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been only three weeks filling up, and that we would find a number of Gloucester vessels in the Bay.
On Monday we got under weigh, and soon after the skipper called us aft, and divided the lines, hooks, lead, and pewter. The lines are linen, white or blue, and about the size of heavy trout-lines. The fishing-berths were theu marked off, and all hands drew lots for the choice of stations, with the exception of the cook, skipper, and the green
hand (myself), whose places are the same on all vessels, that is, the cook has the forward berth, just aft the fore-rigging, the skipper the middle berth, just forward of the main-rigging, and the green hand the after-berth, being aft of all the rest, and reacbing from his neighbor to the stern, very commodious, and, I found on trial, very appropriate, as in
any other position I should have en“ LEARNING THE ROPES."
tangled the lines of the crew continual
ly. In catching mackerel, all hands learn the ropes," reached my fish on the right or starboard side, the ears as I picked myself up, and took vessel laying to under foresail and my place. Appetite I had none, al- mainsail, and drifting bodily to leeward, though there was plenty to eat, and bait being thrown continually, which everything was good. After supper I keeps the fish near the vessel. turned in,
and soon fell into a troubled And now I obtained my first insight sleep, interspersed with dreams, of into the mysteries of the business. which shipwrecks in every variety form. I lay on the dock in the sun, smoking, ed the staple article, and I awoke in and watching the proceedings of the the morning, anything but enchanted crew with intense interest. The first with a sailor's life. All that day I could thing was to fit out their several berths 806 the crew watching me, looking with cloets, for coiling their lines on, for the first symptoms of sea-sick- which was soon done. Next came the no88, and ready, no doubt, to minister casting of the jigs, and for this purpose (in their way) to my wants. I was for- an iron mould is used, in which the book tunate, however, in escaping an attack, is firmly set, leaving about one-third of although for three days I felt listless, the shank with the point projecting bewoak, and chilly, and had not a particle low the mould. The lead and pewter are of appetite. In the meanwhile all then melted together and poured in, and bands were arranging the watch, setting when each one has cast all the jigs he ap the slack of the rigging, slushing the wants, the mould is passed to the next masts, overbauling their clothes, and —and in about three hours, all hands gradually shaking themselves down into were seated around the deck, with files, their new quarters.
rasps, sand-paper, and dog-fish skin, On the following Saturday we an- shaping, scraping, smoothing, and pochored at Sleep Creek in the Gut of lishing the jigs, each one according to Canso, where we remained until Mon- his fanoy. I had made an attempt to day, taking in fresh water, catching run a jig, and succeeded in melting the lobsters, wandering about the country, material, and pouring some of it into and feasting on strawberries, which my shoe, some on the floor, and a trifle grow luxuriantly in that part of Nova into the mould. Seeing my awkward. Scotia, and are much larger and of finer ness, “ Tom" (my especial chum), and flavor than the wild strawberries with Procter," who took a fatherly interest u8. The skipper and I visited the crew in my welfare, told me to “belay all that, of a schooner, on her way home with a and they would rig me out, as soon as full fare of fish. They said, mackerel they had finished their own." The next were plenty, but small, that they bad day, as I chanced to look along the cleets, I found my own berth fully fitted out, lines, snappers, jigs, and all, in readiness for immediate use, and, on closer inspection, I found that my friends had bestowed far more attention on my tackle than on their own, and, in fact, that my establishment was more complete than any other on board.
As the crew were now prepared for business, and we were very near the fishing-grounds, the skipper announced the hours for meals, etc., as follows, breakfast at four, A. M. (unless the fish are biting, in that case as soon thereafter as they stop biting); dinner at 11, A. M. (with the same exception); tea at 4, P. M. (with the same exception); and supper any time from 8, P. M., until next morning (no exception to this, as mackerel do not bite after sun-down); and no cardplaying (except when the anchor is down).
On Wednesday, the 15th of July, about four o'clock in the morning, I was sleeping soundly, when the cry, heard by me for the first time in my life, “ All hands ahoy! Mackerel, here they gnaw!" awoke me with a start. I raised my head suddenly, struck the plank above, and dropped back to think it over ; in the meanwhile every one had rushed the water, easily distinguishable from. on deck, and by the time I got there, the cats-paws made by the puffs of the fish were flipping lively in the strike wind. The skipper took the helm, one barrels, one of which is placed to the of the men ran out on the jib-boom right and a little behind each fisherman. with his hands full of bait, another Mechanically I threw out my lines, climbed into the boat on the davits, thought I felt a bite, and drow in the provided in the same way, and a third
I lines of my next neighbor, cleared took his place at the bait-box amidthem, and tried again. Soon a large ships; the rest of us stood by the main mackerel took hold, the jerk I gave and fore-sheets, boom-tackle, and jibcaused the line to cut my fingers to the halliards and down-haul.
