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Departure from Funchal-Sea-sickness-Means of preventing-A Calm-Life on Board a Yacht
-Shores of Africa-Gibraltar-Appearance of the place--Batteries-Market-A Street Scene A Grave-yard -The Alamada-The Evening Gun--Society-Officers-Private Theatricale Helen Macgregor—The Galleries_Capers—Smugglers-Climate.
SATURDAY, Nov. 22nd.—We left Funchal roads, but the wind blew so hard outside, that we were obliged to return, and remained “off and on” the island all night. On Sunday it moderated somewhat, and we put out again, although the sea ran so exceedingly high that our consort, the Fanny cutter, was obliged to put back into harbour. Notwithstanding the sea had lulled, it still blew a stiff breeze, and the Crusader rolled and tossed upon the huge topling waves of the Atlantic in such a way, that I was again sick; but having some little experience of what genuine sea-sickness really is, since crossing the Bay of Biscay, I managed to avoid much of the unpleasantness I then suffered, principally by the following means, which I would strongly recommend to all landsmen. If you feel sickish, or know by experience that you will be sick, go to bed, close your eyes, and remain lying on your back, if possible without motion ; abstain from food, but not altogether; I would rather say, eat sparingly, and of some solid, such as a little broiled meat, or biscuit, as I have known most alarming consequences arise from “ total abstinence,” to say nothing of the violent straining and fruitless retching it occasions. Drink sparingly of cold water, or brandy and water in sips, but taste no hot liquid of any kind. In keeping the eyes shut, I would remark, that the effect of vision and its sympathy with the stomach are not enough attended to; for though at rest in the berth, the swinging backwards and forwards, and motion of the vessel and things around, are often sufficient to produce what we so much wish to avoid. There is, however, one point at which emesis
becomes inevitable—it is, when the mouth fills with saliva, and then the sooner it takes place the better.
We remained under the shelter of the island of Porto Santo all night, and the next day (Monday) bent our course once more towards Europe. After a storm comes a calm ; the wind suddenly fell off, and then what little remained became “ dead on end.”
Thursday.—The wind has sunk into a perfect calm. Oh! the horrors of a calm—the rolling sluggish motion of the ocean—the Aapping of the useless sails—the creaking of bulk-heads and spars —the wailing of cordage, and the listless inactivity of all around. Not a ship—not a bird is to be seen, a cloudless sky above, a sultry atmosphere around, and the glossy surface of the vasty deep beneath, are the only objects to engage attention. The sailors lean over the vessel's side to watch if we make any way, or go occasionally aloft to try and catch the first view of a distant sail, or the rising of a cloud to windward ; and the master holds his cheek to the breathless air, or scans the horizon with his practised eye; but nothing breaks the undulating mirror of the waters, except the gambol of a porpoise, or the “breaking” of a mackrel. Still there is a daily something to do ;—we breakfast at eight, walk or read, or watch the Portuguese men-of-war* coming up to stretch their thin blue sail to the sun till near twelve ; then all come upon deck, the master, mate, &c. to “take the sun,” and find what way we have made ; then examine the chart, and count progress-strike the bell eight; men's dinner; starboard-watch set, and so proceeds the daily routine. The men, if not required in working the vessel, are engaged in mending sails, splicing ropes, and such other naval employments. We dine at three; then enjoy our cigar on deck; watch the glories of the sunset ; speculate on the morrow's weather, and sup at seven, after which, books, chess, and conversation close the day. But not every day-Saturday comes; the day of sweethearts and wives ; old Scotch Jem the boatswain, tunes his fiddle, and the doctor, (ship’s cook,) produces his tambourine ; the men dance on deck, and the forecastle resounds with many a song of “Nelson and Benbow." Dibdin's beauties, too, call forth a chorus; toasts go round, and
the comes ; the dation close the sup at ser
* A popular term applied by sailors, not to the physalia, but to the velella limbosa.
many a “Black-eyed Susan,” or girl at “the back of the point,” is remembered in our “march upon the mountain-wave.”
The wind has again sprung up; we are nearing the shores of Africa, and a spanking breeze is driving us along; it freshens into a gale, and on the night of the 4th of December we had a squall of several hours' duration. The morning found us within sight of the old Moorish city of Tangier, the wind cold, and the prospect dreary.
December 5th.- We entered the straits, and “standing in” between the two continents, shortly after anchored in the bay of Gibraltar. The rain has fallen in torrents all the early part of the day, and a misty cloud hangs over this great artificial volcano.
With a first view of The Rock I was more astonished than plea sed. Fancy a huge barren mass, several hundred feet high, in form resembling a lion couchant, connected tail-ward to the main-land by a narrow strip of sand, that rises but a few feet from the level of the water. Toward the land the rock is perfectly perpendicular, and studded with apertures from the galleries ; tier after tier of guns point from endless batteries along the water's edge ; above these, peeps the town of Gibraltar, climbing some short distance up the ascent, and crowned by the old red Moorish gateway and tower, now used as a civil prison. Beyond this a few consumptive-looking gardens are coaxed into bloom, and then the brown, blistered surface of the naked rock, crowned by an old tower, called O'Hara's folly, and the signal and demand staffs, cuts clearly against the thin blue sky of the Mediterranean. Numbers of Spanish latteen boats, having English papers, and hoisting the British flag, crowded into the small harbour; steamers, men-of-war, and vessels of every nation occupy the deeper water outside.
