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Friday, August 1, 2014

Around the cabin table

As I have remarked before, the company of those who sat about the table could make or break a long and tedious sailing ship voyage.  And recently I have discovered the wonderful Eliza Fay, who sailed on the Natalia in 1779. 

At sea, 28th October...

We have now been six weeks at sea and in the course of a few days I hope to reach Calicut. Our passage across the Indian Ocean we found very pleasant ... Fortunate indeed may we deem ourselves in having experienced such fine weather, for our ship is not half laden and has not cargo enough to keep steady; you will now expect me to say something of those with whom we are couped up, but my account will not be very satisfactory, though sufficiently interesting to us--to being there.

The woman, of whom I entertained some suspicion from the first, is, now I am credibly informed, one of the lowest creatures taken off the streets in London ... Her pretended husband, having been in India before and giving himself many airs, is looked upon as a person of mighty consequence whom no one chooses to offend...

Chenu, the Captain, is a mere "Jack in office." Being unexpectedly raised to that post from second mate by the death of poor Captain Vanderfield and his Chief Officer on the fatal Desert, he has become from this circumstance so insolent and overbearing that every one detests him ... And although the wretch half starves us; he frequently makes comparisons between his table and that of an Indiaman which we dare not contradict while in his power....

Dissensions run very high on board. The very day we sailed from Mocha, a sudden quarrel arose between the Captain and Mr. Hare, the Barrister; on which the ship was ordered about, and they were going ashore in a great hurry to decide it, but, by the interposition of friends, they were prevailed upon to curb their wrath till their arrival at Calicut, as, in case of an accident, no officer remained to supply Chenu's place. About a month after, they were reconciled, and so ended this doughty affair.

More to come.

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