18. New York to San Francisco

May 28, 2011

In 1902, it was cheaper to sail south to Panama, ride the train across the isthmus (before the canal), then sail up the coast to San Francisco than pay rail fare across the continent; so Hayes took the sea route despite an ongoing insurgency in Panama.

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Here and There Synopsis:

18.1 Sailing for Panama

May 27, 1902

In 1902 sea travel was less expensive than land travel; accordingly Hayes booked passage on the S.S. Finance headed for Colon, Panama. The canal across the isthmus has not yet been built, but a short train trip will take him across, then another ship up to California. He travels with a number of Chinese immigrants on their way to new lives in Peru and eight others enroute to San Francisco.

“What interests me greatly is the outbreak of a volcano in Martinique in the West Indies.” As the S.S. Finance left New York Harbor, a ship entered, “all burned down one side,” having sailed out of the harbor at St. Pierre, Martinique just ahead of the volcano that, “broke forth with all fury, destroying the city and killing every inhabitant in the place.”

Mt. Pelee, Martinique
”the worst volcanic disaster of the 20th Centruy”

18.2 Among the Bahamas

May 30, 1902

Sailing south past Cape Hattaras, the northern cold gives way to the “balmy sunshine of the tropics.” Now among the “sandy and uninteresting” Bahamas, the ship’s passengers see many small local boats as they sail quite near some of the Islands. “One, Watling’s Island, is said to be the island Columbus landed on when he reached the shores of the American continents.” (In1986, the US National Geographic Society suggested Samana Cay, just southeast of Watlings Island, as the island Columbus named Guanahani.)

“How I would like to see the new volcano!” Unfortunately, the S.S. Finance sails too far west for a look. This is not a sightseeing ship, but “all seems so lazy-like and comfy after the hunger and hard work of the Crown of India, or even the bitter bleakness of the Campania. For no care is taken of immigrants into the U.S.A. They are treated as cattle, or even worse.”

Only the reports they heard in New York of fighting in Panama mar the Caribbean idyll.

18.3 Panama Before the Canal

June 2 , 1902

Hayes starts out describing Colon, Panama in what seem to be glowing terms: “The coast of the South American Littoral is one of luxuriant greenery passing anything I have ever seen.” He goes on about the jungle crowding to the edge of the sea, and bursts of tropical rain. But then the paragraph ends with an abrupt change of tone: “It is sultry, hot, and depressing. The atmosphere is one of death.”

Razor back hogs wallow in the muck beneath huts on pilings, vultures dot the trees, and, “there are soldiers everywhere.” Child soldiers as young as twelve carry muskets and “some of the officers are barefoot and carry cane knives for swords. A towel round his waist completes his uniform.” Hayes seems to be relieved, for his own safety, that these are Columbian troops. He writes no explanation for the insurgency, noting only that the Columbian troops retook Colon and Panama.

Passing by Cuba, Jamaica, and Haiti on the way here, dust from the volcano lit the sunset skies, “The entire heavens were covered with a dull red glare.” But no one in Colon shows any interest; everyone here talks only of the war.

“The canal started by the French enters the Atlantic at this place. It is little more than a muddy ditch, and machinery is rusting away all about the place.” A little desultory work continues but only to keep the French option on the job alive. US work on the canal will begin two years later in 1904. But for now, the failed French attempt only adds to Hayes’ perception of Colon: “Over everything is an air of death and decay.”

18.4 Off Flamenco Island

June 4, 1902

The train carrying Hayes and the others bound for San Francisco moved slowly across the Panama Isthmus guarded by two cars full of soldiers of all ages, “from grey heads to boys not grown.” Along the way the train passes, “much machinery rotting and rusting away where the French have tried to dig the big ditch.” The jungle will soon undo all their efforts unless new vigor arrives.

Disease rages in Panama City, “It is said there are six hundred cases of small pox in the town,” also yellow fever and Changres fever – all this on top of the war. Hayes describes Panama City in terms perhaps even more bleak than Colon.

