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.

We had now made up our minds for Cape Horn and cold weather, and entered upon the necessary preparations.

Tuesday, November 4th.  At daybreak, saw land upon our larboard quarter.  There were two islands, of different size, but of the same shape; rather high, beginning low at the water’s edge, and running with a curved ascent to the middle.  They were so far off as to be of a deep blue color, and in a few hours we sank them in the northeast.  These were the Falkland Islands.  We had run between them and the main land of Patagonia.  At sunset, the second mate, who was at the mast-head, said that he saw land on the starboard bow.  This must have been the island of Staten Land; and we were now in the region of Cape Horn, with a fine breeze from the northward, topmast and top-gallant studding-sails set, and every prospect of a speedy and pleasant passage round.

[1] This word ``lay,’’ which is in such general use on board ship, being used in giving orders instead of ``go,’’ as ``Lay forward!’’ ``Lay aft!’’ ``Lay aloft!’’ &c., I do not understand to be the neuter verb lie, mispronounced, but to be the active verb lay, with the objective case understood; as, ``Lay yourselves forward!’’ ``Lay yourselves aft!’’ &c.  At all events, lay is an active verb at sea, and means go.


Wednesday, November 5th.  The weather was fine during the previous night, and we had a clear view of the Magellan Clouds and of the Southern Cross.  The Magellan Clouds consist of three small nebulae in the southern part of the heavens,—­ two bright, like the milky-way, and one dark.  They are first seen, just above the horizon, soon after crossing the southern tropic.  The Southern Cross begins to be seen at 18 N., and, when off Cape Horn, is nearly overhead.  It is composed of four stars in that form, and is one of the brightest constellations in the heavens.

During the first part of this day (Wednesday) the wind was light, but after noon it came on fresh, and we furled the royals.  We still kept the studding-sails out, and the captain said he should go round with them if he could.  Just before eight o’clock (then about sundown, in that latitude) the cry of ``All hands ahoy!’’ was sounded down the fore scuttle and the after hatchway, and, hurrying upon deck, we found a large black cloud rolling on toward us from the southwest, and darkening the whole heavens. ``Here comes Cape Horn!’’ said the chief mate; and we had hardly time to haul down and clew up before it was upon us.  In a few minutes a heavier sea was raised than I had ever seen, and as it was directly ahead, the little brig, which was no better than a bathing-machine, plunged into it, and all the forward part of her was under water; the sea pouring in through the bow-ports and hawse-holes and over the knight-heads, threatening to wash everything overboard.  In the lee scuppers it was up to a man’s waist.  We sprang aloft and double-reefed

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