The sea has always been my dream, though why I cannot say.
I grew up on a hilltop farm with cows and corn and hay.
But when at last I came of age and struck out on my own
I headed for the ocean which I knew would be my home.
Beside the docks in Liverpool one damp and cloudy day
I saw a bright new schooner loading stores to sail away.
Her name proclaimed "The Weavers Pride" on stern and banner high,
And proud her builders must have been to see her come alive.
She had two sets of canvas sails, her masts were tall and stout,
Her paint and varnish brightly shone, new lines coiled all about.
The workers were directed by a captain on the deck
Who gave each order not too loud, but made it take effect.
A heavy box came on a cart, last-minute extra freight.
The seaman sent to carry it just cursed its awful weight.
So I stepped up to lift one end, the seaman took the other,
We struggled down the gangplank and we stowed it under cover.
The captain saw how strong I was and spoke with me a while
Then asked if I'd consider giving sailoring a trial!
He'd sailed on all the seven seas and many tricks he knew
Of navigation, handling ships, controlling motley crew.
The owner was aboard her too, a dry old widowed goat
Who sold his business (making hats) to build and stock this boat.
The finest cloth that England made was loaded in her hold
Which he would trade for rum and spice, return, and sell for gold.
The profits from this single trip he thought would be enough
To spend the rest of his life drinking port and taking snuff.
They didn't need experience, strong arms were all I had,
But that was what they wanted, and my small pay made them glad.
There were two other crewmen who looked tough, as hard as nails,
The sort who hand and reef and steer through any heavy gales.
The taller was named Friedrich and the broader one was George.
They both were brown and bearded, and were right at home aboard.
We three would take turns cooking, steering, all the brainless stuff,
And though the schooner looked a treat we'd all have work enough.
I got the fo'c'sle's poorest bunk but did not think it bad
'Cause I was heading off to sea. I was a happy lad!
I dashed a note to tell my folks that I had found a berth
Not knowing when they'd hear again from halfway 'round the earth.
We left the dock that very day, and slid out with the tide.
We hoisted sails and o'er the waves commenced a rolling ride.
It was a fairly speedy craft, considering her size,
And soon we left the land behind to view just seas and skies.
I had no appetite at all, felt strange not seeing land,
The rolling motion even made it hard for me to stand.
The others showed me what to do. Pull this line taut! Now bring
That here! I didn't know the names of ropes or anything
But tried to help and learn my job. When it got dark my head
Got worse. The Captain saw my plight. He ordered me to bed
At once, and gladly I lay down. Perhaps I wasn't meant
To sail! This was a wretched life! I closed my eyes and dreamt
That I was lying on a hill where earthquakes shook the ground
But little was my rest that night - I tossed and turned around.
I woke in early morning light. My shaking legs took me
Out on the deck where Friedrich steered. He said There is hot tea
And you should try a cup with bread. I found a place to sit
Where I could watch the waves that passed beyond our long bowsprit.
He said that many sailors feel as if they'd rather drown
When starting ocean passages, but then they settle down
And so would I recover soon. I hoped that he was right
Because we had so far to go. The sun was shining bright
And tea with bread was staying down. I vowed to work again
Today, not lie abed but pull my weight, and by day's end
Perhaps this faint and dizzy spell would vanish. Steer awhile
Said Friedrich, and perhaps you'll find your sea legs and your smile.
It was another day before I felt all right again.
The owner still was in his bed, a truly seasick man.
We had to help by bringing tea and cleaning up his mess.
Within a week he gained his feet. We cheered at his success.
There was a lot for me to learn about my role aboard
And every day I picked up more, too busy to be bored.
Both George and Friedrich taught me things, the captain helped me too,
They wanted me to know all things that I must do as crew.
I memorized the names of lines and where they lead to cleats,
Tied bowline knots, used marlinspikes, I spliced and whipped new sheets.
I peeled potatoes, made thick soups, brewed countless pots of tea.
The schooner's wake rolled out behind as she plowed through the sea.
I guess we were off Portugal when we got our first blow.
The wind just kept on picking up and waves began to grow.
The captain had us reef the sails. He was a cautious man
And we were far enough from shore - no danger from the land.
The schooner rolled and roared ahead as waves broke on her deck.
I shivered in cold oilskins while the rain ran down my neck.
The wind whipped through the rigging and the seas grew huge and wild.
