David W. (David William) Bone.

Broken stowage online

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"Smit' ! A wee-fla' . . . walk like dis" a turn
on the deck. "He leaf de . . . two w'yge gone.
No! Ah doan' see 'm come out no more. He
owe me fif shilling a 'hard case' ! But dat's al'
right. Bime'by he come troo de Canal, an' he
woan' forget 'Jock Ferguson'! Hooch aye!"


7 I A WO days after we had left Suez he was dis-
* covered burrowing in the coal-bunkers a
miserable hunger-maddened wretch, haled roughly
to the bridge to be seen of the Captain.

"No spik. No spik," he whined, in reply to
the Chief Engineer's fierce questioning and
threats; "me no spik."

His clever young anaemic face looked doubly
pale in contrast with the sun-tanned seamen about
him. High temples and a prominent nose pro-
claimed the Jew. No sea-fellow this, with his
long shapely hands and nervous fingers.

"A Jew by thunder!" said the Captain, eyeing
him sternly (as became a shipmaster about to be
robbed of food and passage money). "Where
d'ye come from, eh?"

"No spik. Me no spik," said the stowaway.
Then suddenly he launched into long breathless
sentences in high German with a great moving of
his hands. Wiping the grime and perspiration
from a heated brow, the bosun, a stout little North
German, left his work at the word to engage the
miserable in conversation quick talk, with many



strange hybrid oaths on the bosun's part: then he
turned to the waiting Captain. "Zay hees name
vass Albrecht. . . . He god no moneys. He
gomes here on boardt ven ve vass ad de buoys
coalin' an' he goes to de bunkers in. Zay he vill
vork for hees bassage. He zay he blay de pianna,
sir. Dot vass hees bizeness."

"The piano, eh? Gad! We've got a prize!
Th' piano!" The Captain looked at the grimy
wretch as at a new species of mankind; then to
the Chief "Here, Geordie. Tak' him doon th'
stokehold ye'er short o' hands and see if he can
play th' stoker's chorus with a ten-inch shovel."

Pushed and driven and week-kneed, the un-
fortunate lad went down the ladder, his taskmaster
following. "Ar'll gie ye sumthin' t' eat," he said
roughly, "but, b' Goad, ye'll wark f'r it, ma man."

We were in the hottest part of the Red Sea,
steaming south at the bare five knots that was all
our fainting stokers could raise steam for. A light
following breeze but added to the sweltering heat
by stifling ventilation and overcoming the cooler
head airs that we made by progress. Weak
vapoury fumes rising from the funnel told of
the state of things below bad coal, a weak crew,
and a temperature at 103. Now and then a gasp-
ing fireman struggled up from the stokehold to fall
all but exhausted on the deck, only to be followed
and driven below again by the Chief. There is no
limit, no appeal, on a short-handed tramp making


tKe August passage, and the half-fainting wretch",
breathing curses to his groans, would turn again to
the slavery of fire and shovel.

Stripped to the waist, black, with a reek of sweat
pouring to his eyes and scoring cleanly furrows
to his narrow puny shoulders, the stowaway
clambered to the deck with strength scarcely left to
mount the topmost rung. He had had an hour of
the hell below, plying pick and shovel under the
blows and curses of the brutalised stokehold gang.
Groaning from sheer physical pain, he held his
hands to his throbbing temples, sank bowed to the
knees, and gazed long at the cool quiet 'depths of
water overside, at the gently rippling sidewash as
the steamer moved slowly over the calm sea.

"Whaur's that chield that plays pianny. Coom
oan, wull ye, else ar'll brak' iverry boan i' yer
boady." The Chief, roaring threats, showe'd his
ugly hea'd above the gratings. At sight of him the
stowaway started affrightedly, grasping the side
rail, with foot upraised as if to climb. From the
bridge the Captain noted the action, and saw the
agonised upturned eyes of the Jew. "Here, ca'
canny, man. Ca' canny, Geordie, else ye'll have
him o'er th' side. . . . Let 'm be, Chief. He's no
use t' you, I see. . . . Hi, bosun! Bring that
man along here. . . . Here, you ! Hi ! Oh, my
God!" ... As the bosun, shouting in German,
ran along the deck, the Jew, mistaking his purpose,
waited no longer. Without word or sound he


sprang from the rail, struck water witK a Hull
splash, and the ship moved on. ... A second
spash. . . . The bosun, finishing his run with a
leap to the rail, paused to mark the black strug-
gling figure in a swirl of broken water, then
plunged to the rescue.

