WESTWARD FROM   EIRE

 
                                            


Foreword:

       For many years, I had listened at family events to the idle conversations of the aunts and uncles of my father's family, the Martin's. They spoke of the colorful characters that had come before them, with their odd names, varied origins and rough and tumble life styles. My father, a story-teller in the ancient Irish mode, entertained all of his children with stories of the Martin clan throughout our childhood. Thanks dad. These “ancestral whispers” were ever with me as I contemplated setting down the life and times of the family, to preserve it for those who come after me.

        And then one Autumn, at an Irish fest in suburban Hamburg, N.Y. my wife Mary & I watched a well written theatrical production, penned by Buffalo actresses Mary Kate O'Connell and Josephine Hogan. It was called ”The Beacher's.” In song and verse the production detailed the colorful life of a small colony of Irish immigrants that had arrived in Buffalo during the early and mid 1800's. Poor and landless, they settled in the lee of the Buffalo sea wall and where ever after referred to as “Beachers.” Three lines of my own family, the Martins, Tevingtons and Carneys all hailed from this gypsyesque encampment.

       As I watched this entertaining production, the various stories I had heard from my father and his family coalesced in my mind. With the help of the very nice staff at the “Memories Museum” on Elk St. in Buffalo's Valley section, I was able to do further research on the Martin family in Buffalo. We were in Florida that winter as I began to set down what I knew of my family's history. A cousin, Edward Martin of Angola, N.Y generously shared his genealogical research of the Martin family with me. The first fruit of this effort was a short story called “The Senator's Place.”  It basically encompassed chapters XV & XVI of the larger work that was to become “Westward From Eire.”

      From the short story, I worked back in time to where I knew the original progenitor of our clan had hailed from, northwestern Spain. And then I worked forward from the “Senator's Place” to encompass the span of time from 1847 through 1976. It details what I know of this small branch of the Martin clan in America. The many cousins and related clans fill over ten pages of a family tree chart. Hopefully one of the cousins will flesh out more of the family's details in an effort of their own. The actual conversations and fine detail of my ancestor's lives are lost to us. Working people didn't keep journals or diaries. Their conversations and daily lives herein set down will have to fall under the heading of “what might have been,” in a historical work of fiction. Still, the names dates and details of the family are accurate as best I can remember or could research them. The historical events mentioned are all true and captured from a lifetime of reading American and World History and searching the many web sites of all the people and places listed. All of the cities listed are familiar to me from our travels, with the exception of St. John's, New Brunswick. I haven't yet had the pleasure. The others, Mary & I have visited and enjoyed.

      During this effort, my mainstay, grammatical editor and chief technical advisor was my wife Mary. A retired English Teacher, her help was invaluable. Thanks as always, Mary. My sister Mary Eileen Martin and Cousin Peter Quinn patiently reviewed the chapters as the first drafts arose and forwarded me their comments. Thanks Mary and Peter.

      After a first draft had been completed, I circulated it among a few gracious friends and asked for their review and comment. A college friend, the Hon. Richard L. O'Rourke gave the text the fine document review of an experienced attorney. Thanks Rick. A Wisconsin friend from Florida and an avid sailor, Richard Goff, read the text for nautical credibility. Thanks Dick. The final story had started to emerge. The thoughtful review and helpful comments of a retired High School English Department chairman, Charles Rizzone of Amherst, N.Y got me through the last difficult transition to the final product. Thanks Charlie for your patience and thoughtful advice.

      Like all things in life, this book was a collective effort. No one does anything on his own. I hope it is as entertaining for the reader as it was for me to set it down. And for all those who came before me, you live still in my imagination and will as long as I walk this earth.


                                Joseph Xavier Martin

                                October, 2009

  Amherst, New York







Chapter 1 - Origins - Barcelona to Dover

The year was 1845. England was about to go to war with the Russian Empire on the Crimean Peninsula in Southern Russia. The new Republic of America was at war with her neighbor to the south, Mexico. It was a time of  turbulence in the world. Great empires like Britain and Spain ruled their far dominions with wooden ships and iron men. Naval engagements with ships from warring powers, raids by pirates and the ever present destructive forces of nature regularly caused ships to sink or become floating derelicts. Sailors from all parts of the world frequently washed up in diverse ports on shores far from home.