Safely aboard ship lying off Flamenco Island, the eight passengers headed on to San Francisco on the freighter Leelanaw hope to have escaped the city without contagion. The cruiser Philadelphia lies near them, and in the shallow waters near Flamenco Island, the masts and smokestack of the Chilean passenger ship Lloa, commandeered by the Columbian government and sunk by the insurgents, still protrudes above the calm waters.

Shipboard romances have already begun. Cramped quarters in the freighter push together, a Portuguese family of three, Hayes and two other men, “and two girls, one a Finnish beauty who has a black eye handed her by a passionate steward whom she tempted on the Finance on the way down. The other, Margaret, is a girl of the streets who is making the run from the east coast to the western slope to seek better pastures.” The Finnish beauty tried to “establish more friendly relations” with Hayes but with only $2.50 left to get to San Francisco, he rebuffed her. “One finds only trouble in such transient joys, and I don’t want more than I already have.”

18.5 Slipping up the Central American Coast

June 7, 1902

Calm waters, no work, glimpses of the Central American jungles, sea turtles, the occasional shark – Hayes settles down to shipboard gossip: It looks as though Anna, the girl from Finland, will settle for the “genial bald headed Swede,” who is engineer on the ship. Much ill–will seethes between the two women who must share a berth.

June 10, 1902

More gossip:  the steward separated the women, “to avoid murder, mayhem, assault and battery or whatever is in the offing, perhaps all three.” And “Anna has the steward roped, hogtied and branded.”

Of slightly more interest, Hayes sights a great waterspout caused by a cyclone at sea.

June 16,1902

As often when life is calm, Hayes comments on the wildlife around. Off the Lower California peninsula are: pelicans, cormorants, gulls, gooneys, giant jellyfish “some with long trailing arms thirty feet in length,” countless fish, sea lions and “the ever present porpoises that play about the ship’s forefoot.”

June 20, 1902

Passing Cedros Island, Hayes reflects on the courage of the early European sailors, “who in their tiny caravels explored these barren lands.” How much more trying the adventure must have been for those men even compared to the starvation and abuse Hayes endured on the Crown of India.

June 25, 1902

In fog off the Santa Barbara Islands, the Leelanaw nearly runs aground on what Hayes thinks was Santa Rosa Island. “The skipper knocked the Greek seaman from the wheel and threw it hard over, thus avoiding the crash that would surely have wrecked the ship.” The rough seas have also interrupted the romance of the engineer and the “voluptuous Anna,” who has gone below decks suffering seasickness.

Where to go next? Look for another deepwater ship in San Francisco? That seems like a fool’s game when still weak with scurvy from the last trip . “The $2.50 in my pocket will not take me far, but something will turn up. It always has.”

18.6 Back at the Iron works

June 30, 1902

Mrs. Emslie’s mission and the old job at the iron works provide a temporary safe haven. “The scurvy from the Crown of India lingers, my teeth are loose, my joints seem weak and painful.” But the long, tough voyage around the Horn earns Hayes new respect from the bosses at the iron works; they assign him lighter work until his strength can return. The wealth of fruits and vegetables available in California further speed his recovery.

The union wars, wracking the city when Hayes left to sail south, have now been won by the unions. Their candidate, Eugene Schmitz, a musician, now holds the mayor’s seat. “Then there are a horde of laborers, carpenters and so on who are ignorant, illiterate men, acting as statesmen… Even were they fit, or even honest, then their inexperience in government would make them unfit for the places they hold.” Hayes will not stay long in this town.

July 4, 1902

San Francisco celebrates the national holiday with “firecrackers, parades, and noisemakers.” Perhaps to find something more meaningful, Hayes accompanied a Mr. Paulsell and several missionaries to the Barbary Coast. The locals showed respect, even deference, until one of the missionaries started preaching about their wickedness. Having seen a lot of hard living and the difficulty of rising in the world without self respect, courage, and hope, Hayes remarks that those on the Coast, “Are little, if any, worse than the rest of us.” Perhaps his bible reading teaches him about who should and should not cast stones.

He cannot help but see the slave girls and opium dens of China town, but his revulsion is directed more toward the tourists who “gleefully pay a dollar, or five dollars to guides who take them thru the purlieus.”

