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CRUISES, MAINLY IN THE BAY
OF THE CHESAPEAKE.
R. Barrie & G. Barrie


 

THREE MEN AND A NIGGER IN A BIG BOAT
Robert Barrie

It ain't no use to grumble and complain;
It's jest as cheap and easy to rejoice;
When God sorts the weather and sends rain,
W'y, rain's my choice.
     -- James Whitcomb Riley

IN the fall of 1900 I bought Liris. She had a past, but I reformed her. She was a very powerful boat, designed by Gardiner, and when she first came out had hollow spars, which she kept shedding every time she raced. Her dimensions then were: fifty-seven feet over all, forty feet waterline, thirteen feet beam, eleven feet draft, and a boom fifty-five feet long; she was an utterly useless affair, not even good for racing, as the newcomers with small displacement entirely outclassed such boats.

But she had her good points; even with her big rig she made a fine trip round from New York in the latter part of November. As I saw that she was overloaded with spars and ballast I had her hauled out, and her keel, forty inches deep and said to weigh eighteen tons, was sawed in half horizontally, the bronze bolts being knocked out and shortened, and the whole hove up again in a very workmanlike way, and at a reasonable charge, by John Sheppard, of Essington. I put less ballast inside than I cut off; so that she floated about five inches higher than when I got her, and drew less than eight feet. I cut eight feet off the foot of the mast and ran the bowsprit into the first reef fid, and cut off several feet at the heel; shortened the topmast and rigged her as a ketch, having a mizzen made from the big boom, and two new booms from the spinnaker boom. The result, as far as I could see and for my purpose, was a success; as to speed, little can be said, as we had small chance of trying her. We sailed in two club races against an old Herreshoff forty-footer, and in a light air she beat us easily; but on another day, in a strong northwest wind, we beat her; soaking out to windward of her beautifully, although she almost caught us running home. For cruising, however, she was vastly improved in seaworthiness, being very comfortable and able.

I used her with but one man, a big negro, who had been recommended by an official at the Naval Academy, Annapolis. Everything worked very easily, as the blocks were large and I used smaller sizes of gear than had been needed for the large rig, and a Spalding hollow gaff on the main made it easy for one person to set any sail. A gaff and a sharp-headed mizzen were made, but we used only the latter, and even then she had a strong weather helm. Forest and Stream seldom grows enthusiastic, but in a notice probably longer and more appreciative than any it has ever published apropos of any boat said:

"The clipper stem is very long, being carried out by a handsome trailboard and figurehead, as in the English boats, while the after overhang is light and graceful. That Mr. Gardiner has the eye of an artist, as well as the skill of a successful designer, is amply shown by a glance at the boat from any point of view when at anchor or under way."

And after very complete details as to construction adds,

"while Liris was designed and built for speed, she will be used for two-thirds of the year as a cruiser, the home of her owners, and to this end nothing has been sacrificed that could make her comfortable; in fact, the fitting and furnishing are both very elaborate."

So much for the boat. Except for enthusiasts I have no doubt so much description of her is tiresome, but my object is to show how easily a large craft with ample room and comfort can be handled by a few hands and bow great is the advantage of having a good sized weatherly boat in case of a breeze.

 




LIRIS OFF SCHOONER LEDGE LIGHT.
DELAWARE RIVER.



LIRIS: EASE UNDER AWNING.


About July 1, 1901, my youngest brother George and I, with Isaac the negro in the forecastle, took Liris down the Delaware River and through the Chesapeake Canal in good time under strong breeze and mule power; and one bright, sunny, breezy afternoon anchored in the mouth of the Bohemia River. This we ran up a couple of miles in the launch until we came to a spot where the water was beautifully clear; there we had a most enjoyable swim.

The surroundings were delightful; none more ideally perfect could be found anywhere. It would have required a Daubigny to paint the picture of the blue sky, the pretty river ripples sparkling and glistening, the bright green of the reeds and grasses, the intense dark green of the trees, the hills already covered with yellow wheat sheaves, the cows standing in the water, and the bright varnished launch tied to a stake which we luckily found at the spot we had picked out for our bath. We were back on board at five o'clock, the southwest breeze blowing so fresh that we were glad to sit in the sun. At sunset the breeze went down, and as the Elk was as smooth as a pond we went out again after dinner in the launch in the twilight. Meeting an old friend coming down from Elkton in his launch, ran down to Ford's Landing with him and gossiped awhile, then home on board, and, as Pepys says, "so to bed."

Next morning we were up at sunrise. Of course we see the sun rise only when cruising. What a charm there is in the dawn and early morning! Unlike the twilight, the day is before us; there is a feeling of hope and buoyancy; even the chirping of the birds up in these placid inland waters adds zest and vigor to the feeling of freedom.

The breeze was light from the southward, but increased as the sun rose. We breakfasted off Turkey Point, and, coming on deck, found a good stiff wind and a swirling wake. We had a splendid piece of sailing over what the poets would call a summer sea; deep blue with splashes of white, brilliant with sparkles of sunshine. The grand sweep of the sky and the rush of the sailing added to the spirit of buoyancy, so that we soon had that true spirit of adventure which a cooped-up townsman cannot feel.

