Paris Regatta -- Absentees -- Novelties -- New
Brunswickers -- Steam yachts -- Canoe race -- Canoe chase -- Entangled
-- M. Forcat -- Challenge
WHILE the voyage in the Rob Roy's dingey on Sunday was
such as we have described, it was a busy time a little further down the
river at St. Cloud, being the first day of the Paris Regatta, which
continued also on the Monday, and then our British Regatta occupied the
next four days.
These two were under separate committees. The British
Regatta was managed by experienced oarsmen, and His Royal Highness the
Commodore of the Canoe Club was Patron-not a merely nominal patron, but
presiding frequently at the committee meetings held at Marlborough
House, and generously contributing to the funds. The Emperor of the
French also gave us his name, and prizes to the amount of 1000£
were offered in a series of contests open to all the world.
The experiment of holding a regatta in a foreign country
was quite novel, and there were difficulties around it which it is not
convenient to detail.
Notwithstanding the hasty predictions of people who could
not approve of what was originated and carried out without requiring
their advice, the regatta brought together a splendid body of the best
oarsmen and canoeists in the world from England, France, and America.
Three Champions of England for the first time contended at the same
place. The most renowned waterman came from Thames and Tyne and Humber,
and eight oared boats raced for the first time on the Seine. The
weather was magnificent, the course was in perfect order, and better
than almost any other of equal length near any capital; the
arrangements made were the very best that might be contrived under the
peculiarly difficult circumstances which could not be controlled, even
by a committee comprising the very best men for the purpose, and
zealous it' their work; and lastly the racing itself, for spirit and
for speed, and for that exciting interest which equal excellence
sustained during well-contested struggles was never surpassed.
But this grand exhibition of water athletics was not seen
by more than a few hundreds of persons. "Tribunes," richly draped, and
with streamers flying above, and seats below for 1000 persons, often
had not three people there at a time.
The French oarsmen must have been absent at some better
place, and of the French public, you might see more assembled on the
roadside round a dancing dog. The Emperor could not come perhaps
Bismarck would not let him, and the Prince of Wales, being in his
proper place as the representative of England, receiving the Sultan in
London, this important duty prevented His Royal Highness from enjoying
the pleasure he might well have counted upon after the trouble he had
taken in connection with the British Regatta in Paris.
But after stating this disappointment bluntly, it will be
remembered by all who were at St. Cloud, that there was a great ( deal
of real enjoyment as well as of hard work, and the whole had a strange
novelty, both in its charms and its troubles.
For crews in "hard training" to sit down to bifteck, and
Medoc, omelette, and haricots verts, with strawberries and cream, and
bad French jabbered round, was certainly a novelty. To see a group of
London watermen, addressed in unknown tongues, but perfectly
self-possessed, visiting the Exhibition in the morning and rowing a
race in the afternoon, was new; and to observe the complete
bewilderment of soldiers and police at the whole proceeding, which came
upon them 0£ course with surprise in a country where no one reads
the papers for an advertisement, except about a new play, or infallible
pill -- all this was very amusing to those who could listen and look on.
The English rowing-men soon made themselves as comfortable
as they could in their new quarters, and suffered patiently the
disagreeables of French lodgings. They repaired their boats, often
broken by the transit from London, and behaved with good humour in
proportion to their good sense. Even the grumblers were satisfied,
because they were provided with a new set of grievances; and so things
passed off better than was expected by those who knew the real
circumstances of the venture. It was the first regatta of the kind, and
doubtless it will be the last.
No particular description of the various races for
eight-oars, four-oars, pair-oars, and sculling, by watermen and
amateurs, would be interesting to general readers; but a few notable
lessons were there to be learned, which will probably not be
disregarded. Those who care for the subject will find it referred to
again in the Appendix. An interesting feature was added to the occasion
by the arrival of four men, who came from New Brunswick, to row at this
regatta. They had 1)0 coxswain to steer them, as every other boat had,
but the rudder was worked (and that not much) by strings leading to one
of the rowers' feet.
They contended first in a race where it was not allowed to
use outrigger boats so called on account of the iron frames in them to
support the oars, because the boats are so narrow that the oars cannot
work on the gunwale. Moreover, they rowed in a broad and somewhat heavy
or clumsy-looking craft, with common oars, like those used at sea, and
they pulled a short jerky stroke, and had to go round a winding French
course-indeed with apparently every disadvantage; yet they came in
first, beating English and French, and winning 40£.
