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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 11, Issue 8 (November 2, 1936)

The Sailors of the “Kent.”

The Sailors of the “Kent.”

The crew of this good vessel matched the ship. There was no niggardly skimping of expenditure on crews in those palmy days of sail. The fo'c's'l was filled with prime British seamen, “every finger a fish-hook,” as the old saying is; when topsails had to be reefed there were enough men to reef all three sails at once. On one voyage Captain Clayton had a crew numbering fifty-eight, including eight or nine midshipmen. Besides the boatswain, there were two boatswain's mates, each, like their chief, carrying whistles or pipes page 18 page 19
(From a painting by Captain Clayton.) An ocean race. The “Kent” passing the “Owen Glendower” in the Southern Ocean, 1861.

(From a painting by Captain Clayton.)
An ocean race. The “Kent” passing the “Owen Glendower” in the Southern Ocean, 1861.

slung on a ribbon or cord round their necks as their badges of office; and then there was the fiddler. The Kent never went to sea without signing on a fiddler as one of her crew. His regular duties were to furnish the music for the crew when they were engaged on work at the halliards or braces, or any other of the thousand tasks which was lightened by sea-melody. There were no “chanteys” on board the Kent; the usual merchant sailors' choruses were forbidden—Royal Navy style—and the fiddler, perched on the booms or the forecastle-head, supplied music to take the chantey's place.

The boatswain was an important man. He was always styled “Mister” on these ships. The Kent's bos'n in Captain Clayton's time was Mr. Walker, a tall broad, dark-complexioned man of some forty years, a powerful fellow and a thorough sailor. The boatswain's pipe was a familiar sound on board ship in those days. A great deal of work was done to the silver piping of the bo's'n or his mates—Navy fashion again—instead of to wild songs from sea-roughened throats. Captain Brine—appropriate name that for a sailor—was the commander of the Kent when Mr. Clayton joined her. Captain Brine! It has as salty a flavour as any sea-novelist or sea-song-writer could wish for. As fitting a name as old Captain Stormalong of the sailor chanties, or as that grand old sea-name, Tom Bowling.

Mr. Clayton succeeded Capt. Brine as commander, and was in charge of the Kent until the end of 1863.

The Kent, though loftily sparred, carried nothing above royals; but she had a full set of studding sails—stu'n's'ls Merchant Jack calls them—to spread on each side of her like huge wings; lower and topmast and topgallant studding-sails, and many a brisk tussle the rigging-out and in of the stu'n's'l booms and the setting of these auxiliary sails gave the sailormen of the Fifties and Sixties. By the Seventies stu'n's'ls were going out of date, and now they have vanished altogether.

As to arms, the Kent did not require the rather formidable armament of carronades and small arms carried by ships in the China trade, for fear of pirates. She had a couple of saluting guns on deck, and had a dozen or so of muskets and cutlasses in the cabin.