"Down to the Sea in Ships" - an essay on sea travel by C E C Weigall, Girl's Own Paper, Vol XIX, June 11, 1898


It is certainly in this bustling age of ours a far less remarkable thing to have travelled over many lands, and through many seas, than it used to be in the days of our grandmothers. So that no doubt an increased number of the girls who took THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER, when first this excellent periodical started on its career (and I shudder to think how long ago that must be, since I have been a subscriber from the very commencement) are either obliged to travel from choice, or encouraged to do so from inclination.

Our grandmothers. Why, the very name brings back the thought of slim domestic girls in country gardens, busy with their potpourri, or their lavender bags, and content with their quiet reading of the Vicar of Wakefield, or the numberless stories of Miss Edgeworth, beginning with her Purple Jar. The very thought of crossing the channel was repugnant to the minds of our mothers' mothers, and the preparations for a journey to London exceeded tenfold the preparations that we should think necessary for a voyage to Japan.

A few days' parting from home was heralded by several tears and many farewells. Whereas now we shake hands calmly with our nearest relations and receive their good wishes that we may be not too cold in Siberia nor roasted to death in Rangoon, with as much sangfroid as though we were going to the nearest town to do some shopping.

But, since so many readers of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER are probably compelled more from necessity than choice, to go down to the sea in ships, perhaps a few hints from one who has travelled a good deal may not be unwelcome.

An illustration from A COUNSEL OF UPRIGHTNESS by CEC Weigall, published in Girl's Own Paper Vol XXVIWe may either be following the drum in Hong Kong or India, or intending to spend a pleasant six weeks in Malta with some friends, in the height of the season.

At any rate our preparation will be the same. And we shall have equally as much to think of, if we are going out unattached, or as the wife of one of the soldiers of the queen.

To begin at the beginning, since it is always as well to do things thoroughly, we will suppose that we are going to Bombay, which is a voyage of some three weeks, and that we have not had much time to prepare for the intended journey.

I must not touch upon the outfit requisite for such a journey. For, an article concerning a foreign outfit must of necessity occupy some pages, to be attempted in at all a thorough manner.

But we will begin with our packing, supposing that we have procured everything necessary. And believe me that packing tactfully needs more forethought for a voyage than most people imagine.

To begin with, the less luggage that we have in our cabin, so much the better for our own comfort and that of our fellow-travellers.

And since the greater part of our boxes must go down the hold, it is necessary to select a good low box for our cabin trunk, suitable for slipping under our berth.

The remainder of our trunks and boxes must be labelled carefully, and bestowed in the hold. And here again forethought is necessary, for on a long voyage the captain arranges that his passengers may have a chance, once a week, of getting anything form the lower recesses of the ship that they may require. And the necessary baggage is hauled up from the hold, and placed on the deck at the passengers' disposal.

Therefore, in labelling them, it is advisable to procure labels printed clearly in colours, "Not wanted on the voyage," and again, "Wanted on the voyage." And in the "Wanted on the voyage" pack everything that your wildest imagination may conceive of your being likely to require, such as extra linen, towels, cool dresses or medicines.

In your cabin trunk you must place three changes of linen, thin and thick. Two pair of shoes, one pair of boots, plenty of warm stockings, and also thin ones for going on shore at the various ports. A hot bottle, a thin serge skirt, with plenty of clean shirts and smart ties. A large number of handkerchiefs and a smart hat.

You must take with you plenty of warm wraps. A driving coat, golf cape, sealskin, or whatever you may possess in the shape of out-door garments. For even in the height of summer the Channel and the Bay of Biscay are cold enough to freeze one to the bone. And a hot bottle is often a comfortable possession at night in one's bunk.

A warm travelling rug or a thick shawl is almost a necessity for the first part of the voyage. For the early mornings on deck and the evenings are always chilly. And of course a roomy deck chair, that can be procured for about three shillings, is a necessity. As is also a cushion for one's head.

The thin serge skirt will probably be cool enough for landing in, even if the weather be tropical. But if expedient, it is preferable to provide yourself with a pretty white drill gown, or cotton, for going on shore. For the habit of too many English ladies is to land, say at Malta, in the most slovenly attire. So that for the honour of our native country, as well as for our own gratification, it would be as well if the intending traveller were to land at Gibraltar and Malta, at least, where the garrisons are large and critical, smartly gowned. A waterproof holdall, for hanging on the cabin wall, is a necessity. In it you will place sponge and tooth-brush, brush and comb, hair nets, hair-pins, and pins.

And in the pockets you will be able to place all your trinkets and your veil and gloves when you retire for the night. But your money should be slung round your neck in a small canvas bag made for the purpose. As to the drugs that are expedient for you to purchase for the voyage they had better be few in number, and carefully chosen.

