Bibliography Texts

The Saga of “Cimba”

Richard Maury

Galápagos chapters only

9. Hacking to Windward

“There's a schooner in the offing,
With her topsails shot with fire,
And my heart has gone aboard here
For the Islands of Desire.”

  —The Sea Gypsy, Richard Hovey

For two days we hung off the Perlas Islands, thirty miles from Panama, on an unrewarded quest for fish. On the 7th of July {1934} we set sail for the Galapagos some eight hundred miles to the southwest. The day passed slowly, a day echoing with the clacking of sheet blocks and the jingle of loose travelers wrenching at plow steel deck horses. At times, the becalmed craft stood absolutely motionless, as though propped underneeath by invisible shoring; then suddenly, disturbing the revery of a dingy sea curiously littered with driftwood, she would shake her hanging sails and begin to march.

We were not going to try breaking through the great inertia these waters know in the rainy season by making a straight-lined track to the Galapagos. Instead, a right-angled course was planned, keeping within a hundred miles of the South American coast, using whatever land wind spiraled off the Andes, holding almost due south until fetching the Horse Latitudes.§ Then the course would be west, seawards, and toward the Galapagos, to end a fourteen-hundred-mile drive that should bring a smarter passage than the direct route.

§ The Horse Latitudes are at about 30 degrees north and south of the equator—in either case far beyond Galápagos. Perhaps Maury meant to sail due south until reaching the equator, not the Horse Latitudes located some 30 degrees beyond the islands.

Squalls heavy with rain closed the second and third days. Typical of their kind, the low latitude squalls arrived in groups, so that often we would be in company with a dozen or more at one time. Some were smudged, cloud-like, others, fully defined, slanting vertically over the sea, shifting in cyclonic movement, those to windward rarely attacking, while many lunged up under the lee to send us flying on our way. There would be a great wailing of wind, a heavy rain, the scuppers would break water, the sheets would cut their rigid blocks, and suddenly the gust would be gone, leaving the helmsman to screw the rain from his eyes, and cast off his so-called oilskins—in reality Nova Scotian rubber suits, drier, less awkward, safer than oilskins.

On the fourth day out, Panama lay 210 miles astern. Squalls made us take wind from every compass point, to pay off sheets to erratic puffs, to jam into wet thrusts of revolving winds. The grey unlighted Colombian coast would appear in the offing, mysteriously draw off, leaving an empty space of water reaching out to the groove of sky.

The Cimba could ghost,§ even though the masts were little more than stumps holding upright her pocket handkerchief sails. Deep laden, not too far from being awash at the rails, she would catch a puff, lose it, the heavy load carrying her hundreds of years over windless space. Always on the verge of being becalmed, she but rarely stopped sailing, and at times seemed to carry a way only through utter persistence, a dogged will that would force a smile from the critical helmsman. I couldn't say how favorably her ghosting qualities compared to those of other cruisers—not too well, perhaps, but I do know that for sheer tenacity she could hold her own with any afloat.

§ Ghost: to sail gently and silently in very light air.

From the log:

“July 11: a.m.: Heavy squalls upon us from the south. Sail handled quickly. p.m.: Wind high and chopped seas, gradually diminishing to light variables.”

Twenty-five miles made good. The next day was calm, sultry, but the morning following saw the return of head winds and brought sharp lightning from the distant coast. The wind held south and we began working tacks to seaward at night, changing to inshore ones throughout the day, sailing into a head current, a portion of the cold Humboldt sweep flowing up from the faraway Horn.§

§ The Humboldt Sweep (or Current) does not flow from Cape Horn.

When a good grip of wind caught us, the schooner, full-and-by, with tiller locked, logged 7½ knots for over an hour. Nearing Ecuador that evening we flashed past a lonely traveler, an orange and black snake, deadly looking, wound disconsolately around a piece of bamboo. A few minutes later a little steamer was seen, heading along coast. Giving no evidence of seeing us, she presently disappeared under a border line of mountains to the east. The Cimba kept on through the night, breaking a pounding sea, her bows alight with phosphorus. By the next day we found that she had made a run of 125 miles out to windward against a retarding chop and a one-knot head current, her helm unattended throughout.

The sunset of that day found us under the lofty steps of the Andes, almost onto the bases of crumbling cliffs, under dark gorges arising in a great wilderness to unattainable peaks brushed with clean snow. A play of copper-colored light lit the heights, falling seawards like a scarlet and purple tide. It died out; but as it vanished, a promontory just north of Cape San Francisco was sighted. We had gained southing! So tacking ship, we moved westward over the ocean, to see the Americas no more.

