On the 12th of January, 1893, I was seventeen, and the 20th of January I signed before the shipping commissioner the articles of the Sophie Sutherland, a three topmast
sealing schooner bound on a voyage to the coast of Japan.
However, as their captain begged of us to help him to set up a main-topmast, and a kind of a topmast
to his jury fore-mast, we did, as it were, lie by him for three or four days; and then, having given him five barrels of beef, a barrel of pork, two hogsheads of biscuit, and a proportion of peas, flour, and what other things we could spare; and taking three casks of sugar, some rum, and some pieces of eight from them for satisfaction, we left them, taking on board with us, at their own earnest request, the youth and the maid, and all their goods.
Well, then, d’ye see, I larnt how a topmast
should be slushed, and how a topgallant-sail was to be becketted; and then I did small jobs in the cabin, such as mixing the skipper’s grog.
, laden with victims, now appeared; then her spars, bending under the weight of men; and, last of all, the top of her mainmast.
In the midst of this witches' sabbath, he was still to be seen on the top of his pillar, like the cabin-boy on the topmast
. He floundered about with incredible fury.
We would not get down our topmast
, but let all stand, because she scudded before the sea very well, and we knew that the top-mast being aloft, the ship was the wholesomer, and made better way through the sea, seeing we had sea-room.
From the deck to the truck of the maintopmast is something over a hundred feet, while the foremast with its topmast
is eight or ten feet shorter.
The staffs themselves were like ships' masts, with topmasts
spliced on in true nautical fashion, with shrouds, ratlines, gaffs, and flag-halyards.
But it is time that we took our order, for methinks that between the Needle rocks and the Alum cliffs yonder I can catch a glimpse of the topmasts
of the galleys.
However, the Roads being reckoned as good as a harbour, the anchorage good, and our ground- tackle very strong, our men were unconcerned, and not in the least apprehensive of danger, but spent the time in rest and mirth, after the manner of the sea; but the eighth day, in the morning, the wind increased, and we had all hands at work to strike our topmasts
, and make everything snug and close, that the ship might ride as easy as possible.