Cape Cod - The Captains - Pt. 1
( Originally Published 1920 )
STORIES of the Cape Cod captains would in themselves make a volume. One is tempted here and tempted there in choosing which should be typical of the "brave old times," and fears to overlook the most significant. Among the more interesting of those who have not been already mentioned was Elijah Cobb, born in 1768 at Brewster — the home of deep-water sailors. From the memoir which he began to write in old age, we know that his first voyage, presumably as cabin boy, netted him the profit of a new suit of clothes and in money twenty dollars which he brought home intact to his mother, "the largest sum she had received since she became a widow." By the time he was twenty-five he had made several voyages as captain, had married him a wife, and a year or two later was to run afoul of the French Revolution. As both French and English men-of-war were making no bones of holding up neutrals, he had cleared for Corunna: to no end, for he was taken by a French frigate and run into the harbor of Brest. "My vessel was there," he writes, "but her cargo was taken out and was daily made into soup, bread, etc., for the half-starved populace, and without papers" — his captors had sent his papers to the Government at Paris — "I could not substantiate my claim to the ship." He appealed to Paris, and had the cold comfort of hearing that "the Government will do what is right in time." In the meantime he was treated courteously, and he and some of his men lodged at a hotel at the Government's expense. After six weeks the word came that his case had been passed upon: "without my even learning or knowing I was on trial. The decision, however, was so favorable that it gave new feelings to my life." A fair price was offered for the cargo of flour and rice which Brest had already devoured; payment in bills of exchange on Hamburg, fifty days after date. Cobb sent his ship away in ballast, and set out for Paris to get his papers and his bills of exchange.
"In about two days I was under weigh for Paris," writes Cobb, "with the national courier for government. We drove Jehu-like without stopping, except to change horses and mail, taking occasionally a mouthful of bread and washing it down with low-priced Burgundy wine. As to sleep I did not get one wink during the whole six hundred and eighty-four miles. We had from ten to twelve mounted horsemen for guard during the night, and to prove that the pre-caution was necessary, the second morning after leaving Brest, just before the guard left us, we witnessed a scene that filled us with horror: the remains of a courier lying in the road, the master, postillion, and five horses lying dead and mangled by it, and the mail mutilated and scattered in all directions. How-ever, the next stage was only five miles and not considered dangerous, and we proceeded on. We reached Paris on a beautiful June morning." But here was the beginning of fresh trouble : matters there were moving too fast for much attention to be given a young American shipmaster in quest of papers. Cobb writes that it was in "the bloody reign of Robespierre. I minuted down a thousand persons that I saw beheaded by the infernal guillotine, and probably saw as many more that I did not minute down." He was surfeited with horrors and despairing of his mission as time passed swiftly on toward the termination of his fifty days of grace, when a friendly Frenchman at his hotel advised him to appeal direct to Robespierre, "saying that he was partial to Americans." On the instant a note was despatched: "An American citizen, captured by a French frigate on the high seas, requests a personal interview and to lay his grievances before the citizen Robespierre." And within an hour came the answer: "I will grant citizen Cobb an interview to-morrow at 10 A.M. Robespierre," The event proved Robespierre to be sympathetic, and, moreover, that he spoke very good English. Cobb told him of his unavailing visits to the "Office of the Twenty-third Department." "Go again to the office," said Robespierre, "and tell citizen F. T. that you come from Robespierre, and if he does not produce your papers and finish your business immediately, he will hear from me again in a way not so pleasing to him." Such a message, with the guillotine working overtime in the Place de la Concorde, was likely to produce results, and the affair was concluded with despatch. But Robespierre was near his eclipse; and hardly had Cobb received his papers than, to his horror, he was to see Robespierre's head falling into the basket. He waited not upon the order of his going, but fled from Paris, and arrived at Hamburg the very day before his bills became due. "The fortunate result of this voyage increased my fame as a shipmaster," is his sole comment upon the adventure, "but allowed me only a few days at home."
