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“ Well, how can I tell ? that's not in my way, but the knowing ones in these matters said that she must be about eighteen months old, so we have taken that for a departure as to her age. I love her now as if she were my own child; and so will you, Tom, like a sister, when you know her. She calls me her father, and you may do the same, Tom, if you like, for I will be as good as a father to you, if you are as good a boy as you now seem to be. I like to be called father, somehow or another- it sounds pleasant to my ears; but come in now, I think you have compassed the compass, so you must learn something else."
“ There is another way, Tom," said Bramble, as he seated himself in his large chair, “ in which a smart prentice may be useful to his master; and it is of quite as much importance as the compass
which is in heaving the lead. You see, Tom, the exact soundings being known will often enable a pilot to run over the tail of a bank and save a tide; that is, when he knows that he can trust the man in the chains. Some seamen are very particular in giving exact soundings, but all are not: they care more for the song than they do for any thing else, and though the song is very musical, yet it wo'n't get a ship off when she's on shore. Now, two thirds of the seamen who are sent in the chains, will not give the soundings within half a fathom, and, moreover, they do not give them quick enough for the pilot in many cases; if, therefore, you learn to heave the lead well, be correct in your soundings, and quick in giving them, you will become of great use to me. You understand, don't
“ Yes,” replied I.
“ Well, go up into my room, and hanging on the nail behind the door you will see a lead line— bring it me down here."
I did so, and then Bramble explained to me how the fathoms were marked on the line, and how the soundings were given out.
“ You see," said he, “ wherever there is a mark with a piece of leather or bunting, whether it be white or red, it is called a mark; and if you had five fathoms of water, you would cry out by the mark five; but at the other depths there are no marks, but so many knots tied as there are fathoms, as here at nine ; and then you
would say by the deep nine. Now run the line through your hand, and see if you can repeat the marks and deeps as they pass.”
I did so.
Very well. Now for the song, for there is a sort of tune to it.” Bramble then again passed the line through his hands, giving the song to each fathom, half fathom, and quarter fathom, and making me sing them after him, after which I had to repeat them by myself. The next day he took out the marks and knots from the whole line, and, giving me a two-feet rule to remeasure it, made me put them all in again. This I had to repeat three or four times. By this plan they were fully impressed on my memory; and as for the song, he made me sing it almost every half hour for three or four days, Bessy generally repeating, in her clear voice, from the back kitchen, or up stairs, “and a quarter seven — by the deep nine.”
On the fourth day Bramble said, “ Well, Tom, I think both you and Bessy may leave off singing now. You have yet to learn the most important part, which is to heave the lead; but we must wait till we get on board of a vessel for that. Observe, Tom, it's all very well singing when you've plenty of water, and I like it, for it sounds musical and pleasant to the ear; but in shallow water the pilot's answer must be much shorter and quicker, as you will find out by-and-by."
IN WHICH I GO AFLOAT, AND OBTAIN SOME KNOWLEDGE OF THE ENGLISH
It may be as well here to remark, that the system of pilotage is different now from what it used to be at the period of which I am writing. The Cinque Port pilots now carry vessels from the Downs to the River, and from the River to the Downs: their pilot
age extends no further. Vessels seldom require pilots for the Channel, and do not take them unless they are bound to some port in the Channel with which they are unacquainted, and those pilots who ply in the Channel are termed Hoblers; but at the time I refer to, the regular pilots used to go out in their galleys to the chaps of the Channel, and take charge of vessels all the way up; which, by the new regulations, they do not do. The arrangements for pilotage have been much improved of late years, and those employed are better qualified.
I had remained at Deal about three weeks, when an outward. bound Indiaman anchored in the Downs : her pilot came on shore, and she made the signal for another. It was Bramble's turn galley was launched, and we went on board.
The ship was bound to Plymouth, from whence she was to sail with convoy to a certain latitude. The weather was now. fine and frosty, and we made sail when the tide served. As soon we were fairly out in the Channel, Bramble went with me into the main-chains, and showed me how to heave the lead. After several attempts, in which I sometimes would hit the spare topsail yard upon which I stood, sometimes would nearly break my own head, and once contrived to throw the lead over the hammock rails in board, I succeeded in getting it round over my head ; and when I had once gained that point, I made fewer mistakes. In two days we arrived at Plymouth; and as Bramble kept me at it till my arms ached, nearly half the day, I could by that time heave the lead pretty fairly, that is to say, without danger to myself or other people. The day after we arrived at Plymouth, we got into a pilot boat, and went out in search of employment, which we soon found, and we continued chiefly taking vessels up to Portsmouth and down to Plymouth, or clear of soundings, for some time. During this time, my practice at the lead was incessant, and I became very perfect. When I was not at the lead, Bramble would make me stand at the binnacle and watch the compass, so that, by the time we arrived at Deal again, I was pretty competent in those two branches of my art, except that, having practised the lead mostly in deep water, I had not acquired accuracy and expedition in giving the soundings.