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R. Barrie & G. Barrie


Robert Barrie

There are many advantages in sea-voyaging,
but security is not one of them.
     -- Saadi.

IN the winter of 1893 I found and bought the cutter Mona, ten-tonner, built in the most substantial manner by Lawley, of Boston, after lines of the Richardson May; a splendid sea boat, and good at windward work; awfully wet, but sure to get you somewhere. She seemed quite a vessel to me, this, my first decked boat, forty-two feet over all, thirty-six feet waterline, eight feet beam, seven feet six inches draft, and was truly palatial, with after stateroom, saloon, toilet, and forecastle and galley combined. She was flush-decked, with a circular hatch to sail room that served as a steering well. There was all the apparatus of long tiller, housing topmast, reefing bowsprit, runners, and backstays, dear to the heart of the Englishman, that gave a distinction and style to the type. Her great fault was diving forward, common of course to all straight stem boats; if she had a flaring clipper bow I would take her back today. She was coppered like a ship, and altogether a most delightful little packet, and I had a lot of pleasure and valuable experience in her.

I could not wait for March to be gone before I should go to get her, so I sent an old fellow who said he was a yacht hand to Larchmont to scrub her down, inside and out, and get the lower sails on her. I arrived one frosty afternoon and found old Banks getting the last of the gear on her as she lay in the "Gut" in the yacht club grounds. I slept in the house that night as Banks hadn't had the stove going that day and the ship was cold, but I was out early next morning and got everything ready preparatory to hauling out of the gut. This job was superintended by the club hand, who, after the manner of his kind, made a great to-do of a small matter so as to be sure of his tip.

I gave him a V, so he condescended to help make sail, and then dropped astern and stood shouting unintelligible directions. It was a fairly bright day, but not a sail in sight. As we slipped along under the light westerly breeze, Banks went below to make coffee and get something for my lunch, and I put her through her paces, coming on the wind, going about, etc., etc., which made Banks stick his head out of the forehatch in amazement. Everything was satisfactory, and I liked sailing her so well that I was rather disappointed when we got down near Whitestone and the tug picked us up.

The breeze had freshened and came down hard from the northwest, and our mainsail, with the tug rattling along at its best, made an awful clatter, but as I wanted to be ready for anything when we got to the Battery, I kept it on.

Of course, as luck would have it, we arrived at Hell Gate and Blackwell's Island as the big eastbound Sound steamers came along, and we were showered with icy spray unmercifully. Banks stood in the well and steered, and I stood on the companion steps with my head out of the cabin slide and shivered.

Just west of Governor's Island the tug dropped us. A cold, blustery March afternoon, the red sun going down, and dark coming on, is not the best time, by any means, to try to navigate the Kills, so looked out for a tug, and managed to get one that would take me to Perth Amboy. Off we started, the breeze so strong that close-hauled, under mainsail alone, we ran along to windward of and abreast of the tug, with the tow line in a big bight between us; so we crossed the harbor, but furled mainsail as soon as we headed to the breeze in the Kills.



IONA ON THE HARD. [Governor in the punt.]

It was a slow, cold journey, with ice forming on deck. I steered and Banks tried to get the stove red hot, but with little success. Anchored at Perth Amboy at eight, and after a poor meal I went ashore to hunt up a tug to take us the next morning up the Raritan to the canal. Finally found the owner who called out of his bedroom window that he would have to charge twelve dollars as it would be Sunday work. Back on board and burned all the cabin lamps all night in the effort to keep warm. Next morning the little, toylike tug came along side, out of the fog, and managed to get us to New Brunswick at noon. I arranged for help for the journey through the canal, and boarded a train for Philadelphia. I went up and met the boat at Bordentown, at the western end of the canal; the journey through forty-four miles and fourteen locks having taken almost two days.

It was still March, with northerly wind, raw and blustery, but youth and enthusiasm made it all a joy to me. We slipped out of the canal and down the Delaware with the ebb like a steamer; but alas, snow came on, and in one of the thickest squalls I ran on the bar at Kinkora so hard that she reared up and almost submerged her counter, and then swung around and lay on her side. I was in an awful stew, and thought she was going to lay over at low water and fill, but reason reassured me. I saw that nothing we could do on the falling tide would be of any use, so I had Banks put me ashore on the Jersey side, and finally got a train to Camden; and, at the shipyard at Cooper's Point, arranged for a tug to go up and get her. Of course they promised to do so at once, but, as a matter of fact, Mona had floated off at flood, and was anchored in the cove when the tug arrived.


