GRAVESEND TO WELLINGTON VIA LYTTELTON Published in Adventures of a Surveyor by John Rochfort, 1853
It was on that unluckly day, Friday, that the pretty clipper schooner “Marmora” hove to off Gravesend for her passengers; as we pulled alongside, Captain K...y welcomed us from the quarter-deck, at the same moment the pilot gave the order “to brace the fore yard forrard,” and the obedient vessel started down the river at the rate of eight knots an hour. Several watermen came alongside, evidently thinking it a good opportunity to get towed down the stream; the mate however took an axe and cut them adrift, leaving them cursing and swearing far behind. Our captain now brought out cigars, and we went below to drink to our better acquaintance. In the cabin everything was in confusion, blocked up with mail-bags, papers, boxes, beds, and “dunnage;” we found it a difficult task to get in: at sunset we brought up in Margate Roads, an anchor watch was set, and we again went below. It is now that a passenger finds time hang heavy on his hands: he has been idle all day, and consequently is not tired: restless and impatient he walks up and down the deck; everything on board is quiet, the “foremast hands” are all “turned in,” except the anchor watch, and the same tantalizing piece of land is still in sight. The vessel was poorly manned, but the mate, Mr. T...y, was a pleasant, quiet fellow and a good seaman, unlike many who by blustering and swearing make themselves hated by “all hands” (who never let a safe opportunity pass of taking their revenge); he gave his orders in a firm, quiet manner, which always ensured the cheerful “Ay, ay, sir.” When a sailor is disobedient or impudent to an officer of the watch, it is usual to send him aloft to grease down the masts or tar the rigging: this is called giving him a “job;” if he refuses he is put in irons. Next morning we weighed anchor and beat up to the Downs, where we again brought up for the night, and our pilot left us, wishing us a speedy voyage. On awaking in the morning we were disappointed to find a light head wind blowing, and a number of ships of all sorts and sizes, from the noble “East Indiaman” to the clumsy “Billy boy,” wind-bound like ourselves; but our little craft (being only 135 tons register, and in good trim for working to windward) was managed like a yacht, so the word was given to weigh anchor, and we went out, as the sailors say, “to look for a wind.” Arrived off Dover, we “lay to” for our owner, Mr. D....e, whose boat we soon discovered stealing out from the land: he came on board accompanied by three friends, whom the captain asked down to take some refreshment, but their faces turned white at the bare idea, and one shortly after had his head very suspiciously over the ship's side. I had a hearty laugh at him, but half an hour afterwards I was wishing the good ship Marmora at the bottom of the sea, and would gladly have been set ashore anywhere, had it not been for shame. Not long after, our owner left us, and Captain K…y saluted him by dipping the ensign three several times in token of submission. Towards dusk we made out Dungeness, and next day had that dread of sailors, a dead calm, but were amply compensated for it by a most magnificent sunset: we lay like a log on the water till morning, when a fine breeze sprang up from the southward and eastward, and we were again bowling along merrily at the rate of eight knots an hour: this put us in high spirits; but as breakfast was not ready at the usual time, and Englishmen will eat in whatever position they are placed, Captain K....y went on deck to know the reason. He found the steward making ineffectual attempts to stand on his legs and light the galley fire; it was quite clear to the captain that the man was intoxicated, so he rated him soundly, and threatened either to set him ashore at Plymouth or put him in irons. Another hand was employed to get breakfast ready, and the captain came below to see what liquor the man had taken: he soon discovered that a pint of brandy and two bottles of wine, which were partly broached, had vanished from the swinging tray: besides, the rum-cask was under his control. After breakfast we were busy writing to our friends, expecting to fall in with a fishing-boat, by which we could send our letters ashore. By this time the steward had resumed his duty, and, seeing my brother writing, he asked him for a pencil and sheet of paper, which he gave him, little thinking it was to write his last sentence. A little while after I was on the quarter-deck, enjoying the fresh cool breeze, and watching the headlands astern shutting in the white cliffs we had left, and those in front opening out the beautiful bays of Devonshire, when the carpenter called out “Man overboard!” The captain rushed frantically on deck; “A hand to the mast-head,” said he, “and look if you can see him. The rest of you search the forecastle and find out whether he has secreted himself anywhere.” “Ay, ay, sir,” returned the ready seamen, without showing any surprise. They looked everywhere it was possible for a man to hide, without finding a trace of him. “Can't see anything of him, sir,” said the look-out from aloft. Captain K..y was very much agitated, and said he had been at sea eleven years and had never seen such an occurrence before: “However,” said he, “God help him! I cannot.” Our boat was stowed amidships. and with the few hands we now had it would have been impossible to get it out under an hour; besides, the man was not to be seen; he had dropped in from the head, and the ship must have struck, and most likely