A jolly voyage

Notes of a Voyage to Buenos Ayres & back

Sailed 19th November 1830 -Returned 9th June 1831

29 Weeks – one day

A long time has elapsed since we returned from our last voyage to Mexico, which was on Sunday 12th Sept.r The cause of this unusual delay has been that our Packet has undergone a general repair at M.r Hocking’s yard Stonehouse. We went to Plymouth on the 18th Sept.r and remained there till the 15th November – when our mail becoming due on the 19th instant, we were under the necessity of starting, leaving many things undone for Falmouth. This was on Monday – but owing to the state of the weather, our Capt.n did not judge it to be prudent, however great his anxiety was to reach his port, to start before Wednesday. Fortunately for us, we entered Falmouth Harbour next morning just in time to hoist our Blue Peter and to save our Mail. As soon as we came to anchor instant preparations were made for going to sea next morning – and you may easily conceive the hurry scurry in the ship when I tell you that we had every thing to take on board except water, with which we had provided ourselves at Plymouth. We were in hopes that the Packet would be detained as most frequently happens, and particularly when we heard of a change of Ministry – but we did not on that account neglect to have every thing ready for our starting at the appointed time. For my own part I set to and got nearly all my traps on board, leaving only a few articles which I could easily take with me should we be sent off at once.

Leave Falmouth Great Confusion

Friday 19th November – to my very great disappointment, soon after the Mail came in the signal gun was fired, and our fears of our proceeding punctually to sea, which had been excited by their being no detention yesterday, were sadly realised. The orders of the Post being as irrevocable as the Laws of the Medes and the Persians, there was no alternative but to submit with a good grace. Having settled any affairs & collected all my traps, I went on board little suspecting to witness the scene of indescribable confusion which awaited me there. You must know that in addition to our peculiar causes of bustle, we had this morning received a cargo of 20 miners, 2 captains of the Mines – 2 females and 2 children – and consequently the decks were absolutely crowded with them and those friends, who had come to take a last farewell. Besides there were upwards of 80 large chests and packages belonging to our passengers, which so lumbered almost every part of the ship, that it was impossible to move about without danger. In short nothing that I had ever seen or imagined would have led me to conceive the chaotic jumbling of these most heterogeneous articles which was every where presented – for whatever might chance to come on board were thrown together as they arrived, and no attempt was made to stow away until we were fairly at sea.

You may be sure, that this bustle and crowding together were far from being agreeable or pleasant, and is was with no small satisfaction, that I heard orders given to clear up the deck, and to bring out some order from this mass of confusion. By night altho’ much remained still to be accomplished, the more oppressing sources of inconvenience had been removed – and it was exceedingly fortunate for us that notwithstanding the wind was foul the weather was remarkably fine.

Saturday 20th Nov. r – gale from the South West – dull thick weather – found ourselves far to the Eastward from the tide & wind.

Sunday 21st  – variable weather – foul wind.

Monday 22nd  – this morning abreast of the Lizard – fine weather – foul wind. Sailors and Miners busily engaged in stowing away the different chests &.c

Tuesday 23rd  – fine weather – wind fair with heavy swell – nearly a calm all the afternoon.

Wednesday 24th – dull gloomy weather with drizzling rain – favourable wind.

Thursday 25th – very fine weather – nearly a calm all day – favourable breeze at night.

Friday 26th – cloudy weather – strong and favourable breezes.

Saturday 27th – dull rainy weather – foul wind, blowing a gale from S.W.

Sunday 28th – gale in the morning – more moderate during the day. Squally dull weather.

Monday 29th – variable weather – fresh and favourable breezes.

Tuesday 30th Nov.r – foul wind & rainy weather in the morning – fair and favourable during the day – caln nearly all night.

Wednesday 1st Dec.r – very changeable weather – foul wind.

Thursday 2d – fine weather but foul wind.

Friday 3d – fine weather – wind partly foul and partly fair.

Saturday 4th – in the morning fine weather – during the day variable with rain – wind foul in the morning, fair in the afternoon.

Sunday 5th – rainy morning – fine day – wind nearly favourable.

Monday 6th – very fine weather – wind variable sometimes fair.

Complaints of Sea Monotony ~ Some fun on board

Tuesday 7th – light favourable breezes – cloudy but pleasant weather. For these some days past we have had little whereof to complain in respect of the weather, the state of which is the sure index of comfort or discomfort to us mariners – but on the other hand, although’ our party is so numerous, our days hitherto have run on in a dull monotonous current, which threatened to terminate in a complete stagnation. Of this fact you can easily judge for yourself from my notice of each day’s occurrences consisting of nothing but a mere dry detail of the wind and weather. It is therefore a matter of no small pleasure to me to have something to say, altho’ it is of such trifling in particular, that nothing but the cause I have mentioned viz. the paucity of events, could have instigated its insertion. I may observe that the several circumstances which follow are technically called ‘riggs,’ and it is inconceivable how much zest and enjoyment a Jack Tar derives from them, while in the opinion of a landsman they are beneath the notice of a man and adapted only to the meridian of children or mischievous schoolboys. For my own part, I am always highly delighted with our sea “larks,” provided they are all ended neither with harm or prejudice to the subject of them. But now for the incident which has given rise to all this twaddling.