The same crew went in next in another race, and with
another boat, an outrigger they had brought with them from the Dominion
of Canada, and again they came in first, and so won another 40£.*
At once "Les Canadiens" became the favourites and heroes of the day.
Englishmen cheered them because they were the winners, and some
Frenchman cheered them because they supposed the men were French, *
whereat the hardy Canadians smiled with French politeness, but
muttering the while round protestations, audible only to English ears.
*These four gentlemen, admitted to the
contests, declined to row against four watermen.
The river Seine was made unusually lively during the
summer by the movement upon it of a whole fleet of steamers, of all
shapes and sizes, and with flags often exceedingly coquet. Little screw
yachts or steam launches flitted up and down, sometimes so small as to
admit only three or four people on board, and a bit of awning to
deflect the sun; others were crowded as usual to the limits of
passengers carefully prescribed by authority. This style of locomotion
is peculiarly adapted to Paris and to Parisians. It has all the heat
bustle, and noise that can be desirable in nautical pleasures, and yet
almost avoids those highly inconvenient undulations which open water
has too often the bad taste to assume. The completion of the Thames
Embankment and of the purification of our river will probably make
water travelling more fashionable in London. Doubtless, the time will
be when houses of Belgravian size will look from the Adelphi on the
limpid Thames, and on the gay crowd hurrying along its granite margin.
Then the luxurious tenant, representing some powerful trades-union or
incorrupt borough will see it is time to go down to the "House," and
will order his double-screw steamer round to the steps near his terrace
door; and no coachman in those days need apply for a place unless he
can steer. Even now, the number of miniature steamers, tug boats, and
private yachts on the Thames is large and increasing; while a few years
ago not one was to be seen. Most of these are pretty little things, and
the best of all craft to be handled safely in the crowded waterway. The
multitude of them one sees at Stockholm shows us what may be soon done
in Middlesex. Several English screw yachts had come to Paris. Mr.
Manners Sutton kindly lent his to the Regatta Committee, and the steam
launch of the Admiralty Barge was also used, so that the umpire was
able to follow each race in a proper position for seeing fair play,
while the Rob Roy was anchored at the winning post to guard the palm of
victory. Here, too, various bombshells were fired high into the air at
the end of each race, and were supposed to correspond in number with
the place of the winning boat on the programme; but they so exploded as
effectually to confuse the audience and spectators they were meant to
enlighten as to "who had won:" which uncertainty, we all know, is one
of the principal excitements of a regatta, and it can be sometimes
prolonged even until the day afterwards. The other features of these
rowing matches on the Seine may be left to the reader's imagination if
he has seen a regatta before; and if he has not seen one, he could not
well apprehend them by reading. The canoe races, however, being more
novel, have another claim on attention.
One of these was for fast boats, and to be decided only by
speed. The other was a "canoe chase," in which dexterity and pluck were
required for success.
For the canoe race three Englishmen had brought from the
Thames three long boats with long paddles, and they were the three
fastest canoes in England, so far as could be proved by previous
trials. Against these, three French canoes were entered, all of them
short, and with short paddles. One of these, propelled by an Englishman
(resident in Paris), came In easily first, and the second prize was won
by a Frenchman. Here, surely, was a good sound lesson to English
canoemen who wish to paddle fast on still water, in a boat useless for
any other purpose, and slower at last than a skiff with two sculls.
Accordingly, we must accept the beating with thanks. Some further
remarks on the matter are given in the Appendix, for those who desire
to profit by the defeat.
The canoe chase, first instituted at the Club races on the
Thames, was found to be an agreeable variety in nautical sport, and
productive of at good deal of amusement. Therefore, two prizes were
offered at the Paris Regatta for a canoe chase, open to all the "
peoples." Five French canoes entered, but there was only one English
canoeist ready in his Rob Roy to meet all comers.
The canoes were drawn up on land alongside each other, and
with their sterns touching the lower step of the " Tribune " or grand
stand. It was curious to observe the various positions taken up by the
different men, as each adopted what he thought was the best manner of
starting. One was at his boats stern; another, at the side, half
carried his canoe, ready to be "off; " another grasped the bow; while
the most knowing paddler held the end of his "painter" (or little rope)
extended from the bow as far as it would reach.
