C H A P T E R X V I
Ocean currents – Visit to South Santee – At the Typee River – Quarantined – South Port and Wilmington, N.C. – Inland sailing to Beaufort, Norfolk, and Washington, D.C. – Voyage ended
NO one will be more surprised at the complete success of the voyage and the speedy progress made than were we ourselves who made it.
A factor of the voyage, one that helped us forward greatly, and which is worthy of special mention, was the ocean current spoken of as we came along in its friendly sway.
Many are the theories among fresh-water philosophists respecting these currents, but in practical sailing, where the subject is met with in its tangible form, one cause only is recognized; namely, the action of the wind on the surface of the water, pushing the waves along. Out on the broad ocean the effect at first is hardly perceptible, but the constant trades, sending countless millions of waves in one direction, cause at last a mighty moving power, which the mariner meets sometimes as an enemy to retard and delay, sometimes as a friend, as in our case, to help him on his way. These are views from a practical experience with no theory to prove. By daylight on the twenty-ninth, we weighed anchor and set sail again for the north. The wind and current were still adverse, but we kept near the land, making short boards off and on through the day where the current had least effect. And when night came on again we closed in once more with Cape Roman light. Next day we worked up under the lee of the Roman shoals and made harbour in South Santee, a small river to the north of Cape Roman, within range of the light, there to rest until the wind should change, it being still ahead.
Next morning, since the wind had not changed, we weighed anchor and stood farther into the river looking for inhabitants, that we might listen to voices other than our own. Our search was soon rewarded, for, coming around a point of woodland, a farmhouse stood before us on the river side. We came alongside the bank and jumped ashore, but hardly had we landed when, as out of the earth, a thousand dogs, so it seemed, sprung up threatening to devour us all. However, a comely woman came out of the house and it was explained to the satisfaction of all, especially to a persistent cur, by a vigorous whack on the head with a cudgel, that our visit was a friendly one; then all was again peaceful and quiet. The good man was in the field close by, but soon came home accompanied by his two stalwart sons each "toting" a sack of corn. We found the Andersons – this was the family name – isolated in every sense of the word, and as primitive as heart could wish. The charming simplicity of these good people captivated my crew. We met others along the coast innocent of greed, but of all unselfish men, Anderson the elder was surely the prince.
Purchasing some truck from this good man, we found that change could not be made for the dollar which I tendered in payment. But I protested that I was more than content to let the few odd cents go, having received more garden stuff than I had ever seen offered for a dollar in any part of the world. And indeed I was satisfied. The farmer, however, nothing content, offered me a coon skin or two, but these I didn't want, and there being no other small change about the farm, the matter was dropped, I thought, for good, and I had quite forgotten it, when later in the evening I was electrified by his offering to carry a letter for us which we wished posted, some seven miles away, and call it "square," against the twenty cents of the morning's transaction. The letter went, and in due course of time we got an answer.
I do not say that we stuck strictly to the twenty-cent transaction, but I fear that not enough was paid to fair-dealing Anderson. However, all were at last satisfied and warming into conversation, a log fire was improvised and social chat went round.
These good people could hardly understand how it was, as I explained, that the Brazilians had freed the slaves and had no war, Mr. Anderson often exclaiming, "Well, well, I d'clar. Freed the riggers, and had no wah. Mister," said he, turning to me after a long pause, "mister, d'ye know the South were foolish? They had a wah, and they had to free the riggers, too."
"Oh, yes, mister, I was thar! Over thar beyond them oaks was my house."
"Yes, mister, I fought, too, and fought hard, but it warn't no use."
