship men. It may be presumed that they
considered a steamship man as a sort of inferior being, or shall we
say a hybrid being--at best a makeshift seaman. The fact was that
many officers who had grown up in steamers had not had my experience
in sail, or the opportunity of picking up the old art of sailoring,
and it will be realised that there were times when they might find
themselves a little uncomfortable in the examination-room. I was to
see an instance of this. Naturally, I went again to John Newton for a
final rub up, although I had been coaching myself for some time past,
for there were always new fads to be prepared for on the part of the
examiners. But I greatly fear that I was again the bad boy of the
class, for Newton would at times look at me with grave eyes, and did
not commit himself to any optimistic view of my chances of success.

The eventful day at length came round when our fates were to be
decided. I remember that I made a mistake in my figures which I was
given an opportunity to correct, for every possible bit of fair play
was given. The examiner in this particular matter sat next me at a
recent Trinity House luncheon, a younger brother like myself, and I
reminded him of ancient times with pleasure.

But after the navigation came the seamanship and that was “quite
another story.” Captain Steel was my examiner and he proceeded to
put me through the mill in a most thorough manner. At last he got
on the topic of handling a sailing-ship under short canvas in heavy
weather. He proceeded on a system which supposed various changes of
wind, and finally asked me what I would do under certain conditions. I
was nonplussed. Then he brought in Captain Dommett who was engaged in
the next room examining a chief officer from the Royal Mail and told
him where I was puzzled. Finally he left me with a diagram to study
while they both went into the next room to put the same question to
the West India Mail man. Suddenly the right answer came to me. It was
only catchy in a room, it would have been palpable at sea in practice,
and when Captain Steel returned I merely told him that the answer
was “Wear ship.” That was the conclusion of the examination, and I
was complimented upon having done well, but the man in the next room
was not so fortunate. To pluck a chief officer of tried ability in a
first-class line is a serious matter, and rightly before doing so the
examiner took a second opinion. The unfortunate officer in this case
had got through his figures without a mistake, and far better than I
had, but for want of sailing-ship experience he was sent back to sea in
a steamer “to gain experience” to answer such a question as had nearly
done for me. That was one of the bright days of my life, for I thought
the ball was at my feet as I sped to the telegraph office to send a
wire to Captain Dixon, who took considerable interest in the careers
of his officers. He used to consider that he could put his hand on men
suitable to perform any service, and was proud of it. After that I went
to John Newton, where there was a gathering of plucked ones. Newton was
surprised at my success and asked me if I was a Freemason, to which
I replied in the negative, for the absurd belief was entertained that
my passing was due to the correctness of that surmise. I wished him a
cordial good-bye with many thanks for the trouble he had taken over me.

About this time I received my commission as a sub-lieutenant in the
Royal Naval Reserve, and to this day I am uncertain whether it was a
good day’s work or a bad one when I did so. I also got married.

The command of the _Roman_ was now changed to Captain S. R. P. Caines,
a man of considerable character, but of no great discretion. He was
probably his own greatest enemy, for as a shipmate I found him all that
could be desired. He did not care much to associate with passengers,
except at meal times, and usually spent his evening in my cabin, or
rather I should say came and smoked for two hours when I came off
watch. Needless to say that when skipper and chief were on these terms
the work of the ship went on well, and we rather fancied ourselves in
the old _Roman_ and thought we could show other ships how to do things

We were nearly always lucky in our crews, for the men got to know what
was expected of them, and I know that I egged the skipper on to many
an innovation. For instance, one day in Algoa Bay I was curious to see
how long it would take to get all boats out to abandon ship. This we
did suddenly one day, with the result that including fire drill and
rehoisting all boats, forty minutes was the time taken. I also learned
there to pay attention to boats. One time, leaving Southampton, a
fireman (drunk) got on the rail, and saying that he was going back to
his wife, jumped overboard in the Needles passage. The second officer
(Pybus), the third, two quarter-masters and myself, jumped into the
boat fitted with Clifford’s gear, dropped her into the water, picked
up our man, and were hoisted up and proceeding in eight minutes; that
was pretty smart work, but I had personally seen that boat was in order
half-an-hour previously. I fear that Clifford’s patent is no longer
as popular as it was. True that it is a little expensive to keep up,
and requires care if used with a heavy boat, but with it a boat may be
dropped in the water with perfect safety, no matter what the speed of
the vessel may be, and I know that I stuck to it for the time I was at
sea. Then again, it was our custom habitually to strip the ship as much
as possible when steaming against the S.E. trade. I was anxious to find
out what difference it would make if in addition to sending down yards,
we housed our topmasts. When this came to be done, however, I found out
what I had let myself in for. It was a heavy job to carry out at sea,
but as it made the difference of a quarter of a knot in speed, I had to
do it each voyage. On the last occasion we did the job between 7 and 9
a.m. and had a day’s work afterwards, but getting the topmasts up again
was at times a ticklish operation. However, we never killed any one.

There is an incident that I may mention when on one occasion most of
the crew got drunk and out of hand at sea. It was one Saturday night
and a beautiful moonlight one at that. Where the men got the drink from
we never knew, but there was violence and a free fight more or less
before getting some of them in irons and tied up to the mainboom for
security until they were sober. We had a young parson on board, the
Rev. R. H. Fair, a Cape boy, who had been a Cambridge athlete, and is
now rector of West Meon. His distress was great at having no legitimate
excuse for taking part in the scrum, but he had a share in it after
all. While it was at its height I was forced backward over a door-sill,
and had it not been for Fair’s action in pulling off my assailant
I should have had the worst of it. It all ended without serious
consequences and the men were heartily ashamed of themselves next
morning. We punished some of them when we got to Southampton. About
this time, August 1877, I took long leave, and left the old ship with
regret. I wanted to put in some Naval Reserve drill and to the best of
my recollection there was then no drill ship at Southampton. Anyhow, I
had to stay in London in order to drill on board H.M.S. _President_,
and of it I will only say here that while the instructors were possibly
the best that could be found in the navy and the teaching of the first
order, there seemed always to be an under-current of indifference so
far as the officers were concerned. I was anxious to learn, and did
not get nearly enough to satisfy me. I got on my certificate “has been
energetic and very attentive,” but had acquired a taste for the Queen’s
service, which very often caused me to pay less attention than I might
have done to things more intimately connected with money-getting.

Suddenly I received instruction to join the _Danube_, and went to
Southampton once more, where I found my old skipper Draper in command
and the ship taken up for troops. To the best of my belief it was the
head-quarters of the 32nd and they were going to Queenstown, South
Africa. Trooping is an experience that improves on acquaintance, but
one was apt in those days to think that the embarkation officials were
unduly fussy. In reality they were nothing of the sort, for to keep
troops healthy too great care cannot be exercised. The naval captain
who was inspecting told me that as he knew boats were a hobby of mine,
he intended to leave that matter to me.

I think the officer in command of the troops, Major Rogers, V.C.,
was an unmarried man, for he was grimly satirical on embarkation day
on the subject of officers looking after their wives’ band-boxes
instead of seeing to their men. He and I became on very good terms.
In point of fact they were all a most agreeable lot, if I except two
junior officers whom I could not get on with at all. The ladies were
charming, but it was a little amusing at times to hear them expressing
their candid opinions of some of their colleagues. There was also as
a passenger going to Natal, Major Mitchell, afterwards Sir Charles
Mitchell, K.C.M.G., a very striking personality. I think he had been
in the Marines. He made my acquaintance by approving of the manner in
which the decks were cleaned in the morning. He used the expression
that “they were like a hound’s tooth,” and as that smacked greatly
of salt water, we took to one another and formed a friendship that
lasted longer than differences of opinions. He had a most wonderful
memory. I remember his sitting on the quarterdeck with a crowd of
people (mostly ladies) round him, and reciting without a note the “Lay
of the last Minstrel,” and doing it in such a manner as to hold his
audience spellbound. I often met him, after the voyage was over, in
various parts of the world. He showed ever the same courteous cheery
personality so valuable to a public man.

There was nothing of exciting interest on the passage; things went
smoothly, but the following incident deserves to be told. The officer
commanding the troops visited the troops’ quarters every morning at
eleven with his officers and me in attendance. There were sentries
posted in different parts of the ship, and one was stationed by the
principal hatchway. Some point was raised as we were going below,
and the O.C. turned to the sentry and said, “Go and find Sergeant
So-and-So.” The man, a youngster, flushed very red and said, “I must
not leave my post, sir.” The O.C. turned red too and said, “But I
tell you to go,” and again received the same reply. By this time the
O.C. had got his breath, some one else was sent, and the sentry was
told that he had done quite right. I observed to the O.C. when the
inspection was over that I fancied that chap would soon get promotion
and I found that the O.C. shared my view. It was an interesting case to
me, for I wondered in the circumstances whether a sailor sentry would
have hesitated to obey an immediate order from his C.O.

One other story of an entirely different nature. Fatigue parties were
at times told off to clean paintwork about the decks, and they were
usually in the care of an able seaman who put them in the way of doing
it properly. One afternoon I was out of sight but within earshot of
a party working with a seaman named McRae, a man I could trust to do
anything, but an awfully wild scoundrel if he got out of hand. Said
one of the young Tommies, “What would you do if you hadn’t got us to
clean the ship for you?” Said McRae, “If it was not for the likes of
you carrion there’d be no dirt to clean.” I retired to my cabin for a
big laugh over that. I think we landed the regiment at East London,
using cheese baskets to put the men into the lighters, and in due
course we started homewards, but there was an incident in Algoa Bay
that I should like to tell the truth about at last. At this time there
was a good deal of rivalry between some of the ships, as to which had
made the fastest passage, and some brilliant genius conceived the idea
of making the image of a brass cock with his wings extended in the
act of crowing. This was mounted on the jackstaff of the commodore’s
ship the _German_, but many of us thought that she did not deserve the
trophy, for even the old _Roman_, which was then in port, had made a
wonderful run after a smart chief engineer had altered the lead of his
slide valves. Be that as it may, it would be good business to score
a point off the chief of the _German_, if we could manage to do so.
There was one officer in the _Danube_ who was born for mischief, his
name was Samuel Pechell. Afterwards he came into a baronetcy and soon
died. But at the time I write of he was third or fourth officer. There
were many ships in the Bay, some belonging to the Currie fleet, so
that suspicion would be divided as to the perpetrators of the robbery,
especially as it was said that some people from the _Conway Castle_ had
made a previous attempt at Cape Town. It was a bright moonlight night,
shortly after 3 a.m., when Sammy Pechell and McRae having covered our
dingy with white sheets, started to paddle ahead of the _American_, and
drop down to her bows hanging on by the cable. Like a monkey McRae was
up the cable, and in less time than it takes me to write these lines
was down again with the coveted bird. I had grave suspicions that the
_Melrose_, one of the Currie coasters just coming in, had seen the job,
but I suppose that a boat under the bow of an opposition ship did not
interest them. There was a watch too in the _German_, for “seven bells”
were struck just after the cock disappeared. We had intended to put
it up on the _Roman_, but I vetoed anything further that night. The
bird was afterwards packed in a game hamper and set to Wait, the chief
officer, in Southampton. Next morning there was a fine hubbub all round
the fleet; there may have been suspicions but no certainty, for many
thought it had been done by some of the Currie men. In due course I
told my skipper, who dwelt on the enormity of stealing the commodore’s
bird and told me I ought to be sacked for encouraging such a thing.
Dear old Captain Coxwell was the commodore, and his remarks to me the
next time we met were picturesque, but never shall I forget distinctly
seeing McRae cross himself before he shinned up that cable. All the
people in the _German_ were quite mad over the episode, and I am afraid
that Pechell had a bad time of it afterwards when he had to sail with
McLean Wait, who I fancy had got to the truth of the business.

There is just one remark I would make in passing, and that is on the
liability to be caught at misdoing at any time. On the passage home
entering the Channel, we were put into double watches of six hours
each--and six hours is a long watch in cold weather, as it then was;
Pechell was my junior, and was supposed to supervise the forecastle
look-out, but really was a good deal on the bridge with me. I had the
first watch, which ended at 2 a.m., and about one o’clock I said to
Pechell, “Go down to my cabin, have a tot yourself, and bring me up a
glass of hot grog, as soon as you can.” He went, and shortly afterwards
the skipper came on the bridge and took possession of the weather
corner under the screen. I heard my door open and up came Sam. Not
seeing the skipper in the dark, he observed audibly, “There you are,
sir, I made it stiff!” The reek of whisky on the night air was palpable
as I drank it, and Draper made sarcastic comments. I must, however, do
him the justice to say that he seldom troubled me, and I am certain
would sooner have brought me refreshment himself rather than that I
should put foot off the bridge.

When we got to Southampton that time it was on a Sunday, and my only
regret was that Captain Dixon was not down to see the ship. She was in
such order that she satisfied even me, and Draper, a very particular
and natty man, could not offer even a suggestion, for her appearance
represented the culmination of all the years I had served as chief in
learning how to put and keep a ship in proper order. But I was growing
dissatisfied, there were men being placed in command who were new
comers compared with me, and as there was an old saying, “that modesty
was a sweet thing in a woman but not worth a rap in a man,” I put such
remnants as I had in my pocket and laid siege to Captain Dixon. My
friend, Mrs. Baynton, had also been having a few simple words on my
account with more than one of the directors, one of whom (Mr. Savage)
had said to me some little time previously, “that I was all right, but
that they thought I hardly carried ballast enough.” To this I retorted
that I had a wife and surely that was enough to give one stability.
Captain Dixon was most kind. I pointed out that I was fit for command
and that I hoped he would help me, to which he replied that he would
be pleased to make me Captain Crutchley, but that unfortunately he
could not make ships. He would, however, keep me at home, so that I
might be on the spot if a vacancy occurred. I do not remember who
relieved me, but I left the _Danube_ to make myself generally useful
in various companies’ ships in port. At that time there were few men
who considered it necessary to pass the Board of Trade examination in
steam, but as I could make the time fit in I did so, and if such a
certificate is useful to a master on even one occasion it is well worth
the trouble of obtaining. It helped me materially on one occasion.
There were two engineer examiners, and the experience was a new one for
them, but they took no unfair advantage of their superior knowledge,
and I had the satisfaction of seeing my certificate endorsed with
the words “Passed in Steam.” My practical examination took place in
the engine-room of the _Asiatic_, and curiously enough, two days
afterwards I was ordered to act for her captain in taking the ship
down the river. At this time there was another chief officer also on
shore, A. McLean Wait, who had been chief of the _German_. I did not
dream that other people might be pulling strings that might hamper me,
but there was more going on than I was aware of. I should state that
although Wait was actually my junior in the Company he had held a good
command previous to joining it, and it was generally considered that
he was marked for early promotion. He and I were good friends, and I
had assisted him at a function in the _German_ when she was a new
ship. He was a man of considerable attainments, but somehow there was
a something in his manner which did not attract people; he had lots
of good friends, however, and nature had been kind to him so far as
personal appearance was concerned.

One morning I had taken some specie that had been landed from one of
our ships to the Bank of England, and having done so went to report
the fact to the Company’s office in Leadenhall Street. When leaving I
met Wait going in; I had a chat with him afterwards, going to spend an
hour at the Aquarium before returning to Southampton. There were two
things with which I was not acquainted. One was that there was a Board
Meeting that day, the other that the command of the _American_ was
vacant and that Wait had been sent for with a view to giving it to him.
He was called before the Board, and there some comment was made as to
his having lost a ship; this appeared to go against him, for the word
came out to ask for me. I was not to be found, and Wait was appointed,
for the ship was shortly to sail. This shows on what trifles things
hang, for the few weeks seniority he got by this gave him a series of
chances which might well have formed part of my life’s story. It kept
him in command when the Company’s fleet was reduced, and afterwards
permitted him to become marine superintendent, and subsequently the
Company’s agent in New York. We always maintained a cordial if casual

There were a number of new ships being built for the Company’s service,
and it was now the turn of the _Pretoria_ to make her appearance.
Great things were expected of her, and when the _African_ came home
George Larmer was taken from her and given command of the new vessel.
This made another vacancy, and it was then my turn to be summoned to
the directors. Sir Benjamin Phillips was chairman, and the chair on
his right hand was always reserved for the master under _dissection_.
On this occasion the experience was a pleasing one, for in his most
courtly manner he observed, “Captain Crutchley, if you will always
consider that the Company’s honour, so far as the _African_ is
concerned, is entrusted to your keeping, you will please and satisfy
us: now, will you give us the pleasure of your company to lunch?”

It is strange, but though the remembrance of that day is very dim, I
always recollect those words and the grave courtesy with which they
were spoken. The directors were naturally men of varying temperaments.
There had formerly been a director I never met, whom I will designate
as H, whose business it was to rebuke a master whenever such a
proceeding in the opinion of the Board became necessary. It was stated
that he had a great talent for language, on which point I ought to tell
a story. He was a merchant, and had in his business a nephew who was
known as Mr. John (afterwards a cordial friend of mine) who, on some
provocation, had told one of the clerks that he was a damn fool. The
clerk complained to H, who looking him full in the face said, in his
broad Scotch accent: “Whether Mr. John was right or wrong to _call_
you a fool, I’ll no tak’ upon mysel’ to determine, but ye _are_ a damn
fool--ye are--ye are--ye are.” And the man fled.

When I come to think it over, that Board of Directors was good for
a straightforward conservative policy, but as events proved was not
well fitted to deal with the more exacting conditions entailed by the
competition of modern shipowning. In fact it was not up to date, and it
never took to itself the leaven that would enable it to cope with the
situation created by the opposition of the Castle Company. It was the
greatest of all pities when the flag of the Union Company was merged
into that of the Castle Line. It was doubtless a proud day for Sir
Donald Currie, but I shall always maintain it as discreditable to those
who permitted the transfer, and particularly so to the chief actor
in the surrender. The transfer did not take place during my term of
service in the Company, but it was galling even to an old employé to
see the armour of Achilles appropriated by a hated Trojan.

I had previously made a passage in the _African_, so that my first
command was in no way a stranger to me. She was a pretty little ship of
rather more than 2000 tons gross, with a fine long poop and comfortable
accommodation for passengers. Her speed under steam alone was something
over ten knots, but with the help of canvas and a strong fair wind she
could touch 300 miles a day. That was not often, however. My cabin
was in the poop right forward on the starboard side, and it had the
disadvantage that, except in very fine weather, one could not sit there
with the saloon door open. But to overcome this there were times when
I had a canvas screen nailed up to overcome the trouble, for it was
not necessary to stay on the bridge always. The worst thing about the
ship was the compass. The standard was a large spirit compass that was
always giving trouble, and the steering compass on the bridge was close
to a mass of iron tanks, stanchions and disturbing matter generally, so
that it was almost impossible to compensate for local disturbance. In
every other way the ship was perfectly found, but this little matter of
a proper compass, on which so much depended, was one that was driven
to the background and slighted by every one. It was no part of my
business either as a junior to find fault. I had to take that which had
satisfied my predecessors, and as it happened she had been commanded
by Captain Dixon before he was made superintendent, as well as Captain
Baynton, the commodore. My policy was to lie low and get what I could
as time went on. There was a story told of a certain captain, a very
tall man, who mentioned to the deputy superintendent that his berth was
not long enough for him to sleep in. This, it is said, was reported to
Mr. Mercer, who replied in his usually dry manner, “If the man cannot
fit into the berth, we must find one that can; fortunately the world
is wide and the field is large.” The last half of the answer was often
hinted at if inconvenient requests were made.

There were a very nice set of officers in the ship; but the chief was a
senior man, and it is a little awkward to come the skipper over one of
your colleagues. He was a Cape man named Chiappini, and was afterwards
killed by an accidental fall when serving in the _Arab_. The third
was a youngster named East, the son of Quartermain East of Tichborne
claimant fame. First and last he sailed with me for many years, and
there was a great friendship between us. The second, Walter Foster, was
also a nice fellow, but very delicate, though plucky to the backbone.
The engineers also were a good set. The chief, Ernest Gearing, is now
I believe one of the leading lights in the engineering world, and it
was easy to discover even then that his acquirements were of no common
order. Lastly let me mention Henry Black, the second engineer. There
was no great amount of sympathy between us at any time, but he sailed
with me as chief engineer during the greater part of my sea career.

I have gone into this detail with a view to showing the sort of men
the Company’s ships were manned with. Sailing day came at last; there
were not many passengers, but one of our directors came down to see the
ship off, bringing with him one of his very charming daughters, who was
kind enough to wish me luck and a successful command. I took it as a
good omen, and if I do not mention her name, it is in no sense that I
have forgotten it, or the graceful kindness shown me on more than one
occasion. We arrived at Plymouth in due course, and there I learned
to my great satisfaction that my friend Harry Escombe had decided at
the last minute to take a passage with me. He arrived on board in due
course, and I started on a new experience--that of being my own master.
This particular voyage we were on was a novelty also, for the people at
Algoa Bay had been complaining they did not get their goods as quickly
in proportion as the Cape Town people. We were therefore to call at St.
Vincent to pick up the latest cable news and then to go to Algoa Bay
direct, passing by Cape Town. We were also to go to Natal.

I rather think that some small smattering of commercial education
should be imparted to holders of certificates, and one thing that
should certainly be driven into their heads is that to send a letter
on business without keeping a copy is little short of crime. I did not
learn that lesson for a long time, but I wish now I had copies of the
letters in which I gave the various incidents of the voyages to my
chiefs at home. Captain Dixon had asked me to write to him fully, which
I always did, even going so far as to relate gossip, but the letters to
the secretary were necessarily of a more reserved order. For rightly or
wrongly a secretary is usually considered by the staff afloat as the
enemy of all mankind. It is natural enough, for as a rule the wiggings
come through him, and he on his part gradually acquires the idea that
he is quite competent to instruct a master upon any subject--that he
is in short a vicarious person inheriting the combined wisdom of the
board. This pretension is not in every case acknowledged. I regret
to state that I rather carried with me the impression that masters
had natural enemies, but when I consider the number of years I lived
without keeping any journal, or record of events, I am not prepared
to argue that they do not indirectly invite trouble. I know that the
search necessary to make dates fit in for this narrative has been by
no means inconsiderable, and the good offices of Admiral Inglefield of
Lloyd’s has helped me to overcome past omissions. He caused a record of
my commands to be made, thus helping me materially to put facts in the
order in which they occurred.

It would not have been possible to get a finer start than we had on
that voyage, with a beautiful fine N.E. wind that took us well down
to St. Vincent. I find that we were running close upon 300 miles for
several days, and then came the job of taking the ship into port on
a fair moonlight night, not by any means a difficult matter when you
are used to it, but if you permit it to get upon your imagination,
curious results are at times obtained. I had made up my mind from past
experiences that show irresolution on the bridge I would not! I had
seen so many skippers wandering into an anchorage, and driving every
one mad in the course of getting a berth, that I was determined not to
lay myself open to such a reproach. I once sailed with a man who if he
had the whole anchorage to choose from would go and give a solitary
vessel a foul berth, simply because he did not know where he wanted to
go. I saw him do it once in Natal Roads. Again, constantly stopping
or easing the engines by guesswork ought to be avoided when coming to
an anchorage, but I am talking of long ago, and I dare say the men of
today know exactly when to ease their engines so as not to lose time.

On this particular occasion I thought I knew where I wanted to go, and
was going there in a hurry. I anchored rather sooner than I had meant
to do, but it was all right, and Escombe came to congratulate me on
the way I had brought the ship in. I had, however, already discovered
that there was a much better berth than the one I was in, and had given
orders to get the anchor and shift at once, which I did, carefully
keeping my reasons to myself for so doing. I may remark that in most
places steamers anchor closer inshore than sailing ships. In St.
Vincent they reverse this order of things.

We coaled up and left in due course. There were not many saloon
passengers, but we were a very cheery party. It was distinctly the
commencement of a liberal education to have the intimate acquaintance
of a man like Escombe, who in addition to great natural gifts had
acquired an omniverous appetite for knowledge. Especially keen was he
upon astronomy, and his store of information was always open to draw
upon. Even in the intricacies of a seaman’s calling he was well versed,
for his practice at the bar had put many strange cases before him to

There was not much else that called for comment before we reached Algoa
Bay. Here Escombe transhipped to a coasting steamer in order to reach
Natal sooner than we should, for we had to discharge a portion of our
cargo. He did so against my advice, and as he did not save the time
he anticipated, forfeited a bet to me of the best pair of binocular
glasses to be got at Baker’s of Holborn. They lasted me for my time at
sea, and I never saw a better pair. In Algoa Bay the _Dunrobin Castle_
was at anchor. She was commanded by Alec Winchester, who was a splendid
seaman and a marvel at handling his ship. My old friend, Barnes, was
also chief officer there, for Mr. Currie, as he then was, was always
pleased to snap up any good officer who was leaving our service. By
this time there was a little better feeling between the two services,
and I know that Alec Winchester put me up to many things concerning
a ship which few learn save by actual experience, and I am glad to
acknowledge the obligation. We went on to Natal, finished our discharge
and loading, and in due course arrived at Table Bay on the homeward
trip one Sunday afternoon.

As it was getting dusk and there was more than a bit of a south-easter
blowing, I should like to pass over this incident, but cannot in
fairness to the truth of this story.

The entrance to Cape Town dock in those days bore a resemblance to a
donkey’s hind leg, inasmuch, as there was a crook in it. The inside of
this crook was formed by the end of a stone wall and a small jetty,
and it was arranged that we were to stay in the lock or entrance until
we sailed. I started to get in, but as the two insides of the crook
were to leeward of me, I found myself hitting the end of the stone
pier rather hard while the stern of the ship rested gracefully on the
jetty. The _African_, I thank Providence for it, had a clipper bow.
“Go forward,” said I to the third officer, “and see how much of her
is smashed up.” He returned with the information that the ship was
intact and uninjured. She had only run up the stone wall a little,
and displaced a big stone or two. By this time we had got out hawsers
and warped her to windward (where we remained until sailing day), and
an hour afterwards were sitting at dinner. I thought many kind things
concerning Providence, but even then I fear I did not realise to the
full what my obligations were.

Sailing day came, still blowing hard from S.E., and I had to back
the ship out stern first. I did not look forward with any degree of
confidence to the job, but kept a face of brass to all and sundry.
Warleigh, who was there in dock, came and chatted just before I
started, and pointed out with perfect accuracy just exactly how the
ship would behave under stern way. It was very good of him and I told
him so. We got out with no accident; in fact, I was satisfied, and
I have frequently noticed that if I have that feeling, most people
concerned share it with me.

An hour after the time fixed for our departure the _Warwick Castle_,
Mr. Currie’s newest and fastest ship, was to leave. She was commanded
by Captain Webster, who I was told had promised to make an exhibition
of my ship. As soon as I was clear of the breakwater I got the canvas
on and I rather fancy my chief engineer had got the needle too, for
although we saw the _Warwick_ come out of the Bay, gain on us she could
not, and we saw her astern for a day or more, when we lost sight of
her. The reason, of course, was that we had a spanking trade wind, and
our canvas helped us. We carried a fair wind to Cape Verde and then I
knew that our advantage was over. When we arrived at Madeira, the other
ship had left some hours, but we were told that Captain Webster had
spent some time in the stokehole of the _Warwick_, and was furious at
his inability to pass us.