While we (the Master, Mate and self) were conversing on the quarter deck with Captain Jeffery [a mine captain], we were surprised by an unusual commotion among the Miners, who seemed to be under the influence of no common cause of mirth. Shortly after all came trooping aft laughing and talking at a prodigious rate not to but at some unfortunate wights of their own number, who had subjected themselves to the general ridicule in consequence of some sin of omission or commission. It is not to be supposed that we, who were eager to catch the slightest glimpse of something comical, could be long ignorant of the cause of this rumpus – indeed, apparently the great body of the Minerity were anxious that we should join in the fun, by their speedy reference to us to give our opinion of the case in hand. We were asked very gravely whether it was not indispensable for persons wishing to enter the Empire of Brazil to be furnished with a passport – and when we answered, as in truth we could, in the affirmative, a loud guffaw of laughter arose, the reason of which they explained to be, that two [of] their number (in all 26) had absolutely forgotten this essential requisite. These men W.m Treweek a simple, half witted, but exceedingly good natured fellow and a Thomas Manuel, a person whose appearance did not betoken him to be guilty of such a piece of stupidity. It appeared upon evidence when inquiry was made as to the discovery of their non possession of passports, that the conversation being turned (perhaps slyly) upon this subject, the two ill-fated defaulters were detected. The attention of everyone from Cook to Captain was now directed to Treweek and Manuel – and many were the gibes and jeers – the reflections & the approaches – the taunting sneers and affected sympathy of the wags (for Miners are all wags in their way) which they were doomed to submit to. All this they did not resent, for they were too deeply grieved at the probable consequence of their carelessness to listen to the contemptuous language of some, and but too ready to give credence to the exaggerated reports and surmises of others. They indeed received no mercy. How could you be so foolish – you tell me you are 24 years old, you are surely only 16 – did you not read our articles, where a passport is mentioned – what did you go to Fox’s (Brazilian Consul) office for? Were questions to which they could only answer that they had known nothing at all about the matter, never having been told that a passport (of which they had never heard was necessary). And now, said some what can you do – You cannot go to the Mines openly without a proper qualification in the shape of a passport, and if you attempt to elude the Argus eyes of the Brazilian Authorities, you will be shot directly or clapped in prison for life. Would you not give most willingly give up to £25 or £30 to be delivered out of your present trouble; suggested one kind friend – most willingly replied the poor terrified fellow – and then they were somewhat comforted by this expedient, till another said that this was vain and proposed to pass them off for females (they were both fair) by shaving beards and whiskers, and dressing them in female attire. To add, if possible to their deplorable condition their own Captains fell foul of them, and severely reprobating their folly, pointed out to them how much they had cost the company, to whom their services could not now be rendered. All this was said with the utmost seriousness, and made a proportionably impression – and when their fears had been strung to the highest pitch, they were almost ready to worship our skipper, when he promised to give them a certificate, which would clear them at Rio provided they would give a dinner to the rest of the Miners, and some grog to our men – conditions to which they most cheerfully and thankfully assented. Our Captain moreover added that if he were unsuccessful, he would take them home & charge their passage to the Company’s expense.

When every thing seemed to be thus satisfactorily settled, and some cessation had taken place in the jokes of the rest another plan was suggested which seemed more feasible was suggested by M.r Geach, who proposed that they should be furnished with something in the shape of [a] passport which would no doubt pass for current with the Commandant of the Port. No sooner said than done, and two most incongruous but most precious documents were produced, which nothing but a belief in the utter ignorance of the Miners would have led anyone to bring forward for the purpose. William Treweek brought to me for my inspection and old, dirty, Admiralty Protection against impressment, granted 50 years ago to our Carpenter and requested me to erase the name and other particulars which appertained to the description of the said carpenter and in their room insert those, which perfectly described him. To this I agreed. Next Thomas Manuel lugged forth as his Mainstay, a venerable copy of the Quarantine Regulations of Malta, having the King’s Arms at the top, and wished me to do something by it, so as to render it valid as a passport for him. His request I also promised to comply with.

I first altered by scraping and other means the Admiralty Protection which now set forth that William, instead of Gustavus Glasson was the bearer of it – that his age was 27 – his height 5 feet 8 inches – his complexion fair – his hair & eyes light – in short it was easy to alter everything excepting this, that it was mentioned that our Carpenter had broke his arm, and that in consequence it was somewhat crooked. This difficulty seemed insuperable, until William confidently affirmed that it was possible for him to carry his arm so awry as to deceive those who did not inspect it narrowly. This simple but efficacious expedient being suggested and rightly approved nothing farther was necessary to be added but the impression of the Seal of Office. For this purpose I made use of an old vintine, a Brazilian coin, which really looked as well as a Seal of much higher pretensions and much greater authority. My customer was highly pleased with his passport – but being ignorant of writing he made his mark of the following form, as was directed.

[a circle dissected into eight segments]

No sooner had I dispatched one passport than Thomas Manuel was impatient to have a similar document. On the Back of the Quarantine regulations I wrote in Latin & Portuguese some bombastic nonsense about allowing Thomas Manuel, having the following marks viz. Age 24 – height 5 ft 8 ins. – dullish eyes – fair complexion – light hair – ordinary nose – ordinary chin with beard – to pass unquestioned thro’ the Brazilian Empire – and signed the whole with the name of the Emperor Peter the Fourth. In order to give more appearance of validity to this instrument I had it most formally drawn out and appended two broad seals. As a matter of course the bearer signed his name and after receiving it with many thanks, and much regret that he could not repay me for the trouble I had taken, he carefully folded up the precious paper and stowed it away in the inmost recesses of his chest. Such was the termination of a business which yielded us so much amusement, but I must mention lest you should imagine that we were all laughing at what was a really calamity to Treweek and Manuel, that tho’ they had stupidly neglected to secure their passports, their Captains had exercised better care, and were in possession of Passports for all. Had the case been a really otherwise the affair would have assumed a more serious colour and the worst consequences might have resulted to the unfortunate men.