The instructor in mathematics, the boatswain, the carpenter, and the sailmaker, all of whom were good seamen, were in great demand as soon as the ship was under way; but when she had sea-room enough, the helm was handed over to the boys, under the charge of a juvenile quartermaster. Peaks stood by, and gave the necessary directions, till the students were able to do the work themselves.
“Now, my lads, we will heave the log,” said the boatswain, when the ship was well out from the land.
“We know how to do that,” replied Smith, one of the quartermasters.
“I dare say you do, young gentlemen; but in my opinion, you can’t do it. You know how to write a psalm, but I don’t believe you could write one,” added Peaks. “You have to learn how to do these things by the feeling, so that they will do themselves, so to speak. After-guard, stand by to haul in the log-line. Here, quartermaster, you will hold the glass, and the officer of the deck will throw the chip.”
“We know all about it, Mr. Peaks,” repeated Smith.
“I know you do; but you can’t tell within five knots how fast the ship is going,” laughed the boatswain. “Let’s do it right a few times, and then you can be trusted.”
The quartermaster took the glass, and Gordon, then officer of the watch, the chip, which he cast into the water over the stern of the ship.
“Turn!” said he, when the stray line had run out.
Now, Smith, at this particular moment, was watching a vessel over the quarter, and he did not instantly turn the glass, as he should have done; but Peaks said nothing.
“Up!” cried the quartermaster, when the sand had all run through the glass.
Gordon stopped the reel from which the line was running out, and noted the mark.
“Seven knots,” said he.
“Not right,” replied the boatswain, sharply. “This ship is going nine or ten knots an hour, and any man who has snuffed salt water for six months could guess nearer than you make it. Now try it once again, and if you don’t hit nearer than that next time, you may as well throw the reel overboard, and hire a Yankee to guess the rate of sailing.”
“I thought we knew all about it,” added Smith.
“I think you do, young gentlemen; but you were star-gazing when you ought to have been all attention. The line ran out two or three knots before you turned the glass.”
Gordon took the chip again. It was a thin piece of board, in the form of a quarter circle. The round side was loaded with just lead enough to make it float upright in the water. The log-line was fastened to the chip, just us a boy loops a kite, two strings being attached at each end of the circular side, while the one at the angle is tied to a peg, which is inserted in a hole, just hard enough to keep it in place, while there is no extra strain on the board, but which can be drawn out with a smart pull. When the log-line has run out as far as desired, there would be some difficulty in hauling in the chip while it was upright in the water; but a sudden jerk draws the peg at the angle, and permits the board to lie flat, in which position the water offers the least resistance to its passage.