The captain said that as a gale this one was rather mild.
The owner though was petrified and I was worried too.
Slam Bang! The hull was getting thumped! The wind a wicked wail!
At last we hove to for the night with double-reefed foresail.
We still were leaping up and down. That gale gave me a fright!
The captain sent me off to bed but not to sleep that night!
I wondered if our planks would hold or break in monster waves.
Would this small ship just fall apart and give us watery graves?
Perhaps the builders saved on nails and soon we'd know that truth
When water rose up from the hold to drown us all as proof.
This wasn't like my dreams at home where sailing seemed a treat.
Each time the schooner soared then sank my heart would skip a beat.
The banging, screaming night went on! Did this boat have a curse?
Although the boat remained quite safe my mind imagined worse.
Next day the gale abated and we set more sail again.
When flying fishes crossed our bow the cold seemed at an end.
I watched them in amazement as they glided o'er the waves
Fins flashing in the sunlight like a flock of birds at play.
The course we kept was to the south, the weather grew more warm
Until the Grand Canary rose before us one fine morn.
We dropped our anchor in the bay, a tired, happy crew.
We rowed ashore to see the town and have a beer or two.
No watch to keep, no wheel to hold, we slept well by that shore
And woke refreshed, prepared to work, our pantry to restore.
We stocked up with fresh vegetables, clean water and some fruit.
After two days we sailed again along the trade wind route.
With cirrus clouds for company we made good progress now
As steady winds came from southeast and spray flew from our bow.
We watched the speedy dolphins jump, cavorting in their play.
They seemed so happy, showing off. We all had smiles that day.
The owner was a happy man, the watches were routine,
Even the captain ceased to scowl, this trip was like a dream.
One starry night I came on watch. The ship was sailing well,
Sliding smoothly through the seas and rolling in the swell.
We still were steering WSW, but Friedrich now said low
Turn off two points to SSW. That is the way to go.
But did the captain order this? I questioned quietly.
He spoke then with an evil grin: The captain leave to me.
I turned the wheel as I was told, what else was I to do?
They all could order me about, the junior of the crew.
The motion changed. The ship rolled more. The captain soon awoke.
His cabin door was near the wheel. It opened and he spoke.
Why does the ship rock so? he asked, still sounding half asleep.
And then there was an awful Thump! He fell down in a heap!
My mind was blank - could not believe - My captain had just died!
George growled Be quiet. Hold the course. I stood there terrified.
Then George walked through the open door and slipped in by the bed.
I heard another horrid Thump! A Groan! Then Friedrich said
'Tis done! The ship is ours now! Turn to WSW again!
Just follow orders quietly, or you know how you will end!
I nodded. Nothing could I say. My throat was in a knot.
Those two were pirates! I could see misfortune was my lot.
They quickly searched the dead men's clothes, then dragged them to the rail
And heaved them to the midnight sea as onward we did sail.
Now entering the cabin aft they searched by lantern light
For valuables of two fine men who'd died this awful night.
They found some coins, gave joyful shouts, put pistols in their belts.
I stood and steered in stricken trance. Twas horror that I felt!
They found some rum and settled down to drink and celebrate.
The door was closed but soon I heard the noise of loud debate.
Each thought he had the better claim to be the captain now
And so they argued for an hour, a cursing nasty row.
Bang! Bang! Two shots! Then all was still. Oh! Now what tragedy?
Five minutes passed. I gave a shout, but silence answered me.
I turned the ship into the wind, jib halyard soon released,
We hove to very quietly. Our forward motion ceased.
With shaking hand I tried the door. It opened on a sight
So ghastly that I shudder still, remembering that night!
The pistols both had done their work. Both men were on the floor.
Those villains had done awful things but never would do more.
I took the pistols from their hands, then through the door I dragged
What once were men but now were just two lumps in bloody rags.
Their pockets full of little stuff were emptied on the deck.
The captain's and the owner's keys were taken from their necks.
I took deep breaths of cool fresh air, my head was in a spin,
Dragged both the bodies to the rail and quickly threw them in.
I washed the deck, cleaned up the mess, then sat down in a daze.
I was alone upon the seas as dawn broke o'er the waves.
I sat there still and miserable, not knowing what to do.
No matter how I tried to think, it was a hopeless stew.
The ocean seemed enormous now and all my friends were dead!
The slap of waves against the hull were pounding in my head.