All dashed off together on being started, and ran with
their boats to the water. The Frenchmen soon got entangled together by
trying to get into their boats dry; but the Englishman had made up his
mind for a wetting, and it might as well come now at once as in a few
minutes after, so he rushed straight into the river up to his waist,
and there fore, being free from the crowding of others, he got into his
boat all dripping wet, but foremost of all, and then paddled swiftly
away. The rest soon followed; and all of them were making to the flag
boat anchored a little way off, round which the canoes must first make
a turn. Here the Englishman, misled by the various voices on shore
telling him the (wrong) side he was to take, lost all the advantage of
his start; so that all the six boats arrived at the flag-boat together,
each struggling to get round it but locked with some other opponent in
a general scramble.
Canoe-chase. The Struggle. 
Next, their course was back to the shore, where they
jumped out and ran along, each one dragging his boat round another flag
on dry land, amid the cheers and laughter of the dense group of
spectators, who had evidently not anticipated a contest so new in its
kind, and so completely visible from beginning to end. Again, dashing
into the water, the little struggling fleet paddled away to another
flag-boat, but not now in such close array. Some stuck in the willows
or rushes, or were overturned and had to swim; and the chance of who
might win was still open to the man of strength and spirit, with
reasonably good luck. Once more the competing canoes came swiftly hack
to shore, and were dragged round the flag, and another time paddled
round the flag-boat; and now he was to be winner who could first reach
the shore and bring his canoe to the Tribune: a well-earned victory,
won by the Englishman, far ahead of the rest.
The whole affair lasted not much longer than might be
required to write its history; but the strain was severe upon pluck and
muscle, and called forth several qualities very useful in life at sea,
but which mere rowing in a straight race does not require, and cannot
therefore exhibit. Instantly after this exciting contest, a Frenchman
challenged the winner to another chase over the same course. But as the
challenger had not thought fit to enter the lists and test his powers
in the chase, which was open to him like the rest, it would, of course,
have been quite unfair to allow him, quite fresh, to have a special
race with the hard-worked winner, though the Englishman was quite ready
to accept the gage.
Among the visitors to the regatta was M. Forcat, whose
peculiar system of propelling boats I have mentioned in the account of
a former voyage; and he brought up for exhibition, and for the
practical trial by the winner of the canoe chase, a very narrow and
crank boat, rowed by oars jointed to a short mast in front of the
sitter, and thus obtaining one of the advantages possessed by
canoeists, that their faces are turned to the bow, and so they see
where they are going.
It is no doubt an enormous disadvantage that in ordinary
rowing your back is turned upon the course, with all its dangers and
beauties; and this inconvenience is only put lip with because you can
go faster when rowing sitting with your back foremost, amid scenery of
no account on a river which only serves to float the skiff but not to
please the eye. As for travelling on strange waters in this style, with
face to the rear, it is just as if you were to walk backwards along the
road, and think you could still appreciate the picturesque by looking
over your shoulder at rare intervals, or by a stare to the rear upon
landscapes ever retreating from you. But though M. Forcat's boat had
the rower's face to the bow, the form and size of the nondescript
novelty were not to be understood in a moment, and we tried to dissuade
our young canoeist from entering hastily a new sort of boat very easily
capsized. He had his own wit, and his own way, however, because he was
a Scot, and only "English" in the sense we use that word for "British"
-- and too frequently used it is, to the dire offence of the blue lion
of the North, whose armorial tail is well known to be so punctiliously
correct as to the precise curl and make up of its "back hair."
"He's upset," they cried in a minute or so. But we might
well let so good a swimmer take his chance; so he merely pushed the
boat ashore, and then took a pleasant and gratuitous swim, until he was
finally captured and put into the Rob Roy's cabin, and changed his wet
clothes as rapidly as a modest man dare to do behind a plaid screen and
before the curious world.
Therefore in boats, as well as business and politics, we
may learn lessons from one another, both on the water as well as on
shore : from Canada, as to the steering and the stroke; from France, as
to the fast canoe; and from England, as to the man.
It was to see this regatta and to help in it that the Rob
Roy had pushed her way to Paris. Six hundred miles of river navigation
in a seagoing boat would else have been by no means advisable and often
did I feel how much out of place was the steady lifeboat yawl upon a
calm inland water like the Seine.
