Joseph Warren Smith.

Gleanings from the sea: showing the pleasures, pains and penalties of life afloat with contingencies ashore online

. (page 1 of 32)
Online LibraryJoseph Warren SmithGleanings from the sea: showing the pleasures, pains and penalties of life afloat with contingencies ashore → online text (page 1 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook







^;;;:P^, /^C^i-t^C^

Gleanings from the Sea






" T/ie Sea is His, and He Made It:'

Andover, Mass.






Printed by Chas. C. Whitney,
Marshall, Minn.







Preface, _. - -_ 5

Introduction, - - - 7

Trial Trip of the Jennie B., - - - 13

Biddeford Pool as a Watering Place, - 19

A Storm at the Pool, - - - - 29

The Industries of the Pool, - - - 32

Sword-fish, - - - 37

Sword-fish Capture on the Jennie B., - - 46

Halibut, . . - . - 48

The Lobster, - - - 53

Blue-fish, - - - 56

Cod-fish, - - - 62

A Fishing Episode, - - - 68

Mackerel, . - . . . ^4

Striped Sea Bass, - - - 83

Herring, - -. - 86

Whale Fishing, - - - - 96

Yachting and Bathing, _ - - 109

Romance of the Pool, - - - 115

Pool Strategy, - - - - - 119

Early Fisheries of Cape Ann, - - 121

Fish, Fishing Stations, etc., - - - 127

The Gloucester of To-day, - _ - 135

Fish Weirs, - - - - - 138

The Bright Side of Fishing, - - 144


The Dark Side of Fishing, - - - 148

From Biddeford Pool to Boothbay, - - 152

A Cruise ia the Jennie B., _ _ _ 162

Tropical Fish, _ _ _ _ i6p

One of the Days, _ _ _ _ 1^2

A Shadow-Canoe Trip, - - - 176

Phenomena of the Sea, - _ _ - 184

Chemistry of the Sea, ... - ig^

The Tides, ..... 191

A Rhymed Record, _ _ _ ip2

A Home-made Pilot, _ - _ _ 204

Fall Fishing, _ _ _ _ 206

Old Time Fishermen, - - - - 214

A Day at York Beach, - - - 217

Svvampscott, - - - - - 223

Supplying the Market, _ _ _ 231

A Shore Town, - - - 236

A Rhymed Letter, _ - _ - 238

Cape Cod, - - - - - 241

Fish and Fishing, _ _ _ , 249

A Winter Letter, - - - - 256

The Menhaden, or Porgy, _ _ - 259

United States Fish Commission, - - - 263

Fisheries of Norway, _ _ _ 268

American Fish Bureau, - - - - 287

Old Monhegan, _ - _ _ 294

The Gulf Fisheries, _ _ _ _ 307

St. John's, Newfoundland, - - ^ 311

The Shad Running, - - - - ^ 3^7

Salt Water Lines, - - - - 319

The Life-Saving Service, - - - 327

Correspondence from Stations, ... 378

A Generous Testimonial, - - - 398

Conclusion, - - - 398


ONE of the principal objects in issuing the present book, "Gleanings from
THE Sea," is to extend what has already been printed, in "Winter Talk on
Summer Pastime," as that volume, being limited to a very small edition, onlv
reached a few of my personal friends. Another reason is, that the book recites
many incidents in which friends took part, and in which manv others, who
might have done so but for business engagements, may be interested. Through
this medium I can speak, face to face, with them all, and for them it is writ-
ten. Should the public be so interested in the volume as to lead them to pur
chase it, they are assured that the proceeds of its sale will go towards provid-
ing reading matter for the Life Saving Stations upon our coast. In issuing a
work upon so broad a subject as " Gleanings from the Sea," one must neces-
sarily depend largely upon others for material, and in the present edition I am
indebted to many, who have, from experience and acquired information,
enabled me, by their contributions, to add a greater interest to the various mat-
ters treated of in the previous edition. Not the least among the number is
my particular friend, B. P. Shillaber (Mrs. Partington), who has freshened up
these pages with verse and prose, and who, in a pleasant note to me, when
enjoying my summer vacation at Biddeford Pool, July, 1S84, added these words:
" I envy you your vacation, during which you avoid the madding crowd, and, out
upon the breast of old ocean, can exchange politics for pollock, confusion for
cod, and hurry for halibut; and I am sure that companionship with the trim
biiilt 'Jennie B,' will afford you the greatest satisfaction. You are, indeed, a
happj- man, and will enjoy the grave sea philosophy of Capt. Goldthwait far
more than the theological discussions of Andover." In conclusion, to mv
friends first, but to all who may read these pages, I trust that mv fishing ''lines'''
will have " fallen in pleasant places."

