Captain Nielsen and First Mate, Neels Bergen, were together in the captain’s cabin after the weather and sea had worsened. Captain was making certain that the mate had issued the order to furl sail.
“Yes sir, I’ve got Burt in the rigging now. Men seem to be working a little slower than usual, but job’s being done.”
“Keep someone in the nest. We need to know about the bergs.”
“He’s there now, captain.”
“What’s Jacobsen doing?”
“Battening down the hatches, sir. Thought you’d want that done.”
“Very good. When you get a chance, get a fix on our location. Not likely to get a fix on our position very soon, but see that it’s done. I don’t like to be blind for very long.”
“Yes, sir. It’ll be done.”
When the Third's finished with the sails, have him check the hold. Find out if we’re taking in water. Have him make sure the tea’s not shifting.”
“Aye, sir. Check for water in the hold and make sure the tea’s not shifting.”
“When the Second's completed battening down the hatches, have him rig the life lines.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
“Who’s at the wheel?”
“Erik Johansen, captain.”
“Any other orders, sir?”
“Not now. Maybe later. You can go.”
First Mate took leave of the captain going topside to issue the orders that duty and safety required. He gained the upper deck in time to see Larsen descending a windward shroud; he noticed the reefing was completed. Others, like Larsen, were coming down out of the top’ls. Larsen swung down from the shroud meeting the deck in an easy stride that only practice
could have mastered. It indicated he was a good man aloft.
Third mate had been at sea twelve years, since the day his father put him aboard the Mary Ann at the age of twelve giving instruction to the mate to make a sailor of him. That task proved easy. Rattan and cat were seldom used starting him for being an idler. Larsen took to the sea as a duck takes to water.
Third Mate was blond with blue eyes. Full beard was of curly wheat color. Heavy shoulders showed strength. Brawn served him well in the yards requiring power no weakling or waister had.
When Captain Nielsen needed a Third Mate at the beginning of the voyage, Larsen had been selected among the crew members for the captain saw at a glance the cut of the man’s jib. He knew this Dane would be the best of them all. First Mate waited for him at the mast-rail. Larsen came across the ship’s deck to stand within hailing distance. Heaving deck made him graba rigging line for balance. Bergen made an arm movement for Larsen to come closer. First Mate’s cupped hands were a bull horn to his mouth against the roaring wind.
“Check the hold. See if we’re taking on water. Make sure the tea’s not shifting.”
Third Mate nodded his head understanding the orders. Making his way to a flight of steps leading down into the fo’c’s’le, he found an oil lamp and lit it. New steps took him down to a locked door he opened with a key from a
ring of keys at his belt. Pushing the door back, he went in to eyeball the cargo. No water had been taken aboard Crates were still secured with tight lines held by cleats at the ribs. All seemed shipshape. He was about to leave when he heard the retching sound of a man puking. Lamp found the man
behind a far case doubled over.
“Here now! That's what you get for stowing away. You come with me.
We're going to see the captain about you."
“I’m a sick man. Can’t you see that?”
“You’re going to be a lot sicker when the captain sees you.”
“You needn’t tell him. I’ll make it worth your trouble.”
“What do you have that I'd want?”
“I have friends in Ireland. I’ll make it worth your trouble in
helping Gavan O'Connell.”
“So that’s your name, is it? Why’d you steal aboard this ship?”
“My family’s all gone now. Sure, the famine did it. I’d starve too, if I stayed there.”
“ Maybe you’ll starve anyhow. We haven’t got food for the likes of you.”
“The way I feel now, it doesn’t matter much. Do what you want with me.”
Larsen led the stowaway up from the hold. Mate met Jacobsen directing men in securing lifelines along the gunnels from the quarterdeck to fo’c’s’le. Second Mate saw the stowaway but, having no time for him, motioned Larsen to take the man down below and put him in the brig.
Under lock and key, O’Connell fell to his knees retching again, for ship’s
pitch and roll caused renewed distress giving him added sickness.
The seas continued to rage for the wind was hard upon them.
Brig Copenhagen labored.
Captain Nielsen was told about the stowaway. He came to question the man.
“So your name is Galvan O’Connell and you’re a stowaway. There’s
not much we can do about that now. Mate tells me you’re
from Ireland and escaping the famine. Is that right?”
“Sure now, that the right of it and if I’d stayed there it
would have been the end of me.”
“You’ve lost your family. Is that right?”
“There’s no one to care for me now. No one to care if I live or die.”
“There’s no one here who cares if you live or die either. We’re in the middle of bad weather and there’s no guarantee any of us will be alive tomorrow. But that’s the way of it with sailors. We live a hard life. You’re going to live a hard life too. This isn’t any passenger ship. Every man Jack aboard this ship pulls his own weight. You’re going to pull yours too, or you’ll be over the side.”
“I know how to work.”
“That’s good because that’s what you’re going to do right now. Mate will bring you oilskins. You’re to go topside and lend a hand.”
