American Merchant Ships and Sailors eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 382 pages of information about American Merchant Ships and Sailors.
amateur harbor fishers, the much-abused sculpin.  Nor were fish alone caught on the hooks, for stones were frequently pulled up, and one dory brought in a lobster, which had been hooked by his tail.  Some of the captives showed where large chunks had been bitten out of them by larger fish, and sometimes, when a hook appeared above water, there would be nothing on it but a fish head.  This was certainly a case of one fish taking a mean advantage of another.”

Such is the routine of trawling when weather and all the fates are propitious.  But the Banks have other stories to tell—­stories of men lost in the fog, drifting for long days and nights until the little keg of fresh water and the scanty store of biscuit are exhausted, and then slowly dying of starvation, alone on the trackless sea; of boats picked up in winter with frozen bodies curled together on the floor, huddled close in a vain endeavor to keep warm; of trawlers looking up from their work to see towering high above them the keen prow of an ocean grayhound, and thereafter seeing nothing that their dumb lips could tell to mortal ears.  Many a story of suffering and death the men skilled in the lore of the Banks could tell, but most eloquent of all stories are those told by the figures of the men lost from the fishing ports of New England.  From Gloucester alone, in 1879, two hundred and fifty fishermen were lost.  In one storm in 1846 Marblehead lost twelve vessels and sixty-six men and boys.  In 1894, and the first month of 1895, one hundred and twenty-two men sailing out of Gloucester, were drowned.  In fifty years this little town gave to the hungry sea two thousand two hundred men, and vessels valued at nearly two million, dollars.  Full of significance is the fact that every fishing-boat sets aside part of the proceeds of its catch for the widows’ and orphans’ fund before making the final division among the men.  One of the many New England poets who have felt and voiced the pathos of life in the fishing villages, Mr. Frank H. Sweet, has told the story of the old and oft-repeated tragedy of the sea in these verses: 


    “The boats of the fishers met the wind
      And spread their canvas wide,
    And with bows low set and taffrails wet
      Skim onward side by side;
    The wives of the fishers watch from shore,
      And though the sky be blue,
    They breathe a prayer into the air
      As the boats go from view.

    “The wives of the fishers wait on shore
      With faces full of fright,
    And the waves roll in with deafening din
      Through the tempestuous night;
    The boats of the fishers meet the wind
      Cast up by a scornful sea;
    But the fishermen come not again,
      Though the wives watch ceaselessly.”

**Transcriber’s Notes:  Page 317:  changed cherry to cheery.

Page 329:  page ends “cry of ’Fish”; next page begins with a new paragraph, punctuation added to read ‘Fish!’

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American Merchant Ships and Sailors from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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