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- The Malay Archipelago - 20/54 -


for his mother, and clothes, for himself, he had received four months' wages about a week before we sailed, and in a day or two gambled away every dollar of it. He had come on board with no clothes, no betel, or tobacco, or salt fish, all which necessary articles I was obliged to send Ali to buy for him. These two lads were about sixteen, I should suppose; the third was younger, a sharp little rascal named Baso, who had been with me a month or two, and had learnt to cook tolerably. He was to fulfil the important office of cook and housekeeper, for I could not get any regular servants to go to such a terribly remote country; one might as well ask a chef de cuisine to go to Patagonia.

On the fifth day that I had spent on board (Dec. 15th) the rain ceased, and final preparations were made for starting. Sails were dried and furled, boats were constantly coming and going, and stores for the voyage, fruit, vegetables, fish, and palm sugar, were taken on board. In the afternoon two women arrived with a large party of friends and relations, and at parting there was a general noserubbing (the Malay kiss), and some tears shed. These were promising symptoms for our getting off the next day; and accordingly, at three in the morning, the owner came on board, the anchor was immediately weighed, and by four we set sail. Just as we were fairly off and clear of the other praus, the old juragan repeated some prayers, all around responding with "Allah il Allah," and a few strokes on a gong as an accompaniment, concluding with all wishing each other "Salaamat jalan," a safe and happy journey. We had a light breeze, a calm sea, and a fine morning, a prosperous commencement of our voyage of about a thousand miles to the far-famed Aru Islands.

The wind continued light and variable all day, with a calm in the evening before the land breeze sprang up, were then passing the island of "Tanakaki "(foot of the land), at the extreme south of this part of Celebes. There are some dangerous rocks here, and as I was standing by the bulwarks, I happened to spit over the side; one of the men begged I would not do so just now, but spit on deck, as they were much afraid of this place. Not quite comprehending, I made him repeat his request, when, seeing he was in earnest, I said, "Very well, I suppose there are 'hantus' (spirits) here." "Yes," said he, "and they don't like anything to be thrown overboard; many a prau has been lost by doing it." Upon which I promised to be very careful. At sunset the good Mahometans on board all repeated a few words of prayer with a general chorus, reminding me of the pleasing and impressive "Ave. Maria" of Catholic countries.

Dec. 20th.-At sunrise we were opposite the Bontyne mountain, said to be one of the highest in Celebes. In the afternoon we passed the Salayer Straits and had a little squall, which obliged us to lower our huge mast, sails, and heavy yards. The rest of the evening we had a fine west wind, which carried us on at near five knots an hour, as much as our lumbering old tub can possibly go.

Dec. 21st.-A heavy swell from the south-west rolling us about most uncomfortably. A steady wind was blowing however, and we got on very well.

Dec. 22d.-The swell had gone down. We passed Boutong, a large island, high, woody, and populous, the native place of some of our crew. A small prau returning from Bali to the, island of Goram overtook us. The nakoda (captain) was known to our owner. They had been two years away, but were full of people, with several black Papuans on board. At 6 P.M. we passed Wangiwangi, low but not flat, inhabited and subject to Boutong. We had now fairly entered the Molucca Sea. After dark it was a beautiful sight to look down on our rudders, from which rushed eddying streams of phosphoric light gemmed with whirling sparks of fire. It resembled (more nearly than anything else to which I can compare it) one of the large irregular nebulous star-clusters seen through a good telescope, with the additional attraction of ever-changing form and dancing motion.

Dec. 23d.-Fine red sunrise; the island we left last evening barely visible behind us. The Goram prau about a mile south of us. They have no compass, yet they have kept a very true course during the night. Our owner tells me they do it by the swell of the sea, the direction of which they notice at sunset, and sail by it during the night. In these seas they are never (in fine weather) more than two days without seeing land. Of course adverse winds or currents sometimes carry them away, but they soon fall in with some island, and there are always some old sailors on board who know it, and thence take a new course. Last night a shark about five feet long was caught, and this morning it was cut up and cooked. In the afternoon they got another, and I had a little fried, and found it firm and dry, but very palatable. In the evening the sun set in a heavy bank of clouds, which, as darkness came on, assumed a fearfully black appearance. According to custom, when strong wind or rain is expected, our large sails -were furled, and with their yards let down on deck, and a small square foresail alone kept up. The great mat sails are most awkward things to manage in rough weather. The yards which support them are seventy feet long, and of course very heavy, and the only way to furl them being to roll up the sail on the boom, it is a very dangerous thing to have them standing when overtaken by a squall. Our crew; though numerous enough for a vessel of 700 instead of one of 70 tons, have it very much their own way, and there seems to be seldom more than a dozen at work at a time. When anything important is to be done, however, all start up willingly enough, but then all think themselves at liberty to give their opinion, and half a dozen voices are heard giving orders, and there is such a shrieking and confusion that it seems wonderful anything gets done at all.

