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LAST June AST June, health, I was advised, by some friends in C, to try the virtues Richardson Cox. Se the of a trip to cod-fishing Banks off Newfoundland. According ly, having made the necessary preparations for an absence of three months, I started for Boston, where I supposed I could procure all requisite information in regard to obtaining a berth as a passenger on some one of the thousand cod-fishermen that were daily and almost hourly leaving from some port in Massachusetts. On my way up the sound on the "Empire State," I fell in company with a Boston pilot, to whom I applied for advice and counsel. After looking at me for a moment, he said, "You won't make a cod-fisherman, the work is too severe, and there is little, if any, sport. Let me advise you to go to Cape Ann, and ship on some vessel going up to St. Lawrence Bay after mackerel, and, if possible, get a berth as a hand,' as neither crew nor skipper like passengers, they are always in the way." On my arrival in Boston, therefore, I obtained letters of introduction to some parties in Cape Ann, and the same afternoon found me landed in Gloucester, the "City of the Cape." Within an hour after my arrival, thanks to my letters, I was in close communion with John Gott, a lineal descendant of the original Peter Gott (the founder of the American mackerel fisheries), and the skipper of the prettiest craft that ever sailed out of Cape Ann har
bor. He inquired if I had ever caught a mackerel, or had ever been to the "Bay." On my telling him I had never seen a live mackerel, and had never visited that part of the world, he expressed his regret that he could not take me--for the reason, that he had chartered his vessel for the season, and had paid so high for the charter, that it was absolutely necessary that his crew should be picked fishermen, as every fish counted, and if a single berth should be filled by an inxperienced person, his investment might prove unprofitable. He recommended me to see the skipper of the " per of the "George Washington," a new vessel of about 83 tons, which was not chartered, and said he, Brigham is a young man, and a good fellow, this is his first trip as skipper, and he will be anxious to accommodate you, if he can." So I walked up to Brigham, and addressed him. "Skipper, I want to ship with you." "Ever bin fishin'?" "No, but it is time I should go." "Sorry, can't 'commodate, crew all shipped.' "But now, skipper, I want to go, in fact, I must, either as a hand or passenger."
"Never take passengers, crew tumble over them, hurt themselves, always in the way, get sick, have to bring them home, crew swear, trip spoiled, can't take passengers nohow." But, skipper, I will ship as a hand, and if I don't do anything useful, I will pay my board, I will promise not to be in the way, and besides I like the appearance of your schooner, she looks trim and stiff, and can sail some, I fancy." This flattering notice of his vessel touched him in the right spot, and he replied, "Why, yes, I had her
berth, and fish 'way aft." certainly, anywhere: when do you sail?" "Fifth July." "Do you want any help getting ready?" " Why, no, guess we can get along without you, we'll send you word when it's time to come aboard." And so I shipped on my first trip as a sailor and fisherman.
And now, while the rest of the crew are getting the vessel ready for sea, I will take occasion to say a few words on the Fishery Question." Cape Ann and Cape Cod are the two points from which three-fourths of the mackerelcatchers sail, about one-third of the whole number of vessels hailing from the former port. There are two divisions of the mackerel fleet, one, the most numerous, but comprising the smaller class of vessels, follow the fish along the Atlantic coast, from the Capes of Delaware to the southwestern shores of Nova Scotia. These vessels are almost constantly together, that is, in sight of each other, and, throwing large quantities of bait, are generally more successful in raising fish than single vessels in the same waters would be.
About five hundred sail, ranging from seventy to one hundred and twenty tons, comprise the "Bay fleet," a totally distinct organization. Of these vessels, those owned in Cape Ann are the smallest, averaging from seventy to ninety tons, with crews of from ten to thirteen men, and those from Cape Cod are from ninety to one hundred and twenty tons, with crews of from twelve to eighteen men. There is a great spirit of rivalry between the two capes, it being supposed by many that the Cape-Ann men are the most daring sailors, while, on the other hand, there is less discipline among their crews than is maintained on the large Cape
Cod men. Not having any personal acquaintance with the latter, I shall not seek to compare the merits of the two; but all fishermen know that rivalry and
jealousy do exist, and, for aught I know, will always continue. As to the division of the catch, the pay of the crews, and whether there be any difference in these
respects between the two places, I cannot say, but will testify what I do know in regard to the Cape Ann customs. The fishermen receive no wages, but are entitled to one-half of the fish caught by them, deducting out of their share their proportion of the expenses for bait and cook's wages, and also the charge per barrel for inspecting, repacking and salting, ready for sale. This last item is about $1.25 per barrel, and of course is only chargeable on the part of the catch belonging to the crew. I should think it safe to estimate each man's net receipts at a little over threesevenths of the gross catch. The owners of the vessel furnish all the provisions, salt, hooks, lines, lead, pewter, etc., and generally reserve to themselves the right to sell the fish on the highest offer that can be obtained at any time before the vessel is ready to sail on her next trip. The crew, of course, can take their share of the fish, if they desire it, but they almost universally prefer that the owners should sell the whole, and then take their share in money. The mackerel are generally bought up by large dealers from Boston or New York, who make their offer to the owners, sometimes two weeks before the vessels come in, and generally to take all the fish, whether more or less, that may arrive, at certain prices for each kind, ones, twos, threes, and extra ones.
