News: A Passenger's Life at SeaA Passenger's Life at Sea
June 8, 1863, Daily Alta California, San Francisco
Letter from Guaymas, Mexico
(From an Occasional Correspondent)
Guaymas, May 21, 1863
Should any one of your numerous readers, having a month of spare time, desire to appropriate it to a real pleasure trip, let him, if he has any relish for sailing "o'er the glad waters of the dark blue sea," go on board the steamer Oregon a few hours after her advertised time of departure for the Mexican ports. As she will be crowded, he should secure his state-room at least a week before hand. If in search of health, he may find it, if anywhere, on this trip. This advice I give not as a physician, but as one who has himself tried what he recommends.
The Down Trip
About noon of the 5th inst. I found myself on the decks of the Oregon quietly awaiting her departure, meanwhile, observing the crowd of two hundred fortunate fellows assembled on her deck, and the crowd of unfortunates on the wharf who couldn't board. There is the usual raising of hats, and pantomime of recognition and farewell.
The wit of the crowd on the wharf is responded to by the funny fellow among the passengers. Onions and potatoes, tokens of friendly feelings fly about promiscuously. All are alive to the sports, save the man of revery, who there, unconscious of the noise around, builds lofty castles in the air, or rather measures feet upon the ground. His countenance is an index to his thoughts. How it brightens as he counts on his fingers the number of rich silver claims he is soon to own. How quickly a shadow over-spreads it, as his thoughts revert to the dear ones left behind. Ah! He is a man of feeling; at such thoughts, as a flying onion hits him on the nose, the involuntary tear will start - and so will he and retire to his room.
Leisurely we leave the wharf, steam past the city and out at the Golden Gate. Once fairly at sea, we turn our prow to the southeast, and with a strong breeze from the northwest, the heavily laden ship, hardly affected by the swell, goes steadily on.
Give me always Californians for fellow travelers. With what nonchalance they adapt themselves to the unavoidable restrictions of journeying. At short notice, with carpet-bag in hand, they are prepared to travel miles. They don't retire to their rooms, rendered helpless by sea-sickness, but keep about on deck. Perhaps now and then for the first day or two, some of them may lean very much over the lee rail, but merely to note the speed of the ship.
The first day out an overcoat is not uncomfortable. The breeze continued for many days, but gradually decreasing in strength and coolness. The third day straw hats make their appearance, and the genial weather brings the ladies on deck. Sociability on board increases. Those who know three words of Spanish, make those three words do a great deal of service. Though no tin accent as perfect as the laconic Spaniard, they excel him in the brevity of their sentences. Spanish Ollendorffs are seen in the hands of many of the passengers, and the first lesson is conned with vigor indicative of a speedy relapse. There seems to be a strong desire to know if I have your hat or you have my new hat, or if he has his old hat. Scientific works on mining, in English, French, German, and every other language in which such works have ever been published, abound. Should the scientific knowledge attempted to be obtained on this trip ever be acquired and put to practical use, the result will be incalculable.
Affairs Aboard Ship
Everything in relation to the government of the ship goes on like clockwork. Capt. Wakeman is as fine a gentleman as one will meet in many a long journey. He is hail fellow well met with all the passengers. His fund of anecdotes is inexhaustible, and their intrinsic interest suffers nothing from his style of narration. His First Officer, Mr. Gill, I know of old. In '49 we doubled the Horn together: and have done it several times on this trip for old acquaintance sake. He is a capable and trustworthy officer. Mr. Fay, the Chief Engineer, has his pet, the huge engine, bright and shining always in holiday apparel. To see with what ease and smoothness it works, renders it difficult to comprehend its immense power. 'Tis a good emblem of the order which pervades the whole ship. The gentlemanly and obliging Purser, Mr. Palmer, is the leader in athletic sports. With such officers, California passengers, delightful weather, a smooth sea, all goes merry as a "marriage bell." Those who have an ear for music listen with delight to the enchanting tones a skilful hand draws from the violin. Those who have no ear listen on the other side of the ship to a wheezing flute that goes halting through the March in "Norma."