All this brings him back to his very dark opinion of humans: “The more I see of men the less I think them worthwhile. The so-called lower animals are exalted by comparison….”

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15. South to the Horn

May 6, 2011

At the iron works in San Francisco, a general strike makes the city too dangerous, so Hayes signs on with a hungry four masted sailing ship for another tour around Cape Horn.

Click here for links to maps and downloads of more maps.


Here and There Synopsis:

15.1 A city on Strike

May 12, 1901

The mill superintendent’s browbeating at Eureka finally became too much. Hayes paid passage down to San Francisco on the steam schooner Santa Barbara, “and was seasick as a dog.” Upon arrival he found employment as a sheet iron worker’s helper at the Union Iron Works. “Pay is poor. $1.75 for ten hours.” On this slim salary, anything beyond bare living expenses still gets sent off in reparation for the misdeeds of his youth.

Still trying to live decently, Hayes finds rooms with Mrs. Emslie who runs a mission to women working the infamous Barbary Coast where business booms with soldiers coming and going to war in the Philipines, seamen from merchant and whaling ships carousing, and “especially Alaska fishermen.” Mrs. Emslie’s mission seems a fool’s errand to Hayes. As far as he can see, the women don’t want to rise. “They jeer those who would help them.” Nevertheless, Hayes stands with Mrs. Emslie in the streets enduring “catcalls and jeers” as she entreats all to a better life.

June 20, 1901

The iron works employs more than 5,000 men building “three torpedo boats, a cruiser, and several merchant ships … there is even a submarine, said to be the first of its kind,” and plenty of repair work. Hayes’ ears ring continuously from the constant hammering.

USS Grampus, one of two submarines
under construction at Union Iron Works in 1901

Labor unrest wracks almost every industry in San Francisco except the iron works. “The machinist, the boiler makers, and many others are on strike.” Replacement workers shipped in from Pittsburg run such a gauntlet of abuse from the strikers that the companies must quarter these “scabs” inside their workplaces. As an ironworker, not yet part of the strike, Hayes may pass the lines but not without surly bluster from the strikers.

July 6, 1901

Now the strike has spread to the teamsters and the seamen, paralyzing the entire town. “All workmen in the city are out now, and hoodlums are ruling the roost.” Perhaps if local police appointments reflected “their integrity as citizens” rather than fealty to the Catholic Church, some order could be instated. Corruption from top to bottom cripples the city.

15.2 One Soul Saved

July 27, 1901

Should the unions decide to run a labor candidate for mayor of San Francisco he would surely win. “Even the street sweepers have their union, the newsboys and up from there.” Workers and scabs clash by day and nightfall cues generalized violence and lawlessness.

Astonishingly, the ironworkers remain on the job. Nevertheless, Hayes’ work partner Risberg meets a mob of strikers on his way to work who beat him up – “for practice.” As an aside Hayes adds that Risberg spent eight months in jail in Honolulu caught smuggling 62 pounds of opium from China.

August 24,1901

With the strike escalating, leading citizens call for the governor to request National Guard intervention to restore order. “He refuses.” Strikers battle police daily in the streets. Hayes witnessed a dozen police round the Chronicle building just as twenty strikers marched toward them around the corner. “They opened fire without hesitation. One striker was killed, four bystanders hit.”

On the bright side: with all the strikers strapped for cash, “Times are a bit dull on the Barbary.” Even with the bawdy houses calm, Hayes complains that, “One of the worst features of San Francisco is the dope racket.” A shot sells for 10¢ at any drugstore. Mrs. Emslie, soldiering on, reports of its devastations especially in Chinatown. Hayes joyously accounts one man he’s seen saved from this life by the grace of God.

September 16, 1901

With the strike so dangerous, Hayes will no longer venture out after eleven at night. He dreams that maybe South Africa would be a better place, “where strikers are unknown, at least at present.” Of course he’s broke, but for the first time he writes of sending money home to help his mothers and sisters. That and repaying “for making sharp deals in days gone by,” leave him constantly down to the last dollar.

