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be conceived, by those unacquainted with such matters. When a ship is put on the berth for passengers, great pains is taken to make her appear well. She is cleaned and put to rights, and made to seem as roomy as possible. The passenger-agent frequently advertises her as of much larger tonnage than she really is. We have often known of ships of three hundred tons advertised and placarded as being of five hundred tons burthen. The thousandton ships are often less than eight hundred, and so in that proportion. As a general rule, no sort of reliance should be placed on the showy placards of the passenger-agents, unless those agents are men of known repute. Nothing is easier than to write bold and catching advertisements. The emigrant should not choose a ship because it is puffed in print. Let his own eyes be his judge. And in order that he may thus judge, let him attend to the following points.
First. See that the ship has a proper height between decks.
The "between decks" is the place where steerage passengers are lodged; usually, though not very properly, called the steerage.
The old class of ships are low between decks, rendering it difficult for a person to stand erect there. They are, also, more liable to impure air, produced by bilgewater, the breath of the passengers, and the smell of their victuals. This class of vessels do not admit of sidelights, which in the newer ships are of so much comfort. Be careful, then, to select a ship which will admit o your standing erect between decks. Remember this.
All the liners can be trusted in this particular, and so can many of the transient ships.*
* A register of ships, both packets and transient traders, will be found at the offices of Harnden & Co., giving information as to the age, size, height between decks, &c., &c., of the various ships. Ship owners and masters are invited to send a description of their vessels to Harnden & Company,
Second. Choose a ship that has high bulwarks.
The bulwarks are a sort of breastwork, which protect the passengers when they are on deck, against the wind and the sea. The higher these are the greater will be the protection. It is exceedingly annoying, and at times distressing, to be drenched with spray whenever the sea is a little rough, which must be the case in a ship which has low bulwarks. On no account go in a vessel whose bulwarks are less than five feet high. The bulwarks of the packets, and of many transient ships, are much higher than this, and are exceedingly comfortable in this particular.
Third. See to the water-closets.
Do not go in a ship, even if the captain will give you a passage, which has not good water-closets, and a suitable number of them. This is a point of great importance, and in some instances has been most shamefully neglected by passenger-agents, and ship-owners and masters. Before you pay your passage money, look well to this. Do not take the promise of the agent that there shall be suitable closets. See that they are already made, and enough of them. In a large ship there should be at least three of these closets for the use of the steerage passengers and sailors; besides those for the cabin and second cabin passengers.
Fourth. Look well to the conveniences for cooking.
Some radical improvement in this department is desirable, even on board the best of ships. A new plan will soon be submitted to ship-owners, by the writer of these pages, which cannot fail of proving of great convenience to steerage passengers, in the matter of cooking.
According to the present system, the steerage passengers usually cook their victuals in the galley used for the cabin passengers and the crew. The galley is a sort of kitchen, placed on deck, in the forward part of the
vessel; and is necessarily small in size, and in most vessels greatly exposed to the weather. In a few of the very largest liners, the galley is under cover, which is a decided improvement.
Where the same galley is used for the cabin passengers, the crew, and the steerage passengers, the latter have to wait the convenience of the others; and then to do their own cooking by turns. It must follow, therefore, that no very great regularity can be depended on. There are vessels where separate, and tolerably adequate conveniences for cooking, are set apart for the steerage passengers. Choose such by all means. Do not put your foot on board of a vessel, where the comfort of the steerage passengers is not sufficiently regarded to furnish them a separate galley.
Fifth. Be very particular not to take passage in a ship too deeply laden.
more heavily in rough They ship more water, This is a point of great
Such vessels are more uncomfortable at sea than those moderately loaded. They labor weather, and do not sail as fast. too, and the decks are often wet. importance in the choice of a ship, especially for women and children.
There are, however, few vessels which present this objection. The American liners, and the first class of transient ships, seldom load too deeply. As a general fact, it is only the smaller and poorer transient vessels that are objectionable on this account. Of such, beware, if you value comfort, speed, and safety.
The emigrant in search of a ship cannot always tell how deeply laden she will prove to be, when all her cargo shall have been taken in; because much of the cargo may be, and generally is, put on board during the last day or two before sailing.
The smaller and poorer classes of ships are frequently chartered by certain passenger-agents, at a specific sum, with liberty to stow them as full as they can with both passengers and freight. Under these circumstances, they frequently put a large quantity of salt, coal, iron, crates of stone-ware, or other heavy lading, in the hold, which makes the vessel too deep. We have seen some of the smaller class of ships haul out of the docks at Liverpool and elsewhere, altogether too deep for comfort or for speed. Vessels thus loaded are the ones that make such distressingly long passages, as is sometimes the case.
To guard against the difficulty now under notice, take passage in none but the larger and better class of vessels, which are seldom improperly loaded; and through a reputable passenger-agent, who will give the inquirer correct information on the subject.
There are, on the other hand, vessels too lightly loaded, causing them to be crank and uneasy; and in some instances, unsafe. This does not often happen, as the discomfort of a crank ship is so great that the captain will be careful to guard against it.
Sixth. The character of the captain and mates is of importance to the emigrant.
If it be possible to do so, the passenger should inform himself on this point. There is a great difficulty about it, however; but he should not fail to inquire of a really honorable passenger-agent. And even then he may not be correctly informed, owing to the inability of the agent to judge. A captain may appear exceedingly pleasant and amiable in port, when at sea he is quite the reverse. And so with the mates. There is a go-ashore set of manners, which may be put on when the go-ashore clothes
We once made a passage to the United States, in a splendid packet-ship, the commander of which was any
thing but a gentleman, in his conduct toward the second cabin and steerage passengers. In port, his appearance was exceedingly inviting; and no one could have supposed that his treatment of the steerage passengers would be almost brutal; certainly unfeeling, to a most painful degree. The cabin passengers were disgusted with his conduct, and probably not one of the whole number of those on board, whether in the cabin, second cabin, or steerage, would ever willingly take passage with that man again. This is an exceedingly rare instance of the kind, we know; the captains generally being men of courtesy and kindness.
We know another captain, by no means particularly prepossessing on shore, who is proverbial for kindness to his steerage and second-cabin passengers. In many a rural district of the old country, is his name mentioned with great respect by the friends of those who have taken passage with him. And in the New World, beside many a fireside in the far West, and by many an emigrant mother and her children, is he remembered with sincere and hearty gratitude. His unaffected kindness to his poorer passengers, will be cherished in their memory when he shall have gone to his final sleep.
The chief mate of a ship usually has more to do with the steerage passengers at sea than the captain has, and it is of the last importance that this officer be a man of patience, kindness, and consideration.
If emigrants would take a little pains to speak well of a ship and officers which have done them justice, both in letters to their friends at home, and by published cards of thanks, and an occasional present, (which would cost but a trifle for each passenger,) it would go far toward inducing uniform good treatment of emigrant passengers.
We have thus given the leading points to which the emigrant should turn his attention, in the choice of a ship.