But this did not last long. Off Still Pond the breeze died out entirely, but we had a fair tide, and worked down with it until off Poole's Island, where I thought we might take chances across the shoals. I knew there was a six or seven-foot lump thereabouts, but thought it was farther west. In the desire to make time in the light breeze I took the risk, and got caught by the strong ebb tide driving us sidewise against the lump. There we stuck, although we hung the anchor under our boat and towed it with the launch to the end of a new fifty-fathom hawser and set it up with the capstan as taut as a fiddlestring. The tide dropped until we were showing two feet of copper, so we made up our minds that we would not get off until nine o'clock or so at night. As it kept getting hotter and hotter we had a swim and pottered round at small jobs.

About three o'clock, when we looked for the tide to turn, things got very black in the west. We put on hatch covers, preparatory to the usual afternoon squall, but this turned out to be a white squall, and the worst we had seen in our cruises on the Chesapeake. Long before we felt any rush of wind the water across the Bay was white. The squall came down toward us, tearing up the water in spiral swirls. We were struck hard, so hard that, instead of heeling as we were to starboard two feet out of water, we were blown over to port. The boats were thrown about and rattled in a deafening way, and it blew so that we lay flat across the deck, holding on to the weather rail. Although the worst part of it was soon over, or we began to be accustomed to it, a wicked sea was up in no time; at first banging under the counter, but soon big enough to lift us, aground as we were, and slam us down on the as hard as concrete sandbar. Nothing could be done but hang on and hope that the spars would not fall on us, while the sea and the tropical rain drenched us, and the darkness gave us the blues. Soon we noticed that the hawser seemed to have slackened, so crawled forward to the capstan and found, to our joy, that, with two at the crank handles and one holding end, we were able to set up tight when the sea raised us, and when we rose the combined tightening of hawser and increased depth of water enabled us to drag her off. The anchor holding and the sea increasing, we were in this manner able to draw clear of the bar and blow off into deep water, where we rode to three hundred feet; Liris behaving like a duck, sticking her bowsprit under but not taking any water on deck.

While the heavy rain and blow continued for about an hour we rested, having looked below to see if we were making water. She was perfectly tight, and the fact that she was pumped out but once during the next month is pretty good evidence that she stood that awful pounding in a remarkable way. I really expected that she would at least be badly strained. About six o'clock we managed to get in our hawser and anchor, put on jib and mainsail, and stand down the Bay in a strong westerly breeze. It was a dirty night, but we had a boat big enough to move about on in comfort; we had plenty of dry, warm clothes, so had a good supper, and enjoyed the run immensely. I stayed at the tiller while George attended to the navigation, and under his directions we got into Annapolis inner harbor, thick and breezy as it was, without ever seeing one of the buoys, the whole job being as pretty a piece of that sort of work as I ever saw. We anchored at midnight.

The next day being Sunday, and having had plenty of exercise the day before, we had a late breakfast and spent the morning drying sails. It was a beautiful day, with a northwest wind, and by noon we had sail covers on and awnings set. After midday dinner we went ashore and pottered about trying to find some remains of the theater which appears in an old print of the town. This ''view" was made in watercolor in 1797, by the Chevalier Colbert, a Knight of Malta and a descendant of Louis XVI's eminent minister of that name, who came to this country with Count de Volney in 1795 and returned in 1798. The sketch was made from Strawberry Hill, the residence of Samuel Sprigg, who later was governor of Maryland, and presented by the artist to E. Bordley. The most prominent building shown is, of course, the old State House which is yet standing. To the left is shown the old Episcopal Church, and on its right the theater, a three-story building said to have been built on ground leased from the church.

 




LIRIS: OFF HERRING BAY, 1901.

It is claimed that Hallam had here the first complete theatrical company seen in America, and that this theater was the first on this continent that was built expressly for such a purpose. Tradition says that it was made of brick, tastefully arranged, and would accommodate six hundred people. The story goes that Hallam's company came over from England in the ship Charming Sally, rehearsing on the quarter deck to the great amusement of the crew, and landed at Yorktown, Virginia, in the month of June. The advertisement of their first performance reads:

"By permission of his honor the President. At the New Theater in Annapolis, by the Company of Comedians on Monday next, being the 13th of this instant, July, 1752, will be performed a comedy called the Beaux Stratagem. Likewise a farce called The Virgin Unmasked. To begin precisely at seven o'clock. Tickets to be had at the Printing Office. Box 10/s Pit 7/6, Gallery 5/. No person to be admitted behind the scenes."

It was called the "new" theater because performances had previously been given in a storehouse fitted up as a theater. There had been theatrical performances of a kind in New York as early as 1733. The first professional company appeared there, probably from the island of Jamaica in 1750, but it was incomplete, the same persons taking different parts in one play.

 




LIRIS IN RHODE RIVER.



LIRIS OFF SHARP'S ISLAND.



RAILWAYS AT SOLOMON'S ISLAND.


 

The Chesapeake country seems to have been in those days quite a gay and comfortable place: the Abbé Robin, one of the chaplains of the French Army in America in 1781, tells us that

"female luxury here exceeds what is known in the provinces of France: a French hair dresser is a man of importance among them, and it is said, a certain dame here hires one of that craft at a thousand crowns a year salary,"

and adds,

"the furniture here is constructed out of the most costly kinds of wood and the most valuable marble, enriched by the elegant devices of the artist's hand. Their riding machines are light and handsome, and drawn by the fleetest coursers, managed by slaves richly dressed; this opulence was particularly observable at Annapolis. That very inconsiderable town, standing at the mouth of the river Severn, where it falls into the bay, out of the few buildings it contains, has at least three-fourths, such as may be stiled elegant and grand."

