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DESSERT:

The Cruise of the Conrad: The Road Home b y Alan Villiers In I 934, after fifteen years in square rig, the A ustralian seaman Alan Villiers bought the Little full-rigged ship Joseph Conrad, ex-Georg Stage, and sailed her from England round the world and back with thirty "schoolboys, sailors and Landsmen" in crew. Here, near the end of the voyage, the ship and crew battle Cape Hom in The Cruise of the Conrad, a classic of sea narratives. (Punctuation is the author's.)

W

e were two weeks o ut before the first sto nn bl ew day li g ht nex t mo ming, just before nine, a brief lull tempted me and the n it was a mild o ne -hard fro m the nor'ard to g ive he r the reefed fo res ' I, fo r thi s was fin e fa ir wind and in first with rain a nd the g lass fa lling (abo ut twelve the g reat sea he r speed had dro pped a little. But the lull was ho urs of thi s), and the n with a sli g ht li f t of the g lass, the jump illusory, and I could no t keep the new sa il set ha lf a n ho ur; it to south -southwest. One has to wa tc h these jumps c lose ly so came in aga in w itho ut damage . A ll hand s had lo ng g rown that they do not catc h the ship by the lee; but in the So uth expert at the handling of reca lc itra nt square sail even unde r the Pac ific it is usua ll y poss ibl e to see w he n they are coming, if mos t dangero us conditi o ns. Noo n of that day-the third day o nl y w ith a fe w minutes' warnin g. T hi s is e no ug h. The re is a of the bl ow-broug ht freque nt v io le nt snow squa ll s blow ing hes ita nt lull , o r a heav ie r ra in , o r a n in stant 's cl earin g o f the fi e rce ly fro m the W SW , and the sea was now dangero usly so uthe rn sky: the n stand from unde r! With a g ust of v iol e nce hi g h. I took in the cl ose-reefed ma in to ps ' I and goose-w inged 2 th at shakes the ship and scares at o nce a ll the tumult from the the fo re, continuing to run unde r thi s minimum of canvas, with no rth w ind 's sea, the so uth ga le com es ! One becomes used to the fo re to pmas t staysa il to he lp the steerin g . But by six be ll s them after a while. After the wind has j um ped to the south , it in the afte rn oon the ga le was suc h that I began to think us ua ll y bl ows the s ky se ri o usly of the vulne rclear, and settles into a ab ility o f the decks, the comfo rtable steady ga le sky lig hts, w ith o pe n shi p from somewhere abo ut the be low ; th e weak, bi g so uth wes t-fa ir w in d, doo rs. If a sky li ght were a nd most he lpful to the stove in , it would be bad. vesse l 's p rog ress. But We had don e what we w ith o ur first ga le we had could to protec t the m, a hi gh breakin g sea and but they we re still wea kv io le nt squ a ll s of ha il , nesses; a nd the c ha rtand the parral 1 of the ma in house doors fitted i11 . The to ps' ! ya rd carri ed away . steel cha rth o use, a we lded j ob from Ipsw ic h, had T hi s the carpe nte r and hi s ga ng re pa ired eas il y; but not been very well made she was a n o ld ship , I a nd the doors could not knew, a nd she had been be stre ngthe ned. I had the boys to thin k of; I sa iling ha rd . I hope d that nothing e lse wo uld carry had to ge t ro un d th e Ho rn . I coul d ta ke no away; I had done the best undue c hances. I coul d I could .... Alan Vi l!iers's sketch of the Josep h Conrad. ahout which he wrote: not stand havin g to take It was nearin g the e nd "The sweetness of her underwa /er hody was counting now , of Jul y whe n we had the a badl y damaged ship in and she still avoided the weigh! of the seas wi1h a grea/ cunning anyw he re, fo r re pa irs. g reat sto rm . It began to " in whose contrivance it seemed that man had no pa rt . T hat wo uld be the e nd of pipe up fro m the SSW o n the Saturday , w he n we had been at sea twe nty-three days, and the voyage . I wished , o n the othe r hand , to make a ll the the g lass fe ll fo r three days. From noon Saturday to noon progress I coul d w hil e the wind was fa ir, because of the Sunday we ran 208 miles in a hi g h sea, w hic h was fa irly good probability of eas te rlies afte rwa rds, and because I wa nted, going fo r so sm a ll a vessel. T hro ug ho ut Sunday she ran o n nat ura ll y e no ug h, to be go ne fro m th ose cold latitudes as we ll in a hig h break ing sea with fre que nt lo ng, hard squa ll s q uick ly as poss ibl e. But the re came a time whe n it was dangero us to run on. T he inc reas ing, w ith the earl y coming of the co ld ni ght, to a strong ga le before w hi ch we still ran unde r the cl ose-reefed fo re a nd g lass still dro pped . It became o bvio us th at, bad as it was, the ga le itse lf had not yet beg un , tho ugh the wind screamed in the ma in to ps' ls and the sto nn fo re to pmas t stays' !. Thi s day we sailed ove r the pl ace whe re R ona ld W a lke r, ri gg ing. T he fi erce rolling had ca used the compass to sw ing aged twe nty-one, had been buri ed fro m the poo p of the ship v io le ntl y, and steerin g was di ffic ul t even by day. The fee ling Gr ace H anvar in 1929, afte r be in g kill ed at hi s work in the of the wind o n the ir faces was the he lm sme n's best g ui de; but ri gg ing . I fl e w the A ustrali a n e ns ig n at ha lf- mast in h is by ni g ht thi s is poor substitute fo r a compass. T ho ugh she still memory. T hi s day too we saw a strange and beautiful w hite ra n we ll in the great seas, she was c learin g the ir ever-ri s ing bird which was not an a lbatross; we had no ne of us seen a sea c rests w ith less and less marg in . Sea afte r sea thundered at he r, broke in a wild e rupti o n of spray and sp ume and m urderous bi rd o f thi s kind before, and did no t kn ow w hat it was. T he ni ght brought sleet and snow a nd g reate r w ind . Abo ut no ise, and thunde red by : she was foa m-covered to the trucks. T he wet dome of the sky sat heavy o n the mast-heads, never 1 More often parre/; the ro pe, chain or, in thi s case, iron col lar which keeps liftin g to g ive any li ght beyond a gray, wintry g loom : now a yard or gaff again st the mast but allows it to be hoisted and lowered. ni g ht was coming dow n. 2 When the clew of a squaresa il is haul ed up and lashed to the ya rd. SEA HISTORY 8 1, SPRING /SU MM ER 1997

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Sea History 081 - Spring 1997  

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7 THE AMERICAN FLAG AT SEA: Economics Alone Is Not the Answer by David A. O'Neil • 10 South Street Receives a Schooner, 30 Years Ago by Pete...

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