A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Commute from Red Bank to New York City and Back Once Took Six Days

At Matawan Aberdeen Public Library today, I stumbled upon the ship's log of a voyage from Red Bank to New York City that took place 275 years ago this week. According to Historical and Genealogical Miscellany: Data Relating to the Settlement and Settlers of New York and New Jersey, Vol. I, pp 222 - 224, written in 1903 by John E Stillwell, MD, the sloop Portland took six days to accomplish a trip that now-a-days takes about three hours or less. Here are the highlights of the voyage as best I can render them (and a 19th century map of the area courtesy Rutgers Unversity's website, which is all I could find online).
  • Saturday 9th November 1734: Passengers and crew boarded the sloop Portland, but tides were unfavorable so the sloop became stuck and couldn't proceed. Everyone deboarded and went home.
  • Sunday 10th November: Everyone boarded, but there was no wind, so everyone was obliged to row a mile to Mr. Pintard's place. The sloop picked up more passengers there, but winds weren't favorable so progress was halted. Everyone deboarded and walked home in the rain.
  • Monday 11th November: Skies were dark and menacing all day. Everyone boarded again around noon. The sloop got as far as Rocky Point and ran aground. Passengers and crew had to wait for high tide. Set off again, arriving at Black Point by about 9 pm. (The trip from Mr Pintard's to Black Point was 2 leagues, or 6 statute miles.) (Black Point used to be called Passage Point, the homestead of Thomas Morris and his son Lewis, who was appointed the first sheriff of Monmouth County. Lewis, one of many with the same name, was murdered by his slaves in 1695 and reportedly deserved it.) The crew struggled to make it the last mile to the inlet, but many groundings later they decided to set anchor. The passengers went ashore.
  • Tuesday 12th November: The sloop went about a mile towards the Inlet and ran aground when the tides grew unfavorable. The passengers went ashore and barbecued a pig. Once back aboard the crew attempted to set sail again and failed. A Rhode Island sloop sat nearby, also mired in the low tide, and sent a canoe over to pick up one of the Portland's passengers. The crew and the balance of passengers slept aboard ship.
  • Wednesday 13th November: "By break of day we began beat and thump" and were able to cross the shoal. But the Rhode Island sloop borrowed some of the Portland's passengers to help them reach Black Point. While waiting for them to return, the crew and some passengers went ashore to retrieve wood. While ashore, one of the passengers developed an acute ague. After everyone was back aboard, the crew went to weigh anchor but broke a rope while casting off. During the effort to retrieve the anchor, the ship once again went aground. In another two hours the sloop was once again under way. They thumped their way across a sand bar, then sailed along Sandy Hook for a couple of hours. The waters became rough and several passengers became ill and stayed that way all night. By 11 pm the sloop ran aground on a shoal and set anchor.
  • Thursday 14th November: The crew got up and prepared some boiled potatoes. When they got to Permy City Cove, the crew shared half a shoat with a crew from Egg Harbor. The crew took the other half of the shoat ashore and traded it and some potatoes to some local Indians, who provided smoked meats. The crew picked up wood. Two of the passengers left the ship at Spermaceti Cove [rendered in this document as Permy City Cove] and returned home on foot -- this was the third passenger lost. The passenger with acute ague fell ill again. The captain cut his hand badly on a shell.
  • Friday 15th November: A man hailed the sloop seeking a ride from near the Cove to New York City, so the crew deboarded to discuss it with him and pick up more wood. The man decided not to board when the crew explained that their New York arrival time was an open question. After some difficulties, the crew escaped the Cove and passed through the Narrows at 10 pm, arriving in New York at 11 pm. Landing at the dock proved perilous in the night, so the crew chose to wait til morning.
  • Saturday 16th November: The crew delivered a cord and three-quarters of wood. While loading and unloading the ship, the jib snapped, which staved in some of the shipping barrels in the hold and made handling the freight very difficult. The crew worked until nightfall.
  • Sunday 17th November: Two of the lost passengers showed up in the city.
  • Monday 18th November: The ship visited another dock to land barrels of cheese, leather, and flour.
  • Wednesday 20th November: While loading the ship with cider, the crew split a tackle block, making it difficult to load the rest of the cargo -- 8 barrels, 2 crates, and other goods. They prepared the ship to set sail the next day into the wee hours, making arrangements with three other ships to join them for the return trip to New Jersey.
  •  Thursday 21st November: The other three ships set sail while the crew of the Portland slept. Once they realized their situation, tides were bad and there was rain and fog at the Narrows. The crew debated what to do, finally choosing to proceed by compass. But the rough seas caused the casks in the hold to shift and the high winds damaged the main mast. The sloop made it to the relative shelter of Sandy Hook and then to Spermaceti Cove. The ship went aground and set anchor at the mouth of the Cove. The crew and its remaining two passengers burned wood to keep warm overnight.
  • Friday 22nd November: Without a needle, the crew used an old fork and twine to repair the mast. After three tries the crew was able to round the point of rock, then into the river. The sloop went aground again at Black Point.
I found the original text online. While many of the errors are due to the writing of the day, this version is scanned, so there are a few errors from the OCR process. See below.


