Cran Ohlandt

Cran Ohlandt, Able Seaman. Born in the new world to parents of a lower sort.

Cran has no memory of his father or mother or much of his life at all before the age of nine. The only family he can remember was a kindly old man and his wife that he lived with outside of the citie of Boston.

By the time he was twelve he was apprenticed to a Mr. Neale, the Wharf-master of a sounthern set of docks. He assisted in every aspect of the wharves.He swept floors, oiled and filed tools for Mr. Videau and Mr. Nesbit the Ship-smith and Cooper respectively. His teenage years were spent in these waterside shops, and up and down the docks rolling hogshead after hogshead of salt and cod and nails. When short on hands Mr. Neale allowed Cran to accompany the wrights as they plied their trade and here he became familiar with line and all its qualities and assisted the shipwrights as he was able.

By the age of sixteen Mr. Neale was sending him out with local crews on small trips in search of Cod, and here he tried his hand at using the equipment he so often repaired on shore. The rolling decks and sickness that came over him even on the small doggers of New England codmen was too much and it didn’t take Mr. Neale long to bring Cran back to the docks. The consistent click of the casks being worked up and down the skids was as comforting to Cran than anything else he could imagine. He was back to his stable and predictable lifestyle, the same lower floor of the sailloft where him and more than a dozen others shared the straw and linen strewn area where all the apprentices to these wharves stayed. Back on shore Cran felt like things were getting back in line until one afternoon when assisting a crew from New York unloading their goods, there was an incident involving a tackle line snapping. The damnified cargo was blamed on the Wharf-master, and Mr. Neale took his monetary loss out on Cran. While Cran saw very little pocket money from his job, Mr. Neale was very prompt in providing new cloathes for his men. That was until the incident.

By January of the next year Cran found himself working more and more in the ship-smiths shop with Mr. Videau, a position he was partially grateful for because it shielded his rag covered body from the worst of that Boston winter. One morning while acting as a striker on a link of anchor chain an older seaman, Mr. Dow entered the shop. Mr. Dow owned and captained a small sloop of twenty tunnes the Hope, and was scouring the docks for a crew interested in a cruise south to the Carolinas. Beacuse of the grudge now held against him by Mr. Neale, Cran saw little hope of bettering his position here and presented his plight to Mr. Dow. This captain advancced Cran enough to buy off the rest of his apprenticeship and enough to aquire a new suit. The next two weeks blew by in a blur of spray, pain, nausea, and fear, with a crew of only four the Hope was forced to crawl in and out of local harbors and anchorages to make her way south. This experience was (at the time unnoticed catalyst for Cran) and when soundings were taken in the Wando River of Carolina, Cran could think of nothing more than finally being rid of that wretched vessel, but two nights spent on shore soon had him searching out Captain Dow and the Hope.

The next two months he sailed with Dow down the sixty mile stretch of Carolinian coast between Charles Towne and Port Royal moving loads of turpentine, pitch and other naval stores to the newly settled harbour and it was here that Captain Dow revealed his reasons for coming south. He intended to trade the Hope for a larger vessel and set himself as a merchant of some experience between the Carolina Colony and England’s West Indian holdings. That ship came soon enough and before summer reached her peak Mr. Dow was the proud captain of the Adventure, a sixty tunne ketch owned by the Brothers Carteret of Barbados. It was upon this broad bowed dauther of the Dutch fishing boats that Cran was truly introduced to dark water, out of soundings. Sailing out of the now named Cooper river in Charles Towne, lumber, naval stores and hides took Cran to the Sumer Islands, Barbados, The Bahamas and Jamaica. As time progressed he became more and more competent in his handling of lines and sails. A quiet and thourough worker, one Captain Dow eventually promoted to master’s mate on board. And the now twenty one year old was taught the most basic of skills needed to act as second on board a merchant vessel here in the new world, simple coastal navigation and enough written words to suffice a ship’s log, manifest or letter.

He married in Charlestowne to Nicole Rush a knitter from a neighboring Parish, and though seldom home, found the thought of such a relationship suited him. While delivering a load of oxen to Bermuda the Adventure was hailed and stopped by the Royal Ship Dreadnought. Their captain a Johnathon Hiatt explained that he was forcing the Adventure to assist in the manning of his ship due to a large number of his crew being laid out because of the the fevers. When the Adventure’s minimal crew of eight were assembled on deck Captain Hiatt pressed James Brynes and Cran from under Captain Dow. When Cran brought his hammock and bag with him from the Adventure he was led into the the cargo hold where he would spend the next few days as the Dreadnought continually aquired more and more men from the merchant service until they were mustered on deck in front of the Captain and Lieutenants. Cran watched over and over as deep water seaman were rated landmen, being stripped of the few benefits that their skills afforded them. When Cran approached the First Lieutenant he stated his previous position as a Master’s Mate and was met with a scoff, “OS” was marked in the Muster book. Almost a month was spent sweating sheets and halyards on the 64-gun frigate that Cran reluctantly called home. He never much liked the Dreadnought, she was large cumbersome and didn’t posses any of the personal charm found on board the Adventure. They were Jamaica bound and Cran had been there enough to know that finding work back to Carolina wouldn’t be difficult, he just had to find a way out of this damned prison. Desertion was an executable offense and Cran wondered if the possibility of escape was worth it. He had no idea as to how long Pressed men were forced to serve but he felt anything longer than this month would be more than he could suffer through.

Not twelve miles off the Coast of Jamaica, the Dreadnought hove to. The Bosuns cried for the striking of the mizen yards to the deck for refinishing. When the cro’jack yard was within a few feet of the deck Cran reached up with his fid to begin loosening the slats and beads of the parrels that held the yard to the mast. A loose hand on the halyard was all it took, and the three hundred pounds of yard slid down the mast pinning Cran’s right hand between the mast and parrels. The noise itself was enough to send Cran to the deck. The Surgeon on board claimed Cran was useless without his hand and had him sent ashore to a local hospital where he would stay to heal until he could be used onboard one of H.M’s other ships. Seven months in that hole solidified even more Cran’s desire to be gone. Since he was put ashore by the Admilraty he was a free man and could probably count on his discharge paper from the hospital to save him from being taken up by the press, hopefully. Cran signed on board the first ship he found outside of the hospital, not caring where it took him. He found one of dozen small merchant vessels who were part of the citrus trade. Unbeknowst to him until anchors were weighed this vessel was caravaning to England. that October of 1703/1704 found the Star safely moored outside of Portsmouth England. After the Great Storm Cran found himself like many seaman lost and without a ship. Here he was now falling back into his same occupation from his time in Boston, keeping his head down, avoiding the gangs and waiting…

C. Ohlandt copyright 2011


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