Advert from Cassell's Saturday Journal, 1890A bottle of chlorodyne and a phial of Carter's little liver pills are all that you will require. And above all do not forget a plentiful supply of lemons in case of sickness. For very often the supply on board ship is limited.

Avoid every remedy for sea-sickness as you would the plague. They are worse than useless, and are often most injurious. And also be quite certain that you take no stimulant of any sort as a preventive.

Spirits or wine make the sufferer infinitely worse during sickness. But as a tonic, when recovering, or if the sickness is really alarming, a glass of dry champagne will often give great relief, sipped with a little ice.

And as the best champagne is extremely costly, and bad champagne is worse than useless, this fact will act as good deterrent to anyone who might by chance be tempted to exceed the dose.

A large number of people fly to the aid of brandy or whiskey, thinking that in stimulant they will find a remedy for the terrible suffering of sea-sickness. But if you will believe in the advice of one who has tried everything under the sun, nothing but patience has any effect upon the disease.

If the traveller is a bad sailor, it is an excellent thing for her to lie quietly down in her berth directly the vessel weighs her anchor, and in a recumbent position, grow accustomed to the strange movement of the ship, and the noise of the engines.

And above all, make up your mind to come on deck every day, however ill you feel, and make up your mind that whatever your suffering may be it is a matter entirely of the nerves, and that it can be conquered. Was anyone ever sick in a shipwreck or a fire at sea?

So make up your mind, oh traveller whom I have escorted to the quay and even on board of the east going ship, that you will be ill for a few hours, and then oblige yourself to resume the daily life of the ship, merely avoiding cold baths and unwholesome food, and confining your drinks to lemon squashes, and iced soda water.

Then, on board ship, as in every condition of life, unselfishness comes into hourly play. You will probably have one or two ladies in your cabin, and you must remember that an unselfish woman always considers the wants and wishes of other people before her own.

If your companion is not ill, you must disguise your sufferings as far as possible. And if she be a worse sailor than yourself, there are so many ways in which you may help her.

Lend her your smelling-salts, or bathe her temples with Eau-de-Cologne, or see that her arrowroot is tempting, and if the stewardess has not time to feed her with it, take the cup yourself, and give the contents to her by spoonfuls.

Then when she can come on deck, muffle her in a shawl, and lend her your own close-fitting little cap that you have used for your own sick days, and coax her up on deck.

Nothing brings out the good and bad side of a woman so plainly as travelling by sea.

For nothing gives a greater scope for unselfishness to have play. It is possible for the companion of one's cabin to make herself so unpleasant that the voyage becomes almost unbearable. Or on the other hand, friendships have been formed by the intimate association of life in a passenger steamer, that have never been broken while life may last.

And above all, if there be children on board ship, never complain of the noise they make, or frame cutting remarks that are calculated to hurt the sensibilities of their mothers and guardians.

Life on board ship is not easy for anyone, least of all for a small child, who is deprived of nursery and toys at one fell swoop.

And I have seen many a girl win the praise and thanks of the captain and officers of the ship as well as from the passengers, by forming a little fairy story party in the afternoon, and attracting all the children on deck around her, and by that means keeping the crowd of small souls merry and quiet for an hour or two, during which time the fractious Indian official with the liver, and the bilious lady with the affection of the heart, could have their afternoon nap on deck in peace, and when the lovers could play their game of deck quoits, or have their talk by the bridge in safety, without being in momentary dread of the appearance of a child with a buttery mouth, and a design upon their peace of mind.

And so the voyage with its amusements and its dreariness slips away, and we are landing in India almost before we realise that the hardships of the Bay are over, and the blinding heat of the Red Sea is a thing of the past.

And if this short talk of mine has conveyed any helpful suggestions to any reader of THE GIRL'S OWN PAPER who is about to brave the perils of the deep, I shall feel more than thankful. For perhaps I shall have helped to make an ocean voyage more agreeable by suggesting this little leaven of unselfishness than it otherwise might have been. For a ship is a good emblem of the world, laden as it is with souls full of various aims and different virtues, and alas, different vices.

And just as we see the companion of our cabin, at her very worst, with dishevelled hair and lack-lustre eyes in the morning, so does every man, woman, and child shut up in the small compass of one of our passenger steamers, see us day by day, stripped of every pretence, since we have to live our lives in public, from sunrise to sunset. And therefore, may God help us to live as Christians and to show by our lives what we believe in our hearts, even during these few weeks spent at sea.

Unselfish, even in the trials of sea-sickness, which, if it be not profane to say so, trieth the very reins and heart.

C E C WEIGALL
Girl's Own Paper


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