We had convincing evidence of the luxury of the past when, in the evening, we were shown through the old Shaw-Franklin house up on the Circle, opposite the capitol, by genial John McCusker, who had charge of the sale of the contents; the owner having recently died. The place was crammed with antiques; it was very weird going about in this curious old house, each a candle in hand, looking for titbits. We found some we wanted and arranged for their purchase. Then back on board, the stars shining brightly, with almost a frosty twinkle about them.

I went up to Philadelphia the next day and stayed there three days, while George spent the time pottering about on board, in the launch, and on shore. By Friday night he had ice and provisions on board, and on that day an old friend, Seymour Runk, went down with me, and we arrived at Annapolis so loaded with parcels that we had to charter three nigger boys as transports. It was nasty and wet, blowing hard from northeast, when we arrived at five o'clock, and, to make matters worse, the launch engine would not work, so we had a hard pull out to Liris.

It blew hard all night, and still harder next morning, so there was nothing to do but make up our minds to stay where we were. There was a pelting rain, but as we had a heavy rain awning we were able to sit out on deck in camp chairs. To some people a rainy day in a boat is a form of calamity, but what cannot be helped must be endured, so we settled down for a day's reading. Occasionally George would report that it was breaking away, but this was always the signal for a harder squall. About thirty craft were in the harbor.

On Sunday morning, although the weather was peevish and the wind still in the east, there were signs of clearing, so we put out. Rounding the buoy off Tolly Point we were able to lay our course down the Bay past Thomas Point, but, as the wind gradually getting around toward the south, we were soon close-hauled in moderate wind and some sea. Off Poplar Island we had a bad rain squall, driving through it under mainsail and jib. As we could not see the length of the boat we soon put about and stood over toward Herring Bay. Then it cleared and the sun came out, so we set mizzen and staysail, but made little headway, as the wind again fell, and we were putting the bowsprit under.

All this was very tiresome so we had lunch. After that along came a spanking southeast breeze. In an hour Isaac had to go aloft in terror to furl topsail, and before long we took in the mizzen. The only other vessel in sight was a schooner under short sail standing down the eastern shore in comparatively smooth water while we were working down the western shore toward the Patuxent, getting the full force of the sea; so we decided to stand over. When off the lower end of Sharp's Island the bronze cap of the rudderhead began to twist about in an alarming way, and we decided to run up the Choptank to Oxford. This we did in style, and anchored off the ferry wharf shortly after three o'clock. Just then W. O'Sullivan Dimphel and his party passed us in his big gas engine whaleboat, so we had a few "refreshments." After dinner we had a walk on shore, then home, and loafed on deck for awhile, but soon went to bed, well tired after a strenuous day.

 




OFF SHARP'S ISLAND: BUSTLING UP THE BAY.

On Monday George and Seymour got off the bronze cap and found the rudder stock split both fore and aft and cross-ship; so they went after a blacksmith, who came and made some measurements and sculled away, returning just before lunch with a band fitted with two screws that drew the stock together in fine shape, so that we felt ready for anything; as a matter of fact, we had no more trouble with it. In the afternoon we all went, in the launch, over to "Panola," Dimphel's place, and there his wife gave us afternoon tea. Returning the little launch made wonderful work of a strong head sea, and carried three of us dry and comfortable. Such a little boat with a gas engine is a great convenience, and adds much to the opportunities of a cruise, for many things can be done or seen with its aid that would not be possible with oars, or even sails.

When we sailed on Tuesday morning the wind was still fresh from the south, and after we had rounded the Choptank Light we were able to stand on the port tack to Cook's Point, and, by pinching up a bit, pass out close to Sharp's Island Light, which stands out in the water. The keeper, of course, tolled the bell, as they all do when a yacht passes, and heartily invited us to come on board. We returned the invitation just as heartily. The wind had rapidly lightened since the start, and we were under topsail and jib topsail. We stood close-hauled across the Bay, and when off Parker's Creek the air was so light that George went off in the boat and photographed us.

Although the wind was light and variable as we beat down, it was a bright, clear day, so we amused ourselves at all sorts of jobs, varying from polishing our outfit of shoes to going to the topmast head with kodaks. It was an interesting day: the western shore here is a long hill constantly increasing in height from Herring Bay to the Patuxent River, where it ends abruptly in cliffs that the topographical charts say are eighty feet high. This stretch of shore runs with slight bay-like curves for about thirty miles without a break other than some little brooks that run down through the gullies and empty into the Bay. None of these afford shelter for anything larger than a canoe. It is a bold, rolling land, pretty heavily wooded, but dotted along the ridge with substantial looking farms. There seems to be a wagon road running along the crest of this bit of country, which would probably be well worth exploring with a team.