He was off again in the Monsoon, a new ship then, that was to prove a famous money-getter for more than one Cape Cod captain. His owners gave him a valuable cargo with directions "to find a market for it in Europe"; for certain hogsheads of rum, however, they advised Ireland. Permission to Iand it there was not forthcoming. "Matters were arranged, how-ever," writes Cobb, "so that between the cove of Cork and the Scilly Islands eight hogsheads of New England rum were thrown overboard, and a small pilot boat hove on board a bag containing sixty-four English guineas." Again a good sale was made at Hamburg, but a later venture there proved more difficult of achievement than the rum transaction on the Irish coast: for by that time the English blockade extended to Hamburg, and he was turned back to England where, at Yarmouth, he received permission to proceed to any port not included in the blockade. But Cobb meant to sell his cargo in Hamburg. He cleared for Copenhagen, landed his goods at Lubeck, and transported them overland to Hamburg where another profitable exchange of commodities was effected. Hardly was he at home again for a visit at his Cape Cod farm than a messenger arrived with orders for him to proceed to Malaga. And at Malaga he was informed that the British Orders in Council went into force that day forbidding vessels taking a return cargo. "Of course this would make such a cargo very desirable," Cobb remarks. He needed no further incentive to "manage the affair." "The American consul thought there would be but little risk if I hurried, and in eight clays I was ready to sail." He made for Gibraltar, and was promptly overhauled by a frigate. "Whereupon," says Cobb, "I told them the truth: that I was from Malaga bound for Boston; that I had come there to avail my-self of a clearance from a British port and a convoy through the gut. And after I had seen the principal, placing on the counter before his eyes a two-ounce piece of gold, I was permitted to go with my clearance to the American consul. A signal gun was fired that morning and I was the first to move, being apprehensive that some incident might yet subject me to that fatal investigation. How it was managed to clear out a cargo of Spanish goods from Gibraltar, under the British Orders in Council, was a subject of .most intense speculation in Boston, but I had made a good voyage for all concerned." It is not remarkable that he was allowed no long interval for farming be-fore he was off again for "a voyage to Europe." His owners had learned to their great gain that it was best to give Cobb the freedom of the seas and the markets ashore. He proceeded to Alexandria, Virginia, loaded with flour that sold well at Cadiz, and returned in ballast to Norfolk where he found orders to load again at Alexandria. But America was now ready to clamp down her Embargo Law which every Yankee captain worthy of the name was prepared to evade. Mr. Randolph from Congress had sent news of it to a ship merchant at Alexandria who passed on the word to Cobb. "What you do must be done quickly, for the embargo will be upon you at 10 A.M. on Sunday." Cobb tells the story of his achievement. "It was now Friday P.M. We had about a hundred tons of ballast on board which must be removed, and upwards of three thousand barrels of flour to take in and stow away, provisions, wood, and water to take on board, a crew to ship, - and get to sea before the embargo took possession. I found that we could get one supply of flour from a block of stores directly alongside the ship, and by paying three-eighths of a dollar extra, we had liberty if stopped by the embargo to return it." But Cobb meant to regain for his employers that three-eighths of a dollar, and the tidy additional profit that was to be made on a cargo of American flour at Cadiz. "Saturday morning was fine weather. About sunrise I went to the `lazy corner' so called, and pressed into service every negro that came upon the stand and sent them on board the ship, until I thought there were as many as could work. I then visited the sailors' boarding-houses, where I shipped my crew, paid the advance to their Iandlords, and received their obligations to see each sailor on board at sunrise next morning. It had now got to be about twelve o'clock, and the ship must be cleared at the custom house before one. `Why Cobb,' said the collector there, `what's the use of clearing the ship? You can't get away. The embargo will be here at ten o'clock to-morrow morning. And even if you get your ship below, I shall have boats out that will stop you before you get three leagues to sea.' Said I, `Mr. Taylor, will you be so kind as to clear my ship?' `Oh, yes,' said he. And accordingly the ship was cleared and I returned on board and found everything going on well. Finally, to shorten the story, at nine that evening we had about three thousand and fifty barrels of flour, one longboat on board in the chocks, water, wood and provisions on board and stowed, a pilot engaged, and all in readiness for the sea." The tide served at eight in the morning, the sailors were aboard, the pilot had come, and down the narrow, winding river they started with a fair wind that helped them on the first leg of their journey. But at Hampton Roads, in a dead calm, the government boat hove in sight. "Well," said Cobb to his mate, "I fear we are gone." But it was never his way to give up hope while a move in the game remained to him: when the boat was so near that with his glass he could descry the features of its crew, a breeze came puffing along, and he made for sea. In about ten minutes the boat gave up the chase, Mr. Taylor, of Alexandria, satisfied, no doubt, that he had discharged his duty.
