Many quaint, old sea-customs are only kept
from oblivion by their observance in the schooners;
weekly payment is made at the capstan-head, and
where the old man is not too Welsh, there may be
a 'blessing' when a cargo has been wound up from
the dusty hold. It is the custom to paint in a blue
streak on the vessel's side as a sign of mourning in
ii 4 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
the owner's family. These are odd survivals in
the days of shipping offices when the old man's
blessing is more likely to be a curse; and who
would go into mourning for a limited liability com-
Wales is the great centre for coasting craft:
from Carnarvon and Beaumaris to Milford in the.
South. Up the Bristol Channel, they are more for
steamers gaunt, ugly vessels, stark and bare as
only a Welsh steam-collier can be, but away
from the grimy coal-fields, they build shapely hulls,
fit them with straight spars and stout wings of
well-sewn canvas, and set them off to harness the
Channel winds and bear a burthen from port to
In their names, the goo'd old tra'ditions of sea-
life are kept in mind. 'Hogwash' and 'Buglup*
may do very well for a steam-carrier a monster
of mechanics and 'downright utility, but for a
stately little craft that charms the sailor's eye,
'Maid of Liang elly,' 'Sarah/ 'Ann' and 'Marga-
ret' or 'Good Success' are the right kind of names,
and, as a sailor tells you, there is a very great deal
in having the right name for your ship. Who, for
instance, would do his best for a boat called the
'Sheughbog'f Had she been a 'Marian' or a 'Rose.
'Ann' her five men might not have left her a stand-
ing wreck on the Carnarvonshire coast. Who
knows what they might have 'done to save her,
if they had a memory of a slim maid, in Sunday,
COASTING DAYS 115
best, cheering her namesake as she left the ways.
But 'Sheughbog' ! Ugh! A vessel with a name like
that has no right to be afloat on clean salt water.
In summer-time, when God's good daylight is
long with us, it is a pleasant life aboard the sail-
ing coaster. Setting off with flowing sheet down
the river reaches in the first grey flush of an early
dawn, reaching out to sea and the fresh salt breeze,
slipping along by peak and headland, marking the
sights of the Channel the liners that go racing by
on their express, broad-bowed tramps lurching at
modest gait, white-winged yachts leaning to the
breeze a-pleasuring no better than we. And when
the wind heads and we have to beat round a stub-
born point of land, we have a clear view of the
countryside as we tack close inshore to take ad-
vantage of a tricky turn of tide, known only to the
coasting skipper: then about again and a clear
wind course out to sea, with the land lying distant
on the weather quarter. A voyage of a day or
days, and then to some snug anchorage or a berth
at some village quay, and a clean ordered country
tavern at hand to refresh in after the day's work
at the cargo is over and the last cart has rumbled
up the lanes.
A goodly living, a fine life, the coasters' in the
summer! It is a different way of things in the
winter months when the reefs stand in the mains'l
week in and out. Long stormy voyages and an
all too brief stay in port to recover the time we
ii6 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
spend through stress of weather: out on an open
sea; wet, miserable, (disheartened, aching of limbs
with the long struggle against adverse winds, sore
at wrists and neckband with the constant chafe of
sodden oilskins. Wind and rain and frost and
snow, with a bitter channel sea upreared against
us! A hard life I
It is well for us that the sailor's thoughts do
not readily recur to the bitter times, that he has
little liking to dwell on the memories of heavy
weather, the crash of hurtling seas, the icy whip-
lash of the wind-blown spray: but he thinks rather
of the fine weather of days of calm, 'drifting
lazily by the land, and harbour lights starting up
to view when the light has died from a tranquil
THE MERCHANTS' CUR
"CATTY' REID burst into the half-deck with
* a whoop of exultation. "Come out, boys,"
he yelled. "Come out and see what luck! The
James Flint comin' down the river, loaded and
ready for sea ! Who-oop ! What price the Hilda
now for the Merchants' Cup?"