A rush was made to the bridge by the sailormen
working on deck, the Captain and Mate shouting
orders: some one threw a lifebuoy, the engine
pointer was rammed full astern, the helm put
down. The boat, as is the way of tramps, was
hard bedded in the chocks, and it took time to
sway her out, man, and lower her. At last she
took the water and shoved off on her errand.
There was half a mile to go, for we had swung
far to the westward on reversed engine. In the
calm sea the men were easily seen two black
specks hobbling slowly in the direction of the
painted buoy. To us on deck it seemed but a
stroke or two between the men and the buoy ; that
the bosun was finding it a long way we could see
by the frequent pauses by the drag of the second
head so low in the water. Excitedly, we watched
the boat approach them, the rowers urging her
with a furious stroke that left a lash of white
water behind.

"Right !" A cry of relief from the Chief, while
the boat canted to her gunwale with the weight of
the two limp figures dragged aboard.


Steaming 'down, we soon picked up the boat and
turned away south again.

The Jew was far gone. He was unconscious
when we carried him to a berth on the Chiefs
settee. The bosun, hard-case hero, was none the
worse. In the cool of the evening the Jew came
round, and the Chief was soon on the bridge with
the news.

"All right, is he?" said the Captain. "Well,
that's good. Give him a rest, and when he's better
ye can put him to some light work messroom or
that but no handlin' now, none o' that man-
handlin'. Gad! Ye nearly did it that time,
Geordie. Man, but ye' re a coorse divil !"

"Aye, ar's coorse. An' ar need be if we're t'
gat oot o' this hell-hole o' a Red Sea. Hoo farr
noo t' Jebel Teer, Captain, . . . t' Jebel Teer an*
that fine breeze ye' re lookin' for?"

Eight days of the torture we had, then to open
sea, running out the last of the monsoon, the en-
gines throbbing merrily under a full head of steam,
and Geordie, no longer the brutal Chief of the
bloody days of the Red Sea, become a man again
and hail fellow with Albrecht, the stowaway Jew.
At light work washing paint, sweeping decks,
fetch all and carry Albrecht worked his passage,
and more than a waif's share of the Chief's outfit
went to clothe him. We got used to him, and al-
most looked on him as a shipmate before his voy-


age was up. At Singapore he took the. road.
No one saw him after the last warp was turned.
No one asks questions at Tanjong Pagar.

A year later I crossed hawse with Albrecht
again. It was at Bombay, at the Grand National
Bar a grog-shop in a side street off the Fort, the
resort of bluejackets and soldiers, with a stray
merchantman or a broken-down English jockey to
leaven the crowd. At a piano in a corner of the
Bar sat Albrecht, He had on a shiny dress suit,
was clean-shaven, and looked prosperous. Evi-
dence of his popularity showed in the array of beer
glasses in varying stages of depletion that stood
atop of the piano. A bluejacket, at request of
'shipmates all,' rose to sing, and crossed over to
the piano to arrange for an accompaniment. As
the easier way, he whistled a snatch of a doleful
but popular air. Albrecht had learned a little
English. "Oh, ya-as," he said, "Ah know dot.
You brik de nose mil mudder, aind't it?" strik-
ing into a fanciful accompaniment to the sailor's
rendering of the ballad, 'You'll break the news to

As his fingers wandered over the keys, I noticed
a strip of flesh plaster on the back of his deft right
hand. Evidently Albrecht had worked another



AWN of a grey November morning, a misty
wind from the south-east bringing scent of
the damp earth and mouldering leaves aboard, as
we enter the Manchester Canal, with the Merry
Andrew steaming valiantly astern. She is an old
boat that, the stern tug that took our ropes at
Eastham; an old boat with an old, weather-beaten
skipper, who stamps tap, tap on the crazy
bridge deck, a signal to the man below to come
ahead with his engines.