The wind kept getting hotter and hotter until at last, off Point of Rocks, something happened. I have experienced sudden shifts of wind before, but nothing so sudden as what then occurred. We were standing south, close-hauled against the hot southwest wind and close under the high shore; ahead of us, and not two hundred yards away, was a working schooner doing the same as ourselves, when suddenly his booms swung out to windward, and, without changing his course to any apparent degree, he continued on his way rejoicing. As there was not much ripple on the water, and we still had a fairly strong southwest wind and nothing to indicate any change, it looked like black art. In a few minutes we experienced the same change. Our booms went over suddenly -- instantly, in fact -- and we felt a change in the atmosphere, such as one experiences in opening the door of a large refrigerator. The southeast wind, which was cool and laden with moisture, with the scent of the sea in it, came up with an exhilarating rush that was fine. We slipped along in almost perfectly smooth water for a few minutes till the "bobble" began, when we had a spanking piece of windward work down to Cove Point and beyond, until we could stand into the mouth of the Patuxent. It seemed as though the southeast wind could not force its way in there, for we ran into a dead spot and then faced the hot southwest wind again coming out of the harbor. The tide was ebbing strongly, and we and a couple of pungys hitched back and forth, getting in each other's way and making slow work of it, so that we did not anchor inside Drum Point until after seven o'clock.

There is a fine harbor there, but the entrance is so narrow that there is little probability that some rosy dreams of making it a port rivaling Baltimore will ever come true. A railroad, with its terminal at Drum Point, has been projected. It even appears as large as life on a map we carried with us on our first trip here, but there is no sign of greatness on shore other than an enormous mansion of the Centennial vintage of architecture. This genuine "folly" is up on a bluff, in a truly magnificent situation. It is said to have been built by a New Yorker, who is reputed to have been one of the backers of the road. This place would make a first-class habitation for ghosts, standing alone, dreary and forbidding.

Next morning, Wednesday, we went in the launch to Solomon's Island, about two miles from the point. The harbor is one of the most interesting and picturesque spots in the Bay. The island circles around and incloses an area of perhaps a square mile, which is dotted with little islands covered with trees; these trees are principally pines, and give a Scandinavian look to the place. This resemblance is increased by the groups of picturesque craft anchored and moored about in the most out-of-the-way places and in the oddest ways. As the water is deep close to the shore canoes or bugeyes, laid up "in ordinary," are moored in little coves with lines made fast to trees on either side. The place is a perfect nest of little shipyards, where the bugeye is created in all its glory. These yards are pictures that would drive a painter crazy. Work is done in a leisurely, casual way, with a good deal of resting and gossip under the overhanging pines. It cannot be true, but it does seem as though riches were the last consideration here -- unless we consider that time is money, and that the people here take out their share of the world's goods in that.

There are about half a dozen little marine railways scattered about in the coves and creeks, and all seem to do a good business with the large oyster fleet. These oyster boats are fine, big, able bugeyes, rated among the natives according to the number of bushels of oysters they can carry. The sharp rake to their masts, crisscrossed as they lie in groups in the coves, heightens the effect, while an occasional sharp-headed sail set adds to it all. As we launched around this snug little world we all expressed the hope that some day before we got the final call we would be able to bring our ship up there in the autumn to spend some days at anchor.

On the island, which is a peninsula at low tide, as the connecting bar at the west end is bare at that time, we found a straggling village with a couple of ancient and fishlike general stores, a fine artesian well, and the sole interests of the place oystering and bugeye building and repairing. On the southwest side there is a suggestion of Holland in the way that one has to climb up a steep dyke-like bank to look out over the water, and this effect is enhanced by the way in which the better class dwellings face along this bank. The houses have little garden fronts, and on the summer evenings the bank is no doubt the promenade, the breeze being generally from the southwest.

Here, then, we pottered about all morning, made some purchases, principally ice, and started for home and lunch about noon. On the way we passed an old negro and some pickaninnies fishing, and tried to buy some fish; but the old fellow did not care to be bothered, and it was only after desperate appeals that I could get him to consent to let me have a dozen of the little bits of things. When he was urged to name a price he did not seem to care whether he made a sale or got any money or not. Finally he named a price that made us laugh so that we almost fell out of the launch -- the stupendous sum of six cents.

Then we went inshore. Loafing in the launch, I cleaned my half-cent fish, and Seymour and George went up and investigated the historic old farm known as "Rousbies," on the hillside overlooking the harbor. They must have had a good gossip, for the fish were all cleaned long before they came back, and I had to amuse myself looking over the side at some of their (the fishes') relatives playing about the propeller. The explorers found a tombstone of a former proprietor which relates how he had been murdered on board a ship, The Quaker Ketch, on the last day of October, 1684. An exciting and romantic tale of long ago hangs thereon, but it is far too long to repeat here in detail. Such tales are without end in this country; they exude from the shores of the Chesapeake, as Mark Twain says "ottar of roses" exudes from an otter.

 




OLD BARN AT ROUSBY'S

After lunch of the wonderful fish Seymour and I went in the launch under a hot sun to Solomon's to post some letters and to get some promised ice. On getting hack we had a swim, and watched the antics of a crew of niggers on an old battered and tattered schooner. Some of them were fine specimens, two of them in particular having magnificent physique. They were all splendid swimmers and divers, and at slack tide loafed about in the water for an hour, as much at home as seals, and, with their black heads, looking very much like them. At the flood they up anchor and went off up the Patuxent in the most unconcerned way, each man apparently his own officer, doing just what seemed to him best, and doing it when he pleased, yet all doing the right thing. While the others went off in the launch on some expedition down beyond Drum Point, I had a nap, and then gossiped with an oysterman and tried to get some local history from him, but only learned that the British had once been here. A resident of the upper reaches of the river told us later that there are still to be found remains of American ships that were burned by their owners when chased up the river by our cousins.

