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THE VOYAGE TO SOUTH AMERICA
A Gale at Sea — Madeira — Canary Islands — Cape Verde Islands — Across the Atlantic.
The first day in open ocean was spent in shaking down; on going on deck before turning in it was found to be a clear starlight night, and the man at the wheel prophesied smooth things. It was a case of —
"A little ship was on the sea.
It was a pretty sight,
It sailed along so pleasantly.
And all was calm and bright."
But, alas! the storm did soon begin to rise; by morning we were in troubled waters, and by noon we were battened down and hove to. We had given up all idea of making progress and were riding out the gale as best we might. All the saloon party were more or less laid low, including Mr. Ritchie, for the first time in his life. The steward was not seen for two days; and if it had not been that the under-steward, who shall be known as "Luke," rose to the occasion, the state of affairs would have been somewhat serious. He not only contrived to satisfy the appetites of the crew, which were subsequently said to have been abnormally good, but also staggered round, with black hands and a tousled head, ministering with tea and bovril to our frailer needs. The engineer, a landsman, was too incapacitated to do any work, and doubt arose as to whether we should not be left without electric light. More alarming was the fact that the place smelt badly of paraffin, arousing anxiety as to the effect the excessive rolling of the ship might have had on our carefully tested tanks and barrels; happily the odour proved to be due merely to a temporary overflow in the engine-room.
We now found the disadvantage of having abandoned, owing to our various delays, the trial runs in home waters which had at one time been planned. The skylights, which would have been adequate for ordinary yachting — which has been described as "going round and round the Isle of Wight" — proved unequal to the work expected of Mana, and the truth appeared of a dark saying of the Board of Trade surveyor that "skylights were not ventilation." Not only could they of course not be raised in bad weather, but those which, like mine, were arranged to open, admitted the sea to an unpleasant degree; such an amount of water had to be conveyed by means of dripping towels into canvas baths that it seemed at one time as if the Atlantic would be perceptibly emptier. When in the midst of the gale night fell on the lonely ship the sensation was eerie; every now and then the persistent rolling, which threw from side to side of the berth those fortunate enough to be below, was interrupted by a resounding crash in the darkness as a big wave broke against the vessel's side, followed by the rushing surge and gurgle of the water as it poured in a volume over the deck above. Then the hubbub entirely ceased, and for a perceptible time the vessel lay perfectly still in the trough of the wave, like a human creature dazed by a sudden blow, after a second or two to begin again her weary tossing. I wondered, as I lay there, which was the more weird experience, this night or one spent in camp in East Africa with no palisade, in a district swarming with lions, and again recalled the philosophy of one of our Swahili boys. "Frightened? No, he eats me, he does not eat me; it is all the will of Allah."
By morning the worst was over, and it was a comfort to hear Mr. Gillam singing cheerfully something about "In the Bay of Biscay O," a performance he varied with anathemas on the seasick steward. When I was able to get on deck, the waves were still descending on us — if not the proverbial mountains, at any rate hills high, looking as if they must certainly overwhelm us. It was wonderful to see, what later I took for granted, how the yacht rose to each, taking it as it were in her stride. It was reported to have been a "full gale, a hurricane, as bad as could be, with dangerous cross seas"; but the little vessel had proved herself a splendid sea-going boat, and "had ridden it out like a duck." For the next little while
I can only say in the words of the poet, “It was not night, it was not day"; neither the clothes people wore, nor the food they took, nor their times of downsitting and uprising had anything to do with the hours of light and darkness. By Saturday, however, the weather was better, meals were established, and things generally more civilised. We had another bad gale somewhere in the latitude of Finisterre, being hove to for thirty hours, but were subsequently very little troubled with seasickness. The second Sunday out, April 6th, we experienced a short interlude of calm, and I discovered that not only does a sailing ship not travel in bad weather, but that when it is really beautifully smooth she also has a bad habit of declining to go. Anyway, we held our first service, and "O God, our help" went, if not in Westminster Abbey form, at any rate quite creditably.
