The previously unpublished story of the 1868 voyage of the clipper ship Franklin – New York to China as written by its Captain, John Drew.
Voyage of the “Franklin”
Sunday, Dec. 20th . At sea – latitude 30 north longitude 40 west
9 days at sea from New York and over half way to the Equator.
“O’er the glad waters of the bright blue sea
Our thoughts as boundless, and our souls as free,
Far as the breeze can bear, the billows foam,
Survey our empire, and behold our home.”
Avast there! Not so fast, old Byron never was a sailor or he would not have written such stuff. And he never had a nice little home among the hills of New England like mine. If he had he would have sung a different song.
But here we are again as the saying is and how have we got here?
My five months on shore seem like a dream, but the few days at sea seem like an age. We left New York harbour Friday (said to be the unluckiest day) at 3: O’Clock AM in company with ship Cleopatra. Capt. Irving like ourselves bound to San Francisco. Both Capt. and Mate old friends of mine and here let me say that on board either ship, not a day will pass but “I wonder where The Franklin” or “I wonder where the Cleopatra is” will be passed from mouth to mouth till we get to our destination.
It was so early that we could see none of the beauties of New York Bay for at daylight we were outside. At light, the steamer blowed her whistle
“Haul in your Hawses”. Pilot took our last letters, “Good bye, God Bless You” and we are alone. Alone, oh how much alone. A strong breeze from N E all day and at night a blinding snow storm. But we have a stout ship plenty of strong willing arms aboard of her, and the coast all clear, for at 11:00A.M. the highland of New Link faded from our view. All we have to fear is vessels in our way. God have mercy on these, for this Franklin would go right through any vessel in her way tonight and we could not see two rods. It is cold though, and the boys feels it. All day Saturday the same. Sunday the wind is SW with lots of snow and blowing a gail. Just what we want.
No prayers, only in the silence of our own hearts, but God is with us. And so we have been going all the week, only the wind has been from the SW with lots of rain and blowing great guns and the sea runs frightfully. Friday. A sea came over us that took away our mail boat, both skylights and the lee rail. We never saw them again and are thankful that it did not take anybody else, as it very nearly did the mate and three men. I never seen such a sea. I was standing near the wheel when it struck. The first I saw was the two men that were steering trying to save themselves. With mates I caught the wheel and saved the ship from broaching too and we staggered through it. The cabin filled half full of water and everything there except my things were completely wet through.
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Last night it has grown moderate and as usual we have had a pleasant Sunday. All sails set. The Franklin sails better than I thought she would, as her passage proves. I hope she will keep it up; she is tight and strong and everything is comfortable so far. Chin, my China boy, is quite a personage on board no less than cook and a good one. We had prayers in the cabin this morning and all were attentive and decorous. Our fresh beef is all gone but we have four pigs and they go all over the ship. They were just in here (my cabin). Strange it is that as soon as a pig gets on board a ship he makes for a cabin; a dog for the forecastle.
I have a nice little kitten Messrs. Crocker, Wood & Co gave me and she really seems domiciled to the cabin. She is all black and as my last cat on board The Fearless was black and with me a number of years and always bought good luck. I hope this one will. I used, when at home, when I had been out in the evening, on coming back to go softly to the window and look in. It would be dark and the inmates could not see me. What a pretty picture. It is painted in my mind. I try to look in now, they can’t see me but I am looking in just the same. I shall be looking in there all the voyage. What a comfort it is. I can see Louise making a frock for the baby. I can see Danny holding on to her dress and looking her in the face
I can see dear little Mamie stringing her buttons. There is the canary bird singing away. There are the plants and the books, the pictures and now Lou’y bites off her thread and smiles at Danny. Perhaps grandpa is on the lounge talking to Mamie. Heaven bless them. And there is another picture– of what I might have been if I had known enough– a better home and finer rooms and myself there, and all that. Perhaps we will see it yet.
