A VOYAGE TO MARKET
I REMAINED on shore for a fortnight, during which the weather was fine, though a slight shower generally fell in the morning.
We had still a large supply of stores, both on shore and on board; but there was one article of food which we were consuming in much larger quantities than had been anticipated — the necessary oatmeal — and it was now found that but very little of it was left. It was, therefore, decided that I should sail to Bahia — our nearest market-town — with the yacht, and procure some more.
A voyage of 1,400 miles in order to purchase a little oatmeal sounds like a rather large order; but, as a matter of fact, it was more comfortable to be under way than to lie at anchor where we were exposed to the ocean swell. So we did not look upon the journey as a troublesome duty.
My crew was to consist of Pollock and the three white sailors.
I put Ted Milner, the boatswain, on Pollock's watch, and took Arthur Cotton on mine. John Wright did the cooking and kept no watch, though he was always ready to lend a hand if necessary.
On Sunday, December 29th, the whale-boat went off to the yacht for another load of stores, so that there might be an ample supply on the island during the absence of the vessel; for it was not possible to foresee how long we should be away.
On Monday, 30th, I returned on board, and after the two parties had bade each other good-bye and good luck, the whale-boat went off to the shore with a last cargo of provisions. We now got the vessel ready for sea. We unbent the storm-trysail and storm-foresail, and bent the large foresail; being rather short-handed, we left our topmast housed during this voyage.
We did not weigh the anchor until 5 p.m.; we set the whole mainsail, the mizzen, foresail, and second jib. The wind, at first, was exceedingly light, so that we drifted helplessly about for a time, and we did not get clear of the island until after dark. I was thus unable to sail round to the mouth of South-west Bay and satisfy myself that the boat had been safely beached. However, seeing that so many successful landings had been accomplished, I considered it unnecessary to hang about the island until the following daylight, so we shaped our course for Bahia. A moderate wind sprang up in the night and we soon left the island far behind us.
This was a most successful voyage. The wind was from the north-east all the time, right abeam, and therefore as favourable as it could be. There was not quite enough of it, however, and our best day's work was only 154 miles. On one day it was rather squally, and we had to trice up the main tack now and then. The voyage only occupied five days, for we sighted the white sands and the coconut-groves of the Brazilian coast at 5 p.m. on January 4th, and at 7.30 we rounded St. Antonio Point and entered the bay of Bahia. Here we found that a strong tide was running against us, and, as is usually the case in the gulf at this hour, there was scarcely any wind; so we were compelled to let go our anchor near the lighthouse. A Newfoundland barque that had followed us in had to do likewise.
The next day, January 5th, we rose early and saw before us again the beautiful white city which we had left nearly two months before. We got up the anchor as soon as the morning breeze had sprung up, and sailed slowly to our anchorage under Fort la Mar, where we let go in three fathoms of water.
We noticed that a strange flag was flying on all the forts and government buildings, as well as on the guardship and a little gunboat that was lying near us. It bore no resemblance to the flag of Brazil, or to that of any other nationality, and puzzled us somewhat.
Though it was Sunday our old friend, the harbour doctor, came off to us in his launch. I was uncertain as to how he would receive us; for the regulations of Brazilian ports are strict, and our entry here was most informal. We had sailed out of Bahia, as the doctor himself must have known, two months before, presumedly for Sydney, Australia; and now, here we were again at Bahia, with no bill of health and only half of our crew on board.
He came alongside, and we greeted each other. "What port do you come from?" he then asked.
"We have been in no port since we left here," I replied.
"How — in no port!" he exclaimed, raising his eyebrows in slight astonishment. He was too thorough a Brazilian to express much surprise at anything, or to rouse himself from the almost Oriental apathy of manner that distinguishes this somewhat indolent race.
Then I explained to him that we had been passing our Christmas holidays on the desert island of Trinidad, that I had left most of my companions there while I had sailed to Bahia for more stores, and that, having been in no inhabited port, I had, consequently, been unable to provide myself with a bill of health.