A long string of barges towed by a business-
like tug-boat is making for the smaller lock, and
our pilot, grumbling loudly at their inconvenient
manoeuvres, decided to 'ease down.' Three blasts
of the steam-whistle, which the Merry Andrew
feebly repeats; the old skipper stamps with his
heel tap, tap, tap, and with both paddles re-
versed and a cracking of the stern hawsers the old
craft tears up the water and makes the foam fly
in a gallant effort to take the 'way' off our vessel.
It takes some power to arrest the momentum of
eleven thousand tons, and the Merry Andrew does
her best; the old skipper seems to be quite proud
of her behaviour as we barely clear the sheering



barges. One 'blast' from the bridge, and we
steam smoothly on past the misty woods and
yellow gorse of Eastham, the high banks, and the
bleak Mersey flats, where a few shivering sheep
are huddling in the sheltered places, too deeply
weather-bound to heed the liner surging past. At
Ellesmere the small craft moored to the wharves
tighten up their fastenings with a vicious jerk, and
seem as if they would like to follow us up the hill
to the distant city. As we take the 'ugly curve' at
Runcorn the children on their way to school catch
sight of us, and loud and gleeful are the shouts
' from the canal banks. Here is a fine sight before
school-time; something stirring to begin the day
with. The big liner is interesting, of course, with
her crew of grinning 'blackies,' but for them the
centre of attraction is the stern tug their old
friend the Merry 'Andrew. What matters that
her smoke escapes from apertures undreamt of by
her designers, that her thin steam-whistle is wheez-
ing always, that her stem is twisted out of perpen-
dicular and her timbers started at the butts? To
them she is the embodiment of maritime grace and
elegance, for has she not two tall funnels, while the
big ships have only one! With gleeful shoufrs
they run along the banks. "Merry Andr a,
a-hoy! Ahoy, the Merry Andr a! What's thy
carg ah?" The old skipper waves a hand in ac-
knowledgment and their cries follow us as we
round the bend.


"What's thy cargo?" shouted the children, a
timely question to ask of an old sea-rover, and, by
the sea-stained bulwarks and rusty ribs of her, a
gallant cargo enough. Of old memories and salt-
sea sentiment; of sad farewells and tear-stained
faces at the pierheads as the tall ships crept sea-
ward in her wake; of sailor shouts and hoarse
orders, a rousing sea 'chantey' as the yards went
creaking to the masthead and sails were trimmed
for the long board to the south'ard; a cargo of
joyful mariners welcomed back to home waters, of
glad shouts at the dock gates when she had
dragged the rusty-ribbed wanderer into port.

A cargo to be proud of, though the years have
brought the Merry Andrew to the lowly duties of a
stern drag on the Ship Canal.

The mist is gradually deepening into a fog as
we approach Latchford, and our progress is slow
and wary. Time and again the Merry Andrew
has to back away to keep us off the banks, and the
dense smoke pouring from her battered funnels
tells of the strain on her. We meet an outward-
bound steamer at an awkward part. It is a tight
fit for two 'fifty- footers' in the narrow waterway,
and there is much churning of foam, cracking of
hawsers, and shrill 'tooting' of whistles before we
'draw apart and proceed on our ways. Bitter cold
and all, the pilot mops his heated brow and signals
for the Merry Andrew to follow on again.

The fog grows denser, and the mournful wail


of our syren finds "dismal echo as we pass under
the dripping bridges. At Rixton a coasting
steamer passes us with unseemly haste, taking two
of our fenders and the best of our paint down
stream with her. This, with the fog and waning
'daylight, decides our pilot to tie up at Partington
for the night. Slowly we make our way to the
bank, guided by the rumble of wagons at the coal-
tips. In answer to our hail a boat puts off and
takes the warps -ashore, and amid shouting from
the 'bridge' and bank and clatter of straining
winches we heave alongside and make securely
fast. Some one shouts from forward "That'll
do, the Merry Andrew; lie off an' stand by for
daylight in the morning!" An answering, "Ay,
ay!" from somewhere in the gloom, and at three
taps of the old skipper's heel the Merry Andrew
backs away and vanishes into the mist astern.

