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.
or left upon the coast; dealers in grease, besieging the galley to make a bargain with the cook for his slush; ``loafers’’ in general; and, last and chief, boarding-house runners, to secure their men.  Nothing can exceed the obliging disposition of these runners, and the interest they take in a sailor returned from a long voyage with a plenty of money.  Two or three of them, at different times, took me by the hand; pretended to remember me perfectly; were quite sure I had boarded with them before I sailed; were delighted to see me back; gave me their cards; had a hand-cart waiting on the wharf, on purpose to take my things up; would lend me a hand to get my chest ashore; bring a bottle of grog on board if we did not haul in immediately; and the like.  In fact, we could hardly get clear of them to go aloft and furl the sails.  Sail after sail, for the hundredth time, in fair weather and in foul, we furled now for the last time together, and came down and took the warp ashore, manned the capstan, and with a chorus which waked up half North End, and rang among the buildings in the dock, we hauled her in to the wharf.[1] The city bells were just ringing one when the last turn was made fast and the crew dismissed; and in five minutes more not a soul was left on board the good ship Alert but the old ship-keeper, who had come down from the counting-house to take charge of her.

[1] [Sept. 21, 1836.]


It was in the winter of 1835-6 that the ship Alert, in the prosecution of her voyage for hides on the remote and almost unknown coast of California, floated into the vast solitude of the Bay of San Francisco.  All around was the stillness of nature.  One vessel, a Russian, lay at anchor there, but during our whole stay not a sail came or went.  Our trade was with remote Missions, which sent hides to us in launches manned by their Indians.  Our anchorage was between a small island, called Yerba Buena, and a gravel beach in a little bight or cove of the same name, formed by two small, projecting points.  Beyond, to the westward of the landing-place, were dreary sand-hills, with little grass to be seen, and few trees, and beyond them higher hills, steep and barren, their sides gullied by the rains.  Some five or six miles beyond the landing-place, to the right, was a ruinous Presidio, and some three or four miles to the left was the Mission of Dolores, as ruinous as the Presidio, almost deserted, with but few Indians attached to it, and but little property in cattle.  Over a region far beyond our sight there were no other human habitations, except that an enterprising Yankee, years in advance of his time, had put up, on the rising ground above the landing, a shanty of rough boards, where he carried on a very small retail trade between the hide ships and the Indians.  Vast banks of fog, invading us from the North Pacific, drove in through the entrance, and covered the whole bay; and when they disappeared,

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