ON the 18th of January we left the camp of fiery incident and paddled to the little settlement of East Pascagoula, where we remained only long enough to give directions about our mail, and then laid a course for Point of Pines. One of two ways was open to us, either a passage well out in the Gulf, or a narrow, tortuous bayou into Grand Bay, across which lay our point of destination. Owing to the heavy seas outside, we concluded to take the smoother but more mystifying inside passage. We were not a little influenced in this decision by the fact that we had been told we could find abundance of oysters at the mouth of the bayou.

"Well, Barnacle," said I, after we had gone some distance, "this must be the passage; there is the heap of oyster shells that were to be left on the port hand, and over there are the dead pine trees that were to be on the same hand. We were to turn to the right when within about a quarter of a mile of them. Now we had better take this narrow thoroughfare, hadn't we?"

"Blest if I know; there are so many ditches that I am completely mystified."

"Well, suppose we try this one, at any rate;" and in we go. "I say, Barnacle, have you got enough water over there? On this side I have less than six inches."

"Water? No, I am paddling in the soft, oozy mud. Guess we had better back out of here the same way we came in, or we may have to remain where we are all night."

And back we go, not, however, without much difficulty and hard work, as we were compelled to paddle backward, there not being enough water to allow of our turning the canoes.

We start in on a new ditch.

"Now we have the right one, Doctor," says Barnacle; "there is plenty of water here."

But as I have my doubts as to its being the "right one," I wait to see how Barnacle gets along, and am soon reviling him as he again gets stuck in the mud. There is a third thoroughfare in sight, and into this I push the Aurora's bow through some tall, overhanging grass that lines the edges. Pushing my paddle down, I fail to reach the bottom, and therefore believe I am on the proper course to Grand Bay, and calling to Barnacle that I have found the road, he comes in after me, and together we paddle on for perhaps a mile, when we enter a broad lakelet, from which there is no outlet save that by which we entered. There is nothing left for us but to return to the main bayou and again try one of the thoroughfares that we had abandoned.


Stuck in the Mud.

After a brief consultation we concluded that we took the right course in the first place, and into it we again push until we are fast stuck in the mud. I had noticed, while on the Allegheny, that whenever we got stuck, Barnacle invariably lighted his pipe and sucked consolation out of it. One thing is certain; we are stuck in the mud so fast that we can neither advance nor retreat, so we must remain where we are until the tide rises. Why not follow Barnacle's example, and have a smoke? As the half-burned match rests on the water that is not more than three inches deep, I see with joy that it drifts toward the bow of the canoe.
"Barnacle, I believe the tide is rising, and before we have smoked out one pipe we will have water enough to float us."

My assertion is soon verified, and away we go through the half water, half mud bayou until we come out on to the broad surface of Grand Bay, across which, outlined against the evening sky, are the tall trees on Point of Pines, the only spot for miles where one may set foot on solid ground. It is now clear sailing, and the short distance of two miles is soon crossed. and the tired voyagers are at their evening meal, which has been well earned.

So close do the trees grow to the water's edge that a number of them, which have been toppled over by the washing of the soil from about their roots, are lying with their branches in the water, and from them we gather a quantity of fine oysters, thus setting at rest, to my mind at least, the question, "Do oysters grow on trees?"

The coast was here an almost unbroken wilderness, with no habitation for many miles. Fifteen miles to the southeast, on the broad Gulf, lay Dauphin Island, and this we must reach before we can cross the broad entrance to Mobile Bay.




THE morning succeeding our arrival at Point of Pines was one of almost tropical heat, and as we waded out of the mouth of the bay and hauled the canoes across the bar, Barnacle spied a school of porpoises fishing in the shoal waters, and a moment after was giving them chase, with revolver and shotgun lying cocked by his side. Not having a fondness for such sport, I lay, idly drifting with the current, convulsed with laughter at his ineffectual attempts to get a shot. There comes one of the black hogs now, his back exposed above the surface for a moment, and then disappears. Now Barnacle is going for him. See him paddle! every stroke causes his canoe to jump as though some submarine animal had it in tow. But he is too late. Just as he arrives at the spot where he thought he had him, the porpoise rises to the surface and blows, three hundred yards distant. For half an hour Barnacle vainly endeavors to get a snap shot, and then gives up the chase in disgust, and says "he wouldn't shoot one of them if he could."

