OUTWARD BOUND FROM PLYMOUTH Published in Lights and Shadows of Colonial Life by Sarah Courage, 1896
It was on the evening of December 22nd, 1863, that my husband and myself sailed from Plymouth in the good ship Frenchman. A very young and lonely couple we were on that cold and dreary winter's evening. A thick fog hung over every- thing like a white pall - how well I remember it.' We felt indeed that we were leaving hope behind with the last glimpse of our friends' faces, as we stood in the gathering darkness on the deck of an outward-bound ship, our dear home shores growing more distant as every minute carried us, as it were, further into the unknown. Our ship was a small one and we had but few passengers, none of them being very congenial spirits. A sea voyage has been so often and so well described that the subject has become somewhat hackneyed, else I would tell of the many petty squabbles and more discomforts which must be the inevitable accompaniments of a long (three months) voyage in a small sailing ship. We had very little to vary the monotony of our lives on board, except the dreadful storm which most people experience when they 'go down to the sea in ships'. On referring to my journal (which I have always kept), I see there is mention made of one storm very terrifying to us at the time, during which we ladies sat on the saloon table for the greater part of a long and never-to-be-forgotten night. The saloon and cabins were filled with water, and we were continually slipping off that table at every pitch and plunge of the vessel. Then the mast was carried away - such a crash and roar of waters and wind, I shall never forget it. In the midst of all the tumult there was most perfect discipline on deck - no cries or shoutings were heard to impede or confuse the clear orders given in quick succession by the captain (and repeated by his officers as occasion required), himself infusing courage into the minds of others by his coolness and self-command. It was the 24th of March when we arrived at Lyttelton heads, in the evening. The night was clear and bright, and we could see the Port Hills, which are high and seemed to us very imposing, and would be called mountains at home. 'Home', I will here remark, always means England, for nobody except a born colonist calls New Zealand 'home', not even those who, like ourselves, have been here over a quarter of a century- we always look upon England as a haven of rest. But my pen is running away with me. There were no houses to be seen, for the township was not visible from where the vessel lay at anchor - that was a treat reserved for the morrow. It seemed to us as though the peace of heaven had suddenly fallen upon us as we were anchored in that calm bay, no sound being heard but the sighing of the wind and the gentle lap-lapping of the water against the sides, there being no movement of the ship perceptible. The extreme silence made the reaction seem greater after the perpetual heaving and creaking of the ship as she laboured along. Early next morning the pilot came alongside with Health and Customs' officers, and we were towed into Lyttelton Harbour. Everybody was up betimes on that morning, and on going on deck a beautiful and refreshing sight greeted our sea-weary eyes. The lofty peaks of the Port Hills were bathed in bright sun- shine, lighting up the valleys. The effects produced by the lights and shadows resting on the hills and various ridges were lovely, making the low points to stand out sharply defined. Then the one-storied houses were objects of beauty; the verandas covered as they were with bright-coloured creeping plants; while high up on either side of the hills, gardens were laid out in square enclosures here and there, green and beauti- ful. Round the cottages the gardens were glowing with the gayest flowers, now in their autumnal beauty, which with the bright sunshine formed a picture not easily forgotten. The township of Lyttelton (I may say for the information of readers of this book in England or elsewhere) is the chief port of Canterbury; it is situated eight miles from Christchurch and is a town of some 4000 inhabitants. Lyttelton lies on the side of what looks like the half of an immense crater. The houses, which are nearly all built of wood, are dotted over the sides of the hill, but towards the water they are continuous, while there are quite a number of imposing looking brick, stone and concrete buildings, evidently places of business. The whole gives life and brightness to the sides of the hill. 'It looks just like a hive with one side knocked clean away.' We felt that we were in a new world; yet a very short time sufficed to show us that people and things generally were much more home-like than we had anticipated; in fact, we were agreeably surprised to find everybody and everything so civilised. So our voyage was ended at last; and it was with many feelings of regret that we - or at least I, for my husband hates the sea - bade farewell to the good ship which had been our home for three months and had brought us safely over fifteen thousand miles to our destination. Transcribed by Corey Woodw@rd
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