17 Falmouth to New York

Which is more extraordinary, sailing on board a ship intentionally grounded on the coast of England?  Or sailing across the Atlantic while Marconi performs radio experiments on board?


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Here and There Synopsis:


17.1 Never Again

April 16,1902

Everyone on the Crown of India celebrates the end of this gruesome trip: Captain Sauter and his wife pound the piano they bought with “the proceeds of the food we should have eaten on the voyage;” Fleck taunts the men and “boasts of having taken all we have to give on this voyage;” and the crew buy drink, cigarettes, socks, and clothing on advance against their pay at Hamburg from the “bumboat” sharks who board the ship having negotiated a split with the Captain.

Hayes buys “a couple of cans of tinned milk that tasted wonderfully well,” and swears he will never again sign on as a sailor on a deep-water ship. Fleck’s sadistic taunting accurately describes the broken crew. Hayes writes, “All I can do is return home and try to regain my lost health, for to ship in another like this would kill me.”

At twenty-four, having roamed the world for nine years, twice sailing around the horn, never staying for more than a few months in any one place, one wonders what Hayes can possibly mean by “home.”

17.2 “Ful-an’-by! Right Over Ole England!”

April 30, 1902

The celebration turns out to have been premature. “A dead muzzler right down channel” prevents the ship from sailing north to Hamburg. “We have been beating up channel for near a month now, making a few miles then blowing out to sea and back again, a heart-breaking task if there ever was one.” Scarce food and futile work once again haunt the ship.

Then Fleck makes a mistake. Hayes’ port watch under Fleck’s command stumbles on deck at 4:00 AM preparing to join the night watch to turn the ship as it approaches the English coast for a tack back toward France as, “has been the custom for days on end.” But Fleck sends the night watch below, choosing to turn the ship as it sails closer to England. Fleck leaves orders for Juan Guerrero at the helm to sail “full and by the wind,” and a “sleepy Englishman … on watch as lookout,” before going below himself.

An hour later, Missouri and Hayes chat with “Chile” as the Swede Schillerstrom arrives to take the helm so Guerrero can go for coffee. Then, in the breaking light of dawn, “ I saw we were almost on the land, and ran forward to call the crew while Missouri endeavored to get the mate.”

The crew turned out to mill about the deck awaiting orders. Hayes ran back to the poop where Schillerstrom still had the wheel; no mate had yet arrived to give an order. Hayes caught “the roguish eye of Schillerstrom as he stood at the wheel,” still sailing straight on course toward the Dungeness light dead ahead. “Ful–an’–by! Full–an’–by th’ wind! That’s my course. I’m a–goin’ to run right over ole England if she doesn’t get out of the way!”

Fleck, “not realizing the seriousness of the situation,” arrived on deck just as the Crown of India drove onto the low sandy mud of the beach. All sails immediately fouled, blown back into the rigging of a ship run aground. “In a short time the decks were full of coastguards, tugboat men and many others wishing to be in at the kill.”

Oddly, Schillerstrom bears no responsibility for the grounding, “for orders are orders with a sailor and must be obeyed.” Captain Sauter furiously commanded Fleck out of sight below deck before trying “every method he knew to get the ship off the ground.” When none of Sauter’s tricks work, the tugboat captains gleefully offer Captain Sauter 3,000 pounds to pull her off the mud.

17.3 Behind a Strong Tug

May 2, 1902

Schillerstrom ran the Crown of India aground at low tide. An eighteen foot tidal rise lifts her free from the sand scattering the tugs hovering nearby. Now that the ship floats free again, a German tug, the Atlas, offers to tow her the 650 miles to Hamburg for 140 pounds. Sauter accepts and, beating steadily north past hundreds of ships, despite the cold, “it seems as if we are on holiday.”

Fleck still glowers behind Captain Sauter’s back, but he “is reduced to a mere passenger now, and the sailors are no longer afraid of him.”

