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A WET SHEET AND A FLOWING SEA
By ALLAN CUNNINGHAM
WET sheet and a flowing sea.
A wind that follows fast,
Oh, for a soft and gentle wind !
There's tempest in yon hornèd moon,
By RAYMOND MCFARLAND
This is a tale of the brave American fishermen who dare the sea in the ugliest weather. The Nimbus and the Harvest Home were both from the same little New England harbor, and bad blood between them had been shown on the fishing grounds. Then the storm came. Both ships fled for a friendly haven, and thanks to the skill and courage of Skipper Deane the Nimbus came in safe. The Harvest Home went ashore and was wrecked, but the crew of the Nimbus rescued the crew of their rival.
IGHT overtook us in the midst of the Gulf, a
night such as two decades of men had not seen. What a night aboard the two schooners! For months they had been together, each gleaning a rich sharvest from the seas. Now they were fighting to ward off the angry wolves of the sea that time after time leaped over the rails of the schooners in their hunt for human prey in the darkness and storm.
They fought the elements as only Comberton to schooners could, for the night of the wind and wave had no mercy on man or his craft. They were tossed and hurled about at the mercy of the gale, helpless to give one another aid in their helplessness, yet no man was on either schooner whose heart was not is gladdened by the companionship of the other crew upon the turbulent waters.
The Nimbus took the lead of the other, for her stern was deep in the water and she could beat to windward as the other could not. A lantern was hung to our main boom, sending its fleck of light through the murkiness of the storm and giving the anxious watchers aboard the Harvest Home the only human hope there was on the wild wastes during those hours of terror.
No man aboard our schooner had known a gale like s that. The little schooner was tossed upward time and time again by the wind and the wave, its bow going high in the air only to plunge downward frightfully into the craters between the waves. Over to starboard and again to port she was hurled, with her masts all 10 but touching the waves; but she always came back from the waters. Seas broke over her bows and over the rails alike, sweeping from stem to stern in an irresistible rush.
Double life lines were strung between the fore and 15 aft shrouds and from the main rigging to the quarterrail cleats. The seine boat was lashed anew to the
The dory that we had taken from the Harvest Home in return for ours that was destroyed by her was torn from its lashings by the boarding seas 20 and swept overboard; only the protecting interposition of the main house saved the two seines, lashed though they were, from a similar fate.
Through every hour of the night John Deane stood at the wheel except when the seas which boarded the schooner swept him more than once into the lee scuppers after breaking his hold at the wheel; it was only the strong rope about his waist that kept him lashed
to his place and prevented him from being swept into the seas by the fearful rush of the waters. Part of his crew were above deck with him during half the night, ready to give help if any were needed, and clinging as s best they could to the shrouds or standing rigging or the main boom.
Others of the crew were below in the forecastle or cabin with the gangways closed tight against the floods, reeling about like drunken men, each man clad to in his oilskins and wondering to himself how he would look when the waves washed his body ashore, if they should be so kind as to do that instead of batting him back and forth on the bottom sands until they wore him out like driftwood.
So we came through the dreadful night conquerors over elements at their worst. When morning came that morning had no dawn — there was nothing about us but the raging seas, nothing save the uncertain shore that we thought we saw and the Harvest Home, struggling two miles astern and a long way to leeward.
Inwardly every man gave thanks that he had been spared to see the lurid light that followed the black night — for it is against the human grain to be swalas lowed up at night without knowing where or how it happens. We were still fighting when our schooner was discovered by the anxious watchers on the headland at Souris, fighting for every inch we gained against
the wind, fighting from being swamped, fighting to reach Souris harbor which, unknown to us, was only half a harbor now.
Old Bill Spurling crept back from his station at the mainmast where he had remained during the night, s crept along the top of the house, holding to the main boom for support. He yelled down to the skipper from the top of the closed cabin slide, “How's she heading up, skipper?"
It was a fine thing for Bill Spurling to stay by his 10 captain that night, always at hand if counsel or strong arm was needed, never volunteering a suggestion to the young skipper or implying by word or gesture that he did not have implicit confidence that the best man to command the Nimbus in that gale was the 15 submerged young giant at the wheel.
“We'll go in on a pinch, Bill. Get both anchors ready. Stand by to cut the lashings. Short chain!” the skipper yelled back at him.
With infinite watchfulness against the seas Bill and 20 his picked crew overhauled short chain and cable alike, secured the anchors so they could be released from the rail by the blow of the ax, and distributed the crew in the bows and at the shortened foresail in preparation for the dash into Souris harbor.
“The seine boat's gone!” cried one of the men, pointing astern to the boat.
Not gone, but broken open by the waves during the