Six hundred miles still separated us from the Galapagos, and before one of these had been covered the wind veered, forcing us onto tacks again. The next day, bringing no change, the Cimba drove over gaudy waves with her crew seated on the cabin top scrubbing clothes beside buckets of rainwater. From the log of the following night:

“Seas running high. Nimbus clouds on windward horizon. Ship pitching violently in steep wave formation.”

With the tiller locked and the steering well usually emptied by head winds, Dombey Dickinson § and I would suddenly abandon ourselves to long talks. What would be the perfect cruise? The perfect cruise, we decided, would have to be a cargo-carrying one, for the romance of yachts is not as potent as the romance of working ships. No, the Cimba could not be classed as a yacht, but even so, why were we on this cruise? I don't think I even attempted a real answer. To be exact, I don't think I knew how. It was like asking a boy why he liked cake, an old man, his pipe. We take what we can get. If there was a sailing merchant marine, very likely Dombey and I would be the slaves to some deepwaterman. Why won't one of steam do? Oh, it's not mere nonsense, this insistent mumble of salty voices against the shore-bound invention, the steamer. Nor is it only sentiment, romance; it is something more. A good seaman, to whom all the meaning in the world is wrapped up in his ship, feels a false note in the extravagance of a modern steamer. Strangely enough, he feels that the sailing craft has a utility lacking in her rival. Absurd! Mechanical contraptions are the things of the moment! But is it absurd? Sailing ships did not have to be subsidized by governments or given enormous mail contracts in order to be kept at sea, and one of them could have made a fortune just by carrying the fuel a steamer burns in a single passage. But Sail will return. The steamer is merely one of many extravagances riding a particular economic wave, an expensive gesture of a glorious era, a grand piece of commercial extravaganza that may be lost forever by the falling of another Phoenicia, another Rome, at the twinkling of an eyelash. And Sail, sound and ageless, will float back on the first tide that brings simplicity into confusion, calm into chaos.

§ Russel “Dombey” Dickinson.

… But why this cruise? “I've always like the idea—pressing in on something new, that we don't know about,” said Dombey, lighting his pipe. “And who knows what we'll find ahead at all?” And one of our rare talks would end, end perhaps lacking the subtlety that was Carrol's, unfortified by the rich experiences that were Warren's, trailing off into silence, passing away like the pleasant smoke from Dombey's pipe.

Head winds clamped down. We would drop the regular foresail and fastening the tack of one of the new wing-sails to the foremast foot, hoist it to the main truck, transforming the Cimba into a staysail schooner; or again, we would set the wingsail to the fore, sheet home the clew, acquiring a jibheaded, freefooted foresail. These new sails, designed to meet all three purposes, drew well and proved easy to handle.

Twelve days out, we ran into cold weather brought about by the Humboldt Current. Once more the coal stove was lighted, a hot meal served up that night. Until now, we had lived almost entirely on fresh provisions, plaintains, bananas, beans and yuka (a variety of yam), having broached only half a dozen tins of preserved foods. The squalls increased and one of us kept to the deck night after night while the schooner fumed under smoky moonlight, her halyards cleared but still sailing herself. Once in a while there would come from the deck an excited cry, “Here it is!” And we would rapidly join forces as a squall blasted down and began to overwhelm the lone ton of keep ballast; but only rarely, for we were not often run upon so hard or so quickly that one man couldn't manage the gear. Finally, on the last night out, the Cimba crossed the Line, her man on deck bundled in sweater and coat.

The following afternoon as ashen mist, very fine, spread the horizon. The wind, wet and west, pawed at the caps of an ocean, icy and rolling in half-hearted sunshine. By and by the haze drew off, dissolved, and two mounds of land were seen towering darkly over the swaying sea: the first islands of the Galapagos, Chatham {Isla San Cristóbal} and Indefatigable {Isla Santa Cruz}, reared in shadow against the skyline. Diving heavily, throwing a lot of spray, we slowly closed in as the sun went down, and the schooner with helm still untouched knuckled into a lifting, unshining sea.

The dark, tomb-like islands of the Galapagos, their dead volcanic bodies separated from one another by wide ranges of ocean, are perhaps best identified by the names of their few anchorages; by Academy Bay on Indefatigable Island, Wreck and Freshwater Bays on Chatham, Tagus Cove on Albemarle {Isla Isabela} and by Post Office Bay on Charles Island {Isla Floreana}. Four people, perhaps seven, live on Charles, two on Indefatigable, and a handful of peons on Chatham.