    Nur-al-Deu / Lenni / Mona


That spring was a busy one. I had her scraped inside and out, and of course had the changes made that every new owner feels are indispensable. When warm weather came we had some trials on the river and upper bay, all of which made me better satisfied than ever. We even won some prizes with her. But the great event of the year was the cruise to the eastward.

Banks, while a good hand at refitting, etc., had proved sullen and grumpy while cruising, so I parted with him, and was lucky enough to get Alec; a fine, big fellow, a splendid sailor and a fine specimen of a man, both physically and mentally, who had never been in a yacht, but who quickly learned the routine, which after all, though a desirable tradition, a simple enough matter. As a cook I got a cockney Englishman who was clever in every way, but who always got seasick if it was at all rough.

With these two in the forecastle, on July 11, 1894, I left the Corinthian Yacht Club Station at Essington, on the Delaware, twelve miles below Philadelphia, accompanied by a couple of friends who were to spend the night on board and be put ashore next morning at the most convenient place. It was a bright night, and we slipped along under a light air from the Jersey shore, but by-and-bye the breeze headed us and we beat down, but the ebb was with us. About ten o'clock we had ale, Edam cheese, and crackers, with the result, Joe Jeanes claimed, that when we tried to find a quiet spot for the night at New Castle, I, at the lead, called three fathoms, and next moment we were aground in mud.

Managed to work off however; all slept soundly until late the next day, and after late breakfast my friends left me. Getting the spinnaker pole, which was thirty four feet long and unusually large for such a boat, on deck, I got under way about noon and by one o'clock was off the red buoy at Port Penn. Here I set log and barometer, and slipped down the bay with light air. Off Ship John Light at three, Elbow Ledge at five, and abreast Brandywine Shoal at eight. The patent taffrail log, which I had set at Port Penn, here registered thirty-eight miles.

It was now getting dark, and to be in accord with the old fellows in the storybooks, I took in my jib- and gaff topsails which had been doing good work all afternoon. Cape May Light was off southeast, and I kept, as I thought, well off to round it, but must have kept closer than I intended, for about nine o'clock I ran into a considerable tide rip which must have been the Overfalls. There was quite a little breeze just then, and the strong ebb shoved me up against it, so that it was just as well I had been careful about the light sails. Some water came on deck, but nothing heavy, and we soon shot through the rip and went peacefully out to sea. Barometer steady about 30.1.

Except for a slight haze it was clear and pleasant with a very slight breeze from the southeast. Bound to be far enough off shore, I went out close to N.E. End Lightship before heading up. My old logbook shows we got along faster than, at the time, we seemed to, for at two o'clock, July 13th, we logged seventy-two miles. Then it got very light, and we used up an hour and a half doing seven miles. It was then four o'clock, and not far from dawn, and perfectly quiet, so I had Albert, the cook, who, by the way, was seasick in the Overfalls, make coffee; and then I turned in and slept until I was awakened by hails exchanged with a fishing smack.

Going on deck, found a lovely morning, and several fishermen about. We were then just off Absecon, and had a nice, cool, little breeze off shore. This carried us along until after breakfast, but gradually died out. When below Beach Haven a chum, Harry Jeanes, came out, some distance astern, in the Irex, cutter, a little shorter, but wider and more powerful than the Mona. He brought a spanking southwest breeze with him out of the inlet, and rapidly overhauled us. We kept together for awhile and exchanged messages with code signals for a time; but when he signaled, "follow my movements," and headed inshore, I mutinied, and set signals for the course, and went off on my own hook for Barnegat sea buoy. When we met at Bay Ridge next day I learned that he had run inshore to salute his sister at her cottage.

Barnegat Shoals at eleven o'clock were a mass of surf. Log here showed one hundred and eighteen miles: at four o'clock we were off Long Branch Pier, log one hundred and fifty-two, which, if correct, was thirty four knots in four and a half hours, or about seven and a half knots an hour. There was probably some "set" up the beach in our favor; except in northerly weather there generally is. However, the run was not to be sneered at, as we passed in Sandy Hook about five o'clock, and I was anchored off the Atlantic Yacht Club House at Bay Ridge, sails furled, dressed, ashore, and stowing a tenderloin and modest pint of claret at eight o'clock.

If all runs around could be made as this was, in twenty eight hours from New Castle to Sandy Hook, it would be very pleasant; but there are stories of fellows fog- or windbound at the Delaware Breakwater for a week before an opportunity for a run occurs. Undoubtedly the best way for a small boat is to pass out the capes in the afternoon, then there is a good chance to arrive at New York in daylight, if wind proves favorable. If headed by northeasterly one can then always run back. All the inlets are bad enough for strangers in daylight, and dangerous, on account of absence of leading lights, at night. Even the skippers of local, light draft craft have come to grief in daylight in bad weather.

