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.

[3] I do not wish these remarks, so far as they relate to the saving of expense in the outfit, to be applied to the owners of our ship, for she was supplied with an abundance of stores of the best kind that are given to seamen; though the dispensing of them is necessarily left to the captain.  And I learned, on our return, that the captain withheld many of the stores from us, from mere ugliness.  He brought several barrels of flour home, but would not give us the usual twice-a-week duff, and so as to other stores.  Indeed, so high was the reputation of ``the employ’’ among men and officers for the character and outfit of their vessels, and for their liberality in conducting their voyages, that when it was known that they had the Alert fitting out for a long voyage, and that hands were to be shipped at a certain time,—­ a half hour before the time, as one of the crew told me, sailors were steering down the wharf, hopping over the barrels, like a drove of sheep.


In our first attempt to double the Cape, when we came up to the latitude of it, we were nearly seventeen hundred miles to the westward, but, in running for the Straits of Magellan, we stood so far to the eastward that we made our second attempt at a distance of not more than four or five hundred miles; and we had great hopes, by this means, to run clear of the ice; thinking that the easterly gales, which had prevailed for a long time, would have driven it to the westward.  With the wind about two points free, the yards braced in a little, and two close-reefed topsails and a reefed foresail on the ship, we made great way toward the southward; and almost every watch, when we came on deck, the air seemed to grow colder, and the sea to run higher.  Still we saw no ice, and had great hopes of going clear of it altogether, when, one afternoon, about three o’clock, while we were taking a siesta during our watch below, ``All hands!’’ was called in a loud and fearful voice. ``Tumble up here, men!—­ tumble up!—­ don’t stop for your clothes—­ before we’re upon it!’’ We sprang out of our berths and hurried upon deck.  The loud, sharp voice of the captain was heard giving orders, as though for life or death, and we ran aft to the braces, not waiting to look ahead, for not a moment was to be lost.  The helm was hard up, the after yards shaking, and the ship in the act of wearing.  Slowly, with the stiff ropes and iced rigging, we swung the yards round, everything coming hard and with a creaking and rending sound, like pulling up a plank which has been frozen into the ice.  The ship wore round fairly, the yards were steadied, and we stood off on the other tack, leaving behind us, directly under our larboard quarter, a large ice island, peering out of the mist, and reaching high above our tops; while astern, and on either side of the island, large tracts of field-ice were dimly seen, heaving and rolling in the sea.  We were now safe, and standing to

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