-- --
(4) Embarkation, probable length of passage [[31-35]]

[[31]] Young persons should embark at Gravesend, or the shore, rather than at Portsmouth. Thus they become settled before the generality of passengers arrive, and [[32]] escape that indescribable confusion attendant upon the sudden influx of whole hoys full of dead and live lumber! For such they appear when interrupting the several operations attendant upon a vessel's getting under weigh. Those who purpose delaying, from unavoidable business, to the last moment, should leave their cards of address with the purser, taking care not to be far from home, that when proceeding to the India House to receive the packets, he may send notice of his being about to quit town. No time must then be lost in repairing to that port where the vessel may be; it being customary to sail [as] soon as the purser gets on board. Half an hour's delay has proved the loss of many a passage, and subjected the loiterer to such inexpressible anguish, that no man in his senses should run the risk of so terrible a disappointment on any consideration short of inevitable necessity.

The great number of ships employed in the India trade occasions such frequent intercourse that two months scarcely ever elapse without one or more being despatched to some part of India. Unless under very peculiar and pressing circumstances, it is unadvisable to proceed in any not bound to that part whither the passenger is destined. Though it appear, on paper, very easy to get from Madras (Mudraj), for instance, to Bengal, such a passage is not always practicable; and such a delay may elapse as will allow a vessel bound to Bengal, sailing perhaps a month or two subsequent to that proceeding to Madras, to arrive at her port before the means might offer of getting on[ward] from Madras. Besides, freight and passage money are much higher in India than in Europe. This, combined with the heavy expense attendant upon long detention on shore, would prove the economy, as well as the speed, to be on the other side of the question.

[[32]] The time of sailing will, under common circumstances, decide the time of arrival. Ships leaving England, that is the Land's End, in all April, may be expected to arrive at Madras in all September; when, if not delayed, they may with great ease run up the Bay in a week more. As the northerly monsoon often begins to prevail in October, occasioning ships to stretch over towards Acheen-head, whereby from four to six weeks will be lost in getting to Balasore Roads, it is rather advisable, if at liberty to choose the season, not to sail later than March. Thus the arrival will take place at a time when the great heats are over, and the cold weather is approaching -- two points equally eligible for health and society.

The early or late arrivals of covenanted servants appointed for the same year, make no difference whatever in the rank they are relatively to bear; that being now determined by the priority of embarking, modified in a certain degree by the rank of their several nominees in the Direction, or by their academic proficiency at the civil and military colleges. The pay, however, of all functionaries, is calculated from the date of presenting the requisite certificate, before spoken of, at the proper office, after reaching the settlement for which they are bound.

The period of sailing will generally indicate the weather to be expected during the whole passage. Such as leave the pilot in the spring will round the Cape of Good Hope about Whitsuntide or Midsummer, when winter prevails in that quarter; it being in 34° south latitude. Advancing to the northward, they will meet with the trade-winds from the Tropic towards the Line, where in all probability slight and variable winds may cause some delay. Ships leaving England in our autumn round the Cape at their Midsummer, and reach Madras generally in from eighteen to twenty weeks; carrying fair, but warm, weather all the [[34]] way. If they arrive about the middle or latter end of March, they may, by remaining for a few days till the southerly monsoon is fairly established, sometimes reach the sand-heads in Balasore Roads in three or four days. This is obviously preferable to running over to the eastward.

Nothing can happen more unpleasant than being wind-bound. Nor, indeed, can there be well conceived a more certain recipe for draining the purse. Every passenger must not suppose that, after having repaired to that port where the ship rides, he is at liberty to go on board instantly, and to remain till she sails. On the contrary: though he should not fail to intimate his arrival, and to leave his card of address, he must put up at some inn or lodging-house, at his own expense, till the signal be made for sailing; by firing a gun and loosening the fore-topsail, by that ship under whose convoy a fleet is to sail; or, if there be no convoy, by the senior captain; who is, by courtesy, designated Commodore.

In peaceable times the hardship to either party is not so severe as in time of war, and there are instances of commanders stipulating for an extra sum to take all such risks upon their own shoulders -- a precaution very desirable occasionally, especially when an inexperienced youth has very little cash, and much less discretion than his fellow passengers.

The Directors, considering the inability of their junior servants to pay the heavy charges to which they are subject while in port, have given an extra sum to the commanders of their ships for each cadet's diet in such situations. This was no less necessary than considerate. It will have been seen that persons going out in the civil service have fewer stipulations in their favour; for which the presumptive reason is that they are commonly the sons of gentlemen possessing large property. The sum of [[35]] £3000, in days of yore, having been so often given for writer-ships, seems to indicate that very little occasion could exist for such solicitous interference in their behalf. Yet as all general rules admit of exceptions, there can be no doubt of various cases of distress even in this more fortunate department of the service.

-- --
 ~~ next part ~~ Gilchrist index page ~~ Glossary ~~ FWP's main page ~~