It may have been on just such a typical Chesapeake day that the first active steps leading to the naval operations of the War of 1812 were taken. In May, 1811, the President, frigate, was lying at anchor off Fort Severn, at Annapolis, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Rodgers, who happened to be at his home in Havre de Grace, seventy miles away; the sailing master was in Baltimore, forty miles by water; others were in Washington, and I suppose everything slumbered in the usual Chesapeake summer afternoon dolce far niente. Suddenly, at the very sleepiest time of day, i.e., three o'clock in the afternoon, a sailing gig bearing the commodore's pennant was seen in the Roads, and there was no doubt an awakening in the sleepy town when it was known that Rodgers had received orders to put to sea in search of a British vessel that had committed some highhanded annoyances to an American brig. They could be active here on occasion, for two days later the ship was under way, and in a few days had a misunderstanding with the British sloop-of-war Little Belt.

But the real excitement in the Bay did not begin until early in 1813, when the detestable Cochrane, Sir Alexander, vice-admiral, of diabolical memory, entered through the capes in the Marlborough, together with the Dragon, Poictiers, Victorious, all 74's, and the Acasta, Junon, Statira, Maidstone, Belvidera, Narcissus, Lauristimus, Tartarus, all small fry, from forty-four to twenty guns. Many others with just as romantic names joined later. The fleet was well supplied with surf boats which were brought from the West Indies -- a fact which showed real foresight on the part of someone for they were just the thing for the raids which eventuated.

One can readily imagine the alarum and commotion the appearance of this formidable flotilla would create; the beacon lights were promptly extinguished: this seems to have been the right thing at the right time. The old Constellation with a fleet of gunboats and Old Point Comfort guarded Norfolk and Hampton, so the British fleet went on up the Bay and spent several weeks destroying small craft and marauding along the shores. There was no doubt plenty of serious work, but I can imagine the fun the officers must have had if they were at all interested in shooting, and how the redcoats must have enjoyed the crabbing.

What a pity some really personal account of their adventures here does not turn up. There is a full account of the naval operations, written by a captain of the British Navy, published at Portsmouth, England, in 1837, and the little volume contains a chart of the Patuxent as far as Benedict, the soundings on which are surprisingly like those in the government chart of the present day. Solomon's Island is marked Smith's Island, and a note states that there is only a passage for boats over the bar which connects the island with the shore, as is still true to the present day. Two points are called Drum Point, what is now known as Cove Point, being marked Drum Point as well as the inner one.

Quite a fleet assembled at the mouth of the Patuxent in August, 1814. Undaunted by the difficulties of exploring an unknown river, Sir Alexander made a pretty job of it and sailed his fleet of several frigates and men-of-war with twenty transports right up to Benedict, where the troops were disembarked and marched to Washington.

Apparently the run was accomplished with comparative ease, but the captain states that all hands were fagged out by the harassing operation of getting down; apparently they anchored four times before getting back to Drum Point. He writes very feelingly later on of the labor of getting up to Baltimore without pilots, groping their way with the lead, whilst boats ahead and one on each bow were also sounding. He thought the heat was very great and exhausting, and mentions that it varied from seventy-nine to eighty-two degrees in the shade. I wonder what he would have thought of one hundred and three degrees or so in the shade, as we have had it.

Here a namesake of mine appears on the scene, and our author continues:

"I was placed under the orders of Capt. Robert Barrie, of the Dragon, 74, and left with him in the Chesapeake, having on board part of Col. Malcolm's battalion of marines, while the fleet and transports under Sir Alexander Cochrane proceeded out of the Chesapeake to the southward. No sooner did our senior officer, Capt. Robert Barrie, find himself free to act according to his own able judgment, than, with a mind capable of planning and a heart as bold as a lion to execute, he undertook all kinds of expeditions."

 

Later the acting commodore seems to have forgotten his canned goods, or that there are good shops at Annapolis, for he gave the following order to his squadron in the Chesapeake:

"HMS Dragon, Nov. 1, 1814
Chesapeake Bay.

"The provisions of the squadron under my command are getting extremely low, and, it being very uncertain at this advanced season of the year when a supply can arrive, I find myself under the painful necessity of placing the ship's company and marine battalion on short allowance.

"You are, therefore, to place the crew and marines on board your ship upon half allowance, so as to make your provisions last for two months from this date.

"You will signify to your crew that I trust it will not be necessary to continue this restriction long, and that I shall try by every means in my power to procure temporary supplies from the enemy. In the meantime I am satisfied their zeal for their country's cause will point out the absolute necessity of persevering in the blockade of the Chesapeake to the last extremity, and that the temporary privations they are reduced to will be borne with the utmost cheerfulness.

ROBERT BARRIE,
Captain and Senior Officer."