Sometime in early morning we came abeam Wreck Bay, cleared the lee of Chatham and bore down on Charles Island, our destination. With the sun back, the first hour of fair wind on the entire passage passed with the Cimba running at nine knots to bring up Champion {Isla Campeón}, a guano island, white and resembling an iceberg, and finally Charles Island, gained after sixteen days and fourteen hundred miles of calm and squall.

Under barren heights we brought up, headed inshore and made a flying moor off the rim of a white sand beach. The sails dropped, a bird screamed, and from the parched volcanic slopes a silence seemed to gather way, to roll down and close in about us and about the rolling schooner. This was deserted Post Office Bay, where at one time whalers, a year or two from home, would call to find letters brought by outward-bounders in a cask on the edge of the beach—a place I have heard is haunted to this day by the slush lights of old New Bedford ships, by dim figures parading that fine strip of sand almost lost on a sea-shore of rotted lava.

We took the tender from the cabin top, stripped the tarpaulin, set it rigid, and rowed ashore. On the beach we came upon the wreck of a small boat, two skeletons,§ and the wind-worn footprints of a man. A curious place for man to come, we thought! The sand ended abruptly where streams of lava had rolled into the bay, while beyond, on three sides, a thicket of dead brush listed far up to a mound of small stones propping up a ship's timber supporting the post office, a weather-beaten cask. It was not the original case, but one erected by the British Scientific Expedition of 1924. Dombey opened a small door hinged to its side by strips of old leather. It was empty.

§ Maury mentions the footprints and the wreck of a small boat two paragraphs below, but incredibly says nothing further about the skeletons. Their proximity to the boat implies they were human remains, but he seems not the least bit curious about all this. Possibly this is just a bit of “creative writing” though, as neither the Wittmers nor Dore Strauch mention this discovery. Also, the account is remarkably similar to his later report of two skeletons found on Isla Marchena.

A few yards further inland we came upon what much have been a compound, a clearing in the brush. Tracings of roadways and paths neatly bordered by shells and stones wandered into the bruch for a hundred yards or so, then trailed off. Long since they had failed to lead anywhere. But where could they ever have led on this lonely island? Dividing dead brush from dead brush, mysterious stone walls ran the thicket. There were one or two graves. Towards the center of the clearing a warped flagpole, its halyards gone, pointed forlornly to the sky, and beyond it, in partial ruin, its veranda fallen away, stood a solitary building. § Going inside, we found three musty rooms, empty, littered with rusted cooking utensils, German catalogs, old estimates of mining equipment. Learning nothing further, we went back to the clearing and were about to go into the brush when Dombey exclaimed, “Look there—” By the side of the house was a water tank in a state of ruin, and on it was painted a crude arrow and the words “Hacienda Paradise.” House of Paradise! We looked up the forbidding hills of basalt, partially yellowed with low shrub, for the most part bare and wind-cut, toward which the arrow pointed. So it was somewhere within that unearthly silence that Paradise had been found!

§ The solitary building was the Norwegian Casa Matriz, described in Stein Hoff's Drømmen om Galapagos.

The sun was far down, flashing over the sea, throwing a slight fluch upon the island, driving long shadows inland. A crater top glowed with light, another becamse somber and purple, and we, knowing it was too late to climb the hills that day, went aboard to return with supplies for supper. Dombey, with a .38, disappeared one way, and I, with a machete, another, each to go over the coast in the descending twilight. We returned at dark with armfuls of wood, made a roaring fire and cooked a supper of pancakes and tea. We discussed the finds. The footprints and the wreck remained unaccounted for, but some piping and a sluice together with the mining catalogs suggested an abandoned hydraulic mine. And yet, would a mine account for the neat stone walls or the paths so painstakingly bordered? We racked our minds in vain, neither of us guessing we were having supper amongst the ruins of a lost Utopia; that the obscured paths and the partially hidden walling were the physical remains of a dream, of an ideal, attempted by a lonely group of Scandinavians endeavoring to form the perfect, the ultimate community. The silent roads, the flagpole without a flag, pointed, perhaps not so much to the frailties of men, as to the frailties in the systems of men. And in the end this Utopia had been left but one purpose: it bore a sign to a new one—“Hacienda Paradise!” §

§ Maury seems to have mixed up the work of the Norwegian (not Scandinavian) colonists (described by Stein Hoff) with that of the Baroness and her lovers.

A cold wind sprang off the sea, moaned in the bush, swung up and over the big island, over silent craters, through wildernesses, and dark, discernible valleys. The fire sputtered, grew low, its circle widened, expanded—the circle of all that is ageless, widening for the infinity beyond the horizons. The Twentieth Century was lost, left astern. A scream from the forest! And a wild donkey braying shrilly thundered past the fire. The lusty wind came on again, a peak of cold moon cut the sea edge, and we, stamping out the fire, launched the boat and rowed for the resting Cimba.

