Tuesday. 24. Wednesday 25. and Thursday 26 of February. 1778. Our Mainmast and Maintopmast had been hurt by the Lightening. On Tuesday We espyed a Sail and gave her chase. We gained upon her, and upon firing a Gun to leward and hoisting American Colours, she fired a friendly Gun and hoisted the French Colours of the Province of Normandy. She lay to, for Us, and we were coming about to speak to her, when the Wind sprung up fresh of a sudden, and carried away our Maintopmast. We lost the Opportunity which I greatly regretted of speak
It was a vast Satisfaction to me to recollect, that I had been perfectly calm and collected during the whole of the late Chases and Tempests. I found by the Opinion of all the People on board, as well as that of the Captain and all the Officers that We had been in great danger, and of this I had all along been very certain by my own Observation, but I thought myself in the Way of my duty, and I did not for one moment repent of my Voyage. I often regretted however that I had brought my Son with me. I was not so clear that it had been my duty to expose him as well as myself: but I had been led to it, by his Inclination and by the Advice of all his Friends. The Childs Behaviour gave me a Satis-16faction, that I cannot express. Fully sensible of our Danger, he was constantly endeavouring to bear up under it with a manly courage and patience, very attentive to me, and his thoughts always running in a serious Strain. In this he was not singular, for I found that Seamen have their religion as well as Landsmen, and that Sailors, as Corporal Trim said of Soldiers, have sometimes more pressing motives to Prayer than the Clergy. I believe there was not a Soul on board, who was wholly thoughtless of a Divinity. I more than once heard our Captain, who was no Fanatic, on stepping into his Cott, towards morning, offering up his Prayers to his God, when he had no Suspicion that any one heard him, and in a very low but audible Voice, devoutly imploring the Protection of Heaven for the Ship, and the preservation of himself, his officers, Passengers and Men.
I had made many Observations in the late bad Weather, some of which I should not have thought it prudent to put in Writing if I could have kept a regular Journal. A few of them however may be recalled in this place, 1. I had seen the inexpressible Inconvenience, of having so small a Space between the Decks as there was in the Boston. As the main deck was almost constantly under Water, the Sea rolling in and out of the Ports and Scuppers, We were obliged to keep the Hatchways down. The Air consequently became so hot and foul in the 'Tween Decks, as they call it, that for my own part I could not breath or live there; yet the Water would pour down, whenever an Hatchway was opened, so that all was afloat. 2. The Boston was overmetaled. The Number of her Guns, and the Weight of their metal, was too great for her tonnage. She had five twelve Pounders, and nineteen nines. We were obliged to sail, day and night, during a Chace, with the Guns out, in order to be ready for Battle, and this exposed Us to certain Inconvenience, and very great danger. They made the Ship labour and roll, to such a degree as to oblige Us to keep the Chain pumps as well as the hand pumps almost constantly going: besides, they wring and twist the Ship, in such a manner as to endanger the Starting of a Butt, and still more to endanger the Masts and Rigging. 3. The Ship was furnished with no Pistols. She ought to have had a variety and a large Number of these Or at least a Number of Setts for the Officers, because, there is nothing but the dread of a Pistol, will keep many of the Men to their quarters, in time of Action. 4. The Frigate was not furnished with good Glasses, which appeared to me of very great consequence. Our Ships ought to
In this place it will not be impertinent to take notice of an absurd and pernicious report which was propagated in this Country during my Absence, I know not by whom nor for what End. Certainly it could be with no good design. It was that I had been convinced by my own Observation that in critical times at Sea, the Sailors could not be stimulated to sufficient Activity and Exertion, unless the Officers terrified them by these vulgar Oaths and Execrations. The Rumour was wholly without foundation. On the contrary I have often observed, that a dry Sarcasm, or an Arch Irony, has excited the Ambition, Energy, Agility and Ingenuity of a Seaman more effectually, than any Oath I ever heard. If such vile Language ever has any effect upon the Men, it is only in the mouths of such Officers as are in the habit of speaking to them only in such a Style. They may possibly not think such an officer in earnest, when he does not Use his common Dialect. But this is more the fault of the Officer than of the Man. If he would mend his manners the man would soon understand him and reform his own. This report is however only a revival of a very ancient one. I have heard the same Story and the same insinuations of Dr. Sewall when I was very young, and of Dr. Cooper, when he sailed with Captain Hollowell in the Province Ship: and have no doubt they were as falsely imputed to them as they were to me.
This Morning Captain Tucker made me a present of Charlevoix's History of Paraguay and Dr. Noel put into my hand a Manual of Geography, containing a description of all the Countries of the World. These manuals come out annually, and are to be had in any of the great Towns in France.
February 27. Fryday. 1778. A calm. As soft and warm as Summer. A Species of black Fish, which were called Beneaters, appeared about the Ship.
One source of the disorders in our Ship was a great irregularity in 18the meals. There ought to have been a well digested System, for eating, drinking and sleeping. At six all hands should have been called up. At Eight they should all breakfast. At one they should dine, and at Eight they should sup. It should have been penal for the Cook to fail of having his Victuals punctually, ready. This would have been much for the Health, comfort and Spirits of the Men, and would have greatly promoted the Business of the Ship. I was constantly giving hints to the Captain concerning Order, Oeconomy and regularity. He seemed to be sensible of the necessity of them, and exerted himself to introduce them. He cleared out the 'Tween decks, ordered up the Hammocks to be aired, and ordered up the Sick, such at least as could bear it, upon Deck for sweet Air. That Ship would have bred the Plague or the Goal fever, if there had not been great exertions after the Storm to wash, sweep, Air, and purify Cloaths, Cotts, Cabins, Hammocks, and all other things, places, and Persons. In the Morning I very seriously advised the Captain to reform his Cockpit. I said to him “if you intend to have any reputation for Oeconomy, Discipline or any thing that is good, look into that Scaene.” He went down, accordingly and ordered up every body from that Sink of Devastation, Putrefaction and Ruin. He ordered up the Hammocks and every thing else that could be removed, and that required to be aired and cleansed.
The Captain brought in a Curiosity, which he had drawn up, over the Side in a Buckett of Water, and which the Sailors call a Portuguese Man of War. We saw many of them sailing by the Ship. They had some Appearances of Life and Sensibility. They spread a curious Sail and are wafted along very briskly. They have something like Strings or twisted and knotted Cords, hanging down in the Water, which are said to be caustic and in some degree poisonous to human Flesh, or perhaps it may be electricity, which gives a shock upon the touch of them. The Hulk is like blue glass. This was a very small one in comparison of many We saw around Us. I pierced it, with the sha