Set Sail wks 3-5

III Week

Sat.y 3rd August P.M. – at 1 the wind aft, still continuing light – the weather cleared up beautifully – and we were in high hopes. In the evening it fell calm – then breezy – then calm and so on.

Sunday 4th – beautiful weather – calm till noon, when sprung up a very light breeze, which continued all day.

Monday 5th – beautiful weather – very light and favourable breeze, just sufficient not to say to curl, but to ripple the water. From the NW a long, regular slow and undulating swell was seen to come all day, shewing that at a distance. Perhaps at a very great distance from us, the wind might be blowing in gales from that quarter.

Tuesday 6th – fine weather – passed a vessel this morning, steering like us to the Westward. Pretty fresh and favourable breeze.

Wednesday 7th – fine weather, fresh and favourable breeze, crossed the tropic today.

Thursday 8th August – cloudy but pleasant weather. Fresh and favourable breeze.

Friday 9th – beautiful weather, fresh and favourable breeze.

Saturday 10th – up to Noon, very fine weather, pretty fresh and favourable breeze.

III Hebdomadal Period. Sat.10th August the end of our third week leads me to tell you, how we have come on during that period. We were alternately inspired by our hopes and depressed by our fears. We dreaded the continuance of the weather we had last Saturday – now foul – now calm – and we hoped that the tuedium vitae which that would inevitably produce, would be averted by the speedy return of the Trade Winds. We were not disappointed. On Monday the breeze began to blow from the right quarter and sighingly at first – but next day & continuing to the present date, it acquired additional vigour, and favoured with a merry dance to a lively tune.

We have been near no land this week – and passed only one vessel steering nearly the same as ourselves – an occurrence very unexpected by us, as during the hurricane months, few merchant men are to be met with.

The heat of the weather has been gradually increasing. Adieu now to delicious coolness, a blessing seldom estimated ay its true value by the inhabitants of temperate regions. Above and below all is hot- hot – hot. The very exertion of writing this is felt exceedingly – at every pore indeed – and I puff and pant, as if to blow myself cool. Sleep will not now come unbidden. You must court it, and court it long, by lying as quiet as a mouse, shutting your eyes – & endeavouring by every possible means you can think of, to throw yourself as it were into the arms of Morpheus. Perhaps in vain are all your endeavours. Time hovers over you with leaden wings – And alas you are too surely reminded how tardily the hours of darkness trail their slow length along, by the regular striking of the bell, at every Naval revolution, and the voice of the officer of the watch calling out to heave the log.

IV Week

Sat.y 10th August 1 P.M. – very fine weather. Pretty fresh and favourable breeze.

Sunday 11th – fine weather with the exception of a passing shower at 1 P.M. Fresh and favourable breeze.

Monday 12th – variable weather, fine morning cloudy and squally afternoon with passing showers of rain. Fresh and favourable breeze all day, light variable airs at night, with dark gloomy weather and much rain.

Tuesday 13th August – variable weather, wind light and variable but favourable, very hot – hot.

Wednesday 14th – fine weather – very light and favourable breeze.

Thursday 15th – this morning saw a ship steering to the Northward & East.d Beautiful weather. Light and favourable breezes.

Friday 16th – very fine weather. Light and favourable breeze.

Saturday 17th up to Noon – light and favourable breezes – fine weather.

IV Hebdomadal period

Our fourth week was ushered in with a fresh and favourable breeze, the continuance of which for a few days promised us a speedy arrival at our wished for Port. Our hopes were high for three days, at the end of which time a change came over the face of the deep. Its rolling billows subsided & its white crested waves were exchanged for the gentle undulations which carry no tops. In plain language the breeze having suddenly shifted in a shower, fell away light, and continued to be so to the end of the present Chapter. Its direction has always been favourable, alto’ it has shifted from SSE to NE in various & pretty rapid successions.

The weather has been fine and very hot – much hotter even than last week as the Thermometer table was show you [sic].[6] The mornings and evenings are the only times when you can enjoy a comfortable degree of coolness – and this, be it remembered only on deck and in the open air. Down between decks all know no change – there it is always hot, always melting. Monday was the only exception to this general character of the weather. On that day we had passing showers – and in the evening the sky was enveloped in murky darkness, produced by a mass of clouds, louring & suspicious. The lightning flashed at very short intervals & the vividity of the flashes were such, as to deprive us for a short while of the power of seeing. In addition the atmosphere was sulphurous & the heat almost stifling. All these circumstances looked ominous of an approaching hurricane considering the season of the year – and perhaps, had we not happened to possess a faithful Monitor, it might have been judged necessary to have shortened sail. This friendly Monitor was our Marine barometer. In spite of every suspicious appearance, it stood as high as 30.1 – and accordingly acting upon its indications, we continued to go under the same sails as before.

