1850: Capt. John Short, Jr. to Jones Perkins Veazie

A typical Brig of the 1850s

The author of this letter — really a ship’s log — was Capt. John Short, Jr., of the Brig A Hayford, which belonged to Jones Perkins Veazie (1811-1875), a commercial merchant of Bangor, Maine. On this voyage, which began on March 16, 1850,  the ship’s coordinates tell us the brig was leaving Bangor and three weeks later it is still 1000+ miles north of the equator and east of the West Indies. The Alta California (San Francisco) newspaper reported that the Brig A. Hayward arrived in San Francisco on 24 August 1850 — 160 days out of Bangor with a consignment to N. Lord. And indeed, the Sacramento Transcript of 20 September 1850, reported the following:

Fresh Goods. — Col. Lord and Captain Young, formerly connected with the steamboat Gov. Dana, have commenced business together in a new line. They have opened a store on Front street, between X and L, and have just received a fresh assortment of goods from the States, per brig A. Hayford, consisting of provisions, wines, etc. Give them a call, and our word for it, they will give you good bargains.

I could not find a registry for the brig A Hayford but I found a newspaper notice that said the brig’s home port was Bangor, Maine. I’m also aware that J. P. Veazie engaged in the California trade and that he often expected the captain’s of his vessels to give him detailed accounts of the progress of their voyages. The captain of this brig seems to be a seasoned mariner; the brig appears to have been new or at least this was the captain’s first voyage in her. By 5 December 1850, the A. Hayford had made its way to Honolulu, Hawaii.


On Board Brig. A. Hayford
March 16th 1850

Dear Sir,

Thinking a small bit if a journal of my voyage might interest you, I will endeavor to give you a small sketch of my proceedings from day to day. Not knowing how the Old Gentleman’s pulse might beat on a subject of this kind, I shall leave it all together with you to make what use of it you may think proper. My correspondence to him will be short and to the point.

This day commences with light N.E. wind and clear weather. Nothing worthy of note today and pleasant. One Day out.

Lat 42.19 N
Long 68.25 W

Sunday, March 17th

Commences with fresh breezes from the East. All sail set, the East wind has obliged me to go out the South Channel much against my wish but it could not be helped. This day ends with fresh breezes and clear weather. 2 Days Out.

Obs. Lat 39.31 N
Long. 68.42 W

Monday, March 18th

Commences with fresh gales and thick weather. Wind from the S.E. dead ahead and in the Gulf Stream. At 8 P.M., took in T.G. Sails and double reefed the Topsails. At 1 A.M., furled Fore Topsail and Fore sail and have the Brig ___ ___ close reefed Main Top Sail. It is now blowing a very heavy gale from S.E. and a very bad sea running. The Brig lays too well but I have been in vessels that were quite as dry. Ends with strong gales and bad weather. 3d Day Out

Lat by D.R. 38.40 N
Long by D.R. 68.52 W

Tuesday, March 19

Commences with strong gales from the S.E. and rain. At 6 P.M., wind came out from the N.W. and it is one of the N.W. truly. Up helm and kept her away before it and set reefed Fore sail. I have tried the Brig’s qualities laying too in a heavy gale. She has proved a good sea boat. Strong staunch. I am now trying her at scudding. It is blowing a perfect gale from W.N.W.  I am steering E.S.E. under close reefed Main Topsail and reefed Fore sail. A heavy sea running from the S.E. and all I can say is every man lookout for himself. We are completely covered with water, forward and aft. She goes straight through the old head sea and makes all jump to it but the best of it all is she steers like a pilot boat. One man is all that is required to steer her so you can judge she must steer well. It is more trouble for the man at the wheel to hold on than it is to steer the brig as she occasionally gets a broadside from old Neptune which causes him to keep his eyes open and see what he is about. Middle part the old S.E. sea all down wind still the same. Set the Fore Top sail let one Reef out of the Main and reef out of the Fore Sail. Going 11½ knots by log — not quite so much water on the Forecastle but enough aft and midships to make it up but as long as we are going, we don’t care so much about the water. 4 Days Out.

Obs. Lat 37.50 N
Obs. Long 66.20 W

Wednesday, March 20th

Commences with fresh gales and squalley. Spoke Barque Margaret Allen bound to Boston. We are now going off at a fine rate. Split Fore Top Gallant Sail from head to foot. All hands employed unbending it and bending another. I have got a first rate crew and can depend on them in making and taking in sail. The cook has had rather a hard time of it. We have got him soaked and bleached almost white, but he does the best he can and sticks to it well. Ends with fresh gales and a heavy sea running. 5th Day Out.