As showing the relative merits of Southampton and London as ports for
southern-going steamers, let me mention that my ship was docked and
discharging, and I had been to London and seen my directors before the
_Warwick Castle_ had passed Gravesend. There was nothing of special
note that happened between Madeira and Plymouth, but I left the latter
port at five on a December afternoon with a fog coming on. I kept her
going, and was justified in doing so by the fact that I hit nothing. At
last, getting into I think it was nine fathoms of water, I turned her
round due west and saw the Needles light red on my starboard beam. I
need say no more than that Providence perhaps showed partiality even to
the end on my first voyage.

I should say that when I met my directors Mr. Mercer was kind enough to
say that I had made a remarkable passage to Madeira.


  “’Tis a pity ... that truth, Brother Toby, should shut herself up
  in such impregnable fastnesses.”--STERNE.

It was a very comfortable feeling, to find myself one of the circle
that I had looked up to and envied so long, but it did not appear to me
that I was in any way a different person to that which I had ever been.
I mean that I experienced none of that feeling of proud omnipotence
which I had always imagined to be part and parcel of a master. Perhaps
this was partly due to the fact that my old crony Harry Owen was in
port, preparatory to sailing for Natal in command of a tug built for
the Company’s service. Certainly no one could be serious for long in
his company.

The _Union_, as she was called, was a peculiar craft, for she had a
propeller at each end, with a shaft extending from one end to the
other, the object being to prevent racing on the short seas of Natal
bar by always having one propeller in the water. Bernard Copp, now
Captain Copp of Southampton, and one of the last of the old crowd, was
chief officer, and I think that the events of that passage might have
been chronicled with advantage as they were related to me, in language
of extreme raciness. I passed her off Agullas on the next voyage, and
she arrived at Natal in safety after many vicissitudes.

It was no part of my business to grumble, but I felt inclined to when
I learned that we were to have ten days at home and sail on Christmas
Day of all days. It was an outrage, for there was no necessity for it;
it was just one of those sardonic jokes that directors collectively
at times take a delight in. We were to carry no passengers, but were
to make a somewhat longer trip than usual, for after going up to and
down from Natal, we were to make a trip to Zanzibar before returning
home, in fact it was to be a five months’ voyage. Never shall I forget
that Christmas morning. We were to leave at noon, and every one seemed
anxious to kick us out and go back to their own firesides, also I had
more than an idea that several of the crew had not got quite over
Christmas Eve. I had a boatswain named Barrett, a good man, but one
who wanted some handling. We got outside the Needles and found a stiff
breeze blowing, with too much wind to carry whole trysails, so the
job was to put in a reef and set them. By this time most of the crew
were asleep, and my chief officer was hardly the man physically to get
a move on them, so I proceeded in the first place to the boatswain’s
cabin. It was touch-and-go how it went, but Barrett was sober enough
to retain a pride in his manhood, and after that there was no more
trouble. He was a man of powerful physique, so the crew appeared in a
twinkling, like bees from a disturbed hive, and the work was soon done.
The doctor, who was named Ernest Walters and now practises in Essex,
proved himself a good useful man when occasion arose, even outside his
own work.

I had been trying to see what I could do to improve the compasses in
dock, with so unsatisfactory a result that I did not feel sure whether
I should make the Start or Ushant going down Channel, for we were
not to call at Plymouth that trip. I had to replace a much-loathed
compensation at the first opportunity, but we did fairly well on the
whole, coming in for a fair dusting, however, as we got off Finisterre.
About this time there were two schools of thought as to the best way
to handle a steamer in bad weather. One party maintained that head on
to the sea was the correct plan, the other people varied in detail
but agreed in denouncing the end-on principle. On this occasion I
tried the end-on plan, but came to the conclusion, which I have since
retained, that almost any position is better in really bad weather; of
course the size of the vessel has a great deal to do with it.

To the best of my belief we got to Cape Town and docked on the morning
of January 22, 1879, the day on which the battle of Insandlwana was
fought. We had a good bit of cargo to land, and there was no great
hurry. That evening I was in town, gossiping at the club or something
of the sort about 11 p.m., when a rumour was whispered of a great
British defeat. All the Company’s shore officials were in the country
or in bed, and it occurred to me that there were troops in Cape Town
who would have to be moved up to Natal, also that I was the man to
do it in a hurry. I made at once for the office of the _Cape Argus_
and, by dint of an exercise of modesty, got hold of the Editor. I wish
I could remember his name. He was not popular, but on this occasion
showed me every courtesy. Without giving particulars, he told me a
disaster had happened, and that reinforcements were urgently wanted
at the Front. That was enough for my purpose. I made straight for
Government House, from there to the Castle, and then went down to the
ship, knowing that I had secured the job to take what troops there
were to Natal. This was all the more satisfactory because there were
three or four Currie ships in the dock that could have sailed at short
notice, but I doubt if they could have gone as fast as we did. When
daylight came in I set every one to work to get the cargo out of the
’tween decks to make room for the troops, and must say my fellows
worked like good ones. That afternoon I went up to see Sir Gordon
Sprigg, who was then Premier, and promised that I would not anchor
between the Cape and Natal. By the courtesy of Captain A. D. W.
Browne, Captain and Adjutant of 2nd Battalion, The King’s Own Regiment,
I am able to quote from the regimental records.

“The detachment at Capetown (_i. e._ C, G, and half E companies, with
Major Elliott, Captains Knox and Leggett, and Lieutenants Bonomi and
Ridley) was brought at a few hours’ notice to Maritzburg, sailing in
the s.s. _African_ on January 23, and landing at Durban on 26th.” I
take leave, however, to doubt the absolute accuracy of this record for
the following reason. The disaster happened on the 22nd. Certainly
one day elapsed, for it was in the afternoon of the 23rd that I saw
Sir Gordon Sprigg, and I have a distinct recollection of going out
of dock in a thick fog before breakfast, and the caution of the port
captain that there was a big sailing ship at anchor very near the dock
entrance. This discrepancy, however, is of no great importance. There
was one little incident in the embarkation of the troops that took my
fancy very much. Said young Bonomi, “Did you notice, major, when we
left that the barracks were on fire?” as if the matter were one of the
smallest importance only. If they were burning, at all events they were
soon extinguished.

We left Cape Town docks in a thick fog, which, however, cleared when
we got to the entrance of the Bay, and we made the best of our way
round the coast. We had to call in at Algoa Bay, but I did not anchor,
as I had to do (though for a few minutes only) at East London, and on
the evening of the 26th we were all very thankful to make the Bluff
light at Natal where we anchored about 8 p.m. I should explain that
by common report it was one of the threats of Cetewayo that one night
he would come in and put out the big candle on the Bluff, meaning the
lighthouse, so that when we saw the light it gave us relief, for we
knew at all events that the worst had not happened. It is an easy
matter to think it over quietly now, but at the time there was a great
deal of uncertainty as to what the Zulu power was really capable of,
and on the previous voyage I had heard Judge Lushington Phillips, who
knew the country thoroughly, make the remark that if we tackled the
Zulus we should have many empty saddles before the affair was finished,
which unfortunately was a true forecast.

Captain Baynton was acting now as the Company’s manager in Natal. He
came off at the earliest moment and disembarked the troops; he also
gave me instruction to land one of the _African_’s twelve pounder guns,
with all its necessary equipment, for the defence of the Pynetown
laager. This was done, and the gun was duly mounted, though never used.

There is no doubt that at that time Durban was very uncertain as to
what would happen. A decision had been come to that if the worst came
to the worst they would all have to take to the ships, and consequently
great wooden barricades had been hastily run up across the Point to
assist in resisting any victorious Impi that might be out on that
particular piece of business. Very many of the stoutly built houses in
Durban were loop-holed with sandbags, and the entire male population
was being organised for the best resistance possible. On the first
evening I landed I went into some big hall, I forget which it was, and
saw the inspector of police, Alexander, putting the townsmen through
their drill with old Snider rifles. There never was a more attentive
class. So far as my remembrance serves me, there was not at this time
any naval officer to superintend at the Point; all that sort of thing
came in the course of the next month or so.

But although Rorke’s Drift had been fought and the Zulu rush stayed,
the ordinary trade had to be carried on, and I was soon dispatched
down the coast again. It is wonderful in these cases of emergency
what can be effected by the display of pluck and experience. In all
the excitement which prevailed, Baynton was unmoved, save with some
little scorn, perhaps, for those who took too seriously the normal
reverses of war. The 24th regiment, which was cut up at Isandlwana,
was a great favourite with every one, and I had known many of the
officers intimately, and enjoyed the hospitality of their mess. To
this day Pat Daley’s picture hangs in my bedroom as a memento of one
of the cherished friendships of early days, for he was of the best of
them, but old Ted was sternly practical, and retailed for the benefit
of the uninitiated the lessons he had learned in the Crimean War. As
it happened, on the previous voyage home I had with me, as passengers,
wives and children of officers who were killed, and the disaster came
to me with a great sense of personal loss.

It was found by experience that the Zanzibar mail work could be
better done by larger vessels than those we had on the coast, and the
_African_ was to be the first of our intermediates to make the trip.
One of our captains, H. De La Cour Travers, had been on shore on the
East Coast for some little time on Company’s business, and he came
up the coast with me. Nothing of importance occurred, but our stay
at Zanzibar was a very pleasant one. Leaving that port there were
two passengers of interest. One was Archibald Forbes, the other Lord
William Beresford. Of the great war correspondent there is little that
is fresh to be said, but the following anecdote may be permissible: I
did not like card-playing in the saloon on Sundays, and said so, but
when I was in my cabin dozing after dinner with one eye open, some of
the others came to Forbes, asking him to play and to disregard me.
“No,” said Forbes, “the skipper isn’t a bad chap, and he doesn’t like
it, so there will be no play,” and there was not. This was the more
noticeable, for I had had to address a few unpleasant remarks to him on
a certain subject. With regard to Lord William it was another matter.
We most of us have an idea of the energies of the Beresford family,
but here was the quintessence of it. I first met him jumping down the
steps of De Sousa’s shop, just as a child would do, both feet together.
We were soon on very good terms, and I owe to him my introduction to
Gordon’s poems and some other things of a like nature. He was full
of romance, and in order to get a look in at the Zulu War was taking
letters from Lord Lytton, the Governor-General of India, whose A.D.C.
he had been. I never saw him again after I said goodbye in Durban Club,
with the words “Luck and a V.C.” He got both.

Natal Roads was a different place in April to what it had been in
January or even March. There was a great collection of steamships
there, and the entire harbour was very busy. We skippers found it a
little awkward to get on shore and come off again, for the Company’s
tug was almost the only reliable conveyance, and she could not spare
individual attention to our ship only. Eventually the Curries got a
tug of their own, and that made matters better. The _African_ was now
bound home, and things were working very smoothly. Sailing from Cape
Town, however, we stayed in the Bay for some hours to pick up some
celebrities who wished to sail with us. Amongst these was the Rev.
Charles Clarke, the celebrated elocutionist. We became great friends,
and I enjoyed his society very much. The saloon was full of passengers,
and I well remember the events of that sailing day. I had to deal
with peppery men standing up for their rights on the one hand, and
the supplications of beauty in distress on the other, whilst looking
on with calm serenity were the wonderful eyes that years afterwards
were to be my guiding stars. I had to exercise considerable diplomacy
to arrange matters, but eventually it was done, and peace reigned for
the rest of the trip. Upon that occasion we had a really live ship’s
mother, and any one who has travelled much knows what that means;
but she was a charming, good-natured soul, and her husband was the
best tempered man I think I ever met. In case they are still alive
and chance upon these lines, I should like to say that the kindest
remembrances of them remain, for we were shipmates afterwards on more
than one occasion. There was a very fair spell at home that time, and
I had my first experience of playing expert witness in a law case. It
related to the loss of a vessel on Point Padrone in Algoa Bay, and the
fees we received were grateful and comforting, but the masterly summing
up of the case by the then Master of the Rolls, Sir George Jessel, was
a thing to remember.

We were still on the direct Algoa Bay, Natal and Zanzibar route, which
was out to Natal--then to the Cape--then Zanzibar and home _via_ Cape
Town. Calling at Delagoa Bay on the outward trip we took on board H. E.
Governor Castilho, who was proceeding to Mozambique. He was a naval
officer by profession (Portuguese) and had been well known for some
years as Consul in Cape Town. He was a man of very marked ability,
and spoke English perfectly. I once asked him how it was he spoke our
tongue with such purity. His reply was “You learned to speak from your
nurse. I learned my English from the _Spectator_.” I quite recently
had a pleasant reminder of our old friendship, for he sent me his
photograph. He is now an admiral, and I have to mention him more than
once in these pages. There is always a certain rivalry between seamen,
and it was not wanting in this case. Mozambique is a port that in
those days was not entered during the hours of darkness, as there were
no leading lights to ensure safe navigation. It was dark before we made
the light on St. George’s Island, and Castilho observed to me that I
should have to anchor outside. The spirit of opposition made me reply
that I should go inside. To make a long story short I turned in just a
little too soon, and the port lead gave “half four” just north of the
Island light. It was coral formation and that meant very close to the
bottom. Castilho, who was on the bridge said, “You are on the north
side,” but I knew better, ported the helm, went full speed and was into
safety once more. But it was touch-and-go. However, by this time I had
got confidence on the bridge, and, thank Heaven, it never left me. I
left my friend the Governor at Mozambique, for he told me he was going
to the Cape _en route_ for home with me on the downward trip.

Need I say that there are times when masters of ships are charged with
delicate commissions? The trip under notice was a case in point. The
agent of a company, if properly accredited, is supposed to exercise
the powers of the owners if need arises, but the master is also the
owners’ representative so far as his ship is concerned. The point
is a nice one, as to how far it lies in the power of an agent to
supersede the master’s authority, but the problem is not perhaps now so
difficult when there are so many facilities for cabling information.
In my time, however, our masters were not taking more orders from the
smaller agencies than they could comfortably manage. Our Zanzibar
agent was a man rather awkward to deal with, but he always consulted
me before deciding any point concerning any ship. When I left Cape
Town I was charged by our chief agent, afterwards Sir T. E. Fuller,
K.C.M.G. (as to whose authority there was no doubt), to confer with
the Zanzibar agent as to the Company’s accounts, which were apparently
in a somewhat backward condition. This was rather a delicate matter,
but I did my best and the affair passed off very well as I thought,
and I received the assurance that the accounts should be forthcoming
without more delay. H.M.S. _London_ was the station ship at Zanzibar
for the suppression of the slave traffic, and naturally we were on good
terms with the various officers, and on the morning we were to leave
I went to the Sultan’s levee with them. The preceding evening we had
illuminated the ship with blue lights, as it was Ramadan time, and H.H.
Seyyed Burghesh was kind enough to compliment me on the appearance of
the _African_, for from his watch-tower he could see all that went on.
The levee was over by 10 a.m. and I went on board in order to sail at

About 12.30 the agent arrived with the ship’s papers, and I casually
observed that I was very fond of punctuality, little dreaming of the
mine I was setting fire to. Amongst other things he said something
about wishing to send some particular sort of ox and a goat to Algoa
Bay. I judged that he had intended to do so, and thought no more about
it. We left the port and proceeded through the pass all right. But
unknown to me, and while I was at the levee, the Sultan had sent on
board (as it turned out eventually as a present to me in recognition
of our fireworks) an ox and a goat, which I imagined when I saw them
were the ox and the goat referred to by the agent to be landed in
Algoa Bay. There that matter can rest for the present, but there is
more to follow. At Mozambique we picked up both the old and the new
Governors of Delagoa Bay and a Major Da Andrade who was to be landed
at Quillimane. I think he has since played an important part in
Portuguese East Africa. When we got to Quillimane there was no sign of
craft coming out, so, after long waiting, we put the passengers, mails
and specie on board an Arab schooner anchored outside, and left for
Delagoa Bay. It may appear in these days a loose way of doing business,
but there was then no help for it.

About this time Delagoa Bay was in a very poor state politically. There
was government by an autocracy, not always a wise one at that, and the
management of the natives was a source of considerable profit to the
so-called emigration agents. In fact, affairs were in bad confusion and
I scarcely think Castilho was sorry to turn his back on the scene of
his late governorship, for events had been a little too hard to manage.

We got down to the shoals as it was getting dusk and a heavy sea was
breaking on many of the shoal patches. There were no marks or lights,
so I put her at one of the dark patches of water and she came through
all right, in fact it was about as safe a plan as could have been
adopted. But I will admit it was rough-and-ready navigation, adapted to
the needs of the time and also the circumstances of the case. We got
to Cape Town in due course on the way home. There, to my satisfaction,
I met my friend, Herbert Rhodes, and got up a little luncheon party on
board to celebrate the occasion. I thought I had picked my party well,
for I had Castilho and Rhodes, who sat opposite one another and next
to me. There was F. St. Leger, “the Saint,” as the dear old editor
of the _Cape Times_ was commonly called, Peter van Breda, and others
whose names do not now occur to me. I was greatly surprised to find
that Castilho did not talk willingly to Rhodes, and that the latter
had some reason for mirth which he did not impart to me at the time.
When we left the table Castilho observed to me, “If I could have have
laid hold of your friend in Delagoa Bay, he would have gone to jail
for a long time.” I was a bit astonished, but the party then broke up.
Here was the reason of it all. For some years past there had been a
lot of young Englishmen coming to South Africa in search of adventure,
and there was very little that was too hot or too heavy for some of
them to tackle in one way or the other. Some were soldiers, I remember
Major Goodall and Captain Elton in the early ’seventies; then there
were young men such as Dawnay, Reggie Fairlie, Campbell, and others
like Rhodes. They might be hunting, or transport riding, or exploring,
but one was fairly confident that no piece of mischief was passed that
could by any means be negotiated. Now, some little way up the river
that runs into Delagoa Bay there lived a dusky potentate whose soul
thirsted for the possession of some piece of artillery, be it ever so
small, and as proof of his earnestness offered in return a tumbler full
of diamonds. I never heard that they were to be of any fixed value,
but they ought to have been, for the Portuguese strictly forbade the
importation of artillery of any sort or kind, and it would go hard with
any one engaged in smuggling. I am not certain who Rhodes’s companions
were, but some of those I have mentioned were surely in the job. They
chartered a little schooner at Natal, named the _Pelham_, then got a
six-pounder old brass gun, which they smuggled on shore at Delagoa
Bay one night and buried in the mangrove bushes above the town. They
got their diamonds and, then, instead of getting on board their craft
as sensible, or older, men would have done, they proceeded to paint
Lourenço Marques red, in the brightest coloured paint procurable.
There was a certain lady there with very sharp ears who, forming a
conclusion, gave the game away to the authorities, and the young
adventurers owed their freedom to the fact that there did not happen
to be a Portuguese gunboat in Delagoa Bay, as there usually was.
Doubtless, however, that absence had been taken into consideration.
This was the last occasion but one on which I saw my friend Rhodes.
The last was when he came off to my ship at Quillimane, a short time
after this, to bring some ivory tusks for home, to get some Eno’s fruit
salt, and if possible a toothbrush, and chiefly to see me. It seems
that he had got some great shooting concession from a chief up country
and was going the next day to take possession of it. We had a long yarn
about mutual friends, and that was the last of him, for some accident
happened at the camp fire the next day, and he was so burned that
death in agony was the end of a man who in my mind always stands as an
embodiment of Charles Ravenshoe.

About this time I had as passenger the late Arthur Sketchly, of “Mrs.
Brown” fame, going out to write that lady’s adventures in South Africa.
He was a man of great bulk and moved slowly. One night at dinner, some
boys were very happy and jolly. He turned to me, saying, “Young men!
Young men! they can run, jump, laugh, eat, make love, do anything. Ugh,
I hate ’em!”

On my next passage from home we got a very severe dusting just south
of the Bay of Biscay. I find by my notes that we lost a lifeboat, got
the bridge rails smashed, man washed from the wheel, and various other
damages; but these things will happen at times. We got to Algoa Bay
on December 25, 1879, and there the fun began concerning the ox and
goat being landed in an unauthorised manner, and I was liable for all
sorts of fines. Further, I was told that the Zanzibar agent had written
about a “buffalo and a calf,” and these were not as described. Given
these circumstances there can be lots of correspondence and, as in
this case, serious results. About this time I was in severe domestic
trouble, such as shakes a man to his foundations, but fortunately,
perhaps, if you happen to be a cogwheel of a machine you are kept
grinding and so have less time to brood over the workings of fate. I
was thankful for the companionship of two of my passengers, one Herbert
De La Rue, and the other Fred Struben, both of whom are now well-known
men. We got to Zanzibar, and there it was reported to me that the agent
had been spreading reports concerning my sobriety when I left the port
on the previous voyage. I did not concern myself about this until the
agent made the statement to my chief officer. It was all over the “ox
and goat,” for the statement was that I was told in good plain English
by the agent that they were a present to me from the Sultan, but I was
not in a fit state to comprehend what was said. Now on the morning in
question I had been, as I have said, to the Sultan’s levee and had
not touched intoxicants at the time of leaving port. The inference
that coffee and sherbet had influenced me was of course unbearable.
However, as the statement was persisted in there was no alternative
but to take the matter before the Consul. There were numbers of
independent witnesses from the shore to testify on my behalf, and the
agent was fined and mulcted in costs. They had a fine expeditious way
of doing business in that court, for a defendant is ordered to appear
“forthwith.” To close the incident, there was some talk in the harbour
about the “cheek” of a master putting an agent in the court, but I
knew that unless I took immediate steps the lie might have lasted my
lifetime. The next time I faced my board and the business came up, the
chairman, Sir Benjamin Phillips, said to me, “We think that you acted
quite rightly, sir,” and that was all that I required. I should like
also to put on record my sense of appreciation of the kindness of Sir
John and Lady Kirk, Sir John being at that time Political Agent at
Zanzibar. The remainder of this voyage, so far as I was concerned, was
uneventful, save that I found it quite necessary to really practise
star navigation. I had then with me, as chief officer, Franz K. Thimm,
an old Worcester boy, and he seconded my efforts by all the means in
his power. Between us we came to the conclusion that we could be, if
necessary, independent of daylight observations, and that state of
things was useful on a coast where currents often run both strongly
and in uncertain directions. But, apart from its usefulness during the
whole of my sea career, I never lost a sense of wonderment that man
could compile such a book as the Nautical Almanac. To step on deck,
take three or four all-round shots at stars, and then go in and place
the ship to a nicety, gives one cause for reflection and thankfulness
for the work of the great discoverers who have so benefited those who
came after them.

When we arrived home there were some changes made. Wait, who I have
explained was my senior in command by a few days, was in port in the
_American_, and there was then building on the Clyde the _Trojan_, to
which it was necessary to appoint a master, to finally supervise her
fitting out, and bring her round to Southampton.

One day Wait was ordered to go north--and I to the _American_, then
Wait was ordered back to his old ship and I to the _Trojan_. This was
rather a fortunate thing for me, as on the passage out, when on the
line, the _American_ broke her screw shaft and sank. Fortunately all
hands were saved, to the infinite credit of her captain and officers.
Captain Hepworth, R.N.R., C.B., of the meteorological office, was then
chief officer, and my old friend Jones of the _Basuto_ was the second.
I came to hear of the accident in the following manner. I was in my
lodgings one afternoon when the office messenger, Fancourt, came in
with a face of great importance, “Captain Dixon’s compliments, and he
would like to see you at once.” Those who have known Fancourt will
realise the manner in which the message was delivered, for I really
believe he thought he ran the Company, in the same manner that the
limelight man dominates the stage. I went to the office of my chief,
who paid me a great compliment or else was pulling my leg. The table
was covered with charts, and he said, “The _American_ has sunk in lat.
---- long. ----. All hands saved in the boats. I want you to tell me
where we should look to find these boats, for I conclude you know more
about it than any of us.” As it happened I was wrong in my estimate,
for the boats were picked up by ships, but the currents, both the
Guinea and Equatorial, might have played a part in their destination.
Some of the passengers had a second shipwreck in the vessel that
picked them up and there were fatalities. I cannot quite remember how
the news first reached home, but several details stood out rather
prominently. One was that the theatre on the poop, where theatricals
had taken place the preceding evening, was conspicuous as she sank,
and also that the second officer had been seen getting the butcher’s
water-tank into his lifeboat. That was typical of Jones, essentially
a practical seaman. I asked him afterwards to tell me about it, and
whether he had any trouble at all. “When I got down in the boat,” he
said, “to get things in order I chucked out several bundles of things
that were no use and took up room, one of which belonged to the cook,
who resented my action. I just told him that if he said more I would
see that he followed his bundle, and there was no more trouble.” It has
always been a matter of congratulation to me that I escaped being in
that business. Captain Wait was very justly highly complimented for his
action, and his officers, too, received their meed of recognition.

I duly went north to take over the _Trojan_. She was a ship of
something under four thousand tons, but that was big for us in these
days. Taken all round she was one of the nicest little ships I ever
had to do with, and curiously enough she was the _second_ ship that
carried an electric light. I fancy the _City of Berlin_ was the first,
but the _Trojan_ was the second. It was merely an arc lamp in the
saloon, and Captain Dixon referred to it as “one of the chairman’s
fads.” A special cabin also was being fitted up to bring home the
Empress Eugenie from the Cape. She had travelled out in the _German_.
I found the two brothers Thompson, who built the ship, very agreeable,
and they did their best to make my stay pleasant. Leaving Clydebank
on the top of high water we actually bridged the Clyde, by accident
it was true, but we might easily have been in a very awkward fix. We
went into the Gareloch to adjust our compasses, and there I first
had the pleasure of meeting Sir William Thompson, afterwards Lord
Kelvin. Seamen should be eternally grateful to him, for in addition
to a perfect compass, he gave us also a sounding machine which, if
fairly used, is simply invaluable. I once asked him, some years after
this, for I am pleased to say that I retained his friendship, why he
could not give us a reliable log that would register the ship’s speed
accurately. He replied that there would be no difficulty in doing
that, but as it would engender a false confidence he thought it better
left alone, for surface currents that could not be accounted for
would falsify the correctness of any log. We did not run our official
trials in the north, but at Stokes Bay. On the way round Captain Dixon
was with us, and I learned that I was to take the ship out. This, I
thought at the time, was a little too good to be true, for I knew some
senior would come along and hustle me out of her, and after we had
our speed trial in Stokes Bay, sure enough Travers had managed to so
work it that he came home in the _Asiatic_ and the exchange was duly
effected. My connection with the _Trojan_ was not a long one, but for
many reasons it was eminently pleasant. For instance, it had given me
an opportunity to meet, unofficially as it were, most of my directors,
and it convinced me that there were times when they could behave as
human beings. I should specially like to mention the unvarying courtesy
of Mr. Giles, who had succeeded to the chair. He was then member for
Southampton, and his dinner-parties at Radleys, to which all our
captains in port were invited, were functions much appreciated by those
asked to attend.