Mr. Ritchie had decided to take two sides of a triangle, first west and then south, rather than run any risk of being blown on to Ushant or Finisterre; a precaution which, in view of the proved powers of the boat to hold her own against a head wind, he subsequently thought to have been unnecessary. After we left the English shores we only saw two vessels till we were within sight of Madeira, and some of our Brixham men, who had never been far from their native shores or away from their fishing fleet, were much impressed with the size and loneliness of the ocean. “It was astonishing," said Light, "that there could be so much water without any land or ships," and he expressed an undisguised desire for "more company."
Somehow or other we had all come to the conclusion that we would put into Madeira, instead of going straight through to Las Palmas, for which we had cleared from Falmouth. The first land which we sighted was the outlying island of the group, Porto Santo. This was appropriate on a voyage to the New World, as Columbus resided there with his father-in-law, who was governor of the place; and it is said that from his observations there of driftwood, and other indications, he first conceived the idea of the land across the waters, to which he made his famous voyage in 1492. Our mate entertained us with a tale of how he had been shipwrecked on Porto Santo, the yacht on which he was serving having overrun her reckonings as she approached it from the west; happily all on board were able to escape. The wind fell after we made the group, so that we did not get into the harbour of Funchal for another thirty-six hours, and then only with the help of the motor. It was most enjoyable cruising along the coast of Madeira, watching the great mountains, woods, ravines, and nestling villages, at whose existence the passengers on the deck of a Union-Castle liner can only vaguely guess. The day was Sunday, April 13th, and later it became a matter of remark how frequently we hit off this day of the week for getting into harbour, a most inconvenient one from the point of view of making the necessary arrangements. As we entered, a Portuguese liner, coming out of Funchal, dipped its flag in greeting to our blue ensign; out came the harbour-master's tug to show us where to take up our position, down went the anchor with a comfortable rattle, and so ended the first stage of our journey.
The voyage had taken eighteen days, and averaged about sixty miles a day, as against the hundred miles on which we had calculated, and which later we sometimes exceeded. A man who crosses the ocean in a powerful steam-vessel, as one who travels by land in an express train, undoubtedly gains in speed, but he loses much else. He misses a thousand beauties, he has no contact with Nature, no sense of the exultation which comes from progress won step by step by putting forth his own powers to bend hers to his will. The late veteran seaman Lord Brassey is reported to have said that "when once an engine is put into a ship the charm of the sea is gone." All through our voyage also there was a fascinating sense of having put back the hands of time. This was the route and these in the main the conditions under which our ancestors, the early Empire builders, travelled to India; later we were on the track of Drake, Anson, and others. Some of Drake's ships were apparently about the size of Mana.1 The world has been shrinking of late, and to return to a simpler day is to restore much of its size and dignity.
FIG. 2 — PORTO SANTO.
Madeira was settled by the Portuguese early in the fifteenth century. With the exception of an interlude in the Napoleonic wars, when it was taken by England, it has ever since been a possession of that country.
The Canary group consists of some nine islands, of which the most important are Teneriffe and Grand Canary. They have been known from the earliest times, but European sovereignty did not begin till 1402, and it was the end of the century before all the islands became subject to the crown of Castile. This prolonged warfare was due to the very brave resistance offered by the original inhabitants, known as Guanches. These very interesting people, who are of Berber extraction, withstood the Spaniards till 1483, and the name of Grand Canary is said to have been obtained from their stubborn defence. The final defeat of the natives was largely due to the terror inspired by their first sight of a body of cavalry which the Spaniards had landed on the island. The Guanches of Teneriffe held out till 1496. The Canaries were thus subdued just in time to become a steppingstone to the New World. The horses of the cavalry were carried to America, and formed part of the stock from which sprang the wild American mustang.
The aspect of our new harbour, Puerto de la Luz by name, was somewhat depressing. On its south side is the mainland of the island, which consists of sandhills, behind which are bleak, arid-looking mountains, whose summits during the whole of our three weeks' stay were continuously veiled in mist. The west side is formed by the promontory of Isleta, which would be an island save that it is connected with Grand Canary by a sand isthmus washed up by the sea, much after the manner that Gibraltar is united to the Spanish mainland. The remainder of the protection for the harbour consists of artificial breakwaters. The only spot on which the eye rests with pleasure is a distant view of a cluster of houses, above which rises a cathedral; this is the capital. Las Palmas, which lies two or three miles to the south. The effect made on the newcomer, especially after leaving luxuriant Madeira, is that of having been transported into the heart of Africa.
