Two Years Before the Mast eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 502 pages of information about Two Years Before the Mast.

Sunday, June 12th.  Lat. 26 04’ S., lon. 116 31’ W. We had now lost the regular trades, and had the winds variable, principally from the westward, and kept on in a southerly course, sailing very nearly upon a meridian, and at the end of the week,—­

Sunday, June 19th, were in lat. 34 15’ S., and lon. 116 38’ W.

[1] On removing the cat-head, after the ship arrived at Boston, it was found that there were two holes under it which had been bored for the purpose of driving treenails, and which, accidentally, had not been plugged up when the cat-head was placed over them.  This provoking little piece of negligence caused us great discomfort.

[2] The customs as to the allowance of ``grub’’ are very nearly the same in all American merchantmen.  Whenever a pig is killed, the sailors have one mess from it.  The rest goes to the cabin.  The smaller live stock, poultry, &c. the sailors never taste.  And indeed they do not complain of this, for it would take a great deal to supply them with a good meal; and without the accompaniments (which could hardly be furnished to them), it would not be much better than salt beef.  But even as to the salt beef they are scarcely dealt fairly with; for whenever a barrel is opened, before any of the beef is put into the harness-cask, the steward comes up and picks it all over, and takes out the best pieces (those that have any fat in them) for the cabin.  This was done in both the vessels I was in, and the men said that it was usual in other vessels.  Indeed, it is made no secret, and some of the crew are usually called to help in assorting and putting away the pieces.  By this arrangement the hard, dry pieces, which the sailors call ``old horse,’’ come to their share.

There is a singular piece of rhyme, traditional among sailors, which they say over such pieces of beef.  I do not know that it ever appeared in print before.  When seated round the kid, if a particularly bad piece is found, one of them takes it up, and addresses it thus:—­

   ```Old horse! old horse! what brought you here?’
     `From Sacarap to Portland Pier
      I’ve carted stone this many a year;
      Till, killed by blows and sore abuse,
      They salted me down for sailors’ use. 
      The sailors they do me despise;
      They turn me over and damn my eyes;
      Cut off my meat, and scrape my bones,
      And pitch me over to Davy Jones.’’’

There is a story current among seamen, that a beef-dealer was convicted, at Boston, of having sold old horse for ship’s stores, instead of beef, and had been sentenced to be confined in jail until he should eat the whole of it; and that he is now lying in Boston jail.  I have heard this story often, on board other vessels besides those of our own nation.  It is very generally believed, and is always highly commended, as a fair instance of retaliatory justice.

CHAPTER XXXI

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