Perhaps another ship would come and save me from my plight?
But then I thought what they might say and I was filled with fright.
They'd think that I had killed them all to make the schooner mine!
The trials, questions - Could I prove that what I'd done was fine?
Could I have saved the captain's life with one decisive act?
Was I a partner in their crimes by steering as they asked?
How would I look before a judge: the only one who lived
And four men in a watery grave, no evidence to give.
How could I prove my innocence? My case would surely fail.
I faced a pirate's hanging or at least a life in jail.
I threw myself upon my bed, confused and terrified.
A day ago the world was well. Now all but me had died.
The horrors of that awful night! My fears of days ahead!
I had no energy to rise. My limbs had turned to lead.
I must have slept for then I had a nightmare vision clear.
I cried aloud, and startled woke, all shivering with fear.
I must have stayed there for a day, or maybe it was two,
My mind was dark and all awhirl. I knew not what to do.
Perhaps a prison waited now, or even hangman's noose,
And that would always hang o'er me if somehow I got loose.
I wished my father was aboard to help and counsel me
But all he knew was on the farm and I was far at sea.
Our village parson always searched for answers in his book
But he might find no verse which fits and wasn't there to look.
The owner had no heirs and so the schooner would be sold,
The cash would go to government, and I'd be in the cold.
I could not eat. I could not sleep. I lay upon my bed.
I tossed and turned and tried to think, but I was full of dread.
I rose to pace upon the deck. A sail came into view.
Though far away it would come near, and then what could I do?
I could not bear the thought of all the questions I'd be asked,
So quickly I pulled up the jib and started sailing fast.
The schooner flew before the wind until the other sail
Had vanished in the waves astern, beyond our frothy trail.
Now I did plan to carry on, no longer languish here
But find some land then quit this ship, though nothing else was clear.
The captain marked his chart each noon and I saw that our track
Was just two days from Barbados so stayed on that same tack.
I reefed the main and eased the sheets and midships lashed the wheel.
The ship maintained a steady course and let me eat a meal.
That night I slept, but often woke to noise or change of motion.
The ship and I worked as a team to cross the rolling ocean.
The morning of the second day blue hills rose from the sea.
The new world had been reached at last. Here was a new country.
But now I feared to enter port. I knew not what to say
So steered around the northern end and found a quiet bay
To douse the sails and drop the hook in water clear and calm.
No house ashore or rising smoke, just mangroves fronting palms.
I always tried to do what's right but now I didn't know.
What was the right thing I should do, the next place I should go?
I settled down to rest and think and try to make a plan
For dealing with all other men, explaining who I am.
No one would miss that pair of toughs who'd done such evil deeds.
The owner had no relatives. The captain roamed the seas.
No one was left to mourn them or inherit what they'd had.
The ship would sell at auction, leaving me, unlucky lad.
I now began to wonder could I call the ship my own,
Sail on and sell her cargo, live aboard this floating home?
Perhaps it would be worth a try. I'd not been here before.
The schooner also was unknown on all these foreign shores.
If Captain I now called myself, say owner was back home,
Could I convince all who I'd meet so I'd be free to roam?
On this bright day I thought I could just play and not get caught.
I saw no better answer to the troubles I had got.
The cabin aft was large and bright, two bunks, a table, chairs.
I got my gear from the fo'c'sle and moved it all back there.
The captain's and the owner's stuff I sorted, rearranged,
Until it was my comfy home and didn't seem so strange,
Then organized the galley, fo'c'sle, cleaned until it shone,
At last there were no signs of people, except me, alone.
Fresh water was in short supply. A stream ran through the grass.
So I let down the rowing boat and loaded it with casks.
A little waterfall was found a short way up the stream
And soon the casks were brimming full with water sweet and clean.
I tied the boat and jumped right in that little swimming pool
To soak and scrub away the salt, in water fresh and cool.
I ferried water and washed clothes all through the afternoon
Until the salt and grime were gone, and some of my dark gloom.
While rowing back the final time a man called Where're you from?
Startled, my English voice replied We sailed from old London.
And is the captain there on board? I only have seen you.
A fever, sir, keeps him in bed, and likewise all the crew.
This was my story, all rehearsed, to tell and satisfy
The curious upon the shore who look and want to pry.
Do you need help? he kindly asked, and I was quick to say
No, they are feeling better now, will be fine in a day.