The port, if not attractive, is at any rate prosperous. The Canaries are still a stepping-stone to the New World, and in accordance with modern requirements have turned into a great coaling station. In Puerto de la Luz six or seven different firms compete for the work. The British Consul, Major Swanston, gave us a most interesting account of his duties during the South African War in revictualling the transports which called here. Mention should not be omitted of the delightful new institute of the British and Foreign Sailors' Society, with billiard-room, reading-room, and arranged concerts, to which our men were very glad to resort; but indeed we met similar kind provision in so many ports that it seems invidious to particularise.
This was my first experience of life in a foreign port as "stewardess," for our stay at Madeira was only an interlude. To passengers on a mail steamer the time so spent is generally concerned with changing into shore clothes, and making up parties for dinner on land to avoid the exigencies of coaling. To those in charge of a small boat its aspect is very different . Much of it is not a time of leisure, but to be an acting member of a British ship in a foreign port is distinctly exhilarating. It brings with it a sense both of being a humble representative of one's own nationality, and also of belonging to the great busy fraternity of the sea. First, as land is approached, comes the running up of the ensign and burgee; then the making of the ship's number, as the signal station is passed, which will in due course be reported to Lloyds; next follows the entry into port, and the awaiting of the harbour-master, on whose fiat it hangs where the vessel shall take up her berth. He is succeeded by doctor and customs officer to examine the ship's papers; and all these are matters not for some mysterious personages with gold braid, but of personal interest.
As soon as the yacht is safely berthed the Master goes on shore to visit the consul, and obtain the longed-for letters and newspapers. In the food department the important question of food at once arises. My hope had always been that we should have found a steward capable of taking over this responsibility, but though we had various changes, and paid the highest wages, we were never able to get one sufficiently reliable, and the work therefore fell on the Stewardess. We at first used to go on shore and cater personally, which is no doubt the most satisfactory method, but in view of the time involved we subsequently relied on the "ships' chandlers," who are universal providers, to be found in all ports of any size, and who will bring fresh stores to the ship daily. A very careful examination and comparison of prices is necessary, for one of the annoying parts of owning a boat is that even the smallest yacht-owner is considered fair game for extortion and dishonest dealing. The variation in the cost of commodities in different harbours requires a very elastic mind on the part of the housekeeper, both as to menus in port and purchases for the next stage of the voyage. It puts an extremely practical interest into the list of exports, which formed so dreary a part of geography as taught in one's own childhood. At Las Palmas prices were much as in pre-war England; at our next port, in Cape Verde Islands, the best meat was sixpence a pound, and fish sufficient for four cost threepence, but the cost of bread was high. At Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere in South America, though most things were ruinous, we obtained enough coffee at very reasonable prices to carry us home; while in Buenos Aires, with mutton at fourpence a pound, it was a matter of regret that the hold was not twice as large.
FIG. 3. LAS PALMAS, GRAND CANARY.
We were glad when we were at last able to see something of the country. If the harbour of Luz is not beautiful, the road from it into Las Palmas is still less so. It runs between the sea and arid sandhills, and abounds in ruts and dust; as there is also no street lighting, "the rates," as S. remarked, "can hardly be high." Half-way along this road there stand, for no very obvious reason, the English Church and Club, also a good hotel, the Santa Catalina, belonging to a steamship company; otherwise it is bordered by poor and unattractive houses of stucco, the inhabitants of which seem permanently seated at the windows to watch the passers-by. Happily the distance is traversed by means of trams, owned by a company with English capital, which run frequently between the port and the city and do the journey in twenty minutes.