10. A Galapagan Mystery

A nearby rifle shot broke the air at sunrise. Dombey hurried the Winchester on deck and fired in reply. When no answer came the two of us made for a march inland. The two stock anchors were given full scope, while doubled bights on line were run from the foremast foot to an old mooring in the bay. The companions were locked, then taking the repeating rifle, a pistol, a bush knife, a flour bag of raisins and a flask of water, we rowed ashore, to discover fresh footprints on the beach. Someone had come out of the thicket walking with almost feminine steps, and had stood for some while facing the schooner before returning to the bush. On losing the tracks inshore, it once more occurred to us that Post Office Bay was a curious place for a human being.

Obtaining a bearing from the arrow on the water tank we walked inland, losing the sea. Stumbling on a dim trail, splashed here and there with the same paint used for the arrow and sign, we asceneded a bed of loose lava, black and dry. A mile on and up the sea appeared over shoulder, a calm expanse run over by waves of light, hot and flashing from the equatorial sun. Far out a kite-shaped thing, a giant ray, flung itself into the light, careened, and fell back to the glaring sea with a large splash; under the heel of the land, the Cimba swung safely at her hooks. Pressing on, we climbed a deposit of loose stones, winding through a parched valley like a dry stream, eventually gaining an immense plateau, where a range of volcanoes brooded over a sparse, forsaken wilderness. In the melancholy of yellow leaves, small birds, the only visible life, fluttered silent and unafraid.

A valley, caught between the upright breasts of two craters, swung off the eastern limit of the plateau, and here, on its shaly reach of withered trees and cactus stump, we saw tracks of donkeys, and wild dogs—the descendants of ships' mascots that attack like wolf packs and have to be stopped by gun fire. The tracks were old, most of the life having retreated to the few water holes on the peaks. Again rifle shots were heard, and once more we answered with the 30.30 to bring the strangers to silence. Several times we lost the trail slanting up the slope of a crater glittering with substratum metals, and then, with the whole mountainside ablaze, we called a halt, broke out the raisins and drank from the flask. We moved on, and reaching the crater we saw the land circling beneath us, pensive and desiccated, its shadowless mountains stacked over valleys, the valleys reared in immense waves above the sea. After half circling the crater tip we swung down, passed over an arid shoulder of basalt to find at its base a small oasis of green lemon trees, shining and blowing in the wind.

With pockets filled with lemons we crossed a mile or so of shale to enter another valley, silent, ridged by dead lava lifting to the midday haze in dry perpendicular slopes. Suddenly, we stopped. Above, on a jagged ledge a figure was crouched gazing at us, a boy § whose hair fell almost to his shoulders, whose sunburnt body was bare except for a loin cloth supporting a long knife in a skin sheath. He was shielding his eyes agains the sun, glaring at us with even more amazement than we regared him.

§ Heinz Wittmer's son Harry, with a puzzling—and highly inaccurate—description of his hair (always quite short) and clothing.

“Hello,” I said—perhaps too suddenly. He drew back, turned, and began to run. Still crouching he sprang with the grace of an animal along the ledge, his arms straight down, his back bent forward, disappearing before our eyes like a vision.

“Well, of all the—” exclaimed Dombey.

A bearded man, § his hair reaching well down a coarse shirt, was suddenly shaking us by the hand, speaking briskly in some foreign tongue, which sounded like German. He had appeared out of nowhere, a smile on his weathered features, a Mauser rifle in his hand, gesturing that we follow him up the incline.

§ Heinz Wittmer was nearly bald.

At the door of the House of Paradise, a woman, § standing so strangely, so pleasantly, amid the wilderness, greeted us, and together with the man urged us into the shelter of grass and driftwood. A little table on the stone paved floor was hurriedly laden with melon, a salad of greens and lemon, as we, like guests of primitive times, were given food the very first thing. Not until afterwards was it discovered that two of us could speak no German, the other two scarcely a word of English; nevertheless, what with gestures, pencil sketches, stray words, an English-German dictionary, we made considerable headway.

§ Maury is mistaken in thinking this was the Hacienda Paradise. It was in fact the home of the Wittmer family, and the woman was Margret Wittmer.

The man, middle-aged, full-bearded, sat before us like a noble scholar in careless garments, a scholar who instead of being bowed down by a painfully learnt philosophy happily derived his enthusiasms from it. And the woman might just have come in from shopping on a European street. There was a charm and a gentleness about her, nothing of the erratic, of the careless or the unwomanly, and it was easy to see who controlled the slight conventions even a paradise must have. She was—and it must take character to be this in a wilderness—a lady.