"And what were you doing on Trinidad all this time?"
"Among other things, we were making collections of the fauna and flora. There are some rare birds."
"Have you any specimens of the birds on board?" Luckily I had a few, and exhibited them. He was somewhat of a naturalist himself, and recognized one species which he had seen on Fernando Noronha.
He seemed satisfied, and gave us pratique without any demur.
Mr. Wilson had, of course, seen us, and had sent his boat to fetch me on shore. Leaving the others on board, I got into the boat, and, as the black boatman pulled me under the fort, it occurred to me to ask him, in the best Portuguese I could muster, what was the signification of the new flag that floated above the battlements. In my anxiety concerning pratique I had forgotten to make any inquiries on the subject from the doctor. The black looked up at the flag, smiled faintly, and replied with an indifferent air — "Ah! la Republica."
And so indeed it was — the Republic! When I reached the store Mr. Wilson told me all about the revolution, which had occurred quite suddenly and quietly on the day after we had last sailed from Bahia. I learnt that the much esteemed Emperor had been deposed, and that a Republican form of government had been proclaimed. And a very shabby sort of a revolution it had been, too, for there had been no slaughter to give an air of dignity and respectability to it. The people themselves appeared to be heartily ashamed of such a feeble thing, and spoke little of it. The most insignificant Republic of Central America could have got up a far more exciting and sanguinary affair at a few hours' notice. The harbour doctor had not even thought it worth while to mention the change of government when he gave me pratiquc.
No national flag had yet been selected for this latest addition to the list of American Republics, and the flag we saw was that of the State of Bahia. There had been no disturbance in this city when the news of the pronunciamento was telegraphed from Rio. The negroes did not raise a hand to support the Emperor, to whom they owed their freedom. The only incident of note that occurred at Bahia was the salute that was fired at Fort la Mar in honour of the new Government. This salute did cause some little excitement: for, by some mistake, round shot were fired instead of blank cartridges, and one shot went through a long-boat swinging on the davits of a Norwegian barque, and did other damage.
The United States gunboat Richmond was at anchor in the bay, awaiting instructions from Washington, it was said, before officially recognising the new sister Republic.
The next day was the feast of the Epiphany, a great holiday, and no Brazilian could be got to work under any circumstances whatever. Crackers, rockets and bells were the order of the day. Even for the two days succeeding the festival these pious people were disinclined to work, and I heard the skippers of vessels raving in Wilson's store because they could not get the water-boats alongside, or ship their ballast, as the lightermen were still busy letting off crackers in the streets. However, we managed to get all our stores off — oatmeal, plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, molasses, and a small barrel of cana or white rum.
On Thursday, January 8th, I renewed my acquaintance with some old friends. The telegraph steamer Norseman came into the port. She was still under the command of Captain Lacy, who had taken the Falcon in tow with her from Rio to Maldonado nearly ten years before.
We had intended to sail on this day, but the glass had been falling and it was blowing hard from the south-east so that it seemed advisable to wait for some improvement in the weather. The next day, January 10th, the glass began to rise, and the sky looked less threatening, the scud no longer rushing across the heavens at a wild pace; so we got under way after breakfast, and once more set sail for the desert island.
For a vessel sailing from Trinidad to Bahia the wind is always fair, being from north-east to southeast, but for one sailing the reverse way the wind is, as often as not, right ahead. This bad luck we now experienced. Trinidad lay to the south-east of us, and south-east was also the direction of the wind. When we were outside the bay we put the vessel on the the port tack and at five in the evening we were off the Moro San Paulo lighthouse. Then we went about and steered away from the land.
This was, I think, our most disagreeable voyage. It blew hard all the time, and there were violent squalls of wind and rain that frequently compelled us to scandalize our mainsail and lower the foresail. The sea ran high and was very confused, so that, sailing full and by, the yacht made little progress, labouring a good deal, and constantly driving her bowsprit into the short, steep waves. On the third day out we took two reefs down in the mainsail and two in the foresail. The wind was constantly shifting between east and south, so that we often went about so as to sail on the tack which enabled the vessel to point nearest to her destination.