Las Palmas itself is not unpicturesque. Its main feature is a stony river-bed, which runs down the centre of the city and is spanned by various bridges; it was empty when we saw it, but is no doubt at times, even in this waterless land, filled with a raging, boiling current from the mountains. In the principal square, opposite the cathedral, is the museum, which contains an admirable anthropological collection, concerned mostly with relics of the Guanches. When we were there the city was gay with bunting and grand stands for a fiesta, in celebration of the anniversary of the union of the islands with the crown of Castile; a flying man, a carnival, and an outdoor cinema entertainment were among the chief excitements. At one of the hotels we discussed politics with the waiter, who was a native of the island. He had been in England, but never in Spain; nevertheless, he seemed in touch with the situation in the ruling country. There would, he declared, be great changes in Spain in the next fifteen years. The King did his best in difficult circumstances, but anti-clerical feeling was too strong to allow of the continuation of the present state of things. In Grand Canary there was, he said, the same feeling as in Spain against the constant exactions of the Church. The women were still devout, but you might go into any village and talk against the Church and meet with sympathy from the men. He himself was a socialist, and as such "had no country”; countries were for rich people who had something belonging to them, something to lose; for those who had to work all countries were the same." He only lived in Canary, he said, because his people were there. We pointed out that the bond with one's own people was precisely what made one country home and not another, but the argument fell flat.
The great charm of the island lies in the mountainous character of the interior region. Three roads radiate from the capital, one along the coast to the north, another to the south, and the third inland. Along all these it is necessary to travel some distance before points of interest are reached, and we were at the disadvantage of never being able to be more than a night or two away from the ship without returning to see how the work on board was progressing. On all the main routes are run motor-buses, which are chiefly characterised by indications of impending dissolution, and inspire awe by the rapidity with which they turn corners without any preliminary easing down. The natives, however, appeared to think that the accidents were not unreasonably numerous.
In addition to motors there are local "coaches" drawn by horses, after the manner of covered wagonettes; they will no doubt be gradually superseded by the motors, but still command considerable custom. Both types of vehicles are delightfully vague in the hours which they keep, being just as likely to start too soon as too late, thus presupposing an indefinite amount of time for the passengers to spend at the starting-place.
Our first expedition was by the inland or middle road, which winds up by the bleak hillside till it reaches a beautiful and attractive country. To those unaccustomed to such latitudes, it comes as a surprise to see fertility increasing instead of diminishing with elevation, due to the more constant rain among the hills. Monte and Santa Brigida may be said to be residential neighbourhoods and have comfortable hotels and boarding-houses. There are two principal sights to be visited from there. One is the village of Atalaya, which consists of a zone of cave dwellings, almost encircling the summit of a dome-shaped hill. The eminence falls away on two sides to a deep ravine, over which it commands magnificent views, and is connected with the adjacent hills by a narrow coll. The rock is of consolidated volcanic tuff, in which the dwellings are excavated. The fronts of the houses abut on the pathway, which is about four feet wide, and are unequally placed, following the contour of the ground. Each dwelling consists of two apartments, both about twelve feet square, with rounded angles and a domed roof, the surface of the walls shows the chisel-marks. The front apartment is used as a bed-sitting-room, the back one as a store; and in some cases a lean-to outhouse has been built of blocks of the same material, in which cooking is done and the goats kept. Doors and window-sashes are inserted into the solid stone. Both dwellings and surroundings are beautifully clean and neat; the first one exhibited we imagined to be a “show" apartment, till others proved equally neat and orderly. Flowers were planted in crannies of the rock and around the doors and windows, being carefully tended and watered. The industry of the village is making pots by hand without a wheel, the sand being obtained in one direction and the clay in another: the shapes coincide in several instances with those taken from native burial-grounds and now to be seen in the museum at Las Palmas. The occasion of our visit was unfortunately a fiesta, and regular work was not going on: an old lady, however, made us a model pot in a few minutes; it was fashioned out of one piece of clay, with the addition of a little extra material if necessary: the pottery is unglazed. Various specimens of the art were obtained by the Expedition and are now in the Pitt-Rivers Museum at Oxford.
About half a mile from these troglodyte abodes, and adjoining the coll, is an extraordinarily fine specimen of an extinct crater or caldero. Its walls are almost vertical and unclad by vegetation: about two-thirds of the circumference is igneous rock, and the rest black volcanic ash, which exhibits the stratification in the most marked manner. The crater is about 1,000 feet deep, the floor is flat and dry, and the visitor looks down on a house at the bottom and cultivated fields.