They explained to us, their first visitors in over two years,§ that they asked only ammunition and matches of the outside world, that often they went months without either. Why had they left that world behind? Just in time we remembered that the gracious traveler listens rather than questions. Consequently we waited in vain for a story that was not forthcoming. We told of the rifle shots about Post Office Bay. Who could it have been? Could it have been the boy seen on the cliff? Heavens, no! kleiner knabe has no gun; he has a knife. No one goes to the Bay. It is abandoned, the hunting terrible. They talked together a short while, then, still mystified, arose to show us the second of three rooms where an eighteen-month-old baby §§ slept in a rude cradle, and then a tiny kitchen beyond it, clean and spare in equipment.

§ Perhaps Maury misunderstood something; Margret Wittmer has mentioned having several visitors within the past two years.

§§ Rolf Wittmer, born in January, 1933.

We went outside. A small garden patch waving in the wind dipped steeply to a valley—a great depression of rock rolling for the ocean. Here and there within the garden, green leaves, the glitter of Life surrounded by Death, were shining in the harsh afternoon light. Suddenly the boy appeared amidst them, to stand watching us. The couple, obviously his parents, paid no attention as they showed us over the garden. Only an acre or so in all, it was laid out with Teutonic precision, small plots of corn, wheat, potatoes, and adequate strips of cotton, coffee, tobacco, even. And behind us the boy followed, not closely, but from a distance, his eyes constantly upon us. At the head of the garden we inspected the sides of beef in a smokehouse cut into the sheet cliff, and beside it, to make all this possible, a small spring, trickling as if by magic out of the dead earth.

It was getting late when we went back to the house to give the couple a bundle of magazines, the jars of marmalade carried from the Cimba. The woman was delighted by this latter gift, valuing the jars above their contents, but neither of them, asking only ammunition and matches of the world, knew quite what do say about the magazines, printed in English an crowned by gaudy advertisements. In the end they laughed over them—they showed so little curiosity regarding a new Germany or a post-war world. § They had wandered away perhaps to lose all of the world, yet certainly to find a happiness in one of the most unyielding places on earth.

§ Given the July 1934 date of Maury's visit, his “new Germany or a post-war world” remark is puzzling.

It was nearly time to leave when the boy came to stand silently in the doorway. Lithe and supple, with a body almost as dark as his long hair, he was perhaps sixteen years old. He gazed steadily upon us with a pair of handsome eyes that shifted only if Dombey or I tried to catch them with a glance. There was something untamed, subjective, and yet noble about him all at once. Standing before us was a boy, as close as possible to the hypothetical natural state; erect, tense, fortified by fresh, extremely strong instincts, strange only because of the purity of their state.

The sun was fast sinking, we arose to go, declining an invitation to stay the night and accepting with reluctance a copy of “Galapagos—World's End.” § I went up to the silent boy and, smiling, put out my hand. He hesitated a moment, gripped it with a firm clasp, and putting his feet together made a courtly bow. He looked up, and I thought I caught a faint smile.

§ The anecdote is questionable: William Beebe's Galápagos: World's End was a prized possession and it is unlikely that the Wittmers would give it away so readily. Also, during the 1943 eruption of Cerro Azul on nearby Isla Isabela, Margret Wittmer wrote that Heinz Wittmer was re-reading the book—which would have been impossible if they had given it away.

A final sweep of light, cold, brazen, penetrated the valley as we descended. On looking back we saw a triangle of small figures standing under the gloom of an india-ink mountain.

“Auf Wiedersehen!” called the woman. “Auf Wiedersehen,” and she waved encouragingly from her paradise found at the world's end. … After all, perhaps Plato and the Norwegians of the Bay had lost Utopias because the Perfect State cannot exist beyond the family group, beyond the depths of love, which acclaims itself neither as a monarchy nor a democracy, and yet is greater than both. … Waving toward the mountain, we turned and marched slowly into the valley.

In dusk, in darkness, in moonlight, we found a way. Some distance on there was a crude obelisk of stones marking the beginning of a trail leading to Black Beach where the widow of Doctor Ritter lived in seclusion.§ Too late to think of deviating, we held south [sic, north] under large ashen craters, groped through the thickets, passed the wide plane, at a late hour descending to sea level to find Post Office Bay, windless in cool moonlight.

§ Friedrich Ritter died in November, 1934, and so was still very much alive at the time of Maury's July visit. And even after his death, Dore Strauch did not live at Black Beach.

