Chapter 28: The Start of Trading in Samphire
Both of us having no money to embark in the Boat, our Business was to take up any Work for her which required none. My Mate proposed first of all, that we should go to Talacre, a Place by the Point of Air (at the mouth of the Dee) where he knew of a fine bed of Samphire that we could go to. But we should require two Baskets to gather it, and a Pair of Scales to weigh it out after we had got it. The requisition was hard on me, for I had no Money. But the getting of these things was imperative if we would commence the Business. How I got these things I do not remember; but I suppose I borrowed the money and so got things. Then we were to lay in a small stock of Provision to last us a Couple of Days. I remember I got some bread and a Knuckle of Ham for my part, and he laid in some Bread and Cheese for his part.
So, we started off on Saturday Morning, and sailed away for the Point of Air. We got to the Place some time in the Afternoon, and sailed up and down. But "how to get on to the Samphire Bed?" That was the Puzzle. For, after scanning every Nook and Creek, we failed to discover the right Place to get in. So, the Tide failing, we had to give it up for the Day, and sailed back along the Coast until we got to Greenfield at the Mouth of Chester River. We cast out our Anchor and went into the Forecastle and settled down for the Night. Sunday Morning opened Bright and Beautiful, and we solaced ourselves on the Provision we had for our Breakfast, and laid down, discussing our Failure. As the Day began to wear away, my mate began to find out we had no Tobacco. Addressing me he said: "what shall we do for Tobacco?" I said, "I have a Handkerchief about my neck, which I think will get us a little." So he put me ashore, and I went to try what I could do. Being Sunday, all places were shut up; but I went about to try the best I could. At last I found a little Shop, where I got in and succeeded in swapping my handkerchief for some Tobacco, and went back to the Boat with my good News. Each of us took a Pipe of Tobacco from our new Store and we laid down on the Deck talking. Then a Flat came up close to us, on which was an old Acquaintance of my Mate. We told him of our Misfortune in not being able to discover the Samphire Bed. He was able to give us Marks and Particulars by which we should be able to strike the Right Spot. Having these particulars my Mate thought we had time before the day closed to Reconnoitre the Ground, and come back to our Anchorage at Night and start with the Morning Tide to our Samphire Ground. Which also we did for the Morning Tide brought us near the Place but not into it, for a strong wind setting into the Shore baffled us. Instead of our getting into the Place it drove us high up the Shore. We put out our Anchor; but nothing would hold. We put down some big stones fastened to a rope: that would not do either. Up we must go! and, being a High Tide, this left us high and dry over the ordinary Tide Mark, so that there was little Hope of getting her off.
Next morning we had the Fisher folks coming about, speculating about the Boat "How is she to be got off?" Some said "dig a Trench". Others said "She will not get off." One of the Fishermen offered me five Pounds; but my Mate said "Don't take that! for if we wait a few days we may have a Tide that will take her off." As for me I also had my cogitations: "Here am I. I owe for every shilling that is in the Boat. What is to be the end of this but to be buried in a Debt that I see no end of!" But I encouraged myself in the Lord my God who could make all things straight. I knew that all these things were the result of my own Folly: it was a just recompence from God for my unthankfulness for his Mercies that he had already bestowed upon me, and for being dissatisfied with the Situation I had and giving Notice to go to Sea. So my Mouth was stopped and had not a word to say in extenuation of my fault. So I laid myself at the Mercy of God and hoped he would make all things straight at last.
But that did not prevent our present Sufferings. For there we were - two men cast ashore, neither of us having a Penny or means to procure one Meal! Now the Lord put it into the heart of a Poor Woman to befriend us. Like as the poor Widow was appointed by God to supply the Prophet's need, so this poor Woman supplied us with a Meal of Potatoes every morning for four days till we got our Boat off on the Friday following. In the mean time, we had plenty of Time to survey the Place where the Samphire was, and made an Excursion to it every day as long as we were fast on the Shore. So, when we were at Liberty we were well acquainted with the Ground. On Friday evening on the fourth day there came an extra High tide which floated us off.
