YUBA   COUNTY

GENEALOGICAL   NUGGETS


Round Cape Horn :

voyage of the passenger-ship James W. Paige, from Maine to California in the year 1852;

BY J. LAMSON.
BANGOR:
PRESS OF O. F. & W. H. KNOWLES.
1878

CHAPTER I.

The Bark James W. Paige of 240 tons burthen, was fitted up for a passenger ship in the part of the winter of 1852 , by James and Joseph Nickerson of Bangor, Maine. A portion of the hold was made into a cabin with fourteen berths on each side. Fifty-two passengers occupied this room. A small house with berths for fourteen and a state-room for the captain was built over the cabin, and enclosed the companion-way or stairs leading down to the cabin. This cabin was called the after cabin, to distinguish it from the room in the hold, which was named the forward or main cabin; and the house was called the after house. Another house was constructed over the main cabin, in which lodged the mate and four or five passengers. The after cabin was appropriated to the ladies, though singularly enough, the Rev. Mr. Johnson, who, we were told, had been employed to officiate as our chaplain, was assigned a berth in this cabin, much to the annoyance of a portion of the ladies. The sailor occupied the forecastle. The cook's galley, a very important part of the ship's appointments, was placed between the two houses. These houses did not occupy the whole width of the deck, but a narrow space was left for a walk round them. There was also a small open space between the cook's galley and the after house, and at the ends of the houses.

Our bark, though owned in Bangor, lay at Frankfort, twelve miles below the city, where she was fitted up, in consequence of the river being closed by the ice at that season of the year, down to the latter town. Many delays occurred before all our preparations were made, but at last all was ready, and we dropped down the river to Prospect, where we took on board our last passenger, and on the third day of April, 1852, we bade adieu to the ice and snow of Maine, and with a heavy gale of wind were soon driven out to sea.

We were fortunate in the beginning of our voyage in having strong and fair gales of wind, which drove us rapidly on our course; but we had at the same time much wet, drizzling weather, which soon enabled us to discover that our ship was an old and leaky thing, and that our houses, though new, had been so carelessly constructed, that the water came in freely upon us, wetting our berths, and rendering our situation exceedingly uncomfortable. Add to this the fact that our ship, being in ballast, rolled so badly that we could not stand for a moment without clinging with both hands to our berths or some other fixture for support, and that nearly all of us were suffering severely with seasickness, and I think it will not be difficult to convince the reader that our condition was far from agreeable.

The following may serve as a specimen of our discomforts: I lay in my berth in the after house --on the second night of our voyage,--suffering from intolerable nausea and equally intolerable thirst. The vessel rolled violently; the rain was dropping from the leaky roof into my face and on my bedclothes. The passengers were running to and fro in much confusion, and the voice of the captain was loudly heard in giving orders to the sailors, who were sent aloft to take in sail, for a squall had struck us. The trunks in our cabin were dashing from side to side, breaking chairs and stools and whatever else came in their way. The earthern ware in the lockers was slipping about and crashing up in a style that threatened demolition. All was noise and confusion. The winds whistled, howled and screamed, the sails flapped, dashed against the sides of the vessel and over the decks, keeping a stream of water running back and forth as we rolled and pitched, and tossed over the seas. An unlucky wave, higher than the rest, stove a boat that he hung at the davits, and added greatly to the confusion and apprehension which pervaded the ship. The storm, though with frequent hills, continued for several days. During one night the trunks and chests in the main cabin were tumbled about so furiously, that they beat down the stairs. A barrel of pork was upset, and the brine, dashing across the floor, so frightened a poor fellow, who thought the vessel had sprung a leak, that he scrambled up into our house, and sat up all night.

A day or two after this I heard, as I lay in my berth, an unusual commotion on deck, and the captain was giving orders in a loud voice and a quick and hurried manner. In a few moments I learned that we had but just barely escaped a waterspout, which had passed within less than the ship's length to the leeward. of us. Sick as I was, I deeply regretted that I was not up to see it. I may never have another opportunity to witness such a phenomenon.

Sunday, 18th April. Latitude 29, 25' N. Longitude 29 71' W. from Greenwich. We have reached a warmer and more comfortable climate. We have exchanged the cold stormy blasts, the wintry winds of Maine, for mild and gentle breezes and a warm sun, and we feel a sense of comfort in the change that is exceedingly exhilarating. I have nearly recovered from seasickness, from which I believe no other passenger has suffered so severely, but it leaves me much enfeebled. We are approaching the Cape Verde Islands, which we hope to see in the course of three or four days.

We have had religious services on deck to-day. Our chaplain gave us a sensible written discourse, which was listened to with attention. We had good singing, and the services were conducted with a degree of propriety that would have afforded an excellent example for imitation by some of the congregations I have seen in our churches.