The whole surface of the Gulf so far as we can see, is as smooth as a millpond on a quiet summer's day. Barnacle is in a particularly happy frame of mind on this brilliantly beautiful morning, and gives vent to his feelings by singing several sailor "shanties" as we paddle still to the eastward. No sail is in sight on the bosom of the sea, but far in the distance we can just make out a dark object, which I believe to be a steamer, but which Barnacle thinks is simply a blind erected by duck shooters. A nearer approach reveals a small steamer lying at anchor. As we come within hailing distance we receive an invitation to come on board, and five minutes later we are on the deck of the propeller Twilight, of Mobile, Captain Barnes, master. The captain informs us that in a few minutes he will start for Dauphin Island, and learning that the distant island is our destination, kindly invites us to remain on board, at the same time directing one of his men to secure the canoes with extra lines, by which they were dropped far astern, beyond the swell occasioned by the steamer's propeller. The trip was a very pleasant one, the rapid motion of the steamer creating a breeze that was delightful, while we sat on the deck beneath the shade of an awning. The steamer was bound for a raft of logs that had drifted on the sandy shores of the island and been collected by the wreckers who live there. As we neared the shore a bank of fog came driving in from seaward, and in less time than it takes to write it we were so completely enveloped by it that I would not have known the whereabouts of the island had it not been for the roar of the surf as it beat on the opposite shore.


Dauphin Island.

At the earnest solicitation of Captain Barnes we remained on board all night, he insisting on my occupying his berth while he lay on the cabin floor. With the arrival of daylight there was no change in the fog, but by the time we had finished breakfast it had thinned a trifle and we could make out the shore line. Taking the course from the chart, we once more committed ourselves to the guidance of the boat compass.

As we paddled along the northern shore of the island flocks of ducks got up in front of us, and Barnacle drops a brace of fine fat ones, which we lay on deck, with the promise that they shall be made into a stew for our dinner. Some stirring scenes have been enacted on this low, sandy island.*


*"Here Iberville and his comrades first planted the lilies of the flag of Louis le Grand, more than one hundred and eighty years ago. Some of these adventurers here found a mound, and on digging into it disclosed a huge heap of human hones, which called forth the exclamation, 'Oh, quel massacre, and the name 'Isle de Massacre' was given to this sand heap. A few years later a permanent settlement was made, and the name of one of the Bourbon Princes was given to it, and to this day it is known as Isle Dauphin. It was here that Cadillac established his court of chivalry and published edicts prescribing dress and who should and who should not wear swords. Dauphin Island has been the scene of attack by Spaniards when it was in French possession, and by the English when it belonged to Spain, and by the British since it has been held by the United states. Many bloody deeds have been enacted by the islanders, noteworthy that of one Beasely, who murdered and plundered the islanders. He was a desperado of the most hardened stamp. Having murdered a man in the presence of his wife and children, he was captured by the officers of a revenue cutter, taken to Mobile, tried and hanged."


The tall spars of a schooner riding at her anchor rise out of the fog, and as we approach her we give a hail, but all is still as death. Now we hear the crowing of a cock, off to the starboard, and this, if nothing else, proves that we are near the shore. According to the chart, we should now be near the eastern shore of a shallow bay, and not far from the house of one Doctor Jack Collins, physician, fisherman and wrecker. I begin to have renewed doubts as to the trustworthiness of Barnacle's compass, when the fog lifts and clears away almost as suddenly as it shut down on us, revealing the tree-covered shore close on our starboard hand, while directly ahead, not more than one hundred yards distant, is the beach of Little Dauphin Island, on which is perched the dilapidated whitewashed house of the Doctor, who receives us kindly, having been apprised of our coming through an article in one of the Mobile papers. After a hearty dinner with the Doctor, we leave our ducks in the hands of Mrs. Collins and push on toward Fort Gaines, which we can see in the distance. In order to reach the fort we must pass through a very narrow and shallow channel, known as Pass Drury. Barnacle keeps to the starboard in approaching it, believing there is a greater depth of water on that side; but I, with my usual perverseness, take the port route, and in a few moments have dashed through the little tumbling surf at the mouth of the pass and am on the swelling bosom of Mobile Bay. But Barnacle doesn't come in sight. What can be the matter? I paddle back a short distance until I can get a sight through the narrow pass.