" Tack ship bone, besides tearing the hook out of —round she came on her keel—"book the fish. Again and again I pulled, and on boom-tackle, ease off main-sheet, jerked, and hauled, but all to no pur- down jib, let go fore-sheet,” and in pose. I could feel for a moment the three minutes the schooner was stationweight of the fish, but straightway he ary, with the water on her starboard was gone. Looking over the side, I side alive with fish. Then came the could see the animals with their round rush to the side, and the quick plump, big eyes, turned up towards me, and plump, of the jigs, and the flip, flip, their mouths open, apparently on a dip, of the mackerel into the barrels. broad grin. I glanced into my neigh- "Tom" left his lines and came to me. bor's barrel, it was half full. I was in Says he, “when you get a bite, haul in despair-soon the flipping ceased, not a quick but steady, so—the first jerk will bite, fish all gone. The boys came tear out the upper jaw, and you lose and looked into my barrel, laughed a your fish---when you get him within little, said I must not be discouraged, three feet of the side, reach down your next "spurt” they would show me how. right hand along the line to within six
About ten o'clock some one sung out: inches of his nose, 80--then raise him "Skipper, school of mackerel on our quick, and with a jerk snap him into lee bow, about a mile off.” We looked, the barrel—that will tear his jaw off, and sure enough there was a ripple on and the jig will naturally fly forward
into the water, then go through the then extracted with one turn of the same operation with the other line.” hand, and the fish are thrown into a Tom caught half a dozen fish while barrel of water to soak : there they regiving his instructions, and then left main for an hour or so, when they are me to shift for myself. For some time salted and put into other barrels : as I could not get the “hang” of it, and soon as these are full they are headed I remember, the first mackerel I got up, marked with the owner's name, or safely over the side, I took hold of with in some other way, to distinguish them, one hand, and with the other took out and stowed away below. the book. I did not try it again, how- The quickness and dexterity with ever, as the laugh that followed my which a ** catch” of fish is dressed and first maneuvre satisfied me that that salted, would surprise any one who wasn't the right way, no how.
looked upon the operation for the first When the fish had ceased biting, we time. It was my business to pass up divided into four gangs for dressing the fish to the splitter, and after they and salting. These
operations are thus were dressed, to the salter, und although performed : All hands put on their oil- I worked as hard as I could, I found it clothes (except the skipper, who takes impossible to keep them busy all the the helm, and whose fish are dressed time. Two good hands can gib as fast by the gang nearest his berth), then as one can split, and there is great strife the splitter, taking a mackerel in his always among the gangs to see who left hand and laying it on a board, with
board, with shall be through first, especially with the head from him and back out, draws the last or sun-down“ spurt," as supa flat, sharp knife down from the head per is the only meal at which all the to the tail, close to the back-bone, crew assemble in the forecastle—and. then, with a turn of the wrist, he throws accommodations being rather scanty the fish into the gib-tub, a large wooden for twelve men, it is easily understood box, about three feet square, and six that “first come is first (and best) inches deep, on opposite sides of which served.” When all the fish are dressed stand the two gibbers. They take out and salted, the decks are washed down the entrails—which is done by holding and swabbed, the barrels properly the fish in the left hand, and with the stowed so as to be out of the way, and thumb of the right loosening the gills we are ready to try them again. I may on each side, the whole of the gibs are remark here, that were it not for water
being so plenty, and so easily available, cook, away forward, sing out: “Hero fishing would be dirty work'; and even they are again, boys," and in an instant as it is, there are some kinds of busi- the dangling legs are all drawn in, every ness that are more cleanly.