We returned to Mana for a night or two, and then made an expedition by motor along the north road, sleeping at the picturesque village of Fergas, and from thence by mule over the beautiful mountain-track to Santa Brigida. We changed animals en route, and the price asked for a fresh beast was outrageous. We were prepared under the circumstances to pay it, when the portly lady of the inn, who was obviously "a character," beckoned us mysteriously round a corner, and, though we had scarcely two words of any language in common, gave us emphatically to understand that we were on no account to be so swindled, she would see we got another. This, however, was not accomplished for another hour, with the result that the last part of the journey was traversed in total darkness, and the lights of the hotel were very welcome.
Mana being still in the hands of work-people, we made our next way by the south road to the town of Telde, near which is a mountain known as Montana de las Cuatro Puertas, where are a wonderful series of caves connected with the Guanches. The road from Las Palmas skirts the seacoast for a large part of the way, being frequently cut into the cliff-face and in one place passing through a tunnel: the town lies on the lowland not far from the sea. We arrived late in the afternoon, and endeavoured to make a bargain for rooms with the burly landlord of the rather humble little inn. As difficulties supervened a man who spoke a little English was called in to act as interpreter. He turned out to be a vendor of ice-creams who had visited London, and to make the acquaintance of the exponent of such a trade in his native surroundings was naturally a most thrilling experience. He expressed a great desire to return to that land of wealth, England, though his knowledge of our language was so extremely limited he had obviously, when there, associated principally with his own countrymen.
for a stroll before dark, noticing the system of irrigation: the water is
preserved in large tanks, from which it is distributed in all directions by
small channels, and so valuable is it that these conduits are in many cases
made of stone faced with Portland cement. They are now, however, in some
instances being replaced by iron pipes, which have naturally the merit of
saving loss by evaporation. Canary is a land where the owner of a spring has
literally a gold-mine. This is the most celebrated district for oranges. After
our evening meal we joined the company in the central plaza of the little town. The moon shone down through the trees;
young men sat and smoked, and young girls, wearing white mantillas, strolled
about in companies of four or five, chatting gaily. The elders belonged to the
village club, which opened on to the square; it was confined seemingly to one
room, of which the whole space was occupied by a billiard-table; this, however,
was immaterial, as the company spent a large part of the time in the plaza, an arrangement which doubtless
had the merit of saving house rent. A little way down a side street the light
streamed from the inn windows. Nearer at hand the church stood out against the
sky; it was May, the month of the Virgin Mary, and a special service in her
honour had just concluded. One felt a momentary expectation that Faust and
Marguerite or other friends from stage-land would appear on the scene; they may
of course have been there unrecognised by us.
FIG. 4. — PORTO GRANDE, ST. VINCENT,
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS.
We discovered after much trouble that a motor-bus ran through the village early next morning, passing close to the mountain which we had come to visit, and could drop us on the way. We passed a fairly comfortable night, though not undiversified by suspicions that our beds were occupied by earlier denizens; and had just begun breakfast when the bus appeared, some time before the earliest hour specified. We had to tear down and catch it, leaving the meal barely tasted; the kind attendant following us and pressing into our hand the deserted fried fish done up in a piece of newspaper. Such hurry, however, proved to be quite unnecessary, as we had not got beyond the precincts of the small town before the vehicle came to an unpremeditated stop, through the fan which cools the radiator having broken. We waited half an hour or so in company with our fellow-passengers, who appeared stolidly resigned, and then, as there seemed no obvious prospect of continuing our journey, grew restless. Here again the ice-cream man acted as deus ex machina: he was standing about with the crowd which had assembled, blowing a horn at intervals, and distributing ices not infrequently to small infants, whose fond mammas provided the requisite penny; he told us he generally made a sum equal to about one-and-sixpence a day in this manner. Grasping our difficulty, he delivered an impassioned address on our need to the assembled multitude, which after further delay resulted in the appearance of a wagonette and mules. The Montana de las Cuatro Puertas rises out of comparatively level ground near the coast and commands magnificent views. The top is honeycombed with caves, and one towards the north has the four entrances from which the mountain takes its name. It is said to have been the site of funeral rites of the inhabitants. The place is both impressive and interesting, and would well repay more careful study than the superficial view which was all it was possible for us to give it.
