Page:Paine--Lost ships and lonely seas.djvu/27

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9
FATE OF THE BRIG POLLY

Men suffer in open boats, as has been the seafarer's hard lot for ages, and they drown with none to hear their cries, but they are seldom adrift more than a few days. The story of the Polly deserves to be rescued from oblivion because, so far as I am able to discover, it is unique in the spray-swept annals of maritime disaster.

Seamanship was helpless to ward off the attack of the storm that left the brig a sodden hulk. Courageously her crew shortened sail and made all secure when the sea and sky presaged a change of weather. These were no green hands, but men seasoned by the continual hazards of their calling. The wild gale smote them in the darkness of night. They tried to heave the vessel to, but she was battered and wrenched without mercy. Stout canvas was whirled away in fragments. The seams of the hull opened as she labored, and six feet of water flooded the hold. Leaking like a sieve, the Polly would never see port again.

Worse was to befall her. At midnight she was capsized, or thrown on her beam-ends, as the sailor's lingo has it. She lay on her side while the clamorous seas washed clean over her. The skipper, the mate, the four seamen, and the cook somehow clung to the rigging and grimly refused to be drowned. They were of the old breed, "every hair a rope-yarn