October 4, 1901

Desperate to get out of San Francisco, Hayes looks up “ old Herman, whaling shipping master,” who warns him off a sailor’s job here; better to try up in Portland.

15.3 Looking for a Ship in the Rain

October 10, 1901

On the steamer Columbia up to Portland from San Francisco Hayes tried a home remedy for the seasickness: “Someone told me if I would drink salt water it would make me very ill, but I would never suffer again.” The first part was correct at least.

Cold rain falls at Portland – of course. Hayes returns to Sullivan’s boarding house and inquires for jobs with the same Grant and McCarren who sent him out two years previously. Sullivan is “a man wholly without honor,” and Grant and McCarren “are not making money so easily as when they could rob a man of most of his wages before he earned them.” The dour mood of the city hastens Hayes toward any ship he can find. “Food is poor here, everything is bad. The San Francisco strike is hurting the entire coast.” Even another tour around Cape Horn seems better than this.

15.4 Four Masted Bark at Astoria

October 20, 1901

Hayes, now an “ordinary seaman” on the four-mast bark, Crown of India, sits at a shallow spot in the Columbia waiting a second day for the tidal surge to lift the ship off the sand grounding her. Ships rations, “poor food, almost none,” weaken all the men before the ship even reaches Astoria. Once there, the fourteen ships lined up waiting to be towed over the bar, signal another a long wait.

“The skeleton-like rigging,” of tall ships stripped bare in a gale blowing through the port of Astoria from the southeast against tall fir trees sodden from the constant rain make a gloomy start to the long voyage ahead. As does the cast of characters among the officers: A brutal bawling ship’s mate, his assistant “a swell headed third, just out of his apprenticeship,” and the American second mate, “a fair sailor.” “The usual drunken crew is aboard.” Some don’t even know under what name they’ve shipped.

Most ominous of all: “this ship is hungry.” Like the Austrasia, on his first trip around the Horn, the Crown of India carries wheat, but this flinty captain brooks no broaching of cargo. When the men complain about breaking fast every morning on burgoo, a “pitiful mass of glue,” the captain reduces morning rations to “a clouded, muddy liquid called coffee by the old Dutch cook.” Hayes wonders how men already weak from working full speed all day on poor food can be expected to pull hard around the stern seas off Cape Horn?

November 17, 1901

At noon the old cook boils salt horsemeat, with any bit left over served as dinner. Crown of India sails with the captain’s wife on board which surely explains the poor food: “it is rumored that he sold a good part of the ship’s stores to give her a good time on shore.” The swinging tides at Astoria regularly tangle the two heavy anchor chains holding the ship in port for nearly a month now. Hungry sailors haul them to the surface, fight them apart, then replace them in anticipation of the next tidal surge.

At least getting out to sea will escape this dreary place; after watching the fourteen ships ahead towed one by one over the bar, “We expect to be towed to sea tomorrow.”

15.5 300 Miles Due West

November 23, 1901

A fierce three-day gale out of Astoria forces sailors to scramble canvas down from the poles. All are seasick in the rough weather but the bellowing mate, never satisfied with the ship’s rigging, orders seaman aloft. “Hanging onto a jackstay with one hand, a bit of sail in the other and deathly sick at the same time is about enough for one in a gale.” The cook has found a few potatoes, but Hayes doubts this slight culinary improvement will last long.

15.6 Frigging South

December 11, 1901

“Frigging” means useless work. As when Fleck, the first mate, “Every night has kept us going sweating the braces, lifts, halyards and every rope on the ship.” Captain Sauter put a stop to it but Hayes doubts his kindness of heart. More likely Sauter sees the weakness of the crew and fears rounding “Cape Stiff” with sailors needlessly overworked to exhaustion.

Hayes’ constant seasickness, made worse by the bad food, brings Fleck’s bawling wrath. Toward those even less strong, Fleck does more than yell. Doudou, “a little German boy” suffers dizzy spells and cannot climb above the “sheerpoles.” For this Fleck “kicks the boy about with abandon, much to the dislike of the crew.” The Captain restrains Fleck – but then the Captain beat up an assistant himself.

