To describe a voyage across the North Atlantic, its dangers, and what it means in flesh and blood to the man on the bridge, will necessitate going into details which it is impossible for the general traveling public to know about unless told by one behind the scenes.
Let us take an ordinary summer voyage, say in the month of June or July, from Liverpool or Southampton. Let the ship be one of the flyers or one of the fast intermediate boats, conditions being about the same in both. After leaving port, the vessel's course takes her close to the land and its outlying dangers, through waters crowded with shipping. The master is not required to be on the bridge after his vessel is clear of harbor, therefore she is handed over to the officer of the watch. Except when rounding headlands, approaching harbor, or during fog, the master rarely mounts the bridge at all; everything is left in charge of the officer of the watch. There is no risk in this if the officer has had a sufficient amount of sleep. But does the officer in charge always get sufficient sleep to act quickly for the benefit and safety of those whose lives are in his keeping?
I answer, emphatically, "No." At times he is no more fit to be left in charge than is a lunatic; and a moment's delay, a wrong order, or the slightest let-up in his vigilance, is often all that is required to send both the liner and its freight of between three and four thousand souls to the bottom. Take, for example, a liner leaving Liverpool for New York. Before the saloon passengers embark, the vessel must be brought from dock to the embarking-stage. The usual time for arriving at the stage is between 2.30 and 3 p. M. Now, during the periods of high water, because of the tidal docks, it is impossible for a ship to leave dock at high tide and arrive at the stage at her appointed time. Our vessel, if her appointed time coincides with high tide, must therefore leave dock on the previous morning tide, say between 2 and 3 A.M. Here is where the hardship comes in. On the day of leaving dock, officers must be aboard their ship to receive mails, baggage, and specie, and also to get her ready for sea. They will probably leave for home about 5 p. M., but they must be aboard again the same night somewhere about 11 p. M., to bring the ship from her dock through the tidal basin to her anchorage in the river. Anchor-watches will then have to be kept. At 7 o'clock the crew 'join up,' and from then until it is time to embark steerage passengers by tender, the officers will be busy attending to their various duties. About 2 p. M. the anchor will be hove up and the liner brought alongside the embarking-stage. At the stage the officers must stand at the gangways until all passengers are aboard and the gangways landed.
The sailing-hour may be 5, 6, or 7 p. M, but whatever the time, the officers must remain on stations until the ship has left the Bar Light Vessel astern. Should the ship leave at 5 p. M. it will be at least 6.30 p. M. before she is clear of the river and channel. The watches are set. The man who has the misfortune to be second officer, and the one who is his watch-mate, are in for more of it yet. The pair will barely have time to get their dinner, don night clothes, and square up their necessary writing. At 8 p. M. they must mount the bridge and take charge of a vessel valued at perhaps seven million dollars; cargo, mail, specie, and baggage worth another million at least; with about thirty-five hundred souls aboard.
The second officer, when he goes on the bridge, has been on his feet and without sleep for at least thirty-nine hours. To stand this his early training in sail has equipped him with the necessary vitality. But his case may be even worse; for should the weather be at all hazy he will have to remain on deck as stand-by officer until 2 A. M., to take soundings if required. In nothing are my statements exaggerated. I have experienced all that I have described, many times. I have been left in charge of a liner carrying a crew of five hundred, twenty-two hundred steerage passengers, three hundred second class and about three hundred first, in all about thirty-three hundred souls. These, in addition to the valuable ship and freight, have been in my charge at a time when I have been from thirty to forty hours on my feet and without sleep or rest. The safety of all has depended on my vigilance at a time when soul, mind, and body have long been worn out. To keep awake at such times is torture; one must walk walk, walk, and get through somehow and all this in waters crowded with shipping and where vessels are subjected to the whims of tides! At no other time in their lives, perhaps, are passengers in such jeopardy. Just when an officer should be at his best and have all his wits about him, he is as heavy as lead and worse than useless.
The seamen who are to make the voyage in the ship 'join up' at 7 A. M. on the day of sailing. The vessel leaves the dock, assisted by men who were once sailors afloat, but who now elect to stay ashore doing dock-work. The seamen have no responsibility. If they can join on sailing-day, why not the officers? Would any company not be better served by employing a staff of relief officers for such times as come round to all vessels during the course of a year?