Next time we bore up for Eastham the familiar
old 'seahorse' was not there to meet us. A stout
and serviceable craft with a brass-bound skipper
and the beam of a young Cunarder took our ropes.
No one seemed to know quite what had happened
to the Merry Andrew, but a pier-hand mentioned
that he had seen a familiar-looking, black-and-
white funnel among some 'scrap' on the Garston
beach last time he was over seeing his wife's sister's


OR some time I had noticed that old Wully
Shaw was missing from the stand. The cor-
ner of the Loch Line sheds, where the odd men and
riggers stood about waiting for employment,
looked somehow less familiar without the weather-
beaten face and sturdy figure of the old sailorman.
I wondered if at last he had found the race too
swift for him. Some years had gone since we
were shipmates together, and Wully was then well
on in age.

Skelly McNaught, another old shipmate, gave
me a courteous wink as I went by one day, so I
stopped to ask how things were doing.

Rotten bad, he said. He told me he hadn't
done a hand's turn at the 'tred' since the last
French barque had come in from New Caledonia
and that was a month bye. As evidence of such
hard case he fumbled with his empty pipe. I was
touched to see an old shipmate so far down. He
brightened. I asked him about old Shaw.

"Ach, Wully," he said. "He's got a fine job,
now. I wissht ther was mair o' them. They're
diggin' a new dock doon at Bylie Shearer's auld



slip, an' Wully his gotten a watchman's job. . . .
Sets a' th' gate in a wee hoose an' watches th' tool
chests, an' sees that thae wee bandy-leggit Kel-
vinha' weans disnae steal th' men's denners oot o'
ther jaiket pockets. . . . Whiles he's on the nicht
shift. . . . Gantin' ower a guid-gaun fire or ha'en
a bit crack wi' th' nicht polis'. . . . Ye s'ud gain
in an' see th' auld yin if ye're doon that wye. Thae
navvies that's diggin' th' dock will no' listen till his
yarns. He'll be gled tae hae a crack wi' wiselike

This I promised to do, but many things came in
the way, and it was only when a dry-docking job
took me down the Pointhouse Road at an un-
earthly hour of the morning that I remembered old
Wully, and looked in at the railway gate as I

There he was, crouching over a fine red fire, the
ruddy glare of it lighting up his keen old face, now
lined and seamed by the years.

"Ye're therr," was all he said by way of greet-
ing, but it had a Clydeside significance of its own.

I sat down by him on the shiny bench. There
was a chill wind from west and the fire was need-
ful. A row of blackened tea cans stood in front
of the blaze, warming up for the men who were
working by a glare of lights at the water's edge.
I had plenty of time. Across the river I could see"
the vessel that was to come out of dry dock before
we could go in. She was not yet afloat.


We talked awhile of our voyages, of gales and
fogs and that. I said something about navigation.

"Man," said Wully, "you fellies think ye ken
a' aboot it. As sune's ye get a bit step up th'
ledder therr's nae holden ye in. See us a bit o'
paper an' a pencil, says you, an' I'll tell ye whar
we are. Ye' re jist ups wi' yer sextan' an' therr
ye hiv it. ... I min' wanst I made a voyage tae
th' west'ard. It wis in th' Glenbelmar. She wis
a new boat . . . jist up frae Russels at th' Poart
an' we wis gaun oot tae Montreal in ballast.
The Captain o' her was one o' ye fancy navigators.
Ay workin' awa' 'dancin' roun' aboot the compass
squintin' up at th' sun through wee bits o' glesses
dunt, 'dunt, duntin' wi' th' deep-sea lead every
time we cam' within a hunner mile o' land. . . .
Whit is't ye ca' that wye o' daein', when ye steer
awa' up tae th' 'erctic on th' coorse tae America?
. . . First ye gang tae th' nor'west . . . then
west. Syne, be Goad, ye steer sou'west tae mak'
th' land."