Cobb gave the first notice of the embargo at Cadiz. "The day before I sailed," he writes, "I dined with a large party at the American consul's and, it being mentioned that I was to sail next day, I was congratulated by a British officer on the safety of our flag. Well, I thought the same, when at the time war between England and America was raging. I sailed from Cadiz on the twenty-fifth of July, 1812, bound for Boston, and I never felt safer on account of enemies on the high seas." But for once his confidence was not justified. Hardly had he entered the Grand Banks than he was overhauled by an English cruiser, with whose captain he proceeded to bargain on the point of ransom for his ship. " What will you give for her," asked the Britisher, "in exchange for a clear pass-port into Boston?" "Four thousand dollars," replied Cobb at a venture. "Well," said the other, "give us the money." "Oh, thank you," said Cobb, "if it were on board, you'd take it without the asking. I'll give you a draft on London." "No, cash, or we burn the ship." "Well," said Cobb coolly, "you'll not burn me in her, I hope." The upshot was that a prize crew was put aboard, and Cobb had the pleasure of being convoyed by the frigate into Saint John's, where he joined a company of about twenty Yankee masters of ships and their officers, at the so-called "Prisoners' Hall." Twenty-seven American prize ships were in port; and in a few days the Yankee prize Alert came in, with a British crew and American officers, under the protection of a cartel flag, to treat for an exchange of prisoners. The old admiral of the port was in a rage because of the irregularity of making the cartel on the high seas. "I'm likely to join you here," said the Yankee captain to his countrymen at Prisoners' Hall.
However, in a few moments along came a note from the admiral saying that "he found that the honor of the British officers was pledged for the fulfilling of the contract, and as he knew his government always redeemed the pledges of its officers, he would receive the [British] officers and crew on the Alert, and would give in exchange every American prisoner in port (there were two to one) and we must be off in twenty-four hours. Now commenced a scene of confusion and bustle. The crew of the cartel were soon landed, and the Americans as speedily took possession."
At twelve midnight, in due course of time there-after, Captain Cobb arrived at his home, and tapped on the window of a downstairs bedroom where he knew his wife to be sleeping. At first she thought it a twig of the sweetbriar bush. Then, "`Who is there?' cried she. `It is I,' said I. `Well, what do you want?' `To come in."For what?' said she. Before I could answer I heard my daughter, who was in bed with her, say, `Why, ma, it's pa.' It was enough. The doors flew open, and the greetings of affection and con-sanguinity multiplied upon me rapidly. Thus in a moment was I transported to the greatest earthly bliss a man can enjoy, viz: to the enjoyment of the happy family circle."
With these cheerful words Mr. Cobb ends his record. For a year or two thereafter he remained at home, and then was off again to sea. In 1819 and 1820 he made trips to Africa, and on the second voyage re-turned with so much fever aboard that the ship, as a means to disinfecting it, was sunk at the wharf. Then he retired from sea - he had built a fine Georgian house in 1800 — and filled many offices ashore. His youth was crammed with adventure; he followed the sea longer than some of his mates; yet at the age of fifty-two, when he left it with a modest fortune, he showed as much zest in the management of more humdrum affairs: in due sequence he was town clerk, treasurer, inspector-general, representative to the General Court, senator, justice of the peace, and brigadier-general in the militia; no town committee seems to have been complete without him; he was a steadfast member of the liberal church which had taken possession of the old North Parish. And on one of those foreign voyages he had had painted a portrait of himself: a gallant, high-bred youth, with "banged" hair and curls, in Directoire dress, rolling collar, muslin stock and frills. The lovely colors of the old pastel hold their own, the soft blue of the surtout, the keen eyes, the handsome, alert face. A young man who knew something of his worth, Captain Cobb, and a young man who made exceptional opportunity to put that worth to the test.
A contemporary of Cobb's was Freeman Foster, born in 1782 at Brewster before its historic division from Harwich. At the age of ten he was off on fishing-voyages with his father, who had been a whaler; at fourteen he had begun to work his way up to the quarter-deck of the merchant service; his schooling was acquired in the intervals ashore. Curiously, in all his seafaring, he never crossed the "Line," but cruised between Boston, New Orleans, and the West Indies, the Russian ports of Archangel and Kronstadt, and to Elsinore. At fifty-five he retired to his farm, and in the Embargo War served as an officer in the militia under his neighbor General Cobb. He had been a robust boy and grew to be a mighty man, well over six feet in height and broad in proportion. He had a family of ten children; and his record tallies with that of many another old sea-captain: he "left behind him a reputation for strict integrity and sturdy man-hood."
