The Sea Wolf
By the following morning the storm had blown itself quite out and the Ghost was rolling
slightly on a calm sea without a breath of wind. Occasional light airs were felt, however,
and Wolf Larsen patrolled the poop constantly, his eyes ever searching the sea to the
north-eastward, from which direction the great trade-wind must blow.
The men were all on deck and busy preparing their various boats for the season's hunting.
There are seven boats aboard, the captain's dingey, and the six which the hunters will use.
Three, a hunter, a boat-puller, and a boat-steerer, compose a boat's crew. On board the
schooner the boat-pullers and steerers are the crew. The hunters, too, are supposed to be
in command of the watches, subject, always, to the orders of Wolf Larsen.
All this, and more, I have learned. The Ghost is considered the fastest schooner in both
the San Francisco and Victoria fleets. In fact, she was once a private yacht, and was built
for speed. Her lines and fittings - though I know nothing about such things - speak for
themselves. Johnson was telling me about her in a short chat I had with him during
yesterday's second dog-watch. He spoke enthusiastically, with the love for a fine craft
such as some men feel for horses. He is greatly disgusted with the outlook, and I am
given to understand that Wolf Larsen bears a very unsavoury reputation among the
sealing captains. It was the Ghost herself that lured Johnson into signing for the voyage,
but he is already beginning to repent.
As he told me, the Ghost is an eighty-ton schooner of a remarkably fine model. Her
beam, or width, is twenty-three feet, and her length a little over ninety feet. A lead keel of
fabulous but unknown weight makes her very stable, while she carries an immense spread
of canvas. From the deck to the truck of the maintopmast is something over a hundred
feet, while the foremast with its topmast is eight or ten feet shorter. I am giving these
details so that the size of this little floating world which holds twenty-two men may be
appreciated. It is a very little world, a mote, a speck, and I marvel that men should dare to
venture the sea on a contrivance so small and fragile.
Wolf Larsen has, also, a reputation for reckless carrying on of sail. I overheard
Henderson and another of the hunters, Standish, a Californian, talking about it. Two years
ago he dismasted the Ghost in a gale on Bering Sea, whereupon the present masts were
put in, which are stronger and heavier in every way. He is said to have remarked, when
he put them in, that he preferred turning her over to losing the sticks.
Every man aboard, with the exception of Johansen, who is rather overcome by his
promotion, seems to have an excuse for having sailed on the Ghost. Half the men forward
are deep-water sailors, and their excuse is that they did not know anything about her or
her captain. And those who do know, whisper that the hunters, while excellent shots,
were so notorious for their quarrelsome and rascally proclivities that they could not sign
on any decent schooner.