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After speaking the Carolina, on the 21st August, nothing occurred to break the monotony of our life until. Friday, September 5th, when we saw a sail on our weather starboard beam. She proved to be a brig under English colors, and passing under our stern, reported herself as forty-nine days from Buenos Ayres, bound to Liverpool. Before she had passed us, "sail ho! She passed out of hail, but we made her out to be an hermaphrodite brig, with Brazilian colors in her main rigging.

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By her course, she must have been bound from Brazil to the south of Europe, probably Portugal. Sunday, Sept. Fell in with the north-east trade winds. This morning we caught our first dolphin, which I was very eager to see. I was disappointed in the colors of this fish when dying. They were certainly very beautiful, but not equal to what has been said of them. They are too indistinct. To do the fish justice, there is nothing more beautiful than the dolphin when swimming a few feet below the surface, on a bright day.

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It is the most elegantly formed, and also the quickest fish, in salt water; and the rays of the sun striking upon it, in its rapid and changing motions, reflected from the water, make it look like a stray beam from a rainbow. This day was spent like all pleasant Sabbaths at sea. The decks are washed down, the rigging coiled up, and everything put in order; and throughout the day, only one watch is kept on deck at a time.

The men are all dressed in their best white duck trowsers, and red or checked shirts, and have nothing to do but to make the necessary changes in the sails. They employ themselves in reading, talking, smoking, and mending their clothes. If the weather is pleasant, they bring their work and their books upon deck, and sit down upon the forecastle and windlass.

This is the only day on which these privileges are allowed them. When Monday comes, they put on their tarry trowsers again, and prepare for six days of labor.

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To enhance the value of the Sabbath to the crew, they are allowed on that day a pudding, or, as it is called, a "duff. It is very heavy, dark, and clammy, yet it is looked upon as a luxury, and really forms an agreeable variety with salt beef and pork. Many a rascally captain has made friends of his crew by allowing them duff twice a week on the passage home. On board some vessels this is made a day of instruction and of religious exercises; but we had a crew of swearers, from the captain to the smallest boy; and a day of rest, and of something like quiet, social enjoyment, was all that we could expect.

We continued running large before the north-east trade winds for several days, until Monday—. September 22d; when, upon coming on deck at seven bells in the morning, we found the other watch aloft throwing water upon the sails; and looking astern, we saw a small clipper-built brig with a black hull heading directly after us. We went to work immediately, and put all the canvas upon the brig which we could get upon her, rigging out oars for studding-sail yards; and continued wetting down the sails by buckets of water whipped up to the mast-head, until about nine o'clock, when there came on a drizzling rain.

The vessel continued in pursuit, changing her course as we changed ours, to keep before the wind. The captain, who watched her with his glass, said that she was armed, and full of men, and showed no colors. We continued running dead before the wind, knowing that we sailed better so, and that clippers are fastest on the wind. We had also another advantage. The wind was light, and we spread more canvas than she did, having royals and sky-sails fore and aft, and ten studding-sails; while she, being an hermaphrodite brig, had only a gaff topsail, aft.

Early in the morning she was overhauling us a little, but after the rain came on and the wind grew lighter, we began to leave her astern. All hands remained on deck throughout the day, and we got our arms in order; but we were too few to have done anything with her, if she had proved to be what we feared. Fortunately there was no moon, and the night which followed was exceedingly dark, so that by putting out all the lights and altering our course four points, we hoped to get out of her reach.

We had no light in the binnacle, but steered by the stars, and kept perfect silence through the night. At daybreak there was no sign of anything in the horizon, and we kept the vessel off to her course. Wednesday, October 1st. Crossed the equator in long. I now, for the first time, felt at liberty, according to the old usage, to call myself a son of Neptune, and was very glad to be able to claim the title without the disagreeable initiation which so many have to go through.

After once crossing the line you can never be subjected to the process, but are considered as a son of Neptune, with full powers to play tricks upon others. This ancient custom is now seldom allowed, unless there are passengers on board, in which case there is always a good deal of sport. It had been obvious to all hands for some time that the second mate, whose name was F——, was an idle, careless fellow, and not much of a sailor, and that the captain was exceedingly dissatisfied with him.

