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The last cruise of  “The Dwarf”

The Dwarf, a small boat of about 10 feet keel, was the property of several partners, one of  whom was represented by Finlay MacLeod, a youth of  about seventeen years of age.  A larger boat had been purchased by the “Company”, and the Dwarf was sold to be employed as a “lighter” at Wick. A few days previous to the departure of the Dwarf from Canisbay, I accepted the invitation of Finlay MacLeod to have a farewell sail in the little boat. Caught by a sudden squall, we ran before it, as described, with unshortened sail, and it was the opinion of Mr. John Gibson, my nautical “guide, philosopher and friend,” that we had been in imminent danger of running our tiny craft to the bottom of the sea.

It was Saturday, the nineteenth day
Of the pleasant month of June,
And the sun o’er the Kirk of Canisbay
Proclaimed it the hour of noon;
A gentle breeze from the south-sou’west
Invited us out to sail;
So gentle it was that we never dreamt
Of its bursting a tearing gale;
When we launched the Dwarf at the “Old Distil,”
And west away stood we,
With a wind that bellied our single sail,
But barely ruffled the sea.
Finlay Macleod took runner in hand,
And I got charge of the sail-
I, who had never, in seaman’s phrase,
Been a mile from a brown cow’s tail!
The Red Rock passed, and the Black Hole passed,
And scouring across the Bay,
Right speedily fleeted the little Dwarf,
Till we reached the Men of Mey.
Then the wind it veered, and a black cloud peered
On the brow of the western height;
Cried Finlay MacLeod – “Look out for the squalls,”
And Finlay MacLeod was right.
For Scarce had we put the Dwarf about,
On the homeward tack to stand,
When over the Bay, like a thunder-clap,
The black squall blew from the land.
“Sheet home! Sheet home!” cried Finlay MacLeod,
“Hard home it is !” shouted I;
As through the waves, like a winged thing,
Our vessel began to fly.
“Ho, here she goes !” cried Finlay MacLeod,
“But it’s all the Dwarf can do.”
I looked ahead, and the roaring sea
Was terrible to my view.
“No fear! no fear!” cried Finlay MacLeod;
“But I wish that we could reeve!”
I looked abaft, and the bubbling brine
Was wetting Finlays sleeve.
An the sky grew blacker overhead,
And stiffer the tempest blew,
But through the foaming waters the Dwarf,
With her sail unshortened, flew.
She cut the waves as her prow had been
Not of timber, but burnished steel;
She dashed them off like a man-of-war,
Though only of ten feet keel.
“Well done, brave Dwarf!” cried Finlay MacLeod,
“Let the tempests rage their fill;
We’ll soon be out of their fury’s reach,
For yonder’s the ‘Old Distill!’”
But the black clouds burst, and the big drops gushed
From the fountains of the sky;
And before the Dwarf had touched the shore
Not a stitch of our clothes was dry.
Yet we drew her high on the pebble beach –
For we’ve neither pier nor wharf –
And thus had Finlay MacLeod and I
Our last cruise in the Dwarf!
For the men of Wick have heard of her,
And thither she’s bound to go,
To ply ‘midst the billows of their Bay,
When the wild nor’-easters blow.
For the Wickians know that the gallant Dwarf
O’er the crested waves will spin,
When even the life-boat can’t put out,
And the Steamer can’t put in.

Thanks To Hugh Ross for typing this out and sending it in