Near the landing, wherever the eye rests, enormous guns frown upon it, peeping like so many chained bull-dogs from behind the grating of the embrasures; and the occasional red coat of the sentry, with his bright arms glancing in the sun, attracts the attention at any curve or turn in the scarp, counterscarp, or bastion.
Having received immediate pratique, we were not long in availing ourselves of it, and stretching our limbs on shore.
Passing the outer gate, we enter at once into a scene of great variety and interest—the market, which, for arrangement and
supply, is not to be surpassed any where. Meat of the very best description, slaughtered for the garrison ; fowls from Barbary; fruit and vegetables from Spain and Tangier; and fish from the Mediterranean, all separate, and placed under sheds and awnings ; while the picturesque dresses of the Moors and Spaniards—the squeeling of apes and monkeys—the harsh music of Brazilian parrots—the noise of sailors—the authoritative tone of the messmen—and the clatter of soldiers' wives, with squalling children in their arms, are not a little astounding, upon the very first step you make upon land. Another draw-bridge is then to be passed, and you are within one of the strongest forts in the world.
The scene which now presents itself is of the most singular description, and such as I can liken only to a fancy-ball. The stiff, erect person of the English soldier, buttoned to the throat, and his neck stuck into a high regimental stock, meets you at every turn; and as officers on duty, or on lounge, parade every second street, the walk of the private is one continued salute from beginning to end. How ill our men contrast with the noble bearing, the stately gait, and fine athletic person of the swarthy Moor, clad in his snow-white flowing hyke, red slippers, and wide-spreading turban! Thousands of the children of Israel, dressed in their dark blue gowns and small black scull-caps, crowd the busy streets, hastening, with downcast eyes and plodding faces, intent upon some new speculation, or planning some untried method of gain or interest. Spanish contrabandistas, with their swarthy features and coal black hair, and adorned with their high-peaked hats, spangled jackets, yellow leggings, and embroidered vests, swagger past you wherever you go ; and merchants' clerks, with sallow English faces, half Brummigem, half West Indian, bustle into the counting-houses in white jackets and upturned cuffs, while the fumes of tobacco, smoked in all shapes and forms, issue from every mouth. The shops are numerous, dear, and filled with French frippery and pinchbeck jewellery.
The trade of this small place is very great, and consists principally of the wares of Sheffield, Birmingham, and Manchester, to be sent into Barbary, or smuggled into Spain. The manufacture of tobacco is also considerable—almost every second house is a cigar shop, with from two to six persons at work, and
they make the best-looking cigars I ever saw, but in flavour they are lamentably deficient, as the leaf is generally Virginian. It is said that upwards of two thousand persons are engaged in making cigars; some of the good workers will make six hundred a day, and earn three shillings. But we must hasten onwards to one of the greatest magnets here—the post-office. On our right is the town-hall, and behind it a small square, closed by the hotel, formerly the officer's club-house, and on the left, the Roman Catholic church, provided with a Tipperary chaplain by the government—a most intelligent and well-informed man. Then comes the governor's residence, with its squad of orderlies, aides-de-camp, and liveried grooms holding horses; and if you can poke your way through files of marching and countermarching, the tilbury of the old major, the prancing steed of the lordly ensign, and droves of waggons, provision and wash-carts, you get to the gate at the other side of the town, where the deep valleys on both hands contain the ashes of the soldier, and the many classic tombs tell tales of the early death of many a gallant officer or tried veteran, who, having braved the storm and the fight, fell beneath the hand of lingering disease, or sudden pestilence, upon this parching rock. But though distant from their fatherland, the marble or the elegy has not been forgotten by their sorrowing brothers.
A lane, walled by piles of guns and mortars, and mountains of ball and shell, leads to the only fertile or pretty spot on the rock—the Alamada, a fine square esplanade, rising above the batteries, open to the sea, and surrounded by well-grown trees; above this are terraces laid out with great taste, and filled with numbers of beautiful shrubs, among which the scarlet geranium holds a conspicuous place. Agaves of great size border the parterres, and serve as retainers to the soil ; and crimson aloes, the finest I have seen, blossom in great luxuriance. The numerous seats and alcoves in this lovely mall command a view of the sea, the different vessels passing the straits, the distant rock of Ape's hill, and the heights of the African coast beyond, stretching far away into the bold range of the Atlas. On one of the upper terraces a bust of Wellington surmounts a low pillar, on which is hung a shield, telling of the deeds of the Peninsula, and before it stands a fine brass gun, taken from the Spaniards. This is the promenade of Gibraltar, as well as the review-ground of the troops ;