Steamers and Schooners of the Central Coast

Early Sailing with John Brown


In this brief sketch of my roving sea-faring days, I am giving the names of the many ships on which I booked as a sailor, as well as the various ports from which I sailed.

For many years the only life I knew was "A life on the ocean wave, and a home on the rolling deep." With its ever present dangers, hardships and stirring adventures, with which I am familiar as those only, who have spent the greater part of an adventurous life on storm-tossed seas.

Starting on as a young lad, my first port was from my native home, Gothenburg, Sweden. From there I went to France on the ship "Trijo." Leaving the ship at Dunkirk, I tramped all the way to Calais, France-a distance of several hundred miles.

From there I shipped on the "Hiawatha" to England, and from Shields, England, left on the "Twilight" on a long voyage for Valparaiso, Chili, and from there to Arica Bay where we loaded with salt-peter for one return to England. From Falmouth, England, we next sailed to Rotterdam, Holland and back to England again.

From a steamer called the "Isela," I went to Kronstadt, Russia and from there to Dundee, Scotland. In another steamer, "France," I sailed from Lieth, Scotland to Copenhagen, Denmark.

From Denmark to Antwerp, Belgium, and there shipped on a big, full- rigged ship called the "America," going to Callao, Peru, carrying out ammunition for the Chili and Peruvian war. From Turguana, Chili, we loaded wheat for our return voyage to Liverpool.

The "Patrinia" was the next ship I signed on, going from Liverpool to America, from America to Glasgow, Scotland, and from there shipped on the "Ben-y-glow" to Cardiff, England.

From Cardiff, we started for Singapore, an island city south of Malay Peninsula, but encountering a big storm just outside the British Channel, our ship drifted ashore with twenty six men hanging to the rigging. Other ships were disables at the same time, but the "Ben-y-glow" was the only one to save her crew, with the exception of one man. All my clothing was lost, but my sailors chest-which has followed me on many a perilous voyage, I found amongst other wreckage on the beach. It contained a bible and a towel- and these three things, rescued from the briny deep, I have with me yet in my home in Morro Bay.

The "Ben-y-glow" was valued at 18,000 pounds when she left Cardiff, but the next morning found her a total wreck, high and dry on the beach, worth all told not more than 18 pounds.

The stage took the crew overland back to Cardiff the following day. With eight of the men I shipped on the "Amforthried" to Hong Kong, China, and from there on to "Sarahagnot" back to London, England, then taking an immigrant ship, the "Lockieatnff," we went to Melbourne, Australia, from there to Wilmington, New Zealand, and thence to Newcastle, New South Wales.

In the steamer "Vexness" we sailed to Hamburg, Germany, and shipped from there in the "Jed-Peters" to Demerra, West India.

I then left the far east and for the first time to the Pacific coast. In the ship "Rengnalia" we left Newcastle, Australia for San Diego, California, and when there, I concluded to leave the ship for a time and work on land. But the sailors home is on the "rolling deep" and he longs for the ship that plows its way through mighty waters, unmindful of danger and sails fair and bold for distant ports. I shipped again, going on the "King Henry" from San Diego to Portland, Oregon, and from there to Tacoma, Washington, and in another ship called the "James Browline" came to San Francisco.

When once on the coast of California, I have never left it, but have been in every port between San Diego and Alaska. In 1803 I came up from San Diego as far as Morro Bay, for the purpose of working on Morro Rock, while here I married Miss Romo and since that time have made Morro Bay my home.

In 1898, seeing the names of some old ship mates in a local paper, I started to San Francisco to meet them. As it was a dry year in this part of the country and not much for any one to do, I shipped to Carlook, Alaska, where I fished for three seasons and saved enough money to provide for my family and also purchased a piece of valuable property in Morro Bay on my return from Alaska and have resided here with my family ever since.

So this short sketch will give some idea of the adventurous life I lived in former days. I have met all sorts of people of every known nationality in the world, have been in every sort of sailing craft from a fishing boat to a three scuttle yard ship and have filled every position from cabin boy to chief mate. But I think it can be said of me that I would do anything possible for my friends, and in any circumstances, who ever hunted for me could always find me.

I have been around Cape Horn nine times, encountering high seas, hurricanes and tempestuous weather that people little dream of in the snug, protected waters of Morro Bay. I was twice in the "Twilight," twice in the "Patrinia," once in the "Amforthried," once in the "Sarahagnot" and once in the "Lockietuff," but this gives little idea of the dangers of that far famed point of land that juts out from the lowest part of the South American coast into the seething water of the Atlantic Ocean.


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