18 Days at Sea

Saturday 14 February – this morning the wind was still in the same quarter, but rather fitful. Weather finer. Sicily also was in sight and upon approaching it we tacked about in the direction of Malta again. We soon changed our course to Sicily, with the intention of doubling Cape Passaro, the Southern extremity of it, and thus of having smoother sea, and calmer weather. Course N.51º E. Distance 33, Latitude 36º 15’N. Longitude 15º 2’E. Chronom 15º 2 E.

Mount Aetna – Syracuse – Weather

Sunday 15th February – on coming upon deck this morning, I found that we had passed round Cape Passaro, and that we were sailing about with light breezes and smooth water, in front of that portion of the island which extends from Passaro to Capo Morro di Pores. Apparently at no great distance from us rose Mount Aetna, covered, nearly as far as we could see, with a garment of snow. Almost at the summit, we distinctly beheld the black smoke issuing from the Greater Crater, which contrasted strangely with the pure whiteness of the Snow. Not far from us (only 1 league from Morro de Porce, or 2 or 3 hours sail) was Syracuse, once so famous in History and Commerce but now, reduced to utter insignificance. – but even yet the climate of it, is so fine, that according to the ancient adage, there is never a day on which the sun is not visible, at some one hour. That part of Sicily before us now appeared to be well diversified with hill and vale, but no mountains except Aetna rose pre-eminently high, or indeed to any great height at all. The interior of the country seemed to be highly cultivated – and I believe Sicily still maintains as high a representation for fertility, as when of old she bore the name, of the “Granary of The Roman Empire.”

The weather too has undergone a considerable change in a short time. Ever since we left Corfu, we have suffered much from hail, thunder and lightning – and in fact, we have felt the coldness of winter, as severely as you will do at home. But today the sky is beautiful – the air is clear, and the weather very warm – a change far from being ungrateful to our feelings, and very appropriate to the performance of divine service. So that on the whole, I do not consider the wind that blows, as one, which blows nobody good, since, in consequence of it we have had a good view of Sicily & mount Aetna. We continue in sight of mount Aetna, and the same line of coast all day, as the winds were either very light, or there was a calm. Distance 69, Latitude 36º 50’N.

South Coast of Sicily

Monday 16th Feb.ry – beautiful morning and the breeze, tho’ light is favourable. During the night, we passed round Cape Passairo and have now a view of a considerable portion of the Southern side of Sicily, which is even more beautiful than the eastern. The land rises gradually from the sea shore in a gentle swell, until it attains a pretty considerable height – it is highly cultivated, well watered, and adorned with numerous villages and towns &.c A very fine object in the back ground is Mount Aetna, placed in relief, by its lowering height, and white colour, against the far inferior magnitude, and green clothing of the hills in sight. As we coasted slowly along, with every thing to render sailing pleasant, as delicious weather and smooth sea, the appearance of the coast is continued the same, till we came near – Cape Scalamibra, where the country looked more elevated and mountainous. –

Distance 40 miles. Latitude 36º 39  longitude 14º 39’. Chronometer 14º 20’ Bearings and Dist.ce at Noon, Cape Granitola bore N 60 W. Dist.ce 110 miles.

Tuesday 17th Feb.ry – most delightful day – very light winds. This morning found ourselves almost midway, between Malta and Sicily – but both at a considerable dist.ce From this it will be seen, that we have made little onward progress, which is owing to our having been obliged to tack about in the night, as the wind would not allow us to go round Cape Scalambra with safety. We continued in sight of land the whole day, and many sails were around us. Towards night the fresh breeze died away, and we had nearly a calm.

Distance 58 miles.  Lat.e 36º 36 N.  Longi. 14º 26 – Cape Granitola bore N 58 W. Dist.ce 105 miles.

