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(15) Voyage from Madras to Bengal, Chuokee Boats, Pilot vessels, Baleswur, Kedgeree, Pinnace, Budjrow [[68-71]]

[[68]] It has been already stated that the voyage from Madras to Bengal will depend, as to duration, entirely upon the season. Should the southerly monsoon prevail, Point Palmiras, at the southern boundary of Balasore Roads, may be made in from three to seven days. During the northerly monsoon it is usual, experience having confirmed what accident probably first suggested, to stretch over to the opposite side of the bay upon a wind, and then to run obliquely across on the other tack, so as to arrive in soundings off the mouth of the Hooghly, where the tides will speedily convey a vessel up to any place on the river, whatever may be the wind's direction. 

During the passage under the former prevalence, the land is not in general seen till the water becomes obviously discoloured with sand. In the first instance, the course is made directly from Madras Roads, to gain a good offing, whereby the dangerous shoals of Pulicat, about five miles north of Madras, may be avoided. The land all along the coast being invariably low, and the shallows projecting in some places full ten miles seaward, it is prudent to keep rather towards the middle of the bay, and from a N.N.E. course, to change latterly to a N.N.W.; rounding in [[69]] when the latitude directs, till Point Palmiras is from four to six leagues distant.

It is of very great importance to be correct in making that point, which is best regulated by a perfect knowledge of the latitude, there being a promontory very similar, thence designated "False Point;" by mistaking which many vessels have been lost. When in sight of Point Palmiras, it is usual to await the arrival of some pilot-vessel, of which one or more are always on the look-out below the Sand-Heads, and to proceed into the river under her guidance.

Williamson 1810, vol. 1: ((140)) The capture of several of those vessels having occurred within these few years, in consequence of French privateers anchoring, as though in want of ((141)) pilots, thus taking advantage, in the most infamous and unprincipled manner, of an institution that ought ever to be held sacred, has given occasion for many precautions, which must inevitably be attended with inconvenience, and even danger, on particular occasions.

In lieu of proceeding boldly towards vessels anchored at the usual ne plus ultra, the pilots now draw off towards the channels, allowing the ships to follow at some distance, and refraining from sending a boat on board, until by their knowledge of the soundings the schooners may be placed out of danger. If all should prove right, which is soon ascertained by the signals made by the mate sent on board the ship to be piloted, the schooners may then proceed with confidence; but if a suspicion should remain, an alarm would instantly be given; and if possible, the enemy be decoyed among those dreadful shoals, where being once entangled, he must fall an easy prey to such force as might be sent against him.....

((142)) During daylight, the pilot-schooner makes few signals, but after night-fall, on every heave of the lead, she communicates by means of maroons (which are flambeaux of an immense size, alternately exhibited and concealed in a large tub), the exact soundings in which she is proceeding. No greater care can possibly be taken, than in the Company's pilot-service, to conduct ships in safety: exclusive of character, there is much at stake; for no pilot who loses one of the Company's ships is retained on the list: he is, ipso facto, dismissed.

The country all along the sea-coast, on both sides of the river's mouth, being extremely low, and no hills of sufficient altitude to be distinguished at sea, especially on the right bank, very little gratification is offered to the eye by the surrounding scenery. The shelving beach on either hand is overgrown in most parts with trees rarely
exceeding twenty feet in height, whose stems are surrounded with underwood, or grass jungle, in which deer are found in abundance. The sport must, however, be invariably declined, as an immense number of tigers occupy the same covers. It rarely happens that a party land for the purpose of shooting deer, or wild hogs (which
are equally abundant), without meeting with some accident; or at least being frightened, so as to produce the
most salutary forbearance.

All the way, from Balasore (Baleswur/1/) up to Kedgeree, [[70]] the prospect, if we except those agreeable sensations arising from the display of vegetation, and from arriving at the ultimate thule of destination, rather wearies than pleases. Nothing is to be seen but a series of wilderness, perhaps here and there enclosing a few huts or, in the broken intervals, displaying some insignificant village, of which the inhabitants are as poor as they are idle.

The purser, for the most part, avails himself of the attendance of the chuokee-boats, which are always plying about the mouth of the rivers for the express purpose of receiving packets. In favourable seasons, these boats have been known to reach Calcutta, a distance of sixty miles, in one tide. Should a schooner be proceeding up the river, let there be no hesitation to embark in her. An equal accommodation cannot generally be found; while the whole risk, trouble, and delay, attendant on a passage in any of the common country boats, are at once avoided. The pilot may possibly expect some return for his good offices; but if he likes his company he will, in all probability, set them ashore at Calcutta free of all expense.

The purser's trip is not enviable when in a chuokee-boat, with no other than a very small semicircular covering of mats, under which it is impossible to sit upright, except exactly under its centre. In tempestuous seasons, and [[71]] such are generally the periods in which the Indiamen arrive, there is often a high swell between Kedgeree and Fulta, the river being in some parts from three to six miles across, and running to the southward, from which quarter the wind blows very forcibly for at least five months. Therefore, though very few accidents happen, the voyages between the ship and the capital cannot be considered safe.

The chuokee-boats are all under the master-attendant, and bear the Company's colours on a small staff, or sometimes at the head of the mast, made of a single bamboo nearly as long as the boat; which commonly rows ten or twelve oars. Being of a light construction, and divested of all superfluous apparatus, they proceed at a prodigious rate. On an emergency, even when opposed by the tide, they gain from two to six miles hourly; according as they may be able to row along the slack water, to pole up against the more rapid streams, or to track up against wind and tide.

When relatives or particular friends are on board any ship whose arrival is expected, it is customary to send a stout pinnace-budjrow to meet her at Kedgeree. In paying this kind attention, all the necessary provision -- a bed, table, chairs, &c., are put on board, together with such servants as are generally needful on the water. Few who have any feeling for their noviciate companions on board, especially those who have been in India, quit the ship without taking with them as many as the pinnace can, without great inconvenience, receive.

This accommodation does not happen every day. Though few ships return to India without conveying one or more old standards, either civil or military, it is not always that notice can be received of a ship's being about to import; and when such notice has been received, it is not always recollected, or perhaps practicable, to send a pinnace to receive an old friend.

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/1/  The English corruptions of Hindoostanee names of persons, places, &c, are so numerous, that I cannot but recommend a reference to a list in the Hindoostanee Dialogues, where I have endeavoured to rectify these misnomers, along with many equally bad which the natives of India have on their side introduced; both forming as curious an assemblage of kacoepy and holography as any country can well produce from the colloquial intercourse of strangers and inhabitants, where all idea of grammatical propriety is mutually sacrificed to mere momentary convenience.

A newcomer, talking of Balasore, merely as an Englishman, would never be understood, except from the context, which might lead the hearer to know he meant Baleswur; but this, on the other hand, could not readily be recognized by an ignorant European as the Balasore, according to his vicious pronunciation, from reading occidental works, or learning it from those jargonists who murder all such words with impunity during the whole of their lives, on the spot -- "sans ears, sans tongues, sans heads, sans every thing" connected with the faculty of speech.


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