"Oh, come off," said big Jones. "Come off with
your Merchants' Cup. Th' James Flint's a sure
thing, and she wasn't more than half-loaded when
we were up at Crockett on Sunday!"
"Well, there she comes anyway! James Flint,
sure enough ! Grade's house-flag up, and the Stars
We hustled on deck and looked over by the
Sacramento's mouth. 'Fatty' was right. A big
barque was towing down beyond San Pedro. The
James Flint! Nothing else in 'Frisco harbour had
spars like hers; no ship was as trim and clean as
the big Yankee clipper that Bully Nathan com-
manded. The sails were all aloft, the boats
aboard. She was ready to put to sea.
ii8 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
Our cries brought the captain and mate on 'deck,
and the sight of the outward-bounder made old
man Burke's face beam like a nor' west moon.
"A chance for ye now, byes," he shouted. "An
open race, bedad! YeVe nothin' t' be afraid of
if th' James Flint goes t' sea by Saturday!"
Great was our joy at the prospect of the
Yankee's sailing. The 'Frisco Merchants' Cup
was to be rowed for on Saturday. It was a mile-
and-half race for ships' boats, and three wins held
the Cup for good. Twice, on previous years, the
Hilda's trim gig had shot over the line a hand-
some winner. If we won again, the Cup was ours
for keeps ! But there were strong opponents to be
met this time. The James Flint was the most
formidable. It was open word that Bully Nathan
was keen on winning the trophy. Every one knew
that he had deliberately sought out boatmen when
the whalers came in from the north. Those who
had seen the Yankee's crew at work in their snaky
carvel-built boat said that no one else was in it.
What chance had we boys in our clinker-built
against the thews and sinews of trained whale-
men? It was no wonder that we slapped our
thighs at the prospect of a more open race.
Still, even with the Yankee gone, there were
others in the running. There was the Rhondda
that held the Cup for the year, having won when
we were somewhere off the Horn; then the Hed-
wig Rickmers a Bremen four-master which had
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 119
not before competed, but whose green-painted gig
was out for practice morning and night. We felt
easy about the Rhonddas (for had we not, time
and again, shown them our stern on the long pull
from Green St. to the outer anchorage?), but the
Germans were different. Try as we might, we
could never pull off a spurt with them. No one
knew for certain what they could do, only old
Schenke, their skipper, and he held his tongue
The James Flint came round the bend, and our
eager eyes followed her as she steered after the
tug. She was making for the outer anchorage,
where the laden ships lie in readiness for a good
u Th' wind's 'bout west outside," said Jones.
"A 'dead muzzier' ! She'll not put t' sea to-night,
[even if she has all her 'crowd' aboard."
"No, worse luck ! Mebbe she'll lie over till
Saturday after all. They say Bully's dead set on
getting th' Cup. He might hang back. . . .
Some excuse short-handed or something!" Greg-
son was the one for 'croaking.'
"No hands?" said Fatty. "Huh! How could
he be short-handed when everybody knows that
Daly's boardin' -house is chock-full of fightin'
Dutchmen? No, no! It'll be the sack for Mister
Bully B. Nathan if he lets a capful o' fair wind go
by and his anchor down. Gracie's agents '11 watch
120 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
"Well! 'He's Here for th' night, anyway. . . .
There goes her mudhook!"
We watched her great anchor go hurtling from
the bows and heard the roar of chain cable as she
paid out and swung rouncl to the tide.
"Come roun', yo' boys dere! Yo' 'doan' want
no tea, eh?" The nigger cook, beating tattoo on
a saucepan lid, called us back to affairs of the mo-
ment, and we sat down to our scanty meal in high
spirits, talking all at one time of our chances of
The Hilda had been three months at San Fran-
cisco, waiting for the wheat crop and a profitable
charter. We ha'd come up from Australia, and
most of our crew, having little wages 'due to them,
had deserted soon after our arrival. Only we ap-
prentices and the sail-maker remained, and we had
work enough to set our muscles up in the heavy
harbour jobs. Trimming coal and shovelling bal-
last may not be scientific training, but it is grand
work for the back and shoulders.
