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3 Weeks at Sea

Leave Malta

Monday 15th – fine weather. At 12 M.r Geach went for the Mail and returned a 2 P.M. Let slip from the buoy and hove up the kedge anchor, very little wind was up and in fact it was nearly a calm – but what there was was favourable. In consequence of a request sent to the Commanding Officer of the Ocean, the boats of the men of war lying in harbour were sent to tow us out, which they did in a very short time. We left lying in the harbour the following ships viz. HM Ships of War Ocean, Britannia, Revenge, Spartiate, Infernal, Procris, Rattlesnake, Wasp, & Orasits transport. [5] & the Russian squadron, Azof rear Admiral Lazarost – Zara Constantin, Ezeikeil, Gran Duca Michael, Frigate Alizandra, Maria, Constantin, Volga.

During the whole afternoon & Evening we made little progress. At 7 P.M. we were nearly abreast Gozo.

Tuesday 16th – this morning we were between Sicily and Malta & kept them in sight all day. Beautiful weather but baffling winds. In the afternoon had a fine view of Mount Aetna capped in snow – except at the very summit.

Wednesday 17th February – delicious weather – alternate calms and light favourable airs all day. Sailing along the coast of Sicily at a few miles distance – saw several towns and in particular Girgenti (antinetly Agrigentiary). This city of considerable extent and being built on the summit of a brow of the hill; you are enable[d] to see almost every individual house distinctly.

Thursday 18th – heavy showers of rain in the morning, with fresh and favourable breezes – abreast of Maritimo at 7 A.M. At 10 A.M. the sky cleared up fine and continued so all day but the wind became foul.

Friday 19th – fine weather, foul winds.

Saturday 20th – beautiful weather – wind more favourable in the morning and at 12 became quite fair, continuing so all day. Coast of Sardinia in sight.

Sunday 21st – fine weather, rather hazy – wind very variable. Abreast of Toro at 6 P.M. Coast of Sardinia in sight all day.

Monday 22nd – fine weather – fresh and favourable breeze from the Northward.

Tuesday 23rd – very fine weather – foul wind. Saw several sails and one large steam vessel steering towards the Southward. In the afternoon came in sight of the African coast.

Wednesday 24th – fine pleasant weather. Wind foul, tho’ more favourable than yesterday. In the morning saw the coast of Africa, but very dimly thro’ the haze. During the whole day our course lay towards is and by evening a distinct view of very high mountainous country, without a single plain. The shore being bold we approached to within 5 or 6 miles of it. [three lines heavily crossed out] At 6 P.M. we tacked about to the Northward.

Thursday 25th February – fine cold bracing weather – not a cloud to be seen in the sky. Wind foul and fresh. At 7 P.M. it fell away nearly to a calm.

Friday 26th – beautiful weather and cloudless sky. Wind very variable & light but always foul. Saw the African Coast to day again.

Caught a Turtle – Beautiful evening

Saturday 27th – lovely day. Light and unfavourable breezes all day. In the afternoon we perceived a tolerable sized turtle sleeping in fatal security on the surface of the water. In a few minutes our dinkie was lowered, and the Master and two hands went after it. While one rowed slowly and deftly, the other stood in the bow of the boat, and as soon as they were near enough, he suddenly seized it by both sides and Raised it into the dinkie. Unless you are very quick in your motions, the turtle would in a moment descend, and be forever beyond your reach. The taking of this turtle was an event which agreeably broke the monotony of our slow progress. We crowded to see him as soon as he was brought on board and he was found to be, tho’ small, of a pretty considerable weight. Upon examination a small crab was found comfortably housed under the loose folds of the skin near the tail – which is certainly a curious circumstance, and might give rise to much conjecture as to how he came there, & how he was supported. Altho’ this has been the first of the kind which we have obtained, we have, for several days past seen two or three daily – but then no efforts were made to catch them. Turtle are very numerous off the Coast of Africa, where we now are, and also near Spain, indeed the whole of the Mediterranean. They are of the yellow kind, and are called I think the ox- hawkbill, being not so much prised as the Green Turtle, brought from the West Indies. They are generally seen, when a calm or light winds prevail, and are to be met most numerously on the fine warm days of summer.

Pleased with our first success, a man was stationed at the mast head to look out for more – but we were not lucky enough to have another chance.

Towards evening the very light airs which we had had died away completely leaving us in sight of Africa. The evening was a glorious one and I enjoyed it much. The deep blue Empyreum – the quical warmth of the setting sun – the unruffled bosom of the ocean – and the perfect stillness which reigned around, unbroken even by the gentle ripple occasioned by the scarcely perceptible motion of the vessel – all these formed such a concentration of pleasing images, that none but an apathetic mind could have failed to have been delighted. All living and inanimate things, too partook of the quiet repose of external nature. The Men were collected in groups on the forecastle, in social conversation spinning yarns – the ropes and sails were undisturbed – and the officers were pacing the quarter deck, without a single object to distort their meditations.

Pick up a Boat

Sunday 28th Feb.ry – beautiful weather – light and unfavourable winds. Early this morning, the Steward happening to be on the look out for turtle with a telescope, perceived some large white object floating about, but could not make out what it was. As it lay nearly in the course which we were steering, but at some distance from us, the boat was got ready to be lowered at once – which was done when we came near. We then discovered that the object was a large new-built and handsome boat, with her keel and bottom uppermost. She had sustained comparatively little injury a few spars only broken, and one of her planks having started – probably it had been washed away by a heavy sea from the stern of some vessel. The bottom was painted white and the upper part black, with the exception of the mouldings, which were of a green colour. On her Starboard bow she had represented the British flag, and on her larboard one there was neither name nor other clue to enable us to judge to whom she belonged. It was supposed that she might have been about three or four weeks in the water from the quantity of weed and barnacles which had stuck to her, and if this conjecture was true, she would certainly be [in] no need for any fumigation, as I had proposed, lest she might have belonged to a vessel infected with the fever.