I swiftly rowed back to the ship, got casks all stowed below.
Before that story could be checked a-sailing I must go.
I slipped out of that bay at dawn and soon enjoyed a breeze
That sent us dashing through the waves across the clear blue seas.
Imagine how surprised I was to hear somebody say
Good morning boss in quiet tones, respectful in a way.
I quickly lashed the wheel in place and grabbed my rigging knife.
What more, I asked, is happening to complicate my life?
There came a black man down the deck in dirty, ragged clothes.
He patiently gave answers to the questions that I posed.
A slave who'd cut the sugar cane, his master too severe,
He'd run away and hid until my ship had anchored near.
He'd watched all day and seen no one aboard except for me.
At night he swam out, climbed the chain, and now, he hoped, was free.
I knew not much of blacks or slaves since on our little farm
My family did all of the work in field and house and barn.
He seemed an honest, simple sort and surely looked the part.
I put my knife away to think, but knew not where to start.
A young man, he was not a threat, he could not sail a boat,
So he would let me run the ship, do what I said afloat,
Help lift and pull, and cook our food, learn sailing as I taught.
It was his only chance, he said, he would be killed if caught.
His name was Samson. He was strong. He spoke his English well.
He stood quite calmly on the deck, not seasick in the swell.
I gave him food, some clothes, a berth, for what else could I do?
He had no other place to go. I badly needed crew.
So now to all my other crimes was added one quite grave:
I stole another's property, a young and able slave!
We headed for Grenada, a big island down the wind,
But several days we had to sail so started settling in.
The fo'c'sle became Samson's room. We tossed his ragged clothes
And he wore George the murderer's (but never would he know.)
He cooked our beans and boiled our tea. I showed him how to steer,
But when he stood a watch at night my door was locked in fear.
He talked about his slaving life, of toiling in the field
Until the owner sold his girl - a cruel heartless deal.
It was this sale which made him run. His Lucy sold away
As if she was a bag of salt. No longer could he stay.
What did she do, I idly asked, which made your master sell?
She was a housemaid, washed the clothes and mended them - too well.
Her perfect stitches caught the eye of one who traded rum.
The master swapped her for some casks and thought the trade was fun
In spite of Samson who he knew did love that stitching maid.
His slaves were things he bought and sold like anything that's made.
But I'm a man! was Samson's cry. We loved each other so!
It wasn't right he sold my girl! For him I'll work no mo'!
His mood was mostly silent gloom. No doubt he thought of her,
But work aboard went quietly, no grumbles, just a blur
Of changing sails and making tea and lighting fires of wood,
Preparing meals and keeping watch and sleeping when we could.
In just four days Grenada's hills, the ones we aimed to see,
Were passing by our starboard bow as green as green can be.
Would Samson stay aboard with me or would he run to land?
He'd learned a lot and might become a useful schooner hand.
He turned and begged most fervently to let him stay because
If captured as a runaway he'd suffer from the laws.
I needed him and so was pleased. We then agreed to say
I bought him in Barbados when my old crew ran away.
We didn't head for the big town that showed upon the chart.
Too many questions would be asked, our story torn apart.
We dropped our anchor near the head of pretty Prickly Bay
Well-sheltered from all stormy winds, a lovely place to stay,
A quiet spot with no police, no Customs, nothing save
A place to rest in safety after weeks upon the waves.
There were some buildings on the shore, like barns they seemed to me,
But Samson said he knew the smell - a rum distillery.
Out came a boat rowed by four slaves. A white man gave commands.
My country, health and destination were his first demands.
I claimed exhaustion, needed rest and time to make repairs,
The voyage long and difficult with waves and blustery airs.
My English accent and young age made worry fade away.
I was invited to his house for dinner the next day.
We both were tired from the trip so had a bite to eat
Then found our gently rocking bunks and quickly fell asleep.
A crowing rooster woke me up to brilliant morning light
Like on the farm where I had lived, now far beyond my sight.
Here on a boat across the sea I had to play a game,
Pretend my uncle sent me here. I had to change my name.
I spun my fable as we worked to furl the sails, now dry,
Replace chafed lines and grease the blocks while sun traversed the sky.
I feared the law. Authorities would papers need to see
And those would show the ship's owner was definitely not me.
How had I come to have the ship? What happened to the crew?
They'd lock me up, investigate. There's nothing I could do.