Some years ago elaborate plans were drawn up for the safety of liners when clear of the land. I refer to the tracks agreed upon by the leading steamship companies. These tracks no doubt are a good thing and do minimize the risks of an ocean passage; but the gravest and most unwarrantable risks are taken in the very worst places in the world—the English channels—and under the worst possible conditions. Sailors on leaving port, often muddled through drink, are of no assistance to the officer in keeping a lookout. The officers, though not through drink, are worse than muddled. Their faculties are impaired, their eyes are almost closed, their bodies are worn out; all this through false economy, or ignorance and bad management, on somebody's part. Until some fine vessel with her precious cargo is sent to the bottom through collision, these things, I believe, will not be rectified. It is only by good luck that this has not happened already. But luck will change some day. Who will pay the piper then? Not the worn-out man on the bridge, I hope.
And who is the man on the bridge? I have often been asked by passengers, 'Who is that boy on the bridge? Where is the captain?' And I have answered with as good a grace as possible under the circumstances. One cannot expect these land-lubbers to know much concerning ships'' boys'; but being one of them, I should like to explain who the ' boys' are, what their training and responsibilities. I may as well say at the outset that often they are the executive officers of the ship. Upon their skill, knowledge, and judgment, depends the safety of the liner and all aboard.
The majority of British boys destined for a sea-career start upon it at the early age of thirteen or fourteen. Boys choosing the navy or the coastal trade begin even earlier, but it is in the future officer of the mail-boat that our inquisitive passenger is interested. A natural conclusion is that the officers of mail and passenger-steamers must be of good parentage. This is so in nine cases out of ten. Although it is still possible, in the language of the sea, to come in through the hawsepipe and go out by the poop,—in other words, to rise from an ordinary sailor to captain,—yet this possibility has practically died, in so far as it concerns liners. Therefore, parents who wish their boys to reach the top in the best class of vessel, spare no expense on their early training, and in the majority of cases hand their sons over to the tender (?) mercies of a cadet-ship. But no matter how long a time a boy elects to stay aboard the cadet-ship, there is very little allowance made for it by the British Board of Trade. He must go through his deep-water training of three or four years before he is eligible to be examined for a second mate's certificate. The usual procedure after leaving the training-ship is for a boy to become a premium-bound apprentice to a firm owning sailing-ships. Indentures are signed for a four years' term. The boy's parents are required to pay from thirty to one hundred pounds, the amount depending upon the standing of the firm or the class of ship. After indentures are signed the real sea-work begins. Within a week the boy will be shunted off to join his ship.
The time is a critical one for the apprentice. He is entirely 'on his own.' After a very few days he is expected to find his way aloft and carry out any little odd jobs which do not call for much experience. Light men, light sails, is the code aboard a sailing-ship. The ship may be rolling, rails under, but this raises no pity for the boy: he must do his share along with the men. Boys as a rule, after very little experience, and after the softness has been knocked out of them, really enjoy this battling with the elements. They feel that they are doing a grown man's work, which after all is the only compensation a sea-life offers.
One can see logic in this toughening process in so far as it concerns the nerves, but when it comes to expecting a boy to do a man's work on a meagre and disgusting diet, the logic is less convincing. One would naturally suppose that the food given to growing boys would be of good quality and quantity; but this is not so, as the writer knows through bitter experience. Loss of sleep owing to the four-hours-on-deck and four-hours-below system, with an all-night job on the yards thrown in occasionally; exposure in all weathers, and other hardships incidental to a life at sea, sink into insignificance if one is fed properly.
By the time the boy's four years are up, he is able to stand loss of sleep and exposure in all weathers, and is a good sailor in such matters as steering, knotting and splicing, or making and furling sail. While he has been learning the practical work, his studies also have received attention. To enable him successfully to pass his examination for second mate, he must prove to the examiners that he is capable of navigating a ship to any part of the world by means of sun and sextant. He must also produce his 'ambulance,' or first-aid certificate. If this is in order he will be handed his certificate for second mate. Officially he is recognized as a man capable of carrying out a second officer's duties on any class of vessel, be it schooner or liner. This at the age of eighteen or thereabout.