We decided to return to Las Palmas in the local coach, as we had previously found travelling by this means both cheap and quite comfortable. This time, however, our luck was otherwise. The vehicle could have reasonably held eleven, but one passenger after another joined it along the route, one newcomer was constrained to find a seat on the pole, another stood on the step, and so forth, till we numbered twenty, of all ages and sexes. The day was hot, but the good-natured greeting, almost welcome, which was given to each arrival by the original passengers made us hesitate to show the feelings which consumed us. The sentiments of the horses are not recorded, but we gathered that they were more analogous to our own.
All on Mana was at length ready. There were the usual good-byes and parting duties: the bank had to be visited, all bills settled, and letters posted. Last of all a bill of health had to be obtained from the representative of the country to which the ship was bound, certifying that she came from a clean port and that all on board were well.
We left Las Palmas on Saturday, May 10th: the trade wind was still with us, the weather delightful, and we did the distance to St. Vincent, Cape Verde Islands, in seven days. We had heard nothing but evil of it. “An impossible place;" "another Aden;" "a mere cinder-heap." It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find ourselves in a most beautiful harbour. Rugged mountains of imposing height rise on three sides of the bay, Porto Grande, and the fourth is protected by the long high coastline of the neighbouring island, San Antonio. Standing out in the entrance of the bay is the conical Birds' Rock, looking as if designed by nature for the lighthouse it carries. The colouring is indescribable: all the nearer mountains are what can only be termed a glowing red, which, as distance increases, softens into heliotrope. On the edge of the bay and at the foot of the eastern hills lies the town of Mindello. A building law, made with the object of avoiding glare, forbids any house to be painted white, and the resulting colour-washes, red, yellow, and blue, if sometimes a little crude, tone on the whole well into the landscape.
If beauty of form and strange weird colouring are the first things which strike the newcomer to St. Vincent, the next, it must be admitted, is the marvellous bleakness of the place. Hillsides and mountains stand out bare and rugged, without showing, on a cursory inspection at any rate, the least sign of vegetation. One of the characteristics also of the place is the constant tearing wind. During the whole of our visit of some ten days we were never able to find a day when it was calm enough for Mrs. Taylor, the wife of the British Consul, to face the short passage from the harbour and visit Mana. This wind is purely local and a short distance off dies away. How, one is inclined to ask, can it be possible for English men and women to endure life in a tropical glare, with a perpetual wind without any trees, any grass, any green on which to rest the eye? And yet we found over and over again that, though the comer from greener worlds is at first unhappy and restless in St. Vincent, those who had been there some time found life pleasant and enjoyable and had no desire to exchange it.
There are several coaling and other English firms, and local society rejoices in as many as thirty English ladies. The cable company has over a hundred employees, of whom the greater number are English. The unmarried members of the staff live together in the station, each having a bed-sitting-room and dining in a common hall. There is an English chaplain, and also a Baptist minister, who is the proprietor of the principal shop. The chaplain had the experience, which everyone must have felt would happen some time to someone, of being carried off involuntarily on an ocean-going steamer. He was saying good-bye to friends, missed the warning bell, and before he knew was en route for a port in South America, to which he had duly to proceed. For recreation St. Vincent possesses a tennis-court and cricket-field: the last is in a particularly arid spot some distance from the town, which is however already planned out on paper by the authorities with streets and houses for prospective needs; in the design the pitch is left vacant and named in Portuguese "Game of Cricket," the remainder of the field being filled in anticipation with a grove of trees.