In the western Mediterranean, naval commerce along the Spanish, Italian and French coasts was brisk. Goods of all types were shipped back and forth, from Cadiz in the south of Spain, to Genoa on the northwestern coast of Italy. Coastal packets carried trade further and further to the various ports. Products from Italy and Greece could be shipped as far away as Canada and the new Republic of the United States.

Barcelona was Spain's chief commercial port in the Mediterranean. The graceful wooden ships, with their clouds of white sails, made their way in and out of the harbor with regularity. Once such commercial vessel, the 'Queen of Navarre,' was berthed in and operated from Barcelona.

The Queen of Navarre was a tall ship, a three masted brigantine with a cloud of white sails that made her fly across the seas. Her skipper, Manuel De Vargas, knew well how to manage her in any type of sea.

The ship had sailed from Barcelona two weeks ago on a sunny and cool day. The Mediterranean had been quiet as De Vargas sailed her down the Eastern coast of Spain. The imposing Rock of Gibraltar had enticed the crew to line the Navarre's rails, looking at the towering, craggy shape not far inland. The mate had finally bellowed, “Look alive lads, this isn't a pleasure cruise.” And all hands scurried to their duty stations, still eyeing the hypnotic visage of the great rock off to starboard. After a time, the newness of seeing the rock wore off and the men returned to their duties. They were coming upon the narrow straits of Gibraltar, where the Mediterranean Sea empties out into the storm tossed Atlantic. A sharp eye would be needed here to battle the winds and cross currents that faced them.

“Reef the mainsails and rig a spanker,” Captain Vargas cried out to the mate. The mate turned and barked out orders to the crew who made it so. The Navarre turned into the wind on a larboard tack and made her way towards Africa. The narrows here, at the Straits of Gibraltar, are always a wonder to seamen. Here, the coasts of Africa and Europe are separated by only a few miles. You can see both coasts at the same time on a clear day.

Few of the lads aboard were aware of the titanic struggles, between Christian Europe and Moorish Africa, that had swirled back and

forth across these narrow straits. Nearby Cadiz, on the southwest Spanish coast, was a virtual mirror of many cities in Africa, with her colorful minarets and Moorish arches. Several of Spain's Western hemisphere excursions, including those of Christopher Columbus' voyages, had been launched from this storied and ancient venue.

Today, all was quiet. The Atlantic was unusually calm as the Navarre passed between the continents and out into the open sea. That was all right with Captain De Vargas. He had weathered enough storms in his day in making the cargo run from Barcelona around the tip of Spain and up the Atlantic Coast of Spain, Portugal and France before heading across the narrow English Channel for Dover.

They had a full hold, stuffed with Valencia Oranges, dates, figs and many other food stuffs from Spain. Hungry cities along the Atlantic coast of Europe would welcome the Navarre for the delivery of fresh foods for their kitchens.

De Vargas had the men holystone the decks and attend to the rigging. When the ocean did kick up a storm, and it always did, there would be little time for any repairs.

“Senor Gomez,” the captain said to the mate,  “Have a carpenter shore up that mainsail brace and reinforce the davit stays if you would, por favor.”

“Aye, sir,” said the mate and turned to relay the orders.

“Martin,” the mate hollered out to the ship's carpenter, “get your tools and repair the main sail brace and davit stays.”

“Aye, sir,” said the seaman and scurried below to get his tools.

Young Emmanuel Martin went about his task with a will. He was a capable carpenter and enjoyed his work. Captain De Vargas had been good to him and he aimed to make the skipper pleased that they had taken him on in Barcelona.

It seemed to Emmanuel that it had been a very long time since he had left his small town of Bilboa in northwestern Spain. A family disagreement and a misunderstanding with the local constabulary had hastened his departure. He had made his way east to the port city of Barcelona and secured a berth on the Navarre when Captain De Vargas had signed him on.

The Navarre sailed placidly north along the Spanish coast. They would stop in Lisbon to lade some cargo before making their way around the Trafalgar headland and into the Bay of Biscay. They would then sail across the Bay of Biscay and put in at Le Havre.

Tacking first to larboard then to starboard and back, the Navarre beat her way up the Spanish coast. The sun was shining and the winds both fair and following. It was proving to be an idyllic voyage.