A journal of our intended voyage by Gods Permission from Red Bank to New York Distant 12 Leagues in ye sloop Portland and back Again.

On Saturday the 9th Novm'b 1734 we went on board In order for to come to Sail but in weighing the best bower it got fast under the Stern and it not being got light we could not clear it untill the tide was so much fallen that we could not get away so we was obliged to go on shore again the wind W S \\' and went home and Likewise the Passengers went home.

On Sunday the loth we went on board without the Passengers early in ye evening and got Down the river as far as Mr. Pintards it being one mile but it was with much labour for their was no w'ind and we were oblidge to Row and set all the way, when we came their 7 passengers came on board but went on shore again for the wind sprung up at E & S and that being contrary we went home again on foot, wet weather.

On Mon'd the ITth at 12 o'clock we went on board again with 5 passengers and sailed
down the river as far as Rocky Point the wind at S and their got aground and Lay untill hy water that being at 9 o'clock when we weighed Again & with Abundance of Difficulty and hard Labour we got to black point then it being Late in the night tho it being but 1 mile yet the wind being at S Contrary we ware oblidg to row and set all the way and got aground several times then being come to an Anchor we went on shore & some of our passengers Lodged on shore the weather being all day Lowering, ye distance from Mr. Pintards to black Point being 2 Lgs.

On Tues'd we went on board Again with all our passengers In ye morning & set sail & sailed towards the Inlet about 1 mile and there got aground & tho we carried out an Anchor & strove verry hard for it yet we could not Get off that tide, then their came a Cannoe & fetch't one of our passengers & some of us went on shore & barbecued a pig and Eat him, then towards Evening went on board Again and at hy water we strove to get off again but cannot tho we carried out an Anchor & took much trouble, in the evening came in a sloop from Rhode Island Capt John Watson Commander & run aground in call of us at Dark came a Cannoe on board and took one of our passengers on shore. So we finding our Labour in striving to get off to be in vain we went to sleep the wind at W & N clear weather.

On Wednes'd by Break of day we began beat and thump and at hy water we got off and got over ye shole, we lay upon and came to an Anchor. Likewise the other sloop got ofi' and slipt her cable & left her boat with it & got some of our passengers to carry it to black point, in the after'noon they came back with that passenger that Left us the night before, then we went on shore 4 of us and got some wood, while we were on shore one of the Passenger that came on shore with us had a fit of feaver & Ague, when we came on board Again we weighed Anchor & in casting the Anchor the Cat-roap broak & ye Anchor fell down Again and before we could get it up again we got aground & was obliged to carry out an Anchor Again & in about 1-2 an hours time we got off & sailed Down to the bar, but it being low water we struck upon the baar & lay thumping bought 1 hour, by this time the sun was Down & when we got out the wind was at W B[ ?] N. we sailed
along Sandy hook about 2 miles & then the wind began Scant upon us and at last came to N. W then we were oblidged to turn it & in 3 trips we got within the hook, we had a verry rough time and several of our passengers ware sick, we ran against shole harbour & came to Anchor there at 11 o'clock at night &a went to sleep, some of our passengers ware yet sick the weather indifferent & Clear, she rid all ye night wind still at N W & blew fresh.

On thurs'd towards day we awoke and boiled a pot of potatoes & eat of them by Day light, we weighed Anchor and came to sail, the wind still at N W that morning we got into Permy City Cove where lay 2 Vessels one of them from Egg Harbor which was full of water. ye people came on board of us to get some meat we having a small shoat let them have half of it & took part of the other & carried it on shore with some potatoes which we Exchanged with the other people for musty Indian meal & made Doboys of it at an Indian wigwam. so having Eat our Doe boys potatoes & pork & got some wood, towards Evening we went on board Again all but 2 passengers which Left us & went home on foot, so then we had lost 3 of our passengers, ye wind still at N W clear weather, the man that had a fit of the fever & ague yesterDay had another this Day. Also I cut my Right hand with a Shell very badly.