Obs. Lat. 36.32 N
Obs. Long. 62.27 W

Thursday, March 21st

Commences with fresh gales and squalley. Going off at a fine rate with the wind still from the W.N.W. The sea is not quite so bad but still a plenty of water on deck. But the water is getting warm and we don’t mind it much. Ends with strong winds and cloudy skies. 6 days out.

Obs. Lat 35.50 W
Obs. Long. 58.09 W

Friday, March 22

This day have had fresh breezes and squalley weather. Wind from the W.N.W. going off at a fine rate. While eating supper, I heard the cry of all hands on deck. I immediately started up on deck to see what was the matter and met Mr. Noyes. The first salute was, “Sir, that damned Fore Top Mast studding sail is over board,” and sure enough, that was the case. It appears the halliards and sheet parted, the boom broke, and away went the studding sail over board and was towing astern by the Jack, Clewed up the T.G. Sails, backed the main Top Sail, and got the studding sail in on deck with loss of nothing but the boom. Filled away again. Set Top Gallant Sails, got up a new boom and set the studding sail again. Passed a large ship heading E.N.E. [Day] ends with a fresh breeze and fine weather. 7 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 34.50 N
Obs. Long 54.50 W

Saturday, March 23d

Commences with fresh breezes and pleasant weather. Let Main Royal M.T.G., studding sails, and lower studding sails all for the first time. Passed a brig steering E.N.E. The weather is getting better every day. The old cook is coming out in good shape and does his work up in fine style. 8 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 34.13 N
Long 51.38 W

Sunday, March 24

These 24 hours have had a fine run with strong S.W. winds. At 4 P.M., took in the light sails and reefed the Top sails. At 8 P.M., out reefs, set Top G. Sails. At 10, set studding sails. Ends with strong breezes and pleasant weather. 9 days out.

Obs. Lat 33.04 N
Obs. Long. 48.10 W

Monday, March 25

This 24 hours have had a good run. Spoke a Spanish Brig bound to New York. I requested him to report us but whether he understood me or not, I can’t say. All that I could understand him to say was N. York and that probably was all the English he could speak, Ends with fine breezes and pleasant weather. 10 days out.

Obs. Lat. 31.02 N
Obs. Long. 45.07 W

Tuesday, March 26

Commences with light winds and pleasant weather. All sail set with the wind from W.S.W.. We have averaged these 24 hours 5½ knots, which is the poorest days work we have done since we took a fair wind, but the weather is pleasant. Thermometer standing at 71 — a clear sky and smooth sea. The only trouble is we don’t go quite fast enough. 11 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 29.45 N
Long 42.53 W

Monday, March 27

Commences with light baffling winds and fine weather. All hands are employed today at unbending the new sails and bending old ones. The wind has been very light today but it has now got into the N.E. and is beginning to breeze up a little. I now flatter myself with the idea that I am in as good a position as I can well be. I can now run through the N.E. trades with a free wind. My course now is S.S.E., which will take me to the equator in Longitude of 30W. I shall then be far enough to the eastward to make a free wind of the S.E. trades. 12 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 28.30 N
Obs. Long. 41.46 W

Thursday, March 28

Here I come again with a face as long as a handspike, the cause of which you may judge is in consequence of the distance made this 24 hours, which you can see is only about 80 miles and now it is almost entirely calm. Such weather is enough to make one cross, but I am in hopes to get a breeze soon that will make up for lost time. 13 days out.

Obs. Lat. 27.12 N
Obs. Long. 41.26 W

Friday, March 29

Here I am again just about in the same spot as when I left you yesterday. Calm. Calm. This is most miserable business but we must be patient and hope for something better and I don’t care how quick it comes . 14 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 26.49 N
Obs. Long. 41.24 W

Saturday, March 30

Not one word to say today. It is the old tune again. Calm. Calm. Only made 7 miles in 24 hours. 15 day out.

Obs. Lat. 26.42 N
Obs. Long. 41.22 W

Sunday, March 31

These 24 hours, light baffling winds and calms. Passed a barque steering E.N.E. When I am to get out of these calm latitudes, I can’t say but I can assure you it is a hard one, miserable, dull, lonesome business. Sunday, you know, is a lonesome day at sea even with a good breeze. But take it in a calm, hot day, and you may know it is miserable enough. 16 days out.

Obs. Lat. 26.28 N
Obs. Long. 41.09 W

Monday, April 1

Commences with light baffling winds and calms. Dull music this, but I don’t know how I can help myself only to bear it as patiently as possible. We have got a light breeze from the S.W. and are going along 5 knots. Three sails in sight steering N.E. I suppose they are homeward bound Englishmen. 17 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 26.11 N
Obs. Long. 40.25 W

Tuesday, April 2d

Commenced with moderate breezes and pleasant weather. All sail set by the wind. This looks a little more favorable. I have done a fair day’s work today and am in hopes I shall not fall in with any more calms at present, but I suppose I shall have to take another dose when I get down near the equator. 18 days out.