“The seas are agreeable to us for once, Mr. Gomez,” said Captain De Vargas.

“Aye, sir, the Madonna smiles upon us this voyage,” replied the mate.

“Rio Tagus off the starboard bow,” cried the lookout from his perch high in the rigging.

Captain De Vargas let his gaze drift to the Portuguese coast and the mouth of the coming river.

“We have a shipment of glazed tiles, from the Monastery of St. Jerome in Lisbon, waiting for us Mr. Gomez,” said the Captain. “Make sure the lads are careful with the boxes, for that tile is fragile.”

“Aye, sir,” said Mr. Gomez. “I will supervise the loading myself and tell the lads to be careful with the cargo.”

The lands along the Tagus are well ordered and pleasant of visage. The Portuguese farmers were busy working the fields as the Navarre sailed up the Tagus and berthed at the quayside docks of Lisbon. Though only a few miles from Spain, the language differences had bred a culture separate and apart from her larger neighbor, Espana.

Much of Lisbon had been leveled and destroyed by a horrific earthquake and fire just 75 years ago. All around the harbor, the Captain could still see building projects and the scars of the fires on the older buildings. The ancient and picturesque Arab Quarter had survived the earthquake and fire pretty much in tact.

In the center of the Tagus, near the heart of the old city, sits a curious old battlement, with narrow fortified towers. It is called Belem. Built as a defense fortification in the river, the land on the city side was now silting over and the curious battlement sits as an architectural oddity on the right bank of the Tagus.

“Secure the bow and stern lines and lower the gang plank, Mr. Gomez,” ordered the Captain.

“Aye, sir,” said the mate and made it happen.

“ I am going ashore to the monastery and our freight factors, Mr. Gomez,” said the Captain. “Have the lads finish repairs to the sails and braces and get ready to lade our cargo.”

“Aye, sir,” said Gomez. “We will be ready to sail with the evening tide sir.”

Captain De Vargas, walked down the gangplank and onto the quay. He stopped at the port office on nearby Avenida Street and cleared the ship for entrance and exit from Portugal.

The Monastery of St. Jerome was always a pleasure for him to visit on his stops in Lisbon. Behind the imposing fortress like stone walls of the monastery, the industrious monks had perfected the glazing techniques taught to them by Flemish glaziers in centuries past. The delightful blues, greens and yellows, of the tiles that they produced, were much sought after by workmen throughout Europe. The Navarre's owners would do well when these tiles were delivered to La Havre and Dover.

“Buenas tardes, Brother Velasques,” Captain De Vargas said to the senior abbot. “How are you?”

“I am well, thank you Captain,” said the monk. “How was your journey?”

“It was pleasant, thank you,” replied the Captain. “Shall we talk business now?”

“Yes, that would be agreeable,“ said the monk. “We can have tea and bread afterwards.”

The men walked through the workrooms where the younger monks were hard at work shaping, etching and glazing the tiles.

“They are capable artisans, your brothers,” said De Vargas.

“Yes, the lord does inspire them,” said the monk. “Their work produces beautiful tiles.”

They stopped as always in the ornate chapel and said a prayer for all seamen. The gold leaf gilt, on the statuary and altar, made the darkened chapel feel both a mysterious and solemn place of worship.

Near the chapel, an ornate funerary sculpting marked the tomb of Vaco De Gama, the intrepid navigator of Henry of Portugal who had first sailed round the Cape of Good Hope in exploration. De Vargas and the monk finished their tour and sat down to tea in the refectory.

“ I have the tiles crated and ready to ship,” said the monk. “ I can have them delivered quayside this afternoon. Will that be sufficient Captain?”

“Yes, Brother, that will be fine,” said the Captain.

“ I know our factors in Dover eagerly await their arrival.”

The men finished their tea and competed their business. The monk walked the Captain out to the entrance.

“Fair winds and following seas,” the monk said in a timeless

farewell.

“Muchas gracias, mi amigo,” said the Captain. “ A Dios.”

The Captain was sore tempted to visit the narrow alleys of the nearby Arab Quarter. Exotic food and any other appetite you care to slake were offered there. But no, business first always, he thought to himself. He made the sign of the cross unconsciously, as if in penance for what he was thinking, and walked on.