On Fri'd we boiled more potatoes & pork & Eat that for our bread was all spent, towards Evening their came a man & hail'd us, 4 of us went on shore to him & he told us he wanted a passage to York, we told him ye wind was contrary & we could not tell when we should go for it was at N W still, so he Left us. then having got some wood we went on board Again, by this time we found ye wind was shifted fair for us, we quickly come to sail and with much Difficulty we got out of the Cove, the wind at S W by this time it was dark, however we steered our course, then we boiled more potatoes and Eat them without Anything, then being oblidged to steer by the Compass we had no Candle but were oblidged to put some tallow in a rag & Do with that, then having made the narrows at 10 o'clock at night we had 1 small bottle rum which finished by the time we got into the narrows, then the wind dyed away and we hoisted our Square sail but presently the wind sprung up and Broak the Oar. we burn'd it out with & had like to have carried the Square sail away but haveing a brisk gail & fair we got to York by 11 o'clock that night but in comeing to run into the Dock we run with our Bolt Sprit upon ye Long Bridg. I had like to have Broak it & tore ye jib but haveing clear'd her again we with much difficulty haled her along the Dock where having fastened her & Landed part of our passengers & secured all things the rest of us went to sleep the wind at S W, clear weather.

On Saturday we haled Clofse to the wharf (for we could not get Clofe Last night the tide being too low) & Landed our wood which was a cord & 3/4, then haveing some barrels upon Deck we went to Lower them into the hold & they laying upon the side next to ye Dock when we took them off she Listed off & broak ye down hale of ye jib which was made a fast off and stove a barrel of flour and a barrel of meat and broak a cheefse but having lighted her again and put things in order. In this time it was night, the wind W B[ ?] N, clear weather.

On Sun'd ye 17th Novem'br at night, came to town 2 of the pafsengers we left behind — this day all good weather.

On Mon'd we landed some Leather & Cheefse we then being got unto Connches Dock, the weather clear.

On Wednes'd we took on board 4 pipes of Syder. in takeing of them on we split one of the takel blocks and was put to much trouble to get them in. Also we took on board 8 barrels and 2 Crates and other goods, at night by candle Light we spliced the Down hale of ye Jib intending to sale at 4 o'clock ye next morning, for then the tide did serve, and ye wind at S, fair and good weather.

On Thurs'd by 2 o'clock in the morning we got all things in order for to sail and got water on board, but their being 4 Vefsels of us, all Defineing to sail togethcr, and had Appointed to Call upon one another & we trusting to that, went to sleep, they all went away without calling upon us, so when we awake our vessel was aground and we could not go that tide tho ye wind was fair, when we floated again we came to sail, ye wind at E B [ ?] N and rain by the time that we got down to ye narrows, the wind was got to N E and ye tide of Eb was made for us then we had a Debate Among us whether we should come to an Anchor their and stay untill better weather or stand along, but at Length we concluded to stand along and see it out, but the fog was so thick that we ware oblig'd to steer by ye compafs and in crofsing ye bay the Cask shifted in ye hold ye Seas being so rough — Likewise our main sail give way out of the bolt Roap, ye wind being so hard,
however after some time we made Sandy Hook, we then being w'ithin we made for permy City Cove but in going in we grounded upon ye point of the Cove, but haveing a fresh breeze we rub'd over but being Desireous to get as far in as we could we went to put her in stays, but she mifstayed several times, then we wore her but with mifstaying so often we were got so near ye shoal that in waring she struck, but rub'd over, then we find the wind so hard that it was impofsible to bring her to stays we come to an Anchor in ye mouth of ye Cove, so haveing put things in order we went and kindled a fire and warm'd ourselves, their being but 2 pafsengers, we went to sleep, ye wind still at N E and rain and cold uncomfortable weather.

On fry'd morning went to mending ye main sail, but for want of a nedle we were oblidg to make one of an old fork, which we made holes through ye sail and put ye twine through and so round ye bolt roap. so having mended some part and hoop ye other by taking a reef we come to sail ye wind at N W and in 3 trips we got round ye point of ye Rock the wind then being fair we in a little time got in ye River but just as we come to black point ye wind being contrary thare we got aground and was oblidg'd to carry out an Anchor before we could get her off but having got her afloat.

[This paper was copied from the original for me by a painstaking friend, and while I believe it to be correct, I have never had the opportunity of comparing it.]

* This trip to New York City, taking six days in 1734, is now made daily in three hours.


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