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An Incident in Hongkong Harbour.
The following incident regarding Captain Keppel may be of some interest to sailors, and perhaps is remembered by some residents of Hongkong who may have been there at the time of the last war with China.
Sir Harry Keppel was every inch a sailor, and sometimes did some very strange things, which would annoy his superiors; but the very oddity of his actions gained the hearts and confidence of those who served under him, and he could rely on every one acting as one machine when he commanded.
One day, for some reason, the Admiral, Sir Michael Seymour, who was then on the flagship "Calcutta," gave orders for the "Raleigh" to proceed to sea in face of a very strong southwest monsoon. The "Raleigh" was to go out by the Lyemoon and return by Green Island. The ship was got under way, and went out in the ordinary way by the Lyemoon, and beat round the island. After some hours she came back by way of Green Island, with all plain sails and all studding-sails set. At first this called for no special attention, except for the grand sight of a man-of-war under full sail.
At this time, the harbour was full of sailing-ships of all nations, and as the "Raleigh" came near and threaded her way among them, the crews of the various ships became interested. When the "Raleigh" came near to her anchorage, the order was quietly passed, and then, as if by magic, in came all studding-sails; then, in the same manner, all plain sails; after that "Let go the anchor," and a running moor was made. Then came cheers from every sailor who had witnessed the maneuvre, cheers that could be heard all over Hongkong as it was then.
Well, sir, the Admiral was not pleased with this piece of skill in seamanship, and for coming through a crowded harbour under all sail. The "Raleigh" was ordered out for a twenty-four hours' cruise, and to come in in a shipshape way the next time. Well, she went out again, and as she came in past Green Island, she had all sail as before, and when nearing the shipping, greatly to the astonishment of every one, in came all plain sail and furled, leaving only the studding-sails; and under these she went through the shipping to her anchorage, and then, "In all studding-sails," and a running moor was made as before. And, if possible, the cheers were more vehement than before.
Now, sir, what do you think was the effect? Why, nearly half the sailors in the merchant ships wanted to join the "Raleigh." They could not be accommodated, but many were engaged and put on board the "Sibyl."
It may also be remembered that when the "Raleigh" struck a rock near Macao, a French man-of-war was in sight. The French flag was hoisted and saluted by the "Raleigh." After the salute, the order was given to abandon ship, and all this was done with as much coolness as if going to a church parade.