Before the arrival of my little yacht, a challenge had
been sent to her to sail on the Seine against a French yacht there. To
this I replied that it would be scarcely a fair match for the Rob Roy,
a sea craft, racing on a river known only to one of the competitors;
but that the yawl would gladly sail a match with any French yacht
having only one man on board -- the course to be at sea either one
hundred miles for speed, or one week for distance, and without
communication with any other boat on the shore. No answer came.
Dawn music -- Cleared for action -- Statistics --
Peter -- Passing bridges -- A gale -- A shave -- Provisions -- Toilette
-- An upset -- Last bridge -- A peep below -- Cooking inside --
Preserved provisions -- Soups
THE Rob Roy was very pleasant lodgings when moved down to
the lovely bend at St. Cloud. Sometimes she was made fast to a tree,
and the birds sung in my rigging, and gossamers spun webs on the masts,
and leaves fell on the deck. At others I struck the anchor into soft
green grass, and left the boat for the day, until at night returning
from where the merry rowers dined so well in training, and after a
pleasant and cool walk "home" by the river side, there was the little
yawl all safe on a glassy pool, and her deck shining spangled with
dewdrops under the moon, and the cabin snug within -- airy but no
draughts, cool without chill, and brightly lighted up in a moment, yet
all so undisturbed, without dust or din, and without any bill to pay.
Awake with the sun at five, there was always the same
sound alongside. First, the sweet murmurings of the water cleft by my
sharp bow at anchor, and gliding along the smooth sides only a few
inches from my ear, and sounding with articulate distinctness through
the tight mahogany skin, and next there was the muttering chatter of
the amateur fisherman, who was sure to be at his post, however early.
This respectable personage, not young but still hearty, is
in his own boat -- a boat perfectly respectable, too, and well found in
all particulars, flat, brown, broad, utterly useless for anything but
this its duty every morning.
Quietly his anchor is dropped, and lie then fixes a pole
into the bottom of the river, and lashes the boat to that, and to that
it will be fixed until nine o'clock; at present it is five. He puts on
a grey coat, and brown hat, and blue spectacles, all the colours of man
and boat being philosophically arranged, and as part of a complicated
and secret plot upon the liberties of that unseen, mysterious, and much
considered goujon which is poetically imagined to be below. It has
baffled all designs for this last week, for it is a wily monster, but
this morning it is most certainly to be snared.
Rod, line, float, hook, bait, are all prepared for the
conflict, and the fisherman now seats himself steadily in a sort of
armchair, and with stealth and gravity drops the deceitful line into
hidden deeps. At that float he will stare till lie cannot see. He looks
contented; at any rate, no muscle moves in his face, though envy may be
corroding his soul. After an hour he may just yield so much as to
mutter some few sounds, or a suppressed moaning over his hard lot (and
that is what I hear in my cabin). Then at last he rises with a
determined briskness in his mien, and the resentment against fate from
an ill-used man, and he casts exactly three handfuls of corn or
bread-crumbs into the water, these to beguile the reluctant obstinate
gudgeon, who, perhaps, poor thing, is not so much to blame for
inattention after all, being at the time just one hundred and fifty
yards away, beside those bulrushes.
Indeed that very idea seems to have struck the fisherman
too, and he marks the likely spot, and will go there to-morrow, not
today -- no, he will always stick one day at one place. How he moves to
or from it I do not know, for the man and boat had always come before I
saw them, and I never stopped long enough to see them depart. Four men
fished four mornings thus, and only two fish were caught by them in my
The regatta is over, and Nadar's balloon is in the sky,
but seeming no bigger than other balloons, so soon does the mind fail
to appreciate positive size when the object it looks at is seen alone.
It is the old story of the moon, which "looks as large as a
soup-plate," and yet Nadar's Géant is the largest balloon ever
seen, and it carries a house below it instead of a car -- a veritable
house, with two storeys, and doors and windows. The freedom of its
motion sailing away reminds me that the Rob Roy ought to be moving too
-- that she was not built to dabble about on rivers, but to charge the
crested wave; and, indeed, there was always a sensation of being pent
up when she was merely floating near the inland cornfields, and so far
from the salt green sea; and this, too, even though pleasant parties of
ladies were on board, and boys got jaunts and cruises from me which I
am certain pleased them much: still the reef-points on her sails
rattled impatiently for real breezes and the curl of the surf, while
the storm mizzen was growing musty, so long stowed away unused.