Andover, Mass., 1S85.



THERE is not a school boy, who trudges along the country
road on his way to school, with his geography under his arm,
but can tell something of the make-up of this grand country
of ours. He knows about its discovery by Columbus, the
landing of the Pilgrims, the Revolutionary war, the war
of 1812, and also of the recent Rebellion; and he will open
his map and point out to 3'ou the beautiful rivers, lakes and fer-
tile \'alleys. The scholar more advanced, can tell you the pro-
ducts of every state ; knows where the railroads cross and inter-
sect each other; is somewhat acquainted with our agricultural
and manufacturing interests, and in fact you find him pretty
well posted on all that relates to our country. The riper
scholar can tell you of other countries — England, France and
Spain; Italy with its sunny clime; Switzerland and the Alps;
Greece, once the seat of learning; China and Confucius; Egypt
and the Holy Land; and you find that there is no part of the
habitable globe that he does not know something about. But
if you ask those, who live away from the ocean, about the in-
habitants of the mighty deep; the different kinds of tish and
animals that find their home in the sea, and their worth; or in
relation to the men who pursue the business, and their various
modes of catching fish for a living; the storms they encounter;
the wind, snow and fog they have to contend with, I think the
majority w^ould be found to know very little about it.


Do you ever think, when you sit down to a nice piece of hal-
ibut or codfish for breakfast, of the hardships the fishermen
undergo to give you that dainty bit ? I propose to tell you some
experiences of my own in this matter, and also facts that I have
gathered from the fishermen themselves, which I hope will in-
terest and instruct you.

There are two phases of deep-sea fishing, one called shore,
the other bank. It is of the former that I shall speak, from
experience, and of the latter, state some facts obtained from
other sources. Shore fishing (so called by the fishermen) is
where the fishermen go from three to thirty miles from land,
and where their trips hardly ever exceed a fortnight, and are
oftener less.

Saco Bay is about one hundred miles from Boston, and is
formed by Cape Elizabeth on the north and Fletcher's Neck on
the south. Its width is about ten miles. The bay extends into
the land about four miles, and its shores are nearly semi-circu-
lar. The towns of Biddeford, Saco and Scarborough, are upon
its shores. The central portion of the bay is called " Old
Orchard." There are several islands in the bay — the two off
Prout's Neck called Stratton and Bluff islands. The other
islands are nearer Fletcher's Neck; the largest. Wood Island,
upon which there is a revolving light. This island forms a nat-
ural breakwater for the harbor. Neofro Island is two hundred
and fifty yards west, and connected with it at low water. Stage
Island is eight hundred yards west of Negro Island. On the
north-east end is a monument of gray stone, forty feet high and
surmounted by a circular cap. At low tide this island is con-
nected with the main land of Biddeford by a pebbl}^ bar. A
quarter of a mile west of Stage Island is Basket Island, also
connected with the main land by a pebbly bar at low water.
Two-thirds of a mile from the middle of Stage Island is Ram
Island. It is oval in shape and entirely destitute of trees.
Three-quarters of a mile north is Eagle Island, also destitute of
trees. This island is about one mile from Ferry Beach. Be-
tween Wood Island and the shore we find a small island called

• fi •. f I'- •*. ^''

l^i ; '.il


Gooseberry, and on the back of the neck another small pebbly
spot of ground called Beach Island. A rock which is nearly
covered at high water, and upon which the surf breaks at all
times, is called Washburn.

At the mouth of the Saco River, projecting from the north-
ern shore, is a granite pier or breakwater extending in a south-
easterly direction for eleven hundred yards. The entrance to
the river is between Stage Island monument and the breakwa-
ter. The sweep of Old Orchard Beach, together with the tides
and changeable winds, cause the movable sands to obstruct nav-
ig-ation at the mouth of the Saco River. The breakwater was
built by an appropriation of Congress, to prevent the channel
of the river near the bar from filling up with sand, and chang-
ing. The cities proper, Saco and Biddeford, lie up the river
about six miles, opposite each other.

