The Colonial Clippers
- Peter Roberts
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Much rivalry there was too between the ships, as to which should get her hatches battened down first, complete her crew and clear away for the February wool sales. And men in those days were not always easy to procure, for the long, cold Cape Horn passage and the prospect of shipping again out of London at 50s. per month were not very tempting experiences.
Thus it often happened crews ran in Port Adelaide and ‘runners’ or temporary hands, just shipped for the trip, had to be engaged to take the vessel round to Port Augusta. These returning by the Penola or the Royal Shepherd or the Aldinga left the shipmasters to trust in providence for men to work the vessels home.
But, now and again, bushmen coming down country for a spree at ‘the Port’, a mere hamlet, consisting then mainly of gnats, sand and galvanized iron, would be induced, once their money was gone, to sign articles for the trip home. Men who had never thought to use the sea again, bullock drovers, boundary riders, shepherds and station hands of every description were thus often found on board the clippers of the composite wool fleet. Many of them had not been to sea for years; but before they had got the smell of ice in their nostrils all the old tricks of the craft came back to them and better crowds no skipper could wish for, if at times apt to be a little intolerant and careless of discipline, with the liberal life of the bush so close behind them.
A hard experience, too, it generally proved for them, quite unprovided as they (for the most part) were with a sea-going outfit of any description and dependent on the often scantily supplied slop chest. And many a time when washing along the decks in icy Cape Horn seas or hoisting the frozen canvas aloft, while hail and rain pelted and soaked them, poorly fed, poorly clad, the merest sport of the bitter southern weather, they regretted with oaths deep and sincere their snug bunks and ‘all night in’ of the far away bush stations, where tempests troubled them not and the loud command of ‘all hands’ was unknown. Nor, as a rule, London Town once reached, did they lose any time in looking for a ship bound to some part of the country they had so foolishly left.
Sourced from Basil Lubbock’s book The Colonial Clippers (1921)