I had no Bill of Sale for Samson, saying he was mine.
For stealing him I would be thrown in jail for a long time.
As evening came I washed and dressed, a Captain I must be
While dining with the folk ashore who were unknown to me.
The four slaves brought me in to land, charade put to the test.
A Captain's poise was needed though my heart thumped in my chest.
Ashore I was unsteady, wobbled from the floating dock
To meet the master at his door along a flagstone walk.
The house was large and comfortable, his business did quite well.
We settled in big parlor chairs my story now to tell.
He gave me punch of rum and fruit, a sweet and potent drink
Which I sipped slowly so my brain continued still to think.
My host was kind, believing me, though thought my uncle odd
To trust his boat to one so young, unpracticed at the job.
I said the crew were skillful men who knew the arts of sail.
My orders were the simplest kind, the voyage could not fail.
But uncle didn't know how much the sailors wanted rum
And when we reached Barbados they also wanted fun,
Demanded wages, left the boat and drank for several days.
I couldn't get them to return so bought a strong young slave
And now have crossed the ocean with my cargo still to sell.
My listener finished his drink and said I had done well.
He took me to the dining room to share a hearty meal.
His wife and daughters joined us. Their beauty made me feel
A bashful backward farmer's boy who knew not what to say
But they were friendly, telling me of living on this bay.
I ate and ate, the food so good compared to shipboard fare.
No sea biscuits, the plates were piled with treats that seemed so rare,
Fresh vegetables and tender meat and fruits they did not spare.
Now they requested news of England, seldom reaching here.
I told them all was fine at home, the Royals were quite well,
The crops were good, the shops were full as far as I could tell.
The girls spoke of a coming ball where they might meet their beaus
And complained to their parents that they had no fancy clothes.
I quickly thought of all the cloth inside the schooner's hold
Which might contain some ideal gifts as valuable as gold.
We parted friends and back aboard I had a quiet night
Then opened up the storage hatch in early morning light.
The water had not entered there, the cloth completely dry,
I snipped small samples from the rolls which somehow caught my eye.
That afternoon I rowed ashore, the samples nicely pressed,
And told the kind landowner that his girls should choose the best.
When wife and daughters saw the cloth they cried aloud their joys.
Their dresses would look awfully nice, attract some handsome boys.
St Georges had a dressmaker so there they had to go.
I asked if I could ride along and they could not say no.
My hope was that the dressmaker would buy some of the rolls
And I'd see if the busy port was lawless or controlled.
The carriage ride that afternoon with horses strong and fleet
Took us from isolated bay to bustling city streets.
Quite nervously I looked around. Police I did not see.
So many people walked about that no one noticed me.
Our driver chose a watering trough - the horses needed drink -
While we went in the seamstress shop where I could watch and think.
Each girl chose patterns carefully. A dress could change her life.
Attract a man at next month's ball and she might be a wife.
The dressmaker took measurements and listed cloth to bring.
I showed the bag full of my goods, a piece of everything,
And she was keen to buy a lot no local store could sell,
Sure her designs with such fine cloth would do extremely well.
At tables in the shop girls bent to make each fancy dress.
The owner snapped at one dark slave much slower than the rest.
Barbados snail! her epithet. The girl looked very sad.
Said she would sell her down the street where men would treat her bad.
Told me Slow Lucy is quite new, bought just two weeks ago
From Rummy Jack who told her that the girl knew how to sew.
She can, all right, but is too slow and never does she smile.
This shop needs girls who will work fast, not this unhappy child.
I knew at once this was the love of Samson, my new hand.
To get them back together I devised a simple plan.
A brothel is a horrid place! She must not pass that door!
I need a girl to clean and cook. For me she might work more.
Negotiating quietly, a deal was quickly made
To swap the slave for yards of cloth, a fair and equal trade.
The carriage brought me home along the dusty island track.
The next day I would take the cloth and bring slave Lucy back.
When Samson heard the news of her his joy was plain to see.
Excited, he ran all about, gave thanks repeatedly.
He helped me lift the rolls of cloth and get them all ashore
Then worked to make the fo'c'sle space much cleaner than before.
He did not sleep a wink that night, so happy was the man.
The next day he worked on the boat while I set off on land.
The trip from bay to town was quiet, much was on my mind,
But then the trade of cloth for slave was done and papers signed.
The silent Lucy seemed resigned to any fate in store.
