2.6 Eureka to Melbourne

Hayes writes with reference to the low quality ship he finds headed to Australia: “But somehow it is the sea.  I love it even as it is.”  The map shows another long eastward jaunt.

I’ve also included a link to download a google earth global map of the first six segments of volume 2.  The map centers on the Western United States with long arms reaching east and west.

November 21, 1909 – February 25, 1910

As he expected, Hayes found  a ship bound for Australia out of Eureka – a dubious one called “The Foxley, an English tramp whose men are either in jail or else fleeing to the woods to escape the ship.” In the year-and-a-half knocking about the western US after rowing down the lower Yukon, Hayes recovered his health and spirits but not his finances. In order to get to Australia he needed to sign on as a sailor.  He knows the Foxley “must be rotten” to cause all the desertions; furthermore the mate warns Hayes the captain will never pay him off in Melbourne regardless of the captain’s  promises.

Hayes quotes the captain directly: “Yes, I’ll give you a sight in her!” he shouted. “And I’ll give you five pounds a month, more than these hell hounds are getting. What’s more, I’ll pay you off in Melbourne. Get here on two days, I’ll sign you on.”  (Hayes’ quote.)

The chief engineer agrees with the mate: “He won’t do it.” (Hayes’ quote.) But doesn’t an adventurer has to “take a long chance” now and again? “It doesn’t look good,” but  there she sits: docked  at Eureka ready to sail for Australia. “There is no other ship,” – none of the better ships sailing to Australia need to replace fleeing seamen – and besides, the constant drizzle at Eureka drives Hayes to distraction; he convinces himself that if the Foxley is bad at least she’ll be warm and dry sailing south.

No one told Hayes about coaling the Foxley before the long run across the Pacific.  Leaving Eureka, the Foxley sailed straight north to a coal stop at Nanaimo, British Columbia with snow and “a thin shim of ice on the bay.”  What’s more, eight days out of Eureka, the captain had yet to formally sign Hayes onto the crew.

Dodd Narrows in a strong ebb tide, from Seabird Travels

Nevertheless, the captain was willing to give Hayes plenty of responsibility.  Right before sailing into Nanaimo, “The tides are strong, the currents tremendous coming into the Gulf of Georgia. I was at the wheel running the narrows down at the lower end two days ago, and it was all I could do to get the wheel over in time to miss the next rock.” The captain must have been impressed with Hayes’ seamanship. He formally signed Hayes onto the crew (this time swearing to pay him “a pound more than these stiffs I have in here now’) and renewed his promise to pay Hayes off the ship at Melbourne.  None of the officers believe the captain will keep his word. They scoff at Hayes’ gullibility but keep him at odd jobs around the bridge to hear his tales of the US, Africa, and the Yukon.

The first day of 1910 and Hayes still can’t get out of the cold. The Foxley ran up the Columbia River  to St. Helens: “Ice growing thicker, with great floes constantly passing.”  Most of the crew jumped ship even at dreary, cold St. Helens.  After signing new men with a months advance pay at Portland, the  “Scottish skipper” anchors the Foxley well offshore fearing more men will jump ship given the chance.  Anchoring midstream means more work for Hayes as he and three other boatman have to buck the current rowing a small boat ashore nightly to stand in the freezing rain “while our captain enjoys the embraces of his gay dolls uptown.”

Columbia River Gorge in winter, from American Rivers

At Astoria, lumber jacks load the Foxley with a mountain of ice-rimed timber:  maximizing profit for the long run to Melbourne that caused Hayes  “fear for the ship’s safety because of the high deck load.”  Immediately out from the mouth of the Columbia, the overloaded ship ran into “one of the worst storms I have ever seen.” The ship creaked and groaned, wandering about the compass, taking breakers over the forecastle while alternately listing thirteen-degrees from one side to the other.  The storm blew at them all the way to Alenuihaha Channel between Maui and Hawaii – a wild ride, but at least the rain driven from the southwest  fell warm.

On the British Foxley, Hayes’ crew mates  include, “Spaniards, Germans, Turks, Greeks and so on.” Already, in 1910, the Germans keep to themselves and speak eagerly of the war certain to come between Britain and Germany. Herman, a sailor from Hamburg, explains their motivation: “Dey vas in our vay! Dey have all der goaling stations! Us? Ve has notting, only some poor golonies. We will beat dem, vill make der vorld all Cherman!” (Hayes’ quote.)

As the crew squabbles national allegiance and the officers repeat their dire warnings about the captain’s perfidy, Hayes  looks to the natural world.  He measures the visible tail on Halley’s comet at perhaps half a degree in length. “As it is not yet round the sun and consequently farther away than later, we may see more of it later on.”

Halley’s Comet, May 29 1910

After Hawaii, with the Pacific calmed to befit its name, Hayes took up quarters “under a boat on the poop.” Halley’s comet disappeared behind the sun but Achernar, Canopus, and the Southern Cross put on a show. “Stars of the second magnitude now appear larger than those of the first on land, for here there is no haze to break the nightly vista of the heavens.”

Sailing past the Ellice Islands (now Tuvalu), the Foxley continues its alternating thirteen-degree lists all the way to Newcastle, Australia where she hopes to take on more coal.  Newcastle has plenty of coal – and a long line of foreign vessels waiting out a coal-handlers strike in a swarm of biting flies. The Nanaimo’s coal will have to last until Melbourne; the skipper orders half speed to conserve fuel sailing around Wilson’s Promontory past “ghostlike eucalypts.”

National allegiances finally came to a boil at the first bar in Melbourne. When an Irish messboy entered the pub where the Germans had gathered, words flew and “the German took off his long uniform coat and his cap” preparing to mop up the Irishman. “The latter knocked him head over heels through a plate glass window, then reached for his assailant’s coat and cap and ran for it to the ship. No hard feelings on the Irishman’s part, he was merely saving a shipmate’s clothing. The fight was merely a social interlude.”

Hayes liked the Foxley well enough but his contract said the captain would pay and discharge him at Melbourne. The chief engineer advises: “You had bloody well clear out of here, that blighter ‘ll never pay you off.” Echoed by the second mate: “If he tells the truth, it’s an error on his part. You’re definitely a part of the permanent crew of R.M.S. Foxley.” (Hayes’ quotes.)

When asked directly, “[The captain’s] face hardened. He is a man who has lost faith in his fellows, trusts no one, but has a semblance of honor still. He leaned forward as he spoke, gritting his teeth like a savage dog.” Saying: “I told you I was going to pay you off, and I will. But you’re the only one of these devils who gets a penny!” (Hayes’ quote.)

Collins Street Melbourne, circa 1890-1910

By two in the afternoon he’d been paid, accepted through immigration, and installed in a workingman’s hotel near the houses of Parliament. “I am eager to explore the city and its surroundings, to get a glimpse of Australia.”

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