Jeremiah Mayo, of Brewster, born in 1786, was one of nine huge brothers who were said to measure, in the aggregate, something like fifty-five feet. His father meant to make a blacksmith of him, with fishing-voyages, in the season, as relaxation. At sixteen he had a forge of his own in his father's shop and could shoe all the horses that were brought there. But Jeremiah had no notion of confining his adventures to shoeing` horses and catching fish, and at eighteen he was off for a voyage to Marseilles when, for his ability, he received two dollars a month more than any other sailor aboard. On his next voyage to Malaga, Leghorn, Alicante, and Marseilles, his ship, the Industry, was attacked off Gibraltar by the Algerines and escaped with some casualties, among them a flesh wound for Jeremiah. The captain, Gamaliel Bradford, with his leg shot away, had to be left in hospital at Lisbon. On his third voyage he and a young cousin were first and second mate and, the captain falling ill, the two lads, each only nineteen, had to take the ship by the dangerous "north-about" through the Hebrides from Amsterdam to Cadiz; and on a second voyage with the same captain, who seems to have been one of faint heart and would have given up the ship when she sprung a leak, Mayo took her safely to port, and at Bordeaux, where she was sold, sailed her for the French buyers to a Breton port with a cargo of claret, worth there twice its value at Bordeaux. By skilful manoeuvre he evaded the British patrol, landed his precious cargo, and returned safely to Bordeaux where he shipped with a Yankee captain, with a cargo of Medoc, for Spain. He arrived at Corunna a few days after the historic battle there, and on a later voyage remembers seeing the monument erected to Sir John Moore. In the Embargo War he was captured by an English frigate, and if the wind had not failed him would have turned the tables by bowling the prize crew into Baltimore as prisoners. "And I would n't have blamed you if you had," he remembered as the sportsmanlike comment of his captor. Immediately after the battle of Waterloo he was at Havre, where he was approached by an agent of Napoleon with a proposition to take the emperor to America. He promptly accepted the hazard, and was disappointed when he heard Napoleon had been taken; had Napoleon been able to reach the Sally, he might have escaped Saint Helena, for she was not spoken from Havre to Boston. Mayo greatly admired Napoleon, and had seen him a-horseback at Bayonne when he was landing his army for Spain; at Paris, in 1815, he heard the shots in the Luxembourg Gardens when Ney was executed; he remembers seeing Lafayette driving away from the Hall of Assembly. His vessel had been one of the first to enter a British port after the War of 1812, and the captain of an English frigate there sent him an invitation to dine and took occasion to express admiration of the American fighting quality on the seas. Mayo retired in good time to his comfortable forty-acre farm in Brewster, but by no means to inactivity. He was justice of the peace and well read in the law, a licensed auctioneer, a skilful surveyor and draughtsman, and was president of the Marine Insurance Company. It was re-membered that he had "rare conversational powers," which were well employed, we may suppose, in depicting the scenes of his eventful life. Mayo was as handsome a man as Cobb, his portrait showing a fine, spirited profile, with aggressive nose and a beautifully arched setting of the eye. He must have been magnificent with his six feet four of height.
