Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Family History, Part 2

Chapter 1: This is how it began and who knows how it will end.


The next morning when the ship sailed, most of the crew drunk - or nearly so - and all were feeling good and happy. As we began to sail out on the Fjord, we all gathered on the Forecastle Head and gave the town the usual farewell of three rousing "hurrahs".

As we got around Fungeness the weather began to get bad and we were now in the North Sea, and it began to blow with a heavy wind. It was now dark and raining. The captain ordered the sails taken in and the upper top sails to be reefed. As the men started up the rigger they told me and the other deck boy to stay on deck and clear up the ropes around the mast as we were no good aloft. That was agreeable to both of us! The ship was rolling and in the heavy seas and some ofit was coming over the rails. I was beginning to get seasick. We hung around the mast doing what we could in clearing up the ropes when, all at once, the chief officer spotted us and with a roar that was heard above wind and sea called out, "What the hell are you two doing there?" Well, we said the men told us we would be no good aloft in this weather and that we should clear the ropes. With another roar, he said, "Get the hell up and help to reef the sail!!" And up we went in the dark and rain as rapidly as we could and out on the yard arm with the rest. I tied two reef points and was all ready to feel proud of myself when the ship was snugged down from the gale. The men said to us, "What the hell did you two come up for, you were no good up there." My answer to that was that I had tied two reef points so in my estimation I had been of some help.

That first night at sea made a sailor out of me.

The days following the weather moderated and the coast of England showed up one forenoon. A tugboat took us and towed the ship into the Harbor of Sunderland. That night some of the sailors went ashore and took me along with them. I went shopping for tobacco and other needed things. I bought a tin coffee cup, knife and fork. In those days you had to carry bedding and dishes with you. When that was done I started back to the ship but I got lost among all the docks and ships. After midnight, I came across a policeman and made him understand that I was hopelessly lost. He then took me to the Station House where I was questioned, and me not knowing any English finally got them to understand that I was a sailor on a ship whose name was "Freda". They then found in their book where she was docked and they sent the cop with me. When we came to the ship the crew was fighting amongst themselves and I heard them say in Norwegian, "Where did you leave him and why did you let him go alone?" When they saw me with the cop the fight stopped. When the Policeman calmed them the men then dug down in their pockets for money for the cop -- Experience No. 1.

I decided then and there that I would learn the English language as soon as possible.

After loading coal for Buenos Aires we set sail. The weather was now fine and we made a good run along the coast and through the English Channel, then south along the African Coast until we picked up the northeast trade winds.

to be continued....


Cherie said...

I love tales such as this. My grandfather was in the Merchant Navy during World War II and had some incredible stories about the supply missions he did to Russia. Amazing tales of not only being at sea, but living and fighting in some of the war's most treacherous conditions.

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Mama Lou said...

I really love this story about family history.
there should be a publication of these experiences.