There have been many ugly ships afloat--the _Basuto_, for instance--but
for sheer naked ugliness and brutality unashamed, the _Asiatic_ must
be given the palm. She was built at some north-country port, and had
a bow like a circular haystack. When she was light and a breeze was
blowing, very nice handling was required to prevent her taking charge
herself. But she had her good points: for one thing there was a decent
compass, and she handled well in fine weather; for the rest she was
comfortable enough at sea, but had not been well attended to as regards
her upkeep, and wore a slovenly aspect altogether. This I at once set
myself to remedy, and she presented a vastly different appearance
the next time she came into Southampton. We of course were on the
intermediate service, but when we arrived at Zanzibar for some reason
there was great jollification going on, in which we participated. I
gave a dinner and ball attended by every lady in the place, except
two--the French consul’s wife and sister. They were absent, as the
captain of a French man-of-war told me in strict confidence, because
the unmarried sister’s dress was prettier than that of madam. The fact
remains that we mustered, I think, eight ladies, and they were very
well pleased. What was of more importance, however, to my mind, was a
shooting match got up between the officers of the cable-laying ship,
H.M.S. _London_, and ourselves. The _London_ found the rifles and the
ammunition, and P. G. VanderByl, one of the lieutenants, was in charge
of the _London_ team. I had known his people at the Cape for years
past, and was afterwards shipmates with him in the old _Devastation_.
We sailed up the harbour in one of the _London’s_ sailing cutters;
they had several, and very fancifully named they were--after the names
then in vogue on the front pages of waltz music. This one was called
_Olga_, and she was navigated and conned by VanderByl as if she had
been a battleship. It is, perhaps, needless to say that we were fairly
well provided also for a picnic. I had in my team a great big hulking
quartermaster whom I had seen do very well on the range at home, and
I was relying upon him and some of my officers to make a good show.
To make a long story short, the _Londons_ shot abominably, and we did
rather worse, the cable ship being a bad third. My quartermaster was a
distinct failure. The _Londons_ were delighted to find they were not
beaten, for it turned out afterwards that their captain would have been
vexed had they been. It was at this time that I made the acquaintance
of Captain Ouless, R.N., who was navigator to the _London_. I always
found navigating officers most willing to help a shipmaster with the
time, or any information that may be at their disposal. I fancy it was
on this voyage also that I first met H. M. Stanley. I was taken by one
of the officers from the consulate, a nice fellow named Holmwood,
into a large, low, fairly light room. A small white man was leaning
against the wall, and squatted all round the room were the men Stanley
was engaging for his trip to the interior. It was a rather remarkable
gathering, but if the truth be told, neither then nor afterwards did
he give me the impression of being the remarkable man he in reality
was. There was also in the port that beautiful yacht the _Lancashire
Witch_, afterwards bought by the Admiralty for a surveying craft. She
was owned by Sir Thomas Hesketh, but I do not remember making his
acquaintance. The Sultan’s forces were then under the command of a
British naval officer named Matthews, and it was very remarkable the
success that attended his efforts. His men regarded him with immense
respect and veneration, and would have gone through fire and water for
him. It was quite a sight to see them drilling in the square in front
of the palace. I ought also to say that the Sultan was most generous in
providing horses for visitors who wished to ride. He had a sort of a
henchman called Mahomet, who spoke very good English, but was not, if
my memory serves me, an unswerving Mohamedan, for at times he admired
the wines of France. Although afflicted badly with elephantiasis, a
very common complaint there, he would always manage any little matter
that might be required on shore, but naturally he liked his perquisites
and saw that he got them. If report spoke correctly, he could have told
the tale as to how the death of gallant Captain Brownrigg, R.N., was
brought about, but as I cannot state facts it is little use talking
over that sad story.

There were quite a nice lot of passengers for the homeward trip from
Natal and the Cape, amongst them a newly married couple, the bride
being a very beautiful Dutch girl. Before we left the Cape there was
quite a gay time. One day we started out in a drag for a picnic at
Newlands, but it came on to rain badly. There was a man I knew lived
near to where we were, named Raphael Bensusan, and he was a good
fellow, so we drove up to the house. He was not in, but his brother,
or a male relative was, and he joined us in our picnic on the floor of
the dining-room, for as it happened the house was half shut up. That
was a very jolly afternoon, and the day ended with one of those balls
in the Exchange Building that went far to make Cape Town one of the
pleasantest places to know.

The following story is absolutely true, and shows how circumstances
at times seem to try and assist the hangman to put the rope round
the victim’s neck. It was my custom when in command to sleep in the
afternoon, and then remain about well into the middle watch. In the
_Asiatic_ my cabin was at the fore end of the saloon on the starboard
side. One night, about half-past twelve, I was sitting up with a
Captain Le Breton, smoking and yarning. The door was open, windows and
ports also, for the night was very warm. This was before the time of
electric lamps, and my cabin was lit by a moderator lamp, and another
one hung in the saloon, for ordinary cabin lights were extinguished
at 11 p.m. save when by the doctor’s orders they were kept burning.
Suddenly in rushed a girl, yelling that some one was looking into her
cabin through the porthole, and asking to be saved, flung herself down
in a chair, and went off into a faint. Just at that moment a puff of
wind blew my lamp out, a thing that had not happened before to my
knowledge. Then I went for the lamp in the saloon, which also went out,
after which I got the quartermaster’s bull’s-eye, and went and called
the stewardess, who took the frightened girl back to her cabin and put
things straight once more. When I and my companion were alone again I
asked him, if he was on a jury, would he believe in such a combination
of circumstances, and he gave an unhesitating No, and I can certainly
say, Neither would I.

The _Asiatic_ got back to Southampton looking so smart that she hardly
knew herself. It’s really wrong to make fun of my ship, but on her
first voyage, when she was commanded by Captain Coxwell, the commodore,
on her arrival in Algoa Bay he was chaffed by his acquaintances upon
his skill in bringing in his ship stern first, for they pretended
to believe that no vessel in existence could have a bow like the
_Asiatic_. They might almost have been forgiven for the belief.

Back now once more to the _African_, for as far as seniority went I
was in my proper place there. The directors had come to the conclusion
that they would run a monthly line to Hamburg, in connection with the
intermediate service to Zanzibar, and the _African_ was the first
one to undertake this business. Our chairman, Mr. Giles, who had
carried out engineering work at Cuxhaven, thought it fair to masters
to send them over first as passengers to let them see what the Elbe
was like before taking their ships there. This was a considerate act,
for a frozen river was a novel experience to me, if not to others. I
therefore took passage in one of the General Steam Navigation ships.
The Elbe was frozen over, and it was curious to see the steamer
charging a great floe of ice and splitting and rending her way
through it all. The main difficulty, however, appeared to be that the
injection water occasionally froze, and there they had to use a special
contrivance for blowing steam through the injection plate. I duly wired
that information home, but no notice was taken of it, and I had just
the same bother in the _African_. One could not help being impressed
by the iron order imposed upon all and sundry in Hamburg. The people
lived by rule, and they lived well; the docks were in excellent order
and far better fitted than were ours, either in London or Southampton.
I was taken by the Company’s agent to a ball where the admission was
sixpence. It was 2 a.m. and there were about three thousand people
of the working class present, but not a sign of rowdiness or any one
the worse for drink. It was something of a revelation, but there was
a great deal more to be learned than that. I suppose I, as most young
Britons of the period, had the idea firmly fixed in my mind that we
were the one people in the world, and that no one else counted. Our
agent was a very nice fellow, and we never had the smallest friction,
but somehow or other he managed to convey to my mind that there was a
nation of Germans that intended to become, as they thought themselves
then, top dogs of the world. I have mentioned an earlier instance of
this already.

I saw all I could and went back to bring my ship over, and if any one
is under the impression that the North Sea is a nice place to navigate
they are welcome to their belief. It is not mine. I suppose that in
time those trading there become accustomed to it, but it must make
seamen of them, and this factor should be taken into consideration when
appraising the worth of our Teutonic cousins as possible rivals at sea.

It is undoubtedly a good thing to have a change of route. Constantly
trading between the same places is pleasant in many ways, but you see
little that is fresh, and the mind has a tendency to run in a groove,
which is not healthy. And again, fresh faces and places sharpen your
wits, and remove the impression that you have learned all that there is
to know.

A first trip up the Elbe in the winter time was a fine corrective for
any feeling of stagnation. The Company was kind enough to supply us
with a North Sea pilot, a shipmaster acquainted with those waters, but
I had no idea of letting him do aught else than consult me. In this
case he was not anxious to assume any responsibility, but arriving one
night after dark at the mouth of the Elbe, we got on board as a pilot
a little old man, who gave one the idea of Rip Van Winkle. There was a
lot of ice coming down, and I was considerably surprised when the pilot
asked me to put the anchor down with the ship making at least six knots
through the water. It was quite all right, however, and next day we got
to Hamburg.

My instructions were to give a dinner and entertainment to some of the
shipping magnates, and that I proceeded to do, sending out invitations
on the advice of our agent. The eventful evening came round, and I had
had some doubt for a day or so as to the strict sobriety of my chief
steward. As dinner was proceeding I looked backwards where I could
see the pantry, and then observed the steward in a helpless state of
inebriety. He caught a look from me that would have sufficed to wither
an anchor, but he was too far gone to be affected. My own personal
servant and the head waiter pulled us through, however, all right. The
dessert was hardly on the table when one of the guests was on his feet
proposing the health of the Kaiser, and the rest got up and yelled
“Hoch” enough to lift the deck beams. I sat fast and said nothing, for
the situation was an awkward one. I was host, but it was a British
ship, and our Queen had to come first, so when the national ebullition
had died down, I got on my feet as I said to propose the first toast of
the evening, “The Queen and the Kaiser.” That was perhaps too great a
concession, but it was better than discord under the circumstances. It
was duly honoured and the rest was harmony, for I had provided music.
My servant at that time was a perfect attendant; I scarcely needed to
tell him anything, for he had the faculty of anticipating my wishes.
There was one of the guests who was needlessly pro-German throughout
the evening, but at the end of it he had to be put into a cab and sent
home. I fancy that for his final brandy and soda he must have had
brandy and gin. I gave no instruction or hint on the matter, but I had
the impression that honours were about easy at the finish. A day or so
afterwards he came to wish me _bon voyage_, but he did not seem very
well, and I doubt if he meant it. It was so cold in Hamburg that the
steam winches on deck had to be kept moving all night when not in use,
to prevent them freezing, and as the ice-breaker was not then properly
at work we had to cut our own way through the ice going down the river.
When we got back to Southampton the ship’s sides at the water line were
bare of paint, and the steel side was as bare as a knife and the same

When we reached Natal in the course of that voyage, we heard of the
outbreak of the first Boer war, which commenced by the shooting down
of one of our regiments without any declaration of hostilities. I will
only say this, that the feeling between the Dutch and the British
was then, and for many years afterwards, so acute that the last Boer
war was the inevitable outcome of it, and for this state of things
I, in my own mind, have always considered Mr. Froude and his friends
responsible. Left to themselves, the Boers would have accepted the
ruling of Sir Bartle Frere, had his administration in the Transvaal
been carried out as he intended it should be.

My chief officer in the _African_ was a man I have mentioned before,
E. T. Jones, who wore an abnormally large black beard, from which he
had acquired the soubriquet of “Black Jones.” I had the very highest
regard for him in every way. When we arrived home in February 1881,
as a matter of course I went to London to see the directors. At that
time the _Roman_ had been chartered to take out troops to Natal. There
was then no master appointed to her, and I was questioned as to the
ability of my chief officer, to which I replied that he was as good a
man as I was. But, said one director, “is that the man with a black
beard that looks like a pirate?” and the conversation closed with a
laugh, and the intimation that they would come to Southampton to see
about it. When I returned that evening I got hold of Jones, and much
against his will took him to a barber’s and had his beard off. It
was a time for heroic measures, for that use of the shears probably
decided the matter in his favour. As, however, it would not do to send
out troops with a man whose first voyage it was in command, he took
the _African_ and I the _Roman_, with orders to change again on the
coast. As I write this I have before me a letter signed by the officers
who travelled in the _Roman_, thanking me for a pleasant passage. The
first signature is Finch White, major 85th Light Infantry, commanding
troops. It is followed by F. Grenfell, lieutenant-colonel 60th rifles
(now Field-Marshal Lord Grenfell). Amongst many others comes R. B.
Lane, major rifle brigade (now General Sir R. B. Lane), D. N. Stewart,
2nd lieutenant 92nd Highlanders, who afterwards achieved honours in
many parts of the empire, and Charles E. Knox, captain 85th regiment,
one of our best generals in the late war. They were a pleasant crowd
to travel with, and the passage passed without a hitch, but so far as
I was personally concerned I had a little trouble, for on the line I
discovered that my carpenter had been neglectful of his duties, and we
had only one day’s water on board. I said nothing about it but put on
the condenser night and day until we had refilled our tanks. I then
put an officer in charge of them, but my chief engineer rose manfully
to that occasion, for it was not pleasant to have many hundreds of men
depending entirely upon condensed supplies. Major Lane and I became
very intimate. He had a wonderful personality which attracted every
one, and I doubt not he still retains it. One evening he and I caught a
booby, and the question was the best use to put it to. Colonel Grenfell
was then asleep, and we thought it might be a good idea to put the bird
in his bunk. We put that squawking beast on top of him as he lay, but
he never turned a hair, only said, “Ugh! take the beastly thing away,”
and we did. It was no small test of a man’s nerve, however, since tried
and verified in many a tight corner. One thing struck me, however,
on that trip, and it was the great interest taken by the officers in
theological works of all sorts. There was a fine collection on board,
and I remember reading one called _The Approaching End of the Age_, by
Gratton Guinness, which proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the
world must end by 1894.

Going into Cape Town dock it was blowing a strong south-easter and
the ship was listing heavily to starboard. We got the troops over
to the port side and that put her upright in a trice. It was very
smartly done, but they only wanted a word to do what was wanted.
Then we learned that the war was over. I fancy that Lord Roberts had
already arrived and returned, and there were loud murmurs of discontent
all round. We went on to Natal, however, and landed our troops. The
late Admiral Andoe and Sir Edward Chichester were there disembarking
officers, and they gave me a very nice certificate for the manner in
which the entire job had been performed. By the way, I had a bet with
Colonel Grenfell that the Government that made the peace would not last
six months, but I was wrong in the sequel.

On the way back to the Cape I had with me as passenger Sir J. H. De
Villiers, the Lord Chief Justice, who told me that had peace not been
made the whole of South Africa would have risen in revolt, so perhaps
things were as well as they were. I got back into my own ship at Mossel
Bay, and resumed regular work once more.


  “And the world went very well then.”--MEL. B. SPURR.

I was glad to make the transfer with Jones at Mossel Bay. For one
reason it gave him a fair chance of retaining his command, for the
_Roman_ was to remain on the coast, and I also gave a certain sigh of
satisfaction as I saw the blue ensign once again at the stern of the
_African_, for she was a nice little ship and I was very fond of her.
When I got on board I found that Ballard and his wife were taking the
passage home with me. It is a curious sensation after you have been
under the orders of a man to meet him upon terms of equality, and to
this day some of my old officers, now in command, cannot get over the
inclination to say “Sir” to me. I remember remonstrating with one of
them some little time ago. He replied, “Well, I always said sir to you,
and I always shall.” He was an Irishman, and the episode took place
in the House of Commons, whither he had dragged me to meet some of
the leaders of the Irish party. It was on that occasion that I first
met John Burns, now the Right Honourable, who, speaking of the then
recently concluded Boer War, observed that we had beaten “better men
than ourselves,” from which statement, guided by my past experience, I
mildly dissented.

On that passage home I lost overboard my boatswain, and to the best
of my recollection he was the only man that parted company with me in
that manner during my career at sea. I have known one or two instances
of people disappearing on board ship, when the inference was they had
gone overboard, but he was the only case of a man falling overboard,
and not being picked up It happened this way. We were half way across
the Bay and the ship was rolling, with the promise of bad weather
coming, when I gave the orders to get the anchors inboard, for they had
been left at the bows on leaving Madeira. It was neither a dangerous
nor a difficult operation, but I had spoken to the man that morning
and, curiously enough, remarked to my chief the far-away look in his
eyes. I think now that he was what the Scotch call “fey,” and that
the hand of Fate was upon him then. At all events he was unshipping a
piece of iron rail when he slipped overboard, hanging on to the rail,
and sank like a stone. I was on the poop myself and had a boat in the
water immediately, but he never came to the surface again. We cruised
round for at least an hour, and then I asked the men if anything more
could be done. All agreed the case was hopeless, so we kept along on
our course again. When next in Southampton I sent a circular letter to
the captains of all our ships asking them to make a collection for the
widow. They very kindly did so, and a sufficient sum was obtained to
set her up in a small shop in comfortable circumstances, but she never
forgave me, I was told, because when she came to my lodgings with a
sister prepared to make a scene, I declined the interview. I dare say I
was wrong, but I had had trouble enough of my own, and my old landlady,
a very privileged person hailing from the West Country, when announcing
the callers volunteered the advice, “Doan’t ’e see her, sir,” and I
thought the advice good.

The ways of conscience are curious and it manifests itself at times in
absurd fashion--here is an instance. Lodging in the same house was a
chief officer, with whom I had been very friendly in years past, and
was on good terms with then. One morning my landlady came to me with a
request that I would go up-stairs and see Mr. ---- who had something
important to say. I went, and there was my friend in bed, crying. It
seems he had been out on the spree the day before, had inherited a
bad headache, and had sent for me to say that he was going round to
see his captain and confess his delinquency. Words were no use for a
case of this sort. A threat of a hammering, duly translated into fact,
ultimately brought home the light of reason to a good fellow who would
have made a most excellent curate, but was too gentle to be a success
at sea.

On the next voyage we were loading for home when instruction arrived
that the _African_ was to remain on the coast, and do the mail service
between the Cape and Natal. Trade on the coast was good, and it was no
longer policy to depend upon the services of such vessels as the little
_Natal_. The _African_ was very well suited for the work, which was
comparatively easy--at sea for at the outside ten days a month, and the
remainder of the time in harbour at the Cape or Natal. Unfortunately
we could not cross the bar at the latter port. Looking back at this
period of my life it occurs to me that it was good, and that I was
not sufficiently appreciative at the time. There was an excellent
ship’s company; my chief, named Smythe, was afterwards long years in
command and was a first-rate man; the other officers left nothing to
be desired; there was a cook who satisfied all the passengers, and the
ship was very nicely kept and popular on the coast. I had a sort of
rough shelter built on the bridge for me, and when at sea always spent
my nights there, for there was ample time to sleep when in port, but
when the master of a mail steamer runs her on the principles of a yacht
it is apt to prove a little expensive. At that time, however, there
seemed to be lots of money about, for people were always wanting some
commission carried out that could be done without any infringement of
the Company’s regulations. I find by reference to old letter books that
in my letters to the home authorities I mention the fact that we seemed
exceptionally fortunate so far as weather was concerned, and indeed the
luck in this respect seems to run in cycles. I cannot remember that
there was anything approaching bad weather during our spell on the
coast. But I had one little accident which cost me a wigging. One night
coming down the coast I had discharged a considerable quantity of sugar
into a large lighter at East London, finishing about 9 p.m. The lighter
could not then be taken inside, and the boatmen asked me if I would
give them a tow up alongside a steamer that was ahead of us. I thought
it well to do so and accordingly steamed up at a fair distance from the
vessel ahead, going very slowly, and eventually stopping the engines
while the lighter sheered off. The current by this time was setting us
towards the _Balmuir_, the vessel I was taking the lighter to, and some
one on board her sung out, “Hard a port, captain, full speed ahead.” A
second later and that would have been my order. As it was, wrath at the
interference or impertinence surged uppermost, and I ordered: “Steady
the helm, full speed.” That also would have put things straight, but
the engines had stuck a little on the centre and the two ships rolled
towards one another, my starboard quarter-boats catching her on the
bow, and suffering severely in the contact.

This was just after the loss of the _Teuton_, and many people had
acquired nerves in consequence when travelling, so in addition to the
crashing of the boats, the yells of the women passengers were not nice
to listen to. As soon as the engine moved there was no more trouble,
and Captain Gibbs, who had been chief of the _Essex_ when I was in
her, and now commanded a steamer called the _Clifton_, very kindly
lowered a boat and came alongside to ask if he could do anything for
me. There was nothing to be done but proceed, which I did. Of course
retribution was bound to follow; it came in the shape of a letter from
Captain Dixon, to whom, of course, I had reported the occurrence. In
conveying an intimation from the directors as to the future avoidance
of what “might be termed somewhat lubberly conduct,” he regretted that
my helping other people had obliged him personally to address such
a letter to me, but the “lubberly conduct” was underlined viciously
by him, and I could picture the expression on his face as he did it,
knowing perfectly well that it would create on me its calculated
effect, though quite realising that it was all just bad luck. It was
not the only time in my experience, however, that ill-timed advice was
productive of disaster, for to quote the words of A. L. Gordon: “Take
it kindly.” “No--I never could.”

It was about this period (the close of 1881) that the value of the
Transvaal goldfields began to be discovered. That meant much, and at
the end of the year General Sir Evelyn Wood was leaving Natal with
some of his staff. If my recollection is correct he had been acting
as Lieutenant Governor of Natal. There are one or two incidents in
connection with this matter that I may as well put on record.

The bar at Natal was a very uncertain quantity. The channel at times
was fairly good, for harbour works in a small way were going on
practically always, but there were occasions when it was very bad and
very shallow. When I knew that Sir Evelyn was to go with me as far as
Delagoa Bay I determined to make him as welcome as possible, and show
all the attention I could, although I had not had the honour of meeting
him. There was to be a farewell dance given in Durban at which he
would take his leave, he having already taken up his quarters at the
Alexandra Hotel at the Point. I reasoned that if, instead of going from
the dance to the hotel, he could come straight on board the _African_,
it would be a great saving of time and trouble, for we were to leave at
daylight in the morning.

Accordingly I got the skipper of our tug, the _Union_, who had been
boatswain with me previously, to agree to take the passage of the
bar in the dark as soon as the party arrived at the Point, and I
also gave my chief orders that when the tug was nearing the ship, he
was to illuminate mastheads and yardarms with coloured lights. I was
reckoning, however, without my host. In the afternoon I went on shore,
and as I landed at the Point I met the General with some officer--I
think it was Major Lane--who introduced me to him, and he immediately
invited me to dine. I replied that I had no evening clothes on shore,
to which he replied that I had better find some. At that time there
was at the Point an ex-Naval Lieutenant named Woodruffe. I remember
that he had been Flag Lieutenant to Sir Harry Keppel in China. We
were great friends, and had consumed much midnight oil--and other
things--together, for he was one of the nicest fellows I ever met,
and was liked by every one. He was commonly called “Chummy,” and as
it happened he was about my size. To him I went in my dilemma and
borrowed his clothes, he waiving in my favour his intention of going
to the dance, so that I duly appeared at dinner time, and in answer to
the General’s query I told him how the clothes were procured, which
seemed to tickle his fancy. We had a very jolly dinner, and I gathered
why they were going home _via_ the East Coast, for they wanted to have
a look at Egypt, as they were greatly interested in a certain Major
Kitchener whom they all seemed to think a great deal of. The General
said he would be very pleased to embark on his return from the ball,
from attending which I begged to be excused and went to return borrowed
plumes and get on board the _Union_.

Here Nemesis overtook me. About the last man I should have expected to
find there was Captain Baynton. According to all canons of civilisation
he ought to have been comfortably spending his evening in his house at
the head of the Bay, engaged in that gracious hospitality for which he
was famous, but it seems he had by some means got wind of my intention
to cross the bar in the dark and had come down determined to stop it.
He opened the conversation by saying that as the General was to sail at
daylight, he thought he himself would sleep on board the _Union_, so as
to make his farewell easier than coming to the Point so early. Vainly
did I explain that the bar was easy and safe; there was the old grim
look and stony glare.

“Yes, you go and stick the General on the bar, and a fine d---- fool I
shall look. You don’t start before daylight.” And neither did we.

On that particular passage I had with me amongst others as passenger
the Rev. E. L. Berthon, the inventor of the boats bearing his name.
He was a remarkable man in many ways. For one thing, though he was
sixty-nine years of age, he was as active as a cat, and was greatly
distressed because on an occasion of boat drill at sea, just to show
him the time it would take to pick up a lifebuoy, I would not let him
be lowered in the Clifford boat, the ship running a good thirteen
before a fresh breeze. I mention this incident, for the evolution was
performed on the spur of the moment during a conversation with him, and
on referring to a letter to Captain Dixon as to the efficiency on the
ship, I find that the boat with the lifebuoy was being hooked on in
five and a half minutes.

In his book entitled _A Retrospect of Eight Decades_, Mr. Berthon
mentions the days spent by him on board the _African_, but was not
complimentary concerning the crew. I wrote to him on the subject
and received a letter in reply in which he stated that I had myself
addressed them collectively as a pack of cab-drivers, but I submit that
a man may take liberties with his own which other people have no right
to do.

The general and Major Fraser came on board with me at daybreak in the
morning, and the next day they were duly landed at Delagoa Bay, where
they were to transfer to another mail steamer, and we on Christmas
Day, 1881, left again for Natal. That evening we had a very remarkable
exhibition of electric phenomena, which I never saw equalled. We had
been running down the coast with a nice fair wind and all sail set, but
as dusk came on, heavy clouds gathered ahead and as a shift of wind
looked imminent, I took in all canvas and hustled the men a bit to get
it stowed quickly. (This was the matter to which Berthon had referred.)
No sooner was it done than the wind headed us with a rush and the rain
came down in torrents, accompanied with a fine display of real South
African lightning. At the same time there was a shower of corposants,
and mastheads, yards and stays were thickly covered with them. The
effect was weird in the extreme, and although the phenomenon is often
mentioned as common I cannot recall seeing it to any marked degree more
than twice. This squall lasted about an hour, after which the weather

After about eight months of this coasting work we were ordered home,
for we had a defective crank-shaft, concerning which I might point a
moral were it desirable to do so, but as we reached Southampton without
mishap it is as well to let by-gones be by-gones. My connection with
the _African_ was not severed until March 1883, but the preceding
twelve months were of considerable interest to me. I was married for
the second time at the Cape, and all the ships in port displayed as
much bunting as they possessed, Mr. Currie’s ship dressing with the
Union flag in the place of honour. My directors also gave me permission
to take my wife home in the _African_; for which favour I hope I was
sufficiently grateful, and as we now regularly ran to Hamburg to pick
up cargo for the Cape I had to thank Mr. Mercer for more than one
similar favour on this continental trip. But the time arrived when I
came across a junior in a better ship than I had, and I changed to the

She was a much bigger ship than my last one, but there was no great
difference in their respective speeds. She had two funnels, however,
and the captain’s cabin was situated between them, which did not
make for comfort in hot weather. Generally speaking she was a fine,
comfortable craft. We were taking out guns and stores to Simon’s Bay
in addition to our other cargo, and amongst our passengers was Captain
Warton (of cricket fame), and a very charming lady of the theatrical
profession about whose flaxen locks I should dearly like to tell a
story. But woman-like it may be said, she emerged victorious from a
considerable ordeal, so let it pass at that.