Having now a good Knowledge of the Ground, we got to the Samphire Bed with Little Trouble, and set to work with our two Baskets all Night and loaded the Boat. So at about Nine O'Clock in the Morning when the Tide Served we got under Weigh and steered out of the Creek on our way to Liverpool. On passing Chester River a sudden Squall came on and brought down our Foresail. For the Eyebolt to which it was attached gave way, making us Helpless till we got the Sail up again. So there we were Wobbling in the trough of the sea. Myself having no knowledge of Boating shouted out to my Mate: "Now then: what is to be done now?" "Why", says be, "you must get the Foresail up again!" "Yes", says I, "but how?" "Why, get an End of a line in your hand attached to the Foresail, and up with you on the Mast, and make it fast as high as you can!" "But how", says I, "can I get to the Top of the Mast with the Boat Wobbling about as she does?" "No matter", says he, "it must be done, or here we must stay. So, up with you!" Now I saw the Predicament we were in. It all depended on me. My Mate had to stick to the helm to keep the Boat right. And, in any case, he was too old and heavy to climb the Mast. So, I tried my best as need I must, and got my feet on to the ring of the Mainsail, and held on with might and main so as not to he Wriggled off, and made the line fast to the highest Ring I could reach and got the Peak of the sail high enough for it to draw, and so get in to Hoylake, where we refitted and made all snug.
From there we sailed out again, and made as fast as we could for Liverpool: but, being delayed in Hoylake we lost the Tide, and could not get round the Rock for want of Water. So we had to cast Anchor this side of the Rock Light House. We had hardly settled ourselves when up comes a Coasting Flat after us and cast Anchor just before and drifted down on us, so that we had to slip our Anchor and fasten on to the Flat. This, instead of proving a disaster proved to be a Blessing, for we made known our condition to those on the Flat. For, as before stated, for four days we had lived on the Charity of a poor woman who gave us one meal of Potatoes each day. The last meal we had was on the Friday Morning we left, and then, getting the Boat in the afternoon we had worked all that Night to load the Boat and started on the Saturday Morning of course without Breakfast, and now it was getting Dark, so that we were as hungry as Wolves.
Our Flatmen Neighbours got us down to some Boiled Beef they had left, and made up some Coffee, so that we fared like Princes and were well satisfied with our unexpected Meeting. When the Tide turned the Flatmen and ourselves got up our Anchors and were off to Liverpool. We arrived at Cocklehole Slip about Ten O'Clock. I went to my lodging for the Night, and borrowed a Shilling off a fellow Lodger for my mate's Lodging. Early next morning by the first Tide we started for Runcorn to dispose of our Samphire. On the Way I asked my Mate how we were to sell the Samphire. "O", he says, "we shall have to Hawk it". I says "How?" He says "from House to House". I says " That will be awkward, for I never Hawked anything in my life". "Nor have I" says he, "If it depends on my Hawking we shall never sell it." "If the case is thus", says I, "I suppose I shall have to turn to. For if we don't sell it we shall have nothing to Eat."
So it was concluded that my Mate should wash it, and I carry it away in a Basket and do the best I could. I went off with the first Basket full on my Head, and the Scales in my hand. I had not got the length of a street before I sold one Basket full and came back for another, which brightened up my Mate's eye, and he said "Go ahead, I will have plenty ready for you". So we were both in good humour, and I went on selling Basket after Basket, as fast almost as he could get them Ready. Then he looked up to me, and said to me "I think we are selling too fast". His idea was that we were selling too Cheap at three halfpence a Pound. Says he "If we go to Warrington with the remainder we shall get two pence per pound. Suppose we now go and have some Bread and Cheese, as we have plenty of money; and then we may think further what we will do."
To this I assented, as I did to anything he proposed, he being the Elder Man and must know better than I what was proper to be done. So we left off selling and went into a Publick House and ordered Bread and Cheese and Beer. While over our repast we were happy and contented, being a contrast to our former Usage of one meal of Potatoes a day and only hard Work into the Bargain.