Aegadean Islands

Wednesday 18 February – beautiful day. A favourable and fresh breeze spring up at 4 oClock A.M. Land is still in sight, but very indistinct. The temperature of the air, for these last few days, has been most remarkable, and equals that of the best of our Autumns. At 12 oClock we saw, on our larboard side the small island of Pantellaria, which is a dependency of Sicily. At 3 P.M. we were opposite to Cape Boco, the Westernmost point of Sicily. Land is still in sight, but very indistinct. The temperature of the air, for these last days, has been most remarkable, and equals that of the best of our Autumns. At 12 oClock we saw, on our larboard side the small island of Pantellaria, which is a dependency of Sicily. At 3 P.M. we were opposite Cape Boco, the westernmost point of Marsala (ant.l Lelybeeum) which presents a very fine aspect of domes and turrets to those at sea. Thus we have coasted along Sicily, from its most Southern point Cape Passaro, to its most Western Cape Boco, and now as our course lies differently, we shall lose sight of it altogether. At the same time we saw Cape Boco, three of the islands, called anciently the Aegedes, were visible, viz. Maretinio (ant.l Hiera), Favignana (ant.l Aegusa), and Levanso (ant.l Bucinna). They appeared, at the distance from which we observed them, to be merely 3 small and barren rocks. Distance 83 miles. Latitude 37º 25’. Longit.e 12º 28’  Chronom.t 12º 22 W.

Thursday 19th Feb.y – beautiful morning with light winds and very warm weather. No land in sight. In the afternoon, sky rather cloudy & wind considerably fresher. 3 sails in sight. Course N 73º  W. Latitude 38º 26 N. Longitude 10º  41 E. Chronometer 10º  27’ E.

Friday 20th February – weather fine and cool-fresh breezes. Passed Toro, off Sardinia this morning. Towards night the wind lulled to near a calm. Course N.83º  W. Distance 141 miles. Latitude 38º 43’N. Longitude by account 7º 42 E. by Chronometer 7º 39’30” E. Cape Palos bore S.80º 30’W. 401 miles.

Saturday 21st Febr.ry – beautiful day fine sailing, with smooth sea. Breeze again sprung up this morning, which continued with increasing strength all day. Afternoon cloudy but fair. Course N.798W. Distance 78 miles. Latitude 38º 58’N. Longitude 6º 2’E. Chronometer 5º 41’30”.

Sunday 22nd Febr.y – in the morning sea very rough – weather fair but cloudy. In the afternoon little wind and fine weather. Course N.84º W. Distance 83 miles. Latitude 39º 3’N. Longitude 4º 16’E. Chronom.r 3º 53’E.

Monday 23rd Febr.y – morning very disagreeable from heavy sea and cloudy weather. At noon the wind became more moderate and the sky cleared up. Course S.77º W. Distance 73 miles. Latitude in 38º 47’N. Longitude 2º 42’E. Chronometer 2º 30’E.

Tuesday 24th Febr.y – morning cloudy with fine and favourable breeze afternoon clear and cool. Course S.23º W. Distance 83 miles. Latitude 37º 46’N. Longitude 2º 9’E. Chronom: 2º 1’30” E.

Wednesday 25th February – wind fresh and favourable – day fine and cool. At night nearly a calm. Course N.88º W. Distance 55 miles Lat.e 37º 47’N. long. 0º 40’E. Chronom: 0º 49’15”E.

Thursday 26th February – beautiful morning. At 4 A.M. the breeze sprung up fresh and in our favour still. Many sails in sight at different distances. At ten oClock came in sight of Cape Palos, and the High Coast of Spain. At noon the wind subsided and we had nearly a calm – but light breezes came on at 3 P.M. and continued all day. Course S.59º W. Distance 74 miles. Latitude 37º 7’N. Longitude 0º 40’W. Chronometer 0º 47’W.