Until the end of the clipper-ship era, Brewster was famous for its deep-water sailors, and at one time no less than sixty captains hailed its little farms as home. In the later period one of them was to rival the adventures of Robinson Crusoe and also of Mrs. Leeks and Mrs. Aleshine. One suspects, even, that Stockton may have heard the story. His fine clipper ship, the Wild Wave, fifteen hundred tons, with a crew of thirty all told, and ten passengers, San Francisco to Valparaiso, was wrecked on Oeno, a coral island of the Pacific about half a mile in circumference. Passengers and crew, provisions and sails for tents were safely landed. Water they found by digging for it. But Josiah Knowles was not the man to remain inert, and after two weeks he took a ship's boat, the mate and five men, and his treasure chest of eighteen thousand dollars in gold, and set out for Pitcairn's Island which he knew to be distant some hundred miles. Safely there, he found to his amazement the island deserted and the inhabitants decamped to Norfolk Island, a notice to that effect, for the benefit of possible callers, posted in several of the houses. They had left behind them much possible provision in the way of sheep, goats, bullocks, and poultry, and there was plenty of tropical fruit such as oranges, bananas, breadfruit, and cocoanuts. But it was plain that the voyage must be continued if Knowles was to rescue his companions marooned at Oeno, and he himself be returned to civilization. By ill luck their boat, shortly after they had landed, was stove in on a reef, and their first care was to replace it. They found six axes, one hammer, and a few other tools, and some of the houses were burned to obtain nails and iron. The timber had to be felled and hewed as best could be; and their boat, the John Adams, was launched July 23, a little more than four months after the wreck at Oeno. The ensign of the new craft was fashioned from the red hangings of the chapel pulpit, an old shirt, and some blue overalls. All being ship-shape and in order, Captain Knowles again set sail with his gold, the mate and two men, and "the wind being unfavourable" headed for the Marquesas. Their destination was Tahiti, fifteen hundred miles distant. Three of his men had preferred the comfortable solitude of Pitcairn's Island to such an adventure. But fortune favored the daring; and on August 4 they made Nukahiva, where, by extraordinary luck, for no American ship had called at the island in the previous five years, they found the Yankee sloop-of-war Vandalia. Next morning, with his usual promptness, Knowles sold his boat to the island missionary, and was off on the Vandalia which sailed for the rescue of the marooned on Oeno and Pitcairn's, dropping Knowles and his men at Tahiti. The mate joined the Vandalia as an officer. Knowles, at Tahiti, was offered passage on a French frigate to Honolulu, where he found an American barque loading for San Francisco and arrived there the middle of September. He found letters from home, but could carry news there as quickly as it could be sent, as there was no communication overland then except by pony ex-press. Sailing for New York via Panama, he arrived there late in October and telegraphed home, where he had long been given up for lost. Fourteen years later, in his ship, the Glory of the Seas, he stopped at Pitcairn's Island, now restored as the habitation of man, was received royally by the Governor and natives, and speeded on his way by the entire population, each bearing a gift — the island fruits, ducks, chickens, even sheep, "enough," said he, "to load a boat." Some years later he retired from sea to live in San Francisco, where the Governor of Pitcairn's Island, whenever he came to town, made his headquarters at the home of Captain Knowles.
One could go on indefinitely recounting the adventures of these men, among them many pioneers in one part of the world or another. A Brewster sailor went to Oregon in 1846, and a few years later sold out his frame house and saw and grist mill to his brother, while he himself, from 1854 to 1858, carried cargoes of ship-spars from Puget Sound to China, the first car-goes to Hong Kong. In 1794, John Kenrick, commanding the Columbia Redivivia, with the sloop Lady Washington as tender, was the first American master to circle the globe. He rounded the Horn and sailed up the coast to the Columbia River, which he is said to have named from his ship. That he gave over to his mate, Robert Gray, with instructions to explore the river, while he himself rigged his tender as a brig and crossed the Pacific, swinging around home again by way of the East Indies and "the Cape." Earlier than that the Stork of Boston, under a Yarmouth captain, is said to have been the first to carry the American flag around the Cape of Good Hope; and Brewster captains were the first to fly the American merchant flag in the White Sea. A Brewster man, in 1852, carried the first load of ice, and a frame house for storing it, to Iquique. This idea of sending ice to the tropics was to net thousands of per cent profit. This same master carried, and placed, the great gun named the" swamp angel" that was expected to retake Fort Sumter, and he transported troops for Butler. In 1870 also, he carried a valuable cargo of war material to the French at Brest; and on the return voyage shipped, at London, many passengers and a lot of animals for Barnum's circus. They were so delayed on the homeward passage that their provisions were nearly exhausted and, as it was, several trained ponies and goats were sacrificed to feed the more valuable lions and tigers. Collins, of Truro, was a blockade-runner in 1812, sailing open boats from the lower Cape towns to Boston, but was captured in his first venture on the deep sea. Later he was in the coasting trade up and down as far as Mexico, and had many medals for rescue at sea; later still he established the famous Collins Line. Hallett, of Barnstable, who died in 1849, was a pioneer in this coasting trade, and also as a saver of souls: for he raised the first Bethel flag for seamen's worship in New York and in Boston. He was a "professor" from his twentieth year, and was said to be "singularly gifted in prayer and exhortation." In 1808 he built the Ten Sisters, the most noted packet for years running between New York and Boston. Rider, of Truro, who combined with sea-faring the trade of carpenter, went West in 1837, and built "the first boat to navigate the Illinois River by mule power," and afterwards built other famous river boats. A Barnstable captain transported Mark Twain on the first leg of his "Innocents Abroad" expedition; another was master of the beautiful Gravina, named from the admiral in command of the Spanish reserves at Trafalgar, which on her maiden voyage, New York to Shanghai, took out some of Bishop Boone's missionaries. A Brewster man made a for-tune by establishing a stage-line to the Australian gold-fields.
