Life on the Ocean, Or Twenty Years at Sea: Being the Personal Adventures of the Author.

A Baltimore Captain in the Merchant Service who gives an autobiographical travel diary while intending to give a true picture of life at sea “blending with it those wholesome moral and religious truths, which should be inculcated upon the minds of seamen (p. 4).

p. 29, at the outset of his first trip as novice sailor: The day appointed for sailing was the 5th of December. In the mean time, I provided myself with a seachest, well stored with clothing, small stores, a quadrant, books, &c., together with a small adventure. Whilst getting our chests on board, we were saluted with the following harangue from the second officer, Mr. C.: "What! transmogrified, eh!" for we had doffed our long clothes, and were rigged in complete sailor suits; "you are a couple of tight little chaps, with pretty smooth faces for old Neptune’s scraper," — and, casting a significant glance at our chests, he said, "You have two very pretty coffins there; well, we shall know where to come for plank, if our bulwarks are stove in off Cape Horn; but bear-a-hand, and get your dunnage stowed away, for if the owner should pass this way, he’ll make you pay freight on your band-boxes."

p. 88-89: While at a job of work in the main-top in a forenoon watch, with an old sailor, I was not a little interested in the following conversation ; —

"Youngster," said he, "that carcass of yours got the better of your pins the other day — you didn’t flinch, but you had a narrow chance for your knowledge-box when that shot knocked down Bob Wilson and Sam Clark by your side. Well, well," continued he," there’s no fun in fighting when there’s nothing gained by it; I don’t mind to have a bit of a dust now and then, if there’s any prize-money in the way, or in my country’s sarvice; for, do you see, if mayhap you get a flipper or pin knocked off, and lay up in ordinary, — why, then, you have a shot in the locker; or if a chance shot happens to let daylight through you, why, then, you’re among the list of the killed; the jig’s up, and there’s an end on’t. But, I say, youngster, you’ve got larnin, and I can’t read a word in the book; just tell me, where does a sailor go to when he slips his wind? I’ve always had a notion, till the other day, that, when Jack parts his cable, he drives away to Fiddlers’ Green, where there’s plenty of grog and lots of fun.

"There was Tom Bunting, a messmate of mine, aboard the Syren frigate; he could read just as well as the parson, and spin a yarn as long as the main-top bowline. ‘Do you think, Jack,’ says he, ‘after a sailor has been knocked about like the boatswain’s yeoman — now under a burning sun, and then oft’ the Icy Cape, with hard usage and salt grub all the days of his life, banging salt water — that he’s not going to have some fun and frolic after he slips his wind? I tell you,’ says Tom, ‘I don’t believe a word what our chaplain said the other day, that a sailor is going to be clapped under hatches when he slips his moorings, just because he tosses off a glass of grog, lets slip an oath sometimes, and has a bit of a spree when ashore.’ But I say, youngster," continued Jack, "there’s Bill Harris, that college-larnt chap that belongs to our watch, — he’s a hearty fellow, though he does tumble down the forescuttle, and capsizes all the grub belonging to the mess. The other day, just as I was going to turn in, I overheard him say to Zeke Dowling, the boatswain’s mate, Zeke,’ says he,’ I tell you, it’s all stuff about a sailor’s going to Fiddlers’ Green. Sailors, as well as landsmen, will have to heave in stays, and stand on t’other tack, so as to get clear of the shoals of destruction that lays near grog harbor, and swearing rocks, and cape frolic, which is sure to pick him up if he stands on; and then,’ says Bill, ‘he must obey the orders of this book,’ (clapping his flipper on a Bible that lay on a chest 😉 if they don’t, why, then, do you see, when they slip their cables, they’ll just drift into the broad bay of destruction.’ ‘Just belay that. Bill,’ says I; ‘how is a fellow going to obey orders when nobody gives them, and he can’t read a word in the book? ‘ ‘ I’ll read for you,’ says Bill. So half a dozen of us just coiled ourselves round him in a ring, and at it he went, just, for all the world, as if he had larnt it by heart ; so, after he had read on a bit — ‘Avast there! ‘says I:— ‘is that true, Bill?’ ‘Every word on’t,’ says Bill. I just felt, youngster, the same as I did when aboard of the Syren frigate, as we lay becalmed under a French eighteen-gun battery. They bored us, every shot, and we couldn’t get one of our shooting-irons to bear upon the battery."

