Fire in the win'lass and fire in the chain; There's fire down below. There's fire in the forepeak, fire down below; To me weigh, heigh, heigh, ho. There's fire in the cockpit, the bos'n didn' know; There's fire down below.
Author: James H. Williams
Publisher: Pickle Partners Publishing
A weathered manuscript discovered among old papers was the foundation of this powerful book. James H. Williams’ spellbinding recollections of his adventures before the mast in sailing-ship days bring alive again that gruelling but romantic era on the seas. Though he called himself a common sailor, James H. Williams (1864-1927) was a most uncommon man. An African-American seaman with reddish hair, he left his Massachusetts home to go to sea at the age of eleven. Yet in spite of his limited formal education, he, wrote in later life with a verve and color that many professional writers would envy. Although he had once killed a man in escaping from a hell-ship at Hong Kong, Williams possessed a high sense of moral virtue. A practical man who survived countless storms and two major shipwrecks, he instinctively sought out the ships of masts and spars in an age in which the merchant marine was making its transition from sail to steam. Within him, too, burned a reforming fervor so intense that he became an uncompromising—and highly effective—enemy of all who preyed upon the common seaman. Vivid, salty, and enlivened by an unfailing sense of humor, James H. Williams’ reminiscences form a remarkable chronicle of life and adventure under sail and along the waterfronts of deep-water ports from America to China. Here are the thrill of the whale hunt and the terror of a boat’s crew as an infuriated whale capsizes them. Here are episodes of hardship and the brutality of bucko captains and mates that belied the beauty of taut, queenly ships. Here, too, are magnificent accounts of sailing ships and the stalwart men who manned them; of heroic deeds; of exotic anchorages and boisterous sprees ashore; of the immensity of the sea and its awe-inspiring gales and typhoons; of shipwreck in the English Channel on a bitter winter night; of drifting on a spar in the lonely South Atlantic and surviving for three months on an uninhabited island.