17.4 Human Again

May 5, 1902

On their last day in the North Sea a favorable wind rose. Crown of India set some light sails and nearly ran down the tug Atlas. After a frantic signal to “shorten down,” both ship and tug turned up the Elbe passing Helgoland Island, Cuxhaven, Brunsbuttel, “and numerous towns and villages along the 90-mile reach between Cuxhaven and Hamburg.” The German landscape appears tidy and prosperous to Hayes with “a red-cheeked maiden busily knitting,” behind every flock of geese.

The mighty German ships headed downriver, “to China, to Australia, to New York,” testify that, “Germany is now a great and wealthy nation, proud of her place in the world and determined to surpass all others in her lust for power.”

Arriving at Hamburg, “a horde of thieves descended on us.” Hayes was able to corral Missouri and Charlie, a German-American lad, toward the German sailors home run by missionaries, but every other sailor on board found chaperones from, “houses of ill fame, brothels low and brothels high, boarding houses and bars.” While the others begin their riot in the fleshpots, Missouri and Charlie entrust Hayes with their gold sovereigns and the three treat themselves to, “a decent meal, clean and served as if we were human instead of lower than beasts.”

May 7, 1902

Charlie came for a pound, then later, despite Hayes’ remonstrations, “he took a couple of sovereigns and I have not seen him since.” With the location of the Seamanshaus, “in the quarter called St. Pauli, which is the sporting district of Hamburg,” Missouri hears the siren’s call too. “He was smitten with the ample physical charms of the Teutonic damsel and despite my efforts to ride herd on him he succumbed.”

Rising alone the next morning, Hayes tours Hamburg on foot, marking his way by a distinctive street sign, “Haltestallederstrasseneisenbaun.” After walking miles to Wandsbek, Haltestallederstrasseneisenbaun (which means something like trolley stop) appears on several different streets, heading in several different directions. Lost for the entire day, Hayes made it back to the seamanshaus just in time for the last of the five daily meals, “we receive for the modest sum of five marks per day.”

May 8, 1902

The sovereigns spent so far have been advance against payday – today. The entire crew showed up, many with “contusions and torn clothes,” but none worse than Juan Guerrero who, “tried to defeat the entire police force of Hamburg after tanking up on the fiery beverage served him at his ‘home’.”

With his pay each man receives a discharge order, based on ability and conduct. Most of the crew receives honorable discharge; only two sailors receive “decline to report” (Hayes’ quote) for ability but not conduct. However, Hayes is close enough to hear that Fleck receives “decline to report” for both ability and conduct. Captain Sauter fired him.

As the crew return to “the joys of St. Pauli,” Hayes continues to walk the city bumping into some other Americans – from Utah. “Why don’t you ask us how many wives we’ve got: all the rest do.” Hayes smoothed over this irritable remark and accompanied them to the docks where they met eleven other missionaries bound for Sweden. One of the young girls was pretty but he declined an invitation to visit their chapel.

At the Hamburg-American Line office, it turns out that a ticket directly to New York costs more than a detour through Liverpool continuing on by Cunard. So Hayes buys the cheaper ticket and one fro Missouri too who, “is repentant because of his folly in wasting his substance in riotous living.” Hayes’ other mates, Chris, Albert, McCusker, Schillstrom, and Chile show up, “trembling from spiked booze, from fighting and general dissipation in the bagnios of Hamburg.” The Crown of India sailed 176 starving, tortured days around the Cape Horn; after three furious days in port, most of her crew already need to find another ship to finance the next binge.

17.5 Spring on the Elbe

May 10,1902

Hayes and Missouri pay for passage on the British ship Warrington enroute to Grimsby, England. Spring on the Elbe pushes green grass and buds on the trees.

With no particular rancor, Hayes reports that Fleck is also sailing on the Warrington. He’s tame and speaks civilly claiming the skipper mistreated him by giving the bad discharge. “One would never realize he is the same man. Perhaps it will do him good, but he is rather old to mend his ways now.”