 

The writer further states that they are entitled to forage, and mentions that they paid for what they took; but I suspect that in many cases they would have had a hard time in finding the owners. He claims that "the orders of Admiral Cockburn and Captain Barrie were positive against plundering," and tells a curious story:

"We used occasionally to purchase cattle from the Americans. The plan agreed upon was this: they were to drive them down to a certain point, when we were to land and take possession, for the inhabitants, being all militiamen, and having too much patriotism to sell food to 'King George's men,' they used to say, 'Put the money under such a stone or tree, pointing to it, and then we can pick it up and say we found it.' "
 

All of which may or may not have been true, but Captain Barrie was rewarded for his services. The little book is dedicated by the author, who seems to have been an ardent admirer, to Rear-admiral Sir Robert Barrie, C.B., K.C.H., as follows:

"My DEAR SIR ROBERT

"In dedicating the following pages to you, under whose command I had the honour of serving in the Chesapeake, etc., I do it with the greatest respect, esteem, and admiration of your conduct.

"I must ever consider you as one of those officers upon whom the country may safely rely in the hour of peril, and in whose hands it may entrust its honour in the day of battle. Like the celebrated Bayard of old, your career has obtained for you a character sans peur et sans reproche.

"Your faithful friend, THE AUTHOR."

 

The oyster fleet at Solomon's must include well toward two hundred craft: one evening we counted eighty returning. They are handled wonderfully well; we hear much of the cleverness of the Gloucester fishermen, but no bayman ever made such a mess of a job as did a Gloucester fisherman I once saw in Newport harbor, fouling three craft while getting under way, officers and crew nervous and excited as chickens with their heads off. I have seen two baymen back a large bugeye for several hundred yards out of the thicket of vessels in Annapolis harbor, and this simply wonderful feat excite no surprise among the neighbors. They are certainly expert sailors in their line. I do not know how they would be in deep sea work or on large vessels, but they are certainly wonderful at handling the typical bay craft of fifty to ninety feet.

 




THE OLD SANTEE, NAVAL ACADEMY.



LIRIS RUNNING INTO WYE RIVER.


That night was a sad one for me. The effect of a too healthy appetite and too little exercise put me out of commission, so I went to bed shortly after dinner. During the evening we had a hard squall -- George's log says it laid us well over, blew out the large and powerful riding light, and the next morning he found we had dragged a hundred yards or so. I give all this as hearsay as I did not get up next morning until we were well out into the Bay. I rose while the ship's company were enjoying a state breakfast, and on looking out of the stateroom skylight saw we were passing Cove Point with a fresh west wind. A little later I put on an overcoat over my pajamas, got on deck, sat in an armchair under the lee of a sail on the sunny side, had an orange and soft boiled egg, and soon began to feel like a white man again. These are trivial, and, from a certain point of view, ridiculous details, but they are little things which exercise considerable influence over life. The sunny side of that sail was to me the most desirable place on earth, and after a bad night the bright sunny world seemed particularly cheerful.

The breeze freshened, but George, determined to have a good run, opened out the gafftopsail and set the baby jib topsail, which gave Liris just the right balance. We boiled up the highway, overhauling and passing several lumber-laden schooners, whose skippers generally gave us a cheerful wave of the hand. There was quite a swing to the ship, so I had to move my chair alongside one of the boats, where, sheltered from the wind, I had a couple of naps, and thereafter felt fine. The navigators had it all their own way during the day so far as the ship went. Off Poplar Island it lightened, and they set the large jib topsail; off Bloody Point, at the entrance to Eastern Bay, it shifted to southwest, and we were almost dead before, so they furled mizzen and set the cockpit awning. While off Claiborne we met friends in the Dulwich bound for West River, and farther up the Bay Cynthia, another Corinthian craft.

The wind changed to cool southeast as we turned Tilghman's Point, and then freshened again. Beating down was pleasant, but we approached Deep Water Point in some anxiety and with minds determined not to be surprised if we grounded, for we had a strong head wind and tide, and the gut is not much wider than a good sized street. Seymour at the tiller made Liris behave like a corkscrew; on one side we could stand inshore until the bowsprit was almost over the beach, but on the other we had no such certain guide. There was a buoy on the south end of the long bar which almost entirely closes the river here, but we had to depend on the lead long before and long after reaching it. The boat behaved splendidly and never faltered or hesitated in coming about, although we scarcely had time to get headway before we had to turn again. She swung around like a knockabout, and was off on the other tack like clockwork. I was surprised and delighted, for it was a severe test. I had expected that cutting off of keel would have decreased her ability at this kind of work.

We anchored off the pretty little village of St. Michael's about half-past three. I kept ship and entertained some visitors, while the others dashed off in the launch for the inevitable ice, provisions, papers, and telegrams. This time we did not go into the quaint little inner harbor, but lay in the river; so-called, but really a salt arm of the Bay, cursed with strong tides. A pleasant old fellow came alongside and remarked that we had selected a pretty bleak harbor; and so we had, but the usual squall that night was not severe, and we did not suffer any unusual discomfort. A Baltimore yacht bound in passed close astern, partly to learn our ship's name and partly to advise us to anchor inside. These friendly warnings seemed very ridiculous in a river, but it could get very uncomfortable there with a wind against the tide.

Next morning we wandered about the village, which is very attractive. The green grass comes down to the water's edge all around the harbor, which is practically landlocked. There is an air of peace and quiet after the turbulent waters of the Bay, and the whole is a strong contrast to the rush of modern life. There is a charm in the haphazard way in which the older part of the village huddles about the harbor; in the grass-covered back lanes, where a broad ribbon of dazzling white oyster shell runs along the center; in the tarry smell of nets spread about, and the perfume of honeysuckle from old fashioned gardens, and in the ancient and weatherworn houses. There are some fine large trees in the place. All this, as seen from the harbor, with the church steeple rising up over all, makes a pretty picture.