Armed with his certificate, he finds no difficulty in securing a berth as second mate in sail. His new duties call for tact, nerve, self-confidence, and a capacity for handling the toughest men in the world. On many a wild night he will be left in entire charge of a ship under canvas.
The British Board of Trade demands that a candidate for a first mate's certificate must have served as second mate for one year in sail, or at least eighteen months as third mate in charge of a watch in steam. He must satisfy the authorities that, he is competent to navigate a vessel anywhere by means of sun and stars, that he has a sound practical knowledge of chart-work, and can also find the error of compasses by star or sun azimuths. His examination in seamanship is more thorough than that for second mate, and include the stowing and care of cargoes.
Granted his certificate, and having secured a berth as first mate, his duties are about the same as those of second mate, with this difference: he is the workingman of the ship. He must plan and carry out the work as he thinks best for the safety of his ship in all weathers. Naturally the captain will keep a watchful eye on him for a time, but will not interfere with his work if it is going along satisfactorily After twelve months in sail as first mate he is qualified to sit for his master examination.
The word master is synonymous with captain. According to the British authorities, one is not entitled to be called captain unless one holds the King's commission; therefore the word captain when applied to the man in command of any vessel other than a man-o'-war is a misnomer, though men were called captain when in command of merchant ships long before such a thing as a navy existed?
To pass the master's examination successfully a mate must show that he can navigate a vessel by means of the sun, moon, and stars; that he can compensate the error of a compass by means of magnets. In seamanship he must give satisfaction in every detail. In addition to navigation and seamanship he is expected to know all about charter-parties and bills of lading, or any other business connected with maritime law. Signaling by Morse and semaphore, which is included in the mate's examination, also finds a place in the master's.
By the time our friend the boy is the possessor of a master's certificate, he is far ahead in what can be considered a man's work of the boy who stays ashore. The minimum age-limit for the holding of a master's certificate is twenty-one years, and the majority of apprentices reach this goal at about that age. There is still one more examination, and that is for extra master. This examination is honorary, and few go in for it. It treats of the theory of navigation, trigonometry, stability, naval construction, specific gravity, magnetism, metacentric heights, momentum, chart-making, and a host of other scientific subjects. Those aspiring to an officer's position on a liner must take this examination. The writer obtained this certificate at the age of twenty-two, and this is nothing out of the ordinary. But as the minimum age-limit for seventh officer on a liner is twenty-three years, the young man has still two or three years to wait before he is eligible for an officer's position.
The 'boys,' therefore, who officer passenger-steamers are boys in appearance and age only. In experience they are men in every sense of the word. The' boy' on the bridge often has higher qualifications than the master. No matter what might happen to the master or the majority of the officers of a liner, if there were one certificated officer left, the passengers need have no fear of her not coming into port.
Now let us skip a couple of the most uneventful days of an ordinary voyage and place our ship somewhere in the vicinity of the fog regions, the Banks of Newfoundland. As most intelligent persons know, the Banks of Newfoundland in the summer months are crowded with fishermen. Icebergs also, in the months of June and July, make their appearance in great numbers. Now, a sailor above all men likes to see where he is going, and what is awaiting him on the line of his course. This is just what he cannot do in the summer months when crossing the ice-track and the Banks of Newfoundland. Fog usually envelops his ship, often making it impossible for him to see the sternhead. The British authorities demand that a master be on the bridge of his vessel at all times during fog. And since fog very often extends from the Banks right into New York, it frequently falls to the master's lot to remain on the bridge sixty or seventy hours, this of course depending upon a vessel's speed. The officers in such cases maintain their ordinary sea-watches, and in comparison to the master come off lightly. The master's, in such cases, is supposed to be the guiding hand.
I have seen a master sixty years of age or thereabout stand on a bridge for over seventy hours, with eyes that were useless through strain, and hearing impaired by the constant shrieking of the fog-whistle. Is it right to expect such a man to command in case of emergency? In justice to the master and the passengers alike, should not the command be handed over to the chief officer? He is quite as capable a man as the master, and is not played out in mind and body, and may be expected to do the right thing at the right moment for the benefit of all concerned. I have often noticed passengers looking up at the bridge to see if the master is there. If they catch a glimpse of him they go away thinking that all is well. A fallacy! Certainly during the early stages of a fog he is the right man in the right place, if assisted by good officers; but after his limit is reached, he is in the way, and the law ought to demand that he give place to better men. I mean nothing derogatory to any master in what I have said. They know, and I know, that whatever action they take in an emergency will be taken mechanically and without thought.