We were in good trim for rowing. The old
man had given us every opportunity, and nothing
he could do was wanting to make us fit. Day and
'daily we ha'd set our stroke up by the long pull
from the anchorage to the wharves, old Burke
coaching and encouraging, checking ancl speeding
us, till we worked well together. Only last Sun-
'day he had taken us out of our way, up the creek,
to where we could see the flag at the Rhondda's
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 121
masthea'd. The old man said nothing, but well we
knew he was thinking of how the square of blue
silk, with Californian emblem worked in white,
would look at his trim little Hilda's fore-truck!
This flag accompanied the Cup, and now (if only
the Yankee and his hired whalemen were safely at
sea) we had hopes of seeing it at our masthead
Tea over still excited talk went on. Some one
recalled the last time we had overhauled and
passed the Rhondda's gig.
"It's all very well your bucking about beating
the Rhondda," said Gregson; "but don't think
we're going to have it all our own way! Mebbe
they were 'playing 'possum' when we came by that
"Maybe," said Jones. "There's Peters and H.
Dobson in her crew. Good men ! Both rowed in
the Worcester boat that left the Conways' at the
start, three years ago. . . . And what about the
Rickmers? . . . No, no! It won't 'do to be too
cocksure! . . . Eh, Takia?"
Takia was our cox'n, a small wiry Jap. Noth-
ing great in inches, but a demon for good steering
and timing a stroke. He was serving his appren-
ticeship with us and had been a year in the Hilda.
Brute strength was not one of his points, but none
was keener or more active in the rigging than our
He smiled, he always smiled, he found it the
122 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
easiest way of speaking English. "Oh, yes," he
said. "Little cocksu' good! Too much cocksu'
no good !"
We laughe'd at the wisdom of the East.
"Talk about being cocky," said Gregson; "you
should hear Captain Schenke bragging about the
way he brought the Hedwig Rickmers out. I
heard 'em and the old man at it in the ship-
chandler's yesterday. Hot ! . . . Look here, you
chaps! I don't think the old man cares so much
to win the Cup as to beat Schenke! The big
'squarehead' is always ramming it down Burke's
throat how he brought his barque out from Liver-
pool in a hundred and five days, while the Hilda
took ten clays more on her last run out!"
"That's so, I guess," said Jones. (Jones had
the Yankee 'touch.') "Old Burke would 'dearly
love to put a spoke in his wheel, but it'll take some
r doing. They say that Schenke has got a friend
down from Sacramento gym.-instructor or some-
thing to a college up there. He'll be training the
'Dutchy' crew like blazes. They'll give us a hot
time, I'll bet!"
Gregson rose to go on cleck. "Oh, well," he
said, "it won't be so bad if the James Flint only
lifts his hook by Saturday. Here's one bloomin'
hombre that funks racin' a fancy whaler! . . .
An' doesn't care who knows it, either!"
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 123
Thursday passe'd and now Friday still there
was no sign of the wind changing, and the big
Yankee barque lay quietly at anchor over by the
When the butcher came off from the shore with
the day's stores, we eagerly questioned him about
the prospects of the James Flint's sailing. "Huh!
I guess you're nat the only citizens that are con-
carned 'bout that!" he said. "They're talkin'
'bout nuthin' else on every 'lime-juicer' in the Bay!
. . . An' th' Rickmers! Gee! Schenkie's had
his eye glued ter th' long telescope ever since day-
break, watchin' fer th' Flint heavin' up anchor!"
The butcher had varied information to give us.
Now it was that Bully Nathan had telegraphed to
his New York owners for permission to remain in
port over Sunday. Then again Bully was on the
point of being dismissed his ship for not taking
full advantage of a puff of nor'-west wind that
came and went on Thursday night.