Gavan O’Connell accepted this directive without a word. He felt
weak and sick, but the captain had spoken and he didn’t appear to be
a man to be taken lightly. He put two fingers to his brow in a hesitant salute
and spoke haltingly. “Whatever----you say.”
Captain Nielsen nodded his head acknowledging the salute. “Do your job man, and we’ll get along.” Nielsen left.
Larsen brought him the oilskins and rubber boots, both going topside where the wind and water were. Larsen gave him a coil of line to hold.
“Hold this line and don’t let it drop. If you drop it, I’ll put you in the yards. Hold it till I get back. Don’t go near the sides. Stay here. Don’t sit down. You understand?”
After waiting an hour for the mate to return, with weight of the coiled line in his arms, O’Connell believed he’d been forgotten. He shivered violently from the cold and was severely tempted to sit down on a near hatch cover, but he dared not lest he be found by the mate and made to serve in the yards - whatever that meant. So he stayed where he was with the coil of line in his arms enduring its weight.
Larsen came to him after two hours. He found O’Connell nearly frozen to
death and at the end of his endurance. The man couldn’t walk. Mate carried him down to the brig and flopped him hard onto the deck. He pried the line free from O’Connell’s stiff fingers still holding the coil crushed up against his chest. Leaving the stowaway, he returned quickly with a ration of grog for the man to drink.
Scuttlebutt in the fo’c’s’le had it that the Irishman wouldn’t last an hour topside holding the line. When he was still standing after two hours, they marveled. Sven Olsen marveled the most. He’d seen the stowaway earlier and thought him a milksop. When Larsen put the man topside with a coil of lien to hold, Olsen had made a bet with Brawny Tolin that he’d drop it before the mate returned. When the milksop had lasted an hour and then another, Olsen lost his bet and Tolin took the jackknife from him. They talked in the fo’c’s’le . Tolin inspected the jackknife.
“Always wanted your knife. Better than mine. Paddy lasted longer than anyone thought. Fought an Irishman once toeing the line. Bare knuckles it was and I thought I could whip him fast. I’d knock him down and he’d get up and let me have what for. Twenty times I knocked him down and twenty time he’d get up and toe the line. Couldn’t beat him - judges called it a draw. They’re a tough bunch, they are.”
Sven Olsen looked over at the little Irishman laying prone on his back in the brig. It was a look of new respectfor the tough little guy. He spoke across to him.“ Hey mick, you likin’ the sea yet?”
From the foul weather gear came a low curse and something about the grog Larsen had given him. With a moan he giveback a few words.“ That’s a bad drink to give a man. You’d think Gavan O’Connell would be given something with a few teeth in it. Whatever it was, it fair makes my stomach turn. It does that and I hope to god I never taste it again. Got any whiskey on this rat infested tugboat?”
That drew a little laugh from Olsen. “You hear that, Brawny? He doesn’t like our grog. Now that’s a real pity, aint it? But you know, I don’t give a farthing if he does or doesn’t. What do you think of that, me blasted stowaway? We got no whisky aboard the Copenhagen. Captain’s orders. You’ll take the grog and like it.”
“What’s to like about this boat”?
Tolin gave him angry answer pounding his fist into an open hand. “This is not a boat, Paddy. This is a ship. A boat is something you row. We got some of them aboard the Copenhagen -rowboats. A ship is something you love like a woman. It has a soul, but you wouldn’t know anything about that. This here Copenhagen is saving your life and you’d best remember that.”
“ Sure now. This is nothing but sticks and boards. It’s a floating thing that some men made. I like my women with flesh and blood. I like a warm body taking away the chill from me on a cold morning."
He began taking the foul weather gear off.
Sven spoke. “You know what you’ll be doing here on out, Mick? You’ll be serving under Cookie, ship’s cook. You’ll be fetching and scraping for him. You’ll be sloping over the side, and it’ll be good if you remember not to throw the slops into the wind. You’ll get back a face full if you do.”
The little Irishman gave that a thought and cared not at all.
“I’ve done worse and will probably do worse again. Makes no difference to me.”
He threw aside the rest of the foul-weather gear he’d been removing and laid his head down on the wooden deck to go to sleep not caring to talk anymore.
The two seamen looked at him shaking their head together in wonder. The little blighter sure had what it takes.
And the sea pounded the Copenhagen so that forward movement toward Nova Scotia was not possible. Ship ran before the wind and its screaming sound made commands topside impossible unless mouth was at the bullhorn within three feet of an ear. Sea water, in rolling and angry waves, flung their weight over the gunnels flooding the deck with angry rushes that took everything away not tied down.
Erik Johansen was secured fast with line to a pair cleats near to the wheel.
He’d lost his bearings but guessed their heading was far from Bergen’s compass command. For him to see the compass face was impossible for wind kept spray ever against it. He knew he’d never have a chance to wipe it clean viewing its reading for ship’s wheel demanded all his strength and attention in trying to keep the Copenhagen from floundering. His eyes were on the oncoming surges and he fought hard to take their weight against the ship in the best possible way.