National Geographic : 1955 Jul
Under Canvas in the Atomic Age beans, lashings of white bread and the best of butter, with ice cream to follow. Shades of salt horse and stockfish! It was a bit different from the old grain racers coming round the Horn.* I knew Yankee ships had the name for good feeding, even back in the bad old days. But this was wonderful. And there was a surgeon, with a sick-bay attendant and a first-class small hos pital to take care of any who got sick. This was the life! Sailing for Spain So the days passed, and day after day we sailed toward Spain, sometimes at good speed, sometimes slowly, sometimes with good winds but more often with bad. Such is the way of the sailing ship at sea, and the making of her voyage is a challenge to her crew. Always the faithful Rockaway zigzagged along behind us or hurried at full throttle to keep up, for the Eagle could move when she got the wind. She could race along at close to 18 knots, and there was no guesswork about it, either. With modern precision methods her speed is known within a hundred yards. The Eagle could carry all sail and stand up even in a 30-knot wind, and we did that more than once. One evening the royals, the upper most square sails, were made fast in a squall of wind and rain. "Clew up the fore royal!" was the order, shouted by the upperclassman on watch. "Clew up the fore royal! Man the clew lines and buntlines!" shouted the bos'n of the watch. The bark was heeling over, with the spindrift flying and the wind howling in the rigging. I watched closely, to see how this classic stuff of Cape Horn days would be handled. Halyards were thrown off the pin, gear manned. "Lower away! Haul away on those clew lines there! Check in the weather brace!" Page 60 +"... Canvas Taut in the Whistling Breeze" Mainmast's Snowy Raiment Swells to the Westerly's Favoring Surge The Coast Guard's pride has topped 17 knots under her 22 sails, which spread 21,350 square feet to the wind (page 62). Perched in the starboard foreshrouds, this cadet could look astern to the main mast fully clothed (top to bottom) in royal, top gallant, upper topsail, lower topsail, and mainsail. Triangular fore-and-aft sails are main staysails. © National Geographic Society Kodachrome by Alan Villiers All this, a few months earlier, would have been as completely unintelligible to these lads, used to hot rods and trips by air, as their own hot-rod jargon would have been to me. But now all went with a swing. Down came the thrashing royal, to be smothered smartly by its gear. Aloft raced four lads, while the rest of the watch ran aft to take in the main royal the same way. Spray clouded the whole forecastle head. There were four at the wheel now, and she was driving hard. The cadets at the wheels strained to hold the fleeing bark to a good course. Captain Bowman stood to windward, a solid, patient figure, sea-booted feet planted firmly on the wet deck as if he had grown there and belonged as surely as the masts themselves. He said nothing, leaving it to the cadets. If the feeling of responsibility is to be worth while, it must be exercised in emer gencies too, not merely when all goes well. Not that this was a real emergency. The sails came in without bother, to be followed by the other kites-the flying jib, gaff-tops'l (the three-cornered sail above the spanker on the mizzenmast), the royal staysails. Cadets I had already grown to know muzzled these sails-lads from Hawaii, Massachusetts, Flor ida, and Minnesota. Officers Join Crew Aloft But what was this? Up there, too, were a four-stripe captain and a full commander, along with the boys. They were Capt. Karl Zittel, along for the experience before taking over the Eagle from Captain Bowman, and Comdr. "Bill" Earle, Academy officer in special charge of the cadets. The pair of them raced up the rigging for the fun of the thing and the thrill of it. What master of any great windbag I had known would have done that? Nary a one, I'm certain. So I went up myself-not just then. Later I went, to taste again the unusual and so stir ring views of the sailer's deck one gets only from high in the rigging, with the oilskinned figures going about their work, the masts roll ing and pitching beneath the sky, the seas breaking by the shapely cutwater, and the foamy wake streaming off astern, away and away into the distance. The Eagle had a job to do, and she got on * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "Cape Horn Grain-Ship Race," January, 1933, and "Last of the Cape Horners," May, 1948, both by Alan Villiers.