De Vargas walked back along the Quay. He could see the men in the rigging of the Navarre mending sails and doing their jobs with a

will. He smiled to himself at their labors. He was a lucky skipper with a good crew.

Later, the tiles were delivered as promised in the fifth watch of the mid afternoon. Mr. Gomez supervised the men loading the crates into the hold.

“Careful lads, or the Captain will have your skins,” he hollered. “That isn't iron you are lading, but fine porcelain.”

The men went about their tasks and the crates were lowered into the hold and secured firmly lest they shift in a gale.

“The Cargo is secured and the ship ready for sail, Captain,” said Mr. Gomez.

“Very well, Mr. Gomez. Cast off our lines, set a jib and spanker and ease us out into the Tagus if you please,” said the Captain.

“Aye sir,” said Gomez and turned to make it happen.

The Navarre eased from her berth and edged her way into the main flow of the Tagus. The currents would carry them for a bit until the river deepened enough to set the mainsails and make her way off into the Atlantic.

The following days were pleasant ones at sea. The sunny skies and fair winds made for a serene passage up around the Trafalgar

headland and into the Bay of Biscay.

De Vargas stood on the quarterdeck as the ship rounded the headland of Trafalgar. He thought of the titanic sea battle that had been waged here. The British, Spanish and French men of war, in five dozen ships,  had shredded each other with salvo after salvo of their heavy guns. Admiral Nelson and the English had been victorious that day but Nelson had died in the battle. Now it was serene and peaceful. Water leaves no battle scars.

The Navarre made her way into the busy Port of La Havre, at the Atlantic mouth of the Seine, and tied up at the wharf. The captain went ashore and did the ship's business, while the men mended the rigging and laded the cargo waiting for them. It was a timeless ritual of merchant men in port. They had little business in Le Havre. Most of their cargo would be unloaded in Dover across the English Channel.

In the late afternoon, the Navarre cast off her lines and headed out to sea. The run across the channel would be a swift one. De Vargas stood on the quarterdeck in the early evening and looked out across the English channel. His own nation's armada had come here a few hundred years

ago seeking to invade England and remove Elizabeth from her throne.

The smaller and more maneuverable English ships had played havoc with the enormous Spanish galleons in a fierce naval battle. Then, as if God had willed it, an enormous storm had come and scattered the Spanish Fleet along the English and Irish coasts destroying what had been the naval pride of Spain. The sea battle, in many ways, marked the rise of the modern English empire and the beginning of the decline of mighty Spain. De Vargas, like all of his countrymen, was philosophical about the loss here. If God had willed it so, who were men to question him?

As the Navarre approached England, the setting sun glinted on the very white chalk cliffs of Dover. It was an impressive geographical sight as always. The ancient city had welcomed mariners here for thousands of years. To her own sailors the chalk cliffs served as a beacon. To other mariners it was a welcome and a warning that the tricky shoals of the English coast were almost upon them. The ancient Roman lighthouse still stood as a bell tower for the harbor church.

“Reef the mainsail and double the watch in the crow's nest to watch for shoals,” cried out the Captain. “I'll not have another Spanish ship founder on these accursed English shores.”

“Aye, sir,” said the mate and made it happen.

Luck was with the Navarre that day. She sailed into Dover's harbor and tied up with no mishap at a small spur of the main wharf.

“Make her fast and ready the gangplank Mister Gomez,” said the Captain. “I will go ashore and alert the factors that their tiles have arrived.”

“Aye, sir,” said the mate.

Captain De Vargas left the Navarre and made his way along the quay to the offices of Pelham and Sons, the ship owner's factors in England.

The clerk there knew him. “Good evening, Captain De Vargas, You have had a good journey then?” asked the clerk.

“Aye, we've had fair winds lad. Is Mr. Pelham available?”

“Yes, Captain, he is,” said the clerk. “Let me get him for you.”

After a few moments, a tall, thin man with a balding pate and a pale complexion, Philip Pelham, came from the rear offices.

“My dear Captain De Vargas, how are you?” Pelham inquired?

“I am well, thank you Mr. Pelham,” said De Vargas. “And your wife Sylvia, she is well?”

“Yes, thank you Captain. We are all doing famously. Can I offer you some tea? We've just had a ship in from Ceylon and the tea is exquisite,” said Pelham.