I was instructed to make coal consumption trials, and that I did to the
best of my ability. The passage out was uneventful, and in due course
we left Cape Town at noon for the trip round to Simons Town. A number
of people had been given a passage for the trip, which was of about
four hours’ duration, and I remember that I took the ship inside the
Bellows Rock. There was, of course, no risk in doing so, but it was not
usual for big ships. We picked up a nice anchorage in close proximity
to H.M.S. _Boadicea_, the flagship of Admiral Sir Nowell Salmon,
V.C., etc., the Commander-in-Chief on the Cape station, from whom, as
from his officers, I received the greatest kindness and courtesy. Sir
Nowell, however, would not permit any Sunday work, and that delayed us
a little, but the stay was quite a pleasant one.

In due time we got to Algoa Bay, where the _Mexican_, our newest ship
(then on her first voyage), lay at anchor. She was commanded by the
Commodore of the Fleet, Captain Coxwell, who at that time was laid
up unwell on board her. I should say that my fair-haired passenger
was still on board, bound for Natal. One evening after dinner it was
commencing to freshen from the S.E. and a nasty toss of a sea was on.
Coxwell sent me a message asking that I would go over and see him as he
had something particular to say. I proceeded to do so, and in response
to the wish of the before-mentioned lady, but against my wish, I took
her with me. We got to the _Mexican_ all right, the wind freshening all
the time, but when it was time to return there was some sea on, and
prudence would have dictated remaining for the night. To this, however,
my passenger would not listen, and taking me on one side observed, “If
I am drowned in the attempt, you must take me back tonight, for I’ve
no chalk to do my eyebrows with tomorrow.” Yielding to this _force
majeure_ we shoved off, and after a considerable dusting got safely on
board my own ship again. I was glad to have seen the _Mexican_. She was
then the last word in fine ships on the Cape route, and it filled me
with longing to be master of such a splendid craft.

We made a decent trip home, and on arrival at Southampton found that
Captain Coxwell had been invalided and that the command of the
_Mexican_ was vacant. Better still, there was no one at home senior to
myself, and it was not long before I got a hint that my chances were
rosy. Sure enough I got the command, hardly believing in my own good
luck. That ship was a beauty. It is true she was only square-rigged
on the foremast, but her lower yard was ninety-seven feet long, and
that sufficed to give a spread of square canvas of no inconsiderable
proportion--in fact, there were four reefs in her topsail. Contrasted
with the ships of to-day she might not show to advantage, but she was
beautifully fitted, and when it came to handling under steam she was
a dream of delight. Although only a single-screw ship, her turning
powers were marvellous, and I made use of them to the fullest extent.
John Tyson was chief officer. He is now one of the senior captains
of the Union-Castle line, and it goes seriously against the grain
to write those words, for it seems to me that the Union Company is
absorbed by the newcomer and its old identity lost. I never could see
the necessity for the amalgamation, and think it was a sad day when the
old Company’s flag was merged into that of the Castle line. My lament
being absolutely sentimental does not of course carry the least weight
in an age when commercialism is of the first importance, but I think
that in the long run it will be found that the punishment will fit the
crime, for there is no instance of _one_ great company being successful
in retaining a mail service which on public grounds should be shared by
two. For a chief engineer there was Charles Du Santoy, than whom there
were few better men afloat. We had been shipmates in the old _Roman_,
and consequently I was well satisfied with everything. On the day we
left Southampton there was quite a gathering of my friends to see the
ship off and to wish us luck. Being the crack ship of the line we were
of course full of passengers, and a very pleasant crowd they were, but
on the way to Madeira the ship rolled to such an extent as to in some
measure disgrace herself. There was a cross swell, it was true, but
she had been badly stowed, and given too great a metacentric height.
It was a quantity of cement which had been put quite low down in ship
which caused her to misbehave on that occasion. As showing how ships
are affected by their treatment I may mention that on that passage home
an old gentleman came up to me, (it was William Acutt of Natal, Uncle
William he was commonly called). “This is a funny ship, captain,” he
said; “when I let go my cabin door it does not slam,” for she scarcely
had any motion.

It was a glorious passage from Madeira outward. The weather was fine,
the passengers were contented and happy, and altogether we were sorry
when we got to the Cape and each went their separate ways. There had
been some discussion on the previous voyage as to whether the ship
could lay in the Company’s berth, or whether she was not too big to do
so. There was only one way to settle this, and that was to put her in
it and try. This I did, and I remember there were some complimentary
notices in the Cape papers on the transaction. We went up the coast
that time as far as East London, and had the best of luck in getting
rid of our cargo. I profited greatly by the study of a little work on
South African coast weather by my friend Captain Hepworth, who had
obtained a wonderful insight into it. To know what the weather on that
coast is likely to be is no small advantage in taking up an anchorage.
Further, I began to discover that Harry Escombe was more than right
in his remarks, and that to keep pace with the time there could be no
resting on your oars, but a constant search for, and acquisition of
knowledge. On the road back to Algoa Bay my old coasting knowledge
saved me some miles, for time was short to save daylight. She was doing
fourteen knots, and I slipped along inside Bird Island with happy

H.M.S. _Boadicea_ was there, and we resumed former acquaintance,
but when sailing day came Admiral Salmon expressed a wish that we
should not leave before midnight, as a ball was to take place and a
young lady friend of his wished to see a little of it. He promised to
put her on board by midnight, observing that mail steamer captains
were only like “so many tame cats,” and as the agent was agreeable
we stayed until that hour, when we left for the Cape. In the early
hours of the morning, however, we had an accident. The strap of the
high-pressure eccentric got hot and seized to the sheave, the result
being a breakdown which might have been very considerably worse. This,
however, was just one of those cases when my chief engineer was at
his best. He hung up the end of the link with a piece of chain, and a
screw to adjust its proper length, and in a short time was ready to
proceed, but was not prepared under any conditions to turn the engines
astern. We got into Table Bay the next evening, but had to creep in
very cautiously to get the anchor down. We were visited from the shore,
and arrangements were made to repair damages, we remaining in the bay
until they were completed. This was dreadful; it meant delay in final
loading and coaling, and also meant things being in a mess on sailing
day. I went to bed considering the matter. Daybreak brought one of
those beautiful fine mornings when it is a pleasure to be alive. I had
had all night to think over the problem and had made up my mind as to
what was the proper thing to do. I ordered steam to move, and sent
for John Tyson, my chief. To him I said, “Get the stern anchor ready
for letting go (we had a stern davit) and bend on to it the biggest
hawser we have; see that the hawser is taken to the bitts so that it
can be veered, and let me know when it is ready.” In due course this
was done, and shortening in the bower cable I steamed the ship round
on her anchor until she was pointed for the dock entrance, but as she
had swung a little too far before I got the anchor, I had to let it
go again and repeat the operation, this time with success. As soon as
the ship’s nose was inside the entrance I let go the stern anchor,
and veering on the hawser and holding on as required we got to our
berth without the least trouble or damage. I ought, however, to have
buoyed the stern anchor, for it gave some trouble to trip to the boat
that picked it up. All went on now swimmingly, and we were spick and
span when sailing day came. I think the evolution I had performed was
considered to have been a little risky by the powers that were, but
as it came off all right nothing was said to me. The _Cape Times_,
however, in commenting upon it said that as far as they knew this was
the third time in history that such a thing had been done, the other
two instances being St. Paul on the occasion of his shipwreck, and
Admiral Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile! We made a very fine
passage home, something just over eighteen days; it was not a record
but something very close to it. There are upon my bookshelves now some
very pleasant mementoes of kindly souls who helped to make a delightful
and memorable trip for me.

I come to the conclusion that it is possible to say too much to your
directors, unless you make it exceedingly clear what the point is
you wish to bring out. I was being questioned as to the cause of the
excessive rolling on the outward passage, which some of the passengers
had written home about, and tried to explain that when a ship with a
great beam started to roll, she naturally swung through a big arc of
space, and that consequently people felt it more. This was construed
into a criticism on my part of the build of the ship, than which
nothing was further from my thoughts, and I was told afterwards it did
not do me any good when the question arose as to my giving up the ship
to a senior man. It is on such accidents, if there are such things,
that human destinies hang. We had a very nice time in Southampton.
I was able to pass my mornings at drill on the old _Trincomalee_,
and one afternoon I was successful in taking the all-comers prize at
the Hampshire rifle meeting. This gave me great pleasure, for the
volunteers were very wroth at being beaten by a sailor.

On the next passage out we called at St. Helena, and I had my first
opportunity of visiting Longwood. It was a morning I shall never
forget. As we got up to the high land the weather was misty, with a
drizzle of rain, and it was not possible, to me at all events, to avoid
the thought of the torture it must have been to that great master
mind who ended his days there on that weather-swept spot. The house
in which he had lived gave me the impression of having only recently
been vacated, and the bust of the Great Emperor by Thorswalden seemed
to dominate the place with his personality. No work of art that I
have seen has impressed me in the manner that did, for the grandeur
of the face is most imposing, and surely not one ever to be rivalled
in marble. Resist the feeling as one might, the very place seemed
permeated with the being of the mighty spirit that sped from within
those humble walls.

There was nothing more to call for comment on the outward trip. There
were many nice people and several sportsmen who arranged all sorts
of sports and pastimes. I remember one remarkable boxing-match. In
the final bout there came together a big bluejacket and a little
featherweight of a man, which recalled the meeting of David and
Goliath. When the word was given to begin, the little fellow rushed
in to close quarters and set up no end of a mill, doing this with
extraordinary impunity, for the big fellow could have knocked him silly
if he had got home. When the bout was over, the referee, a military
officer of proved knowledge of boxing, awarded the prize to the big
man as being the best boxer, the little man getting a prize as a good

In the _Nubian_ I had had a compass that had been tried and proved
during a great many voyages. In the _Mexican_ we had one of the best,
but we were only now finding out how to adjust Sir Wm. Thompson’s
compass for changes of latitude. On this particular voyage I pulled
mine to pieces in Algoa Bay and re-adjusted it by stellar azimuths.
It was a long operation, but it was well worth doing, and no one can
appreciate the value of a really good compass until they have been well
broken in by attempting to navigate with an indifferent one. There
was one other little matter that may well be mentioned. The _Mexican_
always seemed to us all to be a brilliantly lit ship, and oil lamps
appeared to meet every requirement, but as soon as the electric light
came in, we all wondered how we had managed to exist in what was by
comparison a state of semi-darkness.

Once more in Cape Town, homeward bound, and coming events did not cast
their shadows before, for little did I think as I took her out of dock
in the most approved “show off” fashion that it would be the last time
I should do so. Sailing days at the Cape for the mail steamers were
red-letter days, when all men interested came down to criticise the way
in which the various ships were handled. On this particular occasion I
managed to retain my reputation, but the pitcher sometimes goes to the
well once too often, and I fear I was what the boys call “coxy” over
what I could do with that ship. Altogether that was one of the days of
my life on which I felt pleased with myself, and it may be observed
that there have not been many of them. Sailing day at the Cape was once
well described by Leigh, who, speaking of visitors generally, said,
“They come on board in ballast trim, and leave drawing twenty-seven
feet by the stern.”

Few things would give me greater pleasure now than to revisit the old
scenes and see how the modern school of men deal with the great ships
they command, but the early negotiators of Cape Town dock had a fair
amount of pioneer work to do. We learned as we went along.

My chief recollection of that last trip home was that I first made
the acquaintance of Clark Russell’s novels, and on my arrival at
Southampton I wrote him a letter expressing my admiration of them,
which resulted in a friendship still unbroken. There are few men who
have so faithfully painted life at sea as it really was. His _Wreck of
the Grosvenor_ is simply a marvel of realism, having only one equal so
far as my knowledge serves me,--Dana’s _Two Years before the Mast_.

Southampton dock came at last, and it was with little pleasure that
I learned the Commodore was at home without a ship and that I should
have to make way for him. It was no use kicking against the pricks;
seniority was the law of the service and it had to be abided by, so I
turned the _Mexican_ over with regret to Ballard, and once more joined
the army of the “stand-bys.”

But it was in reality much worse than merely standing down. At the
end of the year 1883 the trade to the Cape was in a very depressed
condition, and it was not found possible to keep all the ships
employed. Consequently “rotten row” began to fill up, and there
were many masters and officers on shore on half pay. “Economy and
retrenchment” became the watchword of the board of direction, and the
Union Company was by no means singular in commencing its retrenchment
policy by seeing how much it could possibly save from the pay of the
sea-going staff. There was one favourite question commonly asked of
masters by directors. “Did not we consider the difference of pay to
be too great between the chief officer and the master?” and we always
rightly and religiously answered “No,” for the chiefs were content
to wait their turn and the masters knew perfectly well that if any
levelling was to be done, it would not be in the upward but the
opposite direction. The blow descended at last, however, for, taking
advantage of an indiscretion by a prominent master, to whom pay was
no great object, the Company gave him the choice of signing a new
agreement for less pay, or being unemployed for an indefinite period.
The master in question was taken completely by surprise and signed
without consultation with any of us, and the path of the directors
was then easy, for the rest of us had no choice but to follow suit. I
remember, though, that when he came from the office and told me what he
had just done, I made use of remarks that might have strained a great
friendship of many years’ standing.

At this time many of our intermediate ships had been put into the North
American trade, amongst them the _Nubian_ with my old friend Jones
in command. They were in no way fit for the trade. As showing the
difficulty of finding two seamen who will take the same view of any
situation I may mention that during a conversation at dinner one night
I said to Jones that he was the only man of my acquaintance to whose
opinion I would defer on a point of seamanship. Shortly after this he
was telling me how he had run for Holyhead in bad weather and let go
both anchors at once to bring the ship up. I at once proceeded to argue
stoutly that he was entirely wrong in doing so, and if he were alive
today, which unfortunately he is not, that point would serve for an
unending difference of opinion.

There was now a chance to put in a good spell of drill on board the
_Trincomalee_, and this I took full advantage of, but the system of
training officers which obtained in those days was not one calculated
to give the best results. In that particular ship the commanding
officer was always most anxious to do everything possible to further
the interests of officers on drill, but the guns were hopelessly
obsolete, and indeed the ship was shortly after replaced by an
up-to-date vessel. I think it was about this time that I succeeded in
obtaining for officers the loan of a confidential book from which they
could obtain useful information.

I had found it necessary to take steps to obtain my promotion in the
Royal Naval Reserve, for at this time very little attention was paid to
the officering of this force. Admiral Sir Augustus Phillimore was the
admiral superintendent, and with him I obtained an interview which I
did not consider to be by any means satisfactory. He informed me that
he considered the rank of sub-lieutenant was ample for the master of a
mail steamer, and with that I had to content myself, but when H.R.H.
the late Duke of Edinburgh became admiral superintendent I renewed my
application in writing and was promptly granted the rank of lieutenant.

Between one thing and another the time in no way hung heavily with me.
I was on half-pay, it was true, but that was the worst of it, and there
is no doubt I should soon have had another command, but it cannot be
denied that losing the _Mexican_ had made me discontented, and that
frame of mind is not a healthy one.

One morning I received a circular letter from Captain Dixon, enclosing
one from the manager of the New Zealand Shipping Co., asking if any of
the Union Company staff would wish to apply for the command of their
new ship the _Ruapehu_. I had no wish to do so, and after talking to
Captain Dixon, gave no further thought to the matter. Incidentally, I
heard the names of Captains Leigh and Griffin mentioned in connection
with the command. One morning, I think it was Christmas Eve, I saw
the two of them standing outside Kelways Hotel engaged in animated
conversation, so I walked to them and joined in. Naturally I asked,
“What about the New Zealand ship?”

I was answered that both of them had accepted the command and both had
given it up. I asked why, and learned that they disapproved of going
into regions where ice might be encountered, and also that neither of
them cared to contemplate the passage of Magellan Straits upon the
homeward passage. Well, it was very absurd of me, but I said as the
ship was to sail on January 12 they had not played the game with the
New Zealand Company, also that the honour of the Company was at stake,
and immediately walked over to the telegraph office and sent a wire
offering to take the ship for them. I received an immediate reply
asking me to go to town and see them as soon as possible.

When I got home that day my action was not altogether approved of, in
fact it was strongly deprecated, but the die was cast and there was
the end of it. I went to town next day, it must have been Christmas
Day, for the London streets were deserted and the office of the Company
was only open to meet me. The London Manager took me to the West End
to meet the General Manager, Mr. Coster, and before I had time to
turn round I had promised to go to Glasgow and bring the ship round to
London. I must say that my new employers were very nice people, and
evinced a strong desire to meet my wishes in every way possible, but it
was a sad time for me when I turned out into the street and realised
that it was no longer the Union Company’s flag I should sail under, and
that my most cherished connections were to be severed. I regarded it,
and rightly, as the opening of a new page in the book of life which I
had not yet had the chance to glance at, but the only thing was to go
through with the undertaking and make the best of it; so I got back to
Southampton, spent the rest of my Christmas Day in the conventional
manner, and next evening saw me in the limited mail for Glasgow.

I found the ship at the tail of the bank off Greenock, and she was
quite good-looking enough to please me; but as soon as I put foot on
board her it was evident that for so long a run she was too small to
pay. I was not quite correct, however, in this, for I was not then
acquainted with the frozen meat trade and its possibilities. I found
as chief officer a man from the Union Company, and there also others
from the same source, so that I was not in the midst of strangers. The
ship was well fitted in every respect, and she had, what was then rare
even in first-class ships, an electric light installation. There were
two dynamos, but from the first they gave considerable trouble. Still,
Fairfield had had a very free hand in turning out the ship, and that
notable yard was not in the habit of making many mistakes.

On the 28th the manager and others came down from London and we ran
a short trial. It was on this occasion that I first met Mr. Pearce,
afterwards Sir William, who had built the ship. We were, I think,
mutually satisfied with one another. The ship steamed well, and the
next day we started for London and reached Gravesend on the last day
of the year, remaining there for the night. In the early hours of the
morning a small steamer caught one of her backstays on our bowsprit and
pulled her mainmast down, but as she did not stop to leave a card, and
no damage was done to us, I am ignorant to this day as to what vessel
it was. I do know, however, that the Scotch pilot who brought us round,
and others of his countrymen on board, paid a midnight visit to me to
be sure that I properly welcomed the New Year. We duly moored in the
Royal Albert Dock the next day.

I found from the commencement, as was only natural, that there was a
vast difference between my old Company and the present one. There,
things had gone on well-defined lines, here there were no lines at
all, and the machinery was hardly in evidence that was to trace them.
My general instructions were that my ship was to be brought to the
standard of the best mail steamer afloat, and I must say that any
recommendation I made received the greatest attention; but when one
has lived under a fairly consistent discipline its loss is felt very
much. Our marine superintendent was Captain Underwood, who had been
selected from the staff of the Union Company of New Zealand, and I
always found him a very nice fellow to work with. As superintending
engineer we had Archibald Thompson, who had filled the same position
in my late Company, of which it will be seen there was a very strong
leaven. The New Zealand Company had for many years run a line of
sailing-ships between London and New Zealand. They consequently had
many well-tried officers in their employ who were perfectly competent
to command in sailing-ships, yet lacked any knowledge of steam.
Certain of them, however, were placed in the new steamers as second
officers, and naturally were rather inclined to regard the newcomers
as interlopers. Further, when Mr. Coster and the New Zealand directors
decided to commence with steam, they chartered vessels to commence
the service until their own ships could be built, among them being
the _Ionic_ and others belonging to the White Star Line. These ships
were fitted with refrigerating chambers and plant, and when released
by the Company were chartered by the Shaw Savill Co., so that the New
Zealand Company people had done their best to popularise these ships,
and the opposition reaped a certain reward from their efforts. Also
it let in the White Star Line, which was no inconsiderable item. Some
time previously the Union Company had had the chance to tender for this
particular traffic, but I do not think the directors fully grasped the
future of the frozen meat trade. I know that Captain Dixon had not
regarded it with any favour, but it was a great chance missed. In point
of fact we were here face to face with a situation not unlike that
between the Union Company and Donald Currie, and it might have been
forecasted that the best business men would win in the struggle.

I found a warm welcome waiting for me at the office, and a pressing
invitation for my wife and self to go and stay at the house of the
manager, Mr. Strickland. At dinner that night we had the pleasure of
meeting my old friend, the Rev. R. Fair, who I found had told my new
chief more to my credit than was perhaps my due. A new ship and a new
voyage, however, deserve a new chapter.


    “As she lifts and scuds on the Long Trail--the trail that is
        always new!”--KIPLING.

[Illustration: N.Z.S. CO’S. “RUAPEHU”]

The _Ruapehu_ was a handsome ship; there were no straight lines about
her, for the Clyde shipbuilders realised to the full that it was
possible to combine beauty with utility. There was perhaps a suggestion
of the Denny ships in the early New Zealand fleet, but, be that as it
may, there was no mistaking the clipper bow which was the certain mark
that indicated a ship turned out from Fairfield. I cannot say that
she was in any way ideal, but she was decidedly good for her time,
necessarily suffering somewhat from having been built in a hurry. With
the _Mexican_ still fresh in my memory I was naturally inclined to make
comparisons, but all things being taken into consideration I found no
great reason to be dissatisfied with new conditions. Indeed, so far as
outward appearance went there was every reason to feel proud of my new
command. She was a novelty in many ways, one being that she was lit by
electricity, an advantage then quite exceptional. Another important
feature was the freezing plant, which in reality represented the real
_raison d’être_ of the whole line. It was then thought, and I am not
certain that the idea does not largely obtain to-day, that competition
for first-class passenger traffic could not be successfully carried on
with the P. & O. ships. The fact remained, however, that we could land
our mails in Melbourne _via_ Hobart sooner than could be done by the
P. & O. Company, and that fact must have had an important influence in
speeding up the Australian mail contract _via_ the Canal.

Amongst the crew I found a strong leaven from the Union Company,
including an excellent boatswain and quartermasters, for which I was
very thankful; and I took an early opportunity in dock of mustering
all hands so that I could see exactly what I had got. This step met
with the strong approval of Captain Underwood, who warmly supported me
in all measures that I suggested for ensuring a consistent discipline
in the new company. Two ships had preceded mine, so that it might be
considered a fair trial as to who would obtain the best result, but I
had made up my mind that I was to work for the old fashions which had
obtained in Southampton, and it is not altogether an easy matter to
import into London any custom that may have obtained elsewhere.

There was one distinct novelty in the _Ruapehu_. We carried six
midshipmen, or rather “company’s apprentices,” but this practice
was discontinued after being tried for several voyages. It was a
praiseworthy attempt to meet the inevitable demand for facilities to
train officers, but it was a little too early. Indeed the New Zealand
Shipping Company had from its commencement been remarkable for its
forward and enlightened policy, and its constant endeavour to make use
of the latest improvement found useful after scientific inquiry.

Our passenger list in the saloon was not a large one. There were about
forty people, but let it be said at once that a more agreeable set
were never got together in any ship. We called at Plymouth to embark
mails and passengers, and I also received a wire from the manager
telling me not to be beaten to the Cape by the _Athenian_; but as we
were not calling there, it must have been sent under a misapprehension,
which I could easily understand when I came to consider the track we
had to follow to make the shortest mileage to Hobart. To decide upon
a composite track is not an easy matter when the application of the
great circle is possible. In this particular case, taking Cape Verde
as the westernmost longitude, the great circle track to Hobart would
pass somewhere close to St. Helena, but to follow it would have been
to steam against the very heart of the S.E. trades, and that I knew
would be a heartbreaking performance if they were blowing hard. I
therefore decided to pass about 600 miles to the westward of the Cape,
which would entirely do away with any chance of being reported from
Cape Point, but which would, I hoped, bring me sooner into the region
of the “brave west winds” and also to the latitude where the degrees
of longitude were greatly shorter in actual distance, for according to
the best advice I could then obtain latitude 45° S. was about the best
parallel on which to run down the Easting. In later voyages when I had
more experience I formed a somewhat different opinion.

Calling at Santa Cruz on the outward passage we were somewhat
unfortunate, for Teneriffe had recently been visited by a serious
gale from the S.E. which had greatly interfered with the coaling
plant. I had not coaled there before, and greatly fear that I made
myself very objectionable to Brothers Hamilton, our agents, for I was
driving for all I was worth, and instituted comparison between their
procedure in the way of coaling and what was done in Madeira, to the
great disparagement of Santa Cruz. As it turned out, it was as well
that I did give them a good shake-up, although I know it must have
been a sore trial to both the brothers to stand anything in the way of
faultfinding. They soon saw, however, that if their port was to get
its share of the newly growing trade they would have to bring their
plant up-to-date, and they did so as speedily as possible. Our little
difference of opinion left no ill-effects, and was the commencement
of a pleasant acquaintance only terminated by the inevitable. But as
showing that I had reason for complaint, it cost me fifteen hours of
a passage that I knew was being carefully watched at both ends of the
world. This first passage was absolutely uneventful. I cannot recall
any unpleasantness even, save and except the fact that we did not
experience the westerly winds we anticipated, and had no opportunity of
finding out what the ship could really do with a strong fair wind with
canvas set. I can find mention of heavy swells, but only an occasional
breeze at force 7, the highest day’s run being 328 miles. It must be
remembered, however, that the day only contained about twenty-three and
a half hours, so that the average speed for the passage was 12·8 knots.
This put us into Hobart on February 21, and was not as good a passage
as we had hoped for. Although the ship was only built to do 12½ knots,
it was expected she would do considerably better than that in actual
practice, and in point of fact she did.

Darkness in these days cannot be allowed to hinder one. If there are no
lighthouses people have to do without them, as all those did who made
Hobart from the westward. It was nasty navigation to go for that land
in the dark, for there were several outlying dangers that might very
easily bring a ship to grief. On this occasion I made the land at one
a.m. and a dark night at that, but when I subsequently saw what the
coast was like by daylight, I liked it even less. On the other hand
when once the land is made the coast leading to and up the Derwent
river is singularly beautiful, and many parts of it rejoice in good old
Kentish names, showing very clearly the origin of some of its first
settlers. My instructions were to make the ship a “show” ship, and
to offer the townsmen hospitality. Accordingly after we had coaled
we made preparation for a big luncheon party to which were invited
members of the government and the leading people of the place. It was
a most successful function, and in responding to a toast I took the
opportunity of pointing out that if anyone on a future voyage lost
wives or families on their way to Hobart by being wrecked on the west
coast for want of a light, they would not be able to say that they had
not been warned. The language might have been brutal, but I was feeling
the matter keenly and I am glad to say the words went home. We had a
most successful and enjoyable function, which every one appreciated,
and the good people of Hobart had every opportunity of seeing what was
described in the manager’s letter of instruction as “my noble ship.”
It may be as well to state that we had anticipated the Brindisi mail.
A lot of time had been wasted as far as a quick passage to New Zealand
was concerned, first at Santa Cruz and then at Hobart, but no time
was lost when the last of our guests was over the side, and we made
the best of our way for Auckland. The remembrance of going into that
port is very vivid even now, for although I had been there once as a
boy, that gave me no help in taking a ship into what were practically
unknown waters. On the passage out I had of course studied my charts
carefully, and had formed my expectations of what the various places
would look like, and as it turned out my surmises were not very wide
of the mark. Indeed I am inclined to think that navigating a ship into
port is better done if it is learned from a chart than by acquiring
local knowledge by actual inspection. I found latterly even on the
Cape route that it was better to steer known courses entering or
leaving port than merely to con the ship by sight. And here I had a
very curious experience tending to strengthen my argument. I steered
perfectly safe but close courses round various corners, passed inside
an island towards the entrance of the harbour, after which I picked
up a pilot who told me that ships seldom used that passage because
of the dangerous patches in it. That was quite true, but the dangers
were charted and no hindrance to safe navigation, and a mile in
distance often helps towards saving a tide or securing daylight into
an anchorage. Further, if a ship is being watched carefully, as she
must be in narrow waters, she is in my opinion far safer than if she is
taking the broadest part of the channel anyhow. I do not, however, wish
to dogmatise, only to point out that for many reasons it is desirable
to be accurate even when traversing waters that are well known.