Passengers also add to the difficulties during fog. For some unaccountable reason they all seem bent on playing shuffleboard right under the bridge. Their shouts, laughter, and the noise of the boards, all add to the discomforts of the man on the bridge. His attention is diverted from the business in hand; picking up another vessel's foghorn is made much more difficult by these irrelevant noises. I hope that this prod in a much-needed direction will prove fruitful. It is given with good intention.
But a thick fog is not our worst enemy. When the fog crowds in, an officer shows no hesitation in calling the master and sounding the whistle. But in hazy weather—sailor language, 'one part clear to two parts thick'—many officers hang on without doing either, especially if the master has just been on the bridge for a stretch. It is a risky business. Eyes and ears are both called on, whereas in a thick fog hearing is the only sense that can be used.
A narrow escape happened to me about six years ago when in charge of a ship carrying a full passenger-list. The night being hazy and the ship in the icetrack, I kept hanging on, until finally, after giving up hope of the weather's clearing, I did decide to call the master and start the whistle. The responsibility was his, not mine. But before this could be done, almost alongside the ship was an iceberg towering up about three hundred feet. The ship passed within twenty feet of it, going at the rate of twenty-one knots; had there been a submerged trailer attached to the berg the ship's bottom would have been ripped open. Cold as I was at the time, I went colder still and vowed that I would never again take such risks. Had the whistle been sounded it is possible that warning of the berg's approach would have been given me by the echo. Needless to say, I called the master after the danger had passed, and kept mum over the affair, too. But sailors are forgetful creatures: a wise Providence makes them so; if we stopped to think over our hardships and dangers, the majority of us would throw up the dog's life in disgust. The very next voyage, we were going along at the rate of about twenty knots an hour, in hazy weather, just where the tracks cross. With hardly a moment's warning the lights of another vessel—the Deutschland, twenty-three knots—hove in sight about an eighth of a mile away, dead ahead. There was just time for us both to hard-a-port, swing clear, and pass within a hundred feet of each other. Fright number two completely cured me of any disposition to hang on in the future. The German was going a full twenty-three knots and we a good twenty, the sea being smooth at the time. Again luck was in my way, for nobody was about except the few sailors washing the decks, the time being the middle watch, midnight to 4 A. M.
While on the subject of fogs, let us consider the question of speed and see how we stand on that score. I have often been asked by friends what speed we maintain during fog; but not being in a position at the time to answer truthfully, I have hedged. I know that our honest friends the fishermen look upon passenger-steamers as monsters of destruction, and their officers as little short of murderers. They accuse us of going full speed ahead in fog without sounding our whistles, and their accusations, I admit, are in the main just. We often go full speed ahead in fog, but we do sound our whistles. After all, does it fall so hard on them? I doubt it.
So long as leviathans plough the ocean, the dangers for the fishermen will exist. Let us allow a very liberal margin, and estimate the average tonnage of fishing-schooners at five hundred tons, this figure far exceeding the actual tonnage. On the other hand, let us take an average liner, not of the Mauretania class but rather of the Cedric class. Estimate her tonnage at about eighteen thousand to twenty thousand tons. Let her go ahead at her very slowest speed, and find herself in collision with a fishing-boat. If possible, reduce the Cedric's speed to two knots even,—what would happen? Well, there would be no schooner left. Now if collision is unavoidable, what difference does it make to the fishermen whether they are drowned by a vessel going twenty-five knots or by one going only two? Their chances of coming out on top are nil in both cases. At both speeds a liner would crush the fishing schooner as if it were an eggshell, without feeling the least shock. And the liner going full speed stands a better chance of avoiding collision than she does on reduced speed. It must be recognized that these monsters require speed, to be thoroughly under control. While speed is maintained they will answer their helms quickly, and by the use of the propellers spin round like tops nearly within their own length. On reduced speed they are slow and difficult to handle; therefore I affirm that it is to the best interests of all concerned that full speed in fog be maintained when on the broad ocean.