15.7 “Drear Christmas Eve”

December 24, 1901

On a sailing ship like the Crown of India, officers quarter aft, sailors fore. In the forward mess, all the potatoes are gone which Hayes calls, “a calamity.” But aft, “there is plenty.” The men grumble – fearful of even less during the long dangerous journey ahead. The ever-resourceful Hayes offers to shave the “genial second mate” in return for a bit of extra food now and then. “In all his years at sea [the mate] has never learned to use a razor.”

The cheerless ship crosses the equator foregoing Neptune’s initiation rites. Rains “like I have never seen before,” soak the already despondent crew right through their useless oilskins for two days across the line. With all hands engaged catching much-needed fresh water, most of the fair weather sails blow off in a gale accompanying the rain. Morale is so bad, the ordinary sailors wish for a speedy trip home – contrary to their usual desire to sail slowly to earn as much as possible for the debauch at home port.

On Christmas Eve light directionless winds puff at the ship – just right for more of Fleck’s frigging: “It gives him a reason for chasing catspaws round the compass, every man hauling his heart out, no one alive enough to lead a chantey.” No sailor’s song for the holiday – just the tempo of Fleck’s constant cursing.

15.8 Jonah of the ship

January 1, 1902

Sailors on this starving, fearful ship look for a “Jonah” – the source of all their bad luck. A little rhesus monkey one of the crew picked up off Sumatra suffered this identity until the first day of the new year. After the monkey died of its mistreatment, the ship made “12 knots under to-gan-sals” for two whole days with the crew celebrating losing their totem of ill fortune. When the wind blew out, consensus settled on a good-natured Mulatto sailor as the new Jonah. But he takes it so cheerily, “Everybody swears, and wishes the monkey was back.”

As Captain Sauter continues restraining Fleck from excesses of physical abuse, Fleck bides the time sailing south content with curses and threats: “The old man can’t stay on deck all the time and watch you. Let any bloody man shirk, he’ll roost on the royal yard right round Old Stiff!” (Hayes’ quote) The unlucky Crown of India has already lost one man blown from the rigging before Hayes came aboard; ordering a sailor up to the high royals in the wild storms off Cape Horn threatens his life.

Hayes makes no mention of any celebration marking the New Year.

15.9 Fire in the Cargo!

January 5, 1902

Damp, rotting wheat will sometimes generate enough heat to catch fire. Perhaps if the hungry crew had been allowed to broach cargo, someone would have noticed heat building up before “smoke was pouring up from the after hatch.” A thousand miles from land, “a reckless Swede, Schillerstrom,” waded into the smoke saving the ship. “Must have been spontaneous combustion.”

In an unrelated development: “Fleck has sore eyes,” now swollen completely shut. Blind and enraged, Fleck calls the mulatto Jonah aft bellowing, “every curse and abominable abusive word he has in his large vocabulary.” No “man forward of the mainmast” can restrain his glee, hoping Fleck’s blindness holds until they arrive safely round the Horn. Even Hayes, who has read in his Bible that one should love our enemies and pray for those who do us evil, finds “it difficult to mean it when I pray for Fleck.”

15.10. Nearing the Cape

January 12, 1902

Even with fair weather, the Crown of India makes poor speed; “the ship has a foul bottom.” Waiting in Astoria those long weeks, the sailors dragged a “great scrubbing brush” from sided to side across her bottom – not very effectively. In calm water Hayes can see two feet of sea grass dragging along growing out from the hull.

“Flecks eyes are in frightful condition, and this arouses the greatest joy from the entire crew.” Whatever responsibility Captain Stuart has for starving the crew, at least he is not brutal. With Fleck lying below deck in severe pain, the Captain simply and competently sails the ship southward. When Crown of India “sprung a yard at its parrel,” the men would have tried to replace it for the Captain but he can see that they are weak “and is willing to give us a break.”

With humane treatment from the Captain, some of the gloom lifts from Crown of India. Still, this is a lonely dangerous place for any ship. The dangers of the Horn approach ahead and from behind, “ tremendous seas that follow us sometimes give apprehension of pooping a sea” – that is, a wave breaking over the stern of the ship.