Charleston, S. C., July 17,1852.
The unlucky ship.
The British brig Janson, Thompson, master, laden with sugar, pimento, &c. &c. left Kingston, Jamaica, in the early part of March, in the present year, bound for Glasgow. The skipper, who was a genuine son of the “Land o’ Cakes,” concluded to take the inside passage, and run through the gulf. This might have been questioned by seamen better acquainted with the windward passage; but as every Scotchman likes to have his own way, the advice of the first officer—an experienced salt in the West India waters—went to leeward. On rounding Cape Antoine, it was evident that a strong blow was approaching. The clouds hung their dark curtains in threatening blackness; and, as the sharp flashes of lightning inflamed the gloomy scene, the little bark seemed like a speck upon the bosom of the sea. It was the first mate’s watch on deck. The wind, then blowing from the W.S.W., began to increase and veer into the westward; from whence it suddenly chopped into the northward. The mate paced the quarter wrapt in his fearnought jacket, and at every turn giving a glance aloft, then looking at the compass, and again to the man at the wheel, as if he had an instinct of what was coming.
He was a fearless navigator, yet, like many others who had yielded to the force of habit, was deeply imbued with that prevalent superstition so common to sailors, which regards a particular ship as unlucky. Imagine an old-fashioned boatswain, with north-country features strongly marked, a weather-beaten face, and a painted south-wester on his head, and you have the “Mister Mate” of the old brig Janson.
“Keep her full, my hearty. We must take in our light sails and go on the other tack soon. If we don’t catch it before daylight, I’ll miss my calculation. She’s an unlucky old craft as ever I sailed in, and if the skipper a’n’t mighty careful, he’ll never get her across. I’ve sworn against sailing in her several times, but if I get across in her this time, I’ll bid her good-by; and if the owners don’t give me a new craft, they may get somebody else. We’re just as sure to have bad luck as if we had cats and parsons aboard.”
Thus saying, he descended the companion-way, and reported the appearance of the weather to the skipper, who arose quickly, and, consulting his barometer, found it had fallen to near the lowest scale. After inquiring the quarter of the wind, and how she headed, what sail she was carrying, and the probable distance from the cape, he gave orders to call all hands to take in the topgallant-sails, double reef the fore, and single reef the maintop-sails, and stow the flying-jib—dressed himself, and came on deck. Just as he put his head above the slide of the companion, and stopped for a minute with his hands resting upon the sides, a vivid flash of lightning hung its festoons of fire around the rigging, giving it the appearance of a chain of livid flame.