Set Sail & Reflections

Journal of a Voyage from Falmouth to the Mediterranean & back

Sailed 8th January – Returned 30th March 1830

January 8th 1830 – Early this morning the Duke of York moved from the Inner Harbour to the Carrick Roads, and when I first saw her from my window, she was lying nearly between S.t Mawes and Pendennis Castle, out of sight of the flag staff in from of Captain King’s house [1].  Having already sent on board all my traps, with the exception of a few light articles, I waited very patiently the arrival of the Mail – the hauling the Blue Peter and the hoisting of our packet signal – and the firing of a Gun. 8 oClock came – then half past 8 – and still no signs appeared of our being appointed to start this day to my great disappointment – and I persuaded myself that an order for our detention had been received.

About 9 oClock I observed the Astrea signalling to Capt.n on shore and shortly afterwards she fired a gun, which was instantly answered by us. In 10 minutes afterwards the Mediterranean signal was shewn at Commodore’s and a second gun was then fired by the Duke, followed by the display of the private signal. Being thus made aware that we were not to be detained I immediately hastened on board, where I observed that the flagstaff on shore could not be seen from our present situation, which had given rise to the delay in making our signals for sea.

Leave Falmouth

This morning presented the busiest scene, which I have yet witnessed – it was “confusion worse confounded.” A number of passengers had unexpectedly come down by the Mail and consequently a large additional quantity of live stock was required to be shipped in a short time. The luggage of these passengers too came pouring in embracing trunks, boxes, carriages &.c – so great was the quantity, that I did not expect to see it all taken before 2 oClock. By the aid of several extra hands, busily employed from 8 oClock, we had got it safely on board by 12 oClock, when the Captain came with the Mail. Tho’ the decks were completely littered with a perfect bazaar of things, preparations were instantly made for sea. Every thing conspired to render the outset of this voyage auspicious to all – we had twelve ten passengers – the weather tho’ cold was delightful, the sky being without a cloud – and to crown all, the wind was fresh and as favourable as our anxious could wish. On we went in grand style and as there [was] comparatively little motion, hardly a single passenger was sick. After the necessary operations had been completed in respect to the setting of the sails, the Men were employed during the rest of the day in stowing away securely, the packages &.c which crowded the decks – and by night we were comfortable.


There is one subject, which (as my Journal is intended to be a journal of feelings as well as of events) strikes me as worthy of being noticed here. At the commencement of my previous voyages (and I remember it was particularly the case with me, when I left for the first time Auld Scotia’s shores) melancholy thoughts and [?] come over my mind and deep regret was felt, when I bid adieu to Old England. What precisely gave rise to these feelings can hardly be described – my mind was a perfect chaos of contending emotions, all of which were of a lugubrious cast – and in one wild tide were intermingled sorrow at parting with friends – the dread of what time might bring forth to them, what sorrows, what losses might be their portion before my return – and an undefined apprehension that perhaps I myself might never live to see those smiling countenances and hear those cheerful voices, which memory endears and hallows to my soul. I defy anyone even one who is about to be separated for a short time only from his nearest and dearest connections, to shake off that ill foreboding cloud of sorrow – which throws such a gloomy veil over the coming events which seem to cast their shadows before – and at once and without effort – to engage with indifference in the scene before him. If there are any such, I envy them not their philosophy – their stoicism – their manfulness in repressing within them the gushing emotions to which natural and social affection ought to give rise, in all, whose hearts are not encased in adamant or iron – and I desire to enlist in the ranks of those who without forgetting their manly character, or allowing their emotions to become excessive, childish or womanish, have still a tear to shed, a sigh to heave, and convulsive pressure of the hand, to give when parting from their tender parents – their well-beloved brothers and sisters – their affectionate relatives, and their interested friends.

How comes it then, since we have admitted a proper expression of feeling to be allowable, in quitting, for any indefinite period, our dearest friends – that this feeling is not always expressed, or at least in a form and degree which is almost tantamount to a negation of it? Ought a person thus situated to be stigmatised as no longer possessing any affection for those, who were once, as ‘the apple of his eye,’ since the character of expressing how dear they are to him is changed? Such a supposition would be both hard and unjust. ‘Tis the character of our feelings and emotions, which has undergone a change, not their source – the images of the future are altered, whilst the heart and its affections continue the same.