Father used to tell us better days were coming. I hope so. This awful separation, one half of one’s heart torn out, It’s terrible to bear. How sweetly the sun is shining into my window this afternoon. The first time for many days and the thermometer is up to 72 degrees!
I have bought some books among the rest Dana’s “Two Years Before The Mast”. I have just read it; how different a sailor’s life then and now. I got Whittier’s latest work “Among the Hills”: how sweet it is. God bless Whittier; he must be a good man. He is a Quaker I suppose. My Downeast apples are most gone; how nice they are, they never were so good at home. And are THEY enjoying them today? Is the old pitcher filled up today and do they drink to the absent ones? Ah there is no use to think otherwise; a gap is there, we know it. John and Chin have gone. Ring sleigh bells. Trot your fast horses. Laugh ye gay ones. Flutter ribbons and scarves but one sits there thinking of the days that are past.
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Monday Dec. 21st. Ten days out. Here we are in the NE Trades and a beautiful day. Sun shining bright and the sky clear. Therm 73 degrees quite a change from the Land of Ice and Snow. The sun reaches his highest southern declination today and is now on his way to the north. Now “the days begin to lengthen, and the cold begins to strengthen” in New England. But we are stretching away through the tropic for the equator and it will be warm enough for us. The Franklin keeps on at this rate, she will make a rapid passage to the Line. If she don’t sail so fast as the Fearless, she is not so bad as I thought she was. So I’ve nothing to be disappointed in.
How funny it sounds to be calling the Franklin “She” when the noble old predecessor of that name was the most veritable old male ever lived. And there he stands on her bow with his hat in his hand and we call his namesake “She”! But so it is in sailor phraseology; I never knew why.
I am something like a cat in a storage garret here, as everything is so different from the Fearless. I don’t know no more what is on board than a man in the moon, as Captain Bursley left no memoranda for me to go by. Well! It’s something new and bully fun to find out. I’ve got a whole year’s numbers of Harper’s Weekly to bind and cut and look at and read; ain’t that a treat!
Dec. 23rd—in the “tropics” A beautiful pleasant breeze all that day.
Christmas. 14 days from New York, Lat. 16⁰ North. Thermometer is (missing) so you can see it is decidedly warm. And we have sailed a great many hundreds of miles in the last two weeks; it ought to be warm. The ship performs well and all goes merrily on; let it go. Three weeks ago today I left home. Can I ever forget that? How are they all this Christmas day? A little colder, I guess than we are.
“New England, New England,
My home o’er the sea.
My heart, as I wander,
Turns fondly to thee.”
We will cut the Christmas cake Louise made me, today, and eat our last home apple. We think of them all today. Ah yes, it would be no use to write about that; they know it.
“What thronging mem’ries come”
I have given the sailors a holiday today and a plum pudding. They are good able men and will do justice to it.
One year ago today this ship and the one I commanded lay side by side in Hong Kong. We had our boat race that day: 14 boats and a merry time in the bargain. Where are they all now?
Voyage of the Franklin Continued
Fourth Paper 16 Days out. Lat 11⁰00’ N
We are bowling along at the rate of 185 miles per day, but the old ship has to work hard to do it. She pounds away at the sea and makes it fly in all directions; the spray is flying over us all the time. There are lots of flying fish I company.
Last night, by way of change, the sailor on the lookout got asleep. The officer of the deck caught him in the act and very properly cuffed him for it, whereupon he drew his knife and threatened to cut Mr. Call’s guts out. The next thing we knew he was in irons, where he remains at present
time to reflect on the folly of his conduct.
If there is anything that a man on board ship ought to be punished for, it is going to sleep when he is on lookout, for upon him depends the safety of the ship, its cargo and all the lives on board. Ships are crossing one another’s tracks all the time and a timely word from the lookout will see collision. Many ships have gone down this way and never heard of after. “But such is life”.
This is Sunday; what a wonderful day. Too warm for underclothes, but yet a week ago it was cold as Greenland. Byron says something about change, appropriate to thins, but I can’t think of it now. No matter.