Some of the residents have villas among the hills or by one of the scarce oases. We made an excursion to one of these last resorts which is a famed beauty-spot, and found it a narrow gulch between two mountains, with a little stream and a few unhappy vegetables and woebegone trees. It was difficult to imagine, while traversing the road along one hillside after another, each covered with nothing but rocks and rubble, on what the few animals subsisted; it was remarked that the milk could not need sterilising, as the cows fed only on stones. The rains occur in August, after which the hills are covered with a small green plant. We were told that some of the valleys higher up are comparatively fruitful, and certainly it is possible to obtain vegetables at a not unreasonable price. The women who live in the hills carry back quite usually, after a shopping expedition, loads of seventy to eighty pounds for a distance of perhaps three miles, with a rise of 900 feet, making the whole journey in two and a half hours.
The British Consul, Captain Taylor, R.N., has with much enterprise established a body of Boy Scouts among the youthful inhabitants. An attractive member of the corps, wearing a becoming and sensible uniform, accompanied us as guide on two occasions, when we made excursions on the island, giving the whole afternoon to us. He declined to accept any remuneration, as it was against the principles of his order to be paid for doing a good turn. Other youthful natives are less useful and more grasping. One small imp, with a swarthy complexion and head like an overgrown radish, became our constant follower. The acquaintance began one day when S. was carrying a large biscuit-tin from the post office, in which some goods had just arrived from England: he followed him down the pier, beseeching, “Oh, Captain Biscuit-Tin, give me one penny." Every time after this, when S. went on shore for business or pleasure, “Biscuit-Tin," as we in our turn named the boy, was there awaiting him. Once, in stepping out of the boat on to the rusty iron ladder of the jetty, his toe almost caught on a small round head as it emerged from the water uttering the cry, "Oh, Captain, where is that penny?” A crowd had surrounded the landing-stage, so the boy had dived into the water as the easiest way of approach. He expressed the desire to come with us to Buenos Aires, undeterred by the information which S. gravely gave him that "all the boys on board were beaten every day, with an extra beating on Saturday." The avocation which he proposed to fill was that of cook's boy, as he "would have much to eat." He followed us for the whole of one expedition, eventually obtaining "that penny" as we shoved off from the pier for the last time, an hour before sailing. He clapped it into his cheek, as a monkey does a nut, and held out his hand to me for another; but I was already in the boat, and a coin was not forthcoming; so that the last which we saw of "Biscuit-Tin" he was still demanding "one penny."
We brought away from St. Vincent a permanent addition to our party, a Portuguese negro of fine build, by name Bartolomeo Rosa. The rest of the crew accepted his companionship without hesitation and naturally christened him "Tony." Later we found, with sympathy, that he was wearing goloshes, in a temperature when most of the party were only too happy to go shoeless, because Light, who had more particularly taken him under his wing, said "the sight of his black feet puts me off my food." Rosa remained with us to the end of the voyage. He learnt English slowly, and would never have risen to the rank of A.B., but was always quiet, steady, and dependable. He drew but little of his wages, and had therefore a considerable sum standing to his credit when we returned to Southampton. He proposed, he said, to go back to his old mother at St. Vincent and there set up with his earnings as a trader. He would get a shop, stock it, and marry a wife, and she would attend to the customers, while he would sit outside the door on the head of a barrel and smoke. When it was suggested that such a course would inevitably end in drink, he added a boat to the programme, in which he would sometimes go out and catch fish.
We were detained at St. Vincent awaiting the arrival of a spare piece of machinery, and occupied the time by watering the yacht at the bay of Tarafel in the island of San Antonio. A stream from the high ground there finds its way to the sea, and supplies the water for the town of Mindello. The lower part of its banks are fertile, forming a beautiful, if small, spot of verdure amid the arid surroundings. Light, with the green hills of Devonshire in mind, remarked, “It is very nice, ma'am, what there is of it — only there is so little."
When we brought up, the men went into the shallow water and shot the trammel in order to obtain some fresh fish. This brought on board an elderly gentleman, Seńior Martinez, the official in charge of the place, who was not unnaturally indignant at what he imagined to be a foreign fishing vessel at work in territorial waters. We were able to explain matters, and were much interested in making his acquaintance. He had never visited England, but spoke English well, kept it up by means of magazines, and was greatly delighted with the gift of some literature. He welcomed us as the first English yacht which had been there since the visit of the Sunbeam in 1876, of which he spoke as if it had been yesterday.