Next day, therefore, the Blue Peter was flying at the
fore, and the Rob Roy's cellar had its sea stock laid in from "Spiers
and Pond," of ale, and brandy, and wine. Before a fine fresh wind, with
rain pelting cheerfully on my back, we scudded down the Seine. To sail
thus along a rapid stream with many barges to meet, and trees
overhanging, and shoals at various depths below, is a very capital
exercise, especially if you feel your honour at stake about getting
aground, however harmless that would be. But the Seine has greater
difficulties here, because the numerous bridges each will present an
obstacle which must be dealt with at once, and yet each particular
bridge will have its special features and difficulties, not perhaps
recognized when first you meet them so suddenly. I recollect that old
Westminster Bridge was a very dangerous one for a boat to sail through,
because the joints between the voussoirs, or lines of stones under the
arch, were not horizontal as in most other bridges, but in an oblique
direction, and several times when my mast has touched one of these it
was borne downwards with all the power of a screw. The bridges on the
Seine were not often high enough to allow the yawl to pass under,
except in the centre, or within a few feet on one side or other of the
keystone, and as the wind also, just at the critical moment when you
reach such places, is deflected by the bridge, and the current of water
below rushes about in eddies from the piers, there is quite enough of
excitement to keep a captain pretty well awake in beating to windward
through these bridges; and the wind must be dead ahead a great part of
the time, because the river bends about and about with more and sharper
turns than almost any other of the kind.
Though sun and wind had varnished my face to the proper
regulation hue, in perfect keeping with a mahogany boat, yet the
fortnight of fresh water had softened that hardiness of system acquired
in real sea. My hands had gradually discarded, one after another, the
islands of sticking-plaster, and a whole geography of bumps and
bruises, which once had looked as if no gloves ever could get on again
-- or rather as if the hands must always be encased in gloves to be
anywhere admissible in a white-skinned country.
But now once again outward bound, though still so many
miles from the iodine scent of the open sea, and the gracious odour of
real ship's tar, one's nerves are strung tight in a moment. The change
was hailed with joy, though sudden enough, from the glassy pond-like
water at St. Cloud, lulled only by gentle catspaws, half asleep and
dreaming, to the rattling of spars and blocks, and hissing of the
water, in the merry whistling gale in which we were now rapt away.
At Argenteuil there are numerous French pleasure-boats,
and the Rob Roy rounded to in a good berth. Next day there was a
downright gale, so I actually had to reef before starting, because in a
narrow river the work of beating against the wind is very severe on
legs and arms, and especially on one's hands, unless they are hardened,
and kept hard by constant handling of the strong ropes.
At length we put into a quiet bay, where another river
joined the Seine, and moored snugly under the lee of a green meadow,
while trees were waving and rustling above in the breeze. It was fir
from houses, for I wished to have a quiet night on the river Oise, as
the tossing of the former night had almost banished sleep.
But soon enough the inquisitive natives found the yawl in
her hiding-place, and sat on the grass gazing by the hour. The
surroundings were so much like a canoe voyage that I felt more strongly
than ever the confinement to a river, while the sea would have been so
open and grand under such a breeze. Therefore I gave up all idea of
sailing down the Seine any more, and decided to get towed to Havre, and
launch out fairly on the proper element once more.
Yet it was fine fun to row about in the dingey, and to
discover a quaint old inn, and to haul up the tiny cockleshell and
dine. Here they were certainly an uncouth set, and did not even put a
cloth on the table, nor any substitute for it -- a state of things seen
very seldom indeed in the very outermost corners of may various trips.
Faithful promise was made by a man that he would rouse me
from slumber in my cabin under the haybank at the passing of the next
steamer, be it light or dark at the time. The shriek of the whistle
came in the first hours of morning, and the man ran to tell it, with
one side of his face shaven and the other frothed over with lather.
Being towed down is so like being towed up the river, that
we need merely allude to general features in the voyage westward.
At one pretty town we stopped to unload cargo for some
hours, and I climbed the hills, scaled the old castle walls, and dived
into curious tumbledown streets. The keeper of the newspaper-shop
confessed to me his own peculiar grievance, namely, that he often sent
money to England in reply to quack advertisements, but never had any
reply. He seemed to be too "poli" to credit my assertion that there are
"many rogues in perfidious Albion," and on the whole he was scarcely
shaken in the determination to persevere in filling their pockets,
though he might empty his own.