To explain – On our first three or four voyages the mind is oppressed with the bitterness of separation, and sorrow accompanies it – but afterwards when we perceive that all our anticipations of evil have been frustrated, we then proceed on our subsequent expeditions with joy and delight and no longer cast a long and lingering look upon the receding shores of old England, as if we were never more to see them – but on the contrary we look forwards to our hailing her, at the very distant period, with additional rapture and joy. It is, then, I imagine because we have returned so oft and in safety and have heard good news of the welfare of those whom we love at home, that we come to lose these natural, yet anomalous feelings, which are exhibited by those who leave for the first time the scenes of their boyhood – their youth – or their manhood. If this be true, it will easily be admitted, that no want of feeling – no absence of natural affection – no callous indifference to all but self can be charged, with the slightest shadow of justice, upon those whose sentiments are as I have above mentioned.

For my own part I confess that I am one of the number of those, who can leave England, not certainly without regret altogether, but without violent or excessive sorrow. Now that I have performed 4 voyages, and know somewhat of the sea, I view our departure as only a change from one house to another, proposing to return to the one I prefer in a very short time. I endeavour always to keep before my mental eye, the bright side of the picture, and from past experience hope, that in the Providence of God I shall still have many happy returns from my wanderings, consoling myself meanwhile for the privation of the society of friends, that they are well, and will retain an unchanged affection for me.

Saturday 9th January – the same beautiful [weather] as yesterday continued all day, but in the evening, the wind changing from NE to NNW brought with it heavy clouds and a slight rain. The temperature of the air is much milder than it was yesterday.

Sunday 10th – very cloudy but fair weather – wind fresh and veering from NNE to NNW – Studding sail set.

Monday 11th – weather variable, generally fine – strong and favourable breeze.

Tuesday 12th – very squally, with frequent showers of rain – fresh and favourable breezes.

Wednesday 13th – most beautiful day – land in sight, but too far off to be distinctly seen. At 4 P.M. we were abreast of Cape S.t Vincent, a few particulars respecting which I mentioned in my last voyage to the Mediterranean. S.t Vincent is the very extremity of a long Table land, stretching from the mountains of the Interior. Directly in front of it and at no great distance is a large insulated and pointed [?], which presents to a person far off the appearance of a ship sailing round. As soon as you round the Cape, you observe a small creek, the opposite extremity of which is formed by another projection and a broader one, of the land. On it is erected a large cluster of houses, with a flag in the centre, apparently some military or telegraphic establishment. Wind moderate & favourable.

Thursday 14th Jan.ry – to our great disappointment, instead of reaching Cadiz about noon to day, we were still many miles from it at night, with no prospect of seeing it very soon. During the greater part of last night, the wind was very light, and, towards morning died away altogether. After an interval of some hours the breeze again sprung up – but alas it was from the quarter in which we wished to steer our course. This obliged us to have recourse to tacking – which always puts off much time, and leave little actual progress to shew for it. A long line of coast was in sight – the same which we had past last year in the night, and consequently had not been seen by us. Its general aspect was mountainous, well wooded, and richly sprinkled with houses of every description from the peasant cottage to the Hidalgo’s villa.

In the midst of the annoyance occasioned by a foul wind, we had one consolation – and one to a person at sea, of no trifling magnitude, viz. the weather was lovely and mild – and the sea so smooth, that you could hardly feel the motion of the vessel, as she made her sluggish way thro’ it.

Friday 15th – the foul wind still continued, & strongly with the additional evil of a heavy sea, which caused us to be tumbled and tossed about, in a way far from agreeable to us sailors. The effect of the swell upon the passengers was that they became a second time sea-sick – and suffered nearly as much as first. Out of 8 only two were capable of appearing at Table. The Coast of Spain was in sight all day – and we could observe that as [we] approached nearer and nearer to Cadiz, it ceased to be very mountainous and sloped gently towards the sea. We saw likewise one or two towns and several pretty looking castles along the shore. Weather dull and cloudy.

Read on … Cadiz