There is little need to say anything concerning the beauties of
Auckland Harbour. Kipling has said it all in “The Seven Seas.” And
certainly as I saw it that afternoon it well deserved the praises
bestowed upon it. But my mind went back to that other afternoon, twenty
years before, when I was there under vastly different conditions. In my
mind I could see again that beautiful ship _Tyburnia_ anchored under
the shadow of that wonderful crater Rangitoto, and the harbour crowded
with transports of all description, dominated by the imposing presence
of H.M.S. _Miranda_. And in the very berth at the Queen’s Wharf where
one lay in the little _Alwynton_ we now lay in the finest ship that had
yet been in the harbour. I confess to having experienced a feeling of
pride, though unfortunately its duration was short.

It would have been difficult to find fault with the welcome that was
extended both to the ship and myself personally. Perhaps the first
feeling of annoyance was caused by the pertinacity of the newspaper
reporters, for we had not had anything of the sort at the Cape, and I
did not then realise, as I have since done to the full, how very useful
it is to get all the advertisement possible. But it was gently hinted
to me that interviews were the custom of the country and that it was
desirable to fall in with it. This once being understood there was no
more trouble.

Again we were to be a show ship, and do a lot of entertaining, and the
Company’s directors were coming up from Christchurch to do the thing
properly. I looked forward to their advent with no great degree of
pleasure, for at best directors are kittle cattle to handle. But in
this particular case I found myself confronted with as nice a group
of men as one could wish to meet. Indeed, the general impression made
upon me by the New Zealand men I had met was that they were as a whole
vastly superior to the average colonial man one had been in the habit
of meeting. In fact it was easy to recognise a considerable leaven of
public school boys from the old country. The Northern Club at Auckland
had opened its hospitable doors to me the day before the arrival of my
directors from the south, and I was playing a game of billiards with an
exceedingly nice fellow I had met there. His name was John Studholm,
and at the conclusion of our game he observed casually that he was one
of the directors of the New Zealand Steamship Company. I am glad to say
that it was the commencement of a friendship that lasted.

When I met my group of directors on board the ship they were all highly
pleased with what they saw, for I fancy that in one or two of the
earlier ships they had not been altogether happy in the selection of a
crew. New Zealand was not a very suitable place for the maintenance of
good discipline if a crew were disposed to get a little out of hand,
for the democratic element was very strong, and Jack got to assume
that he was quite as good as his master. I had, however, been fortunate
in the main in getting a decent lot together, and though the ship’s
discipline was as strict as was consonant with its due maintenance, we
had succeeded in persuading the crowd that they should fancy themselves
as belonging to a smart ship and behave accordingly. An average good
crew seldom go wrong if you handle them precisely as you would a lot
of school-boys; in fact they are much easier to manage. I had an
opportunity of hearing a curious instance of this _esprit de corps_.
One night the San Francisco mailboat lay alongside us, the _Alameda_,
and in the darkness I came out of my cabin to get cool before turning
in. Below me I could overhear one of my Jacks talking to one of the men
from the other ship, who asked what was the speed of the _Ruapehu_.
Quoth my man, “Oh, she will steam seventeen easily, but we are not
going to let her out this voyage.” After that piece of embroidery it
would have been difficult to persuade me that Jack took no pride in his

There was one thing that I hated about the ship, and that was the
hideous yellow colour with which the masts and yards were painted. In
London there were other things to do than point out its ugliness, but
now was a fine chance. Mr. Murray Aynsley was the chairman. He had a
brother, a celebrated admiral in the service, and had himself seen the
work of our ships in the Black Sea at the time of the Crimean War.
To him, as an authority, I pointed out how much nicer it would be to
adopt a different style of colouring, and how much smarter the ship
would look. My reasoning took effect, and I was given permission to
use my own judgment on the matter. I promptly set my chief to work to
transform her into the most approved Union Company fashion, and in a
very short time she was looking like a yacht, with sail covers on,
upper yards down and in the lower rigging, and not a rope slack or
awry. She was a picture, and one worth looking at. All the Company’s
ships were afterwards painted in a similar manner.

Bashfulness or undue modesty cannot be claimed as an attribute for our
colonial fellow countrymen; they simply swarmed over the ship whenever
they got the chance, and no place was sacred to them. I never found any
one turned into my bunk, but it would not have surprised me had I done
so, and I am afraid that many people did not like the strictness with
which the gangways were kept. The first Sunday the ship was open to
all, and at times the crowd was so great that we had to deny admission
until there was room created by people leaving. The preceding day
there had been an “At Home” which had been well attended by the youth,
wealth and beauty of Auckland, and on one evening we gave a dinner to
which all the notables in the Colony were invited and which was very
well attended. Some doubt had been expressed as to the ability of the
ship’s cook to carry it through, but this scepticism was unfounded, for
it was a first-class performance and the function went off well. I had
to speak, which was a little awkward, but I scarcely think I trod very
heavily on any one’s toes. As the ship was to remain some time on the
coast there was no great hurry to get away, and I made several very
nice acquaintances. One evening I went to what was called a clairvoyant
entertainment by a certain professor whose name I will not mention
for obvious reasons. It was a clever, striking and withal an uncanny
performance, for the lights appeared to burn blue to me, and if the
evil one had appeared with a due smell of sulphur it would have seemed
to be in perfect keeping with the surroundings. When it was over I
made it my business to meet the professor, and ask him to lunch with
me next day, which he did. He was a very nice fellow, and when I asked
him to tell me how his performance was done he observed that it was a
curious request to make, but if I promised secrecy he would do so. He
did, with the result that since then I have never quite trusted my own
senses, but he maintained that his mesmeric power over his wife, which
was part of the show, was real and effective.

When sailing day came there was a great crowd on the wharf to see
us off, and from photographs taken we must have looked very fine,
but we had then to discover that coal counted as well as looks. The
directors were going down the coast with me, and naturally desired
to make a smart passage to Wellington. We had filled up with New
Zealand coal; they said it was Westport and first-class steam coal.
Be that as it may, our people proved unable to get steam properly,
and there was considerable disappointment. I could not question the
logic of proven facts, however, and had to make the best I could of
a severe disappointment. It occurred to me about that time that the
engine-room should occupy a greater share of my thoughts than it had
hitherto done--the ship’s company generally were at their very best
and my chiefs were delighted. It seems that they were curious to see
how a complete stranger would take his ship into Wellington, and
Murray Aynsley told me afterwards that it pleased them. Wellington
is a perfectly easy place to enter, but its looks are against it in
daylight, for the reefs and rocks at the entrance look nasty until the
channel is open. As a precautionary measure I eased to half speed just
at the entrance, but I had so learned the place from the chart that it
did not give me the least uneasiness. When the head of the harbour was
reached a pilot came off to take the ship alongside the wharf, and it
must be confessed that for handling large ships under their own steam
these men in all the New Zealand ports showed a wonderful aptitude.
This Wellington pilot in particular was an extraordinarily good man.

As preceding ships had been show ships here, we had a comparatively
quiet time. The question of good or bad coal cropped up when we were
filling our bunkers, and I am afraid that any one with a less perfect
temper than Captain Rose, our manager there, would have been seriously
put out with me. I was acting for the best, as I thought, but my
knowledge was limited. About this time the Orient Company had their
ship the _Austral_ sunk at her moorings in Sydney harbour. She was
coaling at the time, and as it was night time only a warrant officer
was in charge. I had long thought that an officer should always be on
duty night or day in a valuable ship, and from that time forth, with
the concurrence of my superiors, the third officer was relieved from
all work in harbour save looking after the ship between the hours of
9 p.m. and 5 a.m. This was a distinctly good move in many ways; it
certainly had the effect of causing men on leave to return quietly and
not draw attention to themselves. From Wellington we went to Dunedin,
or rather Port Chalmers as the port was then called. Here again was a
sample of the pluck and energy of the colonists who would have ports
everywhere. They were even then dredging a channel by which large ships
would be able to reach Dunedin, and here a misfortune overtook me. The
whole of the forepart of the ship was fitted as a cooling chamber for
the carriage of frozen sheep. We had commenced taking in some, when
suddenly it was reported that the freezing engine had broken down. An
expert was telegraphed for to Christchurch and he duly came, shook his
head and said nothing could be done, for the bedplate of the engine
was broken and no insurance company would take the risk of a frozen
cargo with a patched-up engine. It is useless now to say all I thought
on the matter, but I believed the damage could have been made good. It
was settled that we were to go home with a general cargo and no frozen
meat. As the freight was then twopence per pound it will be seen this
was a serious loss, incurred as I still believe by wilful damage.

Our final port of call was Lyttleton, the seaport of Christchurch, the
cathedral city and the most English of all New Zealand towns. Here was
the Company’s head office, and it was considered to be the home port
of the Company. At the time I cannot remember whether we had the word
Lyttleton or London on the stern as our port of registry, but I know
that shortly afterwards there was some correspondence with the builders
on that subject.

As we were continuing our rôle of show ship, and as the ship was being
delayed so as to ensure a full passenger list homeward, it was thought
desirable to put her in drydock, and it certainly was a great advantage
to start clean for the homeward passage. I found it necessary about
this time to draw the reins of discipline a little tighter, and as an
outward and visible sign ordered a Sunday morning muster. This was duly
carried out as it would have been at sea, and it caused the growlers
(mostly in the engine-room) to think I had behind me greater powers
than I really possessed. But the plan answered.

We gave one beautiful dance on board, to which the directors issued
invitations. It was a great success and brought together a great number
of charming people. When we were ready to start for home I do not
think that anything had been left undone that could have increased the
popularity of the ship.

The question of the route to be followed homeward was one that gave
me considerable difficulty to decide. I was not in the least degree
shy of accepting advice, in fact I sought it, but having had little
experience in navigating southern latitudes, and bearing in mind all
the tales I had heard about ice and kindred subjects, I was naturally
anxious to do the right thing. I knew, moreover, that our two new ships
had made excellent passages to Rio. By chance I met my old friend,
Captain Gibbs, and from him I got the advice, “Hear what they all say,
and when you get out, act as you think fit,” which left me exactly
where I was. But the general impression left upon me was, get down to
Lat. 50° S. by the great circle track and then run the Easting down on
that parallel. I duly carried out the plan as far as human endurance
permitted me to do so (for I had not then the practical knowledge of
great circle sailing I afterwards acquired) when I attempted it. Let
me explain. Lat. 50° S. was reached three days out from Lyttleton, and
from there to Cape Horn by a Mercator line was a stated distance. But
there are two sides to this line--one the polar side, or the great
circle, which shortens the distance immensely, the other the equatorial
side which very considerably lengthens it. Now to run the Easting down
in Lat. 50 was to do so on the equatorial side of the Mercator line,
and flesh and blood was not strong enough to do that. I tried for three
days with something like the following result--A run of say 320 miles,
and nearing my port only say 280. That would not do, so ice or no ice
I took to the Mercator track, and having succeeded in spoiling my run
to Rio saw not a scrap of ice, nor did I have the least trouble in any
way. It must, however, be admitted that for a stranger to look at the
ice chart he would think that bergs were as plentiful as potatoes in
their patch, and might be inclined to disregard his knowledge that
hundreds and thousands of voyages had been safely made by sailing-ships
in high latitudes, and that what one man had done could be accomplished
by another. However, both I and the Company paid for my lack of
experience, though we both profited by it in the long run. It should
also be said that upon this trip there was little help from canvas. The
passage home was made by dint of sheer hard steaming, greatly assisted
by the fact that we had not to provide steam to keep the freezing
engine going. We left Lyttleton for the homeward passage full of
passengers, and it would not be difficult to give the full details of
the life on board if it were desirable to quote from the pages of the
_Ruapehu Satirist_, a weekly journal that was read with considerable
interest. Its editor was decidedly a free-lance, and spared no one.
It may be stated, however, that it would be hard to exaggerate the
mischief that can be made by a few sheets of paper, a little ink, and
lively imagination. I think I can say that summary suppression was the
fate of most on-board-ship newspapers with which I came in contact.

I was rather anxious about making the land near the Horn, for as the
days went by it was evident that only by fine weather should we be
enabled to see anything before dark. This may seem absurd to-day, but
to run on a close course, as I was doing in darkness, for a land I had
never seen, was not a very pleasant job. It had to be done, however,
and this specially emphasises my former remarks as to the desirability
of never losing a mile or a minute when making a passage. As luck would
have it on this occasion we made Ildefonso, looking like a streak of
smoke from a steamer funnel, just as darkness was setting in. After
that there was no more trouble and we passed one mile south of Cape
Horn about midnight. There was no difficulty in recognising its shape
from the rough sketches on charts and in sailing directions. We ran
through the straits of Le Maire, and arrived at Rio without incident.

Sydney may be beautiful, Auckland is acknowledged to be, but to my
imagination Rio is unsurpassed in loveliness by any place I have seen.
There is no intention of attempting to describe it here, that is beyond
the power of any ordinary mortal, but until one has seen the sun rise
in Rio Harbour the most beautiful sight in the world had yet to be

Naturally all our passengers went on shore, for the coaling was to
take twenty-four hours, and I have a very keen remembrance of bringing
a very lively crowd off with me in the small hours of the morning. I
had picked them up in a cafe at the top of the Rua D’Orviedor, where
every one appeared to be in a good temper and Englishmen exceedingly
popular. Repentance, I doubt not, was the predominant feeling next day,
for mixed drinks with strange and strong tobacco are apt to make the
ordinary hat feel a little heavy in the morning.

The remainder of the passage was not such as to call for special
comment. My attempt to dodge the N.E. trade was not the success I hoped
it would have been; we ran through the anchorage at Santa Cruz at
midnight, making noise enough to wake the dead, and leaving particulars
behind us in a sort of pyrotechnic washing-tub, so that we might be
reported home by cablegram, and finally arrived at Plymouth after a
passage the steaming time of which was 38 days 8 hours and 37 minutes.
I find that both Plymouth papers call this the fastest passage on
record, and for some reason it made a stir in London, for when we got
to town I met my old friend Mr. Trapp, and his words were, “Is that
your ship that we are all talking about?” I said “Yes.” “I suppose,” he
remarked, “you ran all night and did not shorten sail in the hours of
darkness.” The old gentleman was back in his thoughts to the usages and
customs that had obtained in the days of the Napoleonic wars when he
had been privateering.

However that may be, the passage was a success; my chief had brought
her into London looking spic and span in the most approved Southampton
fashion. Both the chairman and the manager were waiting to meet the
ship at the docks, and they were so pleased with her appearance that
they altered the paint of all the other ships to the fashion we had
set. In the _Daily Telegraph_ of June 17, Clark Russell had an article
on the passage. It was to all intents and purposes a good performance,
but to the day of my death I shall always look back to it with regret,
for had I taken a better course to Cape Horn than I did, it might have
been a passage that would have held the record for years yet to come. I
think, however, that at the finish I had the record for passages both

On the next voyage I had with me the chairman of the company, Mr. J. L.
Coster, who was in his way a type of the coming New Zealander. He was a
keen, clever man, determined that whatever he had to do with should be
the best procurable, daring and ambitious to the last degree. He stuck
to his friends, and loathed his enemies with a deadly enmity. He had
formerly been, I believe, manager of the Bank of New Zealand, but was
now certainly the leading spirit of the shipping company and determined
that no one should wrest from them their supremacy. I had seen a good
deal of my chairman and others connected with the Company in London,
and looked forward to a very pleasant passage, for Coster and I got on
very well indeed.

About the time that we were to sail the Shaw Savill Company were
sending out the White Star steamer _Coptic_, having on board her as
passenger Sir Henry Loch, the governor of Victoria, who was to be
landed at Hobart. It was the first run of the _Coptic_ on this route,
and to us she was an unknown quantity, but this I knew, that although
she sailed three days before us it was my business to get to Hobart
first, and I intended to spare no effort to do so. The fates seemed
adverse to us, however, and gave the worst weather I ever saw. The run
out to Madeira was a good one, but we lost nine hours there coaling.
We spent the time very pleasantly on a ride inland, and enjoyed the
proverbial hospitality of the Blandy family at their beautiful villa.
We left filled up with coal and in the cheeriest spirits.

I should mention that I now had as chief engineer my old chief from the
_African_, and knew that though stubborn as a mule he was a first-class
man, and not likely to indulge me with unpleasant surprises. In fact he
was rather safe than brilliant, and under the particular circumstances
I could not have done better, for on this occasion I had not taken
special pains in the selection of my crew, having left it to be done
in the ordinary manner. When we were one day to the south of Cape
Verde, it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, we sighted a steamer coming
towards us, and by her rig and the position she was in, I knew that it
was the _Athenian_ homeward bound, Warleigh being her captain. Coster,
who was with me at the time, asked me to speak her and ask if she had
seen the _Coptic_. And if so where; for if we had that information we
should be able to judge fairly well what our relative speeds were.
Accordingly we hoisted a signal, asking the _Athenian_ to close as she
was on our port side, but instead of doing so she sheered further off.
Not to disappoint my chairman I steered across her stern and came up on
her starboard side, when I found, much to my surprise, that Warleigh
had stopped his engines, and his manœuvre brought us a good deal closer
that I intended. No harm was done, however, and we got the information
that the _Coptic_ had been spoken 150 miles to the southward of the
Western Breaker. This gave us the information we wanted, and thanking
Warleigh I put on full speed and resumed my course. But there was
something about the business I did not like, we had been too near
an accident to please me, and meeting Warleigh some voyages after
in Cape Town I asked him why he had stopped his engines. There had
been, I may say, a little coolness between us for some time over some
misunderstanding that ought never to have occurred. He replied, “I
thought that you intended to steam round me, to show your superior
speed, and determined that I would stop to let you do it.” I was rather
hurt to think he could have thought me capable of such a piece of
rudeness, and told him so, upon which we buried the hatchet for good
and all.

We were not to call at the Cape, so there was no need to debate as
to the track to be pursued, as it was the winter months down south.
I determined to go well south, and save all the miles I could, but
reckoned without my host on this occasion. I had intended to go south
of Prince Edward’s Islands, but had to turn tail to a S.W. gale and
very heavy sea. Had I held my course I should not have made good
progress, damage would probably have been done to the ship, and the
passengers’ lives would have been unbearable. The chart I used on that
voyage lies before me as I write. Again I tried to pass south of the
Crozets, and again I had to turn and run. As the weather moderated
I again tried to get south, but my chairman, learning my intention,
observed that I was an obstinate man and if I got into trouble I was
not to expect help from him. In other words, he had had enough of high
southern latitudes. Of this I am certain--the weather down south runs
in cycles; for the first four years I was on that route the weather was
frequently more than average bad, and my tracks on the chart at times
gave one the idea of a dog’s hind leg. For when there is plenty of sea
room in a passenger ship, it is in my opinion worth while to run a
point or so off a course, if by so doing the ship makes better weather
and goes along comfortably. It was held by some experienced masters of
steamers in that trade that a course once set should not be departed
from. I still, however, hold to my view that it pays to let the ship
take the seas as easily as possible, and it also requires no skill to
knock a ship to pieces.

I was rather amused by an observation made by my chief engineer. The
weather was fairly bad and I asked him how he liked it. He replied,
“This is all right I dare say for sailing-ships, but it’s no place for
steamboats.” Of course the engines required the greatest care, for at
times they raced very badly. It was our luck, however, on this occasion
to get a really fine specimen of a gale of wind, and although all
things are comparative I think that it would not have been possible for
it to blow harder than it did or for a bigger sea to get up.

It was my custom when running the Easting down to habitually carry a
reef in the topsails, setting topgallantsails over them; it was the
survival of an old Blackwall fashion brought about by long experience
of whole topsails, which showed that they were unwieldy to handle in
really bad weather. One seldom cared to reef so long as the wind was
fair, and if by force of wind it became necessary to do so, more time
was lost over the operation than if a single reef had been in all the
time, for in most gales a reefed topsail could be carried so long as
the wind was fair. Added to this, however, steamboat passengers were
not fond of a disturbance overhead such as would be caused by a stiff
job of handling canvas in the night time, and all things taken into
consideration, I am certain that in stormy latitudes it was a good
plan to adopt, for it did not pay to blow away canvas in a steamer.
On this particular occasion we had struck a streak of abnormally bad
weather. For some days the barometer had been showing a steady fall,
and on the morning of July 1, 1884, at 8 a.m., it stood at 27·94, with
a furious gale from the W.N.W. Shortly after 10 a.m. it was 27·73,
after which the weather improved. The weather appeared so threatening
the day before, and it was blowing so hard, that I had had the close
reefs put in, with a reef in the foresail, so that when the worst
came there was nothing more to be done than stand on the bridge and
speculate as to what was coming next, sometimes dodging a mass of snow
that was frequently blown out of the belly of the maintopsail. All the
time there was the knowledge that ice might be encountered, for we
had passed bergs a day or two previously. In the chart-room, which I
occasionally visited, I could stand before the aneroid and see the hand
going backward; in fact I have now the rough pencil notes I made from
time to time of what was to me a novel experience.

Fortunately the ship steered beautifully, and also she was not by any
means deep, for the coal burnt had lightened her considerably, but at
times when going down the front of a wave she would throw her stern
up and the engines would race furiously, giving them anxious times in
the engine-room. When this took place, at the other end of the ship
the bowsprit and a portion of the forecastle would be dipping into the
rear of the wave ahead. I think it was the only time I ever saw such
an occurrence, for be it remembered the ship was 420 feet over all,
and by comparison to the size of the waves, she was behaving like a
whale-boat on a big surf. As I do not wish my veracity to be impeached
I forbear from speculation on the height of the waves from trough to
crest, but I have often thought since that one might have been treated
to an unpleasant surprise.

As it was we came through the breeze without parting a rope yarn, Mr.
Coster expressing his regret that the builder of the ship was not with
us to see how beautifully she behaved. We were running down our Easting
in Lat. 47° S., and I eventually came to the conclusion that that was
a bad parallel and that further south was much better. About this time
too the chief engineer made the discovery that he was short of coal,
and consequently we had to reduce expenditure, to the detriment of
our speed. We again made the land at Tasmania in bad dark weather,
and off the south point of the island I made out the outline of a big
ship outside me. We knew it must be one of two things, either H.M.S.
_Nelson_, the Australian flagship, or the _Coptic_. As daylight came
in we found to our intense delight it was the latter ship, and the
firemen of the watch below turned out of their own accord to help in
the stokehold. We passed her easily and anchored at Hobart, reporting
having passed the _Coptic_ off Cape Connella. That was all very well so
far as we were concerned, but the port authorities were anxious to keep
the best berth for the Governor’s ship, and we were of the opinion that
it should have been first come first served. She arrived an hour after
we did and I am sorry to say got the best attention. When on shore that
day I met the captain of the _Coptic_, and found that they had been in
our vicinity when we had encountered bad weather, but further south. He
told me he had never seen weather like it, even in the Atlantic at its
worst. Three whole main topsails had been blown away, and in reply to
my inquiry why he had not reefed down, said with a patronising smile
that “it was not White Star fashion to reef; if a whole sail would not
stand, then let it go.” I failed to see the beauty of the argument.
We found that we had a serious shortage of coal in our bunkers, and
there was considerable difficulty in getting a fresh supply. Eventually
we did get a collier barque alongside, but there was a good deal of
unpleasantness. Mr. Coster in his autocratic manner was furious at
losing time, and I am afraid that I was very rude to that collier
captain (who was a very good fellow) when he refused to let us have any
more, because his ship was as light as was safe, while all the time I
believed he was keeping it for the _Coptic_. We left the next day with
a bare supply, trusting to good luck. Fortunately we got it, but if
the truth must be told, we arrived at Wellington with less than forty
tons of coal on board. However, we had made the passage to Wellington
in forty-three and a half days, including two days stoppages, at
an average speed of 12·99 knots, with which my chairman was well
satisfied, for he had seen the difficulties. It was winter time in New
Zealand when we arrived, but it was very pleasant. There was a general
election taking place, and Mr. Coster stood and was elected for one of
the Christchurch divisions. It is, perhaps, needless to observe that
it was a period of great jubilation to us all, but it did not last
long as our stay in the country was only to be a fortnight. We were to
leave full of cargo, frozen meat, and passengers, but before we got
away my chairman came to lunch on board. He told me to express his
satisfaction to the ship’s company generally, but said he could not
say enough to me. As a sign of his appreciation, however, he had cabled
home that I was to have the big new ship and could always count upon
him as a friend.

It must have been a bad spell of weather about that period, for it took
fifteen days to get to the Horn. There was a great deal of head wind
and sea, for I find in my abstract “pitching bow and stern under,” and
a record of bad weather generally, while before we rounded the Horn
we found that we had lost one of our propeller blades. This was a bad
job, for it gave the engines a very jumpy action, and was equivalent
to entirely spoiling the passage, for we could never now pick up the
time we had lost. I have since thought that the foundry where these
particular blades were cast must have hit upon a streak of bad metal,
for I certainly seemed to have the luck of losing blades which was not
shared by any other of our ships.

Our ill fortune lasted us to Rio; but before we got there I had one
little excitement that may as well be chronicled. It was the custom
of the ship, weather permitting, for the crew to bring out and air
bedding, and clean out their quarters for inspection by me on Saturday
mornings. This had been done hitherto without a murmur reaching my
ears. The weather prior to rounding Cape Horn was too bad to permit the
weekly routine, but when we were drawing near to fine weather I gave
the usual order, and was astonished to hear that the firemen refused to
comply. I really cannot remember now, but I think the seamen did; at
all events, I gave the order to muster on the poop, and the malcontents
obeyed the order. Now if they had graduated in a rowdy sailing-ship in
the ’sixties and had meant business, they would have remained in the
forecastle and placed the onus of getting them out upon me. But they
were modern recreants and did not understand the particular methods
by which a skipper may effectively be set at defiance. As soon as
they had quitted the forecastle and come on the poop, I had the doors
of their quarters shut and guarded, effectively cutting off retreat.
Then calling over the names as they stood on the ship’s articles, I
asked the first man if he intended to clean his quarters. His reply
was that his mates in London had told them that they were not to obey
that particular order. My reply was that they could reckon with their
mates in London when they got there, but that in the meantime they had
to reckon with me, here and now. A renewed refusal and my order was
“irons,” duly carried out. Five men went through the same formula, and
the rest gave in; they were all kept aft and sent forward in batches to
do their share of the work.

This outbreak of insubordination could not have been put down so easily
if I had not had a good lot of officers to back me, although, as the
men knew, I should have taken extreme measures had there been any show
of violence. Where they could have embarrassed me would have been for
the entire lot to have continued their refusal, for then I might have
been put to inconvenience to find lock-up accommodation for them all,
but I knew the passage was hopelessly spoiled, so thought it just as
well to fight out a question of principle when circumstances were
in my favour. I recollected afterwards that when we left the London
docks some men on the quay made loud and angry remarks concerning the
importation of Southampton fashions to London and I have no doubt that
a certain resolution of defiance had been duly arranged, although it
was very ill thought out.