There is, however, a brisk air about the place, both in the morning and evening, when the summer boarders, principally beauty and youth, go for the mail; the rest of the day and evening seems to be spent by them in or on the water. It is a great place for canoe sailing. Canoes are everywhere. In the morning the crews, both girls and boys, are in bathing suits; then, if there is a smart breeze, the sailing is more than reckless: to capsize means only another bath. They seem to dress for lunch, so that in the afternoon the sailing is more discreet. In the evening, when the girls have on white dresses, and the breeze is generally lighter, things are more placid, and banjos are in evidence. This seems to be the daily round; at Oxford it was the same, and I presume it is so at these places all the summer.

We inspected the steam yacht Vision, hauled up in Kirby's Yard, after having been raised and recreated under Dimphel's supervision; then out on board and up anchor for the Wye River under jib and mizzen. It is only a short distance, and we were soon at our old anchorage off Bruff's Island. Here we were in the prettiest and most park-like scenery on the whole Eastern Shore, so we determined to run up the river to the westward of Wye Island and complete the circumnavigation of the island, in which we had been defeated by an out-of-order drawbridge on a former occasion. We took lunch and bottles in a basket of ice, and picnicked ashore on the northeast point at the junction of the Back and Front Wye Rivers. We found that we had chosen a spot that had been used for picnics before, for all about us under the turf were tons of oyster shells that had been cast aside by Indians centuries ago. It was a lovely spot, and spoke well, in our opinion, for the red man's taste in these matters. The red man undoubtedly went up and down to the Bay in canoes and probably paddled; we degenerates, cursed by civilization, used a launch. We undoubtedly lost in physique by it, but it was very pleasant.

In the afternoon we returned on board and moved the ship down to Bozman's Flats at the mouth of Tilghman's Creek, where there is good but exposed holding ground. It is a nice retired spot, with few and distant signs of man, and a dash of wildness about it. After a bath from the beach we had an early dinner, and then sat on deck watching the picture made by the afterglow of the sun behind the pines of Tilghman's Point. The promised land of wilderness cast its spell upon us, and we sat silent in the late twilight until the stars began to show cold and frosty. It is impossible to do justice to the fascination of this sort of life; the probability is that any attempt I could make would become bathos.

Next morning my brother, the slave driver, had us up before five o'clock, but it was worth it. At that time it was quite nippy, and there was a steely sharpness about everything that made one think of winter. The air was clear, wind east, the sun crimson, and the water a dark blue, and a pea jacket very welcome. Having rounded the point, had breakfast as we ran down Eastern Bay, and the sun warming things up and bringing the wind with it, we had a spanking sail over to the West River, so much so that we carried away the jaws of the gaff when halfway over. This did not bother us, however, as we ran under headsails and mizzen while we made a temporary lashing, and were soon, about nine o'clock, at our proposed anchorage in the mouth of the Rhode River.

Then we amused ourselves for awhile by washing down decks and setting awnings, and I went ashore to interview a fisherman and then on to a farm for chickens, vegetables, and milk. The fascination of this marketing at farmhouses, or even in the villages, is curious. During eleven months of the year to carry a basket or a milk can would be a degradation akin to servitude: then the only knowledge that such a thing as food must be bought is the monthly making of checks. But on a cruise there is something very humanizing in the experience of sitting gossiping with the friendly country people, most of whom are possessed of an astonishing education and dignity of manner. There is generally a delightful calm independence about the bay folk in this lotus land that seems to have been given them by nature in poetic justice as compensation for the lack of the doubtful joys of money bought luxuries.

A simple manifestation of this bred-in-the-bone unconscious dignity is in the way in which the white man, while living on terms of equality and in friendly intercourse with the negro, exercises a noblesse oblige that promotes mutual respect and goodwill. This manner is probably the result of atavism, and in it there is no doubt reproduced the manner that was in fashion during the couple of centuries that slavery existed in the land. This strain has continued here largely for the reason that few foreigners of any brand have come into this part of the country. The lack of fresh blood has perhaps been a loss to the bay folk in that they have not gained the commercial and artistic strength that comes from occasional adding of other blood; but, nevertheless, they have preserved a genuine and unaffected goodwill, kindliness, and courtesy that adds greatly to the pleasure of a cruise in these waters.

Well, I got back with the forage, and we had an hour's run on shore and a fine bath from the clean sandspit that gives protection on the southeast and makes the Rhode River an attractive little harbor. There is absolutely no village here; only two houses in sight, and one of them, that of a gentleman farmer of the old school. You can anchor behind the low spit in deep water with good holding ground, and under the awning, with ensign snapping in a strong breeze, lie as unmovable as though on shore. On a busy day there is a constant procession of craft of all sorts up to the largest steamships passing up or down the Bay; the sailing craft generally all bound one way, as the wind may favor. All of this gives a feeling of being in touch with the world. A good sized seagoing sailing craft brings up daydreams of the imaginary Spanish Main, or the Indies, or the Spice Islands of boyhood; or, more exactly and realistically, remembrances of the Hoogly, of Hong Kong, or of the Sydney of twenty years ago.