But let me hasten to add that I do not advocate full speed in fog in narrow waters, nor approaching land, nor across the ice-track. Crossing the Atlantic from east to west, or vice versa, the majority of vessels met with are steering in the same direction as the liner, or in opposite directions. Only when approaching land are vessels seen to be steering courses at right angles. Here is where the real danger for the liner comes in, in foggy weather. In an end-on collision between a liner and a smaller vessel, the chances are that the liner will come off with only a few bowplates damaged, while in all probability the other vessel will go to the bottom. In a right-angle collision it is possible for the smallest of vessels to do a liner serious harm. Many will remember the incident of La Bourgogne. This vessel attempted to cross the bows of a sailingship—the Cromartyshire. The officer on watch underestimated the latter's speed, and the result was a right-angle collision and the loss of the liner and many hundred lives. The Craigie and Elbe collision offers another striking illustration of the seriousness of a right-angle collision. The latter vessel, a large German liner, was sunk by the former, a small coasting-steamer. Understanding, then, what danger there is, in approaching the tracks of crossing vessels masters and officers of liners do not go full speed ahead in foggy weather. The ordeal would call for too great a strain.
But no matter at what speed a liner may be going in fog, she is always open to criticism. Article 16 of the Rules of the Road, to be observed by all vessels on the sea, irrespective of nationality, says: 'In fog, mist, or falling snow, or heavy rainstorms by day or night, all vessels shall go at moderate speed,' etc. Note that the article says, 'moderate speed.' No definite speed is stated, therefore the article itself is open to criticism. Take the case of two vessels, one of twenty and one of eight knots' speed. In fog each slows down to what is apparently a moderate speed for her. The twenty-knot vessel, at slow, will probably go about ten knots, while the slower vessel will move through the water at about four. Both are going at moderate speed, yet the twenty-knot vessel's 'moderate' exceeds the slower vessel's full speed. Both are reduced to the slowest speed compatible with safety, but should the two vessels collide, the officers of the faster vessel would not have a leg to stand on at any court of inquiry. No allowance would be made for the speed it is necessary to maintain in the first vessel's case for the quick handling of her. Size demands speed for safety, and until the law is altered and a graduated scale of speeds is allowed according to tonnage, the law is a gross injustice to the officers of fast-moving vessels; their certificates and professional reputations are at stake all the time. But full-ahead across the ice-track is a different' proposition.' Under no circumstances is full speed justifiable there. Collision with an iceberg is quite a different matter from collision with a fisherman. Though it is impossible to state with any degree of accuracy the weight of a berg, yet when one remembers that according to the laws of specific gravity only one-ninth of the weight—not height—is above water, the results of a collision would be greatly in its favor. I once heard a woman passenger ask the master what would happen if our ship struck the iceberg then in view. 'Madam,' he replied, 'the berg would go sailing on as if nothing had happened.'
All the harm any liner could do to an iceberg would be to displace a few tons of ice. Though no one can say with certainty how such fine vessels as the Naronic (White Star Line) and the Huronia (Allan Line) went a-missing, yet in nautical circles it is taken for granted that both vessels foundered after collision with icebergs. Both were bound to the United States during the ice-season, and their courses necessitated their cutting across the ice-track. I can conscientiously say that in all the time I have followed the sea in liners, I have never been with a master who did not slow down in fog when crossing the ice-regions.'
In approaching land under normal conditions of weather, navigating a liner is a simple matter. In fog the approach is full of danger. Here is another case where it is absolutely necessary to slow down. But even in this case,—leaving out the danger of crossing vessels,—if one could only be certain of one's position, the best policy would be to go full speed ahead. Nor land—especially the New England coast—there are currents and stream whose strength and the direction of whose flow cannot be estimated unless one has been on the spot very recently They are not tidal streams in the true sense, but depend in a great measure for their strength and the direction of their flow on the winds that have been blowing. A ship moving slowly through the water is at the mercy of these currents for a longer time than a vessel moving along at top speed, and it naturally follows that she is likely to be set off her course to a greater degree than the fast-moving vessel.