On the sixth day, in the afternoon, we sight land, the mountainous island La Margarita, and, a few hours after, the peninsula. From the distance at which we view it, it appears a long line of mountains several thousand feet in height, of great declivity, creased with innumerable gullies. As we coast along several miles distance from the land, all the opera and spy glasses are levelled at it. Green streaks (to which the excited imagination of the beholder lends a deeper tinge) are at once recognized as copper veins, paying, as nearly as can be estimated at the distance, fully twenty-four and a half per cent. The man with the big opera glass and a large and very scientific volume under his arm, pronounced some very rich silver leads which we see, to be of the antimoniated sulphured class, but can?t tell exactly the yield; thinks not less than two dollars to the ounce.
Evening of the 12th arrived at Cape St. Lucas. There are only two or three houses at this place. The harbor is not good, being open to the southeast. We left here about thirty of our number, destined, most of them, for the San Antonio mines, and were soon off for the mines.
Where we arrived the evening of the 14th. The harbor, like that of Cape St. Lucas, is open to the southeast, and at certain seasons of the year is unsafe. We anchored about half a mile from the wharf, and went ashore in small boats. The City contains about 13,000 inhabitants, is well laid out and compactly built. The streets are narrow - the sidewalks inconveniently so, being not over three feet in width. The streets are paved with cobble stones, the gullies being in the middle, and kept clean, which is not difficult, as there are no vehicles. The houses, in the form of a hollow square, are generally one story, nearly all of the same style of architecture, built of brick, plastered inside and out some whitewashed outside, others of a pink or straw color; the walls are high for one story, the roofs flat.
The entrance to the house is through an arched court in the middle of the front, into the large space in the centre: this is generally a beautiful flower garden, surrounded by a spacious corridor. The rooms of the house open upon this corridor, towards the garden. On the street side they have only windows, with iron bars or gratings before them. These give a singular appearance to the houses, and are likely to create the impression that they are intended to keep rogues from running at large; the case is exactly the reverse; they are intended to keep the thieves outside. Sash or window glass is not used, but merely shutters. There is so much sameness in the exterior of all the houses, that one might easily imagine the whole city to have been built at one at the same time. They have but one public square or plaza, containing not over an acre of ground, surrounded by benches or seats of mason work, with tiled walks around. Here, in the evening, the fashionable world promenade; when many beauties of the Spanish type may be seen. The common run, however, which are seen about in the daytime, can lay no claim to beauty; they are of all colors - from nearly white to black - the average very dark. The people are early risers, but for three or four hours, in the heat of the day, the streets are deserted. All the transportation is done with pack animals; even water is carried in this way six or seven miles, during the dry season.
The city appears dull to one just from the bustle and activity of San Francisco. The mines in the interior have not received the attention that those have in the State of Sonora. That there many very rich ones is beyond question. That they are undeveloped, is not surprising, when we see the primitive manner in which the Mexicans work. They have a prejudice against the wheelbarrow, (to them a novelty,) preferring, in removing earth, to carry it in bags of raw hide, on their backs. In their mining operations they commence at the top and work down until they come to water. When it comes in so fast that they cannot, by carrying it out in buckets, keep the shaft dry, they abandon the claim ? they never run tunnels. American capital and enterprise is now being turned to this quarter, will soon "astonish the natives," and undoubtedly will prove very remunerative.
We remained at Mazatlan two days in discharging freight. Some fifty of our passengers stopped here among them, General Shields, who has a silver mine at La Ventana, in the interior; Mr. Teegarden, who proposes established an assay office; Wm. H. Leighton, Esq., Engineer and Superintendent of the Mina Guadalupe de los Angeles, Durango.
We left for Guaymas on the evening of the 15th. The barque Fanny Major was getting under way at the same time for the same place. We arrived here on the 18th, and dropped anchor in the best harbor on this Mexican coast, at noon.
The town, at the foot of barren rocky hills, and close to the bay, has a very unprepossessing appearance. It is a small place, containing only three or four thousand inhabitants. The houses are of one story, on the same plan, but with less attention to their exterior appearance, than at Mazatlan. Here there is a larger foreign element, and consequently more enterprise. There is some repairing and building going on. A stage leaves triweekly for Hermosillo, and many teams are employed in freighting. Water carts abound, and many other innovations.
The rich mines in this State are too numerous to mention; some of them are already paying largely; others will be, as soon as machinery is put upon them, which is fast taking place. We leave here some three or four hundreds tons of machinery, and goods necessary for mining operations. This country is just awaking from a Rip Van Winkle sleep of a quarter century.