" Biddeford Pool " — included in the topography of ward one,
Biddeford, and giving its name to the entire vicinity — ^is a broad
interior basin, about one-fourth of a mile from the sea, with
which it is connected by a narrow channel. It covers about
four hundred acres, and is filled and emptied at every tide.
The water rushes with great force through the channel at ebb
and flow, and it is almost impossible for a boat to cross it ex-
cept at slack tide or still water. It is a picturesque sheet of
water when filled, and excellent for boating. This Pool has no
part, beyond its name, in the incidents presented in this volume.

Of the early history of Fletcher's Neck I have space to
say but little. A word or two may, however, suffice. It
was settled in 1734. There are three houses in good condi-
tion that date back to that time : the " Hussey House," the
house occupied by Tristam Goldthwait, Sen., and the " Haley
House." When I first knew the place there were fourteen
houses. Two male heads of families now only remain. Ship-
building was formerly carried on at this place and quite a busi-
ness was done before the war of 18 12. At this place is located
Life-Saving Station, No. 6, of which I shall hereafter speak.
Fletcher's Neck is accessible by land between the inner and the


outer beaches, a distance of about one mile, by a hard gravel
road built a few years ago. By water a steamer plies up and
down Saco River and connects with some of the trains of the
Old Orchard Beach railway. The Little Beach railway car-
ries an average of fifteen thousand passengers each season.

Among the notable points of interest in the vicinity of Bidde-
ford, is an old church, about half way between Biddeford and
the Pool, above which hover the limbs of a large pine tree, as
if in loving benediction. The limbs extend out over the roof,
contrary to the rules of trees of this description, wave solemnly
over the edifice, and sigh as if pining for past importance. It
is now but transiently used, a preacher coming from Bidde-
ford only occasionally to occupy its pulpit, during the summer,
and then it is but sparsely filled by visitors. It is not, by any
means, like "Alloway's auld haunted kirk," open to the winds
of heaven, and made the abode of warlocks and witches, but a
grave pile, resting in melancholy reflection by the way, as if it
had a great secret to tell but could not give it utterance. Pass-
ers by regard it with reverent attention and wonder how it got
there. I was curious to learn something about it myself, and
wrote to a clerical friend for information regarding it, and kin-
dred matters, to which he responded : " I suppose you know
that the church organization to which this structure belonged
was the first in Biddeford, though the first edifice was not on
this spot. Where the first stood I am not quite sure. In 1 66 1
Rev. Seth Hetches was settled in Biddeford, and was the first
Puritan minister. He continued his service till 1675. There
was a church edifice near the old burying-ground, just above
Eliot Jordan's house, and that was wh}- the burying-ground
was located there, it being a custom to bury the dead under
the shadow of the church, or as near the sanctuary as possible.
Whether the first Puritan church stood here, or not, I am una-
ble to determine. The Church of England service was the first
introduced into Biddeford and Saco. Robert Jordan, who
came to Cape Elizabeth in 1640, and from whom descended
the vast family of Jordans in this country, was the first to in-


troduce the Episcopal service, and there was a church edifice,
I suppose, somewhere on the Neck. In the Records in the
clerk's otEce, Biddeford, there is a record of the action of the
colony in regard to the seating of women in this church, cer-
tain persons of distinction being assigned to the most import-
ant positions. The services in this church were, for a time,
conducted by a layman, named Robert Booth. A vote author-
izing him to act in that capacity is recorded in the old town
records. The originals, well preserved, are curious and diffi-
cult to read, but Col. Edgerly, who was City Clerk some
twenty years ago, made excellent copies of them which can be
read with ease." But little satisfaction is derived from this,
regarding the old " Pine Church," and I opine that little can be
found, yet the church records may exist which would throw
some light upon it, but simple allusion to it now is my object,
speaking of it as an interesting relic of the devotional spirit of
the past.

The harbor proper of Biddeford Pool, is embraced within
the arm of Fletcher's Neck, which affords facilities for a fish-
ing commerce that is growing to be of much importance.
Quite a fleet of vessels is now employed in the fisheries, and a
fine new schooner — the Joseph Wai-ren — has just been added
to the number, a very beautiful specimen of marine construc-
tion, that will, doubtless, stimulate the production of others for
the same purpose. At times the harbor presents a lively ap-
pearance, with its show of incoming and outgoing vessels, and,
as may be judged by the pictures contained in this volume, the
people take a deep interest in their home commerce. The
Pool, however, is not a great market for fish. They are, when
caught, taken to Portland, for the most part, where there is a
ready demand for them. Those engaged in fishing are a sturdy
and energetic people, very industrious while the season lasts,
and usually secure enough gain in the summer to last them
comfortably through the winter. A happy association with
them for years, warrants the good word I speak for them.