Monday 1st March – delightful weather but very warm indeed. In the morning it was a dead calm, but soon a breeze sprung up light and favourable. This again was succeeded by a calm and then followed by a gentle wind – and so enduring the whole day. Much of my time was pleasantly enough occupied in looking out for turtle. We saw five in all and of these we were fortunate enough to catch two of moderate size.

Tuesday 2nd March – beautiful day – favourable breezes, variable in strength, till 5 P.M. when it fell a calm. At 7 P.M. the fair wind again sprung up and about the same time we saw a high point of land on the coast of Spain (Mount Altea).

Wednesday 3rd – most delightful day – moderate and favourable breezes. In sight of the Coast of Spain but at a considerable distance. Caught one Turtle this afternoon.

Thursday 4th – the morning of this day found us becalmed – the favourable breeze which we had yesterday, and which we had hoped would have carried us to Gibraltar having died away during the night. The weather was cloudy but pleasant and gave good tokens of a wind from some quarter. In the forenoon the breeze sprung up foul, and we were obliged to tack about to the land, from which we were at a considerable distance. With a strong breeze we made rapid progress, and, curious to tell, about 5 oClock (the same hour as last year) we were within the Bay of Carbonera and viewed the same green fields, high mountains & little Town which we beheld on the 27th February of 1829 (see Journal of that date). About 6 P.M. we went about and stood to the Southward and Westward to try if we can weather Cape de Gatta, which is distinctly seen.

Near Cape de Gat – Gale of Wind

Friday 5th March – weather very hazy but pleasant. We have not succeeded in getting round Cape de Gat, as the foul wind still continues and blew fresh. In the evening the sky cleared up – but at the same time the wind increased to a gale and the sea rose to a terrible height, wave following wave in such rapid sequence that before the ship could right herself from the effect of one, another came and deluged the decks with a watery flood. We have been tacking to and from the land all day, and still we have gained but a few miles from the projecting table land, called Le Mesa de Roldan, which is 3 miles to the Westward of the Town of Carbonera. The appearance of the coast is mountainous and barren – deplete of trees, with here and there the Southern slope of a hill rescued by the hand of industry from the desolation of the surrounding wilderness, and appearing like some “oasis green” in the midst of the desert.

Unable to get round Cape de Gat

Saturday 6th March – weather very cloudy, with one or two slight showers. During the day the wind blew a gale and against us, so that what with the head sea and the force of the current, instead of making any progress we lost much ground.

In the evening the wind suddenly lulled and we had a calm.

Sunday 7th – fine pleasant cloudy weather. During the whole of the morning we were becalmed near the land, about 6 miles from Cape de Gat. We had a favourable breeze all night, but being very light and combined with a heavy swell from the Westward only enabled us to make up for the ground which we had lost the previous day. We` have now been 72 hours, not above a few miles from this plagy cape and have as yet failed to get round it. At 12 P.M. the breeze began to bestir itself but still to the same tune from the Westward, so that we were forced to back away to the Southward and back again to the Northward. At 7 A.M. we were not more than 4 miles from de Gat, when it once more fell a calm. So 20 miles in three days – a snails pace truly! We` have not however been without company – for up to 20 vessels of all descriptions were in sight and in as bad a case as ourselves.

Monday 8th – calm all night and morning till about 11 A.M. when a moderate breeze sprung up, but still from the Westward. This wind in a short time fell away, then freshened and at night it sank into a deep calm. Of course with this foul wind, we could not nothing more than tack about repeatedly – which we did and the results of several hours employment in this way was that at 6 P.M. we were abreast of Cape de Gat, having gained a distance of 5 miles all day. Such is the History of our days work but several vessels, bound the same way as ourselves, could tell a different tale – for strange to say, they had a favourable breeze on the same tack as us – and made good progress, and what is stranger still you could see two or more ships coming in direct opposite courses, each with studding sails set out. The weather most delightful.

Beat up along the coast of Spain

Tuesday 9th March – weather very cloudy but pleasant. In the night we had a fair wind, which however failed us in the morning. In the forenoon the wind blew from all points of the compass, sometimes right aft, sometimes quite foul. At 2 P.M. a strong breeze set in regular from the Westward – and disappointed our hopes of making much progress. At 12 A.M. last night we finally cleared that teasing Cape de Gat, and when I first came upon deck, we were in the Bay of Almeria and abreast of the village of Rogetas, where we came to anchor last year. In the course of the day we saw the whole extent of the Llanos or plains of Almeria, with the very lofty mountains in the back ground, partially enveloped in clouds. We observed likewise that numerous towers and castles are erected along the coast, and all within sight of each other – that intelligence of an enemy could be conveyed a long distance in a short space of time.

Wednesday 10th – this morning at eight we were close to the land. I have never been more pleased with any scene which I have witnessed in Spain than with this, which lay about 20 miles from the Plains of Almeira. All along the bold shore & some way inland, you saw a range of undulating hills, composing numerous heights and hollows. Behind, again, all that were in these undulations were screened by lofty and barren mountains, some of which had a covering of snow. Two villages were descried snugly embosomed amid trees, and surrounded with patches of cultivated land. In every direction, upon the hills, were several detached houses, or clusters of houses, hiding in this distant [reas?], their sweet and modest hearts from the gaze of the world. To heighten the beauty of the scene strips of plantations and clumps of trees lined the declivities, and at the same time afforded great shelter to the montaneras. The weather was cloudy but pleasant – the wind always fresh and at times blowing a gale from the Westward, so that after hours of labour we did not gain more than eight or ten miles.