17.6 Stopover at Grimsby

May 12, 1902

“Three West Indian negroes, an old sailor who is as grouchy as they make them, and a couple of Jewesses from Galacia,” round out the passenger list on this “vile, rotten,” ship. When the old sailor stole Hayes’ one outfit of clothes, “the three big blacks barred the door while everybody in the forecastle turned his bag inside out.” All concerned lectured the old man, but “he was too old to turn over to the police, they would have used him hardly.”

“Grimsby is a drab town, redolent of fish smells and ragged, ill kept women.” But Hayes does admire the sailors here. They catch more fish than anywhere in the British Isles going out in all manner of seas in small craft with waves constantly dashing over them even in light weather.

17.7 Longing for Eureka in Liverpool

May 12, 1902

Liverpool “with its grimy waterfront and smoke,” rates no higher than Grimsby as a place to live. When longing for home back on the Crown of India, Hayes meant Eureka, California. After his mistreatment at sea, the mill manager Gill now seems like a quirky, congenial fellow by comparison to the likes of Fleck.

And an after thought from Hamburg: In the Seamanshaus hung pictures of crooks wanted by the German police. Among them Hayes recognized Dublin, the brawling Irishman from the Austrasia, now wanted for broaching cargo. The sailor’s hard life has already taken its toll on Dublin. “In a few years Dublin will have come to an untimely end despite his great strength, for he burns the candle at both ends.”

17.8 Marconi’s Wireless Contraption

May 16, 1902

Still in poor health, Hayes has no thought of signing on with a ship out of Liverpool. Instead, he and Missouri purchase tickets on the Campania, of the Cunard line. Quite by chance, Guglielmo Marconi, the Italian physicist and developer of the radio telegraph, also happens to be sailing on the Campania.

Guglielmo Marconi

“We have a notable in the person of one Signor Marconi, who is Italian in name, but is half English. A dark man, black and tousled hair, with deep, dark eyes. Handsome, I would call him. He seems so intense, for he is making an especial experiment with a wireless contraption slung between the masts. The sailors curse him and his invention heartily, calling it the ‘Macaroni System’, after its inventor. By this method he can send messages across the sea without wires, so he says. It is clumsy, cumbersome, has to be taken down every night and put up mornings. In port it comes down, and keeps the sailors on the hop a good part of the time.”

In addition to Marconi, the Campania carries many Irish, Poles, Russians, and Scandinavian immigrants, none of these described as quite so handsome nor quite so clean as the Italian/English inventor. To the immigrant girls, Missouri is something of an attractive novelty. “He never worries, like I do, for he always trusts in some beneficent angel to drag him out of the messes he gets into constantly.”

17.9 A Horseless Carriage in New York

May 24, 1902

Missouri disappeared before dawn on the day after the two arrived in New York.
Perhaps the bedbugs in the room on Hudson Street chased him away, or maybe he was tired of Hayes’ protective hovering. In any case, Missouri is gone and Hayes is on his own in New York.

Their trip with Marconi on the Campania established a new speed record, five days, sixteen hours, for westward Atlantic passage. Her sister ship, the Luciana, still holds the record going east. Germany has some fast ships too, all named for royalty and nobility: “such as the Kaiser Wilhelm Der Grosse, the Kron Prinz Wilhelm, Kron Prnizessen Cecille, Eitel Fritz and all the rest of the royal family.” When he was in Germany, swell-headed citizens boasted of war, “ridiculing the Americans at Manila and in Cuba” Soldiers and sailors stepped smartly everywhere about Hamburg. Already, in May of 1902, Hayes writes, “I wonder if there will be war.”

Not far from his rooming house, the very tall oddly shaped Flatiron Building begins to rise on a stone and steel foundation.

Flatirons Building 1903

And past this construction site chugs a bizarre new machine Hayes has never before encountered: “I see strange vehicles steaming up and down the main streets that do not have horses to draw them. These are called horseless carriages , or automobiles. They make a chug-chug sound like a motorboat, with blue, stinking smoke coming out behind. It costs ten cents to ride up Fifth Avenue on one of these cars. The horses shy at them, though are not scared at other city traffic. I like the street cars best, but have little money to spend on them or anything else.”

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