Again, the fact that navigation, owing to the uncertainty of the elements, is not an exact science, adds greatly to one's anxiety. For example: on British Chart No. 2480, Fire Island Lightship and Sandy Hook Lightship are given as being in the same latitude. All British books of instruction, coastpilots, 'lights of the world,' etc., give both the same latitude, namely, 40° 28' North. Now, the latest American surveys place Fire Island Lightship in 40° 28' 40" North, and Sandy Hook Lightship in 40° 28' 2" North, a difference of nearly three-quarters of a mile. This is a very important matter, as it means steering a course a degree and a half more to the southward from Fire Island Lightship to Sandy Hook Lightship. The three-quarters of a mile of difference between the two surveys is quite enough to pile any ship up high and dry.
Arrived in port, it is only natural to suppose that liner officers will make the best use of their time, which, after all, may only be three days, or at most a week, to enjoy a well-earned rest. But certain of them—the juniors—are not allowed this privilege. After passengers have left, these officers must do gangway duty on an evil-smelling wharf, rubbing shoulders with coalheavers and longshoremen. Instead of being allowed a whole night's rest without a break, their sleep is broken on account of having to keep watch and watch at the gangways. They do not have the responsibilities which fall to the lot of the senior officers, but their systems demand a rest, which is denied them, and which to a great extent passengers have a right to demand for them.
The homeward run needs no description, as it is about the same as the outward. But let us see what relaxation Liverpool offers after a voyage is completed. At the time of writing I have before me a letter from a friend of mine who is an officer on the Lusitania. The letter states that, owing to the ship's having to tie up to the Company's buoy in the river (on account of the low tides prevailing she was unable to dock), only two officers were allowed to go home, and only for twenty-four hours at a time. Just fancy! These officers, after cutting across the Atlantic at the rate of twenty-five knots an hour, were only allowed twenty-four hours to visit their homes; and, instead of being allowed a full night's rest, had to keep anchor-watches until their sailing-day came round. This, I admit, is an extreme case, but it is liable to occur more often in the future.
So far, I have treated only of an ordinary summer voyage. Passengers look upon a winter passage as something to be dreaded and avoided, whereas really, so far as life and limb are concerned, winter passages offer less risk. During the winter months, fog on the Banks of Newfoundland, or across the ice-track, is conspicuous by its absence. Icebergs have been carried south by the Arctic stream. Bank-fishermen have finished their catches and sailed for home. All that is left for passengers to fear is seasickness and a tossing about during heavy weather, which after all is good for one's liver. The man on the bridge welcomes winter with all its gales and high seas. The laugh is all on his side now. It is nothing to him to see hundreds of passengers laid low with seasickness. He can see where he is going and what is ahead of him.
But although winter presents fewer dangers, it brings greater privations. Having ploughed across all oceans and on all seas, I have no hesitation in declaring that the North Atlantic during the winter months is the worst place in the world for continuous bad weather. Cape Horn is completely outclassed. I have beaten around it a dozen times, yet I prefer it to the North Atlantic during the winter months. Of the hardships of a winter passage, I think that the cold weather experienced on approaching American shores is the greatest. The intense cold, which is never felt ashore in anything like the same degree, is intensified by the wind and by the speed of a fast-moving vessel. Ashore, the force of the wind is broken by mountains, hills, and buildings, but afloat it has a clear course, with only ships to oppose it.
In many vessels there are shelters built on the bridge; but for some unaccountable reason British officers prefer to stand out in the weather. They somehow cannot convince themselves that a proper lookout can be kept when looking through glass. Personally I prefer to be out in the weather when on watch on the bridge of a liner. I may be suffering unnecessary exposure, but my mind is easier than it would be sheltered behind glass, and that after all is the chief consideration.
Keeping a good lookout when driving into a hard northwest squall, with hail, is a physical impossibility. Times without number I have seen the hopelessness of it, and have worried considerably while the squall lasted. My faith has been pinned on the man bound east. His vessel running before the gale enables him to keep a good lookout, and to clear out of the way of a vessel battling against it. This code is thoroughly understood by the men of the Atlantic.
The suffering which a winter voyage on the Atlantic entails upon the man on the bridge of a liner is considerable. No matter how much clothing one may have on, the icy wind will penetrate it and chill one to the bone. Walking up and down is often impossible because the bridge-deck is covered with ice and snow. For four hours almost in the one position this small hell must be endured.