My wife, who had gone over by rail, was waiting for me at her people's in Brooklyn. Next morning, Saturday, we went down to the club, and Jeanes and I bargained for a tug to take us through East River and Hell Gate, and we had a fine run through, one boat on each quarter, so that we were abreast. It was a bright, sunny afternoon, and the panorama looked its best. We dropped off at Whitestone, and Irex went on to Piepgras' Yard, at City Island, for improvements.

We had dinner at the Frenchman's, and in the evening had showers and mosquitoes. Sunday, bright and hot, and no breeze all day. Friends, who had been phoned for, came, and two of us had a swim. After luncheon we set mainsail, but had not a breath of air. As we had forgotten the ensign halyards, Alec gave us some amusement by going out on gaff to reeve them, and then sliding down the leech as we used to do the banisters when children.

About five o'clock our friends left us, and we up anchor and managed to get to the Stepping Stones with the tide. Here a nice little breeze came off the southern shore, and, all sail set, we slipped along. It was a beautiful, moonlight night, the black hills of the Long Island shore in strong contrast to the bright sky and glittering water. After dinner we lay on the sloping deck looking to the south and intent on the beauty of the night, when suddenly we were taken aback by a sudden shift of wind from a squall in the northwest that we had not noticed coming down on us.

I was certainly caught napping: the boom came over against the preventer, and the headsails, including jib topsail, were aback. I at once kicked down the tiller with my foot, drove my wife into the companion way, and had the men get off light sails and staysail. We were fairly caught, and driving along towards the entrance to Oyster Bay, where I had never been; and could not believe that one was expected to go between the light and the black, cliff-like hill which seemed to touch it. My chart did not show red-sector, and I had not time to look up the sailing directions, so was puzzled by the red. I noticed a working schooner cut in between me and the red, so I took a chance and followed him, and got through successfully. I have since, to avoid tide, done the same thing in daylight.

We boiled up to the anchorage under head of mainsail. Of course, as soon as we were anchored, it cleared off; and we had a beautiful evening. It was then about nine o'clock; fortunately there had not been any rain, so we sat on deck, and by-and-bye ate watermelon.

Next morning, the sixteenth, we went ashore and up to the Seawanhaka Club; there was not a breath of air, and it was hot and uncomfortable, so back on board, and managed to work out of the harbor with the last of the ebb about noon. That day was one of the most tiresome that it has ever been my lot to endure on a boat; we had the faintest airs all day and night, and only anchored in Morris Cove at four o'clock in the morning: it was almost as bright as day with the moon. I tumbled below and into bed the minute the anchor was down. Mosquitoes all day, even in the middle of the Sound.

What was left of Tuesday morning, after we had had breakfast, was used in visiting friends in New Haven. In the afternoon we ran, in a nice southerly breeze, around to the Thimble Islands, twelve miles east of Morris Cove. At the western entrance to the islands we met Mr. Wayland in a naphtha launch, and he told me where best to anchor, but I wanted to run in near the village to be near friends, and disregarded his advice with the sad result that I got ashore in mud, but hauled off and finally anchored just astern of Viola's mooring, with mainsail standing.

After spending the afternoon and evening ashore we rowed back in the moonlight. When on board my wife at once went below to bed. It was perfectly still and bright; the men lying on deck forward sucking at their pipes. I remembered the trouble yachts had beating out of the western entrance, and thought it would be a good plan to tow out and anchor for the night outside; so the men got ahead in the boat, laughing and talking. When we were out near Outer Island, at what I thought would be a good place to anchor, I went to the side and put over the lead, leaning over and feeling for mud. Just then the boom came over ever so gently, and slowly but firmly put me, all clothed, and watch in pocket, overboard. When I came up I was laughing so I could do nothing, and had taken in some water when the men came along in the boat and hauled me out. We anchored there, and had a quiet and peaceful night.

Wednesday we had another drifting match -- with mosquitoes. Finally had a little breeze that carried us down to the mouth of the Thames at dark, and there left us. With the faintest airs we managed to get inside the breakwater at Noank, but went ashore on the mud in trying to go up the Mystic River, a foolish thing to attempt at night, as it is bad enough in broad daylight and low tide. Low water is the best time as then the grass on the mud banks gives warning.