. . . The Flint was short of men! . . . The
'Flint had a full crew aboard! Rumours and ru-
mours! "All sorts o' talk," said the butcher;
"but I know this fer certain she's got all her
stores aboard. Gee! I guess she has! I don't
like to wish nobody no harm, boyes, but I hope
Bully Nathan's first chop '11 choke him, fer th' way
he done me over the beef! . . Scorch '5m!"
124 'BROKEN STOWAGE*
In the forenoon we 'dropped the gig and put out
for practice. Old Burke and the mate came after
us in the dinghy, the old man shouting instruction
and encouragement through his megaphone as we
rowed a course or spurted hard for a furious three
minutes. Others were out on the same ploy, and
the backwaters of the Bay had each a lash of oars
to stir their tideless depths. Near us the green
boat of the Rickmers thrashed up and down in
style. Time and again we drew across 'just for
a friendly spurt' but the 'Dutchies' were not giv-
ing anything away, and sheered off as we ap-
proached. We spent an hour or more at practice
and were rowing leisurely back to the ship when
the green boat overhauled us, then slowed to her
"How you vass, Cabtin Burke?" said Schenke,
an enormous fair-headed Teuton, powerful-look-
ing, but run sadly to fat in his elder years. "You
t'ink you get a chanst now, hem? . . . Now de
Yankee is goin' avay!" He pointed over to the
Presidio, where the Flint lay at anchor. We fol-
lowed the line of his fat forefinger. At anchor,
yes, but the anchor nearly a-weigh. Her flags were
hoisted, the blue peter fluttering at the fore, and
the Active tug was passing a hawser aboard, get-
ting ready to tow her out. The smoke from the
tugboat's funnel was whirling and blowing over
the low forts that guard the Golden Gates. Good
luck! A fine nor'-west breeze had come that
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 125
would lift our 'dreaded rival far to the: southward
on her way round Cape Horn!
Schenke saw the pleased look with which old
Burke regarded the Yankee's preparations for de-
"Good bizness, eh?" he said. "You t'ink you
fly de flack on de Hilda nex' Sonndag, Cabtin?
Veil ! Ah wish you goot look, but you dond't got
it all de same!"
"Oh, well, Captain Schenke, we can but thry,"
said the old man. "We can but thry, sorr! . . .
Shure, she's a foine boat that o' yours. . . . An'
likely-looking lads, too!" No one could but ad-
mire the well-set figures of the German crew as
they stroked easily beside us.
"Schweinehuriden," said Schenke brutally. We
noticed more than one stolid face darkling as they
glanced aside. Schenke had the name of a 'hard
case.' "Schweinehunden," he said again. "Dey
dond't like de hard vork, Cabtin. . . . Dey Hond't
like it but ve takes der Coop, all de same ! Dey
pulls goot und strong, oder" he rasped a short
sentence in rapid Low German "Shermans dond't
be beat by no durn lime-juicer, nein!"
Old Burke grinned. "Cocky as ever, Captain
Schenke! Bedad now, since ye had the luck of
ye're last passage there's no limit to ye!"
"Luck! Luck! Alvays de luck mit you, Cab-
-"An' whatt ilse? . . . Shure, if I hadn't struck
126 'BROKEN STOWAGE',
a bilt of calms an' had more than me share of head
winds off the Horn, I'd have given ye a day or two
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Das 1st gut!" The green
boat rocked with Schenke's merriment. He laughed
from his feet up every inch of him shook with
emotion. "Ho! Ho! Hoo! Das ist ganz gut.
You t'ink you beat de Hedwig Rickmers too, Cab-
tin? You beat 'm mit dot putty leetle barque?
You beat 'm mit de Hilda, nichtivahr?"
"Well, no," said our old man. "I don't exactly
say I can beat the Rickmers, but if I had the luck
o' winds that ye had, bedad, I'd crack th' Hilda
out in a hundred an' five days too !"