Mobile Point.

Oh, there he is, tracking his canoe over the bar that I fortunately avoided.
"Hi, Barnacle! go a little further to the left, and you will find more water," I shouted.

He found my words to be true; and as he emerged, spluttering, from the deep water, I truthfully tell him that I did not know of that deep hole being there.

Between Dauphin Island and the main shore opposite there is an open ocean inlet of three and one-half miles in width, through which the tide ebbs and flows with great velocity, and when the wind blows against these tides a very nasty and dangerous sea is the consequence. A gentleman at Biloxi had advised me to cross from Fort Gaines to Mobile Point whenever the water was smooth enough, be it day or night. Having made a hurried inspection of the fort and the rotten, tumble-down building of the U.S.A. Engineer Corps, I decided, as the waters of the inlet were tranquil, to start at once for the opposite shore, notwithstanding the fact that Barnacle seemed reluctant to leave the hospitality of Mr. Robert Cruse, who is the guardian of the Engineer Corps barracks. As we pushed from the shore, directly ahead of us was the "mariner's guide" shining out from the lofty tower on Mobile Point, and for it we steadily paddled, now borne on high and anon carried into the depths of troughs of the smooth seas which roll in from the broad Atlantic. Landing on the barren sandy beach, beneath the light tower, I asked permission at the keeper's quarters to sleep on the floor of a small woodhouse adjoining, that we might not be forced to unload the canoes and that we might make an early start in the morning; but this was refused, and wearily we betook ourselves back to the bleak beach, and gathering a mass of wreckage that had been thrown up by the sea, we had a fire such as I'll guarantee had not been seen here for many a day.

"Build it big," said Barnacle, "and see if we cannot warm the hearts of those people in the lighthouse."




AFTER a most comfortable night passed beneath the shadow of the walls of Fort Morgan, and while we were busy preparing our breakfast, we received a call from Doctor George Fowler, Quarantine Officer, and the telegraph operator. The Doctor very kindly invited us to his quarters, but as the day promised to be fine, we declined the invitation with regrets, and at nine o'clock launched and paddled south for a distance of two miles, in order to round a sand bar on which the surf broke in white foam; and as we rise and fall on the seas, which now have full sweep from the broad ocean, a school of porpoises put in an appearance, and apparently take full charge of our craft. Ahead of the Aurora, about three hundred feet, two of them rise and blow alternately, while on either side of me, not more than fifty feet distant, are other pairs. These black monsters, with their huge dorsal fins cutting the waters, act as our convoys until we are well to the eastward of the point, and then they leave us as quietly as they came. For a distance of thirty miles, from Mobile Point to the mouth of Perdido River, the coast is one unbroken wilderness, without a harbor on the entire stretch of desolate sand. So long as the wind does not get up strong from off the sea, it would not be a difficult operation to run the canoes ashore through the surf; but in the event of a strong wind and heavy sea from east to southwest, it would be an extremely dangerous and hazardous undertaking, and this was brought forcibly to our minds after we have paddled a distance (as measured on the Coast Survey chart) of thirteen miles, when the wind came out from the southeast, and in a few moments so increased as to become alarming, while the surf beat on the sands with the noise of thunder. As we were borne aloft on the huge seas we could see the long line of breaking surf as it ran along the beach, distributing spume as it went. Barnacle now hails me:

"Doctor, if we expect to get ashore with whole boats, we'd better be about it, for if this wind continues to blow in this way for half an hour longer, it will send in such a surf that it will be impossible for us to beach, and we cannot hold out much longer against it with the paddle."

As we cannot possibly reach the distant harbor through the heavy sea, I call out,

"All right; if we have to choose between drowning and having the canoes smashed, I say smash the canoes."

We must use all our skill that the canoes may not broach to and roll over. If they do, all is lost, and we may then serve as sweet morsels for the man-eating sharks. Barnacle is ready before I am, and starts on his journey shoreward. As he is borne on the bleak mountain of water which he has chosen to go in on, I get a full view of him, but an instant later he is lost to my sight, as I am dropped into the trough between two immense seas.


Beaching in a Gale.