"Oh! That will be Great Circle Sailing. The
shortest way between two points on the globe."

"Ou aye. Ye've got it a' aff fine. Great Circle,
;eh! Shortes' way. Huh! Shortest way is richt.
. . . Weel, we set aff. It wis the summer-time an'
we hid fine weather tae begin wi'. Syne it got
cauld an' caulder. Goad ! amaist f reezin' an' hit
July month. The Captain wis ay layin' it aff tae
th' Met whit he wis gaun tae do an' whit he wis


no'. He would talk by th' 'oor aboot th' time tHat
wis lost at sea through the want o' proper naviga-
tion. Hit jis wants thinkin' oot he w'd say. Goad!
he wis a warmer. . . . The auld Met was yin o'
thae yins that canna keep a job: he took ower
mony o' his observations through tumbler bot-
toms. A guid sailorman though."

A shrill engine-whistle at the gate brought the
old man to his feet. He unbolted and threw wide
the boards to allow a small bogie engine and a line
of trucks to enter. In passing, the engine-driver
handed out a billet of wood with a cord becket

"Ye see I'm a bit o' haun' wi' th' figgers m'sel,"
said Wully, as he hung the billet up on the wall of
his hut. "Them's for tallyin' the loads, a' plain
sailin'. . . . Ou, aye, we wis gaun oot ta th'
west'ard in th' Glenbelmar. Weel syne, we got
in amang th' ice when we wis aboot five days frae
th' Tail o' th' Bank. Big humplocks tae. That
wis a' richt 's long as it wis clear weather we
could see whit tae dae; but afore lang th' fog cam'
doon an' the gem' stertit. It got thicker an'
thicker an' us gaun slow an' stoppin'. Th' Cap-
tain wis nae fule, for a' he wis so ta'en up wi' his
fancy navigation. Man, he hid th' turn o' haund-
lin' th' boat, an' he twistet her aboot as if she wis
meant tae be sail't that wye. It wis slow, an' stop,
an' astern, an' aheid, till th' engineers below wis
ferr crazy. When we got intil th' thick o't, we


could hear the bergs plunkin' an' crackin, a' aboot

"Syne we got oot o' th' ice-field, but th' fog
still held on. Day efter day th' Captain wis oot
dodgin' wi' his sextan' an' his wee bit gless, but th'
fog wis ay too much for him. We wis fourteen
days oot when he stopped her. 'Get th' lead over,
mister,' says he. 'We maun be somewhere aboot
th' Straits o' Bellisle,' says he. We duntet an'
duntet till we got aboot eichty fathoms. 'That'll
do,' says he. 'We'll wait till it clears.'

"Th' next mornin' it clears up a wee. Awa'
aheid o' us, we could see th' land. Therr wis no'
much tae go by, hit bein' misty an' a turn o' thin
rain, but the Captain hid it that he'd made guid
his landfall. Therr wis a break i' th' coast up tae
th' norrard. 'Bellisle, fur a fiver,' says he, stottin'
up an' doon th' bridge as pleased as could be.'

"A very good landfall, too," I said, rising to go.
The tugs at the dry dock were smoking up, getting
ready to drag the now floating steamer to her
berth. I would have to hurry on.

"Haud on a wee," said Wully, putting a re-
straining hand on my arm. "Ye've gotten plenty
o' time. They havnae got th' caisoon up yet. I
ken that caisoon. Mony's th' time I've waitet t'
ma hauns an' feet wis blue at that Number Yin
Doak. She'll no' stir oot o' that for hauf an' 'oor
yet. Haud on till ye hear th' 'pant.'

"It wis clearin' up fine. We saw a fishin'


schooner in under th' land. 'Starboard, you,' says
he. I wis at th' wheel. 'We'll go in,' says he to
th' Met. 'We'll go in an' ask th' schooner for the
bearin' o' Bellisle lighthouse.'

"We drapped doon till th' schooner wis within
hail. 'Ahoy!' says the Captain. 'The schooner,
ahoy!' says he. 'Can ye give me th' bearin' an'
distance t' Bellisle?'