\ rx


K '"%^'



THE Jennie B. lay at Scituate, awaiting the voyage across
the Ba}- and along the coast to Biddeford Pool, and, on a
bright morning in June, Capt. W. F. Goldthwait and myself
proceeded to join her and sail her to her destination. A boat and
stores for her we had provided in Boston and placed on board
the schooner Nausett, intending to intercept her in the Bay and
transfer them to our own schooner. After the usual prelimi-
naries of adjusting papers at the Scituate custom house, a trans-
action which, after previous purchase, made the good schooner
Jennie B. legally mine, we started from the wharf, under charge of
Capt. Bates, her former owner, in search of the Nausett, bound
out. It was nearly noon when we started, with a cheerful
send-off from those on the wharf who had gathered to see us
leave. The day was pleasant, although the wind was a little
ahead. The scene was a charming one, and the Jennie B.
showed her good sailing qualities as she cleared the harbor and
beat out to sea, passing by Minors Ledge and up Boston Bay
to meet the expected vessel. We met the Nausett at quarter
past three, and, the boat and supplies put on board, Capt. Bates
left us and returned to Scituate in the Nausett.

Capt. Frank now took the tiller, and shaped the Jennie B.'s
course for Cape Ann, wath a fair wind. Feeling proud of my



new purchase I watched her behavior with deep interest. She
made a good promise of speed, was steady as a church,
and I felt satisfied, as she was to stand in the relation of a
home to me and my friends during the summer. The south-
erly wind allowed us to keep a direct course, and we enjoyed
every moment. We passed Marblehead — its pleasant summer
houses gleaming in the warm light of the afternoon sun — the
islands in Salem harbor, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Gloucester,
East Point Light and Rockport South Side, then, rounding
Thatcher's Island, we dropped anchor in Rockport harbor at
8 o'clock p. M., and turned in for the night.

At 4 o'clock the next morning all hands were piped upon
deck, and, with a fine breeze, the Jennie B. swept out of Rock-
port harbor. As she was bowling along I hailed a fisherman
with the query:

"Are there any sunken rocks in the harbor?"

"Yas," was the reply, "there's one clus to 3^e, and, if you
don't keep a sharp look out, yer '11 be onto it. Th'raint more'n
tew foot o 'water on 't."

This was a comforting assurance, and it seemed somewhat
churlish in him not to have informed us of our danger without
my asking. But Capt. Frank was equal to the emergency,
and, almost before the fellow had done speaking, he said:

" I know the rock he speaks of, and we are pretty near it,
but there's more water on it than he says."

Running his oar down : " There," said he, " We will go
over it without danger of touching."

We did so, the Jennie B., with her ten and six one-hundredths
tonnage and great draught, entirely ignoring its existence. To
another fisherman I said:

" It seems to me that you have some lively old mosquitoes
here. ' Twas lucky for us that we anchored late last night;
the suckers didn't find us till morning."

He smiled and said, quaintly:

" Wal, I guess, stranger, they '11 stick to ye long enough to
make up for lost time."


This was at the time when the early fishermen were start-
ing on their daily trips, in sailboats and dories, and quite a fleet
of them were bound out. After getting out of the harbor we
shaped our course for the Isles of Shoals. The towns along
the shore we were leaving — Rockport, Essex, Ipswich, New-
buryport — ^were all full of interest to me from early associa-
tion. One of the most thrilling incidents of my early life had
Newburyport for its pivotal point. The evening before one
Fourth of July three young men (myself and two others) pro-
cured a whaleboat at Newburyport for an excursion to the
Shoals, and two days were spent there and along the New
Hampshire coast. Returning, on the third day, we were beset
by calm and fog, and reached the mouth of the river — and an
ugly mouth it has at low tide, with the combers rushing in
over the bar, — just at night, exhausted with rowing and in peril
from the breakers that foamed around us. We barely es-
caped being swamped, and managed to anchor near one of
the immense sand spits off Salisbury Beach. The weight of
the anchor was not deemed sufficient, and, taking some short
pieces of railroad iron from the bottom of the boat, we placed
them in an iron chowder pot, securing them by a piece of
wood across the top, lashed to the pot legs below\ This was
a capital anchor, we thought, and it answered its purpose.
It rained fearfully, and thundered and lightened through the
night, and as but two could sleep in the small cuddy at a time,
the third must watch, and thus we alternately waited and
soaked. I, for my part, have never felt any particular desire for
the same experience again. Plum Island lights were near, but
not visible for the fog. When we arrived next morning,
we were informed that four men had been drowned on the
bar a short time before we had anchored.