After that little breeze things went on quietly and in due course
we got to Rio. I remember taking some young ladies to see a circus,
which was in some ways novel, and I doubt not that if these lines
meet their eyes they will remember the incident well and laugh at the
recollection. There was no other incident of note and I duly started
for home, not thinking it worth while to make a fuss about the loss of
one propeller blade, but some days before we got to Madeira we lost
another, and then it became a serious matter, so I wired home for
instruction, feeling that it was just as well that some one else should
take a little responsibility. For although a ship _can_ paddle along
with only one blade or even a portion of one, it was due to every one
concerned in the ship’s welfare that the risk should be known, in order
that if trouble did come it might be met. I got a reply to proceed
“with caution,” and it occurred to me that the last two words were
rather superfluous if quite natural. We completed the voyage in safety,
for the weather was favourable and our progress good, although there
was a most objectionable vibration. What was very satisfactory was that
the passengers left the ship well pleased with everything in spite of
our mishaps.

That was the end of my connection with the _Ruapehu_. I had gained a
considerable amount of experience in her, it had got me out of the
old groove, and I had become reconciled to my lot. The worst of the
business was the longer voyages, and the knowledge that in the near
future our stay in London would be materially curtailed, as New Zealand
was to be considered the home port. But with it all there was a fine
sense of exhilaration. There was enough use to be made of canvas in
order to get the best out of the ships--that reminded one of some of
the best traditions of the sea--and we perpetuated so far as we could
those of the old customs that would or could exist side by side with
steam. The ships were well found and there was no stint of anything
required to put them on a really first-class level. As, however, might
have been anticipated in a new steam company, after some time it became
necessary to take a more careful survey of what was really being done.
Bidding adieu to my ship I now transferred my interest to the new ship


    “She walked the waters like a thing of life.”

[Illustration: N.Z.S.S. “KAIKOURA”

(From a painting by Willie Fleming of Cape Town)]

I suppose that all seamen have cherished a particular liking for
some particular ship they have sailed in; a long association seems
to establish a sympathy between the mind that controls and the dull
steel that gives effect to the task required of it. Kipling had some
such idea in his mind when he wrote “The Ship that found Herself,”
and almost insensibly the idea is imbibed that the ship is a sentient
thing whose behaviour can be accurately forecasted under any given
conditions. I never had that feeling quite for the _Mexican_--my
acquaintance was not long enough to permit it to grow into absolute
confidence which it assuredly would have done had time been granted,
but for my new ship it was altogether different. I took her
twenty-three voyages round the world, and she never disappointed me,
or failed to come up to expectation at any time. She could do anything
that was reasonably asked of her, and I am vain enough to think she
sulked when she lost the hand upon her that she had grown accustomed
to, for she never did much afterwards. As it was put to me by a
prominent official, “She never seemed to have a day’s luck after you
left her.”

On my way to Glasgow I was delighted with the idea that there was to be
a really big ship for me. I knew that she was to be forty feet longer
than my last one, and at that time a five thousand ton ship was thought
to be a pretty fair size. At all events many of us had the idea that
with over four hundred feet in length the evil of pitching would be
reduced to a minimum. Both _Mexican_ and _Ruapehu_ were 390 feet, and
at times they could under provocation really distinguish themselves,
but this extra forty feet, it was thought, would put an entirely
different aspect on a ship’s behaviour in a heavy head sea. It was a
vain hope, for I have known the _Kaikoura_, when light, pitch and scend
through a vertical arc of thirteen degrees, which was both trying to
the stomach and the temper, for although I was never actually sea-sick
after my second voyage to sea, a heavy bout or spell of pitching always
made me feel uncomfortable.

From the train, when nearing Fairfield, I saw two ships in the yard
alongside one another; one appeared to be big, the other small, and I
said to myself that the big one was mine. It was a vain surmise--the
big one was the Cunard _Etruria_ and the small one the _Kaikoura_, but
she was a fine ship for all that. She was too far advanced in building
for me to suggest any but minor alterations, but I was glad to see that
many defects I had pointed out in the earlier ships had been remedied.
She was not, however, nearly so far advanced as the advertised date of
her sailing led me to suppose she would be, and after being with her
some little time I wrote to London saying it was an utter impossibility
for us to leave the Clyde on the date mentioned. A reply came back
saying that Sir William Pearce (the head of the Fairfield firm) assured
them she would be ready by the time specified. Then began a wonderful
piece of work--a small army of workmen invaded the ship, each bringing
some part of the ship’s internal fittings with him. For instance, you
could see the panelling of the saloons grow as you watched, the pieces
having all been fitted in the workshops, and only requiring to be
fixed in place; further, the work was well done, for up to the time of
my leaving the ship she showed no sign of hurried workmanship. The
engines had all been erected and tried in the engine-shed before being
placed in the ship. She arrived at completion without a hitch, and on
the appointed day we went for our steam trials on the measured mile and
made, as nearly as my recollection serves, nearly fifteen knots. Mr.
Bryce Douglas, the engineer to the firm, represented the builders, and
Mr. Strickland the Company. Mr. Bryce Douglas and I got on very well
together, and I for one regretted greatly his death shortly afterwards.

It must not be supposed that the saloon or passengers’ quarters were in
any way completed. We had, in fact, some scores of workmen going round
to London in order to finish the work by the time she arrived there.
There were also some dozen gentlemen with us, mostly scientific men
who had been given a complimentary run round. In one respect there was
a marked advance on former ships, for the electric light installation
was a great improvement and scarcely ever gave any trouble; in fact
it may be considered that by this time the problem of lighting ships
by electricity had been satisfactorily solved. We left the Clyde on
the morning of October 20, having on board a channel pilot in whom the
builders had the greatest faith, for I scarcely think that the Company
were to take the delivery before she arrived in London Docks in a
completed state. On that point I am not certain. There was no doubt
I was master, but the pilot was not in any way anxious to get orders
from me. I had no great reason, however, to be dissatisfied. All went
well until the evening of the 21st, when we were off Portland, a dark,
clear night with a light westerly wind. We were passing many sailing
ships standing off shore on the starboard tack, and, in attempting to
clear a Danish barque, there unfortunately developed a difference of
opinion on our bridge as to what was to be done, and we hit her very
hard. Fortunately she was timber loaded and did not sink, although her
crew left her and came on board my ship, seeing red, after the manner
of excited Scandinavians. I was a little puzzled what to do, for I
had no time to waste, so for the first and last time called a council
of my officers, asking for suggestions. It was decided that we should
send a lifeboat with a crew to stand by her, to keep a light burning to
warn off other ships, and to see if she could be got into port. When
we proceeded to carry out the plan the master and crew of the barque
begged to be given the lifeboat and to go themselves, and I, very
weakly as I now think, did as they wished. At all events it let us get
on, and that was the all-important point just then, for we were in no
way damaged and our paint on the bow was hardly scratched. The barque
duly got through the Needles and I think put into Cowes, from which
place our lifeboat was returned. We arrived in London without further
adventure, and once again I had an experience of law. The short stay
we had was fully taken up with depositions and consultations, but as I
have already expressed my views on that subject I need not recapitulate
further than to say it was “the same old game” to get clear of this
matter. When the case was tried it was given against us, the truth,
as I believe, being that they got scared at our close proximity and
tacked the ship under our bows, thinking we were not giving way to
them. I think the court was of this opinion also, but I can imagine
that our ship, (a blaze of light being kept going for the workmen) and
approaching a sailing ship at great speed, was perhaps a trial to weak
nerves. At all events they were all in a howling funk when I saw them.
That was No. 1 collision. We had all our work cut out to get the ship
ready for sailing day. She was booked up full of passengers, and there
was an apparently endless stream of stores and equipment coming down
to the last minute. To the credit of the Company be it said that the
work was done, and done properly. I cannot remember that anything was

The worst part of the business was that I had in the main a new set of
officers, although my chief engineer from the last ship was with me. It
is of the greatest advantage in a case like this to have people with
you that you know you can depend upon, and with the best intentions
in the world you cannot have this feeling with strangers. It must
be remembered that a new ship is always something in the nature of
a surprise-packet. On the afternoon of October 25 we left the dock,
and by the time we got to Gravesend it was quite dark with a strong
ebb tide running, and the reach full of ships, mostly at anchor. As
we were to stay there the night it was necessary to turn the ship
round, and when we got across the river there was not a great deal
of room for anything to get past us. This was discovered by one of
the Aberdeen steamers called the _Ban Righ_, for in sweeping past and
under our stern she cleared the whole of her starboard side of bridge,
deckhouses, bulwarks, etc., and she also dented our stern and carried
away rudder chains and some of our ornamental gilt work. There were
circumstances connected with this that would have made a cat laugh,
but a very stiff upper lip had to be kept, and I greatly admired the
admirably cool way in which the incident was treated by Mr. Strickland,
the London manager, who had come down the river with us and alluded
to the collision as “a river bump.” I went down the river in a tug
to see the extent of the damage to the other ship, and the next day
we left for Plymouth. This collision No. 2 was, I believe, settled
by both parties bearing their own damages, for not even a bench of
judges could have rightly apportioned the blame in this case. I find by
abstract that we left Plymouth at 7.30 a.m. on the morning of the 28th,
after a fairly strenuous week’s work.

The ship, as I have said, was full of passengers. In the saloon we had
a number of representative Christchurch people, and they were very
nice to get on with. In every community there is nearly always some
prominent spirit that will give the rest a lead, and this is especially
the case on board ship on a long voyage. From extended observation
I would venture the remark that nineteen days is about the maximum
period for which people will dwell together in unity. After that time
a great deal of forbearance and tact is required to make things go
smoothly and well. As may be imagined there were in this case little
shortcomings that might with some degree of justice have been found
fault with, but there was one man who was determined that all should
go well. His name was Tom Acland, and we became great friends. He has
now, alas, gone to join the majority, but his memory remains a pleasant
one with many. He ensured peace in the saloon, but in the second cabin
it was another business. There were a lot of old Australians bound for
Hobart, and nothing was right so far as they were concerned. On more
than one occasion it was necessary to talk very straightly to some of
the ringleaders, and eventually they sent a letter to the directors
complaining of my conduct to them, the result of which was a unanimous
vote of confidence in me by the Board. We got to the Cape without any
incident calling for special mention, this being the first time I had
called there since joining the new Company. It was pleasant to see
the old faces once more and, further, to find they were glad to see
me. As we had to take in a lot of coal the people travelling had a
fine chance for a run on shore, added to which the ship was steaming
well and giving every satisfaction. This, unfortunately, was not to
last, but still, when we got away once more, she began to show me
what she really could do when she got the canvas on her. I find there
was one day’s run of 369 miles for a day thirty-six minutes short of
the twenty-four hours, and that was faster travelling than I had ever
done before. One day it became necessary for some reason to open up
the high-pressure cylinder. I had been down in the engine-room having
a look at what was going on and saw nothing very out of the ordinary
for a new ship, but I had noticed that something was being done to the
escape valve at the lower end of the cylinder. When the engines were
again started there was a great crash and they immediately stopped.
This was a twenty-fours hours’ job, for a piece was broken off the
rim of the high-pressure piston, and the explanation I accepted for
the accident was that a small spanner had been left in the steam
port by the builders and that it had just rolled out. There are some
explanations that it is well to accept even when they may not be
altogether satisfactory. I thought in this case the main thing was to
get the damage repaired, and let those immediately concerned fight it
out when they got home. The engineers made a good job of the repairs
and in due course we proceeded gaily. There had been a fine fair wind
during the stoppage of the engines and we had sailed 155 miles.

There were various incidents between this and Hobart more or less
unpleasant, one in particular. A young married couple had the
misfortune to see a child of theirs die of some infantile ailment
and it had to be buried that evening. There was in the saloon a very
charming elderly lady who was great on evangelism and preaching,
appealing to the emotions after the style of the Salvation Army.
While I was reading the Burial Service this lady had got an audience
of women in the saloon and was rapidly making a scene. The burial had
been kept as quiet as possible, but after it was over the doctor came
up to me and said, “I wish you would come down to the saloon, sir, and
say a few words, or else Mrs. ---- will have every woman in the ship
in hysterics.” I did so, and many speedily recovered sufficiently to
suggest that I was a brute for stopping the proceedings--very funny the
ideas that strike people under certain conditions.

It was always my endeavour to have the men prepared for emergencies,
and many have thought at times that I was unduly particular in this
matter. The crew, for instance, never knew when they would be called
to fire quarters. Saturday was of course the most convenient day, but
the objection to a fixed day was that every one had a fair surmise
that the bell rang for drill only, and that was not the same thing as
calling upon people unexpectedly. When it came to the actual test my
scheme worked well. Again, when boats were manned, they were always
provisioned, for stores were kept in a portable state in order to
facilitate this matter. I found that boats could be provisioned and
swung out ready for lowering in four minutes, and that as a general
thing without taking any undue risks; I have only seen one man go
overboard at boat drill. That was in the _African_ during a fresh
breeze, but we soon had him again. There is more harm done by undue
haste than by the trifling delay in first seeing that things are
properly prepared for the work to be done. Another very good spirit
to introduce is to make the crew fancy themselves and take a pride in
their ship. It seemed to me that this plan also worked excellently.

There was no further incident on that passage, but on arriving at Port
Chalmers we discovered that our misfortunes were not quite over. There
was a Government tug assisting to get us alongside the jetty, and
by some bad management on its part it ran into our propeller, which
cut through its side as though it had been a piece of paper. The tug
consequently made the best of her way to the beach, getting lower in
the water as she proceeded, but she eventually reached the shore. This
was the third smash I had had in just over seven weeks. I was about
tired of being made a cockshy of, and the occurrence generally had not
improved my equanimity.

When we had made fast I went on the jetty, and having had the turning
gear put in, was watching the blades of the propeller to ascertain
what, if any, damage had been done to them, when an elderly man whom
I did not know came fussing up to me asking, “What’s the matter?” I
replied, I am afraid rather shortly, that I did not see what business
it was of his, on which he informed me that he would soon let me know
all about that, and took himself off. I then discovered that he was a
Government engineer surveyor, but one of the very old school. There
was no great damage done to anything, and we soon made arrangements
to repair the damage done on the passage, but I did not consider it
a casualty, nor did I think it necessary to report it as such to the
customs. But gossip spreads, and the next day I received a little note
from the collector of customs asking me to go to Dunedin and see him.
I did so, and found in the room my friend of the previous morning. The
collector, who was a very nice man, liked and respected by every one,
told me he had heard I had had a casualty on the outward passage, and
had not reported it. I replied that I did not consider there had been
a casualty and therefore no need to report anything, as the damage was
slight and to be easily repaired. Upon this the engineer broke out that
he considered there had been a casualty and “What did I know about
it anyway?” This elicited the reply from me, as I considered under
extreme provocation, that “I had a steam certificate and he had not.”
This closed the conversation and I was not further molested. How it was
finally settled I really forget, but my engineer opponent and I were
afterwards very good friends. I write of this incident because I have
frequently been put to considerable trouble by Custom House officials
who have pressed for unnecessary details, and in fact have told me that
if even so small a thing as a piston-spring breaks it should be entered
in the official log as a casualty, but this I always stoutly refused to
do, claiming in this a reasonable amount of discretion. And again, in
colonial ports a ship’s name is nearly as delicate as that of a woman,
and as easily damaged. A report of a casualty at the Custom House
is good copy for every newspaper reporter that can get hold of it,
embellishing what may have happened with every fanciful idea that it
can possibly bear. There is yet a graver aspect in which this subject
may be viewed--it reduces the discretionary power of the master of the
ship, and that appeared to me to be a thing quite worth fighting for.

During the remainder of our stay in New Zealand we went the round of
the big ports and left Wellington finally for home. I find that I
had not adopted then a high southern route to the Horn, for although
we made an average speed of 13½ knots we did not make a good passage
to Rio. We passed the Horn, however, in broad daylight and I came
to the conclusion that there were several matters connected with
hydrographical details that would be better for being looked into.
The old stagers had gone on their way accepting everything on the
chart for granted. I was navigating so far as I could to learn. Here
is a case in point. I was passing Cape Horn at what I believed to
be a mile’s distance. I took the danger angle at its recorded height
and immediately hauled out, for the angle put us apparently too
close in, and I could trust my eyes. That was jotted down for future
investigation, as were my compass deviations nearing the Horn, which,
if the variation lines on the chart were correct, I could not account
for. We made the passage home under forty days total or thirty-eight
days actual steaming time, but I hoped we should some day do a great
deal better than that. We were given a fair spell at home this time,
for there was a lot to put in order, and as it happened our collision
case had to be tried. I did not like the ordeal, nor do I think I came
well out of it. We lost the case, but not one word of fault-finding
was said to me. About this time Sir W. Pearce commenced to take
more interest in the Company and various changes began to manifest
themselves, but they did not at that time detract in any way from the
efficiency of the ship or cause any inconvenience.

On our next voyage we started with the best of luck and made a fine
passage out to Santa Cruz. We had on board a great number of single
women emigrants, who were berthed right aft in the ship, and were
really in charge of the matron and the doctor. I was not supposed to
have anything to do with them, save inspect their quarters once a day,
and to settle differences if the matron and doctor could not do so. On
more voyages than this one it happened that the said matron and doctor
would goad the women into rebellion over some trifle, and when they had
become unmanageable would send for me to put matters straight. I had
learned by experience that you could lead a crowd like that by dint of
a little judicious humbug, but drive them you could not. By the time I
had sat and talked for ten minutes, the row was always over, but it
was necessarily at the sacrifice of some apparent or fancied dignity
on the part of the officials in direct charge of them. Scarcely to
be wondered at, for matrons are given rather to domineer, and young
doctors mostly are green as cabbages outside their own particular job.

There was one other event on this voyage. I had been permitted to
select my own chief officer, and I induced a man to come with me who
had been third in the _African_--Tom East--the son of Quartermain East
of Claimant fame. He was of the bulldog breed, a good sailor, a good
officer, and loyal to the heart’s core. We had disagreements at times,
but we liked and respected one another, and when the separation came it
was with mutual regret. Further, I grieve to say he has now joined the
majority. Half the trouble is lifted from the shoulders of the master
if he has a chief he can rely upon to carry out his orders. For if the
master’s voice is heard at all, it should be a clear intimation that
the attention of every one is called for, and that the ordinary routine
is departed from.

Two days out from Santa Cruz we lost a propeller blade, and we
consequently waggled down to the Cape at reduced speed, thankful
that we encountered no really bad weather, for we were only making
about eleven knots to the hour. On arriving at Cape Town we went
alongside the outer jetty and made arrangements with a diver to take
off the broken blade and put on a spare one. I was assured that the
operation was practicable, and that it had been successfully done in
other similar cases. It did not strike me, however, as looking very
promising. In just under a day and a half the job was done for what it
was worth. I knew it was a risk, but desired to save the expense of dry
docking the ship. On the other hand, I should not have been justified
in taking the ship from a place of safety with a damaged propeller,
so the course adopted I hoped would prove the happy compromise. In
this I was mistaken, for ten days afterwards the new blade dropped off
altogether. By that time we were half way to Wellington with a nice
fair wind and, by easing the engines considerably, could make very
fair running. In point of fact, in spite of our mishaps our average
speed for the entire distance was 12·94 knots, and the steaming time
was forty-one and a half days. We went south to Lyttleton in due
course and were again put into working order, but there was not much
time given us in the country, for in less than a fortnight we were on
the track again for home, the round trip taking three months and six
days. By this time I was getting acclimatised to the surroundings down
south, and was making shorter cuts to Cape Horn each passage. On this
particular occasion, although it was the depth of the Antarctic winter
and a little ice was seen, we had fine fair winds. Every one concerned
was delighted with the ship, and the passage home was made in a total
time of thirty-seven days nine hours, or steaming time of thirty-six
days four hours--an average speed of 13·3 with the freezing engines all
working. To deal with this matter once for all it may be said that her
best passage out was thirty-nine days eight hours total time.

[Illustration: “KAIKOURA” IN HARBOUR]

No pains were spared on my part to make the ship as fine a specimen
of a first-class steamer as possible, and it was always a matter of
certainty that when we arrived in port we should be the best-looking
ship there. By a little contriving I had succeeded in getting dummy
yards made for the mizzen mast. They were only used in port, and they
came down with the Blue Peter when we started on homeward passages,
for although they were used once or twice in London, it was never
possible to do the ship’s appearance justice with no proper crew on
board her. On the other hand, in colonial ports that matter had my
special attention, and I so impressed my views upon the officers that
in time they had as keen an eye as myself for a slack rope or a yard
not quite square. I have reason to know that this peculiarity of the
ship was noticed on all sides, and only quite recently I got a letter
on business from a complete stranger who reminded me incidentally that
he had seen the ship years ago and recalled her appearance and her

Things at times go very wrong even with the best intention, as the
following case will illustrate. The Governor of New Zealand was then
Sir William Jervois, an officer who had served his country in many ways
with great distinction. One day in Lyttleton he accepted an invitation
to come and see the ship and to lunch on board. I was very keen upon
doing the thing in first-rate style, so, having two Naval Reserve
officers and a crew of Reserve men, it seemed to me that we might turn
out a decent Guard of Honour. My second officer was given charge of
that business, for I knew that he was well up in his drill. We borrowed
the arms and the men were very decently turned out. When his Excellency
came on board there was a decent “present,” the Governor’s flag was
broken at the main, and all went very gaily, the lunch was excellent
and every one was pleased, but here was disaster. Many ladies and
townspeople had come on board as visitors and were chattering gaily
with the officer of the guard, who had let his men disperse for dinner
or stand easy. The Governor rather suddenly rose from the table to
depart, and before my officer again got his men together, the necessity
for them had departed. I do not think that I ever felt quite so angry,
but a sense of the ridiculous reduced the feeling to some sarcastic
remarks that I should not have liked to be the recipient of. His
Excellency, however, in no way remarked upon the incident, but I doubt
not he enjoyed a quiet laugh at the _contretemps_. He was uniformly
kind to me, and I entertain a grateful remembrance of hospitality and
courtesy displayed to me and mine by Lady Jervois and himself.

About this time the late Admiral Sir George Tryon, K.C.B., was
Commander-in-Chief on the Australian station, and his was a personality
to be remembered. He was good enough to treat me with a great amount of
consideration, and indeed went out of his way to encourage a growth of
good feeling between the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service. I saw a
good deal of him, and so far as I could discern he made no distinction
between me and one of his own captains. I think I may truly say that it
was mainly the intercourse with him which turned my mind to a study of
naval matters, and caused me to write the various papers I have on the
possibilities of war service by merchant steamers.

This was just after the Pendjeh war scare, when a Russian cruiser had
turned up most unexpectedly at Wellington. My ship had been taken by
Government, but for some reason was returned, and the _Coptic_ was
taken in her place. There was some little trouble in getting the crew
of that ship to take war risks, but having mustered my men and put
the question to them, they agreed to a man to do as I did. With that
assurance I went to call on the Governor to ask him to requisition my
ship, but for some reason unknown to me it was not done, much to my

They were a splendid lot of officers on board the flagship H.M.S.
_Nelson_, but a matter of thirty years makes a great clearance. It
is not so very long, however, since I met a man who reminded me of
an incident concerning a lot of them who, having been to a ball, had
come on board my ship to put up for the night, and wanted to know what
I could do to amuse them. I had then on board as guests two parsons,
one of whom was the Rev. Eliot Chambers, an old navy man himself, so I
replied that there were two parsons on board and they were at liberty
to draw them if they pleased. Chambers heard this, slipped out of bed
and bolted his door, but the other fellow was fetched out in scant
attire to join the general revelry, and a very pleasant time it was.

The flag captain was Atwell Lake, now an admiral, and he was a tireless
talker. One evening General Sir George Whitmore, who was commanding in
New Zealand, invited two members of the Government, Lake and myself, to
dine with him, and a very fine dinner he gave us too. But Sir George
was also a tireless talker, and I fancy that Lake went there prepared
to vanquish him at the game, for he started to talk at the commencement
of dinner, kept us all interested, and Sir George never got a word in
edgeways the whole of the time.

It must not be supposed that during the Russian war scare New Zealand
was altogether unprepared. There were both forts and mine fields, and
the latter were very well equipped. As for the forts, they had been
constructed, I believe, under the directions of Sir W. Jervois himself,
who was a skilled engineer, though, as I happened to know, he and the
naval commander-in-chief held different estimates as to their specific
value. At various times I think I went over nearly all of those forts
with Sir George Whitmore, and formed the impression that the material
was excellent, for they seemed to have ordered the best of everything.
On one occasion, some years afterwards, I was visiting the forts at
Otago Heads in company with the then Minister of Defence, afterwards
the Right Hon. Richard Seddon, and this seems a fit place to give
an anecdote quite characteristic of the man. The officer commanding
expressed a wish to have another gun mounted in a particular place
that he pointed out. After some demur Seddon agreed to give this, but
said the Government could not afford luxuries. Some one chipped in
with “That’s what the _Daily_ ---- says about you having a special
train to go from ---- to ----.” “Oh,” replied Seddon; “they say that,
do they? Well, in future I will have a special train a great deal
oftener than I have done.” He quite understood the way to deal with his
fellow-countrymen, and most of them admired him immensely for his sheer
dominating personality.

The social clubs in the principal towns were great institutions and
of most hospitable tendencies the whole time that I was in the mail
service. I was free of them all as an honorary member, and it seems
to me rather a pity that we do not reciprocate this hospitality to
any great extent when colonial visitors come to London. There is, of
course, reciprocity between certain clubs all the world over, but
generally speaking it is a difficult matter to obtain for a colonial
friend in this country. The Fernhill, Northern, Wellington, Canterbury
and Christchurch clubs were most kind, and I have pleasant memories
of them all. Perhaps the last named appealed to me more than any, but
then Christchurch itself was the most English place I ever set foot
in. It had evolved its own atmosphere, habits and customs. There was
also another famous institution known as “Coker’s Hotel.” Here the
personality of the proprietor was decidedly an asset, and Jack Coker
was liked and respected by every one with whom he came in contact.
He had been a sailor, I think an old man-of-war’s man, but had the
instinct of good breeding which made him welcome in any company. I
remember on one occasion there had been a great ball in Christchurch
given to the officers of the Australian squadron. Many of them were
staying at Coker’s, and when we returned in the early hours he was
chaired in recognition of something he had done by two post captains, a
first lieutenant and myself, and as he expressed it afterwards, “It was
the proudest moment of my life, but a little bit risky,” and it was.
But there was a homelike atmosphere in that hotel which I have never
found elsewhere, and which disappeared with the man who had created it.