When we had been six days out we were only halfway to Trinidad, having accomplished the distance of 350 miles from Bahia.
On this day I had some trouble with Arthur. He had, I think, brought a bottle of rum on board surreptitiously at Bahia, or, possibly, he had helped himself from the barrel, which was always kept, for security, in my cabin. As I used to sleep on deck during Pollock's watch, he could then find his opportunity, as no one was below to catch him. At midnight, when I relieved the other watch, he refused to obey an order. He had done this on two previous occasions, also when under the influence of smuggled spirits, and had quickly been brought to his senses and to his work by having his head punched. It was his wont to become repentant and make amends for bad conduct by extra good behaviour, and I must allow that he did his work willingly enough, as a rule but drink converted him into a foolish sea-lawyer.
The offence was flagrant on this occasion, and as a head-punching only resulted in making him sulky, I determined to discharge him. Seeing that months might elapse before we left Trinidad for the West Indies, and not wishing to have him on my hands all that time, I made up my mind to run back to Bahia with him at once; so the mainsheet was promptly slacked off, and we bore away, to the young man's great surprise. I would not let him go below, in case he should get at the rum again; so ordered him to stay on the deck forward. Before the end of my watch he disobeyed this order and sneaked below in the dark. When I discovered this I went down and ordered him to come on deck at once. He obeyed, promptly this time, as he was, no doubt, reaching the sober and repentant stage; but I would not trust him, and tied him up by his foot to the bulwarks forward, and kept him a prisoner until we came into port.
He was the only paid hand we had who was subject to these fits of insubordination. The doctor and myself never had any difficulties with the others; they did their work cheerfully.
Now that we were running before the wind and sea we made good progress, and we sighted the Moro San Paulo light at 2 a.m. on Sunday, January 19th. The distance, therefore, that we had made after six days of tacking was now accomplished before the wind in 50 hours.
We were becalmed off the entrance of the bay for several hours. It was an excessively hot day, and the morning breeze did not spring up till later than usual, so that we did not let go our anchor under Fort la Mar until midday. And now, lo! the flags of the State of Bahia no longer decorated the city and forts, but a flag something like the old Brazilian flag, but yet not the same, floated everywhere. Had there, then, been yet another revolution while we were away, and was some new form of government — communistical or oligarchical or what not — being experimented upon? We learnt, on landing, that this was the national flag of the Brazilian Republic, but only a tentative one, which was being flown so that the citizens could see how it looked. I believe several other patterns were tried, and thus exhibited in the cities for public approval, before one was definitely selected.
The harbour doctor came off to us, was amused at our story, and again gave us pratique. Wilson had, of course, been much puzzled at the reappearance of the Alerte, and was anxious to hear what had happened.
I took Arthur before the Consul on Monday morning, and formally discharged him.
New brooms sweep clean, they say, and the new Republican Municipality had decided to clean dirty Bahia as economically as possible, and had hit upon the following ingenious plan. The police were instructed to consider any one, whatever his rank, who was found walking in the streets after bedtime, as a dangerous conspirator, and promptly to arrest him. All men locked up on any night for this crime were sent out the next morning in a gang to sweep the streets. It was interesting, I was told, to observe some gay young Brazilian masher, in silk hat, lofty collar, and pointed patent boots, cleaning a gutter out, with an armed policeman standing over him to see that he did not shirk his work. I was instructed by the Consul to warn any of my men who should come on shore of the danger of strolling about the city at night.
I did not wish to remain at Bahia one moment longer than was necessary; but I thought it would be well, as we were here, to fill up our water-tanks. But it happened to be another fiesta this day — bells and crackers again! — and the water-boat could not come off. So we had to wait till the following day, January 21st, when the water was put on board of us, and in the afternoon we got under way.