face resumes its gravity, the laugh and There are few things more exciting jest are hushed, and the business of the than catching mackerel where the fish' day is resumed. Sometimes the orew are biting fast. Every one moving his will stand at the rail for four hours, the hands and arms as if his life depended fish biting fast and then leaving, at in. upon his exerting himself to the utmost, tervals, until perhaps our second strikethe constant flip, flip, of the fish, as barrel is full, and the skipper saysthey fly from tho water into the strike- “Haul in, boys, guess we'll dress-(not barrels, and the short, quick, impatient ourselves but the catch). cries -“ keep lines clear,"
. whose But we did not fish every day we lines these in my berth ?" " there's were in the Bay, by any means. About a bloater", (extra large fish), “ more the 7th of August, and when we had bait bere, skipper"-with now and then taken about half our fare, say 150 bbls., & strong expletive, indicating the break- a succession of easterly winds with ing of a jig, or the parting of a line. heavy fogs came on, and for three The whole attention is absorbed in the weeks we did not take a fish. We business, and I have stood for nearly were in barbor frequently, and enjoyed an hour, without stirring my feet or ourselves hugely, in the various ways changing my position in the least; for peculiar to sailors and fishermen the any movement, or shifting of feet or
world over. We cruised along the body, will almost certainly embarrass Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Cathe proceedings of our next neighbor, nada coasts, and up into St. Lawrence whose lines, while barreling in his fish. river, but all to no purpose; we could lie on the deck close to our heels. But see plenty of fish, but they would not now the bites are less frequent, only at bite. We spoke with the skippers of long intervals a tinker (small mackerel) some forty fishing-vessels, and the incomes over the side, and every one variable answer to our hail of “Got any draws a long breath, gets a leg over fish lately?" was “No; plenty all over the rail, and sits down to rest. Then the Bay, but they won't eat.” Occacome the jokes and “sells," and loud sionally some schooner, distant perhaps and hearty laughter takes the place of half a mile, and heading on the same the quiet that a moment before reigned course with ourselves, would show signs supreme. Soon, however, we hear the of preparation for a race. First the
peak of the mainsail would be swayed ward. We always accepted the chal. up a trifle, then they would take a pull lenge--would take a pull on all the at the jib-balliards, then she would yaw braces, hitch on the tackle to the fore about and wait till we got abreast of and main boom, to draw the sails down her, when suddenly she would haul up flat as possible, and if there should hapand work away, beating up to wind- pen to be a good fresh breeze, were generally successful, after an hour or was delightful, though somewhat cold, two, in leaving our friend away off to with an occasional breeze from the northleoward.
west. We filled up rapidly, when our At last, about the 27th of August, to- skipper, one morning, as we were work. ward sundown, we raised a “school.” ing into a school, sung out: “We'll They took hold voraciously. In less than turn her nose towards home to-morrow two hours.we had twenty strike-barrels, night, boys, if we have anything like and it was really refreshing, after so long luck till then.” During that day we il spell of idleness, to have something to took eighteen barrels, and the next
We worked slowly down to the morning about seven o'clock, the other North Cape of Prince Edward's Island, vessels being all close in shore, we saw, where we found about forty sail, mostly about three miles off, the largest school Gloucester vessels, and mackerel plenty of fish that had been met with in those and hungry. The weather all the time waters for five seasons. The sea was
fairly alive with them, acre upon acre which on all former occasions we had swimming round and round, seemingly little difficulty in doing. At last, our without any fixed purpose or destination. skipper said, and for the last time that The rest of the fleet saw our mancu- trip : “ Haul in, boys, we're full, let's go vres, and by the time we had worked home.” into the school they were all after us, As we were coiling up our lines and every sail set and coming down in a straightening our backs after our exerbody. Strike-barrels were becoming tions, we looked around and saw the scarce, and by unanimous consent we rest of the fleet lying to on all sides of closed up the hawse-boles on the lee us, none of them more than a mile disside, and struck off the fish on deck in tant, and the crews of every one working one indiscriminate heap. And such fish- away for dear life. It was a very cuing! I had supposed, on former occa- rious sight to see the quick and consions, that I had seen fast biting and fast stant movement of so many hands and fishing: but I soon found my mistake. arms (we were so far off that the lines The fish seemed perfectly ravenous. were invisible), and it seemed as though We shortened our lines to about eight every man was gesticulating with franfeet, and for three hours the sport was tic vehemence, ever and anon pointing kept up. But I am wrong; it was only to the water before him. Over eight sport for half an hour; the rest of the hundred barrels were taken that day, by time it was work, and hard work, too. the fleet, out of that one school. The jig could scarcely touch the water When we turned to, to dress this last before the fish would seize it, and it was catch, we found, and greatly to my suralmost impossible to attend to two lines, prise, that they were a totally different