I have often been told by officers in freighters that officers in liners do not know what bad weather is. Should one of my freighter brethren chance to read these pages, let me say to him that freighters, in comparison with liners, do not know what bad weather is. During heavy westerly gales the liner drives through with seldom a slow-down, while freighters with their low power simply bob up and down and make holes in the water. It is the cutting through a gale at high speed which makes the weather and sends the sprays and seas flying about. On certain vessels from land to land I have had oilskins and sea-boots on all the time when on duty, have been knocked flying off the bridge to the lower deck, and have seen part of the bridge with its three officers on it partly demolished, and the officers sent flying in all directions. Then again the freighter men are not haunted by the fear of passengers, ignorant of the sea and its power, finding their way on deck. This fear has to be reckoned with by men on liners' brides at all times during bad weather. The officer of the watch must use his discretion and knowledge in allowing passengers on deck. Many times his judgment will be questioned by passengers pitting their knowledge against his. Four years ago I was officer of the watch in a vessel going about nineteen knots into a moderately rough head sea. I had ordered the steerage passengers below off the fore-deck. A great deal of persuasion was necessary to convince the most stubborn and woodenheaded of them that it was for their benefit they were ordered below. Having cleared the decks and left a scuttle-hatch open for ventilation, my mine was at ease. But not for long. Two mutton-headed Swedes, more daring or ignorant than the rest, ventured on deck just as the vessel dipped and took a heavy sea over the bows. And that sea simply picked up those men and flung them about everywhere before I had time to stop the ship. One received a serious spinal injury in addition toi fractured thigh, and the other had both arms and a leg broken. For this I as officer of the watch was held solely to blame, and I suffered accordingly in the way of promotion. In matters of this kind the freighter officer has no worn-, as all men aboard his ship are used to the sea and know its ways. V
This paper would lose half its interest if no reference were made to record passages across the Atlantic. It is a well-known fact that there are tricks in all trades. The means resorted to, which I am about to describe, are practiced by nearly all navigators crossing the Atlantic. Mention has been made of the tracks which were planned out and which all vessels must follow. These tracks, though they conduce to safety, do not represent the shortest distance across the Atlantic, say from the Fastnet to New York. Leaving New York, say in the month of June, a liner's course from Sandy Hook Lightship would be about S 84° E for one hundred and seventy-five miles. The course would then be altered to steer a little more northerly—N 87° E—for another ten hundred and fifty miles. This point when reached takes a vessel well to the eastward of the icetrack and is commonly called the 'corner.' Here the alteration of the course would be great, for the vessel, which up to the present has been steering almost due east, would have to follow the great circle track drawn from the corner to Fastnet Rock. Let this course from Sandy Hook Lightship to the corner represent one side of a triangle, and the great circle track from the corner to Fastnet Rock another side. At that point where the course suddenly alters to the northward an obtuse angle is formed. So far we have only two sides to our triangle, nor can we give it the remaining side.
As I cannot illustrate my argument by diagram, I will try to express what I mean in another form. From Sandy Hook Lightship to what is called 'the corner' is twelve hundred and twenty-five miles on the southern track on a straight course. Now suppose that for the sake of making a record passage a navigator chooses to leave the straight line at about eight hundred "miles from New York and to strike up north on a great circle track of his own, different from the one he is supposed to follow: he may save about a hundred miles. Should he make a long cut and go only about five hundred miles, instead of the official twelve hundred and twenty-five miles, on his straight-line course from New York before striking north, his distance by the time he reaches the Fastnet will be much less than the official distance. This reduced distance saves time; but the time on passage is divided into the official, or greater, distance to arrive at the average speed. Thus the time on passage will be correct, but the average speed based on the calculation that the whole official distance was traveled will be 'faked.' It is possible when vessels are on the southern track to make a big cut, because the angle in the thumb or straight-line course is so acute. For the sake of a smart passage, it is best to keep as far north as possible. The farther north one keeps, the less the distance in traveling between two points lying east and west.