As I am borne aloft again I catch a glimpse -- no more -- of the stern of his canoe pointing heavenward as she goes down the steep incline of the sea. An instant more, and I am again surrounded by walls of water. Again I am borne toward the gathering clouds, when I am greeted with a sight of Barnacle standing on the beach, victorious over the perils that are before me. The moment for me to start in has arrived, and I am caught by the rolling mountain of water, while I ply my paddle with all the vigor of my strong arms. Ahead of me the seas are breaking over one another and lashing themselves into a white, foaming fury. On, on I go, now with the velocity of the wind; and as the bow of my bonny craft pitches down, I brace myself for the final plunge, much as one would do on a plunging horse. An instant later I feel her keel grate on the sand, when overboard I go and seize her by the bow, while I dig my toes into the hard sand in order to resist the strength of the receding surf, and before Barnacle can reach me have the idol of my heart drawn well up on the beach, beyond the reach of Neptune's dark horses, now shaking their snowy manes with greater rage as the wind increases in fury.

With the canoes safely placed at the base of the range of high sand hills which for centuries have been builded and rebuilded by the action of storm and wave, I ascended to the summit of one of the sand dunes and discovered at its opposite base a most picturesque miniature forest of pin oak trees little more than bushes in height, beneath which is a thick mat of gray moss. What better site could one want for a camp? While I am off along the beach in search of such wreckage as can be used for firewood, Barnacle pitches the tent, and together we hustle the dunnage beneath the shelter, and are prepared for the storm which is still rolling up, with savage crashes of thunder, while the great seas are pounding on the beach with a roar that is so deafening as to cause us to shout our conversation into one another's ears. Notwithstanding the storm comes up in its awful majesty, we have time to prepare a simple meal, which we enjoy as the skirmishing raindrops come pattering down through the thick canopy of green leaves and drop noiselessly on the elastic moss beneath. With a crash as though a hundred cannon had burst simultaneously the storm is upon us, with a deluge of rain, driven by a fierce wind which howls through the semi tropical forest and then bounds to the sea, to mingle its fury with the wild, lashing waters which are illuminated by the almost incessant flashes of forked lightning. For hours its fury is unabated, and while at its height I protect myself with oilskins and go to the top of the sand dune, and from there witness a scene that is grand beyond description. Night has come on, and we can see nothing a few yards distant, save when the flashes of quivering lightning give momentary illumination to boiling, foam-crested mountains of water.


Storm Bound.

During the seconds of light I catch a glimpse of a vessel far off on the heaving waters, from whose white sails the flashes of electricity are reflected as she bounds majestically through the phosphorescent sea.

As the weary, smoke-begrimed soldier falls asleep on the field of battle, amid the roar of artillery and crashes of musketry, we yield to nature's demands, and fall asleep while yet the storm rages and the ever restless sea beats on the shore. The wild night was followed by a morning of perfect brilliancy, but old ocean still rolled in and beat with unrelenting force, precluding the possibility of our launching. The day proved to be one of uncomfortable closeness until three o'clock, when another electric storm arose, and the rain descended as only in warm climates. We had run short of water, so this rain was a blessing. We had erected an awning over our fire to protect it from being drowned out, and beneath this, where the water ran off, we placed out tins and water-jugs, which in a few moments were filled with a supply of the finest water, sufficient to last us two or three days. The following morning, although a fog came rolling across the land from Bonsecours Bay, we launched through the surf, which had now become little more than a ripple, and keeping close in shore, found we could proceed to the eastward without risk of being drawn to sea by the offshore current. When we had made eight miles the wind hauled out of the north into the southwest, and soon the sea was tossing our craft about as if they had been corks. Now for a rest from the weariness of paddling, and I prepare to make sail, when I am hailed by Barnacle -- always astern -- who says he has left his mast at Pascagoula. Cruel fate! I cannot go on and leave the Comfort, therefore I must submit to the inevitable and again resume the paddle. The day proves to be a wearisome one. Although the seas roll and carry us on high and then into the depths, there is no heavy break, and our decks are scarcely wet save by a little flying spray. All about us there is a flock of pelicans, now skimming the surface of the blue waters, now taking their awkward flight skyward, and as their keen eye detects the whereabouts of a fish, they make their ungainly descent, striking the water "all of a heap." One, after rising from the water with pouch distended, flew directly over us, when a well-directed shot brought him, wounded, to the water. Paddling quickly up to him, I dealt him a blow on the head with my mast, and put him out of pain. The body being too large for me to care for, I cut the head off below the junction of the pouch with the neck. As I did so, I discovered that the pouch contained a living fish, and pulled out a mullet of twelve inches in length, which Barnacle took possession of and served for supper. During the evening I prepared the head of the pelican, and as I write it adorns the bookcase in my den.