An old man at a lock was delighted by a New Testament
given to him. "I know what this is; it is Protestant prayers. Oh, they
are good." Then he brought his wife and his grandchildren, and every
one of them shook hands.
It was not very easy to get one's sea-stores replenished
in the continuous run down the Seine. Sometimes I saw a milkman
trundling his wheelbarrow over a bridge, and, jumping on shore, I
'waylaid him for the precious luxury, or sent off a boy for bread, and
butter, and eggs; but, of course, the times of eating had nothing to do
with any hours, or recurring sea sons for a meal: you must cook when
you can, and snatch a morsel here or there, in a lock or a long reach
of the stream. At night the full moon sailed on high, and the crew lay
down with their faces over the steamer's side, chatting with their
English comrade till it was far past bedtime, for we shall be off at
three to-morrow morning.
The steam in the boiler first warns of the coming bustle
as its great bubbles burst inside, and rattle the iron plates. Then
they, more frequent and tighter bound, give out a low moaning, hidden
sound; and if my boat touches the side of the steamer, there is a
strong vibration through all her sonorous planks, until some tap is
turned m the engine, and the rush of steam leaps into the cylinder as
if indignant at its long restraint. You had better get up (there is no
dressing, for the simple reason that there has been no undressing), and
in two minutes you are fresh and hearty, though it is only a few hours
since you dropped to rest.
Rouen looks as if it would be all that is pleasant for a
sailing-boat to rest in. Never was a greater deception. It is difficult
to find an anchorage, and impossible to get a quiet berth by the quay.
The bustle all day, and the noise all night, keep you ever on the
tenterhooks; though, as these discomforts are caused by the active
commerce of the port, one ought to bear them patiently.
In one of the numerous mélées of barges,
boats, and steamers whirling round and round, amid entangled hawsers,
and a swift stream, we had at last to invoke aid from shore, and a
number of willing loungers gladly hauled on my rope. Some of these men,
when I thanked them, said they had more to thank me for -- the books I
had given them in my voyage up. Still, with all this aid, the Rob Roy
was inextricably entangled with other heavier craft, and, in shoving
her off, I tumbled overboard, and had to put up with a thorough
wetting; so, after a warm bath ashore, more à la mode, I
returned to my little cabin for a profound sleep.
Rain, almost ceaseless for a whole day and night it, had
searched the smallest chink, and trickled ungraciously into my very
bedroom. But I suspended an iron teacup in the dark just over my body,
so that this little stream was intercepted. This was the first really
hard pressure of wet on the Rob Roy, and all the defects it brought to
light were entirely remedied afterwards at Cowes.
On each of the four preceding nights I had been aroused
for the next day's work at three, or two, or even one o'clock, in the
dark, and yet for one night more there was to be no regular repose.
My mast had been made fast to the quay wall, but in
forgetfulness that on a tidal river this fastening must be such as to
allow for several feet of fall as the water ebbs. Therefore, about the
inevitable hour of one o'clock, in the dark, there was a loud and
ominous crack and jerk from the rope, and I knew too well the cause. In
the rainy night it was a troublesome business to arrange matters, and
next day was a drowsy one with me, spent in the strange old streets of
The policeman had orders to call me at any hour when a
steamer went by, and, being hooked at last to the powerful twin-screw
Du Tremblay, with a pleasant captain, I rejoiced to near the very last
bridge on the river, with the feeling, "After this we are done with
It was a suspension-bridge, and the worthy captain forgot
all about the Rob Roy and her mast, when he steered for a low part,
where his own funnel could pass because it was lowered, but where I saw
in a moment my mast must strike.
There was no time to call out, nor would it have availed
even to chop the towing-line with my axe, for the boat had too much
"way" on her to stop. Therefore I could only duck down into the well,
to avoid the falling spar and the splinters.
The bridge struck the mast about two feet from the top,
and, instead of its breaking off with a short snap, the mast bent back
and back at least four feet, just as if it were a fishing-rod, to my
great amazement. The strong vibration of its truck (pomme the French
call it), throbbed every nerve of boat and man, as it scraped over each
plank above, and then the mast sprang up free from the bridge with such
a switch and force, that it burst the lashings of both the iron shrouds
merely by this rebound.
Now was felt the congratulation that we had carefully
secured a first rate mast for the Rob Roy, one of the pieces of
Vancouver wood, proved by the competitions lately held, to be the
strongest of all timber.
