James Richmond's
California Story

The First Mate.

March 15, 1860 This is a busy morning. All is commotion on board getting ready to sail. Some of the sailors have had a jolly time and some donít feel so jolly now as they did a short time ago. They had evidently had their fill of Panama Whiskey. It as yet early morning and they all seemed to bear the first mate a grudge. He seems a very lordly and overbearing sort of fellow. Full of pomposity, strutting around the deck and giving orders to the men as if they were dogs. The men I had noticed seemed to dislike him and the Captain afterward told me they had no reason to do so as he never spoke pleasantly to them. And even passengers could scarcely get a civil answer from him. He was, I think a Spaniard. We were still anchored in Panama Bay and the sailors had somehow gotten hold of enough whiskey to make them crazy drunk.

The first mate came up on deck blustering and swearing at the drunken crew and ordering the boats guard to put them in irons. The men, of course, were mad as so many March hares. And full of fight only they did not dare show it. The guard had ironed three or four when they somehow came to a silent understanding and all of one accord began to crowd around the mate as he stood very pompously awaiting the execution of his orders. The whole pack of sailors came upon him, crowding him right up against the rail and in less time than I can tell it they had somehow raised his feet from the deck and over he went head over heels. How they did shout and cheer as he went down. And as he struck the water it seemed as if they went wild. "Thatís right, My Hearties, give him to the sharks," "Good shark food," and "Death to the sharks," were some of their exclamations. And indeed there was great danger that he would make food for the sharks as the bay was full of them. The Captain was soon on deck and sternly ordered the men to stop their talking and swearing. They were so excited they paid no heed to his orders. He did not wait to repeat it but enforced it on one nearest him with a blow from a marlin pike. He gave him a severe one which laid him full length on the deck and the rest began to realize that the Captain had given orders for the mateís rescue which was done quite expeditiously. He had quickly withdrew from deck, looking daggers at the men and swearing vengeance on them.

The poor fellow who had felt the weight of the Captains displeasure most severely, had picked himself up and was quite sobered. His first act was to apologize to the Captain, as did all the others. The Captain was friendly to them as so as they seemed inclined to obey his orders and did not punish they for their misbehavior. He said, but not in their presence, that if the mate had ever treated them decently it would not have happened. I think the Captain enjoyed his being ducked and at heart was glad they gave it to him. But of course, he did not tell them so. Order was once more restored and we were again out on old ocean starting.