There was an incident connected with a dinner to celebrate the
inception of the Midland Railway which is noteworthy in the light of
recent events and would no longer be possible. The function was held
on October 21, and I was called upon to respond to the toast of the
Navy, having had due notice of what was expected of me. I did so in
some sort of fashion, but when I went to lunch on board my ship the
next day, my chief observed in his plain-spoken way that I had made
a nice mess of it the preceding evening. “How?” I asked. “It was the
anniversary of Trafalgar,” he said, “and you didn’t mention it.” It is
well to remember that a similar lapse would no longer be possible, for
through the genius of Arnold White in suggesting that a wreath should
be laid on the Nelson Columns on Trafalgar day, and the efforts of the
Navy League in giving effect to the idea, the event is now celebrated
from one end of the empire to the other. Certainly there is no child in
New Zealand to-day ignorant of the fact that October 21 is Trafalgar
day, and attaches due importance to it accordingly.


It was rather the fashion both in Australia and New Zealand about
this period to take great interest in anything that resembled a race
between two well-known steamers. In fact it reminded me of Mark Twain’s
stories of racing on the Mississippi. There were two vessels on the
coast about the speeds of which all sorts of tales were told. One was
the _Takapuna_, an express vessel carrying the mail from Wellington
to Auckland _via_ the west coast; the other was the _Rotomahana_,
a beautiful vessel built by Denny’s and credited with a speed of
seventeen knots. At all events she was supposed to be the fastest
thing on the coast and I dare say was. But we in the _Kaikoura_ had
rather an idea that we could do a bit of steaming on a pinch, and so
it came to pass that these two ships were lying in Wellington harbour
one fine afternoon both bound to Lyttelton and to sail about the same
time. The idea of racing had not entered my head at the time of my
leaving the wharf, and as lookers-on said afterwards, “I went down the
middle of the harbour as usual with a leadsman in both chains.” That
was chaff, of course, but I never cut corners unduly fine. On this
particular occasion the _Rotomahana_ left a short time after me, and to
my astonishment came and squeezed in between me and the first turning
point. She was crowded with passengers going down to Christchurch
races, and they howled at us in derision, holding up rope ends and
offering us a tow if we wanted one. We had started under easy steam, as
was usual in coasting, and we had in fact been overhauled very quickly,
but the indignity of the proceeding rather vexed me, so I sent for my
chief engineer, and pointed out that it was not desirable we should be
made a laughing-stock of. He replied that he “supposed it was to be
Elder (meaning Fairfield) against Denny,” to which I assented, and he
went below, but I shall always hold the opinion that there had been
some talk on shore between the rival engineers. Be that as it may,
the lead the _Rotomahana_ had got by this time did not increase, but
she still ostentatiously trailed her coat. There was no doubt under
ordinary steaming conditions our then rival was the faster ship, for
she had far greater horse-power proportionately than we, but on this
occasion she had a full load of cargo and we were flying light. Our
displacement, in fact, was inconsiderable, and as the water was smooth
as a mill pond, it was equal to having our horse-power in a vessel half
our size. To make a long story short, we let my ship go and we simply
raced past our friend _Rotomahana_, got to Lyttelton an hour and a
half to the good, and were safely moored and piped down before she got
into dock. The race caused a good deal of comment, for the result was
surprising. Every one did not see that we owed the win to being light,
and having the luck of smooth water, but the fact remained that we had
the fastest run between those ports to our credit for many years, until
H.M.S. _Orlando_ took it away from us. The captain of the _Rotomahana_
was a very splendid skipper named Cary. He had done numbers of fine
things on the coast, and was commonly spoken of by a somewhat fiery
sobriquet. I was informed that he did not like his beating, but he was
not the first challenger to fail.

I had two outbreaks of fire which deserve to be chronicled. One
happened at sea and the other in harbour. On the first occasion it was
midway between New Zealand and Cape Horn when it was reported to me
that one of the coal bunkers was on fire. It gave me a nasty sensation
for a moment, but it was night time, no fuss was made, and a few hours
put an end to the trouble. It tires me to hear men talk about the bad
behaviour of British merchant seamen in emergencies of this sort. It is
my experience that, except during periods of strike or general labour
unrest, you can do anything with them.

The next fire was a more serious matter, for there were complications
which made the matter more difficult. It is a most excellent maxim to
keep on good terms with the port authorities wherever you may be, but
occasionally you come across personalities with whom smooth working is
impossible. The port captain at Lyttelton had on one occasion fallen
foul of my second officer, who was carrying out some order I had given
him, and my man had retorted in language perhaps more forcible than
polite. That was, strictly speaking, quite wrong, although natural, for
all my people knew quite well that though I exercised the right of free
speech to them, I did not permit any one else to do so, and was always
ready to take their part if it were necessary. In this case the port
captain complained to the head office in Christchurch, and I received a
letter written by the order of the directors instructing me to severely
reprimand the officer in question for his unguarded language to the
port official. I regret that I have destroyed that correspondence,
for I remember replying to the directors that I had carried out their
instructions, but that the “cavalry forms of speech” indulged in on
both sides had not originated with my ship, and so the incident closed
with a rankling remembrance on the part of the port captain, and a sort
of _civis Romanus sum_ feeling on the part of my ship’s company.

Well, one Sunday evening in Lyttelton harbour we had just finished
dinner when East came to me and reported that there was a big fire in
the forward coal bunker, and that the refrigerating-room bulkhead
was very hot. We were to sail for home in three days, we were coaled
up, and had on board a large quantity of frozen meat stowed in
the immediate vicinity of the seat of the fire. I shall never be
sufficiently thankful that it was my habit to spend Sundays on board,
for had I not been there it would have been very awkward. Without any
fuss we got the pumps to work. The men, being fortunately most on
board, fell quickly into their places, and having put an officer in the
gangway to prevent any one coming on board, I thought things were in a
fairly satisfactory condition. But about this time two things happened.
One was the advent on the scene of the port captain, who demanded
admittance, which upon consideration I could not well refuse, for, as
he argued, you don’t start pumps on a Sunday evening unless there is
something the matter. The other occurrence was the intimation that
the deck of the second saloon was getting hot and smoking. The port
captain wished to summon the local fire brigade and take charge; to
this proposal I would not listen, but said I would accept the services
of his tug-boat’s pump if she could come alongside, which in course of
time she did. By this time it was known in Christchurch that something
was wrong, but as there were no trains running so late on Sunday, the
Company’s manager, Mr. Bennett, made, I believe, record time over the
hills down to Lyttelton, arriving in time to see the end of it all.

Underneath the wooden deck of the second saloon was a steel one which
was now red hot, and flames were showing. My endeavour was to pierce
the steel deck so as to get water directly upon the fire, but this was
rather difficult, and for one awful moment the idea flashed across me,
“You have refused help. Is the job going to beat you?”

Now H.M.S. _Rapid_ was in port, and Lieut. Sparks, R.N., her first
lieutenant, a friend of mine, was, I knew, in command at that time. To
him I dispatched my second officer to ask that he would send me means
to blow a hole through the deck. Like the good fellow he was he did
exactly what I asked, no more and no less, for it would have been easy
for him to have gained a lot of kudos had he done more than I asked.
He sent his gunner and a cake or two of gun cotton, and with that in
reserve I knew it would be all right. As it turned out we did not need
it, for the carpenters had managed to get through the steel, and we
were then able to put a heavy flow of water right in the heart of the
fire, and our troubles were soon over.

My fellows had worked splendidly--Clifford, the third officer, going
into such an atmosphere of smoke and heat in the endeavour to get a
hose to bear on the flames, that I had to order him to desist, and
he was dragged up by a rope that was fast round his waist. No set of
officers and men could have given a better performance, for by midnight
the fire was entirely subdued, and the damage done was confined to
some twisted steel decks and woodwork that could be repaired before it
was time to sail for home. The directors caused a letter to be written
thanking me and the officers for our exertions, and sending a sum of
money to be divided between those men of the ship’s company who were
actually employed in putting the fire out.

On the succeeding voyage to Lyttelton my friend the port captain
tried to induce the Company to make me appear before a Harbour Board
tribunal, at which matters concerning the line of action I had taken
were to be inquired into, but the Company said they were not intending
to play that game, and as the powers that were were equally anxious to
avoid any unpleasantness, no more was heard of the affair. I suppose
that technically I was wrong, for a ship in port is to some extent
under the orders of the local authorities. But I was always very
jealous of any attempt to encroach upon my prerogative as “master.” It
is a very fine designation and title, but to my mind it carries with
it the obligation to maintain its meaning. I was never particularly
anxious to take the courtesy title of captain which is commonly assumed
on shore by those in charge of merchantmen. Mr. ----, master s.s. ----,
looks quite well enough on a visiting card.

In this same year 1889 I was asked to attend a meeting of the Hobart
Chamber of Commerce in order that I might receive the thanks of the
Chamber for taking my ship alongside the Dunn Street pier. It reminded
me somewhat of an old _Mexican_ episode. A most flattering resolution
was passed and I was congratulated upon the fact that the light on the
western land I had advocated seven years previously was now actually in
course of construction. That sort of thing was gratifying, although no
special merit attached to my action, for the pier was large enough to
accommodate a far larger ship than mine was.

Among the intimates that I had in New Zealand was Captain Edwin, R.N.,
the meteorologist, who resided in Wellington. We had many tastes in
common, for he was one of the old school and had learned his business
thoroughly, commencing with the bombardment of Sebastopol, at which
time he was serving as a midshipman in the _Albion_, and his stories
of the bluejackets of the period, of fights between the men on the
lower deck, of men, when dying of cholera, asking an officer to hold
their hands, these and other matters were graphic in the extreme. As
a specimen of his powers as a _raconteur_ the following is an extract
from one of his letters to me--

“By the bye, I had a curious dream lately; I had departed this life
and found myself covered with feathers and fitted with a pair of three
folding wings like an albatross, and was outward bound; being not used
to flying, and off my first letter, I did not get on very well; and
found I was putting my tail too hard over, which frequently brought
me broadside on. After a while I settled down, but made rather heavy
weather of it; and a lot of clipper chaps passed me on the way. When
I had been out about a month, I heard a fellow coming up astern,
and before long he hailed me and it turned out to be you: ‘Hullo,
Crutchley,’ said I; ‘where are you bound?’ ‘Gabriel for orders,’ said
you. ‘Same here,’ said I; and we flapped along together. After a good
while we saw a faint sort of pale light ahead and you remarked that you
thought we were running into ice; after some time we made out that it
looked like a fog bank, with a bright place in it, and on coming nearer
we saw that in this bright part there was a high gate, so we eased
down and worked our tails a little so as to be sure we had everything
in readiness; for not being accustomed to being up under feathers we
were a little anxious; all, however, went well and we both perched on
the gate in a masterly style and folded our wings very neatly. We had
no sooner landed, so to speak, when a bell rang twice, and immediately
a voice hailed us and asked who we were; when we had replied, the
voice said: ‘Tell the Recorder that two fellows have come for orders!’
Presently we heard someone say, ‘What name was it? Ah! yes: I see;
Crutchley, Master Mariner, Lieutenant Naval Reserve, rather bad style
both. Dear me! Dreadful record! I am afraid he must go on. Who did you
say the other fellow was? Edwin: I have him! Why, dear me! This is very
sad! Naval officer, and bad at that; send him on at _once_!’ So then we
heard the first one hail us. ‘Outside there! You Crutchley! Edwin! Go
round by the left immediately.’ But we didn’t see it, being sailormen
and willing to contest the point; so we called out that we wanted a
rest, being very tired and thirsty--could they not let us come inside
and sit down for a while? (you see, that gate was not good holding
ground), but a loud voice said, ‘Go away! be off immediately! We shall
have others here to deal with directly.’ But we held on; presently a
long pole came out of the fog and proceeded to shove us off and in so
doing gave us some pretty hard knocks. Still we held on; but at last
we each got a most awful punch with the pole end which made us let go,
and we so far forgot ourselves as to say cuss words; whereupon there
came a clap of thunder and we found ourselves tumbling about anyhow.
When we got way upon us again and could see, we found that my starboard
wing was singed and that the feathers on your head were badly burned.
We consulted what to do, and as we could only just see the light we
knew that we must have been blown a long way off shore; we therefore
decided to work up to it again, and though we flapped our level best
and tried all we knew, we could not rise the light at all and had to
give it up. We then noticed that we seemed to be in a strong set, for
the light was broad away on the starboard bow, while on the port bow
there was a reddish glow which made us feel rather creepy, and we both
remarked that we had got into a kind of haze which had a sort of burnt
powdery smell. We saw the white light dip, but it comforted us a bit
to see that the other did not get any redder--we kept ourselves under
easy speed with a bright look-out all round, and to make all sure,
one of us wore ship every hour, just dropping a little to leeward and
coming up again. Time went by slowly, but we didn’t care about making
much headway ‘to the left,’ and at last we sighted something moving,
and carefully edged down on it in open order. As we got nearer we saw
it had wings and we made it out to be a hoary old chap of a decidedly
Egyptian head, but there was no mistaking him, for he was a real true
blue old sailorman by the way he worked his wings, which showed he had
been a long time afloat, and we could not but admire his style. As we
came up he sheered off, but we were one on each side of him and had
evidently plenty of wing power in reserve, so he stopped and took a
long pull at a bottle that he hauled out from under his port wing and
then hove a deep sigh. Now the sight of that bottle did us good and we
hailed him, saying that if he didn’t want it all we should be glad of
a drop, for we had _come a long way_; he looked at us compassionately
and shook his head: ‘No such luck,’ says he; ‘why, I’ve been sucking
this bottle for nigh on to four thousand years and can’t get a drop
out of it! Though it seems to be good stuff, too! But there,’ says he,
‘_that’s your job_.’ He was a pleasant old fellow and was telling us
that he commanded a squadron of war boats on the African Lakes under
King Rameses the First, and was just deploring the degeneracy of the
seamen of the present day, when he suddenly said, ‘Here comes the Old
Man,’ and the way he spread his wings was a sight to see.”

There was one incident that may be set down here as worthy of notice.
It relates to the period of unrest that was manifest in the maritime
world both at home and oversea in the year 1889. Some portion of that
time we were in New Zealand, and so far as we were concerned the affair
culminated in the port of Lyttelton. On August 31 I had arranged
for a dinner-party in the evening, but an urgent message came down
from Christchurch that I was to attend a consultation at the head
office that evening at eight o’clock. The strike at that time was in
full swing, and the previous day we had seen officers leaving one of
the Union Company’s ships owing to the pressure brought to bear on
them by the men. They did, however, leave the masters of all vessels
unmolested. By great good fortune my wife happened to be making that
voyage by the courtesy of the directors, so that I could leave my chief
to do the honours to my guests, and the lady to represent me. When I
got to the office the matter for discussion was whether we could get
the ship away to her date in spite of the labour troubles, and to
that I gave an unhesitating affirmative, provided that I was allowed
to manage the matter in my own way. This was on the Sunday evening,
and with that understanding we separated. Monday passed by, so did
Tuesday, with varying incidents, and as I did not leave the ship I
formed the view that the next day might see trouble, so I was up very
early. I knew we were ready for a move in the engine-room, and that
my only chance lay in a surprise. The Company’s manager and myself
were walking the quarter deck, off which was the only gangway, when
a fireman came along and was going on shore, when I stopped him, and
forbade him leaving the ship. He wanted to know why he could not go,
and was told no one could leave the ship. That, of course, let the
cat out of the bag, but I was prepared and they were not, so with the
help of the officers we kept the crew on board until we got into the
stream, where they soon found themselves, much to their disgust. To
this they gave somewhat free expression, the firemen being the most
aggrieved. There was one gratifying thing about it all. One of the
quartermasters, a man that had been with me many years, and that I had
rescued once from a painful ending with the help of another man, came
to me surreptitiously and said he was asked by our men to say that
if there was trouble with the firemen I had only to say the word and
they would take them on and give them a hiding. This made me laugh,
but there was no more trouble and we sailed to time next day. That
time when we arrived in London we had to get the ship loaded as best
we could, the officers driving winches and hydraulic cranes. It was
then that the rumour was spread that John Burns was coming down with
a crowd of dockers to stop the work, but fortunately the rumours were
never crystallised, and I know that the ship’s reputation at this time
facilitated greatly the task of getting a crew for the next voyage.


    “And I have loved thee, Ocean! and my joy
     Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be
     Borne, like thy bubbles, onward.”--BYRON.

[Illustration: SHAKING A REEF OUT]

The late Clark Russell and I were at one time great cronies, and
consumed a good deal of midnight oil, and other things, discussing the
sea and its varied incidents. He was a seaman more by instinct than by
experience. He had, of course, served at sea, but for some few years
only, and yet he seemed to be the embodiment of sea lore for all time.
Trifles that would be passed without notice by the ordinary observer,
were absorbed by him and fitted into their proper place in his
conception of the grandeur of the sea and all that appertained to it.
No one man in his experience ever saw one half of the incidents Clark
Russell has related, but his instinct was unerring, and as to his power
of description there can be no question. Let me instance one example.
“A slip of a moon westering fast” may not appeal to the uninitiate,
but to a nautical mind it is most eloquent and expresses exactly the
meaning it was intended to convey in the fewest possible words. To
my mind this phrase is only equalled by Kipling in “as foot by foot
we creep o’er the viewless, hueless deep, to the sob of the questing
lead.” Both these quotations stand out as unique in compression of vast

There was one point on which Clark Russell and I did not agree. He
maintained that it was possible to have at the same time a dense fog
and a gale of wind. I maintained the contrary, for at that time I
had never seen the combination, and believed, like most people, that
wind was the enemy of fog and soon dispersed it. As it happened I
was wrong, for on my very next voyage I had a most convincing proof
of my error, which I duly acknowledged. We were running our easting
down on the parallel of 46° S., and from Lon. 62° E. to 140° E. we
got no observation of sun, moon or stars. I find the distance between
observations is logged as 3,216 miles for ten days; during a great part
of which period it was blowing a hard gale and a thick fog. To make
matters better we also shed a propeller blade, but that was only an
incident which slightly lengthened the passage. The really interesting
point about this experience was the demonstration of the invaluable
qualities of Lord Kelvin’s compass.

In a paper I had read at the Royal United Service Institution I made
mention of its value to navigation, and some little time after this
I was asked by the inventor, then Sir William Thomson, if I would
testify to this in a case that he was bringing before the law courts
to stop the infringement of his patent right. I was able to state the

Between the longitudes I have mentioned the variation of the compass
or magnetic variation changes from about 30° W. to 10° E., for the
locality is in the vicinity of the centre from which the variation
lines radiate. It was consequently necessary to alter the compass
course at stated times to maintain the due east tract we wished to
take, and at certain times the alteration of a degree was made every
two, three, or four hours. My last observation showed Lat. 45° 58’, the
next one 45° 53’, so that in the ten days, run without sights, we were
only five miles out in our latitude.

To be called as an expert witness in such an interesting case as this
one was, is not a disagreeable experience. It was then that I first
met Sir John Fisher, now Lord Fisher, who with Admiral Hotham and two
staff-captains were subpœnaed to represent the Navy. I fancy that
Sir Charles Hotham was then one of the Sea Lords, and Lord Fisher
was then a Captain. Captain Squire Lecky, the author of _Wrinkles in
Navigation_, and myself stood for the merchant service. It was the
time of the Parnell trial, and the present Lord Chief Justice, who
represented the Crown in that inquiry, was secured by Sir William
Thomson to take charge of his case. I must confess that all we sailors
were looking forward with a kind of amused interest to see what the
lawyers would do when dealing with the magnetism of iron ships, and as
it happened I had one of the treats of my life. Sir Richard Webster,
as he then was, coming in fresh from the Parnell case, proceeded to
explain, in words that were to be understood by all, the theory of
the deviation of the compass in iron or steel ships, the defects of
compasses prior to Sir Wm. Thomson’s, and the advantages to which his
invention had given birth--all this in the clearest possible language
and with the most convincing mastery. He spoke one whole day and part
of the next, and, so far as I personally was concerned, taught me more
about what I considered was a special subject of my own than I ever
knew before. Sitting near Lord Alverstone at dinner some little time
since, I reminded him of the case, and he said it was an agreeable
change, at the time, to the other case he was engaged on. Sir William
Thomson won his case and wrote me a letter of cordial thanks for the
help I had given him in the matter. The most humorous thing in that
trial was the spectacle of Captain John Fisher in the witness-box
in the dusk of an autumn afternoon, looking like a school-boy, and
suggesting by his demeanour that so far as he knew anything, green
grass was his colour. But he recalled a youthful episode of a piece
of string tied to a compass to keep it lively by jerking it. He also
recalled how at the bombardment of Alexandria, he had been standing
looking at one of the Thomson compasses to see how it was affected
by the _Inflexible’s_ gunfire, when a big gun being fired lifted his
cap off but did not seriously affect the compass. Those days spent in
Court were of extreme interest, for it was a ding-dong fight between
scientific men of the first rank.

While on the subject of accurate navigation I should like to say
that an invaluable adjunct to a successful navigator is a reliable
“instinct.” In some men this is developed very strongly. I first saw
it in Craigie of the _Lord of the Isles_. He was also a splendid
navigator, and on more than one occasion I heard him say when leaning
over the chart: “Our reckoning puts us here” (pointing with his
finger), “but I ken she’s here,” pointing to quite another place. He
was always right too. I had the sense to a certain extent, and it kept
me out of trouble more than once.

When navigating in high, or comparatively high southern latitudes,
there is always a possibility of encountering ice in large or small
quantities. There are, of course, certain localities where there is a
greater likelihood of meeting with it than others; for instance, as a
very unusual occurrence, icebergs have been seen from the Cape of Good
Hope itself; but no one would ever expect to see them there again, or
take precaution against them in foggy weather. In the austral summer
and autumn months there is a greater possibility of seeing ice anywhere
than at any other time, and again in the winter months you occasionally
come across stray bergs that have got out of their properly recognised
course and are wandering about aimlessly, a nuisance to every one. Such
an example of ice out of place may be found in Dana’s _Two Years before
the Mast_, where he relates his experience in the month of July off
the Horn. I should think that occurrence was quite abnormal, but it is
mentioned to show that there is never any certainty as to where ice may
or may not be, and in thick weather a master has to decide whether the
risk of ice is such as to justify him in taking precautions which will
lengthen the time of his passage. Now in the matter of navigating in a
fog there are certain rules laid down by which you will be judged by a
court of law if you come to grief, but those rules apply principally
to those waters where vessels do mostly congregate, although as far as
I know they are applicable everywhere. Generally speaking the rule is
that in fog, mist, or falling snow, all vessels are to proceed at a
“moderate” speed, which brings about some absurdities. “Moderate speed”
in a Mauretania might be nine knots or so, which in a low-power steamer
would be full speed. On the other hand if, in a dense fog, all ships
stopped, they could not harm one another, although they might drift out
of position.

Down south of course the danger of collision with ships was
infinitesimal; with ice it was another matter, and I consequently
resolved in my own mind that if I could not see I should either go full
speed or stop. On one occasion, half-way across the Indian Ocean, a
dense fog came on. I had seen no ice, nor had I any particular reason
to suppose I should do so, but the fog was dense, so much so that I
could not see either end of the ship from the bridge. I did not like
to stop, but eventually about 8 p.m. I stopped the engines and lay all
night without moving. Though it is needless to say I had run before in
a fog scores of times, on this occasion I did not do so, nor could I
give any definite reason for my action. But when daylight came and the
fog blew away we saw around us at various distances a dozen or fifteen
big icebergs. Of course, we might have passed them safely, but, on the
other hand, had a difference of opinion as to right of way taken place
between us we should probably have added one more to the mysteries of
the sea.

I ran down to one of those bergs to see if I could get an echo from
the steam-whistle. It was then clear weather and the echo was quite
perfect, but whether it would be so in fog I am unable to say. Clark
Russell wrote an article on this incident in the _Daily Telegraph_.

I think the only other occasion on which I was delayed by ice, and
it was again stray ice too, was on a homeward passage, and it was
winter time. It was coming on dirty weather when, at the close of the
afternoon, such as it was, ice was reported--and a good deal of it.
Another case of the homeless dog, but it had to be attended to. The
wind was strong from the north-west with the usual mist and drizzle,
the night coming down as dark as pitch. Again I decided I could not
run with any degree of safety, so brought the ship to the wind under
her trysails, heading about N.N.E. with the engines moving as slowly
as possible. About ten o’clock the glass was falling rapidly, and a
terrific squall came down. The quartermaster observed to me, or rather
shouted, “She is coming to against her helm, sir.” This was rather
interesting, so I said to the officer of the watch, “If she knows what
to do better than I, let her do it; stop the engines.” He did so. By
this time the main trysail was blown clean out of the bolt ropes, but
in the roar of the weather I did not hear it go. The wind had now
shifted to the west, but the ship lay broadside to the sea without
shipping any water. This was because I had put my oil bag equipment to
work, and my experience of it was most satisfactory. After some hours
the weather cleared sufficiently for us to put the helm up and proceed.
We saw no more ice after that night.

Before leaving this subject of Antarctic ice it may be of interest to
note some of its characteristics. Firstly its size. On one occasion
we passed a flat-topped mass which at a distance of fifteen miles
subtended a horizontal arc of twenty-four degrees, and another berg was
passed having in it an arch big enough for a ship to go through. As
nearly as we could compute, the arch was about 270 feet high.

Once, far south by the Nimrod Islands, crossing the great ice-bearing
current, we saw some bergs which were very remarkable inasmuch as they
appeared to be stratified, and when in one position reminded one of
enormous tulips. I embodied the experiences of that trip in a paper
read before the Australian Science Congress, and still hope that the
source of that particular ice-bearing current will be investigated by
one of the Antarctic expeditions.

At the time I first took a ship round Cape Horn the charts left a good
deal to be desired. As an instance of what I mean, Cape Horn itself was
noted as about 500 feet high. From my own observations I was certain
this was not correct, and calling on the Hydrographer, Sir W. Wharton,
K.C.B., one day, I assured him that it was at least 1,200 feet high. He
replied that this was impossible, “for Fitzroy had a station on top of
Cape Horn,” meaning Admiral Fitzroy, who had made the original survey
from which our chart was drawn. This was in 1885, and within a very
few days of this interview I received a letter written by direction
of the Hydrographer thanking me for observations that had enabled him
to correct the lines of variation near Cape Horn, and stating that
the French survey of 1882-3 had fixed the height of that promontory
as 1,394 feet. My observations were afterwards verified by Captain
Clayton, R.N., of H.M.S. _Diamond_, for magnetic observations made
in an iron ship are always regarded with a certain suspicion. I must
say, however, that I always found Sir William Wharton quite willing
and even anxious to receive any information that might be useful, and
the Superintendent of Compasses, Captain Creak, R.N., F.R.S., was most
helpful and encouraging, even to coming on board the _Kaikoura_ and
assisting me to compensate the compass for heeling error. Previous to
this there had always been some mystery as to the so-called vagaries
of ships’ compasses off Cape Horn, the truth being that the variation
lines as shown on the charts were in places as much as five degrees
wrong. It came to my lot to make the correction through my taking
nothing for granted which I could not verify.

