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.
How I accomplished this, I do not know, but I am quite sure that I did not give the true hoarse boatswain call of ``A-a-ll ha-a-a-nds ! up anchor, a-ho-oy!’’ In a short time every one was in motion, the sails loosed, the yards braced, and we began to heave up the anchor, which was our last hold upon Yankee land.  I could take but small part in these preparations.  My little knowledge of a vessel was all at fault.  Unintelligible orders were so rapidly given, and so immediately executed; there was such a hurrying about, and such an intermingling of strange cries and stranger actions, that I was completely bewildered.  There is not so helpless and pitiable an object in the world as a landsman beginning a sailor’s life.  At length those peculiar, long-drawn sounds which denote that the crew are heaving at the windlass began, and in a few minutes we were under way.  The noise of the water thrown from the bows was heard, the vessel leaned over from the damp night-breeze, and rolled with the heavy groundswell, and we had actually begun our long, long journey.  This was literally bidding good night to my native land.

[1] [In the year 1834.]


The first day we passed at sea was Sunday.  As we were just from port, and there was a great deal to be done on board, we were kept at work all day, and at night the watches were set, and everything was put into sea order.  When we were called aft to be divided into watches, I had a good specimen of the manner of a sea-captain.  After the division had been made, he gave a short characteristic speech, walking the quarter-deck with a cigar in his mouth, and dropping the words out between the puffs.

``Now, my men, we have begun a long voyage.  If we get along well together, we shall have a comfortable time; if we don’t, we shall have hell afloat.  All you have got to do is to obey your orders, and do your duty like men,—­ then you will fare well enough; if you don’t, you will fare hard enough,—­ I can tell you.  If we pull together, you will find me a clever fellow; if we don’t, you will find me a bloody rescal.  That’s all I’ve got to say.  Go below, the larboard[1] watch!’’

I, being in the starboard or second mate’s watch, had the opportunity of keeping the first watch at sea.  Stimson, a young man making, like myself, his first voyage, was in the same watch, and as he was the son of a professional man, and had been in a merchant’s counting-room in Boston, we found that we had some acquaintances and topics in common.  We talked these matters over—­ Boston, what our friends were probably doing, our voyage, &c.—­ until he went to take his turn at the lookout, and left me to myself.  I had now a good opportunity for reflection.  I felt for the first time the perfect silence of the sea.  The officer was walking the quarter-deck, where I had no right to go, one or two men were talking on the forecastle, whom I had

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