It is noticeable that the smartest passages are made on the westward run on the southern or summer track. This cannot be altogether attributed to the fact that a vessel makes time when steering west, but rather to the fact that the outward-bound vessels can keep well to the northward of their track without the fear of being seen and reported by homeward-bound vessels. However, if a homeward-bounder could only be certain that there were no outward-bound ships in his vicinity to the northward to pick him up, the passages and average speeds would equal those of these westward runs. Although the northern track is much shorter than the southern, yet by the time vessels take it, winter with its head seas is fast approaching, and the weather conditions are entirely opposed to record-breaking.
Knowing what goes on behind the scenes, I have no hesitation in declaring that the Mauretania's latest record, 26.08 knots, was 'faked.' I do not believe for a moment, nor do the officers aboard her, that she made that average covering the official distance. The Mauretania's time on passage only would be correct, and the average speed and distance made would be cooked. The reader may take it from me, that except by a miraculous fluke, all record passages are made on the westward run of a vessel supposed to be on the southern track. In the cutting, blame cannot be attached to any particular liner or to any particular ship. All are more or less guilty of the practice. Certainly there are a few conscientious men who do cover the whole official distance, but they are in a very small minority.
Having discussed some of the responsibilities of a liner officer when on the bridge, let us turn to other of. his duties. When it is remembered that the average crew of a liner borders on five hundred men, it goes without saying that there is work in plenty to maintain a strict discipline. This is, I believe, the hardest work that falls to our lot. Seamen, firemen, and stewards must be kept in their places and be made to perform their duties in a quiet, orderly manner. The last-named, owing to their being pampered and spoiled by passengers, are the worst to handle. The liberal tipping gives to servants aboard a ship too much money. Any vessel, no matter what her class, should be ready for an emergency. All appliances aboard for the saving of life must be kept in order, ready for instant use. In passenger-steamers this work is increased owing to the fact that greater precautions must be taken because the great number of people aboard are ignorant of ships and their ways. Boat and fire-drill must be carried out, and the crew allotted to their various stations. This is work enough in itself for any seven men, without their having to perform bridge-duties. And for all these responsibilities, anxieties, exposures, and worries, not to speak of the: expensive training and examiner fees, what remuneration do liner officers receive as salary?
It is difficult to arrive at a definite scale of wages, as the leading companies pay slightly different wages and have different systems of payment I shall not be far out, however, when I state that the salaries of the masters of the largest vessels range between three thousand and four thousand declare a year. This is a rather liberal estimate. From chief officer downward the scale ranges from about fourteen hundred to four hundred dollars a year. Fourteen hundred dollars is a top figure, and is reached only after ten or fifteen years' service. An officer joining a liner as seventh officer will receive the magnificent salary of thirty-five dollars a month in return for his service, expensive training, and qualifications. In ten years he may reach fourteen hundred dollars. Out of this handsome income he will be obliged to keep himself in expensive uniforms, in addition to maintaining the outward appearance of a gentleman when ashore.
Such lavish generosity is the return the big steamship companies make to their officers who are in charge of ships valued at millions of dollars, not to speak of priceless cargoes, mail, and specie. Add to these the passengers, thousands of them, owing their lives to the skill of the man on the bridge, whose salary a decent clerk in America would scorn to accept.
There is this also about it. Size and speed have increased, while masters' salaries have considerably decreased. More voyages a year are made now than in former years. There is less home-life, on account of the shorter stays in port. Where in the old days ships were ten days in port, they are now only three. Vacations are never granted; the only privilege in this direction is that once a year an officer may go home for all the time—usually three days—his ship is in port. Should an officer be foolish enough to fall sick through overwork, he soon finds himself on half-pay. Higher qualifications are demanded, and, above all, the demand made on the flesh and blood of the man on the bridge has increased fourfold. In every sense, a liner officer's life is a dog's life.
It is difficult to understand why it is followed by so many capable and well-educated men. The only reason the writer can give is that the men on the bridge belong to that class of men who have the curse of the gypsy blood in their veins: the blood of wanderers, practically untamed men who cannot brook a quiet life. The same type of men is to be found in America, among cowboys, woodsmen, and miners. The breed is the same the world over.
In conclusion, I should like to say that what has been set down here cannot be applied in particular to any line, ship, master, or officer. The methods and practices are practically the same in all mail-lines, and differ only in details which do not affect to any marked degree what has been said.