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Friday, November 9, 2012


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Little beads of sweat popped out on Morgan's brow as he neared the sign on desk, and he had to bring up some bravado from within to steady his nerves.

When it was his turn he spoke up without being asked and said; “Morgan Baylor seaman first class, Sir.”

The first mate who was doing the hiring was a little surprised by the way Morgan had spoken to him. There wasn't any kindness in the eyes of the mate as he asked; “Have you served aboard any of our navy's fleet?”

Morgan stood at attention not slouching like so many before him had done and he answered by saying; “No Sir, but I received my training under men who have proudly served our nation.”

The next and final question was; “How old are you?” Morgan was tempted to lie and say twenty two but out of fear of being found out he said loudly; “Eighteen Sir.”  (He stretched his age about a couple of years).

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The mate conferred with another man, who he later found out was the Captain, and after what seemed like an eternity, the mate said; “Sign your papers and report aboard tomorrow at 0500, and do not be late.”

Morgan said; “Thank you Sir,” as he turned sharply and left. He thought that they couldn't help but see through his act, but the fact was he must have impressed them somewhat by looking strong and being in good condition.

Morgan ran down to the dock just to look at the vessel that would be his home for the next several months and he was proud to be one of her deck hands.

The next morning he arrived early but the watch made him wait until he was suppose to report. This was a little aggravating to Morgan because he was anxious to plant his feet on the deck of the "Westward Ho," and to search every nook and cranny for the more you knew about the ship the better you could serve on it.

Finally it was, “Come aboard and be identified.” This routine was far stricter than what he had been used to.  

On his other ships they were glad to see men sober enough to walk aboard who ever they were.  Many times they had to be hunted down, and carried back to the ship.

Morgan could hardly believe his eyes once aboard.  This ship was spotless, with three main masts that carried more sail than any ship he had seen. She was 210 feet long, double decked, and a rare beauty.

By the time he arrived the holds were loaded and secured and the passengers were beginning to arrive. There were many wanting to go to the gold fields but there wasn't room for them all and some had to wait for the next clipper.

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The first mate lined all the hands up and gave each their duties and said; “Check the duty roster every day to make sure you haven't been reassigned.”

Almost every sailor was expected to be able to set sails or take them in and to do it quickly.  Being prepared was important, for storms could arrive unexpectedly, and at night they were hidden by darkness. 

Then came the moment when they set sail for the West coast. There was a big crowd on hand to see them off; for at best it would eight or nine months before they would return.  Wives, children and in Morgan's case parents were on the dock waving.

Once under sail, the city faded fast and the Atlantic was reasonably calm. Morgan had never known a ship with such speed, and that with a maximum load.  His dream was at last a reality.

To be Continued 


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