It was natural that, in 1849, the Cape Cod men should be among the first to start for California; and it is interesting, also, that the majority of them, at least, in time returned to their life at sea. A Barnstable captain, Harris, who had received a medal from the Admiralty for saving a British crew in the North Sea, sailed, with his son, for San Francisco, where their brig was abandoned at the water-front and was used as an eating-house. Captain Harris, in due course, re-turned to Barnstable, and became sheriff of the county. There is testimony that he was "always young in spirit: it was a pleasure to see him dance, for he showed us more fancy steps and more of the old ways of dancing than we had ever seen." Cape sailors were more apt to man the clippers than hunt for gold. A Hyannis captain remembered that an owner once said to him when he was looking for a berth: "The new clipper ship Spit-fire is lading for San Francisco and the cap'n 's a driver. He wants a mate can jump over the fore-yard every morning before breakfast." "I'm his man," retorted the seaman, "if it's laid on the deck." He shipped forthwith, and had a passage of one hundred and two days to San Francisco. A group of eight Brewster men and four from Boston combined seamanship and gold-hunting by buying a brig of a hundred and twenty tons and manning it themselves. They elected their officers, the rest of the owners going as common sailors. " We were all square-rig sailors except Ben Crocker," writes one of the "seamen," "and he was made cap'n of the main boom, as the square-rig sailors were afraid of it." The cook worked his passage out, and there were six passengers; all ate together in the cabin. In a hundred and forty-seven days they made San Francisco, where they sold the brig for half what she cost them, and "each man took his own course." There is no record that any of them made a fortune.
One Forty-Niner, sailing for "Frisco," was lured by richer tales of gold to Australia, whither he worked his passage only to be wrecked on the coast, and turning short-about for a trading voyage among the Pacific islands was again wrecked, and in the lapse of time mourned as dead by his family. But in a year or so news of him came from the Carolines, where he had become virtual king of one of the islands, married the chief's daughter, taught the natives the uses of civilization in respect of houses, clothing, and the sanctity of the marriage tie, and was building up a pretty trade in tortoise-shell, cocoa oil, and hogs. For nearly ten years he ruled his little kingdom, and then was killed by jealous invaders from another island who, worsted in battle, were literally torn limb from limb by his enraged people, and thrown to the sharks, thereby losing not only life here, but all hope of the hereafter.
The missionary brig Morning Star had often touched at King John's Island, and generous testimony was offered that "John Higgins of Brewster has done more towards civilizing these natives than any missionary could have done." And no less than three Yarmouth captains had at one time or another commanded the several succeeding vessels of the Board of Missions, all of which were named the Morning Star.
There are records enough of mutiny and fire and of disaster other than shipwreck at sea — the captain wounded and his wife quelling the insurgents; a coal cargo afire in the South Pacific, the crew taking to the boats to make the Marquesas twenty-one hundred miles distant; a captain "subduing a fire in his cargo of coals," outward bound to Singapore, and receiving a gold watch as a reward from the underwriters for saving the ship. A Brewster captain and his mate, "taking the sun" in a stiff northwest gale, were swept overboard by a heavy sea, the mate to his death, but the captain, quick of wit, grasping a rope as he went overboard, took a double turn round his arm; the wheelman saw him, the watch ran aft and hauled him in so badly wrenched he could not stand, but with sufficient spirit to be lashed to the deck-house and command the vessel through the tail of the storm. A Barnstable captain in the Mediterranean service was fatally stabbed by a Malayan sailor, who jumped overboard and swam ashore, and the captain lived long enough to reach home. On the Sunshine, Mel-bourne to Callao, one of the crew poisoned the officers, who all recovered except the captain, another Barnstable man.