Obs. Lat. 24.21 N
Obs. Long. 39.06 W

Wednesday, April 3d

Commences with moderate breezes and fine weather. All sail set by the wind, which is from the S.W. What has become of the N.E. trades, I can’t say, unless the Californians have used them all up. However, I am in hopes there will be a chance for me to get a small puff of them yet. 19 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 22.57 N
Obs. Long. 37.30 W

Thursday, April 4th

These 24 hours have had a fine run with the wind from the W.S.W., but the wind is now about North and a fine breeze. We are going along nicely with studding sails set low and aloft and everything looks favorable for a N.E. wind. There are three sails in sight today, two bound to the westward, one bound to the eastward. Ends pleasant. 20 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 20.55 N
Obs. Long. 36.20 W

Friday, April 5th

Commences with fresh N.E. wind and pleasant weather. All sail set and are going off at the rate of 8½ knots per hour which I call first rate for us and sir, you may be assured that every opportunity that offers itself for getting the Brig along is used as my experience and judgment or concerned both in carrying sail and taking advantage of ____ and head winds. 21 Days Out.

Obs. Lat. 18.06 N
Obs. Long 35.40 W

Saturday, April 6

Commences with fresh breezes and fine weather. All sail set with the wind from East and we are going along it at a fine rate. 8 knots is all I can get out of her with the wind at beam but give me the wind aft or on the quarter and as much as I want and I can drive her along a little faster but take her every way she is what I call a dull sailor. Still that will only vigorate me to work the harder to get her along. 22 days out.

Obs. Lat 15.00 N
Obs. Long 35.16 W

Sunday, April 7

Commences with fresh breezes and cloudy weather. All sail set by the wind which is from E by S. It is rather scant but I am doing a fair business and cannot complain. 23 days out.

Obs. Lat. 12.04 N
Obs. Long. 34.00 W

Monday, April 8th

Fresh breezes and pleasant weather. All sail set with a good breeze from east. The thermometer at 82 in the shade. The sun’s altitude today at Meridian was 88,34 — almost over head. With the breeze, I shall be South of the sun tomorrow at meridian. 24 days out.

Obs. Lat. 8.24 N
Obs. Long. 32.25 W

Wednesday, April 10

Moderate breezes and fine weather. Going along finely with the wind East. Latter part more moderate with rain. Caught one cask fresh water. 26 days out.

Obs. Lat. 4.07 N
Obs. Long. 30.00 W

Thursday, April 11

Light baffling winds and frequent squalls of rain. Dull business this. 27 days out.

Obs. Lat. 3.34 N
Obs. Long. 29.24 W

Friday, April 12th

Light baffling winds and calm still. I have gained a little but it is all done by inches. I think as much of gaining a mile now as I did twenty days since of half a degree. 28 days out.

Obs. Lat. 2.59 N
Obs. Long. 28.43 W

Saturday, April 13

Light winds and rain. Hard business this. 29 days out.

Obs. Lat. 2.38 N
Obs. Long. 28.35 W

Sunday April 14

Still calm and rain. A brig in sight stern to the NE. 30 days out.

Obs. Lat. 2.10 N
Obs. LOng. 28.22 W

Monday April 15

The same old tune again. Light winds and calms. 31 days out.

Obs. Lat. 1.19 N
Obs. Long. 29.00 W

Tuesday April 16

Light breezes and fine weather but the chance is now beginning to look favorable. 32 days out.

Obs. Lat. 00.15 N
Obs. Long. 29.04 W

Wednesday, April 17th

Light baffling wings and pleasant weather. 33 days out.

Obs. Lat. 00.40 S
Obs. Long. 29.15 W

Thursday, April 18th

Light wind and fine weather. getting along very slowly. 34 days out.

Obs. Lat. 1.41 S
Obs. Long. 29.40 W

Friday April 19

Fresh breezes and clear weather. Have had a first rate run this 24 hours and if the breeze stands, I shall be up with Cape St. Rogue tomorrow. 35 days out.

Obs. Lat. 3.50 S
Obs. Long. 30.57 W

Saturday April 20

Commences with light winds and fine weather. Passed on English Barque steering to the Northeastward. 36 days out.

Obs. Lat. 5.17 S
Obs. Long. 31.00 W

Sunday April 21

Fresh breezes and pleasant weather. Have a fine breeze now and are doing well. 37 days out.

Obs. Lat. 7.30 S
Obs. Long. 31.02 W

Monday April 22

Commences with fresh breezes and fine weather. Nothing today worthy of remark. 38 days out.

Obs. Lat. 9.44 S
Obs. Long. 32.30 W

Tuesday April 23

I have just spoke Brig. Reindeer of Belfast by which I send this. Yours truly, — John Short, Jr.


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