C H A P T E R  V I I I

A new crew – Sail for Antonina – Load timber – Native canoes – Loss of the Aquidneck

AFTER all this sad trouble was over, a new crew was shipped, and the Aquidneck's prow again turned seaward. Passing out by Flores, soon after, we observed the coast-guard searching, I learned, for a supposed sunken bark, which had appeared between squalls in the late gale with signals of distress set. I was satisfied from the account that it was our bark which they had seen in the gale, and the supposed flags were our tattered sails, what there was left of them, streaming in the storm. But we did not discourage the search, as it could do no harm, and I thought that they might perhaps find something else worth knowing about. This was the day, as I have said, on which my faithful cook died, while the bark was in sight from the window of his sick ward. It was a bright, fine day to us. We cannot say that it was otherwise than bright to him.

Breathing once more the fresh air of the sea, we set all sail for Paranagua, passing the lights on the coast to leave them flickering on the horizon, then soon out of sight. Fine weather prevailed, but with much head wind; still we progressed, and rarely a day passed but something of the distance toward our port was gained. One day, however, coming to an island, one that was inhabited only by birds, we came to a stand, as if it were impossible to go farther on the voyage; a spell seemed to hang over us. I recognized the place as one that I knew well; a very dear friend had stood by me on deck, looking at this island, some years before. It was the last land that my friend ever saw. I would fain have sailed around it now, but a puff of fair wind coming sent us on our course for the time some leagues beyond. At sunset, though, this wind went down, and with the current we drifted back so much that by the next day we were farther off on the other side. However, fair wind coming again, we passed up inside, making thus the circuit of the island at last.

More or less favourable winds thenceforth filled our sails, till at last our destined port was gained.

The little town of Antonina, where my wife and Garfield had remained over during this voyage, twelve miles up the bay from Paranagua, soon after our arrival, was made alive with the noise of children marching to children's own music, my "Yawcob" heading the band with a brand-new ninety-cent organ, the most envied fellow of the whole crowd. Sorrows of the past took flight, or were locked in the closet at home, the fittest place for past misfortunes.

A truly hard voyage for us all was that to Montevideo! The survivors reached home after a while. Their features were terribly marked and disfigured; so much so that I did not know them till they accosted me when we met.

I look back with pleasure to the good character of my Brazilian sailors, regretting the more their hard luck and sad fate! We may meet again! Quien sabe!

Getting over all this sad business as best we could, we entered on the next venture, which was to purchase and load a cargo of the famous Brazilian wood. The Aquidneck was shifted to an arm of the bay, where she was moored under the lee of a virgin forest, twenty minutes' canoe ride from the village of Guarakasava where she soon began to load.

The timber of this country, generally very heavy, is nevertheless hauled by hand to the water, where, lashed to canoes, it is floated to the ship.

These canoes, formed sometimes from mammoth trees, skilfully shaped and dug out with care, are at once the carriage and cariole of the family to the citio or the rice to mill. Roads are hardly known where the canoe is available; men, women, and children are consequently alike skilled in the art of canoeing to perfection, almost. There are no carriages to speak of in such places, even a saddle horse about the waterfront is a rara avis. There was, indeed, one horse at Guarakasava – the owner of it was very conspicuous.

The family canoe just spoken of has the capacity, often, of several tons, is handsomely decorated with carvings along the topsides, and is painted, as the "Geordie" would say, "in none o' your gaudy colours, but in good plain red or blue" – sometimes, however, they are painted green.

The cost of these handsome canoes are, say, from $250 down in price and size, from the grand turnout to the one-man craft which may be purchased for five milreis ($2.50).

From the greatest to the smallest they are cared for with almost an affectionate care, and are made to last many years.

One thing else which even the poorest Brazilian thinks much of is his affectionate wife, who literally and figuratively is often in the same boat with her husband, pulling against the stream. Family ties are strong in Brazil and the sweet flower of friendship thrives in its sunny clime. The system of land and sea breezes prevails on the coast from Cape Frio to Saint Catherine with great regularity most of the year; the sail is therefore used to good advantage by the almost amphibious inhabitants along the coast who love the water and take to it like ducks and natural born sailors. The wind falling light they propel their canoes by paddle or long pole with equal facility. The occupants standing, in the smaller ones, force them along at a great speed. The larger ones, when the wind does not serve, are pulled by banks of oars which are fastened to stout pegs in the gunwail with grummits, that fit loosely over the oars so as to allow them free play in the hand of the waterman.

Curling the water with fine, shapely prows as they dart over the smooth waters of the bays and rivers, these canoes present a picture of unrivalled skill and grace.

I find the following entry in my diary made near the close of transactions at Guarakasava which in the truthful word of an historian I am bound to record, if only to show my prevailing high opinion of the natives while I was among them:

  Heretofore I have doted on native Brazilian honesty as well as national seamanship and skill in canoes but my dream of a perfect paradise is now unsettled forever. I find, alas! that even here the fall of Adam is felt: Taking in some long poles to-day the negro tallyman persisted in counting twice the same pole. When the first end entered the port it was "umo" (one); when the last end disappeared into the ship he would sing out "does" (two).
I had no serious difficulty over the matter, but left Guarakasava with that hurt feeling which comes of being over-persuaded that one and one make four.

We spent Christmas of 1887 at Guarakasava. The bark was loaded soon after, and when proceeding across the bay, where currents and wind caught her foul near a dangerous sand bar, she misstayed and went on the strand. The anchor was let go to club her. It wouldn't hold in the treacherous sands; so she dragged and stranded broadside on, where, open to the sea, a strong swell came in that raked her fore and aft for three days, the waves dashing over her groaning hull the while till at last her back was broke and – why not add heart as well ! for she lay now undone. After twenty-five years of good service the Aquidneck here ended her days!

I had myself carried load on load, but alas! I could not carry a mountain; and was now at the end where my best skill and energy could not avail. What was to be done ? What could be done ? We had indeed the appearance of shipwrecked people, away, too, from home.

This was no time to weep, for the lives of all the crew were saved; neither was it a time to laugh, for our loss was great.

But the sea calmed down, and I sold the wreck, which floated off at the end of the storm. And after paying the crew their wages out of the proceeds had a moiety left for myself and family – a small sum. Then I began to look about for the future, and for means of escape from exile. The crew (foreign) found shipping for Montevideo, where they had joined the Aquidneck, in lieu of the stricken Brazilian sailors. But for myself and family this outlet was hardly available, even if we had cared to go farther from home, – which was the least of our thoughts; and there were no vessels coming our way.