Chapter 27: Getting Started as a Boat Owner
Now I had to get the boat out of the Seacombe Slip. As yet she had only the bare Mast, and wanted rigging up with Shrouds and Sails. So I bought some Ropes, and an Old Sailor Man fixed the shrouds. The Sails I had ordered from Mr Mounsey on Credit for seven pounds ten shillings, and got them on Board and fixed. The man that was rigging her said "Now you must get a couple of Oars and a Boathook, and you will want an Anchor, and Chain for cable. Each demand gave me a Shock; but there was no getting out of it. So I had to submit, and put the best face on it that I could. "Now then, we are ready", I think. But the Boat had to be got out of the Place she was in and taken to the Cockle Hole Slip at the South end of the town. This I did not feel capable of by myself: so I gave a Shilling to a Waterman to take her round for me.
I had already agreed with a Flatman to join with me for our mutual Benefit, sharing equally the Profit we might make. So now I was waiting till he was relieved from his Flat. In the meantime, I had to stand by the boat at Tide time. While so attending, one Beautiful Morning, a Mr Howard, an old friend came down, and looking about, saw me attending oh my Boat. "Alloa", says be,"What brings you here?" I said I was attending on my boat. "What Boat?" says be, "0h", I said, "That Boat there, which has a Fish on her Mast head for a Vane". "Ah. What are you going to do with her?". "I am only waiting for a Man to join me", I said "Our object is to go to Frodsham for Potatoes, and bring them to Liverpool for Sale". "Well", says be, "Could we not have a Sail in her?" "For I am accustomed to Boating and can Manage her very well". "Agreed" says I, "Then let us have a Sail".
So we pulled the Boat in and both got on Board, and were presently out in the Stream, both of us feeling very Happy. For there was a fine gentle Breeze blowing up the River: it was a beautiful Spring Morning. I said "Where shall we go?" "O I think .." said Mr Howard, "let us go as far as Garston!" "Yes", says I, "let us go so far!" So we slipped along, both of us enjoying the Sail, when, looking up, we found we were passing Garston. "Now" says Mr Howard, "Now we have got so far, let us go on to Frodsham". I says "Very well. Let us go then". So we passed over whatever Sandbanks were in the way without the least observation, for we were very light, having no Ballast in. Now we were nearing the Frodsham River, when we began to think we ought to know where we were going. While we were in the Dilemma a Flat passed us by. Mr Howard shouted out "Ahoy! Can you tell us how to make for Frodsham?" "Yes", says the Flatman, "You see that Stalk?" "Yes", say we. "Then", says he, "Run it down and you will get to Frodsham". So now we kept steadily in View the Chimney ahead, and following it we went straight on till we made fast to the Wharf - a feat we were not a little proud of!
"Now", says Mr Howard, "as we are here; let us now enquire where Potatoes are to be got. So we enquired where we should get hold of the Farmers. We were directed to a Certain Public House where it was reported to us that the Farmers met. We went thither add met several of them and talked of Buying Potatoes. They met us very liberally, and said that they would supply us with as many as we could pay for. Now it was talked about how we should carry them. They said "all our Potatoes here are shipped in half load bags" "But where can we get them?" said we. "Oh" said they, "you get any quantity at Warrington. Now a new idea struck Mr Howard. "I will go straight back to Liverpool and fetch as much money as I can raise, and come back as soon as I can. And you and the Boat stop here till I come back". "Capital," I thought, "that is going into business at once", and wished him success and hoped he would bring plenty of Money.
Mr Howard came back the next day with two pounds, so we calculated how much he might spend of this for Bags, and the rest in Potatoes. After Mr Howard came back from Warrington with the Bags, we took them into the fields as arranged, and the farmers brought them down to the Boat in their carts. We should have liked more Potatoes, but we got as many in the Boat as we could Pay for, and she was nicely set down for sailing trim. Now we had to address ourselves for the homeward Journey. Mr Howard took the helm, of course, he being the only one that had knowledge of Boating. I was there simply to do as I was bid. Well, off we go and are clear of the Wharf . Now we are in the middle of the River; the Sails would not draw as we liked. A young Flatman was watching us, and he seemed to think he would do better than we did, so we asked him on Board to help us, which he was willing to do. Now came the Tug of War. Having an extra hand of course we thought we ought to make better Progress; but No we could not! A bright idea came across one of them - I don't know which it was, Mr Howard or the Flatman but it was this - I was to take a line and Jump ashore, and drag the Boat along, whether she would or no! This went on for a while till we came to a Place where she would go no Further. Evidently nothing would do but a fair wind: so we had to abandon the idea this Tide.
After consultation, we came to the conclusion to cast out the Anchor, and make a line fast to the Shore, so that we could get on board next morning about four oclock. So we went back to Frodsham, and called on Mr Ryley, who had opened a Barber's Shop. This was the same Mr Ryley who was to have been a Partner with me in the Boat. We told Mr Ryley our distress. "O", says he, "Never mind. I will go with you at four oclock in the Morning, and see you out of the River". At four O'Clock next morning we three started off to the Boat. After perhaps half an hours walk, we came to the place where we thought we had moored the Boat. What was our surprise - we could see no Boat! All three of us stared at each other, to think what had become of the Boat. But, on looking a little Farther, behold we saw her in the Middle of the River. For a moment we wondered how this could be; then, on going to the place where we had moored her, we saw how it was done.
The end of the Rope, by which we had moored to a Big Stone was still there; but the other End had gone with the Boat! This, during the night, had chafed itself through with the Motion of the Boat. So far, we could understand the matter; but how to get on Board was another Matter. We looked at each other for a solution. Then a bright though struck Mr Howard. Says he "I will swim on Board?" No sooner said than done! He had off his clothes immediately, went into the water and got on Board. Soon he was back with the end of a Rope in his Mouth. We got hold of this and pulled it towards us. But what was our surprise to see the boat full of Water. I suppose the Boat had been shaken at the time we had launched her, and this made her leak when she had a little weight in her.
We got on Board, baled the water out, got the Anchor out, and set sail for Liverpool, Mr Ryley taking the command. We got out of the River well enough, but, just outside, he ran us on a Sand Bank. We stuck so fast that it was impossible with all our scuffling to get off. As the tide was ebbing fast, there was nothing for it but to wait until four o'clock in the afternoon. So we concluded that Mr Ryley and I were to go back to Frodsham and Mr Howard was to stay in the boat till I came back to him with something to eat. I came back in the Afternoon. Mr Howard and I now had an Opportunity to survey the Sandbank, over which we came so gallantly with our light Boat. Mr Howard turned this to good account. "Now", says he, "when we get loose from here, our only Safety is to follow some Flat that is going to Liverpool the same as ourselves. Where a Flat can go; there we can go also". This seemed to me very good Reasoning. The Tide was going to turn shortly. So we kept near our Boat to be ready when the Tide would be surrounding our Boat.
At last the Tide came, and we jumped in to be ready as soon as there was a chance of Floating. At last we were surrounded with water, and, each with an Oar in our Hands, began to push with all our Might. Being low Tides I believed that if we did not get off Sharp, we might be doomed to stop another Tide. But the Boat moved; and off we went, following a Flat till we entered the Cockle Hold Slip. Then our Work was done for the Night. Next Morning, Mr Howard fetched a Lorry, and took the Potatoes up to St James' Market. How he got on with them I don't know, for I did not see him for some time after.
All I had now to do was to wait for my Mate that was to be. He turned up some time after this, which brought in another phase of my Boat Life. A Few days more and my Mate turned up and the real Business of the Boat began.