Before going aboard we stumbled upon something strange. The heavy door of the settlement building, wide open before we left, was now firmly closed. Of weighty oak, it opened so stiffly that a half gale could not have swung it; yet here it was, at the end of a calm day, tightly closed. Forcing it quickly, we hurried inside, not returning until knowing the old building empty. There was not another clew. And the moon revealed no further footprints about the clearing or the beach.

We returned to the Cimba, our stay on Charles Island over. To our regret we were leaving behind something unsolved, footprints, unexplained gun shots, a mystery of sorts, parts of which have never been satisfactorily explained. But we were in dry islands, using ship's water, with 3,000 miles of open ocean ahead. Under the cabin lamp we opened the volume of “Galapagos—World's End” to the fly left where our friend, the lady at Paradise, had written an inscription. As far as we had known on going ashore there were but two camps on the island, one belonging to the widow at Black Beach, the other to the notorious Baroness Wagner, whom we thought we had visited that day. But the signature beneath the inscription was not her's at all, but that of someone else. § Where in those godforsaken mountains could she be? Could she explain the rifle fire, the footprints, the closed door at the post? Why had not our friends, who many times mentioned Mrs. Ritter, spoken once of this third party?

§ It would seem that Maury knew almost nothing about the Baroness, who was certainly not a married woman with two children. He had of course visited the Wittmer family, but apparently had not thought to ask their names.

We learnt nothing more, not another thing, and for a long while the world heard nothing of the tragedies of Charles Island. And then came news of the breaking up of the Baroness Wagner's stronghold, the hill fighting between her men, of a stranded boat with two skeletons beside it on one of the northern islands, § and finally the unexplained disappearance of the Baroness herself—tragedies which, almost invariably, came about while we lay at anchors.

§ The northern island was Isla Marchena. Perhaps Maury heard a distorted report, or “invented” the account of two skeletons: the bodies of Lorenz and Nuggerud were found fully clothed and mummified—not skeletons. It is unclear why Maury inserted essentially the same account earlier, on landing at Post Office Bay.

From the Log:

“Got under way at 10 a.m. for Tagus Cove, Albemarle Island, distant 117 miles. Tide rips off Daylight Point. Southeasterly winds light, current favorable.”

11. A Rendezvous at the World's End

We sailed west seventy miles, eased sheets in the moonlight and stood under western Albemarle, under steep and black cliffs charged by breakers leaping with a roar a hundred feet up the rock. In looming shadow, great upright washes of sea, phosphorus filled and whitened by the moon, mounted, glowed brightly, and in thunderous explosion upen explosion collapsed into darkness. The Cimba, following some two hundred miles of coast, moved quietly all the next nday, the sleeping sea under her, the massive form of Albemarle Island high above, grey, uninhabited, of sulphur, alkali, of great ranges of basalt, dropping so steeply at sea edge that we, hugging the shore, sailed with a thousand fathoms beneath keel. All day long sea mews planed mast-high over the water, with stiff-winged albatross scouting above them, occasionally diving to a green sea broken by porpoise and the wake of sluggish sharks.

In the night, which resembled one of a northern fall, we forereached toward Tagus Cove, the only anchorage of all that coast. As the moon cut the black brim of a sugar loaf, we saw a tall shadow in the cliffwork, an up-and-down entrance in the rock. Standing in under all sail, to depend on a quick rudder rather than sluggish maneuvers to fend off danger, we observed in the eery light that the opening looked little more than a few yards in width—a narrow slot demanding fine steering. On either side rose the stony gates of Tagus Cove, layer upon layer of absolutely vertical basalt towering eight hundred feet into the air, separated not by a few yards at all, but by a full quarter of a mile of dark water. The white Cimba, her sails pulling easily, glided into a canyon—an incredible mirage illuminated above us, dusky, in a bas-relief of moonlight. Three-quarters of a mile on, the cove ended and a 4,000 foot crater, pitch black in its mystery, lifted like a titanic backdrop over the scene.

As Dombey and I lined up an anchorage, the moon revealed something on the water that had been hidden in shadow—another boat! We let go anchors, fetching bottom in ten fathoms, and setting up the collapsible skiff rowed for the stranger, soon recognized as the famous Svaap, the America 10-ton ketch, one of the smallest and stoutest of the 'round the worlders.

Two months before, the Svaap, that had circumnavigated the globe, had been well under way on a second expedition when her owner, William Albert Robinson, who wrote of her in the splendid book, “10,000 Leagues Over the Sea,” was taken desperately ill with acute peritonitis [sic, appendicitis]. When his condition was almost beyond hope, Mrs. Robinson, a very brave person, signaled a wandering tuna boat § whose wireless brought a destroyer and seaplanes to the rescue to rush the couple to Panama. Robinson was saved, but ever since the Svaap had rolled abandoned amidst the silences of Tagus Cove.