She knew not that her life would be quite different from before.
When we approached the anchored boat and Samson called her name
It was a wonder to behold how quickly Lucy changed.
She flew aboard into his arms, released from her own Hell,
No longer doomed to live without the one she loved so well.
Rejoicing is too weak a word for celebration wild!
Their lives transformed, together now, their faces always smiled.
Their happiness was plain to see and I was happy too
Because it seemed that now I had a happy crew of two.
Sam showed her to the fo'c'sle which he'd cleaned until it shone
And told her this was their own space, a place they could call home.
He fried some fish for supper as he often did and we
Ate all together at the table. She felt strange with me
There since she'd never eaten with a white person before.
I told her that upon my boat she would be something more
Than slave, she'd be important as a member of our crew.
We all must work, each do our part, there was a lot to do.
She was so grateful just to be with Sam again she said
She'd always do what I would want. Then it was time for bed.
I went into my cabin leaving them to spend the night
In any way they wanted to, however they thought right.
Reclining drowsy on my bunk recalling farming days,
A tapping on my cabin door got me up right away.
There at the door was Lucy wearing nothing but her shift
Apparently intending to give me a special gift.
Young slaves like her were often used by masters in the night
And she was willing to let me exert my owner's right.
This beautiful young woman made my body come alive.
Some primitive raw instincts bade me take this lovely prize
Right there, so close, all woman. All I had to do was take
Her to my bed and pleasure would be mine until daybreak.
I came so close and almost took this woman in my arms
But something stopped me. It seemed wrong. It would cause lasting harm.
To use Sam's woman was not right. I needed them as friends.
I must restrain myself or else their happiness would end.
Sam loves this treasure, she loves him, I really must say no.
I cannot come between them now. She's Sam's and she must go.
She hesitated, puzzled, wond'ring why I would refuse.
To turn her down was very hard, but that I had to choose.
When she was gone I lay again upon my lonely bed
While dreams about that tempting lass enthralled my troubled head.
The night seemed long. I slept a bit. The morning slowly came.
At breakfast they were both aglow, their lives a lovely game.
No longer slow, the happy girl moved quickly on the boat,
Was never seasick, did her part, enjoyed the life afloat,
While Samson too gained speed and strength, a powerful young man.
They came to seem part of the boat and seldom went on land.
If somewhere I could find another Lucy I would try
To win her heart and live with her until the day I die.
I felt the need to get away. Officials were quite near
And if they came to check the boat my crimes would be too clear.
I bade farewell to those on shore and they wished me success
In selling all my uncle's cloth. To thank me for each dress
A cask of rum was brought aboard for me to stow away
And drink whenever I might want to make an evening gay.
We parted friends. They never knew my story was untrue.
There was small chance we'd meet again, our friendship to renew.
In morning light we raised the sails and eased out of the bay
And set a course to east, avoiding town the other way.
The trade winds hit the eastern coast so no big port is there
But sailing on that side is fine with no hills blocking air.
We tacked three times then headed north, the course was plain and clear,
So calling Lucy to the wheel I taught her how to steer.
With so few members in the crew we all must play a part
And steering on an easy day is a good way to start.
We stayed well out, avoiding reefs, next island full in view,
A pleasant sail to Tyrell Bay, south side of Carriacou.
No person watched us from the land as we slipped in the bay
That sunny afternoon on such a lovely sailing day.
We dropped the anchor, furled the sails and coiled up every line
To make our schooner shipshape and show off her fine design.
With everything in order, to appearances at least,
I hoped no questioner would guess the owner was deceased.
Our show appeared to be unseen by anyone ashore.
There was a house and leaning barn with tools hung by its door.
The farm looked rather poor to me. The house and barn were small
And two cows grazing were the only signs of life at all.
The shore was just a sandy beach well-sheltered from the wind.
A field of wheat did not look good. Perhaps the soil was thin.
A small boat anchored near the beach with tall and rakish mast
Had dangling lines and scraped-up hull, a scruffy-looking craft.
This quiet spot felt good because my story had some flaws.
Too many questions could bring down swift punishments of laws.
So Lucy cooked a meal for us which tasted very fine
While I considered what might help to ease my troubled mind.
As sunset neared a wagon came out of the darkening wood.
Two horses plodded down the track then at the barn door stood.
The reins hung loose, the driver sprawled, perhaps he was asleep
Because he did not move at all, just lay upon the seat.