Next day towed up to Mystic, and stayed there three days, painting, varnishing, and giving a party. The party was on Saturday night; the regulation thing, with Chinese lanterns and claret cup on a table on deck. Just as the ice cream was about to be broached along came a squall, whipped up the awning, and smashed the Chinese lanterns hung along the edge. This created excitement among the twenty-three people, mostly young women, but all, including the claret cup and ice cream, were saved and taken to a large studio nearby and stowed one inside the other. Albert, the cook, wrote a pathetic and melodramatic account of the party and secretly sent it to the New York Tribune, where it actually appeared in print, and set us all roaring.

Sunday, the twenty-second, it rained and blew; so, having nothing else to do, I took Colin Campbell Cooper and a friend for a sail around to New London; came back too late to sail up to Mystic, so left the vessel at Noank. Next morning there was a spanking northwest breeze, and a lot of women thought it was too fine a day for a sail to be missed, so we set out from Noank and ran out to The Race, where, when we came on the wind to turn up to New London, we got it, butt end first, and the party was drenched, but quickly dried in the fierce hot sun when we got into the Thames.

We discharged passengers at New London. The little packet seemed almost lonely with just my wife and self on board; so, when we had run down to the Pequod, we left her and spent the balance of the afternoon and night with friends in their cottage at Eastern Point. Next morning it was very foggy, so we did not go back on board until about noon, when it had cleared up. The afternoon breeze finally came along at three o'clock and we started for Newport.

I would not nowadays commit the folly of leaving New London in a small boat at three o'clock in the afternoon, not knowing when I'd get to sleep; but in those days I did not know what discretion or discomfort was. We had a nice run through Fisher's Island Sound, but found more sea than I expected when we got outside: the breeze began to die out, and soon we had nasty rolling and boom-jerking. However, what breeze there was, was free, and we rolled along pretty well considering. Got in by the Dumplings just as the Fall River steamer came along to annoy me; to make matters worse a government searchlight was kept on us for a long while, almost blinding me: this seems a favorite trick. My wife, below in her bed, heard me growling about this and the port sidelight, which would not burn, in a way that she said was swearing. Managed to get in at the upper entrance to harbor and found it full of yachts; so full that they looked like horses in stalls. I had to potter around for awhile before I could find a place to squeeze in. Next morning the harbormaster came along and said I was half a length too far out in the fairway; so, after breakfast, I had to kedge ahead.

After a couple of days here my wife left me, and my brother George joined me for the run back to New London. We made an early start with a nice southeast breeze so that we could just stand down to Point Judith. The breeze held, and we had a quick run to New London, where my brother left me.

I had had such a poky and tiresome trip down the Sound that I called it names, and said I would go back to the Delaware capes outside, so the next day, Saturday the twenty eighth, I left New London about noon, first taking on fish and fruit, and a new chart of the coast. Just as I was about to sail had a visit from Withers, of the Muriel, who had been staying in New London ever since he got there, which was before the boat races. Had no wind at all; dipped our ensign to friends in passing Eastern Point. Reached Race Rock at lunch time, and there got a spanking breeze, which kept increasing so that we had to take in jib topsail, then topsail, then foresail, and got so strong, as we neared Montauk, that I tried to house the topmast, but the boat was pitching so much that I was afraid we would snap the stick when it got half way down, so gave up the idea.

Passed Montauk at five o'clock in the evening, having made thirteen and a half knots in two and a half hours; it was blowing awfully hard as we neared Montauk, and we prepared for very heavy weather outside, but, strange to relate, there was hardly any wind at all on the ocean, and we set all sail again, including jib topsail. What wind there was, was from the southwest, dead ahead, so I started to tack along the south shore of Long Island, but finding there was such a strong northeasterly current running there I started on a long tack to the south about nine o'clock; soon the breeze began to get stronger, and we had again to shorten sail, and the wind and sea rose so that about one o'clock it was blowing what seemed to me, half a gale; at any rate, every sea was a comber, and it was like sailing up and down little mountains. Just before daybreak, in a very heavy squall, we burst the eye in the starboard side of the cranse iron. The bowsprit was going under every sea; but by at once lowering the jib we saved it.

I reckoned we were now twenty-five miles south of Montauk. I hove to and waited for daylight, and then started to repair damages; the jib-topsail, which had not been taken on board during the night but stowed in a wad at the bowsprit end, had got adrift, and was so wrapped about the stay, bowsprit, and bobstay that Alec had to go out and cut it adrift, the bowsprit burying him up to his neck nearly every sea. After the wreck was cleared away I decided that we would reef the bowsprit, as I was afraid it would snap; after reefing it we set the storm jib and reefed mainsail, and started for the Long Island shore about seven o'clock, and did not sight it until lunch time; then we headed west, and soon reached Shinnecock Light; all this while it was so rough we were all kept soaked and could not light a fire, so had only fruit, crackers, and whiskey. About four o'clock the wind, killed by thunderstorms which were over Long Island, suddenly died away. Of course, there was a big sea on, and one can imagine how we pitched about. I thought the boat would wrench apart -- the sun came out terribly hot, and soon I felt seasick. Alfred, the cook, had been actively so most of the time. About six o'clock the thunderstorms drew off; we got a little breeze, and at once stood off shore, as the strong northeasterly current there had been setting us on shore all the while of the calm, and I was afraid we would go aground. As we had two reefs in mainsail, having had to put in another, we did not make much headway, and still remained near shore.