Monday, Dec. 28th
Lat 8⁰30” North, Long 30⁰00’ West
Nothing particular today. The weather s fine and sky smoky. Let our prisoner out of irons; there does not seem to be any harm in him. I read the “Gospel Banner” last night ‘til after ten o’clock. The Universalists do believe that they are a lovely lot. They ought not to take so much self conceit to themselves.
I wish I could find a creed that suits me. I haven’t yet. The Good Lord won’t cast me off, though, I don’t believe, because I can’t pin my faith to men’s dogmas.
There is an old saying among sailors: “Every man for himself and the Devel for us all”. That might be slightly changed and
Read “the Lord for us all”.
New Year’s Day—
21 Days Out Latitude 1⁰56’ miles North
Here we are again; another year is gone; a very eventful one too to me. I might write an essay about it if I knew enough. But what’s the use. I was in hopes though it would have found me over the line (Equator) but never mind, we are only 112 miles from it and that’s pretty good for the Franklin in 21 days. The Fearless never beat it much. Three weeks from port, 4 w from home. Our voyage is well begun. Yesterday a ‘hashmouth’ sailor came aft with his duff to know if it was enough for a man to work on. He went off with a “flea in his ear”.
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Story behind the Trade Wind Journals and Jewelry Collection
Where does inspiration come from? Where do the creative sparks for design begin? For Cross’ new Trade Wind Jewelry Collection, we find ourselves drawn into the story of Captain John Henry Drew, from Gardiner, Maine. Born in 1834, he grew up the son of a Ship’s Carver, and went to sea at the age of 15, eventually becoming Captain of a series of clipper ships, and traveling from New York to China and back home, when that voyage took more than seventeen months.
Instead of carving or knotting or other hobbies that were characteristic of sailors, this mostly self-educated man read books, memorized details from newspapers, and wrote about his journey—his literal and his inner journey. His hand-written and personally illustrated journals tell us of his longing for Maine, for his family, and for “making something of himself”. He is very much like you and me, and it makes his story that much more compelling. He savors apples from home, as tasting better than apples from anywhere else. He imagines the scene he might see looking in the window at home, where his family sits, and he chastises himself for not getting more done at home when he was there.
The jewelry in our Trade Winds Collection is made by his great-great grandson, Keith. This young man went to sea as well, at age 18. As part of his service to the US Navy, his travels took him to many of the same places his great-great grandfather’s clipper ships visited. Keith also had a hobby unconventional for sailors— he had a fascination for gems and he studied gemology. He studied so that when his service was completed, he could become a jeweler. As Keith traveled the world, he collected exquisite gems, and after leaving the service and returning home, he mastered the art of fine jewelry making.
It is now decades later. We met Keith for the first time in March, 2014. We were impressed with his jewelry, and as we talked further, discovered he had a clipper ship sea captain ancestor and became intrigued with the parallels of his journey in life with that of his sea captain forebear.
The parallels in the two stories are expressed in the jewelry itself—the exotic colors, the flow of the designs, the attention to detail which is something passed down in this family—whether it is to protect the ship, its cargo and its crew, or to create a design that will last and protect its valuable gems, giving the wearer the same pleasure we experience when a ship at full sail goes by. You can’t help but stop and exclaim, “Isn’t that beautiful?”
We were hooked by this story, and by the jewelry. We think you will be too. In fact, we’re posting pages from Captain Drew’s journals from the Voyage of the Franklin in 1868 on our website, along with all the jewelry from the Trade Wind Jewelry Collection. Take a few minutes to join in the journey, and think of those you love most, and rejoice if they are right there with you.
carmen stephens said:
Thank You For Sharing Capt.Drew’S Journal With Us Here Online. If It Was Published In its’Entirety, I Would Gladly Purchase It.
It won’t be for sale, but the rest of the voyage and a second voyage will be up soon.