There are eight or ten fitting establishments in Gloucester, all owning a larger or smaller interest in each vessel that fits out at their wharf, and from appearances I should judge that very few of them are losing money. The stores furnished are generally very good-the best mess beef, pork, coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar, rice, molasses, butter, potatoes, lard, flour, etc.; for your mackerel fisherman has a very exalted idea of the necessity of living well, and he wants his hot bread fresh at each meal, and his pies, and duff (Anglice boiled flour pudding), and sweet cakes whenever he is hungry, and that is all the time. In fact, the cook is a personage of equal importance with the skipper in the eyes of these salt-water epicures, and the first question asked by one sailor of another is, Who is your skipper?" and the next, “What kind of a cook have you?" and then, if the responses are satisfactory, and the questioner wants a berth, he straightway makes his demand in form VOL. IX.-37
-I say demand, for a good fisherman can always get a berth, and being, therefore, independent, he is somewhat particular as to the company he keeps.
Four-fifths of the crews are Yankees or Nova Scotians-the remainder are English, Irish, Scotch, and Germans. with, now and then, a Portuguese, Swede, or Norwegian. They are generally first-rate seamen; for they are on the water almost all the time-seven months cod-fishing and five months mackerel-catching-which last is perhaps the most profitable, as it certainly is the most agreeable. The schooners are fitted out in January for the Grand Banks, or for " George's;" which last are soundings about two hundred miles easterly from Boston, in the broad Atlantic, where there is no lee or shelter, and where they ride at anchor through storm and gale, hauling in cod and halibut, straining their backs. freezing their feet and fingers, and trying their powers of endurance to the utmost. It is no wonder that they are strong and hardy sailors, and that they are always welcome in the navy or in the merchant service-and it is no wonder, either, that so many of them die, long before old age overtakes them, worn out with toil and exposure. Those vessels which go to the Grand Banks are but little better circumstanced; but the trip is longer, and is preferred by many sailors on account of the greater certainty of profit.
In June these vessels generally assemble in port, and are painted, cleaned, and thoroughly overhauled, preparatory to making their first trip to the
Bay." Everybody employed, then, seems to be in high spirits, as the change from the Banks to the Bay is like that from close confinement over books and slate in school to the careless, happy hour of play. Almost all the schooners are painted alike—black, with a white streak-and masts scraped or stained yellow. They are rigged alike, also, carrying generally a main but no foretop-mast, jib and flying-jib, fore and mainsails, with gaff-topsail and stay-sail, for light winds. They are all built to combine speed with stiffness and capacity-and the craft that can gain one mile in seven, over another, in working to windward, is a remarkably good sailer. To the eye of a landsman all the vessels in the fleet, at a short distance, look exactly
THE POLLY ANN.
alike, but the fisherman, from long experience and practice, can point out a hundred differences in rig and hull, totally inappreciable by the " green hand." In fact I have often, with the spy-glass, seen on the horizon the peak of a mainsail, and perhaps a gaff-topsail, and almost any one of the crew could say, for a certainty, where that sail was bent, the name of the schooner and her "hail," (i. e., where owned).
The vessels cost from $3,600 to $5,000 each, and are owned principally in and about Cape Ann, the skipper generally holding a quarter interest-the dividends on which, together with his per centage (from 3 to 5 p. c.) on the part of the catch belonging to the vessel, make the only difference between his share and that of the crew -and it sometimes happens that there are fishermen on board who make more out of the trip than the skipper himself, though such instances are rare, as it is one of the requisites for acting as skipper that he should be A 1 as a fisherman. His work is harder by half than that of the crew, as he has to be up at all hours of the night, when there are any indications of an increase or change of wind-besides which, he has to throw the bait, to keep the fish near the vessel, to stand at the helm while running into the schools of mackerel, and while going into and coming out of harbor--and, in addition to all this, he must be ever watchful of the vessel, to see that nothing about the rigging, spars or hull chafes or wears; in short, his life is one of constant anxiety, and, I think, inadequately recompensed.