About nine o'clock the thunder squalls came back: as soon as the first struck us, we lowered mainsail and drove southward under headsails; but soon the wind died away, and we got the rain and lightning, both of which were wholesale. Of course, when the wind died out, the boat was pitched about terribly by the seas, and so furiously that the boom took charge of the deck, and we had to lie on the deck to escape being crushed by it. It burst several lashings and tore out cleats, and we only got it under control by lashing it with heavy lines to the mainsheet bolts on each side. Meanwhile, this pitching about had so stretched the main rigging that it slapped about so much that the side lights were jerked out and could not be kept burning. Just as luck would have it, plenty of steamers came along, and we were kept busy showing lights. This thunder squall excitement was repeated five times during the night, and I never was so thankful to see daylight; when it came we headed for the shore again, but, as the wind was very light, we did not make much headway. About one o'clock, however, we passed Fire Island Light, and here got a good breeze from the southwest, which drove us along at the splendid rate of eight knots for an hour, which was very fast traveling for a small boat. This breeze was right ahead for a Cape May course, and the nearest we could point was for Sandy Hook, and we boomed along in that direction for a couple of hours, then the wind died out when we were off East Rockaway. Here the current, which runs very strong in an easterly direction all along the Long Island shore, drove us in so far that we struck a bar off one of the inlets, thumping three times so hard as to knock us off our feet. Fortunately, we got a light breeze just at this moment, and managed to claw off shore.

This was just at sunset, so I kept going southwesterly all night until I sighted the Navesink lights and the glare of Long Branch about three o'clock, having missed the Sandy Hook Light Vessel on account of a rainy haze over the water. I stood about until daybreak, keeping well out to sea. At daybreak there was not a breath of wind. It was now Tuesday, and we had been three nights and days at sea without decent meals and very little sleep, and we were all pretty well disgusted with the weather, the breezes having been persistently dead ahead whichever way we pointed. I made up my mind my people on shore would be worried if we were not heard from soon, so I decided to go into Sandy Hook and telegraph. As we were without breeze, could not even do this. About six o'clock, however, a spanking breeze came blowing up the Jersey coast, dead ahead, so even if we had kept on for Cape May we would have made very little headway.

I therefore headed for Sandy Hook, and passed in about ten o'clock, but concluded to send the ship home through the canal, and so sailed through the crooked channel across the bay to South Amboy, which is at the mouth of the Raritan River; anchored there about one o'clock, and at once went ashore and sent telegrams, and had a big, fat, country dinner at a hotel. As Alec was going back to the boat a heavy thunder squall came up, immediately raising an awful sea, so bad that the tugboatmen wanted to stop him going out. It was very lively for awhile, three big schooners driving ashore, although they each had out two anchors; tugboats increased the excitement by tooting and shrieking. When the squall struck the Mona it threw her on her beam ends, although everything was snugly furled, and shook up everything on board and spoiled the crew's dinner. She dragged a little, but Alfred had sense enough to pay out chain, and so she held.

I was delighted with the way she behaved in the nasty weather we had during the trip, and she was none the worse for it, except that she had such a washing with the seas that the varnish was worn off nearly everything. The bowsprit was perfectly white, and the copper brightly scoured. I left her at South Amboy, and the men brought her home through the canal. I joined them at Bordentown, and had a fine but uneventful sail down to the club station at Essington, and so ended a pretty good four weeks' cruise.

I went east again in the Mona in 1895, but it was over practically the same ground, or water, except that I made New London my headquarters for a couple of months while suffering from eye trouble, and there gave Mona an entirely new cabin arrangement, new rail, etc., and pottered around Fisher's Island a good deal. The next year I could not get away for any length of time, and so, as I was "Rear" that year, there was a flagship in the station all summer, which is something very unusual. We sailed up and down the river and bay, and sailed some races, and even won a couple of prizes, but nothing much in the way of cruising came off until the next year when we discovered the Chesapeake.


Chapter 2


© 2000 Craig O'Donnell, editor & general factotum.
May not be reproduced without my permission. Go scan your own damn article.

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