"The man that wis steerin' th' schooner looked
up, bewildert like. . . . 'Bellisle,' says he. 'Did
yew saay Bellisle, Captain? . . . Hully smoke!
Bellisle's a hunner an' ten mile t' th' south'ard.' "


"T EE fore brace, the watch there," shouted
^ the Mate, with a curse at the fickle wind
that was bearing us from our course. "Tail on,
ye idle hounds. Tail on an' haul."

Quickly the watch mustered at the call, and the
yards were hauled forward to a fresh south breeze,
a head wind for Liverpool our port of purpose.

The Shirley was homeward bound, twenty-six
days out from New York. So far, winds had been
fair and strong, and we had made our landfall
Tory Island as if steered to a hairsbreadth, but
now our luck was out. Under shortened sail, the
Shirley was turned to marking time, sailing tack
and tack off the entrance to the North Channel.
And to-morrow would be Christmas Eve the day
when we had fondly hoped to be strutting on Liv-
erpool streets with our women-folk, a twelve-
months' 'pay day' in our pockets.

"What's th' odds, anyway?" said the bosun.
"More days more dollars, ain't it?"

The bosun, being a Nova Scotiaman, could
afford to be philosophic, but we, who had dreamed
of wives and bairns greeting us on the quay and



bearing us home in triumph, looked glumly at
great ragged storm-clouds banking in the sou' west.

"Head winds an' half a gale," continued our
Job's comforter. "I guess yew byes won't see
yewr homes this side o' th' Noo Year. Y' kin
make up yewr minds f'r Chrismas on salt water
agen. Salt horse an' Liverpool pantiles f'r yewr
Chrismas dinner, I reckon after all yewr guff
'bout turkeys an' roas' goose an' plum duffs an'

"Oh, it ain't so bad 's all that, bosun," said Joe
Buttle, who was :ever hopeful. "Th' grub ain't
half bad, an' mebbe th' ol' man'll give us a tot o'
grog f'r a merry Christmas. Mebbe we'll 'ave a
fair win' as '11 roll us up t' th' Langton Pier'eads in
no time."

"Mebbe. Mebbe thar ain't 'alf a gale o' win'
behind them clouds; mebbe this 'ere barque kin
go 'ead t' win'; but one thing's sure, ol' hoss. Yew
won't get no tot o' grog out o' this ere starvation
packet. There's them aft there as kin keep th'
cork in th' bloody bottle. My oath!"

With a half-laugh, the bosun turned away to his
quarters, leaving us to talk of 'slants' and 'chances.'

The short midwinter day had drawn to a close.
Out on the lee bow the Innistrahull Light showed
up across the darkling waters. The wind was
freshening, and already the Shirley was hammer-
ing at the short Channel sea, casting icy sprays
over the bows. Away in the south we marked

A RUN IN 245

steamers' lights crossing the Channel, unhindered
by trick of wind or weather. Oh, that we too had
a rattling screw at the stern of her to drive us on
to our hearts' desire, in spite of the vexing wind!
In twos we paced the decks, stamping feet and
trapping' our arms for a meed of warmth in the
bitter weather. The night turned misty, then rain
fell, at first in a thin drizzle, but strengthening to a
lashing downpour as the clouds broke away from
the misty south. The Channel lights shut out from
our view, the horizon narrowed to a near circle of
heaving water. It was typical southerly weather,
portent of a sore storm battering before we won
into port.

Nearly eight bells, the Mate ordered us to 'see
all clear for going about,' and, when the other
watch joined us on deck "All hands 'bout ship"
was the cry. In a burst of savage rain we manned
the braces and swung the great yards when the
order came, but there was no cheerful echo of a
hauling song as we bore back on the stiff, half-
frozen ropes. At the wind again on the other tack
(steering back on the line our keel had already
ploughed) we were sent below, and turned into our
damp and cheerless bunks with a last sleepy,

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Online LibraryDavid W. (David William) BoneBroken stowage → online text (page 13 of 16)