Having got our package from England, we finally quitted the friendly harbour of Porto Grande on Thursday afternoon. May 29th, sailing forth once more, this time to cross the Atlantic, with the little shiver and thrill which it still gave some of us when we committed our bodies to the deep for a long and lonely voyage, even with every hope of a resurrection on the other side of the ocean. After we sighted St. Jago, the capital of the Cape Verde group, on the following day, we saw no trace of human life for thirteen days; so that if mischance occurred there was nothing and no one to help in all the blue sea and sky. The self-sufficiency needed by those who go down to the sea in ships is almost appalling.
Instead of making direct for Pernambuco, we steered first of all due south, carrying with us the north-east trade, in order to cross the Doldrums to the best advantage, and catch the south-east trade as soon as possible on the other side. The calm belt may be expected just north of the Equator, but its position varies with climatic conditions, and it was therefore a matter of excitement to know how long we should keep the wind. In the opinion of our authorities it might leave us on Sunday and could not be with us beyond Tuesday. The engineer, whose duty had so far been light, had been chaffingly warned by the rest of the crew that his turn would come in the tropics, when he would have to work below for twenty-four hours on end.
On Sunday S. gave orders that the engine was to be started by day or night, whenever the officer in command of the watch thought it necessary; but still the north-east trade held good. On Monday all hands were at work stowing the mainsail, for as soon as the calm came the squalls were expected which are typical of that part of the world. On Tuesday evening, when according to calculation we should have been out of its zone, we were still travelling before the wind, and we began to congratulate ourselves with trembling, that our passage would be more rapid than we had ventured to hope. All Wednesday, however, the breeze was very light, and we kept our finger on its pulse as on that of a sick man. By Thursday it had faded and had died away, the sails hung slack, the gear rattled noisily, the motor was run. The air was hot, damp, and sticky, with heavy squalls, and the nights were trying. It is impossible to sleep on the deck of a small sailing ship, with so many strings about and someone always pulling at something, so we roamed from our berths to cabin floors and saloon settees and back again, “seeking rest and finding none." The thermometer in the cabin never throughout the voyage rose to more than eighty-three degrees, but, as is well known, it is humidity and lack of air rather than the absolute height of temperature which determine comfort. Friday afternoon increased air roused our hopes; but, alas! it soon subsided, and during the night we again relied on the engine. Saturday morning was still squally, with a grey sea and heavy showers, but there was really a slight breeze. Was it or was it not, we asked under our breath, the beginning of the new wind? By ten o'clock there was no longer room for doubt: the south-east trade was blowing strong and full, and the ship, like some living creature suddenly let loose, bounding away before it for very joy. It felt like nothing so much as a wonderful gallop over ridge and furrow after a long and anxious wait at covert-side.
FIG 5. — A GROUP ON DECK.
A. Light; Steward; B. Rosa; Under-Steward; C. Jeffery; W. Marks; F. Preston (Mate); H. J. Gillam (Sailing-master).
We crossed the Equator in glorious weather about 9 p.m. on Monday, June 9th. None of the forecastle had been over before: Father Neptune did not feel equal to visiting them, but some addition to the fare was much appreciated. I was the doyen of the party, with now seven crossings to my credit. Flying-fish came at times on board from the shoals through which we passed, “Portuguese men-of-war" floated by the ship, and schools of porpoises played about her bows. The wind on the whole stood our friend for the rest of the way, and during the last week of the voyage the average daily run was 147 miles on our course, the highest record being 179 miles on June 14th. We continued, however, to have squalls and rain at intervals, as we were running into the rainy season; and it was through a mist that on Sunday, June 15th, after a passage of seventeen days, we strained our eyes to see the South American coast. It dawned at last on our view, a flat and somewhat low land; then came into sight the towers and coconut palms of Pernambuco, and the passage of the Atlantic was accomplished.
1 The Pelican, or Golden Hinde, was 120 tons; the Elizabeth 80 tons, and three smaller ships were 50, 30, and 12 tons respectively. The crews all told were 160 men and boys. — Froude's English Seamen, p. 112.