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.
and this we made preparations to heave out the next day.  At night, after we had knocked off, and were sitting round in the forecastle, smoking and talking, and taking sailor’s pleasure, we congratulated ourselves upon being in that situation in which we had wished ourselves every time we had come into San Diego. ``If we were only here for the last time,’’ we had often said, ``with our top-gallant-masts housed and our sails unbent!’’—­ and now we had our wish.  Six weeks, or two months, of the hardest work we had yet seen, but not the most disagreeable or trying, was before us, and then—­ ``Good by to California!’’


We turned-in early, knowing that we might expect an early call; and sure enough, before the stars had quite faded, ``All hands ahoy!’’ and we were turned-to, heaving out ballast.  A regulation of the port forbids any ballast to be thrown overboard; accordingly, our long-boat was lined inside with rough boards and brought alongside the gangway, but where one tubful went into the boat twenty went overboard.  This is done by every vessel, as it saves more than a week of labor, which would be spent in loading the boats, rowing them to the point, and unloading them.  When any people from the presidio were on board, the boat was hauled up and the ballast thrown in; but when the coast was clear, she was dropped astern again, and the ballast fell overboard.  This is one of those petty frauds which many vessels practise in ports of inferior foreign nations, and which are lost sight of among the deeds of greater weight which are hardly less common.  Fortunately, a sailor, not being a free agent in work aboard ship, is not accountable; yet the fact of being constantly employed, without thought, in such things, begets an indifference to the rights of others.

Friday, and a part of Saturday, we were engaged in this work, until we had thrown out all but what we wanted under our cargo on the passage home; when, as the next day was Sunday, and a good day for smoking ship, we cleared everything out of the cabin and forecastle, made a slow fire of charcoal, birch bark, brimstone, and other matters, on the ballast in the bottom of the hold, calked up the hatches and every open seam, and pasted over the cracks of the windows, and the slides of the scuttles and companion-way.  Wherever smoke was seen coming out, we calked and pasted and, so far as we could, made the ship smoke tight.  The captain and officers slept under the awning which was spread over the quarter-deck; and we stowed ourselves away under an old studding-sail, which we drew over one side of the forecastle.  The next day, from fear that something might happen in the way of fire, orders were given for no one to leave the ship, and, as the decks were lumbered up, we could not wash them down, so we had nothing to do all day long.  Unfortunately, our books were where we could not get at them, and we were turning about for something to do, when one

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