I had the great good fortune once to get a fair wind between Cape Horn
and Rio that satisfied even me, and about that time also I became
convinced that the quickest way home was outside the Falkland Islands.
I had consistently taken a track through the Straits of Le Maire,
but, save under exceptional circumstances, I am confident that is the
wrong course for a vessel bound to Rio. It is true that you experience
fine weather off Cape Horn sometimes, but it is rare, and the sailing
directions commenting on the subject say “that each fine day should be
received thankfully as it comes.” For when bad weather sets in it comes
suddenly, often accompanied with heavy and dense snow. On one occasion
I was entering the Straits about midnight when snow came down heavily.
From the best bearings I could get while the weather was still fairly
clear I believed I was pointing fair for the middle of the passage,
but I did not feel by any means happy in the matter, for the tides or
currents thereabouts run strongly and uncertainly, swayed largely by
the prevailing wind. I had to decide pretty quickly too. If I slowed
down or stopped I could not tell where I might be set, so I came to
the conclusion it was better to shoulder the risk and let her go. I did
so and it came out all right, but I made a mental resolve that I would
not be caught that way again.


The phenomenal fair wind which I have referred to was in the month of
April. We had made a fairly decent passage to Cape Horn and passed
outside the Falkland Islands as far at Lat. 44° S. when the wind began
to blow strong from the north-east, with a falling glass, and at the
same time showed an inclination to shift further to the eastward.
Here, I thought, is a possibility of deriving some benefit if, as I
concluded, a cyclonic system was passing to the eastward and we were
on the south-east corner of it. There was a good bit of sea running,
but I let her go off and set fore-and-afters. I was rewarded by the
wind freeing still more, so that before dark I got the single reefed
topsails and foresail on her, which was about as much as she would
stand, for the sea was just abaft the beam, increasing all the time,
and the ship was lurching very badly. That night stands out as one
of my pleasantest recollections of sailoring, for there was a clear
sea in front of us, as much wind as we wanted, and the need for good
handling if the most was to be made of it. About midnight we were
getting another pull on the weather braces, and the men of the watch
were finding that it taxed all their energies to do it, for she was
lurching horribly. The chief engineer came staggering along the poop to
me to ask whether I could do anything to keep her steadier, as she had
more than once rolled her vacuum away. This meant that her injection
plate had been out of water, and I could readily believe it. I told him
it was getting better all the time, so he must make the best of it,
and with that he had to be content. By morning the ship was on her
course again, the wind aft, and we with topgallant sails set running
about 16 knots. In three days we ran 1,064 miles, an average of close
upon 15 knots, and that with all the freezing engines going, but the
_Kaikoura_ was as grateful for canvas as a thirsty man for drink, and
revelled in the real sea dance. I felt rather pleased with myself over
that business, but it was all vanity, for we got to Rio before they
expected us, and there was no coal ready. The actual steaming time
between Wellington and Plymouth was thirty-seven days three hours, or
an average speed of just over 13 knots.

While on this question of route some word must necessarily be given
to the Straits of Magellan, the passage through which figured largely
in the advertisement for passengers. Very wisely, however, no strict
instruction was ever given to the masters to adopt that route; it was
left entirely to their discretion. At that time there was great rivalry
to make the fastest passage, both between our own ships and those of
the opposition line, and to this day I do not really know who did the
fastest passage home, although I believe I did. Naturally, under those
circumstances, when a ship was in a good position for rounding Cape
Horn, it required some powerful argument to make a master go out of
his way to increase his distance, and undertake what is at best the
risky navigation of that magnificent waterway. For absolute grandeur
the western portion of the Strait is unsurpassed, but when a ship is
in a hurry there is little inclination or inducement to stop to admire
scenery. As it happened, however, in my case the “powerful argument”
was supplied. Leaving England in November 1885, we had on board a full
complement of passengers, and among them were General Sir Patrick and
Lady McDougall and the Earl and Countess of Dalhousie. They were
intending to make the “round trip” in the ship, and the passage of the
Straits was, I fancy, an event they all looked forward to. I never had
more pleasant passengers. As it happened Sir Patrick’s reading and mine
had been on very similar lines, and conversation at meal times was
by no means dull. Lord Dalhousie had been in the Navy and was still
a sailor at heart; he was also a great student of Shakespeare. Lady
Dalhousie also had had some experience of the sea when her husband was
Commander of the _Britannia_, apart from any other. It is superfluous
but natural to remark that she was charming as she was handsome, and
whenever she could further the harmony of the ship she spared no pains
to do so. We made a very fine passage to within four days of Cape Town,
when we dropped a propeller blade. We were at dinner at the time it
went. I felt it, and looking across the saloon caught the eye of my
chief engineer, which had sought mine. I said nothing and hoped it had
passed unnoticed, but one of my lady friends at table had caught the
look and artlessly inquired why the chief engineer had left the table
in the middle of dinner. It is little use trying to hide anything, for
we had to ease the engines, but even then we made a good run to the

When we got to Table Bay, I was not trusting to any divers’ work. We
put her in dock, discharged an atom of cargo, and then dry-docked her,
cargo and all, replaced the blade, reshipped the little cargo we had
discharged, coaled and left again in about thirty-two hours, which was
not bad work all things being considered, for, much as I liked Cape
Town and its people, there were certain interests there that were very
pleased to welcome a “daily stranger” in distress. We had to make what
is known as a “particular average” of this matter in New Zealand, and
few things cause more irritation to consignees, but there would have
been no excuse for me if I had incurred needless risk which could be
avoided by reasonable expenditure. The remainder of the passage to
Port Chalmers was made without incident; but on the last night some
young men amongst the first-class passengers had too much to drink,
and succeeded in making themselves asses, and a nuisance to their
fellow passengers. The Port Chalmers pilot took us in on the ebb tide
and succeeded in putting us on a sandbank, where we stayed until the
next high water. There was no harm done, but a lot of inquiries were
afterwards made about it at the London Custom House. Our steaming time
out that passage was 39 days, 9 hours.

The new order of progress was now inaugurated, and we were having our
long spell in port at the New Zealand end. In all we had six weeks
there, but we left for home in the middle of February, and then I had
to face the music. I knew the _Doric_ was to sail the day after us,
therefore I was loth to lose the time involved by the passage of the
Straits, for the _Doric_ and _Kaikoura_ always ran very jealously of
one another, and I was confident our rival would stick to the great
circle. I also knew that if she once caught sight of us we should
never hear the last of it, for Captain Jennings, who was my very great
friend, never lost an opportunity of impressing upon me the immense
superiority of the _Doric_ and White Star fashions generally. With this
I naturally disagreed, although Jennings himself was one of the finest
specimens of an old seaman it was possible to come across. As we drew
down towards the Horn the questions with which I was plied concerning
the Straits and my intentions grew more and more pointed. We had a
fine fair wind, and I was loth to lose its benefit, but as it became
eventually a personal matter I shifted my helm for the Straits and was
fortunate enough to make them at daybreak, so that I had a really
long day’s run in front of me. Needless to say, my passengers were
delighted, for the scenery, if wild, was very magnificent, and to tell
the truth I enjoyed the trip myself, now that I had had a reasonable
excuse for losing time. There was no difficulty in navigating so long
as one could see, but in that locality the weather changes with great
suddenness and one watches it carefully from hour to hour. We passed
the remains of more than one big steamer, stranded and deserted. Some
speculation took place as to what the fate of their crews had been,
for at that time the natives of Tierra del Fuego were cannibals. We
were fortunate, and anchored at Sandy Point about nine in the evening,
just after dark. We started at daybreak again, and carried a fair
tide through the narrows, and that being so we raced past the land at
the speed of a railway train, the current running perhaps nine knots,
and the water one mass of boiling impetuosity. When we were past Cape
Virgins that afternoon I sat down to play a rubber of whist with very
great equanimity. We reached Rio in due course one morning, but coaling
was very slow and detained us until late in the afternoon of the next
day, by which time, as I anticipated, our friend the _Doric_ had made
her appearance, and I knew that for all eternity Jennings and his crowd
would relate how they caught up the _Kaikoura_.

On this occasion in Rio (it was before the revolution) the Emperor
favoured me with an intimation that he would be pleased to visit the
ship. He did so, and inspected her very minutely, afterwards lunching,
to the great relief of his staff, who had been attending some religious
ceremony for the whole of the morning, and had confided to me that
they were desperately hungry. His Majesty was extremely gracious, and
the function was a very pleasant one. There was no further incident
on the passage, and when we got to Plymouth early one morning, we were
boarded by several friends of Lord Dalhousie who came to announce that
he had been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland, and how both he
and the Countess must be on shore with the least possible loss of time.
They had been exceedingly popular in the ship, and the following voyage
every officer received from them a souvenir of a pleasant voyage. I
personally cherish a little hand-painted Christmas card, for Lady
Dalhousie was fond of painting and had made some wonderful studies of
sunlight effects at Rio.

There are few more puzzling things than a dense fog on shore, even in a
well-known locality, but at sea it at times causes the most fantastic
incidents, one of which I propose to now relate. We were bound
down-Channel for Plymouth with a Channel pilot (Posgate) in charge, and
when off the Start it came on a thick fog. I will confess that I was
rather given to navigation under these conditions, so I kept on until
I knew that we were not very far from Plymouth Breakwater, when the
anchor was put down. Nevertheless, it is not pleasant to be anchored
in the fairway of the Channel, for there is considerable risk of some
one blundering into you, and a sharp look-out was being kept whenever
the fog thinned a little, to pick up the breakwater light. About nine
in the evening it was made out very dimly, but yet sufficiently well
for me to get under way, and in a short time we picked up the Plymouth
pilot, who then took charge. The fog was then heavy, but we kept the
loom of the light and passed it, the pilot being very anxious to use
port helm more than seemed to me to be warranted. At last I said, “How
do you want to go, Pilot?” “About N.E. ½ E. sir,” was the reply, to
which the London man said, “But you are E.N.E. now.” Said the Plymouth
man, “Never mind, sir, port please.” At which I stopped the engines,
although we were moving very slowly. Shortly after this the chief
sung out from the forecastle, “A man-o’-war close ahead of us,” and
immediately afterwards, “No, no, it’s the breakwater fort!” I turned
astern full speed, despite remonstrances from both pilots that I should
foul moorings and buoys, and as she backed out she just shaved the fort
with her bowsprit, which thereby got a cant that it carried for the
rest of its days. I asked the chief, East it was, if she had touched,
but he like a good man said, “No,” and indeed it was the lightest
possible graze. Eventually we anchored, nothing the worse for our novel
experience. I forget now what I said to the Plymouth pilot--no doubt
it was something very polite--but it was hardly ever possible to take
Cousin Jacker really seriously, for they knew themselves that they were
frequently as useful as a fifth wheel to a coach. The moral of this
story is, if there is a moral, that if one had tried to do as we did on
a fine day the chances are that we could not have done it, and indeed,
there are times now when I can hardly understand how it took place. It
did, however, and exactly in the manner I have described.

I must admit that during my entire sea experiences I was singularly
immune from any serious accidents. That was my good fortune. But there
were disagreeables at times. On one occasion we were hampered by a
bad epidemic of scarlet fever, and some very cantankerous people in
the saloon could not see that I had to act for the welfare of all,
and that it was consequently necessary to sacrifice some room to
secure isolation and hospital accommodation. To mend matters we had
an accident that gave a deal of trouble. In one of the orlop decks
was stowed a great quantity of casks of oil, illuminants for the New
Zealand lighthouses. By some mischance one of them worked loose, and
before it was realised the whole lot were adrift--for the ship was
rolling badly--dashing from side to side, eventually smashing and
deluging the orlop deck and lower hold with oil. It was a matter of
difficulty and some danger to secure the casks that were left, for
there was a curious cross swell on, and try as I might I could not
persuade her to keep quiet. The men worked well, however, although the
fumes affected their eyes badly. Great quantities were baled up in
buckets and thrown overboard, but enough was unavoidably left to damage
an enormous quantity of cargo in the lower hold. That was one of the
few disagreeable trips I had.

On the other hand there were passages where people made everything
a pleasure, and one very cheery time we had three young Englishmen
not very long from college. One was Lord Burford, another was named
Conolly, and the third was Seely, now (1912) Under-Secretary for War,
who was even then exercising considerable influence by perfect manners
and a knowledge of the world rare in one so young. Lord Burford has
since that time succeeded to the dukedom of St. Albans. He has the most
graceful seat on horseback I ever saw. Conolly, who afterwards joined
the Scots Greys, sleeps with his fellows, the bravest and best, under
the turf in the Transvaal. The reason I specially mention these three
young men is that they had the happy knack of getting everything they
wanted, and at the same time making it a pleasure for other people to
give it them. It is true that three tandems at one time bulked rather
largely in the streets of Wellington and caused a little comment, but
the New Zealanders with whom the friends came in contact liked them,
even to the extent of delaying the start of an express train while
they laid in a stock of provisions for a journey. Conolly alone made
the complete voyage with me, and on the run down to the Horn developed
a taste for going aloft to handle canvas in bad weather. I did not like
the risk he incurred, but could not well oppose it, and fortunately no
accident happened.

Although I had by this time lost touch with a great deal concerning the
Cape I had the good fortune at odd times when calling there to see old
friends when they were gathered together for any special function. On
one occasion there were some warships in the bay and a ball was taking
place that night at Government House, to which I was invited. Coaling
would be finished, I knew, by nine in the evening, and my anxiety
was to get all my passengers safely on board, for it was coming on
a south-easter. That, however, was safely managed, and then, having
seen the gangway pulled up, I started for the shore and had a couple
of hours amongst old friends and enjoyed it to my heart’s content. I
returned to the ship by midnight and got under way at once. I suppose I
really had no right to take those three hours, but it was the only time
I ever lost a minute on a passage, and the exception does not make me
feel repentant even now.

I think it was that passage that I had the satisfaction of carrying
out a very great scientist, Sir Julius Von Haast. We were friends, and
I had the greatest respect for his views and attainments. He gave me
a great deal of his time, and for one thing thoroughly convinced me
that our national system of free imports involved ultimate disaster.
Geology, however, was his forte, and his reputation in this science
was world-wide. I regret to say he died shortly after landing in New

Towards the close of my voyaging I became involved in the after-effects
of the various seamen’s strikes, and the dangerous spirit of unrest
and insubordination generated by them. The power of the master of a
merchant ship, be she a collier or be she an _Olympic_, is a very
uncertain quantity, inasmuch as it is limited only by the necessity of
the case that is being dealt with. In other words, you can act as you
consider the occasion rightly demands you should do, but you stand to
be called upon to defend your action when you get on shore.

It will thus be seen that the discipline clauses of the Merchant
Shipping Act leave a great deal to the discretion of the judicial
authority that may be dealing with any particular case, and it can
well be realised that some magistrates would view offences against
discipline with a more lenient spirit than others. Again, and I am
well aware of the gravity of the words I am using, it is not the Board
of Trade that has whittled down the master’s authority voluntarily,
but it is the deliberate action of shipowners, who, curiously enough,
have done more than any other agency to destroy authority on board
ship. So long as a master was certain of support from the owner, so
long would he act unflinchingly if necessity arose. But in many cases
a master will hesitate to involve himself in law when he knows that in
doing so he will get no support from his owners. Quite recently the
master of a great mail steamer told me that it would not do to have any
trouble with his crew, “for the Company would not like it,” a policy, I
submit, which is simply asking for trouble, for the men of to-day fully
realise that a clever lawyer can make a plausible case from very slight
grounds. Hence arises the crying need of _one uniform administration_
of the Merchant Shipping Act, for as it is dealt with at present there
is _no_ uniformity of practice.

I had occasion to take part in a police court case in Wellington where
a fireman was being prosecuted for assaulting my second officer and
knocking some of his teeth out. It was a particularly bad case, and
deserved the extreme penalty that could be awarded for that offence,
but the magistrate took an entirely different view and only inflicted
half the maximum penalty. I was rather put out at this and am afraid
that I showed it, for I told the stipendiary that I should advise my
officers in future to carry something for their own defence, as they
got little protection from the police. This was rather unfortunate,
for some little time afterwards, I think it was the next voyage, there
was a shooting case which caused a good deal of comment and which
nearly got me into serious trouble. The facts were as follows. Two
mates of sailing vessels had got themselves disliked by certain seamen
belonging to their own and other vessels. They had been threatened, and
consequently kept together for mutual protection, one of them, as they
went on shore one Sunday morning, putting a revolver in his pocket.
They were met by men in search of them with hostile intent, and the
mate in possession of the revolver was knocked down. Fearing worse
treatment he fired at his assailant from his pocket, and the aggressor
fell shot through the heart. It is to be noticed that although this
feud had been in existence some little time there was no sign of any
police supervision or watching until the mischief was complete. The
two men were put on trial for wilful murder together, but the judge
ruled that they were to be tried separately. Consequently the man who
fired the shot was first tried, and sentenced to a long term of penal
servitude. This was on a Saturday. The next day I sat down and wrote
a long letter to the _New Zealand Times_, which was published on the
Monday; in it I pointed out former complaints of my own as to police
inefficiency, and concluded with an appeal for mitigation of sentence.
I did not mention the other man, who had to stand his trial on the
Monday. This man was acquitted, but the public prosecutor was furious
at my interference in the case. He and I were on very friendly terms
as far as whist players went, but meeting me in the Club on Monday
afternoon he told me that I had been guilty of contempt of court, and
would have to take the consequences. I think, however, that it was just
one of those touch-and-go cases where it would have been difficult to
convict, for I heard no more of the matter. The man who was acquitted
came down to my ship on the Tuesday morning, and meeting East in the
gangway told him that he had come to thank me for getting him off, to
which my chief replied, “Clear out at once! The old man don’t want to
see you, I know!” and really he was quite right. So ended that episode;
but I did not make many friends over what was really a fight for
principle, and to this day I cherish animosity against a Christchurch
newspaper that, taking this case as a handle, attacked me falsely and
bitterly in my absence, when I had no opportunity of replying.

By this time I had become tired to some extent of spending so much time
at sea; I wanted for one thing to do some training in the _Excellent_,
and for another my wife had been so pulled down by repeated attacks
of influenza that it was necessary I should look more closely after
my family affairs. I accordingly thought I would stay at home for a
voyage, and one fine summer’s afternoon I took my leave of the old ship
that had served me so well, and as I stood by Manor Way Station seeing
the blue ensign replaced by a red one I felt as though I was taking
farewell of a much-loved friend. I never saw the _Kaikoura_ again, but
grieved to hear that she had met her fate at the shipbreaker’s hands.
She deserved a better ending.

It is one thing to be a Naval Reserve officer in command of a fine
ship in peace time, but it is quite another matter to give up separate
command, inferior to the Navy as it is, and take your place as one of
the eighteen hundred or so units that carry on the principal duties of
H.M. Navy. This fact had long been dimly recognised by me, although in
all my periods of drill service I had always been shown a great deal of

As soon as one had reported at Whale Island one’s identity was lost in
the particular class in which one was merged, and I thanked goodness
that drill had always been rather a hobby of mine, and that I could
hold my own respectably with other lieutenants of the senior class to
which I was attached. Indeed, I discovered that so far as actual drill
was concerned the teaching of the drill ships had been very thorough.
It was only that here one was faced with the handling of the latest
and newest weapons. In other respects the lieutenants of the regular
service had not been better instructed than we were.

The senior staff officer was a lieutenant named Waymouth, now captain
of a battleship, and he it was who put us through our gunnery tests,
and lectured on those matters requiring explanation and blackboard
diagrams, such as hydraulics and kindred matters. He was a wonderfully
gifted man, and had the rather rare faculty of being able to impart
his knowledge to others. He had, I think, made gunnery his particular
study, for there was no possible question concerning any gun in the
service the answer to which was not immediately forthcoming. Indeed, so
far as I could judge, the whole staff of the _Excellent_ had reached a
standard of efficiency and excellence it would have been difficult to
find fault with. The first lieutenant, Adair--now admiral--was a man of
great personal character.

The torpedo school, H.M.S. _Vernon_, was another thing altogether, and
here I suffered considerably from my inability to chase “X.” Highly
interesting though the lectures were, they required a knowledge of
algebra, which, though learned in my school-days, I had entirely
forgotten. As it happened I had to leave the course before the
examination, so my shortcomings were not discovered. I had been
through all the practical work connected with mining, etc., but as the
Whitehead came last of all I did not then make its acquaintance. The
following year I was appointed to H.M.S. _Devastation_ for the naval
manœuvres, at which I was highly pleased, and duly proceeded to join
her when she was lying in historic Mutton Cove. She was commanded
by Captain Oxley, who gave me a very cordial welcome, and her first
lieutenant was none other than my old acquaintance of Zanzibar, P. G.
Vanderbyl. The other lieutenants were all men who have since done well
in the service, and one with whom I was on specially good terms, named
Hall, I found acting as inspecting captain of submarines when I was
down at a review at the invitation of the Admiralty just a year or two
ago. With that peculiarity men in the service have, Captain Hall hardly
looked a day older.

Service in the _Devastation_ was a novelty. She was one of the earlier
types of ironclads, and at the time she was built was of considerable
utility, but as a sea-going craft she was not a thing of joy. Even in
that capacity, though, she had her good points, one of which was her
extreme steadiness in a sea-way, but on the other hand, the ventilation
below left much to be desired, and in anything like bad weather, when
the ship was closed down, a considerable amount of potted air was
consumed by every one.

We left Plymouth the morning after I joined her to join the fleet
at Portland. We were making our best possible speed, but she was a
ship that resented being driven beyond a certain pace, for when doing
anything over ten or eleven knots her steering was erratic to the
last degree. A yaw of three points on either side was of constant
occurrence, and my sympathies went out to the chief engineer, who
stood looking at her wake in grim calculation of an enormous amount
of wasted energy. In due course we joined up at Portland with the Red
Fleet under the command of Admiral Fitzroy. Compared with our fleets
of to-day it was a motley gathering. The best vessels in the manœuvres
were four ships of the _Royal Sovereign_ class, all allotted to the
Red Fleet, while first-class cruisers were put into the line of battle
to make up sufficient numbers to carry out the scheme of operations.
But if the Red Fleet was one of all sorts, the Blue Fleet was still
worse, for with the exception of some armoured and other cruisers,
there were not in it any two homogeneous ships. This, be it remembered,
was in 1894. It would be interesting to hear the comments of an
admiral to-day if he were given the command of a fleet of battleships
consisting of six different types, such as _Alexandra_, _Barfleur_,
_Benbow_, _Inflexible_, _Colossus_, and _Edinburgh_. It speaks well for
the capacity of the officers in charge that they were able to obtain
satisfactory results from so strange a mixture, but that really was the
transition time of the Navy, for since that date ships have been built
with a view to homogeneity.

No object would be served by relating the details of those manœuvres.
I shall content myself with one or two remarks upon occurrences that
impressed themselves upon me. We left Portland in due course for a
week’s manœuvres in the Channel, and Admiral Fitzroy expressed his
satisfaction at the manner in which they were performed. We then put
into Falmouth to coal and get ready for the battle that would probably
take place between the opposing Fleets. By this time the crew and
officers had got used to the ship and to one another. We had on board
about thirty Naval Reserve men and they fell to my division; the great
mistake made was in putting them on board with an insufficient kit.
This led to all sorts of excuses being made for them, and it was easy
to see that instructions had been given that they were to be treated
with a very light hand. This they were not slow to discover. They were
not a bad lot, but it was unsatisfactory to me to have to handle them
under those conditions, and when the captain expressed his satisfaction
at their general appearance, I had to take it seriously, but knew that
Falstaff’s regiment must have been in his thoughts. The matter of
inferior appearance by some members of a ship’s company is no trifling

We left Falmouth one evening to cruise off Ushant, waiting for a
declaration of war. We knew the plan of manœuvres but not the exact
hour of commencement. It was blowing freshly from the S.W. and the
_Devastation_ with her low ends was like a half-tide rock. In fact only
the superstructure was negotiable, and the greatest care had to be
exercised to prevent water from getting below; even then there was a
fair quantity on the maindeck. But she had this advantage--when every
vessel in company was rolling we were almost motionless; certainly we
never had the fiddles on the ward-room table. The _Resolution_ rolled
badly, and had to haul out of the line to try and secure a boat which
came to grief. Life in the small craft must have been wearisome in
the extreme, for they had a motion that approximated in speed to the
pendulum of a clock.

When the appointed time arrived our Fleet started off up the Irish
Channel, and one day at noon all the cruisers were sent on ahead at
full speed to try both to elude the enemy and to join hands with our
friends separated from us by an opposing Fleet. They parted company
from us like a flock of swallows, and then came the turn of our
battleships to put on full speed, for the admiral had determined
to push on, leaving us as slowest ship to make the best of our way
after him. I shall never forget that run. The night was dark, we were
showing no lights, and the foredeck was one mass of white creaming
water. We saw lots of ships, but there was no trouble in keeping clear
of them, and I am not sure that the sight in the engine-room was not
as interesting as any, for there was no difficulty in keeping steam,
and the engines were being driven for all they were worth, all being
done without the least trouble or fuss. About nine o’clock the next
morning we sighted our Fleet, which was hanging back for us, as they
had sighted their enemy. In a short time we were all at it as hard
as we could go, engaged in the sham battle of South Rock. Two things
were noticeable. In the middle of it all a Norwegian sailing collier
drove down through the contending lines, which had to keep clear of
her; and, secondly, the splendid appearance of Admiral Dale’s Fleet as
they came to our assistance headed by the _Empress of India_ and the
_Repulse_. As is usual in such matters both sides claimed the victory.
After this the hostile Fleets separated, we putting into Belfast and
our adversaries into Queenstown, but as there was no certainty that
hostilities were over we got out torpedo-nets for the night. They
were not wanted, however. On our way to Portsmouth on the return
trip we had some time at our disposal. It was a fine August afternoon
in mid-Channel; all the ships stopped their engines and turned eight
points to starboard; those ships which had a band used it; the men were
piped to bathe, and some boats were used for visiting purposes. The
impression left on my mind was that our “home was on the deep,” and
that the custom of centuries would keep it inviolate.

In due course we got to Spithead, where I left the ship, and so
practically ended my sea career. I landed with a very decided opinion
that there was a deal of truth in the old adage that “standing
rigging makes bad running gear.” I had been in command so long that
a subordinate position irked me, although I trust that fact was
never apparent. Still I feel confident that for a man to become
a satisfactory Reserve officer it is necessary he should get his
experience as early as possible, and it is matter for satisfaction that
this has now been recognised.

I quitted the sea with deep regret, and were my time coming over
again, I should, even with my present knowledge, unhesitatingly adopt
it as a calling. But if Britons value their heritage “the sea” they
will see that British ships are manned by British men, and take some
pains to bring this about by encouraging the youth of the country to
adopt the sea as a calling. It is a _man’s_ life in a properly found
and officered ship; it is also necessary that, as I have pointed out
on many occasions, our long-sea-route steamships should be given the
means to protect themselves against the guns of a hostile merchant
vessel that has been armed for the special purpose of preying upon our


_Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation, hyphenation, and spelling were made consistent when a
predominant preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

Illustrations have been repositioned to be within the pages referenced
by the List of Illustrations, and the phrase “To face page” has been
removed from their captions.

Redundant “CHAPTER” headings have been removed from this eBook.

Text uses both “dam” and “damn”.

The List of Illustrations listed the last two illustrations in reverse
order (but with correct page numbers). They have been switched to the
proper sequence in this eBook.

Page 141: “hear it if killed” probably is a misprint for “hear if it

Page 174: semi-colon added after “as it then was”.

Page 197: “If I could have have laid” was printed that way.

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