"Now, dot is not drue, Cabtin ! Aber ganz und.
gar nicht! You know you haf bedder look von
de vind as Ah got. Ah sail mein sheep! Ah
dond't vait for de fair winds nor not'ings!"
"No," said Burke, "but ye get 'em, all the same.
Everybody knows ye've th' divil's own luck,
"Und so you vas! Look now, Cabtin Burke.
You t'ink you got so fast a sheep as mein, eh?
Veil! Ah gif you a chanst to make money. Ah
bett you feefty dollars to tventig, Ah take mein
sheep home quicker as you vass!"
"Done wit' ye," said stout old 'Paddy' Burke,
though well he knew the big German barque could
sail round the little Hilda. "Fifty dollars to
twenty, Captain Schenke, an' moind ye've said it!"
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 127
The green boat sheered off and forge'd ahead,
Schenke laughing and waving his hand derisively.
When they had pulled out of earshot, the old man
turned ruefully to the mate: "Five pounds clean
t'rown away, mister! Foine I know the Rickmers
can baate us, but I wasn't goin' t' let that ould
'squarehead' have it all his own way! Divil th'
We swung under the Hilda's stern and hooked
on to the gangway. The old man stepped out,
climbed a pace or two, then came back.
"Look ye here, byes," he said, "I'll give ye
foive dollars a man an' a day's 'liberty' t' spind
it if ye only baate th' 'Dutchmen.' . . . Let th*
Cup go where it will!'"
The Bay of San Francisco is certainly one of the
finest natural harbours in the world, let Sydney
and Rio and Falmouth all contest the claim. Land-
locked to every wind that blows, with only a nar-
row channel open to the sea, the navies of the
world could lie peacefully together in its sheltered
waters. The coast that environs the harbour
abounds in natural beauties, but of all the wooded
creeks fair stretches of undulating downs or
stately curves of winding river, none surpasses the;
little bay formed by the turn of Benita, the north-
ern postern of the Golden Gates. Here is the little
128 'BROKEN STOWAGE*
township of Saucilito, with its pretty white houses
nestling among the 'dark green of the deeply
wooded slopes. In the bay there is good anchor-
age for a limited number of vessels, and fortunate
were they who manned the tall ships that lay there,
swinging ebb and flood, waiting for a burthen of.
On Saturday the little bay was crowded by a
muster of varied craft. The ships at.anchor were
'dressed' to the mastheads with gaily-coloured
flags. Huge ferry-boats passed slowly up and
idown, their tiers of decks crowded with sightseers.
Tug-boats and launches darted about, clearing the
course, or convoying racing boats to the starting
lines. Ships' boats of all kinds were massed to-
gether close inshore : gigs and pinnaces, lean whale-
boats, squat dinghys, even high-sided ocean life-
boats with their sombre broad belts of ribbed cork.
A gay scene of colour and animation. A fine turn-
out to see the fortune of the Merchants' Cup !
At two the Regatta began. A race for long-
shore craft showed that the boarding-house
'crimps' were as skilful at boatman's work as at
inducing sailormen to desert their ships. Then
two out-riggers flashed by, contesting a heat for
a College race. We in the Hilda's gig lay handily
at the starting line and soon were called out.
There were nine entries for the Cup, and the
judges had decided to run three heats. We were;
drawn in the first, and, together with the Ardlea's
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 129
and Compton's gigs, went out to be inspected. The
boats had to race in sea-service conditions, no light-
ening was allowed. At the challenge of the judges
we showed our gear. "Spare oar right! Row-
locks right! Sea-anchor right! Bottom boards
and stern grating right. Painter, ten fathoms;
hemp. ... A bit short there, Compton! Eh?
. . . Oh all right," said the official, and we
manoeuvred into position, our sterns held in by
the guard-boats. Some of the ships' captains had
engaged a steam-launch to follow the heats, and
old Burke was there with his trumpet, shouting
"Air yew ready?"