The crew have no cares -each one keeps his watch in turn, and takes his "trick" at the wheel -beyond this, except when the fish bite or are to be dressed, they have little else to do but to eat, drink, and sleep. The schooners are so strongly manned having three times the number of hands required for coasting vessels of the same classthat the working of the vessel is only sport; and we could weigh anchor and set all sail, if necessary, as quickly as any one of the English revenue cutters that we occasionally fall in with in the Bay. Having premised thus much, I will now proceed to give some account of my doings in my new character of sailor and fisherman.
About 11, A. M., July 5th-as beautiful a morning as the sun ever shone upon our skipper sent word to me to report myself at the wharf in an hour. Within that time down I trundled with bag and baggage, books, bed-clothes, boots, oiled coats and pants, and everything that I supposed could be wanted to clothe, comfort, and console me, on my watery pilgrimage. Our schooner lay in the stream, and I got aboard alone, in order to take an observation" before the crew showed themselves. Matters looked discouraging enough; everything belonging to everybody lay promiscuously around on deck and down below; all was confusion worse confounded. The cook was in the forecastle, arranging his small assortment of crockery and iron-ware; on seeing me he said: "Oh! you are the green hand, eh? guess you'll be sick enough this time to-morrow." Comforting-very. I had a small demijohn (not empty) in one hand and a box of cigars in the other, which I purposed using as my letters of introduction to the crew. I passed the former to my sympathizer, and desired him to give an opinion as to the contents. He took hold, "looked down in the mouth" a few moments, and, when he had regained his breath, expressed his entire approval. Got ashore again, and seeing nothing of the crew, went back to the hotel to dinner. But some way or
THE COOK EXPRESSING APPROVAL.
another I could not eat. I had seen so many curious things on board, and the ominous words of the cook rose so frequently to my memory, that my appetite was entirely destroyed. About 2, P. M., I went down to the wharf again, and found skipper and crew all assembled, and a better-looking set of boys I never expect to meet-almost all young, strong, and hearty, full of fun and jokes and all manner of curious absurdities. I thought to myself, "Well, I am glad I came." They eyed me narrowly, but said nothingand when we had all signed the shipping articles, we got into our boat and sculled off to the schooner. Every one tumbled on deck, and in five minutes one asked me to take a cigar, and another suggested a little grog, and to my surprise they passed to me my own cigars and Jamaica, which they had fished out of the locker where I had stored them. Telling them to take hold, as I had intended both cigars and rum for them, I drank their health, and we were on the spot sworn friends and ship-mates. "Hoist the mainsail, man the brakes--some of you loose the fore
sail-boy, loose jib and flying-jib;" such were the orders issued in quick succession by our skipper, as he took the helm. Great was the confusion. fearful the rush, and go where I would, I always managed to be exactly in the way. My hands would get into my pockets, as I did not know what else to do with them, till finally I seized hold of one of the brakes, rapped my knuckles smartly against the cable, developing the inner cuticle to some extent, and then concluded that I would look on a while and see how things were done on board ship.
As we rounded Eastern Point, the skipper passed the word for the crew to come aft, and draw lots for sleeping berths; this took about ten minutes, and then all hands set to work to make up their beds, stow away their bags, and clear up generally. Our bunk (the skipper's and mine) was wide enough for two, but when the bed was made, it left less than six inches space between our noses and the deck plank. There were accommodations for six in the after cabin, and seven in the forecastle. The space, exclusive of berth, in each apartment, was about seven by nine feet, and in the forecastle nearly all that was taken up by the table, lockers, and cooking stove-at that time I thought it impossible that thirteen persons could stow themselves away, much less be comfortable, in such narrow quarters, but within very few days I found I was mistaken as to both the stowage and the comfort. The after-gang was to mess first, and the others made up the second table.
About five o'clock the announcement "Supper ready, after-gang," came from the forecastle, and down we went, the subscriber last (a position he abandoned as soon as his sea appetite was established, and the importance of being early at table was demonstrated to his satisfaction), of course I descended the wrong way-instead of turning my face to the steps, I was walking down quietly in the manner I had observed was most in use on land, when presto-the schooner made a lurch, and I came down by the run, my head striking the foot of the foremast, which appeared to have been placed in that particular spot on purpose to prevent green hands from upsetting the table. A slight laugh, a few expressions of sympathy, and the encouraging assurance, that I would