Like many a hard fighter, Anderson, too, was a pious man, living in a state of resignation to be envied. His years of experience on the new island farm had been hard and trying in the extreme. My own misfortunes passed into shade as the harder luck of the Andersons came before my mind, and the resolution which I had made to buy a farm was now shaken and finally dissolved into doubts of the wisdom of such a course. On this farm they had first "started in to raise pork," but found that it "didn't pay, for the pigs got wild and had to be gathered with the dogs," and by the time they were "gathered and then toted, salt would hardly cure them, and they most generally tainted." The enterprise was therefore abandoned, for that of tilling the soil, and a crop was put in, but "the few pigs which the dogs had not gathered came in at night and rooted out all the taters." It then appeared that a fence should be built. "Accordingly," said he, "the boys and I made one which kept out the stock, but, sir, the rats could get in! They took every tater out of the ground! From all that I put in, and my principal work was thar, I didn't see a sprout." How it happened that the rats had left the crop the year before for their relations – the pigs – was what seemed most to bother the farmer's mind. Nevertheless, "there was corn in Egypt yet"; and at the family circle about the board that night a smile of hope played on the good farmer's face, as in deep sincerity he asked that for what they had they might be made truly thankful. We learned a lesson of patience from this family, and were glad that the wind had carried us to their shore.
Said the farmer, "And you came all the way from Brazil in that boat! Wife, she won't go to Georgetown in the batto that I built because it rares too much. And they freed the niggers and had no wah! Well, well, I d'clar!"
Better folks we may never see than the farmers of South Santee. Bidding them good-bye next morning at early dawn we sailed before a light land wind which, however, soon petered out.
The S.S. Planter then coming along took us in tow for Georgetown, where she was bound. We had not the pleasure, however, of visiting the beloved old city; for having some half-dozen cocoa-nuts on board, the remainder of small stores of the voyage, a vigilant officer stopped us at the quarantine ground. Fruit not being admitted into South Carolina until after the first of November, and although it was now late in the afternoon of the first, we had to ride quarantine that night, with a promise, however, of pratique next morning. But there was no steamer going up the river the next day. The Planter coming down though supplied us with some small provisions, such as were not procurable at the Santee farm. Then putting to sea we beat along slowly against wind and current.
We began now to experience, as might be expected, autumn gales of considerable violence, the heaviest of which overtaking us at Frying-pan Shoal, drove us back to leeward of Cape Fear for shelter. South Port and Wilmington being then so near we determined to visit both places. Two weeks at these ports refreshed the crew and made all hands willing for sea again.
Sailing thence through Corn-cake Inlet we cut off Cape Fear and the Frying-pan Shoals, being of mind to make for the inlets along the Carolina coast and to get into the inland waters as soon as practicable.
It was our good fortune to fall in with an old and able pilot at Corn-cake Inlet, one Capt. Bloodgood, who led the way through the channel in his schooner, the Packet, a Carolina pitch and cotton droger of forty tons register, which was manned solely by the captain and his two sons, one twelve and the other ten years old. It was in the crew that I became most interested, and not the schooner. Bloodgood gave the order when the tide served for us to put to sea. "Come, children," said he, "let's try it." Then we all tried it together, the Packet leading the way. The shaky west wind, that filled our sails as we skimmed along the beach with the breakers close aboard, carried us but a few leagues when it flew suddenly round to nor'east and began to pipe.
The gale increasing rapidly inclined me to bear up for New River Inlet, then close under our lee, with a treacherous bar lying in front, which to cross safely would require great care.
But the gale was threatening, and the harbour inside, we could see, was smooth; then, too, cried my people: "Any port in a storm." I decided prompt; put the helm up and squared away. Flying thence, before it, the tempest-tossed canoe came sweeping in from sea over the rollers in a delightfully thrilling way. One breaker only coming over us, and even that did no harm more than to give us all the climax soaking of the voyage. This was the last sea that broke over the canoe on the memorable voyage.
The harbour inside the bar of New River was good. Adding much to our comfort too was fish and game in abundance.
The Packet, which had parted from us, made her destined port some three leagues farther on. The last we saw of the children, they were at the main sheets hauling aft, and their father was at the helm, and all were flying through the mist like fearless sailors.
After meeting Carolina seamen, to say nothing of the few still in existence further north, I challenge the story of Greek supremacy.
The little town of South Port was made up almost entirely of pilots possessing, I am sure, every quality of the sailor and the gentleman.