Cape Palos – Bay of Carbonera – Towers & Castles

Friday 27th February – very fine day – light breezes with smooth sea. The coast of Spain, high mountainous, and partly covered with snow in sight, almost from cape Palos to Cape de Gata. At 12 the wind changed and forced us to tack about towards the land. We entered the Bay of Carbonera, and had a distinct, and near view of this bold part of Iberia. I remarked with curiosity, the numerous castles and towers, which seemed to line the whole coast and which serve, for the purposes of observation, but, I should suppose from their small size, but little for defence, except, perhaps, against the insignificant predatory excursions of their neighbours, the Moors. As a contrast to the rugged scenery around us, a few fields near the small town of Carbonera, of the richest verdure, which the imagination can conceive, presented a most agreeable prospect.

When we had approached very close to the land, which the depth of the water permits to be done, to within a yard or two of the shore, with perfect safety, we tacked about at half past five P.M. and stood out to sea again. A very great number of vessels, under the same circumstances as ourselves, being unable, on account of the wind, to get round Cape de Gata, were sailing on all sides of us – during the night we will attempt to accomplish this by frequent tacking backward and forwards, and thus to make progress slantwise or obliquely. Latitude 37º 1’N. Longitude by Chronometer 1º 53’15”W.

Dense Fog

Saturday 28 Febr.ry – out of sight of land this morning. The day was, to use a frequent expression of Tourists, a glorious one, with a warm, brilliant sun, clear sky, and calms alternately with light breezes, till about 2 oClock, when a dense fog, accompanied with a mephitic odour, & coming from the arid Coast of Africa, overcast the whole heavens, and left us unable to see, but a very short distance before us. This worse than Scotch mist, cleared up at 6 oClock P.M. and disclosed to our eager eyes the very high coast of Spain, not far from Cape de Gatt, which we had succeeded in getting round. We continued in the direction of the land for two hours longer, and then tacked out to sea. Course S.31º W. Distance 53 miles. Latitude 36º 17’N. longitude 2º 15’W. Chronometer 2º 25’W.

Anchor in Bay of Almeria

Sunday 1st March 1829 – we this morning, experienced the truth of what had been told with regard to the Mediterranean, viz. that, in the winter season the weather & winds are altogether unsettled. It was blowing half a gale, and from the direction the most opposite to us. The sky was enveloped in a thick mist, thro’ which the shores of Spain were but dimly descried. In a short time we found ourselves in the Bay of Almeria, which town, once of great commercial importance, was but a few miles from us, when we came to anchor, as we did at 12 oClock. Our position was in front of the small town (village?) and Castle of Roquetas, situated near the entrance of the Bay. Its appearance is mean, and it is by no means calculated for the pursuits of commerce as there is only an open roadstead before it. It is built at the foot of a very lofty mountain, and on an extensive down, or piece of low ground, which does not appear to be very favourable to vegetation. At this point (village of Roquetas), the high land, which we had seen all along from Cape Palos to be close to the shore, ceased – and the mountains then retired from the sea, a little, and trended more interiorly, leaving the space between them and the shore to be occupied by the Llanos or plains of Almeria, which I believe, extend a considerable way.

There were some ten or twelve vessels riding at anchor with ourselves, and as many others tacking about and about around us, notwithstanding the prevalence of a heavy gale of foul wind, which and induced our Captain to come to a mooring here. At 6 oClock P.M. the wind having abated and the swell of the sea being less, it was resolved to stand out to sea again, but a difficulty occurred, which prevented us at this time. It was found that the anchor had sunk so deep into the ground that I was impossible to weigh it up. At 9 oClock P.M. it was nearly calm, and the renewed exertions of the crew, having proved successful in getting the Anchor up, we left our forced station to proceed on our voyage.

Leave the Bay of Almeria – [Carpenter falls overboard]

Monday 2nd March – during almost the whole night a calm prevailed, so that this morning we were not more than about 6 miles from the place, where we had been at anchor yesterday. At 11 oClock the same unfavourable breeze sprung up but lazily, along with a considerable swell of the sea. At 3 oClock we tacked about towards the land again, altho’ we were at no great distance from it.