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The power of the captain in these cases was well known, and we all anticipated a difficulty. F—— called Mr. His father was a man of some property, and intended to have given his son a liberal education; but he, being idle and worthless, was sent off to sea, and succeeded no better there; for, unlike many scamps, he had none of the qualities of a sailor—he was "not of the stuff that they make sailor of.

He used to hold long yarns with the crew, and talk about the captain, and play with the boys, and relax discipline in every way.

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This kind of conduct always makes the captain suspicious, and is never pleasant, in the end, to the men; they preferring to have an officer active, vigilant, and distant as may be, with kindness. Among other bad practices, he frequently slept on his watch, and having been discovered asleep by the captain, he was told that he would be turned off duty if he did it again.


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To prevent it in every way possible, the hen-coops were ordered to be knocked up, for the captain never sat down on deck himself, and never permitted an officer to do so. The second night after crossing the equator, we had the watch from eight till twelve, and it was "my helm" for the last two hours.

There had been light squalls through the night, and the captain told Mr. F——, who commanded our watch, to keep a bright look-out. Soon after I came to the helm, I found that he was quite drowsy, and at last he stretched himself on the companion and went fast asleep. Soon afterwards, the captain came very quietly on deck, and stood by me for some time looking at the compass. The officer at length became aware of the captain's presence, but pretending not to know it, began humming and whistling to himself, to show that he was not asleep, and went forward, without looking behind him, and ordered the main royal to be loosed.

On turning round to come aft, he pretended surprise at seeing the master on deck. This would not do. The captain was too "wide awake" for him, and beginning upon him at once, gave him a grand blow-up, in true nautical style—"You're a lazy, good-for-nothing rascal; you're neither man, boy, soger, nor sailor! After the poor fellow had taken the harangue, he was sent into his state-room, and the captain stood the rest of the watch himself.

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At seven bells in the morning, all hands were called aft and told that F—— was no longer an officer on board, and that we might choose one of our own number for second mate. It is usual for the captain to make this offer, and it is very good policy, for the crew think themselves the choosers and are flattered by it, but have to obey, nevertheless.

Our crew, as is usual, refused to take the responsibility of choosing a man of whom we would never be able to complain, and left it to the captain. He picked out an active and intelligent young sailor, born near the Kennebee, who had been several Canton voyages, and proclaimed him in the following manner: "I choose Jim Hall—he's your second mate. All you've got to do is, to obey him as you would me; and remember that he is Mr.

Hall, and took up his quarters in the land of knives and forks and tea-cups.

Two Years Before the Mast: A Personal Narrative (Dover Maritime Books)

Sunday, October 5th. It was our morning watch; when, soon after the day began to break, a man on the forecastle called out, "Land ho!


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  • We immediately took in studding-sails and hauled our wind, running in for the land. This land-fall settled the matter, and the former instrument was condemned, and becoming still worse, was never afterwards used. As we ran in towards the coast, we found that we were directly off the port of Pernambuco, and could see with the telescope the roofs of the houses, and one large church, and the town of Olinda. We ran along by the mouth of the harbor, and saw a full-rigged brig going in.

    At two, P. It was here that I first saw one of those singular things called catamarans. They are composed of logs lashed together upon the water; have one large sail, are quite fast, and, strange as it may seem, are trusted as good sea boats. We saw several, with from one to three men in each, boldly putting out to sea, after it had become almost dark.

    The Indians go out in them after fish, and as the weather is regular in certain seasons, they have no fear. After taking a new departure from Olinda, we kept off on our way to Cape Horn. We met with nothing remarkable until we were in the latitude of the river La Plata. Here there are violent gales from the south-west, called Pomperos, which are very destructive to the shipping in the river, and are felt for many leagues at sea.

    They are usually preceded by lightning. The captain told the mates to keep a bright look-out, and if they saw lightning at the south-west, to take in sail at once. We got the first touch of one during my watch on deck. I was walking in the lee gangway, and thought that I saw lightning on the lee bow. I told the second mate, who came over and looked out for some time. It was very black in the south-west, and in about ten minutes we saw a distinct flash. The wind, which had been south-east, had now left us, and it was dead calm. We sprang aloft immediately and furled the royals and top-gallant-sails, and took in the flying jib, hauled up the mainsail and trysail, squared the after yards, and awaited the attack.

    A huge mist capped with black clouds came driving towards us, extending over that quarter of the horizon, and covering the stars, which shone brightly in the other part of the heavens.