§ The Santa Cruz, Captain Anton Hage.

We went on board and striking matches in the cabin saw the signs of hurried leave-taking: emptied sail lockers and chart racks, remnants of clothing, rusted tins of food on the floorboards.

Leaving Dombey in the cabin I went on deck and eased myself into the steering well. What sights can be seen from the helm of a single craft guided by resourceful hands! The sighted green glitter of a South island bearing over the bows, a foam of breakers heaving to some romantic coast, the heated shore lines of jungles, calm, steaming; islands of coral, voluptuous islands of flowers, islands of rocks. And yet, to the small-boat voyager it is the sea which comes first; it is the supreme consideration, stretching to every shore, wind-cut and passionate, greater in breadth and loneliness than all the deserts of the world together.

It was time to go when Dombey appeared. After overhauling the ground tackle and pumping bilges (the Svaap had recently been strained in an accident in Ecuador) we returned to the Cimba at 2 a.m., turning in to leave the two adventurers rolling in the windless bay, their white sides misty, grey with moonlight; leaving them—one the veteran, the other of the young that forever champ at their hawsers—to their own communion beneath the precipices.

When we came on deck with our breakfast, Tagus Cove resembled a formidable Norwegian fjord. First to catch our eye were the names of previous expeditions printed in white paint on the base of the dark cliffs: the brigantine Saint George,§ the schooner Zaca and, as I recall, the Yankee, Pilgrim, White Shadow—all names of comparatively large vessels. Those of smaller cruisers were strangely lacking. “I guess the big fellows can go in for that sort of thing,” remarked Dombey over tea. “More man-power, more energy. They don't get so worn.”

§ The St. George was carved—not painted—on the cliff.

Echanging our cranky tender for the Svaap's cuyuka we paddled to the extreme head of the cove, to the only landing on the shore. Names of old whalers had been cut into water-worn stone, one dating 1866, another 1833. Climbing the steep sides we looked over a summit to see a bright crater lake of green, which on descending proved to be salty, and evidently fed by a subterranean passage. Over in another section we followed the dried bed of a stream, hoping to come upon game lured by a possible pool, but although we ascended to the source, found neither water not a target for our firearms. The sun made us thirsty and we cut strips of Ecuador cactus, sucked them, and parting company climbed the rolling lava. Before we returned to the landing place, Dombey discovered the skeleton of a dog, the tracks of a wild pack, I, a curious heap of misplaced granite lying amidst volcanic dust. If the inland was barren of life, the shore was not. We fished along it, catching large crabs, coming upon both land and water lizards, immense, motionless, black, as well as sea lions who far from showing fear even charged the cuyuka.

By sunset we were turning in to rest on the eve of our longest passage. But we did not sail on the following day after all. Instead we idled under cliffs as though hypnotized by something in the extraordinary silence. Tagus Cove was of the long dead, a gigantic shelter in Gothic hushing out the sound of the sea; a place of little wind, of less sunshine. And so it was not until the third morning that preparations began for a voyage to the South Seas. By noon, rigging lanyards had been set up in the deadeyes, lifelines bowset taut to the stays, the wing sails and their booms overhauled in readiness for favorable wind. Just as we were finishing a final tuck in a long splice I happened to look along the cliffs toward the silent entrance, to see, directly ahead, a large topsail schooner bearing down. Dombey, working on the lacing about the main boom, also glanced up. What on earth? There was the scream of an air whistle and a flag broke out on the white schooner—the French tricolor of our comrade of the Canal, the La Korrigane.

She came on, looking scarcely a tenth of her size under the walls of the cove, and when a cable's length away, dropped anchors smartly and rounded-up in man-of-war style. We hurried into the tender and pulled in her direction. Just off the Jacob's ladder the tender foundered and we had to tow it as we swam to the side. Everyone was laughing by the time we reached the steady decks, to be led below and lend our wet presence to a well-appointed saloon, there to tell of the run from Panama and listen to the accounts of our hosts over cooling, pleasant drinks.

The La Korrigane's afterguard was a happy one, made up of Count and Countess Etienne de Ganay, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie van den Broek d'Obrenan, and Mr. John [sic, Jean] Ratisbonne. They told of faint head-on breezes, of a light-winded passage that tied our sixteen-day trip, although no doubt some time was lost by the unique procedure of holding a cocktail party in mid-ocean for the members of a passing steam yacht. It was strangely pleasant—the sound of many voices, those occasional laughs, the tinkle of tableware, the scent of cigarette smoke, the talk of places to the north already less defined, already losing reality.