I worried there was something wrong, decided to go see,
So hoisted out the rowing skiff and dropped it in the sea.
An easy row to sandy beach, then pulling up my boat
I walked with caution toward the scene. My heart was in my throat.
When close enough the smell of rum explained the driver's pose.
From empty bottles by his feet a potent odor rose
And now I saw a second man stretched in the wagon bed
Who also must have drunk until he practically was dead.
They breathed but did not move at all. I left them as they lay,
Unhitched the team, put them in stalls with water and some hay.
The men would wake eventually, with aching heads or worse.
Tomorrow they might help me out or maybe they'd just curse.
Tonight I could do nothing more so rowed back to the ones
Who from the boat with fearful eyes watched everything I'd done.
Two lives depended on me now, for everything they had
Would vanish if I went away. Their lives would become bad.
I vowed to do my best for them, knew they'd be good to me.
Together we'd go far, I hoped, while living on the sea.
The morning sun had climbed quite high before we saw a move
Upon the wagon where the two recovered from their booze.
I watched them stumble to the house (a stop at privy first)
And pump some water for a drink - they surely had a thirst.
That afternoon they came outside and sat beneath a tree
To gaze across the shining bay to where our boat had three.
Because those men might do us harm we used a simple plan
To make them think we were far more. With Lucy dressed as man
We carried muskets up on deck, changed often what we wore,
And made it seem a bigger crew was looking at the shore.
I rowed in then and said hello - no threat, a peaceful sight -
Hoped they felt better, let them know I was the one last night
Who put the horses in the barn with water and some hay.
Somewhat embarrassed, shaking heads, they knew not what to say
But asked why I had anchored here and not by the big town.
I said I needed firewood and hoped to cut some down
Far from the vendors who would ask exorbitant big fees.
They understood and said I might collect it from their trees
As thanks for my most helpful act when they were fast asleep.
An hour later Samson chopped while I sat on a seat
And chatted with my newfound friends as we enjoyed a smoke.
They liked to talk and I was glad to learn of what they spoke.
The scruffy boat had brought in goods (from where he would not say)
Which partner farmer's wagon carried into town that day.
They dealt first with an "artist" who wrote Bills of Sale so nice
That shady merchants gladly bought their wagon load "half price."
Part of their windfall went for rum, then at the end of day
They started driving home while celebrating all the way.
If I had been an evil sort I could have robbed them then.
The cash was in the wagon with the two disabled men.
Instead, I had been helpful putting horses in the barn.
With such a friend they didn't mind recounting their strange yarn.
Before the sun was fully down, those two were drunk once more
And I had plans to see the "artist" they had seen before.
I left on horseback the next morn and rode the island trail.
I found the draftsman, paid his fee, and got two Bills of Sale.
One said that Samson was my slave, a fairly simple thing,
The other said the boat was mine, had waxy seals and strings.
With mission done I rode away, returned the horse to stall,
And said goodbye to those two guys I didn't trust at all.
When back aboard with anchor up and pushed by gentle breeze
We sailed away from Tyrell Bay I felt much more at ease.
Our papers said I owned the ship and also owned my crew.
Officials would think all was right, although it was untrue.
I had to make this story hold or give up all we had -
The schooner, cargo, floating home. Our lives would become bad
With Sam and Lucy slaves again and even worse for me
A dismal dungeon on the shore, steel bars instead of sea.
Our northward course passed Union Island and then passed Mayreau.
I still feared meeting port officials, knew not where to go.
We came to little Canouan in fading evening light.
The western bay was empty so we anchored for the night
Not close to shore but further out, a lengthy row from land.
I wanted just a quiet night without another man.
Now Lucy baked a loaf of bread and served it with a stew
Which filled us up. I tried some rum and that relaxed me too.
Not knowing if the natives might come sneaking from the shore
To jump aboard at midnight, wake us with a dreadful roar,
I said we must keep watch all night, some hours for each to do.
First Lucy, then big Sam and last I'd watch 'till night was through.
We loaded muskets just in case but there's no tale to tell.
The night was calm and we were rocked by lazy little swells.
Barbuda wasn't far away but getting there was rough.
The way was strewn with many reefs and dodging them was tough.
To sail there was too dangerous without sun high and bright
And water smooth to see the reefs. We needed perfect light.