As during the last week, so during the present, we saw only a solitary vessel, probably come from South America & steering to the North.d & W.

V Week

Saturday 17th August – at 1 P.M. very fine weather – light and favourable breeze.

Sunday 18th – during the day fine weather with slight passing showers & light and favourable breeze. At night baffling winds with sudden shifts – large dark clouds which discharged themselves now and then in rain. – much heat. Barometer high.

Monday 19th August – fine weather with passing showers – light and variable airs – foul & fair. At 6 P.M. calm with heavy clouds astern – intense heat – a halo round the moon – puffs of wind from different quarters and a heavy long roll of the sea. At 9 the weather cleared up fine and at 11 sprung up a breeze light and favourable. Barometer high.

Tuesday 20th – fine weather – Moderate breeze from SSE & S by E which was not very favourable for us, as we wished to steer SW in order to run down our latitude as soon as possible and then steer a due West course. This has been deemed advisable in consequence of our longitude by chronometer & repeated lunar observations differing so widely.

Wednesday 21st – cloudy but pleasant weather. Fresh and favourable breeze. At 1.20 P.M. saw Island of Barbadoes.

Remarks on 5th Week

Having seen no land, since we left England, our thoughts and conversation at the commencement of this week were much occupied with the near prospect of our arrival at Barbadoes, then but a few hundred miles off, a distance so insignificant in the estimation of one who has traversed so many many thousands as to be regarded almost nothing. Our eager expectations were partially frustrated as to the time. Tho’ the wind was generally fair, it yet proved remarkably light, and at times seemed likely to fail us altogether. On Sunday and Monday the wind & weather were both particularly uncertain. We had occasionally sudden shifts of wind & from all quarters – then followed a calm, and this again was succeeded by a smart breeze for a brief space of time. The sky looked ominous. Immense masses of deep heavy watery clouds, dark as Erebus, enveloped various parts of the heavens in a musky shroud. The Moon too was watery and encircled with a large ring or halo. The heat was intense and rendered respiration laborious. Now and then flows of wind scudded along the sea, whilst a long heavy roll seemed to indicate that the wind was blowing fresh not far from our neighbourhood. Every moment we should have expected the dreaded scourge of the West Indies, of which the above appearances are said to be the precursors – but here again, upon examining our marine friend, the Mercury stood at 29.9 which is high, the average height of the column within the tropics being 30. Fortunately we may well say, and confidence that it would be so was high from the indications of the Barometer, these symptoms of struggle and danger evanished [sic] harmless, and on Tuesday we had a Moderate and steady with a clear & innocent sky.

Next day with cloudy weather we obtained a fresh and favourable breeze, and were between hope and fear that we should not make out Barbadoes in the afternoon. We were particularly anxious on this point from the great difference of our longitude as given by our Chronometers, and repeated lunar observations – amounting indeed to near a degree. Many ships have been known to have passed the Island during the night & even during the day, from the horizon being obscured, in consequence of the incorrectness of their longitude; and by the time they have found out their error, they have gone so far to leeward as to occupy a week or more in beating up against the Trades to their intended port.

I do not at all mean to say that the Navigators of our vessel were the only anxious persons in ascertaining the point in doubt. On the contrary we were all equally interested, and therefore when at 1.20 P.M. on Wednesday 21st the Island of Barbadoes was clearly descried, the satisfaction of the Master & Skipper was participated in by us all. Upon working the distance & taking the bearings we found that the Chronometer we had trusted to (Arnold’s) was out upwards of 58 miles – an amount of error, which in a distance of nearly 5000 miles, out of sight of land, you might consider as trifling, but to the Navigator this appears very considerable. If our Chronometer had gone correctly we should have made our landfall within a mile, or even a fraction of one.

Having now made ourselves sure of our position, nothing remained to be done but to steer for the Island and endeavour to reach our anchorage before night. We were not however so fortunate – for light and baffling winds impeded our progress, and compelled us to shorten sail during the night.

Read on …