“I would like that, thank you Philip,” said the Captain. “ I've good news for you too. We have that shipment of Portuguese glazed tile

that you ordered. It is in fine shape too, thanks to fair skies and calm seas.”

“Excellent Captain, excellent,” said Pelham. “We've a long list of builders waiting for that prized product. I will have a dray quayside tomorrow morning to load it. Is that agreeable to you sir?”

“That would be fine Philip. We have only yet to make a short run over to Cork in Eire. We can leave in the mid-afternoon.”

“Well, let's sit and drink our tea and catch up on the news, shall we?” said Pelham agreeably.

The men enjoyed their tea and their talk. Captain De Vargas made his farewells to the agreeable Mr. Pelham and then returned quayside. He found Mr. Gomez and gave orders to have the cargo unloaded in the early morning.

“Make the men have a care Mr. Gomez or it is their hide I will be having,” said the Captain.

“Aye, sir, we will deliver the tiles without a scratch,” said the mate.

“We leave on tomorrrow afternoon's tide for Cork, Mr. Gomez,” said the Captain. “Have the men ready the ship for departure after they unload the tiles.”

“Aye, sir, it will be ready,” said the mate.

De Vargas went below and settled into his cabin for a light repast of wine, cheese and bread.

'One short run to Cork and we will head home for Espana,' he thought to himself. 'This was a good voyage for all of us. The ship's owners will be well pleased.'


Chapter II - Dover to Cork - Shipwreck

The skies were clear and the wind was rising as the Queen of Navarre let go her lines and edged out into the middle of Dover's Harbor. Using the sky sails and a spanker, Captain De Vargas maneuvered the great ship through the narrow ways and out into the roiling green waters of the English Channel. He could smell rain in the air. The short run across the Irish Sea to Cork might be more interesting than he had planned.

“Mister Gomez,” he hollered, “have the men make fast the cargo and batten down the forward hatches. I think we might be in for a blow this afternoon.”

“Aye sir,” said Gomez and relayed the orders in a series of barked commands to the men on deck.

The Navarre tacked into the westerly wind and set a course to the southwest. From experience, the Captain knew that it was better to approach the rocky shores of Eire's southern coast from a more southerly direction. It was easier that way to avoid the rip tides and cross winds in the area that might drive a tall ship aground or worse, up against the rocky shoals near Youghal Point.

The winds continued to rise as the Navarre beat her away across the Irish Sea. She tacked back and forth trying to gain an edge on the wind. Captain De Vargas took a late afternoon sextant reading and found to his dismay that the Navarre was positioned too far to the north. Their present course would draw them almost parallel with the rocky southern coast.

“Put up all the canvass we can manage Mr. Gomez,” said De Vargas. “We are going to need what speed we can manage to keep us off the coast.”

Mister Gomez began a series of commands that sent the lads aloft unfurling the skysails and top gallants. The men on deck pulled on the sheets and fastened them along the ship's rails with the wooden belaying pins. Their actions were quick and sure, a well trained crew on a great wooden ship.

The Queen of Navarre was riding much higher in the water. She had disgorged her heavy cargo of glazed tiles at Dover and had a mostly empty hull, waiting for the wool and foodstuffs she was about to load in Cork. The Captain had taken on ballast stones in Dover to help compensate for the loss of weight, but she still wallowed like a cork in a stream in the strengthening wind and rip tides of the Irish Sea.

“The damn sea is like the Irish herself,” De Vargas muttered to himself, “contrary at every step.”

The whitecaps, along the ever closening shore, indicated a rising sea. Captain de Vargas noted them. A rising southerly wind was driving them north towards the Irish Coast. At this rate, the ship would never clear the shoals at Youghal Point, just east of Cork.

“Mister Gomez,” Captain De Vargas shouted, “reef the mainsails, put out a larger jib and give me a southerly heading on the port tack, if you please. Let's see if we can't get ourselves further south and away from these cursed shoals.”

“Aye, sir,” said Gomez. “Martin, Ramirez, Perla! Get aloft and reef the mainsail of the mizzenmast. When you are done, then take in the main mast and royal mainsails. Let's get this great ship in trim for the Captain, lads.”