Nearly a hundred years ago now, the brig Polly, under command of Captain William Cazneau, and with two Dennis men, accomplished seamen both, among the crew, sailed from Boston. Just south of the Gulf Stream she ran into a fierce gale that laid her on her beam ends, and in order to right her the masts were cut away. Loaded with lumber, she could not sink, and as if invisible she floated unseen, exposed to every caprice of wind and weather, in and out of the most frequented trade-routes of the sea. Provisions and water exhausted, one by one the crew died until only the captain and an Indian cook were left. They ate barnacles which by now were thick enough on the ship's side, obtained fire by the old Indian device of rubbing two sticks together, and water by distillation. For one hundred and ninety days they managed to keep themselves alive until at last a ship sighted them; and the captain, in further proof of an iron constitution, lived to the good age of ninety-seven.
In 1855 the Titan, commanded by a young Brewster captain who lived on through the first decade of the twentieth century, alert and active in the public service to the end of his long life, was chartered by the French Government to transport troops to the Crimea. For two years he cruised back and forth through the Mediterranean in such service, and then, home again, took from New Orleans to Liverpool the largest cargo of cotton that had ever been carried, and was nearly wrecked making port in a stiff gale. Refitted and made seaworthy, she took out over a thousand passengers to Melbourne, thence proceeded to Callao for a cargo of guano for London; but homeward bound, she sprung a leak in the South Atlantic and had to be abandoned some eleven hundred miles off the coast of Brazil. Sails were set and all took to the boats which, provisioned with biscuit, canned meats, jam, and none too much water, were moored to the ship that she might serve them as long as might be safe. Next morning the captain and an officer boarded her, saw there was no hope for her, returned to the boats, and cast off. They knew there was an island, Tristan d 'Acunha, somewhere north of them, but as it was "too small to hit," they decided to make for the mainland. But they were in the "belt of calms," which might extend for ten miles or a hundred and ten, and oars must come before sails. As the men bent to their work, one cried out to look at the old Titan. A slight breeze aloft catching her sails, she had righted and seemed to be following them; but even as they looked, and wondered, she careened two or three times and went down. In a shorter time than might have been hoped, they were picked up, by a Frenchman bound for Havre who refused to interrupt his voyage for their convenience; but being pro-visioned for a small crew and the Titan's men numbering fifty-three, he was soon glad to land them at Pernambuco. This same captain told of a voyage from Australia to Hong Kong when he was sailing by some old charts, "seventeen hundred and something" -- the "English Pilot" for a guess — wherein certain islands were sketched in as "uncertain." They were running into this region on a beautiful moonlight night, and the captain and a passenger he was carrying went aloft and smoked, and watched, until past midnight. But at two he was called up again, and there directly over the bow were palm-trees thick in the moonlight. They had grazed, and cleared, the island of Monte Verde, some twenty miles in length, which of course was charted on the more modern maps of the day. And it was in this same southern sea that he once ran in and out of a hurricane. He could have veered out of its path, but he was in his rash youth, and the fringe of it giving a good breeze, he reefed up and went flying ahead under bare poles, through a tremendous gale that soon had him at its will. Suddenly, like a flash, there was entire calm, and stillness save for the distant roaring of the hurricane : he realized that he had got into the very centre of it, which travels ahead only some twelve miles an hour, but whirls round and round with incredible velocity. He knew that he had somehow to drive his ship out of the vortex that was sure to suck him down, and again through the outer turmoil — booming like thunder, flattening the boat on her beam ends — he, making sure the end had come, but driving her on, again won through, and the boat righting herself, continued on her way. The captain never again wooed the favoring breeze of a hurricane.
The very names of their ships stir the imagination: the Light Foot, the Chariot of Fame, the Chispa, the Rosario, named for the wife of an owner who had been a captain in his day and had loved and won a Spanish beauty. The Whirlwind and Challenger were famous clipper ships; and one man commanded successively the Undaunted, the Kingfisher, the Mon-soon and Mogul and Ocean King, and the steamers Zenobia and Palmyra and Edward Everett. There was the Young Turk and Santa Claus, the Tally Ho, the Expounder and Centaur and Cape Cod; the Agenor and Charmer and Valhalla, the Shooting Star and the Flying Dragon, the Altof Oak, and, quaintly, the Rice Plant; the Oxenbridge and Kedar. Some ships were so famous that when their day was done, they passed down their names to ships of a younger generation than theirs. Masters changed from one ship to another, and discussion as to how this captain and that handled the Expounder or Monsoon on such or such a voyage filled many a long evening of their old age at home.