stunned him, which would have caused him to sink at once. “Please, sir,” said one of the seamen to the captain, coming up the companion ladder, “I found this bit of paper in the pantry:” and sure enough it was the paper my brother had given the steward, with “I'm gone astern, so help me G—d!” scrawled on it in pencil. This satisfied the captain that his act was premeditated, so he at once entered it in his official log-book. This event however naturally cast a gloom over our spirits, but the crew did not seem to care much about it, as they had not been shipmates long, and in the afternoon, at the auction of his clothes which ensued, there was a good deal of competition. Every master of a vessel is obliged to sell by auction the effects of such sailors as die at sea in his ship, and to forward the money to a government office in London, where the nearest relations can have it by applying. This is done to prevent his shipmates from plundering his chest. Captain K… y divided the deceased steward's wages between the crew (which now consisted of four able seamen), to compensate them for the extra work they had to do, as he did not want to put in for another hand, for, the wind being fair, we should thereby lose a great deal of time. Next day we took our departture from the Lizard, the last English land we were to see for years, perhaps for ever; however, the Marmora was soon out of the “chaps of the Channel” and stood away to the southward. We arrived at the Line without anything worthy of remark. Here we overtook the barque William Hyde, Captain A......e, bound to the same port as ourselves. X Captain A.....e and his chaplain Mr. C.... n boarded us, and kindly asked us to dine with them, and we accepted their invitation. We found many of her passengers still suffering from sea-sickness, and, singularly enough, they had left Gravesend a day after us. This ship had a fine crew of eighteen able seamen. On the Sunday previous, during service, they had experienced a very heavy squall and nearly lost their Reverend gentleman. It happened thus: —Mrs. A……..e was accompanying the Psalms upon the piano. The ship was pitching and tossing about, and Mr. C….n, the parson, was clinging to the said musical instrument to keep himself from falling whilst singing: now, he was a spare lean man, with a very sallow complexion, extremely precise in his manners, and always insisted on having the Psalms read and sung, blow high or blow low, every Sunday. He had a great horror of cards, and prohibited their use on board. Captain A.....e however was very fond of a game, and used to play privately in his state room with some of the passengers. The wind was still increasing and the congregation singing, when the ship gave a heavy lee lurch: the piano, which was lashed to a ringbolt in the deck, was carried away, taking the unfortunate clergyman along with it, jambing him up against the vessel's side, and drawing from him A sharp with great applause from the company. At the same moment a pack of cards slid out from some unknown shelf, to the great horror of Mr. C....n. On deck everything was neat and trim. From the poor our little craft looked very picturesque with her long low hull and raking masts, putting one in mind of a slaver. The mate, who had charge of her during the captain's absence, showed his pride in her better sailing qualities, by running her jibboom into the William Hyde's stern windows, and sailing round her. One of the passengers had a fawn, which he meant to take to New Zealand; another had a pair of pheasants; and others had entered into partnership in buying a cow, which supplied them with new milk on the passage. After spending a pleasant afternoon we returned to our own ship, and were greeted with three hearty cheers from the William Hyde. We no sooner touched our own deck than the captain gave orders to make all sail. A sort of tacit understanding existed between the two captains that they were to have a match, and we (the passengers) assisted in trimming sail. The William Hyde was staggering under a heavy press of canvas, but the light wind was more in our favour, because she was a much larger vessel: the wind that would carry us along at the rate of seven miles an hour would scarcely propel her six; consequently, at daylight next morning, we could only just see her royals above the horizon astern of us. We had tolerably fine weather after this until we rounded the Cape of Good Hope, when a strong breeze sprang up from the westward; during the ensuing night the wind died away and chopped round ahead of us. Though not blowing at all hard, our vessel was labouring fearfully; she had nearly all sail set, even the flying jib, when one unusually heavy sea struck her, dipped her in head first, and filled the jibs with water, carrying away the jib-boom and fore-topmast, leaving us a complete wreck. This accident delayed us a few days until the carpenter could make a new topmast. It was a narrow escape for the crew: they had just come down from reefing the topsail, and were actually hoisting up the yard, when it was carried away: had they remained aloft four minutes longer, they would all have been lost, and we should have had to bear up under easy sail for Adelaide. Approaching two or three sailors who were gathered together near the fore-rigging, and talking over our late mishap, I overheard one say, “I knew we should be unlucky when we left the docks on a Friday.” — “Why, what do you think I heard when I came home from the East Indies?” says another. “Our owner, thinking he knew as much about salt water as any old sea-dog, turned