Abandoning the idea of sailing that day, we joined a fishing party in a mahogany launch. A mile to the west [sic, north] of Tagus Cove we steered into a small-mouthed grotto in the cliffs, a rough-hewn cave rising fifty feet above us. A shaft of sunlight, penetrating a narrow opening in the dome, lit a circle of echoing water, the rays filtering to the floor beneath, encrusted with orange corals, red sponges—a wavering mosaic of vivid color shining beneath the boat's propeller.

While trawling the western shore of the cove, more black bass, cod, mackerel, and tuna were caught in two hours then we had taken on the entire voyage. Sea lions were a drawback to our sport, charging the hooked fish, sometimes to part the line, sometimes to snap a big catch in half. we had many tug-of-war with them, and whenever a lion lost and the catch was safely landed, he would let out a grievour roar and charge the motor boat.

That evening, before going on board the French yacht, we dressed for dinner—that is, we put on shirts for the first time in several days. The meal, after our humble fare, was delicious. Over fragrant coffee we learnt that while we were fishing the ladies had enthusiastically attacked the shore, Mrs. van den Broek making several excellent sketches of the cove while her sister-in-law, Countess de Ganay, gifted with the genuine curiosity of the explorer, covered a remarkably wide range to the eastward. La Korrigane held the happiest group of any large-craft expedition we came upon, and as we came upon many, we noted with interest that besides the other favorable factors her group was a family one; that the yacht was large, the party small; that there was no guest-crewing, and that everyone served some function, from Mrs. van den Broek, engaged in art work, to her brother, Count de Ganay, who alone navigated the schooner and supervised the crew on nine Bordeaux seamen.

Early on the morning of August 1st the La Korrigane got underway, her party promising we would all meet together on the other side of the Pacific. Low in the water, they set out for the South Seas with all possible haste, while we, who must wait until the sun cleared the mountains for a series of bearings, waved them on their way. Just before leaving, their seamen climbed the cliffs and gaining a perch high above the other ship legends, painted the name “la korrigane, and beside it, “cimba,” and underneath, “1934.” §

§ A 2006 photo shows the name Cimba carved into—not painted on—the cliff, as shown immediately below. Did Maury and/or Dombey do the work? Or did some other ship with the same name visit Tagus Cove?

The last echoes from the Frenchman's whistle died out, and presently with topsails whitened by sunshine she disappeared beyond the headland, leave the Svaap and the Cimba once more alone. “She'll set a record on this run,” we prophesied when she had gone.

And now it was time for a final boarding of the Svaap, so paddling the cuyuka to the side of the old ketch we swung it on board and lashed it to her trunking. For a moment we stood upon the dry deck, feeling that air of faithfulness, or loyalty, pervading all good and hard-tried ships. I recalled Edward Turpin, a dear friend, an admirable sailor, and the first with whom I planned our voyage, often spoke of the Svaap as the perfect cruiser; that later, when we were studying various hulls, Carrol spoke so highly of the sanity of her lines, of her strength. We tidied her rigging, payed out more chain, made sure the cabins were ventilated against dry rot, and finally pumped her dry. No more could be done. We threw a few rusty tins of meat into the tender along with our water butt filled from the tanks, and pulled for the Cimba.

For a while it looked as though we would be held becalmed; then, shortly after noon when a thin draft of air swept the cliffs, we swung the dry canvas aloft, tripped anchor and began to move. The distance between the two boats grew greater. Near the entrance we looked back to see the Svaap a last time, a small form, chalk white and rolling easily in the everlasting shadow. Then we lost her and fetching the mouth of Tagus Cove slipped out to a sunny sea dancing in wind.

While passing toward the ocean late that afternoon we ran close to Narborough Island and sighted the wreck of a black-painted vessel some sixty feet long. § Unable to force a landing, we looked closely for signs of life, and fired shots to draw attention. Not a soul appeared, the island seemed deserted, and finally we worked the Cimba clear and stood off for the sea.

§ The wreck was the ship Radio.

In the evening dew fell under a waning moon, and there came the sound of whales from somewhere on the ocean. All that night we lay becalmed, but morning brought a stir of wind and we took departure from a point under the mountain of Narborough. There was no sign of the La Korrigane as we dipped to the west. The volcanoes of the Galapagos, cryptic and mystic, faded from sight like worn-out bodies of land, like enchanted dust heaps floating beneath the sky. And somehow we were glad they were astern.