The moments of expected disaster and of happy relief were
vivid as they passed, but I made the steamer stop, and on climbing the
mast I found not even the slightest crack or injury there. Henceforth
we shall trust the goodly spar in any gale, with the confidence &c
only to be had by a crucial test like this.
As we shall soon be at sea again, but the river is calm
enough here, perhaps this will be a fit opportunity for the reader to
peep into Rob Roy's cave, as it was usually made up for the night.
The floor of the cabin is made of thin mahogany boards,
resting on crossbeams (p. 150). The boards are loose, so that even in
bed I can pull one up, and so get at my cellar or at the iron pigs of
ballast. The bed is of cork, about seven feet long and three feet wide.
On this (for it was rather hardish) I put a plaid,* and then a railway
rug, which being coloured, bad been substituted for a blanket, as the
white wool of the latter insisted on coming off, and gave an untidy
look to my thick blue boating-jacket. One fold of the rug was enough
for an ample covering, and I never once was cold in the cabin. A large
pillow was encased by day in blue (the uniform colour of all my
decorations), and it was stripped at night to be soft and smooth for
the cheek of the sleeper.
The Cabin. 
Putting under this my coats and a regulation woven Jersey,
with the yacht's name worked in red across its breast in regular
sailor's fashion, the pillow became a most comfortable cushion, and the
woodcut shows me reclining in the best position for reading or writing,
as if on a good sofa.
* I found that a common Scotch plaid
wet longer than any other material, if it was in an inclined position,
and it could be readily dried by banging it from the mast in the wind.
On my right hand behind is a candle-lamp, with a
very heavy stand. It rests upon a shelf, which can be put in any
convenient place by a simple arrangement.
In the sketch already given at p.39, there is a tarpaulin
spread over the well, and this was used on one occasion when we had to
cook in rain while at anchor. There was another method of cooking under
shelter, and we employed it on the only other occasion when this had to
he done, namely, to shut up the cabin and to cook inside it, using the
portable "canoe cuisine," which is described in the Appendix. But as
this is meant to be employed only on shore, it does not answer well on
hoard, except in a calm; and, moreover, the boat generated by the lamp
was too much in a little cabin. Even a single candle heats a small
apartment and it is well known that a man can get a very good
vapour-bath by sitting over a rush-light, with blankets fastened all
On the same side, and below the boxes, "Tools" and
"Eating," already mentioned, are two large iron cases, labelled "Prog,"
-- a brief announcement which vastly troubled the brains of several
French visitors, whose English etymology did not extend to such curt
In these heavy boxes are cases of preserved meats, soups,
and vegetables, and these I found perfectly satisfactory in every
respect, when procured at a proper place (Morel's in Piccadilly). Here
you can get little tin cases, holding half a pint each and sealed lip
hermetically. The best, according to my taste, were those of "Irish
stew," "Stewed steak," "Mulligatawny," "Ox-tail," and "Vegetable soup,"
all in the order named. "Preserved peas" were not quite so good, but
the other viands were all far better than can be had at any ordinary
hotel, and were entirely without that metallic or other "preserved"
flavour so soon discovered in such eatables, and even by a palate not
To cook one of these tins full -- which, with bread and
wine is an ample dinner -- you cut the top circle with the lever-knife,
but allowing it to be still attached by a small part to the tin, and
fold this lid part back for a handle.
Then put the tin into a can of such a shape and size that
it has about half an inch of water all round the tin, but not reaching
too high up, else it may bubble over when boiling, and as you can use
saltwater or muddy water for this water-jacket, it will not do to
sprinkle any of that inside the tin.
The can is then hung over the Russian lamp, and in six
minutes the contents of the tin are quite hot. Soup takes less time,
and steak perhaps a little more, depending on the facility of
circulation of the materials in the tin and the amount of wind
moderating the heat. The preserved meat or soup has been thoroughly
cooked before it is sold, and it has sauce, gravy, and vegetables, and
the oxtail has joints, all properly mixed. Therefore, in this speedy
manner your dinner is prepared, and indeed it will be smoking hot and
ready before you can get the table laid, and the "things" set out from
Concentrated soup I took also, but it has a tame flavour,
so it was put by for a famine time, which never came. As for "Liebig's
Extract of Meat," you need not starve while there is any left, but that
is the most we can say in its favour.
© 2000 Craig O'Donnell
May not be reproduced without my permission.