Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 591 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

[2] This visiting between the crews of ships at sea is called, among whalemen, ``gamming.’’


Our place of destination had been Monterey, but as we were to the northward of it when the wind hauled ahead, we made a fair wind for San Francisco.  This large bay, which lies in latitude 37 58’, was discovered by Sir Francis Drake, and by him represented to be (as indeed it is) a magnificent bay, containing several good harbors, great depth of water, and surrounded by a fertile and finely wooded country.  About thirty miles from the mouth of the bay, and on the southeast side, is a high point, upon which the Presidio is built.  Behind this point is the little harbor, or bight, called Yerba Buena, in which trading-vessels anchor, and, near it, the Mission of Dolores.  There was no other habitation on this side of the Bay, except a shanty of rough boards put up by a man named Richardson, who was doing a little trading between the vessels and the Indians.[1] Here, at anchor, and the only vessel, was a brig under Russian colors, from Sitka, in Russian America, which had come down to winter, and to take in a supply of tallow and grain, great quantities of which latter article are raised in the Missions at the head of the bay.  The second day after our arrival we went on board the brig, it being Sunday, as a matter of curiosity; and there was enough there to gratify it.  Though no larger than the Pilgrim, she had five or six officers, and a crew of between twenty and thirty; and such a stupid and greasy-looking set, I never saw before.  Although it was quite comfortable weather and we had nothing on but straw hats, shirts, and duck trousers, and were barefooted, they had, every man of them, doubled-soled boots, coming up to the knees, and well greased; thick woollen trousers, frocks, waistcoats, pea-jackets, woollen caps, and everything in true Nova Zembla rig; and in the warmest days they made no change.  The clothing of one of these men would weigh nearly as much as that of half our crew.  They had brutish faces, looked like the antipodes of sailors, and apparently dealt in nothing but grease.  They lived upon grease; eat it, drank it, slept in the midst of it, and their clothes were covered with it.  To a Russian, grease is the greatest luxury.  They looked with greedy eyes upon the tallow-bags as they were taken into the vessel, and, no doubt, would have eaten one up whole, had not the officer kept watch over it.  The grease appeared to fill their pores, and to come out in their hair and on their faces.  It seems as if it were this saturation which makes them stand cold and rain so well.  If they were to go into a warm climate, they would melt and die of the scurvy.

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Two Years Before the Mast from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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