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Sailing for the Land of the Midnight Sun


Friday, March 15, 1895

Bound for Iceland

Sch. John E. McKenzie Sails for the Land of the Midnight Sun
Many Friends Wish Captain and Crew Good Luck
How Vessels in the Iceland Fishery Are Fitted and
What Stores They Carry

"Let’s go down and see McKenzie off." This was the common expression among the fishermen around the corners Thursday, about one o’clock and accordingly they bent to their steps to Mr. Hugh Parkhurst’s wharf. The handsome craft lay straining at her hawsers as if anxious to be off on her long journey to the northern regions.

"Be on hand at 1.30," was Capt. Andrew’s orders and the good crew were right on deck. On the wharf to see the boys off were fully two hundred men, comprising Iceland skippers, friends of Capt. McKenzie and friends of the crew, all there with but one object, to see the good vessel off on her long trip and wish all hands the best of luck.

"Hoist the mainsail" was the first order, after the anchor was go on the bow, and soon the big canvas was set and tugging at the main sheet with each gust of wind. Then the foresail was set and all hands helped haul the vessel round to the head of the wharf.

A few minutes here suffices to see that all was ready and nothing was left behind, then the lines were cast off, jibs run up and with Al and Jerry at the wheel, for it was blowing a spanking breeze from the northwest, the sch. John E. McKenzie was off on her two weeks run for Iceland and her long stay in the region of ice.

"Good luck, " and "take care of yourselves boys," were shouted and answered till the vessel was out of hearing and then the large crowd moved up the wharf, feeling a little lonesome, but saying to one another, "she will soon come back with a full trip," as indeed, she should, for Capt. McKenzie has an enviable reputation as an Iceland fisherman and his crew are all smart, active and hardy fellows who know how to hustle for the dollars. As one old trawler said, "they are all fishy."

The McKenzie is the third of the fleet to get away. The Marguerite was the first of the fleet to sail, followed by the Laurel and then the McKenzie. The Concord, A. D. Story and Rigel are almost ready to go and the Mary E. and Helen F. Whitten are fitting.

It is a big job, this fitting out a vessel for a six or seven months’ trip to Iceland. Along the first of March the vessels intended for this business are taken out of the haddock fishery or from the Newfoundland herring fleet as the case may be and work commences. The vessel is stripped and put on the ways where she has a through overhauling and painting. The standing rigging is inspected; and repaired if necessary, then heavily tarred. The sails in the meantime, some of them are taken to the loft and some new sails, generally, riding sails are made.

Then the salt is taken in from one of the steamers in the harbor. The sails are then bent, the running gear gone over, old sheets and halyards replaced with new rope, and the work of fitting out commences. The stores, coal and wood come down and are put below under direction of the cook, new bait boards are put on, the "pony house" is lashed in position and gear and hooks are stowed below. At length when all is fixed below deck, the dories are put aboard and lashed in position. A hundred and one minor things are attended to and then berths are drawn for and bedsacks go aboard. At length all is ready and the crew lave a day to "pick up things" and get their oil clothes, boots, quilts, boxes and numerous other comforts, not forgetting a good supply of reading matter, aboard.

All hands then generally take a day off and next morning are on board to go out. Everything is ready, sails are hoisted, and with good lucks ringing in their ears the harbor is left behind and Iceland is before them.

The passage up is not passed idly. Once outside the hat is thumbed and the watch is set. Bunks are then made up and should the vessel have a list, as is sometimes the case, below they go and stow her off till the craft is about right. Then the gear, and there is a lot of it, generally a double set, is got out and rigged. Meanwhile the good vessel is ploughing along, sometimes in fair weather, sometimes rough and strong, and in from 14 to 20 days the mountains of Iceland loom up before them.

Then necessary custom house duties are gone through with, letters are sent home and then the work of the fishing season commences.

Sometimes good luck, sometimes otherwise, is met, but month in and month out, the hardy trawlers pursue their calling in the Iceland waters and September generally sees them once more in Gloucester, glad to see their old friends. Come what will they take it philosophically and oft repeat the words of one of the best known fishermen that goes to Iceland, "It’s all for the best."

Have you any idea of the stores which these vessels take with them on those long trips?
Read what one of these vessels carried:

10 tons of coal
4 foot of wood
55 bushels potatoes
27 bbls. flour (priced at $4.50 per bbl., according to an ad in the paper that day)
18 bbls. beef
2 bbls. shoulders
2 bbls. pork
350 pounds lard
800 pounds butter
100 pounds evaporated apples
100 pounds tea
87 pounds coffee
130 quarts peas
100 quarts beans
56 pounds raisins
30 pounds rice
21 pounds pearl barley
88 pounds corn meal
88 pounds oatmeal
1400 pounds granulated sugar
3 bbls. cabbages
3 bushels beets
2 bushels onions,
besides quantities of condensed milk, salt, pepper, spice, cloves,
and numerous other small articles of food.


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