At 5 oClock, every one on board was thrown into great consternation by the alarm being given that a man had fallen overboard. This was soon ascertained to be our Carpenter, Gustavus Glasson, who, having been up the fore shrouds, taking down several articles of clothing, which had been hung up to dry, had, in his descent missed his footing, and fallen into the sea. In a few moments all hands were engaged in lowering two boats, and, as often happens in such a sudden emergency, no regular method being observed, but all hurrying to do they knew not exactly what first, more time was lost, than if they had directed their attention to the disengagement of only one boat.

The Captain himself was conspicuous among the most forward to render assistance, and put his hands to expedite what was necessary to be done, as eagerly and, I may say, more anxiously than any else. As it would have lost much time to have regularly untied the ropes, which secured the second gig, orders were given to cut away and make haste – and so much haste, indeed was made, that both the gig and the dinkie, were, in a short time, rowing out to the assistance of the poor Carpenter, to save him from a watery grave, whilst they even forgot, or else did not take time, to put in the plugs, which are generally used in stopping up the hole made in the bottom of them, for the purpose of allowing the escape of the water, with which they may be washed and cleaned. The consequence of this neglect was, that in a very brief space of time, no small quantity of water rushed in thro’ these holes – which circumstance, however, was totally disregarded, in their eagerness to assist their unfortunate messmate, who had now been in the water for about 6 or 10 minutes. At the instant of the alarm being given, the ship was put about – but before this could be accomplished, as we had a fresh breeze, Glasson was a good way astern.

With feelings of anxiety and deep interest, which I cannot describe, I watched these motions and saw with joy, that he was able to keep himself afloat, altho’ as he told us afterwards, he had never learned to swim. Every succeeding moment was fraught with a more intense feeling than the preceding one, from the anxious hope that he would be able to support himself on the surface, till succour should reach him, while, at the same time this hope was often dashed with the fear, that every coming wave would engulph him in its bosom; or, that, wearied out or from some other cause, he might sink never more to rise. While considering all this, the nearer and nearer the boats approached him. I felt almost breathless, with the interest of excitement, and experienced the removal of a heavy load of oppression, when they dragged him [aboard] – so that I believe, I actually Shouted for my gladness. Do not imagine mia cara Madre, that this is an exaggerated description of my feelings, or that I wish to throw the glare of romance over a very common place story – very far from this, for I am persuaded, that the most energetic terms, which our language affords, would fail in, or at least fall far short of conveying to you the real state of my mind. Besides you must consider, that this has been the very first sight of the like danger, which I have ever witnessed – and that, to see a human being, whom I had known intimately for nearly a year, apparently on the point of meeting a watery death – before my face, while I myself had nothing to do but to behold his peril in safety, that was surely enough to harrow up the soul. Less impression would have been made upon me by seeing great numbers swept away in the heat of battle, where I myself might also meet perchance the same fate. How providential and fortunate was it, that the accident happened at a time, when the sea was comparatively smooth. Had poor Glasson fallen overboard yesterday, when it was blowing a gale of wind, with a heavy sea, nothing, short of a miracle, could have saved him, and we would have lost one of the most useful men in the ship. As it was, he reached the vessel in safety, and all the clothes, which he had under his arm at the time, were picked up, with the exception of a few articles.

As soon as every thing had been again secured, we went on our course towards land, and at 7 oClock, tacked about again to sea. The whole day had been fine, and cool.

Tuesday 3rd March – a dead calm this morning, with a hazy sky, while we were but a short distance from the shore. It is said by sailors, that a calm is half a fair wind, and great anxiety was shown as to what quarter the wind would blow from. To our great satisfaction, after having been so long the sport of adverse winds, it began to blow favourably but gently, and increased in strength. During the whole day we had the coast of Spain in pretty close view, as we were obliged to keep near the shore, to avoid the very strong current, which prevails in the centre of the Mediterranean. This current, when combined with the wind is so strong, as to carry vessel[s] considerably out of their way. Course ____ Latitude 36º 26’N. Longit. 2º 41’W.

Read on … Gibraltar (2)