Moored snug in the inlet, it was pleasant to listen to the roar of the breakers on the bar, but not so cheerful was the thought of facing the high waves seaward. Therefore the plan suggested itself of sufficiently deepening a ditch that led through the marshes from New River to Bogue Sound, to let us through; thence we could sail inland the rest of the voyage without obstruction or hindrance of any kind. To this end we set about contrivances to heave the canoe over the shoals, and borrowed a shovel from a friendly schooner captain to deepen the ditch which we thought would be necessary to do in order to ford her along that way. However, the prevailing nor'east gales had so raised the water in the west end of the sound as to fill all the creeks and ditches to overflowing. I hesitated then no longer, but heading for the ditch through the marshes on a high tide, before a brave west wind took the chances of getting through by hook or by crook or by shovel and spade if required.
The "Coast Pilot," in speaking of this place, says there is never more than a foot of water there, and even that much is rarely found. The Liberdade essayed the ditch; drawing two feet and four inches, thus showing the further good fortune or luck which followed perseverance, as it usually does, though sometimes, maybe, it is bad luck! Perhaps I am not lucid on this, which at best must remain a disputed point.
I was getting lost in the maze of sloughs and creeks, which as soon as I entered seemed to lead in every direction but the right one. Hailing a hunter near by, however, I was soon put straight and reassured of success. The most astonished man, though, in North Carolina, was this same hunter when asked if he knew the ditch that led through where I wished to go.
"Why, stranger," said he, "my gran'ther digged that ditch."
I jumped, I leaped! at thought of what a pilot this man would be.
"Well, stranger," said he, in reply to my query, "stranger, if any man kin take y' thro' that ditch, why, I kin"; adding doubtfully, however, "I have not hearn tell befo' of a vessel from Brazil sailing through these parts; but then you mout get through, and again ye moutent. Well, it's jist here; you mout and you moutent."
A bargain was quickly made, and my pilot came aboard, armed with a long gun, which as we sailed along proved a terror to ducks. The entrance to the ditch, then close by, was made with a flowing sheet,and I soon found that my pilot knew his business.Rush-swamps and corn-fields we left to port and to starboard, and were at times out of sight among brakes that brushed crackling along the sides of the canoe, as she swept briskly through the narrows, passing them all, with many a close hug, though, on all sides. At a point well on in the crooked channel my pilot threw up his hat, and shouted, with all his might:
"Yer trouble is over! Swan to gosh if it ain't! And ye come all the way from Brazil, and come through gran'ther's ditch! Well, I d'clar!"
From this I concluded that we had cleared all the doubtful places, and so it turned out. Before sundown my pilot was looking for the change of a five-dollar-piece; and we of the Liberdade sat before a pot-pie, at twilight, the like of which on the whole voyage had not been tasted, from sea fowl laid about by our pilot while sailing through the meadows and marshes. And the pilot himself, returning while the pot-pie was yet steamhot, declared it "ahead of coon."
A pleasant sail was this through the ditch that gran'ther dug. At the camp fire that night, where we hauled up by a fishing station, thirty stalwart men talked over the adventures of their lives. My pilot, the best speaker, kept the camp in roars. As for myself, always fond of mirth, I got up from the fire sore from laughing. Their curious adventures with coons and 'gators recounted had been considerable.
Many startling stories were told. But frequently reverting to the voyage of the Liberdade, they declared with one voice that "it was the greatest thing since the wah." I took this as a kind of complimentary hospitality. "When she struck on a sand reef," said the pilot, "why, the captain he jumped right overboard and the son he jumped right over, too, to tote her over, and the captain's wife she holp."
By daylight next morning we sailed from this camp pleasant, and on the following day, November 28, at noon, arnved at Beaufort.
Mayor Bell of that city and many of his townfolk met us at the wharf, and gave me as well as my sea-tossed crew a welcome to their shores, such as to make us feel that the country was partly ours.
''Welcome, welcome home," said the good mayor; "we have read of your adventures, and watched your progress as reported from time to time, with deep interest and sympathy."