The men scurried up the rigging like monkeys in a tree. They signaled to their mates on the deck who pulled with a will on the great sails. The great expanse of wet canvass slowly lifted with each tug of the sheets and was furled in perfect order on the cross bars of the main masts by the waiting men aloft. Soon enough, the mainsails had been reefed and the ship fought less against the rising winds. Still, the Captain had trouble keeping her headed on a southerly course. The wind was pushing her closer and closer to the dangerous shoals off Youghal Point.

“ Mister Gomez, let's drop a sail over the stern on a line. Maybe a

sea anchor will give us more maneuverability,” De Vargas hollered.

Gomez repeated the orders and a large mainsail was brought up from the sail's locker. Then men affixed its top to a line and slowly let out the cloth into the sea. The sea anchor improved the steerage somewhat and the Captain was momentarily satisfied. But the winds kept rising and the rip tides in the area kept forcing the ship closer and closer to shore. Off on the horizon, De Vargas could see the rising silhouette of Youghal Point. Off the shore here, he knew that there was a dangerous reef of shoals that, at low tide, sat like exposed fangs waiting for the unwary.

'Hopefully our shallow draft will keep us from their cursed fangs,' he thought to himself.

The sun was beginning its daily descent as the Queen of Navarre rounded the coast at Youghal Point. The white-capped waters near shore were the waters breaking over the dangerous shoals. Captain De Vargas knew that this passage was going to be a close thing.

“Mister Gomez,” he hollered. “Set the mainsails full and give me a more southerly heading. I want to run the Navarre south of here and avoid those shoals.”

“Aye sir, but won't the mainsails give us more drift from the winds?” asked the mate, who now saw what was coming at them.

“We will have to take that chance Mister Gomez,” the Captain answered calmly. “If we don't put up more sail, we will drift on to those

waiting fangs. Now make it so.”

“Aye, sir,” said the mate and barked the orders that sent a dozen men into the rigging to unfurl the mainsails. The men on deck heaved with a will to set them in place. The winds were fierce now and fought them at every step. Soon enough, they had the sails set and belayed in place.

“Hard a port, helmsman,” cried the Captain. “Set course at 180 degrees on a port tack and let me know how much of a drift we find.”

“Aye, aye Captain,” said the helmsman, who struggled mightily with he great wheel and rudder. The tides and the winds seemed to have a strength he had never before encountered and fought his every turn of the wheel.

The great ship fought its way into the southern winds sometimes by yards, sometime by inches as the sun set and the darkness came.

“I think we just might make this Mr. Gomez,” said the Captain. “The shoals off Youghal Point are now off to starboard. Have the helmsman lay off a few degrees and steer a course at 270 degrees if you please.”

“Aye, sir,” said Gomez and relayed the order.

The crew had fought hard all afternoon tacking and retacking into the wind. Even the youngest of them were tiring.

“Have the galley pass out tots of rum for the men on deck,” ordered the Captain to the second mate. “The lads have earned their pay this day.”

Captain De Vargas estimated that the Navarre now lay but several miles from Cork. They were nearing port and would be safe at berth in a

few hours. It had been a close run thing at Youghal Point. 'The winds and rip tide almost beat us today,' he thought to himself.

“Mister Gomez,” said the Captain, “ have the helmsman lay us a course a few degrees to the north. Have the men recover the sea anchor and then reef the Mizzen mainsail as we near the Cork approach. Then follow with the main and royal mainsails.”

“Aye sir,” said Gomez and made it so in a series of commands to the crew. All of them would be glad to see the Cork harbor this evening.

The Queen of Navarre was on a starboard tack and making fast for Cork when a lookout above shouted the warning.

“White waters ahead, white waters ahead,” he cried in a youthful terror.

“Hard a port, hard a port,” cried the Captain to the helmsman. Whatever was causing the white water, he wanted the ship to avoid.

The great ship veered to port, but her mainsails were reefed and her ship handling and response capabilities were diminished.

The lookouts above continued hollering “white water ahead, white water ahead” as the Navarre plowed into the roughened seas.

Then, after a colossal crunching sound, the boat shook like a rat in a terrier's mouth and came to an abrupt halt. The lookouts and two men aloft were catapulted like cannon shot into the seas beyond, lost forever. Those on deck were thrown about like feathers in a windstorm.Captain De Vargas and the first mate found themselves in a jumble of rigging at the base of the main mast, shaken and dazed from the collision.