to and had a craft built expressly, and called her the Friday: the keel was laid on a Friday, and she sailed out on a Friday, and has never since been heard of.” (This really happened in London: a merchant tried to do away with the foolish superstition by disproving it, but unfortunately the ship foundered at sea.) The time now passed heavily: we had been out about eighty-seven days, and were confidently expecting to be in port in a week, when this unfortunate accident occurred; we had lost our headsails, without which a schooner can do nothing when sailing “on a wind.” At the expiration of a week we were under sail once more, and after a run of 108 days we sighted Stewart's Island, the southernmost island of New Zealand. New Zealand consists of three islands; the most northerly is called Raheinomauwe. This island lies between 34° 20' and 41° 40' south latitude, and between 172° 30' and 178° 40' east longitude; the lower portion of it is between 38° and 39° south latitude, is more than 150 miles across, and contains about 36,000 square miles; the northern portion is a narrow tongue of land, about forty miles in length, scarcely anywhere more than eight miles across. A range of hills run down the centre, which are constantly covered with snow, and are called by the white man the Southern Alps. This island is separated from Tavai-poenammoo by Cook's Straits, which is about 150 miles long, bears from the eastern entrance north by west, and is from thirty to fifty miles in width: a strong tide runs through, and heavy rains are of frequent occurrence. There are two small islands in the straits, called Kapiti and Marna. The former, which is the largest, is about twenty-five miles in circumference. The south island, or Tavai-poenammoo, is not so well known; there are very few natives upon it, and what few there were were all slaves till the white man came. A similar range of mountains appears to run through this as through Raheinomauwe. That part of the island which borders on Cook's Straits contains some good land. The country is almost entirely covered with wood. The New Zealand Company here laid out the town of Nelson, which is situated at the mouth of a valley. The land is very fertile, and is cultivated, on each side of the river Waimea, for many miles up the country. They have lately found a seam of good coal, and several lodes of copper- ore, one of which was discovered in the following manner:—a few miles inland part of a lofty hill fell away, from some volcanic cause, disclosing the section of the lode. About 100 miles from Nelson is the Wairau district, principally plains—this is a fine country for sheep-farming. Of the west coast not much is known, on account of the scarcity of harbours. It stretches from 40° 25' to 46° 37' south latitude, and lies between 165° 50' and 174° 40' east longitude: it probably contains 48,000 square miles. At the back of Massacre Bay rises Mount Arthur; this is about 8000 feet above the level of the sea, and is perpetually covered with snow. We sailed up the eastern side, passing Port Otago, which has a pretty good harbour, and is now well known as a wool- growing district. North of Otago, high well-timbered land, and a bold coast, stretches to Banks' Peninsula. This is a narrow neck of land, jutting out to sea about forty miles, and is well known from being the subject of “Cook's Mistake.” At the extreme end it is very mountainous, while between this and the mainland is a level plain. Sailing down from the north it looks like the sea, and deceived Captain Cook, who attempted to sail through it, and nearly lost his ship—hence it is called “Cook's Mistake,” or Pegasus Bay. There are two ports in the peninsula, viz., Akaroa (which is a French settlement) and Port Cooper. The latter is suitable for vessels of any tonnage. On this peninsula is situated the celebrated lake Tarvai Poenammoo, or water of the green stone, from which the island derives its name. Out of this stone, which is of a pale green colour, and semi-transparent, the natives carve (with no other tool than a piece of sharp stone) earrings, weapons of war, and their gods. We put in at Port Cooper, and were surprised to find the William Hyde had arrived four hours before us. Passing up for the harbour, the scenery was magnificent—lofty hills, sloping down to the water, generally covered with timber. We could see, as yet, no signs of cultivation, and thought we must have mistaken the bay; but all at once we opened out Erskine Bay, in the bight of which a number of little log houses met our view, like an oasis in the desert. An American whaler and a mosquitoe fleet were lying at anchor off the town. We no sooner brought up than the editor of the “Lyttleton Times,” and all the tag-rag and bob-tail of the Canterbury Settlement, came off to us; and our little craft was crowded with persons eager for news, smoking their short dudees. This is an universal practice in the colonies. Somebody from the William Hyde had informed them that we had lost one man overboard; and when we came in, only four hours afterwards, it had passed from mouth to mouth, with the usual exaggerations, till they had stretched it to three, just three parts of our crew, and they expected to find the Marmora come in with the captain and passengers lashed to the mainmast, and the crew safely stowed in Mr. Davy Jones' locker; consequently they were very much disappointed, for the said captain and passengers came into port smoking their cigars, and the crew looking well and healthy. Transcribed by Corey Woodw@rd
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