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.
stood drenched through and blinded by the flashes, which broke the Egyptian darkness with a brightness that seemed almost malignant; while the thunder rolled in peals, the concussion of which appeared to shake the very ocean.  A ship is not often injured by lightning, for the electricity is separated by the great number of points she presents, and the quantity of iron which she has scattered in various parts.  The electric fluid ran over our anchors, topsail sheets and ties; yet no harm was done to us.  We went below at four o’clock, leaving things in the same state.  It is not easy to sleep when the very next flash may tear the ship in two, or set her on fire; or where the deathlike calm may be broken by the blast of a hurricane, taking the masts out of the ship.  But a man is no sailor if he cannot sleep when he turns-in, and turn out when he’s called.  And when, at seven bells, the customary ``All the larboard watch, ahoy!’’ brought us on deck, it was a fine, clear, sunny morning, the ship going leisurely along, with a soft breeze and all sail set.

[1] A man at the wheel is required to repeat every order given him.  A simple ``Aye, aye, sir,’’ is not enough there.


From the latitude of the West Indies, until we got inside the Bermudas, where we took the westerly and southwesterly winds, which blow steadily off the coast of the United States early in the autumn, we had every variety of weather, and two or three moderate gales, or, as sailors call them, double-reef-topsail breezes, which came on in the usual manner, and of which one is a specimen of all.  A fine afternoon; all hands at work, some in the rigging, and others on deck; a stiff breeze, and ship close upon the wind, and skysails brailed down.  Latter part of the afternoon, breeze increases, ship lies over to it, and clouds look windy.  Spray begins to fly over the forecastle, and wets the yarns the boys are knotting;—­ ball them up and put them below.  Mate knocks off work and clears up decks earlier than usual, and orders a man who has been employed aloft to send the royal halyards over to windward, as he comes down.  Breast back-stays hauled taut, and a tackle got upon the martingale back-rope.  One of the boys furls the mizzen royal.  Cook thinks there is going to be ``nasty work,’’ and has supper ready early.  Mate gives orders to get supper by the watch, instead of all hands, as usual.  While eating supper, hear the watch on deck taking in the royals.  Coming on deck, find it is blowing harder, and an ugly head sea running.  Instead of having all hands on the forecastle in the dog watch, smoking, singing, and telling yarns, one watch goes below and turns-in, saying that it’s going to be an ugly night, and two hours’ sleep is not to be lost.  Clouds look black and wild; wind rising, and ship working hard against a heavy head sea, which breaks over the forecastle, and washes aft through the scuppers. 

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