Not much to gain from those few souls who'd gone that way before
So traders seldom ventured to that reef-defended shore.
I don't know why I had to go, perhaps it was a test,
But from some local guys I learned the route that seemed the best.
I bought some staples I could sell (white flour, butter, rice)
And waited for a lovely day with weather really nice.
The dawn was clear, the breeze just right, we sailed up to the north
And from Antigua's northeast cape we steered a compass course.
By ten o'clock the light was good and Samson climbed the mast.
From foremast crosstrees he would see the reefs before we crashed.
He shouted down, I swung the wheel, we threaded through the mess
Until we got to Spanish Wells and safely came to rest.
We pulled up to an empty wharf where two men took our lines.
It was our first time at a dock but everything went fine
And soon we were securely tied with sails all furled or stowed.
Now it was time to go ashore and try to sell our load.
The storekeeper, who'd tied our lines, now asked where we were from.
Antigua, with some flour, butter, rice. Would he like some?
Well maybe if the price is right and all is finest class.
We bartered back and forth until a deal was struck at last.
So Samson piled the wharf with stuff that soon moved to the store.
I wished my boat was twice as big. I could have sold much more.
Then handing him a mug of rum I lit a pipe and asked
About the people of the place - their way of life and tasks.
The storekeeper was glad to talk. His island was so small
His stories seldom found new listeners. He would tell me all.
The only crop was sugar cane and slaves did all the work
So men like him just gave commands and never touched the dirt.
They lived quite well in handsome homes, rode horses every day
And traveled to Antigua for the Christmas holiday.
Plantation news of rains and drought was boring me to death
When suddenly the topic changed and made me catch my breath.
They had a teacher for their kids but couldn't keep her long
Because she wanted to teach slaves which certainly was wrong.
The blacks should only know their jobs. They must be kept in place.
To teach a slave to read and write was surely a disgrace.
This teacher had to go away and take her bad idea.
Could I please take her on my boat and get her out of here?
A passenger? That would be new. Without a place to stay
She couldn't sleep aboard but to Antigua's just one day.
Perhaps it could be done if she could stand to make the trip
With cramped accommodations - nothing fancy on my ship.
She came to see me that same day and begged me for a ride.
Barbuda was intolerable because she simply tried
To treat the blacks as people who could learn as well as whites.
That made her a pariah, soon deprived of all her rights,
Forbidden contact with the young who might learn something "wrong"
And very much in trouble with an angry island throng.
From what the locals told me there was very little doubt
She really was in danger so I had to help her out.
I took her trunk and boxes, got her safely on the boat,
Gave up my bunk and cabin for her privacy afloat,
Had Sam row out to drop an anchor well away from shore
Then cast off dock lines and warped out to freely swing once more.
A drunken oaf might climb aboard a ship tied at the dock
But would not swim far in the night - at least that's what I thought.
At supper time there was fish stew, a Lucy specialty.
I took a bowl in to our guest, who sat most quietly.
When asked where I would eat my meal I answered with my crew.
She asked if that was normal and I said that's what we do.
The fo'c'sle table's large enough for all of us to sit
And share our meals together, just relax and talk a bit.
She never ate with blacks before but asked to eat with me
Because alone she was afraid. She needed company.
Our fo'c'sle meal was quiet. No one knew quite what to say
So I explained what we must do that night and the next day.
By mid-morning with sun up high we'd leave this place behind,
Sail to Antigua's port, unload, and regain peace of mind.
This seemed to calm her down a bit and made her think of home
Where she would go, gain safety, never more be all alone.
She said she was from Boston, Massachusetts, far away.
Some trader from the colony would take her back, for pay.
Her parents would be happy when they saw her home again
And she would teach the way she wants among more tolerant men.
With supper done, I showed her how to bar the cabin door
And said she could sleep well tonight, much safer than ashore.
I didn't rest but stayed on deck and paced around the rails
While waiting for the morning light and breeze to fill our sails.
I thought about my passenger, who came far, wants to stay
To teach all children, white and black, but now is chased away.
T'was brave of her to come so far and try to make a change
Among some folks she didn't know, whose thinking was so strange.
I also thought there must be better ways to get work done
Than forcing people brutally with whips and chains and guns.
She now was disappointed, sad, afraid of violence,
Without a friend to help her out or say her words made sense.
I'd take her to Antigua where she'd surely find a ship
To take her as a passenger upon the northward trip.