ENGINEERING VS. PILOTING
An acquaintance, who has done some service both as engineer and pilot, thus relates his experience :
How did I like “ greasing !” Not at all ! After having stood a watch, turn into a room as hot as a furnace ; no bar, and musquitoes thick as office-seekers at Washington, and equally annoying. Lay a couple of hours of fighting them off—drop asleep, and just as you are getting “ as comfortable as can be expected,” you are roused out by a fellow feeling your ribs with the end of his boot, and calling out “ Four o’clock !” Get up as sharp set as a cross-cut saw ; go to the pantry, and find it regularly cleaned out—try for a drink ; the coffee cold, and the water warm. Go below—try the water in the boiler ; that scace. Try to raise it, but can’t come it ; the pump won’t throw. Have the boat landed and work for an hour at it ; start again—the packing chest out : land and pack ; the engine room full of steam, in which you are parboiled. Ready for breakfast—get that, and turn in for an inch or two of sleep. Just as you have succeeded in hoisting in a small lot, your partner is at you, swearing the pump has suspended and he can’t fix it, no how ! Go below—overhaul the infernal thing, and fuss about, generally, for another hour. Start for your room to roast until dinner. While going on deck, see the pilot house full of ladies, who are conversing with the pilot, he having little else to do but answer them ! This is “Engineering !”
“ Well, you like Piloting ?” Not by a jug full ! Take the wheel—night as dark as a stack of black cats !—the boat two feet by the head, and charging about the river like a short dog in tall grass. Captain comes on deck ; says it’s “rayther dark,” but he don’t say “ land.” Stops a few minutes, and slopes. The boat “ breaks” for the bank—haul her out. She is off for the “ bar,” and “ out for time,” at that ! Ring for a lead ; the deck hands asleep and the mate helping them. “ No b-o-t-t-o-m !”--she strikes, drawing four feet ! Back her off and try it again. No one on deck—the watchman setting his potato trap in the pantry. Ring for somebody !—the mate comes up, prying his eyes open, and asks if you can see “ something ;” says he can’t, but don’t mention “ land.” Get her straightened down ; commences raining—open out the pilot house and take it as it comes, all sides at once ! The wheel ropes get so “ taut” you can scarcely turn the wheel over, and while pulling your arms off, you hear the lazy engineer whistling on the steps, “ Dance de boatman dance,” and this is Piloting !
St. Louis Reveille.
Source: New York Spirit of the Times 15.14 (31 May 1845): 153. University of Virginia Alderman Library.
Erin Bartels prepared this typescript.
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