p. 90, in the forecastle: I cast a glance at Jack, and saw that his hard features had relaxed, and his head-pumps were going. Says I, “Jack, would you like to know how to read: If you would, I’ll teach you in our watch below.”
“Youngster, I’ll give you my grog for six months, if you’ll jist larn me to read in that book I heard Bill Harris read. Why, there was my old mother, God bless her it’s many long years since, but I recollect she would throw her arms around my neck, and read that same old book , and then say the Lord’s Prayer. ‘Jack,” says she, “be a good boy — remember your poor old mother’s advice; obey the orders of this book , and it will make a man of you.’ ”

p. 94: The funeral service was read with great seriousness by the captain’s clerk, who usually performed the office of chaplain; the body was lowered into the grave, and we returned in the same order to the boats, and from thence on board the ship.

p. 118: My old messmate. Jack Sawyer, preserved his equanimity, and took advantage of every favorable opportunity, in our watch below, to learn to read, in which he made very fair progress. In turn, he embraced every opportunity to teach me seamanship, and making me his constant companion at every job of work going on, which was of signal service to me.

p. 119-20: "Why," said I, "Jack, if we live to get home, if you will follow my advice, I’ll put you in the way; but first you must sheer clear of swearing rocks and grog harbor while you are on board of this ship, and then it will be much easier for you to weather cape frolic when you get on shore. But, Jack, we’ve a long distance to run before we get to Canton, although, as I hear, we shall touch at the Sandwich Islands for a few days, and the probability is, that we will have an uninterrupted series of good weather all the passage. I shall therefore hold you to the promise you gave me, about the history of your old mother and yourself.”

"With all my heart," said Jack, shifting the quid to the lee side of his cheek, and slapping me on the shoulder with his large, brawny hand, which for weight was not unlike a sledge-hammer; "that I will, youngster; and as it is our first watch on deck to-morrow night, I’ll begin that yarn for you when we get in the top." Eight bells were now struck, the larboard watch was called, who still lingered about the forecastle, unwilling to leave their cups and merriment, until one bell was struck, when the melodious voice of the boatswain’s mate sung out, " Douse the glim, below ! " and, " Larbow- lines all on deck, a-hoy ! " This order was immediately obeyed; the larboard watch went on deck, the starboard watch turned in, the lights were all put out, and I soon fell into a deep slumber and pleasing dreams of my native land, until I was aroused by three heavy sounds made with the forescuttle hatch, the shrill whistle of the boatswain’s mate, and the hoarse cry of " Starbow- lines on deck, a-hoy! "The watch was soon relieved, and the topmen took their stations. The ship was running along with a stiff top-gallant breeze, the wind being a-beam.

p.128: My messmate, Jack Sawyer, made rapid progress in learning to read; every opportunity was embraced by him, in his watch below, to effect this result, which appeared to be the height of his ambition. Indeed, the forecastle was more like a school than any thing else ; the elementary branches of education were taught, as well as the sciences of navigation and mathematics, by our young shipmate, Wm. Harris, who, as before stated, was an under-graduate of Harvard University. It was a common circumstance to see, at meridian, in a clear day, from twenty to thirty of the crew, with their quadrants, measuring the altitude of the sun, to determine the ship’s latitude; and we knew the position of the ship, in the forecastle, by our reckoning and lunar observations, as precisely as the officers in the cabin,

p. 139: “I forgot to tell you, when I was shipped on board the frigate S—– , I lost part of my clothes, and, among the rest, the little Bible which poor old mother gave me. This was the worst job of all, for it is a rare thing to see a good book among a set of man-of-war’s-men.”

p. 315, while at sea in 1817, headed towards Chesapeake Bay: Of late, I had made a constant practice of reading the Scriptures; and by the light they reflected upon my mind, I saw evidently that my condition was unsafe, because I felt and believed that I was a sinner, and, as such, was justly exposed to the wrath of God. Then, again, the vast amount of goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, which had been extended towards me by the Author of my being, all strengthened the belief, that I was the most ungrateful of men. These and similar exercises brought a renewal of that deep conviction which I had experienced on a previous occasion, and I resolved, if I was spared, to lead a new life.

p. 183: Jack Sawyer is not the man to forget a messmate; no, no! you have larnt me how to read and write, and your advice has kept me from rum shops and other places that used to swamp all my hard-earned rhino when I got on shore. Now, d’ye see, I’ve got a few brads in my pocket, and, what’s better, I’ve got a boatswain’s berth on board an East Indiaman. Hark ye," continued he, "so long as you bang salt water, here’s wishing you may have a tight ship, a leading breeze, and always be able to eat your allowance; but if head winds and foul weather thwart your hawse, and you have to bear up in distress, why then, you know my name is Jack Sawyer, that’s all."