The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 569 pages of information about The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas.
vessels of this description abounded in our rivers, and even now, their two long and unsupported masts and high narrow-headed sails, are daily seen bending like reeds to the breeze, and dancing lightly over the billows of the bay.  There is a variety of the class, of a size and pretension altogether superior to that just mentioned, which deserves a place among the most picturesque and striking boats that float.  He who has had occasion to navigate the southern shore of the Sound must have often seen the vessel to which we allude.  It is distinguished by its great length, and masts which, naked of cordage, rise from the hull like two tall and faultless trees.  When the eye runs over the daring height of canvas, the noble confidence of the rig, and sees the comparatively vast machine handled with ease and grace by the dexterity of two fearless and expert mariners, it excites some such admiration as that which springs from the view of a severe temple of antiquity The nakedness and simplicity of the construction, coupled with the boldness and rapidity of its movements, impart to the craft an air of grandeur, that its ordinary uses would not give reason to expect.

Though, in some respects, of singularly aquatic habits, the original colonists of New-York were far less adventurous, as mariners, than their present descendants.  A passage across the bay did not often occur in the tranquil lives of the burghers; and it is still within the memory of man, that a voyage between the two principal towns of the State was an event to excite the solicitude of friends, and the anxiety of the traveller.  The perils of the Tappaan Zee, as one of the wider reaches of the Hudson is still termed, was often dealt with by the good wives of the colony, in their relations of marvels; and she who had oftenest encountered them unharmed, was deemed a sort of marine amazon.

Chapter III.

   “—­I have great comfort from this fellow:  methinks he hath no drowning
   mark upon him; his complexion is perfect gallows.”


It has been said that the periagua was in motion, before our two adventurers succeeded in stepping on board.  The arrival of the Patroon of Kinderhook and of Alderman Van Beverout was expected, and the schipper had taken his departure at the precise moment of the turn in the current, in order to show, with a sort of pretending independence which has a peculiar charm for men in his situation, that ‘time and tide wait for no man.’  Still there were limits to his decision; for, while he put the boat in motion, especial care was taken that the circumstance should not subject a customer so important and constant as the Alderman, to any serious inconvenience.  When he and his friend had embarked, the painters were thrown aboard, and the crew of the ferry-boat began to set their vessel, in earnest, towards the mouth of the creek.  During these movements, a young negro was seated in the bow of the periagua, with his legs dangling, one on each side of the cut-water, forming no bad apology for a figure-head.  He held a conch to his mouth, and with his two glossy cheeks inflated like those of Eolus, and his dark glittering eyes expressing the delight he found in drawing sounds from the shell, he continued to give forth the signal for departure.

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The Water-Witch or, the Skimmer of the Seas from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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