Again, as the sun sinks into the west, we prepare for a trip through the surf. It is mere child's play now compared with the last beaching process, and we go in together and land on the smooth sands without so much as getting a drop of water aboard.


Asleep in the Sea Sand.

The day has been an exhausting one, and we seek our beds in the soft sand at an early hour, and pass the night in alternate snoring and growling.




DAYLIGHT discovered old ocean as smooth as a millpond, and as it is but ten miles to the mouth of the Perdido River, where we can gain the shelter of Bayou de John and be safe from the dangers of the outside passage, we hurriedly stow the canoes, and with a push are launched on the briny deep for the last time on this cruise. Up from the southeast, at the rising of the sun, came a gentle breeze which, as the morning advanced, increased in force until quite a respectable sea was kicked up, rolling in white foam over the bar at the entrance to our haven of safety, which we can now distinctly see ahead of us. There are two ways to reach the broad entrance to Pensacola Bay, either to continue on our course fifteen miles, keeping a couple of miles off shore to avoid the break of the sea, or to cross the bar at the mouth of the Perdido and gain the smooth waters of the bayou, and by crossing the latter reach a portage of three-quarters of a mile into Big Lagoon, whence is an uninterrupted route to the ancient city of Pensacola.


Between Alabama and Florida.

The fear of becoming exhausted after the long paddle we have already had, should a stronger wind and a heavier sea come on, decides us to attempt the passage over the bar. Again we watch for the big sea, and with its approach start toward the land, each man acting as his own pilot; and after a brief time, during which the angry waters hiss and foam about the devoted craft, threatening to submerge her and drown her skipper, we float tranquilly on the dark waters of the stream that divides the States of Alabama and Florida. Ere the bright sun has reached the meridian we have left astern of us the roar of the surf and the dark waters which flow from the cypress swamps of the interior, and pass into the Bayou de John, on the eastern shores of which is the commencement of the portage. We walk across the neck of low, sandy, dwarf-pine covered land and pick out our trail. Transporting the heaviest articles of our dunnage to a point half way across, we build our camp and prepare supper, to which we do hearty justice, as we have eaten nothing since very early morning.

The meal over, we go back to the canoes, and I haul out from the stern compartment of the Aurora the little watch tackle that has lain unused while we have floated over so many hundreds of miles. It is now of inestimable value to us; with it we can haul the canoes over the portage without unloading them. Cheerily we go at our work. First one canoe is drawn a few hundred feet, and then we go back and perform a like service for the other. So smoothly does our rigging work that we are congratulating ourselves on the possibility of completing our task before we turn in for the night; but all of a sudden our hopes are wrecked by the breaking of a sheave in one of the blocks, and as we have nothing at hand with which to repair it, we are forced to cast about for other means of completing the portage. Each man taking from his canoe all that he can carry on his shoulders, transports it to the camp, and we turn in for a night's rest. By two o'clock of the following day we have dragged the canoes to the shore of Big Lagoon, transported and stowed all the dunnage, and are en route to the broad bay, seven miles distant, which we reach as the sunset gun booms out from the parapet of the old Spanish Fort Barancas, and we make our camp on the glistening sands beneath the tall tower, which every minute, from sunset to sunrise, flashes out its warning to the mariner.

Barnacle succeeds in finding a piece of broken spar on the beach, from which he whittles a mast for the Comfort, and on the morning of the 3d day of February, with a stiff breeze from the east, we lay our course for the harbor of Pensacola, Fla., seven miles distant. Gaily we scud along under full sail, each skipper hanging well out to windward, taking a ducking now and then as a huge sea comes rolling along. In mid-bay we meet a large vessel with the flag of Russia flying in the breeze, and we are evidently in her course, as she bears away a point in order that she may not run down the wee craft and drown the skippers.


We Sail Grandly Into Port.

On we go, past the naval station, where more than one glass is brought to bear on us by the crowd of officers and men, and then through the fleet of vessels at the anchorage, whose crews cheer us as we glide by and run up to the wharf, where kind friends receive us.


© 2000 Craig O'Donnell
May not be reproduced without my permission.