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The Journal of George Hepburn
Part I - The Journal of George Hepburn, 1850 - Chapter VII


The old sailmaker gives further evidence of being a hardened sinner—The ship goes as far south as Stewart Island and as far north as Auckland to reach New Plymouth—He deplores the intemperance and dissipation on board—The amount of liquor consumed—They get ready to drop anchor at New Plymouth, but are blown out to sea for a week.

Saturday, June 1st, 1850, east longitude 120 degrees.—Expect to see Van Diemen’s Land by this day week, and New Zealand by Monday, June 17th. I understand that a sweepstake has been entered into by the gentlemen in the cuddy and forecabin, 28 tickets are sold at 10s. each on a bet that we will cast anchor on June 17th, ten days before or after. Whoever gets the ticket nearest the 17th and the ship’s arrival gets the 14 sovereigns less half a dozen of wine. The captain has sold one of his small dory boats to a gentleman on board for £16 (sovereigns), and to another one of his favourite dogs for five sovereigns. Every day there is merchandise of some kind or other going on. The other day I sold some German matches at 3d. each box, and 2d. each for paper boxes, single dip. I get 1s. per pound for carbonate, indeed what you like to ask, but unfortunately my stock is very small.

Tuesday, June 4th.—Since writing last it has been fine weather. To-day is as fine as you are likely to have on the 4th June in Scotland. Bright warm sun, calm sea, light breeze, and sailing very slow in east longitude 126 degrees, off the coast of New Holland, 270 miles south, so if we wished we might be in Port Philip in two or three days; but this fine weather makes us forget all our past storms, and we would willingly give a week or two longer rather than have a repetition of the wet. On Sabbath last we had service in the cuddy and our evening meeting. Early in the morning the old sailmaker took his old seat near our cabin door, busy making a pair of new canvas trousers to himself, and talked incessantly to those around him. I soon stepped up to him, and said he seemed to work to a hard master. "Who’s that," said he, "is it the devil ? " I said I did not think that the captain would have asked him to work, although he did so last Sabbath. He said "no ; it was his own job this." Then I repeated, "you serve a hard master." He said there was no fear of him going to hell, for he was to be drowned at sea where there was plenty of water, and there was none in hell. I said that such profane language was dishonourable in him, both to God and to his country. He said he knew all these things as well as me. Then I said, "so much the worse, for he who knew his Master or Father’s will and did it not would be beaten with many stripes," and so on a deal more; but nothing can be made of this old hardened sinner. I said he would yet perhaps remember what had been said to him on board the Poictiers.

Tuesday, June 11th, east longitude 146 and latitude 46 degrees.—Just off the southern most point of Van Diemen’s Land, but have got no sight of it, having been driven so far to the south of it by foul weather during the end of last week, which was wet for several days and so misty that we could not see the sun, making little progress in the right direction, hence weariness and discomfort. But yesterday and to-day have been both clear and dry with a strong breeze within a point or so of the right direction. The captain says he never saw such foul wet weather in this quarter before. We have been as far south as latitude 47, much nearer Otago than New Plymouth, our intended first landing place. Should the weather be anything favourable, we should see that place in ten days now—a most welcome sight to all on board. We think we will be content with a very humble place indeed after so long endurance in this miserable ship. In Scotland this is called the long eleventh day of June: here it is the very reverse or shortest winter day. At half past seven in the morning we can scarcely see to put on our clothes, and again it was dark at quarter past four p.m., at which hour our tea water is served out boiling; and after that hour we have nothing until eight next morning, which makes a long weary night. The ship oil has run short, too, so we are only allowed one lamp all night, having no alternative but to go early to bed. The children often sleep eleven and twelve hours at a stretch, but all in good health and spirits; indeed they have grown fat and strong at sea, while the writer has fallen off considerably.

Yesterday completed our eighteenth week since coming on board, but yesterday also reminded us of a still more important day to us, viz., the anniversary of our marriage, but we had no opportunity as on former occasions to have our friends together and enjoy ourselves over an extra bit of dinner, etc. Yesterday we had only pea soup and salt pork. This season also reminds me of the sacramental season at Kirkaldy on the ensuing Sabbath. Would that such a season was so near before us here. I shall endeavour to be with them in spirit, though many seas roll between. We have had great quietness on board these eight days past, in consequence, it is said, of the beer being all sold—that is in bottle. To give some idea of the quantity consumed since we left England, the steward told me that he had sold three hundred dozen of porter and ale and about 50 dozen of wine, a proof of the drought occasioned by the salt provisions, or rather a strong proof of the intemperance and dissipation carried on on board. It must have been a costly passage to some of them, but I believe the captain and steward realise the profit between them, which cannot be less than 100 per cent., but of our money they have received nothing except 1s. 8d. for two bottles the boys bought for their mother. Indeed we have been from necessity almost teetotallers these two months past still we have a small quantity in the hold could we get at it.

Tuesday, June 18th.—After writing last week we had a continuance of unfavourable weather, still keeping us too far to the south, even as far as Stewart Island, and the captain told me on Friday last that if he had had his will of it he would have gone to Otago first, but being chartered to go to New Plymouth first, he must endeavour to make it, which he said might now be done in five days with a fair wind. The same evening the wind changed right aft, and continued steady for three days. We never had more pleasant sailing right before a gentle breeze with all sails set ; also upper and lower stud sails, until last night the wind has fallen clean off, leaving us to-day in a dead calm. But so beautiful clear sunshine than I scarce can think there can be finer in Scotland, only chilly. A Mr. Cullen, one of the passengers, who has already been seven years in Nelson, New Zealand, says this is now quite New Zealand’s weather, even in winter. All preparations now making for coming to land. Yesterday all hands were employed in making a thorough cleaning, scrubbing the deck and bulwarks with sand and water, making everything look as tidy as possible for visitors that may come on board. To-morrow we take up the cable chain from the hold to be ready to drop the anchor at New Plymouth, there being no harbour there. These movements, together with the fine weather, seem to cheer the hearts of everyone, expecting to see the land in two days, being only about 250 miles off.

Tuesday, June 25th.—-It is now eight days since writing last, and still no sight of land. Our fond hopes of seeing land so soon after writing last week were very soon disappointed, and both our faith and patience put to further trial. Another gale of wind sprung up on Wednesday last, which blew very hard for three days, carrying us off our course out again to sea in a north-west direction. We ran under close-reefed topsails, but latterly had to lay-to, as it is called, and let her drift for about 18 hours under bare poles. Fortunately this gale was off the land, otherwise we might have blown on a lee shore. As it was we were kept under hatches for two days and sadly knocked about. But our ship rides out a gale gallantly, and on this occasion shipped very little water. On Saturday last it cleared up fine, but leaving us as far from land as on Saturday week before. Since then we have enjoyed very fine weather, but light breeze, and what is of it is against us, hence little progress. But we have been north as

far as Auckland, but can’t get into New Plymouth, so we have sailed almost the entire length of the islands. To-day we are said to be only 150 miles off New Plymouth, but when we may see it we know not for we have no wind. This delay has finished all the betting that was laid as to the ship’s arrival, yesterday having run down the last of them, so everyone gets back his money.


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