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.

Thursday, November 27th, upon coming on deck in the morning, we were again upon the wide Pacific, and saw no more land until we arrived upon the western coast of the great continent of America.

CHAPTER VIII

As we saw neither land nor sail from the time of leaving Juan Fernandez until our arrival in California, nothing of interest occurred except our own doings on board.  We caught the southeast trades, and ran before them for nearly three weeks, without so much as altering a sail or bracing a yard.  The captain took advantage of this fine weather to get the vessel in order for coming upon the coast.  The carpenter was employed in fitting up a part of the steerage into a trade-room; for our cargo, we now learned, was not to be landed, but to be sold by retail on board; and this trade-room was built for the samples and the lighter goods to be kept in, and as a place for the general business.  In the mean time we were employed in working upon the rigging.  Everything was set up taut, the lower rigging rattled down, or rather rattled up (according to the modern fashion), an abundance of spun-yarn and seizing-stuff made, and finally the whole standing-rigging, fore and aft, was tarred down.  It was my first essay at the latter business, and I had enough of it; for nearly all of it came upon my friend Stimson and myself.  The men were needed at the other work, and Henry Mellus, the other young man who came out with us before the mast, was laid up with the rheumatism in his feet, and the boy Sam was rather too young and small for the business; and as the winds were light and regular he was kept during most of the daytime at the helm, so that we had quite as much as we wished of it.  We put on short duck frocks, and, taking a small bucket of tar and a bunch of oakum in our hands, went aloft, one at the main royal-mast-head, and the other at the fore, and began tarring down.  This is an important operation, and is usually done about once in six months in vessels upon a long voyage.  It was done in our vessel several times afterwards, but by the whole crew at once, and finished off in a day; but at this time, as most of it, as I have said, came upon two of us, and we were new at the business, it took several days.  In this operation they always begin at the mast-head, and work down, tarring the shrouds, backstays, standing parts of the lifts, the ties, runners, &c., and go out to the yard-arms, and come in, tarring, as they come, the lifts and foot-ropes.  Tarring the stays is more difficult, and is done by an operation which the sailors call ``riding down.’’ A long piece of rope—­ top-gallant-studding-sail halyards, or something of the kind—­ is taken up to the mast-head from which the stay leads, and rove through a block for a girt-line, or, as the sailors usually call it, a gant-line; with the end of this, a bowline is taken round the stay, into which the man gets with his bucket of tar and bunch of oakum; and the other end being

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