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faction which I promised myself, I embarked at Gravesend, in June 1785, for the Mediterranean.
WITH light winds and variable weather we coasted along the southern shores of England until we reached the river Ex in Devonshire, where the remainder of the ship's cargo was to be received. Strong westerly breezes succeeding to the milder airs we had experienced, rendered our approach to Exmouth tedious; but a pilot observing our signal, came on board; and taking charge of the vessel, relieved the captain of his immediate responsibility.. The entrance of the river Ex is not wholly without difficulty; and being compelled to work up it with an unfavorable wind, we stood so far over on the eastern bank, that the ship, whilst in stays, grounded abaft. Upon her head-sails filling, she drew off again into deep water; but the concussion was violent, and severely felt by me in the cabin. Hastily ascending the deck, I found the captain remonstrating with the pilot upon his error, and its probable fatal consequences: His observations, however, were but little attended to; and the fellow, with a thousand imprecations, swore that the ship had neither grounded nor had been within a quarter of a mile of any danger, notwithstanding. the evidence of all on board to the contrary.
THE solidity of the vessel, which had not been launched more than three months, resisting the accident, she fortunately recei
ved no material damage; but the circumstance could not fail of giving rise to reflections upon the dangers to which are exposed, in the hands of this boisterous and daring class of men, the lives and fortunes of so material a part of our countrymen.
DURING our detention for three weeks near the village of Exmouth, I made frequent excursions to the beautiful grounds which embellish the estate of Powderham Castle, belonging to Lord Courtenay, as well as to several other picturesque si uations near Exeter. At length we took a final leave of England.
THE exactions to which captains of ships, and sea-faring people in particular, must submit, were not avoided, so long as one of the harpy race of port-residents remained with us. The pilot employed to conduct the vessel out of the river, who was a worthy prototype of him already mentioned, demanded a payment so much beyond the limits of justice or common usage, that our captain refused to injure his owners' interests by consenting to allow it. An altercation took place between them, which engrossed their attention so deeply, that we had proceeded at least ten miles before the pilot began to recollect the distance which every moment increased his difficulty; when, blustering and swearing, two potent arguments with the vulgar, he declared he would not quit the ship without the sum he had claimed, which I think was thirty guineas; and dared the captain to take
him to sea. An order to "hoist topsails," given with coolness and determination, induced the extortioner, however, to reflect upon his situation, and quietly consent to receive a draft for the amount which was justly his due. Liberated from further persecution, we crossed the Bay of Biscay, where watery mountains, rolling progressively over each other, gave an idea of endless agitation, and precluded all hopes of tranquillity. A few days brought us within the dividing shores of Europe and Africa; but a strong Levanter or easterly wind prevented us from entering the Mediterranean. We therefore stood off and on, as the mariners term it, or, in plain language, quitting the shore at night, sailed out to sea until the morning, and then tacking, returned during the day to nearly the situation we had left. We amused ourselves with fishing for bonito, which are in these straits in great abundance, and when successful feasted upon our prize; prudently salting or pickling such parts as were judged to be worth preserving.
THE Coast on each side presents a variegated and agreeable prospect. Lofty and majestic mountains display their sunburnt sides in every direction, and villages in valleys unite their beauties to the picture; nor were the splendid laurels of General Elliot and his magnanimous garrison forgotten in the details of those atchievements to which the position of Gibraltar has given birth.
A PROPITIOUS breeze from the west, on the fourth morning, favored our hopes; and sailing as near to the European side of the straits as prudence would allow, we had an indistinct view of the shipping and villages at the foot of this formidable rock, the protecting barrier of our Levantine connections.
On the following day, the weather being calm, and the small island of Alboran not more than a mile distant from us, the captain ordered the boat to be prepared, and we landed on a rock inhabited only by seals and birds; the former, some of which were of unusual size, boldly surrounded our boat in considerable numbers; but after a few shots killing several, the remainder took to the sea. On the summit of the island, and in various crevices in its craggy sides, we found birds' nests with eggs; and during our stay, many large eagles and vultures, as well as aquatic birds, hovered near us. We returned before sunset to the ship..
In the latitude of Cape de Gates we fell in with an English merchant vessel bound to Leghorn; and upon going on board were politely entertained with a very excellent dinner. The captain, who was a joint owner of the vessel, and of good education, returned our visit the next day; and these reciprocal civilities continued nearly a week, when an inhospitable gale separated us from our consort, and put an end to the utility of the few
signals which the captains had established between them: That in which I was more immediately interested, was a table-cloth hoisted at the gaff end, which was received as a card of invitation, and indicated that some particular dainty had been ordered for dinner. This signal was seen flying every day; and was more narrowly watched than such as related to Algerine pirates, or the Barbary corsairs.
AFTER an agreeable passage of about three weeks we landed at Nice.
THE situation of the town, at the foot of the Alps, the numerous villas and vineyards which appear in its suburbs, the entrance of the harbour, and the bustle of business within it, constitute an enchanting scene to every traveller, but particularly to him who has, for the first time, experienced a month's confinement on ship-board; and the little delay in landing, which must be submitted to whilst the formalities of the customhouse are gone through by the captain to obtain pratique *, adds, perhaps, a higher zest to the pleasure of re
A TERM used by mariners, to signify the permission to land, after having attended to the forms of office established in different customhouses, to prevent the introduction of contagious diseases.