De Vargas rose and said shakily to the mate, “Get below and give me a damage report Mister Gomez. This accursed sea has gouged us mortally I fear.”

Mister Gomez stood on shaky legs and cleared his head. The deck was canted at a sharp angle and walking was difficult. He made his way below at the forward gangway and saw that the water was already rising in the forward hold. The submerged rocks had torn a twenty-foot gash in the planking along the starboard side of the Navarre. They were held fast on the shoals like an insect pinned to a board.  He looked about and called out to any men who might be forward below.

“Get topside lads, get topside,” he hollered. None answered him and he feared for any that had been below. He climbed back topside and found the Captain peering over their starboard prow inspecting the damage and that that had cause it.

“We are done for Captain,” Gomez said. “The shoal gutted us like a ripe fish with a filleting knife. The gash is twenty feet long and six feet high. When the tide rises, we will float free of the shoals and sink like a rock.”

The Captain thought for a few seconds. He knew where his responsibilities lay first, the safety of the crew.

“ Launch the longboat Mister Gomez,” said the Captain. ”Let's get every man jack ferried to shore before we float free and sink. Then we will see what cargo we can save.”

“Aye, sir,” said the mate. He ran aft and bellowed orders at the still startled and bruised crew. The men stepped to the task and lowered the long boat from the davits. It was hanging at a crazy angle but it still launched into the sea.

“Martin, Ramirez, Anguillar, take the first load of men to the beach and come back quick as you can. Row with a will lads, this tide is already rising,” hollered Gomez.

The men grabbed what personal gear they could and began to climb down the nets to the waiting longboat. When it was full, the lads began to row with a will for shore. Each man was happy that they had survived the wreck. In this fashion, all of the remaining crew was rowed ashore. The lookouts and several men who had been in the rigging were lost and presumed drowned.

Captain De Vargas and the mate gathered up the ship's log, her sextant and a few personal belongings. The Queen of Navarre had been a grand ship and a pleasure to sail. Now she would soon become driftwood washed up in pieces along the Irish coast.

“She was a grand ship, Mister Gomez,” the Captain said sadly. “I will miss her.”

“She was all of that sir,” said the mate. ”At least most of the men made it ashore safely.”

“Yes, there is that Mister Gomez,” said the Captain. “The sea could have taken all of us.”

The longboat was coming alongside. The Captain and First mate, the last men aboard, lowered the ship's ensign and then climbed over the side into the longboat.

“Are all the men safe ashore?” asked the Captain of the oarsmen.

“They are sir,” said Emmanuel Martin, the ship's carpenter. “They have a fire made on the beach sir and are drying themselves out.”

“Aye, lad, then row us ashore and we will join the beach party,” the Captain said grimly.

The Captain sat silently on the trip to shore. This was the first ship under his command that he had ever lost. And he felt badly for the men who had drowned.

“God be good to them,” he muttered.

On the beach, the men sat around the blazing fire somewhat dazed. From collision on the shoals, to their abandoning ship and escape to shore had taken less than an hour's time. The winds still raged about them but none cared. They had survived a wreck, something not many seamen did. Though wet, soggy and cold they were alive and safe. The sea had spared them this day.

The Captain sat with them men warming himself by the fire.

“At first light, let's see if the Navarre still floats Mister Gomez,” said the Captain. ”Maybe we can save some of her cargo for the owners. Then we can see about heading inland to Cork. It shouldn't be more than a day's walk from here.”

“Aye, sir,” said Gomez.” I will have the lads row out to her at dawn and see what is left to salvage. I can send Martin and Ramirez inland to

find us help. Martin speaks English with an Irish accent and can communicate with the locals for whatever help we need.”

“That would be fine, Mister Gomez,” said De Vargas. “Now maybe we should try and enjoy our first night's rest as guests of the Irish,” he said ruefully, as he turned on his side and drifted off to sleep. Though cold, wet and tired, the men were alive and would sail another day.


Read the rest of Westward from Eire by purchasing a copy from The Tara Shoppe at 250 Abbott Road, South Buffalo or by contacting Joe at jxmartin1@mac.com

Also available as a Kindle book at amazon.com



HOME