A pause: then, pistol shot! We struck water
and laid out! Our task was not difficult. The
Wrdlea's gig was broad-bowed and heavy; they
had no chance; but the Compton's gave us a stiff
pull to more than midway. Had they been like
us, three months at boat-work, we had not pulled
so easily up to the mark, but their ship was just in
from Liverpool, and they were in poor condition
for a mile and a half at pressure. We won easily,
and scarce had cheered the. losers before the launch
came fussing up.
"Come aboard, Takia," shouted old Burke.
"Ye come down wit' me an' see what shape the
German makes. He's drawn wit' th' Rhond'da in
Takia bundled aboard the launch and we hauled
i 3 o 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
inshore to watch the race. There was a delay at
the start. Schenke, 'nichts verstehen,' as he said,
was for sending his boat away without a painter
or spare gear. He was pulled up by the judges,
and had to borrow.
Now they were ready. The Rickmers outside,
Rhondda in the middle berth, and the neat little
Slieve Donard inshore. At the start the Rhond-
das came fair away from the German boat, but
even at the distance we could see that the 'Dutch-
men' were well in hand. At midway the Rhondda
was leading by a length, still going strong, but they
had shot their bolt, and the green boat was surely
pulling up. The Slieve Donard, after an unsteady
course, had given up. Soon we could hear old
Schenke roaring oaths and orders, as his launch
came flying on in the wake of the speeding boats.
The Germans spurted.
We yelled encouragement to the Rhonddas.
"Give 'em beans, old sons! . . ."
"Rhondda! Rhondda! . . . Shake 'er up!"
Gallantly the white boat strove to keep her place,
but the greens were too strong. With a rush, they
took the lead and held it to the finish, though two
lengths from the line their stroke faltered, the
swing was gone, and they were dabbling feebly
when the shot rang out.
"A grand race," said every one around. "A
grand race" but old Burke had something to say
when he steamed up> to put our cox'n among us.
THE MERCHANTS' CUP 131
"Byes, byes," he said, "if there had been twinty
yards more the Rhoridda would have won. Now
,d'ye moind, Takia, ye 'divil . . . d'ye moind!
Keep th' byes in hand till I give ye th' wurrd ! . . .
An' whin ye get th' wurrd, byes! . . . Oh, Saints!
Shake her up when ye get th' wurrd!"
The third heat was closely contested. All three;
boats, two Liverpool barques and a Nova Scotia-
man, came on steadily together. A clean race,
rowed from start to finish, and the Tuebrook win-
ning by a short length.
The afternoon was well spent when we stripped
for the final, and took up our positions on the line.
How big and muscular the Germans looked!
How well the green boat sat the water! With
what inward quakings we noted the clean fine lines
of stem and stern ! ... Of the Tuebrook we had
no fear. We knew they could never stand the
pace the Germans would set. Could we?
Old Burke, though in a fever of excitement
when we came to the line, had little to say. "Keep
the byes in hand, Takia till ye get th' wurrd,"
was all he muttered. We swung our oar-blades
"Ready?" The starter challenged us.
Suddenly Takia yelped! We struck an'd lay
back as the shot rang out! A stroke gained!
Takia had taken the flash; the others the report!
The Jap's clever start gave us confidence and a
lead. Big Jones at stroke worked us up to better
132 'BROKEN STOWAGE'
the advantage. The green boat sheered a little,
then steadied and came on, keeping to us, though
nearly a length astern. The Tuebrook had made
a bad start, but was thrashing away pluckily in
So we hammered at it for a third of the course,
when Takia took charge. Since his famous start
he had left us to take stroke as Jones pressed us,
but now he saw signs of the waver that comes after
the first furious burst shifting grip or change of
'"Trok/'trok/'trok/" he muttered, and
steadied the pace. "'Troke! 'troke! 'troke!"
in monotone, good for soothing tension.
Past midway the green boat came away. The
ring of the Germans' rowlocks rose to treble pitch.