The sky had become cloudy after leaving Rockport, and
the freshening breeze denoted what the sailors call " dirty weath-
er." It soon began to rain and I went below to keep out of
the wet, but standing ready for a sudden call. The wind now
blew quite a gale, and I sprang for the tiller in a jiffy. Frank


held her up to it like a major, and there was nothing to do but
let the boat " drive," and show what she was capable of per-
forming as a "'sailer of the salt, salt seas." She stood the
squall nobly and came out all safe from the sudden attack, which
was very brief. We were obliged, as the wind was hauling
round to the northward, to go outside the Shoals, with only a
moderate breeze to assist us. The sun came out about 9 a. m.,
which toned down the chill that followed the north wind, and
had rendered a great coat very desirable.

We had passed Hampton Beach, Boar's Head, Little Boar's
Head, and Rye Beach, all of which had peculiar interest to me,
scenes of early visitation still gleaming amid the memories of
youth. Fitting situation for such thoughts, becalmed two miles
outside the Shoals, waiting, like Micawber, for something, in
the way of a wind, to turn up. Oh for a little southerly breeze
now, to set us towards the Pool! As we la}' in sight of the
three islands — Star, Appledore and Smutty Nose — Frank said,
as a slight breeze fanned up from the north :

" Like St. Paul, when he came in sight of the three taverns,
we will thank God and take courage."

Frank is a philosopher, and, to make the calm less burden-
some, he told me stories of his early sea life that were very
entertaining. He has many wise conceits and practical sug-
gestions, but his modesty dooms him to a position like the
flower that is born to blush unseen. But during the calm he
described to me a plan — original or not I cannot say — for saving
fishermen from inconvenience who come down to the Pool for
bait: that is, by hoisting flags on board the schooners to let
those from Gloucester and other places know just where to go
to procure the needed supply without going into port. The
plan is ingenious and practicable.

We were, at 11 130 a. m., past the Shoals with a gentle wind
urging us on towards Boone Island, some ten miles distant.
We laid her course with a S. E. breeze, and then took things
easy, lying back — Frank and I — talking about the Pool and
the happy hours of the past crowded so full with enjoyment.

'trial trip of the JENNIE B. 17

We were soon off York Ledge, a ver}- dangerous spot, with
York Harbor in the back ground, fast becoming a popular wa-
tering place, with cottages dotted along the several beaches
beyond, formed into communities from towns as remote as Con-
cord, Manchester, Great Falls and nearer localities, with Cape
Neddock the terminal point. Fleets of mackerel fishers were
around us and in sight, prospecting for their fares, and the
Jennie B. moved 'gallantly on to her destination at the rate of
six knots an hour, with Boone Island light on her weather beam,
and the sea glorious beneath the sparkle of the summer sun,
warranting the apostrophe:

Oh Jennie B.! fair Jennie B.!

The waves that round thee leap
Seem full of fondest love for thee,

Queen Beauty of the deep.
With playful dalliance they fling

Their snow wreaths round thy way,
And, bowing like a sentient thing.

Thou seem'st as glad as they.

As an episode we spoke a fisherman off Boone Island light
who indulged in an emphatic and characteristic grumble because
there were so many dogfish round, that nothing else could be
caught. These fish are the mosquitoes of the deep — always
ready to bite. At 3:15 p. m., we were opposite Wells Beach,
making better time with wind S. S. E. and considerable of it,
with Cape Porpoise in prospect for the night, where we an-
chored at 7 p. M., thirteen hours from Rockport, having had
all sorts of wind and weather — storm and calm — to attend us.
We voted the Jennie B. a success. The threatening clouds

Online LibraryJoseph Warren SmithGleanings from the sea: showing the pleasures, pains and penalties of life afloat with contingencies ashore → online text (page 1 of 32)