So we spent an ideal afternoon. Our appearance seemed to have excited the yachting spirit of the place, for two big farmer's boys appeared with miniature craft almost as big as themselves, and sailed them in exciting races for our benefit. In the early evening we went in the launch through the beautiful bay to the house mentioned above, and found a large party from the surrounding branches of the family gathered for Sunday. It was a scene not to be found north of Mason's and Dixon's line, unless it be on the stage -- the courtly old gentleman and his gracious lady-of-the-manor, the cultured and intellectual women of the second generation, and youth and beauty of the 'teens, in a fitting setting of old mahogany and family portraits. We were received as though we were princes from a foreign land. It was yet daylight, so we were taken up into the tower, from which, as the house stands on the top of a hill, we were able to view the land and Bay spread out about us like a map. We lingered there while the twilight darkened, and finally went below saturated with the legendary lore of the land. After a most enjoyable two hours we went back to the launch through the inky blackness of the woodland shortcut, guided by the lanterns of some youths of the party. On the way back we bumped the launch over a bar, but as we had good headway she went over like a steeplechaser.

Next morning, Sunday, was cool but breathless, so we towed out beyond the cedar bush off the end of the spit about five o'clock, and a light southerly wind carried us around to Annapolis by the time shore folks were sitting down to breakfast. Here we had a day of resting, swimming, exchanging of visits, and a walk ashore through the Naval Academy grounds. Next morning Seymour had to desert the ship.

We laid at anchor a couple of days resting. Here again the choice spot is behind the spit, not too far from Heller's Yard and Sail Loft, so that one has the view out over the Bay. A part of the annual program is to spend a little money there, ordering things in the most leisurely way, talking it over well, with the incense of boiling tar in the nostrils; not at all in the city fashion, as though you were slaves of time, but in the true Bay style. One afternoon we spent in an excursion in the launch to "Whitehall," which stands facing the Bay, in a small bay, northeast from Annapolis. This fine, old specimen, with its handsome columned façade, was formerly the home of Sharpe, the early eighteenth century governor of the colony, but was, I believe, built before his time. Mrs. Story showed us about and told us the pathetic tale of the transported servant who did the wood carving in the hall.

Our entire ship's company was now reduced to two men. We do not count the cook, who is never called upon even to tend the traditional foresheet, as has been cook's duty from time immemorial; yet we navigated the ship home without feeling at all shorthanded and without mishap. We had one burst of excitement on the way. Leaving Annapolis one morning with a light breeze we met a cousin in the cutter Merlin off Tolchester, bound down. As the wind was light we hove to and he came on board, while his man sailed about in circles. After a "gam" we parted company, and, the wind growing lighter and the tide being against us, finally anchored. Shortly after lunch there was a light northerly air, and we beat up slowly till off Fairlee Creek, when it came suddenly out of the northeast, butt-end first, and we went tearing along close-hauled down to the planksheer. As we were under the lee of the land we had smooth water, but when we opened Worton's Cove we got the full strength of it, so that we had to take in gaff and jib topsails. It was almost a dead beat against a steadily increasing breeze; we had a fair tide, but it worked up a sea very quickly, so that by the time we reached the Sassafras River we were drenched with spray. By that time we were down to mainsail and jib; when halfway up to Turkey Point we again set mizzen and staysail, the wind being killed by a couple of heavy thunder squalls which blackened the whole western sky. We were anxious to make an anchorage, but did not succeed, and had to take the fierce outburst from the northwest under staysail alone. It was as black as ink, the rain like a shower bath, and the lightning fierce. But the wind was soon over, and we managed to get up into the Elk and anchored off Cabin John's Creek. It settled into a steady northeaster, so that we had to let go heavy anchor and put out a lot of chain. We rode comfortably, however, although in a very bleak harbor.

Next day the northeaster still blew, although not quite so hard. There was a good sea running, but the little launch did well against it, and we went up and spent the day with friends at the Bohemia River. Coming back in the afternoon before the sea we had trouble and had to keep out oars to prevent the launch broaching.

During that night the wind shifted to northwest, so that the high shores of Turkey Point made a fine lee for us, but next morning we had a job getting our anchors. We then worked up to Corn Landing, where we got the canal tug and went right through behind it to the Delaware, where we found a southerly breeze that carried us up to the club house in time for dinner.

We had had a most enjoyable month with plenty of exercise, and, on the whole, I think we were much better off than we would have been in a smaller boat. A small boat can, of course, make a harbor in a lot of little places where it is not safe to take a large one, but this disadvantage, I think, is more than counterbalanced by the big boat's ability to take the weather as it comes, in increased speed, thus shortening the runs and enabling one to make a harbor earlier in the day in greater comfort and in easier behavior at anchor. I do not mean at all to disparage the joys of small boat cruising -- I have slept under a sail on the floorboards of an open boat. I write this, however, to show how it is possible for a few men wishing to cruise about handily in a ship sixty feet from figurehead to taffrail. Practically two of us worked the ship, for Isaac, the nigger, had cooking, dishwashing, bedmaking, and the cabin cleaning to do, and he was awfully slow at all of these, and came on deck only to take his ease with a pipe. This suited us exactly; we wanted exercise, and we got it. We might have had another man -- there were four cots in the forecastle -- but I doubt if we would have been any better off, and in another paid hand we would have perhaps had another of these spoiled children upon our hands to make pessimistic remarks and predict disaster. 

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© 2000 Craig O'Donnell, editor & general factotum.
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