CHARLESTON, SEPTEMBER 27th, 1869.—It is high tide, and
three o’clock in the afternoon when we leave the
Battery-quay; the ebb carries us off shore, and as Captain Huntly
has hoisted both main and top sails, the northerly breeze drives
the “Chancellor” briskly across the bay. Fort Sumter
ere long is doubled, the sweeping batteries of the mainland on our
left are soon passed, and by four o’clock the rapid current
of the ebbing tide has carried us through the harbour-mouth.
But as yet we have not reached the open sea; we have still to
thread our way through the narrow channels which the surge has
hollowed out amongst the sand-banks. The captain takes a south-
west course, rounding the lighthouse at the corner of the fort; the
sails are closely trimmed; the last sandy point is safely coasted,
and at length, at seven o’clock in the evening; we are out
free upon the wide Atlantic.
The “Chancellor” is a fine square-rigged
three-master, of 900 tons burden, and belongs to the wealthy
Liverpool firm of Laird Brothers. She is two years old, is sheathed
and secured with copper, her decks being of teak, and the base of
all her masts, except the mizen, with all their fittings, being of
iron. She is registered first class A I, and is now on her third
voyage between Charleston and Liverpool. As she wended her way
through the channels of Charleston harbour, it was the British flag
that was lowered from her mast-head; but without colours at all, no
sailor could have hesitated for a moment in telling her
nationality,—for English she was, and nothing but English
from her water-line upwards to the truck of her masts.
I must now relate how it happens that I have taken my passage on
board the “Chancellor” on her return voyage to England.
At present there is no direct steamship service between South
Carolina and Great Britain, and all who wish to cross must go
either northwards to New York or southwards to New Orleans. It is
quite true that if I had chosen to start from New York I might have
found plenty of vessels belonging to English, French, or Hamburg
lines, any of which would have conveyed me by a rapid voyage to my
destination; and it is equally true that if I had selected New
Orleans for my embarkation I could readily have reached Europe by
one of the vessels of the National Steam Navigation Company, which
join the French Transatlantic line of Colon and Aspinwall. But it
was fated to be otherwise.
One day, as I was loitering about the Charleston quays, my eye
lighted upon this vessel. There was something about the
“Chancellor” that pleased me, and a kind of involuntary
impulse took me on board, where I found the internal arrangements
perfectly comfortable. Yielding to the idea that a voyage in a
sailing vessel had certain charms beyond the transit in a steamer,
and reckoning that with wind and wave in my favour there would be
little material difference in time; considering, moreover, that in
these low latitudes the weather in early autumn is fine and
unbroken, I came to my decision, and proceeded forthwith to secure
my passage by this route to Europe.
Have I done right or wrong? Whether I shall have reason to
regret my determination is a problem to be solved in the future.
However, I will begin to record the incidents of our daily
experience, dubious as I feel whether the lines of my chronicle
will ever find a reader.