So we began to learn now that prayers on shore had gone up for the little canoe at sea. This was indeed America and home, for which we had longed while thousands of miles across the ocean.
From Beaufort to Norfolk and thence to Washington was pleasant inland sailing, with prevailing fair winds and smooth sea. Christmas was spent on the Chesapeake – a fine, enjoyable day it was! with not a whitecap ripple on the bay. Ducks swimming ahead of the canoe as she moved quietly along were loath to take wing in so light a breeze, but flapping away, half paddling and half flying, as we came toward them, they managed to keep a long gun-shot off; but having laid in at the last port a turkey of no mean proportions, which we made shift to roast in the "caboose" aboard, we could look at a duck without wishing its destruction. With this turkey and a bountiful plum duff, we made out a dinner even on the Liberdade.
Of the many Christmas Days that come crowding in my recollections now; days spent on the sea and in foreign lands, as falls to the lot of sailors – which was the merriest it would be hard to say. Of this, however, I am certain, that the one on board the Liberdade on the Chesapeake was not the least happy of them all.
The day following Christmas found us on the Potomac, enjoying the same fine weather and abundant good cheer of the day before. Fair winds carried us through all the reaches of the river, and the same prosperity which attended our little bark in the beginning of the voyage through tempestuous weather followed her to the end of the voyage, which terminated in mild days and pleasant sunshine.
On the 27th of December, 1888, a south wind bore us into harbour at Washington, D.C., there we moored for the wmter, furled our sails and coiled up the ropes, after a voyage of joys and sorrows, crowned with pleasures, however, which lessened the pain of past regrets.
Having moored the Liberdade and weather-bitted her cables, it remains only to be said that after bringing us safely through the dangers of a tropical voyage, clearing reefs, shoals, breakers, and all storms without a serious accident of any kind, we learned to love the little canoe as well as anything could be loved that is made by hands.
To say that we had not a moment of ill-health on the voyage would not tell the whole story.
My wife, brave enough to face the worst storms, as women are sometimes known to do on sea and on land, enjoyed not only the best of health, but had gained a richer complexion.
Victor, at the end of the voyage, found that he had grown an inch and had not been frightened out of his boots.
Little Garfield – well, he had grown some, too, and continued to be a pretty good boy and had managed to hold his grip through many ups and downs. He it was who stood by the bow line to make fast as quick as the Liberdade came to the pier at the end of the voyage.
And I, last, as it should be, lost a few pounds' weight but like the rest landed in perfect health; taking it altogether, therefore, only pleasant recollections of the voyage remain with us who made it.
With all its vicissitudes I still love a life on the broad, free ocean, never regretting the choice of my profession.
However, the time has come to debark from the Liberdade, now breasted to the pier where I leave her for a time; for my people are landed safe in port.
ABOUT the middle of April the Liberdade cast loose her moorings from the dock at Washington, and spreading sail before a brave west wind bent her course along down the Potomac with the same facility as experienced in December coming up before a wind from the south; then shaping her course for New York via Baltimore and Philadelphia through inland passages, the voyage was turned into a pleasure excursion. Animation of spring clothed the landscape on all sides in its greatest beauty, and our northern forest the voyagers found upon their return was not less charming than "tropic shade" of foreign climes. And the robin sang even a sweeter trill than ever before heard by the crew, for they listened to it now in the country that they loved.
From New York, the Liberdade sailed for Boston via New London, New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard, Newport, and Taunton, at which latter place she hauled out, and the crew, thence to the Bay State Capital, enjoyed the novelty of a "sail over land."
Then the Liberdade moored snug in Boston and her crew spent the winter again among friends. They met here during this time the man who advised the captain at Buenos Aires to pitch the Aquidneck's cargo of hay into the sea; for not taking the advice – witness, alas! the captain's plight!
Finally, upon return of spring, the Liberdade was refitted on a voyage retracing her course to Washington, where, following safe arrival, she will end her days in the Smithsonian Institution; a haven of honour that many will be glad to know she has won.