Soon after the close of the services our company was enlivened by the sight of a school of porpoises; and Sherman, one of the passengers who had made several voyages, made an attempt to capture one of them. Taking a harpoon to which a long line was attached, he dropped into the chains under the bowsprit, and watched for the porpoises as they came plunging swiftly through the water beneath him. It required no small degree of skill and dexterity to strike them. There he stood looking intently into the water with his harpoon raised, when suddenly a group of the animals came within striking distance. In an instant he thrust his weapon into one of them, and the line was pulled in by men who were stationed on deck for the purpose. The fish was brought to the surface, but in his struggles he broke away from the harpoon and escaped, and in a few moments the whole school, as if warned of their danger, had disappeared. We have not a great variety of amusements on board our vessel, and such a circumstance as this serves to infuse a good deal of life into us. A school of porpoises, a few stray sea birds, and a distant sail constitute nearly all we have to relieve the monotony of our voyage. Up to this time we have spoken but one vessel. I lay in my berth one night dreaming pleasantly of friends at home, when I was awakened by the hoarse voice of our captain hailing a bark that was at that moment passing. She was a Dutch vessel homeward bound. The Dutch captain had some difficulty in understanding ours, and asked three times where we were bound, though answered each time very distinctly "Cal-i-for-ny."

April 19. This morning the mate found a flying-fish. It had flown in during the night, probably in attempting to escape the dolphin, which is its greatest enemy. It was about ten inches in length, with fins five or six inches, which serve as wings in the short flights it makes over the water. Some of our men saw a large turtle floating by us. It had a voyage of several hundred miles to make before it could reach land.

We are not without many annoyances, and one very serious one arises from the bad cooking of our food, and often from want of a sufficient quantity of it. Our cooks are excessively filthy, and it requires a strong stomach to enable one to swallow the messes they set before us. Many complaints have been made of this state of things to the captain, and to-day we have presented him with a written protest signed by every man in our room, but without effecting any improvement.

Time passes irksomely with many of our passengers, and they often resort to odd expedients in order to wear away the weary hours. When other sources of amusement fail, they sometimes find enjoyment in playing practical jokes on each other. We had an instance of this sort of recreation to-day. A ship was seen to windward in the morning, and standing in the same direction with us. Some one of the party pronounced her a pirate. This was found to operate on the fears of one of the passengers, a simple, honest, credulous fellow, who believed others to be as honest as himself, and a grand frolic was arranged to come off at night at his expense. It was therefore reported that the pirate, though she had fallen several miles astern, had sent a boat to board us, and accordingly several of the men armed themselves with their rifles and revolvers, and prepared to defend the ship. Several barrels were thrown overboard in the dark to represent the piratical boat, and these were fired at as they floated by the ship. Then came a man tumbling and rolling about with terrible groans and yells, pretending to be wounded, and a moment after a cry went through the ship that the pirates were boarding us. The poor fellow for whose benefit all this hubbub was gotten up, was at that moment passing by my berth, and I heard him responding to the cry--"They are boarding us, they are boarding us! where's a handspike? " and he ran and unshipped a pump handle in an instant, and hastened to the spot where the supposed attack was made, determined to make a desperate defence. That he would have fought bravely had there been occasion for it, no one had a doubt, while it was suspected that some of his persecutors would have preferred retreating to fighting under any circumstances. The cracking of the rifles and revolvers, and the uproar all over the ship, awoke the captain, who got up in no very amiable mood, but he soon got into the humor of the frolic, and laughed as heartily as any of them.

April 21. Our longitude to-day at noon was 23 W., latitude 23 50' N. We were then twenty-one miles from the Tropic of Cancer. It is now sunset. We have passed the tropic, and are now sailing in the torrid zone. It is an epoch in my life. I have talked with several of my fellow passengers about it, but they see nothing to interest them in the circumstance. This tropic is not a thing to be seen--there is nothing tangible in it. And as for the torrid zone, they do not perceive any very great difference between that and the temperate zone we have just left. I am now sitting at the stern of the ship, enjoying a mild soft sea breeze and a beautiful twilight. We often have richer sunsets in Maine, and the twilight continues much longer; but there is here, while it continues, a softness and a delicate blending of the different tints of purple, azure and gold, which we do not always see in our northern latitudes. Our men are lying or sitting about the decks and upon the houses, many in groups engaged in conversation, some of them spinning long yarns, and others listening to an interesting song wherein is related the history of "a beautiful fair maid of high degree with black hair and milk white cheeks, and her galliant lover," while here and there may be seen one quietly communing with his own thoughts, which the friends he has left three thousand miles distant suggest to him.

The ladies at the beginning of the voyage were confined a large portion of the time to their cabin by sickness. But since their recovery they spend many hours on deck every fair day; and as they are under the necessity of going through our room in passing to and from their cabin, we are in a fair way of becoming acquainted with them.

April 22. We are now but three hundred and fifty miles distant from the coast of Africa, and about five hundred miles north of the Cape Verde Islands. We have sailed sharp on the wind during several days, hoping each day to fall in with the north-east trade-winds that are to waft us to the coast of South America. But we have not been so fortunate as to find the trades, and this morning we have but little wind in any direction. The sea, though rolling in long undulations, is very smooth, and the sails are flapping idly against the masts.
 

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