Considering we have fifty men of several tribes and tongues onboard, wild, half-savage looking fellows, and few of them feeling any of the restraints of morality or education, we get on wonderfully well. There is no fighting or quarrelling, as there would certainly be among the same number of Europeans with as little restraint upon their actions, and there is scarcely any of that noise and excitement which might be expected. In fine weather the greater part of them are quietly enjoying themselves- -some are sleeping under the shadow of the sails; others, in little groups of three or four, are talking or chewing betel; one is making a new handle to his chopping-knife, another is stitching away at a new pair of trousers or a shirt, and all are as quiet and well-conducted as on board the best-ordered English merchantman. Two or three take it by turns to watch in the bows and see after the braces and halyards of the great sails; the two steersmen are below in the steerage; our captain, or the juragan, gives the course, guided partly by the compass and partly by the direction of the wind, and a watch of two or three on the poop look after the trimming of the sails and call out the hours by the water-clock. This is a very ingenious contrivance, which measures time well in both rough weather and fine. It is simply a bucket half filled with water, in which floats the half of a well-scraped cocoa-nut shell. In the bottom of this shell is a very small hole, so that when placed to float in the bucket a fine thread of water squirts up into it. This gradually fills the shell, and the size of the hole is so adjusted to the capacity of the vessel that, exactly at the end of an hour, plump it goes to the bottom. The watch then cries out the number of hours from sunrise and sets the shell afloat again empty. This is a very good measurer of time. I tested it with my watch and found that it hardly varied a minute from one hour to another, nor did the motion of the vessel have any effect upon it, as the water in the bucket of course kept level. It has a great advantage for a rude people in being easily understood, in being rather bulky and easy to see, and in the final submergence being accompanied with a little bubbling and commotion of the water, which calls the attention to it. It is also quickly replaced if lost while in harbour.

Our captain and owner I find to be a quiet, good-tempered man, who seems to get on very well with all about him. When at sea he drinks no wine or spirits, but indulges only in coffee and cakes, morning and afternoon, in company with his supercargo and assistants. He is a man of some little education, can read and write well both Dutch and Malay, uses a compass, and has a chart. He has been a trader to Aru for many years, and is well known to both Europeans and natives in this part of the world.

Dec. 24th.-Fine, and little wind. No land in sight for the first time since we left Macassar. At noon calm, with heavy showers, in which our crew wash their clothes, anti in the afternoon the prau is covered with shirts, trousers, and sarongs of various gay colours. I made a discovery to-day which at first rather alarmed me. The two ports, or openings, through which the tillers enter from the lateral rudders are not more than three or four feet above the surface of the water, which thus has a free entrance into the vessel. I of course had imagined that this open space from one side to the other was separated from the hold by a water-tight bulkhead, so that a sea entering might wash out at the further side, and do no more harm than give the steersmen a drenching. To my surprise end dismay, however, I find that it is completely open to the hold, so that half-a-dozen seas rolling in on a stormy night would nearly, or quite, swamp us. Think of a vessel going to sea for a month with two holes, each a yard square, into the hold, at three feet above the water-line,-holes, too, which cannot possibly be closed! But our captain says all praus are so; and though he acknowledges the danger, "he does not know how to alter it--the people are used to it; he does not understand praus so well as they do, and if such a great alteration were made, he should be sure to have difficulty in getting a crew!" This proves at all events that praus must be good sea-boats, for the captain has been continually making voyages in them for the last ten years, and says he has never known water enough enter to do any harm.

Dec.25th.-Christmas-day dawned upon us with gusts of wind, driving rain, thunder and lightning, added to which a short confused sea made our queer vessel pitch and roll very uncomfortably. About nine o'clock, however, it cleared up, and we then saw ahead of us the fine island of Bouru, perhaps forty or fifty miles distant, its mountains wreathed with clouds, while its lower lands were still invisible. The afternoon was fine, and the wind got round again to the west; but although this is really the west monsoon, there is no regularity or steadiness about it, calms and breezes from every point of the compass continually occurring. The captain, though nominally a Protestant, seemed to have no idea of Christmas-day as a festival. Our dinner was of rice and curry as usual, and an extra glass of wine was all I could do to celebrate it.

Dec. 26th.--Fine view of the mountains of Bouru, which we have now approached considerably. Our crew seem rather a clumsy lot. They do not walk the deck with the easy swing of English sailors, but hesitate and stagger like landsmen. In the night the lower boom of our mainsail broke, and they were all the morning repairing it. It consisted of two bamboos lashed together, thick end to thin, and was about seventy feet long. The rigging and


The Malay Archipelago - 20/54

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